Saturday, July 30, 2011

Not quite August, but I thought I'd give you a glimpse . . .

Sitting: On the dock.

Time: 6:47 p.m.

Watching: Two amazingly fast jet skis racing across the lake; an eagle floating high above the water.

Hearing: the buzz of the jet skis, the slight splash of the water as it hits the rocks on the shore, the jingle-jangle of Brian’s lure as it comes out of the water, laughter from the kids on the party barge across the cove.

Smelling: Lake water, what else?

Tasting: wine on my tongue

Feeling: the softest of breezes on my sun-kissed skin

Perfect contentment? I think so.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

It Only Happens Every Seven Years

Today is interview day. An interview with . . . me.

Conducted by . . . me.

That's all about . . . yeah, you guessed it.

Because I have some news to share with you. Nothing too earth shattering, but you may want to sit down for this one.

So Shelly, what are your summer plans?
Well, Shelly, this summer is a big summer for us. One we've been thinking about for, oh, about seven years. My husband gets to take a sabbatical from his job this summer.

A sabbatical? Is he a pastor or something?
Nope. He's not a pastor or a teacher or anything like that. He's just a businessman who works for a great company with a sabbatical policy.

How long is his sabbatical?
Four weeks. In addition to his regular vacation.

And what will you be doing on this sabbatical?
Me? Working, most likely. I've got a lot of writing to do. And then there's this matter of classes I'm teaching this fall. I need to work on my syllabus, get to know a new textbook or two, and make up some assignments. But the good thing is, I can do most of this from a chair on a dock.

Source: via Shelly on Pinterest

Him? Fishing. Canoeing. Reading. Relaxing. And definitely NOT working--he's not allowed.

Where will you be?
All I can say is that we'll be someplace where the internet is not. Cell phone service too. For a four-computer (six or seven depending on how you count it) family, this is going to be a challenge.

How will your husband manage?
I've been asking myself the same question.

Do you have a stack of books to take with you? If so, what are they?
What a silly question! You of all people should know that I will bring a stack of books, and an eclectic stack at that. I've already mentioned the textbook (it's called They Say, I Say just in case you're interested), but aside from that, here are a few titles on my list.

The entire Chronicles of Narnia series (because, I am so embarrassed to admit this, I've never read them all).

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley (sequel to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - lovely book)

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

In the Woods by Tana French (recommended by Amy . . . a bunch of times!)

Give them Grace by Elise Fitzpatrick

Will your family come with you?
Oh yes, for part of the time. Various family members, including our parents, will be in and out for the first two weeks. One of our kids is at camp for the summer, so she won't be there--so sad.

For the second half, though, we're sending them all home or back to work or to camp, so B and I will have two weeks to ourselves. That hasn't happened in almost 20 years!

I'm a little afraid.

Will you be able to blog?
Be able to? I guess so. That's kind of like asking your 4th grade teacher "Can I go to the bathroom?" and she looks at you over the top of her glasses and says, "I don't know, can you?" Of course I could write blog posts till the fish jump in the boat, but will I? I think not.

Why not?
Lots of reasons, some intensely personal that have a lot to do with questioning why I do this day in and day out with so little feedback and results. If I were a stronger person, I probably wouldn't care about all that, but I'm weak, very weak, and I do wish for more. I'm tormented. Seriously.

But I also think it will do me some good to step away for a while. And write, quietly. Over on the dock. Without putting it "out there." Maybe I'll write some stuff I want to share with you. Maybe not. I have no idea what I'm doing other than following my husband on his sabbatical with a canoe on top of my car and some bikes hanging off the back.

That said, I will miss you, my friends. And I wish you a very, very happy summer.

See you in August!

I'm linking this post with Amanda's Weekend Bloggy Reading. If you'd like to follow my posts (when they resume in August) just head over there -------> to sign up!


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Good Reads

I know what you're thinking . . . "Good Reads . . . on a Wednesday?"

I like to keep you on your toes.

Anyway, I've found so many great posts lately that I just had to share, so today's the day. Deal with it.

First up, Shannan. I've been stalking following Shannan for a while now, and I have to say that, although I don't do favorites, she's one of mine. This girl is an absolute gem. And I'm so sad to say that I missed her by thiiiss much at Blissdom last year. *insert sad face here* One of these days I will meet Shannan. I just know it. And I will hug her dearly for the way she makes me laugh and for the three precious babies she has adopted and for knowing just how to turn a phrase. Like this one in the post I'm highlighting today: "Life is just so much better since I learned to hunt down goodness and put the dang thing on." Don't you just love that??!! Anyway, head over there and read "Goodness is a Sweater."

I know you're not as forgetful as I am (hush, my daughters!), so you probably don't need this handy-dandy little tip, but just in case your passwords are out of control, you might want to check out this post from Life . . . Your Way. Very cool.

Have you heard all the kerfuffle about the Oxford comma? Personally, I've been kerfuffling about it for years in my class, but finally . . . FINALLY . . . somebody has listened. (Truthfully though? I didn't know there was a name for my punctuational pet peeve.)

Oh boy, did I ever resonate with this article from Relevant magazine (aside, of course, from the "s" the author put on the end of the word "mission" but that's just me): "The Missions Field of Suburbia." If you've ever felt guilty about living the suburban life or have ever felt like you're wasting your time here when you could be overseas, you have to read this one. It's also the very reason we chose to put our kids in public school--there's a lot of work to be done everywhere.

"How to Live Your Best Life" by Ann Voskamp (it wouldn't be a Good Reads post without her, would it?). This one got to me for so many reasons, but mostly because it's just. so. true.

Suzanne writes Privet and Holly, which I love. Just yesterday she posted "Behind the Scenes" that I thought was so tender and sweet. It's about loving all the people who quietly serve us day in and day out. Go read it.

Oh, and Life . . . Your Way may or may not have run a post highlighting yours truly last week. *insert big grin here*

That is all.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011


This is a repost from July 5, 2009. I liked this post a lot, so I thought I'd share it with you again. Hope you enjoyed your long weekend!

The weather was “iffy” last night, and cool, so we decided that rather than watching the fireworks from blankets on the rain-soaked ground, we’d just head to the Target parking lot and watch from the back of the car. We’ve watched the fireworks there before, and we knew we’d be able to see enough—just not the low-to-the-ground displays.

Of course, we forgot to bring chairs of any sort, and all five of us couldn’t fit in the back of the van, so it took us a little while to figure out exactly where each of us would sit. Once the fireworks started and we could see that we couldn’t see, we headed over toward a grassy area where other people were gathered.

I’ve always had a fascination with fireworks. How someone could pack the sounds and sparkles and colors and happiness of a million little specks of light into one cylinder is beyond my comprehension. It seems dangerous and dark, yet thrilling all at once. Every year I tell myself, “You’ve seen it before, don’t get excited.” And yet, every year I feel like a kid again as the sparkling and the twinkling and the crashing begins.

I can “ooh” and “aah” with the best of them. Just ask my kids.

My favorites are the ones that look like willow trees—they come spraying out all golden and then end up with millions of tiny diamonds that twinkle their way down to the ground. It’s just magical to me, and I sometimes wonder if I headed back to the fairgrounds the next day to take a look around if I’d find even one of those sparkly diamonds waiting for me in the grass.

As we stood and watched the fireworks, I began to notice the people around me. Little kids, no older than five, were running everywhere—everywhere!—at full speed, and I turned to B and said, “Remember that feeling when you were a kid and you could run as fast as you could forever?”

We both agreed that we’d love to feel like that again, even for a few minutes.

The grassy field near us was filling up with fast-running little kids twirling neon glow sticks, their parents sitting in portable lawn chairs next to the curb. Teenagers on dates sat on blankets nearby. And my little clan huddled together, enjoying the moment, even if it was for the sake of tradition.

Next to me sat an old man with whom I presume was his daughter. She was in her late-50s or early-60s, and he looked to be well into his 80s. They both sat quietly, side by side, not talking much but occasionally glancing at one another, smiling.

I took a good long look at this man, his hands gnarled and spotted, his knuckles swollen with age. He wore black pants, a black checked dress shirt underneath a gray cardigan that was so old it was pilled all over. On top of his head he wore an old-fashioned hat, the kind that comes together at the bill—is it a driving cap or an ivy cap? He wore white Converse tennis shoes and white athletic socks. All-in-all he was dressed quite well for a fireworks display.

Partway through the fireworks, I noticed that the man was struggling with something in his hand. It was a miniature Kit Kat bar that he was having a little trouble opening. After a couple of minutes, though, he had success, and I watched him as he enjoyed his little treat for the evening, a slight smile creeping to the edge of his mouth.

I wondered about this man and his daughter. What made them head to the Target parking lot together to watch fireworks with the younger families? Did she do it as a special treat for him? Did they have some sort of tradition of watching fireworks together, just the two of them? Did they somehow, in some unspoken way, know that this could possibly be the last fireworks display that the old man would ever get to see?

As I pondered them, I found myself getting choked up. Tears came to my eyes as I wondered how many fireworks displays this man had seen in his life and how many he would have yet to see.

I looked at my little brood sitting all around me, happy with the effort we had made to get to the fireworks, and thought, “I hope they all have the opportunity to sit with their own sons or daughters when they are 85 and watch fireworks together.” What a blessing that would be.

And I hope that when I’m 85, should God give me that many years, I’ll be sitting in the Target parking lot or wherever I am, still enjoying the childlike thrill of watching diamonds fall from the sky.


Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July Blessings

Source: via Shelly on Pinterest

Happy 4th of July, my friends!

Isn't today the perfect day to be somewhere like this?

Perhaps indulging in a slice of this?

Or how about sitting on this front porch . . .

. . . enjoying a little bit of this?


We are going to enjoy some family time today, and I thought this would be a good way to not only share with you what the 4th of July looks like around here, but also to count my blessings in the process.

Today I'm grateful for . . .

181. Patriotic music played before church.

182. Friends gathered around our table (twice this weekend!).

183. Girls marching in a parade.

184. Firetrucks blaring their sirens.

185. The cutest dog EVER, howling in reply.

186. Neighbors who throw a great party.

187. Seeing friends along the parade route.

188. Fireworks lighting up the sky.

189. Hot dogs and brats sizzling on the grill.

190. Fresh, sweet watermelon bites.

191. Every single person who has sacrificed to make this day what it is. Thank you.

Have a great 4th!

So tell me, what are YOU doing today?

Linking up with Ann today.


Friday, July 1, 2011

How NOT to parent your almost-not-a-teenager

My mom used to say to me, “Little kids, little problems; big kids, bigger problems.”

I never really understood what she meant until last weekend.

It was Friday, late-afternoon, when my phone rang. B was on the other end, calling from the speaker phone in his car; Kate was sitting next to him since she rides to work with her dad every day. This is an important detail to remember because . . .

Rule #1: Don’t discuss your daughter’s sketchy weekend plans with her sitting right there next to you.

B: “Did you know what Kate wants to do this weekend?”

Me: “Well, sort of. She mentioned it, but I wasn’t thrilled about it so I thought I’d wait to discuss it with you.”


Kate’s roommate was coming into town for the weekend, and the girls had made plans. Big plans. City plans. Plans that would have been great if it weren’t a matter of finding some random independent bookstores in a neighborhood that they had never been to. Or if the Taste of Chicago wasn’t opening that weekend with a crowd of about a million or so expected to show up . . . all at once.

Rule #2: Don’t mention parking as the primary obstacle.

B: “The city is going to be a madhouse on Saturday. The Taste is opening, and it’s going to be impossible to find parking.”

Me: “Yeah, it could be a little rough, Kate. You’ll spend all of your time trying to find a place to park, and that’s just frustrating.”


The big deal about parking, if you’ve ever been to downtown Chicago, is that there is none. It’s the kind of situation that will make you pray for a parking spot, if you’re that kind of person (which, by the way, I most certainly am). And during the Taste of Chicago, which is a super-fun family event, there are a lot of mini-vans crowding the streets and filling the parking garages. Can you say nightmare?

Rule #3: Don’t appeal to their sense of beauty. These girls are completely unaware.

B: “Seriously? You expect me to send you two into THAT neighborhood all by yourselves? You’ll have every guy staring you down.”

Me: “Yeah. Remember New York?”


Um. Yeah. Whatever.

Rule 4: Stay calm. At all costs. Do NOT appeal to your higher authority.

B (losing it): “Kate, we are your parents, and we will decide IF and WHEN you can go into the city by yourselves. We can keep you home if we want, you know.”

Me (trying to maintain an even tone): “Kate, we are trying to respect what you’re doing here, but we’re also trying to figure out the safest way for you to do what you want to do. Work with us here.”


We ended the phone call by saying that we’d talk more about it when they got home. Which they did, about 15 minutes later.

Later that night we calmly, rationally, quietly (sort of) sat around our kitchen table and hashed out the details of what Kate wanted to do. They wanted to visit three bookstores near the University of Chicago and then go to the Taste of Chicago, which is in a completely different part of town, which would mean moving the car, which would mean dealing with a lot of traffic.

O.K. Now, if I were going to the U of C, I would drive. I’ve done it lots of times before, but these were very precious girls who wanted to go, and one of whom, I know, doesn’t have the best sense of direction . . . even with a GPS. I almost suggested driving them myself, but I knew that wouldn’t fly, and driving by themselves wasn’t going to be an option because of their second destination: the Taste of Chicago.

No parking, remember?

So we suggested that the girls take public transportation. They could jump on the train right near our house and head into the city—that part was easy. They’ve done it a million times. But to get to the bookstores they wanted to see they would have to take the L down to Hyde Park.

Silly us. We just assumed they would take a certain train to a certain stop because the CTA website told us it was the stop for the University of Chicago.

Rule #5: Don’t believe the CTA website.

The girls headed out, found the L stop they needed, hopped on the train and headed to what they thought was the stop for the U of C.

Here’s the text I got from Kate a short time later:

“Turning around and heading to the Taste. Asked directions from a cop and he told us to be veeerrry careful. It just doesn’t feel safe.”

And a follow-up: “Got hollered at just one too many times. Going back.”


Rule 6: Don’t panic.

This mama wanted to jump in her car and head right down there to rescue those two princesses. But they are 19 years old and perfectly capable. Both girls have travelled extensively, so they know how to read a train schedule. They know how to ride public transportation. They are smart girls.

All this I kept telling myself.

But oh my goodness. My girl? Hollered at? In the city?

It was just a little too much for my heart to take.

A short time later I got this text: “Made it to the Taste.”

Looong exhale. She would be fine.

Rule 7: Check and double-check.

Later, when the girls got home . . . safely, I might add . . . we had a good laugh about their situation. Turns out, there is a different train that would take them very close to where they wanted to go. I would have known that if I had just picked up the phone and called my friend, Jane, who lives right there. (Hi Jane!) She could have told us exactly what they needed to do to get to the bookstores . . . safely.

When I asked the girls what happened they told us the whole story. They got off the train at the station that we . . . the parents . . . had told them to, but when they looked around they realized they were not in Kansas anymore if you know what I mean. They stopped at a Walgreens near the station to ask for directions from the security guard at the door (that should have been their first clue—our Walgreens down the street doesn’t have a security guard!). The guy told them that it was a long walk to where they wanted to go, and then he looked them in the eye and said, “Girls, you need to be veerryy careful.”

I don’t know what the girls said to one another as they headed down the street. I don’t know what they were feeling as they were getting cat-called. I wish I could have been there to protect them, but I wasn’t.

I just thank God that He sent angels to protect them and to give them the common sense they needed to turn around and go back.

Which leads me to . . .

Rule #8: Don’t forget to pray.

As a parent of teenagers, you can’t always say “Do this” and expect immediate results. You just might have to talk your way through a situation, explain your position, and listen to theirs. It’s a give-and-take that can feel a little thorny, scratchy, uncomfortable.

And, sadly, you do have to let them grow up, try new things, which might, inadvertently and never intentionally lead into some situations.

In the end, you just have to pray that God will protect them. And I’m so glad He did.

Despite our poor parenting.