When You Feel Like Leaping with Joy

When You Feel Like Leaping with Joy | via givinguponperfect.com

We’ve entered a new phase in our house this summer. We’ve graduated from animated Disney movies to live action Disney movies. Which is basically just a fancy way of saying Annalyn and I have watched no less than three – count ‘em! THREE. – High School Musical movies.

You guys, they’re not actually THAT bad. And, thankfully, the same seven-year-old who keeps bugging me to find the fourth High School Musical at a Redbox or the library also not-so-secretly likes watching Elmo with her baby sister.

And, let’s not forget, it gives us gems like this:

You guys. This scene was, by far, the most cheese-tastic one of all! Zac Efron singing (and dancing to) “Bet On It” made me laugh so hard! I mean, it is ridiculous. Right? I’m not alone in this, am I?

But as I tried to contain my giggles (so as not to offend the daughter) and ended up snorting instead (because REALLY. Just watch it!), I wondered why I found it so laughable that a teenage boy might need to dance out his feelings.

Okay, yes, fine. This particular situation might not be so realistic. But haven’t you ever felt emotions so big that you couldn’t contain them? Feelings so strong you want to put them in a song? A situation so intense you just need to dance it out?

Maybe not. Maybe your feelings don’t come with the urge to belt Broadway tunes and flash jazz hands, but maybe they do beg to be shared somehow – in a Facebook post, from the rooftop (or the front porch), with a “Hallelujah!” or a “Yeehaw!”

When that happens – when you have such great news, such relief or pride or gratitude or just plain JOY – don’t play it cool, friends. Shout it out and share it with us! The world could certainly use a little more leaping with joy, couldn’t it?! I promise not to let a single snort escape, no matter how you choose to celebrate.

After all, how could I, when I’m doing leaps of joy of my own today?

Even though the official release of my book is still five months away, I’m excited to reveal the cover to you now! You can actually pre-order the book on Amazon, too. Can you believe it??!!

I’ve been so nervous to show you the cover and reluctant to show my excitement…

…because the actual launch is still so far away
…because it’s not just MY book and I didn’t write THE WHOLE thing myself
…because lots of people write books these days
…because I don’t want to brag
…because because BECAUSE!

But then I thought about young Zac Efron really COMMITTING to that song in High School Musical 2 and his jubilant leaps at the end of the most ridiculous song. And I decided that just maybe I was the one being ridiculous. That just maybe you all would want to celebrate with me. That just maybe it’s time to let the joy, joy, joy that’s down in my heart out to play.

So … YEEHAW and HALLELUJAH! My book has a cover and a home on Amazon!

Choose Joy final cover

Do you have any good news to share today?
How can we celebrate with you today?

Photo source

Just Keep Swimming

This post was originally published a couple years ago but seemed relevant this week since I have been on vacation and forced to wear a swimsuit.

When I left my house last Friday morning, I had packed my husband, my daughter and myself for more than a week. I managed to get all of our shoes, underwear and toilet articles in the car and only forgot a few things.

Unfortunately, one of those forgotten items was my swimsuit. And since we chose our hotel based on its promised water park and super slide, that was a problem.

Luckily, though we were several states away from home, we were there to visit friends. So I ordered a clearance suit from Target and had it shipped to my friend’s house. I picked it up yesterday and we headed back to the hotel.

Nervously, I opened the packages and pulled out the plain black swim suit pieces. (As in a tank and a swim skirt, not a bikini. Please.) I stepped into the bottom and thought, “Well, that’s not what I was hoping for.” Then I wriggled myself into the top and though, “THIS IS THE WORST THING EVER.”

And then I did the thing I swore I’d never do
(and until this week, had never done). I said – out loud and in front of my daughter – how awful I looked. Specifically, I said, “This is hideous.”

Because I’ve struggled with body image issues as long as I can remember, I’ve determined to be uber careful about how I talk about myself in front of my daughter. I know it probably won’t prevent her from wishing for fuller lips or longer legs (or whatever the must-have attribute of the day is 10 years from now). But if I can find it within myself to model a healthy self esteem, maybe it will help a little.

(For the record, my parents did everything they could to help me feel beautiful. As a matter of fact, my mother still insists on calling me her beautiful baby girl. So I’m aware that, as a parent, some things are out of my hands. But I want to do the best I can with the influence I have anyway.)

But back to the other day.

As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I was horrified. And it wasn’t one of those instances where my child completely ignored what I said or remained oblivious to my personal stress. Oh no. She looked at me, confused, and said, “Why did you say that? You look beautiful!”

Oh, my heart.

I promise you that I did not look beautiful at all. AT ALL. I won’t tell you what I think I looked like, because I really am trying to stop talking to or about myself in an ugly way. But not only did I not feel pretty, I really did not look pretty.

But I’d promised my family that I’d go swimming with them. And my worn-out, stretched-out suit was safely at home, hundreds of miles away. So I really didn’t have a choice.

I tried to make the best of the situation. You know, getting on with life? I grabbed a pair of my husband’s gym shorts to cover up. BUT THEY DIDN’T FIT. (Is there anything more humiliating than not fitting into my husband’s pants? I THINK NOT. . . . Fine. I’m sure something might be worse. But not this week.) So I grabbed a t-shirt, sucked in everything I could suck in, and walked to the elevator with my family.

When we got to the pool, I was beyond relieved to see that we had the whole place to ourselves. Still, I felt terrible. I smiled and played with my daughter, but inside, I was curled up in a ball and covered with a large blanket. I didn’t want anyone – even the people I loved most – to see me.

As I stood in the water, telling my kiddo that yes, of course I wanted to watch her jump in, two annoying tears slipped down my face. Since I had yet to get my head wet, my husband wasn’t fooled and asked, confused, “What is wrong?!”

I didn’t tell him. I couldn’t tell him.

But I didn’t keep crying, either. Slowly, I focused more on my family and less on myself. And I swam a few laps and did a few minutes of water aerobics moves. It wasn’t very long before I felt strong (because swimming is hard, yo) and remembered how to relax and have fun with my family.

And when we went back upstairs and I eagerly went to peel that hateful suit off my not-perfect-at-all body and COULDN’T GET IT OFF? Well, all I could do was laugh. Because really, that’s way better than crying – and being stuck in that soaking wet, octopus-like bunch of polyester was the kind of irony that I couldn’t help but appreciate.

I may never put that swimsuit on again. And I may think twice before booking a hotel room in a place that boasts of a super slide. But despite the horrible feeling of wearing that thing and slipping up in front of my kiddo with the “hideous” bomb, I didn’t let it ruin my day.

Although there was no saving my hair after that.

What’s your least favorite thing to wear? And what’s your favorite? (My favorite is, hands down, yoga pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt. Comfort over style IS my style!)

Photo by janfredrikf

WFMW: Listening and Standing

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I live in the part of the country where it’s rained a lot this spring and summer.
(A LOT.) As annoying as that has been, though, the proverbial storms our entire country has felt this year are significantly worse. It seems like we can’t go one week without another round of TERRIBLE hitting our screens and our minds and our hearts. Everywhere we turn, it’s fighting and accusing and denying and grieving. So much grieving. Over and over and over.

Aside from a few likes and shares on my personal Facebook page, I’ve remained mostly silent on the controversial topics of recent days. I don’t like confrontation and I don’t like making people upset. So I’ve just kept my thoughts to myself. Just living at peace with everyone, you know, like we’re instructed in Hebrews

Except not really.

Because my silence has really been about making sure everyone likes me, not about living in harmony with others. Lately, though, I’ve felt more and more convicted about this silence, this wishy-washy, keep-everyone-happy approach. As an extremely opinionated person [go ahead and shout, "Amen," people who know me in real life], holding in my feelings and thoughts and beliefs is extremely uncomfortable.

And then there’s this, from Annalyn’s devotion for last week:

“When someone is being hurt or something is unfair, do you speak up? What about when the kid who always gets picked on, gets picked on right in front of you? It takes a lot of courage to speak up for what’s right, and it’s even harder if you realize your friends are the people picking on someone. Should you say something to stop them? Or is it enough to just stay quiet and not participate?
 
God’s word is very clear on this subject. When someone else is hurting or in need, those who follow God should be the first ones to speak up.

As I read that to my daughter, I could barely choke out some of the words for the tears threatening to escape. Speak up, Mary. The message could not have been more clear. How, though? That part hasn’t been as obvious to me.

See, I’ve written thousands of words to share with you about race and love and marriage and right and wrong and family and friends and ALL THE THINGS that have been tearing through all of our hearts over the past year. I’ve cried and prayed over these words. I’ve scheduled them and lost them and erased them and revised them. But over and over, I felt deep in my spirit that the words I spit out were not the words anyone needed to hear.

So I have been quiet and conflicted and afraid to offend, but I’ve also been listening and searching and praying. I’ve been clicking and reading and appreciating the brave souls who open up and share. I’ve been hurting and crying (again) over what has been done and said and what continues to be done and said. But still I was silent.

Friends, I can’t stay quiet anymore. But I am no wiser today than I was last week or last month or last year when I typed out a heartfelt article about Ferguson that my computer ended up eating overnight. So here’s what I have to say:

I am listening. I am listening to those who are different from me, those who have lived and seen and heard things I could not fathom without their brave testimonies. I am listening to those who make me so angry my eyes blur with tears and to those who break my heart so completely, so efficiently that the tears explode from my wide eyes. I am listening to those who look different than me, who live different than me, who love different than me, who aren’t really all that different than me.

I believe wholeheartedly that racism is a problem in our country, and I am listening to those who know more about it than I do in my white world and my white worldview.

I believe wholeheartedly that there is, indeed, a war on marriage but that it has nothing to do with the legal rights of gay people. And I believe wholeheartedly that as Christians we are called to fight for those in need, not against each other. We are called to love mercy, to love our neighbors.

I believe wholeheartedly that Jesus asks me to love others, not to judge them – especially when I know full and well that I am not without sin. And I know that Jesus said if we love Him, we should take care of His sheep – not attack them. He said to feed the hungry, care for the poor, invite in the strangers. And I know how many times I have failed those simple commands.

I believe wholeheartedly that God loves each one of us, no matter who we love, and that is all I need to know when it comes to deciding how to treat people.

I am also standing. I am standing with my brothers and sisters in Christ who are fighting the good fight. I am standing with those who hurt and those who feel and those who share and shout. I am standing with my family and my friends who are so incredibly important to me, even when we see things differently and misunderstand and let each other down. I am standing with them because I love them.

I am standing with those who say all lives matter. I am standing with those who say love is the main thing. I am standing and I’m not backing down, because even if I don’t have the right words or the wisest answer, I do know those truths and I will stand on them. I will stand on the Truth of God’s word and His love, and I will stand with those who need that love. (You know, all of us.)

Just a few verses up from the one about living in peace with everyone, the Bible says this:

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves…Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

So I will love and I will listen, I will rejoice and I will mourn, and I will stand.

Listening and standing works for me.

 
Photo source

Works for Me Wednesday :: Giving Up on Perfect

It’s time for Works for Me Wednesday. I’m looking forward to your tips, tricks, ideas and inspiration! If this is your first time linking up with WFMW here, PLEASE read the guidelines I shared in this post. Highlights include linking your specific post, not the front page of your blog, and making sure to include a link back to this site in your WFMW. Thank you!!

Don’t Worry. It Comes Around Again.

As I put Adrienne into her car seat, I spotted it: a tiny black bug. In her hair.

IN HER HAIR.

I didn’t have time to freak out, although I’ll confess to googling a little bit at stoplights on the way back to Annalyn’s school. Which means my phone’s Google app currently shows “black bugs in hair,” “flat black bugs” and “bugs in hair not lice” as my most recent searches. Fun.

After standing in a crowded office for 10 minutes waiting for the new printer system to spit out my visitor pass and then hauling a less-than-cooperative toddler around Annalyn’s school for the summer school showcase (aka, the day the teacher sends All The Papers home with us), I was done. And sweaty.

So VERY sweaty.

I got the girls into the car, cranked up the A/C, and headed straight to Sonic. It was happy hour, and we needed some happy. (Largely because I spent the drive yelling at Annalyn for, basically, being a kid. And because I was hot. SO HOT.) We got our half-price drinks and headed home.

Where I sat down with a baby on my lap and promptly found more bugs.

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{Photo is from The Switch. Sadly, Jason Bateman was not available to help me deal with this situation.}

Feeling a little desperate, I googled a bit more until I couldn’t deny it any longer. Adrienne had lice. Probably from the parents’ day out program she attends. (Which is a nice, clean facility – but also filled with kids, you know?) (I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you that lice prefer clean hair. Okay? CLEAN HAIR. There’s no stigma here anymore. I mean, in a world with commercials about herpes medication, how could THIS be the most embarrassing thing to have?) (Except it is. Obviously. Hence my babbling here.)

After asking a group of friends on Facebook for recommended treatments, I packed up the girls and got back into the [hot] car. It was okay because I needed to go to the store anyway (and I’d gotten distracted earlier with my heat-induced tantrum). So we went to the grocery store, where Annalyn said – not once, but twice, and loud enough for fellow grocery shoppers to hear – that we were there because of the contagious bugs in our hair.

You’re welcome, HyVee shoppers.

We loaded up on Cetaphil cleanser and fine-toothed combs (for this method), then grabbed a head of lettuce (for the tacos I still thought I’d make for dinner that night) and a seedless watermelon (for an upcoming playdate that I’d said I’d bring fruit to). And, FINE, I bought another package of S’mores Oreos, too. CAN YOU BLAME ME?

When we got home, I told Annalyn to take the watermelon inside while I carried Adrienne (who had insisted on removing her shoes in the car) and the grocery bags. I imagined snapping a quick pic on my phone of her doing it, captioning it something oh-so-clever like, “She carried a watermelon?!”

watermelon

What’s that, you say? Where IS that clever instagram? Oh RIGHT. It’s not anywhere. It didn’t happen. Because Annalyn didn’t carry the watermelon. She dropped it. On the front porch. Where it immediately cracked and began dripping. Because what was I thinking? Simply saying, “Be VERY careful! Use two hands! Set it down VERY carefully to open the door…” was NOT going to be enough. Watermelons are heavy, you know?

But accidents happen, so I couldn’t even be mad. Really, it just made me chuckle. Of COURSE this day would include a five-dollar watermelon going full Gallagher in the front yard.

It was piano lesson day, and Mark was randomly working days so he wasn’t home. Did I mention those fun facts yet? Yeah. So I treated Adrienne’s hair while Annalyn practiced piano. (If you’ve never tried to blow-dry soap-soaked hair on a toddler, by the way, DON’T.)

Anyway. After texting Annalyn’s piano teacher to make sure I could bring my potentially infested child to her house, we got back in the car. The hot car. Again. Annalyn asked for a piece of gum because she was SO HUNGRY. (Still planning to make tacos after piano lesson at this point…) I said no, but stopped at McDonald’s for a small smoothie.

I passed it back to her, and she immediately asked if she could share with her sister. Her sister who was yelling, “EAT! EAT! EAT!”

Now, for the record, these children HAD BEEN FED. Breakfast, lunch, snacks – they weren’t starving. But they were probably hungry. Which is what I told myself as they bickered in the back seat. Apparently Annalyn was all-too-happy to share ONE SLURP with her baby sister, while her baby sister had more of a 50/50 arrangement in mind.

There we were. Stuck in traffic. Two squabbling sisters. One mom about to have Meltdown #ILOSTCOUNT. In the hot car. Hungry. Five minutes from being late. Probably infested with “contagious bugs.”

But then…THEN! I heard it. “When I wake up, well, I know I’m gonna be…

Don't Worry. Your Joy Will Come Around Again. | via givinguponperfect.com

It was the Proclaimers, singing, “I’m Gonna Be” – or, as most of us know it, “I Would Walk 500 Miles.” It’s a fun song on its own, but ever since I watched Ted and Marshall singing it on repeat during their first road trip, I’ve loved it even more.

Singing along to that goofy song at the top of my lungs – and listening to my girls do the same – totally cheered me up.

If you haven’t seen the How I Met Your Mother episode I’m referring to, the guys listen to the song over and over again because a Proclaimers tape has been stuck in Marshall’s tape deck since he was in high school. As you can imagine, even the most enthusiastic and optimistic TV characters get a little tired of it after a while – but as Ted starts feeling annoyed, that’s when Marshall encourages him, saying, “Don’t worry. It comes around again.”

Isn’t that the truth?!

Even on days that come with hair bugs and heat waves and smashed watermelons, it’s not all lost. Our joy, our happiness – they’re not gone forever. Even those terrible, no good, rotten days have cookies or car singing or sunsets or rain showers or a phone call from a friend or a timely Bible verse shared on Facebook.

And even if your day is so bad it doesn’t have even one of those things, you can rest in the knowledge that tomorrow is a new day. And that no matter how bad things get, God is holding you and loving you. Even on the worst days.

Don’t worry. It comes around again. Your joy, some hope, a bit of happiness – it all comes around again.

(Here’s hoping the lice, however, does not come back around – ever again!)

When You Need a Little Fabulous

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A couple weeks ago Annalyn went to theater camp. Because we need more drama in our house.

Melodrama and emotional theatrics aside, she loved the camp. Singing and dancing all day with new friends who love to sing and dance all day was just about all the fun my little actor could take. At the end of the week, the kids performed a musical revue for their families. (They called it a play, but I’ve been in many plays and this was not it. It was songs with a few awkward lines in between.)

In order to be prepared for her big performance, Annalyn needed to practice her line, her duet and her group songs all week long. ALL WEEK LONG. Over and over, until all three of us (Annalyn, Adrienne and I) had them memorized. Well, saying the baby could sing an entire song is an exaggeration (remember: we are dramatic over here), but she sure did love dancing to the repeated tunes.

And, I’m not going to lie, so did I.

I was initially annoyed that my seven-year-old’s class was singing songs from High School Musical and other Disney teen movies. Prior to this summer Annalyn only watched animated Disney movies (and don’t even get me started on the obnoxious, non-cartoon kids shows on TV). But since she was singing songs from these movies (the first and second High School Musicals, Teen Beach Movie, and Lemonade Mouth), I decided we should watch them together.

I’d like to tell you they were awful — and one of them **cough, cough** Teen Beach Movie **cough, cough** WAS — but honestly? I enjoyed them nearly as much as Annalyn. Not always for the same reasons (like I did while watching Jurassic World last weekend, I kept wondering, “Is this SUPPOSED to be funny? Because it is hilarious!”), but we did both like watching them.

As a matter of fact, I’d decided to read a book while she watched High School Musical 2, but I didn’t pick it up once. Aside from the few minutes when I dozed off (come on! Can you blame me??), I watched that silly show just as intently as my daughter. Especially when the kids sang the song from theater camp: Fabulous.

The song is silly, sure. And the character of Sharpay? SUPER ANNOYING. (Although she has prompted Annalyn and me to have some good conversations about attitude and friendship.) And, really, the majority of the song is just ridiculous.

“Fetch me my Jimmy Choo flip-flops. Where is my pink Prada tote?
I need my Tiffany hairband, and then I can go for a float.”

Right. Ridiculous. But maybe it’s a matter of being brainwashed, after blaring – and singing along to – the song for five days straight. Or maybe watching four teen movies in two weeks was just too much for my precarious, post-baby reasoning skills.

Whatever the reason, at some point I started hearing the lyrics differently.

“I need something inspiring to help me get along
I need a little fabulous, is that so wrong?”

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At first it was just stuck in my head like a glittery Disney earworm. But then I found myself thinking, “IS that so wrong? Maybe we DO need a little fabulous!”

Then, as we watched High School Musical 2 and Troy (Zac Efron) literally leapt through a field doing a happy dance, my eyes eventually stopped rolling and I had another thought. I thought, “Why is it so laughable for a guy to be so happy that he leaps through fields and bursts into song?”

Yes, I see your point. It is possible I’ve fallen under the spell of Too Many Musicals. But what if I haven’t?

IS THERE something wrong with needing a little fabulous? IS THERE something wrong with actually letting our happiness spill out, even if it means a song and a dance? IS THERE something wrong with choosing joy, even if we look a little foolish?

I say no.

When I cleared my Christmas decorations off the top of my piano several months ago, I decided to unpack some of my books. See, when we put our house on the market last year (and the year before that), we decluttered a LOT. That cleaning spree included packing up anything unnecessary – like my books. And when we moved furniture to make room for a baby, it meant going one step further and storing our bookshelf, too.

As much as I love reading, as important as words and the books that hold them are to me, this actually hit me as a physical loss. I MISSED my books!

So in early February, when YES my holiday things should have been long gone, I moved them out and replaced them with a stack of books. I may not have room for a full bookshelf right now, but I can display some of my favorites on top of my piano. That simple move has made me SO HAPPY. Just the sight of those books makes me smile.

And when I added a wooden dolphin and framed photo to my makeshift shelf? Well, my heart pulled a Grinch and grew three sizes! To me, de-staging my house felt FABULOUS. It eased my frustration that nobody wants to buy our house and we’re stuck here, possibly FOR-EV-ER. It reminded me that I like my cute little house (sometimes) because it’s my place, my HOME.

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It was fabulous. Just like bright pink toenail polish, red paint on my dining room wall, photos of my family making goofy faces, pretty tissue boxes that cost more than the plain ones, matching towels folded just the right way, t-shirts with nerdy puns, new lip gloss, or sparkly earrings.

It’s just like my daughter’s collection of glittery hairbands and mismatched socks, and it’s just like the bloggers I see sharing What They Wore each week or urging each other to Do Your Makeup. It’s not about what other people think of you or how society says you should look (blergh.). It’s simply that sometimes a little bit of pretty can go a long way toward how we feel about ourselves.

(Or, in my books’ case, sometimes a little bit of pretty can go a long way toward how we feel about our homes.)

Little things. Frivolous things. THINGS THAT MAKE ME SMILE. And sometimes? Those things my heart calls fabulous are also things that inspire me – to take better care of my house or my body, to write something encouraging or helpful, to smile at the three people who I love most (and drive me the most crazy).

So I say, it’s not so wrong to need a little fabulous.

As for the part where we all choose joy and celebrate loudly (hopefully by leaping in fields and singing Disney tunes), I’m going to save that for later.

But today, if you’re longing for some fabulous? Don’t let that – or anyone – make you feel silly or frivolous. Swipe on another layer of that bright red lipstick, straighten the zebra print pillows on your couch, and grab your monogrammed bottle with the fruit-infused water. If something inspiring is going to help you get along, go for it! Be fabulous.

Do you need a little fabulous today?

 
Photos by hitchster, yozza and staci.