Thursday, January 31, 2013

Danuary 2013

One of my favorite months is coming to a close. What’s that you ask? My favorite month? Oh… it’s DANuary! My annual month-long anniversary gift to my fantastic husband is to turn the month of January (the month following our December anniversary) into a time when he feels honored and loved. You can read about 2011 here and 2012 here.

This year, I wasn’t sure what to give him. Last year’s Night Light book reading didn’t go quite as I’d planned, and I think the Jesus Calling recordings were a little too low-tech. I pondered and prayed, and decided to work with the kids on making this year’s Danuary gift.

I figured out how to record an audio file on my laptop and then burn those files to a CD. I started searching my files for items to record. I found inspiring stories, favorite scriptures, a recording of his ultimate favorite worship moment at church, the audio from our favorite part of The Incredibles movie, and a few other surprises and started working on laying down the audio tracks. I also interviewed the kids (separately), had them perform a special “talent” (Katie played her recorder and Jackson and I told jokes to each other), and recorded Jackson singing and Katie reading a special book to him. I found an old letter Dan wrote me from our dating years, and read that for him along with a poem he wrote me back in the day. I recorded a favorite devotion for him, and even two things I wrote myself. I think my favorite of all 31 tracks is the one where Jackson sings “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” It so perfectly captures his silly personality. One day, I will be so thankful I recorded my kids’ voices when they were little.

I gave Dan the CD when we had our celebration dinner, and he listened to it each morning on his way to work. This year’s Danuary gift isn’t as extravagant as those in year’s past, but I think it helped remind Dan each day how special he is to our family. I love you, sugar!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Best Birthday Gift

Twenty years ago, right at the very minute I’m publishing this post, I was given the most wonderful birthday gift I’ve ever received. It was more than a gift; it was an offering.

I was at a fraternity party with this new guy I’d been dating. About a week earlier in a moment of spontaneous infatuation, I had told this boy I loved him. It was entirely premature and unplanned, and as the words escaped my mouth I realized putting my heart on the line like that was a stupid thing to do. My heart plummeted to my stomach when he didn’t respond to my declaration of love. “Oh well,” I thought to myself. “It’s out there now. Nothing I can do about it. Either he takes my love and holds on to it, or I may never see him again.”

The next day, I saw him again. And the next and the next. He didn’t run! We quickly became inseparable. Love didn’t come up again, but he knew how I felt. My birthday weekend approached, and my parents ambushed me with a surprise visit to college in celebration of my birthday. This boy was put through a trial by fire: impressing the parents of his new girlfriend, meeting the girlfriend’s best friend from high school, and the awkwardness of a birthday without any present to give (because we had just started dating, and what would you give a new girlfriend anyway?).

The last night of my 18th year, my visiting high school friend and I went to a fraternity party with this new boyfriend of mine. As midnight approached, we were hanging out and dancing in a dim room. There was a clock on the wall, and I remember counting down the minutes with this boy. When midnight hit, he told me he had a present for me. Since I love presents, I eagerly asked, “What is it?!” He looked me square in the eyes and said, “I love you.” I’m pretty sure my face registered surprise as I replied, “You DO?!” He smiled and said, “Yes, I do,” and then he kissed me. This time, my heart turned cartwheels in my chest instead of plummeting to my stomach as I responded, “I love you, too!” Then I danced a little jig and ran down the hall of the fraternity house saying, “He loves me!” before I returned back to him.

This boy taught me volumes about love in that one moment, because he showed me what honest love is. It isn’t a knee-jerk response to someone’s awkward declaration, and it isn’t an obligation. Love is an offering you give only when you are darn good and ready. By waiting to tell me he loved me and NOT professing it simply because I professed mine, he showed me that the depth of his character was stocked with commitment, patience, honor, and honesty. Even though I had to wait a little while for those three words, the weight they carried showed me this boy was a man after my very heart.

12:01am on January 30, 1993 was just the start of a life-changing love. That boy is now my man. He’s my husband, my lover, my confidante, and my best friend. For twenty years, he has continually offered his heart to me and blessed me with intimate love I never knew existed before he came into my life. I am utterly and hopelessly in love with him, and forever grateful to my Father for bringing Dan into my life.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Worst Christmas Song EVER

I was reading my tablet version of Entertainment Weekly, and came across this letter to the editor in the January 11 edition:

It says, “Your holiday playlist was missing the saddest Christmas song ever: ‘The Cat Carol’ by Meryn Cadell. I dare anyone to listen to this and not crawl under the tree and lie in a fetal position.”

So I jotted down the name of the song and this past Sunday, had a chance to Google it. I found this video on YouTube and I proceeded to watch it. My kids love any type of video when I watch it on my laptop, so they came running when they heard the music playing. So before I got a chance to screen it for them, they watched it. Uh oh. Go check it out yourself. I’ll wait ‘til you’re done. (And while you’re there, check out the comments below the video. My favorite is: Every year I find new cat loving victims to listen to this song and watch them break down. LOVE IT!!!!! It’s one of my favorite holiday activities.)

My kids listened to it and said, “Awww, the cat died?! Why? What happened? That’s so sad!” The entire time, I was swallowing great gulps of laughter and hiding my face in my scarf. And when the line came about the cat constellation? I think I snorted and choked at the same time, all underneath the scarf again. I mean, seriously. Someone called that the saddest Christmas song ever?! I think it’s the something-est song ever, but definitely not the saddest. The nicest thing I can say is I finally found something to replace the horrid “Christmas Shoes” songs at the top of the Worst Christmas Song list.

In case you’d like a copy of the lyrics for your own pleasure, here they are:

The cat wanted in to the warm, warm house
But no one would let the cat in.
It was cold outside on Christmas Eve,
She meowed and meowed by the door.
The cat was not let in to the warm, warm house
And her tiny cries were ignored.
’Twas a blizzard now, the worst of the year.
There was no place for her to hide.
Just then a poor little mouse crept by,
He had lost his way in the snow.
He was on his last legs and was almost froze,
The cat lifted him with her paw.
She said “Poor mouse do not be afraid,
because this is Christmas Eve.
On this freezing night we both need a friend,
I won’t hurt you. Stay by my side.”
She dug a small hole in an icy drift,
This is where they would spent the night.
She curled herself  ‘round her helpless friend,
Protecting him from the cold.
When Santa came by near the end of the night
The reindeer started to cry.
They found the cat lying there in the snow
And they could see that she had died.
They lifted her up from the frozen ground
And placed her into the sleigh.
It was then they saw the little mouse wrapped up,
She had kept him warm in her fur.
“Oh thank you Santa for finding us!
Dear cat wake up we are saved!”
...“I’m sorry mouse but your friend has died,
There’s nothing more we can do.
On Christmas Eve she gave you her life,
the greatest gift of them all.”
Santa lifted her up into the night sky
And laid her to rest among the stars.
“Dear mouse don’t cry you are not alone,
You will see your friend every year.
Each Christmas a cat constellation will shine,
to remind us that her love’s still here.”

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What I Want for 2013

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a few years ago, when I realized I kept putting the same resolution on the list (for MANY years in a row) and it never got accomplished. I felt like a failure. Who needs that?!

I am at the start of a new year, in what is also my birth month, and I am looking ahead with anticipation. After this past year, what kind of adventures does God have in store for me? I say “adventure” because it’s going to be fun and probably a little scary. But scary just makes it exciting, right? (C’mon, say yes so I am not so scared!)

I have a few goals in mind this year. NOT resolutions, just goals. In fact, maybe the word “goals” is too strong of a word. Maybe I should just call them “like-tos.” (Don’t want to pressure myself, you know.)

  1. Build friendships: start new ones and strengthen old ones. 2011 was a parched and dusty friendship year for me, and I am craving soul connection with other women who understand what makes me tick – and who tick with the same rhythm. I want to connect with women who are in love with Jesus and pursue Him. I have a few women already in my life who do this, and I want to deepen my friendship with them too.
  2. Read more: my own “grown up” books and books with the kids. And I am committed to finishing this one certain book that I started in the spring of 2011 and got stuck 60% of the way through. It’s a doozy and will require lots of self examination, but I know it’s crucial to my emotional health.
  3. Less rituals: near the end of 2011, I found myself drained by the daily rituals I got myself wrapped inside. I had three devotions I was reading every morning, a daily diary I was trying to keep, plus my box of index cards on the kitchen table. Too much! This year, I cut out my devotions (and have been spending more time with my Bible), got rid of the daily diary (in favor of emailing a short synopsis to myself at the end of each day because I type faster than I can handwrite now), and decided to simply stop the daily index card notes. So far, I feel much less tethered than before.
  4. Marriage: I want to pour into my marriage more this year. I have been texting Dan a prayer each morning, letting him know he is a priority from the moment I wake. There’s also Danuary, plus the desire that I want to be a servant to him in our marriage this year.
  5. Creativity: I have a few “like-tos” I want to tackle, like growing in my photography hobby (I’d love to finally take a class to help some things make better sense!) and making some more photo art and subway art pieces.
  6. Breast self exam: yep, I know this is a weird one to add to a list of “like-tos.” It was a resolution I made last year that I kept until mid-October, which I was pretty proud of. This year, I’m keeping my promise to do my monthly BSE.

So, that’s my list. What’s on yours, and how are you doing so far?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Back to Our Beginnings

Dan and I celebrated our 17th anniversary this past December with a trip to our college hometown of Columbia, Missouri. We’ve been back for other events since graduation, but haven’t returned to simply hang out together. This time, we booked a hotel downtown so we could walk and explore to our heart’s desire. I loved being back on the same sacred ground where God changed our lives by intersecting them and binding us together.

We arrived in Columbia and checked in to our hotel._MDS3569

This is the hotel lobby._MDS3444 (2)

Dan and I have been eagerly awaiting the release of the movie version of Les Miserables, and planned to see it in Columbia. We went to a theater we vaguely remember from back in our day and saw it that night. I was upended and wrecked at the end of the movie. It affected me as deeply as the stage version, but in completely different ways.IMG_2083

After the movie, we were too spent to do much more than find a late night snack and a drink. We found a restaurant named Addison’s near our hotel, and had drinks (Dan’s was a Black & Tan and mine was a Mediterranean martini, or something like that) and one of the best platters of nachos I’ve ever tasted. (They call them Nachos Bianco and they had asiago cheese on them. Yum!)IMG_2085

We slept in a little the next morning, and opened the window shades to find it had snowed overnight._MDS3433

We planned to walk through town most of the day. The shoes I had were not snow-worthy, so we had to take a trip to Walmart for some boots. On the way, we stopped for breakfast at one of Dan’s favorite places that he frequented in college (in the wee hours of the night): The Broadway Diner. Dan had the signature dish, called a Stretch. It is awful, if you ask me. But he loves it! Eggs, hash browns, onions, chili, cheese, and peppers.IMG_2086

And then, we started our – literal – walk down memory lane. First, we drove by Dan’s old apartment in Juniper Ridge, which looked so small and run down, even though it pretty much hasn’t changed since he lived there. Of course, he didn’t have a four-wheeler on the lawn back then. (But wouldn’t that have been fun?!)_MDS3460

Dan found a new spot for us that didn’t exist when we were in college: he scouted out a labyrinth in town, and we stopped to check it out._MDS3467

It was covered in snow and I couldn’t follow it, so I made my own path._MDS3472

I also spied this fantastic tree nearby and had to capture it._MDS3471

Next, we headed to campus and parked the car so we could walk wherever our memories led us. We started at the new student center (which used to be called Brady Commons but is now soooo much more). I loved this SEC display on the wall._MDS3496

We left the new version of Brady Commons and came to this dry fountain. I have great memories here. My two sorority pledge sisters and I were walking on campus one summer night and ended up in the fountain. (Well, one of us did.) I can still hear Sally shrieking at Eve while she was getting soaked. Poor Sally!_MDS3500

I loved how campus was so deserted (it was New Year’s Eve, after all), because I felt like the entire college belonged to us. We weren’t distracted by the present, and could walk the paths like twenty years had never passed. That was most evident in Ellis Library._MDS3501

Time has truly stood still inside the library. I remember sitting at these same desks, studying (with my WALKMAN on my ears, y’all!) and trying to understand my Econ class notes and filling countless index cards with memorization facts. I have a vivid memory of sitting in this room and practicing the spelling of the last name of this red-headed new boy I had met. (If you know me in real life, you know my last name is not easy to spell!)_MDS3510

The day we visited, there were only two other people in this room. The silence was palpable, and yet so comforting and soothing. The only noise in the place was my camera shutter, clicking away. You have no idea how much the sound of silence and shutters makes my heart sing!_MDS3509

We ventured out of the big, spacious room and through those doors and into the stacks and stacks and STACKS of library books. I remember being in these crannies in college and how I may have kissed Dan in a row like this… maybe once or twice. This photo can’t convey the sheer amount of books in the stacks. I had moments of minor claustrophobia walking through here and when I lost sight of Dan for a few moments, panic gripped my heart until I found him again._MDS3519

One of my favorite parts of the bowels of the library are these study corrals that people can rent. I assume it’s graduate students who need the corrals for research, so they don’t have to lug their books and papers through the library every time they need to come study. They rent these desk with wire cages built around them, and can lock the doors on their spots when they leave. Most of the corrals don’t have windows, and I can’t imagine how isolated a person must feel to be caught in the stacks inside a cage. Dude, it makes my heart thud just thinking about it. I swear it sounds like a horror movie plot. But knowing how much change the campus has undergone since we graduated, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until the library is renovated and these Cages of Death (dunh, dunh, dunh!) disappear._MDS3517

Next, we found the microfilm room. Honestly, I can’t believe microfilm still exists. Hasn’t someone scanned all the film into a database somewhere? Obviously not. However, seeing a Mac beside a microfilm machine got me all giddy inside. I imagine one day my kids (or grandkids) will be fascinated by microfilm machines. They’ll ask, “Film? What’s that? Ribbons with images on them? Huh?”_MDS3513

I wonder what people will do with these microfilm storage drawers one day. I saw them and my eyes grew wide, wishing I had storage like this in my house. (Did you just hear Dan groan? That’s his worst nightmare.)_MDS3516

I’m also envious of the card catalogs too. Ooooo, baby. I digress…_MDS3502

Outside the library, we stopped to admire Memorial Union._MDS3524

We moved on to Francis Quadrangle, for photos of Jesse Hall and then the Columns._MDS3532

That’s my sugar, standing between the Columns. Oh, this makes me happy._MDS3536

And so does this._MDS3543

And this, too. How I love this place!_MDS3453

Moving on, we walked through the Engineering School where Dan spent a majority of his college classes, and then the Journalism School, where I spent mine._MDS3547

There’s a legend about these lions outside the Journalism School. Something about how they roar when virgins walk through at a specific time. Hmmm…_MDS3549

The J-School has changed dramatically through additions of new classrooms and technology. I didn’t recognize most of it, but I was still able to locate the classroom where I learned the most about journalism, and where I was critiqued (endlessly and often painfully) by my professors and classmates. It was rough, but it was necessary to prepare me for the sharp and sometimes heartless business of television news. (There’s a reason I didn’t last long as a TV news producer, y’all. The parts I loved – the writing and the chronicling of life – were sucked dry by the character beatings and horrible work schedules I endured. But that’s a story for another day.)_MDS3553

I stopped by my favorite professor’s office and left him a note on his door, then walked out of my college home and saw this man who has become a home for my heart. I love the silhouette of him overlooking the snowy Quad._MDS3560

We knew it was time to make our way off campus and to downtown Columbia to get ready for dinner and New Year’s Eve festivities, but stopped at one more spot on the way there. This is something pretty special for us._MDS3565

In our early dating days, I found out that Dan had never seen the movie Casablanca. Neither had I, I don’t think. And remember, this was back in the day when I didn’t even own a VCR (yep, wait for the grandkids to ask what THAT is!) and didn’t know how we  might be able to watch this movie I had heard was so romantic and a must-see. One day I heard the movie was being played in the library auditorium. I made plans for a secret date night with Dan. I walked him to Ellis Auditorium and didn’t tell him why. He figured out we were going to see a movie, but didn’t know which one until the movie started to roll. This is the room where we first saw Casablanca, and it is still one of Dan’s favorite movies._MDS3564

We left campus and stopped by our hotel to freshen up, then headed to the streets of Columbia. (I loved our hotel room and the view from this window, so I had to include this!)_MDS3568

We walked by a few of our favorite bars._MDS3573

Then we met my sorority pledge mom (who still lives in town) and her husband for drinks at a new spot, Broadway Brewery. They have craft beers and Dan was so happy to have that instead of the Penny Pitchers he used to drink in college._MDS3576

The rest of the night, Dan and I were on our own and found a few new spots (Sycamore for dinner and The Shot Bar [where we felt REALLY old]) and ended up back at Broadway Brewery for the crème brulee dessert. We rang in the new year at Vault Speakeasy, the bar in the basement of our hotel. Along with the champagne toast, I had some yummy drink with chocolate toffee on top. (Sorry for the photo quality.)IMG_2089

We slept in on New Year’s Day and took our time getting ready to head home. Before we left town, there were two crucial stops we had to make. The first was to Booches.IMG_2093

I don’t think any burger I’ve eaten in my lifetime will ever compare to a Booches burger. I only ate one (it was still morning, y’all!), but seriously considered eating two because they are that good.IMG_2092

Our last stop before leaving town was to visit the labyrinth and see if the snow had melted. Nope, not quite._MDS3577

But the sky was bright and beautiful, so I settled on a photo of that same tree from the day before._MDS3581

I have learned not to live in the past. There are too many regrets and too many losses that make my heart ache. But every once in a while, I visit the past to see the path God pioneered solely for me. Our trip to Columbia reminded me how gracious and loving He is to me, and how His mercy coats every mistake and misstep I fought so hard to make. He rescued me, He carried me, and He blessed me tremendously with this life He has led me to and led me through. How happy I am to be married to my college sweetheart, who whisks me away for a weekend with him. The wonder of it all!


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