Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Housework and Activism

I am not a political person.  You won’t find me adamantly supporting candidates I don’t know personally or posting constantly about whatever popular thing there is to be worked up about. I won’t go on and on about abortion or same sex marriage or whatever inflammatory subject happens to be in the spotlight. With most political issues, I feel like there are two sides to every story, and too many circumstances to talk in absolutes. But this month, I’m wearing dresses to stand up against Human Trafficking, and posting State Representatives’ phone numbers, asking you to call them to stop the insane number of fracking wells (numbers the oil and gas company lied about) that have been proposed to go into residential areas of our town.

Emily, it looks as though you’ve become an activist.

What gives?

It’s because of housework.


You see, my kids have to do certain chores before they can watch TV or play their iPads or video games. And their efforts as of late have been lackluster. They miss huge piles of clothes that need to be put away. They leave their backpacks on the floor. They leave their books, dishes, clothes, toys wherever they land with no thought that those particular items are included on the “pick up and put away anything that belongs to you” part of our “Daily Chore Chart.”

And for the past few weeks, instead of giving them step by step instructions, I have been saying, “Look around. Find what needs to be done and do it.” Over and over and over again.

My four year-old is included in these chores, and when he asks if he can watch Dinosaur Train, our conversation usually goes like this:

Child: Can I please watch Dinosaur Train?
Mommy: You can watch Dinosaur Train as soon as you pick up your toys.
Child: But that will be sooooo haaaard to do. It’s too hard to do.
Mommy: You can do hard things, buddy.

I say these things to my children because I want them to grow into contributing members of society. I say these things to my children because I want to empower them. I want them to look around, find what needs to be done and do it. I want them to do hard things so that they know that they can do harder things when they have to. I say these things because I want them to be able “to adult.”

But the only way that they know I mean it is if I do it myself. So I am looking around. I am finding out what needs to be done, and I am doing something. They aren’t big things, but they are hard things: Speaking out for someone who doesn’t have a voice. Asking for State help to fight against Oil and Gas Companies who were given more power than the communities they enter.

I could bury my head in a book or in Gilmore Girls episodes to escape my anxiety about these situations (It wouldn’t be the first or the last time for me to do this), but that would send a different message to my children.

Plus, when I meet God someday, and I get to ask him, “Why ticks? Why sickness? Why childhood cancer? Why sex slaves? Why didn’t You do anything about all of that?”

I don’t want Him to be able to say, “Why didn’t you?”

To donate to the Dressember Campaign, go here:

To oppose fracking under homes and schools, and that is dangerously close to the water supply in Broomfield, please call Vicky Marble at 303-866-4876 to tell her you don't want to be a guinea pig in this Residential Fracking Experiment.

Learn more at

Monday, November 7, 2016

Let's Saniflush Perfection Down the Toilet

When I was in the 5th grade, my “best friend” started talking about me behind my back. She gave me the code name of Saniflush so that she could talk about me to my other friends in front of me, and I wouldn’t know. She was so clever. Because I had no idea she was talking about me. Not.

This girl and I were attached at the hip and then very suddenly, one day, she was ignoring me and talking to our mutual friend, and they only talked about Saniflush then looked at me and laughed.  It was stupid, petty 5th grade mean girl stuff. Saniflush smelled funny. She was fat. She said the dumbest things. She liked the grossest boy.

I died a million 5th grade deaths of embarrassment, humiliation, and shame. And I started believing that I smelled funny, was fat, said dumb things, and that the boy I liked was, in fact, gross. Most of all, I believed that no one would like me anymore if I stopped being friends with this name-calling mean girl. As a 36 year-old, I can tell you that none of that was true. I was a thin, brilliant young woman who smelled perfectly normal and liked a very cute boy, thankyouverymuch. And people liked me. Also, my name has absolutely no toilet connotations whatsoever.

But that experience. That experience that most of us had, planted doubts and lies in my head, and even though I’m pretty sure I confronted her and said something like, “I know you’re talking about me and that’s bogue,” it shaped my friendships. It shaped all of our friendships, didn’t it?

Because I grew up believing that when I left the room, the other girls talked about how fat and stupid and gross I was. So I put on layers to protect myself. I did my best to have the perfect clothes (IOU sweatshirts and guess jeans), the perfect 90s hair… I used the right words. “Totally rad.” I tried my best to become the girl that no one could make fun of, no one could talk badly about behind her back. I tried. I tried so hard.

We all did. You remember it. Thing is, trying so hard to be perfect comes at a price. And someone else was always perfecter than me, and that made me jealous and hateful.
She’s so skinny.
She’s so pretty.
She’s so much smarter, taller, better than I am.
She’s so much more creative, organized, _________ than I am. Ugh. I hate her.

Fast-forward to our mid-thirties, and we are still doing it. Have you seen her house?! It’s like that all the time! She always looks perfect! I hate her. We are still protecting ourselves from being the Saniflushes of the world, covering up our imperfections, hiding the truth of our flaws from each other. Posting only our best moments on Facebook. Bragging about our kids’ accomplishments on Twitter. I do it too. I’m not pointing fingers.

But if we are going to hate each other, we might as well hate each other for an actual reason, not because she has a cuter house, haircut, butt, husband than I do. Because how could we hate an illusion? Isn’t that what all those layers of perfect are? The clothes, the hair, the makeup, the house, the whatever. They are all an illusion that says, “I have my stuff together.”

Let’s be real. Even the people we really think have their stuff together don’t. So, maybe instead of out-perfecting each other, maybe we could try to out-real each other. Right? Let it all hang out. What if we tell the truth with our clothes and our hair and our homes and our friends and our words? What if we just tell the truth?

The days of pretending are over. They oppressed our mothers and our mothers’ mothers, but they will not oppress us.

We will be real and honest. We will wear our imperfections like badges of honor in the sisterhood of struggle because life is hard and humans are stupid and showing your weakness is brave.

We are a generation of women who value connection over power. Strength over control. Truth over illusion. Courage and compassion over appearance.

There is no place for you anymore, perfection.  You can take your finely pressed pantsuit and go home. Unless.

Unless you want to borrow a pair of yoga pants, help me fold this crazy huge pile of laundry and tell me about how you also want to punch your husband in the face sometimes while we watch Gilmore Girls and drink Cabernet… Then you can stay, and we’ll work on your ability to not do your hair. Like ever.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Adventures Then and Now

The sun is shining. The sky is blue. The leaves are red and gold. I pour coffee from my thermos and the steam billows above it, and I am back on the road in 2003 in the November I left safety and found a sense of belonging on the road, camping with Ralph, my purple Ford Ranger, Frederick, my teddy bear, and my "Papa's girl" engraved Buck Knife.

I long for the simplicity of that month of my life, when the $1000 I had saved up got me through 8 states, 11 National Parks, 3 car repairs, a love story, and countless adventures.  Rereading that sentence, I think, man, that sounds so big, so brave, so adventurous, so impossible to my life now...not to mention $1000 barely feeds them all. But the reality of it is all I did that month was figure out where I wanted to go, how much I had, and I went.

Now, life is complicated. Going to Target is like going to the moon.
"Shoes. Get your shoes. Potty. Go Potty. Please. Just. Go. Potty. Seriously. Where ARE your shoes?!"
"I can't tie my shoes!"
"You learned how to tie your shoes 3 years ago. How have you forgotten this?"
"It's impossible!  I'm never going to learn it!"
"It's not impossible. You've already learned it once..."

I mean, you get it.  Leaving the house with 3 children is a Herculean effort.
I long for the days when I thought about where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, and I just went. I did. I was.

Now I stay. I don't. I am not.

Don't get me wrong, friends, I try.  I mean, I know you see pictures of my efforts on Facebook.  The efforts that make it look like I'm doing it.  They make me look like I'm living the way God intended me to... Adventurously. Bravely. With belonging, acceptance, and love.

But the reality is that most of these adventures with kids are really just me dragging my whining, complaining children through the woods after I pointed my finger in their chest and growled through gritted teeth, "We are going hiking. I don't care if it is your favorite thing to do or not. We are going because it is MY favorite thing to do. I spent 4 hours baking and decorating a Pikachu cake for your birthday last week. I don't like cake, and I don't like Pokemon. But I love you, so I did it without saying anything bad about the whole process even when I dropped the cake on the floor and had to do it all over again, so YOU WILL HIKE. You will not complain. And you will do it because you love me."

I bully my children occasionally.  It is a method that got passed off as good parenting when I was a kid.  I resort back to it when I don't know what else to do. I get it. Clearly enjoying my time out in nature with the kids and staying patient with them while we hike and they whine and whatever is clearly the better parenting move because eventually my love of hiking and the outdoors will eventually wear off on them, and yadayadayada. But let's be real. These little jerks are robbing me of something I love and turning it into something I hate, and that pisses me off.  It does. I'm allowed to be pissed about this.  I've given them everything. My body, my time, my career, my food... the least they can do is to shut up while we are hiking. So...

We stay home because of snacks. And timing. And extra pants and wipes and whatever equipment is necessary. And because I know that bullying them into things is no way to parent, and especially no way to help them learn to love hiking, adventuring, and the outdoors.

Back then, I packed up what I needed for a month in the cab of my pickup.  Groceries (beans, rice, salsa, tortillas), a week's worth of clothes, camping gear, and the aforementioned bear and Buck Knife.  And now I take that much to the pool.

What happened?  I mean, I totally blame the kids, but that seems unfair.  I did want them after all.  I mean they're 3 of the best things that ever happened to me, but...I miss how easy it was to be brave. I miss how easy it was to live out my dreams when I didn't have to worry about anyone else's bowel movements, food allergies, aversions, needs, or constant demands.

Being brave was easy. It was just figure out where I wanted to go, figure out what I have, and go.

Wait. Isn't it still that? It's just that it's about where WE want to go, what WE have, and then WE go.

It's the WE that makes it complicated, but it's also the WE that makes it great. If I had stayed in that life, that adventurous, beautiful life alone, I may have had more cool accomplishments.  I would've reached the summit of more literal mountains. I would've seen more states. I would've played more. But all of those baby pictures are worth something too. All of the teaching how to walk and run and climb and ride and tie... All of the reading and snuggling and building and encouraging... Those are beautiful adventures too.

I am still an adventurer. I am still brave. I belong and provide belonging. I accept and am accepted. I love and am loved. Raising a family is a great adventure too. Even if we stay.

Especially when we stay.

Because being brave and being adventurous is mostly about showing up, saying, "Here I am" and "Here we are" and then doing the next thing.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

How I Created My Personal Growth Curriculum for 2016

Hey Friends--

Recently I posted the list of books that I actually read in 2015, and I told you that I'd let you know what I'd be reading in 2016.  Well, here it is.  I keep a list in the back of my planner so that when anyone tells me about a good book, I add it to the books I think I might like and are therefore worth at least reading the first 10 pages.

The first 10 pages (really the first 2) are key to me.  If I'm not into it by then, I'm out.  Dude.  I've got 3 kids and 3 jobs.  I did my required reading in high school and college (okay, so I read parts of them and BS'd my way through most of it) so I'm over the whole reading it the whole way through even if it's not for me business.

Here's the thing, I won't get to all of these.  I'll pick up some of them, and they won't reach me in the first 10 pages, so I'll put them down.

I'll read books that aren't yet on this list.

But I put this list here in case you want to join me and talk books with me sometime.

1.  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
2.  A Million Little Ways
3.  Interrupted
4. Out of Sorts
5.  Something by Jennie Allen
6.  Wired to Create
7.  Big Magic
8.  Prayer by Timothy Keller
9.  Switch On Your Brain
10.  A Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Donald Miller (I think it's time for a re-read)
11.  Yes Please by Amy Poehler
12.  Boundaries
13.  Bandersnatch
14.  Runaway Stories by Alice Munro
15.  On Writing by Stephen King (Another Re-read)
16.  In Defense of Food
17.  Omnivore's Dilemma
18. Writing Down the Bones
19.  Dear Sugar
20.  Grace for the Good Girl
21.  Primates of Park Avenue
22.  A Piece of Cake
23.  Let's All Be Brave
24.  You're Made for a God-Sized Dream
25.  Scribbling in the Sand
26.  The Circle Maker
27.  Whole Brain Child
28. 40 Days of Decrease
29.  Anything by Seth Godin
30.  Out of the Spin Cycle by JHat

So, I've already read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which happens to be a little weird, but also seems to be working in my house.  The first part of the book asked me to decide what kind of lifestyle I'd like to lead.  So I scribbled down the words:

Peaceful and Calm

And then I realized, I had essentially created a curriculum of sorts for the type of lifestyle I want.

I know it's totally a horrible picture, but basically, I can link most books with the lifestyle idea that I am hoping for! I'll let you know how it all turns out!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Do it.

You guys.

Something I just read got to me today for some reason, and I have to tell you about it too.

I'm reading Emily P. Freeman's book, A Million Little Ways.  Today, I read this part about a band that was asked about the secret to their success, and the secret was that they "keep chasing their craziest ideas."

For the past few years, I've had these crazy ideas that my body, my soul, my everything has me scared and paralyzed and has been telling me I can't, but for some reason, tonight, after reading these words, tonight... My body, my soul, my everything is screaming, "Why the hell not?!"

It is time, crazy idea.  It is time.

It is time for me, and it is time for you... maybe.  Maybe you've got a lot of fear to deal with yet, but dealing with the fear is a step in the direction of your crazy dreams.

Get out of your own way.  Look your fear in the face, say, "I'm afraid of failing, falling, making a fool of myself, not finishing again, being laughed at, winding up broke, friendless, hopeless, helpless, alone...but I'm doing this crazy shit anyway."

Because, seriously, this is what I'm saying tonight to my fear.  "Hey fear, I'm afraid of failing.  I'm afraid of making an ass of myself.  I'm afraid of shaming my family, being laughed at, not finishing again, being told I'm not good enough... but I'm doing this crazy shit anyway.  Because, guess what.  I've failed.  I've made an ass of myself.  I've shamed my family.  I've been laughed at.  I've not finished a million things.  I've been told I'm not good enough... And I survived... but I quit.  I've never not quit.  So here's the deal, fear, I see you.  I feel you.  But you no longer own me.  You no longer get to control me.  I see how you think you're trying to protect me, but I get the final say here, and I say the crazy dream lives."

So, my crazy dream and I are sitting down together tonight and figuring out what it's going to take to become a reality, because every person I've seen have their crazy ideas become reality have done the same thing... they take a bunch of small steps towards that dream until they are holding it in their hands, thanking God for making it happen.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Goals Shmoals

So, last year around this time, I read a blog post from someone saying something like, "Set goals!  Reach them!  Succeed!"

Okay, maybe it was something infinitely more helpful than that, but regardless, I went through the process.  I set some SMART goals for the year.  I went through the following 7 categories (I think it's the Wheel of Life from Zig Ziglar or something like that).

Romantic Goals
Career Goals
Relationship Goals
Recreation/Play Goals
Health Goals
Home Goals
Financial Goals
Personal Growth Goals

The article I read said to pick 3 areas of the Wheel that I am unsatisfied with and set 3 goals for the year.

Well, of course, I set 3 goals for each category because every area of life can always be improved!  And looking back, I can't decide whether it was a good idea because at least I achieved some of them from most categories, or if it was a not-so-good thing because, like the rest of my life, my thoughts, goals, intentions are so wide-spread that I cannot truly focus on any of them, and cannot, therefore succeed...

Which brings me to the thought of success.  What did I really expect when I was setting these goals?  Did I really expect myself to write a brilliant blog each week, a funny but thoughtful tweet a day, stay within a modest budget, intentionally spend quality time with my kids, exercise 5 days a week, go on 50+ hikes, go on a monthly date, finish writing and get my first book, make enough money to pay for Christmas, a basement remodel, a bathroom remodel, two bedroom remodels, and season passes for skiing for a family of 5?  I have never in my life stuck to a schedule of any kind, what made me think I would now?

Here's what's different about last year, though.  The rest of my life, I would've looked at this list of goals and saw how many of them I didn't accomplish perfectly.  I would've been disappointed, angry with myself, defeated. I would've sworn off of goal-setting, reflecting, etc. until I read another book that told me how great of an idea it is to set goals...

But this is the way I am able to look at these goals now:  I made progress in the past year.  It took me 12 years, but I beat Lyme Disease.  I didn't go on 50 hikes, but I went on some, and I went on those hikes with my children while doing my very best to enjoy my kids and the outdoors and beautiful scenery.  (Yes, they whined and were annoying, but we went.  We made progress towards being a family who enjoys nature.)  I didn't write 52 blogs, but I wrote 23.  I wrote.  No, I didn't finish my book, but I made progress.  I didn't read 24 books, but I read 14.  I am 14 books smarter than I was last year.

And I am nicer to myself now than I was at this time last year.

I didn't perfectly accomplish each of my 21 goals from last year, but I made real, significant progress on 19 of 21 of them.

And I beat Lyme.  I am nice to myself.  I stayed within our budget.  I created opportunities for income.

My husband has taken to telling our kids, "Progress is better than perfection" when they are learning something new.  It annoys me, but it's true.  It annoys me when I try to tell myself that, but because I'm being nicer to myself now, I have to let myself annoy myself, right?

So, go forth, my friends.  Set your goals.  Work towards your dreams.  Steps in the right direction towards your dreams are exactly that:  Steps in the right direction towards your dreams.  These steps are so much better than standing still, my friends.  Progress is better than perfection.  Some of them will work out.  Some of you will work out.

Regardless, if we don't know where we are going, how in the world will we get there?


Friday, January 1, 2016

Best Books of 2016 According to Me, Based on the Ones I Actually Finished...

In reality, this is just the list of books I read last year.  I picked up/tried to read at least 3 times what is on this list, but if I don't want to devour the book in the first 10 pages, I give it back to the library, don't buy it, put it down...  My time is too precious to stick it out... unless... I hear several times from others that it is a worthwhile read once I get through the first 50 pages.  In that case, I will skip the first 50 pages and go back to read them once I'm into it.

Anyway, we'll start with what I read in the fiction realm:

Sarah Dessen.  I read only quick-reads by Sarah Dessen this year.  When I needed an escape-read that was quick and fun,  I read What Happened to Goodbye?, Along for the Ride, and Lock and Key. I like Sarah Dessen for feel-good reads.  They're cute.  They're fun.  They do the trick.  I will read more of her books for fun feel-good reads in the future.

We all know I'm more of a non-fiction girl, so here's the real list:

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl-- This was probably my least-favorite read of the year, though it was still an incredibly fascinating and wonderful book.  I honestly don't read a full book unless I fall in love.  For reals.  This one was just a challenging (in various ways) read.  Viktor Frankl is an amazing human being.  I still can't get over how much he endured.  For the 1% of you who have never heard of this book, it is the story of a Jewish psychologist who survived Auschwitz and other concentration camps in Nazi Germany during WWII.  My take away: We are capable of so much more than we believe possible.  We can endure more than we think we can, and having a creative, unique purpose in life is essential to happiness, persistence, and survival.

Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren-- I don't remember whether it was my Aunt Kimmy  or Aunt Phyllis who always said, "There are a whole lotta ways to live a life."  And this is kind of what this book was for me.  Jillian Lauren's life is fascinating, different, unique... Her life is so opposite of mine, yet exactly the same.  Basically, she had dreams.  They came true, and they are more beautiful, difficult, challenging, and painful than she ever imagined.  I LOVE the way she tells her story, and I love the patience she learns to have with herself.

No More Dragons  by Jim Burgen-- This was written by my pastor.  He's great.  He's got his issues.  (Don't we all?)  But he is funny, on-point, and addresses the real stuff head-on.  I love the way that he tells is story authentically including his exploration of drugs, his family's struggle with bi-polar depression, and bad religion.

Quitter by Jon Acuff-- I wish I remembered more about this book, but I got it from the library, and now I don't remember much about it except that I liked it, and it was helpful.  (How's that for a book review?)

Peanut Butter and Naan by Jennifer Hillman-Magnuson-- I LOVED this book.  It was funny and interesting, and it took me on a journey to India that I most likely won't take in person.  Again, "There are a whole lotta ways to live a life," and this reminded me that we don't have to live in a safe little community with our 3 kids in Colorado to have a good life.  We could go live anywhere, and our kids would adjust... and so would we.

7 by Jen Hatmaker-- This is definitely a Rethink-the-way-you-do-life-book.  JHat and her husband eat just 7 foods for one month, wear just 7 articles of clothing the next... They remove 7 areas of excess from their lives in an experiment and learn important things.  My takeaway: We have too much crap.  We can live more beautifully and simply if we are intentional.

Ketchup is a Vegetable (and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves)by Robin O'Bryant-- This one is super funny and so true to my life.  This book came in the mail for me randomly from a favorite cousin-in-law, and I just adore her for introducing me to Robin O'Bryant.  If you're a mom, read this one!

Rising Strong by Brene Brown-- Brene Brown is the bomb diggity.  Everyone needs to read Daring Greatly and Rising Strong.  This woman knows her stuff, plus she's funny and a great storyteller.  My favorite takeaway is using the phrase, "The story I'm making up in my head is____" when in an argument or emotionally-charged situation can completely diffuse the situation and create proper communication.

Start by Jon Acuff-- This is my favorite Jon Acuff book.  I read this in the very first part of 2015, and it started my year off with a lesson in overcoming fear.  I didn't realize how much fear I had in my life, but this book helped me realize how to overcome it.  I am the if-I-can't-do-it-perfectly-the-first-time-I-won't-even-try type of person, and this book gave me a nudge towards becoming a I'll-screw-it-up-but-I'm-going-to-try-anyway person.  This is a great book for creatives, and those who are "stuck."

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker-- This is my favorite book of the year.  I'll just quote myself since I got to write a review that went into the first few pages of her book... squeee!!!
"Read this book, but not in public... unless you are okay with being the only one laughing out loud in a silent room or ugly crying at chapter 11 while other people pretend not to stare.  If you are okay with those things, then you should totally read this book in public.  Otherwise, I recommend good coffee, comfy jammies, and a locked door."

Scary Close by Donald Miller-- This is my other favorite book of the year.  Donald Miller has graciously invited us to come along on his spiritual journey for the last 15 years or so.  I have read all of the books he invited me into, and it has been such a fun ride.  I feel like this was an arrival of sorts for Don.  He grew up.  He got married.  He realized so many things about himself.  He helped me figure out why things are so hard and amazing at the same time.  He made me more brave.  He helped me be a better storyteller.  He's my favorite.  And this might be my favorite of my favorites of his.

And there you have it.   Those are the books I read in 2015.  I'll give you a rundown of what I think I'll be reading in 2016 soon!