Thursday, January 31, 2013

Your sparkle is worth chasing.

When the wind is nuts and the snow is gone and the whole world looks like it's covered in muck,
I sure am glad to start the day with hot coffee on a 100-year old yellow couch.
And it's only more cheerful when I can share it with friends like you!

We're at the end of January. That means the New Year's resolutions are way-forgotten.
Who is really at the gym anymore?
I don't even make that resolution anymore.
I know myself too well.

What I think is worth chasing down all year is something way more elusive.
This year I'm relentlessly pursuing SPARKLE. 

Will you join me?

Sparkle is definitely girly-sounding.  I concede.  But I'm a girl.
I don't know what guys would call it that sounds more manly.
If you (or my husband) come up with some suggestions,
I'll be happy to add the man-version.

Sparkle is when you're really alive.
The stuff that makes your heart smile.

There's a place where your passions touch God's plans.
That's your sparkle.

God didn't make us to live a dull version of life.
He's crazy-fun!
God invented sparkle.

Being a grown-up can really wreck some sparkle.
We get really a little too serious.
We forget how to be playful.
(I'm among the worst offenders here, if we're keeping it real.)

My husband and I get sort of uptight sometimes.  True story. 
(If you know us, you're laughing already...)
We're working on it, don't worry.

A few years ago we decided to give being laid back a whirl. 
We devised a very wild plan.  It was going to push the limits.  
We couldn't believe we were really saying this...

We had remodeled the den for the millionth time (our naughty dogs are to blame - another story),
and in our efforts to hang loose, we decided to really take things to the edge:

"Hon, let's allow the kids to take clear liquids into the den."

I don't know if the world is ready for the likes of us.
If all parents were that careless - allowing clear liquids to be carried willy-nilly through living rooms - we might see the very decline of civilization.

(You'll be concerned to know that we've grown so wild and crazy as to occasionally allow dark sodas that are not in spill-proof cups and even pizza with sauce to make it's way to the den in the hands of children.  It's scandalous, really.)

Hopefully Maybe you're way less uptight than me.
Maybe you sparkle all over the place effortlessly.
If that's you, can you email me the secret?  Thanks.
But I bet there's somewhere in your life you'd like to feel like you're living more daringly, more creatively, more vibrantly.

This year, I want to chat about the little and the big stuff that makes us feel alive.  
I want us to remember that the things we love are valuable.

When our hearts light up, that is a clue about who we are made to be.

We're each so different.  We have different challenges and different passions, different gifts and talents. But we have something important in common:
God loves us and made us.  Can you even really wrap your head around that we are each made in HIS image?  It's true.  He tells us that.
He is this amazing Creator who personally planted a desire to be passionate and joyful and creative in YOU and in ME. 

He is an Artist.  You are a work of art.  
You are beautiful.
And you are made to live...
with sparkle.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"No talk, no touch, no eye contact"

Flu season hit our house full swing this month.

The only benefit to this misfortune was that it afforded me 11 guilt-free days of sitting on the yellow couch, sipping Gatorade and watching dvr'd episodes of "The Dog Whisperer."
Have you seen it?

This guy has figured out the mysteries of life.

I've employed his strategies recently with great success.

For example, the mantra
"No talk, no touch, no eye contact" 
is something parents of teenagers all over the world should know.

And teach their kids.

This past weekend, my daughter and I dodged the guys at the mall who always want to slather unsuspecting young girls' hands with impossibly magical products by using this technique.

She and I smiled at each other and whispered,
"No talk, no touch, no eye contact," 
and then breezed by. 

The usefulness of this in teenage life is limitless, right?

Probably the intended use is to help people rid their pets of unwanted behavior.
My tiny little dog Mabel, who pees when excited (or when she's talked to, or looked at, or lifted up or sees company coming... I could go on...) actually has improved 100% with
"No talk, no touch, no eye contact."

Now, Mabel can hold lengthy conversations without peeing spontaneously.

The English bulldog, Big Poppa?  
That's another story. 
He's whisper-proof.

I have had zero success keeping him off the couch.
Or from dragging every blanket he sees onto his bed.

Thanks to the Dog Whisperer, I can assess Poppa's behavior now, but I still am hopeless to fix it.

*Pops sits on the couch because he thinks it is his.

*He steals things because he thinks they are his.

*When he runs to his crate after being caught being naughty, it is not - as we previously assumed - because he's overcome with guilt.  He's being passive aggressive.
(He might need therapy.)

It's safe to assume that I haven't perfected the art of dog whispering.
Although it's not for lack of trying.

My husband and I actually spent a half hour one evening trying to "reclaim" our blankets.
The process must have been quite amusing to watch.
Cesar makes it look easy.

We stood side by side staring at Pops, waiting for him to "surrender," which was supposed to be him sitting down and looking bored.

For a sedentary dog, he can pace for 30 minutes like nobody's business.
I think we gave up.
Big Poppa probably still owns the blankets.

If I master bulldog whispering, I will report back immediately, but I'm not holding out great hopes.
(In my defense, I have noticed a disproportionate number of bulldogs on the tv show.)

It was pretty nifty to get past the lotion guys at the mall, however!
And I can only begin to think of the bazillion ways
"No talk, no touch, no eye contact" can be useful.

Can you think of any ways YOU might test this out?  I'd love to hear what you come up with!

Monday, January 28, 2013

You can cook up some Yankee yumminess with my cousin.

My mother grew up in a late-1800's farmhouse with a big barn in the back and woods that hid trails weaving up to a ledge where you could look out over the river and see the city across the water.  

Listening to her tell stories about her childhood there is one of my all-time favorite things.

As a little girl, we spent summers in that house.  
It is still a magical place to me. 
Just ask my husband and kids.  They probably plug their ears now when we drive by, so they don't hear the five bazillionth time I say, 
"I wish we could buy that old house..."  

The old house on Route 9 holds a lot of memories.  
My uncle pranking my mother mercilessly.
Ponies and chickens running around (they may have been confined, but in my imagination they are running around, ok?) 
My Bampa coming in with the smell of cucumbers and soil and Ivory soap on him after a morning spent in the garden. 
My Meem in the kitchen with the tin roof, light sparkling from a crystal in the window while she drinks coffee and reads the paper. 
My mother hanging on to the underside of a horse she tried to ride without the saddle properly strapped on.  (true story) 

And Cousin Jackie. 

He was another big brother to my mom...  Her cousin, who came to live with them as a teenager.  
I met him when I was little, and I remember he had eyes that danced. 
He is a part of the story in that house. 

Last week, his son Jim stopped by the yellow couch!  He's right here in the area cooking up a storm, like the generations before him.  He's from a long line of Yankee Chefs!  

So the other day my 4-year old asked me if we could make bagels. 
I told her, "Sweetie, people don't make bagels.  I'm sorry.  We have to buy them."   
(Please don't tell my cousin Jim I said that....  He posted a way-cool recipe for homemade bagels on his blog and on his Bangor Daily News blog, so now I have exactly zero excuses.)

Since what the heck is better with coffee than bagels, I had to share.  I know you'll enjoy meeting him.

Maybe you also thought bagels had to be purchased...? (if I'm the only human being on earth who didn't dare to attempt making a bagel, please go easy on me in the comments).

Friday, January 25, 2013

How to not lose hope in your dream.

Sometimes I get super-mad at my body for behaving like it's about 85 years old.
Ok, make that 95.
My grandmother is 85, and I think she could jitter-bug circles around me.

Confession: Sometimes I have cried (literally) over my fear that this crummy stuff will cost me my dream.

For six years, we've been circling around adoption.
We've done precisely 3 home studies and zero adoptions.

In that time, we had a closed door to an infant adoption of twin boys, one more biological child and adopted-in-our-hearts a boy we've loved for 3 years now who lives in Ukraine (but couldn't be adopted because of government red tape).

We've also welcomed into our family an 8-member family who we met when we went to see our guy in Ukriane.  This big family moved to the States as refugees and now live literally 3 houses away from me.

I've worried many times (I know I'm not supposed to worry, but I'm keeping it real) that trying to deal with pain and fatigue like I've been having will throw my hopes for adoption into the scrap-heap.

Is there something you feel is threatening your dream?

Yesterday we chatted about how not to lose our sparkle in hard times.

Today I want to share with you what I've been learning about how not to lose hope in our dreams.
Maybe there is something here for you, too, my friend. 

If a dream is from the Lord, it is always safe

All of our dreams go through a process of refining, so the stuff that is just from us burns off, and the stuff that is really God's heart for us is all that remains. 

The refining process is not fun sometimes. 

It's important to hand every dream of our hearts back to the Lord. 
He will give us back is truly His best story for our lives.

If God asks us to give up a good dream, it's because there is something even better He wants us to have in its place. 

Sometimes I hang on to the wrong dream and miss the God-story happening right in front of my eyes. 

I want to pick apart the last item from that list.
It's something I have been hovering over in my heart recently.

I clung with faith for years to what I have believed was a promise from the Lord that He had a child for us to adopt.

What I'm willing now to consider:  Is it possible that I was interpreting "adoption" as a legal process more than a relational process?  Was I hanging on to the wrong dream?  Was I defining it in my own terms?  Could I have too narrowly defined God's heart for the orphan in my life?

I cannot for one second deny the presence of God in the story of my life in recent years. 

Sometimes I remind myself of a clueless little kid on Christmas.
You know, the kid who wants the one specific gift and rips through all the presents that are not that one certain thing, failing to see how super-cool and highly valuable each of the things carefully chosen for her are.  
That kid.

So I'm asking God to give me His eyes to see my life.  
I'm handing back my dream. Again.
(I told you I can be a slow learner, right?)

And I think we should be encouraged, friend.  
Because God has good plans for us. 

His dreams are bigger than we can fathom.
And nothing in the whole wide world can threaten them.

If you have a hurt or a weariness or a circumstance that is weighing on you, please know that I am praying for you. 

Before I hit "publish" on this post, I will sit and pray that each of you reading this today will see your lives as God sees them, that you will be willing to let go of dreams that are less than the Lord's best, and that He would bring to fulfillment the dreams He's written on your heart.  I'm praying that you will sparkle despite the hard stuff, and I'm believing with all confidence that "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it." (Phil. 1:6)

If you have a specific prayer request or a God-dream you would like to share, I'd love to read about it in the comments!  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

When you need to get your sparkle back

We ladies were born to sparkle.  
Now, I know some of us here in the stoic Northeast may not want to sparkle with, um, actual sparkles (although I do - I'm a Louisiana transplant, ok?).

Chronic pain is a bugger when it comes to sparkle.  When I wake up feeling like I'm 306 years old and I swear I could hear my joints creaking audibly for at least 2 hours every morning, I feel frump-tastic and not the least bit sparkly.  And that isn't cool.

I think I had a semi-midlife-crisis last year.
Usually it manifested itself in repetitious (and probably very annoying) conversations with my hairstylist about whether I should go blonde again or stay red.
I felt sparkly inside when I was blonde.
And I want that back. 

The input I received on the matter boiled down to this:
My husband thinks the red is foxy.  
End of discussion.
He should have foxy.
If I wake him at 3am snot-crying about my aching back, it's the least I can do, right?
(As a disclaimer, he ultimately grew so tired -- I am assuming, because he would never say such a thing out loud.... he's far too savvy for that kind of rookie mistake -- of the conversation that he actually said, "Do whatever you want, babe," but he had been on the record previously (um, numerously) stating his red hair preference. He probably arrived at the conclusion that a blonde wife who was NOT asking daily about hair color would, perhaps, be foxier than a foxy redhead who was asking the same thing over. And over.)

{Side note: I am noticing a startling number of grey hairs - heaven help me - so I may be having to hi-light down the road to make the most of my own "natural" hi-lights, if you will.  I blame my children for the grey.  100%}

What I have realized now that I am the ripe old age of 34 for precisely 7 days now: 
I can still sparkle.

Pain be darned, I will sparkle. 

So here's what I've come up with for myself.
If you miss some sparkle, maybe this will jump-start you on your own list of ideas.

{This is NOT a deep, spiritually profound approach to life-altering meaningfulness. 
It's just about sparkle... the small things that make us smile... little pops of energy... infusing some fun here and there so we feel less crappy and more like ourselves.}

What makes me sparkle:

* Spray tan (it must be noted that moderation is in order, because this is not "Jerseylicious," it's real life. But for real, I feel a smidge more toned with a layer of spray tan AND it won't cause wrinkles.)

* Coffee dates with girlfriends. (This is a must.  Like breathing air.)

* Mascara that has the little fibers that stick onto the end of my lashes so they are actually long-ish 

* Bubble baths while watching chick flicks on the iPad

* Decorating my whole Christmas tree with hot pink, glitter and peacocks (it actually works...)

* Shamelessly reading fashion and decorating magazines just because 

* Finding some hip pieces of clothing (that don't make me look like I think I'm 20... very important distinction, ladies) and rocking some trends, just because it is F.U.N. 

* Weight Watchers (for real, if pain is making me feel like my body is beyond my control, taking charge of something like pant size is super-sparkly-feeling)

* Date night with my hottie

* Perfume

* Looking through my closet and putting together outfits I've never made before

* Taking a break from Pinterest, because what on earth is more depressing than looking at 763 projects I supposedly think I will do and will never. ever. on. the. face. of. the. earth. attempt. 

* Scrolling through Pinterest (we women are full of contradictions)

* Allowing "because it's fun" to be a valid reason to do something

* Sitting with my dad at the beach, next to books we never open because we're too busy talking

* Keeping my nails polished 

* Steaming hot coffee and a great book

* Remembering the stuff I loved to do alone and with my hubby before we had so darn many kids and trying to squeeze a few of those things into our schedule again.  (I actually, literally, FORGOT what I think is fun for a while.  No joke.  I could not come up with a single thing that wasn't parenting-related. That's so not ok.)

* Pedis and lunches with my daughter.  Laughing with her 'til we almost can't breathe and have tears in our eyes. 

* Trying on shoes 

* Wearing high heels, even if I'm just going to Target (how I missed heels while my littlest one had to be carried everywhere!)

* Carving out time, space and quiet to "create stuff"

There are other things I've been mulling over about living with pain, but I wanted to start our conversation about something light and fun like sparkling.  I hope that's ok with you.

Chronic pain can dull the shine you feel like you have, and I think one way of living through that stuff, is to reclaim the vibrant, joyful, playful part of ourselves.  

After a few years (I'm a slow learner sometimes) of living with this stuff, I'm finally realizing that
I can choose to sparkle through anything.  

What makes you sparkle, friend?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

When you have a hurt that just won't go away.

I'm going to tell you something I don't tell just everyone.

My close friends know this, and I talk about it with my husband. (Usually at about 3am. When he's been sound asleep. And would have liked to remain so. And, um, I must confess: sometimes I do the "ugly cry" that has snot involved, which is really sexy... sarcasm... please forgive me.)

But I want to tell you, because I wonder if maybe you can relate.

I have chronic pain.  And it sucks.

For several years (YEARS!) I wake up feeling about 105 years old. Creaky, stiff, sore. Yucky.

You know what?
It really ticks me off. 

The crappy thing about constant pain is that it becomes like a leaky faucet
that just continually drains the energy from you.
And it feels like a little bit of who I am has faded 
from glare of hurting so much of the time.

It makes me feel like my sparkle is dimmed. 
And THAT makes me angry.

Why am I telling you this today?
Because maybe you have something that hurts a lot of the time, too.  
And maybe like me, you feel like it is whiny-sounding and annoying to talk about it in a real, raw way.

Maybe you feel kind of alone in the hurt.
Or you may feel worried that whatever this thing is you're dealing with is going to threaten the dream you carry so carefully in your heart.

Sometimes, I do.
I feel worried, not for my health, because nothing debilitating is going on.  It's just a humongous aggravation.
But I do worry for my dream.

For over 6 years, my heart has carried around what I believe is a God-breathed desire to adopt.
And what if my pain threatens that?
What if my husband thinks it's too much? (Because he is so darn precious and protects me and looks after me, like, insanely well. The man is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to his family.  Have I mentioned he's my hero?!)

I'm starting to piece together some truths about pain and about dreams, and I will share those with you next time we're together.

And I'll be darned if I'm going to let some aches and pains steal my sparkle.
Some things a girl just has to fight for.
Sparkle tops the list, ok?

For today, please know you are not alone.
If your body hurts you, or if the ache you feel is in your heart....
You are not alone.

There is hope.

Let's sit together again really soon and work through this hurting-stuff together, ok?
We'll whisper truth to our dreams.
We'll get real about prayer.
And we'll pour a second cup of coffee and get down to business about keeping the sparkle.

Because living anything less than fully is just not going to cut it with us, right?!

If you have hurts I can be praying for, I would love to have you share prayer requests with me. If you're not comfy posting in the "comments," you can email me, ok?  shannonwheeler05 at hotmail dot com (I promise to pray and to respond to you)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Want to have some coffee on the crazy yellow couch?

Hey friend! Welcome!  Have a seat with me on this crazy yellow couch I found at an antique shop downtown, won't you? (aside: the yellow sofa above is not mine, but it's a way better photo than what I have, so it will do nicely)

I'll make some coffee, and we can chat about.... everything!

I'm excited to have you over to my new space.  Maybe we've hung out before at my old blog.

Ever feel ready for a fresh start?
Me, too.
I'm so glad you joined me here.

There's no catchy name.
No snappy designs.
Just me.  And you.

I want this to be a place to be real.
Because we're not always able to fit our days or our moods or the things weighing on our hearts into an adorable theme.

Sometimes we need to talk about hard stuff.
Sometimes we need to talk about heart stuff.
And sometimes we need to laugh about grey hairs and midlife crises and the fact that our teenage daughter (or is that just mine) pointed out that it's probably time for an eye cream (true story).

Every morning, I start out my day on the crazy yellow couch.
It's where I sit to have way too much coffee.
It's where I read my Bible (and some days it's where I don't read my Bible, which is another thing I'm working on this year - will you help me stay accountable, please!?)

I thought it would be fun this year if we spent time on the big yellow couch together.
We can talk and grow and laugh and share life.

It's important to spend time with friends.
I'm realizing that more and more now that I'm in my {gulp} mid-30's.
Life goes too quickly.
And I sure do love my girlfriends like crazy.

So, come on back.
It's tricky sometimes to make time to sit across the table from each other,
but this little corner of the web is a cozy little space that's always open.

Let's make this year a time to start fresh,
to really know grace,
to acknowledge that we don't have it all figured out
that we can make a go of it together.

{oh, friend, would you be so kind as to leave a comment to let me know what some of the things you'd like us to chat about are?  books we could read together? decorating projects to tackle? questions you have? thanks - you are the best!}