Life has been a little hectic lately.

Life has been a little hectic lately. In the last 7 weeks or so, I have worked in inordinate amount of overtime. Do you still call it overtime when you’re a salaried employee? Not just a few late nights here and there or a few early meetings but multiple days’ worth of time. Leading up to our project launch, I was in the office for a 14 hour Saturday backed up to a 17 hour Sunday and back in by 7:30am on Monday (but only because I slept through the 6:00am scheduled start).

I have never before and hope to never again experience the kind of exhausted, not-enough-eye-drops-in-the-world, mental/physical/emotion strain of that kind of timeline for a project launch. Take it from me, you should never attempt to launch before you’ve completed your mock launch activities.

But my project team and I did it. We’d been preparing for an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software implementation. We were already using a previous version of the same software but instead of looking at this change as an upgrade, we pulled out all of the data that had been erroneously entered over the past several years and sifted it out. We remapped table keys. Restructured business processes. Rewrote code and reports and work instructions. And despite a few misses that we’ve worked to clean up over the last two weeks, this project has been considered an overall organizational success!

But can we zoom out a little?

I’m exhausted. Still, almost two weeks later. My husband, who pulled all of the weight of family life during this period, is now fighting off his first illness of Autumn. My house is full of tiny fruit flies from a misplaced can that wasn’t properly recycled during my usual cleaning routine because, well, there was no routine. I worked out this past Saturday (taking it slow) and it nearly killed me. Fast forward half a week and I pulled a muscle playing with my daughter; my body is wrecked. And my beautiful little girl wants “Momma, Mom, Mommy, Mom, Momma. Did you hear me calling you, Mom?”

We’re all a little drained from the chaos. And to be honest, there’s no way we all would’ve made it without these things right here:

  • My Tribe
    • Friends who continue to pour into me when I go dark. Friends who continue to text or Snap without a response. Friends who send flowers to work for encouragement.
  • My Husband
    • Who allowed our roles not just to flip flop, but to completely shift onto him. Who put his career behind mine for a period. Who bit his tongue – a lot. And who continued to encourage me even if he felt like I should be waving the white flag.
  • God
    • For putting those people in my life. For continually tapping me on the shoulder with scripture or songs about being a light or a door for others to experience his goodness. For keeping me from completely morphing into a troll at the workplace.
  • Whole30
    • For categorically denying my desire to stress eat. For minimizing the impact of skipped meals, small meals, or late meals on my system. For giving me the energy that I needed to make it through a 17 hour shift at all, let alone without getting sick immediately following. For giving me something else to commit to when the project felt all consuming. For teaching me ways to cope without food.

So really, this post is a gratitude post for those things that kept me going. At work, we passed the project launch, cleaned up the few misses, and we’ve already started sliding back to normal. But me? I’m changed. I’m exhausted and more experienced and more filled with gratitude. It took overtime and high stress and looming deadlines to remind me that my focus is really on people, and that includes me.

Thank you, tribe and Freddy, and God, and Whole30, for shaping me during this time. For showing me grace. And for teaching me about my priorities and the balance that leads me to my best me.

Without you, I am a lesser me.

Books and Revelations and Such…

I finally finished reading The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg. It was a wonderfully written book about following God’s calling for us as individuals and learning what that can look like for each person. It also took me incredibly too long to finish. Unfortunately, I am one of those obsessive readers who gets through the first 50% of a book without sleeping and then loses the ability to read more than a chapter a week (if I’m lucky) until I finish.

(I don’t know why I am the way I am with books, but I’ve fallen into this pattern multiple times now – regardless of my interest in the subject or love of writing style. I digress…)

John Ortberg ends the book with the sentence “Ask for a mountain” (p. 254).

Leading up this, he gives several examples of how “life is not about comfort” (p. 251). He teaches the reader that “…facing challenges in community gives life and isolation destroys it” (p. 251). “The pursuit of comfort,” he says, “[…] is terminal” (p. 250). Pretty heavy thing to read at 7pm after a hard day of walking the dog, taking a nap, researching recipes, and reading a book, waiting for my husband to get home.

John uses the word “terminal” in his writing not as some ominous-but-harmless literary threat… He actually cites research on rats which documents shorter life spans for isolated rats that have been fed cheese than those in groups forced to seek out their meals together in mazes or obstacle courses.

There’s literally death in comfort!

I’m in trouble…

After closing the cover on this 254 page book, I started to reflect on the way I have been living my life, the people I count as my community, and my unwillingness to seek out new mountains. I have been the epitome of a comfort-seeker lately. You can see it in my workday, my evening routine, my ever-tightening wardrobe, and my reluctance to tackle new recipes in the kitchen – just to name a few.

Today is actually a perfect example: On top of my nap and hours spent looking up recipes, my evening culminated in a feast of tortilla chips while hanging around the house in my gouchos (Remember those?! I should be more ashamed. Hey, at least I took the dog for another walk (although admittedly, I was still wearing those free-flowing, ridiculous half-pants. Help me!)).

This all has got me thinking about my next mountain – my next communal project of discomfort for growth. Yes, discomfort. As much as my laziness tells me that I enjoy comfort or “security,” my heart tells me that it’s bored and yearning for more. It’s almost audibly yelling, “God, give me the mountain!” (p. 254).

And then it dawned on me: A fixer-upper could be my next mountain.

Now of course there are still some obstacles to work out in the typical buyer-seller negotiations, and of course I am prepared to walk away from the house if needed (or highly encouraged by my partner in life-and-love depending on how negotiations go), but let’s just say for purpose of argument that we get the house. This, my friends, would be the most awesome and thrilling and intimidating mountain that I have come up against in easily over a year. (Yes, I’m aware that a year doesn’t sound that long – but remember that each day is this life lived…that’s over 365 days of death-hastening comfort. I better get climbing!).

The mere prospect of a fixer-upper has already gotten me well into the foothills. Freddy and I have pushed and pulled and argued and hugged over the thought of putting a good amount of our cash safety net into projects around the house. That’s the community part. Freddy is 100% my partner. And I think that’s why climbing mountains with a companion is so important – you both grow from it and you’re able to encourage one another as the incline increases and muscles fatigue.

I’m going to take a bit of a tangent here:

Procreation aside – I think this is why God speaks about marriage the way that He does. You don’t need to be married to have companionship, but I think it makes it an easier day-to-day occurrence. It can also force you out of your comfort zone with greater frequency. I have really started to appreciate this about marriage. Some days, I force myself to trudge up the mountain of laundry ahead of me not because I want to tackle a mountain but because I know that Freddy will feel blessed if I move it out of his way. And sometimes, when my own comfort wins, Freddy gets behind me and pushes me up the mountain so I can get some exercise ;). It’s a beautiful thing.

Back to the house: 

The house as my mountain is an important revelation to me. Freddy and I really have pushed and pulled about a move-in-ready home vs. a fixer-upper. Freddy has the experience to know that we have years of work ahead of us with this house, which is why he needed to know where I was at in my willingness to keep climbing the rocky terrain. But I am certain that my heart is pulled to this potential-project like a calling from God (and I’m starting to believe that’s exactly what it is). As I said before, I realize that we might have to walk away from the house if we can’t get some needed updates first, but I also know that I am prepared to get my hands dirty if the time comes. I know that my partner will be by me throughout this Everest-attempt and that he will take turns with me leading, pushing, following, and dragging at different times and on different days.

Bottom line: I fully intend to come out of this with a home and life improvement. Bring me the mountain!

Damn You, Pinterest!

Five minutes looking through Pinterest and I think I can sew outfits, create DIY jewelry, cook gourmet meals, and effortlessly put together crafts. Ten minutes later, I find myself at the local Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, or grocery store. In 30, I’m happily starting moving from Pin to table, determining my approach. In 45, I’m feeling creative and alive; I’m wondering why I don’t do this more often.

In 90 minutes, I’m defeated. I have crap and scrap up to my ears and I’m tripping over tangible failure.

It started with a casserole. And my first time using corn starch.

Corn starch is terrifying. I don’t know what it really is, but it sank to the bottom of my pan and sat, jelly-like, until I scraped it up. It balled up and separated into clumps while I called my husband and cried that I had ruined everything I had slaved over. He was on his way home, so I just stood waiting, panicking and stirring in front of the stove. Apparently corn starch requires adrenaline and tears to activate because after a few minutes, it loosened up and all but disappeared. Alien ingredient. I don’t like it one bit.

My second venture through Pinterest pages led me to an ornament wreath. A wire hanger? Not suitable for clothing but, by the looks of it, perfect for DIY wreaths! I picked out bunches of ornaments and heated up my hot glue gun. I wanted it to lay  flat on a door, so I sectioned it off and glued the sections together to hold form.

Little by little, I built up the wreath. I lifted it to check that it wouldn’t turn. Good to go. I finally reached the very top with ornaments and realized that I still need to make the ends of the hanger into clasps. Carefully, I twisted the wire.

Carefully, sure, but it’s still wire and that wire is temperamental! I twisted and twisted and grunted and let out a scream as the ornaments shifted and popped free of their glued places. Shattered ornaments slid down and around to the back. I tried several times to piece them back together but a wreath once broken can never be repaired. In the end, I gave up. I wrapped the last of my green wedding tulle around the top and threw it on the door. Who needs a full wreath anyway?

After the wreath, I decided I didn’t need to pay for a bow to tie around my next craft. So I bought gold, wired ribbon and went about fashioning my own. Pinterest supplied the blueprint, but I learned too late in the game that both sides must be the same in order to achieve the desired look. Otherwise, you must twist it each time you come to center to maintain the same look around the bow. It’s a hassle. And it makes it harder to get an even bow. Which I now know.

Feeling inspired by some saved mishaps, I went back to food. Pinterest led me to Nutella cookies. I love Nutella. And I love cookies. This had to be a no-brainer.

There were only three other ingredients; I thought this would mean success but four-ingredient cookies are chalky. And they burn. Or turn into cement. I’m not sure why. Just take my word for it.

The point is, Pinterest tricks me into thinking I’m something I’m not. I get so excited only to realize that I’ve missed a step, or don’t have the touch, or didn’t think the project through. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is: I keep going back to it.

Pinterest leads me to believe I can make those things or bake those things or create those things. It makes them look easy. Easy enough for me.

Damn you, Pinterest.