Summer Favorites

Summer's not quite over, but since I haven't done monthly recaps in awhile, I thought I'd smush them all together with some highlights from the season so far.

We headed to Chicago (my first time there!) in early June for the wedding of my dear childhood friend, and had a great time. Our host, my friend Allison, is a Chi-town native, and it was great to go exploring with her in both the city and the suburbs. We hit up the Lincoln Park Zoo, stood on the shores of Lake Michigan, chowed down on delicious Italian beef sandwiches and chocolate shakes at Portillo's, and explored historic Oak Park/River Forest outside the city. The wedding festivities took us to Hyde Park, the Garfield Park Conservatory (where the ceremony and reception took place--gorgeous!), and a delicious brunch at the Promonotory. We capped off the trip with a visit with Sean's cousins, which included a beautiful skyline architecture tour on Lake Michigan, sailing on the Tall Ship Windy from Navy Pier, the Rolling Stones exhibit "Exhibitionism," and deep dish pizza. Plus, of course, we had to go see The Bean. 

We have a niece! So excited to be elevated to aunt and uncle status and to watch her grow up in the months and years to come.

On Thursdays at work recently, we staffers get giddy: it's Potluck Day, Potluck Day is here! The best thing is that they show up weekly during the summer, we learn how talented our co-workers are in the kitchen, and we end up trying all sorts of delicious dishes, from Indian to Italian, and good old-fashioned sandwiches and salads. Not to mention the time for fellowship!

We've had a number of opportunities to spend time with family this summer--an extended reunion with my dad's side, and several cousin visits from Sean's side to meet the aforementioned new niece. Such a gift to catch up, laugh, reminisce, and greet new chapters with those most important to us.

Speaking of important people, one of my dearest high school teachers and her family are moving out West (watch out for Melissa King Rogers, California poetry scene!). She's taught at our school for 18 years, so a few of us collaborated on a farewell party (thank goodness for social media in this respect) and ultimately folks from the classes of 2002 through 2016 showed up to offer love and thanks. The best moments came when we circled up and introduced ourselves, and were able to express what Dr. KR has meant to us, not only in our high school days but in our whole lives. It was such a meaningful evening and I'm grateful we got to show her how much she's given us. 

I have some sweet new head shots up on the site, and that's all thanks to my friend Kristen. We had a great time traipsing around one Sunday afternoon with the camera, and I didn't feel too crazy awkward pretending to be a model. It's pretty fun every now and then!

Our women's small group at church has gotten together several times this summer for apps, drinks, and conversation that ranges from serious to tears of laughter. Grateful to share life with these strong and fun-loving ladies.

This has been a rain-filled season, and living in Georgia where drought is common, I've savored every pour and storm that has swept through our skies and drenched our city.

July took me to the Writing for Your Life conference at Belmont University in Nashville, which I touched on last week--it really did help reset my writing habits and introduced me to some great people, both speakers and fellow attendees. 

Ending on a superficial but oh-so-guilty-pleasure note: Guys, Game of Thrones is back!! We only had to wait 460something days. Don't get me wrong, I push my glasses FAR down my nose to blur pretty much any time Cersei's in a room with one of her enemies (not to mention the battle scenes), but we have become so connected to these characters (er, the ones that are still alive), and I can't wait to see how it goes down. Also, as a pop culture fanatic, I love reading all of the episode recaps and watching reaction videos. Have y'all checked out Game of Thrones at the Burlington Bar or the Twitter recaps on fan site Watchers on the Wall? SO GOOD.

Jeez. It's August already, and I'd love to know: What's sweetened your summer season?

P.S. I also bit the bullet and launched my professional writer Facebook page. Not gonna lie, a little intimidating, but I'm also excited about it. Thumbs up?

Birthday thanks for my husband, who brings extra to the ordinary.

Today's your birthday, and you think it's pretty ordinary.

No hullabaloo here. You don't like surprises, you buy yourself the things you want, you're going to make your own dinner because that's better for both of us, and I couldn't even order a cake without checking with you to make sure we got the right flavor.

Yeah, it's a pretty ordinary Thursday.

And yet. You make ordinary best. You make ordinary more.

When I turn the corner, I praise the ordinary glory of your car in the driveway, food on the counter, Thirty Rock on the TV, and you with your glass of milk in your grandmother's chair. Or I give thanks for the sound of your engine cutting off, your door shutting, the key in the lock. I rejoice in our evening rituals, in our quiet talks in bed (even when you're trying to go to sleep for your early wake up call), one of my favorite joys of married life. The talks shot through with deep knowing, even on the surface, even though there's still so much to learn.

You make ordinary an exploration.

You take in my worries and walk them back, deescalate, calm. Strong arms, strong words, strong heart. You stand tall on the mound and play the game with all you've got, but losing doesn't defeat you. When you were knocked to the lowest of lows, you stood up again with even more courage.

You make ordinary a gift.

You say that you have the humor of a five-year-old (how old are you turning today...?), and yet you are one of the oldest souls I know. Typically, you waffle in between the two, which never ceases to make life interesting.

You make ordinary fascinating.

Speaking of waffling, when we wake up on Saturday mornings you ask me, "What do you want for breakfast?", then dart around the kitchen and set my tea water brewing as I'm still stirring in bed. Sometimes, you decide you're going to cook two full meals in one day, filling the house with smells from a true Cajun kitchen of which your grandmother and aunt would be proud. You are steeped in family, and all that it means and matters.

I never thought a Sunday morning grocery run would be one of the most enjoyable parts of the week, striding jauntily into your happy place long before most people are awake, as we team up to figure out meals and grab what have become our staples, greeting the cashiers and managers that we now know by name. In church, you take my hand for the Lord's Prayer, because it's what you did growing up.

You make ordinary my prayer.

On a long drive, you hold us steady, and when it's my turn to take the wheel, even your sacked-out presence by my side is a comfort. When we travel, you're organized yet flexible, seeking awe and beauty, branching out from beloved routine.

Even when we are away from our ordinary, you make it feel like home.

Maybe longtime married people are chuckling at this post and saying that my joy in our ordinariness will fade. Maybe one day, with children and dogs and a mortgage and the pieces of life we don't yet have, the ordinariness of the simple, single couple will sound like the most marvelous, extraordinary thing in the world. Maybe it will.

And yet, our ordinary has already changed in these nearly six years, shifting in place, career, daily schedule, knowledge of one another and the world. We've had challenges; of course there will be more. We've had gladness and sorrow; of course there will be more.  

But in every day with you, there's ordinary. And you transform ordinary into something extra.

Happy birthday, love.

The family I got.

We squish together, arms around each other.

1997 and 2016. Not everyone is pictured in the more recent photo! We've added even more than you see here.

1997 and 2016. Not everyone is pictured in the more recent photo! We've added even more than you see here.

Not because we vote for the same candidate.

Not because we make the same amount of money.

Not because we would all choose the same book or movie or concert or vacation.

Not because we raise our children in exactly the same way.

Not because we all feel close to God in the same worship space or style.

There are two kinds of family in life: family you choose and family you get. We're the second lot, so yes, sometimes we snap and gripe and eye roll. Sometimes we judge or ignore. It's fascinating, the range of personalities that can stem from the merged DNA of two people, and in some matters, it's as if the apples fell as far apart on the spectrum as humanly possible.

And yet:

It's thanks to the family I got that I've been able to find and keep friends who are like family, the family I choose. The family I got taught me to love and tell stories in the first place, to savor traditions and jokes that never get old. They showed me that no matter how differently you think, you show up for each other, from Sunday dinner and Christmas Day to weddings and deathbeds. They showed me that you put in the effort, with marriage, children, vocation, even (especially) when it's really, really tough. They taught me that music and laughter are the greatest remedies.

We squish together, arms around each other.

Because we've known each other since before we knew what it was to know anything else.

Because we've found and welcomed partners who strengthen us as ones and enrich us as a whole.

Because we've stood together by gravesides and in delivery rooms, laughed until we cried and cried until we laughed.

Because we've lived through moments that become stories, and lived to tell them again, until they are woven into our very energy, whether we were present or not. 

Because we've watched one another grow, and we've been held by each other as children, and there is something to that, this knowing and growing that starts before you're old enough to understand.

We're not perfect, as individuals or as a family. We have our messy moments, and if you drop one word about politics--any word--it'll careen like a lit match into a dry haystack, bless our hearts. But I keep coming back to the mysterious grace there is in the fact that we keep coming back. We gather together willingly, this group of humans so hilariously diverse in some ways, so strikingly similar in others. And it's both of those that matter, I think. The moment when you shake your head and think, Jeez, we couldn't be more different--and the moment right after that when you grin and think, I couldn't have said it better myself.

Family moments. Human moments. Kingdom moments.

What do you love about the family you got? Roll your eyes about? Laugh about?