Back to school

Back to school

All the “back to school” buzz this time of year reminds me of the many times I returned to school each fall. A friend of mine has a boy starting middle school, 6th grade.

I remember my first day of 6th grade. I was starting at a brand new school, going to public school for the first time, riding a bus, switching classrooms and using a locker–all for the first time. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but exciting.

My big high-school brother helped me find our bus in the confusing lineup after school, and even saved me a seat, I’ve never forgotten that.

My favorite memory though? Social studies. My least favorite teacher, ever. But that first day? She told us to get the name and number of the person next to us, homework buddies or something like that. All around me, kids began chatting with their friends and I remember feeling pretty alone. But I turned to the girl behind me and said something like, “Well, I guess we need to trade phone numbers.” She told me her name was Laura. She even offered to help me find our gym class the next period.

That day was the beginning of a wonderful friendship that lasted all seven years we were in school together. Laura and I were inseparable. We did everything together for seven years. It’s a friendship I cherish with hundreds of memories.

I have struggled at times, knowing that our lives have headed in separate directions since then. We kept up fairly well during college, visiting at least once every summer. But since then, we’ve hardly spoken. In my mind, I immediately begin to wonder if our friendship really meant as much as I believed. But then I remind myself that relationships are living things–they change and evolve and grow, wax and wane, come and go. And none of that determines the worth of those moments spent fully present with each other.

Even though Laura and I haven’t spoken much in the past five or six years, I know that she reflects as fondly on our years together as I do. I know that we shaped each other, molded each other, reflected each other. I know that she was part of my becoming who I am, and I believe I was for her as well. In that way, I carry her friendship with me. And that is a truth I will always cherish.

Back to school…

New life

New life

New life is always a reason for celebrating–for coming together, supporting, enjoying, loving.

My best friend, A., had her very first little one the day after Husband’s birthday and I have been waiting with great anticipation to meet her. Story Jane came into the world with a story all her own. And she is the sweetest, most beautiful little girl. And although I may have 10 nieces and nephews of my own, I will gladly add little Story as another.

Little Story Jane

There are times when it seems right to be there for those we closest to. In times of celebration and sadness, in times of love and loss. A. was in my wedding, in fact she was my only bridesmaid. I chose her because I knew our friendship was solid, we weren’t afraid to be honest with one another, and our relationship would last. I was in A.’s wedding too, a month later. And I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I was witness to her vows and remain witness to her life, as she is to mine. Through ups and downs and across miles we have kept a strong connection.

Oh, we don’t always talk often. In fact, we easily go months with hardly a word other than the occasional Facebook update. But then we pick back up again, when we need each other or just want to talk. It’s like time hasn’t changed our relationship in the slightest, even if it does change us.

So when I knew she would be having her sweet baby girl near the end of April, I immediately made plans to visit her over Memorial Day. I watched ticket prices like a hawk until I found something we could afford–not that we have much extra lying around, but for the important things we’re willing to sacrifice to make it happen.

Greeting new life

I’m so glad we did.

As A. goes through the throes of beginning motherhood, I was able to give her encouraging smiles, love on her little girl, and just be there. There have been ups and downs in the first month of Story’s life, but I know A. is strong and I will be there for her as much as I can, just like all those who love her and support her.

I am back in Virginia now, and I miss her and her sweet bundle so much.

I wonder at God sometimes, at how He gives us relationships and people and community. At how He designs these things so we are surrounded when we need it.

A walk on the beach

A. and I had a somewhat strange beginning. We are very different people who sat down together the day we met and chose to be friends–committed then and there to being in each other’s lives, for better or worse, because we knew we needed community. Over time, that relationship deepened into the one we enjoy today. And I’m so glad that we had that beginning, because otherwise, we may never have connected and my life would be lesser for it.

Baby's first trip to the beach.

I don’t know when I will get to see A. and her little girl again. But I believe that the Lord has orchestrated our lives to cross again and again, and I believe that it will happen. Meanwhile, I will keep pouring over Instagram photos and Facebook updates.

Beautiful baby girl

Adventure: Florida Part 2 (Arriving)

Adventure: Florida Part 2 (Arriving)

The continuing adventure…

It felt good to arrive. So far we have just journeyed–and there will be several journeys interspersed with arrivals on this trip. But this one is for me the most satisfying.

A. is just as I left her a year ago–tenacious, honest, real. She is amazing. A little older, a little wiser–growth is evident and she is blossoming with it.

A and her husband.

We arrived to pizza and good old fashioned conversation. The weather here is delightful, warm without being overbearing. I think January must be the loveliest month of all in Florida. I love getting to see A.’s home, where she does her living day in and day out. And not just see it, but feel it, become a part of it. It creates a connection where there was a void before.

Florida beach.

I can’t wait for morning, when we can explore this new world of theirs–the physical city in which they live, the lifestyle, and the new adventure on which they embark. A. pregnant is a woman to behold, every nuanced word and thought that comes from her is full to the brim with love and fierce protection for the one she carries. I always knew she would be a good mama.

We slept that first night with the doors to the balcony thrown open, a light breeze bringing fresh air into the room…the best kind of sleeping.

Today read like a bucket-list of items for Husband’s perfect day. We started with a farmers market with all the fresh fruits, veggies, BBQ, seafood, jams, paintings and jewelry you could want. We bought a water color for Husband’s bedside table, another little piece of our art collection. Then we headed to the beach–80 degrees and sunny meant surfing for Husband, a walk through the surf for me, and, of course, a requisite sunburn (not too bad though, thank goodness since we’re headed to the Keys!). The beach was followed by a great local ice cream place and finally “home” where we took a dip in the pool. I mean really, what better way to spend a January day?

Husband surfing Vero Beach.

Sharing BBQ

Beaching it with Husband.

This evening A. and I talked in depth while the boys cooked dinner. It was good to have girl time. Of course, a lot of it revolved around birthing and parenting and philosophies. I don’t mind, we’ll be there someday ourselves and so many of those I care about are facing the same questions right now. I love being able to support her though this new endeavor, I want her to always feel like she can talk things out with me.

As a throw back to the old days, A. painted my nails a bright blue with pale blue polka dots. It was good to feel like we were back into the same rhythm of things, even many moves/jobs/weddings/life changes later. It’s hard to believe it was just a few short years ago that we would stay up til 2am talking about our faith and the issues we faces as we hung out in our single-girl apartments living our single-girl lives…good times.

I go to bed tonight with my heart full to bursting with fellowship and community in some ways I lack in Virginia Beach. I wish so heartily that A. and I lived closer together. We could be more in each others lives, more present. I want to be present.

But for now I will will what I can get, and what I could get was one perfect day.

Husband and I in FL.

Adventure: Florida Part 1

What weekends are for…

What weekends are for…

I was reminded over the past few days what weekends are really for. And a part of me was surprised to discover, yet again, that they’re not for running errands or catching up on life or knocking out that to-do list.

They’re for being. Living. Thriving.

They’re for relationship. Conversation. Laughter.

First thing Saturday morning I headed out to the local blueberry farm where Husband works on weekends. When I arrived it was overcast and in the mid-70s–perfect berry picking weather (did you know there was such a thing?). When my bucket was about half full the sun burned through the clouds and blazed down on me as I worked. Another 20 minutes and my bucket was full of delicious, fresh blueberries.

Fresh picked blueberries.

I’d forgotten to sample some as I picked, so I popped a few in my mouth as I headed back to the front of the farm–perfection, seriously. Fresh blueberries are sweet and tasty, just the way summer should be.

The afternoon consisted of a mix–cleaning the house, folding clean fresh laundry, attending a bridal shower for my soon-to-be-sister-in-law, and running to the mall to use a coupon to get some free goodies for myself (and a new pair of jeans for $10–seriously, I love new jeans…a lot.).

The best part of the day came after the thunder and soaking rain had waned and just before the sun went down. My dear friend R. and I had our monthly “date”…we packed a bag with fresh fruit, cheese, crackers and water bottles along with a picnic blanket and headed for the beach. We walked along the mostly deserted coastline as we talked about the deepest part of ourselves–the pruning, the changing, the evolving.

Beaching it with a friend.

We settled in just before the sun went down for a little picnic dinner and the conversation continued. As dusk began to settle we packed up our things and trekked back up the beach, never a moment of silence as we entered each others’ lives for the briefest of moments on our monthly date. At times, it feels that once a month isn’t nearly often enough, but distance and busyness make getting together difficult.

The beach is lovely and deserted in the evening.

By bedtime, I was thoroughly exhausted, but wonderfully satisfied and content.

Sunday afternoon we invited friends over to make grilled pizza and do nothing more than talk. We enjoyed ice cream with blueberries as their little one played in the grass under the shade trees in the front yard. There’s just something about fellowship and community and makes a Sunday afternoon so sweet.

Homemade grilled pizza.

Husband and I got our hands on a canoe this weekend and took it out in the bay for a paddle just before dusk Sunday evening. The heat had subsided and even the humidity seemed a little less intense as we journeyed out among the old dilapidated docks in Back Bay.

Canoeing with Husband.

Dilapidated docks in Back Bay.

Someday we hope to own one of these lovely little boats…maybe even this one. And someday we dream of living near the bay so we can take in an evening paddle whenever the fancy strikes us.

Canoeing.

Sunset from the canoe.

Slowing. Being. Loving. Living. I think that’s what weekends are for.

Dear Monday…

Dear Monday…

Dear Monday,
I greet you with a deep breath and a long sigh. Life’s rhythms are keeping me going these days, and you are part of that. While Monday mornings will likely never be my favorite, I’m determined to welcome you into my life and make the best of it.

An evening walk on the beach.Dear G.,
The fact that we haven’t seen each other for nearly three years didn’t seem to matter a bit once I picked you up at the airport. A weekend full of deep soul-searching conversations and lots of laughter was utterly refreshing. It’s part of the rhythm too, I think, these once-every-few-years visits. Still, the time went by far too quickly and I was loathe to say goodbye. Next time, let’s not let it go quite so long. I need friends like you in my everyday life.

Dear Beach,
Sand, surf, waves, wind, sun…you offer everything dear to my heart. Two days in a row of beaching it was just what I needed this weekend, so thanks for always being there, even when I ignore you too often. I promise I will try to do better this summer…

Dear House,
I’m terribly sorry for the neglect. I do love you. But sometimes sandy beach towels strewn over chairs and kicked-off flip-flops on the kitchen floor happen. And sometimes, that’s a good thing.

Flip-flops on the beach.

Dear Little Sports Car,
This may be our final week together…I plan to cherish it.

Sincerely,
Holly


Linking up with Happy Day.

Carpe Diem: My summer mantra

Carpe Diem: My summer mantra

It’s decided. My summer mantra will be simply “Carpe Diem.”

Cliche, perhaps. But very, very necessary right now.

It’s amazing how we go in and out of seasons. We change, evolve, grow. As our environment changes, we change to fit it. And sometimes amid that change, we lose things.

Things like carpe diem. Things like last minute adventures.

It probably has a myriad of causes–a new marriage, a new city without established relationships, a new house far out in the country, growing responsibilities… The list could go on and on. But I’m less concerned with the causes and more concerned with the outcome.

I’m becoming a little too secluded. A little too set in my plans. A little too, well, boring.

Sure, I have responsibilities many of which are completely inflexible (note: horses must be cared for at 6:00pm T-TH; puppy must be fed at or near 5:30pm or she will starve to death…or so she claims). But the rest of the time? I think I’ve just gotten lazy.

Carpe diemI don’t always WANT to leave my cozy home, or drive 45 minutes to meet up with friends, or spend money when we don’t have much to begin with. But sometimes, that’s just what I need.

I need an evening eating appetizers on a boat with amazing friends to make me come alive. I need a relaxing evening spent in a friend’s home theater. I need a bite to eat after church with a mentor. I need a jaunt down to the oceanfront to watch an air show. I need to do and be and relate to truly live.

So this summer, I am dedicated to seizing the moment, going with the flow, being flexible, and putting forth the extra effort. I want to truly do and be–experience all the adventure I possibly can this summer.

It might mean a quick ride on Chappy just before dark. Or catching lightning bugs in the backyard. Or braving the tourists for a morning walk on the beach. Or a last-minute weekend camping trip…

It might mean dropping plans for the evening and heading out to meet friends. It might mean hosting friends and overnight guests and doing hospitality right. It might mean sand and sun kissed cheeks. Or flip-flops and picnic lunches. It might be rounds of laughter with friends or a quiet moment with Husband. But whatever it looks like, I want to claim it, own it, live it.

Carpe diem!

Adventure: Columbia

Adventure: Columbia

At the zoo and botanical garden

After a very full day in Charleston, we decided to stay a little closer to “home” (at least, A.’s home). And the best place to explore on a sunny day is, of course, the zoo =).

Columbia has a combined zoo and botanical garden, which means that for the price of one entrance, you get to see both. That sounds like a deal I can’t pass up. We knew it was supposed to rain that day, but it looks so lovely outside that we went for it anyway and headed to the zoo.

Friend R at the zoo in Columbia, SC

Pretty bird

Gorgeous colors!

I love bears, especially grizzlies!

Grizzlies remind me of Montana…

Who doesn't love a cuddly Koala.

I so want one of these now.

It did rain. It rained as soon as we got there for all of 20 seconds. Then it rained when we were waiting for the tram to take us back to the parking lot–and this time, it really rained! No pictures because my camera was safely hidden inside of the plastic bag, inside of a purse. But I don’t think I need photographic evidence to remember the three of us huddled under some tree branches as we stood out in the midst of the downpour.

Then the sun came out just in time for us to see a little more of the garden before heading back for a cookout with friends…

I love thistles

Little known fact: I love thistles. Never tell me they’re weeds.

The thistle was taller than me

Beautiful friends

All in all, a good day.

R. and I left the next morning to return home. A bittersweet goodbye. I held A. tight when we hugged and didn’t want to let go. I miss my friend. So now I’m counting down the days until my next long weekend. Labor Day perhaps???

Adventure: Charleston

Adventure: Charleston

It was a last minute decision that had me asking for a day off of work and packing a bag with summery things. R. says something like, “We should go visit A. for Memorial Day.” And I say something like, “Okay.”

And first thing Saturday morning we find ourselves driving down route 95 to South Carolina.

At A.’s house this weekend, I began reading Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett. A sentence near the start of the book struck me:

“Like most of us, she lacked the high courage to grasp happiness boldly and without apprehension.”

I don’t ever want to lack the courage to grasp happiness. So that is what this weekend was about. It was full of happiness–time spent with dear friends, relaxation, reading, the lovely outdoors, shopping, and most of all just being. Being myself. Being a friend. Being outside of work and finances and stress. Being without apprehension. Being bold.

Being with friends

We spent Sunday taking in the sights of Charleston. The architecture there is just incredible and the church bells ring with a rich timbre.

Charleston

Charleston church

The city has innumerable brick walls, wrought iron gates, wonderfully mysterious secret gardens, and narrow passageways…

Charleston garden

Charleston secret garden

Charelston Passageway

And the shopping, oh the shopping! Blocks and blocks of open air market with artisans of all kinds set up in booths. Even the muggy heat couldn’t detract from the beauty of hand woven baskets, glittering jewelry and lovely blouses. The streets of Charleston welcome us as we walked for miles around the city.

Charleston Street

We stopped in this lovely park for a picnic lunch, beside the water with the breeze fluttering through the gorgeous trees…pretty close to perfect.

Charleston Battery Park

Charleston Battery Park

I hope I am never to apprehensive to grasp happiness. I pray that I live each day with boldness, that I never forsake the opportunity to have an adventure, even if it is last minute. Because a weekend like this one is just too beautiful not to repeat many times in my life.

For Mom

For Mom

There’s a lot that I could say about my mom. I could tell you how she stayed at home with us kids for years when we were young. I could tell you about how she purposefully home-schooled each of us for 5th grade, or how she fostered my love of reading by devoting an hour of quiet time just to me…

But today, I think I want to stick with just one thing–the one that means the most right now.

Like most mothers and daughters, Mom and I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye–especially when I was a teenager… But as we grow, things change. And today, my mom is one of my closest friends.

Mother and daughter and friends.

I really can’t express how much that means to me as I have moved through a half-dozen states and embarked on so many new adventures. My friends, even very, very close ones, often come and go from life swiftly. But Mom is a steady friend, often the one I talk to on a regular basis. One from whom I can ask advice and glean wisdom. One with whom I can share struggles and triumphs.

So this Mother’s Day I’m thinking of my mom, not because she is my mom, but because she is so much more.

Mother-daughter

Thanks, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!