40 by 40

Six years ago, six years to go!

I had this grand idea a little while ago to come up with a list of 40 things I wanted to accomplish by the time I turned 40.

Ingenious, I thought! What a cool idea!  I’m sure no one has thought of this before!

In brainstorming my list I turned to the trusty internet for ideas and found two unfortunate facts:

1. People had already thought this up.

2. Except they had thought it up for their 30th birthday.

Which might make me officially old and uncreative.

Boo!

But I’m still going to do it, even if it makes me a lame, old copycat. So there.

A few years ago I tried a list of 101 Things in 1001 Days, but it didn’t end up being realistic because I basically treated it as a bucket list for my entire life. Which meant I either needed to have a lot more time or I needed to get really busy since I only had 1001 days left.

Anyway.

Here’s my list as it currently stands. I want to finalize it soon and could really use your help, because it’s not complete yet!

  1. Run a race
  2. Hit my goal weight
  3. Go to Disney
  4. Write a book
  5. Pay off credit cards
  6. Dye hair red
  7. Try to have one more baby
  8. Read the entire Bible
  9. Start a business
  10. Go away with Tahd for more than one consecutive night
  11. See a Broadway show
  12. Complete a Week in the Life album
  13. Complete a December Daily album
  14. Go camping
  15. Go canoeing
  16. Host a Harvest party
  17. Host a Favorite Things party
  18. Upgrade my camera body
  19. Ding dong ditch someone (with treats, not pranks)
  20. Go to a spa
  21. Go to a blog conference
  22. Meditate every day for a month
  23. Have a girls’ weekend with my mom and sisters
  24. Start saving for college
  25. Go to a concert
  26. Take a hot air balloon ride
  27. Sew a dress for Isla
  28. Join a book club
  29. Knit a sweater
  30. Renew my passport

I might like to add something related to yoga and something related to decluttering.  Other than that I’m not sure what else I want to add.  So I need help because 32-by-32 isn’t really going to work for my 34-year-old self.

Any ideas?  What would you add to your list?  What might be fun?  I’m open to any ideas – wild and crazy or mundane and practical.

Happy Now

I’m happy now…

|| I went for a run today and did two things – I ran an entire 1.5 miles without stopping and I did it in 18:35. I haven’t done this in a very long time – maybe 2 years?

|| I took a depression screening quiz last night.  I scored 12.  12!  This made me so, so happy; a score of 12 is on the low side of the “possible mild depression.”  It’s not even a guaranteed depression.  Do you know what I would have scored a year ago?  Two years ago?  I’d have been bordering on the “severe” depression category.  Do you know how good it feels to have a taste of peace and happiness?  More on this later.

|| Isla started solid foods. And she LOVES them. First off, she’s really cute when she eats them, lunging her little mouth toward the spoon to get more (usually).  Second, as much as I love breastfeeding it’s nice to know that someone babysitting her could buy themselves a little time if I was running late sometime.

|| I counted and I have 16 photo apps I use with Instagram.  This fact slightly embarrasses me but mostly makes me really happy because I have so much fun with Instagram and I love knowing I capturing all sorts of little moments.  I’m slightlycosmo if you want to follow along.

|| Today we made a loaf of oatmeal bread, a giant pot of bolognese sauce and a batch of the most delicious muffins!  Today was really good eating!

|| My dad preached this weekend, and it was nice to hear him again.  I’ve been feeling very reticent about going to church lately – again, more on that another time – but I really enjoyed what he had to say.

|| We’re trying to plan out our vacation. Hopefully a collection of random, unexpected expenses won’t force us to completely change our plans.  But so far, so good. I’m super excited about our proposed road trip! More on that another time, too!

So much to be happy about, and it feels so good to be happy!

Neither Could The Psalmist

In a moment of wild abandon last night I called my mom and asked her if Isla could join Gabe at her house so I could run out for about an hour. I had grand plans of a trip to the grocery store for yogurt and peanut butter cups, but as soon as my hands hit the wheel I knew I’d be diverting to the bookstore for a little mental health hiatus.  Truthfully, I almost cried when I realized that a) I was free for a little bit and b) it was quiet, both exceedingly beautiful things.

It’s my favorite kind of evening, a fun drink and a stack of crisp reading material whose bindings crinkle and groan when I open them to explore their ideas.  I could go to a bookstore nightly and come home with a newly discovered gem after every single trip.  Granted, I’d never have time to finish reading them all once I got them home, but I love books and I love reading other people’s opinions and conclusions and don’t think I’ll ever tire of these treasure hunting excursions.

I almost didn’t pick up the top book, Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal, until I referenced my Pinterest book list and realized I’d pinned it a while ago.  I’m glad I went back for it, though.

“Wednesdays were pretty normal,” writes Michael Kelley, looking for a bright spot amidst the chemotherapy routine brought on by his two-year-old son Joshua’s cancer diagnosis. His book of the same name offers much to anyone who’s tired of prescriptive spirituality and would rather acknowledge and work through the difficulties of faith with some transparency.

About the time I got pregnant with Mara I decided to start reading through the Bible. And then we lost her and I stopped, only to pick it up again about the same time I got pregnant with Isla. I plodded through as much of the Pentateuch as I could, getting more and more anxious about my pregnancy while I got more and more overwhelmed with a God who, in those first books of the Bible, looked so angry, cruel and unfair.

And arbitrary.

And confusing.

And violent.

And I got stuck – partly because I couldn’t reconcile the picture of the Old Testament God with the New Testament God and partly because my anxiety was so deep and I begged Him for help and relief and never found any.  I had so many questions bubbling just beneath the surface but couldn’t find a way to ask them without toppling head-first into a sea of nebulous, inky doubt.

I’m better now – not “Better,” but getting better – and I’m still hung up on some of those questions.

Why did He order the destruction of entire nations? Surely there were individuals in those nations who would have longed for a relationship with the One True God!

Why did Mara have to die?

Why was He consumingly angry at other nations for behavior that He forgave in the Israelites?

Why was He not forthcoming with the peace He promises to bring?

What sense did it make for Him to make the Israelites his favorite?  Why did anyone have to be the favorite?

Does the little picture really matter to Him as much as we think it matters?

I’ve rolled these questions up and down through my mind so much that I’ve grown guilty at my insistence over them.  There are lots of pat answers out there; churches are rife with them.  I’m sick of them.  They’re annoying – sometimes true, but thoroughly annoying.  Somewhere along the way I bought into the idea that God must be sick of my insistence, must be frustrated with my lack of “getting it.”  I “should” have been thinking…

He is God. I’m not.

He knows what He’s doing.

This suffering is for a reason.

He’s fair even when I don’t understand it.

I just need to trust.

But I wasn’t.  I was just desperate to make it through another day intact and not crazy, hoping to stumble onto the magical ability to trust without anxiety since that’s what good Christians do.

As Mr. Kelley describes his experience in the early days of his son’s cancer diagnosis, he writes about longing to embrace the truth of Psalm 46:10 – Be still and know that I am God. It’s a verse that feels like part-command, part-promise, and I fully related when he said, “Now that’s a great verse.  In the chaos of blood tests and diagnoses, we would have loved nothing more than just to be quiet.  Not just verbally, but in our minds and hearts, too – to calm down and just trust.

I related so much I took a picture of it, not just because I liked his description, but because of how he ends the paragraph.  “Unfortunately, we couldn’t.  But then again, neither could the psalmist.”

Neither could the psalmist.

When I read that my mind jumped to David.  Upon further investigation I learned that the psalmist in question was probably Isaiah, not David, but I don’t think it really matters because David lamented in the same style throughout much of the remainder of the book of Psalms, full of repeated anxieties and heartaches.  How many times did He call out to God in pain? How many times did his cry out in fear while his enemies chased him and sought his destruction?  How many times did he angrily ask God why he’d been forgotten or abandoned?

The other thing I know about David is that God Himself calls David “a man after my own heart” (Acts 16:22).  David, with his anxious/angry/bitter/fearful self, was not rejected by God for his internal struggles.  David wasn’t the picture of calm stillness.  He wasn’t glibly humming “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus” while he ran for his life to hide from Saul.

David was anxious. David was scared.  AND David was a man after God’s own heart.

Occasionally I hear really clear things from God – or at least I think I do 😉 – and I’m pretty sure this has been one of those times.  “You are not bad because you’re anxious,” He tells me.  “I can deal with anxious.”

And on the issue of the Old Testament, He tells me to keep going.  Don’t judge a book by the first installment.

I get frustrated when I realize how perverted my heart’s understanding of Christianity has become.  Partly it’s me and things get muddled up while they rattle around inside my brain.  But partly it’s the teachings of church and the way Christians put emphasis on right words rather than real hearts.  When did being a Christian become so complex and polished? I think it’s really pretty simple, gritty and raw.

I’m stalled out again somewhere around the beginning on Deuteronomy, and a good friend suggested I jump ahead and do a little bit of New Testament stuff to break things up.  I might do that.  I might pick up Wednesday Were Pretty Normal so I can see how the story ends, too.  I’m glad I found it, and I’m glad I was reminded that the Bible’s full of anxious, crazy-imperfect people who were deeply loved and thoroughly delighted in by God.

Grace and The “Innocents”

It was almost over before I knew it had even happened, my little friend running toward me in tears and the other’s mother huffing and puffing angrily where he’d been standing.  “I didn’t do it!” he cried, and I believed him, deducing that the crying preschooler being fussed over by the angry woman must have fallen when my little friend stood on the fence.

“You don’t DO that!” she snarled, and then, “You are a very naughty boy!”  My little friend cried harder and protested louder and swore he didn’t do it.

Oh, I burned!  But I turned my attention to my friend and consoled, “I know it was an accident.  It will be okay.  Why don’t we apologize to the little boy?”

The mother, still muttering, had stomped off behind me and I immediately thought better of my suggestion.  She – this competent, grown woman – had used her words, tone and expression to harm my little friend, and although an apology was appropriate she was pitifully volatile and hateful.  I wished I could take my words back so my little friend wouldn’t have to interact with her a moment longer.  My little friend was eager to apologize, though, and unlike some children didn’t require even a moment’s coaxing.

Thankfully, once her own child had stopped crying, she was able to tersely thank my little friend for his apology, and then she disappeared into the crowd of people.  Which may have been all the better because I had things to say to her.  I had the courage to say them, too.  The only thing missing was the opportunity, a chance where I could have told her…

|| You don’t hate on a child with your words.

|| You don’t ever call someone else’s child naughty, especially publicly.

|| You give children the benefit of the doubt and treat them the way you’d want your own child treated.

Here’s the thing.  My little friend?  Has an exquisitely sensitive heart.  I’ve seen him dissolve over a performance that was perfectly good – age appropriate and on par with his peers.  But it wasn’t what he wanted it to be and he cried hot tears of self-inflicted shame over what he thought he should have been able to do.  He struggles sometimes.  He’s a little different.  And the last thing he needs in his life is rejection, failure and hate.  Especially over an accident.

She didn’t know what she did, but the mama bear in her got it all wrong.  I bet she won’t remember her careless words after a night’s sleep.  My little friend might not, either, but they made an impression, and that won’t fade easily.

Here’s the other thing.  My reaction?  Graceless.  Everything I wanted to say to her I need to say to myself.

|| Heidi…you don’t hate on another human being with your words.

|| Heidi…you don’t ever publicly call someone out for naughty behavior. Talk openly?  Yes.  Not rudely confront.

|| Heidi…you give others around you the benefit of the doubt and treat them the way you’d want to be treated.

As I’ve been purging myself of pessimism and replacing it with a more hopeful, sunny disposition I’ve gotten better at grace.  Not just showing it, but really feeling it.  The person who cut me off in traffic?  I don’t know him, don’t know his story.  Maybe he had a horrible morning.  Maybe he’s going through a divorce.  Maybe he’s on his way to the hospital.  Maybe he’s just an angry person because of years of pain.  I don’t know and I don’t have to know, but I don’t automatically label him a bad person anymore.

The stranger who screamed, “Bitch” at me while I ran? Could have been a lot of things.  Maybe I looked like his ex-girlfriend.  Maybe he hated his stepmother.  Maybe he just feels better about life when he curses at people.  I can forgive and extend concern and hope toward him in my heart because I know that I don’t know.

I don’t have that same grace, however, when I see people act contemptibly toward children.  Anger festers in my heart and I just can’t let it go.  And on one hand, some good comes out of that anger because children aren’t supposed to protect themselves; we have to do it for them.  On the other hand, it’s never good to hold onto anger – even justifiable anger.  If I am to fully embody grace, hope and optimism I must learn to do so even when it’s challenging…

even when I have to speak difficult truths…

even when a situation requires firm boundaries…

Gabe used to attend a little preschool program once a week, and in all of his quirkiness he kept the teachers on his toes.  One of his favorite things to do?  Go by different names, usually names of beloved book or television characters.  For a while he was Wilbur (a la Charlotte’s Web), then Mickey (as in Mouse), and the longest running one was Jerry, courtesy of Tom & Jerry.  He loved that little mouse so much he wanted to be that little mouse and play glorious pranks on Tom and finally triumph over the cat.  Therefore, across the top of all of his papers, and in red – always red – crayon, he predictably scrawled “Jerry” each and every time.

Usually his teachers let it go, even calling him Jerry at his request (insistence?); in fact, one substitute teacher eventually told me how strange she’d thought it that someone named their child “Jerry” until she realized what was happening.

One fateful day when I knew he’d been using his stubbornness to give his teachers a run for their money I decided to pop in and check on him.  As I turned the door handle and observed the teacher standing over his spot at the table while he scribbled “Jerry” across the top of the coloring paper I heard her say, and loudly enough to be heard from across the room, “Gabe!  You are being a very! bad! boy! today!

And I sort of lost it.

But only on the inside.

My child – and other children – were watching.

“No, he’s not,” I said, and she looked up dumbfounded, unaware I had entered the room.

“I…just…” she sputtered.

I don’t remember how she ended her sentence because in that time I had covered the distance from the door to his side and I leaned close and pored over his coloring and whispered in his ear that he was such a good, sweet boy and realized that my entrance into the room had disrupted him enough that I don’t think he had heard what the teacher said.

Thankfully.

Because that kind of thing hurts a child as though the adult had taken a big, red permanent marker and drew “Xs” all over the story of his life and written “Poorly done!” or “Bad work!” or “You have some kind of gall handing in this sort of crap for me to grade!”  And it hurts the parent, too; her words hurt me, and I cried the same hot tears my little friend cried earlier today, because it hurts when adults mishandle children.

For the record, she was angry at him because he wouldn’t write “Gabe” at the top of the paper and insisted on writing “Jerry.”  That was it, his great transgression.

But still, I had to forgive her.  It didn’t happen right away and it helped when I had a conversation with her about her words and it helped knowing Gabe wouldn’t be under her care again.  But…grace.  It was as necessary for me to extend as it was for her to receive.

I know this – I want to leave the world a softer, more hopeful, more loving place for my children.

I want the world to be better for my having been here.

If…when…I give into my first instinct to lash out at people who’ve hurt an “innocent” I accomplish nothing.  I counter inappropriateness with anger and volatility with hate. I add negativity to the world in which my children are growing up, and I own my adversary’s victory.

What if I counter those things with grace?  What if I let my budding optimism and hope make my eyes smile even when I’m speaking a difficult or challenging truth?  What if I give the benefit of the doubt even when I’d rather attack – even when that attack is deserved?  What if I own the hurt, fear and frustration behind my anger rather than letting my anger speak for itself?

I’m not sure I’ll ever rewire my first instincts to embody only measured, graceful thoughts.  I’m not sure optimism will ever be entirely second nature.  Perhaps that’s okay, though.  Maybe I can learn to extract from that energy the courage it requires to take a gracious stand while leaving behind the initial blustery anger.

I think that’s what people like Gabe and my little friend really need in the world.

On Compliments and Makeup and Other Thoughts

When I posted this picture on Instagram the other day someone paid me a very sweet compliment about how I always look fashionable whereas she hardly has time to take a shower and never puts on makeup.  I thanked her for the compliment, but what I really wanted to do was tell her the rest of the story.  I couldn’t figure out how to do it concisely in a short reply to her comment, so I decided I wanted to write it out here, partly because I just need to write it down and partly because I want to explain why the outside and inside don’t always match.

It’s no secret that I deal with a lot of anxiety in my life, and I always know when it’s getting out of hand when I find myself panicking about people dying.  Thankfully my anxiety has been moderately controlled since Isla was born, a nice change from the constant torment with which is plagued me during her pregnancy.

Anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with depression, and this is true for me.  My anxiety tends to be constant, but my depression comes and goes depending on my circumstances and my level of anxiety.  When my depression is at its worst it’s hard to function; even getting out of bed is a challenge.  Like anxiety, I have a red flag that tells me my depression is getting unmanageable, and that red flag is when it becomes overwhelming to me to get ready for the day (aka shower, put on makeup, do my hair, etc.).

This is where I take a deep breath because it really embarrasses me to have felt this way.  And to still feel this way some days.  Who hates to take a shower???  But its true.  Its simply my reality sometimes.  So I deal as best I can.

The last several years of my life have challenged my ability to cope beyond what I imagined possible, and although I can talk of the many bits of beauty we’ve found along the way it’s also true that it was very, very hard.  As such, during the last several years I have developed a growing dislike for showering, really an aversion to the basics of taking care of myself.  It’s all just so fussy!  Showering, doing makeup and doing my hair seemed insurmountable on most days, and I would much rather have stayed in my pyjamas, ready for bed at the drop of a hat.  Some days I did exactly that, running Gabe to school while wearing my pyjamas and coming home to tuck back in for a long day’s nap.  Other times I’d have commitments and places to be so I’d force myself to put in some level of effort so I’d look presentable.

Along the way, however, I’ve learned that if I take care of myself I feel better.  So as often as I could muster the energy I’d force myself to do the bare minimum.  For me, the bare minimum has become a quick face of makeup and some sort of style to my hair, with a shower every other day.  Because I have curly hair it can get a little fussy and demanding when wetted, so when I’m in the struggling-but-trying phase I often straighten my hair because I can get several days wear out of one good blowout.  The makeup routine has been simplified, also, and I have a simple “basic face” I can put on in a rush – for times when I oversleep or for times when I’m in a funk and don’t have the energy.

Then come the clothes, and I haven’t found my rhythm with them yet in my new postpartum/nursing body.  So I accessorize with things like jewelry and flower pins because I’ve found that even a plain t-shirt looks fun with a flower pinned to it.

I don’t do things like makeup and accessories in order to take a lot of time on myself or because I have it all together.  I do these things because they give me a boost when I don’t feel so great.  I do these things because they make me smile.  I would never want someone to see me with makeup done and some funky accessory and feel like I have it together and they don’t; I would want them to know that I do those things precisely because I don’t have anything together and taking care of myself in little ways helps to keep me from submitting to the sad, anxious, or negative thoughts in my head.  It’s how I fight – quite literally war paint that I put on while I battle the enemy and refuse to let it win.

I have no judgment in my heart toward people who choose not to do these things.  To each her own!  But I also know there are people out there who think it looks like fun but don’t know how to get started or think it takes too much time.  I’m no expert when it comes to hair, but I do feel like my quick makeup routine is competent enough to share, so here it is.  I swear that anyone can do this, and I timed myself when I did it yesterday – it took 4:49, start to finish.  But I also put on lipstick during that time period, and normally I don’t put on lipstick until I’m in the car.  So it’s actually shorter than that.

Here are my supplies:

First, I’m a big devotee to MAC makeup.  I’m sure there are lots of other good brands, but MAC is my favorite.  It doesn’t fade badly by the end of the day and it gives good coverage with nice colors.  Second, I like makeup brushes.  Most of mine are MAC brushes, but I’ve also heard great things about elf and Sonia Kashuk brushes, and I believe they’re cheap and available at Target.  Finally, I switch things up at times, especially when it comes to the foundation.  While the MAC stuff is my favorite, it’s also pricier, and I don’t have a MAC store near me <insert Tahd’s breath of sweet relief here>.  So I pick up random face powders and foundations at Target or Walgreens and generally have reasonable luck with them.

I’m linking to some of the products I use; these are not affiliate links and I don’t get anything if you click them and/or buy them.  Just fyi.

Here are my steps:

1. I use some sort of moisturizer. It’s usually from Avon and not pictured here, but I’m not picky. I usually get the Avon sets of day and night cream, but I’m bad about washing my face at night so when I run out of the day cream I just start using the leftover night cream in the morning.  I was told makeup adheres itself best to a moisturized face so I think it might help the staying power of the other products.

2. I use a brush to apply concealer to my undereye area, the area around my nose (it gets red and I like to even that out), and any blemishes.  I kind of “buff” it onto those areas with the black handled brush that has black and white bristles.  It’s an amazing brush.  I got it last year and fell instantly in love with it.

3. I use a buffing brush (the stout, fluffy brush with no handle – a kabuki from bare minerals) to apply a 2-in-1 powder foundation.  Sometimes I just use the sponge that comes with the makeup, but I feel like I use too much if I do that.  If I’m using a liquid foundation I’ll apply that first, conceal second, and top with a loose powder (usually I just use Cover Girl and apply with the puff that comes with it).  But in my experience this is the fastest – concealer first and 2-in-1 foundation second.

4. I use the fluffy brush with the red handle to apply blush to my cheeks, and then I use the long-ish handled black brush (not the one with the white bristles) to put a little highlight powder on the tops of my cheekbones, the bridge of my nose, and my eyelids.  This sounds slightly complex but it’s not.  It’s just like putting on more blush, except I keep it high on my cheeks and only use a tiny bit.  A little goes a long way.  I love this powder.  It’s amazing and long lasting.  I get the Mineralize Skin Finish in Soft and Gentle and I think it might be my favorite thing ever.

5. I use a small angled brush to fill my eyebrows with light brown eye shadow.  I think I use the color Cork, but I know fairer people use Omega sometimes. Not sure about darker colors.  I feel like this is something that makes people look younger; when you look back at old pictures one of the things that makes people look younger is their full (often somewhat unkempt, but we’ll leave that for another day) brows.  I don’t want to bring back the unkempt thing, but I think filling in the sparse spots helps bring back a little bit of youthfulness, so I do it.

6. I apply a little shimmery white eye shadow (I use Nylon but I know Phloof is another popular color for this) just under my eyebrows and at the inside corners of my eyes near my tearducts.  I feel like this makes a tired mother look a little more awake.  MAC has amazing eye shadows – the pigments are so rich and the colors look great.  You can get really artsy with their shadows and do all sorts of fancy looks, but you can be really simple, too.

7. I line my upper lids and the outside portion of my lower lids.  I have Prunella (a purple color), Teddy (a goldish brown color) and Smoke (a black color with some greenishness in it).  Then I take a small flat brush, dip it in some eye shadow and smudge the line.  For this I often use Satin Taupe.  It’s a nice multipurpose color.  Honestly, this isn’t my favorite look, but it’s fast so I do it.  Some people don’t like to line their eyes, and that’s great.  I’ve lined my eyes for so long that I think I look funny if I skip it.

8. Mascara – my most favorite, amazing mascara is Cover Girl Lash Blast in the orange tube.  LOVE it!  It does a great job and is relatively cheap compared to what you get at a department store.

9. Lipstick/gloss/whatever – but I usually do this in the car with whatever I happen to have in my purse.

That’s it.  I do all that in 4ish minutes.  Here’s a picture of me on my average day.  Note that I’m wearing a hat, which means I did NOT style my hair…

It’s not the best picture, but you can see my whole face.  Here’s a better picture with part of my face…

Honestly, it took way longer to type it out than it does to do it.  In reality it goes more like this…

lotion, concealer, powder, blush, highlight, brows, eyes, liner, mascara

And this is what Isla did for those 4 minutes…

Happy baby!  🙂  She can’t reach the toys with her hands but she sure can kick them!

So that’s my thought of the day.  The compliments are very sweet, but I always feel guilty because I know how much of a struggle it has been for me to put in the effort.  The inside and outside don’t always match, not so much because I want to hide the inside but because I want to encourage it to smile.

So now I want to know – if you’re in a funk what do you do for yourself to break the cycle?  What brings you out of your funks?

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