Better Together

Life is full of surprises. Cliche? You better believe it! But there’s so much truth in that statement. We plan for the future but never really know what’s waiting around the bend. Case in point: I’m getting married. Again!

3 years ago my marriage lay in waste with bleak prospects for reconciliation. Now, 1095 days later, I’m in the midst of wedding planning. In less than a week, I’ll be marrying my best friend and life partner all over again. But how did we go from a decade of marriage to the brink of divorce and back? This is that story.

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Before jumping in I do want to answer a question I’m frequently asked: “Why are you so open about sharing – isn’t it awkward?” The short answer is, “No.” Going through a separation from a spouse is a dramatic experience. When I first started to share, it was to invite others along for my journey. I wanted to open up about what I was going through because I needed prayer, love, and support. By seemingly making myself vulnerable, I was actually building up strength by gathering people around me. I had to fight the impulse to isolate myself. Being alone would not lead me down the right path. As the Bible says, there’s wisdom in a multitude of counselors, and what I really needed was advice! The outpouring of support I received was otherworldly. Phone calls, letters, meals, financial provision, legal advice, counseling, prayer, and more. Having this practical, emotional, and spiritual support from friends and family helped me get through the fog of those early days.

But that’s not the only reason I have chosen to share. Now that I’m on the flip side of this experience, I can extend the love I  received to others who are walking a similar path. Beyond building a safety net, sharing my story has also allowed me to take a difficult experience and transform it into something useful for others. It would be a shame to hoard the wisdom I gathered all to myself. There are so many people going through similar situations and my openness invites them to share, to seek help, and to seek support.

One more thing before jumping in. I’d be remiss if I failed to mention how David feels about all of this sharing. Isn’t it uncomfortable for him to have me writing about this openly? Throughout this experience, I’ve been careful to filter out certain details out of respect for Dave, me, and our family. Opening up about a trial doesn’t mean having to spill all the beans. Just some of them. People who are closest to us know the intimate details and we use discretion beyond that. I maintain my commitment in this way by having David proof any writing I do about this topic. It’s not just my story, after all, it’s his too.

So how did the rekindling begin?

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It all started the night the Cubs won the world series. Really?! Really. How very Chicago of us! The entire city felt electric that night and that energy was contagious. Cubs fans all over the city were on the edge of their seats, bleachers and couches, watching the game with bated breath. Meanwhile, we were sitting on the floor of the sunroom in my apartment talking. Really talking. We both expressed regret, made our apologies, and professed our love for one another. Sparks flew, and then, the fireworks started. Both literal and figurative. It was like the making of an early nineties rom-com. As we won the game the city erupted into a jubilee. There were explosives going off, people running into the streets, and crowds cheering for joy. We were celebrating too – but not for the Cub’s win. We were celebrating the potential of our marriage’s rebirth. This was the breakthrough we needed. There was hope again.

The Cubs won the world series on Wednesday, November 2, 2016. David and I had been separated for 5 months. It would still be another 20 more before we officially reconciled.

Picking up the pieces after a dramatic split is a long process. Think about how quickly a house can be burned down to the ground by a fire, and then, how long it takes to build it back up again. That’s how it was with our marriage. We wanted to make sure that if we got back together it was in the right way and for the right reasons. That took months of soul-searching, counseling, laughter, and tears. I was scared, unsure of how to proceed and what the reconciliation process should look like. But David gave me one of the greatest gifts possible in that season of doubt: time. He affirmed to me that he would wait for me, however long it would take. He respected my need to move slowly, and for that, I’m eternally grateful. 

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David and I both went to counseling, separately. It was intense but a lot of healing needed to take place on both sides. We had to rediscover our unique identities, understand our hurts, and find healing before coming back together again. We then started couples therapy. There were weeks where we made leaps forward and in a matter of days found ourselves back at the start line. But that’s okay. We knew that if we truly were in it for the long haul, it would require a lot of hard work to build a sturdy foundation for the years to come. Once our couples therapy came to an end we joined a newlywed small group at church and it was incredible! We giggled at first, knowing that we were quite the seniors of the group, but the practical wisdom we gathered up was invaluable. We learned about the basics all over again and firmed up the building blocks of our marriage.

All in all our reconciliation process took two years. It seems lengthy, but boy, are we glad to have taken all that time! Now, years after our original marital implosion, we can look back and see the fruits of that long, arduous process. Thanks to God’s grace, hope, and wisdom, and support from our community, we haven’t just pieced our marriage back together, we have completely resurrected it from the ashes. There’s a sweetness that we share, unlike anything we had before. Our dedication for one another is deeply rooted and stronger than ever. There are still those rare moments when we’re reminded of the tough times, but we work through those memories. Together. 

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The naivete of our youth is gone, and in its place is a calm assurance that we’re together, truly, because this is where we want to be. There’s no doubt, no bitterness. Just love. A deep root-watering life-filling love that pours out from each of us. A river flowing stronger, longer, than we ever thought possible.

So there you have it! The final saga in our separation story and how everything came back together again. In just a few days we’ll be exchanging vows again and publicly recommitting ourselves to our marriage. We cannot wait because we know, we truly are, better together.

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DIY Seed Bombs

In honor of Earth Day we’re bringing you one of our favorite kid-friendly crafts: Seed bombs!

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This fantastic project allows you to beautify your neighborhood while also providing additional green space for wildlife in your community. Plus, if you have a little at home, this is a great way to keep them occupied on a rainy day. Win – win!

Here’s what you’ll need to create your own homemade seed bombs:

  • Newspaper
  • Bowl
  • Baking tray or candy molds (if you want to get fancy!)
  • Water
  • Potter’s Clay
  • Chemical-free compost
  • Wildflower Seeds (make sure there are no invasive varieties in the mix!)
  1. Determine where you’ll be doing the project. A low table, bench, or windowsill works best. Then, line your work surface with newspaper.  Soil + little hands = A big mess!
  2. I recommend portioning out the water, clay, and compost before setting them out in front of your toddler. This way they can grab the ingredients and mix them up without too much fuss. Once everything’s ready, pop your toddler next to the work station with a bowl and let them mix the first three ingredients together. The texture should be shape-able, like a chunky dough, but not too moist.
  3. Show your toddler how to form balls from the mix, or if you’re using a candy form, how to press it into the tray.
  4. Once your balls or shapes are ready, set them out on a high windowsill or table to dry overnight. And that’s it! once they’re dried out they’re ready for you to use.

The next time you’re out for a stroll, pop your seed bombs into a basket, and have your tot throw them into abandoned lots or planters. Ensure they’re not chucking them into private plots or landscaped spaces. As the days go by, visit your bombs to view their progress. If you have a tech savvy kid, have them take photos of their plants in each stage. In just a couple of weeks, under the right conditions, you should see bursts of wildflowers in bloom.

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When seeing this project through be sure to speak with your toddler about the importance of plants, especially in urban environments. It’s a great way to impart knowledge about science and nature while teaching them how to be stewards of creation. And, as an added bonus, describe the importance of caring for the community you live in too! That way, you won’t just have plants in bloom, you’ll also have a budding little social activist on your hands.

Voila! You’ve now trained a mini guerrilla gardener!

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Building Our Nest

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One year. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve held the keys to my first ever home. A place, a space, a nook that belongs to me. No more leases, no more landlords, no more restrictions. A property that’s all mine.

Owning had been a dream of mine for years but something that always seemed just out of reach. No matter how much I planned and saved I couldn’t scrap enough together. So when my parents offered to have us move in to save money for a nest egg I eagerly said “yes.”

 

After six months of saving and house hunting I found a beautiful condo nestled on a quiet street just outside of Chicago proper. It had everything I could dream of: vintage charm, solid bones, ample parking, and was within walking distance of public transit, a playground, beach, shops, cafés and a library. And the best part? A view of the lake! I could envision August running up and down the shore, scurrying off to the beach or running around the park with newfound friends. It was my dream come true.

 

The unit was just big enough for our little family and just under my budget. The night of the viewing was the night I made an offer. I couldn’t risk it getting away from me. After a fervent prayer and a couple of calls – my offer was pitched and by the next day – accepted.

 

The building, which August refers to as “the castle,” is a historic landmark built in the roaring 20s. A large collection of units are strung together across three floors and two courtyards along the lakefront. Our block is bookended by a park, complete with playground, and a beach. The listing for my unit described it as “the perfect site for your vacation home.” Except ours would be a 365 day home. Perfect.

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A Very Confetti Birthday

I have a 4 year old. Repeat. I have a 4 year old! There is a child in my house who is potty trained, can speak in full sentences, knows how to operate light machinery and can recite the planets to me in order. 4 years old!

Hitting this milestone was a cause for celebration. With August sharing his birthday with an epic holiday (cough Valentine’s Day cough) we knew we’d have to plan early. So way back in December I asked August, “What kind of birthday would you like?” I was expecting an answer along the lines of dinosaurs, legos, robots, animals or space. But not August. He’s always thinking a bit outside the box and of that I’m always proud. “Confetti” he replied. Really? I had to ask him a second time to make sure I understood. “Confetti?” He nodded yes. Alright then! Confetti it would be!

As soon as he confirmed his vision I started collecting goodies for the party. There were tons of New Year’s Eve decorations on store shelves and lots of sparkly colorful knick knacks that would lend themselves to our little celebration. I already have an arsenal of party decor that I reuse from event to event – so that was on the docket too. My kitchen cabinets are loaded with colorful cake stands, bright plates, customizable message banners, fun paper straws and colorful napkins. Perfect! I also knew I had a sizable stack of construction paper that I could tap for a homemade element. I ended up cutting out hundreds of confetti circles and sewing through them with my machine. Voila! Instant party decor.

When planning food for kid parties handhelds are always best. The goal is to keep things nice and simple so the kids can self serve, leaving the adults to have a chance to connect.  Trader Joe’s is always my go-to for party food. The prices are great, the products are delicious AND there are no creepy chemicals lurking about. That’s right! No synthetic additives, gmos or high fructose nonsense.Even the color additives are natural. I’ll take beet and carrot derived hues over red 40 any day! The final party spread included organic low-sugar juice for the kids, coffee, sparkling water and hard cider for the adults, fresh jumbo pretzels, cheese sticks and wheels, cheddar popcorn, peanut butter banana shish kabobs (thanks Pinterest!), grapes, a vegan veggie platter, and of course, cake. The best part? The cake, also from Trader Joes, was covered in confetti sprinkles. Love!

So there you have it. Our take on a very confetti birthday. Happy birthday little August!

2018 in Review: Changes

Driving down a familiar road made me think about where I was exactly one year ago. It’s really amazing how much can change in 365 days.

In January of 2018 my heart was shattered. My dear Peanut succumbed to prostate cancer, I was still separated from my husband, and I found myself living back with my folks driving 4 hours a day just to get to work. Everything in life seemed to be regressing instead of moving forward. I found myself at the bottom of a valley. Wasn’t I supposed to be doing better by now? Why did I keep moving backwards? Why did things continue to unravel around me? But God had a plan and His timing is always good.

So there I was, living with my parents, running a marathon on weekdays and spending each weekend in an emotional coma. I was burying myself in books, music and prayer just to get through the day. I didn’t know what road I was on, which direction it led, and who was on it with me. But God knew. In the last 12 months the most extraordinary things have happened to completely transform the trajectory of my life. What a difference a year makes!

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Here are just a few of the highlights.


Spring: Home Sweet Home

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I had always dreamed of owning my own place. A nook that was all mine, to do with as I pleased. No landlord, no lease, just property. A place where I could nest, without restraints, that I knew could be mine for however long I’d like. It’s the American dream after all.

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Peanut: Saying Goodbye

One year. Two years. Two milestones in the same week. And who would have remembered if not for the algorithms of Facebook pushing memories back into the present? 2 years ago I became a single mama and just 1 year ago I received the devastating news of Peanut’s cancer diagnosis. Eek. June has had a bad track record in recent years. But it’s not all bad news. Within the last year I also realized my lifelong dream of becoming a homeowner. See – there’s so much to share and catch up on, but let’s begin with Peanut.

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One year ago I shared about Peanut’s health diagnosis. That same day, through the tears, I wrote what would become a bucket list of activities that would carry us through the summer. And what an incredible summer it was. Peanut’s twilight months were filled with adventures, pup cups, cruises, barbecues, and extra snuggles with the people he loved.

Peanut was my first dog and my canine soul mate. Adopted from a local shelter in 2008 he stole my heart with his larger than life personality and supersized ears that matched. He became my study buddy after taking the leap to go back to school to finish my degree. He was my companion as I navigated the waters of launching my own indie business. He stood beside me as I sorted out my career path. Peanut’s slew of health problems and training needs built the foundations I’d need to transition into the field of animal welfare where I found my life’s calling. Peanut taught me how to be bold, compassionate, and ever so patient. He was my little shadow and one of my best friends.

After receiving the diagnosis I was committed to celebrating our remaining time together. I thought that the months ahead would prepare me for his departure, but they didn’t. Peanut’s condition declined in late September and though his spirit remained intact, his body was slipping. Our pain management plan was no longer effective, he was completely incontinent, and though he still enjoyed walks and snuggles, the pain attacks that would hit were growing more frequent and intensifying. I couldn’t watch as he suffered but couldn’t manage the timing of making “the call.”

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Peanut’s Bucket List: Canine Cruise

Just a couple of days after Peanut’s diagnosis, and the development of his epic bucket list, we had the opportunity to knock #1 straight off his list: Go on The Anti-Cruelty Society’s Canine Cruise!

I’ve been wanting to take Peanut on a dog-friendly architectural river tour for years and just kept putting it off. After learning that his condition was terminal, I knew I had to had to get him into the next ship to set sail. That’s when I signed him up for the Canine Cruise!

Part fundraiser, part pooch adventure, the Canine Cruise took off on a pleasantly cool Saturday afternoon on the Chicago River. Facilitated by Mercury Skyline Cruises, the tour took us down the river and back, and then on a little tangent into the open waters of Lake Michigan. Peanut loved ever moment of it! He enjoyed freshly baked doggie biscuits and pupcakes from Chicago natives High Hopes while soaking up the sun and smells. Surrounded by fellow rescue pups and dog lovers, the cruise was a dream for canines and owners alike. I can’t think of a better way to have spent our Saturday afternoon.

Peanut Loves Butter: Upcycled Cotton Bowtie

Next up on Peanut’s Bucket List:

Go for a car ride with a Starbuck’s pup cup.