Top 7 of Summer 2017 (Part 5-Friends, New and Old) 

One of the most special parts of this summer was the chance to reconnect with old img_4636friends and to continue to develop relationships with new ones!

First, I celebrated the upcoming marriage of my longest friend, of 15 years, through her bridal shower and bachelorette party and in less than three weeks, we will celebrate her wedding. At her bachelorette weekend down in Dewey Beach, Delaware we marveled that the dreams of two pre-teen girls planning to be in each other’s weddings would be coming true in back-to-back summers! (See right)

I also spent a wonderful day with my college friend, who has been a great confidant

img_4661

ever since graduating as we seem to share similar life journeys: graduating from Messiah as education majors, becoming teachers, buying houses and getting married all within a similar time frame. While we often connect via text messages, it was a delight to spend time face-to-face with our new spouses, enjoying a homemade lunch of quesadillas, playing “Jack-box tv” games and then being treated to dinner in their cute town of Winchester. (See left)

This summer also provided the neat opportunity to begin fostering relationships with other newly-married couples in the area. Both Cody and I enjoyed inviting people over for board games (like Settlers of Catan and a newbie Forbidden Island), dinner and a walk to Maggie’s the Italian Ice and Custard Hut just down the street.  We watched as our “Friday Night Board Game” friends got married, and helped them celebrate by making their guest book, housing the groomsman the night before the wedding and just generally being available to help them with last-minute details (like making wristlets for the mothers at the flower shop and quickly turning a slice of our Christmas tree into a ring box for them to use in the ceremony). Last Sunday, we enjoyed some last summer memories (particularly for Cody who started back-to-school training this week) by

packing up a picnic dinner of Chinese food, watermelon, candy and snacks galore and driving the ’88 Bronco to Haar’s old-fashioned drive in for back-to-back movies (even if one of them was “The Nut Job 2-Nutty By Nature”). We laughed, tossed a frisbee, ate our picnic dinner, and even played a round of Catan in the open back of the truck before settling in for the movies. They continue to be friends that we love getting to know better and getting to share the joys and challenges of being newly married, including encouraging one another in the process. I know I am just so thankful for these new friendships and can’t wait to watch them continue to grow! (See top).

Side note: Having an ice cream shop just down the road has become the perfect avenue for sharing in fellowship with others. Twice this summer, I was invited to an on-the-spot ice cream run with friends who texted, “Hey just stopping by Maggie’s and wondered if your free to join”… I’m so thankful that I have had the margin in my life to drop what I’m doing and say a resounding “YES, I’ll be there in a minute.”

 

Top 7 of Summer 2017 (Part 4-Foster’s Flower Shop)

This past spring, as my school year began to wind down, I wondered what I would fill my summer days with. I’ve learned from the past that I thrive on a schedule and would do best with part-time work to bookend my days. Last summer was full of wedding planning, the honeymoon, and settling into a new home so finding a summer job was off the table. As I began dreaming about this summer I had a few criteria in mind: something that would be refreshing, where I could leave work at work, and NO KIDS! As a teacher and soon-to-be-mama, it’s pretty apparent that I love children but I knew in order to bring my best self into another year of teaching I needed my summer to be child-free (besides the one growing in my belly!).

I don’t know what sparked the idea of working with flowers, but I do know that it was Cody who suggested that I email the florist who did our wedding flowers last summer. My wedding flowers (see below) were simply stunning and were one of the highlights of that special day. To me, it seemed like a shot in the dark to ask such skilled crafts-women, but Cody continued to urge me and after a few phone calls and emails, to my surprise I was accepted!

img_4244-1img_4249-1

Many of these summer days, I have stood in the flower shop marveling at the beauty that surrounds me, engulfed in buckets of beautiful blooms as I worked.

Sunflowers. Roses. Gerber Daisies. Hydrangeas. Lilies. Carnations. Anemone. Dahlias. Coral Charm Peonies. Hypericum. Lisianthus (effectionately known as “lizzy”). Freesia. Baby’s Breath. Ranunculus. King Protea. Italian Ruscus. Eucalyptus in all varieties. The yellow pom-pom flowers I can never remember the name of. Mountain Mint. Buckets and buckets full!


When I go into the shop, I often watch my coworkers with wonder, being heard too often saying “That’s beautiful,” or “Wow, I just love that!” unable to contain the simply breathtaking sights of their creations. Opening a giant walk-in fridge to the sight of wedding bouquets and arrangements is one that even in August I have not gotten over. I was thrilled to spend hours creating beauty alongside these other women, learned some pretty neat tricks (like how to make all the stems go in a circular order so that they can almost stand on their own!) and witnessed some true creativity that stretched my mono-or di-chromatic way of thinking.

img_4737

This summer job at Foster’s Flower Shop definitely makes my top 7 of summer 2017! I have had the privilege of watching others create beauty and have been thrilled to be invited to create beauty myself.


(P.S. This is a King Protea, and I was pretty blown away when it came in with our order the other day, and if you are as flower crazy as I am, watch this time lapse of a Coral Charm Peony transforming from brilliant coral to white!)

Top 7 of 2017 (Part 3- Press In!)

In the early spring one of my dearest, “bestest” friends and post-college roommate disclosed inklings that she was considering moving out of our south-central Pennsylvania town that had become the home of our friendship of seven years. I was excited and proud of her courage to pick up her life, take it down south, and pursue a relationship she had always desired.

As the days and months of the spring began to slip away these inklings turned to dreams, these dreams to plans, and plans to reality. Just a few weeks after our school year ended, we were taking our last walk through the cornfields and talking going-away parties and moving trucks. I watched as the apartment on Locust Point that I had never seen bare began to be emptied as she packed her things into boxes. We had shared that precious space for the two-years before I got married; full of watching the Bachelor, decorating for Christmas, late night talks in the hallway, being snowed in the blizzard of 2016 and learning from her cooking as sous chef, a dream come true for two college girls who fantasized about living together.  That sacred home held us as we transitioned into teachers, got through the major challenge of learning to be both friends and roommates, fell in love, and eventually even after moving out, it was the place I learned I was going to be a mother.

Mid-June we planned one last friend date, afternoon tea, before her man came into town to begin the moving process. The morning of the date, I was overly emotional. At first I tried to blame the transition from the school year to the summer, and even tried to blame Cody.  Finally, I realized what it was. My friend, my true and deep friend of seven years was moving and I was grieving, not the grieving from death but the grieving that comes with good, bittersweet change. After confessing my true feelings to her, I explained that I just didn’t know how I was going to do the day.  She replied and said “I know it may be hard for you to see me, but it will be harder if we don’t” to which I responded “Not seeing you is not an option in my book, as hard as it is I’m still going to see you.”

We decided to press in. No matter how hard, we would lean into the pain instead of doing the easy task of pulling out when it got sad and difficult. Pressing into this bittersweet season meant sharing moments of finding boxes behind department stores.  It meant making a slide-show of pictures and songs and crying all the way through it. It meant visits with her boyfriend’s family and joyfully (truly joyfully!) third-wheeling as I was given the opportunity to meet important people in her new life. It meant throwing a good-bye party when I wished there would be no-goodbyes.  It meant packing up rooms and memories into boxes.  It meant sharing a goodbye letter, hugging over and over again in the basement of our old home, and with tears-streaming down my face, turning away from my best friend into the pouring good-bye rain. But pressing into the pain also meant celebrating the joy of having made a true and lasting friend, who made goodbye so hard.

On our last night together on Locust Point we spent a few sacred moments while I read a letter to her. I have since carried the words “press in” and the memories of that night in my heart all summer as we’ve begun to learn the new patterns of being long distance friends. The words of that letter continue to encourage me in this season of pressing in:

“I am not going to pretend that our friendship is not going to change, it is. However, I am glad to experience the grief of watching you move across the country because it means that I let you become so important to me and have such a deep part of my heart and I wouldn’t want it any other way…. I will continue to press into the missing you and the figuring out of this next phase of our friendship…I am here even from miles away, loving you, supporting you, excited for you, and grieving the way our friendship was, and celebrating the new way it will be. I love you so much my very best friend.”

IMG_4221

 

Top 7 for Summer 2017 (Part 2-Roadtrips) 

Towards the beginning of the summer, Cody and I took almost back-to-back road trips down the PA Turnpike West.  The first stop was an anniversary trip to my dad’s roots: Pittsburgh,PA.  While there, we went to a Pirate’s baseball game (complete with a cotton candy beard, see below), toured the zoo, shopped in the Strip District and took a boat tour of the rivers.  Three of my favorite moments of the short trip were exploring the Fort Pitt Block House and learning about the woman who used to sell candy from the window of the tiny building (my kind of lady!), riding the Incline and walking the beautiful stretch of sidewalk along the ridge of Mount Washington complete with a gorgeous view of the skyline, and simply enjoying moments by the pool with my husband.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second road trip just a few short days later brought us through Pittsburgh again, but this time, after scooping up my dad, we continued on to the small town of Cedarville, Ohio for the wedding of a long time family friend.  The weekend in Ohio also boasts itself as one of my favorite of the summer.  We stayed at a quaint, country inn in the center of down-town Cedarville.  Down-town Cedarville consists of a few shops and a couple of intersecting roads and the atmosphere instantly put me at ease. We rode bicycles (Cody and I riding tandem) the morning before the wedding, got coffee at a local shop, played chess in the window-sill bench of the inn and played mini-golf at a place called “Udders and Putters” at Young’s Dairy Farm (which we visited three times in our short 48-hour visit..you would think it was the only thing to do in the small town.)  During the wedding, I laughed and laughed as I square danced hand-in-hand with Cody, my parents and our family friends.  What was truly delightful was reconnecting so closely with childhood friends, getting to share it as young adults, discussing marriage and jobs and dreams, all the while watching them come to appreciate Cody so much! It was a truly wonderful weekend!

Top 7 for Summer 2017 (Part 1: Zucchini Bread)

In one short week, the summer of 2017 will come to a close and I will begin teacher inservice for a new school year. To celebrate the season and all the memories of this summer (that I didn’t get to share) I will be writing my top 7 of summer 2017 (in no particular order 🙂 as I countdown the last 7 days.

During the week of July 15- July 22, my family took our annual trip to Long Beach Island along the Jersey shoreline, but I will save those memories for another post.  While I was soaking up the surf and the sun, something special was happening n Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Back at our small cape cod, along the side of our garage grew one tangled mess of a garden (check out former blog post here).  We found out that when your garden spends eight glorious days of freedom, you are bound to have some surprises.  Mine came in the form of seven LARGE zucchini. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, I bounded out to check our garden and plucked these mammoths.  The next day, Sunday, I spent the day slicing, chopping, shredding and spiralizing these ginormous veggies. Cody and I then summoned the precious zucchini bread recipe from his mother and set to work. The result: 9 delicious loaves fresh from the oven.  In case you think zucchini bread is healthy, let me shatter that illusion.  It is equal parts sugar and zucchini.  After devouring half a loaf that evening, we filled our dreams with plans for the rest of our treats.

The next evening was one of my favorites of the summer. My dear husband and I packed up our picnic basket with several of the loaves and did something we believe isn’t done enough anymore: we made random visits to neighbors to deliver our goods and share fellowship together. Our first stop: the elderly widow next door. During our visit, we gleefully pet her pup and shared the news of our impending bundle of joy.  Next stop: our marriage mentors and Cody’s college LOFT team leader.  Our third zucchini bread went to Cody’s Adventure Ed professor. At both homes, we were welcomed and enjoyed long moments of catch up and sharing memories and life updates. After that, we found our next recipient roadside, walking his dog and after quickly turning our car around, delivered the loaf drive-by style. We made our final delivery in the center of town catching our last friends by surprise, but were still welcomed in for moments of chit chat.

At this last stop, our friend reminded me of one of my favorite comedians, Sebastian Maniscalco, who has a short skit on the parody of the doorbell ringing today versus 20 years ago. The video (watch it here for a laugh) describes today’s sentiment about when people come to your door unexpectedly.   But you never know, the next time your doorbell rings, it might be someone bringing you delicious zucchini bread.

I’m so thankful for these memories; 7 large zucchinis, baking loaves with my precious husband, and breaking bread and fellowshipping with neighbors.  Truly goes down in my top seven of summer 2017!

Foundations 

I’ve been remaking my life from the inside out, and I want to invite you into that creative, challenging, life-altering work. It is work of course. It feels, I’d imagine, like adding a basement to a house that’s already been standing for decades. I thought it would be more like adding new shutters, but I’m finding it to be more like lifting up a home and starting to dig, reorienting the very foundation” -Shauna Neiquist “Present Over Perfect”

Four summers ago, I discovered something deeply profound. I woke every morning in a dorm full of girls, tied an apron around my back, greeted hundreds of campers with high fives, served breakfast, wiped tables, took a nap and read a book, served again, peddled up bay view streets, pressed my feet into Long Beach Island sand, returned to serve dinner and took cool evening showers before inhaling deep breaths of friendship during talks at sunset. Repeat everyday for eight weeks.

I learned about building a foundation. I learned my deep need for grounding. I learned that I need a period of time that’s simple, where work is left at work and there is space to be, to love, and to connect.

Thankfully as a teacher, I am blessed with a schedule that allows for summers, a built-in chance at grounding. At our end-of-the-year faculty meeting, my principal told us that as you get older each and every summer seems to go by faster and faster, and what’s important is that we find the things that refresh our souls and enable us to go forward into a new school year. As deeply flawed as my school is at times, I keep hearing my principal’s words all summer. I heard them as I let waves wash over me a few weeks ago on LBI and I hear them as I sit on my porch in the mornings reading The Shack and Present Over Perfect.  I learned that summer four years ago, that every year I need a period of time to heal, to restore the passion in my life, a break from the beautiful whirlwind that loving 25 seven and eight year olds can bring.

Do I adjust easily to this slow pace? Absolutely not. Honestly, I often bring a large to-do list into the summer. All the things I couldn’t accomplish during the school year somehow get spilled into my days meant for rest. Learning to slow for me is much like demo day with the Chip and Joanna Gaines. Breaking down all the production that drives my life is painful. It takes me weeks to adjust to summer rhythms.

It’s August now and I’m starting to get those panicky feelings again, the “I didn’t get done everything I wanted to do before the new school year” feelings. And when I get panicky, I start to cram. Cram in this project, or that lesson plan, or planning too many nights out with friends instead of remembering that this season is about slowing, about grounding.

Back in January I picked the word “foundation” for 2017 and it’s only now in my times of quiet that I am realizing what that means. Only by participating in demo day can I begin to rebuild what I want my life to truly be built on. As I wind up my summer, I want to remember the things that I love. To spend my time rebuilding my foundation and dreaming about the new renovations. For me, this has looked like the daily reminder to base my identity on Christ’s love, not on what I can get done each day. May all that I do be done in His power, not that spinning frenzy fueled by the knot in my stomach that I am not enough. The foundation changes the way everything is done. Housework becomes an act of love. Lesson plans for my new school year are invigorated with passion for serving my students. I put the pencil down on my grad school work remembering to stop and check in with my husband about his day.

Each summer I vow somehow to bring a bit of this pace into my school year, bring in this grounding. Maybe in some small way I can this year. If anything, I can be thankful for summer seasons of this soul healing, this grounding and praise God for creating a foundation of unconditional love for my life.

“This crucial journey, then, for me, has been from dependence on external expectations, down into my own self, deeper still into God’s view of me, his love for me that doesn’t change, that will not change, that defines and grounds everything”-Shauna Niequist

My Vegetable Garden

I started seeds.  I put them outside. They got sun scorch.

I started new seeds.  I bumped my phone charger. It literally broke off the stem of the only survivor.

I tried pea seeds.  I planted the pea seedlings in my garden.  A bunny chewed the top off every pea plant.

I started SUNFLOWER seeds. They grew! I planted them in the narrow space between the garage and raised beds, anticipating them to grow tall and lean. 

I walked the rows of the garden center just caddy corner from our home.  I put the seedlings of cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini in my cart.  Hey! The zucchini look like my sunflowers….

I wove chicken wire along the edges of my garden to prevent the bunnies from eating my new plants. I watched the sunflowers turned zucchini get so big they pushed the wire aside.

I planted my plants from the garden center.  Two feet apart for these itty bitty plants?!? I think not!


Yep, that’s it.  That tangled mess of vines and plants. That huge bush that takes up one entire half of the plot of dirt, yeah those are tomato plants. Cucumber tendrils wrapped around pepper plants.  Zucchini protruding straight into and over the fencing. Yep, that’s my garden.

It’s true this is my learning year, my first year owning a home and first time planting my very own vegetable garden.  I have learned a lot about what to do better next year as well as a lot about what NOT to do…

  • Plant zucchini and pumpkins from seeds, not tomatoes or peppers…buy those from the garden center (unless you can get them from Cody’s students again)
  • If you do plant tomatoes and peppers from seeds, do NOT put them in direct sunlight at the first glimmer of springtime, they will be scorched.
  • Cucumbers are a vine.
  • Bunnies LOVE pea plants.
  • Use chicken wire to protect vegetable from said bunnies
  • do NOT put the zucchini close to the chicken wire, DO put cucumbers near it so they can wrap their little tendril arms around the fencing and not your pepper plants.
  • Buy less plants (or increase the size of the garden) and FOLLOW the recommended spacing…it’s there for a reason.

It’s hard for me not to kick myself when I look at my garden.  Every time I go to my car I see it and it bugs me! When Cody comes with me, I make a comment.  “Can you believe my garden? It looks terrible! Can you help me fix it? It’s so ugly!” I’m an amateur when it comes to gardening and I’ve had to remind myself over and over that I’m just learning.

I wish that when I walked outside,  I saw a much more neat and orderly garden. Who am I kidding?  I strive to run my life by the neat and orderly! It’s no surprise that I’m having a hard time extending grace to myself for my tangled mess of vines, vegetables and weeds because I have a hard time extending grace as I navigate the snarled and overgrown areas of my own life.  My mother once told me “everything tends toward chaos” and she is right. Laundry. Cleaning. Cooking. More cleaning. Weeds. Lawn. Paperwork. The car windshield that’s been cracked for months. Burnt out lightbulbs. All tending toward chaos.

In the summer-time I like to play catch up with all of the things that have become overgrown or are untended in my life. This summer, it’s prepping for the upcoming school year, getting a baby room together, scrapbooking the ticket stubs, wedding programs, and pictures from the year before, etc.  Now that it’s July, and I know August and Back-To-School ads are just around the corner, anxiety has snuck its creeping coils around my heart convincing me that there just isn’t enough time and I’m not going to get it all blooming in manageable array before the year begins. Tonight, as I finished creating cute garden markers (that I’ll probably have to save for next year, because let’s be honest they’ll get lost in my patch), it dawned on me, my jumbled and disordered garden still produces fruit! I can still produce fruit!

I am currently reading The Shack, by William P. Young. Sarayu, the character for the Holy Spirit, maintains a garden that from the human perspective looks unkempt and disorganized.  Mack, the main character, in all his humanness says to Sarayu, “It’s a mess” and to his surprise she responds, “Thank you!” without a hint of sarcasm. In the end, Mack comes to understand that this garden is his life, just as my garden has been a gentle reminder of my own life.  Even when my life’s garden is at it’s messiest, most tangled, seedy, and disordered, I can step aside from my scraping and weeding and raking and let the Gardener work out the details.  I am free to live loved, rest assured that I will grow because of what he has planted in me, blossoming in the knowledge that I can produce fruit even in the chaos.