Tuesday, November 29, 2016

My Dear Husband,

It is okay to say, "Seven years ago today I lost my wife of 11 years to cancer and today sucks."

On November 29th it is okay

to say this is not how I planned my life to be

to miss her far more than the other 364 days of the year

to think about her more than me, it's okay

to be angry about the circumstances today

to cry today

to live in the what-ifs

to eat your weight in chocolate

to lose yourself in the quiet ride home

or to lose your temper with someone in rush-hour traffic

to have a bad day

to shutdown (but just today, please)

to not shower, oh wait, you already have. It would be okay if you had not.

to stay in bed all day

Today, it's okay to miss her.

It's okay to hurt.

It's okay to cry (did I say that twice, because you know me - I'm crying today)

It's okay to show the world that life royal sucks sometimes and no matter how many blessing you are given, losing someone you love so much never gets easier.

My dear husband, it's okay to grieve.

Nicole "Nici" Bahn
July 20, 1975 - November 29, 2009

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The 39 Project

Good Morning. 

Well, it may not be morning when you read this, but as I write this it’s 7:30….wait, no, 6:30 am. 

I failed to share one of my biggest birthday gifts with the dog - the ability to get an extra hour of sleep. Don’t you just love this time change? Now if it would spur some cooler weather in NorthWest Houston, I would be delighted! 

Today I am 39. 


Dang. How did that happen? 

I need to take a moment with that number because for some reason 39 is like full on adult. 

This post was originally supposed to be called “Things I don’t want to take into my Forties” or “Things I am leaving in my thirties”. I have been compiling the list (unfortunately in my head) for awhile now. 

The focus is still the same, but I have just be honest a minute. The last few months have been brutal for me. In every area of my life there has be struggles from my faith, to my health, to my marriage to my friendships. I sat at my desk last week and seriously thought, “If I make it to my birthday.” I am very grateful for an amazing husband who knows how to handle life when it’s overwhelming. 

But I can’t do this for another year. 

Wait, hold on, I don’t mean that “I can’t do life for another year”. Please breathe. I have no intentions of ending this party. 

I can’t live in this , excuse my language, crap for another year. I can not continue to half-ass fight the devil for the next year. I have got to get up, put on some armor and go to battle. 

I am not sure if you were with me when I turned thirty, but thirty wasn’t pretty. Thirty sparked a mid-life, led me to dye my hair cherry red and bleach blonde. Thirty was the year I stood up everything that was keeping me down and thirty was the year that my life spiraled out of control. Thirty included an affair, a divorce, a pregnancy, an abortion and a to put a cherry on the calendar year with an arrest in January after I turned 31. If you click on My Story above you can find all the details because I am sure someone who is new to the show just freaked a bit. Let me summarize that 30 was the absolute worst year of my life, so far.  

Shall we move this along? My mother says, yes please! 

Here are some of the things I jotted down that I plan to not take with me into my 40s. 

1. About 40 pounds. I know, everyone’s least favorite subject, weight. I do believe this is less of a vanity thing at this point and more of a health thing. And probably a bit of a vanity thing. I will never have my 20 year old legs, but I can not take this extra fluffiness into my forties. 

2. Money Management Skills of a 20 Year Old.  I am not sure how many times I have said “We are not in our twenties” as we have sat down to figure out where money is coming from to pay for adult style bills. You know, air conditioner repairs, dental work for your children - the things you freak out about in your twenties, not in your thirties. Or at least I had hope to not still be freaking out about them in my thirties. 

3. Fear

     This word has so many subcategories. I am overjoyed by the fact that my anxiety over all has decrease tremendously. There are still days, like Friday, when headlines across Facebook (including the fact that Asps are at an all time high in Houston  and I saw one outside on Tuesday) leave me a bit off-centered. 

This year I want to leave behind the fear of speaking the truth (with grace, of course) and the fear to big things. 

4. Avoidance. Ah, again, so many subcategories that I will not get into because, well, I am avoiding them. Avoidance is my MO, if you haven’t already noticed? It’s not healthy. 

5. My lack of knowledge. I should elaborate here, but I need more coffee. 

6. Whatever block is keeping me from creating. I will find it, I will knock it down and I will regain the part of me that I love so much. Well, I did create that trunk a few weeks ago, so it is still there in someways, but it’s not on fire like it used to be. 

7. The inability to park in my garage. Otherwise known as “My Family Doesn’t Need All This Junk!” 

8. Freaking out when people show up unexpectedly (read with 10 minutes notice). Otherwise know as Keep You House Clean or Get Over Yourself. I seriously freak, but please don’t let that stop you from coming. If me freaking stopped people from coming over, I would truly be alone forever. 

9. Denying my Abilities. The horrible habit that I have for thinking I am NEVER doing a good job at anything. Which is most definitely fueled by number ten. 

10. Seeking approval in All the Wrong Places. I keep waiting for when I am too old to give a crap about what others think of me - I have seen this in women before, it looks so peaceful there, they are so relaxed (and no, they are not dead). 

So, 10 things, at least those are the ten I was able to pull from my mind yesterday. 

I also wrote: now this is just a list - not an action plan- that’s a commitment. Am I ready for that? They are in no way a list of goals for the next year of my life. Yuck, goals! 

Then, as I was getting ready, a memory played in my head. 

I once knew a pastor took an entire year off “work” to read the bible all the way through. 

Two thoughts: a. he must of been financially stable and gifted in money management. b. he had to have been doing more than just reading, he had to have been digging deep. 

But think about it, one year, to focus on one ultimate goal. 

That statement fueled The 39 Project. 

When that popped in my head, you know between my mascara applications, I always pictured some snazzy branding to go with it , but really there are only twenty-four hours in a day. 

So, what do you do when Goals make you run in fear? You create a Project. Because, really, that word is so relaxing. 

The 39 Project. 

The ultimate goal: Me. (that needs some work). 

Really, you are witnessing a brainstorming session minus the flip charts. 

It takes twenty-one days to break a habit (just googled it), so ultimately I would like to focus on one of the areas above for a month over the next year. Yes, I know some of those things will have to reworded, refocused and yes, I know there are 10. I am building in some failure time. Just kidding, I just couldn’t thinking of two more. 

This will be fine tuned, but get ready: each month a different focus for me (and my family). 

In the end, one year from now, I hope to writing to you as someone different. I hope to be stronger, less shattered. This is a must - this is the year to get this all together. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

So how many of you are super excited about Halloween falling on a Monday? Yep, me too.

Prepare yourself for the normal overload of past Halloween pictures! Ready?

Let's start with this year.

Originally my Trunk or Treat theme was going to be Wizard of Oz, but after three fights over which child would be Dorothy and a youtube video about halloween makeup up, the decision was made to go with Woodland Creatures.

I mean there really is only one Dorothy in this house:

Me, Twenty Years Ago

A Fox, A Mouse, A Deer and a Lumberjack at Trunk or Treat! 

I LIVE for events like this - I have to stop denying that this is my love language. 

I had a blast creating the girls’ costumes, starting with my little mouse. 

Then, my deer just came together awesomely.

More pics of the girls

You may be say, “Well, where is Shelby?” That girl has herself super committed to school, thus, unable to attend trunk or treat on a night that she is working a play. But incase you were missing her face, here is a flashback of Shelby’s Halloweens: 

and my second baby:

and my third baby: 

Hope you have a a wonderful, safe Halloween even if it is on a Monday - Blah! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I Will Always Eat Fries - Comparison

She should be able to put the door of her house on that side

It’s her house

He sighed

The teacher didn’t ask for a Tudor or a Split Level, she asked for a Halloween House. She should know it kills a person creativity to say, “oh, I wouldn’t have done that.”

{excerpt from last night’s dinner table discussion}

I don’t know how they teach kids to be themselves creatively in school - I really can’t recall. I do remember that the boy who sat behind in the second grade included boogers in his self portrait. And I remember being very proud of a book I wrote for the Young Author’s conference. It featured a cow, but could probably (most definitely) be considered plagiarism or a least a very strongly related version of Are You My Mother. 

I also remember comparing my book to my friends’  - though, I have to say, the fact that my sister was my illustrator and she helped me bind my 1985 Best Seller with combination of poster board and packing tape probably fueled some jealousy through the 3rd grade that year. 

I found my ability to communicate through writing at very young age, which has alway been helpful because I am , well, an awkward mess otherwise. Seriously, you should hear some of the things that fly out of my mouth when I leave the safety net of my backspace key. 

In my memories my abilities all paled in comparison to my sister’s artistic gifts. She is amazingly talented and her 8th grade art notebook left me awestruck. And pretty much that is what I remember of my sister growing up - she had the ability to touch something and be perfect at it. I, in the words of my junior high art teacher, “can’t draw a straight line with a ruler” - God rest her brutally honest soul (the art teacher, not my sister). 

Things seemed so easy for my sister. She didn’t just play the flute, she was first chair and was given the honor to play the piccolo (and, of course, played that perfectly too). She didn’t just play tennis, she was a varsity player during her freshman year of high school. I think I have written about the time I was inured playing Red Rover - I couldn’t even run. 

Let me pause for a moment because my sister isn’t happy reading this. The last thing that she wants to talk about is how much I compared myself to her - how much I underplayed my abilities because they were not the same as her’s. 

She wouldn’t want to hear it because it hurts. And it hurts not because of something she did or a way she acted or any childhood baggage that we have - it hurts because she loves me. 

This evening I felt the same hurt as my teenager went through the Instagram account of another student that she looks up to because “she is cute” and “she is talented”. And because, Shelby hasn’t fully grasped that you are only supposed to post the pretty stuff on Instagram - the unflattering pictures all go on SnapChat. As I sat next to her hearing, “I want hair like that”, “I want to look like that”, “I want a room like that”, “an outfit like that” and even “a dog that sits still like that” it hurt. 

It hurt because Shelby is so completely awesome and I want so badly for to see that. 

But then that hurt turned to Oh Crap! 

How in the world I am supposed to teach her that when I haven’t embraced it for myself. How do I kill the comparison curse in her when it is still alive and well in me? 

Disclaimer: I don’t compare my kids…crap…I may have compared one child’s progress in dance this week, to another child’s at the same age. Dang it! I do as best as I can to not compare my children to each other or to other children. And when Morgan would rather do a booty shake then a pirouette, I try my best to smile and applaud her ability to be different than the masses. 

But I, myself, am a comparison junky.

I just cannot stop!  And do a listen when my sister in-law pulls my hair after I say, “hold on I have to make myself not look fat standing next to you”? No, I analyze every inch of the photograph that is later posted to Facebook. 

This evening while frantically cleaning (read avoiding the subject) my living room I thought, “It must hurt Him.” 

Him being God and pretty much Sunday school simplicity that it hurts Him when his child thinks she is less than awesome. When she down plays her abilities because they don’t match the person next to her - or hell, the person who is three states over that she doesn’t know from Adam, but feels like her dining room sucks because of a picture that random person posted on Instagram. Seriously? Why do we still do this to ourselves? 

Shelby will put the door on that side of her house because that is the way she wants her house to look. And God made my torso longer than my legs because that is the way He wanted me to look. I can’t stand over his shoulder and say, “Oh, I wouldn’t have done that.” 

I need to practice what I preach. 

I need to show Shelby that uniqueness is good. And once you find the talent that God has given you, then embrace it, live it, love it! Don’t be ashamed of it - be you, 110%. 

ugh…that is such a hard sentence to type - it’s like typing that I will never eat french fries again. I am NOT READY!!!! 

Why can’t they identify the gene that causes comparison and cure it? When they do maybe they will find the gene that causes thick thighs (don’t be coy and say “well don’t eat fries”). 

Life is hard people. And God (and my mother) is laughing as I feel my way through raising a mini-me in so many ways. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Heavens to Betsy, this Election!

I am not skilled to understand
What God has willed, what God has planned
I only know at His right hand
Stands one who is my Savior 

I clung to these lyrics sung by Aaron Shust as I left experience my first moment of quiet since seeing for myself glimpses of the road our country will face after the elections are over. 

I don’t watch the news, I most of the time scroll past posts regarding the elections on facebook, but last night I felt I needed to watch. I told Matt, “I need to be informed, I need to know who I am voted for.” I watched until 8:05 pm CST, five minutes past the scheduled start of the debate and then I was DONE! I saw everything I needed to see in those five minutes. 

I saw enough to make me so anxious about what our nation will look like in a year. 

Angry and frightened are really the only emotions I can articulate at the moment. In that five minutes I was driven back to the feeling I have had twice before, the “how do I raise children in this world” feeling I had as I sat on my sofa 15 years ago and saw the second tower fall. The same feeling hit me last year when one of our local sherif deputies was gunned down in a neighborhood gas station. How do I raise children in this world? What will tomorrow, next month and the next four years look like for my family. 

I can only say, “I have no idea.” 

I have no idea…I am sure some people do have a good idea of what life will be like, those same people know exactly who they are voting for on November 8th. Me? Can I, seriously, do a write-in? Because I cannot, at all without being eaten alive by massive conviction, vote for anyone in this year’s presidency election. 

I cannot just vote my party and sleep at night, but then I cannot vote on the other side and live with myself. 

Matt always says that if you know the bible and history well enough you have seen these patterns before, this crap that we are sitting in isn’t new. I am not normally a negative nelly, but I feel the end is coming soon. Oh heavens to betsy that was dramatic as all get out. 

Can we just agree that all of this just blows? Both of these people do not deserve 5-minutes of television air time much less four years as the top rank of our nation. Is this really what we have come to? Is Mitt positive that he can’t jump back in at the last minute? 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bekah's 5th Birthday and Rainbow Dash Paty

Bekah turned five on Tuesday! Can you believe she's already five?

On her birthday she wore a bow the size of her head and got to hold the Texas flag during chapel. 

Then, on Saturday we threw a Rainbow Dash party!

I am so thankful my friend, Emily, was there to capture some amazing pictures!

Waiting for the Pinata! 

Pinky Pie

Excited Audience

Form ready!

Checking out their loot!

Poor Pinky Pie

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Lines in My Life

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. ~1 Timothy 1:15&16. 

This jumped off the page of my bible and spoke to me today. 

It’s very similar to a quote that circulated Facebook about 10 years ago: 

If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just be a horrible warning

Okay, I am not wallowing in my life, spending my days thinking about what an awful person I am, but I do know that I am stretching His immense patience with me. 

I’ve become Clairee Belcher, “Well, you know what they say: if you don't have anything nice to say about anybody, come sit by me!” 

That is a Steel Magnolias reference, only a select few will understand, for everyone else let me just say more tacky things have left my mouth lately then good things. Not towards one person, or one group or even about anyone, just about life. 

URGH! Blah! Have you ever been downright annoyed by yourself, your actions or lack of actions. Your lack of willpower, no your lack of commitment. 

Just to be clear - I am not cheating on my husband, I am not over eating….well that one isn’t always true, but I am being faithful to all of my commitments except, maybe, that of my calling. 

And in typical fashion I am two days into (and a week behind on homework) a Beth Moore study that is kicking my butt. And making me scream, “Why don’t you know this stuff already?!?” It takes me forever to decipher what Beth is talking about when I have to look up words like rumination, scalene, and sectarianism. Congratulations if you know all of those, you must of scored high on your SATs - I did not. I only slightly recall if I even took my SATs, I believe I did - I mean I did attend college, but you can’t tell that by this horrid rambling full of grammatical errors. 

I am a week past one of the biggest achievements in my career (not really sure you can call it a “career”, but it pays the bills - by bills I mean my shopping). I successfully wrapped a 3 day conference, I did it! Well, I had a really good team, but I made through without losing my mind. Actually, I learned so much, but not about how to run conferences. I was challenged by our speakers. I left torn - I left realizing that I live my life non longer in the grey, I have no squiggle to my line - it’s straight. I guess since more people than my husband read my blog and those you may not speak proficient “Dana” like he does I will elaborate. 

As I left my past life behind and started my new life, about seven years ago I drew a line (I mentally drew a line) or maybe a sliding scale. At one side is (usually on the left for some reason) is the out of control me, the life in shambles me, the drinking until I cannot remember what happened the night before me. For some reason that side always appears as white (you’ll understand in a minute). 
Then, no shocker, the right side I can only describe as my church lady side. Very strict, very ridged, these are the things I do and this is the dark black line to which I judge things - things being actual things and people. White is the lack of that line - nothing is judged, nothing is monitored - it’s just fun all the time! 

When things like going to a bar makes me feel like I am creeping towards the white I run, full speed in to the black, There is no grey, there is no middle.  I am fully aware that my color choices are so backwards.

I fight to find the middle, to take rest in the middle, to find the balance between the really awesome parts of me (both in the white and in the black). 

The same can be said for the squiggle, again, very visual. I feel safe in my life when I am straight, when I am serious, when there is no uniqueness showing - just a perfecting straight line. But at the same time I know that what attracts people to me resides in the squiggles, in my openness, in my freeness, in my take you just the way you are-ness (had to just throw that on there). 

Last week it become beyond apparent to both Matt and I that the grey and the squiggles send me into this anxiety ridden state that is beyond ridiculous. Ridiculously frustrating. My poor husband wants so badly to meet parts of my personality from eight years ago, probably not the part that spent the night in jail me, but the me that can strike up a conversation with a person in a bar and develop an amazing connection (mentally, not sexually - I know someone is thinking it - bar, drinking…you go there, it’s okay). Matt saw glimpses of that me during the conference. 

I have had the absolute privilege to truly get to know the speakers who agreed to be part of the conference this year. I had countless emails and many phone calls. I followed them on social media, I became a cheerleader to their projects and missions before even shaking their hands. And an amazing thing happened, I connected with them, just as I would have eight years ago. For a brief moment there was grey, I let down my guard and the line began to squiggle. 

I fought the church lady from taking over as I embraced Austin, forgetting briefly, even laughing about the naive me that almost joined a cult in that same city 20 years earlier. (read that story here)

I so want to remain in a grey squiggle filled life. I can see that me, she’s awesome. She comes from a place of love, not harsh judgement. She shows you the gospel and doesn’t beat you down with the law. She’s equal parts awkward and intelligent. She thrives when hearing other people’s stories and doesn’t bat an eyelash when talking about the serious stuff. She cries when she see her friends achieve amazing things and she cries for those that need to be lifted up. She oozes with creativity even outside of the craft room and she isn’t afraid of her own voice, but realizes when she may need to hit mute of a moment. 

I may be wrong, but there is someone who just read that and said, “umm, isn’t that already you?” Most of it, yes, but it takes a hell of a lot of effort to remain as her and that has got to change. I fight running to the black because that black line is safety. It is a dark extra large sharpie black line that I drew across my life when I decided to get straight (see the lines go together). I pray for the courage, to trust myself as much as God has trusted me with His gospel.