a surgery six months ago

I’ve had today marked on my calendar for a while. I don’t want to belabor the experience by writing about it over and over again. But I do think it’s going to be a fairly significant part of my life’s experiences. And if it’s not — yes! I would love for (awesome) experiences to far outshine this one really scary experience.

Being diagnosed with a brain tumor and undergoing surgery switched on the fresh perspective lightbulb for me in two big ways.

1. My time on earth is not guaranteed. I have spent so much of my first 26 years worrying about and aching for the next step in life. When I was in high school, I was desperate for college. When I was in college, I was desperate for a full-time job. When I was in an apartment, I was desperate for a house. Get it?

In the past six months, I’ve been reminding myself the truth that God has given me today, and He has not guaranteed anything further. While this in itself is pretty scary and sort of sad, it’s freeing, too. I am trying to focus more on today’s activities and the people with whom I will interact. I am free to push aside the worry and stress of future events. It’s nice. And I wish it hadn’t taken a night in the ER to get to this point.

2. There are many aspects of my health I can not control, but there are some I can. Though Dan and I had already been on a let’s-lose-weight kick before my hospital stay — and though I did go through a let’s-eat-all-the-things phase — I’ve decided to take more control of the aspects of my health that are within my reach.

I’ve (begrudgingly at times) learned more about the importance of being healthy… not just thin. I’ve learned that 200 calories of cupcake do not equal 200 calories of almonds, and burning 200 calories does not take the effects of that cupcake away. I’ve learned to look at food as fuel and sustenance and not a reward for the stress I’ve endured. 

I am in control of my fitness level. And my fitness level over the span of my life matters to my health. (So, pow, let’s do this, Whole 30 week two!)

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

one year with Oscar the dog

One year ago, after a couple impulsive weeks of browsing dogs on Petfinder, we met our dog, Oscar. 

His temporary home, Rescue Farm, had told us his little personality would be good for our lifestyle and hobbies. His online profile had three photos and a video of Oscar. In it, he jumped around, chased after a tennis ball, brought it back, and wouldn’t give it up. It was set to some sort of cheesy music. I watched it over and over. (And maybe cried a bit when I later watched it after he was home.)

The vet assistant — who also volunteered at the rescue — told us he was the sweetest dog. He had been there months longer than most dogs, and they couldn’t figure out why besides that his breeds were so uncertain. She brought Oscar out. He clobbered her with kisses while she sat on the floor to put the leash on him. 

We walked him around outside. He peed on everything, including piles of trash and wheels of cars. He liked being petted, and his tail wagging in a circle when he was real happy. We were totally not sure if we should agree to take him. But we did. And we’re so happy we did.

I feel silly saying it, but he’s been a lifesaver this past year. He has been happy, happy, happy every time I come home feeling any bit of lonely or sad. He’s cuddled with me when Dan works late. He sleeps in Dan’s place when Dan works overnight. He has motivated me to go on long walks, and I really think he was the initial reason we started exercising more. He has provide entertainment and excitement. He’s taught us a bit about what it’s like to care for another (dog) life every day all day.

He has his flaws. And there were plenty of times we questioned whether we had made the right decision. But that questioning totally diminished within a few months. And we really, really love him. 

Oscar, year 1:
+ turned 4 (we think) and celebrated with a little bowl of Cool Whip
+ traveled to Cincinnati, Iowa, Chicago, Louisville, Nashville, Traverse City, and Atlanta
+ learned sit, stay, lay down, kennel, leave it, speak, down (kind of), and kisses/no kisses (kind of)
+ likes peeing on things, getting pets, giving kisses, retrieving balls, going on walks, chasing chipmunks and squirrels, eating cheese, and riding in the car
+ dislikes thunderstorms, the vacuum, and the mail lady









health challenge: Whole 30 pessimist

Stacked Peaches by Erin Niehenke

Stacked Peaches by Erin Niehenke

The months of January to March of this year were great for my health. I paid attention to what I was eating, I exercised regularly, and I lost weight.

Then I was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had surgery two days after. I’ve continued to exercise, but most of the healthy eating has gone down the drain. Something about brain surgery and the deeps thoughts about life made me want to just eat all the things. Life is too short to skip cupcakes, or something? Right?

In the past month, Whole 30 has crept into many of my conversations with Dan. He was into it from the start. I had my doubts. I dislike trendy health and wellness things. I rarely participate in them. I’m a Whole 30 pessimist right now. (But you guys, I also had doubts about essential oils, and I’m now using tea tree oil on my face on a regular basis, and it’s amazing.) We did some research and read about Whole 30. I don’t buy into it 100 perfect. But I do know I have a sugar addiction, and I do desire to kick it.

And confession time: My hormones are perhaps not completely normal. And I do think what I eat perhaps throws them off even more. I am frequently hungry right before I go to bed. So hungry I can’t sleep unless I have a snack. And, also? I don’t sleep well. I wake up at least a few times nearly every night. And I feel pretty tired pretty often.

So, we’re giving it a try. I’d like to sleep better and have more energy and not feel like I need to feast before bed. And thank goodness for my husband. He’s so excited about it, and he’s so kindly roaming among a few grocery stores as I write looking for compliant bacon and grass-fed beef.

We start tomorrow. And go for 30 days. No sugar, no bread, no cheese. Coffee with coconut milk from a can.

I may not blog every step of this, but I’ll definitely update at the end. And in the meantime, if you see us huddled in the corner with fries and a milkshake at Bub’s, please do confront us.

We’ve frequently been reminded of Portlandia while discussing our Whole 30 plans. You gotta watch this.

it’s gotten easier

superman cape hooded towels

I’ve said it a few times in conversations lately: “It’s gotten easier as time’s gone on.” Am I saying it as a defense mechanism? As a way to avoid talking about the ache I really truly feel?

(It is a much better response than the one I’m tempted to have. “How’s our adoption going? Well, as you can see, we’re here alone. And we didn’t just leave them with a babysitter.”)

Our adoption process was smooth, smooth sailing for the first six months or so. But then came the trials and delays and frustrations. They knocked me off my feet for a while. Sent me into a sobbing, worried, stressed whirlwind of doubt.

It was yuck. I’m borderline ashamed of my reaction to different news we have gotten along the way. Borderline ashamed of the time it took before I prayed about the news we have gotten along the way.But lately, “it’s gotten easier as time’s gone on” is really the truth.

We’ve learned to cope. For us, coping is not working on the bedroom and not buying more clothes and toys. Coping is, in some cases, not sharing every picture and video and update we receive, because they only lead to more hard questions. (Yes, they’ve gotten “so big.”)

And though, yes, we’ve learned to cope… We’ve hunkered down and leaned on each other for support… We have turned to God (though admittedly still not as often as we should!).

 “Thankfully, it’s God’s grip on [us] — not [our] feeble grip on Him — that keeps [us] safe in the fold of His love.”

It is only by God’s grace that I can say “it’s gotten easier as time’s gone on.” It’s only by God’s grace that I haven’t grown to despise this waiting. It’s only by God’s grace that I can accept that this process is already not turning out how I’d hoped it would. It’s only by God’s grace that I’ve started to use the words “brave” and “patient” to describe myself.

So yes, despite all the stress and delays and hurdles, it’s most definitely gotten easier as time’s gone on. And I can not claim responsibility for that truth. 

stepping back from social media

stepping back from social media

No, not quitting. Just stepping back.

On a few separate occasions, I’ve taken a several-day total break from social media. And I really enjoyed it. I took a break on our recent trip to Maine, and I’m so glad I did. I found myself using free time to read, and I felt more engaged with Dan during meals or while walking around.

Really, I’ve been stepping back from social media in different ways for about a year.

It started with removing notifications from my phone’s home screen. I noticed myself constantly looking at it for my likes on Instagram and my replies on Twitter and my tagged photos on Facebook. It was a huge waste of time. And reinforced the tether I had to my phone throughout the day.

I removed each app’s home screen notifications one by one over a period of a few months. Now, the only thing I see on there are tweets from Safe Families about their placement needs. I’ve enjoyed it.

I’m entertaining the idea of limiting Facebook time to once in the morning and once in the evening. Just not sold on it yet.

What I am sold on is this — more time writing (on this blog and in my journal), more time reading (devoured three books in the last month), more time creating (have the inspiration and supplies for many projects), and more time with people about whom I care.

So, hey, want to hang out? Recommend a good book? Do a project together?

Have you recently stepped back from social media in some way? What did you find about your experience?

listen and pray

Prism Diamond by Paper Monkey Press

Prism Diamond by Paper Monkey Press

Ebola, Africa, disease, Robin Williams, depression, suicide, Mike Brown, race, police. 

I’ve gotten lost in the online conversations and debate. Have you?

I care deeply about these issues. I have strong opinions about these issues. My opinions are informed by my faith and my life experiences.

I have to tell you my opinions have not been formed by personal manifestos shared on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. My opinions have not been formed by that blog post that well-known blogger wrote and my Facebook friends then shared. (You may say my life experiences have included the things I’ve read on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. You might be right.)

Currently, though, with all the busy going on in the media, I’d prefer to listen and pray. I’d prefer to not spit out my thoughts, or worse, blindly post an article with a load of opinions I’m promoting as my very own.

I’d prefer to talk face-to-face with people about whom I care. I’d prefer to privately share my experiences with depression and race and the load of worries I have related to those. I’d prefer to influence people through relationships and a mutual interest and respect. 

I’d prefer to have conversations with my black male friends about their personal experiences than read about what white females think about the experiences of black males. 

It’s almost enough to make me want to quit the internet to throw myself into over-coffee-conversations and intense discussions after community group and social media fasts. But that’s not what I’m doing.

I’m just choosing to listen and pray and maybe not share all my opinions in this space at this time. 

how we save money on trips: transportation

We road trip a lot. We have two cars and usually take the more gas efficient one. We also sometimes fly.

how to save money on trips: planes + cars

+ Airline credit cards: Though you may be opposed to multiple credit cards, this one is really worth looking into, even if just for a season of life. When Dan was interviewing for residency programs, he flew a lot.

Southwest Airlines was doing an additional offer at the time, so we got a Southwest credit card. He raked in enough miles that we are now about to take our second to-the-coast trip for free using miles. Try using a site like Slickdeals to search for airlines offering additional perks.

In terms of transportation once we get there, we have two favorites. In general, they are equal or less expensive to taxis.

+ Uber: A taxi-like ride sharing service. Regular people go through an application and background check process to be drivers. Use an app to choose your pick-up location, and the nearest available driver is automatically dispatched to you.

Uber allows you to choose the class of vehicle that will pick you up. We had a boatload of credit recently, so we went for the Denali.

Use this code for a first free ride (up to $30): lx0hs. 

+ Lyft: Lyft works the exact same way. The prices are comparable from what I understand. In our experience, some cities just have more Lyft cars than Uber cars and vice versa. Right now, within approximately 10 minutes of our home, there are six Lyft cars.

We’ve had better experiences with Uber, but we have accounts for both. I find the Uber app to be easier to use, but Lyft has more availability in our city, it seems.

Use your account to invite your friend, boyfriend, spouse, parent, or other person with whom you’ll be traveling. You’ll have double the referral credit!

What tips do you have for saving money on transportation when taking trips? 

how we save money on trips: hotels

be bold + a $100 Minted store credit giveaway

I think my greatest weakness may be art prints. Lately Minted has me transfixed by their options. I love browsing their art prints online and using them to accompany blog posts for which I have no photos.

A couple months ago, we bought Abstract Brights by Kelly Nasuta to sit in the empty space above our Eames chair knock-offs. I favorited about ten options, Dan narrowed it down to three, and we mutually picked this one. We’re still really happy with it.


Recently, we chose this print — Be Bold by Kelly Nasuta* — for the boys’ room. Our preparations in their room have been stopped and started a few times, but I’m still really excited about the things we’ve slowly collected for them.

Be Bold by Kelly Nasuta

Though we originally chose this print as a reminder for them, it kicked me in the butt the second I pulled it out of the box. We’ve set it on a chair in our dining room, and I think it will stay there for the near future. It’s a reminder for me in all aspects of my life. I have a tendency to curl up in the corner when boldness is required. Working on that.

Be Bold by Kelly Nasuta

Minted has generously offered me the opportunity to give away $100 store credit to be used on whatever you wish — not just art. Use the widget below to enter (and click onto the actual post if it’s not showing up for you right now).

Be Bold by Kelly Nasuta

The giveaway will run from Monday, July 28, at 12a EST to Monday, August 11, at 12a EST. Entries will be verified, and I will contact the winner by email. Please respond within 48 hours, or a new winner will be chosen. Have fun!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Baxton Studio Fiorenza White Plastic Armchairs
Anthropologie Peach Dip-Dot Pillow
Paisley Sprouts pillow case
Riviera Green Ming Chair (ours was found at the outlet on final sale!)
Orange dot curtains from Urban Outfitters — no longer available 

*I didn’t realize until writing this post that our two prints are by the same artist. We love your work, Kelly!

Modern Patchwork by Kelly Nasuta

Modern Patchwork by Kelly Nasuta

Disclosure: I received a print complimentary from Minted, but the above opinions are all my own. Affiliate links used in this post. 

parenting concepts for me: grief

Sway by Naomi Ernest

Sway by Naomi Ernest

My views on grief have evolved since my teen years. I’ve learned a lot since becoming interested in adoption and pursuing a graduate degree in social work. I have some strong feelings about grief. Dan and I went to see a set of short films at our local film fest this week. The first one was simply yet abstractly about grief, and it’s still on my mind.

I used to think grief was reserved for the death of someone we love. So I was shocked to learn about the ways grief affects adopted children — even those who have not necessarily experienced the death of a birth parent or caregiver.

From the details we know of the boys’ story, we know that they’ve been uprooted from familiarity at least twice, and they will be again when we bring them into our home and culture. We fully expect they will grieve the loss of their foster family and culture. At their age, this grieving will probably be harder for them to understand and harder for us to communicate to them.

We expect their grief will show up in sleep, eating, and possibly attachment, as it does with many adopted children. We don’t know what they have been told about us, but no matter what they understand, they’re going to be very sad to lose the country they’ve had for 2.5 years and the foster family they’ve had for almost two years now. 

We also except this grief will resurface throughout their lives. Three-year-old T + E will grieve the loss of their birth family, foster family, and birth culture. Thirteen-year-old T + E will grieve the loss of their birth family, foster family, and birth culture. And 25-year-old T + E will, too. Whether they’re fully conscious of it or not, and despite how much they love us or they don’t, they’ll grieve what could have been and what they’ll never know. 

I, too, am feeling myself grieve what could have been and what I’ll never know. We (naively) set out to adopt with the belief that our child would be home before his or her first birthday. We were (and are) young, and we wanted to experience almost as many firsts as our friends get to with their babies. Instead, we’ve seen the boys walk, run, and reach developmental milestones through photos and videos.

A couple of months ago, I carefully packed up the 12- to 18-month and 18- to 24-month clothes we had for the boys. We had the foresight to buy cribs that transition nicely into toddler beds, but I’m starting to wonder if the boys will be past the weight limit for their car seats by the time they sit in them.

But here’s the thing: I’m finding I can handle wondering what could have been and what I’ll never know. I know the end result will be greater. Our prayer as we set out parenting adopted children is that they’ll feel the same.

parenting concepts for me: the river of well-being
parenting concepts for me: sad looks like mad

what else is He saying?

It has once again become very clear that God is telling us to wait. For how long? I do not know.

But what else is He saying? What else should we be doing? Specifically, how should I as a (borrowing this from a friend) stay-at-home-non-mom use my days? 

I’m going a little bit crazy over here with what I would call my lack of contribution to society and God’s kingdom. But, I think I just came across the issue… I’ve fallen into the trap of believing there are only a few ways I can, as a mid-20s-female, contribute. Mothering or working. Or some combination of those.

I constantly find myself straddling these two. I’m frequently in circles of full-time employees. They talk about projects at work, quirky coworkers, and recent business trips. Or I’m in a circle of full-time moms. They talk about potty training, summer camps, and essential oils. (Ha! A joke. We own some oils.)

No, I don’t want this to be a woe-is-me. I have made choices that have left me straddling these two groups. I’m fully aware. Fully accepting it. It’s a challenge, and I accept it. But I want this to be is a “What is God telling me to do with my time right now?” 

Should I find a full-time job? Should we become foster parents? Should we take a long-term Safe Families placement? Should we pursue a concurrent adoption? Should we pursue biological children? Should I open an Etsy shop? Should I go back for another degree or certification?

You see how all those are either related to motherhood or work? What if He’s just telling me to use my time exercising and enjoying Dan and growing my marriage and writing a few foster and adoptive home studies?

Dan and I have this conversation of how I should use my days as frequently as the waves of doubt and sadness and impatience come. We talk about it in the car, in bed at night, and in the restaurant at Trader’s Point Creamery. (Seriously.)

I’m just honestly not sure. Today, I think God might be directing me toward a little more part-time work, but generally still the stay-at-home-non-mom gig I’ve been doing. Two days ago, I was certain it was something else. I’ve opened and promptly closed an Etsy shop, for goodness sakes.

Some aspects of my faith still make me feel a bit embarrassed and confused. I know He speaks in many ways. And I know I’ve heard Him speak many times. But I have sensed direction toward a certain end result and seen those doors completely shut before me. Or I have begged for Him to make it clear and give us wisdom and make the path straight and the path has been so not straight or easy. 

Or is He providing me with multiple options that are all true and noble and right and pure? That’s another questions, isn’t it?

What I do know and understand is the “wait” part. Better than ever.

wait on the hands of God