Summer: Refresh

It’s not officially fall yet, but I do love the back-to-school season. After the emotionally intense month that August was, I’m more ready than ever for September.

 Throwback to last year's Oak Glen day when I wasn't a million weeks pregnant.

Throwback to last year's Oak Glen day when I wasn't a million weeks pregnant.

A list to kick off the summer/fall transition:

PLACES

  • I'm starting off the month with a pregnancy massage (here, for all you OC locals) and a Sephora shopping date (see my picks for the VIB sale below).
  • Labor Day weekend means that the apple orchards at Oak Glen are officially open! Los Rios Rancho is our go-to – their apple cider, cinnamon crumble apple pies, and caramel apples are unrivaled, and on the weekends, they smoke tri-tip. We've never tried the cider donuts further down the hill, but maybe we will this year.
  • My work leadership retreat is on a Hornblower yacht, which means I'll get to spend the afternoon in Newport Beach and finally try the new Tanoshi Hour at Nobu. Speaking of Lido Marina Village...
 Vintage wagons in front of the Lido House Hotel. DREAM.

Vintage wagons in front of the Lido House Hotel. DREAM.

FAVORITES

  • ... how cute is this vintage wagon in front of the Lido House Hotel? All the cool California vibes. Reminds me of this art piece from McGee & Co (15% off for Labor Day!). I'm looking at art for our downstairs powder room and am currently debating getting this photo printed and framed or purchasing the McGee piece.
  • The 2019 Day Designer planners launch on September 5! The printed covers are my "pop of color" in my workspace.
  • So many Labor Day sales! Linking my favorite purchases and my September beauty shopping list:

ON MY MIND

You learn that the people who love you do, in fact, love *you* – not what you do, not what you accomplish, not what you “do for God”… And so you are worth the relief of honesty. Take a deep breath. Speak your truth. Let the chips fall as they may. You will be far more grateful than you ever imagined.
— Sarah Bessey, https://www.instagram.com/sarahbessey/
All I’m saying is, this boy loves that girl, and that girl loves this boy, so much that perfect strangers can see it from their living room window. That’s the kind of love I’m going to keep believing in.
— Ashley Brooks, https://www.ashleybrookswrites.com/love-story
You are to pay special attention to those who, by accident of time, or place, or circumstance, are brought into closer connection with you.
— Augustine
  • Rise Together Podcast with Chris Heuertz – The Sacred Enneagram was one of my favorite reads this summer, and I loved hearing Chris Heuertz talk about the Enneagram in this podcast, particularly about 3’s (which I identify with) and 9’s and the relationship between those two types. I especially related to this about 3's: “They look into the relationship they value… and they see what’s missing – and it’s on the subconscious level – they volunteer themselves, they say, “I’ll fill that space. I’ll take on another role.” Attending a grounding retreat (the schedule is up for their September session) at the Gravity Center which he and his wife lead is on my bucket list for 2019. 
  • Streak: What I Learned From Running Every Day for a Year by Laura Vanderkam – I’m not a runner, but I do have a Peloton (find me @ruthiegyll) that makes it insanely easy to exercise. My new goal from now until baby comes: ride everyday – even if the ride is only 10 minutes. As long as I don't go into labor super early, I should be able to hit a 60-day streak at minimum.

Any tips for the end of summer season? I'd love to know!

The Transition.

I thought the summer of 2005 was hard, when I had to pack up for college and leave all my best friends. I went to a small, Christian school, which was like its own world – a bubble – hard to really understand unless you grew up in the same environment.

What I know now is that there is leaving what you knew, and there is loss of what you believed to be true. Those are not the same. That summer was an emotional rollercoaster, but this summer is soul-searching heartbreak and confusion.

Necessary change and sudden loss are so entirely different. One is like being in water that is turned up so slowly, you don’t realize that it’s boiling until you’ve spent some time simmering in it. It hurts, but you become acclimated. The other is an amputation, quick and irreversible, so abrupt and shocking that you wake up in the morning still reaching for that phantom limb.

There is so much that I’ve learned recently in the most painful way. So much that I wish I knew even a few months ago. There were feelings that I thought I buried, unchecked assumptions, and unmet needs that all came bubbling to the surface like a science project volcano. The gasoline was everywhere, but I was still convinced that no one would possibly dare to the light the match that would set everything on fire.

I learned that even good intentions can get complicated, something I only knew before cerebrally – it’s the number one takeaway from the field of international development. Proverbs 18:21 (MSG) has never rang more true: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.” Honesty is bittersweet, and even things that are true are sometimes better left unsaid. We never really know what’s lying beneath the surface that can resurrect into the perfect storm of human error.

I find myself trying to do everything possible not to sit with the grief. My coping strategy is to read a million books (currently on my nightstand: Bittersweet, The Meaning of Marriage, Becoming Mom Strong, How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids, The Eternal Current, What Comes Next and How to Like It, Be the Gift, The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted, You and Me Forever), to move the ache from my heart space to my head space, because it’s easier to understand up there.

I made new goals, new lists – everything is a task. If you’ve listened to the most recent Typology podcasts with Claire Diaz-Ortiz, that’s me, right now, in a nutshell. I have appointments lined up, a wardrobe refresh in progress, birthday parties planned, and my postpartum exercise regimen researched (yup, still 7 months pregnant). I even signed up for the Sprouted Kitchen Cooking Club. I mean, good food heals all, right?  I was operating at 60%, and now it’s time to bump it up to 100, because it’s easier to forget what’s broken when you keep moving towards the better and the best. The record playing in my mind: what’s next, what’s next, what’s next, do better, do better, do better.

Spoiler alert: Move on and move on fast is not a strategy that works. There is no fast-forwarding. There are no shortcuts. If you’re lucky, there are second chances, but no do-overs.

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I’d rather have all the sunshine and iced lattes, but I’m learning that the layers of love and loss, lessons and let-it-be’s are moving me closer to wholeness. Shauna Niequist wrote: “Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity.”

Fall is a season of layering, of falling leaves and sweater weather. Even as I prepare for it – buying cardigans and faux leather leggings (that in reality, I won't be able to fit into for six months), I don’t wish for it to come sooner. There’s still healing to be had in the long days and golden hours and warm, beach nights, but even those days are coming to a close. Now is the in-between.

There’s a point in childbirth known as the transition. It’s the absolute worst. (I’ve had two unmedicated natural births with the obvious impending one on my mind). It’s the lowest point in all of labor, the point where it feels like the contractions are never going to end. They hit back to back, and there’s no relief. It doesn’t feel like dying. It feels like you are very much alive, and what you want is to not feel everything quite so much. Like, right about now would be an excellent time to go numb or pass out until it’s all over.

That’s the point when you know that you’re close. You just need to hang on a little bit longer. You need to breathe deeply and hold tightly to your husband’s hand. Time will pass at the slowest rate possible.

And then, your baby comes.

The time that seemed to pass at a snail’s pace, stops. Completely.

Not every real-life transition ends with something as transcendently beautiful as a newborn baby. But there’s hope in that. The cross was not the end of the story. It was the in-between, the transition, the slow passing of time. The story is still being written.

I came across an Instagram post recently that said that sometimes the wisest and kindest thing you can do is walk away. Part of walking away is giving up knowing how the story ends. Uncertainty about what comes next has never been easy for me, but I hold onto the belief that the ending is always about the deepest, fullest kind of life and that the transition is what gets us there.

Summer: Rituals.

In this season, I’m finding that the rituals that we have as a family are the ones that carry me through the hard days of exhaustion, emotions, and crazy pregnancy hormones.

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Even when I don’t sleep at night, I know that in the morning, there will be coffee and scrambled eggs and #fabfour smoothies and little boy snuggles.

After a hard week, we still have Friday night. Whether we stay in for tacos, or go out for Costco pizza, we start off the weekend together.

“We’ll always have Saturday” is my grown-up-mom-of-three-boys(!) version of “we’ll always have Paris.” Less romantic, for sure, but the nostalgia is still there. Even when we have no plans, we still have each other.

We stroll the farmers’ market, then hit the playground, then the library. Sometimes we go to church on Saturday night, so that on Sunday morning, we can sleep in – as much as you can sleep in with a toddler and a preschooler – before hitting our circuit of Starbucks, donut shop, breakfast burritos and sometimes Bagels & Brew.

We have rituals with words, too. I love you. I’m sorry. Do you want to snuggle? Can I kiss it better? Thank you, Jesus.

In the strongest relationships, the mind, the heart,  and the body come together to form a rope of three strands. Do you have my attention? Am I showing you that I love you? Am I physically present?

I hope that our little ones remember the trips and weekend getaways. I hope they remember what it feels like to roast marshmellows by moonlight at the lake and to jump into a pool surrounded by pine trees. But I hope they also remember the quotidien. I know I will.

On Fight & On Grace.

 “All is grace in our one brutal and beautiful life.” - Ann Voskamp

 One of my very favorite places. Someday, I'll have an epic party on that rooftop.

One of my very favorite places. Someday, I'll have an epic party on that rooftop.

I wonder if grace is written in the sunsets and the clear blue skies and iced half-decaf mint lattes by the pool and clothes that are not maternity but still miraculously fit. I wonder if grace is found in quiet mornings by the ocean, the perfect glass of pinot noir rosé, and running into friends at the farmers’ market.

I wonder if grace is holding both the light and the darkness, what is and what isn’t, the homecoming and the ache. I wonder if grace is being showered with love that you don’t deserve and never asked for.

Jen Hatmaker wrote a book about fighting for grace. I haven’t read it. It seems like an oxymoron – like fighting for peace, which doesn’t seem to make sense until you look back at all of human history and see that all peace was hard-won and paid for in blood, tears, and loss.

Maybe what we need is a little more fight and a little more grace. Maybe it’s in the juxtaposition that we sense more clearly, like with bitter and sweet. In Come Matter Here, Hannah Brencher describes fight songs as reminders to keep going.

She writes:  “I just hope you always know you deserve beautiful things. You deserve the chance to close chapters and write new endings and cry loud and not be sorry for whatever makes that wild heart of yours beat. (Fight Song #4).”

Here’s to reclaiming that wild heart and letting it beat, for the fight and for the grace.

Summer: Rhythm

We’re officially in the throes of summer. When July 1st rolled around, it might as well have been January 1st in my book, with all the excitement of a fresh start for the second half of the year.

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I’m deeply grateful for how my year has looked so far. I’m thankful for how I’ve spent my time – from the drawn-out mornings to the nighttime rituals. I’ve accomplished fewer concrete things, but I’ve established better habits, which really, has been the goal all along.

In books that I read and messages that I listen to, I’m reminded over and over to number my days. We have approximately 1,000 weeks with each of our children before they’re grown, and as scary as that sounds – I haven’t even calculated the weeks that have already passed with my littles ones – there’s magic that happens over time, the magic of a “strong, regular, repeated pattern.” Rhythm is the pattern that happens over time, like a house built with bricks laid one on top of the other.

Rhythms change by the season. Summer doesn’t carry with it the allegro of fall or the adagio of winter. It’s speed is just right – a happy andante like the continuous lapping of ocean waves or the steady, circular pedal strokes on a bike.

The rhythm isn’t the color of our days, but the bones. Our habits and routines are the steady drum, the beat that holds constant so that the melody can sing.

In this season, I’ve found that my rhythm looks like this:

Daily, I find that the best mornings are the ones where I’m up an hour or two before my crew, and I have some time to be myself before I’m mom and wife. I try to start the day off with coffee, a few books, Scripture reading, journaling about goals, and 5 minutes or so of centering prayer. This self-care time is so crucial in helping me be fully present and attentive to my family's needs. I aim for at least 40 minutes of creative time like writing or putting together design boards and no more than 30 minutes of personal housekeeping – ordering groceries, scheduling appointments, or checking in on our finances on Mint.

Sunday mornings are my absolute favorite. I try to wake up around 5 or 6 (if I’m not already awake thanks to my pregnancy insomnia) to have the quiet time needed to write out my plans for the week. Practically speaking, I use Moglea’s letterpress notepads and a ultra fine-point Sharpie for my brainstorm list, then transfer the priorities for the week to my Passion Planner. I’ve just started using the Passion Planner (it was gifted), but it seems to be great for connecting the week’s work with the month’s goals and giving space to reflect upon priorities and lessons learned. I’m never without my Day Designer for the day-to-day, and I’ve found their Intentional Living Worksheet and the Goal-Setting Worksheet to be enormously helpful as well.

I make a pot of coffee, and we eat a lazy breakfast at home. We put on music, strip the bed, and tidy the house. It feels so good to start off the new week with a (relatively) clean house. We head to church at 10:30, and then take it easy for the rest of the day.

Weekly, I aim for three workouts a week (Intervals & Arms on the Peloton is my go-to), ideally first thing in the morning before the boys wake up. Planning a date with my husband was on my weekly list for the first half of the year, but I’ve since removed date-planning from my to-do list, and now it’s on Dave’s! Mama has enough extra weight to carry, you know? I bullet out a few meal ideas for the week, usually on Monday, and make sure that the boys’ weekly calendar is populated.

Monthly, I’ve found that the month feels just the right amount of full when it includes a girls’ night, a dinner party, a lunch or coffee date with work friends, a dedicated beach day, and a family adventure day (for July, we’re heading to a butterfly farm!). We make time to stroll the farmer’s market and peruse the library at least a few times a month.

In her latest book, Off the Clock, Laura Vanderkam writes that people who feel like they have enough time “let go expectations of perfection and big results in the short run. Instead, they decide that good enough is good enough, knowing that steady progress over the long run is unstoppable.”

I’m learning that establishing a healthy rhythm takes the burden off of individual days – I can offer myself grace when I sleep in that one day after a few combined late nights and early mornings. I can say yes to rest, knowing that I’m playing the long game. I still pay attention to whether I’ve hit my day’s priorities, but more importantly, I’m moving to my beat.