Friday, May 27, 2011


May, 1986

"Love Letters": a series of love letters to the people in my life who have made a big difference in my world, published on their birthdays.

For my mother.

Today is my mother's birthday.

Last night I began the ritual of “love letter writing”: I luxuriated in flipping through old photo albums, my brain carefully compartmentalizing memories, archiving favorite images and trying to piece together in my mind the stories I would tell. Even as my mind raced 100 mph (even as I way lying in bed and sleep eluded me… a 100 mph mind can do that, you know), I was loving it…Loving the process…


I've known since the inception of "Love Letters" that this would be a letter I would labor over—one that would take a long time to write, but I've really been looking forward to it, as well. Still, my mother has been perhaps the biggest influence in my life, and when I remember that, I am (quite frankly) intimidated. How can I ever write something that fully conveys what she means to me? I take comfort in the fact that while my words might fail, my love will not.

... She taught me that.

May, 1989

My mother was the first woman I ever thought was beautiful. She was my role-model, and I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. Even though I didn’t fully grasp it when I was small, she embodied for me everything I aspired to be: strength & individuality, compassion & grace. My mother was and is creative… absolutely fantastic with children. Some of my favorite childhood memories include teddy bear picnics and teddy bear weddings ... we had such a good time together! She was patient & quick to rejoice in small triumphs, and she is a wonderful listener. She always made it so easy and enjoyable to share life (& secrets!) with her.

My mother tread the fine line between mother & friend with an ease and grace that I hope I can emulate some day. Starting in high school, I began to be conscious of the way to could talk to her like an equal, and even today, I consider her one of my best friends. Nobody knows me like my mother does (for better or worse ;) ... When I think of the word "mother" my heart immediately thinks of home, and the profound comfort found there. ...And I know this is because of her. She made our house a home.

Girl Scout Mother / Daughter Gala, circa 1993

I think that above and beyond everything else, my mother gave me the courage & strength to love. And I am so grateful. Specifically, she taught me how to embrace who I was, and she helped me to build a strong foundation of self respect.

My mother is an incredible woman. She is my best example of chasing your dreams and going where your heart leads you. She has multiple degrees: a BA in History, and Master's degrees in Library Science and Communication. She has traveled all over the country (CO, CA, FL, VA, PA, IL, NY, MA ....and more, I know!) She has traveled the world (::at least to:: England, Germany & Jamaica with my father for their honeymoon). She met my father, the great love of her life, in 1975, and they were married in 1978. Together they participated in TOSRV, bicycling over 100 miles together!

She has a passion for life that is readily apparent to anyone who meets her, and a never-ending desire to learn. She has taught me, by the way she lives, to take risks, travel often, get outside daily, and live life on your own time-table. Because of her, I heave learned to hold my head high, and take pride in the life that I am making for myself, every day.

Light the Night Walk, October 2005

We are really two of a kind, she & I .... and I wouldn't have it any other way. I am honored to be my mother's daughter. We share curly hair, a passion for reading & libraries, and a (perhaps too) healthy love for wheat thins. We both have a need for quiet devotion time at the beginning of each day. We both love long, summer evening walks and huge bowls of chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream. We love snuggling kitties and word-find puzzles & we both drink our coffee black. ♥

September 2009

She has showed me, by example, how to be a wife. How to provide for spiritual needs as well as tangible needs (like cooking & cleaning!) How, when you give 110% of your heart to your family you never feel empty. How to live in harmony & partnership with your husband, and to be respectful even when times get rough. My parents love is my example, and as I continue to learn & grow, the more I understand and appreciate this.

Happy birthday, Mommy. I love you.

Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible. ~Marion C. Garretty

Thursday, May 26, 2011


(A weekly round up. Each week I am going to “wrangle” my life's happenings into a post filled with pictures, lists & general tidbits about the past 7 days.)

Hi, friends-- Happy Thursday!

I feel like I haven't had the chance to sit down & write in a really long time... which isn't particularly true, but I haven't "wrangled" in some time, and the life that I want to share with you has been piling up in my memory bank. This morning I sift through the piles of memories and bring you only the best :)

Unexpectedly, it's been a really busy month at work for me, and I feel like I am have been scrambling every evening to piece together all the necessary life pieces of the the work-life puzzle. It's been chaotic, to say the least, but it's been so good. There have been more than enough moments filled with laughter, long hugs, and staggering moments of realizing the beauty around me to balance out the fatigue & frustration.

Here's a peek into the past couple weeks in my world (this is gonna be a long one, so grab a cup of coffee & settle in!):

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First of all, I want to say thank you for all your supportive comments on my marathon reveal post. I'm so excited. I'm so nervous. I have no doubt that this is going to be a life changing experience for me.

I'm still working on developing a training plan (thanks, Heidi for the hints!), but in the meantime, I've challenged myself to a 30-day (hopefully) habit forming challenge -- The SWSU Challenge, to be exact. To find out more, click on the challenge tab... or just click here.

But first, because she's so cute, a picture of my little workout buddy:

(As soon as I put down the camera she stood up, moved completely onto the mat, and executed a perfect downward facing dog. No big deal... Cats are amazing...)

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After what felt like 2 months of steady rain, this week has provided a welcome break. We've had rain, yes, but lots of sunshine interspersed throughout. I'm soaking up every drop of sunshine I can. ... And carrying my umbrella religiously.

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(Gracie helping me set up my bedroom furniture. Clearly. She's sitting in the dresser.)

Going back in time a bit: I spent my birthday weekend moving. Oof.

I've had it on my Amy-Do list for quite some time now to move my childhood bedroom furniture over to our new house (you know, for about a year, now!) A mindset that I am rather proud of, although it has the tendency to overwhelm me more often than not is, "I need to do this now, because I know if I don't, I'll keep pushing it back & pushing it back. Why wait?" So it was, I found myself the day before my birthday, sorting through piles of dust treasures in my room.

And, while I grumbled multiple times to my father that I was going to have to type up a post titled, "Confessions of a former pack rat", over all, it was a very cool experience. I did throw out bags of trash. ... Multiple bags of trash (seriously, Amy?! why did you ever think it was a good idea to save "Pick & Save" receipts from your time in Neenah? And you first ever utility bill stubs? Not exactly of sentimental value...) But I found boxes (relax Jon... shoe boxes) of treasures. I found the encouraging note my mother wrote to me when I got braces in middle school, and was certain that it was going to be the end of me. I found the scrap of paper Jon gave me his phone number on... all those years ago before we had the slightest idea that we would be WE until death do us part. I found little "love notes" that Saundra used to leave taped to my computer screen when we lived together our sophomore year of college. I found letters from my grandpa, written in his signature blue sloping script; envelopes tucked with newspaper comics he had cut out for me. Treasure.

Needless to say, it was an exhausting (emotionally & physically) weekend for me. But it was one of those where I can look back and say I was really present in every moment. ...And, silly as it sounds, years from now, I know this is how I'll remember my 25th birthday.

My mother's comment was, "Gosh, Amy - your 'big birthdays' have been spent cleaning ..." And she's right: my 21st birthday was spent sneezing in my grandpa's attic. My 25th birthday was spent (sneezing) in my childhood bedroom (closet). ... Let's see where 30 finds me. I'm hoping I'll be cleaning for a baby... or a puppy... or, you know... cleaning our new vacation home in Hawaii ;)

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Last Thursday I had an exceptionally wonderful lunch break.

...While I realize it's not environmentally friendly (uh, or wallet friendly, with the soaring gas prices...), I have been coming home for lunch lately ... it's good for my soul. On Thursday, in addition to some always-appreciated Gracie-snuggles, I had a package waiting for me on my front porch. I opened it to find this lovely & thoughtful gift from Jenny:

Does this girl know me or what? This week I am so thankful for good friends.

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If you follow me on twitter (this means you, Hannah!), you all ready know that I spent this Tuesday traveling for work. The trip ended up being a lot longer than we had anticipated (ie: left the office at 8am, arrived back at the office at 7pm. Woah.) But we got to travel through Hocking Hills (Logan County, OH)... which, in my opinion, is some of the most beautiful country ever. The landscape (rolling hills, fields of flowers) feeds my soul. Since I wasn't driving, here are some pictures from the trip (the barn at the top of the post is from Logan County, too!):

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I was going to say that this text required no explanation -- it just made me laugh ... but then I thought maybe it deserved a little background. So here you go: I have no idea why, but for some reason, several months ago I started receiving the magazine "Working Mother" (perhaps somewhere I indicated an interest in "work-life balance" issues? ...Not a clue.) Anyway to take things a step to the more awkward, not only am I receiving this magazine at a time when motherhood is still a few years away... BUT! ... the magazine is coming to my name at my parents' house. ...Needless to say, this has inspired some interesting conversations!

...And for the record, "grand kitties" would only occur due to divine intervention ;)

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And with that, I think I'm about typed out, and I want to hear from you!

What is the best road-trip location near you?
Tell me about one of your favorite unexpected birthday surprises!

Stay tuned for:
  • A special "love letters" post, coming tomorrow.
  • A date recap (spoiler: WINERY!) coming at you this weekend.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

25: A love letter of sorts ...

This post has been in the works for almost 2 weeks now. ...But tonight, inspired by this beautiful post from a beautiful friend, I write:

Dear Me,

At the moment this post is published, I am 25 years, one week, and 3 days old, exactly. A belated 'Happy Birthday'! ... Welcome to the 2nd quarter century of life!

And what a journey it's been <3 This past year was a good one for me: a year of settling in, adapting, growing... thriving. The growth was not without some 'growing pains', of course, but I'm beginning to learn that the best lessons are hard won; and that sometimes in order to be happy you need to work hard for it... and that's okay.

I'm beginning to learn who I am and what makes me happy -- what I might be good at. I'm beginning to grow into myself and really get comfortable in my own skin. This year I have discovered vibrant passions for writing, running, cooking & (gasp!) yard work. I am learning how to speak my mind when my heart leads me. I am learning how to be a wife.

I'm learning, more than ever, that the only opinion I should really take to heart is my own. I'm learning that when something feels wrong, it's probably because it is. ... Life is too short to settle, and if I'm unhappy, perhaps it's time to move on. I'm learning that, while I pride myself on being a good listener, my kindred spirits are those that let me speak my mind.

I'm learning that tears can be a good thing. That real butter makes all the difference, and that 3 glasses of wine once in a while never hurt anyone. I'm learning that girl friends are absolutely invaluable, and that I'd rather spend a Friday night in snuggling with my husband than 'out on the town'. I'm learning that a little elbow grease can burn through a bad mood, and that a long lunchtime walk in the sunshine can cast a positive light on the rest of the workday.

I'm learning that sometimes the hardest step is the first one; that if you allow room for doubt, it will slip in... and that, if you are not vigilant, doubt can take you down before you realize it.

I am learning how to, for the first time, truly take responsibility for my happiness and future. Life is lovely if you passively sit back and give thanks, but it can be heady & intoxicating & vibrant if you move forward with purpose. I'm learning that I really can do just about anything I set my mind to, and that sometimes, the best laid plans are those that you do not lay for yourself... but those that you get laid into.

This last year has been absolutely pivotal.

Tonight, as I sit quietly with Gracie (who is snoozing across the room) glass of wine in hand, I allow myself to take a step back and really take stock of my life. I meditate on this question: Am I where I thought I would be at 25? When I was 20, did I ever dream I would be *here*?

And I find, first of all, that this is a harder question than I would have imagined. I mean, first of all, I need to remember where I was 5 years ago. (Which sounds ridiculous, but I lived a lot of different places when I was in college --engineering co-ops took me to 4 different states!)

When I turned 20, I had just started my first co-op, and was living on my own, for the first time, in Romulus, MI. I had just finished up my sophomore year of college, and Jon and I had just renewed our dating relationship after an almost 6 month hiatus. I was in a good place. A place ripe with promise.

I have great memories from all my co-ops, but my MI co-op holds a special place in my heart because it was my first. It was my first time being on my own, and that was life changing for me. I had always suspected that I'd do fine on my own, and I did. I loved it. Of course, living by myself wasn't always awesome. I remember one especially poignant moment, sitting in the bathtub at 8 pm on the 4th of July, drinking a wine cooler & feeling sorry for myself. ... But I'm pretty sure even that was good for me :)

When I look back on that summer, I remember running through downtown Romulus, evening trips to the library & curling up in bed every night and working my way through The Chronicles of Narnia. I remember carefully packing lunch every evening (bagel sandwich: light mayonnaise, turkey, cheddar cheese) and watching movies on my 10" tv screen. I remember eating a lot of frozen vegetables that summer :) When I look back, I am overwhelmed by the sense of confidence & comfort. Perhaps this is what nostalgia is, that vague longing and sense of, "oh yeah, that felt right." ...

Back to the point (I blame my 2nd glass of wine): I think that when I was 20, I never would have dreamed that I would be as settled as I am now. I'm pretty sure that if my 20 year old self met my 25 year old self, she would pat *me* on the head and say, "Aww. It's all right. You're doing fine."


And I would wrap my arms around my 20 year old self and hold on just a little longer than she felt comfortable with, whispering, "It's more than all right. It's perfect. You're perfect."

I feel in my bones that this next year is going to be a year of movement for me. I've all ready taken a big step... and each second I am one breath closer to making promises a reality. And there's something else big (for me) on the horizon, too. Something I've been to scared to change in the past, but now I'm too convicted not to move. It's time to take some big chances. ... I deserve it.

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."
~Harriet Tubman

Hang in there, Amy. Keep believing and dreaming. There is so much good to come this year ... I can just feel it.

Love, Me

(*I'm sorry for the "vague-ry" ... right now I'm writing dreamy reveal posts that I hope to make a reality sometime soon. So excited to share with you as soon as I'm able!)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Keeping promises to myself ...

I finally pressed the buttons:

Crazy nervous & excited right now. ...Definitely regretting my 2nd cup of coffee :)

...More soon!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wrangling: {Writing my story}

NOTE: You are not seeing things. I posted this last Wednesday... but blogger deleted it, and I got discouraged... so I'm just now getting around to re-posting :) ...But it's a good one! Enjoy!

(A weekly round up. Each week I am going to “wrangle” my life's happenings into a post filled with pictures, lists & general tidbits about the past 7 days.)

What a glorious 2 weeks it has been :) Mays are always chock-full of good stuff for our family, leaving us, on June 1, exhausted but filled joy; reminiscing on the beautiful memories we were privileged to be a part of.We're in the midst of a mid-week lull, right about at the point where we are able to take a step back from the beautiful chaos and realize how tired we actually are. But even in the midst of the rush, the stress, the giving 100% and then giving 100% above & beyond... we are writing our stories. The memories that we are going to look back on in 60 years and sigh, "Oh, those were the sweet days..."

Some sweetness:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Last Friday my heart swelled to 3x its normal size with pride. My baby sister Laurie graduated from Nursing School.

I had been excited for the 'big day' all week, but the emotions didn't really hit me until I was seated in the arena surrounded by my relatives, and 'Pomp & Circumstance' started playing. I turned to Jon with a lump in my throat & whispered, "I can't believe she's graduating all ready." It's the end of an era for sure. Now there is absolutely no pretending & no looking back. We're adults now. It's the end of an era.

But it's only the beginning of so much good that is to come.

Friday was such a blessing for me, not only to be able to witness Laurie taking a huge step in her life; but also to celebrate with my relatives. We're a pretty spread out bunch (OH, VA, NY), so we don't get to see each other nearly as much as we would like. It was a wonderful day (Heidi, we missed you bunches ... you were in our thoughts & hearts!)

Laurie & her boyfriend, Nick. Seriously, how cute are they?!

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It was also fun on Friday to return to the college campus where I spent 4.5 years of my life. I took pictures with shameless abandon, as I am no longer a student there and am allowed to "play tourist".

Here are some highlights:

Towers Hall

tour group

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About 2x a year, a couple from my work brings in and slices a whole pineapple for us to enjoy. Heaven is taking a huge bite of fresh pineapple & having the sweet juice run down your chin. YUM does not even begin to describe it.

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It's been kind of a busy & stressful week couple weeks month for me at work, and I find myself returning, time and again, to the solace of my kitchen. Seriously, chopping & peeling does wonders for the soul at the end of a long day.

Tonight's labor of love: Veggie tacos (a la Jenna, of Eat, Live, Run)!

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I am also very thankful this week for my early morning devotion time.

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This may be the happiest corner of my kitchen: it houses the coffee pot (my lifeblood, heh) and pictures of these sweet babies. I cannot resist smiling when I am standing here.

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Do you see what I see?! Yesterday the sunny temperatures exceeded what was predicted! Way to overachieve, Ohio! Weather gods, I humbly thank you for hearing my plea...

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On Sunday, we celebrated our mothers.

Mommy & Amy, circa 1992

A special moment with my mother on my wedding day.

To my mother, who gave me curly hair, a profound love of reading, a firm foundation of love and taught me the beauty of independence; I thank you. I don't know how I got so lucky to get you, but I am forever grateful that I did.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And on Monday, we celebrated Jon's 27th birthday with Chinese take-out & video games.

Here's to another year of joy, for the man who can always make me laugh.

Jon & Laurie's friend Josh, holding bags while the 'paparazzi' clicked cameras last Friday.

Your Turn: How's your week going? Have you ever had freshly cut pineapple?

Monday, May 9, 2011

The best teacher I've ever had ...

"Love Letters": a series of love letters to the people in my life who have made a big difference in my world, published on their birthdays.

For my husband.

I met my soulmate when I was 14.

Of course, at the time, I was too busy to realize it. I was too busy trying to survive my first year of high school; alternately trying to blend into the background and to make an imprint on my little world in that awkward and endearing way we all do when we are young.

I was busy sighing over the high school football players, giggling with my friends, dreaming and making plans for my future. I was a prolific list maker even then, and, I admit, I even had (have) a tattered notebook paper list entitled, "The Perfect Guy Will …" I might not have had a boyfriend, but in my mind, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted ;)

Homecoming, 2002. The night I got my first kiss.

But the beautiful thing is, all the while I was planning things out for myself, Jon was there. He was there and he was everything I wanted, everything I needed, and everything I didn't even know to pray for.

We were good friends for over a year before we took our relationship to the next level. He made me laugh, and I loved the way I could talk to him for hours. I loved to shock & impress him with my (sometimes) dirty sense of humor and love of hard rock music. On a warm August evening, after a walk in the park and several games of bowling, I confessed that I liked him-- my heart pounding, terrified that our friendship would never be the same after that. It was probably one of the scariest moments of my life. And then. I will never forget the way he looked at me then; smiling, "Amy, I know…"

December, 2006

Jon was my first kiss. He was my first boyfriend, the first and great love of my life.

We've known each other for over 10 years now. We've been there for each other through the transition to college (x2), deaths of loved ones, nasty friend break-ups, 21st birthday celebrations, family dramas, living in 3 different states, the planning of a wedding, the living of a marriage, and the purchase of a house.

It hasn't been perfect, but we've been perfect together.

I've always known that being with Jon makes me a better version of myself, but since we've gotten married, I've felt his influence on my life more profoundly. He is my anchor, and I mean that with every fiber of my being. He grounds me when I am feeling flighty and malcontent. When I feel lost & insignificant, his love gives me purpose.

Halloween, 2007

Jon has taught me how to take the "macro approach" to life, to let go of the little things that serve no purpose other than to weigh me down. He has helped me to focus in on the relationships in my life, because they are truly what makes life worth living. He has taught me how to be respectful, but independent. He has been an incredible example to me of how to stay true to yourself in a world that sometimes wants to tear you in two: obligation vs. identity.

Engagement pictures, 2008

He has taught me all these things with a quiet, unobtrusive strength. I have learned all these things by simply watching the way he lives his life.

He is, perhaps, the best teacher I've ever had.

In the shelter of his love, I have blossomed.

Even when I live out the rest of my life loving this man, it will not be enough.

"Happy Birthday, Jon.
Thank you for choosing me."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Truth be told ... (part deux)

Okay, fine. I admit it. I take pictures of myself with photo booth when I get bored. Now that I've got that off my chest, on to the next confession :)

  • I actually think dandelions are really pretty, perky & cheerful flowers. I'd just prefer that they not grow in my lawn.
  • I pretty much live in sweats when I'm at home. Style was never really my strong suit.
  • I'd been having a (I won't say the b-word, but it sure wasn't good) trying week all ready, when I walked into the grocery store on Tuesday evening and totally wiped out. It was epic. Truly. I lost a shoe and dumped my purse contents out in the process, and had to be helped up by a little old lady.
  • ...the worst part of the whole thing was that I really wanted to get a bottle of wine, and after I face-planted I decided that I probably better not. ... I was worried people would think I'd been hitting the bottle all ready.
  • Although we have our moments, I think Jon & I may be the most UN-romantic people ever. But we laugh a lot. I'm deliciously happy, and wouldn't change a thing.
  • Wheat Thins are my kryptonite.
  • I've found that my most creative times of day are 9:30 am and 9:30 pm. This is an awesome thing to know about myself, except that these times are both pretty inconvenient.
  • When I'm at home by myself, I talk to the cats. I'm pretty sure they think I'm nuts.
  • I might know the words to every AC/DC song ever.
  • I consider organizing my email inbox to be a 'house cleaning' of sorts.
  • At any given time, I have *at least* 3 books on my night stand, with book marks in varying positions. I like to have options.
  • I sing to myself when I run. (Another reason to run in the early morning!)
  • Even though I'm an engineer, I cannot draw a straight line (or anything remotely resembling a straight line) without a ruler.

Cheers to you, friends. Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Good Things

"Begin today. Declare outloud to the universe that you are willing to let go of struggle and eager to learn through joy."
~Sarah Ban Breathnach

Happy Sunday, Friends!

It's been such a good weekend for me :) One of those where I felt absolutely present & in love with every moment. I'm loving being home again after spending most of the week across the country; working on homey things and getting things back in order for another week.

Friday evening I brewed up a pot of coffee and stayed up late with Jon as he worked an install. Jon is a software developer and has to work installs (from 11pm-??) periodically. Sometimes I'm able to hang with him, and other times I throw in the towel after about 15 minutes ;) This time, I was able to stay up with him, no problem (blame it on the Denver --> Columbus time change?): he worked, I wrote, and the cats supervised.

Saturday morning we took our time getting up, and spent the majority of the day doing yard work. The weather was absolutely delicious, which made the copious weeding much more bearable. Today was spent worshipping, dreaming, talking to friends & tying up some loose ends in anticipation of the week to come.

To provide you with a full weekend wrap-up, as well as to start the new week on the right foot, I think it's the perfect time for a good list.

Weekend Wrap-Up Good List!

1. Jon. On Saturday, as I was grumbling & sweating in the flower beds, I sat back for a moment to watch my husband working on our lawn. And it occurred to me: 'Here we are, working side-by-side to build our dream home.' All of a sudden, yard work wasn't quite as tedious.
2. Gracie. I really missed my little girl while I was in Colorado. This weekend she's been extra snuggly (heh. and underfoot), which I think means that she missed me, too.
3. Homemaking.
4. Steak on the grill. A perfect treat after a long day of work.

5. Leisurely Sunday brunches.

6. Prompted by the impending expiration date on a groupon, I got my first manicure on Friday. Glorious.
7. Surprises.
8. ^ Okay, I'll spill :) You may remember that I told you Jon & I were planning to go to Las Vegas for this year's vacation. Well, our plans have changed, and couldn't be more excited. Instead of going to "sin city", we're headed out to California: 3 days in Sonoma, and 3 days in San Francisco. Woah… SO excited!
9. Fresh air. We've had our windows open all weekend!
10. "It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy."
~Lucille Ball

Your Turn: How was your weekend? Any exciting adventures coming up for you this week? Do tell!

P.S.: My lovely friend Hannah is hosting a giveaway over on her blog, for this gorgeous Emile Henry Pie Dish. Head here to check it out!