Control – or Lack Thereof

condo1

Nathan and I listed our condo last month.  Since then we’ve had a grand total of two showings.

It’s discouraging.

We’re not in a position where we have to sell – but two kids and a dog in a two bedroom condo is getting tight.  We have enough money for a down payment on a house in the neighbourhood we want to be in, the only problem is selling our condo.

We bought in 2008, three months before the “crash”.  After eight years of living here, if we sell it at the price it’s currently listed at, we’ll still be losing money.

Like I said, it’s discouraging.

I like to be in control.  Before we listed, Nathan and I spent a month and a half renovating.  Painting, cutting and installing new baseboards, replacing taps and molding.  We were motivated, certain that we were going to sell our place within the first week!

Unfortunately when it comes to selling houses, you can only control so much.  We made the place look as amazing as we could, we keep it spotless in case of an unexpected showing – but we can’t control what potential buyers will think.

I want to do everything in my power to help it sell quickly and for a good price, but I need to keep reminding myself that I’m not in control.

It’s scary.

It’s unsettling.

It’s stressful.

But I suppose it’s character building, isn’t it?

That darned old refining process …

Changing Direction

writing

Three months ago I made a commitment to write consistently.

Then I learned to crochet.

It’s a fantastic hobby, and I can argue that it’s useful.  I can make things!  I can sell things!  I can be productive!

But then I remember that God doesn’t ask for productivity.  He asks for obedience.

* * * *

In case you hadn’t noticed, I haven’t been blogging lately.

It’s not because I haven’t had things to write about, it’s because I’ve been struggling with how to write about things.

It’s my latest avoidance tactic, I suppose.

See, I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist.  When I do something, I like to do it well – and naturally, that extends to blogging.  I haven’t been working since last fall so I’ve had lots of time to read and research, trying to learn what makes a blog “successful”.

There are lots of opinions out there, but most of what I’ve read points to four key ingredients:

  1. Find your voice.
  2. Find your niche.
  3. Write for your audience.
  4. Be consistent.

It seems simple enough.

But then I started to wonder how to measure “success”.   Was I successful when I doubled my traffic?  Tripled it?  When my twitter or instagram followers reached a specific number?  When I started making money from my blog?

The more articles I read, the more overwhelmed I became.  There are so many rules!  It was enough to turn me off blogging for awhile.

Truth be told, it doesn’t take much to turn me off writing for awhile …

We’re busy with renovating.

I’m working again.

I’m tired.

My brain is fried.

I’m out of ideas.

I don’t know where to begin …

* * * *

I’ve been reading the story of Moses in Exodus lately.

“Master, please, I don’t talk well.  I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after You spoke to me …”

God’s response?  “Who do you think made the human mouth?  And who makes some mute, some deaf, some sighted, some blind?  Isn’t it I, God?  So get going.  I’ll be right there with you – with your mouth!  I’ll be right there to teach you what to say.”  (Exodus 4:10-12, MSG).

Moses hesitated, begging God to send someone else.

He made excuses, just like I do.

I need to be brave.

* * * *

  1. I’m overwhelmed by the rules of “proper blogging” – so I’m just going to break them.  I’ve spent so much time reading other blogs, trying to uncover their secrets to success, that I lost my voice.  Hence the four month hiatus.  How can I find my voice when my head is full of everybody else’s?
  2. I’ve never been able to pinpoint a real “niche” – and I think that’s okay.  I don’t need a “niche”, I need direction – and I have that now.  Whether or not I have courage is a post for another day!
  3. I’ve never had a huge audience – and I’m okay with that.  Numbers don’t matter.  Jesus only had twelve followers, after all!
  4. I struggle with consistency.  I’m not in a season of life where I can guarantee a new post at a certain time on a specific day of the week – but I’m going to try to drop into this space more regularly!  If I disappear again, feel free to e-mail me.  I need the accountability!

* * * *

As for where to begin –

“Wherever you are is a good and important place.  Start there.”  (Gary Morland)

So I will.

Thanks for sticking with me while my blog changes direction!

Paw Patrol Birthday Cake

IMG_2501

We celebrated Ellie’s third birthday over the weekend and one of the birthday girl’s only requests leading up to the Big Day was a Paw Patrol birthday cake.  She had her heart set on a Marshall sheet cake she had seen at the grocery store but it was way too big and way too expensive – so I decided to make my own.

I scoured Pinterest and found this amazing Rubble birthday cake.  It looked easy enough but Ellie was adamant that she have a white cake – so I turned it into an Everest cake instead!

Here’s the How-To:

1.  Make two round 9″ cakes.  I used this recipe for Buttermilk Vanilla Cake, replacing the Rodelle Reserve Vanilla with plain old artificial vanilla extract.

2.  Place one of the cakes on a cake stand.  Frost the top of the cake,  then place the other cake on top.

3.  Frost the top and sides of the cake.

4.  Place white chocolate KitKat sections in the frosting around the side of the cake, leaving a gap for the “snow”.  If I had read the tutorial properly I would have known to put a little bit of frosting down on the cake stand to stand the KitKat pieces in so they would stand up better, but oh well.  It worked!

5.  Build a ramp with frosting.

6.  Arrange white chocolate cookie pieces around the inside edges of the cake and down the ramp.  My frosting wasn’t thick enough – and I didn’t have enough left! – so I just stuck cookie pieces down the side of the cake and piled some on the side.

7.  Place Everest toy on the top of the cake.

We added a number candle beside Everest for Ellie to blow out.  She was so excited that she didn’t even notice it wasn’t a Marshall cake until after she had eaten an entire piece and been excused from the table!  “Wait – where’s my Marshall cake?!”

Sorry babe.  Mama’s on a budget ;)

Enough

IMG_2237

Ever since I stopped working I’ve struggled with being enough.

I feel like such a hypocrite writing that, since it wasn’t that long ago that I shared this post about my decision to be a stay at home mom – but I want to be honest in this space, so there it is.

I have spent weeks trying to figure out how to make more, do more, and be more.

I explored work at home opportunities.  I researched ways to monetize a blog (ugh!).  I even debated whether or not to become some sort of direct sales consultant (Jamberry, perhaps?)

Then I decided that maybe I would feel better if I did more, so I cleaned our entire house from top to bottom, purging and reorganizing, doing minor repairs, washing walls and windows.

That didn’t help (well – maybe it did a little.  I do love a clean house!) so I volunteered to teach Topher’s Sunday school class.  I’m still debating whether or not to coach his soccer team.

I’ve been writing (and writing and writing and writing!) – building my portfolio and enjoying every second of it –

But nothing I do feels like enough, and I have no idea why I constantly feel like I should be doing something more.

Sometimes I forget how valuable it is that I’m able to be at home for my family right now.

I forget how important it is that I’m available to drive Topher to school – a good school, in a different neighbourhood.  I’m free to volunteer in his class or on field trips if that’s what I want to do.

I forget how important it is that I spend my mornings with Ellie.  Of course most of that time is spent driving her Paw Patrol pups from one room to another, or zipping them down the waterside into her Barbie pool – but we have lots of fun no matter what we’re doing!

I forget how important it is that I’m able to cook for my family every single day – and that we’re able to sit down at the table and eat as a family, without me skipping out early to start work in my corner-of-the-kitchen office.

I forget how important it is that I can coach Topher’s soccer team, if I want to.  Last year I had to book those days off – and almost missed one game because it got switched to a different day.

And I forget how important it is that I read the kids their bedtime stories and tuck them in at the end of the day, after two years of relinquishing the task to my husband.

Why do I need to remind myself what a privilege this is?

This is exactly where I want to be …

And being here is okay.

When I Feel Pretty

11215067_10154071497895400_6721825451159290022_n

Last Friday I was getting ready for my riding lesson while Topher played with his Leappad in our bed.  “You look pretty, Mommy!” he said, looking up just as I finished pulling my hair into a ponytail.  I was wearing an ancient pair of breeches, boot socks that went up to my knees, and a ratty hoody.  “Thanks, bud!” I said, dismissing the compliment as nothing more than Topher trying to be extra sweet so I would bring him to the barn with me.  I didn’t feel particularly pretty.  Happy, yes – I love going to the barn! – but pretty?  Not so much.

Later that evening – after the kids had been tucked into bed and I had had a rather luxurious shower to warm myself up – Nathan complimented me.  “You look pretty!” he said when I joined him on the couch.  Or maybe he said I smelled pretty? Either way – I immediately dismissed the compliment as nothing more than my husband being nice.  I was wearing Christmas tree pajama pants and a tank top, with my hair in a braid and glasses instead of contacts.  I didn’t feel particularly pretty.  Happy, yes – I was warm and clean! – but pretty?  Not so much.

I’ve been thinking about beauty ever since, trying to remember the last time I felt pretty.

* * * *

I was in my best friend’s wedding earlier this year. It was a fancy affair: She hired a professional hair stylist and a make-up artist for the day, and I spent almost half as much on my bridesmaid dress as I did for my own wedding dress.   When she tagged me in pictures from the wedding that she had posted on Facebook I got dozens of likes within minutes. “You look amazing!” “You look beautiful!” “You’re so pretty!”

I was confused by the response. I don’t get those sorts of comments when I post regular pictures of myself, the everyday “mom” version of me in jeans and a t-shirt and glasses, with my hair pulled back in a ponytail. I don’t wear make-up on a regular basis and if my hair isn’t up it’s probably because my daughter has pulled the elastic out. So many people thought I was pretty at the wedding … Does that mean that I’m not pretty when I’m not all dolled up?

The thing is, I didn’t feel pretty that day. I felt sick. I had been fighting a stomach bug all week and hadn’t had anything to eat or drink all day. My dress was so tight that I couldn’t stand up straight for fear of ripping it, and I was so worried about the kids and how they would behave that apart from the pictures, I don’t think I smiled all day.

* * * *

I’ve spent the past several months learning how to wear make-up. I’ve scoured Pinterest, I’ve watched YouTube videos, I’ve even watched make-over shows!

For my birthday my sister gave me money designated specifically for make-up, directing me to ask the experts at Sephora so I could learn how to apply it properly.

My new make-up kit is almost as big as my son’s backpack.   It’s filled with moisturizer and toner and primers and concealers and foundation and blush and eye liners and eye shadow and lipstick and lip gloss and more tools and brushes than I can remember the proper use for.

I’ve been practicing, and I’m trying to wear make-up on a regular basis.

Friends and family and even other moms in the pick-up line at school compliment me on how I look now.

* * * *

I like wearing make-up. I like the way I look, and I feel more comfortable facing the world without enormous dark circles under my eyes.

I have confidence.

But I’ve learned something more important than contouring techniques; something my husband and my five-year-old son – the two boys whose opinions mean more to me than anybody else’s – already knew:

The packaging doesn’t change who I am on the inside.

Audrey Hepburn put it best:  “Happy girls are the prettiest.”

 

When do you feel pretty?