7.05.2013

Reflections on a Decade of Marriage



Most people say that marriage is hard. For some, I’m certain that it is. But from where I stand, on this my 10th wedding anniversary, it’s really that it’s life. Life is hard.

There are bills to pay, big decisions to make and two children that simultaneously fill our home with the greatest measure of joy imaginable and pull-your-hair-out, crazy-making strife.

We’ve lived through the pain of miscarriage, the uncertainty of job loss, extended family problems that have broken our hearts and the hands down worse: the immense, immeasurable and incredible loss of a parent.

Whether you’ve been through these exact times, or even if your life’s story is more (or less) heart wrenching, there is a beautiful relief in sharing both your happiness and your pain with someone who walks with you THROUGH it.

On my wedding day, ten years ago today, I cried when I reached Brandon at the end of the isle. Sobbed, actually. Tears of joy, yes, but also this – tears of gratitude to God in heaven for answering my prayers and delivering me a man that I knew in the depth of my being would live up to every single one of our marriage vows.

A man that would stand next to me through everything life would send our way and would be honest, kind, hard working, loving and giving- so, so giving. Would be a true gentleman in every sense of the word and would teach our future son to be the same and our future daughter to never settle for less than the example he provided for her. A man who took friendship seriously and himself not too seriously. Who would embody loyalty in the truest sense of the word.  Who would say ‘I’m sorry’, and really mean it. Who would go to the doctor’s appointments, coach the little league games and bring flowers to the ballet recitals. Who would not only support my desire to be a stay at home mom but also fully and completely embrace the hippie parenting style that we’d find ourselves practicing after falling head over heals in love with our kids.

Ten years later I can say that even in my idealistic early twenties, I was right about this. I was right.

Despite the hard stuff, the tragedies big and small, some days I look up from the sweeping of the dog hair or the folding of the little pajamas, or I just breathe the lemony- scent of the all-natural counter spray I can afford to buy and I can’t believe this life is mine. 

Somehow I feel like we’re living the dream.

It’s not like we’ve carved out some particularly noteworthy or special or out of the ordinary existence. It’s just the daily work of loving each other and raising a family. Of running the dishwasher and stopping by the store for dog food and wine.

And yet, this is it. For me this is it.

Brandon, my love: Thank you for being my true north. Your face is the first thing I see when I close my eyes each night. Your love is all I have ever needed. These amazing children, the dream house in the making– they are more then I could have ever imagined.

I love you so very much. Happy Anniversary! 

4.18.2012

Gone


It's so hard for me to find the words to write to tell you about why I've not been blogging. So hard to even begin to relay what devastation we've been going through. And yet. Not writing about it, doesn't it make it less real.

Over a month ago, Brandon's mom - my beautiful, amazing, dream of a mother-in-law, was taken from us very suddenly as a result of a heart attack. It was just one artery, and she was such a healthy, vibrant person, and although the stint the doctors placed on a Friday morning after the attack worked great and we thought the whole thing was crazy - we fully expected her to heal right up. But she didn't. One minute she was talking to Brandon in the hospital room and 10 seconds later she was gone. Just gone. Gone.

I can't even begin to tell you what a huge part of our lives she was - no, my words can't even do it justice. She was such a perfect example of a wife, a mother, a friend - and she loved my children as much as I do. Really, she loved them as if they were her own children. And all of us, too. Her love was unconditional and always there like a safety net, a safe place to fall. She was the most gracious, warm conversationalist, but also funny. So, so funny. She was very much like a best friend to me and I miss her to the depth of my being.

She loved this blog, and always encouraged me to write it. And since life still doesn't feel very blog-worthy right now,  I hope you'll be patient with me as I find my way back to this space.

Somehow Brandon found the strength to read the following letter at her funeral. It was written by her to her incredible group of girl friends - The Ya Ya's - on her 60th Birthday this past October. I leave this with you as a reminder to count your own blessings and hug the ones you love.


Dear 60,

Well, hello 60.  I've been dreading, expecting/pondering you!
Now that you arrived, you really aren't so bad.
I have more blessings than I can count--
 
My faith in God and His plan for me
My husband that I've been in love with for about 45 years--really 45?
My beautiful son and daughter
My wonderful daughter-in-love
My Grant and Harper
My family and friends, too numerous to count
My 11 very special soulmates--all of whom I support, respect and LOVE so dearly!
My deep wrinkles, all from laughing--now that's not the fine lines,mind you
My sprinkling (?) of grey hair--that sometimes blends with the highlighting
My extra rolls/arm flaps from always having enough food
My bunions from being able to walk and dance and shop? hmm on the shopping
My brown age spots that prove I've had some fun in the sun
My letting go of all the mindless worry in which I invested way too much of the 60 yrs.
My memories of well...just endless memories, some so private, some shared, some humorous, some heartwrenching--but all part of the plan.

Thanks for all the birthday calls, cards, emails and wishes.

In return, I wish you all:

Many more
--wrinkles to make
--laughs to laugh
--dances to dance
--hugs to hug
--prayers to pray

Love to all,
Joan

2.23.2012

Insta-cool

Add caption

I recently ran across this v.cool site that lets you turn the instagram photos you take on your iphone into real live magnets. Everyone looks better in instagarm, no? Too cool not to share with you guys!

2.14.2012

THREE

Lets go fly a kite!

Sweet three year old

The bane of my existence. Don't look too closely.
Jolly festive
Harper helped make this little banner.
 Pink milk
Umbrella favors
Bubble mosh pit
A spoonful of Sugar
Grant, channeling his inner Mary Poppins.

Don't worry! This is just a kids cocktail ;)

xoxo

This year's class V-day cards! Original idea from here.

Happy Valentines Day, dears! Birthday party pics coming soon...

2.08.2012

My name is Christian and I'm a Birthday-aholic

Did you ever have that one friend in college, who was utterly and completely crazy? You know, the one who went all out for everything? I did, her name was Lauren and she's still one of my dearest friends.

Lauren was the one who you'd study with at I-Hop until about 1 a.m. before calling it a night and when she met you all fresh and chipper the next morning for the exam you'd ask how much longer she'd stayed awake studying and she'd say, "Girl! I just came straight here from I-Hop! I've been there all night! Sherry who works the 4 am shift hooked me up with some free breakfast - I'm good to go!"

And when you and your girl gang decided to wrap your current frat boy boyfriend's (turned hubby) house, Lauren was one the one who suggested also shoe polishing the cars and forking the yards oh and "lets also get some maxi pads and put ketchup on them and throw them at the front door!" Ewwww. We had to reign her in sometimes, that Lauren. She was nuts. In the best possible way! But, nuts.

I have officially crossed over into Lauren territory with the following carousel for Harper's Party. I need help y'all. 

The back of the book reads: "Hours of fun for the whole family!" Yikes.

2.06.2012

Via Montebello + a Giveaway

I'm wildly obsessed with this new e-shop, Via Montebello. Created by a chic American mother of two who just returned to the U.S. after living in Italy for a few years, Via Montebello showcases the impeccable style of Italian easy-living and makes it accessible all in one spot. Can't you just almost transport yourself there by poking around this gorgeous site?




The Via Montello philosophy:      
A life of unhurried passions, of lingering over cappuccino,
A life of enjoying beauty and making things beautiful,
of opening champagne just because it’s Tuesday,
A life of gathering with friends,
a home filled with warmth, with authenticity, with a story.
A life that is inspired, beautiful and simply enjoyed.

So you can see why when the lovely Lauren over at Via Montebello contacted me to offer up a giveaway, I couldn't say YES fast enough.

One lucky Bird & Bravery reader will be chosen at random to receive a gorgeous Elena braided wrap ($110 Value). All you need to do is go to the site, look under 'European Chic', 'Scarves', find the braided wrap, and pick out which color you'd choose if you won (feel free to drool over the cashmere while you're there.) Leave your color choice in the comment section below and then cross your fingers! Want TWO entries to win? Just share this link on your FB page or Blog, then come back here and comment again. You'll be sharing the love, and entered twice to win.

Elena Braided Wrap in 'Antracite'

A winner will be chosen by random.org this Friday. Good Luck!

UPDATE: I used random.org to generate a random number for our winner. The lucky number is 4, Katierosefitness! Thanks to everyone for participating. Have a great weekend!

This and That

Image via pinterest

Is it just me, or are the days zooming by at an alarming speed lately? I'm already really looking forward to the lazy days of summer and it's just barely February! In the meantime, lets waste a little time on the internet, shall we? Here are some links you might find interesting...

Goodbye travel mugs & sippee cups, Hello cuppow.

And another way to go glass.

Awesome remodel of a tiny Abilene abode. (Thanks Kate!)

10 quick dinners for hectic weeknights. 

My absolute favorite print mag is now taking e-reader subscriptions. (Though I'll stick with print!)

How to do a fishtail braid. (Spotted by my amazing hairstylist.)

Your favorite Madewell looks on the cheep.

TOMS flats

Swoon.

2.01.2012

Happy Groundhog Day!

Image via etsy
Hello, dears! Here's hoping you find more sunshine then grey today. Some inspiration for a little winter cheer...

Image via etsy

How darling is this little felt garland -- it would be so simple to make, too... 


Image via etsy

 Fun for a party or in the kid's rooms.



Image via A Lady's Findings

I'm always crushing on mercury glass. Old or new, love, love, LOVE.



Image via Barry Dixon

This room is sophisticated without taking itself too seriously.



Image via Design Sponge

  Just when I think I'm more of a traditional entry type gal, this modern door comes along to give me pause.


Image via Pink Wallpaper Design

 The kids would really love this.




Image via From the Right Bank

 Happy-maker.

1.25.2012

The Magic of Kids' Birthdays

As a distraction from the inevitable January blahs that creep up about this time of year, I'm pouring myself into planing Harper's (3rd!) Birthday, which is in February. Now, I have to admit I'm a bit fanatical about celebrating the kids' birthdays because, well, mainly I love the idea of showering them with tons of love in a lavish and magical way. I want them to feel really celebrated, you know? Like their being born is worth a major party. Because it was! And it is! And they are only little for so long. Before I know it they'll be wanting me to drop them off at the Abercrombie entrance of the mall with their friends and cash and the promise to wait for their txt to come get them when they've finished shopping and flirting (sigh.)

Also, the truth is that I really love the planning part of a good old fashioned party, since it panders to my obsessive and fixating nature and luckily for me, everyone around me has just grown to accept my eccentricities when it comes to the Kids' Birthdays. For example, tonight when I showed Brandon the 82 page book of the "cut and assemble" paper carousel I ordered for a centerpiece for Harper's upcoming Mary Poppins party he didn't even looked that surprised! And earlier this week when I asked my best friend Kelly how many umbrellas a night she thought I could actually hand paint with each child's monogram for the favors, she only paused briefly before optimistically answering "three." 

Don't worry, I'll be sure to update you with the party pics. In the meantime, here are a bunch of photos of parties past... 



















1.12.2012

Recipe for Beautiful Skin

Image via http://pinterest.com/

My mother, God Bless her, has never had a single blemish in her life and in her mid-60's she has truly nary a wrinkle. Sadly, all three of her daughters didn't inherit her genes in the skin department and despite all of her well meaning advice over the years (keep your hands off your face, you'll break out! don't whistle, you'll get wrinkles!) we've had to really work at keeping up our complexions.

Now, don't get me wrong, Mom has spent pretty a penny on her skin care regimen and she does battle dry skin -- but she was just really blessed in the natural beauty department. Recently though, she visited a dermatologist in Houston who gave her the following recipe for perfect skin. I did some research, saw another dermatologist on my own, and started the regimen about a month ago. The results have been amazing. The whole texture of my skin has changed to where I am really noticing a difference - too great of a secret to not share it with you guys.

Recipe for Beautiful Skin  


Morning Regimen
1. Cleanser (I'm using CeraVe)
2. Exfoliate gently with Clarisonic Pro Brush*
3. MD Forte's Cream / Lotion I, II, or III
4. Kinerase C-8 Peptide
5. Skin Lightener (Hydroquinone 4%) - optional if you have age spots
6. Eye Treatment
7. Sunscreen EVERYDAY (I'm using Skin Medica moisturizer here with built in sunscreen)
8. Vitamin D3, 1000mg daily

Night Regimen
1. Cleanser (CeraVe)
2. Rein A, Renova, Tazorac, Ziana (Retinoids) - You need a PX for this
3. C-8 Peptide
4. Kinerese Night Repair
5. Skin Lightener (Hydroquinone) - optional if you have age spots
6. Eye treatment
7. Cetaphil Cream (I'm using the thickest one)

*Clarisonic = life changing (I've had mine a year and can't live without it).

It seems like a lot, I know. But for me the difference has been worth the time it took to track down the ingredients and the money spent on procuring them. 
Have a great week, fellow blog-land beauties!




1.02.2012

Happy New Year!

Image via lovemae
It's 2012! Can you believe it? Though I tend not to make a list of resolutions I do like to try to look back at the year before and also get a little mentally organized for the year ahead. Brandon and I usually put together a few ideas for where we'd like to put our discretionary spending, like trips we want to take or big purchases we want to make, that way we don't end up squandering all our extra dollars on  smocked clothing for Harper or tickets to Phineas and Ferb, the musical. (Okay, wait. We do a bit of that too.)

I'm excited about 2012 -- It's going to be a big year for us: a move, planning the next house, my sister's family permanently moving back to Austin, Brandon's parents finishing their home just 45 minutes away, two awesome trips in the works for spring break & summertime and the prospect of Brandon and I going away for a long weekend without the kids, which we've never ever done (I know, I know). I've also got some exciting things brewing with my writing work where I'm stepping things up a bit - should be an interesting balancing act ahead. 

And on another note, I'm leaving you with a few images from our Christmas break -- which was all sorts of cozy and magical and (mostly) heavenly.







I hope your year ahead is filled with light, love and joy!