Friday Five · summer · writing

Release {Five Minute Friday}

On Fridays the writers gather at Lisa Jo’s. We write in five minute increments like ones scared braved. We’re not supposed to edit or backtrack or over think, though everyone confesses to that at least once and that’s why there’s grace for even the most ordinary of writing tasks.

Except on Fridays five minute ordinary becomes extraordinary. Join us? Link up here and give us your five minutes on


Sometimes the build up is more than I can stand. My fingers twitch and my eyes flick and I start to breathe convulsively as I stand surrounded by mounds of laundry and last night’s crockpot soaking in the sink.

It’s just too much life.

Is there such a thing? The calendar is pretending there’s white space but really it’s just blank until I get a rehearsal schedule and there’s another calendar of deadlines and due dates and color codes for fiction and non-fiction and the pieces that don’t actually pay inside a notebook for a writer.

I’m waiting to be struck over the head with great inspiration and it’s all around. The steam is rising off the hot pavement after the summer rain and the baby boy is looking for a lawn mower and there’s zucchini in my fridge that was on the vine a mere 48 hours ago.

There’s just so much life.

My fingers twitch and can’t fly fast enough and my mind chugs along not able to keep up with the words, words, words that spill out and over and all around because how do you capture the sound of a morning bird or a summer night?

Deep breathing. Slow. Down. There’s a little white space crammed in that afternoon between the church and the dance studio and it’s at the babbling brook that winds through the forest that grew me up when I was a college intern.

The release comes sudden. The desire to put it down and just savor the words for myself without care for if anyone else will know.

living local · motherhood · summer

In Which We Camp at Don Carter State Park

I am clearly a crazy person. Do not confuse what I am about to tell you with the idea that I’m a great mom or a fun mom or a brave mom.

I am none of those things.

I am a crazy mom who gets wild ideas and then with the same incorrigible stubborness I despise in my 8 year old, I continue to pursue said crazy ideas even when the odds are stacked against me.

Oh, and then I whine about how the odds are stacked against me and I just can’t ever seem to catch a break.

Sheesh. I am a crazy person.

I took my kids camping last week. Yes, all of them. Yes, tent camping. Yes, it was raining the day we set out. Yes, we had to hike in to our site.

Yes, crazy person.

But they were so excited. And so helpful. And so thrilled to be camping and swimming in the lake. By the way, it’s perfectly acceptable to be wet while swimming, but getting wet because rain is pouring down while your crazy mother tries to set up the broken canopy is not acceptable and results in massive screaming.

Just so you know.

We had decided to check out Georgia’s newest state park, Don Carter on the shores of Lake Lanier. It’s only about 25 miles from home and has a great beach area the kids are in love with. And the most awesome playground, ever. However, it also has a truly primitive campground. They were in love with that too.

Twelve sites are nestled back in the woods and along the lake shore. They’re fairly separated from one another, so you definitely don’t feel like you’re camping on top of someone else, but the trade off? All sites require a walk in. Some more so than others. Last weekend when we scoped it out, they picked out one of the farthest sites from the parking lot. It was about 100 yards down a paved trail and another hundred or so yards up a trail through the woods.

“But, Mommy, we won’t wake up anybody else when we get up early!”

Well, there’s that for a positive.

Really, it was a great site. My only complaint is not actually the walk in, but the lack of a picnic table in the primitive sites. I for sure wasn’t carrying one of those up that trail. Our two-room twelve-person tent was enough of a load, thank you very much.

So we walked it all in. I had repacked all the gear to make it as easy as possible, planned meals around minimalist needs and cooking (Pop-tarts for the first time in months!), and steeled myself for the potential complaining when they realized just how much work this really is.

But I didn’t prepare myself adequately for ME.

You know this happens to us all the time as mothers. We plan and pack and prep for everyone else. We overlook ourselves. We forget to account for our own capacity and abilities and instead fall into the belief our kids have about us: we think we can do it all by ourselves.

Crazy person.

I can’t do anything by myself. And the last lesson I want my kids to learn is that I can. Instead, I want them to learn that the only reason mommy can do anything is because the first place I go in the morning is my knees and the second place I go is their daddy.

Problem is, sometimes I skip those two places and go straight to the throne of myself. That’s when I fall apart. Because the pressure I put on myself is infinitely greater than the expectations my Father God or my precious husband have for me.

On our first day out, I prayed and had a Bible study with my kids before we left. We talked about the verse I had studied that morning.

12 Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper].–Colossians 3:12 (AMP) 

So, Thursday was a good day despite the rain that came down and the canopy that didn’t come up and the flood that soaked all our clothes.  Thursday I had called on power outside myself to endure whatever came so that my kids would not have a crazy mama. We had all agreed to work on being patient with one another no matter what.

But apparently, I forgot all that by Friday morning when I was getting all worked up over a visit from my sister and the idea that Joshua would come in that afternoon and what if they thought I’d done everything wrong? There was dirt in the tent, no table, and Gus’s kneecaps couldn’t be found under all the scrapes and bruises. Not to mention Amelia wore the same clothes for two days because hers were still wet despite a visit to the the dryer in the posh RV campground.

I forgot, again, that not everything is always all about me. And not everything I do has to be filtered through the screen of what everyone else might think.

Expectations are not absolutes. Life is so often a series of expectations that are unrealistic and unachievable, yet we crush ourselves under the weight of failure when nothing seems to go according to plan. All week people have been asking me if our trip was fun, if it was worth it, if we had a good time. I tend to say it would be more worth it had it been longer, had I been more patient, had it not rained.

But my kids? Just like that time we hiked Tallulah Gorge, they figured it was worth it all along. You know why? They’re expectations were simple: we camp and we swim. Only mine were outlandish.

We camp. We are happy the whole time. No one fights. We sing in the rain. We do everything right so no one can find fault or say they’d have done it differently.

You know what? I’d be really crazy not to like the expectations they have of me a lot better than the ones I have of myself.

Yes, I’ll do it again sometime. But this time? I’ll raise my hands in praise and lower my voice of expectation.

Don Carter really is a great place for families to camp, hike, swim, and play. Check it and other wonderful state parks out here. · summer

Finding that Summer Niche (and my Reading List)

We took them to camp yesterday. I miss them already, which is a conundrum because last week when they were home I yelled a little too much. It’s that whole adjusting to summer routine that takes about two weeks. But if I send them off for a week, I’m afraid we’ll never get adjusted.

Too late now.

They’re at Camp Strong Rock this week because I won a raffle. So Annabelle got to go after all, and I’m a little panicky over that. I mean she’s a tough kid. And by tough, I mean picky. I’m trying really hard not to be that parent, so instead I texted my friend Kristi because her husband is the camp director.

See, totally not that parent.

I’m lucky I have friends who put up with me.

In the meantime, I’ve got paperwork for the arts camp they attend and I lead in a couple weeks, VBS volunteers to wrangle, and a beach trip menu to plan.

Because naturally I’m concerned about what we’ll have besides low country boil and homemade pizza.We’re going to Edisto with some friends this year and I’m pretty sure they’ll wish they hadn’t agreed to vacation with the menu planner who is currently writing a novel set at the vacation destination. I plan to get my toes in the sand, and my fingers on a keyboard in the history museum.

Speaking of that novel, I learned at my writer’s conference that one of the most important things you can do as a writer is read.

Gosh, this job is so hard sometimes.

So here’s a smidge of my summer reading list.

I actually already finished The Road to Testament (and it was fabulous).  It was written by Eva Marie Everson, whose encouragement at Blue Ridge made me believe this might actually happen someday. The Wedding Dress is by Rachel Hauck who made me feel so welcome over breakfast one morning that I couldn’t wait to read one of her stories. So far, I’m rounding out novels this summer with a little Barbara Kingsolver, because I really like her style and The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor, which is for my book club.

I’m also finishing A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman. It’s one of those books I pick up and put down because I like to ponder in between. And I can’t wait to finally crack open Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch. Someday I’d love to be a part of the Mercy House Ministry the Lord has given her.

In the meantime, I’m finding new little niches of my own this summer. The kids and I were planning a lazy July, but then the big girls and I got cast in The King and I, so we’ll be hanging out at the theater a good bit. But we’re going to make time for hiking and swimming and picnics and reading since that was all they wanted when we made our bucket list last week.

I officially stepped down from MOPS in May, and am fully embracing the call to write and freelance. I’ve got several projects in the works and the kids are starting to see this as mommy’s job, so that’s helping. In addition to the novel, I’m working on some pieces for magazine submission, marketing for my friends Chris and Heidi’s farm, and of course, still musing at the local paper. I’m telling you all this because I want you faithful blog readers to know that while this is certainly not going away, I am going to slow it down for summer and get caught up on begin mom first and writer second. My goal is to write here at least twice a week. I’ve got some more giveaways planned too, so don’t go away!

As I slow down posting, I’m going to be taking the time to employ some of the great blogging advice I received at Blue Ridge as well.  Hopefully it will make my site more user friendly and keep you coming back. Until then, have a beautiful week and enjoy all the beauty summer has to offer….fresh vegetables…ice cream…starry nights….mildewing bathing suits because someone forgot to hang it up….

you get the idea.

Did you read about how my kids were all in a wedding? I’m still a puddle over the adorableness.

gardening · · living local · summer · whole foods

The Best Tomato Sauce Ever

The tomatoes are overtaking our garden, and thereby, my countertops.  This picture really doesn’t do them justice.  The container in the background represents a half-hours work of scalding and peeling and chopping only to turn around and realize I missed all these that the girls had piled on the kitchen table.

Oh, and that’s some basil with them.  We’re making tomato sauce tonight.

Which means we had to venture down to the farmer’s market for an onion or two, which means we came home with a watermelon, peaches, zucchini, three onions, and Amelia stole some crayons.

My girls are having an enlightening summer.  Madelynne just realized that spaghetti sauce is actually made from tomatoes.  I’m not sure what she thought it was made from before, ketchup maybe?  Of course, that’s made from tomatoes too.  But they’re not going to admit they actually like tomatoes.

What they like, though, is finding them at summer’s peak hiding behind the leaves that are just starting to wilt from summer’s heat. And they like when I make big pots of this homemade sauce and then ladle it on pizza crust or homemade bread.

They like tomatoes a lot. Too bad they don’t realize that yet.

Basic Tomato Sauce (adapted from Simply in Season)

You will need:
a quality food processor
an apron
some patience
a tolerance for heat

1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic (or 2 tsp garlic powder)
2 large carrots (or more if you like)
1/2 green pepper (or the whole pepper, your call)
2 tsp dried basil (2 tbsp if fresh)
1 tsp dried oregano (1 tbsp if fresh)
1 tsp dried thyme (1 tbsp if fresh)
6-8 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes (about 12-15 romas is best)
6-10 oz tomato paste depending upon how thick you like your sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp honey or sugar to cut acidity if desired

Begin by peeling and quartering your onion. Put it in the food processor and chop it finely. If using garlic cloves, process those too. Saute the onion and garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil until soft. I do this in the bottom of my pot. Peel and chop carrots, then shred in food processor. Same with green pepper. Add vegetables to saute. Add seasonings and stir well. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Allow sauce to simmer at least 30 minutes. Then serve, freeze, or can.

**To peel tomatoes, immerse in boiling water until the skin starts to crack. Remove using slotted spoon and lay on towels to cool. When able to be handled, peel over a bowl using a paring knife. Chop tomatoes directly into another bowl.
**I freeze mine in quart size zip top bags. Let cool before sealing.
**To can, ladle into hot sterilized jars within 1/2 inch of the top. Add 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar per pint to assure acidity, seal with sterilized lids, and process full jars in a water bath for 35 minutes. Makes about 4 pints or two quarts. I usually double the recipe to make it worth my time.

This recipe is really forgiving and is a great base to making the sauce your own. Try spicing up a store bought can of tomatoes. Puree the tomatoes for a really thin sauce or leave it chunky and go garden style. I love the addition of carrots now in any tomato based dish. They add the right amount of sweetness and are one more way I’m sneaking vegetables into my kids.

What’s your favorite food to top with tomato sauce?

Disclosure: I found this unpublished post in my draft box and wanted to get it up to go along with my list of favorite homemade recipes. Right now it’s only April, so I’m not drowning in tomatoes. Yet. 

family · Friends · · linkups · summer

Freedom Walking and Hot Air Balloons {Behind the Scenes}

Hot air balloons and I seem to enjoy a last minute relationship.  Maybe it’s because in and of themselves the balloons seem to evoke a sense of spontaneity that is often absent from my planned and scheduled attempts at motherhood, or maybe it’s just simply because if I ponder a decision involving gas money, restaurants, and extra cash for too long, I talk myself out of it.

I’m so glad I didn’t back out of this one.

Callaway Gardens was hosting a weekend of balloon themed festivities and admission was half-price if you arrived before 9 a.m. So on Friday evening, we put on hold everything that was wringing our life out and gave ourselves over to children and friends and sunshine.

We slept over at with our friends Brooke and Matt, who are are the kind of friends who don’t mind when you call at bedtime on Thursday night to say you’ll be there tomorrow.  They’re the kind of friends who are totally on board with waking up six kids at daylight to see a spectacle of color against a misty morning sky.

The downed balloon beachside was called “Freedom Walk” and inside children squealed and floundered on the grass with beach balls.  The air was close and humid, but the vision was breathtaking, a kaleidoscope of colors that burned brightly as the morning sun rose higher.

We picnicked and swam and for the first time all summer, my children could play with their daddy.  He’s made a near full recovery.  It’s amazing how quickly we can forget what really matters. I’d been drowning in a sea of hopelessness and I’d forgotten that for a time before this summer began, I had realized just how precious life can be.

After Amelia and I rode that hot air balloon in June, I realized it was the fire that lifts those balloons into the air to catch a breath of wind and fly away.  

And as much as I’d like to believe it so, that’s never a spontaneous act.  It’s carefully planned and considered and just the right amount of fuel is used to carry that brightness into the sky.  

So the same for us: these fires that seem so insurmountable in life? 
If we let Him, a great and merciful God can use that fire to carry us to a far better place.

Joining with Crystal Stine and an amazing community of women this week who dare to bare the soul behind the pictures.  Tell me, what’s behind your scene?