Winter Greys and Hygge

January has come.  She has come greeting us with dark, frosted mornings and chilly fingers.  She has come with mittens and hats sprawled across the floor, and endless layers, but no snow.

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We had a delicious winter break, fully equipped with late starts, no agenda, and lots of time spent at home playing.  We are incrementally creeping back into our normal routine…this week makes week 2 of being back to school (so we really should have it together!).

How many of us have hit mid January and shouted, “Sun where are you?”  I’ve been there.  The grey has tinted not just my walls, but my mindset.

This is where the wonderful concept of Hygge has lightened my winter woes.  A few winters ago I took it upon myself to do a little self study of the Danish lifestyle tradition – Hygge.  A tradition centered around the feeling of cozy contentment and well-being through enjoyment of the simple things in life.

If you have ever enjoyed a good book on a rainy day, or the pleasures of a random snow, you’ve experienced hygge.  As freedom is to Americans, Hygge is to the Danish.   Instead of wishing away winter, hygge calls for us to get comfy and cozy.  Hygge is a feeling.  The term has no literal translation in English, but is frequently described as ‘togetherness’ and ‘coziness’.

It is the “art form of creating intimacy in any given moment.”  And who of us couldn’t use a little bit more of that?  It’s friends gathered around the fireplace with full bellies after breaking bread.  It’s lusciously soft blankets, and chunky knit pillows to welcome rest.  It’s favorite photographs and art, and hobbies that encourage us to stop and slow down.

So as another brisk January morning greets me, I am lighting my favorite candle during breakfast and hygge’ing my way into the new day!




3 Podcasts for Busy Moms

I spend approximately forty to fifty minutes everyday in the car.  I’m driving to the office, I’m picking up kids, and I’m out running errands.  I’ve become obsessed with the idea that I can learn something while I’m driving! What better use of time in the car, then to do some laughing, learning, and self-reflection.  I’ve reviewed three of my top fav podcasts below. I encourage you all to check out one of these podcasts next time you find yourself sitting in traffic or the school pick up line.  Tune in and recharge!  I bet you will find yourself encouraged and inspired.

1.  The Next Right Thing with Emily P. Freeman.  This podcast is my go-to every Image result for the next right thingmorning.  For second-guessers, the chronically hesitant, or anyone who suffers from decision fatigue, best-selling author and host Emily P. Freeman helps create a little space for your soul to breathe so you can discern your next right thing in love. Because out of the thousands of decisions you make everyday, chances are a few of them threaten to keep you up at night. If you’re in a season of transition, waiting, general fogginess or if you’ve ever searched “how to make a decision” on the internet, listen in.  Each episode is 15-20 minutes long. Short, sweet, and encouraging!

2.  For the Love! with Jen Hatmaker.  For the love of … People. Home. Stories. Image result for jen hatmaker for the love podcastShoes. Family. Jesus. Community. TV. Accessories. Food. Culture. The New York Times best-selling author and star of HGTV’s “My Big Family Renovation,” invites you to drop by and catch up with her friends as they laugh and share about all the things we love. Jen Hatmaker keeps it real, and keeps me laughing.  I love the guests she has on the show, many are authors of the books I end up reading next, or the entrepreneurs I now follow.  She has seasonal themes for her podcasts, such as For the Love of People. For the Love of Women Who Built It.  For the Love of Laughter.  Her guests will inspire you!

3.  Going Scared Podcast with Jessica HonneggerIn case you haven’t heard of Jessica, Image result for going scared podcastshe is the Founder and co-CEO of Noonday Collection jewelry (jewelry and accessories sourced around the world from fair trade artisan partners).  In each episode of The Going Scared Podcast, Jessica walks you through what it looks like to move through your fears toward a life of impact and meaning. Join Jessica and change-makers from around the world and from your backyard for a bi-weekly conversation that will motivate and encourage you. Ready to make your move?  I love the Going Scared Podcast because it forces you to ask yourself questions, and reflect on what is most meaningful among all the noise of our daily lives.

Let me know what you think, and comment with your favorite podcast below!




On Raising Babies

When I was pregnant with my twins I scoured the internet for resources. I wanted to learn everything I possibly could to help us (hubby too!) prepare for their arrival.  What did I find…not much.  Apparently after you have twins you don’t have a lot of time to write about having twins (I get it now!)

What I did find were other twin mommas who so graciously shared the real and the raw about raising two babies at one time.  I struggled with things like how to cook dinner during the witching hour, how to consume 2500+ calories while pregnant, and how to manage going out in public when they started walking (in two different directions!).  These mommas formed my tribe, and I thank Jesus for them and their quiet encouragement they gave, especially during the first year.

When you learn you are expecting, a million questions go through your mind.  When you find out you are expecting twins, your legs shake and you smile (you also hold your husbands hand and squeeze it till he’s lost circulation) while you digest the big news! You are thrilled, and wowed all at once. You ask yourself, how did this happen…and you trust God has a lot more confidence then you have in yourself.

I knew having twins would be one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life.  I wouldn’t change a thing about our journey, and in fact we loved this part of our journey so much that we went on to have another baby.  Child rearing has made the relationship between my sweet husband and I that much stronger.  When you get up together during the middle of the night, when the rest of the world is asleep, and each feed a small (4.5 lbs.) baby, something magical happens.  All the world is silent in that moment, you make eye contact (because you don’t dare say anything to wake those babies up even more) and you realize your family is your world.

So to all the mommas and daddies out there wondering if they are doing it right, waking up in the middle of the night, gathering your tribe around the table with a homemade meal, and looking for the answers…keep going!  As my dear friend Dr. Seuss says, “to the world you may be one person; but to one person you may by the world.”

The Vine that Ate the South

kudzu“I thought the whole world would someday be covered by it, that it would grow as fast as Jack’s beanstalk, and that every person on earth would have to live forever knee-deep in its leaves.”

Good Old Boy: A Delta Boyhood by Willie Morris

When I first moved south, it was early spring.  The heat and humidity of the summer was just rolling in.  My thick hair was adapting to its new southern shape (think triangular Christmas tree a three year old draws).  Everything was in full bloom. The Redbuds, the Dogwoods, and even the Kudzu.  It was as if Mother Nature had rolled out the red carpet for me.

Kudzu was something I had never encountered before.  A strange vine like plant that seemed to wrap its ventricles around every square inch of this scruffy little county.  An invasive like creature, slowly taking over the entire city.  I was apprehensive, even a little anxious. Would it wrap its leafy fingers around me and swallow me whole (Christmas tree hair and all)?

I have vivid memories of my first summer here.  Of driving past  jungles of Kudzu and seeing what appeared to be entire neighborhoods engulfed in its snake like vines.  Behind the lush, green leaves was really a lurking monster.  When my mom came to visit, she remarked, “It looks like there are homes, and cars, and hidden cities beneath that stuff.  How deep is it?”  It was true; I could see shadowy outlines of whole farms and communities.  Places people had abandoned and let Mother Nature lease.  A type of natural menagerie. It was like the Secret Garden, gone desperately wild.

Kudzu was everywhere.  I’d ask my coworkers about it, and they would just gently nod and acknowledge that it was a permanent resident.  People accepted that this foreign exchange student had come to stay.  No one was trying to get rid of it.  Instead, people let it eat the things they no longer wanted.  At least that is how I made sense of it all.

So, I did my homework.  If I was going to live down here, I needed to have some peace about the plant that had the potential to consume my home.  I was right. The monster is highly aggressive.  Kudzu grows at a rate of one foot per day, and mature vines can be 100 feet long.  And farmers were actually encouraged to plant kudzu between the 1930s-1950s to prevent soil erosion.  Well evidently, this area ran a successful awareness campaign (complete with posters) because more than a few farmers in the county planted and mothered this beast into existence.

I’ve come to accept the kudzu.  I won’t say we are friends, but I no longer fear that I might wake up one day to find that the green monster has made a house call.  The kudzu is an iconic part of the south. She plays a special role in our southern ecosystem.  For this snake like, vine eating monster is actually the queen of hiding things we no longer want to see.

The Great Northern and Southern Union


In 2009, I married a southern boy, the man of my dreams.  He won me over with his dreamy southern accent and manners to write home about.  The ceremony was a beautiful, fall event on the lawn of a historic southern home. Yes, I said that right—fall.  In fact, the-other-side-of-Halloween  and how-soon-can-we put-up-Christmas-lights part of fall.  And you know what? It was a sunny, 80-degree day in the hills of East Tennessee when we said, “I do.”  It ended up being so sunny that day, that my soon to be husband was squinting to see me as I walked down the aisle.  He jokes the only thing brighter than the sun was my smile.  Southern charm and warm falls, more reasons to live in the south.

Yes, the tales you hear about the weather down south are true.  There are occasional 70-degree days in January, Indian summers that stretch into November, and, yes, guests could have worn flip-flops and linen shirts to our late fall wedding… if the weather served as their only fashion barometer.  The harshness of the northern winter is unbearable once you experience a southern snowstorm.  Southern snow happens two to three time a year, rarely sticks, and when it does kids and adults get a snow day!

We decided to marry in Tennessee because it represented us best.  My husband is from a small, little town (population size 10,736) in the middle of rural Tennessee.  I am from a mid-sized, bustling suburb of 50,000 northwest of Chicago.  We met in south Florida and managed a long distance relationship through several years, two graduate degrees, four jobs, and many road trips with stays in places like Boston, Washington, DC; and Key Largo, Florida.  Knoxville was our place, the place where we chose to start our life and set our roots.  It was also a neutral meeting ground for my northern and his southern family.

By bringing our families and friends together in Tennessee, I hoped they would gain a more intimate look at our life, my decision to marry a southern boy, and my new fondness for other things southern (seersucker, no state income taxes, and sweet tea).

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The venue was a historic confederate home nestled amongst the banks of the Tennessee River.  You read that correctly, a confederate home.  They still exist.  The Bleak House, named after the Charles Dickens novel, was not bleak at all but a beautiful plantation home maintained by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Chapter 89.  As you can imagine, this setting had my northern and his southern guests up in arms (armed not with guns, but jokes).  Our union brought together the north and south, but this time in peace and celebration.  During the Civil War, this home served as headquarters for the Confederate Lt. General James Longstreet during the Siege of Knoxville.  For our wedding, it served as the first official meeting ground for my northern and his southern family.

My husband really loves me, as he reminds me every time he brings up that our wedding broke a cardinal rule of being a southerner – don’t get married, have children, or commit to any other annual activity on a college football Saturday.  Explosions periodically interrupted the beautiful outdoor ceremony, as the University of Tennessee Volunteer football team played its homecoming game only a short two miles down the river.  Every time the team scored, an impressive round of fireworks celebrated the accomplishment.  The preacher performing the ceremony, my husband’s brother, joked that the Civil War had started again (canons not fireworks) and that the Yankees were back in town (meaning my relatives).  I will get into that word Yankee in another story.

It was a riot watching the two cultures come together.  His sweet, country Granny and my true German Oma conversed over a glass of sweet tea.  His family shared their traditional style of buck dancing.  Mine shared a piece of Black Forest German chocolate cake.  Somewhere in the festivities I began to feel at ease about my new Southern life, and based on the smiles and laughs of the guests, I knew my relatives would still claim me.

Even today, my northern relatives tell stories of my southern wedding.  They tell their friends it was a legendary wedding, unlike any other.  Not only did it have sweet tea and sunny 80-degree fall weather, but it also was the day the north and south came together to celebrate a union.