Friday, December 31, 2010

A Decade of Life Change.

Instead of looking past on just the last year, it might be more interesting to reflect all that has taken place in the past decade of my life.

Survived Y2K.
Discovered a love for theatre.
Learned to play guitar.
My older sister got married as I continued to search for the love of my own life.
Graduated high school thinking it was a big event in life and I would be close to my friends forever.
Discovered the thrill of art and design.
Took my first trip by air.
Found out I could sing.
Jumped into two serious relationships (not simultaneously) and broke hearts.
Experienced what it was like to be rejected by the church.
Felt what it was like to fail my parents.
Tasted my first desire for world travel.
Found out I was a sinner too.
Survived the rebel in my soul.
Moved to Arkansas. She needed Wide Open Spaces.  ...and a decent education.
Swore off relationships for at least a couple of years,
Then met the man I wanted to marry and asked him out to ballroom dancing.
Asked the hardest questions about my faith.
Experienced true acceptance and mercy.
Crammed 4 years worth of graphic design education into 2.5 years.
Traveled to and fell in love with the Northwest USA.
Met the Pacific Ocean and Cascade Mountains.
Experienced culture shock for the first time in the Morgan log cabin.
Left the United States for the first time to eat ice cream. 
Convinced the weirdest guy in the world to marry me.
Made the second biggest commitment of my life and gave up my Neumanhood.
Received my BS in Graphic Design.
Moved to the Northwest USA.
Learned to snowboard.
Made new friends with Shane's Whitworth College friends.
Saw the large reality of homelessness in the city.
Made a decision to have a baby.
Almost lost my father-in-law.
Obtained and quit my first design job in 6 months time.
Ran away to the backwoods of Idaho and lived with the moose and wolves.
Developed an appreciation for isolation.
Made friends with lumberjacks.
Welcomed my younger sister's first child and walked in her wedding.
Did my own research, decided to have a natural birth and came out of the experience a new woman.
Fell in love with the sweetest little boy in the WORLD.
Moved back to Spokane taking a big leap from stay-at-home mom to full-time designer.
Became friends with the homeless and grew a passion for helping the poor.
Developed friendships like I've never known before.
Accepted and conquered my first challenge of rebranding a company.
Traveled overseas for the first time to Indonesia and will never be the same.
Said a final goodbye to my last three grandparents in one year.
Experienced the amazing love and community of the church.
Decided with Shane to become a family of four.
Said a final goodbye to Shane's grandpa and played/sang at his military funeral.
Almost lost my father-in-law again.
Found contentment in the city.
Fell in love with the happiest little boy in the WORLD and felt my heart grow larger and fuller than ever.
Celebrated the birth of my sister's second child/first daughter.
Reentered the working world as a mother of two.
Started a new endeavor to learn and experience the spiritual disciplines.
Experienced my first Christmas without being homesick for Illinois.
Almost stayed up until midnight to celebrate the coming of 2011.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My 3 year old

Oliver is 3 now. He's so big! And so little.

Three is the age I started to retain memories of life.
My dad says he remembers his kids most when we were two and three.
There's a sweet innocence and an excitement for life and learning.
People say that time flies and your kids are grown before you know it. But I don't exactly feel like these last few years have flown by. Instead I feel like Oliver has always been a part of my life. My life before him is so distant and seems decades ago. The girl I was before him seems so vastly different. My emotions, my motives, my strongest desires have changed.

One thing I realized this past week is that I used to think I knew what intense emotion was. I used to think I knew what it was like to experience love and attachment to its fullest. But I had NO IDEA the intensity of emotion and love I would experience when becoming a parent. It's the kind of intensity you can die from. That's how it feels. It's amazing. And it started with Oliver 3 years ago. My existence will never be the same.

I'm yours forever, Oliver.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Benjamin, 3 months

Benjamin turns 3 months today! He is changing so quickly. Faster than I remember Oliver changing.

He giggles and squeals with laughter at so many things. Especially Daddy. And his mirrored reflection.
He's drooling like crazy. Are teeth coming early? Like, really early?
He's kicking like crazy, strengthening those muscles and pushes against the floor to stand.
He's showing interest in his hands and tries to grab things (hasn't quite mastered that yet).
He is definitely the most social 3 month old I've ever met. He'll smile and coo at almost anyone who looks him in the eye. Even when he's tired and a bit grumpy, he loves personal interaction.
Shane just discovered he likes his head rubbed. He smiles real big and even gives a giggle when we rub his soft little head. So cute!

We are adjusting with my second week back at work. He takes a bottle very well and loves being with Daddy, so it has been an easy transition so far. I keep a picture at my desk and talk with Shane a couple times a day, so I don't feel so far away. I am very happy with how Benjamin is growing and adapting to life in this world. Who would have thought there would be room in our itty bitty home and itty bitty hearts for another person. I never thought I could love someone like I love Oliver. But of course I do. Benjamin brings a whole new kind of life to our home. His energy and delight for life is so refreshing and motivating. He fits perfectly with us.


Monday, November 22, 2010

I needed this.

I needed days of inspiration and relaxation. I've needed it for months.

I took some pictures today of my pieces of inspiration. And Oliver and Benjamin were such good boys that I actually had time to be inspired and chill. Here's to hoping for more days like these, especially before I return to work in two weeks. Cheers!

Woke up to this. All kinds of inspirational flurries!

Coffee. Today with Peppermint Mocha creamer.

These guys. Always inspiring. And stinkin' cute.

Played my Sufjan Stevens (Holiday) Radio all day.

New iMac + CS5 = holy moly i'm excited

Ginger thinspiration! (i can't help myself)

Learning to crochet. Easier than knitting.

My favorite winter accessories. Wore them to the dentist today.

Thanks, Mary, for letting me dive into your books. So far, so fun.

Sleep in any form yields a harvest of inspiration.

Oh my goodness, I can't hardly breathe. Benjamiiiiiin!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Swoon.

Happy 27th to my husband of 4.5 years. He is so special, but gets embarrassed when I publicly dote on him, so I'll restrain myself and just post some pictures of him at different stages in our life together. :) xoxo

At the Idaho ranch.

Seattle. My first trip to Washington when we were just dating.

Newly engaged.

Another ranch photo.

College days.

I barely knew him, but thought he was so dang cute.

At the ranch. The craziest snow ever.

My boyfriend gave himself a mohawk for a night. This was when I first met his brother, Moshe.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

2 months old!

Oh, baby Benjamin. You have squeezed yourself into my already full heart. These past two months have flown by but I'm surprised at how normal life feels with you. It's like we've been waiting for you all our lives. Expecting you. I have never seen a 2-month-old as happy as you are. Your smile is infectious. I can't get enough of it! You smile at almost anyone who smiles at you, and lately you've been cooing at me and attempt this thing called conversation. You are very social for someone so small. Thanks for sleeping so well lately. I've really needed it. And thanks for getting over that phase of hating diaper changes. Now you laugh and happily kick when I take off your diaper. And bath time is a favorite as well. You almost kicked out of my hands last time. Don't swim away! I especially love it when you smile and "laugh" at Oliver. I can tell he loves it when you do. He always wants to stroke your hair and cheeks and is constantly proclaiming his love for you. Today he said, "He's getting bigger and bigger!" I think he's excited to play with you. Sharing is not something he is very good at yet, but he might make an exception for you because you're so fun to be with. I think your eyes are turning brown. They're still a mixture of blue and brown, but they are definitely darker. You look a lot like I did as a baby and I wouldn't mind a bit if you ended up with chestnut hair and eyes. And freckles. :) But we'll hope for non-bowed legs, yeah? Anyway....

We are SO IN LOVE with you, Benjamin. Our family is so full now in a whole new way. I hope we can give you some exciting adventures and prepare you for the person you're meant to be.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Home

I said goodbye to mom and dad on Tuesday. Hard. I smiled when we hugged and cried as I drove off. It felt like a piece of me was leaving. A part of me grieves every time I say goodbye to any of my family.  But when I saw Spokane's skyline I suddenly felt a warm, homey feeling. This is my home and I love it. It might be the first time I've felt like this about Spokane. I used to despise this strange city that crowded me. It was a place where neighbors barely made eye contact and church felt like a big company meeting where my input wasn't really needed. I still have a hard time sometimes. It's easy to feel alone and I often spend entire days inside because I honestly don't know what else to do. I long so much for a simple country life where being alone is an expected and comfortable feeling. But right now I somehow am content where I live and it seems a more friendly place than ever before. Maybe it's the fall weather.

Having my parents here was like having a vacation. It's easy, at least for me, to share a house with them. It almost felt like we were somewhere else in a cabin, eating more food than usual and bumming around. I did hardly any housework (thanks mom!) and mom wanted to hold Benjamin almost every time he cried. It really was a vacation. We watched PBS shows, shopped at thrift stores, ate lots of food and played with the boys. I didn't take enough pictures (sorry). But it was so wonderful and I look forward to their next trip up. We even discussed road tripping and meeting half way sometime.

It's hard being away from my family. But I have slowly been digging my roots into the Northwest, even into this little neighborhood. It's wonderful making your own adventure in a new land. I realized as I drove my parents through town that I knew my way around Spokane really well. I knew shortcuts and scenic routes. I found my way to the historical mansions on the South Hill even though I had only come by them accidentally before. It reminds me of when I left Illinois to go to school in Arkansas and I was sad to leave a place where the roads were so familiar. I like familiar roads and knowing shortcuts to places. It has taken me a long time to get to that place again.



Love you, Dad and Mom. See you again soon.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oh, the mix of motherhood.

I wrote these entries on two very different days, but they balance both the bliss and the heavy load of being a mother.

10.5.10

Benjamin is three weeks old!

Amazing how close I feel to him and how it feels like we've known each other forever. His face is so familiar.

He is sleeping wonderfully (about 4 hour stretches at night) and eating very well. He has, however, become more fussy. I'm pretty sure he has gas problems, poor kid. A little patience and different positions usually help that though. Sometimes it's just a wet diaper. I've been trying different folds with the cloth diapers in order to find out what is most comfortable for him and what won't leak. I'm doing A LOT of laundry, but fortunately, it's probably the one house chore I don't really mind doing (usually).

Oliver hasn't really shown jealousy or disappointment. He says countless times throughout the day, "I love Benjamin." He loves to touch his little feet and pet his soft baby hair. But Shane and I are definitely experiencing the difficulty of spreading our attention to two kids as opposed to one. It just takes more effort to not leave one out when another is requiring so much of you. We both feel somehow closer to Oliver though and I think it's because our attention to him is more intentional. He is at the forefront of our mind because we want to be careful not to let him be forgotten. Shane said today, "How can my love for Oliver grow even more when I have two sons to give my love to now?" But I know exactly what he means. Before Benjamin, we were comfortable as a family of three and things got predictable and normal. But now that things aren't so comfortable we're pulling together even more and appreciate more what we are as a family.

It has been wonderful to have days at home. I needed this time off whether or not we had a baby. Work can become so consuming and it's nice to just let it go. Shane is helping fill in for me when I'm gone so I don't feel completely disconnected. I haven't decided if I'm glad about that. But I AM glad for the extra income and for Shane to have a regular outlet for his creativity.

10.9.10

"MOMMYYYYYY! MOMMYYYYYYYYYYY! I go pee!"

That was my morning alarm today. He peed. In bed.
Stumbling out of bed after a night full of pee issues with both my kids I can't believe this is how the day is starting.
Take him to the bathroom. Strip him down. Wipe him down. He's crying. Sigh. "It's ok, Oliver. It's ok."
Take him to his bedroom. Strip the bed. Get him new underwear.
Take him to the kitchen. Stick him in the high chair with some cereal.
Start a new load of laundry with literally every single pair of underwear Oliver owns because these last two days have been full of out-of-the-blue accidents. I thought we were over this, Oliver! I feel horrible because there's apparently something in that little brain of yours that is suddenly not connecting to the bladder. Why? Have we been unknowingly neglecting you? You seem perfectly normal on the outside, but are your emotions in upheaval on the inside? I'm sorry, Oliver.

I guess I'll have some cereal too. "Mommy, some juice?" Ok. Here's some juice. "Mommy, Elmo slippers?" Seriously, Oliver, you can be such a prince. Ok. Here are your slippers.
NOW, I'll have some cereal. 2 minutes of quiet breakfast. But not really quiet. My mind is suddenly very loud.

I need to do a second load of laundry once this one is done. This kitchen needs swept REALLY BAD; it's embarrassing. I can't believe I made that huge error in the checkbook. I wonder why stuff like that has to happen and how I can avoid making mathematical mistakes when I'm functioning like a zombie with kids. I hope Shane still isn't upset about it. Money somehow doesn't really bother me like it does him. When is my mother-in-law showing up? Today? Tomorrow? Maybe she'll sweep my kitchen. No, I should just do it. It will take 5 minutes. After I do the dishes. Later.

I hear Benjamin cry in the other room. I get up, then it stops. Oh yeah, Shane's in there with him. He can take care of him for now. "Mommy I done." Me too. I'm tired. It's Saturday. I turn on cartoons for Oliver then check on Benjamin. He's asleep on Shane's chest on the bed. They look so peaceful. Maybe I should go back to bed. Is it bad to sit your toddler in front of the TV then go back to bed? Hmm. I'll just stay up and watch cartoons too.

I wish I had time and energy to just sit and read. Or print out some pictures for those empty frames. Or even make a pot of coffee. But I feel like if I go back to bed I'll just have to crawl out of it again and that's a very disappointing feeling.

*This blog was cut short by who knows what.*

Let's end on a good note....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Benjamin's Arrival


Monday evening I went to bed assuming that baby's due date, September 14, would come and go and soon be forgotten. Last Friday's OB appointment gave me reason to think this baby might wait another week. 10:00 p.m. rolled around and I was still trying to get comfortable in bed when I experienced the first of many painful contractions. By 6:00 a.m. Oliver was up and eating breakfast and my contractions were 8 minutes apart. I woke Shane and Amanda up so we could get ready for the hospital, trying to not be too excited in case my uterus was just faking it. I've heard so many stories about labor not really being labor and it seemed too good to be true for this baby to come on his due date.

Unlike my first labor experience (3.5 hour drive, 6 inches of slush and trees in the road) we only had a 15 minute drive to the hospital and even had time to swing by the Mission for Shane to drop off some paper work and inform the folks there that I would not be coming in for work. Contractions: 6 minutes apart. We arrived at the OBGYN clinic so my cervix could be checked. I was so fearful of the doctor saying I was only 2 centimeters and would have to go back home until I was REALLY in labor. This had to be real labor. It certainly felt like it and I have been more than ready for awhile now. C'mon baby, let's do this!

Thankfully, I was 5 centimeters and almost completely effaced. YES. We got to the hospital and experienced a very real deja vu as they directed us to the exact same room Oliver was born in and told us I was the only patient in the labor ward....same as when we were here December 24, 2007. Artie, my nurse, thoughtfully studied my birth plan. And thankfully this labor was different in that I felt like the nurses and my doctor let things move along without giving much input unless I asked for it. I was fortunate to have been the only patient the entire day. The staff didn't seem rushed or preoccupied at all. Time ticked and I dilated very slowly. Contractions were fairly easy to get through. I didn't even need Shane to lean on for most of the day and Oliver and Amanda were able to stay in the room with us. The atmosphere stayed pretty calm for a long time. Oliver was such a good kid. The nurses complimented him over and over. He was happy with his Curious George books and his little DVD player. And to tell you the truth, having Oliver in the room really relaxed me. His little happy heart was a great comfort. I wanted him close as long as possible. My friend Ruth showed up some time after lunch bringing fruit, crackers and sandwiches (the crackers were the only thing I could touch). She came to support me in whatever way she could and immediately stepped into a helpful role that I didn't even know I needed. She gave me incredible back rubs, foot rubs, braided my hair and talked with me about her labor experience. I'm not one to ask for extra help, but it has been offered so much lately and I assume it's because I need it. I just don't always know it. I didn't know my back was so tense and how comforting it would be to have someone play with my hair. She was a sister when mine could not be there.

Similar to my labor with Oliver, my water did not break. And labor was slow. I decided at 8 centimeters and after about 20 hours of labor it was time for my doctor to break my water. Contractions were becoming intense and I was losing energy. I didn't have breakfast or lunch or dinner that day and was surviving off of yogurt, crackers and sips of juice from earlier. But now it was just ice chips for me and two incredible coaches to hold me through. I didn't realize how important Shane and Ruth would be, but in those last few hours I needed them as close as possible. They were keeping me focused, keeping me sane and loving me as much as they could. After the doctor broke my water he said I was almost ready to start pushing and I could do some smaller pushes to practice and sort of test myself to see how ready I felt. I decided to try small pushes as the urges became stronger and it actually felt really good. I felt less pain and it seemed to give me more energy as I focused my efforts during each contraction. Ruth and Shane were so encouraging as they seemed genuinely impressed with each push. I've been anxious about pushing since my experience with my first labor was not very good. It felt forced rather than natural and I pushed for over 2 hours while never really feeling a real urge.

Suddenly the urges became so strong I had no control over my pushes. I wasn't going to be able to wait for the doctor to show up. Thankfully the nurse found the doctor, they got me in the delivery position and I heard him say "Get everyone else in hear right now! This baby is coming!" It was very painful and intense. But it was exciting because I felt like my body was doing what it had to without my having to tell it. I remember hearing my self yelling as I pushed (how can anyone be quiet while pushing so hard??) and remember trying to cry out "Jesus" but barely being able to get my mouth around the word. But my head was crying out to Him to be close and help me survive this. For some reason I kept my eyes shut for the entire last segment of labor. More people I don't even remember (probably because my eyes were shut) gathered into the room and I felt like it was almost the end when my doctor said, "Okay, Jessica, now stop. Don't. Do. Anything." My mind was so confused by that statement. How on earth can I stop myself? I wasn't in control! But I guess I was because I stopped myself and just breathed deeply as I trembled against the urge to push. Then doctor said, "The baby is going to come out on his own. Don't do anything and he's going to slowly come out." SLOWLY?? The last thing I want is for this last part to go slowly. Let's get this over with! But I trusted my doctor and those last few seconds were strange and definitely slow. But they were just seconds. Then I was instructed to gently and slowly push the baby out the rest of the way. Apparently I did it right. I heard something about a cord being around the neck and then baby was here. I heard a cry and heard them suck out the fluid from his throat and the cry became louder. Then I pulled the gown up (thanks to Ruth for reminding me that I wanted skin-to-skin contact), he was placed on my chest and all I could say was, "We did it. Thank you, God. Baby, we did it." Then I heard someone (maybe Shane?) say, "Is it a boy?" and I said, "It better be!" and I heard people laugh. Sure enough, it's a boy. And I whispered, "Hi, Benjamin. You're here." I couldn't believe he came so quickly. I'm not sure exactly how long I pushed but it was no 2 hours. My heart filled with relief and purpose. Pain has purpose and I felt every ounce of it.

Benjamin Larson. September 14, 8:09 p.m. Right on his due date. 7 lbs. 2 oz. 18.5 inches long.

Oliver came in shortly after to meet his new brother and I loved how big and excited his eyes were. He didn't want to touch him. He appeared to be nervous and clung to Shane as he drew near to my bed. He leaned over and when little Benjamin sneezed a little sneeze Oliver giggled. He is real and he is human. Phew.

We made it home in less than 24 hours and I'm recovering quickly with the help of pain medication. It's amazing how Benjamin has made himself comfortable in our home. We have been unceasingly blessed as friends bring meals, send gifts and pitch in to buy us the expensive necessities for a new baby. I can honestly say this first week with our new son has been blissful. Even in the middle of the night I am thankful to be woken up as it gives me reason to cuddle and stare at Benjamin in peace. Oliver is happily adjusting. He doesn't seem shocked that the baby is still living with us. Shane and I appreciate baby's nap times so we can play and be alone with Oliver like old times. I've only cried once, so I suppose I'm not experiencing any postpartum depression at this point. I'm enjoying this vacation of family-filled days. I feel like I'm being filled to the brim of what I've been lacking for months. I've only thought of work maybe twice but am soon distracted by little squeaks and baby smells. This is what it's like for my cup to overflow.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Happenings at Home.

As some of you know, Shane's sister, Amanda has been living with us as she transitions after 5 years of living and teaching math in Indonesia. I know it has been difficult for her to depend on us as she looks for a job and not be able to help provide. But she has provided in unique ways and blessed our family every day that she has been here. She has made herself especially at home in our kitchen baking delicious treats and throwing together fantastic meals. And she has kept my floors swept more frequently than I ever have! She's a pro at keeping up on dishes and laundry and I'm afraid she's spoiling Shane. He has had a lot of opportunities to work on projects in the garage and keep up with the lawn because Amanda is available to watch Oliver. Oliver's knowledge of numbers has improved significantly and to top it all off he is learning a second language! He uses Indonesian words frequently throughout the day and I can't keep up with him!

I came home from work the other day and he greeted me by showing me a scratch on his foot and saying what sounded like, "suck it! suck it! suck it!" I looked at him bewildered and asked Amanda and Shane, "Ok, who told Oliver to tell me to suck his foot??" They started laughing and told me that he was actually saying "Sakit" which means "hurt" or a wound. Hilarious. I'm not sure when he'll ever use Indonesian...but he picks it up so quickly and I'm just glad he's learning another language! It's amazing that he understands these are different words and that they have English equivalents (sort of). How does his little brain know the difference between two languages?

On another cute note, Oliver seems very aware that baby will be arriving any day now. He has this little book called "I'm a Big Brother," and it's practically the ONLY book he wants to read the past 3 days. We have already read it 6 times today. And yesterday we read it 7 times. He has memorized it and does not get bored with it. It's like he's trying to mentally prepare for a baby and he wants to understand his role. I am most looking forward to Oliver meeting our new son. It's what cheers me on as we take walks and wait for labor to begin. Hopefully the next blog will be announcing the arrival of Some Really Cute Name We Haven't Picked Yet!

Just a few of the treats Amanda has made for us:

Friday, August 27, 2010

My name is Wealthy.

I'm wide awake at 3:45 a.m. with thoughts and realizations I want to share. It seems that sleep will not be granted unless I get out at least some of what is overflowing in my mind. As strange as this sounds, the one thing I keep seeing in my mind is my name, Jessica, and it's meaning: wealthy. Except when I see that word is seems big to me. Like WEALTHY.

I believe names hold weight, which is probably why choosing a name for our new son is so difficult. We don't think lightly of the very first gift we give him. Instead we think of how it will affect the way he sees himself and even all the ways he may unknowingly grow into that name. Biblically, names seem to hold great significance, and God has been known to even give new names to those who have been changed or have accepted a new role or calling in their walk of life (Saul to Paul or Jacob to Israel, for example).

Just in the last couple of weeks, I have unmistakably experienced what it feels like to really be Jessica. I feel like God is my teacher and he is pointing quite clearly to the writing on the chalkboard, and my eyes have finally focused on what was just a blur a couple weeks ago: WEALTHY. I believe it now.

I wonder how long I have sat in what seemed like justifiable discontentment. Months? Years, probably. It almost scares me to reflect on that. If I dare look back on my life I see discontentment in friendships, in churches, in my geographic location, in my possessions. Discontentment is unfortunate. It's the opposite of wealthy, really.

To bring all this contemplation to physical form, let me explain the events that led up to this realization.

Almost this entire pregnancy we have been looking to buy our first home. This 2 bedroom rental home is getting smaller as my belly gets bigger. We looked at DOZENS of homes and made a couple offers, and the one question people always asked us was "how is the house hunt going?" because everyone knew that a new home was our intention and hope for the near future. It has been draining and disappointing despite how great the market apparently is for buying. Shane was spending hours searching for homes partly because he looks forward to owning and fixing up his own home, but also because his wife was VERY ready to get out of this tiny house. We recently decided to let go of this goal since baby will be arriving shortly, but mostly because I realized how exhausted I was from trying so hard to change our circumstance. But it wasn't just a goal I let go of, but the future in general.

One evening as I was in tears from exhaustion I realized that there was no more of myself to give toward planning and hoping for a certain future, and I was sacrificing my present time with Oliver and Shane. I kept telling myself that he needed a bigger yard and more outdoor space to enjoy life, but he was begging to enjoy life with me NOW. He was dragging me to his room to play with toys and sit down for a book or movie as soon as I was in the front door. He was clinging to me at bedtime so we could savor a few moments together before sleep. When I realized this (and thank God I did), I started to make myself more at home. I unpacked all of the baby items I didn't think we had room for. My evenings felt longer and more intimate, and I stopped feeling the constant nagging of productivity. I allowed myself to decorate and organize the neglected corners of our home. And our crammed little rental turned into a cozy home of our own. It was like putting on a pair of new glasses and seeing things how they really are. I saw our hardwood floors and the beautiful collection of refinished furniture my husband has labored on. I saw my raw, country-home-meets-third-world decor touching every room. I saw the luxury of two bathrooms and extra cabinet space I forgot I had. I saw our little shaded nook between the house and garage that invites tired feet to the hammock.

I am Wealthy.

This wasn't the end of my realization. God had plans to show me quite evidently a different kind of wealth. A few days ago, my friend Ruth threw me a baby shower and only 4 friends were able to attend. They blessed me with money toward breast pumps which I will most definitely need when I return to work full-time after maternity leave. But these girls surprised me with their gift of words. They each spent time encouraging me as a mother and recalling how they have observed me as a mom with Oliver. They had me in tears as they listed my strengths and commented on the beautiful, well-mannered and happy boy we have raised. And to overwhelm me more, they surrounded me on the couch and prayed over this new life with baby and spoke blessings over our family. I felt like my heart did not have room to hold these gifts and I hope I don't lose or forget them.

Yesterday I was thrown a SECOND baby shower by my coworkers. These women have been my mothers, my aunts and my sisters. They are protective, giving, listening, advising, humorous and honest. They care deeply for me in a way I truly need being so far from my family in Illinois. It was a lovely shower with an abundance of gifts and they even gave me a generous sum to help Shane and I purchase cloth diapers. The food was incredible. So good I had a major urge to hug someone every time I took a bite or a drink. Then they spent a few moments speaking blessings and prayers over me and I could barely hold myself together. My heart somehow made room to receive their words and believe they were mine to keep. I went home to my family (including my sister-in-law, Amanda, who is currently rooming with us) and shared how wonderful of a party it was. It was fun to show them the gifts and tell them about the special time we had. And sometime that evening I was trying to express to Amanda these wonderful emotions and she said something about my being "rich with friendship." I can't stop thinking about that. I have never felt so RICH with relationship in my entire life. I don't know when this happened, but sometime in the last three and a half years I accumulated a WEALTH of friends and extended family in the Northwest.

In the midst of all this I think I lost that old friend, discontentment. And it makes me smile.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

2009 Annual Report

This was fun to put together.

Click to view full screen. Click again to zoom in on a page. Press Esc to exit full screen.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A birthday in status updates.


Oliver wakes us up exactly 5 seconds before my alarm goes off saying “a meet-meal?” (he wants oatmeal)
I make Oliver oats with frozen blueberries.
Shane runs to the store for milk and then calls me, “Will you start throwing together ingredients for crepes?”
Of course!
Oliver needs to pee.
Shane gets home and finishes making me crepes with hot blackberry filling. YUM.
Oliver wants to snuggle in our bed, so of course I’m going to make time for that. We all climb in and Shane sings me “Happy Birthday” hoping Oliver will join in. But he just smiles. And then blows on me at the end of the song as if I were a cake of 26 candles.
Between phone calls from family and finishing my hair and makeup I finally get out the door for work.
The car radio decided to play an Avett Brothers song making it a PERFECT drive to work (with almost all green lights!).
All I can think about the whole morning is my sister, Olivia, and how much I want to celebrate our birthday with her.
I recall one of our most memorable backyard birthday parties with lots of lights hung in the trees.
She got electrocuted because of a stupid staple in one of the cords.
She survived. It was a great party.
I’m greeted at work by a hug and “Happy Birthday” from Shelly, our receptionist, and colorful streamers hanging from my office door.
I open my email with TONS of Facebook notifications of happy greetings and take too much time reading them and smiling.
Dad calls singing to me in the most ridiculous way possible. Apparently not caring if his whole office hears how ridiculously he loves his daughter. (It wouldn't be a birthday without my dad singing obnoxiously at least once.)
Thanks to the streamers I get a lot of interruptions and random singing throughout the day (a total of 7 times the whole day).
I walk into the cafeteria as people are singing happy birthday to someone else (Sean) – how funny!
Barb is sure to tell them it’s my birthday too so everyone else turns to sing me happy birthday too.
Halfway through lunch Sean brings me his balloons and shares 2 huge pieces of chocolate cake with me.
Shane calls me at work to tell me I got a birthday package and card in the mail from my parents.
He wants to know if he can open it. The answer is NO. Only a Morgan would ask such a question.
It’s make-up day at work (which means nothing to anyone but the ladies in our front office). And I get first pick!
A pink rose.
Lemon tart.
More birthday greetings.
Am I ever going to get anything done today?
Shane calls again and tells me he was going to make me something tasty but realized we had only one egg.
So I need to pick up some eggs on my way home.
Listening to my Avett Brothers Pandora station helps me be more productive.
My mom sings a lot like June Carter Cash. Does she know that? Especially when I hear June and Johnny sing “Jackson”.
Should I call her and tell her?
No, get back to work.
It’s my boss’ wife’s birthday today.
It’s Eddie’s wife’s birthday today.
Volunteer Lynn’s niece was born this a.m.!
I call mom to tell her she sings like June Carter Cash.
Finally finish a couple projects at work.
Stop at the PO Box to check for birthday cards. Yay! One from my in-laws!
Shane tells me to not worry about picking up eggs.
Greeted at home with a little boy holding out his hand with a pretty rose…
…only to have him drop the rose in excitement to see balloons in the back of my car.
We make a delicious grilled chicken fettuccini alfredo meal with grilled Mexican squash.
Oliver is entertained the whole evening with the 9 balloons now scattered all over our house.
Have great, happy phone conversations with both my sisters.
I finish the day eating cherry chocolate chunk ice cream in a hot bath.
Happy 26 years to me and 29 to my sister, Olivia.




















[My birthday balloons that were actually Sean's birthday balloons but are now Oliver's balloons]

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

First place for the first time.

Our UGM newsletter won First Place for printed newsletter and Best in Show for this year’s annual Media Awards for the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions. We beat some of the largest rescue missions in the country who often hire outside firms for their publications and can afford full color. I just hope our newsletter can offer as much competition next year after redesigning its look to match our new brand!

 Here is what the AGRM website had to say about the contest:
"AGRM Media Innovation Competition was launched to recognize rescue missions who were making valuable progress in innovating print and online offerings. Call for entries attracted hundreds of submissions from rescue missions across the country in every budget size. AGRM awarded three Best in Show winners, as well as Award of Excellence, Award of Merit and Honorable Mention prizes for each category at the 2010 AGRM Conference in St. Charles, Illinois May 9-12.  Congratulations to this years Media Innovation Competition award winners!"

The winner (a 6 page, 2-color newsletter with a response card and envelope to match):














Our new look for Mission News:













If you want to see an online archive of our newsletters and read what is current go here.

In other great news, our website got third place and we got second place for our Sucess Story.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

no doubt

(I have a tendency to type up something then post it later. This was written 4.30.10.)

Doubt is sometimes a fierce enemy. It arrives so casually disguised that it blends with your family, your work and all common ways of life. It can even become so familiar you start to believe it's your good friend who keeps you reasonable and far from danger. Well, I kicked Doubt out of my house this morning. It started telling me that I was not doing as well as I could, and that my talents were failing me and I wasn't trying hard enough. It's one thing for doubt to keep me from trying something risky...but to try to tell me who I am, and what I'm capable of and what my purpose is??? I can be just as fierce, Doubt. I know you'll probably come back, but I know better now what you look like.

*    *    *    *    *

There are a couple of high school seniors who want to raise money for the Mission with a ping pong tournament. They didn't know that UGM had a designer on staff that could help promote their event. One of the boys had drawn up a poster by hand and was going to make copies to hang, but was glad to turn the project over to me. But I told him I liked his poster. There were a couple of things I could help with to make the poster communicate the message more clearly, but I was inspired by his original and playful illustration. Somewhere along the line of adding fresh typography to the poster, I felt thankful for my job and the unique opportunities I get to help others. My projects are so diverse. One might be a direct ask on a billboard to help the homeless and poor of Spokane, and the next is making wallet-size meal punch cards for the guys who come to the Mission hungry. They might not look very exciting next to some of the edgy and new design work out there. And that's usually when I start to doubt. When I read blogs and look through creative magazines I feel rather unoriginal and stale. But the people I design for are so grateful, encouraged and surprised by my work. They feel honored, of all things! They say, "How did we get so lucky to have someone like you work for us?" And I blush because how on Earth do they really think that? They obviously don't look at design magazines and blogs. But I'm their designer. And I love them. And I will bust my butt to do an excellent job on their projects. Their affection for me and my work makes me so thankful for what I do. And if this is where God wants me, he can do wonders with me.

Here is the Ping Pong poster and the banner before I added a couple last pieces of information. Jake and Keinyn raised $150. That will provide 85-90 meals at the mission. I love young hearts for the poor.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

How do I live?

Today I can't stop the tears.

I had an emotional dream and wrote it down in my prayer journal even though it wasn't a prayer. Maybe later I'll share it. I woke up in relief that I was with Shane. That I chose him and he chose me. So much relief that I cried on his shoulder and shared with him the dream. He was relieved as well...mostly that I was crying tears of happiness and not sadness.

But then something else happened. On our way to church someone ran a red light at full speed and missed hitting us by 1 to 2 seconds. They would have t-boned us on the driver's side seriously injuring Shane and Oliver...maybe even killing them. Once again I was flooded with relief. I just cried and thanked God all the way to church and all through the service. Life can end in an instant. But somehow I am still walking this Earth with those I love next to me. How does it make you feel to know that in some cases, our life is completely out of our hands?

Personally, I feel like a piece of glass falling from the sky. Eventually I'll hit the ground. It's everyone's end. But more so, I feel a greater responsibility for what is in my hands. God has given me great gifts. I am thankful, SO THANKFUL. But I am also responsible. My awareness of life and its high value was heightened today. Every second is like pure water to me. How often do I experience life in this way?

___________________
Added later:
Just after I wrote this I read my friend's blog and felt like it was so closely related to what I am going through today. Read it here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Appeal to my senses.

One of my favorite subjects for taking pictures is anything in the kitchen. Food, ingredients, table settings, etc. I don't know why, but I get SO inspired every time! It annoys Shane at times because he's ready to eat and I'm saying, "Don't touch it yet! It's so pretty, let me get the camera!"

The ladies I work with had a tea party as a celebration for our hard work on the 2010 Annual Banquet in March. We went to Taste and See which is a non-profit that partners with "local women's shelters to provide temporary employment, to prepare women to re-enter the work force." It's on the main floor of an historical mansion on the South Hill in Spokane which only adds to the atmosphere. I almost felt like I was wearing big long skirts and a colorful hat with white gloves as I walked up the steps. I was so inspired by the details of the house, and the display of finger foods and place settings on the table I could hardly sit down. ...Because I was taking pictures.

Here are some favorites:  (I obviously didn't take the third one. But it's a good shot of everyone having a good time and of the whole table.) To see others not posted go here.




Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Batik in the Suite!

I've been meaning to post these pictures of the SECOND batik added to the walls of the office. My office-roomie, Barb, just purchased this original called "A Father's Blessing". I am so happy that we are adding such beautiful color to our room that needs that constant creative stimulation to keep us producing quality work. Our creative suite is turning into a cultural display of art!

Our next goal is painting the wall behind this batik a dark coffee brown (because the higher-ups weren't a big fan of red).
If you haven't seen the batik on the wall above my desk go here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Beautiful Day


I don’t know very many songs that take me back to a specific moment.  “Beautiful Day” by U2 came on my Pandora and immediately I was driving home from ballet class my senior year of high school. My muscles were tired but I felt like I was floating. My heart cried thank-yous to God. I did not have a boyfriend (which was one of my greatest longings in that period of life) and my friendships weren’t as great as they used to be. But I felt myself coming to a place that felt like my own. I felt like I knew who I was and understood the unique soul that was given me. And I saw ahead possibly a lonely road. There were things I had to go through on my own and possibly the people who loved me most would not understand. I didn’t understand. I had to experience what it was like to truly hate yourself…and then truly forgive yourself. Of course I didn’t know all this at the time, but somehow in that moment I was okay with all the troubles behind and in front of me. And it’s amazing to have the confidence that you will survive them and God’s love will not falter.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Life.

I suppose it's time to share this:

I'm 14 weeks along with Morgan baby #2! Baby is due September 14. We'll find out the gender in a couple months. Shane would like another boy. I don't think I have a preference. Little boys are a lot of fun and I wouldn't mind having only boys, but it would be neat to know what it's like to have a daughter. I haven't been sick at all. Just tired and hungry...and maybe a little emotional. :) And Oliver is starting to understand I think. He pats my tummy and kisses and says, "Baby in there." I hope he gets excited. I'm not looking forward to the day I can't put him on my lap because my tummy is too huge. I remember being disappointed when I couldn't sit on my mom's lap when she was pregnant. Mommy's lap is the best seat in the house!

I can't wait to see you, baby. I can't wait to welcome you to our family. We are all in anticipation.

On a more somber note, I said goodbye to my last grandparent on March 4. Grandpa Gregory died almost 3 months after my grandma. And we just found out that Shane's step-grandmother passed away today. Life is a curious and unpredictable thing. It is always coming and going yet it never seems insignificant in any way. It's always hard. It's always amazing. And I can always find peace in God's sovereignty through it all.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Some people say it better.

I want to share with you some work from a local artist. I found out about her because I use her husband's printing shop rather frequently. I have received a free calendar of her art the last two years and went to a gallery opening of her's last year. Here are a few of her pieces I relate or appreciate the most. Thanks, Melissa Carpenter, for your unique talent and for your heart for the community as well. And thanks, Pressworks, for your professionalism and quality work. You give my work the shine or finished touch it needs!