Jon and I roadtripped to visit my sis, bro-in-law, and sweet niece this past weekend, and I just have to share some highlights.

For one, the 7 hour drive is actually quite pretty, so we don’t usually mind the long trip…that is, until we’re making the long trip back and have to fight the NoVa traffic. Still, we were amazed by the beautiful wildflowers lining the highways and always enjoy this cool rock formation in the “Sideling Hill” of Maryland:

Pink, white, and purple flowers everywhere!

C, our 2.5 year old niece, humored us with endless quotable quotes, and some were just so sweet!:

(Jon gave me a bite of his pancakes)
C:  “Look!  Jon is feeding Regan like a tiny little baby!”

(C was having a pretend picnic on her bedroom floor)
Me:  “What are you eating at your picnic?”
C:  “Ummm salad.”
Me:  “What else?”
C:  “V8.”

(Rachel was trying to get C ready for bed)
R:  “Charlotte, lay down so I can zip up your PJs.”
C:   (with an encouraging, mother-like tone of voice) “Mommy, you can do it from here.”
<after she zipped it up>
C:  “Good job!  See, you got it!”  (how old is this girl anyway?)

(Tony returned to the dinner table from receiving his residency graduation plaque)
C:  “Daddy, I was so proud of you!”  awws” from surrounding tables> <2 more seconds and C is back in the hallway running around like a crazy person>

(Rachel was helping C sign Tony’s Father’s Day card, which can record a voice message)
R:  “How much do you love Daddy?”
C:  “To the moon and back!  I love you, Daddy!”

(as Jon and I were walking to the car to leave)
C:  “Bye!  Be careful!  Check your tires!”  (thank you, mom)

Memorable moments:

C kneeling down in anticipation to watch Jon juggle the silly putty – seriously, you would have thought she was at the circus!

C going down the water slide  67 times and jumping off the side of the pool another 47.  (Good arm workout for me.) This girl is not afraid of anything and will jump into the water before you can say “go!”

Carrying sleeping C in from the car after a very long day at the pool.  Such a sweet life moment!

All of us eating wayyy too much ice cream at Jeni’s – yummm!

And the winner:  Charlotte eating a leaf off a bush at the zoo because “it looked like basil.”

Oh to peer into the mind of a child!

I am learning in life to slow down.  When I first moved to the DC area, I was fighting crazy commutes from Springfield to the Navy Yard with 3 colors of metro lines in between.  Then after the long commute home, I’d trek up to McLean for an evening event, and I would find myself talking on speaker phone and painting my nails while sitting driving in traffic.  I would plan 2 social events in one afternoon and inevitably be late to both due to traffic and my inability to leave the house on time (always rushing – literally running from bathroom to bedroom to grab my things and get out the door).  I would have 35 minutes of “free time” before a choir rehearsal and decide that I could make it in and out of Tysons mall (parking alone takes 10 minutes) with a visit to the Ann Taylor Loft sale rack.  My record time was in and out of the store with a purchase in less than 7 minutes.  (Am I proud of this?!  Needless to say, I was late to rehearsal.)

Constantly rushing.  Running.  Apologizing for being late and doing nothing to change my habits.  Having important phone conversations in the grocery store check out line.  Making to-do lists during meetings.  You get the picture.

Even when we have interviews in the corporate world, we pride ourselves on multi-tasking.  I can have 10 documents open at once and keep my head on straight!  Well, maybe, but I bet I’m not being as efficient or productive as I could be if I just focused on one thing at a time.

Look!  I can paint my nails and drive!  (BAD IDEA – no explanation needed.)

I’m a good friend!  I can talk with you on the phone and grocery shop simultaneously!  Well, my friend hears beeps in the background and me saying “say that again?”…and my shopping takes 40 minutes instead of 15. (still working to get away from this habit…)

Even the Harvard Business Review understands the problems with this method of operating, as explained in the article “The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time.”  The main trade offs to multi-tasking are that we are much less productive, we run out of steam, and we’re only partly engaged in everything, rather than being fully engaged in anything — not to mention that some multi-tasking can lead to physical danger!  (<cough>, like the time I completely changed clothes while driving down the highway because stopping for 3 minutes to change would have been a damper on my 2.5 hour drive.)

I really don’t want to be an inefficient worker!  And I really don’t want to be the friend who’s talking to you but looking around the room for the next person I need to grab (though I know I do at times).  I’ve improved my focus while driving, though I did drive with an apple and spoonful of peanutbutter in hand the other night…

One hidden blessing that has taken me a while to appreciate is how marriage has taught me more of how to slow down and focus.  Part of it stemmed from living much further from friends and having an introverted husband who cannot physically spend every waking moment with a group of friends, jumping from event to event.  I was resentful of these things at first and missed my overwhelmingly full social life;  now, however, I actually have time to rest. I have time to read.  When I see a friend, our time and conversation are intentional.  I’m more punctual (well, working on it).   At home, Jon and I sit down to watch a movie – and there is no simultaneous texting, emailing, half-doing.  We eat dinner at our table, even if it’s a mish-mash of leftovers, and there is no TV droning in the background.  We go on a walk and talk.  We have important conversations (usually) while looking at each other, not while typing on the computer or doing something else distracting.  It’s amazing the difference it makes!  I definitely have room to grow here, but the benefits of slowing down and taking one thing at a time have already been a blessing.

honeymoon in Dominican Republic

(Looking at the ocean is definitely one easy way to single-task; I could stand here forever and just look and think.)

Several influences over the past months have encouraged me to count blessings more and learn to live a life of thankfulness.

Probably the main influence is Ann Voskamp in her blog, where she writes so much of what it looks like to lead with gratitude.  Here are a few select posts on the topic.  Also, a few brief quotes…

How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?”

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

Joy is the fruit of gratefulness.  ~ Ann Voskamp

No one receives the peace of God without giving thanks to God.

Thankfulness is the deep, contented breath of Peacefulness.  ~Ann Voskamp

I also was encouraged by a friend to keep a daily thankfulness journal, which not surprisingly has changed my perspective on how to be thankful, even when at first glance my day seems crummy.  God does not forsake us, and we can often see glimpses of His goodness, His teaching and humbling us, and the little bits of grace for the common good He provides.

Some of my recent thanksgivings:

– a medical scare with my mom that turned out to be okay

– my cute orange coffee mug that is sunshine in the morning

– an impromptu lunch with a friend at work on a crummy day and the comfort of being with a friend who allows you let your guard down

– celebrating with a friend in expectation of her and her husband’s adoption of their first child

– after busting my ear on the cab door and somehow ripping out my earring, finding my earring on the street before the honking cars behind me got too angry (HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?)

– being thankful for my dad on his birthday and upcoming Father’s Day

– having a job where I can work on a team of spirited, bright, kind people

– an unexpected pause this morning for a nice conversation on the couch with Jon; specific answered prayers about our continual growth as individuals and a married unit

– not minding the metro delay yesterday because I had a good new book to read (Robinson Crusoe)

– teaching a little girl violin and her actually still wanting to have lessons, even after I laid the smack down for not practicing enough (to all my previous teachers out there: I’m so sorry!!  I probably drove you nuts.)

– conflicts that remind me to lean on Jesus all the time

I definitely cannot say my mind always goes to thankfulness first, but even attempting to go in this direction has been a blessing in itself.

It is a strange juxtaposition to stand in the whirling rush-hour metro station 10 extra minutes to finish a book I’m reading on my tiny smart phone, especially when the book is about gardens, outdoors, growth, beauty, sunshine… I am standing in an industrial tunnel, swarming with people and smells of burnt rubber and metro exhaust, yet a book can still take me to a different place.

I just finished reading The Secret Garden.  Though I’d seen the movie many times as a child and had even sung a song from the musical, I had never read this charming story.  It is a beautiful story of the redemption that comes from getting outside yourself, opening your eyes to the things around you, and leaving behind the self-pity and cynicism.  Colin and his father both suffer from despair, hopelessness, shame, and dark thoughts that are completely self-centered and poison to the bones.  When their eyes are turned outward and away from themselves, only then can they start to find joy.  The wallowing and navel-gazing just lead them into a deeper pit, but a good shake and turn of perspective are just the medicine to begin a beautiful story of healing. 

The characters and dialogues reminded me so much of my “pen-friend” Marnie, who could write paragraphs about the intrigue of watching a praying mantis mounted on her rose-bush, the bird family with tiny babies in her back yard, and the green sprouts poking up through the dirt at the first of springtime.  The book also made me think of a favorite blogger I follow, who encourages her kiddos to run and play and get dirty (one great idea is this mud run obstacle course!).  Growth and redemption are found in the Secret Garden, through the treatments of sunshine, play, hard work, the company of friends, and laughter.

Simple ideas, but so true.


It’s amazing what perfect weather will do to our dispositions.  We linger.  We don’t rush to get inside and on to the next thing.  Time slows down.  Days are longer, and experiences are savored.

All of those things happened this past weekend during our glorious summer days – not the typically sticky and suffocating hot summer days, but days with a warm breeze and sunshine that feels good on your skin.

Friends and I lingered over a patio lunch.  We lingered at the pool and didn’t even sweat that much.  We actually had to bundle up at Wolftrap (outdoor theatre) for the first time ever because the evening was so cool.  [Aside: I finally got to experience “There’s Nothing Like a Dame”, which people have sung to me multiple times since my marriage to Mr. Dame, and I never really knew what they were talking about.  I sure didn’t realize the song was so explicit (if you know what I mean), but they did a fabulous job.  See it here!]

On Sunday, Jon and I crossed off one of my summer list items and went strawberry picking!  To be honest, I’m not sure the strawberries are as sweet as I expected, but the experience was delightful and totally worth it (and we will have a LOT of strawberry smoothies this summer).

(tired of squatting!)

This team brought the entire family…and maybe only had one meltdown…

Jon and I found a quiet spot in the orchard and had a picnic.  How often are we really this far from cars and man-made things?!

This wasn’t even all of our epic outdoor weekend, but more on that later.

The challenge for now is – how can I soak in this slower pace of life, the lingering over discussion and time spent with others, even in the midst of our chaotic schedules?  And must it be sunny to slow down and enjoy things without just plowing through?

If you’re from Evansville, Indiana, you bond over the heavenly goodness that is white queso from Los Bravos.

If you live in the DC metro area, you bond over not knowing what anyone does for their jobs and the painfulness of long commutes. (and the pride and excitement of living in our nation’s capital!)

If you spend time with old classmates, you bond over the crazy things you once did and wish you could relive just to laugh as hard as you did the first time.

If you meet a new coworker at CEB, you bond over the 10 minute elevator wait and all the pregnant ladies in the building.

So what do you bond over with aunts you rarely see, who are a generation older, live several states away, and have a completely different life than you? 

Books!  I am thankful today for all the bookie friends I have, who can share a nice discussion about literature, themes, favorite reads, perplexing stories, and the enjoyment of a good story.

(photo from Pinterest – would love a room like this one day!)

Thanks to GoodReads – I can now keep track of my booklist in a much more practical way!!

Also thankful for all the signs of summer!

– neighborhood pools finally open

– upcoming trip to see my sis/bro-in-law/adorable niece whom I miss SO much (also means roadside kettle corn and produce stands – it’s become a tradition)

– outdoor concerts, especially picnics and lawn seats at Wolftrap and summer bluegrass at Frying Pan Farm Park (yes, it’s really called that!)

– plenty of opportunities to grill out

– upcoming reunion getaway with college girlfriends

– blueberry picking at a nearby farm, then making tonnns of blueberry goodies afterwards

– hopefully a vacation in there somewhere, but Jon and I will have to get over our inability to plan ahead and make decisions…

What’s on your summer list?

Best of

I’m taking it easy this Friday as I jump into the holiday weekend, so I thought for any new readers I would share the most popular posts from TheHomelyHouse.


Treasure Hunt

A Deeper Country

DC: Could It Be Love?

Meet My Pen-Friend

My Pen-Friend: On Men and Marriage

Learning how to rock climb and how to be married

Here I raise my Ebenezer

As I reflect on the past 2 years of marriage, I have thought often of the word “Ebenezer.”  I first heard it in one of my favorite hymns and wondered what the heck it meant:

“Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I come”

(from “Come Thou Fount“, lyrics by Robert Robinson)

(Disclaimer: I struggle with how forward to be about faith in this blog with readers from many different backgrounds, but I cannot help but mention these things today.)  I found out “Ebenezer” was a reference to Samuel in the Old Testament, who had called out to God, and God heard his prayer and protected the Israelites from the Philistines.  He placed a large stone there, called an Ebenezer, and it meant “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”  Here God has been faithful.

I am so thankful I can look back across the past 2 years of marriage and read through my journals or think of situations where God has been faithful.  Over and over He protects us and reminds us who He is and who we are.  Some examples:

– Several people in the same week encouraged us out of the blue by telling us they’d been praying for us and thinking of us.

– In our worries of our chaotic schedules and life decisions, we were reminded that God is in control and will take care of us.

– We were able to look at ourselves and name ways we have grown because of the others’ influence.

– We each had similar prayers answered that we didn’t even know the other was praying about.

– God repeatedly opened our eyes to remember that only He can truly fulfill our every need, and because of that we can enjoy each other all the more without feeling inadequate when we don’t always perform perfectly.

Now, most of these things we have to be reminded of quite often, but God never fails to reveal Himself to us in new ways, even if it takes humbling us by seeing how selfish we are or how often we chase after everything else to fulfill us besides Him.

Since I cannot erect a large boulder in our tiny back yard, maybe I’ll start a little rock pile somewhere or a jar of note cards with the date and a note about God’s faithfulness that day.  It’ll be great to look back years from now and count those blessings!

I made it through all of college without ever being addicted to caffeine.  Occasionally I’d have some hot tea on a late study night, and it would do the trick.  I was so caffeine averse that on sleepy car trips (seriously, I could doze at the wheel so easily on my 2.5hr drive home for holidays) I would drink half a cup of gas-station-cappuccino and be honking my horn to the music without even realizing it.

Here I am in Corporate America, and my caffeine intake is slowly but surely creeping up.  At first it was hot chocolate before long meetings.  Then hot tea every day.  Then ¼ a cup of coffee.  Now a little more than half a cup, and when it wears off after lunch I am a goner!

Must caffeine drinkers constantly increase the dosage?  This is a drug!  A nice high, but then the lows are lower…

I will say (though I’m against this dependency and want to break it), my quality of life commute is much better with some caffeine streaming through my veins.  I toss an ice cube in my cup and gulp it down before leaving home.
I say “goodbye” to Jon when leaving without being angry at him for getting more sleep than me.
I notice the pretty farm and neighborhood lake (often still as glass in the morning) as I drive to my bus stop.
I read without falling asleep and actually remember the book when I’m finished.
I don’t fall asleep on the shoulder of the commuter next to me (and believe me, that definitely brings on some bad looks and audible sighs from the person I keep falling over on).
I can say “good morning” to my coworkers, and sound actually comes out of my mouth.
I don’t feel angry at the world for taking my time with buses, lines, escalators a mile long, and crowded metros.  I can enjoy the time I wouldn’t otherwise take to read/think/meet a stranger.

Could I ever be this way naturally?  Who else struggles with this?  And is there a secret to getting off caffeine, or will you tell me the typical things like “get more sleep and exercise?”…because sometimes I don’t have time for that.  Open to suggestions. 🙂

(My orange cup is pretty cute, though!)

Title – Lyrics from “Java Jive” – best song we ever sang in high school choir!

Little did I know when joining Corporate America that I would gain so many skills:  data analytics and excel formulas, project management, corporate event planning, process improvement, change management, margarita making, Halloween costuming, arts and crafts…

It is hilarious some of the skills I’ve discovered in the past several years – haha!  I didn’t even realize I liked costuming and crafts until my first week on the job when the annual Halloween costume contest was announced, and my boss (head of sales for our division) informed me in a very serious/competitive manner that we had to win.  “OK then!”  At first I scoffed that somehow I was put in charge of our team’s costumes…and now I’m a bit of a control freak taking charge and get really excited about it!

An application of orange face paint, about 20 styrofoam lollipops constructed, a toy gun set and a few golden tickets later, we had a winning team of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Bad photo – but that’s a chocolate waterfall in the background; some people thought it looked like a large gravestone or a woman’s behind, but thankfully the decorations weren’t the main judging points! (And some of the teammates here weren’t really dressed up but just joined the pic.)

Though our costumes year 2 were much better, I think the judges didn’t want the same team to win every year.

We made that entire UP! house out of cardboard, fabric, paper, and LOTS of hot glue gun sticks.  All the clothes were things we owned, and the only things we bought were the cane, doggie ears, collars (and other pieces to make them look like those in the movie), some white hairspray, bird feathers, and our little boyscout’s supplies.   Then I got to wear my bird costume again last year in return for a free burrito at Chipotle!  (dress like a farm animal –> win a free burrito)  Maybe sometime I’ll be the bird again, and Jon can be the boyscout.  (notice the background – that’s the house at Paradise Falls!)

This past year the theme was Rock ‘N Roll, so we took a twist on that and dressed up as the cast from The Sound of Music.  All costumes except the nun robes, knee socks, boy’s hat and suspenders (we made those by cutting apart a winter scarf and turning it into lederhosen straps) were from GoodWill.  I also scored on that GoodWill trip – the skirt I wore for Sound of Music is actually a Banana Republic seersucker skirt that I wore for real to work yesterday, and I also found another summer skirt and cardigan (not pictured here) from J.Crew that I wore last week.  Awesome!

Maybe one day this will turn into my quasi-dream of being the stage and music director, choreographer, makeup designer AND costumer for a musical…maybe just for my kids’ middle school production, but that would still be so fun!

Does your work do crazy things like this?  Surely it’s not just us…