Pinterest: I finally get it

I'm not sure I should admit this. After all, I did save every issue of Martha Stewart Living for a decade just because the pictures were so pretty.

But in the beginning, I didn't get Pinterest.

I heard the buzz in social media circles last spring. I read Megan's oh-so-good tutorial. I snagged an invite. And I started pinning.

First impression? I loved the pictures. I'm visual. It was an overload of gorgeous. But I didn't really understand how to use it. "So I re-pin things that I like, so my followers and friends, most of whom are the same people, can see another pin of the same thing?"

Like I said, I didn't get it.

So my Pinterest account languished.

I didn't stop checking in with Pinterest, occasionally. (I should add: Half the time I tried to log in, the site was down. For all of its popularity - maybe because of all its popularity - Pinterest is one of the wonkier sites on the World Wide Web.) And slowly, I started to see potential.

I found fun crafts to do with my kids. I drooled over nooks in dream kitchens. I discovered amazing new school lunch ideas.

Then, one day, I got a Pottery Barn catalog in the mail. Now you have to understand - Pottery Barn is the undoing of me. I hardly ever buy anything, but if I had to define my style, it would be Pottery Barn to the core. (And don't even get me started on Pottery Barn Kids. I die.)

Normally, when I get a Pottery Barn catalog in the mail, I save it for months and pour over my favorite pictures and imagine how I can steal incorporate some of their style details in my own home.

But this time - light bulb! Instead of keeping the paper catalog, I Pinned my favorite designs.

Not only did this allow me to keep the photos in a place where I was more likely to see them everyday, but it enabled me to start a visual record of my style. Already, I've started to see trends pop up in my collection. For example, in the desk photos above, I see a stream of old-school-with-new-style chairs, fun-but-smart organization and scads of color. These are all things I've already started incorporating in the kids' homework area.

New worlds opened up to me. What if, instead of clipping that recipe, I Pinned it? What if, instead of Googling "gifts for teachers," I just searched Pinterest?

Suddenly, Pinterest was more than a source of inspiration. It became my virtual file cabinet. I've always clipped articles and pictures and ideas for "future use." But using Pinterest is so much easier that keeping a physical file folder.

Plus, with Pinterest, I get to share my favorite ideas/designs/recipes/crafts with my friends -- and they get to share theirs with me. The social media aspect of Pinterest turns a fun idea into a great one.

Maybe best of all, because I check Pinterest every day, I'm more likely to actually follow-through on the ideas instead of collecting them for "future use." Case in point: A few weeks ago, I found this (free!) Valentine's printables.

Within days, I had this hanging over my fireplace mantle.

I simply printed the banner on card stock, added a few purple pennants made from my scrapbook paper stash to better match my Valentine's Day decor, taped the triangles to some string I found in the garage and - viola.

Instant beauty. Instant happy. And easy!

Now if someone could just explain Spotify to me.... I don't get it.

I'm kellyatlovewell on Pinterest. If you need an invite, let me know! I'd love to see you there!


Our house has three bathrooms, and right now, every one of them is being used for nighttime bathing.

The boys (the Philistines, as Corey calls them) are splashing together in one tub. In the other two bathrooms, the showers are running for the girls.

Teyla is in the master bathroom, around the corner from my desk. She can't see me, but I can see her, because of a mirror on our dresser. She is dancing under the falling water, reaching her arms up to touch the stream, laughing as the spray chokes out her song. Streams fall from her pony tails - which I leave in 90% of the time now, because I am so over detangling her curly hair - and she is completely unaware of herself.

That kind of freedom mesmerizes me. It's beauty, through and through.

Sunday morning, our pastor taught on the passage in John where the Pharisees fling an adulteress as Jesus' feet. She has been caught in the act, and yes, that means exactly what you think. This woman, she is really just a pawn. The Pharisees aren't bringing her to Jesus to get his input. They are trying to trap him into saying something which they can use against him.

My heart always beats wild at this story. I have played that woman on stage many times. Many. To the point where a part of her lives in my soul. I imagine the crowd jeering, the men haughty. The terror. The embarrassment. The shame. Exposed publicly in your worst sin. Naked. She must have laid, cowering, at Jesus' feet, shaking violently, hiding her face, waiting for the stones to fall.

But Jesus, in a move that is classic Jesus, doesn't answer her accusers about whether or not she deserves death. He simply bends down and writes in the sand. The crowd badgers him for an answer. He rises and says the line almost everyone knows, even if you aren't a believer: "Let him who is without sin throw the first stone."

The text says that, one by one, the men slink away. When they are gone, Jesus - the only one in the crowd who has never sinned, the only one qualified to throw a stone - simply asks, "Who condemns you?"

"No one, Lord."

"Neither do I. Go and sin no more."

I don't know what happened to the woman after that. But in my mind, she did exactly what Jesus prescribed. She went home and probably took a bath and maybe, if Jesus words sank in deep enough, she was naked without shame, for the first time in a long time.

Maybe she even danced under the stream of water, completely unaware of herself.


Linking up with Heather's Just Write today.

Snow or the Lack Thereof

I probably need to stop talking to my sister on the phone. And maybe phase out quick conversations with other moms at school.

Because they are stealing my best material.

I tell my funny, quirky, who-would-have-thunk stories to them, and then when I sit down to write for the blog (if I sit down and write for the blog), I'm all pensive.

For the love of laughter. I keep saying this, but I promise: I am NOT this serious in real life. Let's just chat, shall we?

Let me do the first thing Midwesterners do if we sit down for coffee -- we talk weather. And this winter has left us with no end of details to discuss, because hello -- winter hasn't really arrived. We had a brown Christmas, we've been above freezing for much of January and we haven't had a plowable snowfall since December 4.

But today, hallelujah, it's snowing!
About freakin' time. If we're lucky, we'll get enough to cover the grass completely. But I'm not holding my breath.

Keep in mind, this pitiful excuse for a winter follows last winter, which was the third snowiest winter in history for Minnesota. This time last year, almost 60 inches of snow had fallen already.

Here. Let me show you a few pictures I took last winter, shortly after we moved into our new house.
The snow drifts outside the kids' school last year.
Our backyard.
Our front walk.
Our neighborhood.

So. Pretty. I almost want to swoon over those photos.

And this year? We haven't even gotten 12 inches of snow. Total. And most of that has come in dribs and drabs and then has melted within 24 hours. It's depressing.

If you'd really like to be on Irony Patrol, consider that Seattle got six inches of snow this week. And I didn't want to move there because I didn't want to leave my snow.
(AP Photo, Elaine Thompson)

Don't you love that photo? The people of Seattle's Queen Anne's neighborhood converting the street into a giant sledding hill. That, right there, is why I love snow.

Snow is magic. It calls to the kid in us and gives us an excuse to indulge the spontaneous and silly. Throw snowballs, make a snow angel, whoop it up on a sled that inevitably spills you into a snowdrift. It's allowable. Heck, it's encouraged.

Mr. Snowman, bring me some snow.


Every morning this week, after tucking the big kids safely into school, I've turned the minivan into the rising sun and driven straight home. I bundle the littles, still wearing their footsies, out of the warmth of the car into the warmth of the house. We eat steel-cut oatmeal topped with brown sugar and dried cranberries and chopped pecans and flaxseed. (And maybe a few mini chocolate chips, for good measure.) Then we clean up the kitchen and I load the dishwasher and the sunlight fills the house with glory and I practically purr with contentment.

I do believe I've found my margin.

It's a funny thing; lasting change is so subtle. You never really notice it until you stop and look around.

A few years ago, I ran breathless. Part of me loves living on adrenaline and part of me was hooked on the productivity of busy.

But in my soul, where it counts, all that rushing was making me miss my life. I was so focused on the To Do List and the Next Thing that I missed the Right Now.

When my heart started to whisper that it wanted something more - a slowing, a stillness, a Sabbath - I didn't know where to start. It seemed so overwhelming, after a lifetime of preoccupation. How do I stop? How do I find some time to just be?

It started, as all change starts, with one step.

I decided to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from my life. That meant I had to cut a lot of things out of my schedule. So I did. Together, Corey and I decided to enroll the big kids in just one extracurricular event per year, instead of one per season. We decided to pull out of AWANA and other midweek church programming, because the hours were too hard on the little kids. I decided against a weekly Bible study for me, preferring instead the easier schedule of my twice-monthly moms group. I even made the somewhat draconian decision to say no to all evening events for the time being, because it's just not worth the fall-out of not being here at bedtime. (I hate putting four kids to bed by myself when Corey travels. So I can't justify making him do it because I want a night out with the girls.) (And here I should note: This is MY decision, not one I made lightly, and I am not asking you to do it. But this works, right now, for our family.)

All of this means I have exactly two mornings a month when I am committed to something. Every other morning, every other day, is at my disposal.

Which means I can do nothing if I chose. I can color all morning and do puzzles at lunch and then fold some laundry while Kieran naps and Teyla watches Team Umizoomi. I can bake cinnamon bread and whole wheat muffins and stir up big pots of chili and pork apricot stew. I can sit and cuddle my last baby when he falls asleep in my arms. I put off going to the grocery store unless absolutely necessary, and I don't run to Target just to get out of the house. I'm just fine here, thank you, sitting by the fire with my people and playing Candyland.

Wide margins. Oh how I've changed.

Suddenly, I understand why my graphic artists friends are such fans of white space. Without it, you don't really focus on what's important.

Where Have All the Men Gone?

Where have all the men gone?

Specifically, the plastic, molded men that round out our dollhouse families and wear their v-neck sweaters with quiet resolve?

I have lost them. And I can't find them. And it's driving me CRAZY.

The dad from the small dollhouse went missing first. His absence is always noticeable. It's just him, his wife and his school-age daughter, and a rebellious dog who's been known to spend nights with a gang of lizards from the Little Pet Shop bin. But he always turns up. Usually I find him stuck inside a wayward cupboard or stuffed inside one of our many purses or backpacks.

But he's been gone since before Christmas, this time. No one has seen him in weeks. His wife and daughter have moved in to the party house next door, where two teenage girls live without parents, and a surprise birthday party is permanently waiting in the ceiling.

Then it was the dad from the Loving Family dollhouse (I will not mock the name, I will not mock the name) and his loss is much more serious, because now his two sons - one school-aged, one a baby who also has a twin sister, natch - have no adult male influence. The house is ruled by matriarchy. Mom, grandma, aunt, big sister, little sister, baby sister. You'd think that would just make the dad more popular. And it did seem to work that way, at least with Connor and Kieran. The dad was always the first choice for my boys when it came time to play house, and he was frequently co-opted to play war with the Transformers and Luke Skywalker.

But suddenly, he's disappeared. Gone. Poof.

It's creepy, I'm telling you. Because I've looked. OH I'VE LOOKED. I've unpacked and repacked every toy bin, every drawer, every shoebox. I've crawled over ever square inch of Connor's room (a common hangout for lost toys). I've looked in everyone's closet and in the TV cabinet and under every couch or chair cushion we have in the house. I've done everything I know to do. And so far, my search has produced lots of Legos and Cheerios but no men.

I know many of you might not understand this - "Toys go missing, Kelly. It's what they do." But it's torturing my organized, logical, neatnik self. They have to be here somewhere. The only other explanation is that Kieran threw them away and I didn't see them in the garbage before it was emptied. (Have I gone through the garbage bags before in search of something lost? You better believe it. I don't leave a man behind.)

But two men in a matter of weeks? I don't think so. Something is up.

Maybe it has something to do with the Wii we got for Christmas?

Lost: My Free Time

It can't figure out when it happened, exactly. But sometime over the last year, I lost my free time.

The realization hit me before Christmas. While searching for a Bubble Guppies episode for Teyla, I happened across a promo for an Ina Garten Christmas special on the Food Network. And I thought, "My goodness, last year I watched all those Food Network holiday shows. How is it that I didn't even know they were on this year?"

Then I started to notice the creep in other areas. Last year? I read blogs. I set aside time every day to plow through my reader. This year? I mostly read posts that blogging friends link to via Twitter and Facebook. I haven't touched my reader in weeks. (And now I'm too scared to pull it up, because 1000+ unread posts terrifies me.)

Last year, I shopped for Christmas presents for my immediate family AND my extended family. I shipped packages. I baked cookies for a cookie exchange. I made homemade bread for the kids' teachers. This year? I shopped for my immediate family only - and that took all my energy. And while I did bake cookies, I did it on December 23, and I only made five kinds. The kids' teachers got gift cards. (Which is probably preferred anyway. But it felt slightly cop-out-ish to me.)

So what's changed? I had four kids last year. I have four kids this year. One husband. One house. One dog. Multiple personalities, but that's hardly new.

But then I started comparing deeper: I might still have four kids, but last year, one of them was a baby. He nursed. (Which is when I watched TV and read blogs.) He didn't dismantle the Christmas tree every time I turned around and he didn't out-eat his older siblings at most meals and he didn't want to fence with me with every stick in the house. ("Ah-ya Mah-mee! Ah-ya!" he yells at me every five minutes while holding out a wooden spoon/plastic screwdriver/chopstick. Which is his way of saying, "En guard! Take your weapon, woman, and prepare to be skewered.")

And last year, my kids were younger and, somehow, less hungry. They didn't eat ALL THE LIVE LONG DAY. I didn't go to the grocery store twice a week. Or (hold me) even three times a week. (Because Trader Joe's requires its own trip.) I didn't have to make a mid-morning snack or an after-school snack and then, sometimes, a bedtime snack. Which, admittedly, is just a banana, because that's all that's allowed after dinner. But come on, people. When did I open my own Hometown Buffet?

And maybe last year, I had more energy. I will be 40 next week. I no longer have the stamina to herd the cats 16 hours a day. So instead of making plans outside the house almost every day - to visit the library or the indoor playground or Bible study or MOPS - I content myself with staying home and playing Polly Pockets and puzzles and Ah-ya.

But you know what? I might have lost my free time. And a few of my marbles.

But I feel like I've gained something too. Wisdom. Peace. Focus. I am less distracted, more content with saying no, better able to choose the important over the urgent.

Plus, I'm a formidable opponent in Ah-ya.

It's almost like losing my free time has helped me find something I never knew I lost.

There's freedom in the the stripping away.

Dear January

Dear January:

May I confess a secret?

I think I have a crush on you.

It's a bit of a shock, even to me. You are the deepest, darkest winter here in Minnesota. The sun rises late and sets early. Wind chill is measured by degrees below zero. The holidays are over and the decorations are gone and spring is so very far away. I used to groan at the mere mention of you.

But the last few years, I've caught flashes of your brilliance. Bright sunshine that makes the snow glitter. Morning sunrises that glisten like an opal. Frosty air that invigorates every cell in my body. The hushed stillness of a clean blanket of white.

But even more than the quiet beauty of winter, you offer a fresh start, free for the taking. I love that you begin a new year. Suddenly, nothing is sacred, and hope blossoms anew. Goals are made, even audacious ones, and I face the future with resolve. Change is possible. Anything can happen when the slate is clean. The next chapter starts here. "He makes all things new."

The best part, January, is that it's all somehow unexpected, like no one believes you can compete with the drama of December. Thing is, you don't even try. Your gift is more substance, less show. You are reality. Like the gift of a good chef's knife, you are both prized and practical. You make even the routine of everyday a little radical.

So I'm glad to see you. Welcome back. If you catch me smiling a little when the afternoon sun shines gold in the playroom, or when I see the stars shimmer at me from an inky night sky, or when I try a new recipe or a new routine or a new attitude because I feel your hope pulsating in my soul. Well. Just know. Between you and me.

It's love.


A few days ago, Kieran found me at my desk and excitedly handed me a pair of glasses.

They were small, oval-shaped, bronze-rimmed. Glasses.

My glasses.

I had all but forgotten about them, mostly because I don’t need them. I can see fine. My vision is a little blurry when I have to read street signs down the road, which is to be expected for a woman who’s just days away from turning 40, but otherwise, I’m good.

At least, I am in one eye. During an opthalmology check-up a few years back, I learned my left eye is the heavyweight. It does almost all of the work for the right eye, which is considerably less strong. My brain, ever the maestro, has learned to compensate. It gets most of its visual input from my left eye and ignores the fuzzy pictures coming from the right.

End result: My vision is clear. But my depth perception stinks. (Which explains why I got hit in the face with the ball every time I played sports with the youth group and why I could never-not-once see the 3D images hidden in those Magic Eye pictures that were all the craze in the ‘90s.)

Theoretically, it’s possible for my right eye to get stronger and for my brain to start listening to it. Hence, the glasses. The left lens is clear, the right lens compensates for my weakness. When I put them on, I feel like my life has become a 3D movie. I stumble around my own house, hesitantly opening cabinet doors, holding onto countertops for balance, walking gingerly around the Legos on the ground.

It’s disorienting, but it’s good. I had forgotten what life looks like when viewed correctly. So for now, I’m wearing the glasses everyday, for as long as I can stand it.

Turns out, focus affects everything.


I enjoyed Christmas this year. Like, really enjoyed it. It caught me off-guard, seeing as I was 90% Grinch the last few Decembers. In the past, I couldn’t resolve the tension between cultural Christmas - Santa, snow, sentimentalism - and Jesus Christmas - expectancy, enigma, Emmanuel. While I liked cultural Christmas, I smoldered under its weight. I resented the way it overshadowed the deeper story, the true reason for the holy-day. And I grew grumpy with the traditions that sucked my joy and made my children greedy and shoved commercialism down my threat.

But this year, inexplicably, my focus shifted. I found my mind’s eye fixed on the babe Jesus. Some of the same cultural traditions I had grumbled about just last year became conduits of God’s grace to me. Christmas parties? Celebrations of relationships. Gifts? Physical manifestations of the Christ, “gift after gift after gift.” Christmas treats? Tiny symbols of God’s love of butter.

(Just kidding on that last one. I was trying to make sure you were still paying attention.)

But I did find myself less at war with the cultural Christmas and more able to see the deeper truth embedded in the season.

My focus changed me.


As you’ve probably guessed by now, the word I’ve chosen for 2012 is focus. (If you have no idea what I mean by choosing a word, there's a great explanation here. My word for last year was Sabbath.) Focus is a layered word for me. It means both “the state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition” and “becoming able to to see clearly.” It can also mean to “meet at a single point,” as in the case of {Austin Powers finger quote} las-ers {end Austin Powers finger quote} or “to pay particular attention to.” To concentrate. To fix upon.

For me, focus means to be purposeful. To be intentional. My goal is to strengthen my inner eye so it sees the important in sharp detail instead of the blur of the urgent.

It will take discipline. I’m sure I will be unsteady and uncomfortable for a while.

But I believe my focus ultimately sets my course.

And the glasses? They are growing on me.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. LET US FIX OUR EYES ON JESUS, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

- Hebrews 12:1-3