Friday, June 14, 2013

Catching the Breeze

As I consider how my life has changed since I started working as assistant editor of Victoria magazine in April, my mind drifts to a happy memory from my early days of motherhood. Son Carson was about 8 months old, and every day was full of joyful discoveries. I relished seeing life anew through his piercing blue eyes. Carson keenly observed every detail around us, and the intensity of his experience heightened my own senses. Tasting the sweet indulgence of a creamy chocolate milkshake, touching the soft fur of a neighbor's energetic new puppy, listening to the soft creaking of the rocking chair as Carson reluctantly succumbed to sleep -- every moment of the day seemed extraordinary encountered with someone so new to the world.

On this vivid day, Carson was a few weeks from taking his first steps. He could sit up in the stroller, and we both enjoyed venturing out into the fresh morning air for a walk around the neighborhood. Blissfully unaware that when he started walking at 9 months Carson would never want to sit down again, I buckled him into the carriage and stepped outside to discover a perfectly beautiful day. The sun was shining in Kentucky, where we lived during his infancy, but the mild climate kept temperatures blessedly comfortable. We set out for our walk in silence, taking in the sights and sounds as the world around us awoke to a new day.

A little while into our stroll, we paused to study something on the path, and a soft breeze began to blow. The rich green bluegrass began to dance, and tree branches nodded gracefully as the welcome gust caused the leaves to quiver and sway. Carson grimaced, closing his eyes and wrinkling his nose as the gentle whisper tickled his face. As the breeze grew stronger -- lifting tufts of his baby-fine blond hair and playfully caressing his exposed arms and bare feet -- a smile spread across his little face. As the wind blew harder, Carson started bouncing in his seat. A giggle erupted, and from his belly he began to laugh heartily. I laughed, too, experiencing his first encounter with the wind. I will never forget the moment I watched my sweet baby boy lean forward in his stroller and stretch his arms wide, as if to embrace the breeze. It was a moment of pure, unrestrained joy.

Carson accepted that first breeze as a gift -- fully experiencing it and appreciating it as if God Himself blew a breath of love for my baby's pleasure. My own whispers of thanks mingled with Carson's giggles as the wind played hide and seek that morning. In the years since I have never forgotten the feel of the fresh air on our faces.

During this time of transition into my new job with Hoffman Media in Birmingham, Ala., my thoughts often return to that blissful stroll. Thinking of Baby Carson's observant nature, I am reminded to be present. Whether I am on the road for a lengthy commute, playing with words to craft a story for Victoria, or spending precious time nurturing relationships with family and friends, there is a gift to be unwrapped in each moment. Just like that Kentucky breeze, joyful moments can be fleeting. The challenge is to stay focused, aware and open to the blessings at hand. As Psalm 188:24 declares, "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." That pledge holds true whatever the day holds, as long as we strive to be present where we are.

Remembering Carson's exuberance in greeting the wind, I want to stretch my arms wide to embrace the day before me. Growing older can make us more tentative in our outlook. We count costs, measure our frailties and hold back as we figure possible outcomes for failure. But children remind us to fully live each moment. Their examples teach us to love fearlessly, laugh deeply and run as fast as our dreams can carry us. And what do we have to fear if we are striving to follow God's will? Scripture assures us in Romans 8:31, "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

Finally, that distant neighborhood walk reminds me to be grateful. James 1:17 says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Whether viewing the ever-changing beauty of the landscape along the country roads that lead to my office, basking in the inspiration of creative people and projects, or savoring the welcoming security of home and time spent with the ones I love most, every experience offers a gift from God. He has blessed us all so richly and deserves our continual thanksgiving.

So to update you on accepting my dream job, sometimes I am unsure how I will balance the demands of working and raising a family. Often I am tired and wish I had more hours in the day. But always I am very, very thankful that this rich, full life is the one God planned for me.

And just like my sweet baby boy who has grown into a strong young man since our beloved stroller walks so many years ago, I am eager to lift my chin and feel the morning sun on my face. I hope you will join me as together we step out in faith, stretch our arms wide, and catch the next breeze.

"As each day comes to us refreshed and anew, so does my gratitude renew itself daily. The breaking of the sun over the horizon is my grateful heart dawning upon a blessed world." ~ Terri Guillemets

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My First Victoria & a PJ Winner

Last week the July/August issue of Victoria was delivered to our editorial offices. This issue was close to going to press when I started working with the magazine, so you won't find my byline in this issue. But I hope you will look for my name in the masthead! I was so excited to share the magazine with Joe and the children. We celebrated the milestone over the weekend by making the blue-ribbon Peach and Raspberry Pie recipe featured on pages 76 and 85 of this issue. With fresh peaches from a farmer's market and a pretty crust cut out by Emma, a slice of pie served a la mode provided a sweet celebration of the fruits of our labor. Look for the July/August issue on the newsstand, or subscribe by clicking the magazine title below the photo. Computer problems have me behind on posting, but look for travel, party and craft photos as soon as I can upload again.

Congratulations to Jody, who won the generous Mother's Day giveaway from The Pajama Company. Jody will be welcoming a new baby in a few weeks, so I hope she will feel pampered in the stylish Lovebirds capri set from The Cat's Pajamas. Jody, please e-mail me or leave a comment below.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ballet Recital Celebration

"The dance is a poem of which each movement is a word." ~ Mata Hari

Mary Ashley and Emma's spring ballet recital is always one of the highlights of the season. For several years, we celebrated with dinner before the ballet, and last year we enjoyed appetizers and desserts before an early curtain call.


This year finds us in transition with my new job with Victoria magazine, so planning a recital soiree  a few weeks ago presented a challenge. My busier schedule didn't allow time for preparing an elaborate menu, yet I did not want this occasion to slip by without sharing special time with the girls and special friends who join us each year for the show.


With an early show time again this year, dinner at 4 o'clock in the afternoon wasn't appealing, and I wasn't sure I could pull everything together in such a small window of time. So we decided that dessert after the recital was the best way to go. I took the easiest route to celebration possible, purchasing cakes, flowers, and snacks at a local grocery store Saturday morning during the girls' dress rehearsal.


I set up the dessert spread in the family room Saturday afternoon, and we invited friends and teachers to stop by after the performance.


This fluffy pink strawberry cake from Winn-Dixie looked ballerina perfect, especially with the addition of a flower.


A petite white cake, also from Winn-Dixie, offered another sweet option. Fresh strawberries served with chocolate dip covered all the bases for a simple dessert buffet.


For a savory bite, herbed cheese and crackers were delicious.


Lush potted pink flowers and a metal dress form with a tutu (saved from previous ballet parties) added color to the display.


Plates, napkins and silverware were put in place before curtain call, and the coffee pot was ready to brew when we returned.


I really enjoy hosting handmade, homemade celebrations and always hope that my family and friends see the love in all the little details.


When time or circumstances do not allow the same level of attention, letting go of extravagant plans can be difficult. Not necessarily for my family, but for me.


What I am realizing, though, is that I see love in all the little details, but eliminating details does not diminish the love.


In fact, when the circumstances are right, simplifying the celebration allows the love to flourish.


Here is a view of our family room Saturday afternoon before the show, complete with a little ballerina who had time to relax with some quiet time before the performance.


Friends Neil and Hailey Scott joined us after the show for coffee and dessert. It was so nice to enjoy a leisurely evening together, and no one seemed to mind one bit that this year's party was simple and store-bought. Lounging on the sofa enjoying laughter, cake and a reprise of this year's sibling number, I realized that just being together was what made our special evening ballerina perfect.

"Dancing with the feet is one thing, but dancing with the heart is another." ~ Author Unknown

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