Moving on...

I created this blog in September 2005 in Dallas, TX at a time when I needed to find my voice. I remember typing the first words as a young woman in the twinkle-lit loft of my condo. At first, it was simply an outlet to stay connected to friends near and far and share the tidbits of my newly-married life. Soon, it became so much more...a place for me to share my photography and art, regularly practice gratefulness, and process the way my life was moving to a simpler one day by day.

When we uprooted our lives from Dallas to Nashville in the fall of 2015, I had captured 10 years of our lives in words, photos, memories, details. This blog is a treasure, a time capsule of a very important decade of my life where we were young and married, owned our own businesses, and had two children. 

Now, after a long hiatus, I know it's time to close the door on Dreams of Simple Life and start fresh on my new website.

Here's a list of my favorite things I've written here over the years. Enjoy!

Let's dance.


This post originally appeared on the JellyTelly blog...

I have a challenge for you.  Try not to crack a smile while dancing the Running Man in your socks on the living room floor.

See?  It’s impossible.

And that’s why in our family, we’ve started having impromptu in-house dance parties – 45 minutes to an hour of completely free, heart-pumping movement to upbeat music.  I tell you, it’s one of the absolute best remedies for a host of things: a mom who “doesn’t have time to exercise,” a bored child, a rainy afternoon stuck indoors, or just a discouraging day.

Admittedly, on many tough parenting days, especially as we walk through the “twos” with our spirited daughter, I want to retreat.  I want to put on a movie or TV show for her and go do something “grown-up” like catch up on emails or read a book.  Some days I do just that, as I am human.  But on the days when I can choose to combat my frustration by engaging with my daughter in a positive way rather than retreating, we do something fun like have a dance party.  As I dance next to her, or pick her up and spin her round and round, the day turns from sour to wonderful pretty quickly.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Turn on a peppy CD or playlist or your favorite Pandora or Spotify station.
  2. Start dancing.

Yup, it’s that simple.  And by “dancing,” I mean, just start moving.  It doesn’t matter if you jump and twirl in place, do the twist, or try the Moon Walk.  This is your chance to let go, be silly, release some of that bottled emotion and adult sensibility.  This is not the time to care about your hair getting messy or to be shy about the fact that you haven’t danced since seventh grade.

On a chilly evening over Christmastime when my parents were visiting, we decided to have one of these impromptu dance parties in our living room.  Of course our daughter was thrilled and immediately donned her headband, turquoise tutu, and tap shoes. We opened Pandora and listened to everything from country to praise music to the “Kidz Bop Kids” station.

Within mere minutes, the adults were not only wearing huge smiles but sweating profusely.  At one point, I looked over at my 66-year-old mother who was completely oblivious to anyone else around, doing a crazy “dance move” that seemed to be a combination of squatting and rowing a boat.  And I burst out laughing.  I couldn’t help it – I was just so full of joy at that moment, so grateful for my mom.  Yes – dancing can be the best medicine for everyone from babies to senior citizens.

There are also many references to joyful dancing in the Bible.  In 2 Samuel 6, David rejoices over the ark of God, and Scripture says he was “dancing before the Lord will all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14).  I absolutely love that image.  It’s how I feel sometimes in our living room with the music blaring, my eyes closed, allowing my body to jump and sway and twist, pushing my muscles to their limits.  For me, it’s about embracing the moment, enjoying being with my family, and practicing thankfulness to have arms and legs that work and a body full of energy.  Besides, I want my daughter to know I’m never too old to dance with her, just as my mom has clearly shown me.

So try it sometime – dust off your socks and your pride, gather your kids, and turn on the music.  You might be surprised what a little silly dancing can do to raise your spirits and enhance the connection with your children.

Jersey love: moonlight swim.

We arrived in New Jersey on a Friday afternoon, just in time for the last "Moonlight Swim" of the season at the Madison Community Pool.  As I've shared so many times before, this pool is like none other. First of all, it has a social director, who just happens to be my mother.  Throughout the pool season from Memorial Day to Labor Day, there are all kinds of events from luaus to magic shows to jazz bands to massages.

The Moonlight Swim is magical - the pool stays open until 10:00pm, and you get to swim under the stars, eat delicious food, and dance to live music by local artists.  In the evening, the grass is actually chilly under your feet, and townspeople are wrapped in sweatshirts and towels as they contentedly sit, watch, and listen from the lawn.  Others swim laps or gather in groups in the water and chat.  The crickets in the woods that surround the pool on three sides provide the real soundtrack for the evening.

So, being in town to catch the last Moonlight Swim?  I could hardly pull on my bathing suit quickly enough.

As I unpacked the diaper bag and re-stuffed it with swim diapers and towels, my mom informed me that there had been a few changes to how she attends Moonlight Swims now.  "Oh, really?" I asked, my interest piqued.  "Yes," she replied matter-of-factly.  "I don't swim at the Moonlight Swim.  I dance.  I wear a bathing suit, my body glittah, and sneakuhs and socks.  And tonight, I'm gonna dance with my grand-daughta."

And that is exactly what she did.  If only we could all be so uninhibited.

While Mimi danced with her granddaughter, I had the luxury of swimming laps {by myself!} under the moonlight.  As I backstroked down the length of the Olympics-sized lanes, I aligned myself with the swim team pennant rope to stay straight, and my ears immersed underwater muted everything.  It was just me, the water, and the moon overhead.  I stroked slowly, not wanting to speed up this peaceful moment.  I wanted to bottle up that feeling and bring it back to Texas.

From the water, I could spot my mother across the pool, whisking my daughter across the deck to the Oldies as dusk settled.  My parents danced cheek-to-cheek to their favorite song, "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton, as they usually do. 

At almost closing time, I exited the water and went to find a towel.  My toes were pruned, my hair a tangled mess.  My daughter's eyelids were heavy.  Mom's friends were sitting on the benches watching her, wishing they all had the guts to dance in front of a hundred people in a bathing suit and tennis shoes.  And I knew the evening was nothing short of perfection.

Dancin' the night away!

So You Think You Can Dance...LIVE in Dallas. We were in the 7TH ROW!!! I lost my voice. Bonnie and I sat on the edges of our seats with our jaws dropped open the entire time. It was stunning, moving, beautiful, and inspirational!

I thought I'd share some of my favorite photos from the night. They said not to use a flash, but somehow mine just happened to turn on all by itself. Oopsie :)

A contemporary routine with Kameron and Lacey, the first one that was on the TV show...

Then Sabra! So much strength in a tiny body.

This dance gives me chills everytime (wait for it to load - it's so worth it!) This contemporary dance with Danny and Anja is the one I saw on the show and decided it was time to stop saying, "I want to do that" and actually start attempting it. Please God, can I learn to dance like this one day?

The way they move their bodies really is an art form.

Loved the 80s corduroys in every color of the rainbow!

This might seem kind of shallow, but one of the things I realized I love about dancers is their bodies. They are not Hollywood fake skinny, but they are strong. The girls were normal and healthy sized. Some of them even had cellulite, which was oddly comforting. I thought they were beautiful exactly how they were!

It was just a joyful night! Thank you Jeny & Steven for working so hard to arrange it!

On the way to the car, we kept saying, "That was so amazing. Oh my gosh, that was so amazing." Then Bonnie said, "I want to enroll in ballet classes right now. And when we build our dream house, you better believe there's going to be a dance studio in it," and I knew she'd caught dancing fever. I love these vows we make after we've had an inspirational night like tonight. I just know that I went home a happy girl, excited for next week's class when I get to try to be a dancer once again.

Why I love to dance....

When I leave class, I feel like a giddy 5-year-old. I can hardly sleep that night, feeling like something exciting is about to happen!

As I learn how to move my body in different ways, I'm learning to love my body more.

It's great exercise and a lot more exciting that lifting weights!

It's a different means of expression than what I'm used to (pen, paper, paint, paper scraps...).

It's so freeing.

In class, I can be whoever I want to be.

It brings me joy.

There's no way I can be "teacher's pet," even though I wanna be. Ha!

Now, I'm going to try a dance form called "Nia." It's a style that combines Yoga (yesssssss.), T'ai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, Jazz, Modern, Duncan Dance, Alexander Technique, and The Teachings of Moshe Feldenkrais. Hmm. All I know is that it's described as "very freeing" and "full of energy and joy." I'm in!

I hope you dance.

Dancing seems to be the theme lately. On Tuesday night at 7:30pm, I mustered up every ounce of courage I had and tried something completely new: modern dance at the School of Contemporary Ballet Dallas. 1 1/2 hours later, I left the studio with bruised knees and a huge smile on my face. With how ridiculously happy I was, you would think I had discovered I was a modern dance prodigy, but oh no...I had spent the evening completely out of my element, attempting échappés and throwing myself on the floor in carefully choreographed wild abandon.

And I loved it.

When I first arrived at the studio that night, I waited outside Studio C in my halter top and yoga pants wondering what the heck I was about to do. A child's class was just ending and out came a troop of little girls in pink tights and black leotards with their hair in buns. I noticed a sign posted on a bulletin board with the "standard rules" of the studio, and my eyes went straight to Rule #4: "You must wear deodorant." I giggled to myself. If that was to stop people from stinking up the studio, they were in for a rude awakening. Not even the best pit armor could stop this smelly girl.

A few moments later, our small muscular teacher, Kate, ushered us into the studio, and we began stretching. So far, so good. You're an intermediate yoga practitioner, I reminded myself. There was a day when you didn't know how to do a single yoga position. You can do this! I assured myself that no one knew I was a first-timer, but I couldn't hold it in and blurted it out to the twenty-something Asian girl stretching next to me. "Oh, you'll be fine," she said with a wave of her hand. "Especially since you can do yoga." Other students trickled in until there were about 7 of us, a mix of those in our twenties and a few older teenage girls. I looked around the studio anxiously and excitedly. There were ballet barres lining the walls. People were wearing legwarmers...pulled over their heels. I wasn't sure if those were functional or just a fashionable flashback to 1985.

I secured my spot in the back corner, and we began warm-ups which were all centered around the standard ballet positions. Problem numero uno: I had no clue how to do the standard ballet positions. So I kept my eyes fixated on Kate and the girl in front of me, summoning every graceful bone in my body. But when the next challenge came, I was on my own: we were given a real, bona fide 8-count modern dance routine. We were no longer stationary - we were making our way across the entire studio floor. There were spins. There were jazz hands. And then we had to do it in front of everyone, in groups of two.

I had no choice, so I threw myself out there and tried with all my might. Of course I missed half the steps each time and my bare feet squeaked on the floor when I attempted the spins. But I did it! I did it! And it was fun!

As I smiled giddily (when you've made that much of a fool of yourself, what else can you do?), my sweet Asian friend continued to encourage me: “You’re doing great! Seriously, I can’t believe you’ve never done this before!” She was probably just being nice, but still, this was a breakthrough for me! I looked like an idiot, and I didn't care! Because I was putting myself out there. I had decided I wanted to learn to dance, and I was doing it!

Fast-forward to Friday night. I had the opportunity to attend the Women of Faith conference here in Dallas, and the theme was "Amazing Freedom." I was still on an emotional high from my dance class earlier that week and was feeling empowered. Not only did I finally get to hear Nichole Nordeman, whose songs have been themes to many moments in my life, but the main speaker of the evening was Patsy Clairmont, a 60-something fireball with spiked hair wearing a red leather blazer and designer jeans. She was hilarious! As she animatedly danced and swayed across the stage, no one could believe she had once suffered from agoraphobia. She said the theme of her talk was "I Hope You Dance".

I sat on the edge of my seat.

Patsy told us about how hear fears had crippled her for so much of her adult life. She used to be scared to even leave the house - so fearful of all the "what if's". The turning point came when her friends dragged her across the world for the first time, to Israel. You see, Patsy had a long list of "I don't do"'s, and on this trip to Israel, she soon realized she was going to have to start doing them if she was really going to keep living. For starters, she "didn't do" trips out of the house, much less halfway across the world. She "didn't do" planes, but she was on a series of overseas flights. She "didn't do" heights, but she had to take a cable car (which she described as a Tic Tac box hanging from a piece of floss) to the top of the cliffs at Masada.

Once she got to the top, she was so scared she was literally frozen in place and couldn't take a single step. There was an amazing vista awaiting her, but her fear prevented her from moving forward. In that moment, she realized something important about God. For so long, she had asked God to heal her agoraphobia. She wouldn't dare to attempt anything scary until God fixed her first. But what God wanted her to do was first take the daring step, and then He would give her the freedom she so desired. He was asking her to dance, and she had to take the first step. At the top of Masada, she literally prayed herself through each baby step to the edge of the mountain. When she passed through the arch, she saw that God had gotten out His watercolors and painted the entire sky overlooking the Dead Sea. It was breathtaking.

I got tears in my eyes, partly out of regret for all the things I've missed because of my "I don't do" list and partly out of joy for my dancing attempt earlier in the week. I decided now I was no longer going to sit it out - I was going to dance.

So on Saturday morning, I went back to the dance studio for more. This time I tried ballet! It was even more difficult...probably the hardest thing I ever tried to do! Every muscle in my body is sore after two dance classes in one week and I have an even greater respect for the art form of dance.

Something in me has changed. I'm learning courage. I'm learning to be comfortable being me. I'm learning to be a little daring, in fashion as much as emotion. I’m not completely sure if the legwarmers are functional or fashionable....but I'll take a pair in every color. Stripes and polka dots too.