New Jersey spring...

My dad sent these photos of the first day of spring in my New Jersey hometown.  Wow!  Not very springy.  They've gotten pummeled with snow this winter, and mom says they were just seeing the grass for the first time before this storm hit.   Look at the snow on those gorgeous evergreen trees.  Still, I'd choose our Texas spring over this, for sure!

Jersey summer: here we go again...

On Friday morning, we head to New Jersey for almost the entire month of August.  Last year, I wasn't sure if it would be our last time to be able to do this, but we're blessed with the chance to embark on the journey again this year.  My husband has been working overtime at two jobs for awhile, and it's time for him to have a real break.  Luci Belle wakes up in the morning and after every nap asking, "Is it time to go to Mimi's house today?!"  We cannot wait to swim, swim, swim at the Madison Pool, visit the farmer's markets and drive through nearby towns in the countryside.  This year, Steven and I will also get an entire day in NYC all by ourselves which hasn't happened in years.  And our family of three will venture to the Hudson River Valley for a long weekend to stay at a private home in the woods.

On that note, I do have to be completely honest about something...I've had to face some ugly feelings about my body this summer, about how different it is already.  I feel so much bigger at this stage of pregnancy than I was last time.  I fear what people will think of me when they see how much my body has changed.  Blech.  It's a daily struggle to remind myself that the second pregnancy is different, and who cares what size I am because my most important job is growing a healthy baby.  And remember when I was so sick that I couldn't even leave the house for 2 months? 

So as I embark on many days ahead of squeezing into my maternity swimsuit, I need to state clearly in writing that I am not going to miss out on the best parts of summer.  These words serve as a great reminder...

"I'm going to live in the body God made me, not because it's perfect but because it's mine.  And I'm going to be thankful for health and for the ability to run and move and dance and swim.

And this is what I'm not going to do: I'm not going to hide.  I'm not going to bow out of things I love to do because I'm afraid people won't love me when they see my underbutt.

This is the promise I'm making: this summer, I'm not going to be ashamed of my body.  Or at the very least, I'm not going to let a lifetime of shame about my body get in the way of living in a rich, wild, grateful, wide-open way." ~ Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine

Truthfully, I'm disappointed that I still feel shame about my body, especially while pregnant.  And it's got to stop.  Now.  There's a whole bunch of summer left, and I'm going to make the most of it.

Here are a few of my favorite moments from last summer in New Jersey...

They survived. (30 days of thankfulness ~ day 1)

Power outages, lines for gasoline, homes cut in half by fallen trees.  Yet these 70-foot-tall oaks of righteousness are still standing in my parents' backyard.  So thankful for this mercy but broken-hearted for those who lost so much.

~ ~ ~

During the month of November, I'm practicing "30 days of thankfulness" - will you join me?  Use your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to voice your thankfulness for something every day in November.  My hope is that this daily routine will create in me a heart of thankfulness and gratitude, no matter the day or month or situation.

You give Jersey a bad name.

We are {reluctantly} back from New Jersey.

While I was there, I was struck with the notion that so many people still think New Jersey is just one giant, ugly turnpike flanked by industrial buildings and factories with guidos and guidettes walking the streets.  I'm not sayin' that doesn't exist in Jersey, or that the show Jersey Shore isn't authentic.  Admittedly, I rocked my share of Aqua Net back in the day.  But New Jersey is so much more.  To me, it's...

  • Revolutionary war towns
  • Boisterous Italian family
  • Quaint farmer's markets
  • Deep forests with moss and streams and hills
  • The best delis and diners
  • Walking into town
  • A place where summer is enjoyed outside

Every morning, we shuffled outside to enjoy my parents' back yard first thing, drinking coffee and tea while Luci Belle played with all of my mom's yard critters and watched cardinals and orioles and bluebirds gleefully feeding in the morning light.

We felt rain on our skin and took two walks after the rain, just to celebrate it, because we've missed it so much.

I even had purple lips after swimming one evening and left the Madison Pool wrapped in a wet towel with goose bumps on my arms and legs.  We went home and ordered Rocco's pizza for dinner and ate it in our bathingsuits.

That is summer.

So in case you don't believe me, I'm going to show you.  Through a series of short posts, I'm going to share some of the beautiful moments we captured in my home state. 

Until then, I leave you with this photo of our little Jersey girl...

A home for all seasons.

Here is my home sweet home in Madison, New Jersey, dressed in winter white.  Dad laments that it's T-H-R-E-E degrees there now {the clock at the bank downtown said so}, snow is packed tight, lawns piled high, driveways frozen over.  They're expecting another big storm on Tuesday and likely won't see a tip of grass until spring. 

I do love this little cottage home where I no longer abide but still consider "mine."  It's beautiful in all seasons.  How I miss the azaleas blooming in spring, the deep vibrant green of summer, the kaleidoscoped landscape of fall, and yes, even the blustery winter when the starkness and lack of color expresses its own kind of beauty.