Category: The Essential Life

I’ll Take Your Hand-Me-Downs, but I Won’t Give You Mine

I’m wearing a hand-me-down right now as I’m writing this post. I’m wearing a mustard yellow, knit duster sweater by a friend who said it was “too big for her”. While I wasn’t thrilled with the knowledge that she wanted to upcycle her fat clothes to me, at the same time… it was a super cute, comfortable sweater so whatever. I took it gladly and wear it happily, even though I think it makes me look like a tube of polenta.

If you look closely in the picture at the top of this post, notice the jeans. My friend’s jeans are rolled up and nicely pegged, per the style, while mine are… blousy and pleated looking. Yes, those were hand-me-downs I tried to morph into style. Such is the life of a kid who wears hand-me-downs. Eternally creative.

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I’m not complaining. I’ll take hand-me-downs gladly any time. As a pastor’s kid, we got hand-me-downs by the station wagon-load when I was growing up. It was like Christmas in July to get garbage bags filled with clothing to rummage through. While most of it was grossly outdated and, well, gross, I could sew and adjust, nip and tuck things here and there to at least stay a few years behind the fads, as opposed to whole decades behind- ala those pegged pants.

See this picture of the ginger kid? It’s me at Easter. I was about 13 years old, wearing a pale pink dress. I’ve always avoided pale pink with the knowledge that pale pink blends almost perfectly with my skin tone and makes me look like a dead body, but alas, it was a hand-me-down and I wanted to wear a new dress. It was all I had.

To this day we get hand-me-downs. In fact, we just got a bag of clothes from a friend for Emmeline and it felt just the same for her- like Christmas. She excitedly tore through the bag and held everything up, exclaiming how cute it was, and trying it on. Even Adelaide slipped on a bathing suit over her clothes and wore it proudly around the house for most of the day. It was joyous. See them? Aww. Happy Hand-Me-Down Day!

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And yet, no one will ever know that joy from me. I don’t do hand-me-downs.

It has been my secret shame. I am the perpetual receiver, but it’s the one area in life I refuse to pay it forward. Want to know why?

Because my kids wear their clothing. I mean it- they wear them while living life to the fullest and their clothes, once they outgrow them, reflect a life well lived. How parents preserve their kids’ clothing in a condition good enough to give to another person without shame, I will never know.

Actually, every time I open a bag of fabulous, generous clothing from someone, I marvel at how clean they are. I marvel like you’d marvel at a beautiful piece of artwork, or a feat of engineering. How do they do that?!

Of course, I have managed to salvage a few fancy coats and charming, monogrammed onesies here and there for posterity’s sake, but overall… nope. We Purdys live in our clothes.

See these costumes? Hand-me-downs- we just got them a few days ago from a mother whose kids probably sat in them and… I don’t know, had a tea party? Perfect, like-new condition. And oh boy, are they going to be loved to the death at my house. They will used for fighting epic battles, worn while eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Popsicles and slept in (let’s just be honest), if history is any indicator.

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While I’m not too proud to receive hand-me-downs (I love it, in fact, because it feeds into my love of all things second-hand- recycled, reused and repurposed), I am way too proud to give hand-me-downs to you. You don’t deserve the headache of sorting through them only to find orange stains on the collars or marker colors on the bottoms of the pants– and they are there.

I care about my reputation way too much to let you see that I cannot keep my kids’ clothing in giveaway condition. But- we all have our cross to bear. So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart for your generous, thoughtful hand-me-downs. We love them, and love you even more; aaaaand after we’ve had them for a while, we’ll give them a proper burial…

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Our Handy-Man’s Special: Bathroom Edition

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Talk about perspective…! Our new home, a classic American Foursquare, built in 1927 is one of my greatest blessings- aaaaand projects. It has the most beautiful wood work and old charm, high ceilings and a really classic feel that is homey and yet stylish. But.

I can already tell it’s going to be a long journey to the end, when we’re finally satisfied with the way it looks and feels, but that’s okay. It’s more than okay, actually. I want it. I wanted a “handyman’s special” so I could make this house mine. 

So, when we moved in and two months later the bathroom sink started backing up with black water, I had a pretty cheerful outlook, sort of enjoying the idea that we were official home owners, doing home owner-y things. Broken pipe? No problem-o. My husband is a handy man, indeed!

Here’s my favorite (and most daunting part) – the woodwork. 😀

Buuuuut, then it became this awful “if you give a mouse a cookie” scenario that escalated very quickly, and it turned out we had to tear the entire bathroom out to get to that pipe. In the meantime, we bonded as we brushed our teeth over the bathtub and peed into a commode for a bit. The commode was actually a step up because for three days we were sprinting next door to do “the necessary”. I’ll admit that my cheerful outlook turned into a fake, plastic smile of sheer willpower to get through this as quickly as possible.

Here’s the bathroom before- somewhat outdated with the heavy, dark marble floor, a 3-cabinet vanity with outdated tulip light fixtures and it was actually decrepit. Rotted wood under the sink, broken drawers, painted-over rusty bits, cracked trim and the like. Not pretty, but good enough, and, well, free.bathroom before

But we’re blessed. It took about 7 weeks, mostly because we work jobs and have a life and two little kids in the house and could only do so much at a time. We stepped over screws, boards with nails, avoided the sink in the hallway at night, and piles of tile and joint compound And, while I am perfectly capable of attacking anything with a drill, hammer or paint brush, there were things I simply couldn’t do. So, we called in some friends to help with the demo and fixing that old, crusty (literally) pipe and started to rise up from the ashes.

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The sliver lining was, of course, a new bathroom! I was really excited to put it all together because we want to honor the 1927 look and feel of the house, so I kept that in mind as I chose all the new elements. The walls are a somewhat greyish-pinkish, which perfectly fits with the space. Muted, yet pretty. Lowe’s had the most beautiful tile and it was such a great price!! $1.50 per tile. That’s *nothing*. And I learned a new skill- how to tile, mortar and grout a floor!

Honestly, I could sit and watch paint dry and have fun with my husband. (Actually, we did sit for a bit and watch the paint dry…) So, we stayed up many nights until the wee hours of the morning to get this all done as quickly as we were able, but that was okay with me. Doing demo projects with my best friend is one of my love languages….

bathroom floorOh, wait, pause. Did I mention we had to tear into the ceiling in our dining room to address a leak? Good times….when you can look up through the ceiling and hear someone doing their business on the toilet.

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Once you get use to the dust everywhere, and on everything, you start to appreciate the softer, diffused light in the room, which hides wrinkles a bit… #perspective.

I wanted an inset bathroom cabinet, but it didn’t work with the space, so instead, we opted for an antique gilded gold mirror and purchased an old-fashioned looking bathroom cabinet from Houzz.com that fit with the style.

bathroom after4It’s a really small bathroom so I wanted to give it a better sense of openness and stuck with smaller, individual pieces, rather than the heavy, overbearing giant sink and cabinet that was there originally. The original sink was over 4 feet long and was so deep that you could hit your teeth on it when sitting down to use the toilet. I opted for a dresser style from Home Depot that was much thinner and shorter for the space.

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Shower curtain is from Pier 1 and it is fabulous all the way.

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Now that it’s all done, I am completely happy with the whole thing. The process was a little touch-and-go, but it had to be done. And I’m happy to have been able to do this with my best friend. I realize not everyone has the luxury of a guy who can tackle things like this- so I consider myself extra blessed. It really is fun, when all is said and done. And you learn a lot about your relationship, too!

One of the things I love about our house is actually how much work it needs. We bought it for a song, and now we get to work together to develop, nurture and shape it- powered by our own two hands, our aching backs, our blisters, our laughter, our intense personalities and strong opinions and all the blood, sweat and tears a home really deserves. 🙂

Look, the bottom line is, we ALL have seasons where everything is falling apart, literally- but there is joy to be found as you put it all back together. 🙂

 

It was a good death.

My grandfather died a month ago. He was a good man and his death broke my heart. I am the oldest grandchild on my mom’s side of the family so I had the most time with him, and the benefit of his younger years so we were companions, he and I.

 

I think about him a lot. He lived quite a remarkable life and would often tell me what happy memories he had when he looked back. I’m glad for that. I’m glad because it wasn’t actually particularly joyful, in fact, painful- very much so, for him- and yet he remembered the happiness.

I had the very great honor of writing his obituary (which you can read at the bottom of this post) and of speaking at his wake, but I had the even greater honor of being his “Alicia Darling” and his “#1 girl”.

At his wake/funeral, the entire family came together, differences aside to hug, and talk, and hang out. It’s funny how, when you’re apart from cousins for so long, separated by age, and distance, you come together and it feels like family. Oh, and we have differences. Check out the picture below of the Nolan grandchildren. Can you tell who is a model? Who is a Christian? Who is a Navy SEAL? Who is transgender? Who owns a successful business? Who has autism? Who is a cowboy? Who is a singer? Who just graduated college? Who just got out of jail? Who cares?! My grandpa didn’t. He loved us all equally and gave his time, his money, his help to any one of us who needed it. I was filled with joy to see such a wonderful legacy of one of the most significant and influential men of my life.grandpa after party2

My grandpa is the reason I became a journalist. There’s a whole story behind that! He took me to Disney when I was 12 and his wallet fell out on Space Mountain. He took me to Cooperstown because he wanted me to love baseball as much as he did (alas, no). He came to all my school concerts. He paid for my braces. He brought me dolls in their international costumes from every country he ever visited. My grandpa frequently sent me clippings from the newspaper in the mail with articles he thought I’d enjoy. My grandpa taught me to love and understand classical music. He heavily shaped who I am, and when he died, who he was in life became that much more pronounced in me. I’m proud of that.

And as does happen when a good man dies, the people he left behind are grieving and finding a way to move ahead with his absence, knowing that we’ll see him again on the other side, when our own times come. Praise God.grandpa funeral4Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13

All that being said- watching your family members grieve is a really difficult, stressful, bonding process. It’s one thing to work through your own sadness, but to see pain in the eyes of your parents, and your siblings, to watch them burst into tears randomly as the thought of grandpa flickers across their minds – it’s brutal all around.

Homer was a huge support. I mean- over.the.top. He shone like the glittering, radiating rockstar he is. My Grammy wanted to commemorate the entire event and Homer dutifully took pictures, stepping in front of grieving relatives, with tears streaming down his own face, capturing the most painful and poignant moments a family can share. He held me as I wept on my bed the day my grandpa died. He listened to my stories. He snapped the picture below so I could have a “4 generations” picture with my Grammy even though we’d all been crying 2 minutes beforehand.

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Homer made a very difficult experience bearable- but not just for me, for my whole family. Many of them had never met him because we’ve been living in Utah for so long. He came in an won hearts left and right with his tact, grace, strength, humor, kindness, friendship and the natural way he puts people at ease with his outgoing charm. I needed him, and I didn’t have to say that even one time. He knew, and he was there.

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In the end, my grandfather died as he’d wished- at a ripe, old age, at the end of a life filled with rich experiences, surrounded by his wife and children who were holding him, singing, praying and loving on him.

Death comes to us all, but not all of us truly live. ~Me

His was a life well lived, and it was a good death.

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If You Want to Hear from God, Go Stand by Him

There’s a story behind the picture in this post. This old man, praying over his bread. It’s actually part in a series because there is an old woman as well, in a separate picture. In my family, this picture is a big deal. All of my aunts, uncles and cousins have this same picture hanging in our homes. It’s iconic for us and we all have different memories of times we we’d spent at my grandparents’ house, doing various things while that picture watched over us. I used to ask myself- what is he praying about? Just his food? Maybe the weight of the world is on his shoulders and, at the end of a long, difficult day, sitting down to his meal, he is praying for grace to face another one. Who knows. But everyone in my family has a different theory.

I’m not one to pretend I know much of any one, particular thing, but after walking in relationship with the Lord all of my life, I do know this: Prayer changes things. Prayer doesn’t change God, no. He never changes. But prayer changes hearts, minds, attitudes, entrapments, strongholds, situations and everything else because prayer engages God’s power and releases it into our lives: On earth as it is in heaven.

We become the agreement on earth, for things to align in God’s will, as they already exist in heaven. That’s an Amen!

On my mind today: Deuteronomy 5:31, “…but as for you, stand here by Me, so that I may speak to you…”

As I’ve been working my way through the book of Deuteronomy, I’ve been reading it with fresh, new eyes. I remember trying to read it so many times in the past and just about falling asleep, partially because I thought it was boring and partially because I’ve read it so many times, since it’s one of those first few books you encounter each time you try to read the Bible through in a year…

Our proximity to God is a crucial part of our ability to hear from Him. James 4:8 tells us to ‘Draw near to God…” – it is our responsibility to place ourselves closer to God and we do that through building a relationship with Him, getting to know Him through His Word and through time spend seeking Him in prayer and even just being quiet in His presence.

There is a geography in the Kingdom (Read the post, “The Geography of Sin” for more) – you are either close to or far from God- and those are your choices to make.

In Deuteronomy 5, Moses had just finished giving the Hebrews the Ten Commandments that the Lord spoke to him “on the mountain, out from the midst of fire, the cloud and the think darkness with a great voice” (don’t you wish it could just be that easy to hear from God…?!) and the Word says that even though the people heard the voice of God up on that mountain as the Lord spoke to Moses, they had no sense of honor or awe. They wanted to get as far away from it as they could.

In fact, they said to Moses, “Now, therefore, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we will die. For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say. Then speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.”

One of the biggest mistakes the Hebrews made (over and over and over) is that they consistently ping-pong’d back and forth in their geography to God. If God did nice things, they got closer. If God didn’t do what they wanted, or not fast enough, they made golden calves and distanced themselves from Him.

One thing we know about God from His Word is that not only can God be found, but also- He wants to be found, but it is our job to seek.

In Deuteronomy 5:30-31, after the Hebrews got weird about being too close to hear God’s voice, the Lord says to Moses, “Go say to them ‘return to your tents’, but as for you, stand here by Me, so that I may speak to you…” As for YOU. As for me. “Stand here by Me.” Could there be any more inviting, amazing statement God could make? He wants to be near me?

The Lord wants to be close to us, so that He can speak. Need a word from God about your situation? Read the Word. Pray. He can be found, but you must seek Him, His face. You must place yourself close to God so that He can speak and so that you can hear. How can we expect to hear and know the voice of God if we aren’t standing close enough to Him to listen?

Food for thought. Pray before you eat it.

 

What a difference 10 years makes…for better, or for worse

The picture on the left was taken on Feb. 13, 2008 – the day Homer and I met.

After meeting online (ChristianMingle.com, for those who want to know…), and chatting on the phone/IM for a few weeks, we decided to meet up in person to make sure our profile pictures were accurate. haha 🙂

Well, they so were. Homer was every bit as gorgeous as I’d hoped- tall, confident, handsome, and really fun. So, we snapped a picture at the place where we met up- the EcoTarium in Worcester, Mass., in front of their giant grizzly bear.

Well, on Feb. 17, 2018, we took the kids ice skating and snapped another photo, at almost 10 years to the day of that fateful trip to meet each other to see what if…

Wow. We have been through a lot, the wringer, actually- but together, always together. There were times when I wanted to leave, and times when he wanted to. But we didn’t. We toughed it out. We cried, screamed, prayed, threw things, despaired, triumphed, grew, changed, forgave, comforted and refused to sleep in different beds, even on our darkest and most painful nights.

What a difference 10 years ago makes! The people on the left thought they were two, strong people. The two people on the right have learned they are stronger together. Every day together is a gift. Treasure it.