Sunday, August 5, 2018

BFF(AE!)

Hey, all!

I'm writing from a completely nostalgic/sentimental/sappy place today.  Don't say I didn't warn you.  ; )  I'm also writing, from a thoughtful/thankful/reflective place, though, so if you can wade through the personal stuff, I think you'll find some practicality here, too.

This post is in honor of my best-friend-for-life's 30th birthday!  Please join me in celebrating Katie today (and always, really, but especially today)!

Many of you know this, but Katie and I have known each other since the 2nd grade, and have "officially" (ha!) been best friends since the 5th (or maybe 4th) grade.

I really don't even know where to start to tell our story...  We lived 5 mins. from each other.  We attended the same school(s).  We were in 4-H together.  Our moms were friends.  We had the same piano teacher.  Our families became each other's families.  We vacationed together.  Etc., etc.

Looking back on our childhood is quite a trip, but it also makes me teary to think of the blessing it was and what a foundation it created for the friendship we have today.

One of the reasons this is currently at the forefront of my mind is this:

Katie recently unearthed our friendship journals.

Yes, you read that correctly.  We had friendship journals...plural.
One even had a matching bookmark.

Not only have these been hilarious and entertaining to read through, but they've also provided for some reflection and "deep" thoughts (not unlike ones we used to write about in these - haha).  So much life has happened since we started that first journal in the 5th grade.  What a treasure to be able to look back on not only our friendship over the years, but also our individual lives and day-to-day thoughts and happenings.  I think I've mentioned how terrible my memory seems to be, especially lately.  It's always been hard for me to remember things from my childhood and school years, except for a few milestone/big deal occurrences, of course.  These journals have reminded us not only of various life events, but also of how our days used to look and what mattered most to our younger selves.

We've known for a long time what a treasure our friendship is - we documented how thankful we were many times - and we are continuously grateful for each other and our ever-strengthening relationship.  Please know I am not sharing all this to brag, to one-up your friendships, to say our friendship is perfect, or anything like that.  Rather, after reading back through these journals, there are some recurring components in various "entries" that provide clues as to how we've made our relationship work over the years, and I thought I'd share them with you.

In no particular order, here are a few key components of our friendship and how we've applied them over the years:

Grace
Then:  One of the very first entries in the very first journal is, "This will also be a book of appologies (bless my fifth grade speller's heart), and here's one..."  From using our "code names" outside of the journal to jealousy to failing to make time for one another, we recognized and sought forgiveness for actions both big and small.
Later: Though we found a surprising amount of these "I'm sorry" notes throughout the journals, I know there were so many more in-person requests for forgiveness over the years.  As we matured both in our friendship and as individuals, we recognized the things that might upset the other and learned to avoid them.  We also had grace for each other in knowing life changes meant making some adjustments in our relationship, as well, and were patient with the process of working through all that.
Now:  We haven't had a major conflict in years, and I'm having a hard time remembering even having a minor one.  Though we had never intentionally hurt one another in the past, we learned from the times that we unintentionally did, and have since been able to avoid doing so again.  Our grace is likely often extended without a prerequisite apology, though, because we're human and mess up, but we know and love each other in a way that allows us to recognize when hurt wasn't intended and forgive without an apology extended.  Perhaps this just came with practice, too - practicing apologizing and forgiving and moving forward.

Shared Interests
Then: 4-H, gel pens, boys, puppy chow
Later: slumber parties, shopping, Bible studies, puppy chow
Now: pool time, hospitality, awesome bargains, puppy chow ☺
Seriously, though - a relationship without shared interests is much more difficult to maintain, in my opinion.  While our differences allowed us to grow as individuals, our commonalities allowed our friendship to thrive.  Quality time is much more enjoyable when you're spending the time doing something you both truly enjoy.

Honesty/Vulnerability
Then: Sharing what boys (a.k.a. "flowers"...don't ask...) we liked.
Later: Sharing what boys we liked (haha - but seriously - this is what girlfriends are for, right?).  But also: opening up about various situations and how we felt about them, calling each other out and keeping each other accountable, writing/talking to each other during our lowest of lows and highest of highs (which usually involved tears on both ends of the spectrum)
Now:  All of the above and much more!  As our friendship has deepened, so has our level of vulnerability.  It has become clear to me that this is such an important part of any real relationship.  Though I may not tell her EVERYthing, there isn't anything I wouldn't feel comfortable/safe sharing with Katie.  With great vulnerability comes great...

Trust
Then: Keeping the journal(s) hidden from others' view (both intentional and accidental). "Mom just came in my room without knocking AGAIN."  Heaven forbid our own mothers lay eyes on our precious journal.  An entry written while writing during a high school class, "People keep looking at me like I'm crazy.  Do u know how horrible it would be if people took this and read it!  lol.  It must be a secret."  The next entry started with an "*idea*" to only write in the privacy of our homes and simply transfer the journal at school.  haha
Later: As our relationship grew, so did our level of trust.  We learned we could trust each other with our insecurities, emotions, and "deepest secrets." From petty thoughts to important feelings and decisions to knowing the other wouldn't back out on plans; we gained each others trust through many, many opportunities to not let each other down.
Now: I hardly know how to quantify this, at this point, except to say that I know I can trust Katie with absolutely anything.

Foresight
Then: Making a plan as to how we're going to use the pages in the journals (this was a surprisingly prevalent topic of conversation (and consequently, use of space) in the books.
Later: Comparing school schedules and finding several opportunities for quality time during the school year when we were living in different states, because we knew that simply trying to meet up when we were home at the same time wasn't going to be enough.
Now: Knowing that even though we're in the same metro area, we need to make plans somewhat far in advance to spend time together, because life just seems to get in the way if we aren't intentional about it.  (The opportunities for spontaneity and the times we're able to take advantage of it, however, are so wonderful!)

Loyalty
Then: "Kensy and I have been having big problems with a group of girls who are extremely rude to us.  They are rude to everyone!"
Later: Our friendship survived junior high.  Enough said?  ☺
Now: Though we have various commitments, several different circles of friends, and husbands(!), we continue to make an effort to prioritize each other and our relationship.

Another big contributor to the success of our friendship is our shared faith (our 5th grade selves even wrote a special prayer for us to say when we spent the night together...I have no memory of ever actually saying it, but it's in the friendship journal!  Bless our hearts...).  Though we went to different churches (different denominations, even), we attended events/services at each others churches and participated in several Bible studies together.  In "Christianese": The intersection of our faith walks was a huge blessing, and Katie's faith continues to challenge me and keep me accountable.  In plain terms: Katie's faith definitely impacted on my own, and still does, to this day. ☺

Truly, the list of components goes on and on: intentionality, thoughtfulness, respect, encouragement, etc., etc.  I could write a book about all the hilarious and meaningful memories we share, as well as the important conversations we've had and the ways we've built this friendship to be what it is today.

Praise the Lord for technology and the ease it eventually brought to our constant communication, esp. when we were living in separate places.  The first friendship journal documents our first e-mail addresses, and we even wrote, "E-mail me!"  That said, however, these hand-written words are so precious; there's just something about the time and effort it takes to write, as well as the ability to have it all in one place when we want to reminisce and have a good laugh.

I hope that all made sense to you, dear readers - especially those of you who don't know me well and/or don't know Katie, at all.  My goal was both to give you a glimpse into our specific friendship, as well as present more universal thoughts on relationships, in general.

Happy birthday, Katie Sue!  I love you so, so much, and am inexpressibly grateful you're in my life.

Friendly-ly,
Kensy

Favorites of the day:
This girl, who stood by me (in literally every way) even when I had those bangs.
(I had such a hard time not sharing more pics than this one...there are some gems, for sure! haha)
sunshine and pool/splash pad/water time
rhubarb custard bars

Friday, August 3, 2018

Our Very Hungry Caterpillar

As of a month ago, we have a one-year-old in the house!  So hard to believe.  I still don't know how to feel about it.  BUT, I thought I’d share some pictures of his Pinterest-inspired (though not Pinterest-worthy) party! ☺
Bryant's mom made the super cute birthday shirt (GreatStitch), and his mom and sister made the awesome quilt!
(These are for sure Pinterest-worthy, for the record.)
Thank you, Amazon, for having the perfect plain, colored, non-glitter b-day hats that happened to match the "Happy Birthday" banner I've had for years!
Hooray for free online printables and bamboo skewers I always knew I was saving for a reason!
These were his monthly "milestone" pictures!
Never did I ever expect to have a "photo booth" at our one-year-old's birthday party, but it just kind-of happened. 
The caterpillar ended up on the empty spot we usually take pictures in front of, and it ended up being a nice way to commemorate the decoration.
More monthly pics (he had almost exactly the same few poses each month, so I couldn't help but print them all out).
The "spread!"
(Cucumbers and mint fresh from the garden!)
My 4-H cake decorating training/materials came in handy!
His very first cake (or treat of any kind) experience!
He commonly eats with just one hand, so this method wasn't out of the ordinary. 
He took bites a little faster than normal, though. ☺
When they take the cake away...
Made a pretty good dent in it!

This party was a little more involved than I'd originally thought it would be, but when you have all the materials to just keep decorating (thanks to my card-making hobby/materials), you just keep decorating!  haha.  I kept telling myself that because I wasn't planning to make all the food the caterpillar eats in the book, and I also wasn't planning to poke little holes in all the food, I wasn't going completely overboard.  I did, however, put up more decorations than I'd thought I would, and just generally did more than serve a meal and some cake.  It was enjoyable, though, and really fun to make it special.

...

I considered leaving this post at that; a fun DIY party that was enjoyable all around.  In the interest of transparency and sharing life lessons learned, however, I’m going to tell another part of this story.

There were tears involved.   Unnecessary-stress induced tears.  Unnecessary stress-induced tears.

There were a few causes for these tears (including, but not limited to, the fact that our baby was turning ONE), but the unnecessary stress I brought upon myself to put on this super-casual, low-key first birthday party caused me to reach a breaking point.

In an effort to try to help my sweet, patient husband understand what was contributing to my inner turmoil and unrest over this gathering (for which we didn’t even send out formal invitations), I did some serious self-reflection (that I've already shared and talked through with him, for the record). Here’s what I figured out:

I felt alone. Felt is the key word, here. I knew then, and I still know now, that I wasn’t, but for some reason, that didn’t stop me from feeling alone and unsupported in the planning process.  We had a lot going on in the time leading up to this milestone, so yes, I may have been the only one making the specific plans (both necessary and unnecessary ones, mind you).  That doesn’t mean, however, that my husband and pretty much everyone who was going to attend the event didn't offer to help.  As it turns out, I’m just terrible at accepting help and even more terrible at asking for it.  This wasn't the first time this has been an issue for me.  I’ve even been know to rescind a request for help because I felt guilty/bad/burdensome for asking in the first place.  Some would probably say it's a matter of control.  At times, it very well may be, but only in part.  More-so, I just really don't want to inconvenience others, especially when I am fully capable of doing what I'm asking them to do...or when I don't think the task I'd be asking them to do is completely necessary in the first place (i.e. hole-punching pieces for a homemade banner that I wasn't even planning to make).

The other, less-prevalent-in-my-life, thing I realized is that I did more decorating than I'd planned because it was really the only thing I could do in advance.  I couldn't make food more than a couple days ahead of time.  My biggest fear was the cake frosting "melting," so I wanted to wait till the night before to do the cupcakes/cake.  I could only clean so far in advance before things would need cleaning again.  So, since all the plans were made, but I felt like I couldn't do anything in the couple weeks leading up to the party, I just kept making decorations.  I don't regret it (esp. since I didn't really spend money on them - I already had all the materials in my stamping stash...and it's something I enjoy doing), but I do regret the time it took away and stress I allowed it to add to everything else life entailed at the time.

As I was writing this (because goodness knows this wasn't written all in one sitting (#allthenaptimes)), I was listening to a podcast during which they discussed the fear of failing in front of others and the need to have emotions/hurts/feelings/"wrestle points"/circumstances known.  It was my desire for this party to go off without a hitch and be enjoyable for all who attended.  It was also my desire to creatively and economically make it special, which meant several DIY projects.  My fear of it all not getting done, the cake melting, the food not being enough, etc., etc. was real.  If I failed in any of these areas, it would be very evident to those attending the party (who would not have cared/judged at ALL, for the record).  I kept all this fear bottled up inside of me until it came spilling out of my eyeballs in the form of ugly-cry-tears.  I (finally) expressed these fears, took a deep breath, and realized how irrational I was being.  This may have all been a silly reason to come to some of these realizations, but I'm so glad to have come to the realizations, period, regardless of the reason.

Something else that was mentioned on the podcast put into words something I've been trying to explain (to myself and others), but hadn't quite been able to figure out how to do so: "Recreation causes disappearance."  When someone can recreate our feelings/situation in a way we feel completely heard, then that can cause our situation to disappear in a way that no longer bears weight on our life.  I've heard the quote before, but had to look up who said it first: Timothy Keller said (wrote?), "To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything."  Bottom line: God is enough.  He's more than enough, in fact.  He both knows AND loves us, and He's all that matters.  Why, oh why, is this simple, simple truth so difficult to remember, sometimes?  I've been writing (in my head, that is) pieces of a whole other blog post about my desire to be known in my still-fairly-new community and stage of life (outside of marriage), but I'm deciding right at this moment that I'm not going to do so.  Writing the post itself would've been a cry out to be known by others besides the Lord, and it's just not necessary.

So, anyway...here I am, writing to you in an effort to put my fears/failures/mistakes/emotions out in the open; not for sympathy, but in an effort to bring some light and solidarity to some issues I'm sure I'm not the only one struggling with (speaking of struggling, I'm struggling to leave that sentence ending with a preposition, but I'm going to, anyway...choosing my battles...or something like that...).  I hope to become better at seeking and accepting help, as well as failing in front of others.  My pride, perfectionism, and own sense of control are not worth the expense of the stress it all can sometimes create in my life and the lives of those with whom I'm closest.

Phew.  Ironically, I wrote far more than I expected to about a party I decorated for far more than I expected to.  Ha!  If you made it this far, thank you.  I appreciate the time and interest you took in my pictures, ideas, and thoughts.  As always, questions and comments are more than welcome.  Happy to chat about any of it in person, too!  ☺

Transparently,
Kensy

P.S.  An added benefit to all the decoration efforts: since there isn't a holiday for a while after the 4th of July, I just left the b-day decorations up for a couple of weeks!  It was kind-of fun to feel like we continued the celebration.


Favorites of the day:
quality time with others
garden-fresh produce
brunch 
more specifically: this pancake "flight"

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Extreme Makeover: (Byers) Outside-of-the Home Edition

Happy summer!  Or as my husband might say, "Nice spring we're having this summer, eh?"  No complaints, here.

I come to you this late June to (finally) bring you news of our outdoor home improvement projects!  They have been completed for several weeks, now, but you know how it goes with me and this blog thing lately...  Actually, I was just waiting a bit, so I could get pictures of the projects after they'd had some time to become more established.  ; )

So, without further ado, I'll let the pictures (mostly) tell the story:
Bryant did a ton of research about gardening, and as a result, we decided to try the Back to Eden method.  This involved starting with laying down a weed barrier (we opted for free cardboard).
This pile sat for a little while, patiently waiting for the next layer to arrive...
The weed barrier is covered with wood chips!  It was important to get these when the leaves were still green, so there was both green and brown matter.  We found a tree company that had to pay to dump their chips elsewhere, so they were happy to bring them to our house for free...and we were glad to get so many for free!  The only downside was the fact that they had to be hauled to the back yard manually.
Pictures don't really do the space and amount of work involved justice...
...but hopefully you get the idea.
It took a second load of wood chips to cover the rest of the area, and even then, there was still some uncovered grass left in the plot we'd planned.
All done, for now! 
We let this sit for almost a full year to let the cardboard and leaves break down and start enriching the soil (mostly clay, in our case) below it.
This spring, we had old railroad ties delivered, and Bryant hauled those to the back, dug out trenches for them, and put up the (very necessary) deer fence.
Ready to plant!
We didn't use the entire space this year - decided to start somewhat small.
Less than a month later!
Don't mind the grass/weeds.  We weren't able to get the railroad ties in before the cardboard/chips to prevent weeds from coming in from the sides, but we've been able to keep them pretty far from our plants and will get them cleared out for good before next season.
Check out those plants, though!  Everything is really doing well, despite a hot/dry start for them.
We've got a pretty great supervisor. ☺
Our first big harvest!  There's a cucumber in there somewhere.  Prior to this, we'd picked one cucumber and one zucchini.
The tomato plants are loaded with blooms and some fruit, already, and the potatoes look great, too!



I didn't get an intentional "before" picture, but found this one from last year after the step was finished.  The landscaping timbers were placed shortly thereafter.  Then, the baby came 3+ weeks early, so the front landscaping project was officially put on hold.  No one told the gladioli and weeds, though, so they just kept filling in the bed.
What you can't see is the many man hours and loads of elbow grease my awesome hubby put into clearing out this spot.  There were so many weeds and debris, in addition to a large pail full of gladiolus bulbs.  This picture was taken at dusk after we'd gotten all our plants in the ground and watered.  Shout out and huge thanks to my mom for letting us use her greenhouse discount and finding/asking people for plant/design ideas!
We had some cardboard left from the garden, so put it down between plants as a weed/gladiolus barrier, and I'm so glad we did!  It didn't cover everything, but sure made a difference.
This is the last of an almost-ten-cubic-yard pile of wood chips.  We used what we needed as mulch out front and took the rest to the garden! 
Added a second tier of timbers and were good to go.
This was a long time coming, and we are so, so glad to have it done!
Almost a month later and everything is still alive and filling in nicely! 
This guy likes to watch me pull weeds...and help himself to pieces of grass... ☺
It's amazing to me how many weeds and gladioli continue to find their way to the surface.

These projects have been hard work, but have also been a nice change of pace and somewhat enjoyable, mostly because we get to continue to see the literal fruits of our labor.

As always, thanks for your interest and support!  Let us know if you have any questions...or need any cilantro!  ; )

With a green thumb,
Kensy


Favorites of the day:
garden-fresh pesto!
quality time with family and friends
these two hard workers:

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Extreme Makeover: (Byers) Home Edition

Friends,

This post has been a loooong time coming.  As you may know, there were some unexpected issues with our house when we moved in almost two years ago.  We've worked since the very first day we lived here to rectify and remedy these issues, and we are so thankful to finally be able to say we're done!  Yes, there will always be home improvement projects, but these were more necessary than cosmetic and more pressing than most.

The most recent renovation occurred in our bathroom.  We'd picked out and purchased many of the new elements in the room around the time we moved into this house, but they were banished to the storage room till we were able to tackle this project.  I was able to snap some before, in between, and after shots.  We're so pleased with the end result!
There's no "before" picture, but the shower head is a few inches higher than it was. 
If you've met my hubby, you probably understand why this was a necessary update. ☺


Found this sign at Hobby Lobby (with coupon, of course), but it didn't match the vanity, so...
...I stained it!


Long before the bathroom project could be completed, we needed to insure our basement would be usable in both sunshine and rain.  So, over the course of a year and a half, we completed several related projects both inside and outside.  So much credit goes to my amazingly handy hubby - from planning to executing and brain power to man power - he orchestrated and managed everything so well.  We're also so thankful for all those who helped us (finally) reach the finished product.  Whether they were paid by check or by cookies, we had some really wonderful help, all around.

These pictures don't really do the projects justice.  So, so much time and work went into them all!
Front step, bushes, tree, and lots of dirt out...
...drain tile in.



One surprise lead to another!  haha...
We had the tile professionally removed, but then, Bryant worked many long hours to put on the epoxy finish.
Turned out so great!
The long table/chair/carpet wasn't meant to be a permanent fixture, but it sure comes in handy! 
Glad to have plenty of space and flexibility!



Inherited some leftover landscaping pavers, so now, we have a firepit!
(This was a fall project, so these pics are old...and they're making a s'more sound extra good, right now...)

Not pictured: seemingly daily "medium," "small," and "tiny" updates/fixes/renovations including, but not limited to: purchasing and installing a new microwave within about 4 hours time beginning at 7 p.m. (this was definitely one of those "out of necessity" projects...), replacing light switches, fixing toilets and faucets, figuring out how to better heat the basement, adding hooks to the inside of the bathroom closet door, etc., etc. 

This may not have been a total home makeover, but some of it did seem fairly extreme.  We're excited for the promise of warmer weather allowing us to tackle some less-necessary-more-fun projects outside (garden, landscaping, etc.)!

As usual, thanks for reading and for your interest!

With dust in my hair and paint on my clothes (not really, but those both occurred over the course of the aforementioned projects, so it counts, right?),
Kensy


Favorites of the day:
concrete dust (NOT - oh man...definitely not a favorite...)
spontaneous day dates with my boys
freeze-dried pears (the ones I've had are from Aldi!)
this "busy board" we made for Jacob with things we had around the house: