Mama Tree

In my best moments of being a mom I see myself as a tree.  

Providing shelter and safety, a steady refuge.

Giving nourishment, lovingly pouring out life. 

A place of rest, of cool shade from the hot sun and busy world-

to seek growth and bloom peace, sow seeds of hope and harvest goodness.

Rooted deeply in love, quietness, wisdom, and beauty.

Embedded in the rhythms of the earth, branches reaching to the heavens.

A home for little ones

with strong limbs to hold them,

and a heart full of gratitude. 

In two days I leave a one year season of being rooted at home, which included almost ten months of being at home with my baby, which included many mama tree moments (but also some mama hurricane and mama desert moments). Before I return to work, I wanted to capture this newfound piece of myself I've discovered in my time at home with my little one. 

On the couch or the rocking chair, when I settle in to nurse or soothe my baby, I feel such a peace. The usually rowdy crazy dog settles in by my feet. I see his eyes close and feel his breathing slow. My sweet little one borrows her soft, tiny body close to me, she is nourished and safe and loved. The act of giving to them fills me up. 

I am so thankful for this season I've had at home. To build deep roots, to harvest peace. While my schedule will look different and days will be much more full, I look forward to finding this rest and joy at the end of each day.


Why I pressed 'pause' on blogging, and why I am now pressing 'play' and not 'stop'

You may or may not have noticed new blog posts from me disappear from the interwebs since December 2019. I didn't ever intend to stop blogging, it just fell by the wayside in a busy time, weeks turned into months turned into three months, and sometime in March I realized I was probably done blogging.

Now that I haven't posted in fifteen months, I've had some time to reflect on why I needed a break, and what I need to change to return, and what is calling me back. 

The first and probably biggest reason I took a break is pregnancy. A big factor is just the pure exhaustion of the first trimester and wanting to use every spare second to rest. I have always been a do-er, and first trimester had me doing a lot of lying on the couch or in bed. More time on the computer after work was the last thing I wanted. 

Secondly, I was surprised to find out how public pregnancy feels! Suddenly all sorts of people from coworkers to random strangers are asking about intimate details of your life and feel they can give you an opinion or their own experience (hello, unsolicited labor stories). Sharing more of myself on the internet became much less appealing. Besides the exhaustion and the lack of privacy, I also struggled emotionally while pregnant, especially in the first half. I'll share more about my pregnancy journey in a future post.

Those were the reasons I originally paused blogging, but over time and lots of reflection I've come to realize there was a lot more to it. When I started blogging in 2014, it was about sharing my heart- what God was teaching me, creative endeavors, stories and encouragement. By 2019, there was still some of that, but it had also become about page views and likes and brand endorsements and how good could I make my page, posts, photos, and social media look. 

When my page went less from stories and encouragement to more and more fashion and lifestyle, it changed the way I lived in tiny ways. I spent time making my breakfast look perfect so I could take a photo to post for my monthly favorites. I was so focused on documenting places and events that I sometimes missed out on being present. My husband reluctantly took hundreds of photos of me. I put so much pressure on myself to be together and perfect- from my outfits to my menu planning to just how I conducted myself. Blogging alone did not make this happen, I think the urge to be perfect started sometime after college, but it definitely contributed. 

What had started out as life-giving had become draining. 

Ultimately, I was glorifying myself and my blog was about me. Maybe it's coincidence that, with an infant, I am in a season of life that turns any self-centeredness on it's head. I am learning so much.

So why am I returning here? 

It became clear to me when I was 9 years old that I was meant to write. I had stories to share. As I met my Savior and understood that he had created me intentionally, I've discovered that he's given my gifts and wants me to use them. The desire to write and share my heart is ingrained in me. Over the past months I've jotted down little ideas and encouragements to share as they have come to me, putting them nowhere but my journal. Now I think I need to share them.

But I want to share them to glorify God. I want to share them to encourage others and make them feel less alone. I want to share them to celebrate life and beauty and joy. I want to come here and in all places with my life with an open, humble heart, glorifying God and loving others. 

I come back here full of good intentions and clarity but know I will from time to time fall back in to a page views and likes and distraction from the present mindset. When that happens, I will take a step back, and remind myself that this is a place that I share my heart, and I want that to be from the heart.


Joyful & Triumphant

Several years ago I was listening to the Christmas carol "O Come All Ye Faithful" when two words stood out to me: Joyful and Triumphant.

At that time, I was facing some big changes and was greatly encouraged by those words; I was strengthened in realizing that because of Christ and who I am in him, I can be joyful and triumphant in all situations.

A couple of weeks ago as we put up our Christmas decorations, that same carol came on and the two words called out to me again. I scrawled them on our chalkboard in sweeping cursive and put it up in our dining room.

It has been a very stressful month for me work wise. From repeatedly running into red tape when trying to get students help to tight deadlines to frayed communication, there has been more than one night that I woke up at 2 am with my brain whirring. I've gone through my evenings still holding onto the tension and questions that I struggled with at school. I've woken up feeling like there won't be a possible solution.

I've been anything but joyful and triumphant.

Then the other morning before the sun had risen I was taking my dog out in the yard. The moon, the fog, the bird's nest in the tree caught my eye and I remembered: My God is bigger than all of this.

He's bigger than work stresses. He's bigger than flawed systems. He's bigger than conflicts, and unexpected changes, and difficult emotions.

As our Christmas celebrations remind us, Jesus came down to Earth to save us,  and that means we can be joyful and triumphant in all things. Through him, I have already won. I already have everything I need. I need not fret, because in the end I have the most important thing: his love.

I remembered that my perspective and worldview is based upon grace. That though I make mistakes, though I have a lot to learn, God is at work in me. I can learn. I can do better. And there is room and grace for me to fall, and for me to feel less than victory, knowing he will scoop me up in his triumph and joy and invite me to bask in his glory and love.

As you weather the hectic holiday season, whether stress is familial, work related, or something else, remember that Jesus invites you to find triumph and joy in him. Through him, we are already shining brightly, despite whatever challenges we face.


Falling Leaves & Shirttails

Greetings, it has been a while! I took these photos a while ago on an absolutely gorgeous, sunny, leaf-blowing afternoon and have been meaning to post them for a while now. It has been a busy month with work, family, and most excitingly a new puppy! I'll share a photo with my sweet boy at the bottom of this post.


October Friday Favorites

Happy October! Here's an installment of highlights from this month and what I am loving. Today I have the day off and am enjoying a cozy day on the couch, still in my jammies at 11:20 am and rewatching Glee like it's 2010. 


We enjoyed the Hood River Fruit Loop with family. The views of Mt Hood were gorgeous, and it was just a nice day of time together exploring and having fun. See highlights of the fruit loop from my post last year.
I got a chance to take a Jazzercise class from the CEO and founders daughter- she's in front in the black. It was an awesome class and so surreal to meet her, I've watched her on training videos for at least 100 hours!
Being a teacher is a weird job. For our Homecoming assembly this year, we had a lip synch competition. A few staff from my department broke it down to Lizzo's "Truth Hurts" in front of 1200 teenagers. We switched out the lyrics to be about school (i.e. "I'm 100% that teach"). We dressed as the bad asses we are, and before we started I was so nervous but once that spotlight hit my inner performer arrived. There was a live vote and we won!! It was so strange to go back to class after that, I did enjoy the comments from my students like "that performance though". The things we do for the kids!


Fall Flashback

Happy Fall! I hold off until October 1st to go full pumpkin mode with baking, decor, and fashion. Last week my dad dropped off a lot of my childhood stuff (apparently once you own a home ya gotta own your stuff too!), so my reward for getting through some of it was putting up the fall decor. I love seeing how things fit into our new cozy home. 
I've seen many bloggers do a flashback for seasons, and I have a lot of great fall styles throughout the years (almost 5 years of blogging!) so I thought I'd share a "Fall Flashback" today. 


Songs & Stories: Wood floors & Heartaches

About a year ago I wrote about wanting to dedicate more creative energy to my song writing. A goal I've set for this year (as a teacher, years start for me in September, really) to record and share one original song a month. So here is my September song, Wood floors & Heartaches.

The "song" is all there, but I've had a bit of a head scratcher trying to get the "story" across. I wrote this song when I was 16 or 17. It doesn't have a crystal clear meaning or story, it captures more of a feeling or aesthetic. The mood of seasons changing and the uncertainty that brings, apprehensiveness about a relationship and not knowing where it's headed, the concept of how we hope things are versus our worries about how they actually are.


First Weeks of School Teacher Style

If it hasn't been clear from my recent posts, I am very, very much a summer girl. 
My whole life, both as a student and a teacher, the one thing that can get me very excited about back to school is clothes.
(A little materialistic, I know.)
But just thinking about shedding my relaxed summer shorts and tees for my favorite dresses, pants, blouses, and skirts makes me giddy! Once I get back on campus the rest of the giddiness starts to set in, too- the smell of new school supplies and the buzz of my empty classroom that will soon be filled with the students I get to encourage. 


It Takes a Weirdo

It takes a weirdo to do what you do.

Have you ever chatted with someone about their work or passions and just been amazed that that's what they love, and how their brain works?

For me that's engineers. What's the opposite of forte? That's what logic is for me. It baffles me that some minds work with such clarity, order, and efficiency.

I have friends who are in politics, nutrition, technology, recreation, art, event planning, medicine... and their passion and knowledge of their field is outstanding. And not something I easily understand.

During the first week of school, I was walking down the hallway with many of my fellow high school teachers and staff. We were all wearing tie-dye for a welcome back assembly, herding hundreds of students to the gym. Many of the staff were wearing sneakers for the busy day of hustling around and being on our feet to teach.

As I stood in the masses it hit me- it takes a weirdo to do this job. It takes a weirdo to care enough about students and school and the community to give so much energy and effort to teens. To be willing to take pee breaks at designated times, stand in front of a bunch of teenagers and try to convince them not to be on their phones so they can learn something, and to walk them through the painful and exhilarating changes that bring them into adulthood.

And it takes a weirdo to do what you do. To have the passions you have, to care enough about your passion to put in the hard work you do. It takes a weirdo to step into the trenches you step into, to tirelessly face challenges and hope for the better despite daily hurdles. It takes a weirdo to pursue the knowledge that you have, to dedicate yourself so deeply to your craft.

Whether you give so much of yourself to students, the community, the people, progress, the environment, change, the church, beauty, the arts, your children, your grandchildren... it takes a weirdo to do what you do.
And you are just the perfect weirdo for it.
You were designed for it.
Your gifts, passions, and tenacity are needed and oh so valuable.
Go do your weird thing, and do it the way only you can.


Fresh & Easy End of Summer Meals

Have you tried wearing sweaters and baking pumpkin muffins when it's still 80 degrees in September?  Me too.

As much as we look forward to the next thing, there is a challenge and a beauty in being present in the right now. Embracing the in between and the bounty it has for us is enriching.

That's what I'm aiming to do with meals lately- continuing to enjoy summer's produce, grilling, and meals out on the porch just a little bit longer. 

Here's some simple, easy, produce-forward lunch and dinner ideas to enjoy these last few weeks before it's really time for pumpkins. 


Roasted garlic chicken sausage, bell peppers, and onions make a great kabob, a side of grilled zucchini makes it a meal. 


Bring Summer Bliss into Your Fall Routine + Braided Bun

If you're like me, saying goodbye to summer is very difficult. At the end of every summer I have a serious case of FOMO. My husband says that I could go swimming and have ice cream and have adventures everyday and I would still be wistful at the end of the summer. I have a tradition of singing and playing on my guitar a Dashboard Confessional song that goes "So Long Sweet Summer" every late August.
I've talked to many friends who feel this way, and it got me thinking: how can we bring some of this summer bliss into the rest of the year with us?


Leavenworth in the Summer

I first heard of Leavenworth, Washington's enchanting little German village, as a Christmas destination. This August my family took a summer trip to Leavenworth, and we agreed it makes a lovely summer getaway too!


My Favorite Everyday Accessory- Gold Necklaces

A signature piece or two in your wardrobe makes a look yours- something you love that makes you happy and makes others think of you when they see a similar look in a storefront, an actor on tv, or someone passing on the street. 

 I have a few fashion signatures: floral and colorful pieces, cardigans, and necklaces. If you just take a quick glance through my 'style' archive, you'll see so many examples of my signature items popping up in new and fun ways. Today, I want to focus on necklaces. I have loved necklaces ever since I started loving personal style. In fact, one of my friends in high school who drew stick figures would always draw stick figure Kelsey with a necklace on! 
gold necklace
You'll find me wearing statement necklaces and dangly bauble necklaces on the regular, but my favorite go-to is a simple necklace. Lately I am especially loving elegantly simple gold necklaces. They are classic, delicate, feminine, and understated all at once.

My new favorite go-with-everything gold necklace is from AUrate, a New York based company which sustainably and ethically sources their materials. This infinity bar necklace has gorgeous detail, yet is simple enough to go with a wild wardrobe statement, or pull together a casual look.
delicate gold necklace

           For some go-with-everything gold necklace inspiration, check out these outfits below.

One (or more, they're fun to layer!) of these simple necklaces is my go-to for comfortable, easy jewelry that looks polished. I especially love ones that mean something special. A close friend and I got a pair of friendship necklaces that say "Love you" and "Love you more" from Old Navy (I always love browsing ON accessories after I try on a zillion things). I have an Oregon-shaped pendant from a local retailer. A few years ago I picked up a tiny compass rose necklace from H&M and often wear it while traveling. I've also eyed many gorgeous necklaces at Francesca's and am on the lookout for the perfect one.

What's nice too is that gold is surprisingly versatile. Classic yellow gold, white gold, or the so popular rose gold all have their own appeal. Find one that complements your skin tone or enjoy all three!

Do you have a gold tone you prefer, or a necklace that means something special to you? What's your signature fashion piece? Let me know in the comments below! Thank you for stopping by.

                                      This blog post is in collaboration with Nakturnal

                                                                                                 linking up with:

                                                                          Fashion Friday
                                                                      Confident Twosday
                                                                 Thursday Fashion Files


Our first home before & after

Ok, this may be the most exciting blog post I've shared thus far. In May, Daniel and I closed on our first home! When we first toured our house, a 1970's ranch, we enjoyed the layout, neighborhood, and big backyard. We intended to make some cosmetic updates but didn't set out to renovate it, but as you can see from the before and after pictures- she's renovated! 


7 Summer Day Trip Adventures from Portland

Wow, it has been almost two months since my last post! That is the longest break I have taken from blogging since I started in December 2014. I have been extremely busy renovating and moving into our first home. It's a challenging and fun project and I will be doing some posts on it soon. Today, though, I am taking a break from house business to have an iced tea at my favorite Canby coffee house and enjoying their wifi.

Summer is the perfect time for day trips- days are longer, schedules are more open, and the weather is great for exploring. I love a day trip to just get away and explore, eat some good food, and see something new- whether I'm in the mood to hike or lounge somewhere fabulous. I'm sharing 7 of my favorite day trip adventures from the Portland area.