Cause you’re a mess too.

Sam and I used to be minimalists. At least, that’s what my friend Cassidy said the first time she came to our house after Clara was born. Clara was 4 months old, and our house looked very different than it had only a year before. Not just because there was a bouncy seat by the fireplace, or a carseat in the dining room, or a basket of toys by the couch. See, before Clara was born, we sold almost every piece of furniture we owned. Then we bought new furniture. Then we replaced our carpet with hardwood, set up a nursery, and have slowly added shelving, rugs and art pieces the last two years. When Cassidy called us ‘minimalists’ what she really meant was ‘you used to own nothing.’ Sam and I didn’t spend a lot of time at home before our kids were born. We went out a lot, hung out with our friends all the time, and then he worked out of town half the month and I never wanted to be home alone while he was gone. I can barely remember that life. I used to finish work at 6:30 p.m. and be able to do anything I wanted until 10 the next morning. Half the time didn’t even have a husband at home waiting for me. The freedom! What did I do with all that time? Mostly I recall eating a lot of cold cereal and making a lot of plans for the weekend. My gosh! Why don’t I like, know Italian by now? Or have a PhD in something? Young people! You there, the ones with the hours of time dictated by no one. TURN OFF NETFLIX and DO SOMETHING WITH YOURSELF. Love, your old and tired friend, Jessie.

So now, here we are, finally actually living within the walls of our small home in our small neighborhood, living amongst all this strange IMG_3778new stuff. Living with our kids and the strange new stuff that came with them. It’s not even like our children have completely taken over the house, either. We make them share a room so that we can keep a guest room. They have one corner of the living room for their toys. That’s about it. But still, we seem to be surrounded. Tripping over their shoes, cleaning up their crumbs, buying diapers and socks, washing their blankets, reassessing their closet and editing out clothing sizes- it’s never ending.

The other night after a wildly unsuccessful bedtime, Sammy still wasn’t asleep and needed another snuggle. I wrapped my arms around him and then Clara joined him on my lap in their rocking chair. I rocked and sang, smelling their clean hair and rubbing their backs through their soft jammies, still amazed that they are mine at all. There I was, in a big green comfy chair that I hadn’t owned a few years ago, in a nursery that hadn’t existed, flanked by a crib and a toddler bed I had never really imagined, holding two children my body had grown from sesame seed heartbeats to two warm and tired bodies melting into my lap. Their stuff is all over our previously-minimalist house. We don’t have any more empty drawers or cupboards; our corners and nooks are full of our babies.

And it turns out, we don’t mind it at all.

Because all of this stuff? It’s evidence of their existence. It is mostly outside of me in the sense that I don’t use it, unless invited to play; I wouldn’t own it were it not for their presence in our home.

It is silly, maybe, and it is cluttered, at times, but it is there because they are here. 

Their voices bounce off the hardwood, just like everyone warned us when we installed it. They smear fingerprints across the glass french doors, they spill food every day, we pick up on their toys over and over again. Two hooded towels hang behind the door in the bathroom, their names embroidered across the terry material. Clara and Sammy. There they are, in our bathroom. Splashing in the bathtub. Sleeping in our bed. Climbing on our couches. Crawling around our feet as we make dinner, crying our names in the middle of the night, laughing as we chase them and complaining as we discipline. They fill up our home with noise and mess and a joy that squeezes us, wrings us out like a dripping sponge.

We used to be minimalists. We used to be free.

We didn’t know what we were missing.

We don’t sleep that much anymore. We don’t go out on a whim, or see many movies, or leave the house without the fanfare of a small, disorganized side show. Our world overflows with their presence. Our home is full of them and their stuff. Our hearts burst with pride and thanks when we see them. Our lives are interlaced with theirs, threaded so tightly together that to pull one string apart would change the entire tapestry.

The inconvenience of loving someone often shows up in the form of their stuff. Their clothes on the floor. Their files of old baseball cards. Their spread sheets and organizational charts, pinned up in the office. Their beer in the fridge, their dishes in the sink, their toothpaste flicked onto the mirror. Their jacket on the chair. Their particular brand of mess, emotional or tangible, probably both, fills up our lives and we make room for them. Just like we want them to make room for us. Even when the mess is too much. Even when the mess has us a little bit buried.

When we love, we make room.

The space that our things occupy is a physical manifestation of the space we occupy. Learning to live with the stuff of others; the mess; the bags on wheels that we all lug behind us; that is love.When we love, we welcome one another, stuff and all. Maybe we sit in it for a while. Maybe we help clean it up. Maybe we point the direction to the trash heap and let our loved ones decide the next step to take, because the hard part is that our stuff keeps changing. Like my children’s blankets and dolls will soon be replaced with school books and muddy soccer cleats, like our home has altered over time, the things we must make room for will change too. A battle will be won only to have another soon waging in its place. My temper will cool over time, I will learn to hold my tongue, and other painful shortcomings will crop up instead. This is the way of life, and it simply must be the way of love. I will love you in your messes, old and new. Embattled and triumphant. Until death do us part.

I think realizing what all we accept when we decide to love gives us a better understanding of how sacred it is to hold someone’s heart, to love with abandon; it’s not to be taken lightly. It is important, difficult work that comes with a lot of stuff. Love doesn’t just see the stuff and passively agree that it exists; love sees the stuff and says “Welcome. All of you. Whether you ever change or go away or get better or get bigger- my love will have room for you. My love will always make room.”

I come with my grandmother’s tea cups, a penchant for breakfast goods, and an unhelpful, selfish avoidance of mundane chores or errands. Sam comes with an absurd amount of baseball hats, an incredible commitment to cleanliness, and an annoying habit of refusing to make decisions.

Clara is a little lady. She has an impeccable sense of order, a tenderness that frightens me with its fragility, and a maddening way of whining and arguing. Sammy brought the summer sun into our home, has a smile that never leaves his face, and recently tore up four beloved books in one infuriating morning.

This is our stuff. This is our family. This is the room we extend to each other, room to be and room to grow, room to rest and room to become the ones we are meant to become. It’s not easy, this love. It’s work. It’s mess.  It’s steady, faithful, messy work and it’s worth it, we say. Torn up books, bedtime shenanigans, a tired “I love you” whispered as you fall into bed- it’s all so very worth it.

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a bad video montage and other holiday musings

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Christmas home videos are a genre unto themselves. When we go visit the Horney house in Washington, one of my favorite ways to pass a few hours of our Christmas vacation is to watch any of the home movies of the 5 Horney kids, meticulously recorded and organized by their diligent and loving father. There is something hilarious and slightly warming about the youth in their voices, the five of them squealing over gifts and stockings and even rejoicing at the presents that the others receive. Seeing Sam as a little boy is like falling in love all over again. It’s like I’m watching my past and my future all wrapped up in one sweet and freckled 8 year old. He was shy, very kind, constantly helping his three little brothers and his big sister, his dark hair always perfectly combed, his voice raspy and quiet. He was so different than me as a child (bursting with noise and talkative energy, of course) and I like to imagine what I was doing at the same time as whatever video we’re watching. Like Christmas in 1989, when 9 year old Sam is in Washington opening up Washington Huskies sweatpants and I am 3 years old in Idaho, opening a baby doll at my Grandma’s house. There we were, and here we are, the same age as our parents in the videos (but weren’t they so much OLDER than us, I thought??) with our own kids on our laps staring at our own tree.

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I never used to understand why people hate home videos. There’s a particular romance to such an intimate record of the past, the nuances of a person’s voice and movements and laugh, encapsulated and somehow magnified in their static state. I never used to understand hating all of that-  until last night.

Time-lapse videos are so fun to watch, and I’ve been wanting to make one on my own. So I decided to set up my video camera and record our tree-decorations this year. Sam and I have a long standing argument concerning Christmas trees. He wants fake, I want real, so we normally meet in the middle and don’t get one. We’re the worst. But last year we broke our tree-less truce and bought a real tree from the sad pickings of the mid-December Home Depot parking lot, because, you know, who can stand keeping holiday magic from their happy 15 month old? This year Sam bent his will and again our living room filled up with pine and cheer. And, this year there were TWO happy babies to impress with lights and ornaments!
There is no Scrooge strong enough to fight the joy of a toddler exclaiming in wonder over the same exact tree every single morning.

So, I recorded our whole process, from the tree nursery visit (which required a fast explanation concerning the man wandering around in a red suit, who we don’t “do” but is sort of hard to avoid) to the frustrated unspooling of lights to the angel placed on top.

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But in a surprising twist, I almost couldn’t stand watching the 45 minutes of family time when I uploaded the movie. Though it had happened mere hours before, I already felt sad while it played across my laptop screen. It was like I could hear my kids in the future, laughing at Sammy eating pine needles, laughing at Clara’s squeaky voice, the two of them teasing their (future) younger siblings with statements like, “This was back when the family was still perfect.”

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The bizarre instant nostalgia choked me, a warm scarf of future longings around my neck.

My babies were asleep in their beds, the tree had been decorated for barely an hour, and I already missed this time together: Christmas with a two year old Clara and an almost 1-year old Sammy, in our little house on Sanetta street where we’ve lived since we married seven years ago. I’ve watched too many other old home videos to think that I won’t watch these videos of my kids someday and miss this simple season in our family history.

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Is this why people hate home videos? Because they make you sad?
Or is it because they are usually boring, too… Yeah, probably both.
So I took precautions to avoid sad OR boring, by turning our Christmas tree decorating into a time-lapse movie that, as it turned out, plays exactly like a classic and terrible 1980’s montage. Using Earth, Wind and Fire as the soundtrack probably didn’t help, but I swear you wouldn’t be surprised by a Tom Selleck cameo in this thing.

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Enjoy watching our baby eat everything he finds, Clara get in a wrestling match with her cozy chair, Sam and I cooing over a baby picture of Smooch, and the general sense of chaos that is holiday decor. Enjoy NOT watching the part where Sam walked by with his bare butt towards the camera while I wasn’t looking. That didn’t make the cut, surprise surprise.

Here’s to premature nostalgia and bad montage footage! Cheers!

Sam’s new job.

There are moments, like this one that I’m sitting in right now, moments so rounded out and perfectly in my grasp that I wonder if I’ve ever felt so completely settled. Don’t get me wrong; I still fight with myself every day, an on-going neurosis within my own head that plays back worries and failures and what-ifs like the grooves on a vinyl record. But still, in this moment, babies both asleep and pumpkins on my porch and a house all to myself as the afternoon quietly drifts forward; this moment is warm and still and good.

When these times arrive, maybe just for one afternoon or maybe for an entire month or maybe even a whole year of round and peaceful moments, I tattoo them on my brain. I sew them into the stitching of my story because I find it useful for later, when things are not so good, when things are perhaps downright shitty, to run my fingers along those happy threads and believe in quiet afternoons coming again.

Seven years ago when Sam and I were engaged and planning a wedding for early January, I started praying that he would get a different job. He was a lineman at Idaho Power, a great job that put me through school and takes care of our family very comfortably; but he also traveled all the time.

Since the day we met, his schedule has been:

Home for 6 days and then gone for 8.
Home for 6. Leave again for 8.
Home for 6. Gone for 8. Home again and then leave again and again and again, an endless parade of hard goodbyes on Tuesday mornings as he drove away before dawn. We made it work and before we had kids we could survive- after all, it’s not like he was in the military and gone for a year at a time. I always told myself to just deal with the weird schedule and be thankful for the income. Still, it hurt. A friend once pointed out that Sam was gone for over half of every year. That’s a lot of gone. So, I joined soccer teams, I joined reading clubs, I was in school full time, I worked full time, and I led two lives.
6 days of married life.
8 days of single life.
And yes, ok, the 6 days at home after a long absence? There were benefits. There were more than excited hugs being exchanged. 8 days apart is a good amount of time for some feverish use up every chance we get kind of sexy time attitudes and I really can’t complain about the peppering of DO IT NOW romance sprinkled throughout our life together. It wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t awful either…

But still, every day, I prayed that Sam would be transferred to a team that worked in our city instead of all over the state. That he would stop leaving. That he would be home.

After Clara was born, the pain of Sam’s absence magnified. A new awareness of how much we needed to be together came with her birth, and as much as we enjoyed 6 full days together when he was off work, the 8 days apart seemed longer and longer. I could barely contend with leaving Clara for half the day while I was in class, and could not imagine leaving her for 8 full days at a time. I felt bad for Sam. And truth be told, there were days that I felt bad for me. I was not a single parent –  I had a loving and supportive spouse – but I was raising my daughter alone for over half the year. The nights I stayed up while she teethed, the nights I did not sleep because she had a cough or the flu, they seemed infinite when I knew that it would be me alone again in the morning, me alone again the next night, me alone again until Sam got home. He missed birthdays, he missed anniversaries, he missed milestones, later he missed ultrasounds for baby Samuel, and I KNOW I KNOW so very well that there are struggles a million times harder than this, but for me?

For seven years?

It was hard. It was lonely. And it got old.
I’m a little tearful as I write this, actually. I don’t think I realized how hard some of those days were, or maybe I didn’t feel the freedom to be sad or lonely because who can complain about a good job? But I will give myself permission here, in this moment, to say that it was really hard. And I was really tired of it. And no, he wasn’t in Iraq, but he also wasn’t in our home. He wasn’t here for more than half of our life together and that was really hard.

Sam’s name has been on a transfer list to work on a ‘home team’ for seven years. These lists rarely move along because Idaho Power is an amazing company to work for and people either die or retire before a position opens up. We knew that, but to wait the better half of a decade to be together more than 6 months of the year seemed ludicrous. Why wasn’t God making this change for us? Why wasn’t he listening to my fervent, tired prayers?

I don’t know! I don’t know why we waited so long. Maybe it’s because “waiting” should have left my vocabulary a long time ago. The idea of waiting for a change in order for life to get better or for life to move on is a denial that life IS moving on. Life is happening. This is happening, I say to myself sometimes, three words meant as a reminder that I can’t change the now. This is happening. Move with it. Live in it. Rise above it. Dig in. Whatever. Just be here and live here and remember that better days will come but if they don’t? These are still your days. The only ones you get. 

Earlier this fall, Sam was offered a permanent position with Idaho Power as a lineman in our town. He accepted. It was a bizarre and sudden change in our lives, to accept this job that we had been waiting and praying for, so many many years of wondering when it would actually happen.

It’s here.

This is happening.

Every afternoon around 5:00, I hear the garage door groaning open. A minute later, I hear the muffled movements of Sam taking off his boots outside the laundry room. And then, lo and behold, day after day after day, Sam comes home. He picks up his baby, he chases his daughter for a kiss, he cleans the kitchen after dinner, he turns up Guns N’ Roses while he bathes the kids, and he falls asleep next to his thankful wife. After seven years of living life far apart and in a constant state of flux, we are home together. 

Sammy is pulling up and cruising along the furniture, and no one has to watch it via FaceTime.
Clara says things like, “I need an ice pack for the blue marker on my fingers” and both of her parents can roll their eyes together.
I play soccer every Sunday and miraculously do not have to find a baby sitter.

We love and we fight and we are tired and we are raising kids and we are having sex and we are doing laundry and we are growing as a family, growing through the good and the bad and that sweet, sweet taste of the everyday, re-learning our place in each other’s lives on a Sunday-Saturday repetition that has never felt so steady and right.

We are home! We are together.
And it’s good.

^^ The first time I ever met his family or watched him climb a pole. 
Look at his little baby face! ^^
^^ The second time we started dating… ^^
^^ His birthday a few days before we were married. He was 28, I was 21 and good LORD we barely even knew each other!  ^^
^^ Engagement pic that I still love. Also the last time Sam was ever seen in a sweater. ^^
^^ No kids. Less wrinkles. So blissfully unaware of real life 🙂 ^^

Horney family holidays (it’s as good as it sounds)

This year, in a striking moment of ambition, I decided to host Thanksgiving at our house. And I do mean “I” decided. This is a perfect example of perhaps the most common disagreement in the Horney house, when I broadcast big decisions without “actually” discussing said decision with my darling husband. 5 years later and this is still happening, you ask? Don’t worry, God is working on me. Keep reading.

I thought it would be such a great idea to invite Sam’s family to our house for Thanksgiving, and then dedicate our girl at church that Sunday. 2 birds, one stone, so to speak (ha! get it? birds? turkey? Come on now.) They agreed to come, and suddenly it was November. Six Horney relatives were about to descend upon our humble home, plus the bits and pieces of my family who were still in town and planning on joining us for dinner, and a few dear friends just to round things out.

*cue Sam’s panic face, followed by Jessie’s lackluster reassurances, and Clara’s sudden “I used to sleep through the night?” amnesia attack.

Confession: I was worried. Our house isn’t very big, our baby isn’t very old, and I have never made Thanksgiving dinner in my life. So why the heck did I invite everyone over? This is where I blame my mother (hi mom!). It is her unwavering belief in me that created this monster before you, the monster who thinks everything is possible and that she can do anything with a little help. My mom always encouraged us to follow our hearts and make things happen, no matter the obstacle. We were superstars in her eyes, and I carry around some of that ‘my mom says I’m special’ ill-bred confidence to this day. So…Thanksgiving over here, everybody! At my little house, with my in-laws, my introverted husband, my three month old baby, my lack of culinary expertise, and a whole lotta positive self-talk.

The week wasn’t perfect. My kid cried through several of the nights, her wails reverberating off the hardwood floors and into the ears of her grandparents, aunts and uncles deep into the midnight hour. My little brother spilled red wine, I googled a gravy recipe AS we served the turkey, and Sam and I even threw in a small disagreement for good measure. But take heart, Horney readers! The holiday spirit reigned, floating through our house in the form of strong coffee, baby giggles, the fantastic homemade rolls my little sister whipped up, beautiful decorations, and lots and lots and lots of love.

So here you go: 3 things I’m thankful for, 1 thing I know, and 1 thing I was oh-so-wrong about.

1. I’m thankful for Sam’s parents. For my mother-in-law and the intentional way she communicates and cares about her sons’ wives, for my father-in-law and the way he serves without any expectations at all. Thank you, Debbie, for unloading my dishwasher a million times, keeping two pots of coffee brewed, listening when I need to talk, and loving my daughter with a grandmother’s abandon. Thank you, Sandy, for trusting me as a new mom, for supporting me as your son’s wife, and for being a silent beam of strength in our family. You are both dear to me as second parents!

2. I’m thankful for Sam’s little brothers and their wives. They are some of our best friends, and the fact that we would even want them in our house for a week says a lot about how special they are to us. I mean, for goodness sakes, they grew mustaches just to be the ‘weird uncles’ at Clara’s dedication. I know that’s ridiculous, but to me it was just another reason to love them. Alene and Andrea are the sisters of my heart, and GOSH I love you both! Like, Hallmark Christmas movie tender moment kind of love.

3. I’m thankful for my little sister. There was this moment, during dinner, when I looked around our table at the faces of so many people I love, and there were two baby cousins sleeping in my bedroom, and I thought, “Yeah. We’re the moms now. We’re the aunts. We pull out turkey gizzards and we make pies and we pray for dinner and we go home with our husbands. We are making these families.” I’ve never been so grateful for my three sisters as I am in motherhood, and watching Jamilyn walk the path before her with such grace and kindness fills me with admiration and pride.

4. I know that I have to be a mom first. This was hard. It was hard to walk away from a messy kitchen to nurse, it was hard to wake up all night and put her back to sleep, and it was hard to realize that any and all Clara questions needed to be answered by ME. Her MOM. It was a bizarre leap into public parenting, complete with lonely, screaming car rides once her aunts and uncles realized just how deep her hatred for that carseat goes and conveniently always rode in the other car (fair weather fans, those guys.) It’s a different gig to try and host while parenting at the same time. But every time I walked into the living room and saw Clara holding court, the family gathered around and laughing at her every facial expression, I melted a little. She spread love around our house like butter on a dinner roll, and it was pure magic.

5. I was wrong about Sam. I knew this week would be hard on him, and I knew he was nervous. So I prepared myself to protect him from the stress, to keep him as far away from the holiday messes as long as I could, mostly in the name of self-preservation. I was wrong about how he would react. This pressure cooker of a week brought us closer than ever, and provided a moment of recognition for each other’s strengths that couldn’t have happened anywhere else. Look-  even when things are hard around here, even when happiness is more of a mountain than a hill, and even when we seem to be speaking two different languages, SAM ALWAYS TRIES. And this week, my lovely husband, you earned a gosh darn gold medal. Thank you for listening. Thank you for hearing. And thank you for letting your heart be vulnerable. I love you, I love you, I love you. And I trust you.

Thank you Lord for a week of blessings, big and small, difficult and easy. 
You are King. Bless your name! 

Priorities, or "have bunny chair will travel"

Sam travels a lot for his job. This has been a fact of our entire relationship, and we work with it. He has times away and times at home, but for the most part he is gone about half the year altogether. We’ve built our life around that routine, riding the highs and lows of exits and entrances for the last six years.

But now we have a baby. (this one, in the cowgirl boots.) And things feel different.

It’s no longer easy to live separate lives every other week when he’s gone. Because his life exists at home with us. And our life exists wherever he is. It’s pretty killer, actually. So when he called and asked us to come stay with him for a few nights, it was hard to say no.

But I definitely wanted to say no.
It’s not like the guy works in Tahiti, you know what I’m saying? He works for Idaho Power, in the worst parts of Idaho.
Like eastern Idaho.
And this week’s particular destination? Burley, Idaho. I mean, there’s really no reason to go to Burley, Idaho.

(Unless, for instance, you’re in high school, on a roadtrip with your friend Cassidy to see some friends from summer camp, friends who happen to be an attractive pair of brothers who live in Burley, brothers who you and Cassidy plan on divvying up and getting to know on a more ahem personable basis in their backyard all weekend…maybe getting your first kiss…otherwise there is truly NO reason to go to Burley.)

It’s a 2 1/2 hour drive through the desert into nowhere. And have I mentioned that my kid hates her carseat? She screams so hard her round face turns pink and I swear I’ve seen CPS workers tailing me during errands while she wails in the backseat.
It’s a nightmare.
I had a million reasons to tell Sam no. The car trip alone with the baby. Our house that needs cleaned. Groceries that need bought. Nieces who need a babysitter on Friday night. But there’s been a shift somewhere in the universe, and all of those other reasons for “no” are now trumped by one tiny reason for “yes.” (See tiny boots above).
It’s silly to drive to Burley for one night with Sam. And I wanted to say no. But suddenly, lately, we became a family. It’s not just us anymore, making things ‘work.’ It’s us and her, making things wonderful.

Which means I packed up the car. I loaded the bunny bouncy seat. I drove for 2 hours, stopped to nurse in a Subway parking lot, drove for 30 more minutes, and got to see the look on my husband’s face as we all walked towards each other on the hotel lawn.
It might be silly, but it’s worth it. Because in the end, all we’re really guaranteed is today, right? The “no” starts to shrink when you see the “yes” for what it’s worth.

So put on your cowgirl boots. Get on the freeway. And drive to Burley.

Hey God- thank you for my little family. Help me to be intentional about our time and energy. 
I love you- Amen.