Goodbye, Mountains.


This will be my last post on These Mountains Are Mine and Jon Foreman has given me some very fitting final words. It was this song, which I heard today for the very first time, that has given me the courage to say goodbye.

"The Mountain"
The Wonderlands, Sunlight EP
Jon Foreman

Oh the feeling comes to me again
The feeling to give up and to give in
The feeling that I've already lost the war
But a pure heart is worth waiting for

Get behind me all you little fears
Get behind me all you wasted years
Get behind me everything I've done wrong
A pure heart is coming with the dawn

I've decided to face this mountain
Stare the mountain down between the eyes
I'm not running from this mountain of mine
I've decided to face this mountain
Stand up to the mountain tonight
I believe You can move the mountain side

She's a pretty devil in disguise
The devils in the details of her eyes
She's a blurry vision in a dress tonight
Her tongue is mixing drinks like truths and lies

Maybe faith is found inside a seed
Maybe faith is still found inside of me
Mostly I feel like I'm lost at sea
I believe, Lord help my unbelief

I've decided to face this mountain
Stare the mountain down between the eyes
I'm not running from this mountain side
I've decided to face to this mountain
Stand up to this mountain of mine
I believe You can move this mountain of mine
I believe You can move the mountain side
I believe You can move the mountain of mine

Reasons (Or, Final Words)

I enjoy reading things that make me pause and think deeply. It often takes me awhile to sort out those thoughts and I've found that if I don't write my first impressions down (however incomplete) I lose them. Putting pen to paper helps me take my scattered thoughts and organize them, make sense of them, and eventually articulate them. I'm simply mulling over possibilities and documenting my reactions and feelings. I'm typically not holding my thoughts to the standard I would if I was attempting to make a case for those opinions. That would require sourcing and suspending bias. If I was publishing something scholarly in nature, I would want to do those things, but blogging is not scholarly in nature, right?

Well perhaps I got that bit wrong, if only in part. After all, blogging and posting things to social media are essentially forms of self-publishing. A blog, I've learned, is a lot like a journal with an audience, but an audience that will hold your post to the standard of an article if they happen to disagree with your innermost thoughts.

Thoughts evolve. The more you learn, think, research, study, and reflect; the more you find yourself building views, beliefs, and opinions and altering existing ones. Publishing those thoughts can be a dangerous business. You may be held accountable for things you wrote years ago, for instance, or worse, your words may be misunderstood or hurt people that you love even if that was never your intention. The written word is impersonal in the sense that you cannot see your audience. You are removed from your audience. You may never know how your words made them feel.

I've spent months holding onto this blog, posting sporadically, unwilling to let it go. I liked the idea that it was here waiting for me, but I hardly ever hit publish, even when I spent hours writing and rewriting a post and am pretty proud of the end result. In truth, I write more consistently than ever, but I share less often than ever as well.

It has all come down to one simple question for me: "What is the purpose?"

Why am I writing this? What will publishing this post accomplish?

At one time, the purpose was engaging others in dialogue or, if I'm being completely honest, having a soapbox from which to express my opinions. I've since decided that this is not the best forum for either of those things. Most discussions are more productive in person and opinions are things people usually only want to hear when they ask to hear them.

There was one other purpose that I felt gave me my "why"---I found it to be encouraging. 

Other blogs have been a source of encouragement and growth to me. I feel as if I've gotten to know complete strangers through hearing their stories. I've laughed. I've cried. And there are many bloggers who do this blogging thing so well. I also like the notion that perhaps I could be a little more "known" by sharing my story. I've been told that people have found encouragement here.

Still, after a lot of reflection and some pretty honest (sort of tough) conversations with John Paul, I've come to the conclusion that most of the people who find encouragement in my words are people that I can encourage in more tangible ways, while those who do not find that here just need me to be a better friend in "real" life.

I wanted this to be a short post, but I was unable to keep it brief knowing it would be one of my last. I felt compelled to offer some sort of explanation if not for some unknown reader, at least for my own closure.

My hope is that I will continue to find outlets for writing and perhaps that will even take the form of a new, more focused blog (I'm making no promises here). But sadly, I think it is time to let this blog go. These Mountains Are Mine needs a conclusion.

Going to the gym sucks.


I'm just going to say it: I hate exercising.

Well, I hate exercising as an activity. Historically, I've always enjoyed playing sports, being active, hiking, dance, swimming, etc. but the whole concept of going to the gym for the purpose of exercise has never appealed to me and I chose music over sports in high school sealing my fate as a non-athlete.

Despite the fact that I do feel great post-work out (energized, accomplished) getting STARTED is something I fight fiercely. There are two main reasons (which are most peoples reasons...):

1. I'm tired

I know the paradox---if I exercise more, I'll have more energy---but it's hard to see that when you're a working mom who feels stretched thin and just wants to relax in the evening with her family or sleep an extra few minutes in the morning before her 2 year old barrels in at full speed. Half the time I don't even feel up to cooking dinner when I get home in the evening---when would I ever have the energy to work out?

2. I'm out of shape

Um...but really. This has very little to do with weight. Even in high school when I was a size 2, I could not run a mile. Getting from 'can't run a mile' to 'regularly exercising' is probably the biggest hump in getting healthy or losing weight.

The thing is, I just don't see life long healthiness happening without exercise. I mean yes, diet is probably even more important and sure, it feels ridiculous to live in a culture that has to fit in an exercise routine rather than just live actively, but I sit at a desk 8-10 hours a day and I'm pretty sure it's slowly killing me...

So many of my friends seem to love the gym, or yoga, or running marathons, or whatever it may be. But it also seems like the most successful have to make it their lives. It becomes apart of their identity. You can only commit whole heartedly to so many things and I've already committed to as much as I can manage and not to things I can just cast aside.

So I guess my question is---can I be a healthy and balanced person without fitness becoming a major part of my identity? Can I get in and stay in shape without being consumed by meal planning, work-out plans, and rigorous routines?

I wonder.

Why popular baby names are not as popular as you might think...


Lately, August's name has been popping up on a lot of baby name lists which, even if they aren't accurate, are at least drawing attention to the name which could trigger a rise in popularity. I have mixed feelings about this and I'm not the only one. In fact, many of my friends are noticing their "unique" names popping up on these lists. 

The baby boomer generation (our parents) always seems to be surprised by what my friends and I are naming our children. "Oh I've never heard of that" is a common comment. But names that seem unique, even strange to them, in reality are actually becoming quite common. 

This could just be the way name trends naturally happen. For example, my mother SWEARS that "Matthew" was not a common name when she chose it for my brother, but he was always one of several Matts in his classrooms. 

Another explanation might be that the name was always around but we just fail to notice it as much until it's your kid. Since August was born our family has noticed characters in movies and books that have been around for a long time, and even discovered distant relatives with the same name. 

I find names to be very interesting. Why we choose names, their purpose, how they vary culture to culture---it's all really fascinating to me. Name trends are something I read up on a lot before I got pregnant. My goal was to choose a name that wasn't weird (nothing I made up or he'd hate me for) but was unique. This desire was a result of really liking my name which I consider to be pretty unique (I've never had a friend named Noelle) but also normal (everyone knows the name, I've HEARD of other people named Noelle). We chose August in part because I felt it was just such a name. August was a very popular name at one time (think late 1800s) that went out of vogue to the point of no one having heard of it, and now it seems to be making a little come back. 

Naturally, it can be a little disheartening to think you came up with the perfect, unique name only to discover that it's jumping up the charts. But as someone who regularly looks at the data, I have found some solace in the fact that a trend towards uniqueness means that even popular names are being used less than the popular names of the past. 

For instance, in 1957, the number one baby name for a boy was Michael.
Over 90,000 babies born in 1957 were named Michael.

Compare that to 2013 when the top baby name for a boy was Noah and represented only a little over 18,000 babies born. 

Yes, there were more babies born overall in 1957, but even when comparing percentages it's still a drastic difference. So yes, Noah is the number one name, but it's less common than that implies since names are much more diverse these days overall. If your name is outside the Top 20, or even better the Top 100, chances are you won't encounter too many kids in the classroom who share your child's name. You'll hear of other kids named the same thing, maybe even meet a few, but no name will dominate in the way names have dominated past generations. (Fun fact: Michael has been in the Top 3 for like 50 of the last 60 years...that's a lot of Michaels).

So take heart current and future parents! Even if your not-as-unique-as-you-thought name shows up on these lists---it's not as bad as it sounds. And if you REALLY want your child to be unique, consider naming them one of those oh-so popular names from your generation because, while misguided, they are being avoided in mass.

Undeserved Love: Time to "Practice What I Preach"


This post was written two years ago and never published but I recently stumbled upon the draft and decided I was ready to share it. I hope it is encouraging to read the "updates" which are in italics. 

By now you are likely aware that I believe that every person deserves grace and love. But actually, it would be more accurate to say that I believe that no one really deserves grace or love. Love isn't something that we can earn. If we try to earn love, we will fail, because every person alive is flawed. No one is perfect. We have all done bad things. No one really deserves to be loved one hundred percent of the time. We have all acted selfishly and we have all hurt others. In my opinion, if you have to earn love, then it's not really love. Because true love is not conditional. It continues even when you are at your worst and even when you wrong the one loving you. I know that not everyone views love in this way, but I do. And this belief has been a difficult one for me. Being committed to this definition can be painful. It would be a lie to say that loving your enemies is easy. It actually kind of sucks.

What happens when someone purposely hurts you? When someone acts in a way that is not at all loving? In fact they act so selfishly that their choices benefit themselves while causing you pain. What if you did nothing to deserve what they did to you? What if they truly don't deserve your compassion? What if they deserve to suffer the consequences because they inflicted pain on another either out of selfish indifference or malice? Maybe they hurt you on purpose or maybe they didn't mean to hurt you but were just acting selfishly and didn't care enough to think about how it effected anyone else.

Our culture pretty much views love as a feeling that you should chase. It is a feeling reserved for potential lovers and people we care about, not for our enemies. When someone is mean to you, you have every right to be mean right back. They deserve what's coming to them and you can, perhaps even should, retaliate. Our compassion is reserved for the victims, not the ones who inflicted the pain. In fact, despite our supposed war on bullying and hate crimes---hate is deemed "okay" when you're hating someone who did something deplorable. But...hate is still hate. Can we not see the irony in that sort of thinking? Can we not see the brokenness of the person who did the deplorable act?

Dr. Martin Lurther King, Jr. summarized this idea well:

‎"There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must not do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system." 
- MLK, Jr. from his 'Loving Your Enemies' sermon

It is a very painful path to strive to be the kind of person who shows this sort of love. But the person we are so angry at for being unloving...they're buying into a system that portrays love as conditional and self-beneficial. We will never defeat the system by being apart of it.

I thought about ending the post here. The final two paragraphs of the original post were a confession. I discussed a situation that had landed me in a place where I did not want to show love or grace to the person who hurt me. I did not want to be the bigger person. I was struggling with notions of justice and punishment---of what they deserved. I actually felt pretty vengeful. The final lines of that post were:

Even though I feel this way, love is still (and always will be) a choice.

I choose to love this person. I choose to show compassion and to try to understand their perspective. I choose to love them even when I don't feel like it. I still believe that everyone deserves to be loved and I guess it's time to practice what I preach. It's time to love even when it hurts to do so. It's time.

At the time, this was just ambition. It did not line up with my actual feelings. I believed (and still believe) to my core that love IS a choice. I chose to act loving towards that person, to fight the bitter feelings of resentment, and...I eventually won the battle. I never really had the opportunity to reconcile fully with the person and it took me awhile to forgive them, but I have forgiven them. I defeated the feelings of hate and thoughts of retaliation. 

The idea that we can't control how we feel is only half true. I couldn't make the anger disappear overnight, but I could choose what I did with those thoughts and how I acted on them and our actions and principles eventually become our thoughts---that is the only method of building character that I know of. I am so happy to have come out on the other side of this battle in victory. The alternative (buying into an evil system) would have only led to bitterness. I learned how to love an enemy (how to turn feelings of hate into feelings of love). It took a long time, but I've never felt more strongly that we are capable of loving the unlovable then I do now.

Go Tell It On The Mountain


All the poor and powerless
And all the lost and lonely
All the thieves will come confess
And know that You are holy
Will know that You are holy

And all will sing out
And we will cry out

And all the hearts that are content
And all who feel unworthy
And all who hurt with nothing left
Will know that You are holy

And all will sing out
And we will cry out

Shout it
Go on and scream it from the mountains
Go on and tell it to the masses
That He is God

We will sing out
And we will cry out
We will sing out

Shout it
Go on and scream it from the mountains
Go on and tell it to the masses
That He is God

"All the Poor and Powerless"
- All Sons and Daughters -

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit


About a month ago, for reasons I cannot recall, I found myself browsing Buffalo "Meet Up" groups. The only one that I was drawn to was a book club for "eclectic readers." This basically means a book club for people who read widely across genres. (I like to think of this as a
'snob-free' book club). I looked at their past book selections and found a number of books on my own to-read list and some favorites that I can never seem to find anyone to talk to about. I've always liked the idea of book clubs. Every time I finish a book I am bursting to talk to someone about it, to discuss it. I liked that this group could read Divergent one month and Goldfinch the next. I liked that there were fantasy books in the mix with more acclaimed literature. It was refreshing and I found that I was sad I hadn't found it sooner because they'd already read and discussed many books I would really like to read and discuss.

I have yet to make it to a meeting, but I did pick up a copy of their December book to read in hopes of making it to the December meeting. It was a book I wasn't familiar with. Usually it's difficult for me to get into a book I don't have prior interest in, but I gave it a go.

The book was The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce. Having no expectations whatsoever, I found the book to be pretty interesting. It feels mostly like literature but there are elements of fantasy, ghost story, and mystery that make it hard to confine to one genre. It's set in the 1970s in England so it's very British in it's language and fits neatly into the political climate of the time. There were some plot devices that worked quite well on me creating feelings of anxiety and suspense and raising questions about the reliability of the characters and even the story itself.

After I finished, I allowed myself to google the book and read some of the reviews and background on the author. I read that the book was just released in the U.S. this past summer and that Joyce passed away shortly afterward. Something about this discovery unsettled me. It was like arriving at a party thinking you are on time, only to find out that the party was actually last weekend. I found myself reading a blog post he wrote only a month before his passing on his still active website in which he beautifully talked about facing his mortality while also seeming as if he expected to get better and continue writing for a very long time. He didn't want to die. He didn't know he would be gone so soon. It was both poignant and eery. It was like reading a letter from a ghost. Which, given the book I just read, felt wildly appropriate and also incredibly sad.

It has all left me feeling a bit haunted.

(I like to think that Graham Joyce would be happy to know his words are haunting me).

Reacting to Ferguson


I think what frustrates me most about situations like what is happening in Ferguson is that there is rampant bias and agenda on both sides. I understand the instinct to react in the extreme when you see bias, but it's not helpful in the long run. My initial reaction was to be upset with the rioting and protests. They seem very counterproductive. They hurt innocent people like small business owners and emergency personnel who have nothing to do with the case. This is not justified. What does it accomplish? I suppose it brings attention to the issue---but at what cost?

The justice system shouldn't be swayed by public opinion. If the evidence indicates that the officer was attacked and reacted the way any officer would have then he shouldn't be punished simply to satiate a mob. We shouldn't assume something is racially charged simply because one party is white and one party is black. We also shouldn't just assume his innocence or make the issue of race smaller than it is simply because a few inflate it.

That being said, I think that there is a reason people are upset and frustrated and it would be callous to ignore their voices.

Consider this:

- The officer is not "innocent" 

This isn't a question of whether or not the officer took a life. The officer did kill a person. Whether or not he was acting in self-defense, whether or not it was racially charged, whether or not he should or shouldn't face criminal charges, etc. do not change the fact that a person was killed. Those things can be argued in court, but the death of another human being is never something to take lightly or brush aside as unavoidable. Of course it should be investigated. Someone is dead.

- This was an indictment, not a trial

There's no defense present at an indictment. An indictment is simply a prosecutor presenting evidence and witnesses so that it can be decided whether or not there's enough to warrant a trial. It doesn't mean the person is guilty, just that there's enough of a question to take it to court. The only reason a case would not receive an indictment is if there is something about the case that makes it VERY CLEAR that no crime could POSSIBLY have been committed. As complicated as this case may be, I seriously doubt it's straight-forward enough to warrant no trial. Keep in mind that for every 10,000 indictments, less than 1 does not proceed to court. It's just a normal step in the process. This implies at least some level of corruption.

- Racial profiling isn't made up

While there are certainly people oversimplifying the situation, that doesn't mean that there aren't problems with the system. I read an article that shared data from Missouri's state government about Ferguson and was surprised by the statistics. "Black residents of Ferguson are twice as likely to be stopped and/or searched as white residents, and they are far more likely to be arrested. But searches of black residents are much less likely to discover contraband than searches of white residents."

All of this to say---it's not simple. Making assumptions about how other people think and feel or what motivates them is dangerous. Ignoring the voices of community members who genuinely feel that their lives matter less than their peers is not okay either. We have come a very long way since 1860, and even 1960, and that should be celebrated. But if anything, Ferguson shows us that we haven't "arrived"---the United States is not a perfect, egalitarian society. We're made up of imperfect people and systems that can break or become corrupted. We have to continue to work towards equality---and we'll likely never be able to stop. So yes, #prayforferguson and never stop working towards a world that values every human life: officers, criminals, victims, oppressed people groups, the unborn, the disabled, the alien, the whore, the zealot---every life matters.



Autumn makes me nostalgic, and despite the chill in the air, optimistic. I always seem to want to start new things in the Fall. You would think this would be a Spring attitude, but not for me. Fall marks the beginning of things to me. School starting, steadiness and routine returning, the ability to wear both warm and cold weather outfits, new albums from my favorite bands, reprieve from humidity, the promise of the holidays and family visits just over the horizon, and weather that makes me happy to be alive. In New York, autumn is a bit tainted since it's shorter and signals the coming of a much colder winter, but even New York fall has it's charms with all the vibrant leaves, apple activities, and boots that seem more functional than ridiculous.

October in particular has been my favorite month my entire life for a myriad of reasons. It's my birth month. It contains at least one long weekend (well, used to). I get to drink my chai tea warm. It's the first month I feel justified in making large pots of soup. There are football games, homecoming events, bonfires...and in North Carolina the Dixie Classic Fair.

The fair was a fall event where I'm from (not a summer event like it is in NY) and it was a romanticized, ethereal experience growing up. Night time at the fair was perhaps the most anything-could-happen, romantic setting of my youth. I went with my friends every year, wandering and wondering what the night would hold. More than once, I held the hand of a boy on the ferris wheel and thought I might float away...or throw up.

If it weren't for Halloween, a holiday I've never been fond of (mostly due to my hatred of horror movies), October would be perfect. So perfect, that despite it being my favorite I purposely avoided getting married in the Fall so that I'd have things to look forward to the rest of the year.

I guess I'm doomed to wax-poetic every October. I just really love fall, y'all.

28: John Paul


When I met John Paul he was 21 and he looked like this:

He had long hair, wore skinny jeans, and played guitar in a band. We had similar taste in music, basically the same upbringing, and nearly identical senses of humor. He had a smile and charisma that drew you to him and when you got to know him you quickly realized what a ginormous heart for others he had. He was the kind of guy that saw the best in others while I questioned their motives. He was loyal, kind, funny, and soooo good looking. He apparently felt the same way about me because we soon found ourselves dating.

Our combined awesome was almost too much for the world to handle. It didn't take long for me to realize I needed to spend the rest of my life with this guy.

So I married him. 

The last 4 1/2 years of marriage has been quite an adventure. There have been many bumps along the way including this one:

Today is his 28th birthday---an age that is both old and young. And I guess I still like the guy. ;)

So Happy Birthday to my husband John Paul---truly my best friend. I am so thankful that we spend so much time laughing, that you are a wonderful dad, that you still have that big heart and killer smile, and that you remain soooo good looking. Here's to a lifetime full of birthday celebrations, love, adventure, laughter, and pizza.