Category: the inevitability of change

a big life

In the last few years, my life has gotten much bigger than I ever expected.

I’ve gotten to travel to other countries. I had babies. I’ve met people whose music I’ve listened to since I was a child. I’ve traveled on a tour bus with my family, supporting my husband’s music. I’ve moved from the Midwest to the beach. I’ve had ‘famous’ people become my friends, or at least, texting buddies. And the way my current job seems to be going, that piece of my life is going to keep growing.

I don’t get it. I guess i used to dream of a big life…lots of kids, a few best-selling novels and an Oscar for Best Screenplay, a co-starring role with Patrick Swayze (in a GOOD remake of Dirty Dancing, of course). I never thought I’d actually have one. And you know, as my life has ‘grown,’ so has my perspective. Having a friend who won a Grammy isn’t any different from having a friend who hasn’t won a Grammy. And having been to South America or the Beverly Hills Polo Lounge doesn’t make my life bigger than anyone else’s.

Let me tell you about a woman I don’t know. I mean, I know her, through blogging. I wanted to meet her, but she lives in Iowa, so I should have tried to when I lived in Illinois. Her name is Sara. I discovered her blog a year ago in August. I remember the actual night, because it was the night before Rod and I left for Colombia, on a journey that made our lives bigger, and it was also the night I wrote a guest submission for, which was accepted, making my writing reach bigger.


Sara was a regular contributor for incourage, and she was around my age, and she was homebound to the extreme because of a rare, complicated, excruciating, debilitating disease that fused her spine, weakened her lungs, destroyed her immunities, and made her allergic to even the outside air.

She has been confined go her house for much of her adult life.

And yet, her life? Is bigger than I can ever imagine mine being.

I’ve always wondered throughout my time of knowing Sara ‘how it would all go down.’ Last year, her dad died very unexpectedly, and she couldn’t be at his funeral, and I wondered how much more she could take. Turns out, it was a lot. She lived a life driven by the words CHOOSE JOY. She had none of the things most of us take for granted. She couldn’t leave her house. She couldn’t have frequent contact with people. She couldn’t eat real pizza. And she couldn’t live a single day without crippling pain. Yet, to read her words, you’d think she was Queen of the world. She exuded joy, wisdom, and hope.

Yesterday, hospice was called to her home. The irony of her last days is that she can finally be physically surrounded by love without the worry of human contact making her sicker.

The truth is that from the inside of her little condo, she has lived a bigger life than most of us can dream of living.

Without ever having laid eyes on her in person, put my arms around her, heard her laugh, or cuddled her dog Riley, I am mourning the loss of a friend today, and the loss of a light, the mind this discouraged world needs badly.

And where it has left me, and many in my bloggy-Internet-family, is blessed, heartbroken, blessed, sad, blessed, hopeful, overwhelmed with love and admiration for Sara, who chose joy.

I hope when I get HOME someday, I can watch a replay of her entry through the pearly gates. I bet her Dad is waiting. I bet she dances. I bet we all will now have another angel watching out for us, helping us to remember to choose JOY.

Know her story: Sara / Gitzen Girl

chicagolina state of mind

It was bound to happen.

The day Rod and I arrived at our new house with the moving truck + trailer – sheets and towels, I coined a phrase. At least, I think I did.


The first thing we did was name our home network after it. The second thing I did was use it on Facebook. The third thing, well, duh, was to buy the domain, as it so completely sums up my mental state of being.

I waited a while to set it up. I have reserved other domains in the past few years and not used them, and I wanted to be sure about the change. After all, it took me forever to let ‘kelshouse’ go.

But another season change means a blog name change, too.

Chicagolina fits. It’s not that I don’t believe I still hold stuff together (hence, ‘the glue’ and ‘my life as’), but…it’s very different from what it was. We no longer function in a crazy state of 2 teens, 2 tots. And for this season, at least, we aren’t driving all over the place in a 40 foot bus. And, due to the nature of life when a family moves away from everyone they know, everything about holding IT together has been a team effort lately.

Side note: she might not know it yet. But I will offer space here to my friend Cindy, who recently moved from Chicago to North Carolina, ‘only’ four hours away from us. Plus… emails for whomever wants one!


So I took the phrase and made a logo:

What do I mean by ‘Chicagolina?’ Well, it’s the merging of 2 cultures, the one I grew up and began my adulthood and started my family in, and the one I’ve come to settle in. It’s best described by example, like how I have fallen in love with BARBECUE and am learning not to be in such a hurry (especially in the deli line or the gas station, because good GRIEF). It’s the weird state of mind I’m in over seeing trick or treat candy and chili fixings in the store when it’s 90 degrees outside. It’s my need to sometimes wear a ‘I HAVE MY OWN FRIENDS’ t-shirt so people don’t think I’m a lone loser, and the way I’m learning that it’s ok to be both open and needy for new friendships and closed off to them all at once. It’s not having any clue about the teams here, but still being able to recite the lyrics to ‘The Super Bowl Shuffle’ and the starting line-up for the 84 Cubs.

It’s a happy place, because I have a rich history to share with my kids and all the new people in my life, and I also can lay claim to loving sweet tea, the BEEEEEACH!, palm trees, BARBECUE, every Walmart being a Super, a few dozen lovely local restaurants, and possibly never having to wear panty hose or snow boots ever again.


Welcome to my Chicagolina. Lovers of Aurelio’s pizza and Sea Captain’s House can feel equally at home here.

Emotional generosity

“Decide the friends, mentors & leaders you want in your life, in your inner circle, and court them with emotional generosity.” – Gary W. Goldstein

Emotional generosity. It is a lovely term, I think. It kind of describes the core of who I am. Like many, I believe our greatest strength in excess becomes our greatest weakness. For me, the ability to open my heart or even give it away has always been easy. I am a lover of people. I view everyone as a potential friend.

In my teen years and young adulthood, this often was a weakness. I lacked the discernment to properly gauge who I should give my heart to. Sometimes I gave it where it was not wanted. Sometimes I gave it where it was treated badly. Sometimes I gave it where it had no business going. I learned from these lessons. During those years, I lost my integrity. I lost people. I lost my ability to trust.

But I did not lose my ability to love.

In the past 3 years, in several unrelated instances that have happened as if on cue, Rod and I have been left standing in the middle of traffic watching someone we trusted flee down the road without a look back or a worry about the responsibility of the large, leftover mess falling to us. It’s usually my response to question my own ability to decipher who was worthy of my trust in the first place. But I have to say, in this latest disappointment, I’m not going to do that.

See, I put my trust in Jesus Christ. To people who don’t believe as I do, this sounds crazy, or maybe just misguided. I can’t see Jesus. He has never spoken to me in an audible voice. He has never held my hand, wiped my tears, signed my paycheck, babysat my children, helped me with the dishes, laughed with me in a movie theater, or sent me a text.

But based on my trust in Him, a one-named man I’ve never seen before, I agreed to move my family 1000 miles from all that was familiar and safe to manage a theater. The circumstances of that have changed a bit, but the mission has not. And the purpose? Well, we’ve always known our purpose is to serve Him, regardless of whether we are promoting a gospel concert, a magic show, or our kids reciting the Pledge of Allegiance on YouTube.

These last few weeks have been the hardest since we moved. With Paige leaving, the girls starting school, and a lot of unrest at work, I’ve woken every day with butterflies wrestling over the pit in my stomach. In my heart and even my mind, I knew a bigger picture was being painted, but my gut just wouldn’t agree with me. I’ve cried a lot, I’ve shut down a bit, and for the first time I almost began to consider if we should ‘go back.’

It’s like I forgot who I was for a moment. Not only am I not a quitter, but I am a warrior. It’s in my name. It’s in my soul. And fighting is what I will continue to do…not just for the success of a family friendly theater in a beautiful little beach town, but to answer the call of God on my family. We’re riding with Him, and for me, at the end of the day, that is the purest, most magical, most real thing there is.

I don’t know if my armor has gotten a little stronger because of previous battles lost, but I’m letting this one go without losing much sleep. I will continue to make brothers and sisters out of people, I will hug necks and kiss babies and share stories and try to help. But if they go, I’m letting them. I stink at some things for sure, but I’m a good friend and I have a big heart, and I’ve grown up enough to know not to give it if it’s not wanted, and my Inner Circle means so much to me that I’m not going to widen it very easily.

In the fight, my greatest strength is giving love. And my most valuable wisdom is to know when to let go.

normal to us

To say I have been emotional the last 2 weeks is like saying Joey enjoys sandwiches. And if you read me regularly, you are not surprised.

Part of the issue, if emotions must be referred to as such, is the navigation not just of a new locale, a new career, the start-up mode, the now two kids who reside in different states from us, but the acceptance of all these things, that this is real life, not an adventure or an experiment, but our new reality.

And for me, perhaps even bigger than all those other transitions, is the going ‘back to work’ AND putting my two littles in school. This wasn’t something I had planned, but more, something I fell into, be it out of necessity, destiny, throwing spaghetti against the wall and finding that it stuck… When the theater came together, there was never a formal question posed to me. It was…’Hey babe, we’re going to run this theater in Myrtle Beach.” And since the last time my darling husband made a statement like this (“Hey babe, we’re throwing a gospel convention. In Branson”), it all eventually worked out, how could I say no?

That was the adventure part. And that was the divine appointment part. I have told our story in bits and pieces around these parts, and one day soon I will finally get it all written, but the state of it is…we feel our being here is no accident or even solution, but a divine appointment. And so, here we are.

Meanwhile, this new reality requires a great deal of transformation. It means our laissez faire “rock star” lifestyle (or as my FB profile says, late nights and lazy mornings on the road) has come to an end for now. Little kids whose classes start at 8:30 am have to be up around 7 (especially because we live out in the boonies and it takes a bit to get to the school). The mornings are, as previously mentioned, a whirlwind of tiny, strategic explosions that get us from bed to civilization. It’s way different from the Chuck E. Cheese on Monday afternoon family we used to be.

If I measured the success of our acceptance and adjustment by my own emotions, I would be in serious trouble. I still shed a tear or two most mornings after the drop-off. I still navigate the guilt of waking them up too early in the morning vs. having time to talk/cuddle and not bark at them like a drill sergeant to brush their teeth and bring me the hair pretties. And I am tangibly resentful of the fact that 5 of our 7 days are dictated by a pre-school schedule. Rod laughed when I said this earlier today.

“Like normal people?” he said.

Who said this had to be normal? I responded. For more than a handful of people we know, it isn’t. For the last four and a half years, and especially the last two, it wasn’t for us.

What we have going on here is a lifestyle I have lived in awe of since Miranda was born the same time as a Miss Ella near Kansas City, whose mommy is a rocking lawyer, who went back to work after a normal maternity leave and still managed to breastfeed longer than I did. It’s one my friend Amy, a school administrator and constant continuer of her own education, rocks with 4 kids and for a long time, an internationally-traveling husband. It’s one a lot of amazingly strong and imperfect women manage in their own unique ways.

It is not an organic experience like my friend Martha, who homeschools as a career and still mothers with a heart that is incomprehensibly patient. It’s not roadschooling like my friend Julie, whose adventures through the USA are bringing education to her boys that could never be duplicated, even in the best school. It is not what it used to be for us…a combination of mommy working at home, daddy working at home, Papa and Paige helping out, a carefully-planned homeschool co-op among friends, trips to the library and park and Target and pumpkin farm (a day that will live in infamy) and the zoo scheduled in between concerts and conferences


It’s sharing salt and vinegar chips around the kitchen table before dinner as we ooh-and-ah over the puzzle KK won from the treasure box (her 3rd trip in 12 school days!)

It’s putting aside exhaustion and chores to go to the pool after school because no one else is there…and because we have access to one and we can.

It’s sacrificing my only true solitude, shower time, because it’s 10 or 15 more minutes I can share with them, talking, laughing, singing.

It’s not feeling bad that dinner is scrambled eggs and leftover pasta, because they like those things, and they don’t know the decision to have that instead of roast and potatoes and baked apples and green beans and bread is made out of ease and convenience.


It’s letting go of my own incessant desire to clean up, because there is time for one show before bed, and I want to sing the Imagination Movers theme song with them. (truth be told, I sing it all the time, with or without them…)

It is accepting that at the end of each day, there is no authority that is going to come check off a list of Things You Should Do With and For Your Children In Order To Be Considered a Good Mommy, or Jesus Help Us, A Proverbs 31 Mommy. And just like I used to worry about how to get them in and out of the car, or whether Randa would ever eat fruit, and whether KK would ever sleep all night, the things I worry about: them learning their letters, discovering their passions and talents, believing in Jesus, and knowing they are protected and adored…

Well, those things seem to be coming along just fine, too. I might even say they are progressing, um, normally.


when angsty love songs apply to other stuff

In spite of my own tendency to make fun of emo/basket-weaving songs, I do love a good ditty full of romantic angst.

However, being that I’m in a happy marriage, they don’t really apply…
…except when they capture my soul in their applicableness (uh-huh) to other aspects of life:

–my kids growing up and away
–navigating newness in career, relationships, my own abilities and lack thereof
–the hope of success and sometimes, the seeming-promise of failure
–my incessant need to be liked
–my old life’s world moving on without me
–my new life’s world moving craziliy about without consulting me

Anyway. I am accepting that my eyes need to be looking forward, and upward, and not necessarily where they lazily, comfortingly fall (on shortcomings, short-term, short…stuff).

But I still take superficial comfort in the angsty love songs.

Scratch, Kendall Payne
It’s a big girl world now
Full of big guy things
And every day I wish I was small
I’ve been counting on nothing
But he keeps giving me his word
And I am tired of hearing myself speak

Do you ever get weary?
Do you ever get weak?
How do you dream
When you can’t fall asleep?

I’ve been wondering what you’re thinking
And if you like my dress tonight?
Would you still say you love me
Under this ordinary moonlight?
I’m so afraid of what you’ll say.

I’d like to know if you’d be open
To starting over from scratch
I’d like to know if you’d be open
To giving me a second chance

I used to think I was special
And only I have proved me wrong
I thought I could change
The world with a song
But I have ended up in India
With no lamp to guide me home.
The strangest place I think
I have ever been
And all this time
I thought that we were friends
My stubborn will is learning to bend.

I’d like to know if you’d be open
To starting over from scratch
I’d like to know if you’d be open
To giving me a second chance