Wednesday, November 14, 2018

To Appreciate the Beauty of a Snowflake

To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.

~ Aristotle

Last fall - winter hadn't even officially arrived yet - snow fell in Texas. Not the hard, sleet-like snowflakes we had twice before experienced since our move here eight years ago, but the kind of snowflakes that swoop down from the sky in Wisconsin. When I stepped outside and realized what had begun to happen, without warning and completely unexpectedly, tears sprung to my eyes. Almost nothing feels as magical as the first snow of the year, except perhaps the first snow in many years and for some, the first snow ever.

Throughout that evening, the snow became more intense: more flakes, bigger flakes, and flakes we could actually see on the grass. Many of our friends, both child and adult, had never seen snow like that. Nearly everyone we knew - even those who shrivel and shrink at the mention of cold weather - took advantage of Mother Nature's gift that night, venturing outside to experience the overwhelming joy and breathtaking beauty of a simple snowfall.
The first snowball of the night.

Many of my best childhood memories revolve around snowy, wintry weather. Sledding, ice skating, ice boating, building snowmen, having snowball fights, making snow ice cream. (I even enjoy shoveling.) Bundling up in snow pants and scarves...and then removing layer after layer as our bodies warmed. Playing outside for hours, even after our mittens dripped wet from melted snow and our socks slouched down into the toes of our boots. F...i...n...a...l...l...y coming inside to thaw our fingers and toes by the fire and warm our insides with hot chocolate. I have done my best to help Will and Hallie create these kinds of memories during our holiday visits to Nebraska, Illinois, and Wisconsin, but I never could have imagined how happy it would make me to see them creating these memories in - or outside of - their own home. And I couldn't help but think how incredible it was that all of these Texas kiddos were finally getting to create these kinds of memories as well.

Hallie is once again praying for real snow here in Texas. But if those prayers don't come true this year, at least we know we'll have snow when we head north for Christmas.
The view from my sister's bedroom window in Washington, Illinois.
The view from my parents' dining
room window in Madison, Wisconsin.
The view from the kitchen window at the Ferris
family's Lincoln Lodge in Minocqua, Wisconsin.

The four Ferri remember that Thursday night as one of the absolute best we have experienced as Texans. And now, a year later and as family members and friends who live elsewhere in the country post pictures of their first snows of the year, I return in my memories to the that night, and to that feeling of knowing that just for a moment, all was right in the world. 

Also in honor of all of the "first snows" around the country (including ours, which was six wet flakes yesterday morning), a little something to make you laugh on this hump day:

Monday, November 12, 2018

Bucket List: I'm Not Throwing Away My Shot

After YEARS of waiting, my mom, my sister, and I finally found our way into the audience for...HAMILTON.

For those unfamiliar, Hamilton: An American Musical tells the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. The music and lyrics were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and are uniquely performed in a combination of styles ranging from hip hip and rap to pop and traditional show tunes. Also unique to Hamilton is the intentional casting of non-white actors as the musical's lead characters.

Arriving on Broadway in August 2015, Hamilton did extraordinarily well both in the eyes of the critics and at the box office. The show received 16 Tony nominations and 11 awards - included Best Musical - in 2016.

Back then I couldn't make a trip to New York City to see Hamilton work with my schedule or my wallet, so I held out hope the show would one day open in Chicago, which often occurs when musicals and plays do exceptionally well on Broadway. Thankfully, Hamilton did eventually make its way to Chicago, and we eventually made our way into the seats at the CIBC Theatre.

Generally speaking, I knew what to expect when we bought the tickets but I intentionally didn't learn the words or even listen to the songs beforehand; I wanted the show to feel as new and different and progressive as it did for those who had the privilege of sitting in the audience in the very beginning.

Fully comprehending the lyrics - many of which are rapped - was difficult at first, but after a couple of songs I could more easily follow along. By the end of the show I felt ready to tackle rap myself...if only I knew any raps other than Sir Mix A Lot's Baby Got Back and one I learned in third grade about different kinds of maps. ("A picture of the world, now that's a map, and if you knew that give your hands a clap.")

The cast of the show did an excellent job, and the actors who portrayed George Washington, Aaron Burr, and King George blew me away. Also impressive were the choreography and set design, both of which truly enhanced the story rather than solely providing entertainment. Last but not least, I tip my hat to the orchestra, as it nailed what I deemed a significant number of complicated collaborations with the cast.

For me, Hamilton was an incredible experience. The musical itself didn't displace any in my top three spots (Into the Woods, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Rent), but it was - is - an incredible production conceived and actualized by a creative genius.

I am not throwing away my shot.
I am not throwing away my show.
Hey yo, I'm just like my country -
I'm young, scrappy, and hungry
and I'm not throwing away my shot. 

Click here to see if Hamilton: An American Musical is coming to a theater near you!
The best we could do out in front of the theater. 😂

Friday, November 9, 2018

High Five for Friday (11.9.18)

Two weeks worth of high fives again today while I play catch up after a couple of weekends spent traveling!

One A: I had a wonderful visit with my mom and sister on our annual mother-daughter weekend away. We shopped at three different malls as well as a few stand-alone stores, wined and dined at our favorite restaurants, and crossed a "bullet point" off of our bucket lists. (More to come on that in a future post.) Preparing to leave takes an enormous amount of time, physical energy, and emotional energy, but getting away for a couple of days is always worth it.
We took a grand total of three pictures, but that's
three more than we've taken in the last few years.
One B: Speaking of getting away, thank goodness for a husband who encourages me to do so and friends who help him in my absence. Tom was home with the kids, but he can't be two places at once, nor can he do dance performance hair and make-up. Without extra hands and hearts, I would never be able to go.
Tom may not have mastered performance hair,
but his rehearsal hair has improved tremendously!
One C: Tom travels two or three times a semester and has done so since he became a professor. Call me an enabler, but I pack for him when he leaves, partly because he has trouble folding clothes and partly so I can sneak a little treat or note into a shoe, a pants pocket, or his toiletry bag. On my trip to visit my mom and sister, I opened my suitcase and found (in a sealed bag) three fresh Fuji apples and a small container of caramel apple dip. For the first time Tom snuck a little treat into my bag, and it made me feel so loved.

What an incredible different a year makes! I was shocked to hear how wonderful Will's sixth grade orchestra sounded at their first concert of the year - they had noticeably improved since even the concert at the end of their 5th grade year.
The kids could wear their costumes for the
concert - that's Robin Hood playing the cello.

I love Halloween. We always have friends over for pizza and cupcakes, and then while the dads take the kids trick-or-treating, the moms sit on our front porch, drink wine, and hand out candy. Despite severe thunderstorms, periodic hail, and 60mph wind gusts, everyone had a great time and the kids cleaned up trick-or-treating!
Watch out, Robin Hood - a tiger is on the loose!
Kiddos on their way to trick-or-treat.
Mamas on the front porch.
The aftermath in the living room...
...and the aftermath in the garage. 
Last but not least, Robin Hood and Maid
Marian, who won their school's costume contest!

We survived our third Dance Revolution Convention! This annual weekend spent with my girl and our dance family stirs more emotions than nearly any other activity or experience we participate in; over the course of 60 or so hours I generally feel excited, defeated, joyful, aggravated, proud, exasperated, overwhelmed, and delirious at least once. This year, however, one new emotion joined the list: jubilation.
The hotel went all out this year. In the
lobby they had a candy bar for the kids...
...and champagne for the moms.
Living our best life at Terminal C.
Welcome to Dance Rev 2018!
Rockin' out at the Gold Kick Off Party.
With Broadway dancer (and instructor)
Nathan Madden at the Gold Kick Off Party.
With one of their favorite teachers, Miss Darby.
This event is a convention, not a competition, and on Saturday night all of the dance companies perform at a showcase. During these performances the convention's teachers - professional dancers and instructors - compile corrections to share with the company directors, and then they choose ONE company/dance to recognize as that year's "Rising Star". And this year, out of 53 dances, the Dance Rev teachers unanimously choose Hallie's company as their winner. Hearing the news was surreal, and I can easily place that moment and the moments that followed among the top 10 most jubilant of my life.
On their way to the stage.
With the studio's artistic director (who was also their very first
teacher six years ago), owner, and Mini Company director.
Biggest smiles ever.
Yes, they're barefoot and wearing pajamas in a
hotel ballroom. We ran through the hotel to the
stage as soon as we heard the news. 
We bought the professional video and photos, and I promise to share them once we have been granted access and permission. In the meantime, I continue to watch the bootlegged video over and over again...tearing up every time.
Jordan and Hallie
That's Hallie front and center in her first-ever solo.
One of the many impressive moments during the dance.

Happiness Highlights
Crazy Hair Night at Awanas!
He hasn't enjoyed all of the travel his family
members have been doing lately and has been
holding on wherever he can.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots! 

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Few Words Wednesday: Parenting Peace of Mind From Mr. Sweater Vest Himself

Just as it takes time for children to understand what real love is, it takes time for parents to understand that being always patient, quiet, even-tempered, and respectful isn't necessarily what "good" parents are. In fact, parents help children by expressing a wide range of feelings - including appropriate anger. All children need to see that the adults in their lives can feel anger and not hurt themselves or anyone else when they feel that way.

~ Fred Rogers

Despite my best efforts, I am not always patient, quiet, even-tempered, and respectful. And because of this, throughout my 12 years as a parent I have on occasion worried about the consequences of letting Will and Hallie see me angry, sad, and frustrated.

I had never looked at emotion and behavior through Mr. Rogers' lens, but now that I have, I believe he was right. (Wasn't he always right?) As long as we let kids also see us resolve our anger, sadness, and frustration, we are actually helping them better understand the vast spectrum of human emotion and how to - in a healthy and productive manner - respond to and recover from these emotions when they feel confusing and overwhelming.

Thanks, Mr. Rogers. As always, you said exactly what we needed to hear.

I missed it in the theater, but I can't wait to see Won't You Be My Neighbor? starring Tom Hanks now that it has found a temporary home on Netflix. Also related to Mr. Rogers and worth mentioning is Beyond the Neighborhood: The Music of Fred Rogers by Kevin Bales and Keri Johnsrud. This jazz album features many of Mr. Rogers' compositions, and because Keri and I sang together for a couple of years in college, I can vouch for the quality of her voice and the album.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Monthly Medley: October 2018

I mentioned last month that I had two new writing gigs in the works, and now both are underway! I also mentioned that most of you will never read anything I write for the first one because it's a small neighborhood publication in Nebraska, and that remains true. But you will be able to read what I edit and write for the second one! While currently an Etsy shop and Instagram page offering wedding inspiration and custom design, Roots and Lace will soon become a carefully and lovingly curated space designed to support women as they plan and prepare for their special day. Join us on this journey by visiting the Roots and Lace Etsy shop and Instagram page and stay tuned for more information on the website launch!

We have returned almost all of our checked out books in preparation for the library's closure, so the time has come for me to read books I already own or borrow from friends. (I should mention that our community does have a second library. But while the branch we visit regularly is three minutes from my house and on a route I drive frequently, and the other branch is 20+ minutes from my house and completely out of the way relative to my daily travels. Realistically, I predict we will visit the open branch maybe three times during our branch's closure.) After months of letting them collect dust on my nightstand, Bread and Wine and Family: The Ties That Bind...and Gag! attracted my attention once again. I hope to finish them in November!

It took us a few weeks to get back into the swing of things, but now that we have our weekly schedule (mostly) ironed out, we have reinstated Documentary Night! We often end up watching a movie or television show that goes over well with half but not all of the four Ferri, but this month we discovered a new Netflix docuseries - Weird Wonders of the World - that everyone truly enjoyed.

With regard to fall cable programming, I have enjoyed the new shows Manifest, New Amsterdam, FBI, and A Million Little Things. I've also watched a few episodes of The Conners and Murphy Brown, but I haven't yet decided if I'll keep these two shows in my rotation.

Listening To
For nearly the entire month of October, I listened to (only) Hallie's 4th grade musical, Forever Learning. While driving in the car, cooking dinner in the kitchen, and (seemingly) dreaming in my bed...all that listening worked though, because when the curtain rose on the kids' shows, I knew 95% of the (many, many) words and could provide the kiddos with the direction and guidance they needed.

During the last week in October I transitioned from Forever Learning back to my favorite podcasts, on which I caught up during my travels last weekend. I also started a new podcast, The Phenomenon, by Luciola Creative, that I think has potential - thus far it has kept me incredibly engaged as I chug along on the treadmill or elliptical...

We interrupt this programming at the request of The White House. This is the Emergency Alert System. All normal programming has been discontinued during this national emergency. Please remain in your homes. If you are not at home, find shelter immediately. Close all blinds and shades. Block out all windows. Do not look outside. Do not look at the sky. Do not make noise. Your cooperation is vital to your survival.

Toward the end of October my mom, my sister, and I did a bit of shopping while on a weekend girls trip. In case you need to spruce up your fall wardrobe like I did, here are a few of my favorites!
  • Athleta Salutation Capri (I have these pants in maroon already, and on this trip I chose a navy pair.)
  • Athleta Speedlight Camo Tank (This tank goes wonderfully with the navy salutation capri.)
  • Athleta Encore Tank (I picked this tank in the color "May Rose", which also goes with the navy salutation capri and is conveniently on sale!)
  • J. Crew Factory Flannel Bell Sleeve Top (I chose the navy and white plaid, but the top comes in three different colors. And it's also on sale!)
  • J. Crew Factory Printed Stretch Cotton Sateen Pencil Skirt (I didn't actually buy this skirt because my day-to-day wardrobe doesn't include pencil skirts, but my sister did and it's GORGEOUS in person. It would be perfect for a Christmas or New Year's party!) 
  • Gap Graphic Pullover Sweatshirt (I chose "Dear Weekend, I love you" in military blue", but the other four options - especially "happy thoughts" in savvy teal - are also cute.)
  • Gap Softspun Short Sleeve Boatneck Top (Both my sister and I loved this top enough to buy it in black stripe and light grey marle.)
  • Gap Kids Camo Canvas Joggers (These are obviously not for me, but for Will and my nephew, Carter. They're both cool and comfortable, and for Will are a nice "happy medium" between restrictive jeans and comfortable athletic pants.) 
  • Lands End Jersey U-Neck T-Shirt (This unbelievably soft shirt comes in a couple of different stripes and solid colors, but I chose the harbor blue stripe.)
  • Hanna Andersson Long John Pajamas (Let's be real - every pair of pajamas from Hanna Andersson is adorable. But this is the pair my sister and I picked for our four kids for Christmas this year.)

I know a few wonderful photographers in our area and beyond, but this year we opted to ask Casey Duke of Casey Photography to take our family photos. I can't share any of our pics yet, but I know she captured beautiful shots of Will and Hallie and at least one photo of our family in which I managed to keep my eyes open. 😂 If you live in BCS and are in need of a lifestyle, natural light photographer, know that she comes highly recommended! (Visit Casey Duke Photography here.)

I only managed two new recipes in October, and only one of those two is worth mentioning here. We all - even Hallie, a little - enjoyed this One-Pot Cajun Pasta, which I made according to the recipe except for using almond milk in place of heavy cream. I hope November allows me a little more time for cooking and baking and trying new dishes!

Feeling Good About

What's new in your world this month?

Friday, November 2, 2018

November Resolutions: In Gratitude We Trust

My search on Creative Commons for a resolutions image
produced this "Resolution Chart". It made me laugh, so I
decided to include it - I hope it makes you laugh too. 
For the second year in a row, I started my New Year's Resolutions in September and with the intent to tackle one resolution each month, rather than following the more tradition route of kicking off on January 1st and attempting one or two resolutions over the course of the year. I gave "themed" resolutions a try during the first month, but after quickly learning that I need more flexibility than the category system could provide, I'm back to choosing resolutions as they come to me and according to what I feel I need to work on as a new month rolls around. On to month three!

November Resolution: write in my gratitude journal daily. Doing so has been my November resolution for the last few years, and because I love intentionally documenting one thing for which I am thankful every day between November 1st and Thanksgiving Day, I plan to keep the tradition alive.

October Resolution: use what I have, specifically beauty and skincare products, makeup, cleaning and household products, and food in my pantry and freezer. I had so many freebies, sample-sized "gifts with purchase", and full-sized products purchased at the recommendation of others, and because I wanted to start streamlining what I buy and use in each of these categories, I decided the time had come to "use it or lose it". How did it go? Incredibly well! I used up multiple lotions, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, makeup and perfume samples, and chapsticks. I also set aside a number of full-size products to sell online (anyone need a Monat Curl Cream, Lemongrass Spa Anti-Aging BB Creme in medium, or Pure Haven Essentials Tinted Moisturizer in beige?) or at a future garage sale, filled a bag of unopened samples to donate, and tossed the items that had reached the end of their lives. In November I plan to use up the last of the bath and body products I have on hand and also focus a bit more on eating what we have in our freezer and pantry.  

September Resolutions: sleep seven hours every night; play with my kids, husband, and friends; and manage my social media stress. How did it go? I did well at tallying seven hours of sleep a night - I think I only missed the mark three times, and none of these nights were because of simply staying up too late. Second, I did horribly at (officially) playing with my kids, husband, and friends because...I completely forgot about this resolution, which perfectly demonstrates why I can only have one resolution each month. I did play with the kids, go on a date with Tom, and go out for dinner and drinks with friends, but not once did any of these activities remind me that I had pledged to do more. And third, I did moderately well at managing social media stress. I unfollowed quite a few people and sources and sites that regularly made me feel worse rather than better, and I added a few to lift my spirits.

Did you resolve to change anything about yourself or your life this year? Last month? This coming month? How are those resolutions going?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

When Black Cats Prowl and Pumpkins Gleam...

...may luck be yours on Halloween!

I love looking back on what the kids - and Tom and I, once we started putting together themed family costumes - wore on Halloweens past.













Have a fun and safe Halloween, friends!

I almost forgot...check back next week to see pics of Tom's Halloween costume. He planned and coordinated it all by his big-boy-self and he looked fantastic!