Thursday, April 17, 2014

Show Your Real: Lena's been a while since we've had a Show Your Real post around here. But you know the state of my life right now, and I'm not super into providing excuses, lest you think I assume you've been sitting on your thumbs, pining for the series return for the last two months. We used to share every two weeks. Then it switched to every month. And now? The plan is even more loosey goosey. But that's real. Real is busy. Real is sporadic. Real is doing the best you can, keeping focused on what matters (sharing raw, from the heart, stores) and not on what doesn't (an arbitrary posting schedule). So without further ado, I give you Lena: I think you'll admire how bravely transparent she's willing to get. We may have taken a hiatus, but she's kicking it back off in a big, bold way.  


Hi, y’all - my name is Lena, and I blog once in a blue moon - I’m wife to my super tall, but always hilarious husband, Brad.  And I’m mama to my wild and NEVER STOPS TALKING three-year old, Annie Lou.  Seriously, she wakes up talking and doesn’t stop until she falls asleep.  I swear she has some sort of word limit she has to meet every day!  We are a simple family trying to live our lives for the One who gave it all for us.  Our every days can sometimes resemble a circus….
My child wakes up before the sun comes up. 

Anyway, when Courtney asked me if I wanted to write a guest post for her “Show Your Real” series, I was so excited!  You see, I’m on this quest this year to be REAL.  At the beginning of 2014, when everyone was picking their “word of the year,” I couldn’t think of anything.  I’ve chosen words like “content” and “organized” — real buzz words.  But for 2014, I was drawing a big ole blank.  Then one morning, when my daughter wanted to wear the most ridiculous outfit out in public (one that she was SO proud of), and I was so amazed by how she didn’t care at all what anyone thought of her, it hit me.  I want to be REAL this year.

Let me back-track.  After I had my daughter in 2010, I went into a pit.  A deep, dark, lonely pit.  Around me, I saw all these mothers succeeding in everything — their marriages, their homes, their careers…their lives were just so perfect.  And I could barely get out of the bed.  I lost a ton of weight, was barely skins and bones….to sum it up, I was just surviving.

Then, it hit me.  I could be those moms.  I could have the perfect house, the perfect career, the perfect marriage.  I could have it all - I could be it all.  All I had to do was fool everyone.  

And fool everyone I did.

I re-did our entire house decor.  I organized every nook and cranny (even our refrigerator had labeled bins).  I had birthday parties that could rival Martha Stewart.  I had a successful career where I made great money.

On the outside?  I looked like I had it all.

On the inside?  I was a tower of pride and shame and guilt about to crumble - and crumble quickly.  

My family never knew how I was going to react to situations - I was like a cannon packed to the brim with explosives -  and no one knew when I was going to blow.

When I looked in the mirror, I really didn’t even recognize the person I saw looking back at me.  I was back at the bottom of my pit — this time, I just had everyone looking at me to see my next great move.

I was spiraling out of control.  

“I love God because he listened to me,
    listened as I begged for mercy.
He listened so intently
    as I laid out my case before him.
Death stared me in the face,
    hell was hard on my heels.
Up against it, I didn’t know which way to turn;
    then I called out to God for help:
“Please, God!” I cried out.
    “Save my life!”
God is gracious—it is he who makes things right,
    our most compassionate God.
God takes the side of the helpless;
    when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.” 
- Psalm 116: 1-6 (The Message)

I cried out for help.  And I sought real, professional help — I went every single week for nearly a year to a Christian therapist.  She helped me tear down those walls of loneliness and guilt and shame — and find the REAL Lena.  She spoke truth and scripture into my life.  From then on, I vowed to live my life differently.

And here is where my crusade to be REAL began.  I started sharing snippets into my REAL life via social media — posting pictures of a bed full of clothes, admitting that I have a for real battle with laundry.  We hosted my daughter’s birthday with NO THEME (this was a big one, y’all) and only invited close family - no guest list of 50+ people like in the past.  I shared my struggles with parenting.  I quit my lucrative career and took a big pay cut in order to focus on my family.  

The battle with laundry is real.

Annie Lou's messy room.

I took that big ole Lena tower and put it at the feet of Jesus and said THY WILL BE DONE.  

And here I am now - y’all there is FREEDOM in being real.  Taking off those masks and saying this is me.  LOOK WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE IN ME.  

My pastor said something the other week that has just been playing over and over in my head - how can we celebrate what Christ has done in us if no one knows what all He has done in us?  Let’s tell others and celebrate it!

I have friends tell me all the time: “I love how you’re so real.  It makes me feel like I’m not the only one dealing with (insert blank)” — my response to them is you can do it, too.  Really, if you’re wearing some mask, or carrying some huge load just to make your life look perfect…let it go.  Give it to Him and start walking in the light.  

We are all women - wives, mothers, daughters, friends…we do it all.  We shouldn’t feel like one way is better than another way - we should cheer each other on from the sidelines and say: “YES!  I knew you could do it!”  I know I might be a little naive - but I really would love if we built each other up as women.  So this is me, patting you on the back, saying “I really like you even if you have a sink full of dishes and you haven’t showered in a week - really, I do!”  Let’s be real, y’all!

Family photo: We clean up nicely!

If you want to follow along with my journey to be REAL, follow me on instagram and twitter (I’m @lenawarnock) - it’s not always pretty, but it sure is fun!


Show Your Real is a series of guest posts centered around the concept of authenticity. The goal is to encourage each other to expose the reality of our lives- good and bad- and to foster a sense of community that goes beyond the often suface-cy interactions of social media. We invite all of you to participate! Please comment, link, and hashtag to spread the showyourreal love. If you would like to contribute a guest post in this series, please email me! 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


I am a full-time working mother of two kids two and under. I am selling my house, buying a new house, and moving 200 miles away in the matter of weeks. I am packing up supplies to set my family up for a month of temporary living in my parents' basement. I am shopping for daycares and interviewing babysitters. I am finishing up at work in a few days and starting a new job in less than two weeks. I am selling anything that's not nailed down. I am flying to my best friend's wedding at the end of the month. I am trolling LinkedIn for opportunities for my husband, and emailing all the connections I can scrounge up.

I am juggling house inspections, loan applications, job handoffs, late-night nursings, electronics transfers, bridesmaid duties, Craigslist scams, grocery trips, mover agreements, laundry mountains, employment contracts, bedtime stories, luggage contents, thank you notes, overdue library books, and goodbye gatherings.

I am waiting.
I am praying.
I am reminiscing.
I am cursing.
I am giving thanks.

I am overwhelmed.
I am stressed.
I am worried.
I am excited.
I am sad.

I am blessed.

And I am not alone. I'm the wife of an amazing man, a friend of too many to count, the mother of the two roundest balls of joy you can imagine, and the daughter of a loving Father. They are more than enough for me. And they are what gets me through the muckity muck, in this full-to-the-brim life.

Are blessed.

House or no house. Job or no job. Furniture, chores, paperwork, money, and stuff. I count it all as loss. And I thank God for the creative ways that he leads me to the cross

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fine Dining

Things are a little out of order around here...last week we announced we're moving, and this week, I'm giving you an update on a redecorating project. But that's just how it is right now. We've been prepping to possibly leave, while planning to possibly stay, so rather than put our lives on hold while we figure it out, we just kept doing life, and part of that was redoing the dining room.

If you caught our house tour last month, you saw our dining room/playroom/ikea storage space/island of misfit toys, and it was "a bit of a work in progress." I loved the deep navy walls, the white chandelier, the antique buffet, the black and white rug...but the whole vibe of the space felt a bit too formal once we started adding more and more toys to the room. I wanted it to be dual functional for eating and playing, but it wasn't quite working. The furniture wasn't super kid friendly, and the paint color that used to feel dramatic and bold was seeming more dark and mature. I didn't want to overhaul the whole room (well...maybe I did, but I knew that wouldn't be wise) so I crafted a plan to make a couple tweaks to see if a fresh coat of paint, and some new shelves could create a balance between fine dining (ha!) and romper room chic. (double ha!)

We didn't want to spend a ton of money or time that we didn't have, but figured with a plan this simple, it wouldn't be anything a week of vacation (mine) and a bit of elbow grease (Dustin's) couldn't fix. I had some use-em-or-lose-em days at work, so I packed up the kids and headed west (Ohio, of course) while Dustin stayed behind to go to work, and then come home to work some more. We already had purchased some Ikea shelves from Craigslist, (and brand new doors to go with them!) so the plan was to cover the room in a bright white coat (or 4) of paint, assemble some shelves and bask in the glory of overdue makeover projects.

And it was just about that easy!
(for me. because I wasn't there.)

I gave Dustin explicit instructions to take pictures along the way, but he seemed to be too busy making progress to take progress pics, so I don't have a ton to show from the process. But I'm pretty sure it went like this:
Roll some paint.
Curse Courtney for choosing such a ridiculous hard-to-cover color.
Roll some more paint.
Drink a beer.
Roll some paint.
Repeat repeat repeat forever. 
But on my end it was more like:
Play with the kids.
Watch The Bachelor.
Request updates via text. 
See? So easy!

But when he did send me an update, I was blown away!

Even in a photo, taken at night, viewed on a 3" screen, I could tell how much more open and airy the room felt. The white was a perfect blank slate- not nearly as serious as the navy- and the shelves were perfect for the space. They practically look like built ins, without any of the work or expense!

I praised him profusely and looked forward to coming back to do the fun part- accessorizing!

The good news for this step in the process, is that there was no shortage of "stuff" floating around the house, so I had plenty to choose from when filling my cubbies. The plan was for the bottom half to be functional storage, and the top to serve as a home for my many, many (many) ceramic animals. I played around for a couple hours (in between actual playing with my kids) and landed on something that I liked enough to call DONE.

Here's the after:

Nice, right? It's crazy what a big cloak of white can do!
Here's the first pass on the shelves. It's maybe not perfect forever, forever...but it gave a home to about 75% of the white animal brigade (yes, there are more...) so we call that a win.


Some detail shots:

Left shelf includes:
  • Jonathan Adler squirrel ring box that Dustin got me for an anniversary present a few years ago (though he technically got me a penguin which I returned for store credit, and I bought my own squirrel two years later. Our love isn't bound by return policies!)
  • A whole bunch of water goblets I insisted on registering for, that we have maybe used once throughout our entire 8+ year marriage. 
  • One million shutterfly and blurb books
  • A clock that is so horrifically loud we removed the batteries one minute after getting it home.
  • Owl drawing from a friend, taped to an antique chalkboard (my grandpa took these to school with him every day! Is that the best!?!) I just did a little pinterest-special on that guy and wrote out all of our important dates as a family.
  • A thumbs up. That you are jealous of, admit it.

Middle shelf includes:
  • A penguin. Not the one Dustin got me. 
  • More pears. I have a thing for them.
  • Storage boxes for camera type things. 
  • A squirrel nutcracker. Ridiculous, and totally non functional.
  • An antique painting from Mexico via my grandparents.
  • A Target "soda can" vase that has since been updated with a fake flower. 

Right shelf includes:
  • More random stuff. 
  • A terrarium I finally made after a minimum 5 year procrastination period. 
  • A glass elephant from my childhood nightlight. 
  • My birthday cheeseboard, and box of extra wine paraphernalia. 
  • Nesting dolls I got in a 2008 craft swap. (kinda makes me want to do something like that again!)
Fascinating, no?!
And for you really nebby (Pittsburghese for nosey...) folks. Here's what's hiding behind closed doors.

Piper's art supplies, and our printer/extra video games. (yes, extra, as in we have so many video games our cabinets overfloweth with dorkitude).

Toys. Toys. Oh so many toys.
(3 bins are Piper's. One is Fin's. Life isn't fair.)

Games. Games. Oh so many games.
Did I mention we're total dorks? Though we don't own Settlers of Catan, so there's still hope.
(Please take notice of the "jumbling tower" game that Dustin got me when we first met. Because apparently springing for Jenga would have been coming on too strong...)

So that's the big decor update.
In a perfect world we would finalize shelf placement and fill in all the extra holes, and maybe get some new curtains. But in the real world we sold the house, so we're 100% done. The awesomeness/bummer of it all is that the shelves are included in the sale, so someone else will enjoy the fruits of our labor. BUT...they look so good in here it would practically be a crime to remove them, and Dustin assured me we can recreate the exact same set up in the new house if we'd like. I don't have the heart to tell him that I will assuredly come up with a brand new harebrained scheme for that space. But something tells me he already knows.

If you're interested in the rest of the Bowden abode, you can check out the rest of our home here

Friday, April 4, 2014

Finley Faces: 9 Months

Gosh, have I told you guys lately how much I adore this sweet little ball of love? Oh...I have....right. Everyday. But really, she is just the sweetest, chillest, goofiest, snuggliest, loveliest, tiniest, nugget I've ever known, and I can't even look at her big round head without wanting to smoosh her face with kisses. I'm a totally normal, articulate, capable person, and then I see her, and I devolve into a big googly-eyed mess of baby talk and neck nuzzles. She's kind of the best.

Happy nine months, Fin (two weeks ago). Thanks for never holding my tardiness against me. I promise to make it up to you with snuggles. And some cheese puffs.


All of our Finny faces:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5, 6, 7, 8.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Should we stay or should we go now?

It's been awfully quiet around these parts recently. I don't suspect anyone has been loitering around begging for updates, but when I don't write much, my brain starts to get crowded. I haven't avoided posting because I lacked things to say. I've actually haven't written because I had too many things to share. Things that weren't ready to be shared.

But now, the cat is out of the bag, and some of the biggest news in our recent lives is out in the open.

Yep. We're moving.

After seven years in Pittsburgh, it's time to pack up, and head west, for the sunny skies of Columbus. I got a new job, we sold our house, we bought another house…Basically everything we've known has been flipped upside down in a matter of weeks. There is still a tremendous amount of logistics to work out (most pressing: Dustin's job, and childcare for the girls) but God has been paving the way for this move in a way that we can't ignore, so we're trusting that He's not down working out the details for us. It's been an absolutely crazy ride to see how fast life can transform, and as sad as we are to leave this place, we're also thrilled for the next adventure. We've got a little less than two more weeks here, so we're packing in the fun (you know, when we're not literally packing our stuff) and trying to wrap our brains around the monumental changes that are about to take place. Things are on warp speed, but I'm trying as much as I can to soak up every last bit of this sweet season. It's all a bit of a frantic blur as we try to sort and connect the pieces of this life-puzzle, so I won't share the nitty gritty details for now, but know that we are beyond thankful for the experiences we've had and the friends we've made in Pittsburgh.

I'm sure there will be plenty of nostalgia and sweet, sappy musings to come, but for now I thought it would be cool to share a snippet from the process that I jotted down along the way.


Originally written 2/11/14:

It's happening.

That thing that happens every couple years. Where Dustin I decided maybe, just maybe, it's time to uproot everything and head for the hills. Except not really hills. More like the flatlands of Columbus.

We've been here before, a couple times probably, some times more serious than others. It's always been the eventual goal to move to Columbus I suppose, but that itch has struck again, and we find ourselves seriously exploring the possibility of making a move sooner than later. Sooner like real soon. I'm looking into a job with a retail company there and while I'm at it I'm trying to check out a couple of marketing agencies as well. After a few phone calls and email chains, it's escalated to the point that I actually have an all day in person interview next week. It's far from a done deal, so I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch, but at the same time I feel that I have to process the possibilities now, in order to be prepared when and if a job comes to fruition.

So I can't take it for granted that I'm going to get this job, and further, that I would want to accept this job if so. But I almost have to pretend like that's happening, just in case it does. So I'm trying not to waste any time dwelling on the fear, the worry and the negative, because it's all too soon for any of that to matter. But I am trying to weigh the pros and cons, and allow myself to sit with a very real possibility that our time in Pittsburgh could be coming to a close. When we moved here I signed a two-year contract. I definitely thought we would stay longer than that, but it was at least a minimum. A starting point. That milestone came and went though and Dustin and I kept renewing our original "five-year plan" (the length of time I figured we would be in Pittsburgh before thinking about starting a family and moving back home.) But somehow that plan kept getting extended, and now this Summer will mark seven years (and two babies) in the Steel City. 

So when we moved here, I knew I was committing to this town, at least for a while, but I didn't know that I would fall in love. Sure, there are things about Pittsburgh that I can confidently say are The Worst. I don't love having a bridge and/or (mostly and) tunnel between me and anything I want to get to. I don't love that fact that the gray days outnumber the sunny ones. But if I was truly going to hate on Pittsburgh, I would have to get kind of picky. It really is an awesome place. We've met some of the best friends of our lives here, and after seven years, I can confidently say that it is home.

And then there's my job. There have been ups and downs; days where I had to pinch myself to believe that this dream job wasn't all truly just a dream. And then there've been days when I've been overwhelmed, frustrated, and dejected. But again, after seven years, this company is as much my home as this city is. It's all I've known here, and further- all I've really known in the working world. I had five internships before I graduated, in three different cities. I got to try out big city living, small-town living, and squatting in my parents basement. I got to test the waters of design, production, kids clothes, uniforms.... But as far as real-deal, big-girl grown-up job? This is it. This is where I learned pretty much everything. It's now my benchmark by which all other opportunities are measured. 

So I now have one foot in both worlds. For as much as I'm prepping mentally to leave, life keeps on going here as if were staying forever. Nothing is a sure thing, so I have to lay the groundwork for what possibilities could be, and at the same time keep our reality in motion. So that means on Wednesday afternoon I have a phone interview with the new company, and Thursday morning I have to remember to call to make future appointments for Piper. It means that I spend evenings working on my resume, and Saturday mornings checking out dance classes for my toddler. We have an exit strategy, and a museum membership. We could be here three more years, or three more weeks. And what all that adds up to, is a serious lack of sleep on my end. (Like I needed that!) I find myself laying awake at night, running over all the possibilities in my mind. Asking myself question after question, to try to make sense of the enormous change that could be coming our way. I can make a list from here that would stretch from here to Ohio, with reasons I want to stay put. I really do love it here. The people alone could convince me to be a Yinzer for life. But then it's not hard to come up with a list equally long of reasons we should go. More specifically- why we should go now. And at the top of that list are two little girls who would benefit greatly from the supportive network of family. Okay, if we're being honest, at the top of that list is one little girl: me, who would benefit greatly from the supportive network of family. No one wants to live with regrets, and I would hate to feel that we left a good thing, or bailed to soon. But at the same time, these years with little ones are fleeting, and the opportunity to spend them alongside family is maybe too great to resist.

So for now, I'll probably keep saying up too late looking at real estate in the suburbs, and checking out LinkedIn for new possibilities, but also keep my nose to the grindstone and stay invested in my current world.

And if after next Tuesday, we do have the option to trade it all in for Part Two of our dream life, then will have a big decision to make. The only thing I know for sure is that God is preparing our path, the same way he has for the last seven years. I just can't wait to see where it leads next. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Little Pip-speaks Volume 6

The I can barely keep up with her ridiculousness edition. 

Pip-speak #1:
{quietly talking to herself while eating her cereal}
Once a time. A little caterpillar. 
{sees me smiling at her} I readin' a story. 
{back to taking to herself}
Once a time. A little caterpillar. 
Walk a walk a walk. All caterpillar in the bowl!

Pip-speak #2:
Piper: I goin' to work. 
Mommy: What are you going to do at work?
Piper: Make money!!!

Pip-speak #3:
Mommy: We're going to g'mi's school to hear the kids sing. I don't know what they'll sing...we'll have to see!
Piper: Sing "Grown ups come back?" (An educational little jingle from her favorite show: Daniel Tiger)

Pip-speak #4:
Piper: I don't want to take a nap. 
Mommy: Well if you take a really good rest, you'll have lots of energy to play this afternoon. 
Piper: Noooo. I don't want energy. I don't WANT to. 

Pip-speak #5:
Piper: My diaper melted! There's SO many pee in there. 

Pip-speak #6:
Piper {hearing the radio}: I don't know this song. I just want the monkey song. It's cute. 

Pip-speak #7:
Piper: Daddy, Fin's not answerin' me!
Daddy: Did you ask her a question?

Pip-speak #8:
Piper: I grown up, mama? 
Mommy: Yes sweetheart, very.
{Long pause.}
Piper: Tell me.
Mommy: What's that?
Piper: Tell me, Mama
Mommy: Tell you that you're grown up?
Piper: Yes. {Proud/shy smile that melts my heart into a puddle of smooshy love}

Friday, March 21, 2014

Life lately

I've been out of the swing of things lately when it comes to blogging. And though I've got a bunch of things drafted and in the works, I haven't quite found the energy, motivation, or interest to finish them. I'm thinking I need a nice, easy softball to get my writing muscles warmed up again. So batter up...

Things I've been doing instead of blogging:

  • Watching House of Cards- Needed something to fill the void while we wait for season 2 of Orange is the New Black. Loving this series more than I thought I would. But Frank's wife is the worst, right? (We're only about halfway through the first season, so don't spoil anything...) 
  • Shopping for bridesmaid dresses- my best friend is getting married! In a month!! Whoo hoo!!!
  • Gossiping about the Bachelor- I have too many thoughts to even put it into words. Polarizing, this guy. (Except pretty much everyone is standing on one pole in agreement. Even his mom). 
  • Eating in our new dining room- I can't wait to share it with you! Well....I can wait I guess, because I have waited at least a month already, but for real, it looks so good I can't wait to share. 
  • Growing my hair out- keeps me busy. 
  • Forgetting to pick up books at the library- better than forgetting to return books to the library. 
  • Complaining about how cold it is- #polarvortex #snowpocalypse overit
  • (Barely) surviving the stomach flu- loose calculations predict we'll only have to endure that 20 more times before we actually die. Bright side!
  • Playing candy crush- crushin' it!!!
Oh- and then there's the working, and the baby raising....there's a LOT of that going on. But we're just talking free time here. And if you don't count the time spent with those animals we call children, or cleaning up after those animals, prep/commuting time (pancake making, lunch packing, sock finding) or sleeping hours (which should maybe be counted in minutes anyway), there's not a whole lot of time left on the clock for voluntary pursuits. But we're still managing to pack things in. Even if it's mundane stuff. Our life is full, in the silliest, busiest, best sort of ways. 

So what about you? What have you been doing instead of reading my blog? (Ha!)