The Gifts Not Tangible

Angie Warren

"You look just like your mother." she said, her voice velvet and soft, and my breath caught in my throat.

It was mid-day, at a bagel shop of all places. My youngest two were taking an art class near by, so like every week, the eldest and I hunkered down for an hour.

When I heard the ladies at the table nearby mention the place my mom and dad used to work at, immediately my ears perked, and my heart raced. It's not a name you hear just anywhere.

It took everything in me not to run, the sheer mention of the organization my mother poured her life into, it brought so much grief and emotion to the surface. Instead, I casually walked over, excused myself for interrupting, and asked if in fact, they did work there.

"No, we don't. But I've volunteered there for decades." she began, the one on the right, I'll call Ms. B, whose face was etched in age, but wore a smile that lit the room.

"Oh, oh, okay. My parents you see, they used to work there. I just found it intriguing to hear it in passing. Thank you." and I began to walk away.

"Who are your parents, dear?" the question burned a bit, worded as if they're both still alive, breathing, around.

I told her their names and she nodded.

"Yes, yes I remember them. Your mother, oh her heart for her work. A true servant she was, I know she passed."

And there it was. There was the bomb. The four words I needed, not realizing the fear I felt in having to say "Oh you didn't hear? She died."

*I know she passed.*

I needed that. I needed this woman, Ms. B, one I'd not met until now, who by happenstance would be in the same tiny bagel shop as me, on a cold and blustery December day, unknowing that I needed so much this encounter. Needed so much the gift of this experience.

It shook me for a few hours, and I allowed the words of remembrance, her eyes filled with gratitude for a woman half her age, that had such a heart for those less fortunate, my mother, I welcomed those words and let them sink deep into me.

I could have allowed this to break me, and perhaps two years ago, it would have. Instead, I decided to see this as a divine appointment. Ms. B gifted me with something on that day, she reminded me that the memory of this one I loved so fiercely, that it was alive and well. That her light and life wasn't for nothing. That it was still burning, and will continue to. When she told me I look like my mother, I welcomed the compliment and took it as one of the greatest I could receive.

During this Christmas season, I'm reminded that the most memorable gifts aren't tangible ones at all, no, they sometimes come packaged up in a random occurrence at a hole in the wall shop, or in the words of a stranger, or simply, in a smile.

I hope you too find these types of gifts this season, I also pray you feel led to give them. We never know when the words of our mouth or the spreading of a smile, will change the course of someone's life.

xo

Being Held

Angie Warren

"I don't know if I want to turn five." she said, her voice small and still.

This birthday, it's just around the corner, inching closer though I wish it wouldn't.

"Why sweetheart? Why don't you?" I watched as she brought the two small horses together, encouraging them to touch.

"I'm afraid when I turn five, I'm afraid you won't be able to hold me anymore. To hold me close."

And with that I scooped her up and into my arms. I squeezed as much love into her as I could, and I assured her right then and there that I'll hold her, as long as she'll sit on my lap.

Sufficient enough I suppose because she smiled, returned to her horses, and relaxed.

"In fact, on the morning of your fifth birthday, the first thing I'll do, is to hold you." I promised.

"Really?"

"Really."

Oh, the power of being held. The courage and grace and magic of touch. It's a need deep within us, whether we're five or forty. The warmth of an embrace, the knowing that we're seen, that we're there, that we're worthy of being held.

I pray she feels held all of her years. First by me, then by friends, some day by a man that loves her (nearly) as much as her mama, and of course that she always feels held by her Savior.

I hope and I love and I pour into her words of affirmation, words to live by and to hold onto, and to pull out of her pocket on the days when I can't be there to hold her.

Until then, each day I am blessed to wake up her mama, I shall hold her, I shall hold her close, and keep her there and just not let go.

 

Twelve Years a Mother

Angie Warren

Today I awoke and celebrated twelve years of motherhood. The sun was just rising as I shuffled downstairs, began the process of morning tea, and waited, toe-tapping the cool of the tile, for him to come down.

I did as I always do, the night before their birthdays: criss-crossed the house in streamers, hung the traditional "H A P P Y H I R T H D A Y" sign (no that isn't a typo, it literally came that way from Target), and designed a birthday greeting on our chalkboard.

The previous evening my husband laughed as I scrambled for decor, "He will be twelve, you know, you don't have to do this." to which I nearly lept out of my chair and in a mama bear rage roared, "YES I DO." - It's true, I'll be doing it as long as their heads hit their pillows here in our home.

My tea was nearly ready, a splash of cream, a bit of sugar, when I heard him. Round the corner he did, and much to his pleasure, I no longer look down at him, no, my baby, my first born son, now stands at exactly five-foot-two. Just like his mama.

I squeezed him tight and reminded him that really if we're being honest, he wouldn't be twelve until 1:10 in the afternoon, so not until then, until that very minute, would I accept this birthday.

I'm not sure what it is about *this* birthday per say, that has me so emotional. Perhaps every year that passes, we inch closer to the birthday that brings him to manhood. So today, on this big number twelve day, we, his family, were simply together. We made him feel special in big and tiny ways.

I held it together the entire day, through morning donuts and cookie baking, with every phone call that came wishing him a Happy Birthday, I was alright, I was fine even when the clock did the dreaded thing and hit 1:10pm, marking exactly the moment he came earth-side. No, I didn't really lose it until much later in the day.

The tears began to fall instead after dinner. I think it was simply the winding down of the day, the deepness to his voice as he thanked us for his gifts, and the remembrance that it's yet another birthday marked without my mom.

It all sort of crashed in on me and I had to take a moment. I had to acknowledge that it is what it is, there is no stopping the passage of time, there is no changing the emptiness of missing, there is no need to push it down with a glass of wine or stifled tears. No, it needed to flow, and I needed to nod and accept it, and all would be well. And you know, it was.

It's taken years, and trial and (so very much) error, to come to an understanding in this life. I still don't have it down, no, not by a mile, but I believe I'm finally in a space where I can look emotion in the face and nod, a nod of acceptance, and mutual affection.

Yes my babies are growing up, no my mama isn't here to see it, yes there are going to be days I wish I could hide from it all and change it all and throw my hands to the skies and scream at it all. But oh, this one wild and precious life I live, it's meant to be LIVED. Not ignored or rushed through, or wished to be different.

And today, today I believe we did, we lived it, and we lived it well. We celebrated an amazing boy, we made messes, we laughed, we loved. And as the night swallows us whole, I pray that boy sleeps feeling so filled up he just may burst.

I know that's how I feel.

Contented.
Whole.
Filled up.
The entire lot of it.


I hope you, do too.

xo,
A mama of twelve years.

The Dance of New Rumley Road

Angie Warren

The A-frame cabin was filled, each corner of it, with the warm and tangible aroma of roasting turkey. It was a Saturday, my uncle was in town to hunt, and we decided on a big supper. Supper in Ohio is what we call dinner in California, but usually Supper is had on a Sunday after church. It is prepared the night before, and at my grandmother’s, the table is set to perfection before bed.

This particular Saturday we decided on a Supper because there were plans for the following day, a hay ride at the little church in the country. Turkey roasted, mashed potatoes steamed, gravy simmered. I was all over the place with the kids, curating yet another nature scavenger hunt, enjoying a tea party in the playhouse, here and there and everywhere.

Each time I came into the house, I saw her in the kitchen, my grandma. I looked at the golden stream that blanketed her through the rectangular window above her sink, and I forced myself to inhale it. To breath in her presence.

To watch, if only for a moment. To remember standing in the cabin kitchen, intoxicated by the smells and textures of family, of turkey dinner, of the autumn which has brought so much heartache in years past. I offered my help, but as per usual, she declined and busied herself with the role she knew so well.

It was a dance I had watched since childhood, a beautiful waltz in which she never missed a beat. The kitchen was her ballroom, and every performance a meal.

When supper was long enjoyed, our bellies full of the food of our people, and naps taken, I became struck with a notion. Life at home, prior to our trip, for years, has been a good one. It’s been a good one and yet, I have been hurried and rushed and so focused on the next project, on a deadline, I’ve lost the art of that ballroom dance passed down to me from my mother, from her mother, and hers.

The personal journey I took of finding myself and accepting my true calling, which came to a tipping point just days before we headed back to New Rumley Road this October, was one that found me halted, in the eye of a storm. I made a choice, to walk away from the woman who took on any and every possible thing, to become the woman that invests her life and love into her family, and to her writing.

Watching my grandmother, remembering my mother, dancing the dance of homemaking, it ached inside of me, the desire to get back home, and dance it myself. So often, pre-trip, the pile of dishes, the laundry, the bedtime routine, and general discord of a house full of growing children, was a dreaded task on my to-do list of life.

More times than I’d like to count, my heart was cold and angry. I held onto so much bitterness, it bled out into every aspect of life. Oh how I wanted to get back home, and find my ballet slippers, to place them gingerly on my feet, and set about the dance floor we called home, and pour my love into it.

The dishes were piled high after that Saturday supper, they spilled out onto the small counters in that cabin kitchen, but she wouldn’t have help. I cleared the table for her, and said, "Nan, you’ll be doing dishes for an hour!", to which she smiled and replied, "Well, yeah, but it’s okay, it’s worth it."

It's worth it.

It's worth it.

It's worth it.


Those words will forever be tattooed upon my heart. It is worth it. All of it, the mess and the prep, and the time and the chaos, spilling out of every corner - for a twenty minute meal, enjoyed around an oval table. It’s all worth it.

Her heart, a servant’s heart if ever I knew one, a true Proverbs 31 woman, my grandmother. And I began to pray, that very day, for a heart change. For a heart change, because for so many years I felt refuge in disdain, in pity and grief and a great longing for something, different.

Please God, I begged, please give me the dance of my grandmother. Please give me a joy for my home and my family, like never before. And on that evening, I knew I was changed. There were days during that trip that I’d have said it was all a mistake, and between heaving sobs, begged to go home. But the truth of it is that the pain pushed me to a different space. A space of peace and acceptance, of insight and foresight.

I was then filled with a warmth and light like never before, I was prepared to go home and give this life and my family, my every bit. I will forever be so breathtakingly grateful for the gift of New Rumley Road.

Made of Magic

Angie Warren

"I feel like my bed is made of magic." she said, her face beaming, as I tucked her in. "That's because it is." I whispered.

We put up our tree tonight, which meant of course, we got to bring out her 'collection' (too many snowmen to count, the majority she's inherited from my mama's own collection). New to the display this year were these snowman lights, and as I wound them around her bed, I felt a bit of that magic touch the tips of my own fingers.

I thought of sugar plums and fairies and the best bits of childhood she gets to experience. And it all made me smile. The choice to say no to things in recent months, allowed me to say yes, to this. To witnessing the magic of a string of $3 lights, of the joy in a four year olds heart, and what I pray are the very best chapters of her story. Yes to slow, yes to family, yes to less.

Plan as if You'll Get it, Love as if You Won't

Angie Warren

If you've lost someone, it's obvious to remember the day that happened. The day your world changed. For me, I'll also remember this day, October 25, as the day they told us our mom would die.

On that most horrific and gut-wrenching day, something shifted in me. I sat down my camera, I stopped updating her Facebook group, I began to spend more time in the waiting room than I did in with her.

Why? I was scared, terrified of looking into her eyes and acknowledging what we now knew to be true. I couldn't do it. I remained that way until one evening in the corner of the tiny family room on the second floor of Kaiser ICU, when my best friend said, "Ang, you should be in there, yeah?".

So I did. Face swollen from the day, stomach sick with knots, we sat around her, her family. She spoke of thanksgiving dinner, asking my brother what he planned to make us. Sorry, what? Thanksgiving? They've just told us you have likely days left and you want to talk about Thanksgiving?

Years later I can look back on this and see, and my heart will re-break all over again as I realize, she was simply, coping. It was her way of easing us through.

I will carry a regret, that I didn't instead, smile, and let her talk, and make a list for what we'd make. I will wish I could go back and gift her with planning a thanksgiving she wouldn't get. But I suppose that was how I was coping, too. To disengage and silently flip out and cry myself to sleep that night.

So many of you walked beside us (both in real life and virtually), and as this week progresses, I find myself feeling absolutely nothing, and everything, and it's (mostly) silencing me.

I suppose in the end it reminds us, to plan thanksgiving as if we'll all get to enjoy it, but love as if we won't.

 

A Man Named Jerry, and the House He Built

Angie Warren

The man who built my grandparents a-frame cabin lives way down the lane. He crafted it by hand, thirty years ago, and lives in one himself, (which he also happened to build).

He's never been married, and lives by choice with no electric and zero running water. Jerry's pets are the two remaining peacocks from a family of three, that travel back and forth between the two properties.

He fascinates me, and I think about him often when I think of New Rumley Road. Little did he know, back in '86 that he was building a home, a space, that would change the life of a then four year old girl.

It's amazing to me, and yet no surprise, when I try to grasp the goodness and well laid plans of my Savior. Nothing is by chance. Nothing is coincidence. It's all written up in a big bad, super rad, plan of life.

I'm so grateful a man named Jerry decided to follow his dreams so many years ago. And I'm so glad I got to be someone who saw what was on the other side of it all. Back between the maples and pines, lay a house that would change my very life.

//

I've been quiet here, but shared a lot of our trip over on Instagram (find me there @angiewarren).

Tomorrow we return home. With us, I'll bring the final pages of the first draft of my book, as well as the title. I knew coming here to Ohio, to New Rumley Road, there was something waiting for me. Turns out, I was correct.

It's now in the saved pages of a document as well as in my blood. Between the painful and beautiful, I've found what I was looking for.

Go in October

Angie Warren

Tomorrow the kids & I board a plane headed east. We go each summer, but this time, something in me said "go in October".

Now that the trip is just around the bend, and I'm filled with mounting emotions, but I'll say without a shadow of a doubt, that nothing is coincidental. It's all a part of a master plan.

And regardless of my hesitancy, I know something is waiting for me in those woods. Something I need. May it be healing, forgiveness, closure. I'm not sure and I won't know until I'm there, feet crunching leaves, the smell of campfire in my hair, my grandma's coffee in my hands.

I'll be sure to share, if not here, in the final words of my book. Yeah, I have a feeling it will be there. No turning back. Time to fly.

Here we go!

A New Leaf

Angie Warren

Time to get real: I feel as though an introduction of sorts is in order. Not the kind you think though. For the first time in nearly 10 years, I stand here proudly and say, "Hi my name is Angie. I'm a wife, mama, and homeschooler from N Cal, who by the grace of a God is, writing a book."...

Did you catch that? Did you notice something, missing? Did you happen to see that I stopped there? I used to pride myself on adding things like 'lifestyle + wedding photographer', or 'freelance artist', or 'mentor', or 'founder/owner/CEO' whatever title you want to add.

You name it, I've tried it, done it, and added all necessary social media outlets. Do you know I owned more URLs than shoes? Owned, key word.

There's been a shift in the Warren home, blinders are off, eyes are open, and as hard as some decisions have been, I simply know that following my true calling has been put on the back burner for far too long.

Part of that calling is the job I was given nearly twelve years ago, and that is the role of 'mother'. It pains me to admit, but I do pride myself on being as real with you all as possible, that my children have taken the backseat too often when I'm diving deep into another project or opportunity.

So enough is enough. I did it. I did the thing I've had in the back of my mind for years upon years, emotionally I parted ways with URLs and IG accounts, with hats I've worn, but this week it's become physical. A physical parting of ways that on one hand broke me, but on another, doing so mended the broken hearts of my babies.

I'm being called to step back and just be. Be their mama. Be Justin's wife. Be present. Be still. Be. Be. Be. To create for them, and for me. To shoot for them, and for me. To take this one wild and precious life, and not waste another minute chasing a hustle that does more damage than it does good. I'm not the greatest at this, I used to thrive on deadlines and to-do lists.

Not anymore. So yes, slowly but surely all my other "online presences" will dissolve and I'll just be here, just me, just Angie. And I'll promise be true to what I believe and I guarantee I'll be real. I'd be so glad to have you along for the ride.

I'm Angie, good to meet you.

Hello There, Friend

Angie Warren // Hello There, Friend

Recently, the lovely ladies of Hello There, Friend approached me about a feature on their blog + IG. I was honored, it's a project I've followed since the beginning, and I absolutely love how they remind me to find gratitude in the itty bitty daily pieces of life.

They asked me some really great, thought provoking Q&A and I got to takeover their IG for the day! What fun!

You can check it out, here.

xo

 

Six Hours for Him

Angie Warren

Sometimes you do things in the name of grief, of necessity, of a gut-wrenching need. Like drive nearly six hours round trip, to have twenty minutes with your brother.

I don't think it simply chance that he quit his job 3000 miles away, to work temporarily in the mountains here. During the fall, a space in time I feel most fragile. We all do, our mother's children.

And today, I had that need, a force so strong, I hopped in the car and drove into the night. There he stood, on the side of the road in the middle of no where and it was the most welcome sight.

Puffy-eyed and utterly exhausted I was, but I squeezed him and we talked of his adventures and laughed, and for a bit I forgot about the breakdown today, and forgot about the loss, and about how three years later it hurts as much and not as much - different but the same.

It's a white hot poker, so fresh and painful, and yet life is so intrinsically different I sometimes wonder if she was real at all, our mom. Or if she was simply the best dream I've dreamt.

I digress.

The drive was worth it. And I count myself lucky to have had the chance to even make it. To see him, the boy she loved and prayed for so very much. The brother I adore.

Grief changes and it doesn't. It's alive and it's hidden. And if you're in the thick of it, a month out or three years or thirty - you aren't alone. Not a single bit.

Hang in there and hang on.

As Long as You'll Sit, I'll Push

Angie Warren

When you asked to take a walk in the stroller I was stumped. Where is, the stroller? It's been years since you, my independent last born, has ridden in your Maclaren.

You cried big, heavy, tears. Finally after some thought, I tossed you in the car and we went in search of a jogging stroller.

I was reminded of the tale of Goldilocks, except for in our story, you were just too big for every one of them. I looked at you in aisle three of the "baby store", and it was my turn for the big, heavy, tears. Your legs, long and lean hung over the sides and you proudly beamed "mom it's just PERFECT for me!" and with a fractured heart I had to come to acknowledge that my baby, is far from the small, bouncy girl whose legs weren't lean and whose hair wasn't long.

You had outgrown the stroller but your heart was still in it. I'll always wonder but never care what others thought of a four and a half year old and her mama weeping in the stroller aisle.

So I did what any good mother would do, we spent $20 on a black and yellow striped number, and I wheeled you around our block in your snug as a bug bumblebee and we felt the wind and we talked of life and we chose to ignore your bent up knees and the way it hugged you a bit too tight.

We chose to remember the walks Nana took us on, and gather some pine cones, and relish the last strolls we'll take like this. As long as you'll keep sitting, I promise to keep on pushing.

Everything Was Tangible

Angie Warren

Right after I lost my mom to cancer, everything was tangible.

I could tell you the last place we went to lunch together (Mello's Pizza). I could recall whether we were at my parents home for Easter or my in-laws (In laws). I could quick rattle off the last time I had heard her laugh (...).

Now, nearly three years later, it's all so, very, different. Those details fade a bit, much to my dismay. If I don't intentionally remember them, they blow into the wind.

In three years, I've had countless friends lose a parent. I've wept with them, for them. I've sat back and watched grief unfold. I've wanted to reach out and grab it from them, to stuff it in my own pocket or toss it over a hill. But, I can't, we can't. We have to walk through it.

In three years I've seen my children heal, sometimes so much that they forget. I don't want to forget. I don't want to forget a thing, and yet time does that thing where you don't even realize what's happening, but before you know it, you're doing the hard things, and they don't hurt as much. And you realize that, and it hurts a lot.

In three years I've watched people close to me take for granted what they have. I've had to bite my tongue when all I want to do is yell "THEY MIGHT NOT BE HERE TOMORROW!". But you can't, you don't do that. Because they simply do not know...

In three years I've experienced Mother's Days and birthdays, Christmases and Spring flowers and Summer nights and thunderstorms - countless trips around the sun, with a gaping hole in my heart.

She, the one who made my children any food they wanted. She who loved the homeless and less fortunate. She who in the face of death said "why *not* me?".

She. She's gone and life continues to move and I continue to live, three years is an eternity and it's one breath. It's a lifetime and it's a blink.

And for three years I've written about her, and about loss, and grief - here, in this space. And I've written in a document. 80,000 words to be exact. I've written a story of redemption and grace, one that guts me to re-read, and one that I know I simply must finish.

About this time each year I feel it and I step into it. The changing of the season, and each year I get closer, but the finish line has never quite been within reach.

Perhaps this year. This may be the year.

Until then, I stare at her, in the portraits I've taken. Ones like these being my favorite. The every day, ones I likely almost deleted for technical purposes, but now, if I close my eyes, and allow my mind to lead me, I'm right back there in her kitchen.

She's making them food, we'll soon go on a walk, or out to her garden. The house smells of baked goods. The Bee Gees are playing. The baby is laughing. I'm with her, and I'm home.

That's where I like to stay, in my mind. Maybe that's where I need to be to finish. Time will only tell.

Thank you for being a space in which I can remember, share. For many years, I've been blessed to be able to write and feel loved and at peace from people near and very far, and I'm forever grateful for that.

xo
Angie

The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But.

Angie Warren // on Homeschooling

Admission: the truth of the matter is, it's not what I thought, it's so much more.

We're a bit over two weeks in now and I feel like I can finally sit down and write.

I have about a thousand things on my mind, but I'll spare you all of it and just share the important bits.

That first day? Oh, expectations were high. There were tears, yelling, yeah, I locked myself in the bathroom a few times. It was, not pretty. I sent some desperate voxer messages, calls, and texts, and got loads of encouragement and virtual hugs. Plugged along, and went about the day.

But oy. It was, uh, rough.

Angie Warren // on Homeschooling

I think for years I'll look back upon that day and sort of go "awwwww" for the Angie that thought she had to do things the way everyone else did them. I'll feel a bit for the kids that really only knew traditional school and had a mom who thought our day would be pinterest-worthy.

I digress.

I learned quickly that some things simply wouldn't work for us. At least not in this phase. I envisioned a lot (I'll save you the list), and had to quick check myself, and send up an arm full of prayers, to realize our family is unique. No one is like us, really. What worked for her, well, it won't work for us.

Angie Warren // on Homeschooling

Once that was settled, I began to find that our days smoothed out. I know, we have ages to go before we really find our groove and I know it will morph and change, but man God's been good. Full of grace + love.

I giggle a tiny bit when I look at the post I wrote early August about our Homeschool Plan. Giggling only because shoot, a plan is good right? The thing is, if I were to post what things really look like, it would hardly mimic that post.

And that, my friends, is okay. It's so okay.

Angie Warren // on Homeschooling

Because, we do use those Beautiful Feet books. And are they ever beautiful. We've devoured Columbus. Do we go strictly day to day, as it's laid out? Nope. Have the kids soaked in the details, imagined his voyages, laughed and asked questions and narrated? YES. Can they tell you where he meant to go, where he ended up, and why he kept two log books? Sure thing.

How about the science plan? Swimming animals first, Astronomy second? That changed on day two. I listened to a Wild + Free podcast with Elsie of Farmhouse Schoolhouse, chatting about Chasing the Spark. When Danny said "Mom I really want to learn about space." I quick packed up the Swimming Creatures book and pulled out Astronomy. They weren't even done with breakfast before I made the switch.

Angie Warren // on Homeschooling

We dove head first into the moon, I watercolored, the kids drew the phases, Quinn even made a moon from a paper plate, foil, and glitter. It was incredible. The following week, I asked "What planet?" and quickly they chose Mars. This week, we're on Jupiter.

Did we follow the daily grid? We didn't. Can they tell you the temperature of Mars, the name of the volcano, descriptions of her moons? Sure thing.  Will they go on and on about the difference between our atmosphere and that of Mars, why it looks red, and what humans would need to live there? Yes mam. All without writing a paper on it, or being tested, or following a plan.

Angie Warren // on Homeschooling

I suppose my point here is, what I envisioned for our schooling sort of went out the window. And there's not a thing wrong with that. In fact, it's become so much better, so much richer, than ANYTHING I could have made into an excel worksheet.

This home educating is so special, so incredibly unique to each and every family. If you would have asked me four months ago what I pictured we would be doing in late August, I'd likely have laid out our daily schedule, complete with a color coded grid. We would hit every subject every day and produce beautiful watercolored narratives of each said subject.

Angie Warren // on Homeschooling

Instead, we devour books (we're reading three, listening to two). We dive in fully to what we're interested in and what we're learning. We're planning a trip of a lifetime. Danny is starting his own video game review blog. Luke does two-three math lessons a day if I let him (which of course I do). Quinn has discovered a passion for the weather and reports to us each day. We took the long way home to visit Gold Rush museums and read about the past, and not worry about homework or bedtimes, or early alarm clocks. It's really something.

We learn hands on. We're obsessed with nature, our curiosities collection, discovery. I watercolor, they use colored pencils (except Quinn, she's my girl). The cute math box I put together with little workbooks and manipulatives, math games and such, I curated for days when I thought they'd want a "break" - it sits dusty. When given the chance to skip "real math" for the box, they choose their beloved Teaching Textbooks any day!

Angie Warren // on Homeschooling

I thought I knew my kids, and I did, I do know their hearts. I know their favorite songs and meals, I know their love languages. But I really truly had no idea how they learned best. So we're discovering it all, together.

And it's amazing.

Angie Warren // on Homeschooling

No, I'm no veteran. Yes I have so much to learn. I know rough roads are ahead. And amazing days are ahead. But we're doin' it and we're happy and that's the whole truth.

The Yellowstone Experience

Angie Warren // on Homeschooling

When my husband was a boy, the Warrens took a trip to Yellowstone. It rests in his memory of one of the best times of his childhood. So taking his own family there has been a dream of his for years.

We decided 2017 would be the year.

When we said yes to homeschool, I knew planning the Yellowstone trip would be the perfect life skill for our boys (8 and 11) to partake in. Over time we've been collecting books & maps, eagerly awaiting the time when we can sit down and officially begin to piece this thing together.

This thing, is lovingly dubbed, The Yellowstone Experience.

We know there are websites out there that will plan your trip from point A to B and back again. We love technology, we do. But we also think it an important life skill for our boys to know how to do things the good ole fashioned way.

You know, like reading a map. And planning a budget. And checking weather, and packing, and making lists, and getting their hands deep into the idea, dirty even, so that when we do it, when we pull out into the great unknown, they'll take pride knowing they had a hand in curating this experience.

That's our goal, and we can't wait.

Angie Warren // on Homeschooling

LET THE PLANNING COMMENCE

Today we pulled out the books, our binder, and maps and began to brain storm. Of course that's after a quick bison watercolor (the binder needed a cute cover, am I right?), some iced chai, and mini corn muffins.

I explained to the kids a bit of what we would be doing in the coming months. Their first question was "but where do we start?".

So we pulled out some paper and I asked, "What things do we need to do, to research, what questions do you have?".

And so it began. They had great ideas! I'll organize them a bit and then we will begin to dig into them, answer, plan, and come up with a trip they're sure to remember decades later - just as their daddy does.

Here's what we will be working with:

  • How will we get there?
  • How long will it take?
  • When are we going? What season?
  • What will we pack?
  • Where will we stay?
  • What will we eat?
  • Can we hunt? Fish?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Will it be fun? (really guys?)
  • What wildlife will we see?
  • What route will we take?
  • What time will we arrive?
  • What place will we see first?
  • What will be our itinerary?
  • What will the weather be?
  • What will we see?
  • What will we buy?
  • Who will come with us?
  • What will we do with the dogs?
  • How long will we be gone?
  • What equipment do we need to get?
  • What safety precautions will we take?

Until next time...

Letters from my Mom

www.angiewarren.com

She had been engaged less than twenty-four hours when I put the finishing touches on it. On her gift.

You see, I knew it was coming, the ring, and so I had been working feverishly for a week to piece together something special.

My baby sister will be getting married and our mother has died and I find myself taking on the role that was left void, that crisp morning in October, nearly three years ago.

I decided to enlist the contributions of all the women most important to our mom: our family and close friends, females who loved her and love us and would love on my sister as she stepped into a brand new phase of life.

Quickly I received confirmation from each person I had contacted. Yes, they would be sending letters, yes, yes, yes. I awaited their well wishes, and advice, and words of wisdom, as if it were my thesis.

As evening tucked way into night, I got a text:

"Ang, I'll have my note over to you this evening. And, also, I'll be sending your mom's."

My, what?

My. Mom's.

My mom's note?

My mom's note.

MY MOM'S NOTE.

Sure enough, it came through. Not in her pen however, because this was a unique situation. My mom, in her final six months of life, was too scared of what it meant to write to her kids. Knowing her as I did, I am certain that for her to sit down and write these letters, meant she ceased to fight.

And my mama fought. Oh she fought.

So they played a game, she and her best friend. States apart, they curated letters for us, her children - through phone calls, emails, and the like.

Without my sweet mother sitting at a desk to scrawl in her tell-tale script, giving in and giving up, they were able to craft countless words to be handed to us at later dates.

And as it would happen, the first of these would come to me, for my newly engaged sister, on a warm night in July.

I wept. I wept tears hot and heavy, full and searing.

I wept for what I did not know all those months, I wept for the best friend of my mother's who did such a painful and selfless thing, I wept for the knowledge of all the things to come - things my mom knew she would be missing.

And so, last week, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros our soundtrack, I gingerly passed this gift, over to my sister.

"Dear Robinhood," it began (her nick name for my sister), "You are getting married, and I can not be there..."

I struggle even today to read the rest of the note, which, I'll be keeping private out of respect for my sister.

It chokes me.

It sucks the air from my lungs and I weep again.

And at the end of the day, I am not the least bit surprised our mama would do such a thing. I'm not. And yet, it still bites, like the sting of a bee. And I struggle to break from it. I struggle to breathe.

The missing of her. The sadness I feel. The way it takes you back to the worst days of grief.

It softens some, that pain, but I know there are more notes to come. And so, I know there is more pain. Good pain, you know? Pain you want to feel, even through the bleeding of it.

Oh mama, you were more amazing than you ever realized. And we loved you oh, so very much...

- - - - - - - -

For what feels like an eternity now, I've wondered why I can't seem to sit and finish the memoir I'm 80k words into. Sure, it felt like the story wasn't finished. The redemption, still working it's way to surface.

Until this.

This. These letters. Suddenly it's clear. It's vivid like the first light of day, I couldn't finish it because there was so much I didn't know.

There is still, so much I don't know.

I do know one thing, and that is, I'll finish this race. I'll write every last word and I'll do it for her and with her, in spirit.

If you need me, I'll be writing.

xo

Social Media Conflict

www.angiewarren.com

I've been in a space of conflict lately about social media, about this device in my hands. And then after spending a few days with a dear friend who has walked away for good, I was reminded of all the reasons I ever walked myself.

We chatted a lot about this, she and I. But the truth is, it's been sitting with me for quite a bit. I've been off of social media a handful of times. Deleted my accounts, detoxed, and eventually made my way back in the name of business, writing, or whatever else. I've worked on balance, narrowed who I've followed, all in hopes of that elusive, desire to be able to stay and still not lose sight of what's important.

I've failed. Miserably failed.

But what of people like my good friends Tiffany Ruda and Tristian Skidmore? What of Jessica Cudzillo and the Parsons? All artists, mamas, creatives, with businesses and huge followings - that said once and for all, so long, this space isn't cutting it for me ✌🏻️ out.

They all have this one thing in common: family, intentional time spending, and living life without telling the world - these things became their priority over having a big following and thriving business and hash-tagging and being featured and all of it. And soon, soon that feeling became so good, so tangible, they chose to not come back at all.

Tiffany and I, Tristian and I, we've talked long and hard over it the last few years. I remember pretty clearly the feeling those first few days away of always reaching for my phone, of feeling lost in what's happening with my friends and the community. But before long I sat to eat and simply connected with my friends and family, I didn't reach for my phone every blasted second, and the friends that are truly friends, they were just a phone call or text or house visit away.

And yet it's conflicting because there's still that deep desire in me to write, to finish my book and seek an agent, and truth be told, I know the world of publishing likely wants nothing to do with someone who isn't up and up on social media. But. But. But still I am just not sure that's enough to keep me around.

I know for many this is a non issue. I have plenty of friends who wouldn't dream of giving it up, who CAN balance it, but I would also venture to say many of you (myself included) don't realize just how much time you're spending looking down at a phone, how many important conversations you're missing, how much LIFE you're missing (Have you ever checked your daily and weekly usage? It's scary).

I've been watching for the last few weeks when I'm out and about and with people, and it's heart breaking. And I've been guilty of it more than I'd like to admit. When was the last time you ate a meal without a phone in your hand? When did you last have a good conversation with a friend or husband or child, without sneaking a peek at your screen? How about the last time you did something really great, whether it be art or an accomplishment or a trip, without sharing it on IG or snapchat or Facebook?

Because the question remains that, if something happens but isn't declared to the world, does it really happen? Does it have meaning? And even further than that, what's our MOTIVE for sharing. I've had to ask myself some hard questions lately. What IS my motive in each square I publish? What ARE my motives for the words I write on my business FB page? What are yours, your motives?

I think of Tiffany and Tristian, the Parson family and even now Jessica - living their lives and their day to day, doing all the same things they did before, but with more meaning because they don't feel the need to tell the entire world about it. Some of them blog, some don't. But the instant gratification of a share and then the "assurance" of likes and comments, that's long gone for them.

So. Yeah, I'm in a place of conflict. Conviction. Confusion. And yeah, I'm talking ABOUT it ON social media, but it's because I feel so strongly. I know I'm not changing the world with my thoughts, but I'd like to maybe plant a seed in you, to even consider where you're spending your own time. Just as I'm considering it.

So I ask myself and I ask you: If today was our final day on this earth, would we be pleased with how we made use of it?

The Fourth

THE FOURTH, A SERIES, 2009-2016

It all started the Independence Day of his fourth year. He still had the roundness of his babyhood, mispronounced the letter f, and fit squarely in my lap.

We were out back as the last bit of light slipped away, when I noticed it. The way his hands, small and dirty, held the popper. I dialed my ISO way up, and began to shoot.

This was the night I became my own artist. The evening I threw out the rules, and fell in love with documenting life as I saw it. Grain and all.

It continued. Each Fourth of July since, I've waited, with bated breath for *just* the right light. You know, when twilight whispers, but the stars aren't quite there.

That's when I shoot it. A series that's grown in my heart, just as my small boy has grown towards a man.

Each year holds a memory. Some are shot with Nikon, one is film, there's even an iPhone portrait. This year was Canon.

It doesn't matter really, because I'm curating a series that holds my heart like a life vest.

And there have been years I've needed it to keep afloat.

This year, I placed him between myself and the sinking sun. Handed him a small popper. Dialed my ISO up and brought my aperture down. Composed my image. Shot. One, two, five clicks of the shutter.

And we went about our night.

A bit later as I scrolled through the images I began to notice something: man, I thought, that popper looks small in his hands.

"Can we try this again, bud?" I asked, knowing he wouldn't be thrilled.

Much to my surprise I looked up and he was smiling, grabbing something else, a bigger firework. One he planned to help his dad with.

It hit me. He's no longer a small boy, holding a small popper.

No. He's ready to hold the big stuff.

And so, in the end, I would use this imagery to tell the story of the year I came to understand him. To accept, that, my tiny boy isn't so tiny after all.

But oh, how I love him so.

To my son: thank you for this gift. For going along with this crazy notion your mama has. Thank you for seven more years of this. I try not to weep at the thought of how you'll continue to grow, and change.

My hope is that one day, when you're a man with children of your own, you'll remember the sunset of each Independence Day - your sappy artist of a mother, that simply wanted to hold onto each bit of your childhood. One popper (or, ahem, firework) at a time.

2016

2016

Painted Skies

Angie Warren

"How will they be, mama?" she asked. "What's that, Quinn?" I leaned in. "The fi-ah works. How will they be?"

So I went on to tell her of the painted skies. We talked about the rain of light. The crackle of the finish.

And when they began, those fi-ah works, I got to experience them for the first time. All over again.

May I never forget the braids, the blue and white dress, the winter boots. May I drink in her smallness, her eager for life and love and joy. May I write the sound of her voice on my heart, to pick up and listen to at will.

May we all experience something for the first time, through the eyes of a child. The magic. The anticipation. The newness of something we grown ups have long forgotten.

We celebrate a birthday, but we celebrate too, a rebirth of ourselves. Which if we only allow it, just might be the loveliest gift of all.

Dear You, Don't Give Up

Oh hey you: husband, wife, friend.

Your wife's mom just died. Or your husband's dad. Or, your best friend's parent. Their world has been rocked, and suddenly what was once safe, for them, for you, isn't safe anymore at all.

Your person, they've changed, in an instant or a week or a month. Though, of course, you know this. Maybe they're angry, withdrawn - maybe they're silent. Maybe they aren't someone you recognize.

The truth is, it could be this way for a while.

This dark space, this re-entry into a world that goes on spinning. It guts them. The earth isn't stopping, it's moving and breathing and inside their head, is a thick, twisting, fog.

A strangling beast says, "WHY is the world spinning! WHY doesn't everyone see! WHY won't everything JUST STOP!"

That beast controls every aspect of their new normal, including their relationship with you. For a time, it feels impossible for them to change this. And perhaps you feel like it's impossible to understand. But, grief is too strong, she's too manipulative, she's just there, at every corner.

Grief ruins dinners, and bedtime stories. She destroys perfectly good makeup days. And, if you aren't careful, she will severely damage the best laid plans.

Husband-wife-bestfriend, listen to me when I say, your person? Yeah, they're hurting. They're devastated. They're walking on broken glass with broken feet and the path ahead shows little comfort.

But they're still your person.

Amidst the hardest days they're walking through, behind every angry word they spit, underneath the tear stained sheets - is that person you love. That person, the one you love so much? They're in this place, because of love.

Love is what makes saying goodbye so viciously hard. The love they had for the one they lost, it morphs and becomes something else entirely. It's because of love, that you have to hang on for this ride.

So, hold on, will you? Promise me? Hold on and do not, let, go.

Be their strength, but also know that, this thing they're trying to survive, they'll have to survive with their own will. They need you to walk beside them, but often times, they need to know they can do it.

They need to know that they can swim, among the raging seas. They need you to be their lighthouse, so shine for them, okay? Even if they're throwing rocks at your glass, even in the darkest of nights, keep your torch aflame.

A day will come, that they'll swim right out to you. They'll invite you into the waters with them, and together, you'll heal. You'll survive. Both of you.

Just, stay close by for the ride. Whatever twists and turns may come.

Because being in their shoes, struggling through their seas, were the worst days, for me. The darkest days. The days I almost lost my marriage. The days I spat poison from my lips. The days I'd rather drown, than to even attempt to swim.

And I had a person that didn't give up on me. So, please, don't give up on yours.

Sincerely,


A Fellow Survivor