September 23, 2015


Today marks 10 years of this weird, random little blog.  TEN YEARS.  In some ways, how has 10 years gone by?  In other ways...who was that person who posted that first time all those years ago?

Obviously I don't post here very often any more.  Instagram sort of took over my blogging obsession.  And I just felt a change and didn't feel the need to write all the nonsense I used to write anymore.    As I've learned to say from one of my favorite blogs, "that's okay."  There are seasons to our creativity just like there are seasons in life.  Maybe one day I'll be creatively pulled towards blogging again.  Maybe not.  But no matter what, I have years and years of records/posts of who I was.  Almost the entirety of my 30's were documented in posts here.  I started at age 28.  In some ways I don't even remember being 28.  In others, I feel exactly the same as that young girl.

I'm so thankful for this tiny space though.  Thankful for the photos of cherished times.  Thankful for the lists upon lists of the things I was excited or obsessed over.  It's a strange thing to come face to face with yourself 5 or 8 years ago.  Hear your voice in the words.  Remember the emotions that flooded your heart.  Realize you are no longer that person, but that person is still inside of you.  See how you have grown and learned and changed.  I love having that record.  I love reading the old posts.

My mind still swims with blog post ideas.  Ideas for subjects I want to explore like being single in your late 30's or writing short stories.  Maybe one day that will happen.  Who knows.  But no matter what, I'll still feel the thrill of having a place where the words can spill out if I need them to.

Happy 10th, little Cottage Girl blog.  I'm so glad you exist.

May 23, 2015

China: Those babies

As I was getting ready to leave on this trip, people asked me over and over “are you excited to go see China?  What will you get to do?  Will you see the Great Wall?” Confession time…I could have gone to China and done nothing but play with those sweet babies and been perfectly perfect happy.  They are the reason I wanted to go to China.  They are the reason I actually ended up getting on that plane headed to the other side of the world.  I’ve never wanted to go to China to “see China".  All those other things were great.  They really were.  The Great Wall really is inspiring and amazing.  But it doesn’t hold a candle to the sweet little people I met.  

I never wanted to go to China as a tourist. I didn’t want to go and just see the place itself.  It would have felt wrong on every level.  Dishonest.  I couldn’t do a cruise down the Yangtze and just forget that there were little ones just past those shores.  It wasn’t an option for me at all.  When Meredith asked me to come and visit, and not only visit, but come meet her babies, I jumped at the chance and pooled my all my spare change and bought that ticket.  This was my time to go.  This was what I had been waiting for.  

Before I arrived in China, Meredith asked me what I wanted to see while I was in Beijing, my honest reply was “Molly, Shalom, Benjamin, Ruby, Josie, Baby Kate, etc.”  One hundred percent truth.  The first full day I was there, we walked over to the babies home and inside I was secretly nervous.  This was a moment I had dreamed of since I was about 5 years old.  Not these kids in this particular home, but the whole idea of coming face to face with the children I have sponsored and prayed for and dreamed about for years upon years.  So, walking in that door and being greeted by all those little faces…well, I was instantly peeling off my shoes and sitting on that mat watching them in wonder.  They were living breathing children with precious faces and spunky personalities.  They weren’t just pictures on my refrigerator or monthly reports in my inbox.  

Truthfully, I didn’t think the kids would want anything to do with me.  And I was ready to accept this.  Tiny 0-2 year olds don’t necessarily warm to strangers.  Totally get that.  And I wasn’t about to force my way into their lives and into their comfort zones.  So I sat back and watched.  I saw them run/crawl/scoot toward Meredith as soon as they saw her smiling face.  I saw them pile in her lap and giggle.  I watched the nannies interact with the kids.  I sat beside baby bouncy seats and smiled at the tinies.  It was a wonder to behold.

And then Baby Kate was plopped swiftly into my lap.  Probably by Meredith.  And there I sat in complete and utter bliss, trying way too hard to make this tiny miracle bundle smile.  I just stared at her precious face and couldn’t look away.  
This is the best part of being at Morning Star Foster Home.  Having a nanny hand you a tiny and then go off to attend to other matters.  Your only job is to snuggle them and love them and keep them content.  Challenge accepted.  Most heartily.  
It happened over and over and over again.  I would lifted my arms up to snag another babe being handed over to me, bubbling with joy along with gulping back tears.  Every time I couldn’t believe I was there.  That this was happening.  That I was the person that got to hold them.  

Then the older kids started to warm up to me by that first afternoon.  Meredith was so kind to introduce them to me and show them that I was safe.  Molly, Shalom, Josie and Ruby all smiled at me and I was a goner.  I would do anything to make them laugh.  They are so precious.  Each day, they would feel a little more comfortable around me, which made leaving at the end of my time there pretty much excruciating.  Watching their faces go around the corner for the last time.  I still can’t.  Nope.  It’s too hard to think about.  Like a giant hole in my heart.   

Meredith asked me if there any of the kids that I couldn’t wait to actually see in person.  It was hard to think of them that way because I couldn’t wait to meet all of them for their own special reasons.  But Molly, little Molly.  I was smitten with her.  Her photos were always the ones that I would stare at the longest.  Her smile was the best thing I had ever seen.  
She can be tough, Meredith warned me.  I knew that my chances of even getting near Molly or holding her were pretty slim.  And again, that’s okay.  These are little people who have fears and lives that I don’t have any right to.  So I was cautious with her.  I let her lead.  I let her be the one to come to me and initiate anything.  Thankfully, she was kind enough to let me get glimpses of her sweet spirit a few times.  She let me take photos and videos of her.  She sat on my lap on the floor and scrambled around.  She laughed. Oh, that laugh.  It’s pure magic, I’m telling you.  And to see that smile in person…I can’t even take it.  She would use me as her crutch to stand up and practice walking.  Of course, sweet girl.  Anything you need.  I was smitten.  I couldn’t get enough.  She was the last one I saw disappear around the corner when I left that last day.  Her little face looking at me after she had been crying when she thought she had been left behind.  Her big eyes and perfect cheeks.  My freaking heart was about to burst and I still can’t think about that moment without tearing up.  Little Molly.  I wanted to stick her in my carryon and never look back.  

Oh, you sweet little babes. I miss you fiercely and am forever grateful that I got the chance to meet you.

April 27, 2015

CHINA: The Food

The food in China is quite different, but not shocking like you might think.  Rice, veggies, lots of cucumbers (who knew?!), meat, mushrooms and lots of cilantro.  Cilantro? Really?  I thought that was only the plague of the Tex Mex variety.  Apparently they love it in China and put it in everything.  Particularly awesome when cilantro tastes like cleaning fluid to certain taste palates. Um, me.  

(lunch time with the nannies.  so much YUM)

I actually really liked the food in China though.  I miss lunch with the nannies at Morning Star.  The nannies and MS’s driver would make lunch for everyone, and it was so delicious.  For those of you that are wondering... NO, real Chinese food is not really like American Chinese food AT ALL.  It's so much better.  Surprisingly so.  It is less, how do I explain this….fast foody?  All I can say is that their food isn’t neon orange or breaded and fried like pretty much all American Chinese food.

Oh and let’s talk about the wonder of Bubble Tea.  I had my first Bubble Tea in China which seemed very appropriate.  It’s available in the US, but not popular where I live, so I was still a Bubble Tea virgin.  Verdict:  YES.  More please.  I chose the milk variety.  Cold.  I want more right now.  Oh my, it is delightful.  

(Green beans in the center, come find me in America.  I miss you)

I also had the most delicious green beans of my life at the restaurant in Meredith’s neighborhood.  They were cooked with lots of garlic and tiny bits of port and some other magic deliciousness.  I need to figure out how to make those beans.  Yum.

The only hard thing about food in China is the water.  You can’t drink the water, which means you shouldn’t technically eat fruits or raw veggies that are washed in the water.  I did both and didn’t get sick.  But I also bypassed a few things that I probably would have tried if I wasn’t scared of getting sick (Hello, world’s most sensitive digestive system. You are so annoying.  The end) I did throw caution to the wind a few times and was so glad that I didn’t miss out on the deliciousness.  

Wrap up:  
#1  If you go to China, you won’t die of starvation if you don’t like Chinese food.  

#2  Go to a restaurant with photos of the food since you can’t read the menu.

#3  Don’t drink that tap water.

#4  Always say yes to Bubble Tea.  Always.

April 23, 2015

China: The Forbidden City

My sweet friend was kind enough to be my personal tour guide and take me to those places a good tourist goes when they are in Beijing. I mean, she's been too many times to count and yet happily toured me through the Beijing subway all the way through the Forbidden City.


And right across a super, busy highway from Tiananmen Square (children of the 80's like me, can you picture that photo of a man standing in front of tanks when I say those words? There was NOTHING marking that event in history. Like it never happened.) It's weird to have a giant historic landmark on the side of a highway. Kinda ruins the whole magic of the experience at first.

It really is quite a sight to behold, this Forbidden City.  Pay the money and check it out if you are ever in Beijing.  It’s what you think of when you imagine China of days gone by.  

And the old, old trees in the back section are so fascinating.  Tim Burton trees, I call them. They almost look like cartoons.

Side story:
Before we headed to the Forbidden City, we did the extra fun task of exchanging my American dollars for Chinese Yuan.  ONE HOUR, 5 copies of my passport, 10 red stamps and 4 signatures later I had cash.  And no, that is not an exaggeration.  #becauseChina  The struggle is real.  Let's all say a prayer for foreigners living there.  Good gracious.

There is so much more still to come.  The babies, the Great Wall, food, Morning Star and a million tiny moments.

April 21, 2015

China: All the Thoughts

So, China.

That happened.

It isn’t a dream or a wish any more. It’s a living, breathing place in my memory full of people and smells and foods and more people.  It’s real and there is a sky there and the sun and even some stars.  The same ones that are over me right now.  There are stories there and families and normal everyday things like making lunch and grocery stopping and walking up and down stairs.  

Sometimes I feel like it's easy to think that certain places are only real in movies or stories because they seem so far away.  But it’s only 16 hours on a plane, including one very long continuous “we’re never going to get out of here” 14 hour stretch.  Step off that airplane and the language is unfamiliar, the food is different and people look different too.  It’s kinda crazy.  Our world is so much smaller than we think it is.

China surprised me. In a good way. I was expecting to feel overwhelmed by it. I wasn't. I'll give my friend 100% credit for that because she interpreted everything for me and basically let me follow her around like a lost puppy. I really did. I was no help AT ALL. None. But I could follow along like a champ.  Give them this amount of it. Take the #5 train...okay. He's asking you if you want your bubble tea warm or cold...oh, um...cold? (btw: definitely the right decision. Officially addicted now).

But back to China. It's so different. I've been lucky to travel to quite a few places on this globe, but China wins the prize for the being most different from home. I kinda loved it for its vast differences. Now, some of those things are super annoying and I was ready to leave them behind when I got back on that plane, but overall I couldn't believe the wonder that is this place called China.

I've been writing for days. Trying to get my thoughts out of my head and into words. It's hard. So much of this trip will live inside me. It's changing me. There will be things I can't explain #becauseChina. (I swear that hashtag is truly the only explanation for some things. Things like Chinglish signs or squatty potties) There will be things that I'll realize 3 years from now that will all come back to this trip. But for now, I'll do my best to be brief while giving you a peak into this trip of a lifetime.

I leave you with this photo...

...this is the garbage truck in the neighborhood where I stayed.  This is 2015, not 1890.  Like I said #becauseChina.  No other explanation.

More, oh so much more, to come.

March 23, 2015

My claustrophobia is hyperventilating

In one week's time, I will be well into a 14 hour flight to Beijing, China.
(14 hours?!! My claustrophobia is already hyperventilating.)
For those of you who don't know, I've been wanting to go to China since I was elementary school age.  Not to see the Great Wall or the Forbidden City or the Terra Cotta Warriors, although I'm sure those things are incredible. No, I've always wanted to go and just hug the orphans over there.  I've tried several times to plan a trip with various organizations and each time, something came up and I was unable to go.

This time, a sweet friend of mine, who is living over there and working in an orphanage, kindly told me when she got her job that I was more than welcome to come and visit AND play with the babies under her care.  I believe her exact words were "YOU BETTER COME VISIT" in all caps. second thinking that decision.  Spend some time with my friend and fulfill a life long dream.  Yes and yes.

So off I go on this crazy adventure.  Semi-scared that China will get the best of me with its weird foods (I don't even like America's version of Chinese food) and over abundance of people and pollution.  Semi-scared that I will not be able to leave those precious kiddos behind when I have to step back on that plane to come home.  One hundred percent in awe of the perfect timing that God blessed me with in this whole situation.  And so freakin' excited that I can't catch my breath.

I'm hoping (and pretty confident) that I will be posting regularly on Instagram.  Thank you Jesus for iPhones and iMessage.  What did I ever do without them?  Truly.  I don't want to remember that dark time.  Plus, you can be sure that I will take 5 gazillion pictures and want to share every single one.  You've been warned.

It's happening.

March 06, 2015

Take a deep breath

A million different things can hold you back.  From the life you are called to live.  From the adventures that beckon.  Fear, money, time, people's expectations or assumptions.  So many things that seem so overwhelmingly huge in your head, yet in reality are just excuses, most of the time.  You meet people who do that thing or go to that place that you dream about.  You think "they must be special, not like me".

Sometimes...sometimes you decide to take the leap.  Look fear in the face and say "you will not win today".  You take a deep breath, gulp down the anxiety creeping up from your stomach and here-we-go...

(more details to come...)

February 28, 2015

being brave

I have multiple posts that I have written and not posted.  It's weird because this used to be such a comfortable place.  Now, I come here and constantly re-think what I should say.  Should I talk about the things I'm enjoying on TV/movies? (I wrote a whole post on that topic)  Should I tell a story like I used to?  (wrote one of those too) Or maybe just write and write and write whatever may come out?  (yup, wrote that as well)

I just don't know how to do this anymore.  And honestly, I don't think anyone reads, which is 100% understandable because I haven't written regularly in years.  But I miss it.  So I don't even care.  I'm going to write when I feel it.  I'm going to ramble and dribble on.  And post a photo or two because I'm still taking them constantly.

Here's to being brave and posting again.

January 09, 2015

I am...

(from that glorious day in Maui spent on the beach getting a wicked sunburn on my back)

I am a writer.
No, I'm not paid to write.

I don't have novels with my name on them stacked on shelves or piles of magazines with my short stories printed in them.  I've never been published.  I've never been given actual American dollars to put pen to paper.  But I read Stephen King's book "On Writing" and he says that if you write, even for yourself, then you are a writer.  You write for your sanity, not for a pay check. I feel like he's earned enough credit as a writer to define who as writer is, don't you?  Thank you, Mr. King.  I am definitely in that boat.  The one where sanity wins after the words finally finish spilling out.

This past December thirty-first, I completed an entire year of writing every day.  Mostly in a journal.  My favorite form has always been pen and paper.  Computers are great and all, but they just don't hold the same punch.
Anyway, I wrote every single day.  Okay I may have forgotten -or fallen into bed too exhausted- 3 times, but I went back the next morning and filled in the missing day's entry.  My journal went with me to Hawaii and Utah.  It followed me on trips home to see my parents.  It was always in my carryon for easy access.
I wrote what I did that day. I wrote what was on my heart. I wrote out my tears and frustrations and there were a lot of them last year.  I wrote out my joys and the times when things were good.  I wrote about books I finished and loved.  I wrote about The Walking Dead and The Good Wife.  I wrote when I was scared.  I wrote about being lonely. I wrote when I didn't understand why things were happening and didn't have the answers.  I wrote about dear friends and the times I felt loved and cared for.  I wrote about what God was teaching me.  I wrote when I was angry at Him too.  I was honest.  Brutally so.

And then the year ended.  But I couldn't put my journal down.  I was more hungry to write than I had ever been. Can I tell you after doing a 365 challenge (see my other year long 365 projects like a-photo-a-day or the Bible in a year) that same thing you loved can become the one thing you almost dread.  It can feel like a chore.  When I read the Bible through in a year, it felt like a chore. The day after I finished, I read just a handful of verses and Jesus and I had a glorious time together.  And I still take a lot of photos, but certainly not one every single day.

But just captures me.  Nonsense, good-sense, no-sense.  I love it all.  I love to end the day with full journal pages and a mind at ease.

Now there are things I would love to write.  A novel.  A completed story.  A devotional.  A play. Whatever else sounds fun.  And maybe one day those things will come.  I take comfort in people like Julia Child who didn't begin cooking, like, didn't even know how, until she was in her late 30's.  There's still time for me, if there was still time for Julia, right?

So for today, I am a writer.  A writer of dreams and hopes.  Of a life lived.  Of tiny insignificant details.   I may be the only one to ever read this story.  And that's okay.

I...I am a writer.
(it's crazy to say that out loud)