Saturday, November 21, 2009

Highlight of the trip...

Would you like to know the most exciting part of our 22-hour trip back to the states?

It wasn't when they almost wouldn't let us leave the country due to a micommunication regarding our green cards.

It wasn't when Maple's airplane bassinet fell off the wall to which it was attached.

It wasn't when I realized I had only ONE pacifier for the entire trip because I had left the rest sitting at our back door.

It wasn't when Maple grabbed my salad and dumped it in my lap, dressing and all.

Would you really like to know the most exciting part?

Let's play a game. I'll give you a few words, and you tell me what they have in common.

Airplane seat.
Carry-on luggage.

Any guesses? Anyone? You, there in the back? No?

Ok. I thought it was obvious.

This is a list of items that belonged to the man sitting across the aisle from me.

This is also a list of items, belonging to that man, which were covered in baby spit up after Maple projectile vomitted across that aisle.

And in case you were wondering...

...inside the shoe.
...laptop completely crashed.





Saturday, November 14, 2009


I mentioned in my last post that I was a little stressed last night while packing. My husband happened to catch my little breakdown on video. So, my dear readers, for your viewing pleasure...

I Don't Need Anything. -

(Shout out to Jessi C. for this inspiration!)

Now is the time...

It's early Sunday morning here in Korea. The snow has been falling since about 10:30 last night but only sticking to the cars and bushes. It's only 7:05am, and the parking lot is already filling up with cars and older women with umbrellas. Our clothes are all laid out. Chloe will wear a denim skirt, two or three layers of sweaters, and her new rainbow sweater stockings. Maple is wearing a fuzzy warm pants set over her panda bear pajamas. I'm wearing what I have worn every Sunday morning for the past ten months: black pants, modest solid shirt, low ponytail, ballet flats. In just a few minutes, Brandon's alarm will go off, and he will stumble out of the bedroom with his crazy hair. Chloe will crack her door and peer out to see if "the sunshine is awake." Our day will be busy, yet somehow peaceful, routine, cathartic.

This is my last Sunday in Korea.

Last night, after the girls were in bed, I sat in the living room stuffing and cramming and packing every single little bit of space in my 4.2 suitcases. And I was stressed. Like, burst into tears kind of stress. I didn't give into it, but I felt it creeping up the back of my throat - that lump that comes around when I try to swallow some threatening emotion.

I'm very excited to go back home. To the states.

I'm very excited about the turn our life has taken here in Korea and about seeing where this new road will lead.

I'm very excited about Memphis and all that that entails.

But this week is going to be hard. I have really come to love our home, and the people, here in Cheonan, and the thought of leaving all makes that lump start to creep up again.

I know we're doing the right thing, and I know it's ultimately what we need and want. But I think it's okay for me to have a season of sadness over what will be left behind...

Ecclesiastes 3

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Blogging like woah!

So, the other day my long-distance long-time long-lovin' friend Olivia sent me a message on Ye Olde Facebook entitled, "Blogging like woah!" Which, can we all just nod in agreement that "Blogging like woah!" is a great message title? Well, the author of said title has laid claim to her own little corner of the bloggosphere over at Clearly Mysterious. Now, let me tell you, this girl has some writing skills, and if you give her a New York minute to find her groove, I can guarantee this blog will be... like... woah! Seriously.

So, in this cleverly titled facebook message, Olivia told me that she wanted some blogging advice from the most creative, talented, fearless, inspirational - not to mention drop-dead gorgeous - blogger she knows.

And since she wasn't available, Olivia asked me.

Oh, I slay myself.

As I crafted my response to her, I began to realize that while I could give a quick synopsis on how I blog, I really have no idea why I blog. The problem, of course, is that often the how and the why are so intertwined, it's difficult to tell where one stops and the other starts. Thus began my week-long attempt to define my blog.

While I still don't believe I have an exhaustive definition or explanation of my12hats, here is what I have discovered so far... In list format, no less...

How I blog...
1. First of all, I get a lot of inspiration from other bloggers. I have thirty (34!) blogs in my google reader, which I check every day. Some days, I read each and every one of them. Most days, I hit the top five or so. These blogging gals (and a couple guys) really challenge and inspire me. If it weren't for their influence, y'all would probably be reading about my cleaning list each week.

2. I have developed what has been affectionately termed "blogger's brain." I can't tell you how many times in a day some random, seemingly innocuous event happens and I think "this would make a great blog post!" This "ability" has proven quite useful and is the source of many of my posts. Of course, the problem naturally occurs wherein I live my life through the lens of entertainment, where any event that isn't worth blogging about isn't worth living. Perhaps that is an over exaggeration, but the truth is that there are times when I have to set it all aside for a while and remind myself that this blog is not the most important thing in my life and there are things about which I may never blog - like the feel of my daughter's hand on my face, or the sight of my husband hunched over his Bible - but which are moments that are totally worth living and remembering.

3. Write as if a stranger you love is reading. I know this sounds weird, but it's honestly what I think as I write many of my posts. "Someday my great, great grandchildren might read these little stories. What do I want them to know about me and my life?" This filter has given me the boldness to write about things which I might never have dared to discuss in public before. It has also helped me to tone down any drama, language, or questionable material I might consider putting on here from time to time.

4. Editing is for newspapers and authors. I know, I KNOW, there are some hard-core bloggers out there that would heartily disagree with me on this point, but if I try to triple proof-read every word and super analyze every sentence, well, lets just say my12hats would be one big empty pot o' nuthin right about now. Folks have sense enough to know you meant "there" when you wrote "their," and the ones that get their panties in a bunch about it... well... they're free to write all about it in their own little bloggo.

Now for the why...

1. I write for me. That's it. I would love to tell you that I write so my girls will have wonderful little stories to read about their childhood. I would love to say that I just do it for the love of blogging. I would love to say that I hope to minister to some lost soul through my writing.

But here's the honest truth: I like to write. I like to go back and re-read the stuff that I have written in the past. I like the way words sound when read aloud, and I love the way they look on a page. When I go back to those old journal entries from that 18-year-old version of me so many years ago, I feel like I am meeting with old friends... remembering the past with rose-colored glasses... laughing at my old dramatic flair... seeing how far the Lord has brought me from there...

2. I blog for the comments. I like comments. How's that for honesty? I wish I didn't like them. I wish I could write those words without coming across as needy. But sometimes I write about some gut-wrenching, soul-searching, paradigm-shifting stuff on this little blog. Every now and then, it's cathartic to put myself completely out there, completely exposed, completely vulnerable... and for someone to say "I understand and I approve." I know it's needy. I know I shouldn't want man's approval and blah blah blah... but comments tell me that someone in the world is feeling what I'm feeling... understanding where I'm coming from... identifying with my emotions. And I need that connection, especially with other women, every once in a while.

So, yeah, those are pretty selfish reasons to blog, and the answer to the "why" question was a difficult one, no doubt. But, well, there it is...

So, my dear Olivia, I am fairly certain that nothing I have written in this post will even remotely begin to help you find inspiration for your new blog. But, I have to tell you: your facebook message has provided me with ample brain food and blogging material this week. Thank you kindly. I'm much obliged.

And to those of you who are just reading my blog for the heck of it... scoot on over to Olivia's bloggy and give her some comment love. It's hard to start this whole blogging thing, and we blogger babes gotta stick together, yo.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


This is a long post. Ye be warned.

Back in the beginning of the summer, our air conditioner in the living room kept going out. These Korean A/C units are basically one big remote-controlled cold-air-pushing vent in the middle of the ceiling, and for some reason, ours would work for a few hours and then cut out... for days... while we waited on the repairman to make his way back to our house. In the meantime, it was sweltering sticky nasty hot in our house, even with the windows open and 2.5 kajillion fans blowing.

Since we couldn't speak Korea, we had no idea why our unit kept going out, except that maybe we were pushing the wrong button on the remote. So when it would start blowing out hot air, I just started pushing buttons until the cold air came back... or didn't... which would lead to another 3 days of heat while waiting for the repairman. It was a vicious cycle.

Then one magical day, while my hubby and I were watching a movie, we kept hearing a soft clicking sound somewhere in the house. Eventually, we realized that the soft clicking sound coincided with the volume control on our TV remote. Volume up... click. click. click. Volume down... click. click. click. Then the A/C broke.

Perhaps you see where I'm going with this. Brandon is the one who finally made the discovery. Our air conditioner is a certain name brand that we shall call Taxmemore because that's the song that Uncle Sam. Sung. So our A/C unit was Taxmemore, and our TV was Taxmemore, which means the TV remote was Taxmemore. All this meant that, in an attempt to regulate the volume on our Telly, we were repeatedly telling our air conditioner to reverse, spit out hot air, or completely shut down.

While it was my husband who made this harrowing discovery, it was I who discovered how to fix it. One particularly tropical day, I, in my 9-month-pregnant glory, stood in the middle of the living room and shouted at the rebellious unit for a good five minutes before my eye caught a glimmer of silver in the corner of the unit. There was a tiny hole which contained a little silver button. All this time, I had assumed it was simply a screw. But upon further inspection, I realized that beside the little hole, there was a teeny tiny word - in English, no less - RESET.

I scrounged around for a pin, stuck it in the little hole, pushed the silver button, and, Voila!, cold air.


A couple weeks ago, my friend Easter the Samonim asked me a question: "What has this year meant to you?" I can't really remember what I answered, but I think I mumbled something about family and good friends and new experiences.

But you know what? I think this 2009 has been the little silver button in the hole in the corner of my broken down life. A Reset.

You see, life has been cuh-razy over the past 6 years. In the last six years I...

...started a new job.
...dealt with a traumatic event. engaged.
...started a new school. married.
...moved to another state.
...went back to old school.
...started working in a new ministry.
...lived jobless for three months.
...started a new job.
...changed majors. in a car accident with a semi.
...bought a car.
...moved back to Georgia.
...bought a duplex.
...went back to old job.
...went back to new school. in another accident.
...bought another car. pregnant.
...bought another duplex. broke down beyond repair.
...bought another car.
...attempted to rent first duplex (x 1,357,937)
...had a baby. broke down beyond repair.
...bought another car.
...attempted school, work, and baby.
...quit job. a new job.
...changed majors. pregnant.
...attempted to rent all four duplex units (still hasn't happened).
...moved to Korea.

In six years, y'all. Want to see the numbers?

We moved four times.
We drove seven cars.
I had five job changes.
We had two babies.

In. Six. Years.

The thing is, I never...never... stopped to think about what was going on. We just kept jumping from one thing to the next, trying to do what was best for our finances, our family, our careers, our marriage. But I'm not sure we ever really knew what we wanted... or what God wanted for us.

As I look back over the past six years, is it any wonder that we were mentally, emotionally, financially, and spiritually exhausted when we walked off that plane in Seoul, South Korea?

But this year, God in all His goodness, has given us a Reset button. I have had no choice but to stay in my quiet home every day, to reevaluate our life and my priorities, to really hash out what we want from life, and to fall in love with my family once again.

While we still have a lot of work to do and long road to walk, and while I still haven't gotten everything figured out, here are a few of the things I have learned from this year:

1. Whether I become a stay-at-home mom again, or I work a nine-to-fiver for the rest of my life, I don't ever want to be in the position where someone else tells me how to put my child down for a nap or what her favorite food is. That's my job.

2. I am a much much MUCH better mom, wife, housekeeper and all-around person when I go to bed at a decent hour.

3. Waking up before my kids wake up, and spending a few minutes with my coffee and my Jesus, makes the whole day go more smoothly.

4. Even when I am stressed to the max, I have no right to lose my temper.

5. If I am stressed to the max, it's probably a result of my own poor planning and procrastination.

6. My children don't have to be perfect.

7. I don't have to be perfect.

8. Our parenting style works best for our family, and things go a lot better when we do it our way.

9. It's okay to ask for help from my husband. He is at his best when his girls need him.

10. God is gracious, and His mercies are new every morning. And the mistakes I made yesterday do not have to be repeated today.

But perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned this year is one that came from my "little" brother, Nick. He heard and preached a sermon to his youth group that went something like this: Each decision we make, each action we take, it does not represent a single point in time; rather, it represents a step in the direction of our lives.

When I lose my patience, when I choose a movie over playtime, when I eat a doughnut instead of an apple... with each of these little decisions, I think, "It's just this once."

But this new revelation has changed the way I see those little decisions. Because "just this once" means: this is just one step closer to the life that I don't want and one step further away from the life I desire for me and my family.

So as my days left in Korea become fewer and fewer, I find myself becoming more and more grateful for what this year has meant to me and my family. There aren't many people who are given a Reset button when their wires get crossed.

There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor [Troubles] a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
Hosea 2:15

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

11/14/2002: Where Normals Dare Not Tread

This is continuing on with the archived journal theme...

I would like to begin by saying that I am not a rebel. I like rules. I like following the rules. I like structure. I don't generally challenge the powers that be when they lay down the law. No problems here.

Allow me to offer an example:

I always walk on the right side of the sidewalk. When I say "right" side, I literally mean "right" side (as in opposite of "left.") This side, as everyone knows, it also the "right" side (as in "correct" side) to walk on. Think about it. If you drive your car down the wrong side of the road, what happens? A head-on collision with an oncoming semi, correct? Yes. While walking on the left side of the sidewalk may not be life threatening, one can certainly avoid the embarrassing waltz-like shuffle with an oncoming pedestrian if he or she walks on the "right" side of the road... in every sense of the word "right."

I must admit, however, that on occasion I have found myself walking on the left side... but only in rare cases when attempting to avoid an uneducated pedestrian who appears to enjoy meandering along my side of the walkway.

So, however the case may be, right side or (occasionally) left side... I always follow the "rules" by walking in the "correct" way along the sidewalks.

However, today... ahhh today... what a glorious fall day... today I made a decision. This choice changed my outlook on all my problems... and possibly my entire life. It left me feeling guilty and free at the same time. My life gained a more colorful shade as this decision poured forth in my actions. I made the daring, challenging, slightly rebellious decision in the spur of the moment as destiny saw fit to challenge me to take fate into my own hands. Would you like to know what that decision was?

Are you ready for this? I WALKED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK. Yes, I did it, and I'm proud of it. I didn't walk on the "right" side or even the ever-so-mischievous left side. No, I walked right in the middle. I didn't care who saw it, and I don't care who knows it now. I walked in the middle. Granted, as I first began walking in the middle, I anxiously glanced around to see if anyone noticed my rebellious trod. I constantly checked in front and behind to make sure I wasn't blocking any well-meaning rule follower on his or her way to class... no doubt to arrive five minutes early with two #2 pencils sharpened and an extra eraser. But then, as I left class a second time, I grew a bit more bold. I decided to walk in the middle and only glance behind me once in a while (just to make sure campus security wasn't coming after me for my outward display of utmost rebellion). However, by the time I reached my dorm, I found my self plowing forward, full stride, unafraid, and feeling more freedom than I can ever remember.

My name is Brandy Dalton and I am not ashamed to say, "I WALKED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK."

Perhaps this deed of mine seems a bit trifle to you. Maybe you walk wherever you want, whenever you want, and however you want with no thought about it whatsoever. I feel sorry for you. You will never experience the sheer liberty I felt in the core of my soul today. You will never know the joy of stepping out of your comfort zone, shoving off convention, and living your life. But for those of you out there who always walk on the "right" side of the sidewalk, I ask you to consider the following thoughts... Is the right side always "right"? As in correct? Search your soul; search your purpose; search down deep to your true reasons for following the "rules." Now tell me: Do you follow them because it's all you've ever done? Or do you follow them because you know in your heart of hearts that the "right" side is the way for you? These are the questions that struck me today as I marched down my path to unconventiality.

Ultimately, I will probably continue to follow the rules. In the end, I'm sure you'll find me on the "right" side of the sidewalk every time our paths cross. But today... on this cool autumn day... for one time in my life... I felt the exhilaration of walking on a "different" path and knowing that, for that moment in time, I was truly free.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Santa? To be or not to be?

I am not one of those people who gets disgusted when Christmas decorations come out in August. As a matter of fact, I kind of think about Christmas all year... and not in that "Lets-make-peace-and-pretend-that-we-love-each-other-because-it's-Christmastime-all-year" kind of way. I just love holidays where it's okay to go crazy creative and fun... and then add some super-fattening holiday desserts on top.

I feel the same way about my daughter's birthday parties. (I already have a theme and the basic food items planned for Chloe's birthday in September 2010.)


So the time has come. Chloe is three this Christmas and in the throws of pretend play. You know what that means? Santa Claus. What's that all about?

I grew up on Santa Claus, as did my husband. But I have spent the last several Christmases debating whether or not we would raise our children with him.

I've heard all the arguments, I think... at least, all the arguments against Santa Claus. The people who "do" Santa Claus tend to do it for tradition's sake. (If anyone has a great argument on why Santa Claus is necessary to the well-being of my children, I would LOVE to hear it.)

Most of the arguments fall into one of two categories, and sometimes are combined:

1.) No, we don't want to lie to our children.

2.) No, we don't want to take the focus off of Jesus.

So, for years, I have been at odds with myself, dreading this very Christmas - the one where I would have to decide.

Tell Chloe the real story of Santa, and forfeit the childhood magic that I remember? Like Aunt Martha Dale rushing the children outside to see Rudolph in the sky and hear the jingle of Santa's sleigh. (Airplane, Martha Dale's holiday hair bow.) Like waking up on Christmas morning to find the Santa cookies gone. Like receiving a phone call from Santa a few days before Christmas. (My granddaddy has the BEST Santa voice.) Like lying in bed on Christmas Eve and fighting sleep so maybe I could get a peek at Santa.

Or tell Chloe that Santa is real? And risk the possibility that she will feel jaded, duped, and deceived in 6-8 years when the truth comes out. Or that she will think Santa is like Jesus, nice bedtime stories from her childhood. Or that she will never trust a human being because her parents lied to her for her entire life.

It's a tough decision, my friends.

But, here's where it's at. My hubby, he likes Santa. He's not worried that introducing Santa into our home will be the decline of civilization as we know it. His argument: "We were raised with Santa, and we turned out fine."

To which I reply, "Fine is a relative term that may have been used too liberally in that statement."

But I get his point.

And since I can't decide whether Santa is an amazing and necessary part of an American child's Christmas... or if he is the very foundation of the materialistic fast-food demands of this holiday... I have decided to leave this decision up to my calm, cool, collected (mentally and emotionally stable) husband.

So, yes friends, we're doing Santa.

And since, you know, I LOVE this holiday, I don't want to do anything half-hearted.

Enter, Elf on the Shelf.

The basic premise is that Santa sends an elf to our house to "observe" whether the girls are naughty or nice. Then at night, when they are asleep, the elf goes to the North Pole and tells Santa which list to put the children on. So each morning, when Chloe wakes up, the elf will be in a different location... and she must find her. Fun, right?

We're ordering one of these little babies next week, and I am SO EXCITED! We haven't decided on a name, but I am leaning towards "Candy Cane." Not very original, eh? Yeah... I'm still working on it.

If anyone out there in bloggerland has a great Elf name (for a girl elf) then I'm open to it.

So, there it is folks. I have gone from "Santa may or may not be evil" to "Lets invite an elf into our home" in 2.3 seconds flat.

Good thing my husband is so sane, seriously.

Anywho... I started this whole post to say this: WOOOOO HOOOOOO CHRISTMAAAAAAAAAAAAAS!!!!!!!!!!

Good times. Good times.

The Quote That Started It All...

I myself have twelve hats, each one representing a different personality. Why be just yourself? - Margaret Atwood