In which I see the face of God…

The very first year that I taught religious education, the program director introduced a theme for the year.  She called it, “The Face of God,” and though we followed our regularly curriculum for the year, this was the overarching theme that we tried to weave throughout our lessons.  We discussed the Victor Hugo quote, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”  Specifically, Erin encouraged the children, and us as catechists, to think about who has been the face of God in our lives.  

At the time, I thought briefly of others I’ve encountered through the years who’ve shown me the face of God.  People that have encouraged me to be a better Catholic.  Inspired me to become more involved in our church and our community.  People who’ve brought out the best in me.

But if I’m honest, I couldn’t think of any one person, or any one experience, when I truly saw or felt God’s presence in my life in a strong way.  There were times I felt very blessed.  Times I was grateful.  Times I was inspired.  But they were perhaps more fleeting moments, instead of life changing experiences.

Until now.  Over the past month, I’ve been sick.  What started as something flu-like grew and changed and hurt and I’ve got a chest infection that is only slowly starting to resolve after several setbacks.  Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever been this poorly (and certainly not for this long) in my life.  I’m only just barely on the mend.  And Marcus is traveling for work.

In the past two weeks, the love and compassion I’ve been shown by my friends has been so overwhelming.  I have had meals brought in every day.  I’ve had people pop round for lunch to check on me.  Friends have offered to do my shopping and my washing.  And most importantly, people have helped with the girls.  They’ve taken them to their gymnastics and diving lessons.  Taken them to school.  Picked them up from school.  Kept them for a few hours so that I can rest.  Taking them to and from play dates.  Changed their work and home schedules so that they can help, often without me even having to ask.  

And the girls have managed all the chaos so well.  They’ve been juggled and flitted from friend to friend with ease.  They’ve been well-behaved and gotten great reports from every parent and friend who’s helped with them.  They’ve made their own lunches and sorted their own uniforms when I’ve asked.  They’ve helped each other and me.  

So now, in this time of my deepest need, I can honestly say that I have been blessed to see the face of God.  It is every single person who has called or texted, cooked or helped, drove or hosted the girls.  It’s everyone who thought of me when they had their own busy lives and their own full diaries.  

I feel incredibly humbled by this experience.  I spent a lot of time feeling unworthy, and feeling that I couldn’t accept the help people were offering.  It was my friend Rachel who reminded me that when I don’t let someone help, I rob them of the opportunity to serve.  That has been on my mind constantly, as so many of you have served by helping me and my family.

So thank you, to everyone who has been the face of God for me over the past month.  I cannot begin to thank you enough.  

I am blessed beyond measure. 


In which I forget…

I feel overwhelmed. The house is utter chaos. There are toys and clothes and lego (oh the lego) everywhere. The bathrooms are messy and there are cake tins cluttering up the kitchen counters that I work hard to keep clutter-free. The rug in the lounge has needed two (sometimes three) vacuums every day. My bedroom has no less than four loads of laundry folded on the floor waiting to be put away. There are four loads awaiting the washing machine. Every bed in the house is unmade. I did the dishes an hour ago…but they still aren’t done.

But in the midst of it all, I can sometimes, for a fleeting second, remind myself that none of it matters, not really. No one cares what my house looks like. And if they do, it doesn’t matter anyway.

When the girls are grown and gone I can have a clean house. If I want. And maybe I won’t even want one then. And that’s ok too. It’s ok to have priorities that aren’t a clean house.

I forget. Sometimes I get caught up in all the things I’m not, and forget all the things that I am. I am more than the state of my bedroom and the dishes in my sink.

And so are you.


In which I write a Christmas letter…

Except, I didn’t. About 3/4 of my cards are in the post, the last 1/4 still waiting to be addressed. And none of them will have a Christmas letter in them. But the blog will, so pay attention! And I’m feeling festive, so it’ll happen in the form of the 12 days of Christmas!

In the Herdrich house this year, we were blessed with all of these…

12 day trips to castles, abbeys, and historic homes (maybe more!)

11 cricket sessions for Jessica

10 business meetings for Marcus (ha–more like 100!)

9 visitors to our house (Barbara, Kiki, Andrew, Wyatt, Nolan, Mick, Mercedes, Nancy, Amie)

8 swimming lessons for Jessica

7 races Kelly ran in (2 half-marathons, 3 10Ks, and 2 5Ks)

6 cheerleading practices for Samantha

5 knitting pattern designs by Kelly

4 trips exploring (Cornwall, Edinburgh, Germany/Bavaria, Hadrian’s Wall)

3 diving competitions for Erica

2 piano recitals for Samantha

And 1 happy Herdrich family!

Ta-da! #nailed it


In which there are challenges and changes…

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.  -Fred Devito

I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote recently.  Specifically, I’ve been thinking about it in the context of the Straybirds, a ladies’ singing collective that I helped start with a small group of amazing women.  Though my part has been small, I’m thrilled to say that I was a part of it at all, and was involved in the evolution of this North Yorkshire-based choir.  I have been challenged and changed.


You may remember that I was singing back-up with a group of women on stage at the Tour de France Opening Ceremony for the Grand Depart just a few months ago.  Shortly thereafter, several members among us decided to branch out and try to form a new group.

I was scared.  I like things that are comfortable.  It was scary to step outside of a safe zone I’d created and be involved in something innovative.  Looking back, I’ve approached every change in my life with trepidation.  This was no different.  Move across an ocean with two young children?  Scary.  Leave my job to stay home with my children?  Scary.  Publish my first knitting pattern online?  Scary.  Publish my novel, which was, for all intents and purposes, an extension of my soul?  Terrifyingly scary.

By comparison, this should’ve been relatively simple. This was an adventure, not torture.  It was exciting and full of opportunity and promise.  It was a hobby, I was surrounded by friends, and clearly there are bigger challenges and changes happening every day all over the world.  #firstworldproblems

Stray Birds-24

I was scared anyway.  My mind rattled with what-ifs.  As we moved forward, I erred on the side of caution with every question we discussed or decision that needed making.  I didn’t want to take any more risks.

Luckily, I was surrounded by amazing, take-charge women who laughed in the face of a challenge!  Change?  They approached it with ease (or, they simply faked it better than I did).  With their know-how, we hired an amazing musical director, Neil Balfour.  He’s a gifted singer, director, conductor, and pianist with oodles of skills and a few extra hours a week to share with us.  I even approached his arrival with worry.  Was I, were we, good enough for him?  I was afraid.  I was comfortable with where I fit in our last choir.  In the back of my mind,  my self-doubt crept in. What if there was no room for me in this new singing collective?  What if where I fit before didn’t exist anymore?  It lingered, even after rehearsals rolled on and solos were doled out and we improved and grew and changed.  It lingered, though I was able to push that voice to the side more and more as time passed.

Stray Birds-13

And now, after months of risk-taking and challenging ourselves and stepping outside of proverbial boxes, the Straybirds have done their first gig. (Though I missed the gig itself while I was travelling, I practiced and rehearsed and worked alongside everyone else through the preparation stages.)  The feedback from family and friends and musicians we’ve worked with in the past was overwhelmingly positive.  The performance was impressive.  We made so many positive improvements.  We were a dazzling new singing collective.  We have challenged ourselves, and we have changed in a thousand positive ways.  I have changed in a thousand positive ways.

And there is no better feeling in the world.

I’ll try to remember that next time a new challenge crosses my path.

Stray Birds-17


In which we’re ready for the deep end

I spent some time scrolling through my blog recently, looking at things I wrote once upon a time, and remembering so many moments in time that I captured here. I was stunned when I came across this blog post from 2009 about Samantha and Erica’s first round of swimming lessons. I even had incredibly cute pictures of the girls’ first jumps off of the diving board in the deep end. It made me smile, looking at 3 year old Erica’s jump.

Erica, 3, contemplating that first jump

Erica, 3, contemplating that first jump

In she goes!

In she goes!

Why, do you ask? Because I am still filled with this amazing sense of wonder watching my girl dive, more than five years later. At eight, Erica dives on a squad, competing as a novice here in England. She can already do these amazing things that are little more than words to me (pike fall, tuck jump, straight jump, back tuck roll), all off of the poolside, the 1M, the 3M, and occasionally the 5M. She’s incredible. It’s easy to forget how far she’s come in just 7 short months–easier to see when you realize the change in 5 years.

Preparing for her first poolside dive

Preparing for her first poolside dive

Erica, 8, Diving at the Tynemouth Trophy

Erica, 8, Diving at the Tynemouth Trophy

Her favorite dive!

Her favorite dive!

But looking back at her first jump off of the diving board in 2009 really brings it all home for me. She still makes the face, with her hand in the mouth, when she contemplates a new challenge, working her way through it, deciding how to proceed. It’s funny what we forget with time.

I’m so proud of my amazing, talented girl. I was when she was three, and I am today.


In which the sun shines in Yorkshire

It is, it really is!  It might be almost freezing out there this morning, but the sun is shining and it’s beautiful.  When we first moved to England in 2006 someone told us that when the sun shines here it’s the most beautiful place in the world.  They weren’t wrong.  They were so very, very right.

The Yorkshire Morning Mitts  Photograph Copyright of Joe Hancock

The Yorkshire Morning Mitts
Photograph Copyright of Joe Hancock

And it’s that sun shining in Yorkshire that inspired the Yorkshire Morning Mitts, my first pattern to appear in a book! 3 Skeins or Less – Fresh Knitted Accessories is by knitwear designer, publisher, and editor Tanis Gray.  The book includes patterns by Tanis, Ann Weaver, Romi Hill, and so many more popular designers in the field today.  I feel absolutely ecstatic to be in their company!  From shawls and socks to mittens and hats, there are a plethora of accessories to fit every requirement in Fresh Knitted Accessories, making it the perfect choice for 1, 2, or 3 skeins of yarn that you’ve been saving for a special project.

3 Skeins or Less - Fresh Knitted Accessories By Tanis Gray Interweave/F+W; $24.99

3 Skeins or Less – Fresh Knitted Accessories
By Tanis Gray
Interweave/F+W; $24.99

When Tanis first approached me about the opportunity to put together a design for this book, I was over the moon.  But we had literally just arrived in England.  We were living in temporary housing (five of us in a tiny two bedroom flat, with one bathroom), without our household goods, with no car, over the summer holidays.  I had three skeins of yarn to my name and no needles.  I looked at Marcus and said, “Can I make this work?  I really want to do this.”  He said to go for it, and I jumped right in.

I had an idea for these fingerless gloves, inspired by the autumn mornings in Yorkshire, and they practically designed themselves.  The girls gave me time to work, with Marcus’ help, and I met the first deadline set by someone else since I stopped teaching in 2005.  It was this massive achievement for me, a huge sense of accomplishment.

The Yorkshire Morning Mitts are knit in Rowan Pure Wool DK which was an absolute pleasure to work with.  They include a decorative cable and lace panel along the front of the mitts and a stockinette palm.  They’re long enough to keep your arms and your hands warm when the weather is chilly, as it so often is on a Yorkshire morning.

When the book arrived in October, I was over the moon with excitement.  There are so many beautiful patterns in it.  I can’t believe I have something in there, too.  It’s a book I would have seen online or in the book store and wanted to own a copy of.  And I do…only it’s even more exhilarating to flip through the pages because something inside this book is mine.

When the sun shines in Yorkshire…indeed.


In which I learn about the hill

Not long ago I came across the 25 Golden Rules of Running. They’re fabulous, and were immediately pinned. The guys and gals at Runner’s World have hit the nail on the head with many of these, and as I’ve looked to improve my running over the past year (has it really been that long?) I’ve returned to them often.

And on one of those returns, I started thinking about #14, The Up-Beats-Down-Rule. Please go and read the details and the entire piece here, but the rule is this: “Running uphill slows you down more than running downhill speeds you up.”

It’s totally true in running, though I’m prone to forget it. I go up a hill and slow down to 11 min/mile. I reach the crest of the hill and expect that I’ll speed up to 9 min/mile and average 10 min/mile. But that never happens. I only run down that hill at 10:30. Faster than I ran up the hill, but not as fast as I’d have run the entire course flat. It’s a huge realization for me as a parent.

Yeah, I’m onto parenting now. Follow me here.

Three days a week, my youngest daughter is in nursery while my older girls are in school. So that means that three times a week, I get approximately 5-6 hours to myself.

I have this amazingly supportive and helpful husband, but on a few occasions when I need his help with things that he doesn’t want to pitch in with, he’s been known to say, “But you had all day to yourself! How can you be tired?”


It’s the “Running uphill slows you down more than running downhill speeds you up” rule all over again.

My time three children, all in school, is totally running downhill. I get it. I appreciate it. I run child-free errands. I do child-free chores. I have a coffee date with friends or sit down and eat my lunch in peace while watching a television show. I work sometimes, but it’s work on my own terms as a freelance writer and designer, so it’s work that I love. My life when the girls are in school is downhill.

But the mornings and the afternoons and the evenings are uphill. Not always uphill. They aren’t always these steep inclines on cobblestones. But sometimes they are. And when they aren’t, they are these slow ascents, often reaching a crest where I can sometimes hardly catch my breath. I can see that downhill in the distance (in this instance, bedtime). But will it ever be enough to truly recover from the uphill?

I love parenting. I love my girls. But it is, in so many ways, an uphill battle. And those downhills that husbands or friends and family members see aren’t enough to make the entire course flat. That’s why we’re tired. It’s why we need help. It’s why working women don’t have it easier than stay-at-home mothers (that’s a whole different uphill battle that I can’t even tackle in this blog post). It’s why I had a long lunch with friends and still didn’t manage to get dinner on the table on that night after a diving lesson, a piano lesson, and a meeting with someone’s teacher (plus an impromptu play date and spelling lesson). It’s not just true of parenting–it’s why you can have this crazy, mental week at work and don’t feel refreshed after the weekend. Why the night isn’t enough to prepare you for tomorrow. Why a cat nap doesn’t make up for the sleepless night.

I am such a lucky mom to have those downhills. They’re that moment when we can catch our breath and realize how hard the incline was and how proud we are that we made it.

But the parenting route isn’t, never will be, as fast as a flat one.

And that’s probably what makes it great.