12/29/2011

what we did for advent - part 1

So. I have had a little time to unscramble my brain. Let's try a post with more than just random lists of things.

~

We are enjoying our Christmastide, on the heals of a rich Advent season this year. It felt full, but not too full. We had a nice mix of sacred and silly of quiet and noisy. We got to try out some things that may become traditions for our family, and see how that worked. And I think we struck a nice balance of my Spazzy the Elf Christmas Traditions For Everything and MM's need for unstructured, spontaneous living. There's been lots of smiling (smiling's my favorite) and hugging and "thank you"ing - very grateful for every good and perfect gift, keenly aware of how blessed we are, and how painful this season can be when you are hungry, lonely, sick, or grieving.

And to capture this for the future, here's what we did for Advent:

Hanging of the Greens

I talked about this before. And then showed some pictures.

We intended to decorate Thanksgiving weekend and keep the stuff up til Twelfth Night, but our tree died. So, I took down the big tree, hauled it outside, and put up our tiny fake tree for the rest of the season. It is sparkly and festive in the corner of the dining room.



I also took a strand of lights from the big tree and wove them into the garland on the mantle.

Our heater blew out a couple days before Christmas, so we've been using the fireplace a lot, and its been so cozy and beautiful in our front room between the fire, candles, and colored twinkle lights. I don't have all the words for this, but more and more, I realize that the physical beauty of my space does something wonderful inside my heart. And for me, it was especially powerful to decorate together and create beauty together.

I imagine that next year, we'll figure out a game plan. This year we chose to emphasize blue for advent, and to only hang sentimental ornaments on our tree. Next year, we might do things differently. Maybe we'll go back to just the tiny tree. Or finally suck it up and put up lights outside.

Advent Devotional

We downloaded an advent devotional from a presbyterian church and every morning at breakfast we read that day's essay. Some were good. Some were lame. Some were "meh." But in all it was an interesting peak into a congregation's thoughts on this season of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Originally, our house church was going to all do the same devotional, but we ended up doing different things in our households, which was cool too.

I'm thinking next year, we might go ahead and invest in a book of some sort. Something a little more than "meh." Like this.

Advent Calender

The other thing we did was get those 99 cent advent calenders from Trader Joes and eat a chocolate after reading our daily essay. Neither of us grew up with advent calenders, and we got a kick out of doing this.

The chocolates weren't particularly good, but that was part of the fun. Twice, we ended up with the same figurine on the same day, so we cheersed and hurrahed. Most of the time we couldn't figure out what the shapes actually were. "Cthulhu?" "A gremlin?" "Are these stockings? Or maybe caterpillars?"

I'm sure next year, we'll look for something with fair trade, slave-free, blah blah blah, super-delicious dark chocolate, but I will kind of miss our cheesy Trader Joe's calendars.

Eggnog

So, this may sound weird, but eggnog was kind of an advent thing for us. MM loves eggnog. Like, looooooves it. So much so that he has said, in public: "If I could figure out how to drink eggnog, non-stop, without having to breathe or pee, I would."

Instead, he wisely chose to limit eggnog consumption to one quart (of the very best from a local ice-creamery) a week, drunk one tiny, swanky swig at a time. We started on Thanksgiving, and will go til New Years. It's been fun to come out to breakfast to see little eggnogs. Chocolate and Eggnog for breakfast! Whoopie!

(We postponed our blood sugar and cholesterol tests til late January. Ahem.)

This worked well, but next year, we'll see where we are with our health goals and needs and figure out the right eggnog plan.This is an important part of Christmas for MM, and I hope to figure out ways to enjoy eggnog each year.

Advent Candles

Each night at dinner we'd light that week's advent candles, and keep them burning throughout the evening. On Christmas Eve we lit the Jesus candle, and have burned all of them every night since.

The plan is to keep burning them throughout Christmastide and into Epiphany til they burn out. Hope finally konked out on us last night, and we think Joy is next.

The giant pillars were perfect for us, so we'll probably do the same size next year, if we have the same furniture setup.

Next post I'll share a bit about our weekly gatherings and specific events and celebrations.

12/27/2011

Christmasing

This Christmas... I don't even have words. Well, I do. They're just tangled up in my heart at the moment. And we're still Christmasing! We're partying for all 12 days, finishing with an Epiphany party with our church on the 6th. (French toast and peach bellinis and a last hoorah.)

And its a new year. A new beginning. Yes. Words swirl. They'll land soon. This time of year sends me burrowing into my journal to scribble it all out.

In the meantime:

I'm heating spiced cider on the stove, and eating leftover ham and scalloped potatoes for lunch. (We had the best Boxing Day dinner!)

I'm rearranging the Christmas decorations so that our poor, droopy, dead Christmas tree can head to the curb.We'll take the rest of it down on the 5th or 6th, but that tree has to go now. Yowza! I think now may be the time to haul out our old tiny tree for the rest of the season. (Yay!)

I'm lighting candles from our advent wreath and enjoying my gifts from MM during my breaks from work and the regular routine.Classical music and candles are a soothing counterpart to all the cleaning and organizing for this time of year. And Santa left coloring books in my stocking. :D

I'm gathering with girlfriends this week for tea and lunch and ice skating and theater... I'm buying a few more gifts to buy for the final Christmas celebration on New Year's Day...I'm prepping for our Twelfth Night celebration...

Christmasing.

12/15/2011

Christmas at The Pink House

Hi! Thanks for stopping by. This is my first Tour of Homes. I'd offer you a gingersnap (I made them for the first time the other day), but I ate them all. Sorry.

So - if you are new here, the first thing you need to know is that our rental house is pink. I mean really pink. Pepto Bismol Barbie Pink. The second thing is tht I don't have a camera. Or an iphone. I have a blackberry, which I love b/c MM (my Amazing Semi-New Husband (married last year)) and I can message each other for free. We still send smoochy love notes with hearts and kisses and googly eyed emoticons, and no iphone can compare.

OK. So. Here's the front of the house.



See? Totally pink.

Now, don't let the garland fool you. There are no lights in there. We are the Anti-Griswolds. Here is our light display from last year.



So very sad.

Each day another hook would fall down, and by the end of the season, the lights were piled up in a ball beneath the coffee table.

When we hung them up, we spent a few minutes in our front yard laughing. Our neighbors (who had a lovely display (which they left up all year, but we didn't care, because it really was lovely*)) came out. The wife tried to compliment us, but the husband went for honest, "Well. Now, that's rather pathetic, isn't it?" (Imagine that sentence in a British accent. Very cool to be insulted with a British accent.)

We don't have British neighbors to insult us anymore** so we thought we'd put in a bit more effort this year, but we still weren't up for installing lights. (And really, you can see our house from space anyway, so who needs 'em.)

Also, notice how there are no decorations on the garlands. The plan was to decorate in blue and silver to match the wreath, but this side of town has been so windy the last few weeks that I was afraid the fancy doodads would fall off. So I left them empty. But as the wind blows leaves around, they get stuck in the garland. It's nature's decoration.



 

The first actual decorative thing you'll see is our wreath.


We chose blue as our Advent color, so I used blue glass ornaments and ribbon and silver jingle bells. And fake holly. In honor of the fake holly my mom would display every year in a plastic santa boot. That stuff was 20 years old when I was born, and she kind of hated it, but us kids would insist that the ratty old' holly be installed every year.

I put, like 12 big bells on this sucker, and I was hoping that the door would jingle as we went in and out. Alas, no jingle for us. (The neighbors were not kidding when they kept saying, "It's a quiet neighborhood."

When you walk in the door you see our fireplace.



Why they put the fireplace right in front of the door, I do not know. (The house is pink.) I'm super excited to have a fireplace no matter where it is, so who cares. We put a nativity on the mantle, and it was kind of depressing up there by itself, so I added white tealights and small pillars in mason jars and some Dollar Store garland (not like the fancy Big Lots Garland outside) to cheer things up a bit.

And, we still haven't gotten around to getting our wedding portrait printed and framed, so the wall above the creche needed something too. We printed and colored and glittered a bunch of the names of Jesus that appear in various parts of the Christmas story and taped them to the wall with painters tape.  Sort of like stars. (MM pointed out that, despite our best efforts at random placement, we basically have 4 columns with the Root of Jesse escaping.)



Hung by the chimney with care are our original tiny stockings. (When we first became a couple, I lived in a tiny studio apartment with a gold, spray-painted radiator (that I nicknamed Goldie). I hung my stocking on the old phone above the radiator, and when we became a couple, I made MM a stocking, and hung his there too.)



Our first married Christmas we just kept using the tiny stockings and tiny tree I'd had in my old place.



(MM was so excited about the gift he'd gotten me, he forgot to get stocking stuffers.) (It was a beautiful gift.)

I have two classy, velvet, full-sized stockings we can use, but these ones are so sweet and sentimental, I can't give them up.

And, there's our tree.

Which - sigh - I'd wanted to have the tree decorating go well. (MM doesn't like decorating trees; I do; I want to make the process as painless and fun as possible for him and not push him, but still decorate together, etc. etc. Newlyweds!) He had a blast (it was exciting to drive to Target in the fog), but I got all stressed out because we had light issues.

I don't like twinkling/blinking/flashing lights inside. It's too distracting to me. In my mad dash to grab lights, I grabbed twinkling lights. Had to run to target to get non-twinkling lights. Came home and discovered that we had too much tree and not enough lights. Went back, came home, and discovered that one of our strands of non-twinkling lights had a white cord. Arrgh!

Sigh.

Eventually we sorted it all out. A non-blinking, multi-colored and blue, green-corded light fantastic. Phew.

We decorated the tree in stages, and put the last of the ornaments on Monday night. We didn't have a theme or a plan. We just put on ornaments if they made us happy. MM has some from his childhood and that I've given him or that someone gave us together. And I've got tons (that whole tree thing) reflecting my entire life as a kid and single gal. Our tree is not "gourmet" but every inch of it is covered in memories, and that feels right.







(Got this for MM our first Christmas together. He wants this paint job on his next guitar.)



Presiding over all this stuff is Henri the Christmas Goat.

We bought him the day we officially became a couple (we had to go to IKEA to get a vase for the roses MM had brought when he'd picked me up at the airport the night before - swoon.) We took him home and Christened him Henri (pronounced onry, as in "onry ol' cuss") Maynard Ronald George, and plopped him on the dining room table to act as chaperone during our early courtship. ;)

I'm Swedish, but I don't really get the whole goat thing. They build goats out of straw and set them on fire. Cuz nothing says happy birthday Jesus quite like flaming goats. (MM would like me to point out that flaming goats are very Metal.) (I think Flaming Goats would be a great band name.) Anyway - Henri's fun and reminds me of our first Christmas together.



(From our first Christmas with Henri)

If you look to the right (standing in front of the door, still) you'll see the living area half of the room. On the piano we have a tiny violin, a framed sketch of John the Baptist and Jesus as kids, and a tiny play-doh nativity that I made as a kid.



It's a bit crumbly, but still intact, and MM wanted to put it up.



If you look to the left you'll see the dining area half of the room. (The pink house is tiny!) Anyway. On the table, just a simple table runner in blue to go with our Advent colors.



And! And! I am so stoked about that star.



Dude! It is so easy to make. I actually found the first DIY link from Nester, and then later found a few more. I'd always assumed these things were some complicated origami, foldy, accordiany thing, but they totally aren't. I can do these! So far, I've done just the one, but next year...

And in lieu of a wreath, we put candles along the credenza. (We love fire so much that tapers are of no use to us.)



We made the cards (printing, coloring, gluing, and glittering) using the same font as the words above the mantle, so it looks all cohesive and stuff. That was our version of the "Making the Advent Wreath" craft that we did on the first Sunday of Advent.

And that's about it. We kept things simple this year, just sort of feeling it out as we went along.

Looking back through photos of the last three Christmases made me happy and thankful. So thanks for the opportunity to remember all the goodness the last few years have brought. Have fun on the rest of the tour. Hopefully, your other hostesses did not eat all the snacks.




* If they saw us sitting on our front porch at night reading books or drinking wine, they'd turn their lights on to give us "mood lighting."

** We actually really like these neighbors and miss them a bunch.

12/13/2011

caramel

Something's different in the light today. Its amber and gold and slanting "just so". The kind of light I usually gush about in October. My gift today is how the light bathes the giant pile of leaves in front of my house. I wanted to dive in and swim in that caramel and honey beauty. MM and I both noticed it when I walked him to the door. "Wow. It's beautiful today. You should take a picture of this."

I've opened all the blinds and examined it from every room. Nothing else has changed. The sky is still pale winter blue. Bare branches still make winter lace against it. But man, that light is fantastic. Rich, warm, gooey light that does not match the frosty air at all.

If I had a camera with lenses and slrs and whatever else, I would charge around taking shots of this. But I don't, so instead I will look around and hope that I have eyes to see.

~ ~ ~
Participating in today's "Tuesdays Unwrapped" at Chatting at the Sky.

12/11/2011

peace+joy

What was going to be a quiet afternoon after attending my father-in-law's concert turned into "lets have folks come back to our place for a couple appetizers" turned into a houseful of loved ones nibbling, sipping, chatting, laughing, and connecting. The last of our guests took their weary selves home at 11 pm or so, and MM and I smiled our way to sleep. The week of Peace turned into the week of Joy, and who am I to argue.

But, as often is the case for me, my head and heart are filled to bursting. I need time to think and pray and write, figure out what I feel about it all. A week of absorbing, absorbing, absorbing without taking the time to process.

Now that the candles have caught up with us, I am hoping for an afternoon of sitting on the couch staring at the Christmas tree and doing the work of sorting myself out. But first there are dishes to wash, a salad to make, and friends to welcome for the eating of pizza, the sharing of stories, and the lighting of those lovely candles. (Its the weird one today!)

Hope, Peace, and Joy to you, Friends.

12/04/2011

thoughts on a week of hope

I have written so many posts this week. Random, silly ones to tell you that our comfortor covered in tiny flowers makes me feel like I live in Kathleen Kelly's apartment. Or that, though, our plan for now is to not have kids, if we do, and they are boys, MM wants to name them Beowolf and Zebedee, and refer to them as the Sons of Dawn. "That's so, freakin' metal!" :)

Serious ones, where I talk more about what's been going inside me as MM and I figure out how to do Christmas as a family. (I love decorating the tree; he doesn't - how do we figure out how to honor us both, as well as the things we're thinking about in terms of making the season meaningful and thoughtful.) And, how do we balance a calendar when we have two families and an army of friends that we love and only so many evenings in December that we can give away. And the complexities of setting boundaries and maintaining healthy relationships when this season often brings up the dark and painful parts of community.

Philosophical ones, about this week's theme of Hope. We've just finished our annual viewing of the Lord of the Rings, which is filled with the admonition to hope, in the movies, "There is always, Hope." "There's good in this world, and its worth fighting for!" "Some things are certain." And the books,

"There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach."

One's about how we're finding hope in the music of Flyleaf:

"... Sing to me about the end of the world
End of these hammers and needles for you
Hold on to the world we all remember fighting for
There's some strength left in us yet
Hold on to the world we all remember dying for
There's some hope left in it yet...
We'll cry tonight, but in the morning we are new
Stand in the sun, we'll dry your eyes...
Arise and be
All that you dreamed, all that you dreamed...


And in our advent readings:

"More than that, we rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame..." ~ Romans 5:3-5

"I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
Wait for (hope in) the LORD;
Be strong,
and let your heart take courage;
Wait for (hope in) the LORD!" ~ Psalm 27


BUT - I didn't finish any of those posts. Instead I practiced baking Christmas treats and visited with good friends and prayed and held my husband tight and made memories and lit candles, thankful for hope.


Blessed hope.

11/28/2011

hanging of the greens

So, in the midst of still wrestling with how to buy Christmas presents in a consumerist culture that tends to go a little crazy this time of year, we have more things making me think and ask questions.

NOTE: These posts are not meant as a criticism of how anyone else "does" Christmas, or a boast of how we're doing it all right. They are just a way for me to process what's going on in me as we practice these disciplines.

On Saturday we engaged our version of in the "hanging of the greens." Growing up removed from any experience of the Church universal, I didn't know that this was a thing. But, it is traditional to decorate at the beginning of Advent. There are whole prayers written to bless the Advent wreath and lintel and such. You were to hang your decorations at the beginning of Advent and take them down on Twelfth Night (Jan 5th or 6th, depending on whether you think of a day beginning in the morning or on the preceding evening.)

And there's various takes on the what and where and how this happened, but the decorations had meanings. The boughs of holly actually meant something to the folks decking their halls. And those purple - and one pink - candles that I thought were kind of ugly and odd amidst the cheery red and green, are the liturgical colors of the season. Purple is the color of repentance (repentance? at Christmas?). The season leading up to Christmas tide, used to be a season of fasting and reflection. (Which, by the way, would come in handy before stuffing yourself silly over 12 days of Christmas.) And the random pink one is meant as an encouragement that the time of repentance is almost over. It is lit on Gaudette Sunday, the candle of Joy.

The various books we've read in order to re-think our holiday seasons suggest incorporating some of these old traditions into our modern observations. Maybe incorporate some liturgical purple (or the more modern blue) into your decorations. Or, simplify your decorations, choosing only certain ones. Or, put decorations out in phases, rather than all of them at once, to create a sense of waiting and anticipation. Make an advent wreath or a Jesse tree, so that your decorations double as a devotional tool.

OK. Well this is fine. Good information. And we are down for trying some of these things.

I've kept an advent wreath (with red candles) for years, and MM and I kept one on our first Christmas together. (We did it when we were dating too, but we were a brand-new couple, so I don't know if he noticed, LOL) He really enjoyed having a little moment to read a bit of scripture and light a new candle each week - a little circle of quiet in a crazy, hectic season. He remarked that last Christmas felt exciting and meaningful, in part, because of building the anticipation with the wreath and taking specific time to reflect on what the season is about. This year, we're doing it again, and trying out blue candles. I'm even doing the one weird candle for Joy.

Some other intentional things we are doing are to:

- Decorate outside

- Put the (old) nativity scene on the mantle above the stockings and not buy a new one this year

- Add strings of blue lights to the multi-colored ones on our tree to bump up the blue factor

- Hang decorations in phases instead of all at once, and only hang ones that make us happy

Now, I am an artist and a homemaker and I freakin' love Christmas. I love decorating the tree. I love multi-colored twinkle lights. I love hanging stockings. I love setting out a creche. I love making ornaments. I love beauty and sparkle and pretty (and did I mention sparkle?). Love it. Love. It.

And as I continue to learn about myself, I see that I have a definite "sacramental" bent. I love tangible, sensory experiences to connect with inner ones. I love attaching emotional/spiritual meaning to physical things. I love lighting candles. I love Christmas music. I love Christmas cookies. I love seasons and rhythms and traditions. (I should tell you about The Pie Crust of Doom or those ancient plastic holly branches.) I love that this time of year has so much sensory stuff and purposeful beauty.

And with all this thinking and talking about decorations, my head and heart are swirling. If we're trying to incorporate more blue, do I use my bright red tree skirt? Is it lame to spend money on more blue lights and a new tree skirt? Now that we're having a proper tree and real stockings, what do we do with the tiny tree and tiny stockings we used in our first Christmases? Because the thought of not putting them up makes me sad. Is it too upper-middle-class white couple to have two trees up? What about simplicity?

And larger questions swirl too: Do we decorate the outsides of our home to bless our neighbors and spread a little good cheer, or to impress them with our awesome light and sound display and animatronic cartoon characters? How much is too much? Do the rows and rows of sparkly ornaments in the Christmas aisles have any meaning, or is it all just pretty? And is pretty the same as beauty? And the photos on blogs and pinterest of other people's beautifully decorated mantles and stairways and trees, do these make me inspired or envious? And what am I trying to do with my decorations? Am I truly just enjoying beauty, or am I trying to create perfection?

So, Christmas Decorating 2011 - more questions.

11/26/2011

advent - black friday thoughts

NOTE: These posts are not meant as a criticism of how anyone else "does" Christmas, or a boast of how we're doing it all right. They are just a way for me to process what's going on in me as we practice these disciplines.

It's not even Advent, and I can already feel a change, in just these few days. The garish frenzy of CHRISTMAS! CHRISTMAS! BUY! BUY! BUY! all around us - the lights, noise, color, and stress (pepper spray? shootings? Black Friday starting the Thursday before?) - stands in stark contrast to the quietness we're trying to pursue. Even before the official kick-off to the holiday season, we've been preparing to withdraw, so it feels weird to see this unfolding around us, but not touching us.

Friday, we unofficially participated in Buy Nothing Day. We made sure we had firewood, food, and the things we were assigned for the family Thanksgiving celebration by Wednesday, so we could ignore the call of the wild and just enjoy each other all weekend. No traffic, no parking, no angry people...

Several Facebook friends commented on this too, describing how they were spending their days instead of shopping: "I just put the apple crisp in the oven." "Leftover Pie for breakfast." "Happy Pajama Day! We're staying in to watch movies and play games."

And they got a lot of crap for it.

One commenter was particularly harsh, claiming that in our current economy, to not go shopping was selfish. Another got quite animated that she had to do Black Friday to get the gifts her family wanted, because she couldn't afford them otherwise.

Wait. What? We have to go shopping? And the only possible way to show our loved ones and neighbors that we care is by buying them stuff? And the right stuff? The stuff they want?

Blegh.

Now - I have friends and family members who love Black Friday. They get up early and make a whole fun, event of it. Cocoa or coffee in their mugs, carols on the radio - they see it as a chance to shop and visit and have some girl time. (I don't personally know any guys who do Black Friday, but I'm sure they're out there.) It's a tradition for them, and they do get great deals. I have nothing against a good deal. And I have nothing against my friends doing this. They certainly aren't out beating people up.

But I do have to question a culture that has made buying stuff the only acceptable way to express love.

MM and I are buying presents for people, but we're trying to scale things back, both in terms of money and in stress. We're trying to make things simple and meaningful and small. To decrease the focus on material things, and find other ways to show people that we love them. (I mean, what we really want is to communicate our love all the time and not just during the holidays!)

We haven't got this all figured out yet, and I don't think it will be easy. What we're trying to do definitely goes against the grain for our culture. Our people expect "wow" presents too, and our gifts may not be "wow"y enough this year. And that creates some tension. We feel guilty for not wowing them. And the guilt is especially intense when we know someone else spent a lot of money (or got up at 3am on the Friday after Thanksgiving to stand in line in the cold and dark) on us. Awkward.

And we have been conditioned to BUY! BUY! BUY!!! too. We don't have a TV, so we don't get exposed to all the commercials, but the other day, while watching Hulu, I heard a Sears commercial, and had a Pavlovian "awww, it's Christmas" response to the familiar sound. I can still remember Christmas commercial jingles from my childhood, "Merry Christmas, Merry Merry Christmas, from your Kmart Christmas Store!" We went to the mall for an eye exam, and I wanted to stroll around looking at the decorations and displays. It wasn't even Thanksgiving.

So. We have our work cut out for us, but feel like this is doing something in us. Do we just go with the flow too much? Do we rely on presents to show love, instead of finding other ways? Do we wait until this time of year to tell people we care? Do we let the pressure to "wow" people, force us into spending past our budget and incurring debt? Is there a different way to do this? How can we invest our dollars and time and other resources wisely in these season?

So, for right now, we're sitting in the questions. Waiting.

11/23/2011

good things are coming

It's 7:30 am, and I'm supposed to be ironing my husband's shirt. Or at least having my Official Evangelical Quiet Time. Or running out to the curb to chase the garbage truck with our recycling. (We forgot again.) But I had to take a couple of minutes to say Happy Thanksgiving.

I'm excited.

For the first time in years I have that excited-for-the-holidays feeling that I used to get. In little moments (cozied up on the couch watching You've Got Mail... the blast of crisp air that carries the fragrance of fallen leaves... nuzzled up against MM's neck with his arms wrapped around me tight...) I get that tingly feeling, "It feels like Christmas."

And not the actual (sometimes painful, always stressful) real Christmases of my life, but the magical, joyful, "I am loved, and good things are coming" Christmases that we read of in books, watch in movies, or see other people having.

I am loved, and good things are coming.

It is true. All the time. And I guess if I paid more attention, all my days would be filled with tingly magic.

But I don't. And they're not. My days are filled with lists and piles and schedules and plans that usually get the better of me. Most of the time I feel anxious or worried or fearful or irritated. And it's lame, because my life is awesome. It really is. And has been. Even when things have, technically, sucked.

So, I am thankful for these moments of magic and anticipation, and hopeful that the advent season offers a chance to meditate on this idea: I am loved, and good things are coming.

11/21/2011

it smells like mushrooms...

Some random stuff on a Monday:

~ ~ ~

Got my mammogram today. Girls, take care of your girls. Don't put it off. Someone loves you too much for you to wait.

~ ~ ~

All week the trees flash fire into impossibly blue skies. The reds and oranges break my heart with beauty every time we drive down the street. I try to take pictures, but there's just no way to capture this. Thank you, Lord, for eyes and color and reminders to drink deep and pay attention, cuz this season only lasts a short while and then its gone, baby, gone.

~ ~ ~

We made good use of our fireplace over a slow, snuggly weekend. How I have missed the coziness of a fire on a rainy afternoon! In just a few weekends we've managed to use up the small pile of wood we found behind The Pink Garage. Time to find a local source for firewood.  I've never bought wood from anywhere but the grocery store, so this should be interesting. Any tips?

~ ~ ~

So - now that we're done moving, and I'm getting a handle on things at The Pink House, I'm totally ramping up for the holiday season. (!!!!!) MM has been so sweet about talking through my Advent thoughts and decorating questions and scheduling conflicts and gift ideas. He grins when I start a conversation with, "so I've been thinking." Not that he doesn't care about that stuff, but I tend to get a little spazzy about it all, and since this year we are doing the whole Advent-Epiphany Shebang (Nov 27-Jan6), I am Extra Spazzy.

Did I mention that we're getting a real Christmas tree this year?

And that we have a mantle? For stockings?

We TOTALLY DO!

Thursday I can officially get my spazz on as we launch into a month of candles and sheperds and angels. And tubas. And a medieval village made of sugar.

I feel a little like Buddy. "First we'll make snow angels for a two hours, then we'll go ice skating, then we'll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookiedough as fast as we can, and then we'll snuggle."


So, yeah. Spazzy the Elf, what's your favorite color?

~ ~ ~

And here's a quote I'm chewing on this week of thankfulness:

A wise lover regards not so much the gift of him who loves, as the love of him who gives. He esteems affection rather than valuables, and sets all gifts below the Beloved. A noble-minded lover rests not in the gift, but in Me above every gift. ~ Thomas a Kempis

I am thankful for so much: my husband and his amazing love, our Pink House, income during these uncertain economic times... With my mind constantly blown by so much goodness, it's hard to remember to be thankful, simply, for Him.

11/17/2011

thursdaybook - all things new

For today I am

Seeing... Bright leaves spiral, swirl, and swoop past my writing window. Fluffs of cloud drift low through sky so blue it hurts. Bushes bob and bend and dip in the wind... Mason jars filled with colored pens and rows of crayons, a sprig of dried lavender, pretty papers and a pile of pictures for my inspiration wall... I made a start on the office this week, and my desk is ready for working, creating, and dreaming.

Hearing... The whoosh of wind through branches... The click and hiss of the wall heater... The constant wizz of the nearby freeway...

Tasting... French press coffee. I know, I know - I am totally cheating, but oh, it tastes so good to be bad. I feel like singing Barbara Mandrell, "If lovin' you is wrong, I don't wanna be right" to my coffee mug this morning.

Working... Today I am a writer. I've promised myself that I'll work on blog posts, my Nanowrimo project, and make a stab at a couple other works that I keep putting off. I'm going to write in the morning and clean in the afternoon. This will please my man who gets frustrated at me for doing housework all day and not leaving myself time to create or rest or daydream, which is really the point of this sabbatical from the 9-5.

On applications for things for "Occupation" I put down "Writer, Self-employed." Which is true, but feels fake right now, cuz I've not written much for a year, but I'm getting there. My soul is recovering. Slowly.

I am also going to file paperwork and update our budget spreadsheets. Woo. And clean the bathroom. Double woo.

Reading... Oh, let's see. Lots of the same things: Salt, On Writing, The Big Over Easy, Practicing the Way of Jesus... MM and I are still enjoying The Eagle Has Landed, Anne of Avonlea, Changes that Heal, and Hearing God. We are simply, "book drunkards" as Lucy Maud Montgomery would say.

Learning... I learned about the O Antiphons this week in my gathering of Advent resources. I read a bit about them last year, but didn't have time to really investigate further. I've always loved "O come, O come, Emanuel" which is based on them. Here are some of the articles I read:

O Antiphons

O Antiphons to sing

To sing with several versions

Another version

Creating... A home. Little by little we're settling in to The Pink House. I try to tackle one project a day to bring a little more order and peace to this space. I have a long list of things we need, but while I wait for money or time I do what I can with what I have...

Soup. Its a good day for something hot and simmery, paired with grilled cheese sandwhiches. My favorite soups have no recipe. I just throw a bunch of things into a pot and see what happens. Veggie alchemy. Today feels like that sort of day.

Dreaming... Lots of stuff. Advent and Christmas are coming, so we're thinking through those things. (We're to have our first proper Christmas tree! And we want to find a creche that is ours together. And which events will we attend. And our budget and gift ideas and how to celebrate Advent with a three-year-old... ) We're looking forward to hosting people in our home this coming year, so we're thinking about chairs and seating and how to make food with no counter space. We're also dreaming about church and what that will look like this year. New things are coming!

Pondering... Attended a lecture by N.T. Wright last night. Fantastic. Rich and deep and yet approachable for non-theologians. He gave a picture of what it means to read the gospels "in surround sound." To read them in such a way as to be sustained by them as we live in this world as "the merciful, the peacemakers, the ones whose passion for justice that will not be slaked like thirst." As we confront the oppressive kingdoms of this world with a new way to "do power" - with "suffering love." Very cool.

Thankful for... So much! My home. My warm bathrobe. My husband's encouraging, supportive love. My coffee this morning. My Writer's Window. The fall leaves - this week's been glorious! Quinoa on sale. The upcoming holidays...

11/11/2011

ffff - its been awhile

It's been a while since I've done a fake friday fave five, so here goes:

1 I cleaned our old house this week. Several 8 hour days. My dishpan hands and sore shoulder and tired self are all happy at the result: a cleaner-than-when-we-moved-in house when MM handed in the keys yesterday. I don't know why, but I just feel good about that. I think some of it is that with all the transitions this year, I went from being a career woman to being a housewife -- in a old, moldy, falling-apart house that I could never get really clean. It was like I got a new job, and was constantly failing at it. It felt good to dig in deep and scrub and scour and steam the place within an inch of its existence. Ha ha! I am victorious! You, Old Moldy House, have not defeated me! Suck it, Loser!

2 My sweet MM, who is unable to do a lot of physical work right now because of a back injury, took good care of me this week. He kept me fed and watered and got me to bed early and took on the nightly tasks all by himself, so I could come home and crash. It felt good to be taken care of by my man. And he insisted that I take yesterday off and rest, and thanked me profusely when I did.

3 Dinners. Working physically all day makes me hungry! I just recall being particularly thankful for my dinners this week. Burgers and a good porter, chinese food from our favorite Fake New York restaurant, pork chops and mac and cheese... In this month of thankfulness, I am deeply grateful for a full tummy at the end of a hard day. So many work so hard and have very little to come home to. They are hungry all the time. (This week, I am reading the posts of the Compassion Bloggers trip to Ecuador. Pictures and stories of the hungry ones...)

At church right now, we are praying this for Thanksgiving:

Creator God, for daily bread
and all who work
to bring your harvest home
we bring our thanks today.
Forgive our ingratitude
we who have so much
yet waste what you have given.


For those whose harvest is poor,
whose crops have withered,
water tainted, children starve,
help those who bring relief
and bestow on us
an unaccustomed generosity,
that all might share from your garden
and all might sing your praise.


Creator God, provider of all
we bring our thanks today.
(Source)

I thought of that prayer as I sat my weary body down to eat each evening, or crawled under my comforter at night. Thank you for all this abundance.

4 Fall Leaves. Finally! The color show has just begun its haphazard opening act. Some trees already suck the breath out of me with their vibrancy. Others are as green as ever. Weird. But over the next few weeks I expect the blast of yellow, orange, and red that thrills me this time of year.

5 Watching the Lord of the Rings. For so many years, the films came out in November, so that now it just feels like part of the autumn/holiday season for me. The other day, we lit a fire, sipped some wine, and watched the little hobbits head out from the Shire. Felt like Christmas.

11/10/2011

a bit of nothing

Well, it certainly IS a quiet neighborhood. The folks from the property management company and the few neighbors we've met all say, "Its a really quiet neighborhood." We thought maybe it was a commentary on MM's tattoo and earring and me and my gangsta vibe, but no, it really is just a quiet neighborhood. Other than the occasional rumble when our neighbor and his buddies tinker with their motorcycles, or the lonely barks of Charlie the black lab puppy when his owner leaves him home alone, the neighborhood is silent.

This is true 40's/50's suburbia: big yards, houses set back from the side walk and far apart, a few attached garages, not many porches. Hardly ever see anyone, though this could also be due to the recent cold snap.

I DID catch sight of my elderly Asian neighbor collecting the newspaper a couple mornings ago. He picked it up, checked to see that no one was looking, and started tossing the paper high into the air and catching it. Every two or three throws he'd look around again, making sure he was alone. Part of me wants to draw a comic rendition of his newspaper shenanigans and tape it to his door, "I know what you did yesterday morning." But I suppose that's not too neighborly of me.

~ ~ ~

After a month of packing, moving, cleaning, and setting up, I am taking a day off to rest. I pulled a few long days at the old house cleaning carpets and whatnot, so we could turn in the keys today. Whoopee! Goodbye Old Moldy House! Jovie encouraged me to give myself some kind of reward for several 7+ hour days in a row of cleaning, so I'm giving myself a day of movies and crafts - although I'm interpreting "crafts" loosely. (I HAVE to do laundry today, or we will run out of underwear.)

I'll keep things light with RomComs and silly stuff. No deep thoughts or drama today. Today is a day for sipping tea and cheering on my girlfriends Kathleen Kelly, Lucy Elenor Monowitz, and Sally Albright.

Better get to it. Have a good one.

11/04/2011

lumpy lawns and apple pie cookies

Yesterday's grey bluster has turned to liquid gold, and overnight all the trees in my new neighborhood have started turning color. I hosted this month's Girlfriend Breakfast* with my dear Jovie this morning, and after stuffing ourselves silly we went for a walk in this glorious autumn weather. So, so good for my soul. I'm telling you - almost nothing beats deep conversation with a heart-friend over a spinach and mushroom scramble, bacon, apple pie cookies, and french press coffee on a gorgeous fall morning.

* Jovie read a book about a group of girlfriends who started a secret society of ladies who drink martinis - or something like that. We spent a good part of our morning trying to think up what our secret society would be. We decided that ours would be the Ladies Who Eat Big Breakfasts with Bacon. It is very exclusive. And tasty.

~ ~ ~

Fall

Fall, falling, fallen. That's the way the season
Changes its tense in the long-haired maples
That dot the road; the veiny hand-shaped leaves
Redden on their branches (in a fiery competition
With the final remaining cardinals) and then
Begin to sidle and float through the air, at last
Settling into colorful layers carpeting the ground.
At twilight the light, too, is layered in the trees
In a season of odd, dusky congruences—a scarlet tanager
And the odor of burning leaves, a golden retriever
Loping down the center of a wide street and the sun
Setting behind smoke-filled trees in the distance,
A gap opening up in the treetops and a bruised cloud
Blamelessly filling the space with purples. Everything
Changes and moves in the split second between summer's
Sprawling past and winter's hard revision, one moment
Pulling out of the station according to schedule,
Another moment arriving on the next platform. It
Happens almost like clockwork: the leaves drift away
From their branches and gather slowly at our feet,
Sliding over our ankles, and the season begins moving
Around us even as its colorful weather moves us,
Even as it pulls us into its dusty, twilit pockets.
And every year there is a brief, startling moment
When we pause in the middle of a long walk home and
Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies;
It is the changing light of fall falling on us.

~ Edward Hirsch


~ ~ ~

Seriously, those apple pie cookies are freaking awesome. Smitten Kitchen is one of my favorite sites. I am inspired by her cooking in a tiny space.

For two years I made a home in a tiny studio apartment - less than 150sq feet. Studios can be very depressing (a dingy overhead light, and a futon, and a TV), and since this was a season of healing, I needed to create a cheerful little nest to come home to. Apartment Therapy and IKEA helped me with layout and storage, and Smitten Kitchen helped me with food.

I had a tiny fridge, a 2-burner hotplate, a microwave, a toaster oven, a 4-cup coffee pot, and a crockpot, and a "kitchen" that was basically 1/2 of a closet, but I managed to cook real food during a time when I especially needed home comforts. I even hosted people. And I am not the most organized person in the kitchen, or a foodie by anyone's stretch of the imagination, so I don't mean to brag on me. Rather, I just got good advice from lots of sources (there are toaster oven cookbooks!), and inspiration from a gal who had a tiny kitchen too. Thanks to Smitten Kitchen, I could put on a full spread - dessert included. :)


View from standing in the kitchen looking toward the sofa bed. I had a table and four chairs off to the left.



View of the tiny kitchen from in front of the black cabinet.Tiny.

I wish I had known about the apple pie cookies when I lived in that apartment, cuz they are the perfect size! I will make up for lost time, by making lots of them this year. If you come to my house this year, chances are I will try to feed these to you.

~ ~ ~

The lawn guys just finished mowing our lumpy lawn. Yowza! But we can feel a bit better among our neighbors now. We already live in this garish house. The least we can do is keep our lumpy lawn mowed.

I've met a few of them, and they are all funny. They usually say something like, "So, she won't paint it, huh?" I guess a few years ago, they approached the property manager with an offer to all pitch in and pay for it. No dice. She loves the color.

And several neighbors commented that they worry about who will move into The Pink House, "Who will be drawn by that color?" but when they saw us put up our porch stuff, and plant flowers, they figured we were ok. (Heh heh - that's just cuz we haven't plugged in the amp yet, or hosted a sword event in our yard. Just wait, Neighbors, we'll freak you out.)

~ ~ ~


And I've taken up enough of your time. Happy November, folks!

11/03/2011

thursdaybook - swirling leaves and placid laundry

For today I am

Seeing... The view of the back yard out the window above my desk. Oh, how I have missed having a window above my desk! I see layers of oak and pecan trees sweeping their branches across a pearl grey sky. Before them, more layers: fruit tries, rosebushes, hydrangeas, butterfly bushes, an overgrown rosemary plant, and a squatty palm of some sort. Our lumpy lawn of crabgrass and weeds fills the space between the layers of foliage and the house. Flurries of leaves drift and swirl across my line of sight. A perfect November day. Oh, this will be a good spot for dreaming and creating...

Hearing... The freeway. If there's one bummer about The Pink House its that we hear the nearby freeway more than birds. We hope that our thermal drapes may provide some noise buffer as well. I also hear the washer and dryer churning, tumbling, whirring, and buzzing away.

Tasting... Water. I'm trying to drink more of it. I've come up with a plan to alternate Tea and water during the day, starting with black and working my way down to chamomile at the end of the day. Today was the first day that I did not cheat and have a mid-day coffee. Go me!

Working... Setting up our house. Today, I got started on the studio. Still need to get a few pieces of furniture, but it's in usable shape at least. Every room I work on generates a list of furniture or fixtures or storage containers, which we must wait to purchase, so nothing feels complete. But at least now we can find our clothes, make food, and print a document.

Reading... Salt. Still. It was packed in a box that I just opened today, so I can finish it up, finally. Though its been so long, I may start at the beginning again. While I was waiting to find my official current read, I picked up Steven King's superb On Writing. Perfect timing for NaNoWriMo (see below). MM and I are still enjoying our Cultural Exchange Read-Alouds (Jack Higgin's The Eagle has Landed and Anne of Avonlea. And I'm looking forward to him finishing his perusal of The Circle of Seasons, so we can come up with plans for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.

Learning... My brain is full of house projects, so I'm not sure there's space for learning right now...

Creating... It's NaNoWriMo, and I'm sort of participating. I'm not writing a novel, but I'm working on a short piece of fiction as time and energy allow. The goal is to write a little bit each day. I've also got a hankering to draw or sketch or something. (As an aside, MM -who is also doing short works this go around-has tons of ideas, and they're all so good! This is going to be a fun month of creating with my man.)

Dreaming... Of a new home to fill with music and stories and game nights and dinner parties and fireside chats and philosophy breakfasts... of ways to get our financial house in order faster, so we can get on with pursuing some life goals/dreams... of digging in the flowerbeds I can see through this window...

Pondering... The ways of gentleness and grace. Patience, trust, and that "in repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." How I cultivate external peace (order, beauty, rhythms) because I crave internal peace.

Thankful for... The Pink House... my desk window... my new desk... The leaves swirling through the back yard... the spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove... my sweet MM, who had a frustrating day of exploding lunches and fruitless errands amidst the usual Thursday meeting madness, and all with good spirits. If it was me, I would have been flipping out and calling everyone in traffic a f***face. Good thing I was at home with the placid laundry.

10/31/2011

houses and homes

So. We moved. We now live in The Pink House. (Seriously, its Pepto Bismol pink.) Just a bit of cleaning to do, and a few pieces of furniture to buy, and we'll be all settled in. I worked like mad to get the kitchen and living room set up, so at least one corner of our house would feel like home. I shelved the books, set out the plants, found a stack of coasters, and swapped my couch's summer whites for her winter dress of cherry red corduroy. The kitchen is tiny, but warm and cozy, and with a little creative storage should work just fine for us.

Its an old house and has its quirks (only one three-pronged outlet per room, and always on the wrong wall, of course) but this house just seems to fit us better. A guest room for visitors, a bathroom one can access from the hallway, a patio and yard for parties, a driveway for guests to park, and if things get to tight in the house, we have a huge garage to serve as another gathering space on rainy days. I think we will be happy here.

~~~

As I clean the empty rooms at the old house, I get nostalgic, remembering the first times we walked through the house, dreaming of our new life together that was just about to start. I remember walking through the empty rooms, alternately praying blessings and making out. (Awesome tradition, by the way.) I remember long hours spent chopping vegetables or reading to each other or talking over third and fourth cups of coffee at the kitchen table. All the cups of tea, cold beers, glasses of wine, and mugs of coffee we drank on the front porch enjoying the seasons of sky and air and the maple tree in the front yard. Rainy days spent snuggled up in bed...

We only spent a little over a year there, but oceans of change have happened in my soul during that time. Whole mountain ranges have been threshed into chaff. Deserts crossed. Dark nights endured. Laughter. Tears. LOTS of kisses... So much life, and all kinds of firsts.

It may not have been a great house - mold, dry rot, termites, dust, windows that don't open, weird storage, an annoying bathroom, and never the right plug on the right wall... - but it was a good first home.

~~~

And here we are in our second house together. It feels like a little newlywed cottage, which works, because we still feel like newlyweds. I'm looking forward to a fresh start, just in time for the holidays.

Speaking of which - tonight is Halloween, and we haven't any candy in the house. Gotta run.

10/13/2011

thursdaybook - moving on my mind

For today I am

Seeing... The completely empty counter in the sink room for the first time in a month. Hallelujah. In fact, I'm drinking my celebratory coffee from a paper cup and getting dinner at IKEA just to keep things pristine for a few more hours.

Hearing... My awesome Donna Summer Pandora station. Disco is fabulous cleaning music.

Tasting... Pete's Major Dickason's Decaf. Mmmmm

Working... Cleaning, ironing, planning for our move...

Reading... Re-reading the sections on Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany from the books I mentioned last time. MM and I have some ideas on how we want to observe the seasons.

Learning... I think my brain's too full for learning today...

Creating... Packing labels for the move. I like to label all the boxes and furniture, so that the movers can take everything right to the room. So much faster to unpack and set up, if we do that. On Saturday we are going to the new house to measure and put painters tape on the major furniture locations. That way the movers can take the heavy stuff right where it goes. These are pros, but I still hate to see people straining under a sleeper sofa for longer than they need to.

Dreaming... House. House. House! I'm excited to set up our next little love nest, just in time for the holidays. We will finally have a chimney by which to hang the stockings with care! :)

Pondering... How old patterns can be unmade and new paths of the mind and heart and life can grow.

Thankful for... Our new house and the means to move there.


ht http://thesimplewomansdaybook.blogspot.com/

10/11/2011

bubble baths and pink houses

Saturday morning I indulged in a morning bubble bath. I'm thankful for Kelle Hampton's reminder that daytime bubble baths are awesome. There is something so luxurious about a long soak during the day. Moreso, even, than a night-time bubble bath. I think maybe because it is an intentional sabbath - refraining from work and striving - during a time of day when the rest of the world is hustling and bustling its way through to do lists and deadlines and action items.

I am not good at relaxing, so MM does what he can to support my timeouts. He brought me a mug of hot decaf coffee halfway into my bath. And did the dishes so I would not immediately jump into work straight from the tub.

I got to sink down into warm water, lounge in the pale morning light and flicker of candles, sip hot coffee, and breathe in the fragrance of bubbles while I read my book. Fabulous!

~ ~ ~

We found a house in South West Fake New Jersey. (I have no idea what the real life correlation would be.) There's an even Bigger park around the corner from our house, and new set of trees to enjoy as they change color. These neighborhoods are newer than our current one (1905-1930), but still varied and interesting with a fabulous tree canopy.

We have the distinction of living in the only Bright Pink House in the neighborhood. Perhaps in the whole area. Wow, is it pink. Lordy! Apparently the property manager and all the neighbors have appealed to the owner to update to a stately neutral, but she adamantly declines. "I like what I like, and I only want renters who like what I like." Okay, then.

~ ~ ~

So. A move. We're hiring movers this time, baby! And it should be much simpler, since a) we both live in the same house, and all our stuff is here, and b) I'm not working right now. Easy peasy. (Famous last words.)

~ ~ ~

Still hopeful that we can fit a pumpkin carving night in there somewhere. Perhaps a scaled down version from last years.' We want to do it outside this time, but I have no idea what to expect with the weather. Meh, we'll have to play it by ear.

~ ~ ~

My head and heart are full of stirrings and whisperings and ponderings of mysteries. Now that we've solved the Where Will We Live problem, I hope I can settle down to think and pray and journal. My soul is starving for deep contemplation. And to that end, I think I'll sign off and spend some time on the porch. It's sunny again after a day of downpours, and I'm going to soak it up.

10/06/2011

thursdaybook - (or not)

For today I am:

Seeing... Cloudy skies through window condensation, candlelight gleaming through red votive holders, a white pitcher filled with sunflowers, a mason jar filled with eucalyptus branches...

Hearing... Classical music, the gurgling of the coffee pot, and the pitter patter of raindrops on the house...

Tasting... Hot spiced pear cider from Trader Joes

Working... Housework: dust, vacuum, water plants, laundry, dishes (always dishes), etc. etc. etc. Finances: moving money, paying bills, updating The Budget Spreadsheet. House-hunting. Scheduling. Correspondence.

Reading... The Circle of Seasons - Meeting God in the Church Year (Ireton, IVP), and Living the Christian Year - Time to Inhabit the Story of God (Gross, IVP). Our house church is preparing to kind of go through the traditional church calender together this year. I've been doing parts of the church calender for years (Advent, then Lent, then extended Christmas and Epiphany). But this year, the whole lot of us are going to try and do something for all the seasons. To prepare we're reading these books, checking out other resources, and talking about how a bunch of non-liturgical kids can work all this into our lives. Looking forward to the project.

Learning... About mold abatement. Sigh. Yeah. It's that exciting.

Creating... My energy levels are kinda low for creating these days. I may have shot my wod with this ( kind of lame) blog post. But I may color or knit while I watch a show later.

Dreaming... Thinking about the holiday season, and how we'll go about it. This is tricky, because there are two scenarios to plan for. One for if we move, and the other for if we stay here. We couldn't move this summer because of all we had going on, and we really only have a two week window before we launch into the busy holiday season. I'm feeling a bit on hold in the waiting.

So, I'm thinking up ways to schedule events, decorate (or not), host people (or not), AND take care of my (still fragile and tired) soul in the midst of packing-cleaning-moving-settling-in (or not) and getting ready for the holidays.

This is my favorite time of year, and I'm determined to retain a few of the elements that nourish my heart in the midst of the chaos.

Pondering... Still working on Release/Receive. So much to think/feel my way through on this.

Thankful for... MM and I have had a few significant conversations lately that have spoken to places of deep hurt in me. So thankful for those conversations, and for a husband who longs for my wholeness and well-being. Thankful that this healing process is happening, and that I can see results. Finally! w00t!

~ ~ ~

As per usual. HT to thesimplewoman

10/05/2011

deliciousness

This morning as I drove MM to the chiropractor I noticed that as we went over speed bumps and potholes, our hands holding our travel mugs of coffee would automatically move up and down, shock absorber shoulders and elbows adjusting for the undulation and preventing spillage. It looked as though we were "cheersing" our fellow commuters as we drove along. "Good day to you, sir." "Madam, I salute you." "Here's mud in your eye."

Next time, I think we should go ahead and actually toast the drivers we pass. "I congratulate you on your fine left turn signal." Way to slow for a pedestrian." "D**n it feels good to be a gangsta."

~ ~ ~

We had the first rain of the season last night and today the world smells delicious! I hope to spend as much time as I can outside, sucking in great draughts of this air. Makes my blood tingle.

It's the perfect weather to pick apples and hunt for pumpkins. Sadly, I think MM's back injuries preclude a trip to the foothills, but maybe we can find something closer to home. I am ready to let my fall freak flag fly. And even if we are moving soon. (Please, oh, please, let it be soon.) pumpkins are portable.

(Especially the tiny ones they have at the grocery store. I can't help but buy one every time I go. They are multiplying like tribbles around here!)

~ ~ ~

Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,/ We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves! ~ Humbert Wolfe

~ ~ ~

In honor of October, I've made some yummy dinners this week:
 - Rosemary chicken roasted in beer, quinoa made with homemade chicken broth, broccoli. salad.
 - Meatballs in mushroom, onion, and wine sauce, oregano mashed potatos, steamed carrots, salad.

I believe there are some soups, a pork roast, and a pot of white beans in our near future as well. I will even make my world famous, Martha's Kick A** Meatloaf and force my husband to try it. (He swears he will hate it. He is incorrect. ;)

And despite all my good "no sugar" intentions, I am indulging in all the spicy, caramel-y treats of the season. I'm sorry but kettle corn and caramel dipped apples, snicker-doodles and cinnamon rolls, and pies, crisps, and cobblers just need to happen right now. So, I'm allowing the indulgences, but just doing smaller amounts. Hooray for ramikins!

~ ~ ~

And while we're talking indulgences, um, oh yes. "Delicious autumn," indeed!

10/04/2011

hello, October

Well. The wedding was gorgeous! Bride sparkling in the candlelight. Groom beaming joy at her beauty. Everyone moved by music and words and the fruition of a fairytale love story. Cake and champagne and lots of laughter.

And my own Prince Charming looked soooooo gooooood in his suit. We don't often get to dress up together, so it was a treat to be fancy with him.

~ ~ ~

October! Alternating moody grey skies and golden sunshine. Air that's just turned crisp and cool. Love it! My house smells of eucalyptus, chrysanthemums, candle wax and delicious food. Last night we made a peach and pear crisp* for date night. Man, oh man! Seriously roll-your-eyes-and-groan good, people. Perfect for fall.

And now I'm primed for rosemary chicken, butternut squash soup, pumpkin bread, meatloaf and mashed potatos...

*My crisp toppings never really get crisp, so MM calls it a "mush" instead of a crisp. Whatever.

~ ~ ~

Date Night this week was mostly reading together. After the chaos of wedding stuff we needed a night in. So, yummy dinner and books. As part of our "Cultural Exchange" we've been sharing books with each other out loud. I'm still working my way through the Anne of Green Gables series. (Which has been a blast with MM. He laughs and hollers and provides commentary. Yesterday, after several Gilbert-less chapters, as soon as I said "Gilbert..." MM burst out, "FINALLY!" I love that he's not just humoring me, but is really engaging with the stories. )

Meanwhile, MM introduced me to Neal Stephenson via Snow Crash. (Which I enjoyed a lot. A million story threads and such a creative way to combine history, technology, religion, etc. in this cyber punk world. My only real criticism is that I didn't feel much emotion for the two main characters. I got more invested in a couple side characters. Still, all-in-all, a great introduction to this genre for me.) Now he's reading me Jack Higgins', The Eagle Has Landed. Spies in tweed!

~ ~ ~

The next big project is to move. The Little House in Fake New Jersey is sweet and cute, but has a lot of mold that we can't get rid of. I don't want us to go through another moldy winter. So, its time to find new digs. Here's hoping we can make it all happen before the rains really begin.

And I am feeling a bit displaced right at the point in the year when I really snuggle in to "home" and "traditions" and such. The holidays are here, but I can't plan the annual trip to the apple orchards or pumpkin carving party, because I don't know what weekend we may be moving. I feel on hold.

~ ~ ~

So, there you go. That's the latest. I'm off to sip a cup of brown joy. Have a good week, friends.

9/26/2011

i have no title for this post

The breezes taste 
Of apple peel 
The air is full 
Of smells to feel- 
Ripe fruit, old footballs, 
Burning brush, 
New books, erasers, 
Chalk, and such. 
The bee, his hive, 
Well-honeyed hum, 
And Mother cuts 
Chrysanthemums. 
Like plates washed clean 
With suds, the days 
Are polished with 
A morning haze. 

John Updike, September

It's beginning to feel a little like fall, and I'm beginning to get on board with this new season. A couple overcast days, some new candles, and a hearty meal or two nudge me into the autumn state of mind. I'll pick up some mums today, and some eucalyptus branches to "flavor" the house. I'll swap out the slip cover on the couch. Tonight, as we play games for Date Night, I'll bust out apple cider and kettle corn. Maybe we'll have a pot pie for dinner.

~ ~ ~

I've been grieving the loss of an Internet friend this weekend. Beautiful Sara Frankl, the Gitzen Girl, is finally home. It is sad for us, but it is so good for her to finally be free from the chronic pain of a terrible 17-year illness that kept her home bound for the last three years of her life.

This woman is amazing. Amazing. Her ability to choose joy in the midst of pain humbles, awes, and inspires me to be better. I want to be like her when I grow up. She loved well. And made a huge impact on many lives, despite the physical limits of her life. To learn more about the impact of this remarkable woman, read through some of the tributes that people have written about her. (I especially love Mathew's, Mandy's, and Shannon's.)

The Internet is a strange and wondrous place. I'm thankful I've been able to know Sara, and now so many of her friends. Technology can be destructive, but it can also bring life and love and connection. So very, very cool.

~ ~ ~

The change of seasons and the grieving of Sara and the ramp up for my friend's wedding on Saturday have my heart overflowing with thankfulness and a deep sense of how precious life is. And how short. And what a gift it all is.

9/04/2011

once upon a time...

Two dear friends both got engaged right around the same time, but we had to wait awhile before hosting the second celebration. Friday night MM and I got to celebrate the betrothal of Princess Faborina and her Very Own Prince. We feasted on homemade Chinese food, jasmine tea, and fortune cookies under the twinkle-lights, and talked of how love changes and heals us.




"I'm supposed to meet you!" exclaimed a cheerful voice behind me in the registration line. I turned to see a pretty, smiling face and met a gal who would become one of my dearest friends, a sister from another mister. (Lame, but it rhymes.) We were at a Youth Specialties conference. She worked in the Junior High group, and I worked with high schoolers, and though it was a small church, we'd somehow managed to work there for months without ever meeting each other.

We hung out all day at the conference, and thus began an epic friendship. Faborina has enriched my life with her creativity, intelligence, depth, passion, and joie de vivre for almost 20 years.

She brings Adventure! So many amazing travel memories from the past two decades... the Lincoln memorial, a Las Vegas piano bar, a downpour in a poverty-stricken village in Mexico, a starlit night at the Grand Canyon, the glorious crash of the Pacific Ocean... are because of her.

She brings Music! We've attended concerts and festivals and Broadway shows. We've sung together on worship team, in talent shows, in Christmas productions, at memorial services, weddings, and once to celebrate a friend's hysterectomy (Uterous-free Day!). And we've sung in the car or around the house.

She brings Fun! Faborina invented Bonk-Bonk Ball, and Miller Family Fun Day. And she taught us to shoot pool, throw darts, and play poker for Boys Night Out. She's hosted parties for Pancake Day and Elephant Appreciation Day and the World Premiere of High School Musical 2.

And with all the fun and delight, she brings a faithfulness and depth to her friendships that have blessed me again and again over the years. She's loaned me power tools. She's et me move in with her three times when I had no where else to go. She's rescued me countless times when my car has died - usually in the middle of the night, somewhere in the boonies. She's pursued connection with me, even when I've lived in other towns, and she's been brave to share her authentic self with me, which inspires me to do the same.

She is a good friend. She has a good heart.

And I am so happy to see her beautiful heart be truly cherished by a good, kind, tender man. On Friday, in telling a story, the Prince affirmed that after months of feeling displaced by remodeling/packing chaos, Faborina now has a home. And while he was talking about his house that she will move into after the wedding, it is so much more than that. He is her home. His steady love gives her a soft place to fall and comfort and rest.


Can't wait to celebrate these two join their hearts as a family!

9/01/2011

thursdaybook - potato chips are good

For today I am:

Seeing... I'm mostly at my "desk" today. Earlier this month we hauled my old white desk out to the curb, and I set up one of our long fold-up tables in my corner of the office. A mustard yellow table cloth matches the giant Lord of the Rings map of Middle Earth above the table. And elsewhere spots of red bring cheer: a square pot for my desk plant, a lamp, Ikea boxes for office supplies, my mouse and mouse pad, a lovely little fabric-covered, gilt-edged copy of Pride and Prejudice from Book Girl, and a paper frame around a crayon drawing MM gave me. In front of me are a few chotchkies and a fanciful box for stationary, covered in flowers and fairies and doilies and whatnot. It doesn't fit any of my other stuff, but I like it anyway. Go figure.

Hearing... The lawn guys mowing and blowing and hollering at each other... ticking clocks... my tummy rumbling for a snack...

Tasting... Right now: a handful of Trader Joe's salt and pepper potato chips. Later: Homemade chicken soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. (Gruyere on whole wheat bread. Yum!)

Working... Today's Lineup: Dishes, Laundry, Iron Shirts, Mend Clothes, Clean Out Weird Stuff From Fridge, Toilet, Tub*, Counters, Mirrors, Sink, File Papers, Answer Giant Mountain of Email, Scan/Transcribe Documents... It's a lot. Why am I still blogging?

*Cleaning the tub involves the weekly unclogging of the drains. Old house. Old pipes. Can't use liquid plumber-esque stuff, so its a fun baking soda/vinegar/boiling water treatment instead.

Reading... Still working on Salt. Also reading the aforementioned Pride and Prejudice. And lots and lots of articles on Biblical Criticism (see below). Lots. My brain is nearly fried. Better get some more potato chips...

Learning... About the various theories on who wrote/edited/compiled/transcribed the Jewish bible. I am a writing/literature nerd, so it has been fascinating to see all the connections/reactions to history, politics, art, culture, etc. unfolding in the documents. This quote on Straight Dope sums up the impact:

"Questions of provenance notwithstanding, the text is one of the great works of literature. It has endured for at least 2,500 years, parts of it for at least 3,200 years, and is still read today. There is hardly a work of art or writing in the western world that does not build from the five books or use images or phrases from them. Our notions of good and evil, of history as a linear process, of the relationship between the individual and morality, of the dignity of man ("created in the image of God"), all stem from this seminal work."

Creating... Decorations for a wedding shower. :)

Dreaming... Simple dreams right now... a quiet evening to toast the end of summer... another quiet evening of twinkle-lights to toast an engagement... a morning of art and an afternoon of riding bikes along the river...

Pondering... Truth. Beauty. Purpose. The long-neglected needs/wants/dreams of my heart. Old wounds. New ideas. And the new template I must build for life and relationship. How does this all work? Some days its all clear, and others... not so much. But I will keep pondering.

Thankful for... I know I sound like a broken record, but MM has been so good to me. My heart has been rocked hard several times this week and he has listened and comforted and encouraged, and best of all - understood. For reals. He just gets stuff. And I am amazed. He hopes when I can't. He has faith when mine fails. And he dreams Big Awesome Dreams for me when I just don't see how. I still can't get used to this love.

8/30/2011

i'm not ready for some football

A few weeks ago the light changed. Early, it seemed to me. And while I normally welcome my favorite season with open arms and John Denver "carols," this year, not so much.

I've not yet had my fill of bbqs and sprinklers and ice cream off a truck. And yet, without so much as a "by your leave," the light changes, the agapanthes wither, and the crepe myrtles fade. We ride our bikes through early fallen leaves and watch more flutter to the street. And though the days still get hot, more and more the cool mornings and evenings bring to mind sweaters and school supplies.

Many people dislike Autumn, associating it with death and dying. The arrival of cold, grey weather, and having to run errands in the rain. I've never felt that way. To me, Autumn meant harvest and abundance. A season to pick apples, bake cookies, carve pumpkins, and pop up giant bowls of popcorn for movie nights and game nights and cozy-up-with-a-good-book nights. The glorious colors (amber, crimson, goldenrod) and flavors (cinnamon, caramel, rosemary, sage) of fall always fill me with an appreciation of Life.

But this year, I can understand a little why some folks don't care for the season. My heart isn't quite ready to let go of summer. And yet it must. The light has changed, and the next season of life is upon me, whether I am ready for it or not.

This is true for me in lots of ways. In this past year I got married, left my career, turned 40, and became a bicycle commuter (sold my car). Oy! Holy season changes, Batman. Things are shifting for me emotionally, spiritually, relationally - pretty much in all the "allys".

Its all good. I'm just in the midst of the transition and everything is awkward and unfinished. My heart's feeling a bit pummeled and tired and not at rested up to tackle a new "school year." It needs a few more months of floating around the swimming pool, listening to 80's rock.

But I can't. It's time to buy my Trapper Keeper and protractor and new shoes. It's time for class schedules and syllabi. I can listen to 80's rock, but only while I'm doing my homework.

So. This weekend I will raise a glass to summer, and embrace the changing season.

8/26/2011

zinnias, crickets, clean laundry, and kisses

This week's Fake Friday Fave Five.

1 The sight of - Bright (pink! magenta! red! orange! yellow!) zinnias in the morning sun, a gift from my Sweetie to make me smile on a hard day... Or, the neighbors white Christmas lights twinkling away on an ordinary Tuesday. All is calm. All is bright...

2 The sound of - The kids next door clomping out the door, across the porch, and down the steps to engage in pre-school combat before clambering into the rumbly old SUV that will haul them off for the day... Or, the evening crickets singing a lament to summer's end on a night when we decide to, "sit in comfy corner with the door open and listen to the bugs."

3 The smell of - Piles of clean laundry, fresh from the dryer, the fragrance of a sleepy Sunday morning... Or, the last bit of dark roast coffee in the package that wafts up each morning when I reach for the tea tin. We're saving it til the weekend, so it takes on the added essence of Anticipation.

4 The taste of - Second-day hot italian sausage soup with onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, broccoli, carrot, celery, black beans and spices, eaten with whole wheat bread slathered with way too much butter... Or, melted havarti with dill on whole wheat bread. Or, fried eggs with rosemary.

5 The touch of - My husbands baby kisses on the side of my neck as I wash dishes, and the warmth of his breath as he whispers, "Thank you for everything you do around here. It doesn't go unnoticed."... Or, his arms around me as he tells me, "I am so excited that I get to be with you when you get to live your dreams."

A full week.

8/17/2011

treasures from dark places

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the head, then the full grain in the head...

Truly, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

There is always grief in death. The letting go hurts.

But, it is said that "we do not grieve as those who have no hope."

No.

The seed falls down into the ground. Hidden. Out of our hands. And we wait. We wait and see. And we know not how, but we trust that something mysterious and wonderful is happening down there in the dark.

We grieve, but we have hope that someday life will come from this death. That after all the plowing and furrowing and breaking up of soil and sweating and weeping and falling and dying, there will be life.

And it will be awesome. "Immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine."

Yes. That's it.

8/16/2011

tuesdaybook: sun-baked pine needles

For today I am

Seeing... The change in the light (Autumn's coming!) as it filters through leaves onto the grass I'm always forgetting to water and the folding chair ruins of a lovely Friday evening with loved ones. The Giant Blue Tarp, two table cloths, and a raft in desperate need of rinsing off sit in the fading light of summer.

Wearing... Linen-like cargo pants, a pink, ribbed tank top, brown Old Navy flip flops from two summers ago, summer bracelet MM got me on our anniversary trip, and my Boyfriend Bracelet. (A simple bracelet with letter beads with MM's name. Made several for different friends and family, and my sister in law calls hers her "boyfriend bracelet." Cute. I like it.)

Tasting... Cold coffee. I've been without coffee in this house for too long. On Sunday, before MM went off to class, I zipped to the store and returned with some Major Dickenson's. The last few mornings, I've interspersed bites of oatmeal (homemade with coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon, and dried cranberries) with swallows of dark, fabulous coffee. Amen and amen.

Planning... No plans these days. Just letting life unfold.

Working... Lots of house work and projects. Cleaning. Sorting. Archiving. Mending. Oh, and job-hunting. Sabbatical is over, kids.

Creating... Nothing, per se.

Learning... Nothing, per se.

Reading... MM and I are working through the Anne books and are almost done with Snow Crash in our fun Read-aloud Cultural Exchange. I'm still reading Salt.

Pondering... Still this: Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Remembering... Well, not this very moment, but several times over the last few days I've caught the scent of sun-baked pine needles. Each time a wave of summertime memories washes over me. A hundred camping trips with family, friends, youth groups. Day-long hikes, plunging into the woods and streams and alpine lakes that brought a glimpse of goodness into weary, battered souls. Riding ATVs up steep switchbacks through Greece and feeling like I'm home. Oh! That scent makes my heart swell and ache with memory and longing. I would gather a bowl of them form my desk, but I'm afraid I'd just sit there and daydream of campfires and the feel of a cold, mountain creek on blistered heels.

Thankful for... My girlfriends. More times and ways than I can count, their love and friendship has saved me.

8/12/2011

falling

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. ~ Jesus of Nazareth

Still sorting it all out, but yes. This. I think so.

7/05/2011

and the livin is easy

Oh, summer is in full force here in Fake New Jersey. MM and I made some progress on the Summer List last month as well as encountering many unlisted pleasures:

~ Old Navy Flip Flops (mine have sparkly jewels at the toe part)

~ Ice cream sandwiches and popcicles from the ice cream man or from the creamery down the street

~ Bike rides under glorious tree canopies, breathing in the scent of olianders, jasmine, barbecues, and the occasional whiff of chlorine drifting out from back yard swimming pools

~ Porch time spent watching tiny bugs drift in and out of shafts of sunlight (the closest I have been to fireflies)*

~ Swimming with friends and running through the sprinklers in our front yard

~ Grilling in the back yard

This past weekend was a happy, star-spangly celebration of summer, we rode bikes, read books, ran through sprinklers, ate ice cream and frozen yogurt and popcicles and lots of BBQ, swam and lounged and saw a summer movie in the heat of the day, watched a parade, leaned on my handsome husband and watched fireworks, drank red wine and cold beers on the front porch, and topped it all off by "sparkler twirling" up and down the street with the neighbor kids.

* We've spent a LOT of time on the porch in our wicker chairs, reading out loud and chatting. While we sit, we sip a variety of good things: loose leaf tea or freshly ground coffee (using the good china!), leftover cyser from our wedding (from thrift store champagne flutes!), sparkling water, cucumber water, lemonade, red wine, and cold beer. When the breeze blows it carries the scent of roses, lavender, jasmine, and an unknown, heavenly blossom that just says, SUMMER. I've even started keeping a small bouquet from the side yard on the little stool that serves as an endtable. That scent intoxicates!

Thankful for this summer grace. My soul sorely needed it.

Spent the morning biking around to do my errands. Now for a quiet spell in the neighborhood coffee shop before I clean my house. Time for an iced mocha and a good book.

Happy summer to you!