10/30/2012

i wrote this post yesterday

I write occasionally about rhythm and balance and what I am learning to do to manage the wild ocean of this life.

This morning I awoke in the cold dark, sad from painful dreams, my heart weighed down by too much sad news. A dear friend's father is dying. Another friend just rushed to her family home to get in a visit while her "Grandma is still Grandma." Another friend just kept vigil on the third anniversary of her son's sudden death. Yet another friend wept at lunch the other day, grieving the death of her marriage. My own family is facing health problems and financial stress. My country is getting clobbered by a contentious election. Humans keep eating each other. (Seriously. What the hell, people??)

That's just too much for 6am Monday morning.

And it is definitely Monday. I have a huge to do list, filled with regular weekly tasks (budget spreadsheet, cleaning, laundry, etc.) as well as preparation for a pumpkin carving party tonight, a Halloween block party Wednesday, and my in-laws anniversary party* Saturday. And of course, tickling my mind, are the "coming up" tasks that need to be addressed starting next week: a couple double dates to organize, Thanksgiving travel and menu to arrange, a fancy Whiskey Tasting event to prepare for, and holysmokesChristmasisalmosthereandwehaventstartedanythingyetackackack! And after Christmas my job search kicks into high gear and we want to find a new place to live and then packing and moving and setting up and...

Balance? What balance? How do you balance the Mother of All Todo Lists with a Wounded Heart? Maybe like this:

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. ~ Isaiah 30:15

I keep coming back to this. I've written about it before. A couple of times.

This verse speaks to me of the difference between what is needed and what is needed. Yes, yes. I need to clean and shop and bake and build and organize and arrange. I really do need to pay the bills and get the oil changed and the tires rotated and spread the mulch pile. I need to see if the extension chord will reach outside, and if we have propane for the lantern and batteries for the carving tools and cinnamon for the apples... I need to find a job and find a new house and figure out a paleo version of Thanksgiving stuffing. Yes, yes. Of course.

Nevertheless, this morning, before launching into my errands and tasks, I hauled a wicker chair from the porch into a patch of sunshine on the front lawn. I poured a cup of half-caf, grabbed my journal, and a hat, and just took 20 minutes for quietness and rest. I attended to the million blades of grass coated with dazzling crystalline dew drops. I noted the silken streaks of spiderwebs shimmering in the morning light. I watched the leaves on our neighbor's tree flutter in the breeze, and observed the color change beginning on my street. I drank in the bright oranges, yellows, pinks, reds, purples, and white from our little garden. I enjoyed our cute bats.

I sipped and looked and let myself be a soul inside this body. I let that soul take in as much beauty as it could in that 20 minutes. I prayed and cursed the darkness as I sat in that pool of light. "Oh Lord, make haste to help us." I prayed and marveled that I could be sitting under blue skies in a pool of golden autumn light while a hurricane pounds my East coast friends. I prayed and stilled my heart.

This is not easy for me.

I do not rest well. I am Action Girl. Solve all the problems! Do all the things! Fix the broken stuff! Bring order to the chaos! Organize! Alphabetize! And when facing a bunch of projects, I want to cross stuff off the list(s)! Right now! Get'erdone!

But a wounded heart needs mending. An introverted soul needs time to think and feel and process all it has absorbed in recent days. Tense muscles need to stretch and unclench and release. I need to breathe. And to pray. And if I try to bang through my tasks and deadlines and projects without caring for my soul? Well, it just goes badly. Nothing gets done and I am a mess. And I have learned the hard way, that my neglected soul shrivels up eventually, and I am left a wraith - neither living nor dead.

So today - what was needed was for me to sit on the lawn and drink coffee in the sun, To Do List be damned. The list is still there of course. And huge. And it will all get done. And it will get done more efficiently and less frazzly because I did what was needed first.

On days when I don't have 20 minutes, or a sunny lawn, I try to do something. Even five minutes helps. A two minute break to microwave some tea, curl my hands around a warm cup, breathe in the steam, and remember that I am a person. Taize music in my ears as I crunch on a deadline. Thirty seconds to appreciate the verdant grass beneath rainy skies. And some days I only have time to light a candle in the 6 am cold and take in a few slow, deep breaths as I try to remember that stars are twinkling above the hurricane.

10/23/2012

thankful tuesday - space heater edition

It's Thankful Tuesday. Autumn arrived in earnest at the Pink House this week, so I must sing its praises.

- A storm blew in and brought great gulps of rain to our dry valley. Hallelujah! It is dewy and drippy and soggy and wonderful. We've fallen asleep to the patter of rain two nights in a row. I'm sure by November we'll be over it, but for now, we are in love.

- The trees have begun to turn, and our new drive through drifting leaves is beautiful. It will be awhile before they really strut their stuff, but for now its fun to catch bits of red and gold peeking out between the green and brown. I'm sure we'll make a pilgrimage to the Golden Tree of the West (a beautiful tree in our old neighborhood) soon.

The other thing that turned this week is our hydrangeas. Remember the lovely blue and purple of this summer? Check it out!

THAT is the color we saw when we moved in. And had no idea how to achieve it. Basically, all we had to do is let Fall happen. Whoopie!

Oh, and check these out too, harvested from our very own little garden:

So pretty! Well, mostly. Ignore the wrinkled table cloth. Instead focus on the cute little pumpkins. :)

- Our little porch bats all curled up against the cold. In silhouette, they look like Batman glaring down at Gotham from a skyscraper, clenching his jaw. Only, cuter. I know I wrote about them last week, but I still just love them. We are hoping they last for the trick-or-treaters.


- We hauled out Little Blackie the Space Heater this week. She's much quieter than my old radiator, Goldie, but its still comforting to hear her little hisses. And to stand near her and feel the waft of warm air blowing against me. It makes me laugh that my husband tolerates my naming things. He refers to Little Blackie now, too. Come to think of it HE'S the one who named the Golden Tree of the West...

- Butternut squash soup. Oh. Love it. The soup is one of our "Game and a Meal in One" dinners. I make a giant vat of the stuff and we set it on the table, along with every spice and seasoning in the house. We each scoop one ladle-ful into a small bowl, add a few herbs or spices, and eat the bowl. Then we do it again but with a different seasoning combo. "I'm doing ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon." "I'm doing oregano and basil." "I'm doing rosemary and paprika." We experiment and play around and taste each others creations. This is a fun one to do when we have guests. Especially people who are afraid of butternut squash. They almost always get a kick out of the experimental part at least.

- Oregano and cheddar biscuits. To go with the soup, you know. These suckers freaking rocked. BAM! I'm getting better at paleo baking. I can't wait to try a paleo version of the apple pie cookies.

- Fire. With all the cold and rain and soup and biscuits, we need the cozy flicker. I stocked up on tealights and and a jar candle in "Apple" scent. I grabbed a firelog for good measure, but we've not had enough time in the evening to use it. My friend Jovi sent the info for their woodlot so we can order a pile of - hopefully seasoned this time - firewood.

- Sweaters. I pushed things a bit and started wearing long sleaves last week, but now I need the sweaters. MM grins and his eyes bug out each morning when he sees me wearing one. "Oh, I like this one!" It's all the same stuff as last year, but its been awhile. His enthusiastic appreciation makes me blush and smile and shuffle my feet. And wear more sweaters.

Happy Tuesday folks. What's making you thankful today? Make sure to visit Micha and read the other thankfuls.

10/16/2012

thankful tuesday - snickerdoodle-y

I have a rhythms post cooking, but yesterday I spent the morning having tea with a friend and today is Thankful Tuesday at Micha's, so I'm a bit behind. Soon. For the moment though, I just want to sit and be thankful for...

~ Our Halloween Bats. I am not a big Halloween decorator, per se. I'm more about harvesty autumn things. I love the rich colors and leaves and pumpkins and hay bales and corn stalks and all that business more than zombies and skeletons, etc. But our neighborhood is really into the whole Halloween thing, so I thought I'd do a little something this year.

The other evening, I cut out bats of various sizes, added a purple glitter accent, and MM and I strung them up last night. I love them! They are bent cardstock, and the curve of the wing makes them dip and sway and spin. Totally look like bats fluttering. They are awesome. And so cute. :)


(Click photo to view larger.) And, note our garden. Rad. Also, I made pillow covers and the table cloth yesterday. Isn't that fabric pretty? Love the purple. Quite a Martha day for me. I even set out a decorative gourd. I know.

~ Paleo Snickerdoodles. Despite the rising temperatures, yesterday just felt like a snickerdoodle day. I had an invitation to morning tea, so I whipped up a batch of Urban Posers. Very delicious and snickerdoodle-y.


And speaking of paleo treats - check THIS out! Our family has a big party coming up and I'm bringing gluten free cakes. This might just have to be one of them. Woah nelly!


~ Roasted Cabbage. I didn't really grow up eating much cabbage. Mom would add it to the corned beef on Saint Patrick's Day, but it was always boiled within an inch of its existence. Slimy. Weird. Then as an adult, I'd have tacos with cabbage or spring rolls or sometimes an asian salad. These are good too. But this last year, I started just roasting wedges with oil, salt, and pepper. So freakin' good. We had some last night with a roast chicken, zuchini, and sweet potato. Perfect.

~ This view. Sunday was a weird day. We were tired and out of sorts and I was frazzly and couldn't find a place to sit at Starbucks. And the park was hosting a church service and the worship team was testing the sound system. And blerg blerg blerg! On a whim, I drove to the river and walked up the bluffs, and saw this.


I sat for an hour or so watching fish jump. (Huge ones! Always just out of reach for the various fishing boats. Must have been maddening for the fishermen.) I saw hawks, ducks, geese, squirrels, and dragon flies. I watched the plumed grasses flutter in the warm breeze.  I watched the slow, lazy river flow under the old bridge. I listened to kids hollering and dogs yelping and birds chattering and men swapping sports scores from the boat launch. Mostly I just took in the blue and the green and the yellow of the day. So peaceful. Lifegiving.

Later that night, MM and I snuggled and talked and prayed and rested. We just needed some peace and love, I think, cuz the next day we were all sorted out.

~ Good Health. I had my yearly doctor visit today, and it just feels miraculous to be where I am today versus where I was last year at this time. My stress level is way down and my body just feels so much better. Our doctor didn't even blink when we mentioned paleo. He smiled and said high nutrient diets are great, and recommended going ahead and adding the weight training in now instead of waiting. He's doing all the blood/urine tests to just make sure all my numbers are good, but was very encouraged to hear and see how much better I'm doing.

Me too. I've always been a healthy, energetic person, so the last couple years have been scary for me. I felt weak and frail and in so much pain. But now, I am hopeful that next year I'll be able to report that I can do lots of pushups and situps and I can use the 10 pound weights instead of the 2 pounders. This is very different than how I felt this spring.

What are you thankful for today?Add a comment. And zip over to Micha's to see what's cookin' over there. (Pictures of little boys in bowties for starters.)


10/11/2012

joyous

It is a quiet sort of day. I plan to curl up in the sun with my journal for a bit and then write, sew, bake, and clean some things. In lieu of me babbling on and on, I leave some lovely words by Dallas Willard. HT Tonia.

"Until our thoughts of God have found every visible thing and event glorious with his presence, the word of Jesus has not yet fully seized us...
We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy. Undoubtedly he is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of his love and generosity is inseperable from his infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and depth and richness."
Abundant love. Infinite joy. And to think, we are "made in His image."

10/09/2012

thankful tuesday - we so fayn-cee edition


We're celebrating Thankful Tuesday at Micha's today. Here's my list:

~ A new route to MM's work. We live next door to a gorgeous park, and for the last week or two we've avoided the traffic-laden main streets and have driven through a portion of parkway. Its a curvy road with groves of tall trees on either side. Pale sunlight streams through leafy branches, landing on dew-soaked grass. It's like driving through a forest. We sip coffee or tea from our travel mugs and chat. As someone who spent two decades in bumper-to-bumper commutes, I give this morning ride two thumbs up.

~ My brain. I updated a couple websites and blogs last week. And my "two hours, max" project turned into twelve hours, a break over the weekend, and several cusswords. The sites were all out of date, software-wise, so I had to do a bunch of upgrades on the back end and with the sites themselves to get all the bits of technology to play nicely with each other. There was a bug in the upgrade package, so I had to do some workarounds, blah blah blah - The important thing here is that: I AM FREAKING SMART PEOPLE!!! (Just threw the horns for myself.) I am so proud I can hardly stand it. This came on the heals of several weeks of work-related frustration and discouragement, so huge boost. Yay!

~ An encouraging note. A friend of mine sent me a message about my post from yesterday that just warmed me through and through. Again. It's been a discouraging time lately, and it meant so much to hear that something I wrote mattered to someone. She didn't know that I'd been discouraged; she was just kindly sending a note of thanks. Powerful to me, though. Words can build up as well as tear down. I need to be better about that - telling people that they have an impact on me. A friend of mine calls her website, "Your Story Matters." It does. I need to tell people that more often.

~ Fall. Oh! Finally! Good night nurse! It's been 100 degrees here til just this week. Now its in the 70s and the mornings are chilly. I put on a sweater today! I bought twice as many apples as we needed just so we'd have spares for apple crisps and cobblers and pancakes and... I pulled out the When Harry Met Sally soundtrack for the car. (Because I couldn't find John Denver in the morning rush.) I bought a big pumpkin for the front porch and set up my little scarecrow. I'm thinking of making paper bats to decorate for Halloween. I want to go walk in the woods and pick apples and make a pot roast and popcorn balls and spiced cider... OK. I'll stop now. I just. Be still my heart, I love this season.

~ And also... The glorious blue skies lately... a couple good hair days in a row... a fixed toilet... a sprinkle of nutmeg in my coffee... a gameplan for the approaching our big fall projects... a new golden bug light for the front porch... zinnia bouquets all over the house... MM being extra lovey-dovey, dreamy, romantic yesterday... upgrading to the $8 wine this week, cuz we so FAYN-CEE!

What about you? Is anyone thankful out there on this Tuesday. Leave a comment. Or, go visit Micha's site to see her list and leave a comment there.

10/08/2012

blue sky monday

It's Monday. I spent some time outside in a patch of sun, sipping tea and thinking thoughts and admiring the blue sky, in an attempt to pull myself together for this new week. I'm not tired, exactly, but I'm not rested either. I could use a vacation. Someplace quiet and beautiful. With maids and cooks and someone to bring me a cup of tea or a glass of wine depending on the hour... Apparently, I want to vacation at Downton Abbey.

Life is full these days, so I don't forsee much whitespace in the near future. I need to find my rest in the midst of housework and doctor visits and getting the oil changed and meeting deadlines and paying bills and planning events and loving my people...

~ ~ ~

The word we use a lot to describe the peaceful equilibrium we desire is "balance." We want to have it all, but in moderation, and all things in balance. But I don't think that's how life really works. Sometimes we have too much of everything all at once. Or nothing. Or the wrong things. And there is not enough time to fit it all in. There just isn't. To do everything we want we need longer days and stronger bodies and more years. Shoot. Just think of the books that I won't be able to get to in this lifetime.

Life is organic and mysterious and messy and beautiful and terrible and chaotic. Period. Life isn't stable or steady. It is a wild, rushing thing.

These days balance in life seems less like steady, orderly moderation, and more like surfing. Life comes at me in crazy waves. Huge waves that come in fast, and I have to paddle!paddle!paddle! to catch one just right, pop up, and bend and shift in response to the roaring power beneath my board. I can't control any of that power. Life just happens. And keeps happening! But I can train hard and know myself and my center of gravity and learn to read the waves and (try to) ride them instead of getting pummeled.

~ ~ ~

The last decade or so I've practiced "surfing" by learning to approach life more in terms of routines and rhythms and seasons and less in terms of deadlines, schedules, and "having it all". I am learning to evaluate my life on a regular basis and add and subtract things as needed.

This is hard for me. Saying "no" and "not right now" is not my default. I love all the things!



And it's gotten even more complex, now that I've got a surfing partner. Now it's the ebb and flow and wild rush of three lives: his, mine, and ours. We work hard to listen and discern what is needed and say yes and no to things accordingly. Sometimes what is needed is to invite someone to dinner; and sometimes what is needed is to hunker down and take a nap. We talk a lot about simplicity in regards to money, stuff, and time. We create routines for housework and administrative tasks and food preparation. And then we test and tweak and adjust as each season brings new considerations.

~ ~ ~

I may spend a bit of time writing through what we do and where we're at and why. This may be boring or interesting. Meanwhile, this is what the sky looks like today above my house.


10/02/2012

thankful tuesday with butter, salt, and oregano

Micha is busy moving her family halfway across the country, so she isn't "hosting" Thankful Tuesday this week, but I'm  following her meme, so I'm doing the whole graphic and everything.



Tadah!

~ Mashed yams with butter, salt, and oregano. Oh so delicious! MM and I are begining to think about our first paleo Thanksgiving. No bread stuffing, no rolls, no eggnog, no pies... That just sounds too sad. We can't do anything about the eggnog, but we can figure out low-sugar, paleo/gluten free versions of all the other stuff. Anyway, last night we had mashed yams with butter, salt, and oregano and decided that we need to bring it for Thanksgiving. I can just imagine it smothered with MM's delicious gravy.... and carmelized brussel sprouts with mustard sauce, and green beans and shallots....

~ Tiny pumpkins. It hit 100 degrees here in Fake West New Jersey yesterday. Blerg. But I don't care! It's still Fall, dangit. I've got zinnias to gather into bouquets and the beginnings of my tiny pumpkin collection piling up on the sideboard. They make me unreasonably happy.

~ MM's brain. My man is so freakin smart. And he has read all these things and knows all this stuff about things and events and people that I'm clueless about. He challenges me and stretches me and shows me several whole universes that I never knew existed. Sometimes my brain hurts from all the intense thinking, but it's facinating. We don't agree on everything, which gives us lots of opportunity to talk and philosophize.

~ Calisthenics. We seem to be all healed up from our various injuries and have started exercizing again. I did one full-on, I'm-in-the-army-now pushup yesterday. And five situps on the exercise ball. It was terrible. And awesome. Trying to figure out the best rhythm for us, but it looks like, for now, we can do some bodyweight stuff without much trouble. Finally! So, it's back to pushups, squats, situps, dips, and eventually pullups. (Geesh! Pullups scare me.) We're also using the Rolly Uppy thing that MM made for us to exercise our forearms, wrists, and hands. I do NOT want to get tendonitis in my thumbs ever again!

~ And... The Harvest Moon... crisp apples... hot coffee... new Chucks... clean dishes... fat squirrels running along the fence... sitting on the porch after dinner looking at the stars... fresh flowers in mason jars... holding MM's hand... a fresh crop of roses in the back yard... jojoba oil...

10/01/2012

dancing under the harvest moon

We had such a great weekend that I barely remember it. What happened? Oh, yes.

On Friday, I picked up my man after work and we went clothes shopping. MM's lost gobs of weight and inches since we've switched to paleo, and could no longer fake it with his work clothes. He has a fancy pants job that requires, well, Fancy Pants, and you can only add "pleats" so many times before they start looking more like Clown Pants. So, a quick trip to Nordstrom Rack, and he can last a little while longer. I'm praying that we get three months out of this set before buying more.

I've lost weight too, so I got a couple pair of pants at Khol's. It felt so good to have pants that fit! I hadn't realized how irritating my other pants were. I have a butt again!

Saturday, we slept in a bit and had a leisurely morning before heading to the ocean for a hike. Halfway there I realized I'd forgotten to grab my hiking shoes. Since I didn't want to brave the sandy cliffs in sparkly flip flops, we used our Super Smart Phone Powers to locate a DSW. I'd wanted new Chucks anyway, so it wasn't a total loss.

On the way there, MM prayed that we could find the store and they'd have grey Chucks in my size. We did. They did. I was briefly tempted by some blue ones, but clearly Providence favored the grey. Also, discovered that I need a size 7 NOT a 7.5. My red ones have kindof looked like Clown Shoes on me these last several years, and I never realized I'd gotten them too big. The More You Know.

Apparently, MM and I have problems with dressing like clowns.

We hiked all around the sandy, rocky cliffs of a close-to-us beach. The sky changed every minute, fog rolling in and out and pouring into the nooks and cranies of the coastline. Silvery sun shimmered on the water and the mist glowed on the sea. The salty wind alternately carried and muffled the rhythmic blast of the fog horn, the clang of harbor dingies, the call of birds, and happy shrieks of children. We saw lizards, tourists, herons, terns, egrets, hawks, a lone sea lion, and the largest crow ever. It was the size of a mini Cooper, I swear.

Oh, and a snake.

Yeah. It slithered across the path just a few feet in front of me. It was black with a long yellow stripe down its length. Talking about snake encounters, MM and I couldn't remember that little rhyme about snake colors and which one's are dangerous. MM vaguely remembers "Something something black, stay back." And I vaguely remember "something something yellow, Dangerous Fellow." Or is it Friendly Fellow? These guys know.

See? Gonners. We don't know our snake rhymes!

(Yet sadly, I have a LOT of "Ice Ice Baby" memorized.)

We tromped around and explored. There's tons of trails, and I'd love to go back and do more of them. After our hike, we went to the beach and enjoyed the ocean. That spot was going off. Big waves. Double overhead. Tons of surfers. One guy got pounded so hard he broke his board.

After we got too cold to sit there anymore, we headed home. We emerged from the fog just in time for sunset and a gorgeous Harvest Moon. Hanging huge and bright and radient in a purple sky.

We stopped at Peet's for coffee, and they'd turned on their super loud DON'T SLEEP HERE HOMELESS PEOPLE music, sort of a dreamy, jazzy, romantic guitar. So MM and I set our coffees down on the roof of the car and danced under the Harvest Moon. One of our best moon moments!

We have moon moments. Once, we lay on the pullout couch and watched the moon traverse across the sky til it went out of the window's view. We hauled our porch chairs out to the driveway one time to watch a particularly bright and beautiful moon. We ran down the street to catch sight of the Super Moon. And at a wedding recently, our party favor was an eclipse viewer, so we could watch the moon cover the sun. Now and then, when one of us catches sight of a particularly good moon, we'll holler for the other to join us. "That's a great moon! We should kiss!" (I know. We're dorks. We can't help it.) Tiny slivers of moon remind me of Rich Mullins, so I'll sing to MM,
"The moon is a sliver of silver
like a shaving that fell on the floor of a carpenter's shop.
Every house must have its builder
And I awoke in the house of God..."

We made it home, and slept the sleep of good children. Sunday, we woke up and did our usual Sunday things. I had a productive day, but started to feel frazzly and stressed by 4 o'clock. Our house is decidedly un-autumnal in the late afternoon heat (97 degrees???), so we headed to Starbucks for some air conditioning and groovy tunes. After an hour of mellow music, my foot on MM's knee, and a decaf Americano in my tummy, all was right with the world.

And today it is October. My favorite month. MM came home from Trader Joes yesterday with a pie pumpkin. I'm going to puree that baby and test out a recipe for me to make my own pumpkin spice lattes.

Happy Monday. Happy October. Happy please-o-please-o-please Autumn.