December 31, 2012

grinch-y thoughts

It is New Year's Eve .... and I am remembering Christmas Eve:  snow falling outside; the presents wrapped, the halls decked, the children reviewing their lines for a program at church that night.

And I -

- I was thinking grinch-y thoughts.

This is exciting:  snow! and Christmas Eve programs! presents! and family reunions! feasting! cookies to & from neighbors! bows! ribbons! secrets & surprises!

The trouble is, I don't want exciting.  I mean, I like it, at first.  I feel .... well, excited.  And then I feel tired.  Let-down.  Longing for a quiet place to think.

[disclaimer:  not everyone is like me.  I know that.  It's okay if you LOVE LOVE LOVE excitement and just can't get enough of the Christmas adrenalin.  I just speak for some of the rest of us:  not everyone is like that, either.]

~ : ~ : ~

Midway through my day, I forgot about the Christmas Eve program that my children would be participating in.  I savored the thought of an evening together, candles and children and movie and popcorn and hopefully someone begging to open just one present, pleeeease?? so that my Farmer and I could say yes.  My very spirit sighed at the respite in sight:  a quiet space, for us to rest in each other.

And then I remembered - oh yes, the program.  The program, for which we would need to eat supper over an hour early so we could get to practice, and keep Lil' Snip up [again!] past his bedtime, and have no time together to savor the last hours before we celebrate Jesus' birth.

Grrrrrrrinch-y thoughts, mine were, dripping with sarcastic accommodation .....

~ : ~ : ~

It's true, though, no one twisted my arm to make me sign Sugar and Spice up for the Christmas play.  And so we went, rushing supper to drive through swirling snowflakes, to arrive in the church parking lot ... before even the director had gotten there.

Reverent music filled the sanctuary, dimly lit with [flameless] candles.  Ahhh ..... !

Peace reigned .... briefly, until more children trickled in, fairly warbling with excitement, and were garbed in appropriate costumes.  There was an excited run-through, excited not-so-quiet whispers in the front pews, and excited shushings.  Family and friends arrived to watch, murmuring excitedly about the weather.  The program was executed just as Christmas Eve children's plays always are:  with enough precious bumbling - and a real baby! - to satisfy all the parents and grandparents in attendance.

Afterward we chatted with a few friends, and then brushed the still-novel snow off our cars to head home.

Tucked excited children into bed by the light of the almost-full moon.  Wrapped that last present and set it under the tree with the others.

And then?  Did we two snuggle on the sofa and contemplate the incarnation, enjoying at last the quiet?  Make room for reverence there in our home?

The truth is, I don't remember.

All I remember from that Christmas Eve night is the few music-and-candle-rich moments in the sanctuary, the magic of children on a spotlit stage, and the wonder of the snow ...

... and that was enough, even for a grinch like me.

Merry (belated) Christmas, and a very happy new year to you all!

December 19, 2012

goodwill toward men

Today, I went shopping with my children - all four of them, even two- and a half-year-old Lil' Snip, whose strong opinions are not always welcome on outings.

We went to the discount grocery store, and the health food store, and the post office, and the little country store (for specialty cocoa, therefore "the cocoa store" according to the aforementioned toddler), and the library (& its used bookstore), and the big grocery store, and the burger joint.

[I do not, for obvious reasons, attempt this kind of excursion with any regularity!!]

And you know what I discovered, shepherding all four children through seven destinations in the thick of the holiday season?

I live in a friendly town.

People smiled at us.  Held the door.  Wished us a Merry Christmas.  Laughed across the checkout lines.  Offered my children lollipops.  Complimented my handmade scarf.  Let us go first at intersections.  Made jokes with my children.  Struck up conversations about whatever was right in front of us, just out of sheer goodwill.

We were not perfectly behaved.  Spice and Nice were a bit spicy (& not-nicey) at times.  Lil' Snip was singing that famous toddler song that sounds suspiciously like whining, a few times when lunchtime loomed a little too near.

Why was an outing that could have been a challenge, a blessing instead?

Maybe it was Christmas cheer.  

Maybe it was happenstance.  

Maybe it was purely a gift from God.  

I'm tempted to think that it was because I was in a good mood, and did a better job than usual at using my pleasant voice, no matter what.  But I think I'll let the analysis go, for once, and just accept the gift.

I live in a friendly town, where folks, given half a chance, are chatty and helpful - and so, I'll bet, do you.

: : :

Merry Christmas!

December 2, 2012

O Christmas Tree

Tonight my Farmer put the Christmas tree together (yes, we're one of those) and the excitement in the room was exhilarating (if you like that kind of thing).  I stayed out of the way, catching up on my blog-reading (in which I discovered that two good friends, in two very different parts of the world, just bought/moved into their dream homes.  More later, maybe, on my conflicted internal response.).

Here is how I shared about this precious family bonding time, on facebook:

"It's awful but I don't even like the way they decorate the tree - I know it makes me Terrible Mother of the Year, but I would really love to have a color-coordinated tree, without all the trinket-y ornaments ... true confession."
"So, after they all go to bed, I get to put up the rest of the decorations, where I want them, without excited children dogging my every step, offering helpful choruses of suggestions."
"It's trinkets all the way here (and multi-colored lights- ugh).  And of course the irony is that when they're all grown and gone, and I can do the tree how I want it, I won't want it anymore, and I'll miss their excited gibbering."

Here is what I didn't share on facebook, that happened just a bit later:

Lil' Snip came into the livingroom and, unfazed by my laptop shield, exhorted me to "come see the lights, Mommy!  Come in to this room!!"  (Lil' Snip almost never speaks without exclamation points).

So I came with him, into this room, to behold the ugly multi-colored lights with my son.

The room lights were off, the better to admire their awkward handiwork.  The bottom half of the tree was highly ornamented.  There were dark, unlighted regions where the string of lights had been a little too eager to get to wherever it was going.  And under the tree, as close to the glory as they could get, lay my children.

They invited me to join them.  On the floor.  Under the tree.

So, I did.  I looked up through the branches at the lights, listened to Lil' Snip's nonstop excited commentary about the "sparkly-feeling" tree needles, watched his twinkling eyes reflect red, blue & yellow, and when he drummed his feet on the floor in sheer exhilaration, I joined him and drummed mine.  He looked at me, surprised, and smiled.  "Slowly, Mommy," he told me, slowing his own rhythm down.  Spice yelled "Mommy's having fun!!"

And I was.

They sang Christmas carols - O Come, O Come Emmanuel and Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming and Go, Tell it On The Mountain  - around that ugly, beloved tree.  Lil' Snip gave everyone goodnight hugs and kisses and was trundled off to bed, pleading "can we leave it up?"

The tree is up.  And thanks to the innocent delight of my children, so are my spirits.

I might even let them help decorate the rest of the house, tomorrow.

November 24, 2012

quiet, again

The clock says 8:30 but I feel like midnight.

My family was here today, all twenty of us, for Thanksgiving.  As each family bustled through the door, laden with food & children, our old farmhouse felt smaller and smaller.

When the last of them had left, over eight hours later, I cannot tell a lie:  I was glad.

It had been a good day, as family gatherings go.  Things went right far more often than I had expected.  I had forgotten far fewer things than I had feared.  Children played happily and toys were shared, mostly.  The food all turned out well, even the impromptu supper.  There was laughter and talking and the coffee did not run out.  Nothing broke.  No one was mean (not even the grownups).  Toys were cleaned up and toilets flushed the way they're supposed to (not something to be taken for granted in an old farmhouse!).

But I am a quiet person.  Oh, I can talktalktalk with the best of them, as my children, who regularly eavesdrop on my phone conversations, can attest.  But when it comes down to it, what I need after a good talk, is a good silence.

So while I enjoyed having them all here, I am also enjoying my quiet house, flickering candle, and the comforting presence of my Farmer, who also likes a good dose of quiet, reading beside me at the kitchen table.

November 19, 2012

sweater teddies

I went a little crazy the past few days creating these little snugglers:

So I opened a shop with Etsy to find them homes in time for Christmas.

: : :

It all started about a year ago . . .
. . . with a favorite wool sweater that shrank in the dryer, 
and a daughter whose friend got her a teddy bear kit for her birthday.

Lightbulbs went on in my head,
and Sweater Teddies were born.

Here they are, up close and personal:

Snowflake Bear

Bow-Tie Bear

Soft Blue Bear

Red Vest Teddy

French Knot Teddy

Maybe you or someone you know would like a huggable Sweater Teddy?

November 15, 2012

in my wildest dreams

There is a barn outside my window.

Fading white paint perseveres under a (mostly) new green metal roof.  Glass-block windows punctuate the low north wall.  A neglected milk-house, used by my daughters as a rainy-day play place, juts out westward, toward the house.  Inside, sunlight pours through the smudged six-paned windows that line the southern wall.  Broken panes admit the swallows who take up residence every spring, dotting the beams above with their mud nests and swinging merrily from one glass pipeline to another.  Two gutters, full of three decades of debris, stretch along the stalls for the length of the barn.

Around the back, a bank leads to the upper entrance.  The light is dim.  Dust swirls around two old hay wagons, stacked boards, and bales of ancient hay.  The floorboards, here and there, are soft - even missing! - underfoot.  One treads carefully.

The barn has sat empty, except for swallows and mice and farm-cats and children and the occasional coon, since the 1980's.  It looks like the Rapture happened - tools and cow chains and various metal implements left lying where they were last used.  Manure never mucked out of the box stalls molders when the rains seep in.  Log sheets hang on a clipboard in the milk-house, next to a cupboard of long-expired antibiotics.  Milkers dangle in water-less sinks.

Some days, when I am feeling wildly optimistic, I peek into the barn and see visions.

I see the aisles of tie-stalls replaced by an art-lined hallway, sunshine streaming into cozy groupings of plants and chairs, doors leading off into monastic retreat bedrooms where there used to be calf pens.  A quiet library where the box stalls were, and maybe a dining room.

Upstairs, where now the air is thick with quiet ... I picture busy corners of creativity:  a pottery studio, of course, and where the hay is stacked against the northern wall, a bank of windows, and an easel for paints or pencils.  A walled-off workshop for woodworking, maybe, and a music room.  Supplies for basket-making, chair-caning, candle-dipping, or any other kind of satisfying handwork.  Weaving?  The large high-ceilinged center of the floor for dance, perhaps.  And skylights.  A vast space for the rich interplay of communal creation, and for more solitary pursuits sometimes, too.

A drum circle.  Poetry readings.  Movie night.  Jazz improv.  Writing workshops.

A corncrib stands sentinel by the upper entrance, stacked full of my father-in-law's winter wood.  It could be, instead, a compact one-man retreat, walled-in with earth and heated with wood, a respite from electric's hum.  The farm could hide half a dozen little havens, tucked under trees, secluded from all but the birds.

: : :

I love to create beautiful things - pottery, food, photography, garden - but most of all I yearn to create beautiful spaces for living, for Life to happen.  To take something dusty & broken, something that is the very symbol of disappointed dreams, and turn it into the joy of living ... would make my spirit soar.

What's standing between my dream and reality?
Research.  Money.  Hard work.  Guts.

Will the barn ever become The Barn?  I don't know.

This is my wildest dream.

November 1, 2012

who's making progress here?

This morning, sitting with a roomful of women, our eyes glued to the high-heeled, passionate Texan on the screen, I caught a word picture that I did not care for, not one little bit.

Bitterness, she reminded us, gives Satan a foothold in our lives.

alexindigo's photo

Merriam-Webster defines "foothold" as "A secure position from which further progress may be made."  Yikes.  2 Timothy 2:26 intimates that the devil has plans that he hopes to accomplish.  Guess what:  I don't want the devil making progress in my life!

So, am I bitter?  I asked myself.  According to Ephesians 4:26, it is the anger that controls me, that I hold on to past the daylight hours, that gives Satan a foothold in my life, allows him to gain ground, to make progress, to get done what he wants to get done.

And what is he after, this enemy, this accuser of our souls?  Satan, that thief, that father of lies, comes, Jesus says, only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10).

Do I want to contribute to that?  Is holding on to the wrongs done to me (be they real or imagined) worth that kind of price?

Of course not.  And the antidote is simple:  forgiveness.

So here's another image:  Satan losing his foothold - not gaining ground, but losing ground!

Mountain climber falling during an icy climb up th
Mansell/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

Okay, so Satan losing ground is good.  But simple does not equal easy.  And forgiveness - not just once, but seventy times seven, daily(!) (Matthew 18:21-22) - can be formidable.

To just let go, like that, exposes me to more pain, more injustice, more wounds.

On the other hand, it also frees me, to receive love.......

..... to receive abundant life (John 10:10), and the flowing of the Holy Spirit in my life (Ephesians 4:30).

Whose progress do I want to cooperate with?

I am certain, Paul writes to the Philippian church, that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

I'm letting go ......

...... will you?

October 29, 2012

rained in

Hurricane Sandy is approaching.

We all mob the stores for milk, bread, or our own personal emergency supplies of choice (chocolate, for instance, or sardines, or pretzels).  Excitement and dread transform the checkout lines:  everyone is a friend with whom to discuss the weather and your preparations.  Facebook abounds with photos and commentary, predictions and confessions.

Our bathtub is full of water, the trampoline is weighted down with pellet bags, the pantry and fridge are stocked with no-prep foods, and the children are going stir-crazy.

I feel a certain poetic obligation to regal you with tales of how we all gathered in the kitchen today to bake chocolate chip cookies and play board games together .... but alas, it would be pure fabrication.  Mostly I tried to block out the piping voices of four excited, house-bound children - no, wait, they weren't even entirely house-bound!  We actually sent them out into the storm this morning to play for a bit (well, sort of:  they were allowed to dash through the rain to play in the barn for an hour, and they took a walkie-talkie with them for communication purposes).

Power outages do give me warm fuzzies, sort of.  Preparing for them, not so much.  Candles and story-telling and singing are the stuff of memories .... but as long as the lights are still on, the noise levels tempt me to use my Farmer's target-shooting earplugs.

Just sayin .....

October 28, 2012

drops of rain

The talk at church this morning was as much about Hurricane Sandy as it was about communion, almost.  Facebook was full of it (as usual).  After lunch, I hard-boiled the eggs, filled water coolers and five gallon buckets, baked a gingerbread, and, feeling a little crazy, invited a friend's family to come for supper.

Outside the window, the sky was overcast but calm, the windchimes far from frantic, yet.

Our last-minute social plans fell through, and we gathered around, just us, for our usual simple Sunday night fare:  popcorn, fruit, pretzels, cheese, trail mix, and - just for tonight - my gingerbread & applesauce.

Night fell quietly, and Sugar & Spice laid aside their earlier squabbles to play Mancala.  Nice & Lil' Snip made their own peace, and built forts out of the sofa cushions.  My Farmer strummed his banjo thoughtfully and I peered over my book at my lot in life, spread out across the livingroom.

I'm low today, a little.  Ungrounded, adrift.  It anchors me to watch my children play, to hear their happiness, to bear their fighting, even.  They're mine.  They came from me, and God knows where they'll go.

A night of family shores me up, fills in the cracks of dryness in my soul.

The rains begin, outside.

October 24, 2012

wasteland no more

Reading in Isaiah this morning:

"... for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil.  
Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, 
and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.  
I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, 
and rebuild them as they were at first.  
I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, 
and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.  
And this city shall be to me 
a praise and a glory 
before all the nations of the earth 
who shall hear of all the good that I do for them.  
They shall fear and tremble because of all the good 
and all the prosperity I provide for it.

"Thus says the Lord:  In this place of which you say, 
'It is is a waste without man or beast,' 
in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, 
without man or inhabitant or beast, 
there shall be heard again the voice of mirth 
the voice of the bridegroom 
and the voice of the bride, 
the voices of those who sing, 
as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord:

"'Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
     for the Lord is good,
     for his steadfast love endures forever!'

"For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, 
says the Lord."

          {ch. 33:5-11}

October 22, 2012

blinded, mostly

God is up to something.

Of course He is - He always is.  But -

- sometimes He peels back the curtain a bit and invites us to look in.  It takes my breath away, every time.  Even before I understand what I'm looking at.

It makes me realize that He's always up to something, and it's always more than I could comprehend in my wildest dreams, and it's always good.

Just sayin.'

Stay alert.  Watch, and pray.  Your prayers matter, more than you think.  You are part of the plan, and when He's ready, He will reveal the little bit that you can handle in this lifetime, and if you look closely ....

.... maybe you'll see the twinkle in His eye.

October 13, 2012



A good day, a long one.

Up at 6:14, fully thirty-nine minutes after my alarm clock was supposed to have gone off.

Shower fast, grateful that I loaded the van with my pottery and table the night before.

Eat breakfast at a bad-for-my-digestion speed and I'm outta there.

Set up table with 35-degree fingers late-nervous-fast to be all ready just in time, and then - finally sit down.  On my wet camp chair.

Relax anyway.  (but, standing up).

Spend six hours on my feet (except for when I thought my camp chair had dried out, and tried it again...) smiling at people who mostly bought no pottery, but sometimes (thank you!!) did.  Memorize their faces, these people who loved my pots.

And eventually, visiting with my friends, neighbors, God-family, without glancing back at my table for customers, just looking into eyes and feeling spirits expand as they unload themselves of a little piece of who they are, trusting it into my hands.  Stand in that sun, warming my jeans, my hair.  Soak it up.  Soak it in deep.

The rush of the morning, the coming crush of evening's appointments, all fade in the sun, in the warm crowd of people, mingling souls.

: : :

"I wonder," wrote Dr. Frank Crane nearly a century ago, "if it is written just which souls, of all the millions, shall touch ours?  And each one whose personality impinges upon ours, even in the least, leaves some particles of flavor of himself upon us, and we upon him."

I believe it is.  And I believe that someday we will see the beautiful tapestry that has been woven of all the miscellaneous threads of our meetings.

I did some weaving today.

October 11, 2012


Breathe in .... breathe out ....

Two weeks ago our family took a break from life's everyday pace,
to better experience life every day.
For half a decade, maybe, we've been doing this in the fall.
We call it "family week."

We un-attic (& de-stinkbug) the tent ...

... build a fire, and see how long we can keep it going ...

... coffee sets the mood for relaxing ... 
(with an impromptu science lesson regarding coconut oil & cream)

... eat outside every meal that we can ...

... make the most of the new "living space" ...

... learn new skills ...

... smile a lot ...

... firegaze a lot ...

My Farmer took our daughters to the county park to hunt mushrooms.
They also found a grapevine big enough to swing on!

... and a covered bridge ...

One night for supper he made arepas - 
two corn fritters fried with cheese in the middle.
We ate them so hot they burned our fingers.
We didn't care.

Spice & Sugar made dyes from pokeberries, walnut hulls, and pulverized grass,
to color corn husks for corncob doll clothes.

Off on another mushroom hunt, this time in our own woods.

... puffballs ...

... gleaned corn, more mushrooms, and a snail!
Can you see him?

Nice shelling her corn.

... and Spice claims the snail for a pet!

We gathered chestnuts from the treeline, 
roasted them over the fire ...

... and created the Perfect S'more!

... went fishing ...

... looked for beauty in the ordinary ...

... lounged on the hammock ...

All week, we breathed, in & out ...
... talked, read, sat in the sun ...
... drank in the outdoors God gives us for our inner calm.

It stilled our souls,
readied us for "regular" again, 
made it easier to say no, thanks to things that steal our still,
our gratitude re-birthed.

Better than a vacation in the tropics
was this week at home.

October 10, 2012

unbelievable chocolate

Friends, I should totally be making supper, but instead I am writing to tell you about some unbelievable "homemade chocolate" that I just made.  You.  Have.  Got.  To try this!

(and please don't tell Janet Gehman, my favorite high school English teacher, that I just wrote and published a sentence with that kind of incredibly made-up punctuation in it.  . . . on the other hand, she just might approve!)

Okay, credit where credit is due:  this recipe comes from homemade mommy's blog.  I don't know anything else about her but believe you me I am going to find out.  Anyone who invents something this easy, this mind-blowingly yummy, this healthy deserves my investigation!

Enough build-up.  I am unkind to linger.  Here is the recipe:

Homemade Chocolate

1/2 cup coconut oil (the more expensive is supposedly better but just use what you have and research that later)
1/4 cup honey (raw is best)
1/2 cup cocoa (if you know someone in southeast PA, have them ship Wilbur's cocoa to you)
1/2 tsp. vanilla (please, I beg you, do not use imitation vanilla in this.....)
dash of salt

Mix:  warm the oil and raw honey if necessary, but if you're impatient like me you can just mash it all together with a wooden spoon.  Spread on wax paper and chill.  If you melted, you'll have to line a pan with wax paper and pour it in - see, sometimes being impatient actually saves you time!!  Even out the edges with a knife as it chills.  Eat the trimmings.  So important to have the edges even, isn't it?  And so easy for them to get wobbly.  Trim frequently if necessary.  Go ahead and feel virtuous about the honey and coconut oil.

If there is still some left by the time it's chilled (after all those trimmings), cut into bite-sized pieces and eat 'em up!!!  I mean, store in airtight container and ration out a single piece daily, to be consumed mindfully and with gratitude.

Do share the recipe.  Share the chocolate, too, if you're sufficiently generous.  (and I know you are, or you wouldn't be reading this blog!!)

Ahhh ... doesn't life seem a little bit brighter, now that you can make your chocolate, and eat it, too?

October 5, 2012


At the end of each day, my husband and children and I gather on the sofa (we can still all fit, if laps are involved) and, among other things, talk about the best parts of our day.

Dirt was my highlight, today.

I went outside, initially, to pawn Lil' Snip off onto Sugar.  I had stuff inside I wanted to do (as usual).  But, once outside, I was invited to view a catfood-making enterprise, starring soaked corn gleaned from the fields around us.  Then there were the bikers, lost on country roads, who were desperate enough to consult my 10-year-old for directions.  And then .... I saw the weeds.  One thing always leads to another ...

I had seen the weeds before, of course, but somehow they didn't register until I viewed them with my mother-in-law present.  This morning when she came to whisk Spice away for a day out, Nice urged her to accept a chrysanthemum, which somehow led to us all admiring the (weed-choked) plants.  THEN I saw the weeds!

So when I saw them again, later that morning, I thought I might as well do something [small] about it.  It always starts so innocently:  I'll just pull out a few of the larger grasses so we can see the mums better.

And before you know it, twenty minutes have passed, the children are all helping with gusto, and my fingernails are black with dirt.  Glorious, actually.  I felt invigorated.

As a bonus, when I turned around to survey my newly visible lavender, hosta, and chrysanthemum bed, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a scrap of palest violet under the star magnolia by the end of the wall.  Could that be - ?!

It was - the saffron bulbs (corms?) that I had planted while my daughters held a flashlight for me one night last fall, the ones that I had searched for in vain during a mid-summer weed-cleansing, had come up!  They had actually bloomed, these little dainties I had given up for lost!!  I applied my grimy nails to grubbing out the grass and creeping Jenny that had grown up under the magnolia, and soon found all twelve corms (bulbs?), each sprouting a translucent tube of emerging glossy dark-green spike-leaves.  And two blooms, complete with fragrant crimson stigmas (thank you, wikipedia - I was going to call them stamens....) destined for a pot of chicken corn soup this winter.  Ahhh .... that was worth the stained fingernails!

We'll be looking for more blossoms soon.  More stigmas for our soup.

That's some good dirt.

September 13, 2012

my pieces

Motherhood, someone said, is having your heart walk around outside your body, a piece in each of your children.

I watched my pieces tonight.

One of them, we won't say who (winkwink), got his hair cut, and squirmed such exquisitely-timed squirms that you would almost think he tried it.  And then, when it was over, and his parents had reconciled, and the helpers (one to hold a bowl for the hair and one to provide commentary for the laptop tractor video that his father couldn't see because the haircutter's arm was blocking his view) had dispersed, and his mother was sprawled in a lawnchair to recover, then he came over with his charmingest smile, put his head in my lap, and said "more haircut?" so winsomely that I almost thought he meant it.  But then I saw the twinkle.

That boy is solid twinkle.  (Although sometimes the twinkle is temporarily obscured by certain other traits!)

Another of my pieces followed her biking sisters on her trike, down the grass, down past the house, down the treacherous-to-tricycles hill, but got distracted by the possibility of ripening red raspberries and never made it to the end of the lawn.  She found three that were red enough, and promptly ran back to the porch to give one each to my Farmer and me.

Generous to the core, that piece.

The oldest piece taught the twinkly-trouble piece how to go "wheeeeeeeee!!" down the little hill on a mini Big Wheel.  He laughed his head off and repeated it over and over, stopping only to offer his teacher a turn.

And where, we wondered suddenly, was the middle piece?  Off riding bike by herself, it turned out, and I remembered how, as a crawling baby, she would bore of the toys (or was it the company?) in the room we occupied, and strike out on her own for new territory.  I'm glad that her current explorations are still limited to what's within sight of the house, mostly, and that she still cherishes my company, at least when I'm tucking her into bed at night.

We took some pictures of the newly-shorn one, and tucked him giggling into his crib.  Sat dumbfounded on the porch a bit, dazed still by the speed with which life rushes past, and finally called the others in as dusk fell, to popsicles and prayers and praise.

Having my heart in pieces means more heartache, it's true, but there is more fullness, too.  We used to have that now-illusive "peace & quiet", true, but not nearly so much laughter.

It's a good trade.

September 12, 2012


Just looking closer, these last few days, I see an abundance to spur gratitude in me:

a rock vase, from a friend ...

... recipe dividers made with new markers ...

... a pot of chili to eat by the campfire ...

... one of Lil' Snip's favorite corners ...

... a towel I find eye-pleasing ...

... creamy homemade body butter ...

... the wonder of metamorphosis, every time ...

There is much.  I am grateful.

September 10, 2012


I am staring again at the chrysalis.

So dry.  So lifeless it hangs there.

No movement for days, weeks.  The first slick green fades, browns, withers a bit.  To all appearances:  dead.

You don't know, you just can't tell, until one morning, the blackest of them - the one we were sure wouldn't hatch anything but a wasp, if that - cracks open to show off velvety wings, brilliant with color, and a perfect black swallowtail flies away.

You just don't know, until that morning.

It all looks dead, hopeless, until that morning.

"...we are nothing, have nothing, can do nothing but sin." writes John Newton.

"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns."  Philippians 1:6

Sometimes the work is being continued silently, in hidden ways and in hidden places.  Sometimes it all looks dead and lifeless.  And only He knows ...

...until the day when Christ Jesus returns ...   

... that's a long time to wait.

"Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,"  Hebrews 12:12

"Moses' arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset."  Exodus 17:12

September 7, 2012


Last night as I was brushing my teeth, I realized with a start that I have become a hippy.  Unaware of the gradual transformation, I've neglected to let my hair grow long and accumulate a wardrobe of long swirly skirts, so I don't look like a hippy yet, but give me time . . .

I guess it all started back when I first met my Farmer, in 1993.

He had some earthy interests – in-ground houses being one of the more literal (and novel) ones. Academic pursuits aside, most of what he liked to do would have been well-suited to a commune. In fact, after he graduated college, we spent a summer on one in northern Georgia. We read the Moosewood cookbook and made falafel and lentils. He taught me to chop wood. We double-dug garden beds and made paper (fun) and mead (yum) and banana wine (yuck). I learned to manage a woodlot (sort of) and fish and gather eggs. For a very yucky couple of weeks, I copied some of the crunchier folk around me and let my leg hair grow. **shudder**  Not for me, that one.

Time passed. We went our separate ways, him to Japan to teach at a junior college, me to finish my last two years at college, then to get my own job teaching English in Japan, 20 train hours south of him. Some of the other ex-pats near me tended toward hippy-dom, but I didn't know any of them well enough for it to rub off much.

A few years later found my Farmer and me, married, visiting “our” commune again after a road trip 'round the country. We planted figs and elderberries and reminisced, and went home to garden and dream of a round house built on a meadow.

But so far the hippy influence had been pretty mild.  It cranked up another notch when, visiting a friend home from the mission field, we were introduced to “missionary medicine” - a wicked-tasting concoction of garlic, onion, jalepeno, ginger, horseradish & vinegar, reputed to cure anything.  The idea of curing garden-variety illnesses with, well, garden ingredients, appealed to us, and we made some.  We tried it out on our sore throats shortly afterward and were impressed at the results.  Then, as our babies began to arrive, we started learning about and using food-based remedies  rather than bottles from the pharmacy shelves:  ginger for nausea, garlic oil for earaches, elderberry for colds and flu, herbs for allergies, honey-lemon for coughs.

A few years further down the road, a friend who made her own laundry detergent inspired the DIY streak in me to give it a try (three tries, actually, till I found a recipe that works in our hard water). An article connecting breast cancer (which has shown up in my family tree more than once) with the use of anti-perspirant and a certain feminine undergarment prompted me to search out deodorant alternatives and go (discreetly) without either, for a time.

And then a year or two ago, tooth problems and the potential bill for a root canal had us searching out other possible solutions to dental assumptions, and ended with an infection healed, and me (& eventually the rest of us) trading toothpaste for baking soda.

But the real clincher, the straw that broke the yuppie's back so to speak, was the “no-shampoo” movement, as championed by my sister. She posted teasers on facebook and soon had me looking up links where people raved about how gorgeous their hair became (after a greasy month or so) using only baking soda to wash it and vinegar to condition.

I was dubious. My hair, surely, was the exception. Oily at the roots, notoriously dry at the tips, and too short to put up in the proverbial ponytail – no way would this work.

But … baking soda & vinegar instead of xeno-hormone- and chemical-laden shampoo … ? I had just spent a month reading up on perimenopause and its exacerbators (xeno-hormones is one of them), and I was too intrigued to not try it.

And so the last frontier has been crossed.

It has been just over five weeks since I last used shampoo: I am officially a “dirty hippy.”

But you know what?  It's fun!  I am happy. Making my own “shampoo” and “deodorant” and laundry “detergent” gives me a sort of mudpie-making, thumbing-your-nose-at-the-rules pleasure.  It feels good to use products whose ingredients I understand on myself and my family.  I won't go back.

You should try it!

: : :

You might like it.

August 20, 2012

a curious rest

Today it is quiet in my house.

After my Farmer laced up his work boots and drove off in the Box (our Scion xB), I sat a bit and thought about my day.

I could run errands.

I could lie on the hammock.

I could read.

Or, I could give that door to the garage another coat of paint.

Which I did, my paintbrush stilling my mind to give ear to a sermon on renewing the mind by Bill Johnson.  I wanted to hear more (and don't listen well without activity), so I painted the doorposts around another door, listening to the next sermon in the series.

I scrubbed the sink mats and the kitchen sink while listening to part three.  I washed the dishes to part four.

I drove out for more paint - red, this time, working up my courage for bold color.

Home, I contemplated.  Red - really?  What if I was wrong?  What if it was too much?

[what would my Farmer say?  I asked myself.  He would say - you can always paint over it.]

I dipped my brush into the red ("Wow, that's a lot of red!" the man at the hardware store had said, admiringly, as he added pigment to the can) and ran it along the window frame.  Bright!  I brushed down the side to the sound of Bill Johnson's voice:  part five.

I finished the frame and moved on to paint a door red.  Then doorposts to another door (we have a LOT of doors in our kitchen - nine, if you count empty doorways, too).  Part six.

I took a break to grill a sandwich.  I scraped a screen door (but need outdoor paint for that one) and looked at a new-to-me budget website.  Retired to the hammock to call my Farmer about supper plans.

My day is nearly over, now.

Somehow, despite the work I did, despite the listening, and listening, and listening ... I had a day of rest.  I am still inside - "I have stilled & quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me."  Psalm 131:2

Curious.  My mind feels renewed ...

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