Monday, October 31, 2011

Just for a Season

   This past summer's extreme heat and drought robbed us of so much greenery and lushness that Handsome and I truly did not expect to enjoy our usual colorful Oklahoma autumn. We kind of jokingly (insert bitterness here) thought that we would wake up one day to naked trees, just bark wrapped limbs that had surrendered to the dry, cold air. We had preemptively accepted one big, overnight leap from a brutal summer to a dismal winter.

   So imagine our surprise when we started noticing the alleys of brilliant reds, oranges, and golds, hundreds of trees glowing with life and quietly touched by the Creator's hand.

   
What a wonderful gift of mercy and love, 
that when we actively expected the worst,
God gave us the best!

   Anyway, this really has my attention, because I know that the intense display of saturated color can only last so long. We should enjoy it daily, pressing it for every ounce of pleasure and awe these blessings are worth. Because the time will soon come when tree limbs cannot help but stand naked again. We will be shrouded in heavy coats and neutral landscapes, daydreaming of single blades of green grass.

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth
seeking the successive autumns."
~George Elliot (19th century English novelist)

   The Bible uses the seasons metaphor prolifically, reminding us there is a natural rhythm to life. Regardless of who we are or what our unique circumstances are, change is inevitable. Growth, loss, conflict, bonding, new beginnings, revitalization, pain, and even decay are all ingredients of a full human experience.  Knowing that most things are only here for a season causes me to pay attention.  Understanding that the nature of most exposure is temporary reminds me to...
  • Genuinely enjoy passion and romance every single time it blooms.
  • Capitalize on my physical health and strength while I have it and work to maintain these gifts.
  • Make better use of swells of time and energy. Not all weekdays are created equal, after all!
  • Be patient in loneliness and learn to profit from silence.
  • See jealously for what it really is and grow from that.
  • Maintain a longer view in troubles, not living shortsighted and expecting problems to be resolved quickly. Do not take short cuts to a perceived solution because of emotional impatience. There is a reason for this trial, and it is not all about me.
  • Love, love, love the people who are in my life today, right now at this moment. Be fully present for them and appreciate them. Love them, love them, love them.
  • Redeem the time, every day, no matter what it brings you, no matter what the need.
  • Be conscious of pain and regret but do not wallow in it. Pain is a signal to be heeded, not something that always calls for escape and numbing. God, who is infinitely wiser and stronger than me, can use unpleasantness to improve me. He is the Master artist and engineer, able to redeem us out of sin and turn death literally into life. He can turn pain into joy.
  • Enjoy my blessings and abundance, not wasting them out of shame or false humility. 


   I watch these groves of maple, pear, oak, blackjack, and pecan trees pulse with life and color, undaunted by their cycles. I know that everything is bound to pass away, both the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the pleasant and the painful. If I were to live only in my memories of summertime or only in my dread of winter, then I would miss out on the astounding beauty of autumn, which is so brief.


   Whatever you're going through right now, know that there is a purpose for it, probably many purposes at once. Every season brings with it the opportunity for both improvement and pleasure. Accept your mixed gifts with joy. Count your blessings. Keep your troubles in perspective and train yourself to profit from them. Be present in the moment. Open your eyes to beauty.  Breathe deeply and feel the rhythm of life. 

Happy Fall Ya'll!
xoxoxoxo
   

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I've Done Stuff

   Sometimes I look at my life and feel like I need to dig a little deeper, 
experience more, contribute more, learn more, etc.  
Mama Kat's writing prompt this week caught my attention, then, 
as an invitation to list a coupla dozen things I've done.  
Inventories are groovy.  

   After brainstorming a bit, I gave myself a chuckle and relaxed.  
Because anyone who has busted out her front teeth THIS many times
 is living a full life indeed.

Mama’s Losin’ It


1.  The first thing I ever did in this life was become the child of two of the world's most humble, generous, loving human beings you will ever meet.  I was child Numero Uno.  They must have really liked me, because then they had four more.  I consider myself their prototype.

2.  Then, around the age of nine, I experienced the first chapter of my tooth breaking saga.  Gym class (we called it P.E.) was indoors that day, in the school auditorium where the floors were glossy, polished hardwood.  Hard.  The whole group was instructed to do the "Duck Walk," which is pretty much the most awkward, humiliating, and as we would all soon learn, DANGEROUS type of animal impression an uncoordinated young girl can attempt.  Allow me to illustrate.  You squat down, feet shoulder width apart.  Wrap your arms around the outside of your ankles.  Now start "waddling."  Go ahead and quack passionately while doing this, it really ups the authenticity.  So...  that's all your supposed to do.  But I took it a step further and crashed forward onto the polished hardwood floor.  It was hard.  My arms were still tangled around my legs, and I was stuck in a horrible pretzel wreck in the middle of about thirty screaming, laughing dis-compassionate classmates.  Oh, and my front tooth was stuck in the hardwood floor.  Hard, except now for the indentation left by my tooth.  I needed help untangling my limbs and extricating my face from the floor.  That was break number one as I remember it.  It hurt a lot.  I remember my nose throbbing and stinging, but I had no idea that sensation that would reappear so often in life.  (Cue scary, suspenseful music...)

3.  Let's skip ahead not quite twenty years, when I fell in love a city other than my hometown.  I'd heard of the phenomenon but it seemed silly to me, overly romanticized, until I first saw New Orleans.  This is truly a magical place, a sensory feast and a vortex of history, imagination, and possibility.  

4.  I have chosen a favorite teacher in my mind based partly on her penmanship. 

5.  I have been to Italy with my Mom and a church choir.  My purpose was to sing and tour religiously significant places, not learn the language and chase carbs.  Although I did not avoid carbs necessarily.  And I etched a treble clef into a marble garbage can casing, thus leaving my mark.


We're jumping around a lot chronologically, by the way.

6.  Just a few years ago, I saw a tornado pass by my kitchen window, just about nine feet from where I stood.  I get goosebumps when I remember that.  Growing up in Oklahoma, tornadoes are the real deal, but they're also fairly commonplace.  It wasn't until several hours later that I understood how close I was to danger.  Whew.

7.  I have cried real, sobbing tears after riding the Superman ride at Six Flags Over Texas.  Don't do it.  It is awful.  I frightened a ten year old boy sitting next to me.  Handsome was so proud, he took many, many pictures of the salty, wet aftermath.

8.  Back to grade school for chapter two in my tooth breaking saga.  I was walking backwards down a corridor, not realizing I was also walking at a diagonal.  When I turned to go forward, I was too close to the painted concrete wall and S-M-A-C-K!  I lost another front tooth.  That familiar throbbing, stinging nose pain.  And a bloody mouth.  Again.

9.  I have accidentally colored my hair a shimmering shade of aqua blue.  My youngest daughter, ever the cheerleader and sweet comforter of nervous people, tried to convince me I looked like a mermaid and it wasn't that bad.  By the way, the magic mermaid combination seems to be bleaching your hair to a summer blonde color then immediately washing with really cheap, green, apple scented shampoo.  You're welcome.  Enjoy.  Oh, if you do this for Halloween this weekend, please send me photos!

10.  I have walked with Handsome all night in Las Vegas, falling more deeply in love, taking in the lights and the sights, and ending the trek at Denny's for a very early breakfast.  Or a very late dinner, depending on your perspective.

11.  I have bottle fed baby buffalo and raised one to a thriving and bouncy age so far of three and a half.

12.  I have given birth to the world's most beautiful, most sensitive, most talented girls.  Every day I attempt to write about each of these young women, and every day the words fall flat and hollow compared to my love for them.  Sixteen and then fourteen years of motherhood are enough to fuel a lifetime of writing, yet I feel completely unworthy to relay the experience.  If you know these girls, then you understand the awe I feel.  If you do not then you have missed out on two world changers, two absolute gifts of love and beauty and grace.

13.  I once lost a front tooth cap by eating a seemingly innocuous apple.  I took a bite, withdrew said apple from my mouth, and discovered my tooth cap wedged happily in the sweet, white fruity flesh.  No pain this time, just more groaning from my ever patient parents.  More dentist attention.

14.  Handsome took me snorkeling in Mexico twice, in Texas a few times, and in Florida too.  On the second Mexico trip, I barely missed stepping on a sizable stingray that was buried in the sand.  I also crashed gracelessly against a stand of sharp coral reef and almost needed a band-aid.  And according to Handsome's report, a four foot shark was eyeballing me underwater.  Still, the Superman ride was scarier.

15.  I have feared for the life of both of my children during gut wrenching medical emergencies, and I witnessed every time the power of prayer and the miracle working Love of God.  We are undeserving of His mercy and grace, but that's why it's mercy and grace.  Not a day passes that I am not aware of how blessed we are to still have both of the girls with us, even if they aren't with us.  The memory of these miracles, this thankfulness, is often the only thing left to fuel hope for the future.  But it's enough.

16.  With my friend Tina, I started a book club this past January, unsure of where it would take us but excited to explore new territory.  Since January, our group has grown from four to over twenty, and we have devoured seven books.  I don't mind admitting a little pride over this.

17.  Age twelve.  While swimming underwater, eyes shut, I did a back flip.  I was pretending to be a sea lion. Normal?  Sure.  I swam S-M-A-C-K into the concrete wall of the pool and lost another front tooth.  Incidentally, I was in jeans and a button up shirt, not a swimsuit, because it was a spontaneous trip into the cold water.  That may or may not have impacted my sense of balance underwater, but regardless it's seared in my memory.  I emerged from the pool, clothes heavy with dripping chlorine water, toothless and bloody.  That was a long drive home to my dental-bill paying parents.  Have I ever mentioned to you how patient they are?

18.  I have been a working mom and a stay at home mom, and now I am a mom at home whose kids are not here.  These are vastly different experiences, and on days when I can emotionally afford the perspective, I am glad to have had all three in my lifetime.  It does not make me an expert, but it certainly deepens my compassion for all kinds of women.

19.  Just recently I started this blog.  Again, not sure about the path or purpose exactly, but the writing has been cathartic.  And I have already met some fantastic people!   

20.  Once at Camp Cimmarron I was watching my friends play a tense game of table soccer.  Fusbol, as some people call it.  Their opponents were, in my mind, vile acting and way too aggressive.  They were the older girls who got to sleep in the train cars, not the cabins, and they wore too much mascara for their age.  As the game progressed and the unfairness of their tactics increased, something snapped inside me.  My friends were being threatened, though I could not have articulated at that time by what.  Without warning or explanation, I reached over the edge of the table and snatched the dirty white ball from the game.  I clearly remember the meanest girl glaring at me with her tortoise shell snap barrettes.  Everyone was shocked, including me.  I'm not proud of that.  Well, maybe a little.

21.  I discovered that True Love is real and that it is worth the search and the wait.  It is also worth the attention and time needed to grow and strengthen.

22.  February of this year marks the most recent traumatic event in my dental saga.  I was piling hay for our big animals and did the classic cartoon thing. I stepped on a rake.  A long, metal rake with a bright red handle.  It happened in a split second, just crack.  No more front tooth.  Again.  Again with the bloody mouth and throbbing, stinging nose.  Again with the phone calls and appointments and impressions and caps and laughing gas.  Again with the awkward smiles and hand-to-mouth laughing.

It's raining at the farm right now.  The breeze is cool.
  The animals are hushed and sleepy, and I could make coffee 
and eat toast with pumpkin butter for hours.  
These are excellent writing conditions.  
Unfortunately, I have a dentist appointment this morning, 
so I really should close up shop now.  I'm not even kidding.  
This tooth thing continues to overshadow my life.




Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Another Reason to Love Mornings

    Do you adore mornings? Early morning is my very favorite time of day, that slice of time between the darkest hours of night and the palest, most timid moments of dawn. Everything is hushed. Generally the air outside is calm, no matter the season. The house is still and lit only here and there by a few golden pools of light. I am almost always the only one awake at this time, and it's a wonderful time for perfect coffee.  

   Early morning is when my mind is most fluid and able to tap into that collective stream of life's possibilities.  Everything feels fresh, possible, and important.  While the sun is trying to reach over the east field, I always think I can do anything and that everything good and worthy can still happen.  

   This evening I ran across a few sentences that spoke volumes to me even before I realized they were spoken by one of this past century's most quotable men, John Wayne:

"Tomorrow is the most important thing in life.
Comes into us at midnight very clean.
It's perfect when it arrives,
and it puts itself in our hands.
It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."

   What do you think about this? Are you as enamored as I am by the gift of a new morning, by the opportunity and obligation to do better in this new day than we did in the previous one? No need to wait until January first of next year; we have new beginnings available to us every single day. And so we should be deeply grateful for every single day.

   We see in the Old Testament even more encouragement to love dawn: 

"It is of the Lord's mercies 
that we are not consumed,
because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning:
great is thy faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23


   I encourage you to read that entire chapter in Lamentations. Especially if you are in the mode of counting your blessings, these passages are both humbling and strengthening, filled with encouragement to lean on God.  Rely on Love.

   If you spend your earliest morning moments preparing for the day rather than rushing into it, framing your thoughts and collecting your energies, I suspect you'll enjoy the results.  Actively see the day as you want it to play out.  Harness the power of your imagination.  Resist fear and negative thinking; shun regret; embrace newness and strength. You'll be in decent company!  Marcus Aurelius once said, 

"A man's life is what his thoughts make of it." 

   This is not meant to imply that thoughts are all that matter, only that positive thinking is certainly a positive beginning and perspective matters a great deal.  And in my opinion the morning is an ideal time to secure your perspective.

   When I wake up tomorrow morning, I am determined to...

Pray those prayers I've been weary of for so long, the stuff I am close to believing will never happen
Be a better steward of my time, energy, material resources, & talents.
Be more appreciative for my abundance and for mercy.
Be kinder, more patient, and more compassionate than I was before.
Give more affection to our animals.
Reach out to loved ones in ways I haven't tried so far.
Believe the best about people then act on that belief.

   On any given day, miracles can happen. Amazing surprises are lurking behind every sunrise, and I never want apathy, fear, or staleness in my own mind to preclude a miracle for myself or for a loved one.  

   Tomorrow morning, if you will, please pray for my family. Especially for my two daughters, Jocelyn and Jessica, and my two sisters, Angela and Genevieve. I hope your tomorrow arrives to you clean and is filled with mercies. I hope your tomorrow is richer and wiser than today, even if today was wonderful.  

xoxoxo

Hobo Memories


   Throughout my childhood, Mom was incredibly resourceful. She crafted celebrations from only construction paper and glue. She filled our table with healthy meals, often from leftovers. She kept five children in good clothing every season. Her resourcefulness also applied to Halloween costumes. I cannot remember shopping for costumes, although plenty of my friends did. But I never felt deprived. For us, building your look out of almost nothing was half the fun! Scavenging through the house for raw materials was a happy ritual.

   One year’s costume stands out in history. I was attending a sixth grade Haloween party with classmates.  Mom conspired with me to exact something wonderful, exploring options like punk rocker (my fave for many confusing years), vampire (the traditional kind, because I hadn’t seen The Lost Boys yet, much less Twilight or anything from Anne Rice), and Carmen Miranda.  For that last option, Mom even let me stuff my dress with rolled up bobby socks, but we laughingly agreed Dad would object. My fake sock boobs were removed. 

   Anwyay, as great ideas often happen, we arrived at my eventual incarnation quite by accident. We were sifting through the accumulation of clothes pieces and possible accessories, piling onto my twelve year old self lots of crazy, unrelated things. I remember Mom joking that I looked like a hobo. Eureka. Her face lit up and she dug until she found a pan of brown eyeshadow.

   Mom smeared my face with the shimmery stuff so it looked like I had a five o’clock shadow. She slid a stocking cap over my blonde hair and added who knows how many more unmatched garments to my frame.  After some frenzied moments of adjusting and editing, she stood back and said, “What do you think?” 

   I was already happy from being the object of her undivided attention and bottomless creativity. So to see that I was also transformed into a completely unrecognizable hobo was bliss. Mom found a long stick from outside and tied to it a piece of cloth stuffed with something bulky, denoting the classic hobo carrying satchel.  Costume complete.

   The pleaseure of being so well costumed would have been enough, but later at the party, I heard people asking, “Have you seen Marie yet?  She’s not here!” They didn’t even recognize me, I was so hoboish. 

   Well done, Mom. And thank you for the creativity and memories. Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 21, 2011

All Day Tomatoes

   Tonight is pizza night at the farm. Homemade, handmade pizza, not $5 hot-n-ready. And today has been more moderately paced than every other day in recent weeks, so I indulged in some slow food luxuries while I could. First, I mixed up a couple of batches of pizza dough. Feeling the warm dough in my hands encouraged me to slow down even further. Then while the dough was resting and rising, I oven-roasted a pound and a half of grape tomatoes.

   The resulting yeasty, tangy-sweet, garlicky aromas wafting from the kitchen have pretty much intoxicated me. I am down for the count, good only for reading old books with yellowed, torn covers and having my toes nibbled by Pacino. As mentioned, it has been a while since the pace around here was so simple, so single-layered and calm. Today has been a much needed reprieve, and I am fortunate enough to have shared it with my ten-four-good-buddy M Half.

   You probably already know how to do this; it is neither rocket science nor Sudoku. But I snapped a couple of colorful before and after photos, so I want to share it with you guys.



Step One: Rinse your tomatoes and slice lengthwise. I used those small, sweet grape tomatoes today but have used lots of other varieties in the past. Feel free to improvise. Just slice, chop, or otherwise re-size 'em to suit your taste.

Step Two: Pour the raw tomatoes onto a baking sheet and add in some minced fresh garlic. I used my handy-dandy Pampered Chef garlic press for the first time today and L-I-K-E it. For this pound and a half of tomatoes I used about five cloves of garlic.

Step Three: Drizzle all of it with olive oil then sprinkle on some dried Italian herbs (fresh if you are awesome enough to have some) and sea salt.

Step Four: Place into a 200 degree oven for approximately the rest of the day. Specifically, a few hours. You will begin to smell the magic in your kitchen within five minutes. Your adjoining rooms will be perfumed in under half an hour. And by the time you can breathe in the tomato-garlic heaven from your front yard, it might be done.  


The tomatoes emerged from the oven three hours later, looking all shrivelly and exotic, 
promising us delicious toppings for our pizzas.

   That's about it! A little tiny bit of knife-wielding, a slightly larger investment of time, and some appreciation for organic pleasures. That's all you need. And if Oklahoma gets the rainy Saturday evening we've been promised, this might be a nice way to celebrate.  Enjoy!

xoxoxo

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Five Senses Tour: Crafts on the Horizon

   At any given time I have three hundred and forty five thousand craft projects "in the works."  The stages of completion range from "just saw this on Pinterest or in a boutique, must try asap" to "I just need to top stitch one more little piece, and it' done!"  So it's a little bit funny to be zeroing in on just five items on the crafty horizon.  Still, here they are.

   The general approach around here is to use fabrics and materials already on hand, that wonderful found stuff, recycling and re-purposing every single chance we get and resisting the urge to buy anything new except, perhaps, thread and finishing nails.

Item Number One:
distressed & stenciled piece of furniture

Pinned Image
Miss Mustard Seed does beautiful work!  This is hers, which I snagged off of Pinterest.

Item Number Two:
full bib apron with ruffles & pleats, made from vintage cotton sheeting
My version will be for sale when it's done.
Unless I love it too much.
Which happens a lot.

Pinned Image

http://christytomlinson.typepad.com/christytomlinson/


Item Number Three:
wreath made from aged book pages
I'll finish this one tonight while watching movies with Handsome.

Pinned Image

http://thriftydecorating-nikkiw.blogspot.com/2011/08/old-book-wreath.html


Item Number Four:
silly applique pillows using only scraps of course

Pinned Image

http://www.etsy.com/listing/80090478/owl-cushion-pillow-red-blue-green



Item Number Five:
scarf made from recycled tees
This one is intended for my sixteen year old daughter,
and I am using happy-memory shirts from her childhood.

Pinned Image

http://www.craftingagreenworld.com/


   So there we have it, five projects, each of which is underway and also has a recipient in mind.  Happy scavenging!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Truth Telling

   Not fortune telling, not spell-casting, not even name-it-and-claim-it spirituality, but truth telling.  We have a shortage of it.  From the everyday washing over of a minor indiscretion to the biggest lies, the most heinous deceptions, we try over and over again to trick each other into accepting what we hope will be a better reality, an easier or more advantageous way of seeing the world. 

   My almost grown children are hearing incredible, destructive lies that are temporarily isolating them from people who love them dearly.  And I have started a Truth Journal so that one day, when the time is right and I know no one will interfere, they can hear the truth about things and hopefully feel set free.  They both deserve that and so much more.

   What lies do you catch?  What lies do you tell?  What lies do you allow to slip past without making any effort to stop them?  I'm not suggesting that we spend our lives combating falsehood; we need to be good stewards of our time and energy and use wisdom to choose our battles.  But I wonder how different life would be if, starting immediately, we refuse to settle for untruths.

Pinned Image

I found this lovely print on Pinterest.
The original source appears to be 

   And I am really thinking of the important stuff here, the things that impact our hearts, although knowing for sure what truth lies behind certain advertising schemes or whether aspartame is R-E-A-L-L-Y that bad for me, yep, I'd like to know.

   Today I challenge you to join me in facing the worst lies in your life by standing on the knowledge that Truth can overcome them.  Love trumps, Love wins, and words matter.  Use them wisely and trust that even your thoughts can circle back to you.  So make them good and beautiful.  Make them truthful.

 xoxoxoxo

   

Dirt Manicure

   I woke up this morning with a list of necessary chores to do outside, a tailgate full of autumn blooms to sink into the earth, and ideal weather and schedule conditions for both.  So after zipping through a few inside jobs and enjoying some time on the phone with my little sister, I found my boots and headed outside for what I refer to as a Dirt Manicure.



   Dirt Manicures are really good for you.  They generally happen outdoors, under the sun, in the fresh air, with your back bent in satisfying labor.  Dirt Manicures don't get your head all filled and sick with chemical fumes like at a nail salon; they are more likely to perfume your body with that sharp, sweet fragrance of tomato leaves or the grassiness of horse manure.  Dirt Manicures are evidence that you've done something constructive and maybe even creative.  The act of getting one helps you reconnect with nature.  And that is one of life's best beauty treatments.


My Grandpa Stubbs taught me that if you find a Y-shaped branch in your tomato vine
that has sprouted a center stem, just pinch that center stem off with your thumbnail.  
This helps the tomato plant conserve energy and grow stronger branches and better fruits.


Check out this little green baby.  
His collar is HUGE, hopefully signalling a nice, big fruit.
He is in the very good company of dozens of bright yellow tomato flowers 
as well as dozens of other green 'maters.  
The Second Chance Garden is still going strong!

   I kept feeling guilty while I "worked" outside, because it didn't feel like work at all.  It was playtime, even if I was the only one on the playground.  And although I've been W-2 challenged for almost eleven years now, I still have strong bouts of guilt over staying home and living this luxurious lifestyle.  The least I can do is take a few blurry photos of it all.



   

This is a stone urn we keep at at our front door, 
pictured here with leftovers from the brutal summertime.
Think of this as a container garden bone yard.  
Admittedly a neglected spot on the farm.
The only things here that are still viable are daffodil bulbs, 
and they're not due to bloom for many months.
Much ripping and composting was called for.


Same urn, about ten minutes and eight bucks later.  
I removed the dead dwarf evergreen and replaced it with a $5 something or other.
I added one small golden mum and three tiny white-with-purple pansies.
Following the tall/fat/trailing recipe for container gardens, 
I needed something to fall over the urn's edge
but had not bought anything like that at Home Depot.
So I searched the east flower bed and found some vinca vine that had gone a little crazy.  Bingo.
Oh, and I found some feathers blowing around and stuck those in too.
Here we have goose, turkey, and macaw feathers, just for fun.

   One of my favorite things about an unhurried morning in the garden is the rediscovery of plants that have been quietly plodding along, unfurling themselves and growing slowly, gradually, blooming and bursting with life while I was busy elsewhere.


The cannas really like the warm soil and cool air we've been enjoying lately.
With just a little extra water now and then, they are generouos with color and texture.


And once the scarlet gossamer blooms fall to the ground,
we get to see these fuzzy, stained-red seed pods and their tissue paper casings.
I cannot decide which one I like better.

   Designing a garden on paper is fun, but reacting to a garden's ongoing expression is where you can find  real pleasure.  Identifying vacant spots, experimenting with color combinations, rotating plants to find the prettiest "face," just sifting that cold, silky dirt with your bare hands...I love the crunch of my spade when it slices into a patch of crabgrass.  I love the textures of sand and loam, mixed together like brackish water.  I love to shakeout my ponytail at the end of the day and see dirt and possibly ladybugs fly out.  

  
I am kind of hoping that mums have bug-repelling properties like marigolds do.




   My morning in the garden was an investment.  Not only do we have some color to enjoy again; I also spent that time calming my thoughts, soothing some anger over recent family events, and reminding myself that life is beautiful.  We all grow best when not rushed, just nourished and surrounded with beauty and health.  I hope you have time for a Dirt Manicure soon.

xoxoxo
   


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Breathing Deeply

   Eight days ago the lives of some of my most beloved people changed forever.  Our family was thrust into grief and shock, worse than any I have ever before witnessed firsthand.  All week long we have responded to each other the way I hope all families everywhere can manage to do.  I feel as profoundly grateful for my parents, my siblings, and my husband as I feel sad for the incredible loss being suffered.

   Having just now opened my laptop for the first time since the terrible news, the first thing I notice is that life goes on.  Whether we think we like it or not, the world is still turning.  Other people are still maintaining routines, relationships, and the pursuit of beauty in daily life.  Still oceans of happiness and possibility remain unexplored, and this is good.

   I'll now be gradually stepping back into reading and writing, trying to revive my study of Proverbs 31 and also sharing some of the things we learned this week.  Prayers are still needed and appreciated for my sister, her children  our parents, everybody.

   Rather than leave you on a sad note, I want to assure you of the power of love and hope.  The potential for old hurts to be soothed, for flaring tempers to be cooled.  Love is not just soft and romantic or even sexy; it is truly powerful.  Love motivates; it emboldens; it focuses and multiplies our energy.  Love is miraculous, and it causes me to KNOW that all things are possible.

   Late last night we witnessed the marriage of Handsome's nephew and his young bride, and I could feel in my lungs and my bones that Love is alive.  I breathed it in deeply, let it saturate my body, and savored the realization that what lies ahead of us is better than what lies behind us.

Best wishes, be as happy as you can, count your blessings.
xoxoxo
      

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Morning

   We woke up this morning to a dark, misty farm.  The clouds that had been pouring out that sweet, much anticipated rain all weekend are still here; they are just resting for a bit.  Hopefully gathering more water for Oklahoma.  Outside it feels like a thick, gray comforter has been pulled up to our chins and the curtains have been drawn tight against the sun.  

   A pickup truck drives past the front gate, ball cap-wearing driver leaning slightly to his left, sleepy, holding in his right had the biggest insulated mug I have ever seen.  Only some of the chickens are geese are awake, and they wearily signal an ambiguous dawn.   The buffalo is in one of his sandy wallows, folded up into himself, big head bowing low, beard and mane flattened out and dripping from the watery air.  The horses are still asleep too, back ankles cocked up in that vulnerable, adorable pose they know.

   Handsome is off to the salt mines.  Off to save the world in his own way.  Making me proud.  

   People we love dearly are grieving hard today, and so we grieve with them, for them.  Their hearts are wrenched and pinned against excruciating pain, and they have little recourse.  I see my parents in a new light, one that makes them shine, but it's something I never wanted to see, not for this reason.  They are so strong and so loving.  So instinctive and generous of heart.

   I am grateful beyond words for my family.  Wishing comfort and mercy to pour over them just like the rain on this parched land.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Proverbs 31:8-9 Speak Up for the Needy

   The next two verses are rich enough in their own right, but they also are accompanied by a long list of references in the Schofield text.  In my opinion this stuff needs very little expounding, though each of us, depending on our stations and functions in this world, may learn to apply the directives uniquely.  First, the lines from Proverbs:

  "Open thy mouth for the dumb in the course of all 
such as are appointed to destruction.  
Open thy mouth, judge righteously, 
and plead the cause of the poor and needy."

********************
These references follow:

"I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. 
I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out."
~Job 29:15,16

"And Johnathan spake good of David unto Saul his father, and said unto him, 
Let not the king sin against his servant, against David, because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works have been to thee-ward very good."
~I Samuel 19:4

"Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment:  thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty:  but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour."
~Leviticus 19:15

"And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him."
~Deuteronomy 1:16

"Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him."
~Job 29:12

"Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."
~Isaiah 1:17

"He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him:  was not this to know me?  saith the Lord."
~Jeremiah 22:16

********************

   In what ways are you exposed to the poor and needy?  The widowed, the orphaned, the lonely?  How do you personally cross paths with those who cannot speak up for themselves or who are appointed to destruction?  Granted, these lines are perhaps directed in context to an actual ruler, a king, but if the popular scholar's interpretation of proverbs 31 is to be considered, then the Christian church is accountable for these behaviors too.  These instructions are certainly consistent with Christian teaching.

   Also, how are we doing in the judging righteously department?  Not so awesomely most times, I suspect.  We are all naturally shaped with unique filters, feelings, preferences, grudges, politics, indoctrination, just all kinds of multi-faceted, self-protective words that really mean, "personal opinion."  And personal opinion has a way of affecting how we treat others. Personal opinion also has a way of being wrong.  Ever been called to jury duty and felt, whether you expressed it or not, a strong bias, despite the evidence?  Ever catch yourself being cold to someone you don't know based on another person's opinion of him?  I have.  And worse.

   These events are common and natural human behavior, but if we read these words in the Bible then we hear a call to do better.  To strive for a life past what is natural and easy.  Stretch, not stagnate.

   I am reminded that every story has more than one side, very often more than two.  And I have been wrong a thousand times in my life, siding with the wrong person, standing on a moral I later discovered to be flawed or at least incomplete.  This is scary; it impresses on me the gravity of the job of judges who decide the fates of people daily.

   This brief study tonight has excavated in my heart more guilt and greater challenge than I expected.  I have a lot of work to do, but I believe that it can be turned around.  I believe that love and mercy are powerful, and I am hoping for second chances.  Checkout the above reference in Isaiah; the words learn and seek are loud to my eyes.

   Learn to do well.

   Seek judgment.

   These are active verbs, words that immediately acknowledge a position of lacking and then command work.  Ignorance and error can be overcome, so do it.  (I am bossing myself around, not you guys.)  I am thrilled by this idea, this encouragement.  
   
   That's all for tonight.  Oklahoma is finally receiving a much needed deluge of cold rain, and a big pot of homemade chicken and dumplings is almost ready on the stove.  Pain is ever present, and so are hope and joy.  Wishing everyone a peaceful end to the weekend. 

xoxoxo

   


Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Wednesday Morning Foray into Yoga

   Yoga has held my attention from a safe distance for some time now.  But for some reason I always thought that to do it properly I'd have to trade coffee for green tea, start making my own granola, and possibly buy a Prius.  Or at least a Subaru.  And I like my Camaro you guys, A-N-D my coffee, in case you hadn't noticed.  Oh, for the record, I blame Liz Gilbert for this and a few other misconceptions.



   Then the universe intervened.


   My ten-four-good-buddy M Half encouraged her readers to explore Yoga for the month of October, and I was thrilled.  Coupled with my October-long study of Proverbs 31, I am now due for total physical-spiritual rejuvenation by November One.  R-A-D.  No, I never exaggerate, why?

I'm writing a series on this


   Anyhoo, I dove in, reading every word M offered the first few days, then finally trying a yoga session myself yesterday.  I’d been meaning to do this for months already, and she provided me just the right boost!  
   
   Theeeennn she invited me to guest post on her blog to describe my experience as a Yoga Firsttimer, so join me right over here.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Proverbs 31:3-7 Advice on Strength, Kings, & Alcohol

   I am gonna resist the Grand Soapbox on this particular topic, 
not because I don't feel strongly about it but because it's an easy one for me 
and yet I know it's not so easy for a lot of other people.  
Also, the text is a little confusing, and while I know what it tells me 
I do not feel qualified to speak on it with authority to others.  
I'll just lay some stuff out today, okay?
If you happen to have some insight or expertise, 
you are 100% welcome to post comments and share your knowledge or wisdom.
That's what this is all about!

    In the light studying I have done, it seems to be a generally agreed upon point that verse three is simply foreshadowing for events in King Solomon's reign.

"Give not thy strength unto women,
nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings."

   Are there any take-aways for us, the common people?  Not sure.  I will resist the temptation to extrapolate meanings where scholars have already explained something clearly and simply.  A King's mother was giving her son advice which he would later need in his reign.  I can accept that much.


The Judgement of Solomon.  
A powerful story that is painfully close to my heart.

   The next four verses seem clear enough at first blush but have incited plenty of debate.  This is where I will step back a bit, quote the scripture and references, then keep my remarks brief.  For a change.  LOL.  

"It is not for kings, O :Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgement of any of the afflicted.
Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more."

Schofield References:
  • "Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!"  ~Ecclesiastes 10:17
  • "Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart."  ~Hosea 4:11

   Okay.  Here are some things I personally believe to be true, and they are what make the otherwise blurry line crystal clear for me and my life:

  • Alcohol is definitely a "mocker."  It alters inhibitions and for many people outright changes personalities.  I do not groove this.  I like the original, please.  
  • Alcohol is addictive and dangerous, and yes I realize that some people have a stronger propensity for alcoholism than others, but I have witnessed the fallout of this condition (disease?) in lots of relationships, first hand, and it is no small problem.  I do not groove it.  I want no part of it my life or in my home.  We have friends who drink, and I don't think we've ever "preached" to them about it, but it just doesn't come to the farm.  And I have never had to worry about someone leaving one of our fun parties here and making the long drive home intoxicated.  
  • Yes, we did "preach" to the girls about avoiding alcohol when it was warranted.  It has always been important to me that they learn to maintain control over their lives and that alcohol can poison that, can poison your temple.  Some people find this radical.  I consider it it healthy.
  • The advice for kings and princes in particular to avoid wine and strong drink is plenty enough reminder for me to heed the warning.  I am in no position of authority or control in this world, but I still need my judgement to be sound.  I still want my life to run smoothly and steadily.
  • I am not sure what to say about the last verse here, about drink given to those who are suffering.  To me it speaks of compassion, but clearly I have some studying and thinking to do.
   Okay.  Yes, smarty pants, that was me N-O-T on a soapbox.  Thoughts?





Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pretty Average/ Awesome Day at the Lazy W

   Today was pretty average in routine but was extraordinary in depth.
Today was luxurious in its normalcy.  I groove days like today.  
I had no frantic errands to run, no emergencies to tend, no unrealistic goals.
And the thin, delicate veil of emotion I always wear 
was strong enough today to hold reality in plain view 
and sheer enough today to help me really feel and understand everything.

Interested?

6:00 a.m.  We snooze.  Multiple times.  We cuddle and re-cuddle and cuddle again.  We spoon like professionals.  The bed is warm, and the air coming in through the open windows is cold and fresh.  The skies are so dark it could be midnight.  I snooze even through the aroma of really fresh, strong coffee wafting up through the vents.  Until the geese wake up.  They are waaaaaay louder than roosters.

6:40 a.m.  Making breakfast for Handsome, skillet grilled club steak with fried eggs, toast, coffee, and grape juice.  Just coffee for me.  Pack his lunch.  Resist a plate of homemade chocolate chip-oatmeal cookies from last night.  Thinking heavily of the girls, wondering what they'll be doing today, remembering a vivid dream I had last night.  This one was happy though, almost too happy to believe.  I hope it's a sign of things to come, but it's probably just a sign of my hope.  That's okay; it's a lot better than more nightmares.

7:00 a.m.  Celebrate the upcoming weather forecast of rain!  Our drought has been exhausting, and one really drenching weekend could make a big difference in hay production.  Start mentally planning a bonfire party with friends.  Chat with Handsome about everything on his mind.  Morning is usually when he wants to talk, and this was, as noted, a charmed morning.  Fell in love with him all over again.

7:25 a.m.  Handsome risks life, limb, and dry cleaning expenses to release the chickens and geese while dressed for the office.  We part ways for the day.

7:30 a.m.  Make the bed, start a load of laundry, fill the dishwasher, drink another cup of coffee.  Then find a sweater and some boots to go feed and water everybody.  While flaking off a round bale in the barn, I notice the hay is coming off in thin, compressed, spiraling sheets, like a cinnamon roll.  Makes me think of a friend who makes Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls expertly, so I text her.  (My friend, not PW.)  This chick is going through a lot in life but is strong and beautiful and such a happy addition to our life, I am wishing her dreams fulfilled in a BIG way.

7:55 a.m.  Back in the kitchen, one cat and one hen begging at the window.  Together.  How can I not find them treats in the fridge?  They get my intended lunch.  We all know I'm just gonna cave and have those cookies anyway.  Then back outside to water gardens, tidy up, etc.  EGAD!  We have tiny green tomatoes! In October!  

8:45 a.m  Last cup of coffee.  Lots of wonderful, loving messages today, not unrelated to the day's specialness.  I can't lie, I am a sucker for this many warm fuzzies.  But I nearly get derailed by the internet!!  Whoa, sister...  Whew!

9:05 a.m.  Write for a really fun writer's workshop prompt limiting us to 100 words.  That is not very many words, you guys.  It is rad.  The other writers are crazy inspirational.  Moving along the laundry extravaganza.

9:45 a.m.  Prepping an apple shortbread tart for a friend in Handsome's office.  Y-U-M that smells good.  Have you made it yet?  Finish filling dishwasher then start it.  Feed Pacino again (he has a hollow yellow leg these days) and deliver kitchen scraps to the chickens.  Collect just two eggs today, a lot less than normal.  Noting repairs suddenly needed in coop, I cannot imagine what happened in there.  Super happy pups today, Shao-Lin's allergies are much better.  Geese are screaming about something, apparently just the need to be fed at the pond, not with the "common" birds.  I comply of course.  They have me so well trained.    

10:30 a.m.  Finish laundry and catch up on emails.  Discover the geese back up at the house, napping in the shade.  Ate a thick peanut butter sandwich and drank too much orange juice.  It was perfect.

11:00 a.m.  Up in the sewing room, working on apron orders and some imaginative fabric combinations.  No music today, neither any tormenting thoughts.  No tears.  Just lots of memories of family life, lots of prayers for the future, lots of strong hope and pulsing gratefulness for today.   Roosters are crowing peacefully.  Horses are ruffling and sighing at the window.  Sew Sew Sew!!!

1:20 p.m.  I sew for a long time, post some apron pics, and then read for an even longer time.  Herein lies the luxury:  Life hasn't always afforded me this kind of disposable time, and it may not for much longer.  So for now and for as long as it is a benefit to us, I shall enjoy it.

2:40 p.m.  Read, read, read, sing with Pacino, read, dance with Pacino, read, write, write write, smile big.  Try to imagine what the girls are doing today.  Decide to throw in one last load of towels.  

3:20 p.m.  Exercise time.  In my sewing room.  As my skin heated up and the endorphins started flowing, so did the fabric ideas.  I kept stopping to position swatches and scraps together with trims and ruffles.  Dreaming big Green Goose dreams.  Remembering why we called it Green Goose in the first place.  More thoughts of the kids.  Decide to attend yoga class tomorrow.  Tell my friend and get invited to guest post on her blog!

4:00 p.m.  Shower time.  You're welcome, everyone downwind of The Lazy W.  Then a fresh pot of coffee, a rare afternoon treat.  But my mind is loose and nimble, my typing fingers itchy.  For some reason, shampooed hair, perfume, and coffee are just my natural accompaniments for writing.  Handsome headed home now, my heart flutters.  Continued drafting a Proverbs 31 piece.  

6:15 p.m.  We both hear our stomachs growling at the same time, despite a stolen cookie.  Or three.  So I make us some grilled chicken wraps with red grapes and potato chips, and  we continued in our luxuriation.  I received a very happy phone call from our niece, a bride-soon-to-be.  I get to be in her wedding in a couple of weeks, and I am mucho excited about that.  Counting blessings, which are many.  Wondering what the girls had for dinner, but still happy, still no tears.  Just this overwhelming sense of appropriateness or something.  No, it's calm.  Peace.  That feeling that no matter what, love trumps.

7:05 p.m.  Finishing Proverbs piece for today while Handsome does some surfing and shows me every funny thing he finds.  Pacino serenades us.  Doing some delicious blog hopping and am amazed to watch the evolution of some of my stand-by faves.

8:20 p.m.  UH-OH!!  Almost forget to lock up the geese.  I make it outside with a flashlight and find all five of them nestled up in the front yard but desperate to be put to bed.  They follow me to the coop without delay, and I am pleased to see Clark the turkey is already there too.  In the water tonight, not trapped behind the tiny coop doors.  Good luck, sir.  Good luck.

8:25 p.m.  Finished mixing up sweet iced tea and serve Handsome some of that apple tart.  Yes, it was baked for someone else, but I'm not crazy.  There are certain marital indiscretions not at all worth the price, and making this recipe without serving at least part of it to him... is on that list.  Say hello to a couple of friends, text my first born, bid the world good night. 

Again, the circumstances of today are not unusual.
It's probably a pretty boring read to outsiders.
But I am happy to document this shift in deep peace.
I reflected all day, in relative quiet, on the roads we're traveling.
I railed a bit against some of the injustice I see,
against some of the obvious pain and worry,
but then laughter overtook my heart and spilled out in the form of true peace.

Feeling so thankful for illogical happiness.
For unconditional trust in Love.
I hope you had a good Tuesday too.
xoxoxo


Proverbs 31: What Exactly are We Reading?

   Depending on your personal beliefs and personal tolerances, knowing the nature of what you're reading might be just as important than the content of what you're reading.  Or at least, it might be a prerequisite for accepting the words, the message.  



   I know I can read Grimm's Fairy Tales for entertainment plus a little bit of old fashioned wisdom without worrying about muddying the waters of my core values.  Same goes for Bruce Lee's Zen and the Martial Arts:  I can read his ideas as his ideas, comparing and measuring them up to what I know to be true for myself.

   Where I have to be careful is reading religious interpretation of text that is already close to my heart.  Human interpretation can be flawed, and that can be misleading.  For example, I was very cautious while reading The Shack.  Ironic, eh?  That I am attempting to share my (admittedly human) study of a book of the Bible?  Just take this as a big chunky grain of salt.  I wish only truth and stability for everybody.

   The reason I'm even thinking of all of this is that the Schofield Bible I use has that heading at the beginning of Proverbs which prepares the reader for a collection of wisdom, not a list of laws or a chronological story.  It got me wondering what are the literal similarities and differences between parables, laws, promises, folklore, warnings, etc.  Lovers of words can always appreciate the fine points, the subtle but crucial nuances of language.  What I learned isn't groundbreaking,  but it does help me put in perspective the content of Proverbs 31.

********************
Adage:  a saying often in metaphorical form that embodies a common observation


Fable:  a fictitious narrative or statement intended to enforce a useful truth; especially one in which animals speak and act like human beings

Folklore:  traditional customs, tales, sayings, dances or art forms preserved among a people

Law:  a binding practice or custom of a community:  a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority

Parable:  a usually short, fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle

Promise:  a legally binding declaration that gives the person to whom it is made the right to expect or to claim the performance or forbearance of a specified act

Proverb:  a brief popular epigram or maxim  (an epigram is a terse, sage, or witty, and often paradoxical saying)

Warning:  a notice or bulletin that alerts the public to an imminent hazard

Wisdom:  accumulated philosophic or scientific learning; ability to discern inner qualities or relationships

   ********************

   The Bible is filled with all of these examples and more, except perhaps the fable.  I cannot think of any fables, only God speaking through animals, which is quite different.  But until now I had always thought that Proverbs 31 was a resume of the perfect woman.  It never occurred to me that it was anything other than a strict list of requirements.  The possibility of symbolism certainly never surfaced.
 
   To read the last book of Proverbs once more, this time less as either an historical account or a list of mandates for either a woman or the church, and more as an urging toward spiritual and earthly profit, my thoughts blossomed.

   I feel more inspired and less defeated, seeing all of my womanly deficiencies.  I see the potential benefits and possibilities of following the sage advice in these thirty one verses and am a little less encumbered by the rigidity of law, etc.

   What do you think?  Do you agree a little bit?  Do you vehemently disagree?  Is it too risky to consider that anything in the Bible is anything other than strict instructions?  Are you inspired in any new way after reading Proverbs 31 as a joyful suggestion, an invitation toward something more beautiful?  Or had you always read it that way?

   Forgive me if I am a bit long winded tonight; I participated in a limited-word exercise earlier today and am experiencing a crazy bottleneck of words at rush hour in my brain.  Whew!




 

Conjure: One Hundred Words or Less

      Sweet, heavy, grassy breath.  He examines me with liquid brown eyes, lashes longer than any others.  Square nose, slightly moist and leathery, nuzzles me for graham crackers I have hidden my back pocket.  Fingernails combing through the soft, short hairs on his face then through the thicker, coarser fur on his forehead.  Stroking his long, flickering ears, remembering all of those bottles of warm formula.  Massive head tossing around, gently displaying horns that mean business.  Cupped hands tracing their length, admiring the chips and colors, the perfect symmetry.  Baritone snorts, round belly heaving with every breath, perfect love and safety.




Update:  I guess I could have done a better job with some of the other physical senses, or in some way identified the beast better, but that's the whole idea...  Learning and growing from feedback!  LOVED this prompt, thanks for the comments everyone!  Below is a photo of the mystery animal.  



His name is Chunk-Hi.  
He is a two year old bison.
He feels pretty.
Because of the confetti.
He has never hurt me or anyone else.



pinnable

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