Sunday, December 30, 2012

Snow Day at the Farm

   This past Friday morning most of our Great State received a soft, thick blanket of snow. Arriving a little past the Christmas morning forecast, perhaps, but made far more beautiful by the element of surprise. 

   I was working upstairs, receiving texts from friends and family of what snow they were seeing all over Oklahoma, noting only a dark, cold, dry morning outside. I admit, I felt a little teeny tiny bit sorry for myself  Just a smidge. Snow is just plain fabulous, but still I tried convincing my childish heart that I was sad for good reason. That we need the moisture here so badly.

   Then I heard the horses whinny kinda oddly, much differently than I am used to hearing, sort of a wiggly whinny, a silly sound, and I looked outside to investigate. Imagine my shock and thrill to discover that in no more than five distracted minutes, during my wintry pity party, the Lazy W had been covered by the pure white fluffy stuff! 

I was squealing with excitement! 
The snow fell so rapidly and silently, I almost couldn't believe it!

   That wiggly whinny was the horses celebrating! I think.

   The snow fell quietly on our dark nine acres for almost three hours, piling up about two inches of cold frosting all over every exposed surface (including all of our llamas). I watched, checked everyone for safety and water, and admired it all, then huddled myself back inside the house with Pacino. He and I had a lot of work to do. Like read Louisa May Alcott and drink hot lovely things and gaze at the Christmas lights. Oh, and watch for paper white blooms.

Paper white blooms = totally worth the wait

   Then sometime midday the sun reemerged with a vengeance and made the winter wonderland downright comfortable. Sparkling and fresh, cold but not frigid. In fact, the blacktop surfaces all warmed up quickly and made walking around super easy.

Ever faithful Mia watched and waited during my snow carving 
of our ranch brand here, and then he followed me all over the farm, 
honking melodramatically and kicking up little snow flurries of his own.
Silly goose. Snow goose. Silly, lovesick, loyal snow goose.

My goose.

The snow was caught in pretty little pockets in every tree, ornamenting them beautifully.

For some reason, seeing the Talking Tree dressed in white almost made me cry.
But that bright sunshine crawling over its shoulder cheered me up completely.
The summertime swing, wet from melted snow, hung perfectly still 
from the tree's thickest branch, ready for another little girl or boy to come visit.

   Most of the animals played in the snow gleefully. Perhaps four or five of the chickens stayed cozied up in their brick and mortar coop, but everyone else (led boldly by Tomato) braved the elements and explored all afternoon. They each left their own kind of tracks, proving once and for all that mostly what our animals do all day is walk in circles.

Some of our bravest poultry souls exploring Friday afternoon.
That dragon in the background, by the way, is Zeke.
I haven't really shared much of him yet.
We are full of secrets.

Chanta seemed to enjoy the snow more than anyone.
Can you see Romulus in the back ground here? Supervising. Of course.

Hello, Green Goose garden gate, old friend.
I miss you. But I haven't forgotten you.
We have big plans together this year, you and me.
Enjoy your slow, cold drink and sleep soundly.
For in a few short weeks, we get to the business of GROWING.

Our front gate sign

    Today, most of the snow is already melted. Only what fell inside the shadows of our buildings is still gripping the dead grass there; and that is wildly perforated by every variety of animal tracks. We are very thankful both for the drink of moisture and the fun snowy afternoon as well as for the quick melt and conspicuous absence of power outages. We are so thankful for heat, for a full pantry and freezer, and for animals who are healthy and happy enough to endure a rare winter storm.

   Heather, my Canadian friend who writes at New House New Home New Life, reports a respectable ten inches of snow this week! My cousin in Colorado celebrates snow regularly, too. It is slightly less of a fact of life for us here in Oklahoma, but we love it when it does come. How about you? Is your late December snowy?

Brr! Stay Cozy!!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Waiting for Paper Whites and Celebrating Grace

   So, last week, just before Christmas, we all noticed the Winter Solstice come and go. You did notice it, right? The shortest day of the lunar year is now behind us. This means that now, gradually, until the Vernal Equinox in late March and then the Summer Solstice in late June, the days are lengthening. If ever so slightly, we are now seeing a little more sun each and every day. Except for when it's hiding behind the formidable clouds. Like right this minute in central Oklahoma. But we know you're there, Sun!

   So that's all very exciting!

   Then, yesterday, I received via snail mail my first of what will soon be many garden seed catalogs. I should admit along with this feigned shock that on Christmas evening I had already surrendered to the urge for green and browsed the Internet (yes it was Pinterest, okay??!!) for gardening images and such. I just can't help it.

   Once the holidays are over (or shortly before the last hurrah) I have this intense biological craving for growth and freshness and live greenery.

   It so happens that coinciding with all of this chlorophyllic anticipation... a bowl of paper white bulbs which I have been nursing since around Halloween has been on the verge of blooming.

   This morning I just felt like it could happen at any moment, and since this will be my very first ever batch of successfully grown indoor flower bulbs in my whole long life! ...I did not want to miss the big moment.

   So for the bulk of my morning I sat contentedly next to the Christmas tree with my shiny new PAPER planner and a sharpened pencil and some orange juice and just watched it, this little glass bowl of promise. I watched the thick, fleshy stems bend indiscernibly toward the sunny east window. And I rotated the bowl gently to face the darker wall. Then the stems stretched again to face the sun. Back and forth, keeping the vertical, verdant lines as straight and strong as possible. I watched the towering bulbous pods atop those stems grow more pregnant with expectation, hour by quiet hour.

   Watching the slow, silent ballet of life take place on my coffee table, I was reminded of the magic, the miracle of living and dying. Of growth, transformation, yearning, and regeneration. I also wondered who the heck do I think I am forcing these bulbs to do the impossible?? bloom outside of their appointed times?
 But then I remembered Russia and all of her abundant hot houses in the midst of those endless winters . And the power of grace, the very real presence of blessings we do not deserve. Flowers held warmly and mercifully inside glass rooms where the frozen tundra can't hurt them. Love and joy held securely in our hearts and homes where darkness cannot creep in and steal them.

"In the depth of winter,
I have finally learned that within me there lay
an invincible summer."
~Albert Camus

   Mostly, you guys, I am just so excited to start planning the gardens for 2013 and begin work on composting, ordering, seed starting, etc. And I will try my best to be fueled by this excitement rather than paralyzed by it this year.

   But deeper than that, I am thrilled to be so in touch with the beauty of life. With all of its challenges, despite all of its inevitable pain, this world is so beyond words beautiful. And life is so rewarding when you actively live it.

   Don't be afraid to force bulbs a little ahead of springtime. I can't believe the difference this one spot of green makes in my living room! And don't be afraid to cultivate little joys, either. They may be exactly what lift you out of the darkest, coldest rooms of your life's winter.

   As I wrap up my midday chores and end my coffee table vigil, the paper whites have not quite bloomed. But I know they will. And in the mean time I am happy to watch and wait for that beautiful miracle.

Cultivate Joy.
Be Invincible.




Sunday, December 23, 2012

Our Lazy W Nativity

   Happy Sunday everyone!! Today is Christmas Eve-Eve!! Around here that's a big deal. Yesterday was "Christmas Eve Cubed," suggesting that suspense is a vital ingredient for our holiday magic. Happiness and excitement cost nothing. Neither does cuddling, watching recorded holiday movies, keeping freshly baked cookies secretly in your pocket, or eating meals slowly and indulgently with people you love. Okay.

   Today I'd like to share with you fine citizens and scholars our Lazy W Christmas card. A few people have already received this via snail mail or inter-office delivery, but still more will receive this eventually in the flesh. No one knows when, though, because, and this is a bit of little known trivia, I am currently tied with eight other people for the distinction of World's Most Unorganized Person. The thing is, I need some addresses. Like, a lot of them. But I am insisting that sending cards a tad late really only extends the holiday cheer! Christmas is a feeling more than a date, right? And surprises are fun. Like, the surprise of whether your holiday card will arrive at Christmas or, say, Easter. Okay.

   Here it is, folks, in all of it's quirky glory. Handsome lovingly obliged my imagination with his mad skills and whipped up this sweet little family portrait. Here you see a representative of every animal group in our little menagerie, with the sad exception of the honey bees. I know, I know, they are a huge addition to the farm this year, but it was just so cold the day we had this photo shoot, and they need to stay huddled up as much as possible. Okay.

   This photo shoot was pure drama from the get go. First of all, everyone was late. I had sent out crystal clear information to all of the fields and paddocks no fewer than four days in advance that on Monday afternoon at 4:30  we would be distributing festive hats and getting into position. The horses were to be brushed; the geese were to have bathed in the pond; and the cat was not to be hunting in the forest. Everyone except Chunk-Hi was late. No one was clean. And the chaos of keeping all the animals still, even while bribing them with Nabisco treats, was basically ridiculous. Where is Olan Mills when you really need them?

   It occurs to me that not every reader is personally acquainted with every animal pictured here. In the coming year I hope to remedy that on the blog, but for now, allow me to introduce you... From top left, rotating around the group clockwise, are our babies...

   Chunk-Hi the buffalo is at the upper left hand corner. He is dark brown, sorta hard to see here against the forest timber. But look for his luxurious shag and his elf hat. He is my ginormous, face-scratch-loving, deep bass drum snorting, frosty-air-breathin baby.

Chunk loves confetti. He gets that from me.

   Then we have Aprony the gray and white skirted guinea hen, as well as several other pretty guineas, along the roof of the manger. That is how they rule the roost around the farm. They climb stuff. And then poop on it.

The guineas don't even know how fashionable 
their feathers are in ladies' accessories right now!

   At the peak of the manger is Bobby Pacino, our macaw. Lord have mercy. He really needs his own blog. I want to write about him all the time, but he sort of takes over my head, and that's just not healthy. He's my husband's technically but my baby really. Hence, his questionable vocabulary.

Pacino was recently heard saying for the first time, 
"I don't appreciate it, okay?"

   At the bottom of the manger, on the right side, you see a gray and white pony named Dusty. He is the youngest of our horses and belongs to my girls. We gave him to them when he was perhaps a year old and they were little bits themselves. Now they all three are so grown up. Isn't he cute in his Christmas hat? He's my baby.

Dusty sporting Horse Feathers

 Tucked discreetly in front of Dusty is Romulus the recently adopted llama. You all know him, right? He is the biggest and most reliable source of drama around this crazy place. And we all love him, except for Daphne. She wishes he would evaporate. Check out his wise ass man hat. 

This photo was taken during one of our legendary staring contests.

   Near Dusty's feet is the gaggle of geese. Perhaps you are familiar with Mia, the only one in the group wearing a Santa hat. He is the one who thinks himself human and attaches himself to willing women at every opportunity. He's my baby. With him are Johnny Cash, Pumpkin, Momma, and Other Goose.

Hooonnnk... xoxoxo

  In front of the geese is a spotted guinea named Spot Aprony. To a casual observer, most birds of any feather look alike. But around here we have names for almost every single one. She is Handsome's baby.

   Directly above that bird and below the Baby Jesus (I know, I know, it's an anonymous baby) is Tomato the rooster. He. Is. Awesome. He was hatched right here at the Lazy W in the late spring of 2010 and he is overflowing with personality! My cousin's little boy once painted his talons red. Tomato's talons, not his own. Because little boys don't have talons. I feel like you should know that.

   Guarding the manger, playing the role of Mary this year, is our one and only mare, Daphne. She has the prettiest black coat with an undercurrent of leopard spots that really stand out in the sunshine. I love this moody creature to pieces, but she is her daddy's girl.

   Daphne's true love, fearless protector, and antagonist, this year playing the role of Joesph, is Chanta, our big paint horse. He is just gorgeous and has a heart of gold. He belongs to my father in law, but I will die on the spot if this horse ever leaves our farm. He is the beast I can brush into a standing sleep. He wraps his thick neck over my shoulders if I need to cry. He naps with me. And he will not allow anything to happen to a small child on his watch. Also, yesterday he totally cold-kicked the llama. I'm not saying we condone kicking; I'm saying this horse doesn't put up with jaskassery. 

   The animal we have had the longest is Shao-Lin, our sweet little Sharpei. You will not meet a more affectionate animal, or a more territorial one. Love her for sure, but don't tangle with this girl, ever. Her sweet expression here says nothing of her ferocity.

   Then there's Fast Woman, our sole surviving barn cat. When I say she is an outside cat, I mean that with all the sternness of a flight attendant asking you to turn off electronic devices. If Fast Woman is brought forcibly into the house, or crammed forcibly into a hollow pumpkin, then she descends into full personality failure within minutes. She will not accept human food as a treat. She will not cuddle while you watch old movies. She will sometimes allow petting, but only if it is on her terms and in a very exact sequence of motions. Can a cat be OCD? She is hunter and an ornament, and she likes it that way.

   The second of our two roosters is seen here, tiptoeing on the baby-less hay manger. He is Peep, and he was hatched on Easter morning of 2009. He is pretty much the cock of the walk and has in fact fathered a few dozen little peeps of his own. His strutting makes my day on a regular basis.

   So there you pretty much have it! Our crazy little animal kingdom wishes you and yours a beautiful, joyous Christmas week laced with miracles and drenched with love! May your tables be filled with really good edibles. May your beds be safe and warm (and fun). Maybe your book shelves and DVD players offer you hours of rest and relaxation. May your sleep be restorative and your time with people as bonding and healing and inspirational as possible.

   Look out for the angels in your life and love them. 
And try to be one, too. 
And kiss your animals.

Thank you so much for visiting the digital Lazy W!
Merry Christmas and Happy new Year!
Much Love,
Handsome, Marie, and the Critters




Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Angels This Week

Family fun.
Holiday preparations and twinkling lights and hilarious adventures.

Difficult times.


Deepening sadness.
Extreme sensitivity to everything. EVERYTHING.
Unrecognizable personalities.

Reminders and truth.
Sense of purpose restored.

Fun excursions.
Words of encouragement from precious people.
Redemption of love and support.
Fresh air. In every possible way.

   Life this past week or so has been the most roller coaster-ish, melting pot-ish, concentrated human experience-ish as ever I think we have experienced here at the Lazy W. I have to acknowledge that much of our atmosphere has been sort of a manifestation of others' pains, though, and our blessings are still innumerable. Mostly, we are so thankful to be still standing, still whole, still loved and loving at maximum capacity. Handsome and I are keenly aware of the very real loss nearby us, both around the nation and in our families, and so we have a hard time today complaining about anything.

For Handsome, Margi, Marci, and Halee

   I have a few precious friends who have made this week extraordinarily beautiful despite the dark hours. You are angels to me, even though it is not snowing here in Oklahoma quite yet. I love each of you so very much, and I hope you all find the angels you need in tough times, just like I have found you this week.

   Wishing everyone within earshot of this digital Lazy W a very happy, peaceful week preparing for Christmas. Enjoy the process. Be joyful. Water your roots deeply, focusing on love, not money. Treasure each other and make memories.

   Gotta go you guys. I have cookies to bake, sewing to finish, gifts to wrap, and a bed to make for a romantic mid week rendezvous... Merry Christmas!

"We are each of us angels with only one wing
and we can only fly by embracing one another."
~Luciano de Crescenzo

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Some Nights, For Dante

   I heard this song for the first time about a month ago and it immediately struck me in my gut for my nephew Dante. Then for so many other loved ones, but mostly for him. It knocked the wind out of me in that way that only incredibly well versed songs can do, songs that are belted out from someone else's soul. The lyrics are spot on, especially the very last little selection at the bottom here...

Well, some nights I wish that this all would end,
Cause I could use some friends for a change
And some nights I'm scared you'll forget me again.
Some nights, I always win, I always win.

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost.
Oh Lord I'm still not sure what I stand for, oh
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don't know...

So this is it? I sold my soul for this?
Washed my hands of that for this?
I missed my mom and dad for this?

Do you know this song? Take a listen to the video; the group FUN is my latest obsession.

My heart is breaking for my sister
and this con that she calls "love,"
When  I look into my nephew's eyes,
Man you wouldn't believe...
The most amazing things
That can come from some terrible lies.

   There, that last sentence... Dante, baby, you wouldn't believe the most amazing things that can come from some terrible lies. I have seen it in my own life, honey.

   It's just so true. Life can be, and often is, riddled with violence of every variety. Physical, emotional, and financial destruction are in store for everyone in different ways. Pain, despair, and counterfeits are just constants sometimes, but so is love. So is hope. There is always, always reason to hang on. Impossibly, some of the best miracles really do rise up out of some of the worst tragedies. It's always been that way for people, too, so there is no use resisting it. There is no such thing as "should" or "deserves" or even "justice" when it comes to Love. It is just so powerful and complete. It overwhelms every imaginable darkness when you let it. Love can heal you, and It can change you and your life in ways would never predict.

   Dante... My heart is breaking for my sister, your beautiful Mom, and I think about her and you and your own little sisters every single day.

   I have been looking into your beautiful, deep brown eyes since you were a baby and cherish every memory. How I wish I could relay to you how much is waiting for you in this world. I am so excited for you, so confident that you are meant for big things. So hopeful that you will heal perfectly from these years. Stronger than ever and full of life.

   Don't be afraid of ghosts, and don't feel bad about anger. Remember that you are not alone. Focus on and magnify the best parts of life, day after day after day. Hang on. Work hard and do your best, as a gift to your future self more than anything. But also because it will help you in this moment too. You are amazing and you are loved more than you know.

"Who, being loved, is poor?"
~Oscar Wilde

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Little Joys Like Sardines

   This week has been as busy and hard working as ever, but it has carried with it a sheen of pleasure that warrants a little attention. If life were always this joyful, this satisfying and easily understood, then I would quickly become an unbearable grinning idiot to my friends and family. Already, these past few days I have caught myself giggling aloud when no one is around to hear me. That's how good life is.

   Last weekend after the Christmas parade we attended in Cow Town (What?? I haven't posted that story yet? Oh gosh, that is how busy I have been!), Handsome and I brought home a gorgeous White Pine tree and have been decorating it piecemeal ever since. While last Christmas I used a wild Red Cedar from our forest and decorated the house plainly, organically, which was our mood at the time, this year I brought out only the bright colors and sparkling mesh and ribbons and tinsel, only the cheerful, jubilant stuff that matches our mood this year! I absolutely love it. It might stay up until July. Or until it's time to start vegetable seedlings indoors and I need the real estate again.

   Daily, between normal chores and running in only two-mile increments, I have been knocking out long standing projects from my massive to-do list. This is such a relief, you know? I can literally breathe more easily.

   We have made connections with friends this week, old and new, silver and gold, spending little slivers of time with fun people and making memories. The animals are all fluffy and warm ahead of the upcoming cold snap. All is well. Now, one day this week Romulus did chase Daphne so hard that she tore down a fence to escape his wrath, making it all the way to the road before slowing her run, but our wonderful neighbors helped keep her still until I could get outside and bring her home.

   Whew! Naughty, naughty llama.
   Llama drama.
   Momma llama drama.

   The bees are on the road to recovery after an invasion by wax moths. What? I haven't written in detail about that either? It really deserves a post of its own, as this is interesting stuff, if you're the least bit into bees. Which you should be. Maybe tomorrow. Anyway, I am relieved and grateful and encouraged about this whole process. Good stuff.

   Thursday night I was able to attend my nephew Dante's high school band concert and hear him play saxophone. It was wonderful. He is so good and talented, so smart and sweet, I feel very lucky to have him in my life. And he somewhat reluctantly allowed me to meet his pretty girlfriend, so that is a milestone I won't soon forget. I may or many not have taken an excessive amount of photos that night. And, unrelated, he may or may not invite me to future vents. We'll see. LOL

   Professional momentum and stressors are ever present for Handsome, but he continues to weather storm after storm and accomplish things that only embolden my pride in him.

   My youngest daughter asked to spent another day at the farm this week, right on the heels of that last delightful visit, and we had an even better time together than before! We baked, cooked, baked, discussed writing and spirituality, played the piano; we had lunch at home and another tea party and read aloud to each other chapters from Where the Red Fern Grows; we played with the animals; she helped us repair the fence felled by Daphne. We talked about fun, easy things and a few hard things, and we reached a golden, glittering understanding. We hugged and laughed and just loved. Love, love, love. That's what it's all about.

   I spoke briefly but meaningfully with my rather legendary Grandpa Rex this week. Just thinking about him makes me smile!

   Friday night our famous little Dinner Club With a Reading Problem convened to discuss Little Women and celebrate Christmas, We decorated cookies. We ate gluttonously. We shared our lives with each other and laughed some more. I love my book club girls so much, and I know they love me too. Kerri collected coats for delivery to New Jersey, where a colleague of hers is still recovering from the hurricane. We signed cards for all of our guest authors from this past year, and we made excellent plans for projects in early 2013. Stay tuned, folks... Book club has amazing things going on!

   Then yesterday Handsome and I accidentally slept late. Very very late, possibly thanks to an ongoing battle with some mysterious physical ailment. We rose with barely enough time to snag a few truck stop donuts then ready ourselves for a day of family visiting and Christmas shopping. The bulk of our day, after that, was spent soaking up love and laughter at my Aunt Marion's house. She is so special to me, always had been, and she and Uncle John were giving their six year old grandson a little birthday party to which we were invited. What a day!

   More cuddling, more love, a couple of fun movies last night, and Handsome and I are still running on full. I walk around constantly with happy butterflies in my stomach, excited about what we will experience day after day. Is this the Christmas spirit? I think so. I hope it is strong in your home, too. If you need a dose, we have lots of extra. Come on over!!

"It is Christmas in the Heart
That Puts Christmas in the Air."
~W.T. Ellis


Monday, December 3, 2012

December is Beautiful, Be Sweet

   Happy December you awesome people! Did you have a good weekend? Are you even more in the thick of Christmas preparations than last time I asked you? Things at the Lazy W are just as simultaneously hectic and restful as ever. I am hitting a daily stride around here that is deeply satisfying, so much so that maybe one day I should try to write it. It's a thrilling awareness.


   As our seasonal decorations evolve from autumnal to sparkly, and as we accumulate special gifts for loved ones and indulgent desserts and appetizers for all of the holiday parties headed our way, I am happy to have a moment of pause. This year I am thinking of the Christian reasons to celebrate, of course, but also of the pagan traditions that have carried over into modern culture. Maybe it's Oklahoma's changing weather patterns that have me feeling all contemplative... Or maybe it's the fact that this year I have more friends than ever who don't particularly subscribe to a rigid Christian label. Or maybe it's that in two days I will trepidatiously get my first spray tan thanks to a bottom-dollar coupon on Living Social I bought a thousand years ago. Whatever the cause, I am simmering in thoughtfulness about why we do the wintry-Christmassy things we do.

   I don't have too giant of a message with this you guys, only a little reminder and encouragement to go ahead and celebrate things your way, according to your own heart. Pull out all the stops! But don't waste precious time and energy criticizing how others celebrate. Or how they don't. The things we do are supposed to be joyful and loving, life-affirming acts, not critical and obligatory and demeaning to others. Or to yourself. And certainly, traditions are at their best when they are upheld deliberately and lovingly. Don't you agree?

"We have just enough religion to make us hate,
but not enough to make us love one another."
~Johnathon Swift

   So if you have a friend or neighbor who decorates a tree but doesn't use an Advent wreath or nativity scene, relax. There is still enough Christmas cheer for everyone. And if you are one of those sweet souls who  cringes at this time of year because of the inevitable religious guilt trips, despair not. True Love isn't about that. Go ahead and keep your personal winter traditions, whatever they are. Let them bind you to your past and comfort you for your present. And everyone come to the lazy W for some hot chocolate by the fire! If this winds ever dies down we will be open for bonfiring business. And Christmas caroling. Because these are some of my traditions.

Live lovingly and 
Wish Me Luck with my Spray Tan!


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Diamonds, Dreams, and Worry Doors

   My morning coffee is often the perfect time to browse through inspirational quotes and essays, opening my mind and heart to those morsels of wisdom that just click into some struggle happening within me. Today offered such a moment of serendipity, and I'd like to share it with you. I hope you'll join the conversation.

"You rush from room to room 
hunting for the diamond necklace
already around your neck." ~Rumi

   It floors me. How common is this? With such enormous appetites for everything from food to material luxuries and even friendships or romance, how often are we chasing after more than we need, or how often do we fail to notice dreams that have already come true? I know I am guilty of this from time to time. And not just when we frequent the Friday Night country auction, though that is a great example. I mean, I don't care what Pinterest says... A person only needs so many rusted antique milk cans or empty wooden frames that want to be painted turquoise...

   We can accumulate more than we need in many areas of life, continuing to pursue duplicates or poor imitations of treasures already at our feet.

   Handsome and I watched a news segment this morning about a pink diamond ring being auctioned off for charity, at a ridiculous value. The female news anchors, doing their jobs, oohed and ahhed over the sparkly bauble then took turns trying it on. They each slipped it on their wedding ring fingers where beautiful diamond rings already sat. This really bothered me, that a woman would put another diamond ring where her wedding ring sits, just because the second ring is pretty. To each her own, but really. To me, that speaks volumes.

   Then about ten minutes later I read the above quote from Rumi, and it lept off the page. Err, phone screen.

   I am not looking for diamond rings, by the way. That was just an interesting coincidence. But this does remind me of a sparkly wrap bracelet I bought about a year and a half ago on a frivolous shopping trip with my friend Marci. It is missing about a third of its stones but is so pretty, and so odd, that I wear it all the time. It cost like nine bucks.

I think this is a necklace, but I usually wrap it a few times around my wrist.

   Anyway, to add yet another layer of coincidence, Marci happened to called me out of the blue yesterday with some of the most encouraging words I have heard in a long time.

   Read into this as much or as little as suits you, but for me I am taking all of this as a big, happy clue to examine my yearnings. Do you remember the Worry Door story, and how it is supposed to be closed tight, forever?  What phantoms do I still allow to creep up and and terrify me, and what dreams am I still chasing frantically, that perhaps have already come true?

Thrifty stuff update: That painting now sits on my writing desk upstairs in the Apartment;
that gray & white tiered stand has served about three hundred cookies by now;
and those paper white bulbs are finally planted and proudly displaying three inch green sprouts! 

   I have this slightly weird belief that some prayers can be answered in advance, at a far distance; they just take a little time to become visible. That is when faith bridges the distance, the waiting period.

   That is when I have to trust that the diamond necklace I am hunting in every room is already around my neck. Or my wrist. So I just close my eyes and imagine it. And give thanks for it. And stop hunting. And allow the Worry Door to remain closed.

   What phantoms chase you around, trying to terrify you and fling open your Worry Door? Let it stay closed, man. What dream are you pursuing, hunting like a diamond necklace in every room? Perhaps it is already around your neck.Or your wrist. I'm not suggesting that worry has no place in life, or that we should stop dreaming big dreams. Just that sometimes it's good to stop and notice how abundantly blessed we already are, and how many treasures already belong to us.

Be Happy.
And if You Have a Friend Like Marci, 
Give Her a Hug.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Few Animal Updates

1.   The llama was skunked last night. Or this morning. Or this afternoon. Or possibly all three, judging from his stench, which I caught on a stiff breeze while photographing him today. His pasture-mates are clean as whistles, though, so hopefully this means that Sir Romulus has finally accepted his role as varmint-dismisser. I absolutely swell with pride to imagine him scooping his long, noodly neck really low and trotting aggressively after a black-and-white intruder. Good boy, Romulus. Good, stinky, untouchable boy.

I can't even cope with how beautiful his eyes are.

2.   The chickens still have not provided me any more eggs. Well, I have collected exactly ONE EGG this week. If by some chance you have been watching my little egg counter on the sidebar over there and wondered if I have just forgotten to update it... No. Just no eggs. Do you know how embarrassing it is to buy a carton of  snow white eggs at the grocery store? I feel like such a fraud. Like everyone there knows. Watching me examine eggs as if I have a choice. Judging me. Calculating in their heads how much money I have wasted on chicken scratch this month. Anyway, the feathery ladies do not appear to be molting; they have plenty of sunshine and fresh water; and only two roosters are around to "bother" them. Hubba hubba. So I know in my calcium-deprived bones that a giant clutch of eggs is somewhere on these nine acres. Somewhere. Not in the barn or the coop, but somewhere I will find them. Eventually. Or I will find a little nursery school of fresh baby chicks, which are only slightly less delicious.

An old photo, from more productive days...

3.   But Mia's love is still going strong. I sat in the sunny front yard today and fed him and his downy compadres a bag of stale bread, and he cuddled and honked me properly. I happened to be listening to music via headphones at the time, though, and apparently he objected to this. He started pecking at my head and really zeroed in on my headphones, almost in perfect beat to Ice Ice Baby which is the song that was playing at the time. The thing is, Mia is simply too young to appreciate fake rap from that era.

Stop! Collaborate and Listen! Mia's back!

4.   My friend, neighbor, and fellow book clubber Seri surprised me today with a tray of made-from-scratch sweet potato biscuits! You guys, they are so good. So soft and pillowy and sweet, just the exact thing I needed for an afternoon pick-me-up. But I tore off a little corner and offered it to Chunk-Hi and he not very politely refused. He really likes crunchy treats, we should always try to remember. Oh well, more for me. Thanks Seri!

Crunchy stuff only, please, Momma.

5.   Our parrot, Bobby Pacino, is not only learning new words lately; he is also assembling his growing vocabulary in terrifying fascinating ways. I knew it was coming, because in the days leading up to a burst of new words and phrases, Pacino always sits quietly on his perch, eyes lowered, one claw massaging his throat. I really need to write down every single thing he can say, because it's pretty impressive. This week his new thing is "I don't appreciate it, OK?" We've heard worse from him, unfortunately, but for some reason this sentence just cracks me up. The thing is, he says it with such appropriate disgust. His inflection, you guys, is spot on.

Someone told me... If you have a parrot 
and you aren't teaching him to say
"Help! They changed me into a parrot!"
Then you're wasting your time.

Oblah-Di, Oblah-Dah!

My Next Big Thing (sort of a link up)

   Do you remember back in October when our Dinner Club With a Reading Problem welcomed Tulsa author Jen Luitwieler to discuss her book Run With Me? Well, perhaps I haven't impressed this on you enough, but she is still on my radar. In kind of a big, inspirational way. She is in the publishing stages of her second book, an historical novel based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and she is also finishing up the rough draft of her third book as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). 
   NaNoWriMo is staged annually for the month of November, during which time writers are pushed, prodded, and propelled to flesh out just the rough drafts of their imagined novels. 
   Somewhere along the way I got sassy enough to tell Jen and Margi (The M Half) and a few other supportive people that I intended to participate. 
   And finish.
   Anyway, Jen has graciously invited both Margi and me to share our answers to these questions about our soon-to-be-novels. You can click around to see Jen's answers, her friend Mitchell Allen's answers, and more, all over the inter-webs. Here we go with my own!
What is the working title of your book? Louisiana Treasure This is actually just how I have it titled on my desktop. I doubt very much it will stay.
Where did the idea come from for the book? This past summer, while driving home from a particularly lush and inspirational trip to Louisiana, I was scribbling down my immediate memories and descriptions of the scenery and was also taking inventory of how homesick I always feel for this placed I have never lived. So I decided it had to be memorialized somehow. Also, Handsome has been encouraging me for some time to sit down and write something. Plus I have this idea of being wealthy beyond reason just from writing, so that my husband can retire early and I can give my children anything they need and help our parents retire comfortably and go play either in the French Quarter or at a beach once a month.
What genre does your book fall under? Either simple literary fiction or maybe mystery.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I am a big fan of Eva Mendes for the lead female character, and that's as far as I've gotten. I just now officially spent more time googling and trying to remember this certain guy's name than I have spent writing today, so that little detail will have to just work itself out.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A young woman inherits from her eccentric Great-Aunt a sizable fortune but with it the burden of distributing to her disconnected and far flung family members some odd possessions which slowly reveal a pattern filled with dark implications; and along the way she learns about herself and her family and has a sexy, tumultuous love affair with more than one person, plus she has a lot of fun not being poor.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Whichever gets me to the beach first.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I pretty much wrote the whole thing this morning. Almost done. Wait, I might need two more weeks.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Hhhmmm .. I'd say this will eventually polish out to be a cross between Moby Dick, Fried Green Tomatoes, and The Stand. With a touch of 50 Shades.
Who or What inspired you to write this book? The details of Louisiana's beauty and mood combined with the complexity of a woman's heart provide oceans of writing material. Period.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? It will include plenty of romance and even sex, because it's attempting to be about real people. 


   So there ya go! I am actually doing this, although I will not be done as soon as many of the other writers. Thank you, Jen, for inviting me to the Q & A party! That was super fun. 

You Know What They Say  About 
All Work and No Play...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Grateful Holiday Launch 2012

   Whew! What a Thanksgiving! How was yours? Are you exhausted? Exhilarated? Are you so full of decadent food that you now want nothing but Greek yogurt, salad without dressing, apples, and chicken breasts? Is your house weeping for a good scrub, or is it already shining and sparkling with Christmas? I am somewhere in the middle of all of that good stuff, and happily so. Today I get to clean and decorate the house, run a thousand miles and do yoga, make Christmas cards from scratch, cook something healthy, sew nine aprons to sell, then read and review two books.

   I should do approximately all of that, 
before Handsome gets home from the Commish. 
In my dreams.

   My Thanksgiving weekend started with a long, wonderful Wednesday spent with my youngest daughter Jessica. Words cannot relay how refreshing it is to be alone with her, to catch up on her life and her heart, for her voice to fill the room and her arms to wrap around me. We had a girlish meal of hot tea from an antique strawberry tea pot, English muffins with local honey, peppered bacon, and fresh pears and oranges. Feeding her food we both love fed my soul much more than my body. I watched her with the animals, and she is the same as ever. Sweet and confident. I watched her walk across the room, though, and she is suddenly a young woman.

I love this photo so much. Jess named this bee Fred when it landed on her glove, 
and she seemed to thrill at the sound of the buzzing as much as I do.

   She suited up and helped me inspect the bee hives (good news/ bad news there; more on that tomorrow), proving her sweet spirit with every slow, steady movement. Saying goodbye at the and of the afternoon was painful, always more difficult than I show, and I think she would say the same. But I am deeply grateful for those hours together and for the rest it gives me to reconnect with her. I love her and her big sister so much, so constantly, that words fail me here every time.

   That evening Handsome and I attended another Thunder basketball game and screamed our lungs out! It was a close contest from beginning to end which culminated in an overtime victory for our beloved OKC team. So. Much. Fun. And such a great way to release tension!

   Watching the games on TV is great, but the entertainment value of a game there at the arena is in its own category of awesome. The music, the lights, the crowd's energy, the wildness and civic affection of it all, is just unbeatable in my opinion. And the fact that we have a basketball team whose sportsmanship and skill kind of blows everyone else out of the water? Wow. So yes, the two of us are extremely thankful for the gift of game tickets so frequently. What fun!

   After some crazy late night grocery shopping on Wednesday, Handsome and I luxuriated Thursday morning then spent many long, carb-filled hours divided between his parents' house and mine. We laughed with a fraction of our siblings (not everyone lives nearby or could travel this year). We played with nieces and nephews. We made plans to see lots of them next summer. Mostly, I think, we enjoyed seeing our parents happy and busy. It is a blessing not lost on us that we both have our parents alive and well and present in out lives. We love them all so very much and are grateful for all of the work and love that they poured into giving us a happy Thanksgiving!

   We had planned for house guests at the end of the week, but last minute changes left us with a clean, empty Apartment, so we did more luxuriating with each other at our own end of the house... Then a leaking hot water tank changed our plans again and some necessary Black Friday shopping for a major appliance tested our holiday resolve. Happily, we passed the test. I even bought poinsettias.

   Friday night both sides of our family gathered at the farm for a bonfire, some leftovers, pizza, and roasted marshmallows. I am still so thrilled that we can invite both of our families here and everyone blends in and has a great time together! This is a big source of joy for me, and I also appreciate that everyone is happy to bring treats to share. Watching children from both families play together and make memories warms me up.

   I think it's just perfect that in the United State we celebrate Thanksgiving immediately before the onslaught of Christmas and all of the materialism and consumption that inevitably comes with it. This week I have stopped several times to be actively Thankful, to record my blessings either on paper (the spiral mandala) or on a chalkboard we have screwed to the wall of our stairwell. The chalkboard is a leftover from Brian and Rebecca's wedding back in May, and we use it for all sorts of things now.

   Friday night our families helped fill it up with some really happy graffiti of thanks, and I gotta say... eventually erasing this communal masterpiece will be difficult. I predict these words and scribbles will be up for many weeks. Here is a list of what I found there:

  • romance
  • laughter  Laughter is so powerful.
  • sleep
  • happy marriage
  • my babies
  • my home
  • family
  • darling
  • family
  • Brandy & Marie  Okay, who wrote this one? Are you jockeying for an awesome Christmas gift? Because it's totally working.
  • love
  • Mom
  • good jobs
  • life
  • time to play
  • God
  • ...and his love for us 
  • our parents
  • home
  • marriage
  • bills paid
  • happiness
  • life
  • pets  Between the households just represented that night, I bet we have easily over a hundred pets. 
  • good books
  • art supplies
  • Matthew
  • healthy children  Amen, amen, amen. Whatever our other struggles, having healthy children is a blessing we should never stop appreciating!
  • friends
  • Matt I am growing a little suspicious of this now...
  • life
  • family
  • Amy
  • the right to bear arms  We are in Oklahoma, after all, where the open carry law just passed, and several of our family members are law enforcement. No surprise at this little celebration.
  • family

   Just look at how often different people mentioned marriage, family, home, and friends. We are obviously thankful for whatever brings love and security. We prize these above so many other things, even as wealthy and indulgent as we are. This floors me and motivates me all at once! Does it you?


   So... Happy last week of November to you all! I hope you are off and running in your own beautiful ways to a memorable holiday season. I hope you take time to focus on the things for which you and your loved ones are truly thankful, and build on those rather than bleed your energies out toward things that don't really matter. Pray for each other. Pray for my sister if you can. Dwell on beauty and possibility every chance you get.

   If I accomplish my crazy Monday Tasks list in time, I will be back tomorrow to discuss our Lazy W bee situation and maybe sell you some aprons. Have yourself a fantastic day!!

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments
when our hearts are conscious of our treasures."
~Thornton Wilder


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Inviting a Peaceful Holiday Season

   I actually have some fun holiday related stuff to share with you guys, but I just finished reading some excellent news from my friend Nadya over at Journey Keeper (please find a  link to her wonderful blog over on the right hand column of this page; for some reason I cannot paste links here right now). Nadya has just become an accredited yoga instructor! Yay Nadya!! She has been working on this for some time, and I am so excited for her!
   Nadya's most recent blog post about mindfulness and thought control reminded me of a circular written meditation she once taught me, one that incorporates lots of blessings-counting and calm mindfulness.

   Especially at this time of year, anything that calms us down and guides us to count our blessings is worth the time spent.

   All you do is start in the center of a blank sheet of paper and slowly write one thing after another for which you feel truly grateful. Add one item, then another, curving outward as you go, until you have built a spiral of gratitude. A very personal mandala of your own life, celebrated. And for those moments that you worked on your spiral, you have deliberately focused on only good.

   In my book, focusing on life's good is powerful. It's more than just not being negative; it irrigates and feeds what's going well in your life and increases your positive movement. Being thankful shows the Source of your blessings that you appreciate those blessings and are open to more. How many times does the Bible remind us to be thankful, content, and filled with praise? How eager are you to shower someone with gifts when that person doesn't appreciate what you have already done or given?

   As the holiday momentum ramps up, chances are pretty decent that stress will build too. For different reasons, peace will wear thin. But that's okay. Before that takes hold, throughout the month, I intend to use this circular exercise to keep my heart steady and my energy focused on life and abundance, not lack.

   From materials concerns to practical holiday snags and the like... all the way to my heart's deepest waiting  I am so happy to have this plan. To have this simple, peaceful, visual way to return to contentedness over and over again. Maybe I can even think up a way to make these December meditations into holiday ornaments! LOL

   Anyway, sincere congratulations to you Nadya! I know your yoga students, as well as your own sweet little Guppy, will benefit greatly from your instruction. If South Africa were a smidge closer to Oklahoma, then I would surely make time for a few of your yoga classes. Instead, I wish you so much success. I wish for you unbridled joy and rivers and rivers of peace. Thanks for sharing your discoveries and successes with the rest of us!



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Proverbs 31 for the Single Woman (Guest Post)

Today I am so happy and honored to introduce to you fine people 
a remarkable young woman named Misti. 
She has been in our famous little Oklahoma Dinner Club With a Reading Problem 
for about a year, but I only learned this week that she also writes a blog.( 
I became quickly enamored with her forthright and tender approach to Bible themes 
and asked her to contribute her thoughts to my study on Proverbs 31, 
which she graciously agreed to do. Thanks Misti!!
I think you'll really enjoy what she has written, especially if you too are a single gal. 
Please say hello and share your thoughts!

Proverbs 31 for the Single Woman

   For the longest time, I’ve thought that Proverbs 31 was something to attain to, but not entirely applicable to me. After all, I’m not married. I don’t have children. The closest thing I have to a dependent is a shaggy mutt of a dog who lives in my back yard most of the year. Other than a bit of attention, some food, water, and shelter in from the weather, he’s pretty content and low maintenance.

   I’ve been asked once or twice before to share my thoughts on Proverbs 31, and I have to admit, I felt pretty inadequate. I don’t have a family to provide for. I don’t have a husband to sit in the gate and be known for his wisdom. I don’t have children to rise up and call me blessed.

   But tonight, I thought about the story of Tabitha, or Dorcas, in the book of Acts. She was a woman who took what she had and made use of it to help others. So much so that when she passed, the people begged that Peter would pray that God would raise her from the dead because of their need of her.

   It blended with something else I’ve been thinking of lately – the impact of the single, childless woman in society. From the perspective of someone who does genealogy for a hobby, the single, childless women in the families tend to be forgotten. It would seem that they've left no legacy. But then, I have thought about the ones I have known about.

   There is the blind aunt of my great-great grandmother who lived next door to her family and helped with the family duties and the children. Her story was passed down through the family, and she is not forgotten.

   And the ones who have touched my life:

   Sis. Hattie Montgomery was an elderly lady in the church when my dad was a child. She married, but never had children of her own. All the children who went through her Sunday School, or who knew her as Aunt Hattie, or who grew up seeing her faithfulness in the church and heard stories about how she helped build the church building, or the stories of her near mishaps while continuing to drive into her 90s, has forgotten her. She left a legacy.

   Sis. Jewel was the quiet lady at church who filled in as Sunday School teacher, or who prayed. She was my brother-in-law’s great aunt. And she was the one who told me I should be singing in the choir and encouraged me to do that. She never married or had children, but she isn't forgotten. I’ve heard about how she was such a help to Sis. Hattie in her later years, and always there to help out those who were in need.

   My own aunt, Jennie, has been a blessing to the many children she has led in the singing part of children’s meeting at church. She’s a woman of so many talents, and indispensable at the job she has done. She’s touched many lives in her work at the junior high for several decades. Her nieces and nephews, and their children will never forget her.

   These women didn't have children of their own, but they have touched many lives. I see the traits of the Proverbs 31 woman in these ladies. They have been resourceful, talented, busy looking out for the ones in their circle of influence, and a great blessing to the family, the church and the community. I appreciate their good example, and the legacy they leave to us.

Again, Misti, thank you so much for sharing these beautiful thoughts 
and memories of some very special women in your life! 
I appreciate that you have illuminated the loving traits of a Proverbs 31 woman, 
traits that any woman can adapt to her own circumstances. 
Support, encouragement, care taking, tending, availability... Just love.

Love Your People. Whoever They Are


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