Sunday, November 24, 2013

You BETCHA I am the Perfect Age!

   Oh Margi. Margi, Margi Margi.

   First you infuse my week with those strong, beautiful words, #furiouslyhappy. Then you throw down this challenge to a group of writerly women to declare why we are at the perfect age. Whew!

Here I am with Margi sitting on a plaster cow. 
Eating the best local ice cream Austin has to offer.
Margi feels like my younger big sister 
who forgot to grow up in Oklahoma City with me. 
My husband loves her. Even my Momma loves her. xoxo

   What an inspiration you've been this week!

   As an aside, may I just mention how good it feels to be included in this writerly group? Really good. I admire each of you ladies so much. Suzanne, the smart, quietly spiritual momma who writes her heart out at Periphery. Brittany who mesmerizes me almost to tears over at Vesuvius at Home. Jen who is not only a writing inspiration but a marathon-running one, too (remember she visited the farm last year to discuss her book with our book club?) and blogs at Jennifer Luitweiler. Jen in running the Route 66 marathon today! Rose, a sweet, funny fellow Okie who LOVES my gander and blogs at OK RoserockMama KatThe Bloggess. And Brene Brown. See what I mean? Amazing women. I am in the company of truly amazing women.

   Okay, here we go.


   At this writing I am just past 39 1/2 years old. By the time next year's earliest veggies are sprouting in an egg carton on my sunny windowsill, I will be 40. And that is exactly the perfect age for the life I've been given. Our culture sort of tells me I should freak out about this, but I just don't. As a child, the adults ahead of me seemed fairly traumatized by this four-oh milestone, so I feel truly relieved to be so happy at this point. Care for some evidence?

   I have been married to the love of my life for more than a dozen fascinating years. We have had plenty of time and millions of opportunities to build an incredible bank of memories and traditions, a magnificently rich, beautiful life together. We spent most of our twenties together and all of our thirties. AND we are still young enough to not hurriedly enjoy our financial security, travel, health, and romantic inclinations. I look forward to growing old with this incredible man, becoming grandparents, retiring, all of it. Every speck. S-L-O-W-L-Y.

   My babies are now 16 and 18 years old. Healthy, strong, beautiful, smart, talented, good hearted, loving, and each of them on a path to a very, very good life. Loved unconditionally, just amazing sources of Light themselves. My heart tells me that prayers are being answered for them long before my eyes will see proof, and that is thrilling. Even from this little distance, I am so grateful to see my girls become young women. It's a gift not given to everyone. Right now I am stable enough to help them and provide a home for them should they want it. And if in the future either of them decides to start a family of her own, then I will still be young enough to really enjoy being a grandma. It's the best of both worlds.

   This feels like the perfect age for so many reasons. In (almost) forty years, I've made plenty of serious mistakes but have learned so much. I feel steady and calm. Past those turbulent, insecure growth-spurt years and now plenty energetic, capable, and imaginative enough to manage this silly hobby farm.

   Right now I have both the time and the ability to train for my first full marathon next April, something that wasn't even on the radar ten or twenty years ago. And while I could have done so much more for my health back then, I am super happy to have a grip on things now, before the next season of life dawns. Perfect.

   This is the perfect age to have a large, welcoming home for our friends and family. I am not slave to any complicated schedule; I get to decide my own work days and farm days. And I am no longer mystified by domestic things. In fact, I kind of love it, the cooking and the cleaning and the staying home and the being as quiet or as silly as I choose.

   Because at this perfect age we have so many great friends! And if I am diligent here at home, then Handsome and I are always ready to have fun at the drop of a hat. And that is pretty golden. Speaking of good friends, another wonderful woman Marci and I were just this week remarking on how we both are enjoying deeper, more meaningful adult friendships than any other time in life. How incredible! What a gift. Not something to take for granted, folks.

   This is the perfect age for being a true-blue bibliophile. Seriously. I lacked the attention span in high school. I had the desire but not the time when my babies were babies. And then for a while I was just too sad to read. Now? Bring me all your books. All of them. Every genre. I feel like maybe it's the curious, thirsty, philosophical women in their late thirties who should be issued mandatory reading lists instead of awkward messy hormonal teenaged girls. But no one asked me.

   This is also the perfect age to really dig deep with the garden. (Did you see what I did there?) I have a couple of decades of true learning under my belt now,  and I am plenty young and healthy enough to work hard at implementing all of it. Watching my Grandpa, I still have several decades to garden. Perfect.


   So, I feel really great. The perfect age for me. Yes, there are days when I feel bristly toward younger, prettier, more accomplished women. I sometimes wish I could rewind about twenty years to make better life decisions then and always be a size six, etc. But as the saying goes, why question broken roads that lead to paradise? Haven't I been given every opportunity for my particular dreams to come true? Yes. And I am so grateful.

   There are also days and seasons when my maternal heart aches wistfully for the baby years or the school day years with my beautiful miracle girls, slices of my own heart that they are. But there is no shame in nostalgia. God has eased my memory of those deepest pains, replacing them with unparallelled hope and excitement. I lack the words to describe it to you. I'm at the perfect age to sense it. Old enough to sort through the spiritual impressions and young enough to still be amazed by them.

   So what do you think? have I convinced you that I am at the perfect age for my own beautiful, crazy life?

   And how do you feel about YOUR life? I would love to know. Join Margi's sweet, smart challenge and let us hear it. Check out the other bloggers, write your thoughts, spill your guts.

   Thanks very much for stopping in! Oklahoma is bedding down with sleet and snow today, so I am about to go enjoy a cozy day with Handsome and his Dad. Reading, Eating. Cuddling. You know, just being the perfect age.





Wednesday, November 20, 2013


   My ten-four-good-buddy M who curates a smart and insightful corner of the blogosphere called May I Have a Word recently posted this hashtag to Twitter, and it has stuck with me in the most wonderful way.

   She happened to attach it to some good daily news, just a simple celebration of something that in the moment made her life easier: Cheap fuel for her little car, Phoebe. And it's so contagious! This joy! 

   Furiously Happy.

   I happen to know that she did this simple thing on a day filled with inspiration. She was brimming with that good stuff and allowed it to spill out all over everything and everyone nearby. I'm so happy for her and wish her a long, thick, heavy ribbon of that energy to last her a great many months! Years. Decades.

   What sweet M might not know is that she also did this simple thing in the middle of the week I have started my personal "One Thousand Gifts" campaign, my season of taking inventory of little joys (and big ones), of counting my blessings, of listing on paper so much absolute beauty in my world, my daily life. So her chosen words, Furiously Happy, are perfect. Once again.

   I'm on #107 right now, working steadily towards 1,000. 

   This is such a worthwhile exercise, friends! First of all, I highly recommend you find a copy of Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts, the impetusand read it for yourself. Another friend Amber drove me gently to read it, and I'm so glad! Voskamp's stories and scriptural explorations are soothing, wise, and enlightening. I'm planning to give this book as a gift to some special people in my life.

   But even if you don't do that right away, do this: grab an extra notebook and start immediately taking stock of beauty, happy surprises, simple pleasures, answers received, grace notes, blessings, miracles, etc. All the good daily stuff, all around you. See how long it takes you to reach 1,000 gifts, and maybe even make it a group project with your loved ones. It's like the Facebook tradition of daily gratitude we all attempt every November, taken to the next level.

   Furiously Happy.

   The thing is, yes. Life serves all of us up with acute, debilitating pain, aching pain that lingers, and very real, very deep loss and grief. Our little farm family is enduring another dark chapter right now, one unlike any before. But God Who loves us so perfectly and so permanently... continues to bless us every single day! And counting and appreciating these blessings doesn't deny that pain; but this habit may very well help to ease it. The cultivation of joy... The warm, open heart... May be the secret ingredient to our collective healing.

   Furiously Happy.

   I know that in my own turbulent faith journey, in coping with these changes with my children, this ongoing separation that is so impossible to understand, the worst times have been when I surrendered to the blackest pain. I become mean, bitter, jealous, unattractive, judgemental, unproductive, and physically unwell. Not good. I hurt myself, and I hurt my loved ones. Conversely, the best times have been when I surrendered to the brightest joys. Everything clicks. Friendships blossom, home life is downright blissful, my health skyrockets, and (get this) communication and affection with my girls improves like you can't imagine. Much, much more laughter than tears. Unbridled goodness all over the place. It's almost scary how much power I have with my thoughts and feelings. (You too, by the way.)

Choose Light every single chance you get. 
Which is every moment of your life.

   So I'm a big believer in the power of your perspective to actually shape your world. For me it has proven to be much more than a nice idea or spiritual theory; it has for several years now changed circumstances in my life. Wrap all that energy into focused prayer, and nothing is hopeless. No pain is forever.

   Furiously Happy. It's more of a conscious choice than we sometimes want to admit. 

   So thank you, M! Thank you for articulating your burst of joy the way you did. I read it and imagined your eyes squeezed shut and your pretty brown hair shimmying as you shook your head and squealed the words. I love you and wish you many many repeated moments of Furious Happiness.
"To See the Glory,
 Name the Graces."
~John Piper
P.S. as I hit publish I'm now on #128.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Senses Inventory: Sunday Evening

   Happy Sunday evening friends! (Or happy whatever time and day it is, thank you so much for stopping in!) 

"The art of deep seeing makes gratitude possible.
And it is the art of gratitude that makes joy possible.
Isn't joy the art of God?"
~Ann Voskamp

   I am past due for a good old-fashioned Senses Inventory, and indulging in one right now is perfect for what I'm reading this weekend. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp is just awesome. She has inspired me to start a journal of a thousand gifts for which I am truly grateful, and the list is growing easily, rampantly. (Amber, thank you so much for pressing me to read it!) The art of cultivating gratitude is crucial to a good, rich life, as I'm sure you agree. As November prods forward, I'll write more about that. For now, here  is what I notice from where I sit and write:

See:  Mia (canine Mia) the white fluffball princess sitting, pacing, in the wide east-facing bay window. Big, golden circle of lamplight folded between the wall and the ceiling, cross-sectioned by a shadow of the lampshade frame. Vibrant, glossy green pothos and various ivy plants and ferns. Some dried flowers too, and dried corn stalks. Bluish white twinkle lights on the fireplace mantle and all those odd colorful ornaments lingering up there. No longer Halloween, not quite the winter holidays. Beautiful scalloped ceramic bowl of fresh fruit offering me health. Leathery oranges. Mottled banana. Watching the light outside shift from glowing orange and gold to a sexier, smoother blue and gray. Now purple. Now nearly black. All these, within minutes. Now the full, pregnant moon between the trees.

Hear:   Something hissing outside. Handsome and his Dad are working on cars, so it's probably an air compressor. Or a really gigantic King Cobra. Or the solenoid. (Isn't it always that with cars?) Mia the tiny fluffy dog yipping at every creature who happens past her authoritative perch. Now her click clack toenails across the wood floors. Geese whining and honking as they parade towards bedtime. (Open windows allow for every farm noise to roll through the house. I love this.) End of the dishwasher cycle, just a hum. Pacino (the parrot) clucking and groaning contentedly to himself, cracking seeds, and dipping his great beak in the water dish. Now he whispers hiiiii to his water. Or to me.

Smell:  Faint trace of bleachy dish soap. Sharp, crisp outdoor smells gusting in through the open windows. Eggnog candle burning warmly. My father-in-law's aftershave. Pumpkin bread in front of me. That banana.

Touch:  Clean hair, blown soft and loose for a change. Thickly padded leather seat of my favorite very old rocking chair. My own bare feet on the wood floor. Scratchy throat from incessant coughing but a belly full and warm from an afternoon cappuccino. Thickly textured and lace-trimmed tablecloth beneath my wrists. Heavily beaded necklace on my collarbone.

Taste: Remnants of that afternoon cappuccino. Teasing, stolen kisses from Handsome. (I feel a date night coming soon.)

Think:  I am thinking about the amazing orchestration of some spiritual lessons this past year, maybe longer. All orbiting more or less around how to think and how to approach both joy and sorrow... Faith. Formulas. All of it is coordinating instead of contradicting, and that is a real thrill! I am thinking about my firstborn daughter and her new job. About her beauty, her talents, her sweet texts this week. Her future and how can I help her with that? Only God knows, and I trust Him. I am thinking about my baby and how sweet and growing she is, how tall and elegant, how vulnerable. I think about my husband and his deepening grief, about his Dad and how much I have learned by having that precious man in this house with us. I am thinking about how maybe the three of us should just have ice cream for dinner.

Feel:  Hopeful. Optimistic. No, more than that... joyful in advance! I feel happily corrected in some old wrong thinking of mine. I feel so clearly inspired and so well instructed, that I almost can't NOT talk about it! I feel ready and grateful, happy and light. What a switch. I feel amazed by how good church was today, by how genuine the worship felt, despite so many things. I feel a spark of energy.

   I don't know yet know what tomorrow holds, but I am content to not even wonder, certainly not to worry. That, for the first time in a very long time, is a description of how I feel rather than a declaration to which I aspire. What a difference! This moment, right now, is perfect.

   Wishing you all deep, still peace. Health. Comfort in the best possible ways. Refreshment, Romance. Hope. Restoration. Every good thing. Not hiding from your problems but accepting joy despite them.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Watering My Soul Roots Deeply

   What a whirlwind of emotion and thought my life has been lately. Even more so than usual. And that's totally okay with me. This change in atmosphere has caused me to focus more deliberately. To slow down drastically. Sometimes being led around by the next very most important thing is weirdly refreshing, as opposed to just coordinating a circus of marginally worthwhile projects. Being in a state of intensity allows the fringey stuff to fall away, mostly unnoticed, forcing me to deeply water the roots of my heart and hopefully the roots of my family, too.

   I am sick. Bodily, I am run down and exhausted and though on the upswing finally, battling a cold virus like I have not felt in years. I don't get sick too often, so when it happens I feel almost angry about it, bored, frustrated, useless. This time, I was too emotionally spent to indulge that way. I just sought medical attention, slept, and allowed my husband to care for me in his own ways. When your primary role in life is to be the caretaker, surrendering this can be difficult, especially when your house is full of extra loved ones. But I'm grateful to have a guy who insists on it.

   I have been reading more, which is one of the very good things that had been abandoned this past difficult month. I picked up Stitched by Anne Lamott and devoured it in one night. Then I picked up One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and am now immersed in that beautiful volume most happily. These modern books, on the heels of reading Chesterson's Orthodoxy and C.S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man, well... Let's just say I could spend all winter sitting with these words, sorting them all out, comparing, drawing parallels, pressing out and preserving the rich, oily truths they offer. It's thrilling to sense that life is orchestrating your reading, your spiritual education. I'm paying close attention.

   It all is so in step with the vision I had of the Worry Door and those precipitating lessons about gratitude, positive thinking, faith despite the circumstances, and the incredible, limitless power of Love.


   Pomegranate seeds. Spinach. Oranges. Sweet Potatoes. Raw salad. Chicken broth. Hot tea. Water. Rest. Reading good, inspiring, nourishing books. Writing down my blessings in a thorough, celebratory list. Being present with my people and just soaking up the farm, minute by minute, hour by hour, not rushing a single day. Internalizing how blessed and safe we are, even in the face of ongoing grief. These are the features of my focus right now.

   There are so many things for which to be truly, deeply, madly grateful. Slowing down and noticing them really does strengthen our bones. it waters the roots of our hearts.

   In the eye of the hurricane again, I truly feel at peace. Wishing you the same blessing and every good thing that waters your soul roots deeply.

I only deepen the wound of the world 
when I neglect to give thanks
for all the good things
God gives.
~Ann Voskamp

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

His Name was Tom Sawyer

   I first saw him alone about a week ago while running some easy miles in our back field. It was a cold, rainy morning, really foggy too, and he surprised me as I rounded a downhill corner. That morning he bolted, trying to elude me; but we were already at the edge of the property, so the tall predator fencing made a quick escape difficult. Instead of jumping over it, he ran alongside the fence, turning the corner ahead of me, running straight and swift along my well worn foot path. I was so excited! I ran clumsily behind this elegant young creature, juggling my cell phone to take some photos. Trying not to slip on the muddy red rock slopes.


     We see deer at the farm every day. They visit just before daybreak and again after sunset to drink at the llama pond and maybe graze the prairies grasses. In fact the adjacent Pine Forest is full of deer families; but this little guy was alone and tender and suddenly very important to me. He was the same one who kept Dulcinea company many weeks ago, though at that time both of their mothers stood constant watch. Have you ever seen a cria and a fawn nose to nose, all four ears forward and happy? My gosh. It might knock the wind out of you, it's so cute. The term "too cute" was actually invented to describe this exact situation.

   I should mention here that until late yesterday, I though this fawn was a little girl. 
So in my head I was calling her Rebecca, after the novel Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. 
I named my late mare Daphne. Just a little naming trivia for ya. 


   So this little fawn runs ahead of me and even attempts a few nimble zig-zags, probably thinking I was in hot pursuit. Of course I wasn't, except to click my phone at him, but surely my giggling and clumsy running put him on the defensive. Understandable. This went on for a desperate eighth of a mile, then he disappeared somewhere to the southwest of us. I finished my run and was emotionally buoyed for most of that day. Seeing a wild animal like that, spending just a few moments with him, felt amazing.


   Fast forward a week or so, to yesterday morning. Another early morning run, another attempt to get a grip on my thoughts and emotions before the day ramps up. Every day lately is so different, so fraught with unpredictable challenges, I really need this time outside.

   Yesterday morning the sun was fiercely bright and the grasses were only wet from dew. I saw him on my first lap, on the opposite side of the field this time, still sleeping in the tall grass beneath a small oak tree. It happens to be where Jocelyn, my first-born beauty, had built a quick playhouse years ago. Seeing him here pleased me so much.

   I definitely gasped aloud and stopped right there on the path. This time, though, taking pictures and squealing at him didn't scare the little guy. He did wobble to his feet, but only to look at me. I thought his back legs seemed a bit wonky, like maybe they were still asleep and numb. Does that happen to deer? I wondered to myself.

   We stared at each other for several moments before he took a few delicate steps forward and I decided he was mine forever. He was so. Very. Beautiful. Then he stopped and I chastised myself for being greedy don't you have enough, woman? I backed away, turned, and continued my run.

   At this point, any reasonable wild deer would have made a quick departure. He certainly had numerous escape routes this time. But when I returned to that same spot a lap later, he was still there! I was floored. He was not only there; he was watching me. He had walked out into the warm sunshine, quite uncovered by the tree row or tall grasses, and was waiting for me to round that southwest corner. So I did what I do with the llamas: I ignored him flatly. I stayed on my straight little path and maintained exactly the same pace, believing predictability to be an ingredient for trust. With the llamas, the more we do this, the more approachable they are. The less we appear to want them, the more they want us. You know this drill. On that next lap, I wondered if he would still be there, but I prepared myself for him to be long gone.

   He was still there.

   And again. And again. And again.

   Lap after lap, for almost an hour, he stood there on the edge of the back field, now flooded with golden daylight, watching me. Eventually he did walk downhill a bit to the corner where he'd escaped last week, but he still stood and waited, watching me and the llamas with those big liquid black eyes and those giant curved ears pointed forward. Curious. Alone. I assured him telepathically that I would be his mama if he needed one, and that Handsome would buy him some deer corn today. He told me telepathically how great that all sounded.

   I indulged in a complete and very colorful fantasy about having a pet deer, about how he and Dulcinea would grow up together, about how children who visit the farm could experience such a fun close encounter, etc, etc. I was hooked.

   After this blissful time outside, I returned to Handsome, who was home from the Commish for the holiday, and told him all about the fawn. (I may have also been texting him photos of it during my run.) He was as enamored as me, and we agreed to try and at least feed the little orphan and just see what happens.


   We went about our romantic plans for our day alone, only occasionally mentioning the deer. I was trying really hard to play it cool. Halfway through the day we stopped and purchased a large bag of deer corn for our new little charge. Once home, we drove it down to the back field and looked and looked. The fawn was not in the playhouse grass; nor did we see him walking around anywhere. We kept looking and then Handsome said, "Oh no."

   There he was, folded neatly on the ground near the area from which he had watched me for so long. He was hedged in by prairie grass and wild sage. His enormous eyes were wide open but he was very, very still, so immediately I thought he was already gone. I assumed he had starved to death without his mama, and I instantly felt deeply bitter against the bag of deer corn in the truck.

   "Wait, no, she's alive!" Handsome said excitedly. Remember, we still thought he was a she. We approached the tiny caramel colored animal slowly, and we also noticed that Seraphine and Dulcinea were approaching, too. The fawn never flinched. The closer we walked, the better we could see tiny little horn buds (it's a boy!) and even count those long black eyelashes. Unfortunately we also saw that the little fawn had two massive injures to his left rear leg. Probably a predator had tried to get him. It looked vicious. Violent and awful. I couldn't believe he was so calm.

   We spoke very little, just returned to the barn for a few supplies, loaded the little guy into a wheelbarrow, and brought him up closer to the house. The llamas and guineas were very attentive during this time.

   The next hour and a half was a long, bittersweet wait. We were torn between doing everything possible to help this little guy and taking him out of pain and loneliness if we absolutely could not help him. This is a difficult enough dilemma under normal circumstances, but in the dark shadow of losing his Mom, it was excruciating for my husband. I kept trying to take the decision away from him, but he doesn't shirk anything easily. And these burdens he tends to keep for himself.

   Once we realized this fawn was a boy, I secretly started calling him Tom Sawyer. He telepathically agreed with his new name. And he telepathically asked if I could sew some curtains for the wheelbarrow, which was obviously now his. Yes, yes of course I will do that, Tom Sawyer. What color?


   Handsome worked steadily to clean the two gaping wounds. They were so deep that bone was visible above Tom Sawyer's ankle. It was grotesquely swollen, and maggots had collected there too. The other wound at his knee was also pretty bad, but this one looked horribly painful. My jobs were to fetch supplies as needed and sit and keep Tom Sawyer company.  We used warm soapy water, topical cleansers and medicines we keep on hand for the horses, and even one shot of penicillin, all in efforts to relieve him of pain, even if we couldn't outright heal him.

   Tom Sawyer looked up at us once in a while, but he never really moved or even objected to our manipulations. He soon started laying flat on his thin little neck. He had to have been in pain, so I prayed for it to stop. And I wondered what deer think about, did he wonder about his mama? Where was she, and why wasn't she helping him? We offered him water in a bowl. We offered him water from a giant nursing bottle we had used for the baby bison years ago.And we offered him the deer corn we'd bought a few hours earlier. He wanted nothing. So we sat with him and sang a little and waited for that obvious sign.

   My sweet, strong husband, though he worked without slowing, and though he made a few optimistic comments, kept saying to me, "Babe, it's just not..." and he would shake his head sadly. I knew the reality, of course, but what I didn't know was exactly how we would handle it. We were already glad we hadn't allowed Tom Sawyer to die cold and alone in the muddy back field, though that is nature's way. But even saying the words was impossible; I could not fathom either of us carrying out the act. Not at a time like this.

   I looked on my smart phone for possible help. Not a traditional vet, possibly a rescue or preserve. But who rescues deer? People hunt deer. I had no clue. Fortunately on the first page I saw  Wildcare Oklahoma  and called them. A young woman answered the phone promptly and was eager to hear all about our problem. She sounded instantly heart broken and said if we could bring the animal to them, they could help us. So we loaded Tom Sawyer as gently and securely as possible into the back of our truck and made a very quiet forty-minute drive to Noble, Oklahoma.


   We watched the sun set as we drove south then pulled into a beautifully manicured property in the middle of hay meadows, curving with shrubs and dressed with several grids of clean animal paddocks. Three young interns and the owner, all women, greeted us warmly. They walked with us to the back of the pickup and looked in on Tom Sawyer. My heart was briefly inflated with fresh hope, watching these women orchestrate themselves into loving action. I even planned in my head that I would come visit him in rehab a few times a week until he could come home. He telepathically thanked me and said how nice that would be.

   Within a minute, though, the owner said rather firmly that he could not be helped. She explained softly but without room for argument that the ankle injury in particular was unlikely to heal, then she gave a really convincing explanation of the dangers of penning in a deer this size. Having lost his spots, Tom Sawyer was older than I had estimated and therefore stronger, more likely to bolt and hurt himself if scared. But he's not scared, I kept thinking, he trusts us.

   This sad, necessary conversation lasted only a few minutes, then Handsome and the owner joined forces to relocate Tom Sawyer to his final bed before saying goodbye. I will always be grateful to her for shouldering what he would otherwise have stubbornly shouldered himself, no matter what damage it did to him. I walked inside to do a speck of paperwork with one of the interns. I was in a mild state of shock and actively worrying about my husband.


   Emotionally, the day ran the gamut. As if we have lots of emotional energy to spare right now. And it ended sadly but with a measure of relief.

   I want to share something else achingly beautiful. Tom Sawyer, though we could not save him, and though because of our human emotions we had removed him from his natural setting, ended up being of service anyway. The rescue center also treats and rehabilitates raptors, birds of prey like hawks and eagles, so since his little body was injured and not diseased, they were able to use him to help sustain other animals in need. Handsome and I both found this to be really wonderful.


   I am so frustrated by this compouding sense of loss. So sad that Dulcinea doesn't have her buddy anymore. And so very grieved for my husband's heavy heart. At the same time, I am thrilled to have had those quarter-mile laps with Tom Sawyer, and the few hours yesterday evening sitting with him. I am so glad to have seen him to a quiet, peaceful end and to know a little more about deer now. I am very grateful to the folks at Wildcare Oklahoma.

   Life is so dang cold sometimes. Until we look for the hidden blessings. Then it's warm again.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

All You Need Is Love

   Happy Saturday! Handsome and I were up early today. (Sleeping in, if we sleep at all, has become a distant memory.) We drank coffee with his sweet Dad. We watched the molten sunlight spread into every dark crevice of the downstairs. And we sat still, observing and evaluating the gradual acquaintance of our parrot, Bobby Pacino, with one of Harvey's little dogs, Mia. 

   Mia is a tiny, curly white speck of a dog whose ability to cuddle is unmatched. She has singlehandedly broken all my rules and preferences about indoor animals. (Pacino doesn't count.) I'm in love, and thankfully she and the bird are becoming friends. Finally.

   As I type this (with one hand because Mia is lounging cozily on the other), we have just spent about an hour sitting in my favorite weird green velvet rocker, refereeing some face time between these two. They're both super jealous. And they're both super sweet about it.


   Y'all this is an amazing shot. If you only knew the conditions under which it was taken. I made sure to not include myself in the photo because the other day I colored my hair an unusual shade of blonde that makes me feel like the 80's. But not in a great way. Like, I don't recognize myself in the mirror. Think... Ellen Griswold. Ack.

   Funny timing, today I get to go to the City for a smart-phone photography class! I "won" free enrollment with a snapshot I posted to Instagram, never mind that I was the only contestant, and some wonderful book-clubber girlfriends are joining me. I will learn all I can so my photos here will be better. 

   The farm is so beautiful right now. Deep drifts of colorful leaves everywhere. Fuzzy animals. Crisp skies. I want to sit and write about it all, especially the herb garden, which changes daily. Elegantly. I adore that little space.

   Please continue to pray for Handsome, his Dad, the entire family. Finding a new normal is going to take longer than I expected, but that's okay. Love, as always, is so powerful. 

    I'm learning so much. I'm seeing my men in a more vibrant light. Spiritual lessons are washing over me hour by hour, surprising me with new meanings. Seriously you guys, if I could get my hair right I'd feel pretty stable. 


      Also, this is a photo of our little buff, Chunk-hi, back when he was just a little short-horned puppy. He was still small enough to come inside the house. Not so much anymore. Time passes too quickly for my taste. But my gosh the garden looks tons better now! So does the front door. So there's that. I just thought you might like to see it.

   That's all the random news I have for the moment. Thank you ever so much for stopping in. I hope to have all kinds of great things to share before long.

   Much love to your corner of paradise, from my spot here in Oklahoma. Life is good, even when it hurts and shocks us. Love is the most powerful force, so use it. Choose it. Cling to it. Kiss your buffalo or your parrot or your inside dog, whatever you have. They need love too.

Nothing You Can Sing 
That Can't Be Sung




Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Weird Domestic Hoarding

   Following two weeks of steady visitors here at the farm, and immersed in this somewhat overnight seasonal shift from Indian Summer to Oklahoma Autumn, right now I am in full-on nesting mode. This is Day Two of deep cleaning, reorganizing, stocking, fluffing, and spit-shining around this place. I'm not subbing for a while, so I can look forward to lots of days like this. I truly love them.

   I love the natural pace, the way the sunlight changes hourly, the quiet, the household smells. I love seeing the animals' faces all day long, knowing they are okay. I love being here in case my husband or his Dad need something. I love the freedom to choose recipes that require many hours instead of stopping for take out. I love having time to bake and run long miles. I really love being caught up on the necessary things like grocery shopping, laundry, and ironing, so I can pursue other things like sewing aprons and painting lyrics on the bathroom wall. And making paper flowers. And maybe blogging.

The natural flowers are loving this soft rainy day.
The paper flowers, less so.

   But in the midst of so much peace and order, I am discovering a troubling fact about myself. I am a hoarder. Of the weirdest things. Today, straightening the kitchen pantry and the laundry corner of our garage, plus a few other spots, has revealed an embarrassing arsenal of purchased goods. I'm admitting it here in hopes that getting it out in the open will be the antidote to future hoarding.

   Here are the things I have accidentally collected in excess:

  • fabric softener (Even with three people in the house household now, I only do four or five loads of laundry per week. I need significantly less fabric softener than I am buying.)
  • fabric spray starch (See above. Only once in my married life have I ran out of starch and really REALLY needed it. It must have been a scarring experience, because I swear I will never run out of it again.)
  • lasagna noodles (Seriously confusing. Who is buying this?? I don't even remember putting it in the buggy. I only cook lasagna like three times per YEAR. Why is there so much in the pantry? Is Handsome buying it secretly as a hint that he wants it? Doubtful.)
  • spiral notebooks (Shocker.)
  • garlic (Another big surprise. But at least I stopped buying dried herbs.)
  • raffia and white twinkle lights (I own enough of these things for like three more houses.)
  • Scentsy wax thingies (Save me from myself.)
  • bananas (We could survive all winter on banana bread just from what I have in the freezer.)
  • cans of crushed pineapple & cream of mushroom soup (???)
  • conditioner for my hair (I have three big bottles, and that's just upstairs. It doesn't count the half-bottles I donate to the guest bathroom. Pretty sure it's a fragrance thing, but it needs to stop.)
  • chicken scratch and protein feed (Yes, this is necessary stuff, but for a few months now I have been buying too much, and it's piling up in the barn. The funny thing is that the yard birds are omnivorous and easily the most flexible eaters on the farm. I could lighten up there.)

   Whew! I feel better. With a little discipline I will find good uses for all of this wonderful excess and stop the weird purchases. 

   What things do you buy out of inexplicable habit? I would really truly love to know.

Thanks for Listening.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

How it Goes

   Last night we celebrated my parents' fortieth wedding anniversary here at the farm. Loved ones came from near and far to congratulate them and encourage them on a hard earned and really happy milestone. It was a lot of fun and much deserved. My parents are the best and are loved by so many people.

   Still, of course, it was a terribly bittersweet celebration in the wake of losing Handsome's Mom. When Judy passed away, she and Harvey were on the eve of their own fortieth anniversary party here at the farm. I don't think we'll ever forget that detail. So, as beautiful as the evening was in a thousand ways, it was fraught with difficult emotion. All rooted in love.

   I will tell more of these stores as we go. For now, a sudden insight from video gaming.


   Today after church, Handsome, his sweet Dad, and I went to lunch with Handsome's sister and her beautiful family. Everyone is understandably steeped in sadness right now. The shock of their Mom's death is wearing off. The crowds have all gone home. And the pain is visceral.

   In a deliberate effort to lighten the mood and give the kids at the table something upbeat to think about for a while, my husband, "Uncle B" as he is known to the kids, struck up a conversation with our blue-eyed middle-school nephew Koston. About Minecraft.

   Koston is a Minecraft devotee. A Minecraft guru. A Minecraft genius it's fair to say.

   Uncle B made a few remarks about the difficulty with which his own Minecraft adventure had recently started. He complained good-naturedly about the built-in obstacles and frustrating surprises that come with trying to build something from nothing in this imaginary digital world. He was playfully soliciting sympathy from his nephew.

   Koston, this blue-eyed boy who I have come to love so dang much, grinned just a little, shook his head casually, and said, "That's just how it goes at first."

   "That's just how it goes?!" Uncle B objected with a measure of exaggeration. I couldn't help but laugh. My husband has a way of slicing through a really thick atmosphere. I love him for this. Some people may interpret it as irreverence, but they're flatly wrong. It's nothing but love.

   "That's just how it goes." Koston chuckled a little and shrugged one shoulder. I am guessing he thought it hilarious to be giving any kind of instruction to his tall, strapping, accomplished Uncle, the man who is anchoring the entire family right now. Koston's blue eyes were as clear as Mexico waters, just gazing steadily through his few words. He knows his stuff. Especially when it comes to Minecraft.

   "Okay! I guess!!" Uncle B laughed too and threw up his hands. Then he continued his mocked up complaints and prodding to get his boys to smile for a moment longer. For the most part, it worked.

   I just keep wondering about the simple assurance Koston was providing with a grin and a shrug. That's just how it goes at first. So true. What's also true is how things tend to get better with time and effort. How the many games we play are still worth playing, no matter how difficult.

   And I keep hoping that everyone has lots of people nearby to give them this assurance when needed. I know I need it. Life is hard. A lot hard. And that's just how it goes at first. But I believe deep down that it gets better.

Be gentle with each other.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Two Weeks Later, Love Remains

   This is gonna be an unusual blog post. Please forgive me if it's even more rambly than normal. I want to organize my thoughts and relay them poetically, with some meaning or message, but all I can muster right now are observations and a few cell phone photos.

All you need is love! And treats. Chunk-hi agrees. 

   The last two weeks since losing Handsome's Mom have in many ways been unlike any others in my life. Daily, hourly, by the moment, life has been unpredictable and volatile. On the other hand, some beautiful, familiar ribbons of love and stability have carried us from day to day. While we are once again broken in many places, the most important things between us have not changed, they have only strengthened. For this I am so grateful.

   The shock is just beginning to really fade. In its place I am seeing pain, confusion, loneliness, and much more. A flash of anger here and there. Judy was so much to so many people, that she is leaving a void no one person can fill. And she is gone far sooner than anyone was prepared to let her go.

   This is a time everyone relies on God to fill the gaps in our hearts, and He does, if we wait. We all try to be of service to each other, to be used in any way He asks. Preparing meals, cleaning, laundering, driving, listening, praying, organizing, repairing... Anything. But the grief is so ongoing, so revealing of a love that is deep and forever, that no tasks we perform from day to day really feel like enough. So we just keep trying.


   Handsome's sweet Dad, Harvey, is staying with us at the farm for as long as possible. I hope to share lots of his stories as time passes. He is wonderful, and many days I feel like I love him as much I love his son. We really appreciate having him here, and I only hope the togetherness is as good for him as it is for my husband. The farm had been filled with dozens of other beloved visitors day in and day out for the past two weeks, so now the three of us will begin to discover a new daily routine. I know already that everything will be different. That's okay.

   God is so good. I don't have to look too hard to find hidden blessings, special skinny little silver linings that take the edge off the pain, but I also feel incredibly guilty enjoying those gifts. The circumstances under which they have been sent are so hard, and most times as daughter-in-law I feel like on onlooker, sometimes even an intruder into a dark, terrible, intimate family room. I loved Judy very much and admired her perhaps more than I ever realized, but my grief is completely different from everyone else's. That's probably normal, I don't know.

Marci, thank you for this rare photo.

   The Tiny T love story will continue. I don't feel like writing it exactly, but last week I was really surprised to learn that my in-laws had been reading the series together and had even started making guesses about what kind of woman T would end up with. So, especially because I love my father-in-law so much, T will return pretty soon. I missed the 31 day challenge again, but the love story will keep going for as long as it needs to.

   The farm is torn between cold and balmy, between new life and a deep, chilling slumber. Several of us noticed with lots of wonder that the forests were all lush green until the day after the funeral. Now every branch is bearing as much gold, crimson, and russet as green. Still, though, the apple trees have been blooming again, like it's spring time. The herbs are still growing like it's June, except for the tell tale seed spikes begging to be collected. And we harvest peppers and tomatoes, day after day. Kind of amazing.

Apple blooms in autumn?

   The horses have already found their thick, fuzzy winter coats. Chanta is so silky right now, so tempting. When I need to cry I go to the middle field and lay across him, combing my fingers deep through the gold and white hair all over his big belly, and he wraps his neck over me.

   Today my baby brother and I will be preparing a fortieth wedding anniversary celebration for our parents. It's a wonderful occasion, and I'm so excited, but of course it's bittersweet. Judy passed away just hours before we were to celebrate forty years for her and Harvey. See? Life is so wildly extreme. So all over the place. We must be limber and strong.

   As I finish writing this, the late morning sun is streaming passionately through the big east window. Mammoth plants and flowers from the funeral are everywhere, gilded now and illuminated by the fresh new day. Really pretty and really sad. Just like every other detail lately. The living room is absolutely pulsing with color and light, and I have no idea what to do about that.

   Thanks so much for all of your kind words, for all of your prayers. Every single speck has been relayed to the family.

   There is much more to say. I don't know when I will write again, or about what, but for us life goes on. Love is steady and reliable, stronger than ever. There are dishes to rinse. Beds to be made smooth and comfortable. Animals to feed. Aprons to sew. There is plenty to do. And once again, for this I am so grateful.

Work is love made visible.
~Khalil Gibran


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