"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Vital Life Insights

In my plan to savor my own life experience and really accept age and the passing of time and wisdom and not just smooth skin and young energy...I have just made a new step forward. We, all of us, are learning things, all the time....lessons that are our own little gold nuggets that slowly compile to create wisdom. I think it's a shame that we never really consciously examine what we've learned and what we are learning and turn each nugget over in our hands, really looking at it and really feeling it between our fingers, appreciating the things we have learned through hard won experience.

I used to be a big journaler, never really consistantly the every-single-day diary scribbler, but consistant enough that I've filled several lined books with reams of accounts of "what I did today." I don't journal that way anymore. I'm glad that I did it because it got me started: I wrote, I thought, however shallowly about my life and my self. These days my journalling is more expressive and more insightful and much more useful, I use my journal to sort out my insides and plot life in ways that count and make sense.
All my classic lined page journals.

My current journals (I have two at the moment, one for writing and one for visuals) are a little out of the box. This is what journalling looks like for me right now. I'm often answering questions, making lists, making bold statements and writing down my hopes and small healing reminders to the tattered, quiet bit of me inside.
My visual journal

My written journal, in a sketchbook.

This week I decided to start making a list of my major life insights in my writing journal. We all know there are certain trite bits of wisdom (however true and meaningful) that could pepper any individual's list, but what I'm talking about instead are the things that feel vital to you right now. Personal insights: things that have to do with your own individual thinking and pondering and feeling and reading. Here are some good ways to dig them up if nothing is coming to you.
  • Revisit old journal entries (if you journal) and look for recurrent themes.
  • Think about the things you're talking about all the time to your spouse, your children, your best friend, your mom...vital bits of wisdom are often things we're so struck by that we talk about them over and over while digesting.
  • Think about someone who bugs you a lot and ask yourself what they are doing that you would never do, write that down and look at it. Is there some life insight there that you can gather up?
  • Look around you at your bookshelves and remember, as you spot particular books, important things you learned from them.
  • Think about a painful life experience you've had. Are there any life lessons you can say you learned through it?
  • What did you trip over lately and then you say to yourself "I sure thought I learned that a long time ago!"
  • What do you consider to be the most important things your parents and your spiritual community have taught you?
So....there's some prompts to get you going. I'd love to hear what you're all learning at the moment, feel free to share in the comments.
Here's what's on my list so far:
  1. Christianity, and maybe all of life is about LOVE...and nothing more.
  2. We are all failures who are valuable.
  3. All personal connections/relationships in life are good and of value.
  4. I need respect.
  5. Morning headstarts are the key to sanity.
  6. Kindness earns you love, respect comes via achievement.
  7. All emotions are valid and need to be looked in the eye and accepted, even the big scary ones.
  8. Beauty is important for my vibrant health.
  9. Junk food addiction is passive suicide.
  10. Generosity is very important.
  11. Repetition=Skill
  12. Anger, unaddressed becomes bitterness.
 What has life taught you through experience? Dish it out!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Christmas Date

A and I are taking time out tonight to go out alone together and get a little couple space. It's really good to do this anyhow, in normal life, but right now...when I am doing daily battle with the holiday gremlins of chaos, it's even more important.
 I need to remember that I love him, even if he drive me crazy. That we can enjoy being together. That love is the deepest, best good in life. That we are a couple, not just parents, employees, homemakers, schedulers, packers, bakers, cleaners, policemen, caregivers, creators, and homeowners. I hope this will be a new tradition. Our own, window of love in the madness of the season. A time to be still together, to step away, to absorb the beauty around us, and to purposefully make a small memory.

I'm not sure where we're going...we haven't had time to plan anything, so we'll make it up. After we go somewhere fun to eat and hopefully laugh a little bit, we're going to try to find a special Christmas ornament in a shop somewhere, for each of our boys, one that we can label with the year and their name and hold in our hands and imbue with all the warmth and richness that this year has held for our family. A small way to remember this time and try to help ourselves stir the aroma of purposeful hope just before we rush wildly out of town.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Peace Hunting

So, we're to the manic part of December. The part when I am counting down the hours I have left to get ready and saying over and over and over..."If nothing more gets done, it's okay. If nothing more gets done, it's okay. If nothing more gets done, it's okay. If nothing more gets done, it's okay. If nothing more gets done, it's okay. If nothing more gets done, it's okay. If nothing more gets done, it's okay."

Traveling is a lot of  pressure, celebrations are a lot of pressure, big multi-point execution plans are a huge amount of pressure. Especially when you aren't really a big picture person. I get all bogged down in the four thousand details I dreamed up...the pages and pages of recipes for cookies I want to make, the many little ideas I have for meaningful family traditions, the lists of ideas for gifts I dreamed up, the swathes of thoughts on fun games for kids in the car and what to wear on Christmas day, and all those cards that I still haven't mailed. *pant pant pant*

Am trying to let go...and find moments, swathes even, of peace wherever I can. If I don't, I find that I suddenly hate all those brilliant ideas I had. I want to enjoy all the activity and yet not drown in doing instead of being. This week I'm not going out much, we're going to just be here at home, and we're spending time working on making handmade gifts, wrapping things and reading extra stories.  We're busy, we're on a Peace Hunt.

Here's to taking a little extra time to think, sip, digest and close our eyes and let the pressure slip off. The idea that it's all on us is a complete illusion. Nothing rests on any one person but the imperative to live meaningfully, so, "Peace on Earth ya'll...and goodwill toward all mankind." That's what it's about.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Poetry Friday: A Poem About Inner Workings

 I am often asked how and sometimes why I do so much ("with three kids", they say incredulously!) besides just the laundry and the vacuuming...how is fuzzy...it's helter skelter, it's sometimes messy, it's creativity and prioritization and a million little invented systems to make it all work...but, why?

That's the poem for today.
Machinery Maintenance
I create, to keep my shiny, inner gears twirling.
The wild smudge of cyan on my brush tip
Is antidote to the angsty smear in my mind.
All these poems and paintings and frittatas
 I throw them tumbling madly from:
My hands, my soul, my brain, my very self.
If I stopped, I'm afraid the works would gum.
I would hate to see my interior hum,
Grind to a slow, pained, sticky glugg
The psychologist would put his ear
To my chest and furrow his brow
"Hmm...I'd say she's stalled. Still living,
But just kind of frozeny-glued up inside.
We see it all the time with these mothers.
I wouldn't worry.
She's good for another 40 years!"

To see other Poetry Friday participants in action, visit: The Poem Farm

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Whirling Through December

My mind is kind of a big holiday blur right now. Very active, very awake but not so terribly organized and although positively crackling with life, not a particularly accessible place for most the people in my life. I am bumbling on behind my mental curtain, in some measure "just surviving" this season of festivity and preparation for festivity, but in most ways, much more than that. Although, I am completely unable to string together a very coherent post today, there are a lot of things going on in my brain.

The best I can do today is to share with you some of the things I am mulling over in list form:
  •  Going bi-lingual with my children. I speak some Spanish and really want to share the language with my kids. I've decided to stop being chicken and go immersion-style on language "lessons" for a few hours of every day (mid morning to naptime). I need other Spanish points of contact in my kid's lives too.
  • Reading about sugar. Sugar bugs me. I want to do some reading about exactly what people think it might be doing to us and why. Bones behind our theories are always good. Anyone have any good suggestions for books?
  • I am reading this book on disadvantaged women around the world and it's taking my mind apart.
  • This puzzling verse in the Bible.
  • Praying at meals. I think I might quit...at least as a hard and fast habit.
  • The joy of having a new purse. I change purses about four times a year, just to rotate with the seasons and keep a fresh look. I couldn't find something for fall so I was still carrying my summer bag and wishing for just the right thing and then yesterday in Goodwill...I found a soft teal, leather number with a silver buckle. Perfect.
  • The thought that some other housewife walked the floors of our house, worrying about WWII and wondering when it would end. That kind of blows my mind somehow.
  • Desitin. My mom has sung it's praises for an age, but I'm a reborn convert after applying it to my poor baby's badly chapped cheeks and seeing insta-overnight cure. That stuff is fabulous.
  • The meaning of the colors in the Advent wreath. In our church the candle lighter accidentally lit the rose candle last Sunday which kicked off a discussion about the history of said candle (older tradition has that candle lit this week in representation of joy over approaching the halfway point before Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My 30th Year Begins

I'm a youngin'.

Pretty nearly everyone I know has told me about five times or so since yesterday, the day of my 30th celebration of my birth. I think this is mostly a symptom of marrying early. Everyone I know is on a totally later life-track which makes me feel absurdly "ahead of schedule." I used to think I just looked really immature or was not very impressive but I'm pretty sure now that it's just the skewed life track at work, deceiving everyone. That said, youth or gravitas...whatever people choose to comment on, I'll take it. I want to live where I am and accept who I am at the moment. I earned every one of those 30 years but I'm still very young, it's true...and I am trying really hard to learn to live in the spongy world between them that constitutes this stage of life for me. Good stuff.

Here's a photo tour of my big day:


Monday, December 13, 2010

Baking Our Heads Off

 Well, we're into the thick of things now and our kitchen is heavy with the smell of sugar and butter, a thin film of flour over everything and a generous amount of smooshed sprinkles are crunched into the tile grout on the floor. It must be December.
 I was thinking this afternoon that maybe I'd try those salt dough that were such a hit in the 70's. My boys are having so much fun cutting out cookies and revving up the rolling pin that I hate to stop baking although, there are seriously, only so many cookies that it is wise for one house to contain.
I love watching the boys while they cut out shapes. The concentration, the floured undersides of sleeves, the things that make them go to pieces (the parchment paper won't lie flat!!!), and the little ideas they have for "fixing" or jazzing up broken cookies. No cookie should ever be given up on. They all want to be baked, the boys seem to intuitively know that.

Even Nib is wild to join in on the fun, even if it just means he beats a plastic spoon on his tray and shrieks "Ayaaaa!" He has managed to cut his fifth and sixth teeth which a pretty worthwhile contribution.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Poetry Friday: An Apiary Poem

Today an older poem that I wrote piece-meal over a few years, all about my first encounter with an actual beekeeper, after having fallen madly in love with the idea of owning my own humming hive. I was with a youth group when the beekeeper's wife impulsively invited us to all feel free to peek in if we liked and see her husband using the centrifuge machine to spin the year's honey out of the combs from his bee hives.

I will never forget the feeling in that room. So wonderfully warm and sweet and golden high. Someday that will be me. Hopefully, this coming fall.

I plan to order my first hive this winter.

The Bee Man
He was a wrinkled elder with optimist eyebrows floating over timid glasses
Drifting amiably out of the sanctuary in rangy steps
He had faith (they all say) in young men,
That made them turn out alright in spite of themselves
But I was turning myself out
And besides,
I was a girl
All flaxen hair and laughing ambition.
We were picking in his orchard, a boisterous group
Impulsively allowed to see him spin his yearly gold
Each stuck a head inside the door and winced appreciatively
Escaping quickly from the nausea of sugar + insects
I opened the wooden portal and saw
The sweetly toasting inner sanctum
A gleaming frame held to the window,
A white suit, sunshine radiant,
His grin, a modest veil of bees
And curl of smoky, honey fumes.
My small feet creaked in on his floor
---And the room paused---
I swear to you, the bees hung still in jealous silence
There was a shuffling of sticky tools
A shy ducking of the head,
A small wave of his hand
And I was dismissed
The only females under his wing industriously buzzed his honey into hexagonal gold,
And then hummed protectively around him in the glow of that October afternoon.

You can find more Poetry Friday participants entries at Alphabet Soup, the host blog for this week's edition.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Teething in the Glow of the Christmas Tree

It's a good day at our house. The kind of day when we have (finally, finally) a chance to reflect on the week and the season that have been whooshing past with all kinds of speed and just soak in good moments.

Moments like this. 

Is there anything sweeter than babies asleep in the sunshine? Poor little Nib has been extra sleepy lately because he's cutting the second of his two big rabbit teeth on the top. And also one side tooth. These will be his fourth and fifth teeth. He's positively bristling with ivory these days. I think the whole process must be hurting him a lot because, periodically, I give him a dose of painkiller and he collapses quite promptly into a deep sleep and is sacked out for an hour or so. I'm glad he's getting rest although I hate to see that he's in such pain that he needs to collapse to recover repeatedly. True to form, he's ridiculously good-natured for a teething baby. He is one of the most resilient individuals I've ever met.

The other thing that's wearing him out is his new incessant desire to stand and walk. I think we might have another early walker on our hands, just like Ru who walked at the absurd age of 7 months....right across the kitchen counter to his Aunt Jane's arms. Happy Thanksgiving he crowed and then boop, boop, boop...there he was walking. Maybe Nib will reprise the performance for Christmas or New Year's. Maybe I should alert all 8 of his aunts of the possibility and see if I can get them to compete.

The boys are all down for naps at the moment after a nice crackly fireplace reading session downstairs and then a long game of hanging and then re-hanging and then re-re-hanging candy canes all over our Christmas tree. I always forget to buy candy canes before we put the tree up, it's getting to be tradition, and then I have to run madly all over town finding some, mid-way through December. The bonus is that I almost always get a discount because they're already marking them down at our local drugstore.

I plan to get myself back down to the kitchen with all due haste, get a load of laundry humming and then mix up a batch of cookie dough for assembly-line cutting out and baking once the boys are up and buzzing their way down the stairs. We also have outdoor lights and fresh pine garland to hang before A is home and dinner is making it's steaming way to the table! Tis the season for all sorts of fabulous merriment!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Culinary Windfall

So, you've all heard of White Elephant parties, right? The kind of holiday occasion where everyone brings a "gift" something you have lying around the house that you don't want anymore (all wrapped up for the sake of disguise) and then numbers are drawn and gifts are summarily selected, opened, swapped and stolen back and forth at high speed. That s a vague description but you get the idea.

Last night I took this beauty as my cleverly disguised gift.
That's a seven inch, folding knife with 007 inscribed along the side of the plastic handle. Quality, right there. Believe it or not, we found it in the master bedroom of closet of our house. So fabulous. You couldn't invent treasures like that.

And here I am fawning over what I got in exchange. (And getting fabulous insider cooking tips from our priest's wife about where to find the best stuff in it.)

Such a beautiful, old, hardcover gold copy of Fannie Farmer...complete with satin ribbon marker. I do feel just a little badly for the woman from whom I nabbed this fabulous tome. It really is a lovely prize. There is some small consolation in the fact that the publishing date is 1965 which means that (theoretically at least) the book was already fading beyond its peak. A mere shadow of its former greatness. So, I have heard but, I'm not complaining any.

Its so pretty. Such pristine pages inside, not a crease or a drop anywhere except for a few curious, stray pen marks in the pages about sorbet. It's just asking to be written all over and dripped upon and I'm sure I will be able to oblige. I always write notes about the recipes I try so that I can remember when I made and what I thought afterwards and any little adjustments or additions I make. Yeah, and I'm messy. If it was any other kind of book I'd feel bad but cookbooks are meant to be used and dribbled over and loved to pieces.

One of the things I like most about the book is the wonderful line drawing illustrations. Truly, they are frame-able. Excellent little drawings of how to peel a carrot, how to fold in egg whites or and entire one page spread full of visuals of the varieties of lettuces that seemed significant. Love a little handmade beauty in the pages of a manual.

I heard somewhere that Fanny Farmer (also previously known as The Boston Cooking School Cookbook) is the prime instructive cooking source for New Englander's and Joy of Cooking was the home base for the Midwest. Being a good Midwestern girl I cut my teeth on Joy of Cooking, but now that I am on the East Coast I feel like I ought to learn the ways of the natives so I feel like I'm truly joining the locals and learning their ways to be thumbing through my own copy of this book and reading recipes like Maine Peanut Brittle and Boston Cupcakes. The fabulosity knows no bounds! And just in time for Christmas cookie season! Score!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree!

The smell of gingerbread wafting up from the oven downstairs is buoying me on into sharing our little Christmas tree story. There is little more in life to make you feel completely festive than warm gingerbread. I really didn't like it as a kid, but I sure do love it now.

Anyhow, on to the tree tale:

First we went a-looking. We like to go to a family owned stand of evergreens where we are handed a band saw and sent off with our custom fashioned tree cart to search among the spruces until we find just the perfect tree. We have been here three years running for our tree. It hits just the perfect notes for me, family owned, modest in size and selection and cut-your-own in the grass rootsiest manner possible.

The family members at least three generations of owners are all out chatting together, tying up bows and wreaths cozily in a little lean-to that houses a super charming miniature wood stove for warming the hands of the babies and the propped up boots of the grandpas. The stove crackles and some member or other leaps up to hand out a saw or net bag the tree of choice.

They all wear black and red plaid flannel and every year I wonder if it is their family tartan and don't have the bravery to ask any of them out loud. I have to admit that its a very cheery uniform, apple red and black checks were peeking out from Carharts, layered under jackets and even snugly buttoned around the baby in attendence.

So, we picked the perfect tree. (Sorry, I got all carried away about the flannel there.) We have a blue spruce this year instead of the white spruce we've had for the past two years. And Ru pulled the tree cart up to the lean-to again, a feat I was mightily impressed by in a three year old, but still found quite astounding for a little four year old tyke.

We tied the tree on top of the car,  (Such a cold job this year with a biting wind whipping us and flipping the twine all over the place) and then we sailed off home.

We waited one night because there were way too many things on our To Do List still when we pulled in the driveway with the tree...and then we opened the Rubbermaid tubs where I store all the holiday paraphernalia. The boys were big enough to be quite aware and helpful in the decoration process. Ru helped A twirl lights around the tree, we added our garland of tinsel (just one, gold) and then looped on the Mardi Gras beads that we use for extra  kid-friendly glitz.

Meanwhile, Dee discovered the strands of extra lights and disappeared to the hall outlet to experiment with plugging in and unplugging. He was completely fascinated with the whole business. Hang, the rest of the decorations...this electricity stuff was waaaaay cooler. I don't believe we really saw him again all night.

Then, we pulled the ornaments out and I separated them into Daddy ornaments (the breakables) and kid ornaments (the plastic, wooden and paper variety) and we hung the tree with all manner of lovely orbs and gizmos.

At this point A had to whisk the boys upstairs for bed and he volunteered to even take Nib so that I found myself alone in the living room with the soft glow of Christmas lights, a few precious ornaments from my grandparents collection and a small bagful of icicles. I love icicles. The plastic silvery strands that you hang from the tips of the outermost branches. I always wished we could have them as a child and am no end of thrilled every Christmas at the sparkling creature my tree becomes when all those glittering bits all over it. I think sparkle is key to holiday decor.

It was lovely to have a few private moments to hang the special ornaments and the sprinkle glitter everywhere. When A came back down with a lip-smacking Nib on his arm in a half an hour I was all aglow with my moment of Silent Night and felt like the halls had been decked in the very best way.

Merry Christmas all!