happy holidays

A long, long break! How are you? I'm well, full to the brim with ideas and goals. However I don't feel full in an excited, anxious way, but in a subtle, swelling, quiet way. I just feel that this year will be wonderful, and I'm greatly anticipating the new year, and my birthday, also in January.
Some books and people have directly influenced me as of late, leading me to turn inward more, and to explore what is important to me. I find that I enjoy quiet evenings in my living room, away from the computer screen and my phone, doing something like reading and sipping tea, or in the kitchen, baking. I have pulled out my violin again, wanting to learn some fiddle tunes with which to accompany Scott on the banjo. The creative urge has been so strong! Between writing, music, and baking, I'm feeling pretty satisfied lately.

So to you, happy holidays and an especially happy new year.
What do you foresee for the new year in your life?


in my mind's eye

I took such a long break from writing, not only here and but also from my book, that I became disenchanted with the whole thing. I thought I was doing great, beginning to work on plot. I found a few tools online for developing plot, and tried to work it out. It sapped the energy right out of my writing, though. I felt like I'd already written the whole thing, and it died right there on my doorstep. So I took a longer break, not being able to write something that was essentially roadkill.

I read "On Writing" by Stephen King. I can't speak highly enough of this book. I loved the look into his life as a writer, the first half is a memoir which focuses on his writing, beginning in childhood. The second half was his advice on writing. He talked about creating a toolbox with which to work from, including vocabulary, grammar, and style. He offered great tips such as "write with the door closed," literally and figuratively. This really resonates with me, as does this quote I read yesterday over on Amber's blog: "Write your first draft with your heart.  Rewrite with your head," from Finding Forrester.

King also describes his writing as character-driven, beginning with a situation. This made me emphatically nod "yes" and feel reassured that I am not doomed as a writer if I just can't get behind plot-driven writing. To be honest, I can't get behind it. I love characters, first and foremost, and I don't like to figure out the plot beforehand. I have a "situation" in mind, so to speak. My novel begins with something that sets the rest of the story going, but where it goes, I don't yet know. And I like it that way.

I have been taking King's advice to heart. I sit down every day, same time, to write my 1000 words. I sit down and hope the muse shows up, and usually he does. If not, then I write boring stuff. But it's okay, I can always take out the boring stuff later. This way, without a plot drawn out, I am surprised with my characters. They show me what they are doing, and I jot it down. I am beginning to see them in my mind's eye. I catch glimpses of clothing, I hear the emotion in their voices. It's really quite exciting. And so I plod along, 1000 words at a time, in the back seat, taking notes, as I watch my characters go about their lives.

In my life, I strive to be in the moment, and to soak up the details around me, as they work like mental compost to eventually enrich my writing. Also, as cooler weather sets in, I start needing to bake. Thus the cookies begin to be a staple on my counter top. Soon it will be pies, and apple cake. What's your favorite fall treat?
Another question, I may have asked before, but I want to know again. Do you have a book on writing (or your creative outlet of choice) that really speaks to you?


heart of writing

"Writing practice knows this, knows we are not our thoughts, but lets the thoughts, visions, emotions run through us and puts them on the page. Writing is the crack through which you can crawl into a bigger world, into your wild mind." -Natalie Goldberg

Ah, the dry spell has been broken. It's always Natalie Goldberg, digging into the heart of writing, and inspiring me to get pen to page. I started reading "Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life", and along with some encouragement from my dear friend Jessie, I sat down last night and did some writing. The thing with writing is, as Natalie Goldberg says, a writer can't stop writing. She might take a few months off, but not writing is like suicide. It will drive the writer into depression or drinking, or sometimes both. A writer just has to write.

I love Natalie Goldberg's method of creating a writing practice. It's not journaling, but just filling pages. Sometimes I do timed ten minute jaunts, sometimes I think of a subject and fill a few pages - ignoring margins and lines - until it wraps up on its own. Writing practice is a bit different than sitting down to write a novel, but writing practice is a great warm up for working on a novel. The novel I've been working on is taking some time off from me, it seems, but ideas for it keep rolling in, much to my delight. I think I've got to do some plot mapping, which I have no idea how to approach, but I feel I need to get myself organized before I continue.

For now, I'll be enjoying the drop in the temperature by going on long walks with my kids, picking up treasures all the way home. Magnolia pine cones, rocks, pecan shells, and red mottled leaves seem to be most popular these days.My personal treasures include reading late at night, my writing practice, and chilly mornings with black coffee, looking through the condensation covered windows, watching my little ones play together.
What sorts of treasures are you enjoying these days?



Finn turned 3 yesterday, complete with playing with friends all day, homemade pizza for dinner, and cookies and ice cream. It is a wonder that this little being whom I birthed not too long ago, is definitely on his way to becoming his own big person. He is independent and kind, and loves to read books and go on adventures. Here are a few shots from yesterday.


a little break

A break, a vacation, is just what a person needs sometimes.
I took a vacation when my mom and brother flew in, and we went, with the kids, to the beach together. It was wonderful! I also took a break from any sort of writing, which felt good at first, but now I feel malnourished.
The break gave my story time to breathe and come to life, and new ideas began to occur to me, guiding me along even when I felt uncertain. Now I am ready to keep writing, armed with a resolution and some major character development ideas.
Also, coming home to this house, I realized I've got some work to do to make it truly feel like home. Some cleaning, some painting, some sprucing up. Now that the weather is cooling down, I may feel more like spending time inside the house and making it more beautiful. After all, our lease is for 2 years, so I want to do a little work to make it enjoyable to live here.
The most exciting news of this week is Finn's third birthday, coming right up on Thursday. He has requested a strawberry cake, so I am on the hunt for the perfect recipe.

Are you taking a little break from anything?
Do you have any exciting news this week?


big news

The summer days are slipping by. This morning the air was cooler, and a breeze flipped the leaves of the trees back and forth, waving hello.

I have been busy learning a new city. Atlanta is not completely new to me, I spent twelve years of my life living just outside of Atlanta, in various suburbs. Living in the city, though, is different. It is still easy for me to get turned around as I try to find my way about town. Did I already express how much I love it here? We live two blocks away from a beautiful shaded playground, a library, a post office, a cafe, a bakery, and a pizza place. Not to mention, just a mere mile from my best friend.

Here is the big news as of late.
1. Evelyn is walking! For a couple months she would take a step or two, then plop back down. Now, it is almost full-time walking, with tiny bouts of crawling in between. Watch out, world.
2. I am writing a lot. I'm practicing in my journal, Natalie Goldberg style. I have also begun writing what I can only hope will turn into a novel someday. My word count is just over 10,000 as of today. 10k! I would not have imagined that possible a few weeks ago.

So that is what's going on with me. What is going on with you? Have any big news?



After not writing in a long time, I thought I'd check in today. I feel anticipation is a great theme in my life these days.
We are still settling in to the new place. We've been here about a month, and while we plan on buying a new bookshelf soon, that still leaves our sunroom piled with boxes marked "books". The sunroom, when emptied, will become my craft/writing room, just a little place of my own. I look forward to spending time in there!

Scott and I just celebrated five years of marriage. The move and his new job had put some stress on our relationship, but I feel that over the past week we've intentionally spent some quality time together, and we are much more connected now. It can be easy to get caught up in all that is going on, and forget your true priorities.

The other tidbit of news I have is that my brother is home from overseas (he is in the air force and was on his second deployment) and he and my mom will fly in and spend some time with me soon! I look forward to this reunion immensely, I have not seen David in over a year, and have not seen my mom since spring. It is difficult to live apart from them, especially as my relationships with both of them have grown so much since becoming an adult and a parent. I can't wait to just goof off and hang out with them!

The summer has been so hot I had completely forgotten about fall, but the past couple days the mornings have been breezy and cool (that is to say, not 90 degrees). So autumn has been slipping back into my mind, and how exciting it is to anticipate cooler weather, crunchy leaves, and of course the foods of fall - especially apples and pumpkins.

What's new in your life? What are you most looking forward to these days?


in my home

Here are some shots of our new place, as it comes together. It is unfinished (as always, right?) but feeling more like home every day. I uploaded these photos onto my facebook account, and then went through and tagged people. I tagged Natalie, in the things she's given me, and Jamie, for the housewarming plant and her book I'm borrowing. I tagged my mom, for her pieces of art and the heavy side table that has traveled with me for my entire life as I remember, from Wyoming to Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, and back to Georgia. I tagged Jessie, for the basket she gave to me. As I looked at the photos and matched names to items in my home, I realized how many of my things were given as gifts by friends, or created by hands of the ones I love the most.
There is the bench from my grandmother, and the pillow she made and sent to me. There are the items given by friends who were moving, and wanted to pare down. Almost all of my things have been handed-down, given, or gifted to me. I know my home is simple and modest, and that's the way I prefer it to be. I like to give rooms some space to breathe in, and decorate sparsely. The things I have, though, I dearly treasure. The items surrounding me are drenched with history. I find beauty in all my things, most of all in their stories. I love to look around my home and realize how truly blessed I am with what matters most - relationships. In my home I feel at peace, and I feel loved. It is for me what I most wish a home to be - a sanctuary and a refuge.

How do you relate to the things in your home? Do you also have some treasured items?


in this new place

I don't have a single photo to share. In fact, I don't even know whether or not we've unpacked the camera yet, or where it might be. We are successfully living in our new house (renting, that is) in Atlanta. Our neighborhood is great. I can walk to the farmer's market, a shaded playground, a vegan bakery, a cafe, the library and post office, and my best friend's house. I love being in walking distance of pretty much everything!

I am missing my friends in Chattanooga, however. I wish they were here with me, then it would all be perfect. And of course my dear ones from Missouri, as well! Who doesn't want all of their best friends together, with them, all the time?

In the excitement (read: stress) of moving, I have not been writing. Not here, not in my trusty journal. Where is that thing, anyway? I'm still spending some time each day unpacking, and cleaning, and rearranging things until they make sense.

It is strange to be back here. I lived in Georgia for 12 years of my life, then married and moved, and have spent 5 years away. Now that I'm back, with kids, and as a new person myself, who has grown and changed immeasurably in these 5 years, everything is familiar yet it is different. Friends and places that were here when I left are still here, yet they have changed as well over the years. I was invited to a party with some of those old friends and I felt immense anxiety at the prospect of seeing them. There are parts of my life I'd rather leave in the past. However, other old friends are popping up to say hello and I feel incredibly pleased. It is almost like meeting them all over again - people change so much, truly we are changing every minute.

I have also been using this big change of location to spur on other changes. I won't bore you with the details, but I'll just say that our fridge and pantry are healthier than ever. Hopefully as the dust settles, my writing will take on a life of its own again, and I will be curious to see what changes come about in my writing, in this new place.

What changes are you experiencing right now?


step by step

We are moving from this home to a new one in less than a week. I cannot actually believe it, though there are signs all around me that things are changing. The boxes pile up as the refrigerator empties. My house is looking sparser and cleaner than ever.

My mind is racing with to-do lists and the possibilities of a new house, a new city, a new beginning. Times like this morning, when I walked the dog in the early sunlight, with a cup of coffee in hand, taking it step by step, times like that - are truly healing. Letting go of the grabbing and list-making mind, and just being present in the actual moment. Hearing the birds and cicadas, feeling the tug of the dog on the leash, sipping the coffee.

My temper has been easily lost these days. As the stresses of moving mount, and I begin to contemplate leaving my dear friends here, my mind grows fuzzy and my words sharp. I am trying to begin each morning with some mindfulness, so that I might find that quietness, and more easily calm down when disaster (or just loudness, messiness, etc) strikes.

What measures do you take to keep calm when you are feeling anxious?


weigh heavy

I normally don't share writing from my journal, but this is an exception. My friend was senselessly murdered by strangers (and mere kids, at that) several years ago. It was in late summer, and so every year as the heat rises, so do memories of this friend. I can think only of him lately, so that's what I've been writing about, too.

For a group of kids in the southeast, this time of year begins to weigh heavy on us. We're not kids anymore, I suppose, but in my mind we will always be suspended in time, back to those days when we were young and foolish, and every day was an adventure we took on together. Some people would discount those days due to the haze of drugs and late nights that seemed to fuel the friendships we were forming. But through the years, as we moved past the drugs and the long summer days, our friendships grew with us, and outlasted the years of our youth. Today most all of us are still close. Trials have tested us, and some of our ties have loosened from the burdens of the years, but even if some of us are not as close, we would surely say we are inextricably linked, because we all had Brett. And we all lost him, too.

Most of the world never met him, but for those of us who called him friend and brother, we were changed by knowing him. Let me tell the rest of you out there about Brett Lanier. He was a fantastic musician. He wrote piles of songs - the music and the words. His lyrics were sharp with wit and heart-pricking emotion. Upstairs in his parents house, in a carpeted office room over the garage, Brett sat for hours, folded in an origami shape as he bent over his guitar until it came out right. He loved listening to music with the same ferocity as he loved creating it. He drove a green - almost turquoise - pickup truck and when he arrived at his destination would sometimes stay in the cab, listening intently, until the song ended. He had conversations about music - picking it apart to see what made it work so well. He contemplated meanings of ambiguous lyrics and pondered construction of bridge and chorus.

There was a lot more than the music that made him special, of course. He was kind and thoughtful - a great ally. He'd pick you up if you needed a ride, and always shared what was his with you. He would meet you for coffee and teach you what he knew about writing lyrics, even if you were half crazed on caffeine and nearly living at the diner. What I mean is, and I'm sure you know this to be true - it's impossible to capture him in words. As my memories slip and slither and I try to grasp just what it was that made him him, I can't.

As the summer ripens and we are all covered with sweat, and nostalgia hangs thick in the air, our minds turn to Brett. It was in the summer that we spent the length of our days together - an unstoppable gang of misfits, dirty hippies, and wandering souls. Wherever we went, our tribe took the shape of the place - anyone could see that we belonged to one another. And so now, in the summer, when we memorialize his unfair and untimely death, we mourn for the part of us that is missing. Our friend, our brother in spirit, lives on inside our hearts. We carry his legacy with our stories of his life, and together we can remember him wholly. He will always be our Brett, the kid we miss the most.


enjoy every drop

As summer rages on, things that have begun to grow are now taking off at a quick clip. Our time here in Tennessee is coming to a close. We are moving to Georgia in a few weeks, that's it! I can't quite believe it. I am looking forward to the change, and to living just one mile from my best friend; Jamie and I have not lived in the same city for nearly ten years. I'm excited to see how our time together unfolds, and I look forward to growing alongside her, once again close in proximity. I'm also a little scared of moving, to be honest. When we moved here I experienced a deep depression that was difficult to overcome. Counseling helped tremendously, and at least now I know that if I find myself in a dark place again, I can always seek help.  
This week we celebrated Evelyn's first birthday! I made a birthday banner, and completed it at 10pm the night before her big day. I love this little girl - it is fascinating to see her personality blossom. Mothering is so much harder than I ever imagined it would be, and its joy runs deep as well. I experience such moments of presence and wholeness, watching my baby pull to standing, or listening to Finn learn to craft sentences. It is incredible - the humanity, the learning, the growing, the trying, the frustration, sadness, and exaltation. These tiny beings experience it all so greatly, and they are wise teachers. I also find it humbling and enlightening to hear my words come back to me from my son's mouth. There are definitely some spots that I need to work on, I realized when I heard him say to his sister, "baby, that's terrible!"
Life is abundant now, in summer, and as a parent of young ones. Now is the time of rampant growth and uncontrollable yearning. I look forward to the times ahead, when the river won't rush quite so fast, but I'm also trying to enjoy every drop as it passes.

What's growing rampantly in your life? What are you enjoying?


what could have been

I must have jinxed myself on that last one - talking about writing. Shortly thereafter I took a too-long writing break. I am still trying to get out of that funk, and struggling terribly. I'm reading a great book, which you might think would be encouraging, but it scares me. How does the author do it? What were the steps? This book is so well-written that I fall into it effortlessly and stay submerged, living a double life, catching some air to cook food or tend to my children, but all the while longing to get back to the characters and the story.

I can only hope to one day write something that amazing!

Meanwhile, my life in this town is wrapping up as we prepare to move next month. We are moving just two hours away, into a big city. We have only lived here one year but I am reluctant to say goodbye to some wonderful friends. To think that our friendships are only just beginning - what could have been!

Of course I know it's no good to ruminate on the what-ifs. Instead, here's a look at the fun we've been having lately. Hiking, going downtown, and playing in our home.



For anyone wondering about the project I was rambling on about in the last post, here are the long and short of it. The long: a book. The short: writing every day. 

The dream that I have is to write. It is also the very core of who I am, though I think I've been in denial for most of my life. As a child, I loved writing. I tore off covers of books and filled them with stories of fairies, forests, and so on. I wrote about world peace! I was idealistic, a bit of a dreamer, but very serious about my writing. Somehow in the last half of my life, my writing has sadly dropped away. At some point I began doubting myself, my writing, and everything in life. I became cynical. I consider myself an optimist, but it's hardest to be optimistic about my own dreams, I find. I've decided to pick it back up, because if I don't strive for my dreams, who will? 

I'm reading a couple books by Natalie Goldberg, and she's instilling courage in me and the willingness to write even when I don't want to, even when I feel I have nothing to say. Which is most the time. As for the short of it - writing every day - I'm learning discipline. As for the long of it - writing a book - I'm a far way off, but am hopeful for the eventuality. 

As I go along, writing everything I know and imagining what I don't, I unearth so much. Memories I had hidden away come to the surface. Things I didn't even know I remembered are coming up and surprising me, tapping me on the shoulder. I talked to my mom today and unearthed some painful parts of my (and her) past. I am fascinated by digging for the truth because it is such a huge job, and because it feels magnificently important. Also, it's fascinating because we all are unearthing, constantly. Learning about our past, about who we are now, who we were then, and who we might grow to be. We are learning about the world, material and spiritual. We each unearth, as if digging blindly and heroically, without ceasing.

What are you unearthing these days?


build it nonetheless

There is a nest coming together just out the door. A few weeks ago, I noticed a male and female red finch checking out some prospective real estate at the top corners of my front porch. Their loud chatter would draw me to the window, and I'd pull up the blinds to see them. Usually they noticed the movement and flew away. I decided to try to lie low, honored by their attention to my lowly abode, and allow them to build a home of their own. I would only sneak a peek as I walked outside, pretending not to notice if I saw one of them perched in a corner. Each corner acquired a collection of stems and leaves, but then the next day I would find them scattered on the ground below the corner. Finally they chose a corner and committed to building an entire nest. It seemed to go up quickly, and then it was my pleasure to spy on the birds coming and going to and from their little home. I wondered if there would soon be tiny chirps amongst their adult chirps.

Then the storms came. If you were watching the news or listening to the radio, you know about it already. Tornadoes, high speed winds, tons of rain, even hail. We lost power for half a day, not bad at all compared to others who lost it for over a week. The day of the storms I noticed it gone, I cried out in surprise. Something in my chest tightened and I set out in the driving rain to look for the nest. I found it on the grass, face-down. I didn't want to disturb it, but I had to make sure. I turned it over - no sign of eggs. I checked under bushes and tore apart the grass with my eyes - no sign of eggs, not even broken ones. I silently thanked the powers that be and studied the intricate nest before putting it on the edge of the porch.

It struck a note with me, and I pondered how much my life was like that of the birds. I set out with an idea or a project, a goal in mind. I spend hours, days, months trying to get the particulars right. Sometimes the idea dies right there, and I wave goodbye with a "so long, sucker!" attitude, because the idea was too high-maintenance or I didn't have the means or know-how to put it into action. Other times the idea begins to come together. I work hard to weave it strand by strand, reinforcing the weak bits and insulating the parts meant to sustain and support me or others. As the thing draws to a finish, a storm comes. It is something I could not have known about or seen coming, yet it comes anyway, and ruthlessly it destroys the very thing I worked so hard to build. When this happens, I rarely come back to it. I usually let it fall apart and go back to the meaningless pieces it had been before the weaving. Sometimes, with a little self-encouragement, I can find the courage to continue. The idea I'm currently reviving is in its beginning stages, as small unrelated pieces. I have no idea how it will ever come together, or what will be birthed in me and my life if it does manage to come together.
But I'm going to try to build it nonetheless.

After the day of storms was over, the nest was nowhere to be found. I did not see the birds for nearly a week, and worried that they might have left altogether. To my pleasant surprise, they returned. For the past few days I have heard their lively talk as they perform the same ritual as before - choosing a corner for the nest. Each day I marvel at the corner full of twigs, and then I see them on the ground. They are beautiful. I wonder where the birds find this particular flower and why they choose it over others. I anxiously await the quick build of the nest, and hope that soon after I will see a guarded mother bird and hear tiny, joyous chirps.


little steps

Great journeys begin with just a couple small steps.
At least, that's my mantra this week. After reading "Radical Homemakers", discovering Corbyn's blog, and taking stock of my life, I pulled out my notebook and sat down to write out some lists.
I decided to go ahead and put it down on paper, which was both thrilling and terrifying. I wrote in careful handwriting: Dreams/Plans for the Future.
So much of what I wrote seemed that it could only happen in some far away distant time, so much so that I felt hesitant to write some of my goals, such as having goats. In an effort to lift my heart and strengthen my can-do spirit, I looked at my list and wondered what I could do right now. I remembered my tiny, contained garden on the front porch - my two tomato plants and one basil, who needs a bigger container. I decided to buy more seeds and soil, and to grow more. Then I came up with the make-shift clothesline on the unused back porch. I did a load of cloth diapers and hung them up in the sun, and felt good about my little steps.


sitting pretty

All signs point to: privileged. Above average, blessed, wealthy by many standards. As a white gal born to a middle class family in the United States, I am exceedingly privileged.

Natalie recently talked about the privilege she and her husband have in choosing a job. My husband Scott and I are similarly blessed. He is a nurse and for the time being, it's a job in high demand. It still takes some work to find an opening that fits his wants and needs, but the mere fact that he has choices and is able to land a job at a good hospital is incredible. While so many people are going without, whether as a result of the recession or because they are already in poverty, I am sitting pretty with my nice house, electricity and central air, working vehicle, food budget, etc.

Tonight I found Corbyn's blog, and have been devouring every single post of hers, as if it is the only thing that will sustain me. She documents the changes her family has made as she lost her high-paying job and had to give up everything - cable, internet, gym membership, health insurance, car. Her family survives on a combination of WIC, food stamps, and dumpster diving. They ride bikes everywhere, no matter the weather. What's most surprising is her attitude. She is full of humor and (there's no other way to put this) realness. Here's a post she wrote recently on her shareable.net blog. What she has found instead of financial and material resources are what she calls "social resources", and that is exactly what I was getting at in my last post.

What's most important are the things that have fallen by the way-side - relationships with family, friends, neighbors. Sharing, supporting, loving, and giving in every way possible to those around us, in a safety net of arms. I want to strip away the things that keep me from real life, and dig down deeper to tend to the roots of the relationships in my life.

I feel that I posed the question to myself: what do you want? What are your dreams? And the answers are coming pouring in. There are things I want that are uncomfortable, like community. Do you know how vulnerable it feels to depend on other people? There are things that I want that will take some initial investment, like a rain barrel or some hens. But I want to work hard for a life that is more sustainable on every level, and a life that benefits not only myself and my family, but those around me as well. I want to live a life that gives more than it takes, and that can let go instead of holding on. I don't know where to begin, really, but I'm sure that as I continue to ponder the path from here to there, I will figure it all out with plenty of mistakes and with the depth of wisdom that only experience can provide.


the life I want

We have friends in town right now. Scott's college friend Josh and his two boys are staying with us for the weekend. The day before they came into town, Wednesday, our area of the country was struck with many tornadoes. We were blessed to survive unscathed, while huge trees fell down all over the city, downing power lines and destroying homes. Mere miles away, the destruction was even worse. Houses were missing off of hillsides, and people lost both their homes and their neighbors.
My neighbor Sara and her partner went to help with chainsaws the next day, and left their kids with me. Another friend, whose house was blessedly left standing but who had 8 trees in her yard fall, also dropped her kids off with me that day. I spent all day playing with six kids, making sandwiches, putting babies down for naps, and generally enjoying myself. As the day ended and the kids cleared out, Josh and his boys came into town.
Taking care of all these children, friends and neighbors in my house has stirred something in me, and I couldn't quite figure it out until I started reading "Radical Homemakers" by Shannon Hayes. Her book discusses the worth of domesticity (not just of women), the value of having a life centered around a home, feminism, and community. I'm only 49 pages in but am certain that this book is changing my life. It is validating and putting words to a movement within myself I've not yet put words to. I knew when I decided to stay home with my kids that it was the right thing for me, yet I've struggled to find meaning in it, living in a society and culture that only values the exchange of money. I want to self-actualize, and have considered going back to school, and trying to pursue something outside the home, but it just doesn't feel like what I truly want. Now I am beginning to understand a vision of the life I want.
I want to work in my home. I want to garden, make things from scratch, sew and mend, build and grow. I don't want to do it alone. I want a community of people who want the same. I want to barter with them, and exchange our knowledge and crafts.
Now I see why leaving Columbia was so hard. I was building that community. I was beginning to build a large circle of friends who all together created a wealth of knowledge and skills. Gardening, sewing, canning, fermenting, baking, building, repairing. Together, we could do it all, and eschew the consumerism that drives our society. As I go forward in life, I will seek community where ever I may land, and I hope to build it as I go.


moss and smooth stones

Easter was great this year. Finn's basket included a wooden egg painted with chalkboard chalk, chalk included, made by a dear friend of mine. It also had a yellow bird felt finger puppet, that I made during a sudden surge of creativity. Another thing to come out of that creative surge is the little toy I made for Evelyn's easter gift. It's simple - a circle with some layers of quilt batting and crinkly plastic inside, and rimmed with tabs of ribbon to chew on and feel. She seemed to enjoy investigating this new thing.
Then we headed outside to hunt for some eggs. I only put one chocolate covered cranberry in each egg, knowing that Finn would be pausing in the yard to eat his goodies. As you can see, Scott and I were armed with coffee.
The best part was the hike. We loaded up kids and dog, packed up some sandwiches and apples, and headed to a quiet hiking spot. Scott and I were grumpy with one another (cause unknown) but as we arrived, unloaded, and began in on the trail, the mood changed. The fresh morning air cleared us out, and we began to spot inchworms and mushrooms and wildflowers along the path. We hiked higher, coming to a forested waterfall. We crossed and climbed higher, going through a natural stone cave, or short tunnel, rather, and came out on the other side to follow the stream upward. We turned over rocks and found a salamander. We spotted millipedes. We touched moss and smooth stones. We laughed as our dog went for many swims and came back to shore to shake water all over us. 
After coming back home and taking a nap, we spent some time eating with our family.
The day ended with baths and snuggles, and story time.
A beautiful day spent mostly in Tennessee wilderness, in the springtime. I couldn't ask for better, but I do hope the morning hike becomes tradition!

How was your Easter? Did you start any new traditions?


heal what ails you

I don't have any fun photos to share this time, but I would have had some if I'd taken the camera with me to the yard today. Imagine this - two mostly naked babies, playing in a tub of water in the grass. That happy image would heal what ails you, at least it did for me.
This morning I was in a bad place. Not feeling the best physically (had a stomach virus over the weekend that still has me a little weak feeling) and trying to hold it together emotionally. That didn't exactly work, and twice I ended up falling onto my bed in tears and frustration, to "take a little break" as Finn calls it when he heads to his bed to shed some tears. I cried a little bit, looked at my kids, and tried again. Then I became frustrated and overwhelmed all over again and repeated the cycle. I had plans to try to get out of the house, and do a little shopping for a few things that we need. Instead, I gave up on it and made some sandwiches. We ate and then stepped out onto the porch. Something was telling me that if I could just get outside I would feel better.
We sat on the porch for a while, and the sun warmed my bare arms. The recycling truck came by and Finn jumped with joy and waved and said "thank you!" as it took away our recycling. Finn got the recycling tub and brought it back to the porch, it was filthy. So we gathered rags and soap and took it to the side of the house, put it under the spigot, and began the process. If you have ever played with a toddler, you know where this is going - naked! Inside the tub! Splashing! Jumping out and rolling in the grass! And if you have played with a baby, you could guess about Evelyn, too - wanting to be like brother! Naked! Inside the tub! etc, etc.
Watching those two play while I sat on the grass and soaked up the sun just warmed my heart right up. It dried out the seemingly endless well of sadness and despair, and brought joy to me. I remembered the blessings in my life - two happy and healthy children, a home, running water, warm sun and soft grass. And it definitely cured all that ailed me. 

Have you been surprised by the way a day turned around? What cures your ailments?


little spring trip

I'm back from vacation!
My mom flew in from Iowa and we spent some time in South Carolina visiting family, then headed to the beach for a few days. Being with my mom again (it's been 8 months) was simply wonderful. I feel our relationship has changed and grown so much over the past few years, and I am so pleased with the closeness we've acquired. She is also a great help with the kids, who dearly love their Nana.
This trip to visit family was just what I needed. I spent one memorable evening staying up past midnight with my Grandmom, talking about the old days. I drank in the details of her childhood, trying to imprint her words in my mind. This information is sacred because it is personal to her life, and also because it can provide some fodder for future writing. I learned such fascinating things, and am amazed at the amount of change she has seen in her 79 years.
I took a few pictures of her home to document her special attention to details.

As I grow older, and also as my kids grow, I find spending time with family to be very important and fulfilling. This little spring trip to see my family and grow my relationship with my mom was great!
What fun things do you have planned for the spring?


my favorite corner

Something that will always brighten my day: a surprise package in the mail! Thanks to my sweet new friend Barbara, I received this beautiful package. She does incredible work, and she sent me a little painting of a moth. I had been loving that moth from afar on her etsy page, so I am especially delighted to find it in my own possession! She also sent me a handcrafted bookmark that has pieces of paper and fabric on it, completed with stitching and the letter "J" for my name. Thank you so much, Barbara, for brightening my week and my home with your sweet gifts!
Here's the moth in his new home.
I've had my nose (and mind and heart) stuck in this book lately. It has been the soil for many new, positive, and healing thoughts.
Oh and for those who have asked, here is the valentine that I made for my sweet husband. I want to frame it and hang it up in our bedroom somewhere.
And if you need me, just look here. My favorite corner of the house, perfect for reading, thinking, and napping. I plan on taking it easy this weekend, in preparation for some time with family next week, and some time at the beach, too!
What do you have planned this weekend and upcoming week?


child of illusion

It seems that times of growth and change can be so difficult and often painful. I have had a difficult month, and that's why I haven't written. Though writing is my long lost love, and I know it is ameliorating, I often push it away in hard times. This year has just begun, yet I know it is the beginning of something special for me. I decided to begin truly appreciating life and thriving. This is my life, I realized, and if there is something I want to do, or make, or give, or see happen, then I need to do the work required to bring it to fruition. Though life is short, fleeting, and perhaps this lifetime is one in a million past or future lives, it is important and I do not wish to let it slip by. I read that you can view life one of two ways: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though every thing is a miracle. I would not consider myself a believer in miracles, but I appreciate the gist of this statement. I want to live as a child of illusion, taking it all in with wonder and curiosity. Backing away from my labeling mind, which constantly wants to judge situations or thoughts or people as "good"/"bad", and instead just coming at the world with an open mind.
I feel that when I decided to start living, truly living, a seed inside my heart and mind began to grow. As if on cue, a tiny tendril began to push against the surface. It hurt so much and it stirred all the dust and ancient hurts up, but still it pushed. That tendril broke through when the surface could not take the pressure any longer. The surface cracked, allowing the tendril to reach up blindly, pushing for more light.
Now I hope to water that seedling, and to nurture it. I wish to encourage it on its journey. What this means in real terms for me is that I would like to begin nurturing my spirit, in many different ways. Creating is at the core of my (and your) being. I would like to create more. I would like to write more. I would like to give more. And I would like to love more.
I often whisper sweet things to my baby, specifically "you belong", and I'm beginning to realize I also need to whisper that to myself. Because I believe that is what we all want, is to belong, and we do belong. We belong here, in this life. We can find purpose. We belong here in this moment. We can learn to take it in, and to be still long enough to really experience that peace and belonging. This is what I hope to learn, and to experience, and I hope this also for you. 


becoming brighter

I've been quiet here lately, but I'm just enjoying life and working out some thoughts. The weather is slowly warming up and the days are becoming brighter.

I've never been a fan of Valentine's Day, but I'm beginning to warm up to it. After all, between a husband who surprises me with flowers and my favorite dark mint chocolate and my two tiny valentines, what's not to love?