Sunday, December 31, 2006

The last page...

2006 will come to a close in soon. How crazy is that? December 31 always feels to me like the last page of a book. For two years in a row now, I've finished a journal right at the end of the year and started my new one at the beginning of the next. That seems so fitting.

Every year I also think that something really notable should happen as the year passes from one to another...some sort of sonic boom or something...because it is a monumental thing! (I guess my neighbors shooting off shotguns at midnight will have to suffice!)

In the absence of sonic booms, I am sitting here trying to think of something noteworthy to say to bring my blog year to a close. I don't really have anything profound to say about the year that is about to begin, as I haven't finished formulating my thoughts about the New Year (other than my reading list). But I can reflect on this year.

2006 has been a good year. A truly good year. After three years for storms and challenges, it was a year of relative calm and joy and peace. It had its bumps, but they did not outweigh the good this year held.

I didn't set lofty goals or resolutions last year, but last January I laid out a set of overall intentions to guide how I lived my life. And unlike the goals and resolutions of the past -- the ones I'd look at in December and feel angst and a sense of failure -- I feel like I did a good job of living according to my intentions this year.

I tried to live gently.

I tried to be genuine.

I tried to live creatively.

I tried to let go
of anger and frustration.

I tried to be flexible.

I tried to be who I am, to live my life and my art without apology, to quit hiding behind myself.

I tried to look at things from new perspectives, to find beauty and goodness in unexpected places.

I tried not to be judgmental.

I tried to be present to my life and to those in it.

I tried to remember to breathe and to be.

These were my intentions, in a nutshell. I imagine they'll be somewhat similar for 2007, because they all still apply.

I am so thankful and happy to be at this place in my life right be (mostly) content, to not feel the urgency of wanting what I can't have or the restlessness of something missing in my life. It may not be perfect or easy all the time, but I can honestly say that I have a good life, and I am so thankful for that, and most especially for the people with whom I share it.

May you all experience your own sense of contentment with your life in 2007. Peace.

Friday, December 22, 2006


On the third day before Christmas,

my true love sent to me...
two dozen beautiful red and white roses!

They were to be accompanied by reservations for dinner and the kids spending the night at his parents' house (all planned by him without my knowledge!), but the boy child woke up today with a fever and sore throat, so this part of the surprise has been postponed until another time. But still. Dude. We've been married over 13 years now, and this is the first time ever the hubby has gone to this kind of trouble to surprise me with anything. Guess he still likes me. :)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The shortest day...

I felt compelled, for the first time ever, to do something more than give the first day of winter a passing nod. I wanted to celebrate it somehow. So I spent a good bit of time today collecting information about the winter solstice -- astronomical, social, religious -- and compiling it into something of a dissertation I planned to share with the kids this evening during our Advent devotional -- which we did tonight, at precisely 7:22 p.m., the official time of the winter solstice here on the east coast.

"I didn't know we'd become pagan," was my husband's wisecrack when I told him of my plans to celebrate the solstice. I let the comment go. I knew he'd find interesting some of the information I'd learned, so I'd let that speak for itself. And it did. He was duly intrigued.

I'd spent a bit of time late this afternoon constructing a centerpiece for our with a lot of candles and fresh pine and tiny pine cones...because our simple, one candle Advent candle just wasn't going to suffice tonight. Midwinter festivals have traditionally been celebrations full of light...candlelight, firelight. Light to ward off the darkness of winter. Light that will take you toward spring, toward new life, rebirth. And isn't that what Advent is also about?

For a half an hour, the kids and my husband sat with me around our table, illuminated by candlelight, my Celtic Christmas CD playing soft in the background as I told them of the traditions...the Chinese celebration of Dong Zhi, when the yin qualities of darkness were at their greatest but the hope of the light and warmth of yang were just around the corner. I told them about the Germanic pagan yule festivals and the Roman celebration of Saturnalia. I shared with them why we eat ham at Christmas (thank you, Scandinavians) and why mistletoe is hung in doorways (thank you, Druids). For half an hour, they listened and watched the candlelight flicker, a slim yet palpable connection to pagan ancestors of the past.

What fascinates me about all of these things, aside from the history itself, is how it all comes full circle for my family today. While the pagans celebrated the birth of the sun god, we now celebrate the birth of the Son of God. And whereas these other cultures celebrate the beauty and power of nature which they believe to control light and darkness, we celebrate the One who we believe is the Light in the darkness, the One who created all that is created.

It's an incredible circle, and as much as many people I know and love would probably be hesitant (if not outrightly aghast) at the notion of having common ground with those who are not of the same Christian beliefs as they are, I think it only makes us small and powerless to be unwilling to learn what others believe, both today and with regard to where various beliefs and practices came from in the past. After all, we are all the product of that one, same Creator. I think we owe each other that amount of courtesy. And I want my children to know that.

After finishing our devotions, I decided to bake. This is what happens when I am caught up with must-do's and have time on my hands. I bake at night. I had a banana that was dying to be made into bread, and so that's what I did. But I decided to make it special and added dried cranberries and almonds and pecans and walnuts to it, in honor of this special day. A bread full of goodies to give hope for brighter, warmer days ahead. I'm the only person in my house who likes banana bread to begin with, so perhaps it will become my own little tradition, my own special Midwinter Bread.

And somewhat the picture above, though you can't see it well, is a stuffed pillow with a simple Christmas tree painted on it. I got this decoration years ago from someone who turned out to not be a very good friend. We are no longer in touch because of that. But the pillow makes me happy nonetheless. It is a reminder to me that good can come from bad things if we let it.

May you find light in the darkness tonight and in the coming year.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


The girlie and I spent today baking Christmas cookies. Mmm. The house smelled so good.

Growing up, my mom would bake for what seemed like kind of cookie each day until she had an impressive variety with which to fill the cookie trays she made to give away to friends and family. When I got married, that's how I did it too. That's how it had always been done, and I knew nothing else. I did this for years, dutifully making a cookie list, checking it twice to make sure I had all ingredients on hand, and then I baked for days on end until all of my cookies were checked off the list.

Some time over the past few years, I finally came to the realization that: this is a pain in the ass. With all of the rest of the things going on in December, who in the heck wants their kitchen looking like a wreck for days on end? So, one year, quite by accident, I discovered the joy of getting the majority of my baking done in one day. One messy day. For whatever reason, I'd been behind the eight ball that year and was thinking of skipping baking all together because I didn't have days to spend on it. But then, despite how daunting the thought was, I decided to do it all at once. And it was great. And so a new tradition was born.

The kids and I made our cookie list the other day when we were eating dinner at Denny's in the midst of their Christmas shopping trip. We decided on sugar cookies (a Christmas cookie staple), peanut butter cookies, peanut butter blossoms (can never have too much peanut butter), M&M cookies, spritz cookies, shortbread cookies, noodle cookies and cheesecake squares. After a late start to the baking (dubbed by my daughter as "Major Cookie Mayhem"), we managed to get six of the eight varieties done today. We'll do the remaining two tomorrow afternoon. And come Monday, I'll be able to have a nice cookie tray ready to send to work with my husband for his office.

Some friends of mine think I'm crazy for putting myself through this self-imposed baking exercise each year. But really, after cutting back and not baking as much for a few years, I realize how much a part of the holiday experience this is for me, and I love doing it. (If you need proof of how important Christmas baking is to me, consider the fact that three days after I came home from giving birth to my middle son, via c-section, I was up baking Christmas cookies. That's dedication!) And I love that my daughter loves doing it with me, knowing that someday she will likely make it a tradition of her own.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I am a(n)...?

When my kids were younger, one of the things they enjoyed doing was water painting. On nice days, I'd set them up outside with a bucket of water and some cheap, long-handled paint brushes, and they could paint and paint to their hearts' delight all over the sidewalk and the patio. The fact that their creations evaporated within minutes (or seconds, depending on if it was May or August) was part of the was like magic, and you instantly had a clean slate to work with.

After finishing NaNo early-early Sunday morning, and being in the midst of several holiday projects, I got into one of my reflect-about-my-life funks Sunday night. And so, as I was caught up in all kinds of thoughts, I walked out of my studio to do some laundry and as I did, the corner of my eye caught sight of one of those long-handled paint brushes the kids used so long ago. I picked it up, and with a jar of water, I commenced writing out my thoughts -- most in keyword form -- on the basement's concrete floor. The floor was warm, as the wood stove was burning not too far from where I was, so, just as the August sun did for my kids, so the stove did for my words...allowed them to be for a moment and then wiped them away for me to start again.

I only played at this for a few moments, feeling kind of silly yet enjoying the freedom to write whatever I wanted without any lasting effect. But it was good, cheap therapy because I found the same words kept dancing off the end of my brush...the words that answered the question I kept pondering that night: who am I?

I kept wondering, in the wake of NaNo, am I a writer? Really? I used to be, but am I still? I have nothing to show for it these days other than my blog, my journaling and a lot of unfinished fiction. Do I still qualify?

I kept wondering, amid the scads of stamps, inks, paints, papers, fibers, metals, adhesives and other supplies that surround me everyday, and with my cameras sitting nearby, am I an artist? Really? After all, I could be sitting in a roomful of surgical equipment and that would not make me a surgeon. However, I do enjoy creating -- immensely -- but I am so ready to take that to the next level, to do it with more intention and more purpose, but I am unsure about what that might be. So, does simply sitting here playing with this stuff really qualify me as an artist if I never get any further than I am now?

Honestly, most of the time I'm fine, fine, with myself as I am. These questions do not plague me day in and day out. It's just sometimes...because sometimes I wonder if I'm really living my purpose here in this world, or am I somehow missing the whole point?

Thursday, November 9, 2006

I Remember...

I did this LO in response to the current weekly challenge at 2Peas, the theme of which is "I Remember." (Emily Falconbridge posted it, and she also links to it from her blog.) (This also fits in well with the theme of Love Thursday, which I've not participated in before but I will today since I've got something for it!)

For some reason, as soon as I read the topic of the challenge, a picture and a story came to mind. The weird thing is that they don't actually go together chronologically. The picture is from 1970...I was four. The story in my journaling, however, describes an imaginary game I used to play with myself, and I'm certain I didn't do that until I was significantly older...probably in elementary school some time. Both things had to do with Halloween, though, and this picture is one of my favorite Halloween pictures of me as a kid. (Come to think of it, it is one of the only Halloween pictures of me as a kid!)

My mom has always disliked Halloween in a major way, even as a kid, she's told me. But my mom is also a very good seamstress, and she used to sew a lot of my clothes when I was little (until I got old enough to realize store-bought clothes were far more cool). There were a few years where, despite her disdain for the holiday, she sewed some very detailed costumes for me. One year I was an angel, another year I was a devil, and one year -- the one above -- I was Little Bo Peep. This fluffy, yellow tulle dress was itchy as all get out around my neck, but it sure was cute, wasn't it?

My dad, also a creative type in his own right, was often in charge of props. For Bo Peep, he formed the crook for me out of a long plexi-glass rod. When I was a devil, he fashioned a pitchfork for me out of wood and painted it black. It didn't matter that we lived in the middle of nowhere and I had few places to actually go trick-or-treating. (I can still remember my dad driving me around, in rain, snow and cold, up and down our country road and to various friends' houses around town just so I had the opportunity to say "trick or treat"...and he had some candy to pilch. LOL) I still always had a really nice costume to wear for my preschool party or whatever place I did have to go. (That said, I believe I was actually an angel for two, maybe three years in a row. Mom clearly decided recycling was a good option, even in the early '70s!)

Later on, my costumes got a bit less elaborate, and I don't remember the ones from my later trick-or-treat days very well, the years when I'd go to a friend's house, someone who lived in a real neighborhood and we could walk around, by ourselves, and get candy door-to-door. I know there was a cat in there somewhere...also recycled a few times. But it is those early costumes that hold such fond memories for me. And though I didn't realize it then, they were tangible signs of how much my parents loved me, that they'd go to the trouble to make these costumes and props when they just of easily could have skipped the whole thing.

Love manifested in tulle and plexiglass. How cool is that?

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

My great, great, great...

"He said, I've been to the year 3000.

Not much has changed but they lived under water.

And your great-great-great-granddaughter,

is doing fine." Year 3000, Jonas Brothers

My daughter has discovered Radio Disney in our digital cable line up and has it playing every chance she can. I find it both endearing and a little frightening that she's already interested in listening to popular music. She's only ten, and that seems so young. But I guess I'm comparing her to me, and that isn't fair because I was an only child (no older siblings to benefit from musically or otherwise) and a total dweeb as a kid. I didn't realize there was anything other than AM talk radio (which my parents listened to) until I hit junior high.

Anyway, I don't really have a problem with my daughter's musical interests. Long ago I established my reputation as The Parent Who Will Listen to Just About Anything and May Also Know the Words and Sing Along. (Miraculously, my oldest son didn't seem to mind this, and his friends thought I was cool.) I figured, if nothing else, it was one way I could be in touch with my teenage son, and I think it served me well.So now I get to go through it again, this time with a girl. (The middle son isn't so much into music yet, though he does enjoy my Gaelic Storm CDs...I'm thinking it might be time to try and get him into some Stones or Doors or Zeppelin or something before my husband gets him sucked into country.)

My daughter...she is a tween girl, one who is all into the world of those Disney-esque shows aimed at her demographic, such as "Hannah Montana" (which I have to say I find absolutely hilarious) and "That's So Raven."She's been asking for every Kid's Bop CD on the market for the past few years now, and I dutifully listen to them in the car with her. And sing along. (Then there was the day I was playing a Sheryl Crow CD and she realized that "Soak Up the Sun" was done by someone other than the Kids Bop singers. Too funny.)

In recent weeks, I've come to notice that a version of the song quoted above, "Year 3000" by the Jonas Brothers plays on Radio Disney about once every 18 minutes, or so it seems. It's a catchy little tune, if not the most brain-bending lyrics on earth. But I don't know what it is...whether I should blame it on hormones or what...but every time I hear this song, I get teary. Weird, huh? It's the chorus, wherein the neighbor is telling him (the singer/narrator) that he's been to the year 3000 and, among other things, his (the singer's) great-great-great-granddaughter is doing fine.

Now, realistically speaking...if we're talking about progeny that will be living approximately 1,000 years from now, we'll have to add about thirty more "greats" to that relational title, as the singer's literal great-great-great grand daughter will likely be living sometime around the year 2,136, figuring a new generation approximately every 30 years. But this is a teeny-bopper, boy-band song, so we'll just pass by literal, mathematical accuracy and jump straight on into the emotional and relational implications this song offers us.

Say wha...? It's a BOY BAND...!!

Yes, I know, but hear me out on this....

My first thought upon hearing that line of the song was, "How cool is it that some GUY, who managed to build a time machine in his backyard and went 1,000 years into the future would TAKE THE TIME to look up his neighbor's future relative and then report back on how she's doing?" Pretty cool. I mean, I'd expect a guy to report back on cars and sports and such, but relaying messages? In my experience, not usually their strong suit, regardless of the millenium.

But beyond that, it made me think about my life. Thinking forward...some day, God willing, if Armageddon hasn't yet claimed us all, I will have a great-great-great grand daughter. Or son. That is wild. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around what life will be like in another twenty years, let alone when my kids' kids have great-grandchildren. You know?

But this song makes me wonder if they'll even know about me...will anything of me survive that long? I think of all of the scrapping I do and the pictures I take and the journals I've kept through my life, and how so much of it is for that very there is a record of my life, the here and now, for the there and then. Who knows if today's archivally-safe products will really hold out that long, but I want there to be something for those kids that far in the future to read and see and know of me if they're so inclined.

And I have to think they will be curious. Why? Because I'm curious. You see, I own a sword. A Civil War sword that belonged to my great-great-great grandfather. And I have his discharge certificate from the Civil War, dated June 21, 1865. And that's all I have. But I yearn to know so much, much more about him...more than the basic family history I've been able to trace down to more recent generations. I wish I knew him, his life, his experiences. What was his life like in the 19th century? What did he enjoy and what did he do after the war? Or before? What was his favorite thing to do in his spare time, and his favorite meal? Did he have a sense of humor and did he show his wife how much he loved her? Did he go for walks with her and how did he feel when he looked into her eyes?

And while I'm sure he had other things on his mind at the time, I wonder, if at any moment during his days in the 15th Regimen of the Pennsylvania Calvary, if he ever gave any thought at all to his great-great-great-granddaughter who might be wondering about him more than 140 years later?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


My best friend's mom died today. She'd been battling pancreatic cancer since about February of this year. Despite chemo and radiation, she lost her battle today. The last several weeks had been rough...she was in a lot of pain, thus Amy is thankful that her mom is no longer suffering. However, it is still a painful loss for her, her dad, her brothers and the rest of their family. If you pray, please consider saying a prayer of peace for them.

I will always have wonderful memories of Mrs. M. Amy and I have been friends since third grade, spending much time together and sleeping over at each others' houses. Even into adulthood, whenever Amy and I were together around her mom, she always referred to us as "her girls." I loved that. She was such a sweet, good-hearted person, always ready with a hug and a smile. She always made me feel like I was a valuable part of her family's life, just because I was her daughter's friend.

Amy's parents invited my family to their house this past winter, before she was sick, to watch the Superbowl with them. Their whole family are huge football fans -- Steeler fans -- and so it was such fun to watch the game (and to watch the Steelers win it!) with them. I am so thankful to have that fun, joyful time with Mrs. M. to remember.

I only got to see her one more time after that, after her diagnosis, in late summer. It was clear then that the disease was taking its toll on her, and I felt even more special for her welcoming me into her home at such a time as that.

When I think about Amy's mom, I'm struck by the sad irony of what happened to her. Because of her dad's job, Amy's family moved frequently. Her parents were so looking forward to her dad's retirement when they planned to move back to enjoy time with two of their three children and their only grandchild. And so they did get to do that for a few years, but I find it so sad the time was cut short in this way. It seems so unfair.

I truly believe that God can bring good from all things, no matter how bleak they may be. I don't know how He'll use this sadness in other people's lives, but I know He will. I'm so thankful already that Amy's job allowed her the flexibility to be with her mom almost constantly these last several weeks, so that she could have this sacred time to be with her and to be there for her dad, as well. That is such an immense gift. And throughout it all, I've been so encouraged by God's faithfulness to Amy through the incredible circle of friends she has had around her. She may be single, but she is definitely not alone in this world. Far from it. God is good.

And that is the prayer in all of this, isn't it? God is good. And, as Amy has reminded me in some of the bleakest moments of my life, God is God, and that is all we really need.

Blessings to you, Mrs. M. You will be missed. May you be dancing in His presence until we're all together once more.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

So, the actual birthday itself...?

Not too impressive. Before I explain why, let me preface this by saying that our family doens't really go all-out for birthdays and anniversaries. We celebrate them and acknowledge them, but unless you're a kid in the family, chances are it's going to be with minimal fuss.


Last year, when my husband turned 40, I made an effort of recognizing it in a bigger way than usual. With the help of a friend, we threw a little surprise party for him. Cake, cards...nothing fancy, but it was more than he was expecting, I'm quite sure. I wanted him to know that I knew this was a special birthday. After all, marking four decades of life doesn't happen every day.

But you see, I realize now that I broke one of my cardinal rules of life when I planned that party. How? I had an ulterior motive. I'm not sure I even realized I had it at the time. But I'm pretty sure it was there. I'm strongly against ulterior motives in life...I sincerely believe in giving without expecting anything in return. I think I live by that fairly well most of the time.

But the party...yes, the party was genuinely for him and I wanted him to know how much his friends care about him and that I care enough about him to go completely outside of my comfort zone to plan a gathering of that sort. But. I think I may have also thought that by giving him a little party, he would GET THE HINT that I might like to have my 40th birthday similarly acknowledged this year. Nothing extravagant. Just a small gathering of friends, some cake, some cards...a time to laugh and have fun. To celebrate life.

And then, as luck would have it, just a couple months ago, one of our friends threw a surprise party for his wife's birthday...not even a milestone birtday, but her 42nd. Just because they'd never had a special party for her before. I thought that was the sweetest thing in the world, and I commented on that to my husband a couple of times. And I thought...surely he's PAYING ATTENTION and is GETTING IT that I might really appreciate something like this for my birthday.

So. Yesterday. Birthday. 40th birthday. I got a couple e-greetings from friends and my mother-in-law wishing me a wonderful day. Talked to my mom on the phone twice...she remembered it was my birthday on the second call. With all that's going on in her world right now with the move, I couldn't really get upset at it slipping her mind. My kids, however, said nothing. My oldest is usually pretty good about calling and remembeing, but he didn't call until today. And the younger two? Ok, I thought. They're kids. It probably isn't the first thing on their mind.

So we went through our day yesterday...went to soccer, went to the library...ran into a couple friends when we were out and about, both of whom wished me a happy birthday IN FRONT OF MY KIDS. Did they pick up on this? No. No they did not. Not one utterance of birthday wishes from either of them. Fine. Whatever.

On the way home from soccer, we stopped at McDonald's for a snack. When we got home, I attempted to snag a few of my son's French fries since I didn't get any for me. He, channeling the attitude of a greedy little piggy at that moment, would not share. So, feeling beyond miffed at this point in the day, I said, "You know, it's my BIRTHDAY and you didn't wish me a happy birthday, so the LEAST you could do is let me have some of your FRIES!" At that point, both kids chimed in with a happy albeit remorseless chorus of "Happy Birthday!!!" (But he still wouldn't share his fries, the little twerp.)

Now, I've been on the verge of weepiness all week long...mostly due to life transitions happening in my life and that of a close friend, not really about the birthday at all. However, this obvious lack of any caring whatsoever by the people in my life who are SUPPOSED to love me had really gotten to me. So when my husband came home from work -- after having NOT called me ALL DAY to acknowledge what day it was -- and the first thing out of his mouth was, "So, how was your day?" he was lucky I didn't skewer him with a pitchfork then and there. (Not that I keep a pitchfork in the kitchen, but you get my drift.)

I didn't answer right away. I waited. I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. A chance to THINK and REMEMBER and not completely blow it. So, he asked again. "How was your DAY?"

I have my limits.


Despite how miserable I felt and how big a pity-party I was throwing for myself inside my head, I almost felt sorry for him because he truly had one of the most convincing deer-in-the-headlights looks on his face I've ever seen. "I'm sorry..." he started, but by then I was a full-blown mess and retreated to the bedroom. I mean...I accept the fact that when it comes to this kind of stuff, he has always been clueless. Downright CLUELESS. He's the first to admit that. And for 14 years, I've made the best of clueless. I've put up with it.


For 14 years, my birthday has fallen exactly FOUR days after his. His is the 23rd of September and mine, two, three, FOUR days later....on the 27th. Every year. No deviation. He used to joke that it was a good thing his was first otherwise he'd never remember mine. Clearly his early alert system failed. What about using Outlook reminders? Writing yourself a note? PAYING ATTENTION to your WIFE who has been YABBERING ON AND ON FOR A YEAR about how much she is totally, genuinely looking forward to her 40TH BIRTHDAY?


So, that was how my birthday went. Not at all how I'd anticipated celebrating that day. I'd really love a do-over. :::sigh::: Of all birthdays...I can't remember ever looking forward to one as much as I was this one. Not 16. Not 21. This one was supposed to be special. And I guess it still was. It was special to me as I spent an entire year looking foward to it and ruminating about it and reflecting on what it means and truly being happy to have gotten to this point in life. It really does feel like a milestone to me. I just would have really liked someone else to share in the celebrating. I'd have liked my family to GET ME enough to know how much it would have meant. I think that's what is bothering me the most. That they didn't. And that makes me feel kind of lonely.

I know this post sounds really whiny and oh-poor-me...and that really isn't my style. I don't tend to go this direction very often. I try not to let myself get consumed with self-pitying issues because really? Life is bigger than this and it's too short to waste time being bogged down over a forgotten birthday. I wasn't even going to blog about it because I was worried that people would come away from reading this thinking, "Man, what a self-centered b*tch she is." I've been trying to just put it all out of my head and forget about it and get on with life. It's just silly, I tell myself. But it's still eating at me. And that tells me that it isn't completely silly and I need to be honest with myself about how I'm feeling instead of doing what women do so often and just brush the things important to them under the rug lest they seem selfish.

So, I'm being honest. Yesterday really was not a good day. My feelings were hurt more yesterday than I can recall happening in a very long time. I know it's not the end of the world, and I will get over it. Already today a good bit of the sting of it all has left. (I probably couldn't even have written this yesterday, frankly.) And tomorrow will be yet a better day. And then on Saturday, we leave for Florida, where a whole new leg of this life journey will begin, and the lost birthday will not seem so hard. Time is a good friend.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Happy birthday to me...

I'm 40.
I'm content.
I (mostly) like who I am.
I'm optomistic about the future.
I feel like I'm in the midst of life-changing transitions, but I have faith things will work out fine.
I think I finally feel like an adult.
I am who I am, and that's ok.
I don't have to fit anyone else's mold for me.
In some ways, I think I'm just getting started.

Happy birthday to me.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Theme parties, rhymes and infernal gods...

I'm neither big into theme parties nor Shakespeare, but I've long thought that -- as opposed to the stereotypical toga parties one might think of when considering these two topics in the same sentence -- it would be really kind of fun/quirky/literarily geeky to throw an Ides of March party. Come March 15th, everyone could dress up as a favorite Shakespeare character and go around quoting bits from plays appropriate to their character so that other guests can try and guess who you are. And we could drink wine. And have people feed us grapes. (I'll be the one wandering around in a daze randomly shouting, "Out, out, damn spot!" which I realize is actually a mis-quote of the line, but it's what everyone knows and loves, so we'll go with that.) (Did I mention the wine?)

Anyway, I was looking at Cathy Z.'s blog today and admiring her 12 on the 12th layout. Ever one to try and think up new twists for other people's ideas, I thought to myself, "What about doing an 'Ides of...' layout series? One layout on the 15th of each month!" Sure! Why not? But then I realized that I dind't know if the 15th of every month was really considered the "ides" of that month, or if it was specifically a March kind of thing.

Off I went to visit my best friend, Google, who took me next door to see my other friend, Wikipedia. And lo and behold, Wiki had all kinds of things to say about ides (traditionally the day of the full moon) and nones (traditionally the day of the half moon) and the ancient Roman calendar in general ("ancient" being considered pre-46 that point you enter Julian territory and that is just too modern to even talk about).

Seems that ides fell on the 15th of long months and the 13th of short months. You see, depending on the time period, months started out having either 31 or 30 days, and then later moved to having 31 or 29 days, with February having 28...but that was only after they added January and February to the calendar, thus avoiding that long, uncomfortable and undoubtedly cold period during the winter that had no months at all. And with only 10 months in the year, they had to toss in intercalary months every couple of years (which usually usurped the end of February, but it was all rather arbitrary) to keep up with the actual solar year. It's a wonder the Romans ever knew what the date was, if you ask me.

But I digress. (Can you really digress in a post categorized as "random"?? Hm.)*

I've never, ever been good at remembering which days of the current calendar have 30 or 31 days until a few years back when a friend taught me the little trick of keeping track of it by saying the months while counting your knuckles and the dips between your knucles in order to keep track. I remember my mom trying to teach me the little sing-songy ditty of "Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November. All the rest have thirty-one, ..." but then I totally forget how the whole February part goes and it inevitably loses it lyrical benefit for me. Anyway, Wiki shared with me that even the old Romans had a way of remembering their ides and nones and whatnot.

"In March, July, October, May
The IDES fall on the fifteenth day
The NONES the seventh; all besides
Have two days less for Nones and Ides."

Ok...not sure that the ancient Romans actually said this to remind themselves of how their days were ordered, but it sure has a lot more going for it than that other little ditty, doens't it?

So, September being a short month, we've already missed the ides of it. Bummer. But! To help alleviate your disappointment, allow me to share yet another twinkling tidbit of ancient Roman calendrical trivia for you. Seems the ancient Romans despised whole numbers, superstitiously dreading them, which is why they preferred their months to have uneven numbers of days. The month of February was given over to the infernal gods, though, so it was completely ok for it to have an even number. Besides, at that point, the twelve months added up to 355 days, an uneven number, so it was all good in the end.

Fascinating, no?
No?? Oh, what's that you're saying? You weren't looking for the Geek-of-the-Month party? So sorry. Try the room down the hall...the one where everyone isn't wearing a toga.

*[Edited: my old blog had a category called "random" it is basically the same as "odd bits," from which I imagine it is just as impossible to digress.]

Monday, September 11, 2006


As I get older, I find myself purposely trying to avoid situations that will evoke excessive emotion in me. I don't read "tissue warning" e-mail forwards. I don't watch many schmaltzy, made-for-TV movies. I don't listen to St. Jude telethons. It's not that I'm hard-hearted and don't want to feel the emotions these things evoke. It's the opposite. I know how easily I'll feel them, and they often leave me raw. I don't like that feeling. That vulnerability.

For most of the day today, I didn't tune into any news web sites. Our TV is still not hooked back up to the cable, so watching television news was not an option. We don't get a newspaper. Thus, it was not hard for me to avoid these annual reminders of what this day will always mean. The closest I got to any of it was while waiting for my drink at Starbucks and glancing at the cover of the New York Times. And then glancing away again.

Still, how can you have lived through that day five years ago and not remember? You can't. And that's why, after a day of purposeful avoidance, I found myself surfing through news sites tonight...looking at all-too-familiar pictures that hit me like a sharp blow to the stomach as they evoked vivid memories of that blue skied the middle of teaching my then 5 and 6 year olds math when my phone was my friend, knowing I wouldn't have the TV on at that time of day..."You need to turn on the television," she said..."...and so I did, and there my children and I watched together as the towers began to crumble and fall, people still standing in the windows...and the world -- my world -- was forever shaken.

I asked my kids tonight if they remembered what happened on September 11th five years ago...if they remembered the pictures I was looking at on the computer. My daughter, the younger of the two, said she remembered the stories but not the pictures. I told her it was just as well. My son? He remembers. He can recount the horror of that day. I'll never forget the prayer service we attended at our church that evening five years we were all invited to share what we were feeling with those around us, and my six year old son piped up, in a voice beyond his years, and said, "I just don't know..." Everyone there could have said the same thing.

So I've felt the feelings I wished I could have avoided today, and I remembered in my own way, at my own speed. And I reflected on how much our world has changed. On how my kids will never know anything other than a post-9/11 world. How I feel proud of the people who have gone to fight and die as a result of all this, and how I wish they didn't have to be there. And how, so many of my days, I live without giving thought to any of this, how I just take for granted that it will be a normal, safe, mundane kind of day. The kind of day I can go and get a drink at Starbucks without fear or trepidation. The kind of day when the sounds of air traffic blend in and go unnoticed. And how I need to be more aware that every normal, safe, mundane kind of day is a gift, not to be taken for granted.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

You know you're...

...experiencing a life transition when you suddenly find yourself engaged in reading an issue of More and actually able to relate to the themes of the articles.

Twenty-four days until 40....

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Studio Friday: Favorite Art Supply/ies

There is just no way to do this week's Studio Friday topic in one, easy picture. At least there was the option to explore the plural form of the word!

Favorite art supplies...let me count the ways. Um, no...perhaps not. Would take too long. The thing is, it gets complicated. There are my basic, all-time favorites from the standpoint that I use them, well, all the time. And then there are my favorites because of the technique they're a part of. And there is my ever-changing list of fun, new, trendy goodies that I can't get enough of. So the collage above represents a little of all of that.

Basic, all-time favorites: I'd have to start with cardstock. Love the vast array of colors and textures. I could easily scrap using nothing but cardstock...think how much money I'd save on patterned paper! LOL (Right...don't see that happening. But theoretically, I could do it.) Add to that my Fiskars paper cutter and scissors and my supply of various adhesives (love Hermafix dots for temporary, Tombow mono-adhesive for permanent, foam dots for dimension and glue dots -- which I just discovered recently, believe it or not -- for sticking the heavy, hard-to-stick things) and, if pressed, I could scrap my pictures using just these items. No other decorative elements necessary. Well, maybe a pen so I could journal and add dates, but that's it.

Techniques: This would mainly consist of my markers (love Stampin' Up's), pens (Zig Millenium set; a variety of Sakura GellyRoll pens), ink pads and rubber stamps, as well as things like sponge-tipped daubers, sponges, brushes, etc. that I can also use to apply ink to a page. There are so many different techniques I can do with ink and stamps that I really would never need to buy a rub-on or sticker. (Not that I don't buy these things... :} )

Trendy Goodies: Right now, that would be flowers. Oh, how I love me my flowers! Big (Heidi Swapp) or small (Prima) or in, love, love all the things I can do with these beauties! The other goodies that I absolutely adore (and have for a long time, so they're more tried-and-true than they are trendy) are all things metal and/or things that give an aged look to a layout. (If it's made by 7Gypsies, so much the better. Truly.) Out of all the metal I use, brads are a staple item in my stash...especially antique copper and pewter. I go through these like water.

What are your favorite art supplies that you just couldn't live without?

[Edited: As I repost this from my old blog, I just have to note that I'm not including it here because it has any great written merit...I just love the collage I put together to go with the entry! LOL]

Sunday, June 4, 2006


I've been going through boxes and envelopes and drawers full of picture lately in preparation for a project. It's taking way longer than it would otherwise if I didn't feel the need to stop and pause over so many pictures, wade through the memories and get all reflecty about life. But that's part of the process, isn't it? I'm enjoying it.

I love looking at our family pictures, they're all important, but some speak to me in really poignant and significant ways. I've collected a little pile of what are without a doubt some of my most favorite pictures of all time.

Me when I was three, playing at my mom's old portable typewriter...a definite foreshadowing for my love of writing that would emerge throughout the years that followed. I'm so glad one of my parents took the time to take this picture.

A self-taken picture of me just a couple years ago on what I believe to be the most perfect hair day I've ever had in my adult life.

Me with my dad on his 70th birthday. I'm sitting on his lap in this picture, and to me that is such a sweet juxtaposition to where we were emotionally with one another just a few years before that when I had been going through a really rebellious time in my life, hurting everyone I loved along the way.

Four, my mom, her mom and her grandmother. I love photos like that, that capture in one moment a breadth of life that spans more than ninety years. I love looking for pieces of myself in these women. So cool.

My son and two of his best friends from high school. My son had a lot of friends in school, but these two were the ones who were over here the most, who did the silliest (and some of the dumbest) things together (plus some things I probably still don't know about...probably don't want to!). They're the boys I'll always think of when I think of the good times in my son's high school years. Because there were some definite not-so-good times then, it's important to me to have a tangible reminder that there was good then, too. That's what I want to remember.

Thank God for pictures...and memories.

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Time now for a word from the spelling police...

Ok, let me preface this by saying a few things:

1. I am a writer and have always been above average in the areas of spelling and grammar, thus I cannot help but spot errors in the areas, no matter what I'm reading.

2. I do not believe that blogs or personal e-mail should be places where people have to be totally anal about how they write (unless they want to). They're an informal venue. I get that.

3. While I do try and keep my blog spelling and grammar error free, I admittedly make mistakes, either from being lazy or being in a hurry or whatever. Refer to #2 above. that I've got those disclaimers out of the way...what I want to address are a few pet peeves of mine in the area of spelling, specifically the homonymic trio of peak/peek/pique. I can't tell you how often I see the first two of these used one for the other, nor how often I see one of the first two used when it is really the third the person means to use. Actually, I rarely ever see the third used at all, even when it is the word that should be used.

Peak: What you find at the top of a mountain.
Example: The view was beautiful from the mountain peak.

Peek: What you do between your fingers while watching the scary part of a movie.
Example: I peeked around the tree as the bear chased my friend over the edge of the mountain peak.

Pique: What you do when you're trying to arouse someone's attention or interest.
Example: Perhaps my story has piqued your curiosity, and you will want to take a peek at the peak yourself.

Thus, one cannot "peek" someone's interest (unless they're looking unbidden at that person's bank statement). Nor can they "peak" someone's interest, unless they can figure out how to form it into a point. Alas, you must pique their interest, period.

And speaking of bears...the bear-bare homonyms come in second place for the being misued most often, in my opinion. Just know that you can watch a bear bare his teeth, if you have the nerve. However, do not tell me you cannot bare the sight of it, lest I start to imagine you wearing not a stitch on your bare bottom. Hm...that might even frighten the bears!

Back to our normally scheduled show....

Edited to add: In case anyone cares, there is also a fourth, similar word, piqué, which is defined as a tightly woven fabric with raised patterns, such as waffles or ribbing (think polo shirt collars). It's not truly a homonym to the other two, though, as it is pronounced pi-KAY (the "i" sounding like a long "e" -- "pee"). Just felt the need to be complete. :}

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Shift in Focus

One of my favorite aspects of photography is how even the tiniest change in focus yields a completely different image. The subject may seem the same at first glance, but then you notice your eye is drawn to different things in the two pictures. The shift in focus becomes significant.

I've noticed such a shift in the focus of my life lately. I knew it was there, that it was happening, but until this week, as I spent time moving and rearranging and purging and organizing my office/studio, I hadn't really been forced to take such close notice of it. It's been alternatingly startling, saddening and freeing, sometimes all at once.

I am a writer by trade. No, you won't find a novel with my name on it at your local bookstore, but for several years, you might have found my name in the byline of various articles in various magazines. I wrote about summer camps for kids, pros and cons of different prepared childbirth philosophies, how to outfit a layette on a budget, how to choose a pet for your child...if it had to do with pregnancy, infants or parenting, I probably wrote about it. I also wrote about writing, and I wrote about faith, and I wrote about how those two can be intertwined. For nearly seven years, I wrote these articles as a freelance writer, and for the time I had to put into it, I enjoyed moderate success. I was good at it, and I enjoyed it, both things a plus when it comes to your job.

But then something happened. Some things happened. A series of unfortunate, frustrating, maddening events took place in my life. The kinds of events that, as they continue for weeks and months and on into years, they rob you of your energy and your drive and your ability to think. So I spent the energy I did have fighting life's fires and dealing with crisis after crisis, having less and less time and inclination to write. I quit looking for new work. I resigned from regular gigs I'd had. Except for the personal journaling I have done since I was eight years old and the blog I had during that time, I quit writing.

At the time, it was a relief. I'd felt tired, burned out. It felt good to not be writing for the first time in a long time, to not have deadlines zooming at me. And so it stayed for the next couple years. I'd think about it from time to time, knowing that if I wanted to, I could go back to it. Sure, it would be hard, almost like starting over in some respects, but the basic skills and love for the craft would still be there. It would always be an option. It just turned out to be an option I never seemed to take.

And so, as I've spent this week cleaning my work space, it came as a surprise to me that I was so easily relegating my writing books to the bottom shelf of the bookcase when they'd always held a place of prominence up at the top. My folders of published articles moved from the top to the bottom file drawer. And the novels? The ones you won't find in Barnes & Noble? They, in their dozen or so folders, moved to the file cabinet that is hidden away in the closet.

At one point during all this movement, I sat down on the floor and started leafing through the myriad pages at hand. I read. I smiled at the words on the pages. Even the fiction. With each folder's contents, I remembered the storylines and how they'd come to me, what was going on in my life when I started writing them, the endings I'd knew they'd each get to if I was able to complete them. And the yearning to finish them pulsed faintly inside of me, yet I knew I'd only be kidding myself if I was to put them on my desk and tell myself I was going to work on them again. My focus for them just isn't there. Same with the articles that whirl through my head. Old habits are hard to break, even if you've ignored them for a long time, because though it has been over two years since I've sent a query to an editor, article ideas still come to me. I catch myself mentally composing a pitch before I realize I'm not going to put it on paper. Not now, anyway. (That's not to say I wouldn't be tickled to have some layouts published, but to me, that's an entirely different ball of wax.)

From my spot on the floor, I looked around and saw what now was the center of my world...the paper and stamps and inks, the bits of metal and ribbon and buttons and beads, the tripods and cameras and photos that come from them. These things have taken over, both my room and my mind. And as much as it is in my nature to want to write articles about the things that I'm most focused on, for now I'm content not to do so. Not now. For now I'm content just to live these take the photos and work with them and create with use the paper and adhesives and embellishments rather than to write about the supplies. It really is such a different way of dealing with life for me. Being and doing rather than writing. But it's ok. Who knows what tomorrow or next week or next year will bring. But for now, it's really ok.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


"Woe, woe, woe!" called the voice. Woe for my brothers and sisters! Woe for the holy trees! The woods are laid waste. The axe is loosed against us. We are being felled. Great trees are falling, falling, falling."
Voice of the Dryad, Chapter 2, The Last Battle, by C. S. Lewis

Last fall, our neighbor two doors down came over asking about property lines. He was having his land surveyed and they were looking for a point of reference and wanted to know if we knew of any survey pins from when our survey was last done. Apparently there may have been some dispute of the line between his property and the neighbor in between us. My husband talked with him and showed him where the pins were, and I didn't give it much more thought.

Until a couple weeks ago.

We live in a fairly rural, wooded area, and so it is not uncommon to hear the sounds of outdoor machinery from time to time...tractors doing this or that. I noticed, however, that I'd heard the sound of a chain saw a few days in a row and I started to wonder about it. Then one day, as I glanced down the road, I saw a team of horses in the yard of our neighbor two doors down. I knew these to be the horses of an Amish team of men who clear land and buy the wood for whatever their purposes are. I'm not sure how a chain saw fits in to the Amish way of life, but they use the horses to skid the logs to where they need them to be.

Anyway, I assumed our neighbor must be thinning out his property, as some people do from time to time. My husband does the same here and at his parents' house, taking out the dead and diseased trees to open up space for the younger, healthier trees to grow. But two doors down, the chain saw kept going and going until I glanced out my kitchen window earlier this week and, looking across the property of the neighbor between us, I could see a vast open area where there had not been one before. Dozens and dozens of trees had been felled, their limbless trunks lying all over the upper yard of the man's property.

It was devastating to see. He'd cleared virtually the entire lot. I wanted to cry. The wife from the couple who lives between my house and the tree killer property clearer was outside yesterday and we talked briefly. I felt most the need to offer condolences. "I'm so sorry," I said. "I can't believe what they've done next door!" She shrugged helplessly, clearly feeling the loss of what had been a beautiful area destroyed in the name of subdivision and profit. She and her husband work hard to keep their property beautiful and healthy and alive. I've often been jealous of the gorgeous sanctuary they've created that has most of the birds in the area vying for a spot at their feeders. And while there is still a narrow strip of tall, old trees between their property and the next land over, it will do little -- even after the leaves are full and green -- to buffer them from whatever else the man next door plans to do. I feel terrible for them, like they've been violated. I feel like we've been violated, even two doors away from the destruction. I feel the same way for the land. Whatever the reasons, the fact is that it's been ravaged and it will take generations to begin to mitigate the loss that has been incurred.

Some things, I just do not understand.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Little Details

I have several dozen pictures of my dad from his childhood and young adulthood that I've been working to put into a heritage album since last fall. I pulled the project out again this weekend. I made great progress last fall and then stalled on it because I decided I wanted to scan all of the pictures so I'd have access to them in the future should I ever need them again.

I finally did that task this weekend, and as I scanned and then permanently adhered the photos to their layouts, I enjoyed looking at them all again. This picture in particular always makes me smile because my dad told me a story that goes with it...he was close to two years old in the picture, and he explained that his mom made him wear the dress because he was not being very successful with potty training. (Personally, I think expecting a not-yet-two-year-old boy to be potty trained is a bit extreme, especially in the day of outhouses, but he was a first child and it was a different time, I suppose.) I assume the dress was meant to make it easier for him to get the job done instead of having to fuss with pants. He, however, told the story like it was a punishment for continually messing his pants.

Whatever the reason for it, it's cute. And so is the teddy bear he's holding. However, what surprised me as I studied the picture for the umpteenth time this weekend was that I'd never noticed the hand holding him on the porch rail from near his lower back on the left. That hand was presumably my grandmother's...and as I looked closer, I could see a glimpse of the white shirt of her shoulder as she ducked down behind him so as not to be in the picture, and her hip protruding from the behind the side of the porch post at the lower left. I couldn't believe I'd never noticed these details before, and when I saw them, I thought they were just so cool. I suddenly had this connection with my grandmother as a young mother, holding her baby safely so he wouldn't fall off the porch rail while his picture was being taken, keeping herself out of the frame (as we all tend to do at times, don't we?). I love it.

The other thing about so many of these pictures from the early 1900s is that they really were of every day kinds of things. I don't know why I've always had the impression that photos then were mainly posed events. After all, cameras were likely found in far fewer households back then. I know my dad's family was not well-to-do, but there are dozens of pictures of him doing nothing special...just being. Maybe there were more to the pictures at the time, stories that have long since died with my grandmother and my dad. Most of the pictures have only a date, if that. (A few have richer descriptions written in my grandmother's hand, and they are so precious to me! I wonder if she ever imagined how much those pictures and words would mean to someone nearly 100 years later?) But I love studying the photos and imagining the circumstances around them. What a joy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hard to Refine

(This post originally appeared on my Creative Spirit blog in Feb. 2006.)

was reading a post over at The Faithful Alligator earlier today in which the question was posed, "Am I who I am?" She (I'll refer to her at tomzgrrl, as that's the name she uses at her blog) reflects on how she continues to "grow, change and redirect" into the person she is. The point being, I believe, that who we are is always going to be an on-going process. Tomzgrrl uses the word "self-actualized" to describe the product of the process. (I'm not crazy about that word, if only because the Maslowian reference induces unpleasant flashbacks from grad school.)

Still, all this seems to fit right in with my current introspective, taking-account-of-my-life state. In a comment, I replied, "I I'm trying to *refine* my definition of myself as I launch into the next part of my life's journey. I'm trying to take into account who I've been up to now, keep what has been good, get rid of what isn't working and emphasize that which is truly, deep-down important to me -- all while not worrying about what anyone else thinks..."

After I wrote that, I started thinking about what it means to *refine*. Every time I hear that word, the first thought that comes to mind is the refiner's fire, which acts to extract impurities from metals. There are a lot of references of this sort throughout the Bible, comparing God to a refiner's fire, always being our test and purifier. I so love that imagery.

It's not a romantic thing, to be sure...refining takes time and work and patience and the fire has to be very hot to do its job. (Gold, for instance, melts at 1062 degrees C. and must reach 2000 degrees C. to boil.) If all of the impurities are not refined out of the metal, it can compromise it's strength and ability to fulfill its purpose. So much imagery in all of that!

My friend American Heritage defines the verb "refine" in different ways including: to reduce to a pure state; to become free of impurities; to free from coarse, unsuitable or immoral characteristics; to acquire polish or elegance. Wow. So much meaning for such a little word.

After thinking about all of this, I realize that I'm not just seeking to refine my definition of who I am; I am seeking to refine who I am. Not to recreate who I am. I'm not that unhappy with myself to want to be someone else completely. I simply want to be the me I am now, but I want to be her better. (I feel like I should be part of a BASF commercial.)

Lately, I've become aware of so many little ways (and big ways) I could be doing that. It could become overwhelming if I let it. But, like so many things when change is needed, it's probably best to start with one small corner, make a difference there and then move on to the next instead of trying to tackle it all at once. Lather, rinse, repeat. I feel like I've already begun the process. So...what corner of my life to tackle next?