Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Day story


Outside my window, a hound dog asleep on the patio by the French doors. Geraniums in window boxes, bold and red. My dad's truck in the driveway, still.

Giving thanks for quiet days. Reprieve.

In the school room, a tabletop getting cleared. Library books stacked high, and I wonder why I can't just read what I own, that I add to it exponentially with borrowed books. Next to me, booklists and items checked off. Today, purchasing next year's curriculum. It feels good.

From the kitchen, a favorite kale salad. A book (not an affiliate link; from the library--which I then added to my online cart under the guise of "curriculum" for poetry tea parties. It counts!) of possibilities for crafting next week's special tea for Erin and a friend ... and their dolls. Thankful my kids are still kids.

I am creating a new rhythm. A summer song. It is gentle and slow. It is intentional.

I don't want to forget watching Babette's Feast with Erin and reading subtitles. The spurts of French, a welcome and familiar word. The messages, multifaceted. A beautiful story and a beautiful message of the power of community, the power of a table, the power of sacrifice.

Around the house, Satsuma in the air. Laundry washed and dried for my sister. A grocery list, incomplete. A steady week of rehearsals for a weekend's show. But in light of these months, there is no hustle in this. This is light. This is easy. Perspective. Self: remember this. Slow down and savor.

I am hearing my kids finishing lunch, and Erin's twitter laughter. She talks about her dolls and how each year they age like she does--but when they get to be 'adults' she will start them over, because she doesn't want them to grow up. I understand. 

A view of my favorite things

summer splash


Haley and Comet

First frog

this wonderland


Random finds around the house

celebrating my sister

the kind of dad he is
At the table, earlier today an impromptu coffee with a friend while our girls visited. Talks about curriculum. Walking new roads. I felt thankful for her, and thankful for the life the table invites. Oh, tables matter.

Monday, June 19, 2017

And still counting (10,541-10,565)

sweet cherry picking at a neighbor's
sour cherry picking at a friend's
summer blue skies
good breezes
time with my kids

splashes of blue


a Wednesday training to redirect my thoughts
chances to laugh in a hard week
Your sovereignty

a bumble bee cookie for Erin
frozen bananas
walks in the community
grass cut
French vanilla coffee

a birthday balloon for Lori
cupcakes to celebrate

texts with Marshall's Mom
Lori's smile
Happy birthday, sister

a birthday tradition continued

yard work with my man

celebrating him
a quick, soaking summer rain
an early morning call
a practice run on the controls
My view for the morning

and a debut weekend directing with a great video team
time with dearly loved family
close hugs and hearts
a packed room
Jenna's life and influence ... in dear and loving memory

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


When she chats me up from the backseat on our errand drives, it's like a bird's twitter as her laughter mixes with her words. She speaks in this laughing song. Her smile is big. And every thought pours out in delight.

She plays "Ronald and Donald" on the floor. Little farm animals spilled out like rainbow sprinkles.

She collects rocks, still. And laughs at her foot getting swallowed by a mud hole. She digs in clay. She considers the reservoir water with longing.

She holds my hand almost anywhere when we walk. She accompanies me to the nursing home to visit my sister. She's with me at the store. She spends time with me in the garden. When my feet are in the water and I feel summer's spell, she calls out, "Mom! Look!"

Her hair has copper highlights that catch the sun. Her eyes are blue like mine, and when I gaze into them, I imagine dandelion fuzz.

those eyes that day, before we knew
She would love it if her closet were full of beautiful dresses, and she would wear them all. 


She plays the piano and fills the house with beautiful music every day.

She likes company at the table, and always hopes I'll make a cup of coffee for her. Sometimes, I do. Sometimes. And likely more often now.

She still reaches for my hand on the neighborhood walks. We have real talks, truthful talks, hard talks. I like this about her. It refreshes me.

She is focused, determined, disciplined.

She loves music, but not shopping. But if I ask her if she wants to go to the grocery store with us, she often says yes to that.

She shares my love of reading. She waits for me to watch a movie with her--on purpose, because she wants me there. And suddenly I'm reminded of her at the end of second grade, that summer we would move, having an end-of-school-year slumber party in my room--nails painted, and a Dick Van Dyke movie playing until she fell off to sleep. She tried so hard to stay awake. It was "Mary Poppins."

Sometimes when she's next to me in the car, I reach out to hold her hand, never entirely sure she wants to hold it, but especially grateful, especially now, that she does. She has never refused it. I hold hers close and store its warmth in my heart, that it would last me a lifetime.

coming back from cherry picking at a neighbor's that day


Now. Especially now.

In loving memory, Jenna.

Monday, June 12, 2017

And stilll counting (10,518-10,540)

medjool dates
a meeting at church with Dave
mulch moved

a hike with Suzanne
a fern-lined path
the reflection of blue on the water
dogs in the water
Erin making wood boats to float

plump, sweet mulberries
nasturtium gifted
Marshall's Mom
pool noodles

light bulbs replaced
a season's first swim
a walk with Rebecca
the hug of a friend

a day out with Lanie
library books on hold
a visit with Lori
Jimmy C., his love for his boys, his determination to get back up
frozen banana "milk"shakes

Monday, June 5, 2017

How the garden grows

God's timing is grace. After getting through a school season (awaiting review now) and getting my sister closer to (my) home so I can visit her, I'm still figuring out how to add new responsibilities into the same 24 hours I had before. The years here always had a rhythm, and sometimes it took a little bit to remember how it went. How to manage a grass cut, mulching, weeding on top of the inside house chores, the errands, and, delightfully, the guests.

Now it's full on green season. The mulch is delivered. House beds weeded and mulched! Half the rock garden weeded, and more to do. And the front garden? I pulled a quadrant yesterday, another today--and today I had a little help.

I don't know why suddenly my body feels so old. This garden is kicking me down this year. This year was a first consideration that maybe I've bitten off more than I can chew. And the thought of how will I keep up in ten years ... fifteen ... twenty ... ten to twelve yards of mulch to move is a big job for anyone. I press on.

One day recently I was hot and sweaty, body achy and so thirsty. No one came to check on me for the several hours I was out. A different day, I enlisted Erin to come help me with the pool garden beds.

"It's hot!" she said. And,

"The bugs are bothering me!"

"I'm so thirsty!"

"Well, it's got to get done," I said. "And complaining isn't going to make it go any faster or feel any better."

"Why do you do this?" she asked. I think she'd let the gardens go to weeds.

"Because even though it's really hard work, it's really beautiful when it's done. And I like beauty," I explained. And truly, I'm learning to like dirt under my nails.

One thing the day taught her was compassion. I told her the bugs and heat and aches bothered me too, but the job had to get done. I told her I got thirsty too, and what a blessing it is to be remembered with a cold drink.

This summer, to a mix of their delight and dismay, I instituted the kids' summer chore bowl filled with tasks like weeding around the playset, an hour weeding in the big garden, watering the potted plants and flowers around the house, sweeping out garage and patio, etc. Each morning, the kids pick their task. Today was the first day. Oh! The dread of pulling the card and getting dish duty!

Lanie got the job of weeding around the playset, to which she told me there was a spider there that looked like it would kill a man, and that a harassing bee kept trying to sting her. "Do I have to do the whole area?"

"Yes," I said. I know coming weeks won't be nearly as much work as this first one.

Erin was tasked with weeding in the front garden with me for an hour.

"Has it been an hour yet?" she asked.


I heard about her body aches and how long it was taking--that this hour was impossibly long! Forty minutes into it, I pulled out clippers to cut back the tree suckers, and she asked to help.

"Weeding isn't so bad when I'm with you," she said. And later, "I hope the hour isn't up soon. I like this part!"

I told her when her hour was up.

"Would you like a drink?" she asked.

I smiled, thankful for her camaraderie and compassion. Oh, there is still so much to do--more weeds to pull and mulch to throw down. But it was probably one of the best hours of the day.

And still counting (10,495-10,517)

coffee to drink while it's still warm
sunshine returned
homonyms in watercolor
Her tea to my tee (not shown)

Pear vs pair (not shown)

sleep bingeing
her tooth, out
that man of mine

the band she got to hear
potato chips and chocolate for her
a field, cut

thoughts on catching up with friends
a huge stack of books to read

more books in the mail
my current station

food in the fridge
encouragement by text
how the sky light brightened her eyes when she looked to treetops for pine cones
running into a former bible study leader

talks with Lori
summer blue outside the window
the folks on the video team

a frog named Survival
watercolors, watercolors everywhere
house guests
Haley and Comet

wine night

Friday, June 2, 2017


A week ago on Thursday or Friday morning, I mentioned to Shane that I was excited it was or was almost Friday.

He rolled his eyes. "I hate that attitude in people. People who dread Mondays or are glad it's Friday ..."

He went on to explain that that attitude was a waste for a variety of reasons and other things--whether poor work ethic or a limiting mindset.

"Um ... I'm just glad it's almost the weekend because I like having you here with us," I said in defense. "I truly don't care what day it is. All my days are pretty much the same. Fix meals, clean, work in the yard, school kids and run them places. Friday makes no difference to me."

Fast forward a week later, and we're at the dinner table last night. The kids had already finished their food and were off.

"Tomorrow's Friday!" I said happily and slipped my arms around him in a hug. "I mean: boo! Boo, Friday!"

He laughed.

"Really, I'm just glad it's Friday and I can kick back with a glass of wine," I said. Hence the name: Friday Wine Night when Linda used to come over and we'd all enjoy dinner and wine together.

Shane and I closed down the house and walked upstairs. Erin heard us coming up.

"Oh! I thought it was Friday! I was so excited because then tomorrow would be Saturday, but then I wondered why you were going to bed so early on a Friday night and now I'm bummed because it's not Friday," she said.

"Don't talk about Friday," I told her in jest. "It's forbidden!"

We all thought it was pretty funny. Even this morning when I said to him, without thinking, "Happy Friday!" And then, "I mean, not. Not happy Friday."

Happy wine night! To your health!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Yes, please

I don't know where I got this recipe--likely off a Pinterest lead. It's written in the back of my spiral notebook as a meal idea.

Lanie said it was her new favorite.

Chicken Fajita Salad

Marinate chicken breasts several hours or overnight: juice of 2 limes, 2 garlic minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 c olive oil, a bit of salt and some minced cilantro.

The dressing: juice of 2 limes, 1 clove minced garlic, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1/2 cup olive oil, some salt. Mix well.

For the salad--easy. Boxed lettuce, colorful grape tomatoes, avocado, cilantro.

Grill onion, peppers and chicken. Top on salad and drizzle with dressing.

This was so easy. So flavorful. Tastes just like summer. Especially when followed by watermelon.

And still counting (10,460-10,494)

twist in a cup
books on hold at the library
Babette's Feast, waiting
his good neighbors to take out the trash
friends, that when you text them, they call you
Mrs. "Ward"

her hug, tears and blessing
geraniums in the window boxes
a mountain of mulch
the green season
all the rain

nights at home with my man
cream, again, for my coffee
a dental check up
a glimpse of Linda's house on the way to the vet
audiobook on Hoopla, "Unoffended"

an extra Tuesday in May--for tea
purple verbena
and one to gift away
the good aches from hauling mulch
safe travels in the storm

and the glowy sunset with Lanie for the ride home
Sherry's help
an afternoon of podcasts while I cut the grass and mulched the gardens
Shane home for three days
evening walks with my kids

Lanie's sweet thank you
chocolate coffee in the afternoon
Joyce Meyer podcast "No Parking"
tired legs
a morning chat outside with my sister

fresh fruit salad
good sleep
snake stompers
Erin's love of writing, returned

her smile

geraniums, verbena


glowy sun after the storm

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Day story


Outside my window, it's overcast. One of the things I love about living in the woods is that I hardly even feel the rain unless I'm in the open spaces. I can work in the big front garden and not get drenched. Chances of rain and thunderstorms this weekend and lately. Right now, a break from mulching. So far, just the front strip and house garden beds nearly finished. To do: the big front garden and weed the pool rock gardens.

Giving thanks for this time at home. It's been a whirlwind of a year. Funeral February. My sister in the hospital in March. And these past two months, near daily visits with her as she works through unexpected set backs. It's a bigger journey than we expected--but I'm thankful she's closer and for our time together. I'm thankful for the people I've met as a result of the unexpected. I appreciate even more the time at home. It is a new level of contentment to clean and do laundry. Callouses on my hands from shoveling mulch--I love the beauty after the work. This is living. The sweat and aches. The life. The new relationships. The learning. This is living.

In the school room, we are wrapping up a school year that started with a predictable rhythm and ended in grace. It was such a relief to realize that despite two funerals and a sister's health crisis this year, we were able to keep up. Just grading to do, and stretching out math drills for Erin. Seriously considering a year-round approach. I have my book lists made up for fifth and ninth grades. Wow. Lanie starts high school. It goes so fast.

From the kitchen, a holiday weekend and grilling. It's just us at home, so no cookouts or company. But I have a pack of hot dogs and a cut of steak. So thankful we are together. So thankful for this hunkering close. Respite. Restore.

I am thinking long on balance and busy seasons. Thinking long on the best yes. Grateful for grace.

I don't want to forget my kids' company while we visit with my sister. One or both will come along. It means so much to me to have them with me. I don't want to forget my husband's understanding and support. I don't want to forget the friends in trenches with me--they have no idea how they lighten this load just by listening.

I am reading "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" by Victor Hugo. A student (from ancients the other year) commented it was a favorite of his, and so I checked it out. I love to read books that are someone's favorite. Also reading "Mountain Born" by Elizabeth Yates, "Jacob Have I Loved" by Katherine Paterson, and "The Kindness Challenge" by Shaunti Feldhahn. I have a few others waiting, and a few used gems on the way in the mail, including "Experiencing Grief" by H. Norman Wright--whose book "Recovering From Losses in Life" was instrumental in grieving broken relationships and expectations.

Around the house, it's the green season. I'm still uncertain whatever happened to February, March, and April. But here we are, the end of May. A mountain of mulch beside the big garden, and weeds-weeds-weeds in many garden beds. This weekend, a slow and steady effort to catch up. It's good, grounding work. A recent woods walk with Erin and Suzanne--along thirty-year-old trails, felt like being carried along the veins of life itself. The green, everywhere, so lush and full of life. Yes, this is living. Inhaling deeply.

A view of my favorite things:
The gorgeous, glowy setting sun after the storm

This man. These kids.
Blessed. With love. And laughter. Grateful.

Our neighbors. And Cubby!

The nursery cat that stole our hearts

Squirrel proof. Bah!

Summer hustle

At the table, the four of us. And in my heart, hopes and plans of bonfires, poetry teas, field picnics, summer splashes, and woods walks. Time together, a love language, and looking to live true to that.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A sister at first sight

Her name wasn't really Mrs. Ward. The name on the room said otherwise, and I saw her write out her name, first and last, in cursive across the paper. Her handwriting was so lovely. I think she may have had a stroke. She struggled for words, yet some she spoke unmistakably.

Her hands were always quick to raise in praise of God. Her face showed many years. Sometimes, I saw her lost in sadness. But sometimes she laughed in joy and her smile beamed. She thought it was funny when I told her I mostly owned gray shirts, and she laughed at my stories.

Recently, she told me with great relief that she was being discharged (today!). I hoped to make it in to see her before she left. From the doorway, her bed was stripped, and I thought I was too late. But I saw her foot, and realized she was sitting in her wheelchair. I walked in quietly. She sat in that chair, eyes closed. I said her name softly. She opened her eyes, and immediately mine teared up.

"I'm so glad I got to see you before you left," I started. And before I knew it, she was hugging me and grasping my hands, and we were both crying and speaking blessing over the other. It was joy. She touched at her heart, and pointed to mine and said, "I know. I know. You! I know your heart. I know." She glanced over her shoulder, a worried look, and back to me, "It will be ok. You will be ok. You will be ok."

And thanks poured out of my mouth, tears from my eyes.

Wonder of unexpected turns life takes. Thankful to open my eyes to the people in this journey. Thankful for a sister in Christ, who often couldn't finish her thoughts because of a stroke, but who made sure to speak encouragement and blessing over me. As the attendant wheeled her to the lobby, the kids and I stood by and clapped and cheered. Well, I did most of the cheering because I don't mind cheering someone on.

God bless you, Mrs. Ward.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Peony in pink, thoughts on a year

A year ago (ish), I had withdrawn her from all classes but the ones that ran during my teaching time. A year ago (ish), I had seen her sleeping later, melancholic, dreading the co-op. A year ago (ish), she was paralyzed to write a sentence or answer a question.

There's good advice in the homeschool community--if a curriculum isn't working, don't stay committed to it if it will make you and your kids miserable. Find something else. And while there is something to be said for pushing through difficulties (subjects, curricula, circumstances), about persevering, what is the cost? For Erin, I was watching her confidence plummet, her love for learning grow cold, and depression take over her heart. We had to find something else. So this year, we stayed home, all of us.

We threw out the IEW method and turned to Bravewriter. We had read-alouds on the couch, on the patio, wherever--and poetry teas with treats and fanfare and, of course, poetry. I watched this sweet flower of a girl, her heart closed so tightly, begin to loosen up over the course of the school year.


Today, she is parked next to me on a computer. I am writing. She is writing. She asks me, "How do you spell ... ?" And she has a paper next to her full of answers to her questions. She jots them down.

"Mom, when was the camera invented?"
"What did it look like?"
"What language do they speak in Iceland?"
"Do people still use the name Jeremiah?"

She's writing stories and we are researching places and things, all born from imagination and passion. She talks run-on of plot lines and anecdotes. All day long. Her laughter is like bird song.

that smile, that heart

A year ago (ish), I felt really unsure of our decision to leave co-op. It was what we knew, and oh, how I wanted it to work. But it wasn't working.

A year ago (ish), we sat on the couch at home, reading, and she told me, "I want school to be like this next year. Just like today."

"It will be," I told her. And it is, and so much more.

We are still wrapping up last subjects, crossing the finish line a bit later than anticipated--in a season that was anything but predictable! But the victory isn't in the closing of a book--it's in the opening of a heart.

And still counting (10,426-10,459)

chocolate bars for Lori
the way the neighbor's dog ran across their yard in the sunlight
Amelie and Milo
a woods walk
baby chicks to hold

field fragrance
a bird feeder and all the song birds
garden plants and vegetables
azaleas on sale
the mention in (her) journey

an invitation from Andrea
His word: restore
praying friends
that music jewelry box, found
lunch out with Erin

clean windows
the smell of laundry in the dryer
evening walks
a drive through the mountains
home, sweet home

a visit with a neighbor
tomato plants, gifted
a good storm
podcasts during the lawn mowing

cat song in the house
his 50 years
quinoa cake
Marshall's Mom
a visit with Kristine

the fragrant yellow roses growing alongside his house
the summer smell in my house when I walk upstairs--reminds me of my childhood
peonies, gifted from Denise's garden
a friend at the table for dinner


ferns in the woods--maiden hair

love this woman

baby chicks

gorgeous shadows from the walnut tree


Five Guys lettuce wrapped burger and this little cutie

Happy birthday, my love
Thank you, friend!