Thursday, August 17, 2017

Day story


Outside my window, the sun is shining on a day that forecast thunderstorms. The air is summery thick. A bike's handlebar tassels twist in a breeze, bouncing back light. Hoppy balls nestle in the grass. Chalk drawings pop here and there. Pool inflatables tower high. All evidence of summer fun.

Giving thanks for friends through the years and the different seasons we walk. That lives are united under the most unexpected circumstances, and in some cases by magic tricks. This windy life road would not nearly be as lovely without her, her friendship, her family. She has held me up more often than she knows with her encouragement and listening heart. And she has pushed me back into the ring just as often. She has grit--and enough to share.

In the school room, coffee scents waft from the kitchen. Books soar stacked. And Erin, eagerly writes a new pen pal. I smile across the table at her, for the years that knit our family together with theirs.

From the kitchen, lunch dishes on the counter and opened chocolate bars for sampling. The kids and I finished off the last of the brownies. A rainbow of cups stretch stacked from thirsty kids. The little glass pitcher makes even the wee ones feel grown up.

I am full, and full in a way that is rich and satisfied. Time together, my love language.

I don't want to forget the years we mamas shared pushing little ones on swings in a big green field. The kiddos and juice cups and big slices of banana chocolate chip bread. The friendships growing and kids growing. And even now, growing on, and how a play set seems smaller with our littles growing up.

Around the house, Erin colors. I type. Lanie reads. A cat looks out the door. I am glad for a week that slowed me down--for car troubles and aches and pains and ailments. I am glad for a slower pace--and in the process the tension melted away. Yesterday I read aloud to Erin on the couch, and we reconnected in lasting way, in a summer that had me in too many directions, and none of them present--always looking ahead, or looking back. And if this is the only week I remember of this summer, then at least it was a good one--even with car troubles and aches and pains and ailments. 

I'm hearing the hushing sound of air conditioning. And it is good.

A view of my favorite things:
Comet--twenty pounds of punk

A turtle came to visit

Celebrating six years

boxes in the mail

the ammo bag turned field bag for nature studies

the electric kettle

At the studio to order dance shoes

At the table, a marble composition notebook and making meals and making plans. I am happy. I am grateful. My heart sings loud and strong and full of color. Oh, can I be back now?

Monday, August 14, 2017

And still counting (10,767-10,799)

vacations, rained out
a check-engine light
a tire with a slow leak
all plans canceled

an impromptu sleepover for the girls
popcorn with nacho seasoning
a movie night at home
B vitamins

doctor appointments with my sister
good care for her
her smile
a new planner (the composition notebook that can hold up under the daily assault)

the cold, juicy sweetness of watermelon
the summer writing workshop
messages with Suzanne
David's phone call
Linda, in my heart

photobooks of memories
calls from Marshall's Mom
tea with Rebecca
raw honey
an electric kettle in the mail

scriptures, encouragement
iced coffee
camera 2

Erin's love note
a good message on hope
three weeks of summer left

Monday, August 7, 2017

And still counting (10,746-10,766)

a break from headaches
Becky's help
twenty bags
lunch at the table
long thoughts

a hearing
an afternoon nap
kids at the pool
ice cream cones

timely messages in my inbox
good reads (Dancing With My Father by Sally Clarkson)
weeds pulled
a good cry

a bonfire
with marshmallows

a cool summer night
a tow rope
iced coffee weekends

evenings at home

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Six--the difference here makes

This wasn't the house where I brought my babies home. It wasn't where they celebrated first words, first steps, first birthdays. But it has been the home they're growing up in--home, sweet home.
The fall of 2010 when we decided to put a contract on this house. I framed this image and hung it on the wall of the office space in our old house while we waited for our buyer.

Erin was 3 at the time; Lanie had just turned 8. They loved walking through the crunchy fall leaves.

It is always my wonderland. The birds. The trees. The seasons. The beauty. It is a life-giving sanctuary. Whether from the kindness of neighbors or (as a dear friend and poet described) the welcoming arms of trees--it is a loving embrace.

Thank you, God. I will always be grateful that you put this property under Shane's nose and embedded it instantly in my heart. I am grateful for the bleeding hearts in the garden--and gardens everywhere; the field where I've photographed families and my own!; cookie swaps and not swaps; swim dates and poetry teas; Friday night dinners and Thanksgivings; the school room bones to write upon; the captain's bell; the smell of pines; picnics, bonfires, sledding days, leaf piles; woodsmoke that welcomes guests and the luscious heat the logs provide; gifts from neighbors and coffee at the table; cold winters and all the blankets my dad knitted and crocheted; and that barely touches it all.

We've had our own firsts here: first birthdays here; first holidays here; first days of school here. While Lanie had four years of swim lessons in life before, she first swam fearlessly here. Erin got a bedroom of her own, learned to swim, started school, rode a bike, lost a tooth--all firsts here.

This is the place where I built the Ikea chairs for the school room table and Lanie protested, "Why can't you be like other moms?!" And that was just the simple start of many changes--learning to ride a tractor, taking down trees, stacking wood, hauling mulch, and all the weeding. We remodeled the school room and painted almost every space (I still have yet to change Lanie's room--her choice--and our bedroom and bathroom still have sample swatches of a color palette I'm no longer considering!).

A sensory feast. A physical engagement with a landscape. A spiritual journey and transformation. A community.

Healing took place in this home, and growth. And while this isn't the house we built, this is the house we are building upon with love and memories.

Our first fall in 2011--she turned nine.

This summer in 2017--she is fourteen to be fifteen.

2011 in the garden on the dinosaur rocks. Photoshoot for our Christmas card. Erin would turn five.

This summer, hanging out with her favorite neighbor, Cubby. Erin is ten, going on eleven this year.

We welcomed Nella into our home--that rescue hound and her hidden happy dance. We said goodbye to Rudy. We welcomed my dad and sister's cats Comet and Haley this year, however temporary their stay.

My prayer and hope is still: That anyone who enters our home would feel welcome. That anyone who sits at our table would feel safe to share a happening, thought or feeling without judgment or ridicule. That anyone within these walls would know they are loved just as they are, and always will be. That any family member or guest would feel a sense of inclusion and belonging. 

Thank you, God, for this home. Thank you for these years of healing and growth. Thank you for the joy that awaited us here, and for meeting our needs physically and in heart.

I truly have thousands of pictures of our life here. Just very random pulls from the years--because I can't fit them all. 



2013--her first loose tooth and the last picture of all her baby teeth


2014--my all-weather girl

2015--play dates


2016--when we got the new oven

2017--good life

2017--no place like home

2017--a winter movie picnic in the living room



2017--the difference here makes

Monday, July 31, 2017

And still counting (10,711-10,745)

a few more books in the mail
grasses cut
that man of mine who puts on a favorite movie for me
school plans coming together
did I mention coffee? Because, yes, that.

clean sheets
good sleep
apples with Michi
and a movie
texts with friends

Becky's offer to help
places for pets
a neighbor out and about
another whose story is uncannily close
quiet spaces

his safety in the accident
home, sweet home
visits with my sister

chats with Tracey
and the ability to take them, thank you, Lord!
books in a pile around me
Andy's prayers and sweet tears

a blue hydrangea in his garden
the way his house smelled when I walk through the door
a roadside stand selling peach
fresh peaches for us
the mountains views

notebooks for .25 each
the video team
a beautiful, sunny day
potatoes with dinner
veggies gifted from a generous neighbor

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Day story


Outside my window, some piles of weeds I'm finally getting around to pulling. Cloudy skies and seventies. Do-rag back on my head. Dirt under my nails. This is good.

Giving thanks for friends. For friends who know me. For friends on the worst days. For friends I can be vulnerable with. For friends who stand me back up with scriptures. For friends who worry for me. All of them lift me up and push me back onto the path.

In the school room, a summer writing workshop with a friend's daughter and Lanie. But not today. Working on September schedules and stuffing myself full with last minute books and book purchases--because JUST ONE MORE! Talked to a friend today about homeschooling and podcasts and days off.

From the kitchen, lists of meal ideas for breakfasts, snacks, lunches and dinners. Cookbooks spread out. How to fill a finicky tummy. I would never be a bento mom if not driven to it by a picky eater whose love language is gifts.

I am. Regardless of what someone says or thinks or imagines. Jesus knows me. I'm beginning to realize how much stronger that makes me, when I believe the truth about who I am, and who I am in Christ, than someone's limited perception of me.

I don't want to forget, the year between the army and the sea and I felt sinking. As hard as it was, it comforts me now. I didn't sink. I rose stronger. On, on. In the hard things, on the hard days, on, on. When she said, "I worry about you." I said, "Sometimes I do too." Fix a focus. On, on.

Around the house, a yard day and quiet at home. Erin wants to swim. And I have to stop and experience summer and time with my kids over moving from task to task. God, help me to be present. I feel it calling again--the hunkering hermitting before the start of a new school year.

I am hearing kids' home videos. Someone's lawn mower. The hush of overcast skies.

A view of my favorite things:
after the writing workshop

morning light

sunflowers, a favorite!


I'm not sure when I took this picture


docking station

more art

lunch that's not a peanut butter sandwich

Cosmo, who really does spill over the sides

art show at art camp

She's a favorite!

Nella, by Erin

At the table, whether schooling, eating, drinking tea--my heart, always.

Monday, July 24, 2017

And still counting (10,686-10,710)

the purple pod vine from Suzanne's garden
a week of art camp
chances to catch up with friends I haven't seen in a long time
Lori's smile
Tracey's calls

long thoughts on motherhood
long thoughts on legacy
long thoughts on self care
too much sleep
a movie invite to Michi's

poetry books in the mail
a movie night out for my kids with their friends
Saturday breakfast with my man
time to touch up roots
a new writer on 66 Books

homeschool planning
another year at home with my kids
all the good books
an evening walk with Lanie
Kristine, who worries about me

worship on Sunday
a great message on generosity
ice water
a fun read 
enough chocolate ice cream to fill four cones

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wanted: blender--the misery antidote

There's this yummy shake we had this summer that I would make more often if our blender hadn't quit working.

It has frozen bananas, ice cubes, maple syrup, cocoa powder, almond milk, a splash of vanilla and a smidge of salt. The blender quits on me when I add the frozen bananas, even if I chop them up first. I think I tried three times to coax it into performance. It's time for a new blender.

We were at a store yesterday and I walked down an aisle to check out prices and features of different blenders. Lanie was hopeful I'd get a new blender because she really loves that shake. She said it's making her miserable that we don't have a blender, and that I'm probably making myself miserable too and I just don't know it.

We're talking about the blender still, right?

It was good for a laugh. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

And still counting (10,662-10,685)

friends who catch tears
the heart of things

Marshall's Mom

full tables
full weekend
visits with my sister
assistant directing with Kathy
the video team

iced coffee
a sunny day at the pool
that man of mine
an afternoon nap

a pool cover up
shopping with Erin
Lanie's hugs and help
fun with a summer writing workshop

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday night dinners

For years, Linda was a regular at our table. We soaked up pieces of French bread in a peppery olive oil and nearly made a meal of that with a glass of wine. When we went gluten-free, we skipped pre-meal dining, unnoticed. The wine, however, stayed.

I had flowers in a vase every week, except in winter. Music played throughout the rooms. In warmer months, we sometimes walked through the garden or in the field and talked. And often we just sat at Joel's table, with the warm, yellow light of the chandelier glowing warmer as evening wore on. Oh, the life.

I kept an eye out for her arrival. She took her time backing her car up to park. "Miss Linda's here!" one of the kids would call if they caught her. And Linda walked inside with a cheery, "Hello-hello!"

We talked about education, books, gardening, life. She told me about her friends or growing up or plans she had with my dad. We often hugged goodbye. Mostly, Linda was our regular on Friday nights, and occasionally other families joined us.

These months, it's been hard not having her here. Our Friday night dinners, once thoughtfully planned, have become a Friday night free-for-all. I pull out leftovers. The kids fend for themselves with breakfast for dinner if they don't want what I'm reheating. It feels like I had to flip a switch to not even think of Linda and Friday nights together anymore, and in that flip switching, had to suppress the great loss of friendship. It feels like a lifetime ago.

When my dad died, my table became empty. I can't even begin to grasp Thanksgiving yet. And often I've wondered, heartaching, "Who will fill my table?"

Tonight, I prepare a table for twenty. The guests are all bringing a side or dessert and we are providing the grilling. If the rain holds off, we will line tables up end to end down the patio. If it doesn't, we'll crowd around the dining room table.

Linda was a quiet one and would have loved just watching all the bustle and activity. Later we would have talked about our favorite parts of the evening, if she were here. In my mind, and in my heart, her sweet memory is here. It's the first Friday since our last one with her (in January) that we've hosted a dinner.

Oh, how I miss her. This day a mix of joy and sorrow.

Life is a feast. Share it and savor.

Monday, July 10, 2017

And still counting (10,631-10,661)

iced coffee
his day off
family of four at the pool
blue cheese

books in from the library
books in the mail
a movie, and I'm 23 again
the surge of youth
weeds pulled

Cindy's words on unpacking
a book, finished
texts with friends
days in shadow
a cucumber on the vine

podcasts by Sarah Mackenzie
cardboard recycled in the garden
podcasts by Julie Bogart
a Monday agenda
kids splashing in blue

the sound of sisters up late talking
coffee on the rich roast setting
the video team
hours in the garden
weeds pulled

a post on forgiveness
thoughts on community
unexpected circumstances
and the wrestle it brings

bug spray

Friday, July 7, 2017


I had my first cup of coffee when I was twenty or twenty-one. I drank it black with a little bit of sugar, like my dad drank it. One time, my mom was fixing me a cup of coffee during a visit at their house.

"Do you take yours with sugar?" she asked.

"Yes, but not cream," I told her.

"Whoops," she said. She'd already put the cream in. "Well, I'll make it extra good." And she proceeded to put in even more cream. She always drank hers with cream and sugar.


I can't remember when I became a regular coffee drinker.

Shane dramatizes the time I sold his coffee maker at a yard sale. I got $2 for it, but as he tells it, I sold it for a quarter.

We had a Keurig that replaced his coffee maker--mostly because a friend of mine introduced me to the magic of K-cups, and hazelnut coffee pods, and the sweet little basket of assorted flavors she'd present during a mom's coffee hour. I loved it. I lobbied for a Keurig. Shane wanted to know the cost per cup, K-cup versus ground pound. I had no idea. Presentation doesn't consider practical matters like cost.

I got the Keurig.

Our Keurig was moody after enough time, occasionally spewing out only half cups or turning itself off in protest to my constant abuse, I mean, addiction, I mean, well, use. Finally, it broke--at four in the morning. I pulled out a back-up 4-cup mini that barely heated the water. Dismal. Disappointing.

That was three years ago, and we switched over to Bunn. I loved that coffee maker because it could brew single cups of hot goodness from pods, grounds, tea bags and loose leaves. It was a multi-functional dream. And the coffee was the hottest of any coffee maker I had ever used. Delightful.

One day, it may have been after a remark online someone had made about the absurdity of blowing money on K-cups, I began to reconsider the 10-cup maker. We drink enough coffee around here to justify it. And I felt like I was dropping big bucks too often to keep up with the demand around here. Money that could be better spent on books. One coffee maker went on sale that caught my attention with its cup, large cup, tumbler, half-carafe or full carafe menu; brewing strength options, iced coffee feature and frother (it's a self-contained PARTY). I got it for Shane, ahem, for Father's Day. I couldn't wait to use it.


A few years ago, I had a wonderful cup of coffee at a friend's house. She fixed a delicious homemade coffee cake, and poured two mugs of hot coffee. It was a treat.

"Do you take cream?" she asked. And, sometime over the years, I went from sugar to cream and sugar.

"Yes," I replied.

She heated the cream in the microwave.

"I like heated cream in my coffee," she explained.

I looked around for sugar and didn't see any. She didn't offer any. I thought to myself, well, I won't ask. I'll drink it like she does.

That first sip. Shocking. I commented, "This is really good. I usually put sugar in my coffee, but this is amazing without it."

She said, "Good coffee doesn't need sugar. And this is good coffee. It's German."

I kid not: it was the best cup of coffee I had ever had on American soil. I had been on a search in the stores for German coffee since that experience. I never found it, and I never really looked that hard to be honest, because the convenience of pods seemed sufficient. And there was always sugar to make up for the bitterness of convenience.


So anyway, I'm at the store looking at coffee beans and ground coffee since we have taken a step away from pods, and my eyes landed upon the top shelf where there was GERMAN COFFEE. I reached for it immediately in its air-vacuumed brick and paper wrapping, like a GIFT! We still had a pot or two left of the Wegman's brand, and I kid not, I held that block package in my hands almost daily, like I was trying to determine the gift inside by running my hands over the wrapping. (I have issues.)

The day I peeled the wrapping off and snipped a corner off an end to pour it into the canister--the grounds inhaled the breath of life and the package expanded, much like my heart in anticipation. I was probably drooling. I could hardly wait for that first sip, and it did not disappoint.

It is my go-to coffee now. (I recently snagged four bricks of it to put in the freezer. I also, on a whim, got a less worthy, neighboring, flavored blend. Bah! Boo!)

It is smooth, rich, and creamy without even adding cream--though I do. And I do sprinkle in a bit of sugar, just because old habits die hard. (And Whole30 kinda wrecked me for drinking coffee black.)

It is perfect hot. Or cold. Or even reheated.

Oh, the little things.

Life's a feast. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

And still counting (10,599-10,630

the Monday after dance season
a full week on slow

chocolate mini cupcakes
flowers in vases
table setting in a field
barefoot kiddos running in the grass
laughter and poetry together

an empty teapot
cauliflower soup
visits with Lori
Christy and kids at the pool
tables on sale

days at home
Rebecca plus nine
frogs in little hands
a snake skin for him to take home

grasses cut
bird song
early morning starts
curriculum in the mail

worship on a Thursday morning
catching sunrises
snoballs and Italian ice

Lisa's homecoming
a bestie, officially homeschooling two

days home
German coffee
red wine
afternoon naps
reading on the couch on a Saturday

blue cheese and steak
that man of mine
lightning bugs
the video team
sunsets through the trees

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

When it feels perfect

Gorgeous temperature. Beautiful sky. And a day she'd planned for weeks now. Erin wanted to celebrate her doll's birthday with a poetry tea and invited a special friend and her dolls to join. She even mailed an invitation.

Tuesday morning, we made mini chocolate cupcakes. I had Trader Joe's meringues in the cabinet. I put out grapes and watermelon. I made a cauliflower soup with parmesan crisps. There was lemonade and black currant tea. And there was beauty provided by wonderland.

Erin helped me set up in the field under the walnut trees. She helped me carry down the benches (my dad gave me) and wicker chairs. She spread out the tablecloth. We got a wagon and covered it in hot pink burlap for the dolls.

Her friend Abigail arrived and we went down to the field. We served ourselves plates of food and poured tea and lemonade. We ate and enjoyed the beautiful weather. And then we talked about poetry. And then the kids got the books and started reading out loud. Even Erin, who just Monday was in tears at being recorded reading for the reviewer (which I hadn't sent yet; replaced it with her twittering laughter and gaiety), was now laughing and giving great voice to poetry--likely fueled by too many mini cupcakes. I don't care. It was a beautiful, freeing moment.

Abigail asked questions about our poetry tea times and we told her she didn't have to memorize a poem and she could pick as many as she liked. She liked this approach compared to the classroom. I nodded. This is freeing.

(I am so thankful for the resources I stumbled upon last spring--they've shaped our home and homeschool--Sarah Mackenzie's Teaching From Rest; Julie Bogart and her Bravewriter lifestyle and Poetry Teatimes; Charlotte Mason; Pam Barnhill; Ruth Schwenk; Sally Clarkson. While some of our curricula resembles a classical education and co-op influence, we've done away with rush and rigor. Life is so much more than a checklist. I want to enjoy it along the way, and even slow to savor.)

I love how something as simple as cupcakes and a tablecloth transform a snack and school work into something social and rich and meaningful. So much laughter. The light dappled through the leaves. The cake plate, emptied. Kids running barefoot in the field afterwards.

This is why. This is why. There is no place like home.

absolutely clueless about using icing tips

cheesecloth draped over the table until we were ready to eat

everything felt perfect

This was a big deal to Erin--and it became a big deal to me

the view looking up

table manners for fun

Erin has changed a lot this year--so happy for her!

Our chubby little teapot--it's a keeper
Erin and Abigail took off to play while Lanie and I packed up some of the items. Later Erin told me how they'd stop off at the table to refresh on lemonade and tea. My heart couldn't be happier.

Life is a feast.