Tuesday, November 30, 2010

comfort in a cup

there are quite a few things that bring me undeniable comfort. heavy quilts on a flannel bed. early morning bible reading on the front porch swing, coffee cup in hand. a clear lane when i'm merging onto the highway. the shape of calling home.

around lunchtime yesterday, a cold hit me. i was just sitting there, typing away in my office, when all of a sudden all the symptoms hit at once--headache, runny nose, sinus pressure, and the likes. and i like to think i'm a strong woman. i can juggle work, school, laundry, and being a wife. but when i get sick, even with a teensy cold, it completely shakes up my world and i have a hard time functioning. so i needed some comfort.

this time, i headed straight to my favorite crockpot wonder--wassail.

this hot, spiced punch is the perfect cure for all types of ailments. made with apple cider, pineapple juice, honey, cloves and cinnamon, it is chock-full of healthy, soothing ingredients that can't help but bring you churn your body into a state of healing. i happened to have a batch from last week, so i poured it into my favorite mug, heated it up in the microwave, sunk into the couch and waited for it to work its wonders.

and it did. i woke up this mornig completely healed of my cold. the wassail, combined with medicine, a long bath, and a night of sleeping on the heating pad did the trick. it also didn't hurt that i spent the evening deep in conversation with one of my best high school friends who came over for supper. that kind of friendship heals the soul.

yesterday, i told you about making cheesecake in the crockpot. today, behold my all-time favorite wassail recipe you can make in that little ceramic wonder:

--2 quarts apple cider
--1 cup pineapple juice
--1/2 cup honey
--3 cinnamon sticks
--2 whole cloves
--1 whole orange, cut into rings

use a 4-6 quart crockpot. makes 9 cups of juice.

put all of the ingredients into the crockpot. wash the orange and cut it into slices. float on top of the liquid.
cook on high for two hours, or low for four. serve with a ladle.

i hope your tuesday is filled with sunshine, warm mugs, and whatever brings you true comfort, because life is short but sweet for certain.

Monday, November 29, 2010

a bedtime revelation

a revelation hit me while turning down the bed last night.

well, i wouldn't quite call it a revelation as much as a realization.

in the middle of untucking the sheets and pulling back the blankets, i turned to robert and said, "think about the years between ages 10 and 20, and how long of a span that seems--how many milestones and changes you go through. now think about 20 to 30. we're almost halfway there. it doesn't feel nearly as long, does it?"

i thought about the decade encapsulating my teenage years like an old movie playing backward. in one scene, my first birthday in the double digits. what a spectacle we made out of that. in the next, a sequence of firsts--first car, first job, first date, first kiss, first love, first graduation. first time leaving home. it seemed that from 10 to 20, my life was composed of so many gigantic milestones. i sat down on the edge of the bed and pondered my twenties. of course there are big steps. but not as frequent as my younger years. from now on, it seems as though the milestones will be few and far between. marriage. jobs. pets. children.

but like the grapes i got last night at the grocery store, these milestones are also big. and sweet. they are precious and monumental. i believe God throws so many epochs at us when we're younger because in reality, those periods are just preparing us for now. i'm so glad that present life moves at a slower pace than before. i can savor these special moments now because i appreciate them more. i turned to robert and told him what i was thinking. without missing a beat, he said, nothing is static. everything is always changing. years from now, we'll look back on this time, just you and me and our little life, and we'll think about all the big changes that happened, though we didn't recognize them as big at the time.

so maybe life now isn't a chain of huge steps. maybe, just maybe, it's the simple comfort of relishing the tiny victories. the day pablo learned his first trick. the birthday i got my front porch swing. the first day i discovered i could make cheesecake in the crockpot.

it's the little things now, more than ever, that i'm learning to appreciate. and it's sweet to know that robert--who was there for my first kiss at 16--is cherishing these new moments too. and right now, there's a mug of spiced cider warming my hands, the sunshine peeking through half-open blinds, and a heater running at my feet and it is enough. in fact, it is beautiful.

pacific coast highway--october 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

bright friday

i had good intentions, i really did.

my plan was to get up at 4 a.m. this morning to brave the black friday crowds with my mama and sister. though i'm trying to buy homemade and secondhand this christmas, i wanted that experience. of trekking to target in the dark. of starbucks at 6 a.m., shopping bags full at our chilly feet. but mainly, more than anything, i wanted to make a memory with those women so special to me. black friday was more than a crazy shopping day to me. it was a chance to create one of those "remember when" moments that i could look back on fondly.

but a few things stood in my way.

the first was a sleepover. the kind that i haven't had in a long while.

my mama spends the night with my grandpa, nanno, on tuesdays and thursdays. since his pneumonia, he has just felt more comfortable having someone in the back bedroom, in the off chance that he falls in the middle of the night or has an emergency. he has five children, three of which live within walking distance, so they just all switch off spending the night with them. last night was mama's night. since my sister is home from college for thanksgiving and we want to soak up our time with her, enjoy every second of her sweet, kind presence, we decided to make a
night of  it.

we painted nails. stayed up watching chelsea lately and talking. nanno retired early, around 10, and mama held her heavy eyelids open until around midnight, finally retreating to her childhood bedroom in her flannel pajamas and warm socks.

my sister and i, knowing that our black friday adventure was to start at 4, stayed up the entire night. on nanno's couch, we sat with our legs crossed facing each other in our pjs. for a while, we watched mindless television. then, without discussing it, we simply muted the shows and began to talk. a good, heartfelt talk like we used to have when we shared a bedroom. it made my heart smile to listen to her talk about her  life, and to share mine with her.

then 4 a.m. rolled around. we woke up mama. all three of us prepared to go shopping. and i  realized i just couldn't do it. i didn't need to. i had already made my memory that night. i had bonded with the women in my life over so much more than early bird specials. so i let them go on, and i headed back to my cottage in the dark, where i saw this:

and i knew i had made the right decision to stay home. as quietly as i could, i slipped into bed, barely waking my sweet husband and pablo. and then, just as i had spent the night with the two top women in my life, i rolled over on my side and said my prayers, thankful to spend the wee hours of the morning with my two top men.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

yellow tights and buttons

pre-post note:
thank you to the sweet readers who requested a vintch blog button. there's now a little link to the button on the right sidebar. blog buttons are super fun and remind me of american girl grin pins.

now on to the story...

i wore yellow tights to work yesterday.

when i slipped them on that morning, i was so happy. everything about them--from their retro mustard shade to their velvety texture, made my cold, gray morning a little brighter. they also made me smile with love, because they were picked out and purchased as a surprise for me by my sweet mama. late monday evening, she came to me, her hands sneakily behind her back. close your eyes and hold out your hand, she said, unable to hide her excitement. when she laid them in my open hand, i looked up at her. she was beaming. i found these for only $2! they're nine west! she exclaimed (if there was ever a question about where my love for thriftiness comes from, look no further than this woman).

and i loved them. i loved them so. and i loved her for knowing my style so well. for embracing what makes me unique and special and investing her time and money (no matter how much) into making me feel beautiful.

so i hopped into my car, played my favorite christian radio station, ran the heat on full until the cold left my bones, and started the day with a full heart.

then i got to work and it happened.

the stares.

the polite, quick look-aways, as if my tights were blinding and they shouldn't look too long at them, like the sun. like it wouldn't have mattered if i had shown up to work completely naked sans the tights.

one man was walking a new employee around the office. he stopped at mine and introduced me as the girl with the yellow legs. 

one woman came to my office, sat down beside me and said those are the most...unique...tights i've ever seen. i asked if that was a compliment. she said i don't know. i just really don't like that color.

to which i promptly thought:

well then, good thing they're my tights and not yours.

because i knew something she didn't. i knew that these tights were more than a fashion statement. more than just an accessory with my floral skirt and white sweater. more than a fabulous steal. more.than.yellow.

they were the physical manifestation of a bond between mother and daughter. of sweet sacrifice and thoughfulness. of monday night surprises after crockpot suppers.

and for that reason alone, i will wear them.

i also happen to really, really love them. and that realization fills my heart up so much that all the judging stares and rude comments, all of the slow-downs and second glances, corporate kitchen pauses and head-to-toe once overs


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

baby steps and bananagrams

my grandpa, who my family refers to as nanno, played bananagrams a few days ago. this is a game similar to scrabble, where you try to make words out of little plastic letters. however, unlike scrabble, bananagrams houses its letters in an adorable yellow bag shaped like-you guessed it.

to an outside, undiscerning eye, this would look like an ordinary saturday night. lawerence welk was playing on the t.v. in the kitchen. dishes from our family supper sat bubbly in the sink. my brother was in the living room doing his homework. but i assure you, this was a moment that made my heart soar.

about a month ago, nanno was rushed to the hospital with shortness of breath. he had just celebrated his 90th birthday the previous weekend. his sisters, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren gathered to celebrate him and rejoice in his good health. at his golden age, he still finished an entire crossword puzzle every day and was a voracious reader, devouring anything he could get his hands on, no matter how random the content. case in point--his latest book finished was kathy griffin's autobiography. it didn't matter to him. as long as he could keep his mind sharp and engaged, it was enough.

nanno had pneumonia. this is bad news at any age, but at 90 it's like he crossed over into the realm of fraility and we were all worried sick about him. that, coupled with the fact that he only has a fraction of his lungs due to a post-war surgery many years ago.

so we waited. and watched. as this proud, sweet man weakened. it broke our hearts and threatened to break our spirits. nanno used to be the champ at bananagrams. he would beat our entire family, triumphantly exclaiming BANANAGRAMS when he reached his victory. he would come up with the most obscure words, all of which were always in the dictionary.

but we didn't play bananagrams for a while. he didn't feel up to it. instead, he wanted to sit in his chair with a little white blanket covering his feet. he wanted to watch jeopardy and wheel of fortune and let his mind wander. and didn't he deserve it? this is a man who has lived his life in the shadows, serving and helping. shouldn't we serve him and just let him rest?

but last weekend, he did something spectacular. after supper, like usual, we asked do you want to play bananagrams? expecting the usual, "no, not today." but he didn't say that. his little ears perked up and he said sure.

so we played. my sister and her boyfriend won the game, but it didn't matter. nanno had the true victory. that little act was a big feat. it symbolized a return to hope, life and a sense of normalacy. it was tangible proof that God answers prayers.

nanno was back, and it was a beautiful thing. he's not healed--that will be a long road, but he has taken the first baby step toward recovery. and isn't that what life is? just a sweet succession of baby steps along the way? there's a reason babies aren't born with the ability to run. they'd be out of the house in no time, out exploring before they were ready.

crawing, baby steps, time. it's all about preparation. building up your wings before taking flight. because then, when you're truly ready to fly away, it will be more glorious than you ever imagined.

nanno at his 90th birthday

Monday, November 22, 2010

i go where the trees go

there is a little cottage in the mountains. it's a tiny little thing nestled between high arching trees. there are rhododendrons on its sidewalk and rosebushes decorate its split rail fence. the rooms aren't large, but there are flannel sheets, a soft floral couch, perfect showerhead water pressure, and heat that echoes off the floorboards.

i spent the weekend here with robert and my brother. the cottage, owned by robert's parents, is on lake junaluska, near asheville, north carolina. robert's dad is a methodist minister, and the lake community serves as a retreat center for the methodist church. there is peace here. this is a place where street lights stay on all night. bed and breakfasts, with their faint evening glow and dimly lit dining rooms, are scattered along the water's edge. old men talk on rocking chairs on front porches. people walk the "prayer circle" outside the little waterside chapel, praying for someone different with each turn and arc.

this weekend, i took my two favorite boys up here to soak in the glory. highlights of our weekend include:
  • walking around the lake at 1 a.m., finally reaching the mountainside cross around 2:00 in the morning.
  • seeing the fabulous joanna newsom live at the orange peel in asheville
  • eating all the fabulous diner food we could manage (hot dogs, BLTs, homemade vegetable soup)
  • seeing the movie unstoppable at the rocky mountain cinema, a little hole in the wall that hasn't changed in about 20 years, with only a few rows of chairs for each screen
and finally, venturing to this book store:

this store was crazy. it was about two miles off the beaten path in the heart of the mountains. it was a total fire hazard, with thousands of books packed into this trailer outside a house. all the books were ridiculously overpriced because we believe the woman doesn't really want to sell them. she just wants to live in them.

the owner, an older woman with short hair and strong country accent, was hard to find at first. then we spotted her. she had created a little cubby inside all the books, where she would poke her little head out. please notice our shocked expressions:

it was all fun and games until we saw the millions of no-stealing signs the woman had posted up. all were handwritten, scribbled on plain white paper. one said "attention thieves: if you steal from me, your blood will flow." this seemed a bit much, so we got scared and left. my brother managed to find a book of wordsworth poetry for less than $5, which he quickly purchased.

overall, the weekend was awesome. packed with tranquility, peace and relaxation. with just the right amount of adventure.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

relay of friendship

relay races always scared me during field day. i felt as if all the pressure were on me-if my leg slid out during the sack race, the pair behind me would be delayed, thus making our whole team lose. if i suddenly got a bad case of butter fingers and dropped the baton during a race, what would happen then? the pressure was insurmountable.

but this is a different kind of relay-the kind of relay i love:) the beautiful and fabulous a whole lotta love has tagged me in the Friendship Relay. it means so much that she would choose me, giving my little blog a chance to shine! now, like a true relay, it is my turn to pass the baton to my fellow blogging friends. i was chosen because my blog is new, and new blogs need love too! thus, i choose to share this honor with three lovely up-and-coming bloggers who i just know are going to explode the blogosphere with their awesomeness. some are brand-spanking new, and some have graced us for a few months. i'm privileged to be your followers, ladies:

1. Peaches from Living Peachy Keen
2. Ana from The World Through My Eyes
3. Emily from Little Things in Life
4. Amy from A Daring Little Life

if you've been tagged, simply answer the following questions in your own post and pass the baton to a few more friends. looking so forward to your responses! just watch those butter fingers.

1.   What did you first want to be when you grew up?
A writer. When I was 10, I made and bound a blue book of short stories. They were all created on Microsoft Notepad and were very simple, but full of imagination. On the last page, I glued a picture of myself and wrote a little “author’s biography.” The last line was “Courtney loves to get fan mail.”

2.   Favorite childhood game?
MASH. Not the television show, of course. Does anyone remember MASH? It is a little game you play on paper, where you predict the names of your future children, what kind of car you’re going to drive, what your husband’s name will be, how many kid’s you’ll have, how much money you’ll make, etc. and of course, if you’ll live in a Mansion, Apartment, Shack or House. Even as a young girl, I was obsessed with my future life—the life I’m living now.

3.   Most favorite birthday?
My best birthday was probably when I turned 16 and got my license. Such a cliché answer, but that day wasn’t important for the obvious reasons. I remember it instead because my grandma was still around, and we celebrated it around her kitchen table. I remember riding to the DMV with my mama. I remember just feeling so special, and the world felt so right. My grandma passed away that same year, so that birthday is especially special.

4.   Something you've always wanted to do and haven't done yet?
Have babies. I want them someday. Just not today. Sometimes I get emotional thinking about how my entire life will one day revolve around these little beings I haven't even met yet. I'll just be driving down the road and think about my future son's first love, or my daughter's wedding and it makes me so happy and sad at the same time. I can't wait, but I can. Does that make sense?

5.   What was your first love?
Cheerleading. I originally wanted to try out for basketball, but my dad forgot the tryout date. I cheered for eight straight years. It was part of my identity, but I tried to never let it consume me. I eventually grew a bit tired of it, but stuck with it through high school. Through cheering, I met one of the angels of my life-Suzanne. She was my stunting partner all through school. She passed away in a car wreck in 2007. There’s a huge, blown up picture of our squad hanging in the halls of my high school. Suzanne’s arm is around me. My mom works at the school and every time she passes that picture, she thanks Suz for watching over me. This isn't that picture, but here is beautiful Suz:

i'm the one in the back with the disgusted look on her face. we just won, so i'm not sure what caused that expresion.

7.    First musical idol?
Don't judge, but Billy Ray Cyrus. All growing up, I had a poster
of him the back of my bedroom door. The poster was created at the
height of his mullet glory. It was awesome. Once, a boy at my
church liked me, and to express his deep(unrequited) love, he
mailed me a shirt screen printed with the lyrics to Achy Breaky

8.   Favorite gift?
I grew up with a gap between my two front teeth. Not crazy
wide, but enough so that I could spit water through it. When I
was 17 years old, my parents gave me the best Christmas gift
ever. In my stocking was a little gift certificate for a
dentist visit--I got the gap filled in! I am all for embracing 
what makes you unique and would never recommend this procedure
for everyone, but my self esteem increased tenfold. Robert, who
knew me even way back then, will every now and then tell me he
misses the gap.

9.    If a theme song played for you everywhere you went, what would it be?
Martina McBride-Blessed. Because I am. So much.

10.    Favorite city to visit?
Chicago! My awesome uncles live there, the air and streets are
clean, and the people are friendly. There’s just a special
feeling about walking those city streets. If you are ever there,
please visit Portillo's/Barnelli's and get the chopped salad.
Just warning you-your life will be changed.

thank you, a whole lotta love, for this fun award. the questions were thoughtful and unique, which made this fun.

robert and i are taking my brother clint this weekend to see the lovely joanna newsom play her little harp out in the north carolina mountains. enjoy your saturday, sweet friends!

Friday, November 19, 2010

friday favorite: chickens don't have nuggets

i have a strange complex with meat. i am by no means vegetarian (hello chicken and biscuits in the crockpot). but i had an experience once. an experience that scarred me from eating meat in restaurants for quite a while. it was nothing dramatic like food poisoning, but it was still utterly terrible. i was in college, eating a chicken stromboli at a place near campus. it began deliciously. the pasta sauce was deep and hearty. the stromboli was doughy and perfect.

then it happened. i bit down on it. gristle. isn't that an awful word? the onomatopoeia aspect of it its terrible. it just sounds miserable to say. i got so confused and anxious. do i spit it out? keep chewing? i think i did a little of both and didn't touch the rest of my food. for a good two years after that, i inspected every piece of meat i ate, especially chunks of chicken.

but i knew i couldn't keep on living my life this way. chicken was nothing to fear! i remembered the chicken nuggets of my childhood. at my elementary school, at a very young age, i was introduced to the best combination ever. chicken nuggets with honey. i was one of those rare birds who loved school food. i looked forward to chicken pie tuesday and lasagna thursday. there, among those stark white walls and long tables, i would gingerly dip my chicken nugget into the little plastic cup of honey, careful to ration myself, lest i run out. 

so after enough time had passed from the stromboli experience, i decided to try again. if i were ever going to love chicken again, it had to be in my favorite form-with honey. it was then and there that i discovered it. wendy's spicy chicken nuggets with honey. the nuggets were perfect. crispy on the outside, lean in the middle, with just the perfect amount of kick. pair these bad boys with some honey sauce, and you've got the perfect combination of hot and sweet. of course i prefer to take it a step further and add a frosty to balance out my meal.

i had my favorite fast food meal this wednesday. and i meant to document it. you see, i'm a new blogger and i'm still getting used to capturing my life on film. so i started in on the nuggets. i kept thinking to myself, courtney take a picture of these beauties. show your new friends this awesomeness!  but i kept shoveling them into my mouth. i.could.not.stop. not for one second. by the time i was able to pull my salivating jaw away from that tender goodness, i saw this pitiful sight:

which made me make this face:

the end of the honey sauce was reached. i obviously forgot my elementary school rationing techniques.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

still to be neat

there is a metamorphosis i undergo daily. every evening, around 5:30, as soon as I pull up into the driveway of our cottage, a change begins to come over me. at first, it is emotional. the day begins to shed off me. all the worries, stresses, deadlines, and anxieties that manage to creep their way into my soul during the work day begin to melt. this change is strengthened into full force when pablo greets me at the door. it's so hard to focus on any.single.negative.thing when a fifteen-pound fluffball is freaking out over you-just you. just the sight of my feet at the door is enough to send him into such a tailspin that i often have to cradle him in my arms, whispering calm down, for fear his heart might beat too hard.

but once inside, the real change comes. my first step is to slip out of my high heels. home is no place for heels. i quickly head to the bedroom and put them away, trading their hardness for warm socks. then the slacks come off, then the buttoned-down shirt, replaced instead with sweatpants and a hoodie. and i spend my evenings bundled up in a decidedly unsexy, but totally comfortable mass of cotton and drawstrings. and it's not just at nights. sometimes i do this on weekends as well. last weekend, robert and i went away for a few days so he could run in his half marathon. and i forgot my makeup bag. just plain left it at home. so i went with it. i threw my hair into a bun and rocked the bare face look all day. for some reason that seems silly now, i kept apologizing to robert for my appearance. sorry babe. i know this is a big day for you. sorry i look like i don't care.

then he told me he loved me best this way. in fact, his words were "you should do this all the time. it's beautiful." what a freeing thought. what a completely, totally amazing thing. of course i still dress up and play with makeup. i'm a girlie girl and will always love the imagination and glamour that femininity affords. but it's nice to know that i can also pull on my high school sweatshirt, toe socks and leggings, and feel just as feminine.

this is my favorite poem in the world, written by ben jonson.

  Still to be neat, still to be dressed,
    As you were going to a feast;
    Still to be powdered, still perfumed:
    Lady, it is to be presumed,
    Though art's hid causes are not found,
    All is not sweet, all is not sound.
    Give me a look, give me a face
    That makes simplicity a grace;
    Robes losely flowing, hair as free:
    Such sweet neglect more taketh me
    Than all the adulteries of art;
    They strike mine eyes but not my

before his wife was "neat" or put together, he so admired her. before the makeup, the tights, the hairspray. when sweet neglect flowed all around her, that's when she was most attractive. i just love that. home is made for comfort. for dancing on wood floors together and curling up on the sofa. it's for lying in the morning, watching the sunrise, and for lying at night talking in the dark. i'm thankful my home is the place where i can look like this:

and robert still loves me. i strike his heart.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

replacing time

there's a little window beside my desk at work. all spring long, i sat and watched as little furball goslings stumbled behind their mamas. then, when summer arrived, i watched those goslings grow up into geese, navigating between the parked cars, scavenging for crumbs of take-out burgers, morning biscuits, or packed sandwiches. it was a beautiful evolution from baby to adult, all in a span of about three months.

but now fall has descended, taking away daylight savings time, and by 4:30 in the afternoon, my little window has turned black. the sun sets so incredibly early now, i can't see the geese. i can't see anything at all. the day feels so short. to me, sunlight equals energy. over the summer, when the sun was suspended in the sky until almost 9:00 p.m., it was as if the evening had endless possibilities. robert and i took countless walks down our road, we had many late night drive-through runs for wendy's frosties. we sat on our swing at watched the sun setting late.

now, we're ready for bed by 9:00, not walking in the fields. our eyelids begin to droop as soon as supper is over. watching glee last night took all the energy i could muster. it's not that i'm overly exhausted or overworked. it just that as sunlight=energy, darkness=sleepy.

so we created a plan. we decided to take that extra hour returned to us and instead of staying up later, we vowed to get up one hour earlier. this morning was our first try. we got up at 6 a.m. and selected a yoga television program on demand. i pulled on my leggings, drug my pilates mat out of the closet, and got ready for a half hour of relaxation, stretching and calm. but then we realized something. we neglected to read the description of the show. it was a jillian michaels yoga program. let me just tell you, this was not yoga, what she did. well, it was yoga, just yoga on about ten cups of coffee. five minutes in, i was already sweating. when she moved from a plank into push-ups, that's when we began to hate our lives just a little.

i looked over at robert, who had retreated to child's pose, his arms stretched out in front of him. we both looked at each other then silently, he turned the television off and we jumped back into bed, with 20 minutes left to sleep. and at that hour of morning, with the sun just creeping up, and a warm, dozing puppy curled up at my toes, 20 minutes was golden.

so we failed this morning. or did we? we tried. we know now that we are at least capable of waking up that early. so we'll do it again tomorrow. we'll try again. and maybe we'll fail again, but at least we'll fail together. but then--then we will grow together too. just like the geese. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

fields of gold

it rained here yesterday. not a downpour, not even a sprinkle. more of a mist-a permeating, cloudy mist that just held itself there-over my office building, my car, my home, threatening to fall at any moment, but never really doing so. when the days are like this, i just want to curl up and sleep. it's like the Lord is telling me--rest, child. there is not much you can do today. just look at it outside. take this opportunity to restore and nourish your body.

and so i did. i made creamy mushroom and onion fettuccine for supper, standing over four warm pots, the steam tickling my face. i took an extra long bath, reading my latest us weekly cover to cover. then, with evening creeping in and monday night football on television, i curled up on my couch with pablo, nestling my face in his fur. we dozed there until robert woke us up and we all three drug our sleepy bodies to bed. and i declare, it was good.

but days like yesterday also remind me of brighter moments-days when it seemed the sky was just bursting with happiness, like all of nature had conspired to shine its beauty at the same time. autumn is gorgeous. this past sunday was such a day. i sat outside and actually watched as leaves came pouring to the ground, catching the sun mid-fall. and i left them there. i don't want to rake them up. i wouldn't mind if my entire yard were covered with amber leaves. it's beautiful and soon it will be gone.

Monday, November 15, 2010

i heart cheerwine slushies

we chose to live in our little cottage for a myriad of practical reasons: the rent is affordable, it's close to our parents, we have excellent neighbors, and the decor and style of the house is everything i never knew i always wanted. however, if we're being  honest, the selling point for me was the nearness of our little abode to the local community gas station. that's a sentence i never thought i'd say, but boy is it so true.

the station, known affectionately by locals as "kelly's" after the man who owns it, is nothing much to look at from the outside. it's your run-of-the-mill station, with pumps and a convienence store filled with beef jerky, two-liter soft drinks and styrofoam plates. however, once you step inside that store, you are one step closer to a life-altering experience. on the back wall, tucked beside coffee and drink machines, are two slushie machines. on the left, you have your typical fruit punch slushie. the owners rotate this flavor. sometimes it's orange, sometimes they go crazy and mix in mountain dew, you just never know. however on the right, in all its beauty, is the cheerwine slushie machine. has anyone heard of/tasted cheerwine? i'm not sure how prevalent it is anywhere besides the south, but here, in the land of moon pies and RC cola, it is king. 

flavored with the perfect tinge of cherry, it is an ultra-carbonated, fizzy soft drink that makes me smile simply saying its name. when i think of cheerwine, i think of the five summers i spent lifeguarding, sneaking free dixie cups of this liquid gold between breaks. i think of balmy summer nights when robert and i were dating in high school, making the trip to kelly's together. one recent morning, i was getting gas, and i had a cheerwine slushie for breakfast. that looks awful when i write it down, but it's true. they are delicious any time of the day. this sunday, robert and i stopped by this little watering hole for some refreshment.

even when it is cold outside, it is comforting to know these frozen beauties are never far away. i've walked there, ridden my bike there, and walked my dog there. i'm not above riding a sled there.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

three dainty dresses

all new in the shop and less than $20

Saturday, November 13, 2010

morning has broken

mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
born of the one light, eden saw play
praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day
-cat stevens, morning has broken

today is a new day. the sun has risen over the fields and there is the promise of greatness on the horizon. so hug somebody today. take a second to look someone in the eye and say i.love.you. because His blessings are new every morning, and so are second chances.

Friday, November 12, 2010

friday favorite

there is an old wooden swing behind my grandparents' house. held up by a rusting metal frame, the swing has chipped paint, creaking hinges and tired, strained boards. it sits among a backyard playground-seesaws, jungle gyms and swing sets. when our church got a new playground, my grandfather bought the old one, putting it behind his house for all of us grandchildren to play on. i remember magical afternoons in the sunset, swinging upside down, holding my sister up tauntingly high on the seesaw, swinging straight into the sky.

and there is a picture in a shoebox beneath my bed. a picture of my grandpa on the swing. one hand on his knee, the other around my beautiful grandma. how they loved that swing. no one uses it much anymore. grandchildren have grown up. the jungle gym went into the junkyard a few years ago. my grandma passed seven years ago and since then my grandpa hasn't been much for swinging.

when it came time to make my own home, to transform a little cottage on the side of the road into my sanctuary, i knew i wanted one thing-a swing like my grandparents'. because it's not just a swing. it is a symbol of love, of devotion. it is a promise to robert that i will swing beside him for the rest of my life. we found the perfect one at a little amish market in the city. on my birthday in april, robert suprised me with it. the swing-in all its crisp white glory, was sitting on our side porch when i got home. since then, we've watched the sunset from that seat. we've sat outside on balmy summer nights from evening to dark, talking into the blackness. since it's gotten colder, we have bundled up ourselves and pablo and gone outside to sit, watching our breath make clouds in the air, hands clutching warm bowls of soup.

this, my friends, is my favorite place in my house. i find immense peace and love here:

so my question for you is this: where do you find peace and love in your home?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

in His image

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. -Genesis 1:27

i remember sitting on my bedroom floor, rubbing my fingers between the carpet fibers – the soft, short threads somehow comforting me as i listened to my parents speak. we are going to enroll you in speech therapy, i heard my mother say. i remember looking up at my dad, his weak smile obviously forced, tears brimming in his eyes, threatening to cascade at any moment. because he shared in my struggle and knew the road ahead. thus, at eight years old, i began my struggle, which would eventually morph into a beautiful relationship, with communication. i am a stutterer. daily, i fight the battle of expression. saying my name, reciting a drive-through order, answering the phone, are all menial tasks i approach from a perspective different than most.

after that initial conversation with my parents, i entered into five years of speech therapy. i learned tricks that ranged from the simple—a rubber band around the wrist will remind you to speak slowly, to extreme—talking with marbles in your mouth for a week will help structure your tongue placement. i spent hours in the evenings thinking up fiction to tell my friends about where i went for the hour every day i was in speech class. communication, then, was a hindrance—something i had to do to survive, but the very act of which was utterly humiliating. writing became my hiding place. by the time i was 12, i had filled notebook after notebook with short stories, poems and songs. if i couldn’t express myself verbally the way i wanted, i could at least write it down. i finally realized the irony of this when i won a school-wide writing contest in middle school. the soon-to-be envy of my peers, i won the coveted prize of a trip to the local theme park, as well as a limousine ride. however, along with the prize, i had to read my paper over the intercom. i bowed out of the contest, gave the prize to the runner up, and told no one of my achievement. writing, i learned, may be a fantastic form of communication, but it cannot be a crutch. i was missing out by trying to avoid interaction. life is beautifully loud, and is not meant to be lived in silence, as much as i hoped it could.
i understand now what i could never be taught. for all her efforts, my speech teacher could never explain to me what i had to learn myself—that proper communication is vital to ensuring strong relationships, scholastic achievements, and work-related ventures. i majored in english and journalism as an undergraduate, stammering my way through speeches until they became second nature. for a part-time job in college, i threw myself into a job in corporate communications, volunteering to answer phones, plan events, and conduct phone interviews. overall, i embraced what i had once feared, and what i found was life changing. no one laughed at me when i took a little longer before starting a presentation. i was not taunted at restaurants when I requested sp-sp-sp-sp spaghetti instead of spaghetti. people are inherently good and worthy of being communicated with. in addition, my speech vastly improved when the element of apprehension was removed. i start grad school this spring at johns hopkins university. i'm majoring in commuication.
genesis 1:27 tells me i am made in the image of my Father. My holy, perfect awesome Father created me. flaws and all. that alone is enough for acceptance. i can embrace who i am because my Creator made me this way. but this battle also links me to my earthly father, who shares my struggle. daily he fights through it, just as i do. and if my stutter makes me like him, i couldn't be more proud.

dancing with dad at my wedding

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

1,700 miles

joni mitchell said her heart cried out for it. the mamas & the papas dreamt about it.

and...i'd never seen it. 

never even been close. california was unreal to me-a glittery dreamscape of imagery that i could only think about, but never truly touch. even now, home from my trip armed with a suitcase full of memories, i don't think i really touched it. there was no way to. no way to wrap my mind around the beauty and savor it.

robert and i are from the south. and in north carolina, if you're vacationing, chances are you're headed south to myrtle beach. though there's something to be said of the fabulous kitsch that has permeated those shores, we wanted -- dreamed of--something more. we have a tradition of taking one big vacation a year before children come to bless our lives. last year-the hot air ballon festival in albuquerque, new mexico. this was something else. it was here i fell in love with green chile sauce, old churches bursting at the seams with history, and adobe architecture.

 albuquerque hot air balloon fiesta-2009

this trip was special. we started in seattle, washington and drove to los angeles, california. 1,700 miles, all along the pacific coast highway. when i wasn't gripping the sterring wheel out of sheer fear of falling off the edge of the cliffs, it was a sight to behold. 

mountains married to the sea-what an idea.

but you know what? home is equally as lovely. because it's just  that-home. and traveling is fabulous. truly one of the most wonderful things in the world. but nothing beats sleeping in your own bed.