Thursday, December 29, 2011

a little craft

i can't sew all that well, it's no secret.

but i made this little number the other night, after a particularly inspired afternoon.

it's fluffy. it's thick. it's warm and reminds me a bit of a woodland creature. sometimes it sheds and leaves little white puffs on my bedroom floor.

but i made it. my fingers threaded the needle and cut the fabric. i did it late at night while robert watched a football game and pablo entertained himself with a new bone. i sat at our old round kitchen table with a little light in the corner, humming to myself.

and there's something organic about that. and rewarding. and like most things worth doing in life, it took time and patience. two things i've found myself short of lately. the process was cathartic.

these hands of mine are nimble. they type fast and hard on a keyboard and their knuckles crack when i'm stressed. they are burdened with hangnails.

but they are also capable. and mine.

and for that, i fold them in a prayer of thanks.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

a search for a scent


my sister has found her scent. it's rare pearls by avon. and it is lovely and fresh, like clean sheets on a spring evening. her children will come to associate her with it and will keep a special bottle in their medicine cabinets when they get older, unscrewing the lid just to smell her.

but i'm still searching for mine. between the too spicys and too sweets. between the victoria's secret and bath and body works concoctions and the cosmetics counter vials. i haven't found it yet, and i fear time is running out. to create that lifelong relationship with a perfume takes time. wearing it to church and also to ballgames. to work and to weddings. and not growing tired or bored of it, as i tend to do.

maybe i'll never find it. maybe my children will always remember me by the clothesline, smelling of detergent and grass. maybe you'll remember the way the fire smelled that time i burnt the caramels in the kitchen. maybe my scent will be a marriage of many, many times. of cinnamon rolls and apple orchards. of sea salt and potting soil. night air and summer rain.

that's not to say i won't continue the search, because i think it a lovely notion. but while i'm looking, breathe me in deep no matter the circumstance. maybe one day we will find a way to bottle life.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

to face unafraid

it has started.

the slow process of packing up the ornaments and folding up the tree. of storing the stockings and dusting off tabletops. leaving that one strand of lights by the windowsill because they are whimsical. the few days after christmas are sort of a haze. a slow crawl out of lethargy and coziness. i stretched in bed this morning, only to crumple back under the covers as my body sighed against the dark.

and it's black outside my window. a slow drizzle is blanketing the parking lot. my raincoat is still on and the coffee has cooled against my hands. december 27. not quite new year's. not quite christmas. not quite anything at all really. just a chilly tuesday.

but i've got plans to take robert out for a frosty tonight. to read in my car during my lunch break and maybe take a mini nap. to hold hands with my mama across the old round table and spend an hour on the kitchen floor playing with pablo's new squirrel toy. it's exciting. in its own, little ordinary way, it's riveting..

every day can't be christmas. because that would diminish the splendor of it. but every day can be joyous, and merry. it can be full of cheer and of heavenly love. there's a sweet, sweet world waiting to be decorated. to be garlanded and strung with lights. to be adored and feasted upon. oh come, all ye faithful, and devour it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

a christmas card and a prayer

on the way to work this morning, i thought about baby Jesus. about little chubby fingers. about flushed cheeks. the way babies smell. about a tired mama and a proud papa. about hay bales and donkeys and night stars and the cold. then i thought about the cross on the hill and i couldn't bring myself to think about it anymore and had to turn on a pop song.

my heart aches for what mary didn't fully know. my spirit crumbles to pieces when i think about swaddling a savior. because it's all so tortuously beautiful. and sad and sweet and precious and wild. i pray that this realization never leaves me. that i feel just as impacted on a pretty thursday evening in the spring, under the shade trees in the front of the house with my arm under robert, as i do this morning, two days before christmas. that the knowledge of the blessing sticks to my ribs, sustaining me on nights spent kneeling and mornings spent over the coffee pot.

it's a comfortable life, typically. there are sunrises and twilights. there are hands held across wooden tables and  pillows that smell of summer. there are children laughing on hilltops and dogs with wet noses to greet us at the close of the day.

but to have this? to achieve this unspeakable beauty? it took one incredible sacrifice. but before all that. before the nails and the beating. before the crown of thorns and the bleeding.

there was one incredible birth.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


it's okay to dress up in your favorite vintage frock
to swirl your hair up in a fanciful updo
to wear your special gold necklace and diamond earrings

...even though  you work behind a desk all day and the only people you see are your co-workers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

christmas as an adult

it's rainy and warm in north carolina. it is muggy and humid, and this weather is a fickle mistress to the corporate air conditioner. even the coffee mug under my hands is sweating.

and i've got the radio set on chistmas music. i've adorned our mantle with holly from the bush beside the porch and a nativity scene is resting on our coffee table, delicately perched upon the wood, baby Jesus shaking every time pablo knocks into it.

but it doesn't feel like christmas of old. when schoolwork ceased for a few days and we breathed a sigh of december relief in the form of cheery word searches and crossword puzzles, busywork of the best sort. when the skies were gray and cold and snow lurked around every sunrise. where the christmas tree was real, in that small corner of the living room. when i was tucked into bed beside my sister and for one second that somehow spanned into an entire month, all was well with the world. now, there are tests and papers and office work and appointments. there are days i feel like all i do is drive.

so what to do? we make our own traditions, our new little ways of celebrating. we decorate the office windowsill in lights and stay up late to watch lifetime movies under the artificial fraser fir. we put a too-heavy santa hat on pablo's head and take pictures as he paws it off. we replace the late night coffee run with eggnog and the ice cream with reindeer sugar cookies. we address christmas cards to our bosses and bring in fudge for the company kitchen.

it's not going to be the same. it never will and it was never supposed to. but to equate the magic of christmas with the magic of childhood is an unfair comparison. but that's not to say it's not a spectacular time to shed a little of our adult selves and sink into the glory of the holiday. to bring in a little of the old and mix it ever so gently with the new. to forge new paths and bridges over new rivers, one eye looking behind us at home in the distance, the other focused on the shore just ahead.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

twenty-four years later

...i have stuttering relief. it comes in the form of a little hearing aid-esque device that slips sweetly and neatly into my left ear. it is removable, which is a plus because it amplifies every.single.sound. and is hard to wear 24/7. but it is beautiful. and the joy and freedom it grants me is beyond belief. it's slow, methodical process, this healing and reforming. but i didn't get here overnight and it won't disappear overnight either. it is no sprint. rather, it's a walk, a saunter through the meadow at times and a trudge through snowy grounds at others. but i'm glad God chose me to take this path, however difficult and embarrassing and downright hard it can be. because finally, blissfully, there is a glimmer of light appearing from the shadows, a distant end to this tunnel. and it's like i just got new walking shoes.

Monday, December 19, 2011

the rock candy's melted, only diamonds now remain

let it be known that i love sleeping in. this is a new-found phenomena, one gently and slowly revealed to me through marriage to a man who relishes his rest. who, with one arm draped over his head, will sink into the mattress and soak up all the deliciousness that cool sheets and a warm quilt can offer. and for a girl used to going to bed with the sun still draping himself over the countryside, and rising before he pokes his head up over the hills, i have truly learned the beauty and importance of a deep, sound sleep.

but sometimes, oh sometimes. there's just nothing quite like a morning in the country. with shed lights peeping on with the wind and oak branches spinning outside. with frost on the ground and over the lampposts.

this morning, i woke at five and made country ham. i sat in an old farm kitchen and warmed my hands on a coffee mug as the meat simmered and spat in the skillet. and i drug mr. sleepyhead himself into the bright yellow chairs. the morning still black, we talked and ate. and slowly, ever so slowly, we awoke. to the day. to ourselves, to each other. and i declare, it was almost better than a late morning snuggled next to the window. almost.

Friday, December 16, 2011

that's not what ships are built for

i could have walked five feet and touched the highway sign. ran my cold fingers along the green metal and traced the I-40 east marker. i was that close when it happened.

my tire blew on the way to work yesterday. just exploded out of nowhere. just a second past the school zone and before the interstate. had i left our house 30 seconds earlier, it would have blown while i was traveling seventy miles per hour, in the middle lane. between truckers and corporate executives barreling down the road on the way to work.

instead, i was thrust onto the grassy shoulder of the country road, my car shaking violently. i managed to stop it. an hour later, it was towed away to the repair shop, and i was safe and warm in robert's van, thanking God for a man who is capable and calm under pressure, an eagle scout if i ever saw one.

but it shook me up. and scared me. and made me take the long way to work today, avoiding the highway. and it had me praying harder and sending more whispered thank yous up to heaven.

because things just happen sometimes. new tires burst. buildings collapse. someone gets a phone call at three in the afternoon that changes his life. we never know what each day holds. what glorious blessings or awful tragedies. but the fear cannot be crippling. it must be the force that propels. that pushes us to love harder and longer. forgive quicker. and think smarter before speaking.

to run headfirst into the burden of chance. the risk of driving down the road or flying in the plane. i'll get back in the highway soon, i'm sure. but for now, i'm enjoying the cornfields and rural neighborhoods that the long way provides. but we weren't made for the harbor, i know that much. we were made for the sail.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

a memory each morning

i will always think of you like that, standing there in your pajamas on the porch.

when the clouds of old age loom. when children grow up and move away and the rooms are too big but the clothes fit smaller. when the creaky floorboards give way to creaky knees and elbows. when i sit down on the cold basement floor sifting through the relics of us, our high school days and our wedding day. pictures in hospitals and on church steps.

i'll remember the mornings in that little cottage of ours, backing out of the gravel drive. you, always, there by the screen door. bare feet and messy hair. a sleepy grin and a wave. and the way that sight would feed me through the day, propelling me onward until we met again on that same porch, a different greeting as the sun faded to black.

i love you all the time, but perhaps the best like this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

on being sensitive (and southern)

it's been a long morning.

because people can be mean and i am sensitive and when those two forces combine there is a chance of combustion. or tears in the bathroom stall. same thing.

but just now, a cashier at the local barbecue joint noticed me. my red, puffy eyes and my sore, peeling nose. probably the general look of disgust and discomfort on my face, or maybe that my hair was in poor, mousy condition.

and he offered me complimentary hush puppies.

and right then, on eastchester drive, my day turned around.

do something nice today, folks. you never know whose stormclouds you're turning to sunshine.

Monday, December 12, 2011

a weekend on the couch

i did not leave my couch once this weekend.

i ate my meals there. slept there under about four blankets. watched as the sun rose, hung in the sky behind the oaks, then set again, pablo asleep at my shins.

what started as a bug on friday leaped into a deep, feverish sinus infection that had me bundled up and freezing one minute and burning up and sweating the next.

and i feel better today. because that's the beautiful thing about the human body. usually, though i am certainly aware that not always, we do heal. we fight back and reclaim our right to be amongst the living. to go out driving on a sunday or shopping on a saturday. to eat something other than soup broth. to pull ourselves out of the mounds of tissues and medicine bottles and sit on the porch swing for a few minutes, letting december wash over and cool us.

so we soldier on. because sickness will come. it's a part of life. and honestly, a weekend of rest was quite nice. a weekend of taking three steaming baths a day, staying up watching movies with robert, and giving no heed to the time. i watched way more keeping up with the kardashians and real housewives (of every.single.county) than i cared to, but it was a reprieve. i would have preferred this reprieve to come without a stinging throat and stuffy nose, but hey, i'll take any rest i can get.

Friday, December 9, 2011

a silver christmas


i put up two christmas trees yesterday. a white one for robert's grandma and this one. the same silver tree that has graced my grandpa's formal living room for the past fifty years. it is shiny and the ornaments are so fragile i may or may not have cracked one. and i declare, i do love the smell and look of a good fraser fir, but these tiny trees, with their revolving, colorful bases, stir up a delight in me that is unmatched. i think it's because i can see the history in them. in the grubby hands that packaged them up every january, and the faces who would lie under the stems, watching the kaleidoscope show.

it's a red and green christmas. but every one needs a little sparkle now and again.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

let me know that you love me, let that be enough

this is the shed behind my house. it stores robert's motorcycle, a few lawn care items, and an old dog carrier. for a few blissful weeks last may, it was a makeshift home for four kittens i found. the old door handle is worn and rusty. this morning, dew was clinging to its siding. a tall strand of ivy is creeping up its back door, curling it way back to the concrete steps.

but at one time, about seventy years ago, this was a house. a teeny abode for two newlyweds. a few years later, they built the little brick cottage we now call home. it was two rooms. in the middle of the country flanked by cornfields and newly paved roads. shielded by pin oaks and cushioned by blueberry bushes.

whenever this world gets to be too much, whenever i think about the christmas list in my purse, bloggers who go on fabulous trips to europe, and the new boots in the window at the mall, i remember this shed. for its simplicity and smallness. perfect in its absolute minute way.

and if home can found in a garage, i do believe it can be anywhere. i'm learning to embrace that. and the idea that two rooms can be enough. very little can be enough. almost everything i have or think i need is too much. humans are simple creatures, when it comes down to it. love and food are necessities, the base and the roots of the tree. the rest are just ornaments, hanging and embellishing but never enough to stand, to complete, on their own.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

finding the soul

there are some times, some special, deeply intimate times, when eyes transform and become portals, little peep holes into souls. sometimes, when the light hits just right and i'm at the right vantage point, i swear i can see into the sacred. like robert's grandma in the hospice bed. the split second her lids fluttered apart. or robert's. squinting up at me in the november sunshine, down on one knee.

the other day, it was pablo. riding in the car on my lap, sneaking peeks behind him at me in my dress. the way the wind was blowing his ears and how his wet nose felt against my wrist. and looking into those pupils i swear i felt God. He does come in unexpected ways sometimes, and a sunday car ride home with the windows down and twilight swirling seems like a pretty lovely place to make an appearance.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

finding the still

it's just not going to happen.

the brownies will not get made for bible study. the whites will not get washed. and the noodles might be not be hot anymore once we bring ourselves to the table. my hair will be in a bun, one remnant of morning curls poking out the back. doggie belly rubs might  not occur until midnight, with the tree out back casting a shadow on the blanket.

tis the season of hustle. of bustle and movement. of late nights and early mornings, with a soundtrack of ripping wrapping paper and falling ornaments. some things must, some things inevitably will, fall to the wayside.

but i promise this: i will lean into, body and spirit, everything sacred and holy and still about this december. i will sing from my gut and pray on my knees. i am determined to feel christmas this year. wholly. and that means letting things slide. like the pile of clothes in the laundry room. the books on the nighstand. the dust under the bench.

and i don't know how long i can make this last. this focus, this deep drive. january? february, maybe? but it's the striving that counts. the constant reach and try. one month, one prayer, at a time.

Monday, December 5, 2011

scenes from a country cottage: a borrowed christmas


these are the hamburger years. the years of sewing on patches and cutting coupons and drafting a new, tighter budget every other week. of washing down baseboards and scrubbing steel sinks.

very few things are ours. at this stage, they are hand-me-downs. the old round table from my uncle in the corner. the light wood desk from my aunt, repainted a happy red. the kitchen table from my parents. there are stories in my house that are not my own. rather, we live in a little collection of sorts, an family antique gallery, just nice enough to display but worn enough to spill on, leave a sweaty cup on, or prop our feet on that it doesn't really matter.

it becomes especially apparent every december, when i lug the tupperware out from the basement. our christmas decorations are mainly borrowed. our stockings were made by aunts and cousins. our tree comes from our sweet neighbors. the ornaments come from mama, who started collecting them for me when i was a baby. when we turn the lamps off, the lights twinkle against the old blinds, an orchestra of color.

it's a loaned road, filled with loaned time. and we are the mosaics that walk along it. i can look at the stockings, with their particular, perfect stitches, and remember the skilled hands of my uncle. the crocheted ornaments sing of the skill of my grandma. the baby's first christmas ornament reminds me of my parents, young and just starting out.

so if i am to be a compilation, i'm happy it's of these folks. these memories and these christmases. for especially this month, i am reminded that really, when it comes down to it, we're all just renting this space, this blessed, borrowed life.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

wednesday night discord

it was a computer night. robert tucked into his walnut corner desk, plumbing tickets organized and spread across the smooth wood. and i behind my cherry red table, the one we painted ourselves that hot august, with scratches and dings along the side, battle scars of moving.

and we sat there and stared. into the black hole that is the internet. microsoft word. etsy. pablo nudged my heels and i looked down to see his little squishy face, tennis ball in his mouth. i wish there were some sort of tennis ball machine we could get that would just shoot out balls for him to chase, i found myself saying.

and as soon as the thought made its way from my crowded mind to my loose, sleepy mouth, i regretted it. regretted asking for silence. for peace and quiet. for a still, resting home.

give me the noise, the hectic. that floorboard in front of the guest room that moans when work boots hit. give me cereal bowls in the sink and curlers on the bathroom vanity. i want to revel in the mess of it all, the lived-in feel of a  house turned home. give me late nights on the linoleum in the kitchen, dog face mashed into my own. robert's tennis shoes under the coffee table and plants overflowing on the windowsill. give me the underbelly of the beast of chaos.

i don't want to miss it. this fleeting bubble i can almost tangibly feel drifting higher and higher toward the heavens. of all my loved ones still here. a pup who still wants to play, and can hop onto the bed. able arms that can throw toys, stretch into child's pose and wrap around my husband. it's brief, this life. a whispered breath, really. and to wish for it to be any easier, any less involved, is a pity. for discord, i've found, is the mother of dreams.