Friday, September 30, 2011

microscope heart : sarah

for this week's microscope heart series, i am so happy to introduce you to sarah, from desirous of everything. pretty sarah is living every english major's dream as a librarian in manhattan. she's quirky and cute and just the sweetest thing. her blog is a beautiful collection of musings, writings, and snippets of life with her love, alex. please do stop by and show her some love.


I try and recognize tiny things that make me happy on a daily basis if only for the reason that it makes life more fun!  Which is why I was so excited to try Courtney's Microscope Heart challenge.  When I sat down and thought about it, I found myself experiencing this weird paradox of not being able to think of anything, and then not being able to think of only one small thing to focus on!  Finally, I realized that for me, scent is one of those tiny little things that always make me happy.  Just this weekend, while spending time down the shore with my family, my dad made some amazing steamed muscles in a garlicky white wine sauce and the smell of it sent me over the moon with joy, even more than the taste I think.  I kept bending over and inhaling that big beautiful bowl of food.

I think when I stopped and smelled that delicious scent, it was really a moment of reflection.  Like my mind was able to stop for a minute and really appreciate what a great weekend I was having, how lucky I am to have family and friends that love me and yummy food to share with them over frozen margaritas, Ray Charles singing in the background and lots and lots of laughs.  My microscope heart moment came from a smell, but really, brought on so much more than that.

You know that old saying, "stop and smell the roses?"  I guess whomever came up with that really was on to something!  It's the smelling part that brings me an instant joy, but the stopping part is probably the most important.  A wonderful and delicious smell causes me to pause, breath in real deep, smile, and remember the things that are most important to me.
thank you so much, sarah!
what's the smallest thing that makes you happy? i want to feature you! find out more here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

an open call for suggestions and travel tips

she is ready. after a few months of preparation, our new england road trip travel itinerary has been set. in a bulging one-inch binder complete with sheet protectors. i even broke out my special "birds edition" post it notes from anthropologie, the ones that cost as much as a new hardback book, for the occasion.

i've managed to condense the intricate details into very broad overviews of travel stops along our way, outlined below. we leave very soon!

and though the big plans are set, i've left a little room for adventure. for exploration. for back roads and little roadside diners. for spontaneity in a land unknown. the most fun we had on our west coast road trip last year was at midnight in a denny's near fort bragg, california.

**post edit: i totally realize the ben & jerry's headquarters is in VT. we've got it planned that way. sorry for the typo!

and here's where you come in! please, please share your new england must-sees. i'd absolutely love to hear them. because though i'm from the east coast, bear in mind that i am from a small town that only recently got a stoplight and a wendy's. and growing up, we only went to myrtle beach, and as lively of a time as that is, i'm certain you guys could show me a better one!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

learning a lost art

she had the couch reupholstered last year. the one right by the front door, in a pearly shade of white. clean, like a sno-cone before the grape juice seeps into the cracks.

but no one really comes to sit there anymore, except her husband, when he needs to see the television. or stretch his legs. except the woman who lives next door, with a son not much younger than hers, in his fifties.

but in early evening, when the day's baking is done, when her grandson has gone home for the night and her husband's head is drooped down in slumber on the recliner, dolores sits there. under the lamplight around seven thirty. bathed and in her nightgown, with a heavier scent of powder than she wears for the daytime.

and she embroiders. tea towels. baby bibs. his and her pillowcases. old iron-on patterns she's kept since the sixties. new ones she found on sale at hobby lobby. she has to go slow, and it takes her weeks to finish one pattern. she has the shakes now, she says.

and robert's grandma has offered to teach me. how to embroider. how to choose the right shade of thread to make the bear's belly brown and the flowers pale pink. to make loop stitches and knots. once we get back from our new england trip, a weekly evening jaunt to her warm little house in the city is on my agenda.

it's a lost art, this sewing business. this making pictures out of string. but like the woman who relaxes to it, i'm convinced it only gets better, gets richer and more beautiful, with age.

Monday, September 26, 2011

in these memoirs or recollections there are gaps here and there, and sometimes they are also forgetful, because life is like that. intervals of dreaming help us to stand up under days of work. many of the things i remember have blurred as i recalled them, they have crumbled to dust, like irreparably shattered glass.

from what i have left in writing on these pages there will always fall-as in the autumn grove or during the harvesting of the vineyards-yellow leaves on their way to death, and grapes that will find new life in the sacred vine.
my life is a life put together from all those lives: the lives of the poet.
-neruda, memoirs

what to do when it rains in carolina

this weekend was spent under a cloud of mist. like a warm blanket straight out of the dryer, the haze hung against us, cocooning us. in our beds. our homes. our shopping malls.

and when it rains in north carolina, especially after a particularly dry patch of sunshine that lasted into the evening, there are only a few things left to do. we beat the sludge by staying indoors, ushering in a new season by letting our senses go amok, wild even.

we went to the local county fair. this fair is small. the kind where you don't even want to think about how quickly the rides were put up and you can easily tell the hoops on the basketball toss are ovals, skewed so no child can win that illusive inflatable baseball bat. we ate country ham sandwiches as the sun set, and learned way more than we ever needed to know on the art of beekeeping from our local chapter.

then, on saturday, we indulged in live music. in .75 iced lattes sipped in a dark bookstore basement. listening to a band who wore flower garlands in their hair and on their mics. we ate frozen yogurt too heavy to finish, with hot fudge like i haven't had in years.

it was a good weekend, this rainy one. a good scrubbing of september to make way for the wash of october.

Friday, September 23, 2011

microscope heart : christina

for this week's microscope heart, i'm so happy to feature my friend christina from brown town. i first met christina when we were in bible study together at n.c. state, and our friendship grew from there! she's a beautiful, strong woman of the Lord and i love reading about her life with brandon and all their precious furbabies. thank you, christina. we've got to meet up in raleigh soon!

Touch is one of the most powerful human interactions.  It creates the tingle down your spine, the butterflies in your heart, the sweat on your palms, and the emotion in your heart.  The slightest touch can change your entire mood and make your heart do a flip-flop.  I’m not talking about big touch like a handshake or a hug, no it’s those small, microscopic touches that warm my soul and make my heart sing.   Those small touches bring joy to my life and are always sure to put a smile on my face, even in the most difficult of times.      

It’s when Brandon places his hand, ever so lightly, on the small of back.   The message it sends is so much bigger than the size of the action.  It says “I’m here for you."  It says “I’m thinking of you” and of course it says “I love you."  The world can come to a complete stop when I feel the warmth of his touch. 
The beauty of it is that my sweet hubby doesn’t even realize the magnitude of this small action.  Placing his hand on my back is not as intentional as a kiss or a hug and that is what’s beautiful about it.  It is a natural thing for him, maybe even subconscious.  That’s what makes it a microscopic heart action.  It is one of those tiny things in this big world that makes me stop and remember what in this life is worth living for.  It is this small action that ripples into much larger joy and that is what matters in life.       
thank you, christina! what's the absolute smallest thing that makes you happy? tell me here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

modern family, interrupted

pablo won't eat unless i sit with him. unless i'm rubbing his back and whispering that it's okay, that no one is behind him, that his kibble will still be there if he trots around for a bit. some time in the past, some long ago forgotten memory is lying latent in him. the awful idea that someone might take his food, hit him for eating, or try to nudge him out of the way of the bowl. i'll never know what happened to him those five years he wasn't mine.

but i do know how it is now. how i can't sit down to watch modern family without him nudging me, reminding me he is hungry. i've sat on the floral linolieum in that old farmhouse every single night for the past two years. i've learned the crevices of the squares, the intricate pattern of the sage green and buttercup yellow motif.

but it's a good thing, this being needed. being depended upon. even if it's just by a 13-pound ball of fluff. and when babies come to bless our days, as i pray they do, i'll feel just an inkling more prepared. it's ironic. all this time on the cold hard kitchen floor, and i've become softer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

waiting to exhale (not the whitney movie)

i actually felt guilty yesterday for sneaking into the company kitchen for a cup of coffee.

with deadlines piling up and the stack of paper and bills on my desk growing with each passing second, time seemed too precious, too fleeting, to waste waiting in front of the keurig machine, listening for the water to gurgle then pour, the steam rising then disappearing into the arctic, conditioned air.

there hasn't been a night in the past two weeks that i have sunk into bed before eleven. that i haven't hushed pablo when he whined to play ball, as i crunched over my little red desk and pecked away at the keyboard. life has been so hurried, so rushed, so fluid that stopping to take a time out has seemed too luxurious. (on an unrelated note, i'm getting "winter hair"--dry, crunchy lifeless locks. this has been the cause of a bit of my stress as well.)

but this morning is hazy and overcast and drizzly and, i declare, it almost feels like winter, with its gorgeous gloom. and work has, for the sweet split-second moment, given me a breath. a deep, gutteral sigh. a chance to slip away during lunch and sink into an overstuffed chair at the coffee shop downtown. and for a little bit, just a little bit, read a book i want to read instead of a textbook. apply my lipstick slowly and let the foam stay on my lips for a little while. daydream into the gray noon.

because life is furiously fast, but those special moments are golden and delicious and every good thing wrapped into one. and its those reprieves that keep me chugging along, at least until the first good rain or snowfall comes and everyone can finally exhale.

the picture above was taken atop the astoria column in astoria, oregon. one place i took a crazy deep, rib bursting breath last october.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

25% off for readers

enter coupon code vintchfall for 25% off anything in my etsy shop. the latest batch is in, with lots of cool-weather essentials perfect for the summer to fall transition. enjoy!

a southern girl meets soul food


there were a few times i thought we'd found it.

there was that little mexican diner on the outskirts of town, with the pineapple pork sopes. that time we ate in the rain after work, pablo waiting in the car. then there was that pizza joint right by the house, with the lotto machine against the dark back wall. the dim lights and the waitress with the ruby lipstick. after a horrendous day at work, the greasy dough went down like manna.

but two weeks ago, we finally found that little hole in the wall we've so desperately sought for so long.

it's called becky's and mary's. there is no sign out front and the only way you wouldn't just drive right past it is by word of mouth. oh, and this article. becky and mary are sisters and together, along with their brother dennis, they have been dishing up soul food in high point since 1961.

the first time we went, we discovered the fried chicken, with its crispy golden crust and buttery meat. there were black-eyed peas and collard greens. homemade potato salad and rice with a deep brown gravy. on saturday, we went back, for candied yams and more rice. moist cornbread. sweet tea with a splash of lemonade. robert tried the juicy porkchop.

the sisters write orders on post-it notes and the food comes out on styrofoam plates with plastic utensils.

it's become a weekend tradition, our new little spot. where people say bless your heart and there's no such thing as an empty cup. i think we found our little soul nook beside the worn out church. it's not fancy, but then again, neither are we.

Monday, September 19, 2011

camping with an eagle scout, on his birthday


i married an eagle scout.

i'm reminded of this every time we take an evening walk and he points out the constellations. when he tries to teach me the cardinal directions, only to grow frustrated when i insist that north is always the direction right in front of me. he's thoughtful, considerate and most of all, prepared.

when we first went camping, the packing took days. he thought of every last detail, down to a funky light that hung from the tent and cast a pretty glow. he brought pots and pans for boiling pasta, a tarp in case it rained, and a lantern that stayed in the box the entire time.

so for his birthday, i surprised him. when he picked me up at work for our "dinner date" i showed him my car. i rose with the sun on friday morning and packed everything we would need for an impromptu camping trip at the local park. with the floorboards sighing with morning, i got his clothes and toiletries together and packed a bazillion blankets to shield us from north carolina's weekend cold front. i told him to bring pablo.

and together, we set up camp in less than half an hour. and i zipped us three up inside and held them both close as rain bounced off the tent. we talked and ate lunchables deep into the morning.

happy birthday, babe. you're the best, scouts honor.

Friday, September 16, 2011

microscope heart: melissa

this week's microscope heart comes from melissa, the beautiful writer behind off the cuff. melissa writes with such style and grace! go over and take a peek at the lovely dinner party she had with her friends. if the narrative doesn't make your mouth water, check out the gorgeous pictures. i'm so glad to have such a crafty, inspirational friend in the blogosphere. plus, she's a twin. very cool.
Oprah did a segment years ago about her "feather," which she defined as an object or item that had special meaning, personally...that made you happy...brightened your day or lifted you up.  Hers was a feather.  She told us why it was significant but I can’t remember why now.  I do remember thinking, what’s my feather?  I have since come to have a few. 

The first, two book inscriptions I recently found that my dad had written to me. I tore them out and framed them (he passed away ten months ago…a devastating blow to my little world.) But a constant reminder to keep learning and discovering.  (He always gave me inscribed books as gifts.)

The second, a piece of bark my late cat Remy Fox Martin left for me; he wasn’t much of a mouser. Perhaps a little, "crazy cat lady," but undying affection and loyalty from my furry friend.

Every morning at 6:15am my alarm goes off to remind me I get to experience another day.  I can’t help but notice my framed mementos of my past that inspire me to love completely, enjoy every moment and create a meaningful journey that fulfills me. 

What’s your feather? ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 thank you, melissa! what is the smallest thing that makes you happy? i'd love to feature it. find out more here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

a little humor for this weepy thursday

because i was feeling a bit weepy this morning (do you ever get that way? just weepy...i teared up over a song about trailer parks and shotguns this morning...), and because work is getting tremendous and the days are getting shorter and i need my sunshine more than ever,

i thought i'd share with you something that never fails to make me laugh.

robert is a hobbyist, and is always looking for something new to dabble in. 2010 was the year of home brewing, with concoctions bubbling away in our basement for months.

he decided to name his brew "pablale" a mixture of our dog, pablo, and ale.

and his friend kevin made this label. that is pablo riding a motorcycle. enjoy!

p.s. thank you all for your sweet, sweet messages of encouragement on my presentation yesterday. i may or may not have totally bombed it. maybe the fluency fairy got lost? she certainly visited the girl who went before me, with the killer powerpoint and over-the-top professionalism. better luck next time, right?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

just fine


it's funny how one thing can undo me.

how coffee loses its taste and the sunrise loses its brilliance when clouded.

i've got a presentation today. a short, no-longer-than-three-minutes-please little impromptu speech.

and i've practiced. for robert. for pablo (who provided lots of constructive criticism), and for my co-workers.and i drove to work in the dark this morning, praying for an elusive confidence the whole time.

i was born nervous, to a nervous father. i'm reminded every time i skirt the telephone or think up another word to replace the one not quite out of my mouth.

so i will drive. to the big city two hours away. with my sweet sister in tow and hope against all odds that the fluency fairy will visit at approximately 6:15 p.m.

prayers, happy thoughts, well wishes, good vibes, please?

thank you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

a cheese-fest at midnight

i went to bed last night at 2:00.

i wish i could tell you i was up reading a great novel. studying. working on my Bible study that's two days behind.

but no.

last night was the season finale of bachelor pad.

and though we didn't get fully home and showered and settled until 11:00, we had to watch.

and it's cheesy. oh boy is it awfully cheesy. and a bit staged. and dramatic to no end.

but for a girl who spends her life behind a desk, with a clear head on her shoulders and always contemplating her next rational, logical move, and a boy who spends his days in a blue collar with calloused hands, it's just the mindless escape we need.

so our plans for a morning walk were scrapped, and we spent the dawn hours pressing snooze. but there's a coffee shop near work and the promise of an early bedtime tonight, so all is well. all is well indeed.

and as the above photo illustrates, i'm clearly a hollywood groupie. and though i wouldn't exactly call the contestants stars, for my weary, sleepy self they certainly sufficed.

Monday, September 12, 2011

shedding our summer skin

i woke in a fit. hours early. before that five-thirty moonlight fights with the six o'clock sunrise and creates a jagged spill of light onto our quilt.

and when it's a fit that wakes you, falling back to sleep is unbearable. i laid in the silence and thought for an hour until it was a logical time to stretch my weary arms and rouse pablo outside. there is no stiller moment, no calmer minutes, than those before everyone wakes. even nighttime, with its blanket of black, still buzzes with the aura of exhaustion. with twisting and turning and crickets outside and creaks and cracks as this old farmhouse settles its bones into a slumber.

but the morning? the morning is for thinking, and i thought. surprisingly, i found myself reminiscing. looking over at robert, his arm tucked under his neck and his legs tangled in the covers. that yellow quilt he hates because it's hot but i love because it's vintage. and over at pablo curled up in a tiny ball, the rise and fall of his downy chest the only flutter of movement around. thinking about how even now, even this morning, time is slipping and moving and roller coastering. wondering if my one-day babies will ever know pablo, at least the pablo i know now. it's getting harder for him to jump up on the bed and it's breaking my  heart.

and i don't take enough photographs. oh i take digital pictures plenty. but they stay on my camera or on my phone. i haven't made a photo album since high school. it was this realization that made me the most sad.

and, to top it all off, the tomatoes are gone.

the tomatoes that robert's grandpa watered twice a day for months. sent home to us in paper bags with little notes from his grandma. we ate the last one yesterday. the plants have shriveled and wilted and now fall is marching in with its heavy boots.

so i prayed for time to crawl and sunk back into the darkness, cocooning myself in the sacred space of morning, willing the sun to rise a little slower, the moon suspended a little longer. just enough time to take it all in, before it all starts moving at lightning speed once again.

Friday, September 9, 2011

microscope heart: erika

for this week's microscope heart, i'm so happy to feature my sweet friend erika from chambanachik. erika has the most beautiful spirit, blogging about her sweet life with love sky and daughter amelia (millie). she's ethereal and beautiful and has such a knack for turning the ordinary into the special. thank you, erika, for sharing your heart.

Somehow, the smallest thing that makes me happy is able to piece light into every bit of my heart. My daughter, Millie, wakes me up each morning to greet me with the biggest grin. The sweet smile she gives me is something just between the two of us. I normally wouldn't be smiling when I first get out of bed, but no matter what time she's ready for the day, she makes me ready for mine. That little girl has more power in her smile than she'll ever know.
xoxo erika! be sure to check out her blog. have a beautiful, blessed weekend, sweet friends.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

yes, i only made a 2 on my AP u.s. history exam

i was an english major. and it's been said that english lovers gravitate toward history, while math and science go together. however, that was not the case for me, and i'm ashamed to say i don't know as much history as i could, or should.

my pastor told this story in church on sunday, and it just about blew me away. i'm probably the only person in the entire world who didn't know this.

john wilkes booth, the man who shot lincoln, had a brother, edwin booth. both were stage actors.

very shortly before lincoln's assassination, edwin was waiting for a train. he saw a man slip down between the station platform and the train car. edwin reached down and pulled the man out and up, into safety. edwin didn't know who the man was, only that he needed help.

The man who edwin saved wrote about the incident in a 1909 letter:

The incident occurred while a group of passengers were late at night purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor who stood on the station platform at the entrance of the car. The platform was about the height of the car floor, and there was of course a narrow space between the platform and the car body. There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.

and here's the kicker:

months later, edwin received a letter from ulysses s. grant.

thanking him for saving robert lincon, abraham's son. 

crazy, crazy, crazy. such a beautiful coincidence. that one brother can chose death, while the other life.

it blew my mind sitting in the pew and the irony of it all still hangs with me. this was probably a story we learned in middle school american history class, but at that point in my life i was highly, highly engrossed in accumulating as many accelerated reader points as i could, and spent my days nose deep in novels.

so now i'm playing catch-up on my history, and  falling in love with the little touches of humanity woven into this great, big american quilt.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

pinstriped pants and pearls

today i am wearing pants that make me feel like a man. they are pinstriped and a little too short.

i've tried to feminize them with lipstick, and hair that has a little bit of swagger and sway. i made sure my pocketbook was a matching shade of camel, and that my vintage belt hung low enough on my hips as to say, yes i am a woman.

but that's just it. i am a woman. i contain multitudes, to paraphrase. i can be sharp-edged and slick, and i can be crumbly and so soft its devastating. in my closet hang dress slacks and evening gowns. i'll blast backstreet boys in my car then quote rilke. it's the contradiction of it all that makes it so very beautiful.

just yesterday, i developed a powerpoint, wrote proposals. calmed frantic salesmen. and in my little office, the one right next to the highway, with the window beside the parking lot that catches the late afternoon sun, i was at home in my corporate corner. then, i came home to a dog stricken with allergies, and spent twenty minutes bandaging him up and cooing into his wet nose. and again, i felt at home.

so today my pants flap a little in the breeze and would look more appropriate on the legs of the man sitting in front of me. it's nothing new and nothing a fresh swipe of lipstick won't fix. and compared to the girls wearing teensy shorts, ushering the summer out in a special style, i like to think the modesty of them makes me a little mysterious.

and what is a woman if not mysterious, no?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

the way i know it's fall

i'm not sure how i feel about starbucks. sometimes the coffee is too roasted. sometimes the corporate culture is a bit much and i find myself wandering into more local, hometown places.

but today they officially released pumpkin spice lattes.

there is a rainy haze over north carolina this morning, brought in from late summer showers and a hurricane swirling in the atlantic. it's brisk, leggings weather. and as soon as i received my cup, i ripped off the cardboard holder and pressed my hands firm to the heat.

and i declare, a tuesday morning never tasted as good.

Friday, September 2, 2011

microscope heart: elisabeth

i'm so happy to feature elisabeth from thimbles and things for this week's microscope heart series. elisabeth is such a beautiful spirit with gorgeous pictures and fun musings from her happy life with hubster brandon. she's a sweetheart. here's the absolute smallest thing that makes this girl happy:
the thing that warms my heart more than anything is this:

our kitty (penelope) loves my husband more than anyone could ever comprehend. it's something you have to see for yourself to believe. it really is the sweetest & always makes me smile.
I'm so grateful for the both of them... for all the happiness each of them bring to my life. every day.

such a sweet picture. thank you, elisabeth! be sure to check out her blog and leave her some lovin'.

tell me about the smallest thing that makes you happy! learn more here.

p.s. i'm guest posting today over at singing in the rain, talking about a super personal issue, and how i found God in a closet. it's such a healing process to write about such deep issues. and cathartic and beautiful to share it with others.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

it's like middle school all over again

it has happened.

the bangs have reached that awkward place. that half inch too long that is easily snippable, nothing a few minutes with the shears won't fix, but i don't have nerve to tackle it myself.

because i'm the girl who thought, oh it's just a few weeks. let's schedule my next hair appointment about a month out. and i'm left with fringe over my eyebrows, a little tickle of hair that sweeps over my lashes. frantically searching my bathroom drawer for bobby pins or hairspray or something of the like to hold these babies

it's a minuscule little pesky problem. nothing in the grand scheme of things. nothing a sweep to the side won't fix. but it's 8:30 a.m. and my coffee cup is sitting empty beside me and right now, it is akin to a catastrophe. but sunshine is streaming in through the window to the right of me and it's okay. it's going to be just fine.

and like that big t-shirt phase i went through in middle school (which happened to coincide with those few months i had my hair cut in an awful bob to look just like rachel leigh cook on the babysitter's club movie), this too shall pass.