Monday, October 31, 2011

the great wait

i thought on this blustery monday, i would have it. at least have the baby steps toward it. that inching toward the light i'd so hoped for. but the meeting for my speech easy has been delayed until november 11. a private matter in the speech pathologist's life that prevented her from meeting last week.

so this monday looks like any other. the frost on the ground outside is slowly melting as the sun creeps up. i've got my coffee cup and my Bible beside me, fuel for the day. pablo is asleep on the bed in the next room, curled up against the chill of seven a.m.

and i will wait. as sarah waited for children and job waited for grace. because it will come. not on my watch or agenda. but nonetheless, it will happen. just as the tree outside my window turned ruby at just the precise time in october. a scheme not my own, but His. and with prayer, i just might grab a glimmer of that illusive patience that has always slipped right past my touch. it's a lesson, this waiting. but one worth learning.

Friday, October 28, 2011

microscope heart : kate

you guys are in for such a treat today. my sweet friend kate from one size fits most is this week's microscope heart. kate is such a beauty. she's smart, kind and thoughtful. her blog is chock full of inspiration and themes of self-acceptance. be sure to read her "where it began" section for a beautifully written, informative look into her world. she's an inspiration, that one.
since the introduction of this new series i have been hopelessly trying to narrow down the one thing without fail that can always make me happy. and to be honest, i struggled a bit. i tried to find it, to search it out, but it became artificial. not authentic kate. i would look at my life and try to make something be that one thing and it was never genuine. there are millions of little things that make me happy but when i actually stopped trying to look for it, i found it. its the wind. strong and passionate. its the breeze. light and romantic. and its even a small chill. crispy and humbling. 
it could be in the blazing summer. that mysterious little gust that makes the sweat beads quiver for a brief moment and instantly makes you feel renewed. rejuvenated. or it could be in autumn. when the first chilly air of fall lifts up your hair to dance and whip around in its wonder and leaves you yearning for more. it can even be in the dead of winter when you are already frozen to the core but a ferocious wind attacks and nips at your cheeks and all you can do is open your mouth and inhale it deep into your lungs. and for me, lately its been when i have all the windows down driving through the streets of my hometown.

cool october air pouring through all the openings in my little car, cosuming me, and making me feel alive. with no music on the whistling, howling, and soft murmur it creates tells me a story i have been longing to hear and feel deep inside of me.

because the wind has always been a cleansing thing to me. a renewing. a mystery. it flows around you, through you, and inside of you. and you never know where that breeze has been or where its going next. as a little girl i remember my parents always saying, "God is like the wind. even though you cant see it, you can feel it." so whenever i have a moment of doubt, a stumbling block, a rough patch, or am in desperate need of cleansing, i close my eyes, feel for the wind, and am consumed by its wonder. and that to me, is my beautiful happiness. 
thank you, kate, for everything. 
what's the smallest thing that makes you happy? tell me here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

scenes from a country cottage: a breath and a rest


my favorite time of day, besides those five seconds spent on my tiptoes in the kitchen, kissing robert while juggling a purse, bookbag, dog leash and high heels, is mail time. it's not a long walk to our mailbox. not like my parents' driveway, that long, curved asphalt.

it's just a straight walk on a gravel drive. under pin oaks and the sun, setting sooner than i would like, spreading a golden bath on the day. and quite honestly, i never get any mail, save for a few celebrity magazines and some bills (such is the fodder of a young woman i suppose.) 

but it's the walk that counts. those seconds, brief and fleeting though they might be, are solely mine for the taking. for the savoring and devouring. a reprieve between work and home. a soul recharge.

and autumn is busy. it's gorgeous, but its hurried and full of festivals. pumpkin patches. county fairs. i'm afraid i've thought too much about the season as a noun--the way it tastes, smells and feels. i've reduced it to an idea in a storybook, a paragraph on a page.

but i haven't sat. on a white swing in the sunset. with the evening hitting me square on my closed eyes. and thanked the Lord for october. for the change that's in the air. and for the anticipation of something on the horizon, just past the mailbox, and before the hill up ahead. a moment of flat, solid ground before the leap. a breath of cool before the cold.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

someone's got a dirty mouth

like mamas who stuff lollipops in their purse before church, we know all the right bribes to make pablo stay quiet. our go-to incentive is a little treat filled with peanut butter. perfect for those nights when we want to watch modern family, work on homework, or just  hang out without a pup on our laps, begging to play.

the only problem is, he looks so darn cute afterward. so cute that i turn off the television, shut the laptop and invite him into my arms.

and shows get missed. homework piles up and alone time isn't so alone anymore. but one look into those chestnut brown eyes and suddenly it doesn't quite matter as much as it used to.

Monday, October 24, 2011

to order vanilla


i grew up eating chocolate ice cream, because i couldn't say vanilla.
-speecheasy video

one day in middle school, mama laid a newspaper clipping on my pillow. a new device had been created. a teeny, in-ear mechanism that would essentially create an echo of one's own voice when speaking. the tool was heralded to greatly reduce stuttering, as many stutterers experience relief when speaking in unison, and the device's choral effect did just that.

so the speecheasy was born. but at fifteen, i was more interested in cheer practice. in that awful algebra class. the boy down the row at the cafeteria who whispered to me during silent lunch. so i tucked the clipping away, lost in the tupperware container under my bed, the one filled with photo albums. movie stubs. printed-out AOL conversations too sweet to delete. forever doomed to be lost among the relics of my youth.

but then i grew up. dated then grew apart from the boy from the cafeteria. graduated and got a job in a city. that algebra class gave way to a master's program. such is the ebb and flow of life.

but last week, it hit me. this realization that while i am special and perfect just the way God made me, there is this technology out there. this special work of man that could give me just a little, a smidgen, of relief. from the tense, locked jaw and squinted eyes i get every time i give a presentation (i actually stopped halfway though my speech last time and apologized to the crowd.)

so i researched the speecheasy. and became discouraged. the sum of money expected for something no bigger than my thumbnail was through the roof. and for this frugal, thrift-store-loving woman, it was enough to send my heart to my knees.

but then, at eleven o'clock last thursday night. with pablo asleep under the lamp and a blanket around my knees, robert came into the den, an envelope of money in his hand.

he had saved all year, hoping to open up a retirement account in december. self-employed, he doesn't have a 401K. so he had squirreled away, week by week, in hopes to start a nest egg for himself and for us.

but that night, he just reached out his arms, and handed me the envelope. i want you to use this, he whispered,  for your speecheasy.

it was the exact amount, to the dollar, i needed. every last penny of my need met, by draining every last penny of his. a God moment so spectacular.

it was entirely selfless, incredibly beautiful, and enough to send me into a gut clenching sob.

my appointment is friday.

and i am nervous. i am anxious and scared and full of questions. but there's this man who sleeps to the left of me, and this morning he left me a love note on my laptop. and finally, nine years later, i'm ready to take that step. with one eye on Him and the other on him. oaring my way through these seas. a beacon of light on the shore.

Friday, October 21, 2011

microscope heart: charla-beth

today's microscope heart comes from my sweet friend charla-beth. not only is she a beautiful, talented writer, she has a heart of gold that shines so sweetly for our Savior. be sure to check out her blog here.
When I first decided to send something in for Microscope Heart, I made lists upon lists of the littlest reasons for joy.  And those lists turned into more lists.
But the very first thing I thought of, the first item I wrote down and the one thing I kept coming back to... was the smell of morning. 
Like that rich smell of the summer between ripened fruit and freshly cut grass.  Or the crisp smell of autumn when the earth's buds begin to close her petals and morning dew quickly turns to frost.  There's that frosty bite in the air after new-fallen winter rain.  And come spring, the smell of fresh earth and new blooms permeate the air.  Regardless of the day, the month, or the time of year, every morning has that “new day” smell that I simply can’t get enough of.
And everything in my being knows that it is good.  Because with the fresh smell of morning comes the reminder that I have been given today.  And even if yesterday was a hard day, a stumbling day, a weep-worthy day, the morning brings a reminder that creation is renewed with each and every sunrise.  Myself, included. :)
“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning...” {lamentations 3:22-23a}
 see what i mean? gorgeous. thank you, sweet friend.
tell me about the smallest thing that makes you happy here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

days seven and eight: the end

if there's anything this trip taught me, anything i learned over the miles we trekked and state lines we crossed, it's that this country of ours is something else. from towering maples that produce some of the sweetest, purest syrup i've tasted, to apples the size of basketballs and foliage so pretty it makes my heart ache, i was in awe.

our last two days were devoted to touring the local economy. we sat in a cold sugar house and watched a video on the making of maple syrup. the owners  brought us blankets and cider and the video was nice and short. we toured cabot creamery, sampling 25 different cheeses before nine a.m. then came ben & jerry's, green mountain coffee company, wilbur chocolate factory, and even the teddy bear factory. we learned about the land, and what fabulous goodies spring out of its bounty.

we spent our last night in amish country, waiting behind buggies at crossing lights. it was pure, spacious, clean and idyllic. and being so far out, amid the farmhouses and silos, it almost felt like home.

these two weeks back have been an adjustment of sorts. of papers and studying and work and pablo. but we've settled back into our routine quite fine. because as i've said before on here, traveling is fun. it is beautiful and worthwhile and downright thrilling at times. but nothing in this world beats your own bed. and the pin oaks by the cottage are just turning to crimson and i'm so thankful to be home underneath them, thanking the sweet Lord for getting us back safely. and for the ho-hum drill of an ordinary, quite spectacular life.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

day six: a clear morning, a state fair and the journey

it struck me as odd, but strangely inate. for some reason, the cliffs of maine felt familiar, as if i'd walked them years ago, on some dreary winter morning with my boots on and hair pulled back. and as we passed the little cottages on the path down to the water, i thought about, seemed to remember, a life lived on the shore. i think it's in my bones, this being close to the ocean. like some old forgotten song settled into my blood, turning on and playing louder with each step of my moccasins on the damp soil.

our morning in maine was a sleepy one. it was quiet on the island. one of those cold, bright, clear, sunny days when autumn shows off a bit. we ate breakfast beside a warm window in the general store. thought about the near end to our trip, and all the miles stamped on us. our GPS. our soles and souls.

but what the morning lacked in noise and color, we found a few hours away. at a little county fair on the state border. on a whim, we followed a handmade sign off the highway. into the front yard of an elderly couple we did not know, who allowed us to park there. the ones with children in north carolina, who lit up at a chance to talk about them. who we stood around and talked to long after the fair had lost its appeal and the sun was setting.

we ate whoopie pies. examined prize pigs, chickens, and roses. handmade quilts and honey. horse shows by the track. we missed our hometown fair, and found the next best thing in this nugget of spontaneity, beneath the ferris wheel and big top.

i remember a park in albuquerque. standing beside the lake at closing time. watching the swing set sway as evening rustled the leaves around. i had felt it then, this déjà vu. of not wanting to leave for fear of losing it.

we left maine, but i felt it in vermont too. forgetting myself and blending. in all of the north, really. except when i asked for sweet tea, then i remembered.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

day five: the maine lobster experience

there we were. two kids from the carolinas. raised on barbecue and fried chicken, used to grease. used to the messiness of eating with our fingers. the stickiness and sloppiness of it all.

but nothing could prepare us for that night in maine. the restaurant we reached at nightfall, the water and air the same shade of ebony. we were there too late to see the sunset flicker off the atlantic, or push the light out of each other's hair like we did on the vineyard.

we sat in the deep booth anyway. ordered the lobster. the one we'd waited for the whole trip. the waitress brought out the array. the buckets. the bibs. the nutcrackers. this was our first experience, and the whole thing was alien.

and the mess. oh, you guys. i think i was doing it wrong. my dress was ruined. robert spent about twenty minutes on one claw. we were so juvenile. amateurs. then, what started out as a giggle turned into a guffaw, and we shook the booth trying to maintain some air of civility, both of us trying not to look at each other, only our pitiful lobsters, tears streaming from the hilarity of it all.

somewhere behind me, a group was talking loudly. i heard snippets like "napa valley" "when i wrote my first book" and "oh, he's traveling for photojournalism." they were feasting on a four-course lobster meal, drinking red wine by the bottle.

they were completely spotless.

we paid and left out the side door, our bibs hanging in shreds in defeat. let them have their white linens. their unsmeared lipstick and powdered noses.

we'll have each other. and the dirt and muck and squalor that inevitably will come. just as in the morning, all is washed anew, with 24 more glorious hours to sink our teeth and elbows into all that life has to offer, embracing the mess, shying not. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

day four: a tour on bicycle


there was an old man named wilbur sitting at the bus station. with a cane in one hand and the other inside his down jacket. we sat beside him in the early hours of dawn, the sun still struggling, reaching to rise. in the cold that only that hour can bring.

he was just one of the people we would meet that day, on our journey to, around, and back from martha's vineyard. wilbur was traveling to see his brother, who lived alone on the vast island. the one he hadn't visited in years. then there was the woman aboard the ferry took her labradoodles across the water weekly. for sunshine on a new coast. the one who knew places to rent bikes, eat lunch, and avoid. the two friends also on a road trip, heading to the vineyard with no plans but to explore. to run and taste and smell and hopefully find an inn available.

and besides a lunch that cost more than i usually spend for a week's worth of meals, the vineyard did not disappoint. it was calm. above all, above everything else, the greenery, the gingerbread houses, and even the water, it was the sense of calm that swept about me, nipping at my toes as we rode in the dusk. when evening falls on shops at closing time, on an island past its vacation season, something magical is in the air, something only locals are privy to and we felt like giddy outsiders.

we drove overnight to boston, arriving an hour before midnight. we walked beneath lights unfamiliar and held hands as rain started down. our room was tiny, but the ceilings were tall. and we slept another night in a strange, dark room, squeezing together in a double bed. miles to go, but many more beneath our soles.

Friday, October 14, 2011

microscope heart: lauren

this week's microscope heart is from lauren, who blogs over at pack n' play. lauren is such a sweet spirit and writes about life in the city with MD, fabulous recipes (she recently ushered in crock-pot season, a girl after my own heart) and on fridays, she posts dance music. perfection. thank you, lauren!

I am not a city girl, but somehow I have found myself in one of the busiest cities on the east coast for over 5 years now. There is a little gem of a reservoir where I escape to everyday after work and remember what it is like to just watch the sunset. I often forget where I am in those moments, it makes me feel like I am right back home.
thank you, sweet friend. be sure to check out lauren's blog here.
what's the smallest thing that makes you happy! i'd love to feature you. learn more here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

day three: the prettiest walk of my life

there's a little black dirt path that runs beside our little cottage. it's about a mile long, flanked by sheds and maples. i love to walk along it when evening starts to strike and the light is low and golden. up until last week, it was my favorite walk on this earth.

then we went to newport, rhode island. and took the cliff walk. and i declare, one would be hard pressed to find a more spectacular pathway. rocky ocean shore on the left! mansion upon mansion on the right! rosebushes. towering skinny trees reaching toward the cloudless sky. grassy lawns screaming for a morning picnic.

it started brisk, but with coffee warming my hands and my pashima around my neck, the sun quickly seeped in and warmed our red noses. it was so, so incredibly lovely.

this was the day of the second french fry sandwich, at the little pizza joint we found ourselves at after the planned seafood restaurant was closed for the season. the day of the cape cod potato chip factory tour, a bit of a letdown, taking only about one minute to go through. (however, if this trip taught me anything, it's that i love a good factory tour. i think it's the free samples.)

we reached dennis, massachusetts right at dusk. running to mayflower beach just in time to catch the plum colored sunburst. then, the pristine sky turned on us, growing gray in a matter of seconds, pouring on my bare feet as i ran back to the parking lot.

we sunk into a restaurant just to take cover, not realizing until we sat down and ordered water that the tablecloths were white. there was a wine list on the table. and the waiter was wearing a suit. fancy. we ordered bowls of chowder, satisfied with our humble meal. we were saving the big one for maine lobster.

we were the only ones in our motel that night. the owner explained that no one really comes to cape cod at this time of year. and at that, we shook our heads. because with the leaves changing and fall tiptoeing in, it seemed like the most magical place to be.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

day two: from long island to mystic


the blue of it all is what hit me the most, on this bright sunday in october.

i've seen oceans at sunset, with the ambers and crimsons blending with the graying sky. and i've seen oceans at mid-day, crowded with surfers and sailors, tones of flesh speckling the water.

but as our ferry departed long island, headed toward connecticut, in the early hours, i saw the ocean in an entirely new light--that of morning. that of an absolute blue more pure than i've ever seen in my life. an almost blinding reflection of sun and light and a cloudless sunrise.

we ate lunch in bridgeport, stopping to pay homage to the hometown of your friend and mine, mr. john mayer. because room for squares is still on constant replay in my car and i will forever be enamored with the john of old, pretending that this new john, with his awkward interviews and weird jazz solos is simply a mirage.

then we spent a few hours traveling under the trees at yale. with a tour guide who was a theater major and supremely suited for his role. i rubbed the bronze toe of the woosley statue, a yale tradition believed to bring good luck. because school is hard and work is long and i've got plenty of faith, but a little luck never hurt either.

and we traveled onward. the sounds of conor oberst wafting through the speakers. there's nothing that the road cannot heal. we picked apples the size of our head and feasted on cider doughnuts. this was the afternoon we witnessed the dog get hit. for an hour my heart hurt and the twinge of sadness remains.

our last stop was mystic. that old seaport made famous by julia roberts. we sat in a high-backed chairs and ate the best pizza. seriously, the best. with a little snap to the crust. this was day two. plenty more ahead, more behind.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

day one: from philly to long island, and the sights between


to walk in an unfamiliar city is to experience it for the very first time. to take in with delight every oddity or eccentricity found among the blocks, inside the shops and in the faces of passersby. on our first day in philadelphia, we explored by foot. walking underneath the row houses, past the churches seeped in history, and among the storefronts yawning with morning, only a couple open in the early hours of a saturday at nine.

we sat in old congress buildings and peered into rooms untouched by time. we gathered our jackets around us and sat outside at pat's king of steaks, another, different relic of philly history. we left the city full of its spirit, its love and its splendor.

our travels that day took us up the coast to ocean city. we sat outside a little cookie shop and devoured our wares, trying to blend in with the locals, taking pictures of the shopfront in secret, without the flash. we went onward to atlantic city, where we gambled $2 and lost $1.60, quitting while we still have forty cents to our name and honor.

we supped at rutger's university, by the "grease trucks," devouring a "fat darrell" sandwich: breaded chicken, marinara sauce, mozzarella sticks and french fries. this was not the last time we would eat a french fry sandwich in new england. must be a northern thing? either way, we weren't going to fight its divine deliciousness. we ran to eat under the umbrellas, an impending storm whipping its canvas and blowing my bangs.

this was the night of new york city, of the mania and glory of the lights and sounds of a typical saturday night in manhattan. we drove through the dark to long island, two hours past our designated arrival time.

then, cities and entire states behind us, we tiptoed into the sleeping bed and breakfast, found our room, and retired for the day, already full of memories, little stories, and flashes of glory that road trips bring. and while we already missed home, and the trees by the shed on the cusp of changing, we were an enamored band of travelers, already taken with the land behind and before us.

Monday, October 10, 2011

a snippet

it was insanely spontaneous, completely illogical and a little ridiculous in the best way possible. that two people, two kids, from the countryside, where the soybean leaves are just now beginning to golden and drop, could find ourselves immersed in new england.

the soles of my moccasins are forever stamped with the feel of it all. with the cobblestone roads of philadelphia, the apple orchards where we kissed beneath the red delicious. the neighborhood sidewalk in connecticut where i sat and cried after we saw a dog get hit. the county fair in new hampshire. the rickety old bicycle in martha's vineyard. the dark restaurant in which we found shelter during a downpour on cape cod.

but perhaps this picture embodies it best of all. we were calculated in our planning, exact in our route. it was our intent to bypass manhattan. to cruise right around it and into long island. but our first night, we found ourselves on the new jersey turnpike, thrust suddenly into the lincoln tunnel, then we emerged. straight into time square.

and at ten o'clock on a saturday night, we drove through the city. the one we've only seen once before. dodging cab drivers and semi-trucks, we paused right in the heart of the big apple. we kissed under a red light and suddenly, a saxophonist began playing our song on the sidewalk. the whole thing felt like a dream.

and moment set the stage, and the tone, for the rest of the trip. it was a special, sacred time for us, peppered with little surprises, some upsets, and the little joys that come when you put the travel binder down and just start driving.

and in return, in essence, start living.

Friday, October 7, 2011

microscope gwen

today's microscope heart comes from sweet gwen, who posts over at saturdays with maggy. in a nutshell, gwen's blog always makes me super hungry, even after i just ate. please go check it out and show her some love!

the smallest thing that makes me happy is the fork. 

The fork can mash, the fork can feed. The fork can work magic with cold butter and flour. The fork is my trusty go-to kitchen utensil. It never fails me when the food processor won't process or the beaters won't beat. It knows when the meat is done and how much longer the potatoes need cooking. 

My mother was not much of a cook, but when in doubt she'd advise you to use a fork to stir the biscuits or mix the cookie dough. And she's right. All you need is a fork and your hands. It lets you feel the texture of the ingredients, the weight and the thickness. The fork brings me back to the taste of things, the enjoying of things, the slow mixing together of sugar and eggs. 

The fork doesn't mind if you scrape the bowl or smash the bananas extra hard because you're mad. It keeps quiet when you eat just one more bite of cake. We can do this thing called cooking, me and the fork, and we can certainly do the eating, too. 
thank you so much, sweet friend! be sure to check out her blog here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011 cara-mia

today is the last installment in my "everything" series, and i'm so happy to usher it out with this fine lady. cara-mia found her lasting inspiration deep in the heart of words and literature:

Ever since I learned how to read, I have been an avid reader. I was definitely one of those bookish children that preferred reading over many an activity. Going to the school library was the highlight of my week. Classic books were my favorites, and I feel that is what I learned from the most. (It should come as no surprise then that I majored in English.) Here are just a few lessons I picked up from those beloved books at different stages of life.

This is the very first book series I can remember getting into as a child. (Yes, even before the days of Goosebumps.) I have always had an obsession with red hair, and Nancy was lucky enough to be a red head. She also drove a convertible and solved mysteries, which was so glamorous to me. As if that wasn’t enough, she also had a gorgeous and older boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. More than that, though, Ned seemed very supportive and protective of Nancy, which appealed to me the most about him. Having support from a partner is extremely important.

 A series I truly loved in middle school. (So much so, that I wrote a letter to Madeleine L’Engle. She sent back a general typed letter that she sent to fans, but wrote a personal note to me in the margin. It meant so much to me and I treasure that letter.) I could definitely relate to Meg and how awkward she felt compared to everyone else. Junior high is such an awkward time in general, so I'm sure many kids that age can relate to this. In the story Meg learns to appreciate what makes her different, which everyone should do. 

I almost do not like saying this is my favorite novel because it seems like a cliché. Don’t most people cite this as their favorite novel? Even so, it is indeed my favorite, and it is also the book that sparked my Fitzgerald and 1920’s obsessions. A close friend of mine once said I favor tragedies. This might be true, but there is much to be learned in tragedies about the human condition.  

My second favorite novel. I first read this when I started college (over seven years ago), and I recently reread it. It is an amazing novel with three plots: the story of a man named Adam and his two sons, John Steinbeck’s family history, and the Bible story about Cain and Abel. Since there are three plot lines, there is so much in here to think about, but perhaps the main theme is that of good versus evil and our free will in regards to that. Although I went to Catholic school, I must admit I never gave much thought to the Cain and Abel story – it turns out I didn’t even know the whole story. I thought it was just about a man that killed his brother and was banished. There is more to it than that, and this book explores that idea in a fascinating way. The central message is that man has the choice to rule over sin, which is not only important to the characters in the novel, but to humanity in general.

Thank you for letting me ramble a bit about some of my favorite novels. When I was in college we had an anthology called Literature: The Human Experience. This is how I have come to see literature and why I feel there is much to be learned in novels although they are fiction. I would love to hear anything you may have learned from literature! 
thank you, cara-mia! be sure to check out her blog here.
we're over halfway done with our new england road trip. i've missed you guys! can't wait to share our travels with you on monday!