Hidden Treasures

One year, when I was an early teenager, we were visiting my grandparents. I remember pulling a box down from a high closest shelf with my grandma and opening its treasures. It was filled with memorabilia from her high school days at a boarding school back east. Assembly bulletins, a calendar filled with squares reading “lunch with Stinky” and other girlfriend dates. We looked through these treasures and she told stories about her friends and schooldays.

Years later, we helped pack up my grandparent’s house – the one they’d lived in for over 40 years. I’m sure that box was thrown out in the shuffle. There came a point in the packing and donating and garage sale-ing that so many things were deemed memorable-but-not-keepable. After 40 years, downsizing can be brutal.

Just a couple years ago, we packed up our own small house and moved into a bigger one, as we anticipated growing our family. I came across a box of journals, but mixed in were also day planners – those books from the days before relying on my calendar app. I sat down and flipped through it: “lunch with Cece;” “Baroque & Rococo paper due;” “day trip to Reims” filled the pages of my years in Paris. “Lunch with Frank” repeated over and over from my planner during our early days of dating.

I was tempted to throw out my old planners – it had been years since I’d last looked through them – but the memories came back fresh and I imagined one day pulling this box out for a granddaughter and reminiscing over these hidden memories again.

Are you a saver? Do you like to keep bits of memorabilia or do you purge and remain minimalist?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “hidden.”

The Privilege of Getting Away

Last week, we made the trek up to the Black Hills of South Dakota for our triennial family reunion. Especially since becoming a parent, I look forward to these gatherings. Kids running wild in the field, cousins reconnecting as though no time has passed, reminiscing and retelling the same stories, laughing, crying, singing hymns, watching any kid in range and resting in the knowledge that others are doing the same for my kids.

This year’s was the first time a member of the founding generation – my grandmother and her siblings – was unable to attend. My parents’ generation became the oldest; We are now at the age of our parents when these gathering began; Our kids are making memories and forming relationships that will create a foundation for adulthood.

Each reunion is held in a different location, so every three years we explore a new part of the country. Each area offers things we wish we could recreate each time and each area has things we gladly leave behind.

This year, our location was at Custer State Park and one of my favorite perks was the spotty network coverage. I had taken social media off my phone beforehand, since I wanted to be fully present, even in the downtimes. But, it wasn’t really necessary. My phone stayed in my room most of the time. I think I only took about five pictures the entire week. Staying present, living in the moment, keeping memories in my mind not on Instagram was easy and refreshing.

It also meant that I turned off the news. The reunion began with the aftermath of the Dallas police shooting, but we were already out of range by the time the ones in Baton Rouge occurred. Taking a week off seemed like a respite in the midst of story after story of anger and tragedy and loss.

IMG_1317Frank and I took an ATV ride along some old mining trails in the hills and, though it was far from a quiet hike that I’m used to, being in the country and away from people reminded me of the vastness of our world. When life seems crowded and loud, I lose sight of the fact that we have so many thousands of miles of space here in America. Space where I can be without seeing anyone. Space to remember the grandness of our earth – that we humans are still quite small in this grand scheme. Space to see my first “Trump 2016” sign in someone’s front yard and to remember the difference of living in a secluded rural area instead of a crowded urban one.

As we bounced along the trail, I also recognized the privilege I have to disconnect. I am able to turn off my phone, to drive seven hours for a change of scenery, to go into the hills. My life back home carried on; I returned to everything clean and organized and normal.

For so many, the privilege to disconnect is not available. They cannot turn off and have a loved one reappear. They cannot go into the hills and return to a society that suddenly accepts the color of their skin. They cannot change their lives by changing the scenery.

I needed that week off. A week to focus on family and relationships and to marvel at the fact that generations of people gather to play together, to sing hymns together, and to support each other. I also needed to stop in the midst and remember those who do not have this gift.

By stopping to recognize, it made my time away sweeter. It made me more grateful for the privilege I have. It made me stop and pray and acknowledge those who do not have this. And it made me reflect and long for a time when getting away for a week doesn’t mean coming back to more news of anger and tragedy and loss but to a time when we can reconcile and redeem our relationships.

How do you disconnect best? Do you find you need to take intentional breaks from the news and social media?

Review: How to Survive a Shipwreck by Jonathan Martin + Giveaway

If I had to choose between mountains and ocean, I’d choose the ocean for sitting, looking, and reflecting but the mountains for interacting. I regain my rhythm when I’m hiking and exploring and find nothing more awe-inspiring than looking at the valleys from the top of a peak.

_140_245_Book.1966.cover.jpgPerhaps it’s this preference that made the first half of Jonathan Martin’s How to Survive a Shipwreck hard to connect with. I just didn’t identify with the sailing imagery. Martin begins his story with an outline of his own loss – loss of a church, loss of a marriage. At first, I felt frustrated with the vagueness of these losses, but as the story unfolded, I realized I didn’t need specifics.

Martin finds himself adrift and shares his story of regaining footing – through community, a change of scenery, and a shift in thinking as he reread the Bible for tales of shipwreck and loss.

I wish I could separate my rating into two categories: 2 stars for Martin’s personal story and 4 stars for his commentary on Biblical stories. Like I said, it took about half the book for me to really connect with Martin’s story. Once I did, it was tough to put down. But, his writing – though poetic – is meandering and I felt like he could tighten his examples.

The parts that most resonated with me are when he walked through the stories from the Bible. His thoughts on Job and the Leviathan made me eager to reread that story. Martin reminds us that sea monsters aren’t something God should save us from but rather a reminder that,

God is at home in chaos – it’s the place from which he started the universe. (129)

Had Martin made that sentence his central thesis, I think the book may have appealed to a wider audience.

I think this book will resonate with people going through a loss that is not devastating. It’s an encouragement and gives hope in the journey. Martin’s story is the one you hope for during a difficult season – of hope, seeking, and ultimately successful redemption.

Are you more at home by the sea or in the mountains? Where do you go to recalibrate?

GIVEAWAY! I am giving away my copy of How to Survive a Shipwreck. Leave a comment about how a time you experienced loss and I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, July 29, 2016. (United States addresses only.)

I review for BookLook Bloggers
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Defining the Spirit of a Word

I come from a very creative family. My dad is an illustrator and my brother is a storyboard artist. My mom has an amazing eye for color and design and is able to make a small shift that turns an awkward space into an inviting one.

My mom made that dress!

When I hear the word create, I often think, Not me!

I laughingly tell people the reason I studied art history is that I love art but am not creative. For my birthday, I asked for a calligraphy set and signed up for Skillshare to work on my penmanship. I struggle to find time for myself and am drawn more toward the couch and a book than the practice of lettering.

I’m learning that when I take words – like create – literally, I am never good enough. I’m never going to live up to the image of a creative person that I’ve constructed in my mind.

But, like so many words, when I take the spirit of them and find their abstract nature, I find myself as well.

When I think about creating space for community or creating a safe place to talk and listen, I connect with the word. When I think of creating an environment for my girls to grow up questioning and grappling and thriving, I can see myself in that word.

I wonder how many words I discard as not applying to me because I take them in such a literal sense. I’m not an activist; not a writer; not an artist. But when I remove the literal meaning and focus on the spirit of these words, I find myself and grow into that descriptor.

How would you describe yourself? Are there any labels you’ve wanted and learned to grow into?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “create.”

Lazy Summer Days

Frank and I laugh that, if we could create a new branch of the extrovert/introvert labels we’d add “lazy extrovert” and “active introvert.” On the occasion when we have no weekend plans, our personality differences are more apparent: I’m content to lounge and read but also get energized when we have brunch plans with friends. Frank would be happy hiking or working around the yard all weekend, outdoors and active without having to talk with anyone.

This was a point of frustration when we first fell into our roles as extrovert and introvert. I expected Frank to be happy reading, napping, and resting during the weekend. After all, he is energized by alone time, right? I also figured that, once he was rested, I could pack in the plans with friends, since we’d had a quiet day.

Since I’m not an extreme extrovert, I still need that quiet recharge time. But once I’ve been able to be alone, I’m up for meeting up, for socializing, for connection. What I failed to see is that Frank would be content without the second part of my day. Sure, he loves dinners with friends and the community we’ve built, but I think he’s equally happy when it’s just our little family. I’m the driving force behind our social calendar.

We went on our first family-of-four camping trip this weekend with friends and as we played in the dirt and explored the forest and lay in the hammock, I found that this activity met all of our needs. We were away from the city, out in nature, relaxing. We were with friends and socializing. We had an activity but it didn’t include many other people or stimulus.

IMG_1252We’re at the point in the summer where we’ve had a few weeks of quiet rest, some visitors, and a small lull before a family reunion with loads of activity. We’ve caught up with friends and have had playdates with those we missed during the school year. People are traveling so we see friends but it’s not with the same urgency as at the beginning of the summer. In many ways, our playdates seem more organic and spur-of-the-moment. Rest hasn’t gotten old yet, and unstructured play is still welcome.

I have a friend who said that the last week of summer before school starts should be the most boring so that the kids are ready to go back to activity and structure. I can totally see that. I’ve caught a glimpse here and there of that safety found in routine. After a week of VBS, Bea was ready for preschool to start again immediately. The structure and definition of autumn can be welcome after the laziness and spontaneity of summer.

I’m certainly not wishing away this time together, and I’m thankful for this week of calm and rest before a packed one of good chaos and stimuli. But I’m also starting to feel the tug of autumn and its lure of cooler weather, structured days, and the excitement of something new.

Do you identify with the labels of lazy extrovert or active introvert? What’s your ideal pace for summertime? Do you get anxious for autumn to arrive?

Dismantle and Replace

It’s happened again. People killed without trial. Retaliation. Leading with fear. Responding with more fear.

I read the news and wonder, How long? How many times? When will we learn??

Sides are taken. Names are called. People refuse to budge on The Big Issues.

And the cycle continues and repeats.

And I wonder, again, and again, and again. What can I do???

And I learn again, and again, and again. Stop, listen, lean in. Support. Teach my kids a different way. A way that is not rooted in fear but in love and hope.

I’m learning that the way to change things is sometimes to rebuild entirely. And yet, we can’t rebuild entirely a system that is engrained. A system built on hundreds of years of fear.

So maybe we rebuild slowly. We dismantle one small stone and replace it with hope and love. We dismantle one small idea and replace it with one of hope and love.

I don’t like slow moving change. I want people to open their eyes. To see the need to replace fear with love and to act. But I see over and over that we need to work small. That change is in the small work, frustrating though it may be.

So, with my small children, I make small changes. I build and rebuild and learn and grow alongside.

And I fervently hope and pray for a future that looks at this time in history with disbelief and shock. Because small changes slowly give way to big ones.

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “build.”

Sometimes You Just Need a New Cookbook

We’ve never done a diet or a cleanse together. My view on healthy eating is just that: Use common sense and eat healthfully. Of course whole, homemade foods are best. Moderation is key. And sweets are rarely good.

This tax season was probably our best for meal planning. Of course, we cheated and ate out much more than usual. But on the whole, we were consistent and felt much better at the end.

And then, we stopped. For whatever reason, when we actually had time to cook and plan together, we didn’t. It was easy to get Costco pre-made meals or pick something up on the way home.

Many of our friends have joined the Whole30 fad and it seemed like a good restart – part cleanse, part diet, part common sense. (Well, mostly. I’m having trouble getting behind the no peanut butter rule…) We bought the book, eager to learn more. And then looked at our schedule and realized between visitors and camping and travel, we didn’t have the required 40 days to commit to this plan.

So, we decided to use this book to meal plan. We’ve been using the recipes just for dinners and not following the plan as a whole. And, it’s been awesome! We’ve been eating healthier, more consciously, and the way we know we should be.

It’s been the kick-start we needed to get back on track. I still have my toast, peanut butter, and yogurt for breakfast, but we’ve cut out weekday wine (weekends are fair game) and have been more intentional with our dinners.

Coloring with Aunt M

Perhaps one day we’ll commit to doing the 40 days. I’ve always been interested in a cleanse and this seems as good as any. But really, it’s amazing what a new cookbook – whatever it happens to be – can do.

It made me think about life and our family. I’ve talked about our lack of date nights and wishing for more. And then my sister-in-law came to visit and gave us a night, just the two of us. We went out to dinner, browsed at Barnes and Nobel, and talked. It was a weeknight. We weren’t out super-late. Bea totally manipulated the bedtime routine. But, it was a good kick-start back on track.

It made me recognize this need. Elle doesn’t love being left, but she survived and she’s old enough to do it without worry. We’re emerging from the infant stage, leaving this first year of intensity behind, and we need to remember that now is the time to restart some of the habits we were able to form when Bea was an only child.

We have some trips coming up, some craziness to our usually quiet schedule and it seems silly to try and start a new habit now. But, if we don’t now, when is the best time? So, we’re cooking whole dinners and planning date nights. Neither are with superb regularity, but perhaps starting these goals will turn them into habits.

What are some habits you wish you had the time to form? Do you just start a new routine or idea a bit haphazardly, hoping to make it regular or do you wait until you can do it right?