But I Have It

 

51540122_10157396442668352_632964388566859776_oI have this little

But I have it

The polar vortex has passed

And the aching, sore earth is sighing and misting

My boot finds every kind of frozen

Ice, slush, snow, hard snow, light snow

51101891_10157396442833352_1647782435246571520_o

51059162_10157396442963352_8314855530262691840_o51064526_10157396443113352_7210241253705777152_o51068864_10157396443403352_4129828157110878208_oIt doesn’t escape notice

The way the green plants dance in the stream

The way of the red branches among the dry grass

Silent sentinels of vibrant color.

I have this little

But I have it

51593466_10157396443693352_2698223013693751296_o51387579_10157396443243352_4749509088004538368_oThe way of water in winter scenes

Obsidian moving, gleaming, slicing through the white

Expired plants extend their dried up hands

And offer their seeds to the wind

Live again

When snow has been drunk back into the earth

I have this little

But I have it.

 

 

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This Instead

Basically we’ve been working endlessly.  Between my husband and sons repairing and hauling trash out of one of our rental properties every Saturday, and me working three jobs plus homeschooling, there’s been no margin.

Today coming home from my early morning job, modest winter rays were just reaching across the fields.  I felt a flicker of hope; maybe this Saturday we’d escape for a bit, leave the work for a day and drive to D.C., go to the free museums, eat a picnic lunch (I’m aware that it is winter and cold, but we aren’t finicky), and just enjoy putting some road between our unending work and our tired hands.

I came in the door and asked whether we needed to work today on the rental.  Yep.  That meant I’d be home with the littles and needing to get my business tax preparation done.  Have you ever tried to focus on numbers, receipts, deductions, and reimbursements while little people tug on your legs?  It is rather hard.

As the coverlet of night was pulling itself across the darkening sky I grasped at one last chance at fun.  “Let’s go to That Fish Place!”  It’s an enormous pet store near us with lots of rodents, snakes, lizards, fish, birds, and best of all, a touch tank with sting rays.  We unashamedly use it as a free zoo.

My kids bopped from display to display “OOH, MOM, a RAT!”, “MOM LOOOOOOK!”, “MOM, can I have a hamster if I buy it with my own money? (insert endless negotiations here)”.  I gave myself time to look at the Skinny Guineas; hairless guinea pigs!  They are so hilarious!  I watched the hamsters nestle together in piles to sleep.  I talked to the birds.  I remembered my childhood dream of living in a greenhouse with a stream flowing through it, tropical plants thriving, birds flying freely among the branches, and a deep blue swimming pool at the end of the stream.  My bed would be a hammock among the trees and all floors would be slate and could be hosed off.  I digress.

God bless my husband for giving me time with the sting rays.  I’ve visited them before, but I’ve never had such an enchanting time.  Today they bestowed all sorts of attention on me.  I wiggled my fingertips near the edge, and I had four or five lined up waiting to ascend the edge and flop over top of my hand!

At one point I looked up and there were a dozen or so people patiently waiting for the rays to circulate, but I had them all in front of me!  Either I was standing where they are usually fed, or I am a sting ray whisperer (what joy would THAT be!), or most likely, God gave me a gift, sending his little ones to cheer me.

Oh how they succeeded.  With great wonder I watched them approach, slide up the short wall, lift their front lip/snoot/flapflapthing and touch my fingers, then hopping a bit to cover them, then tilting and gliding over them.  I spent almost an hour greeting them, touching them, and enjoying their unique personalities. img_2124God provides.

Mercilessly Raw

It used to be at a wedding

Or a graduation party

Your quirky uncle sitting next to your friend

Dogs weaving about underfoot

Holding precariously thin paper plates which droop under the weight of pistachio pudding and hot dogs, early summer’s kind light a balm for the awkwardness

Of world’s colliding

School World ran headlong into Family World, and Extended Family World

And it was as odd as pistachio pudding smeared on the hot dog bun

Separate both were fine, together…

Hmm.

Every sign in now

We pull up to the All Worlds

And now we know how cousin A votes

And that neighbor B got a new wife

And high school friend C wants us to sell products on her downline

And acquaintance D is a racist after all

And the person E we once respected posts nonsense

And there’s no pistachio pudding

And all the awkwardness

And lately

Savagery

Disagree with me?  LEAVE MY COUNTRY

Disagree with me?  GROW A BRAIN

Disagree with me?  (insert insults of choice)

It is a forum

It is where people “are”

But why have they brought swords and shields and napalm and vitriol

Forums are for discourse

Not violence

Not hatred

Not

This.

 

 

The Making of a Guacamole Snob

49759018_10157329399733352_5595100230606389248_oIt is a gift and a curse.  Giving you this recipe for the most delicious guacamole will both enable you to make it on demand, endlessly, but too, it will render you incapable of lazily enjoying some at most restaurants, for you shall know what guacamole can truly be, rather than the sad, under-salted mash set before you.  I have been known to request a slice of lemon at table so that I could “fix” the guacamole.

  1. Get a shallow dish, like a pie pan, and mash 2-3 avocados with a fork.
  2. Cut a plump lemon in half, juice it in your palm, straining out the seeds with your fingers, directly onto the avocado mash.
  3. Wash a bunch of cilantro; on average I’d say pinch off 1/4 of the bunch and mince it fine; you’ll have perhaps 1/4 c.  Add in.
  4. Finely chop a nice red tomato or two and add in.
  5. Take 2-3 jalapeños or Hungarian wax peppers, de-seed and mince finely.  Add in.
  6. IMPORTANT STEP:  Take one yellow onion, mince finely and place in a separate bowl.  Take a spoon of sugar or salt and add to the onion and squeeze it in your hand to fully incorporate it.  Let it sit a minute.  Pour hot water over it and let it sit a few minutes more.  Pour the contents into a strainer and rinse with cold water.  (This step removes the strong sulfuric taste of the fresh onion, allowing it to contribute to the other flavors without overshadowing them).  Add to the rest.
  7. Stir all that goodness together.  Generously season with salt.  Taste with a chip so you can factor in the final saltiness of them together.  If the flavor is dull, add salt and lemon juice until it sings in your mouth.

Don’t like cilantro?  You can leave it out, but you should question your life choices.  The guacamole, however, will still be worth eating.

Happy feasting!

 

CrushedMess at Christmas

We held each other’s hands in the quiet of the house; the Christmas-charged children had finally settled down; it was like the moment after a parade, when the workers come out to sweep up the confetti.

We had just prayed, and we had warbled a broken “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.  Tears slipped down my cheeks, and there was some constancy to that, like perhaps my eyes would never stop pouring forth.  “This has been the worst, the hardest Christmas I’ve ever had”, he said, rubbing his hand over his face, the way he does when he’s stressed and sad.  I nodded.

We’ve invested in rental properties, and a tenant kept falling farther and farther behind on rent, running into one disaster after another with his addictions, and resultant loss of jobs.  We rented to him, fresh out of jail, his girlfriend expecting their baby any moment. For a few months it looked like maybe this small family could make life work.  The baby loved her mama, her drug-addicted mama, and it hurts my soul to speak of this.  He called us from prison, we bailed him out.  We did not have money for this, but we knew he needed to be able to work or they’d lose their daughter.  Please, can there be some redemption?

The baby was taken into foster care.  Sweet baby, how you will bear this?  I am glad she is safe and cared for, and I am heartbroken too, for she loved her mama, her mama who also loved drugs.  We served them eviction papers and gave them time to relocate their things.  They broke back into the house and sublet space to other people, not giving us any rent.  We called the prison when our calls to them weren’t answered, and discovered they were both back in jail.  Unpaid rent was up to $5,000 now.  School taxes were due.  We had to clear out the house and get it ready for another renter.

There is great sadness in all of it.  My husband has been so stressed and saddened by it all that he hardly sleeps at night.  He shakes with stress, and he apologizes for not being able to provide for us all, for the lack of rent income, plus the mortgage, and impending taxes have put us firmly in the red.  That’s a sobering thing for a family of eight in the middle stage of life.

“We are vulnerable…one car breakdown, an appliance failing, a medical need…”  We let the silence extend.  I put a load in the washer, dropped to the cold tile floor, and wept.  A crushed mess at Christmas.

That is the load on our backs, weighing heavy.  Now let me speak of the beautiful.

A high school friend gifted us two bins full of Legos, many of them Star Wars sets.  These became the Christmas gift for our two older sons, who were overcome with wonder and joy.  They’ve been joyfully playing with them constantly ever since.

A friend here passed along her kids train track set and wooden castle set; my two middle sons received them with joy for their Christmas gift.  The baby was pleased with his thrifted wooden toys, and my daughter quite happy with the clearance bin goods we got for her.

Our families gave beautiful gifts to us; there was merriment as the children opened things they’ve dearly wished for.  We were gifted a Christmas tree, because our family helped unload a flatbed full of them at a friend’s business.

On Christmas day a package arrived for me.  A book I’ve wanted for three years!!  A friend somehow found out and ordered it.  I held it to my chest and smiled.

We made cookies with the help of the neighborhood kids, whose own stories are difficult and pain-filled, and I gave up the rolling pin and cutters and let them have at it, mess and all.

…………………………………….

We held hands in the quiet.

“Do you know what makes me so happy though?” my husband asked.  “Our kids.  They are so cute and funny and I love watching their faces as they open gifts; just that expression of joy and surprise.”  I nodded.

So much pain, so much stress, so much uncertainty, but oh so much beauty, so much joy, so much life.IMG_2861

Run of the Pepper Mill

Olive wood is attractive….I wouldn’t want stainless steel; it’s too cold and sterile.  Is a ceramic grinder important?  Would it last longer than these plastic ones?  Warmth….copper?  Olive wood.  Definitely those ones, but I like the copper and glass pair with the mill at the top to avoid crumbing up the table and counter.  Plus you can see that you need to refill.  Wait….$170?!?!?  No.

I looked up from my laptop.  What sort of consumeristic wormhole had I fallen into?  I closed the computer and laid it aside.  It was revelatory; how easy and simple it is to create necessities out of luxuries; to talks oneself into the pepper mill that defines you.

I am perfectly capable of grinding pepper in the mortar and pestle in my kitchen.  I have a pepper mill, though it works quite poorly.  What led to this silly journey through page after page of perfect pepper mills?  Shopping.

I make nearly all of the gifts for my loved ones, but there are always some things that lay outside of my expertise, but would be just the thing for particular people, obliging me to brave the wild frontier of retail shoppes.  My daughter was thrilled to go along with me; she has no hangups whatsoever about buying new things, and she fairly pranced along the aisles heaped with goods.

Maybe it’s the lighting that gives me headaches, or the crowds, or the ecological impact of so much packaging waste and overproduction of silly junk.  On my way to purchase the gift of two stainless steel travel mugs I passed by a table laden with gleaming, tasteful kitchen goods.  Ah, salt and pepper mill sets.

I remembered my sluggish and slow pepper mill, how its plastic grinder parts were wearing down and grinding unevenly, and how it made me feel less like a chef and more like a pepper wrangler.  I picked up the sets and examined them, the rectangular florescent lights above me making constellations across their smooth, shiny curves.  I put them down, and I bought what I had come for; gifts for others.

But didn’t it just nag at me then?  The idea of it?  Useful, beautiful, long-lasting, artisan crafted salt and pepper mills?  They’d be on our table for the rest of our lives, a continuing testament to our good taste in quality craftsmanship.  Through all the seasons they would season!  I basically need them!

Except that I don’t, but I thought to check online…maybe there’d be a suitable set for around twenty dollars and I could save for it, and and and…

No.

Just…no.

I don’t want to be defined by my pepper mill.  I want to be Christ’s simple child, learning His love, seeing His way, and orienting my life around dwelling in His Presence, and bringing His warmth and joy to others who need “a timely word, seasoned with salt”.

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I Didn’t Know THAT Was Going To Happen

I was a pretty proficient funeral director as a child.  The small mammals of our house were always laid to rest with soft tissues lining their checkbook box caskets.  I wept over them, sang my dirges, and laid flowers over their backyard graves.  I’d visit their plots, I’d agonize over them being in the cold, dark earth, all alone.

All of my love had nowhere to go, no furry heart to land on.  There was Murphy the Gerbil, Lougee the Mouse, and Blueberry the Hamster, plus a neighborhood bird with a broken wing.  If love could cure, they’d have lived forever.

I’ve read a new book, “Piggy In Heaven” by Melinda Johnson which gently and joyfully tells of a beloved guinea pig’s first day in Heaven.  He rolls in the grass, munches, and hops about, sans cage, and his new pig friends gradually reveal where he is and why.  When they’ve ever so tenderly explained to him that he died he responds, “I didn’t know that was going to happen!”  Isn’t that just the bewilderment that children experience when their pet dies?  How I wish I’d had this book as a grieving child!  It would have revealed to me that God too loves his creatures; that I was not alone in my love, nor my grief; that the end of earthly life means a beginning of eternal life.

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What is perhaps most beautiful to me personally is the reminder that love is never wasted.  We do not need to hold back our fullest and deepest love in order that we might be less vulnerable to eventual losses.  We can live full-heartedly, and hope in God’s wonderful mercy that the ones we love might just be waiting for us on the other side.

So, if the little ones in your life are mourning the loss of a pet, consider this beautiful, hope-filled book, and if you’re crafty I’ve included a pattern I made with the help of my dear friend Kristina Wenger (Plush-Maker Extraordinaire!) for making a stuffed Piggy to go with it!

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Materials needed:

  1. minky fabric, 1/4 yard in the color you like (you can make several piggies with this!)
  2. a small bit of felt, I chose light brown
  3. pink embroidery thread or a stuffed animal nose or button
  4. black beads or stuffed animal eyes on posts
  5. fiberfill
  6. needle and heavyweight thread
  7. Piggy Pattern printed (say that five times fast!)

 

To make, trace out the pattern pieces on minky fabric, or any other furry material that delights you, being aware that the fluffier it is, the harder it will be make the eyes and nose findable!  Make sure you flip the body pattern piece when you cut the second one so that you have the fur right side out on both sides.

I recommend cutting out the furry parts outside as you will indeed be covered in foof, and the pieces can be shook out to disperse the fluff out of doors rather than on your floors.  Also, you will now look like you’ve taken up another job at a pet grooming shop.IMG_8157

Cut out the ears from felt and pinch together and hand stitch to make a curved shape.

Clip open the ear slot and either machine or hand stitch the ear in place.  If using stuffed animal eyes, insert them now too.  If using beads as eyes you’ll attach them later.

Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, sew one side to the tummy panel (right sides facing) beginning and ending at the dots A and B on the pattern.  Sew the opposite side to the tummy panel as well.  Sew shut the back, leaving a 1.5″ gap for turning it right side out.  Double check all seams to make sure there are no holes.

It may be tricky to work the presser foot around the eye posts, so hand sewing that area may be necessary

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Turn right  side out and if using a post nose, snip a tiny hole at the front and insert and secure from inside the piggy.

IMG_8177Stuff with desired fiber fill, hand stitch the hole shut.  For beaded eyes use heavy thread, doubled, and a long needle.  Position the needle and pull the thread through the face to the other side making sure the eyes will be even.  Add a bead and plunge back through, adding the other bead, and go back and forth until the eyes are quite secure.  Pull the thread slightly so that the eyes sink inward, forming the face shape  guinea pig style.  Double knot and snip threads close to the surface.  The same looping-pull is done if you used eye posts to give it a nice shape.  If you didn’t add a nose yet, use embroidery thread to add a pink triangle nose.

 

Have the eyes disappeared on you?  Time for fur-scaping!  Using sharp, small scissors trim away the surrounding fluff so that the eyes stand a chance of peering out at the world.

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You are done!  Snuggle at will.

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