31 December 2009

Beautiful 2009: the year in pictures...

... A photo for each month of the year as a retrospective.  I enjoyed doing this last year and thought I'd take the opportunity to reflect on 2009 and all the blessings and joys we have celebrated!

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~T.S. Eliot


. . . icy home outside but a cozy home inside as the Year of Reading and Writing begins...


. . . celebrating my hubby's 30th birthday with an Italian feast . . .

MARCH . . .

. . . a return trip to beautiful California to visit Marshall, Jen, and baby Ava.  Here we are in Palos Verdes . . .

APRIL . . .

. . . Greta gets a new little sister - Heidi Lou!

MAY . . .

. . . Amy comes to visit Dallas, and we have our first pool day of the season accompanied by juicy watermelon with lime. . .

JUNE . . .

. . . my first visit to breathtaking Colorado, where I want to return and never leave again. . .

JULY . . .

. . . 4 years of marriage with my strong, caring, thoughtful, wonderful husband - oh, how I love him!

AUGUST . . .

. . . 'lil reunion with Suz and Amy in Nashville - snapping a quick photo before the torrential downpour/hurricane blew us away. . .


. . . Lake Grapevine hike with Terrica on Labor Day. . .


. . . experiencing Key Largo's famous sunsets on a mother/daughter trip. . .


. . . bundling up in the chilly New Jersey air for a day trip to Alstede Farms. . .


. . . my precious 7-year-old niece Ashley is baptized, and I cry like a baby.

I look forward to soaking up another year of this beautiful life I've been given!

18 December 2009

Christmas movie essentials.

I'll write more soon, but for now I had to share the beloved Christmas films that have been on permanent loop at the Bailey house.  Who doesn't love the frumpily adorable Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping and the mom who keeps repeating to herself at the dinner table, "These mashed potatoes are so creamy..."  Or precocious little pre-American Beauty Thora Birch in All I Want For Christmas?

A few more that must be added to the collection for next year:
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Miracle on 34th Street: the original
Polar Express
A Charlie Brown Christmas

If you have any other suggestions, please, share!

16 November 2009

This next season.

A new season is beginning.  A season not characterized by the state of leaves and limb but of questions of courage and faith.  As the final batches of leaves flutter down onto my now-dormant flower beds, I'm being stripped naked, too.  I have come to expect this seasonal stripping of self, and I am not fearful - I know it's what needs to happen.

You see, it's been so easy lately to hide in the shadow of others' stories rather than live my own.  About a month ago, my talented husband was given the opportunity to live his dream of becoming an organic personal chef to a family here in Dallas.  Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons are now filled with menu planning, cooking, and delivering gourmet meals.  I could not have been more excited for him - he has always loved working with food and cooking for people, and now a way to make it part of his job?  Perfect.  I jumped in right away, taking on new tasks like making desserts, cleaning dishes, and typing up the menus, and in the process worked myself into a nice little hole of not having a single day off to rest and breathe.

And then, a few weeks later, I hit a wall.   I started snapping at people.  I was exhausted.  And I started to feel like I was in prison.  One night as I was returning home from running errands on a rare evening by myself, I parked the car in the driveway and sat there for a few moments quietly, gazing at the full moon through my open moon roof.  The song "Dream" by Priscilla Ahn was playing, and a deep longing rose in my soul as I listened to these lyrics: "I had a dream that I could fly from the highest swing..."  All I could dream at that moment was freedom and escape.  How had my life become this busy and demanding?

Then, I had a realization.  I could still support and encourage my husband without adopting his dream as my own.  Besides, I was doing it all out of obligation and guilt rather than joy.  Yuck. I am not living truthfully at all by adopting someone else's dream.  I have a unique calling on my life to be a writer, artist, creative soul, a courageous and tender woman.  "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." {Proverbs 31:25}

So, something had to change.  I talked to my husband and took a huge step back.  And peace followed.

I've always thought it's such an interesting thing about marriage - we are on the same road walking in the same direction, but we each have our own individual stories.  We each retain our precious identities.  One of the greatest challenges is learning how to live out those unique stories while being one flesh together.

Have you ever read Abba's Child by Brennan Manning?  People have been telling me to read that book for a decade.   I am just now discovering its beauty and relevance in my life as I realize that of my almost 30 years as a believer in Christ, I still do not really know what it feels like to know I am God's beloved.

And that's what is really at the heart of this whole thing.

Yes, I know He loves me.   I know He is intimate with the details of my life and orchestrates all of my days.  But I want to know that He is not only intimate with the details of my life but with me.  I honestly don't know what that even means. How do I feel the sweetness of that love?  I know it starts with spending more time just being quiet with God.  His Beloved is already my identity.  If I don't feel it, then perhaps something is getting in the way.

I've spent a lot of time lately sitting in the quiet of my bedroom, eyes closed, book clutched to my chest, asking for God to tell me how He feels about me.  The words I receive back are all beautiful and encouraging.   He tells me to keep going, keep moving forward.  In my time of waiting, do not stall.  I have gifts to share, words to keep writing, truths to speak.  He tells me, "See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."  {Isaiah 43:19}

So, step one was breaking ties with obligations that were not part of my unique calling.  Step two is living out who I am meant to be.  I don't know what is coming next, but I know it will be good, as are all things that come from Him.

09 November 2009

A night at the symphony.

Before our very eyes, Dallas is sprouting into an entirely new city.  Construction cranes stand like skinny skyscrapers along the skyline.  There are rumors that we'll soon have a public park that is built like a bridge over the freeway, and downtown Dallas is actually alive after work hours now, bustling with activity as people return home to their urban loft dwellings.

I've traveled so many places, but I thought it was high time I wrote about the city where I live.  I'm more of a "quaint town" person at heart, but there are so many things to appreciate about Dallas during this time in my life, even though it took me awhile to see them.  One of those things is our amazing Arts District and the Dallas Symphony.

I've always wanted to get dolled up in the perfect black dress and my leopard print heels and go to the symphony. It sounds so sophisticated, so cultured.  "Ah yes, we're going to the symphony tonight, just in case you're wondering."  For folks like us who live most of our days in tank tops and workout pants, it's definitely a rare treat.

Thanks to our friend Tommy and his student discount, we got second row tickets at the Meyerson Center to hear Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.  Now, before you think I really know what I'm talking about or that I've become a classical music aficionado, I have to admit that this is perhaps the only piece of classical music I can actually identify.  It was in one of my favorite early 80s films - Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

Here are a few photos to document our evening soaking up the Dallas cultural scene...

the baileys

the symphony warming up - look at that pipe organ!

the gorgeous inside of the meyerson

At the beginning of the performance I found myself a bit nervous and antsy.  We were roughly five feet from the string section, and the printed program had an extensive list of things you are not permitted to do - like cough, for example.  Uh oh.  Apparently, silence is prized at the symphony, and a silent pause can actually be a part of the musical piece.  So, everyone saves their coughs, shuffling of candy wrappers, and yes, even the clanging of their bangle bracelets {it actually said that in the program}, until after a movement is completed.  Then, the entire room erupts into bizarre noises, sounding like an infirmary as everyone lets out their stifled coughs and sneezes.

The performance itself was breathtaking - the violins were so precise that at times they sounded like a swarm of bumble bees.  And the symphony ended on the clearest chord I have ever heard - all of the horns in unison with a purity that forced me to close my eyes.  What is it about music that speaks to the human heart so?

Afterwards, the four of us walked to the car with smiles on our faces, agreeing that part of what made the evening so special was that it was so different than our normal daily lives.  We then headed to another Dallas hot-spot I've always wanted to visit - Reunion Tower.  It's the big sparkling ball that you see on the Dallas skyline.  At the very top is Wolfgang Puck's new restaurant, Five Sixty {because it's 560 feet above the ground}.

There, instead of dinner, we opted for the less expensive desserts: mouth-watering Fuji Apple Crumble Pie a la mode and a chocolate soufflé.  I don't have any photos of the desserts because we devoured them that quickly.  

tommy and linda at five sixty

It was such a fun evening!  If I have to fall in love with Dallas, a classy night out on the town is just the thing to reel me in.

29 October 2009

Paradise, otherwise known as Bahia Honda State Park.

Is this actually where I was last week at this time?  It feels so surreal.

After we left Key West, mom and I headed up the overseas highway to Marathon Key, to a little hamlet in a cove called Bahia Honda State Park.  Wow.  It's been voted one of the top 5 beaches in the United States.  Can you see why?

I want to go sit on that palm trunk again and remember how the warm air felt on my face.  With the crystal-clear waters filled with silver-y tropical fish, and palm trees arching over the water to form a perfect bench, it seemed like a scene out of The Blue Lagoon.

It felt like it, too.

Even the area around the beach was filled with little treasures, like these adorable sea grasses that look like stars...

During our few hours at Bahia Honda, all we did was wade in the bathtub-temperature waters, swishing our arms back and forth, back and forth.  And wiggle our toes in the soft, white sand.

This was pretty much paradise to me.

28 October 2009

We temporarily interrupt this autumn programming...

Let's momentarily pause the visions of colorful autumn leaves and instead turn to palm trees arching over clear Gulf waters.  I just returned from another mother/daughter trip...this time to the Florida Keys and Sanibel Island!

We started the trip in Key West, which had its charms, mostly of the natural variety - massive palm trees teeming with coconuts, sunsets, green waters.  I could do without the trashy tshirt shops and Mardi Gras-esque feeling of over-indulgence.  Have you ever been to Key West?  Did you feel that too?  It seemed like a locale where old rich broads retire and walk their poodles everyday, while everyone else is still wearing cutoff stonewashed jean shorts and tshirts that say "I Heart Naked People" {case in point, see below}.

It was fun in its own quirky way.  Mom and I always seem to gravitate to the places of natural beauty though!

The night we arrived, we were greeted by this adorable scene on the front porch of the Frances Street Bottle Inn, where we promptly deposited our bags in our room and went straight outside to the sprawling wrap-around porch for a red wine nightcap.

The next day, we rented bikes {the way to get around in Key West, apparently} and began to explore...

We saw historic homes and fences overflowing with bougainvillea...

Creepy tree trunks that seemed to be dripping from the sky...

...and orchid-like flowers growing from trees all over the island.

We learned that the flowers were from the "Flamboyant Tree" and of course put them in our hair!

On the way to the beach, we passed this typical Key West street scene...

Admittedly, one of the best parts of Key West was discovering this organic restaurant, Help Yourself!, where we had organic chicken salad wraps on sprouted grain tortillas and peanut butter banana shakes using coconut water instead of milk!  They gather the coconuts themselves.  Are you kidding me?  We loved it so much for lunch that we went back for dinner and tried the homemade cashew coconut ice cream.  Delish.

Finally, we stopped moving, parked our bikes, and found a ledge by the ocean to sit and see one of Key West's famous sunsets.  Even the herons were ready for the show...

It was a truly stunning way to end our day before heading up the Keys in search of more adventure...

20 October 2009

For the love of autumn... (part 2: New Jersey/New York 2006)

"I've never known anyone yet who doesn't suffer a certain restlessness when autumn rolls around...we're all eight years old again and anything is possible." 
~ Sue Grafton

Bleary-eyed and jet-lagging a day after I returned from Africa, I joined my husband and our dear friends Brad and Mary Herridge (and little Grant, who was in Mary's tummy at the time) for a trip to New York and New Jersey.  During those few days in early November 2006, we walked all over God's creation - probably 8-10 miles a day with barely a rest!  If I can be half as energetic as Mary was when I'm pregnant one day, I'll be happy.  What a trooper.

The scenes on this trip could not have been more of a contrast to those I had witnessed in Africa just a few days prior...the wild, lush beauty of Uganda vs. the urban landscape and busyness of New York City.  Million-dollar mansions in the New Jersey countryside vs. the slums of Kibera.  I spent many moments on the subway staring out the graffiti'd windows in a daze, the voices of the orphans singing still echoing in my head.  Hard to believe that such contrasts exist in the same world...

On this trip, autumn was experienced through one long walk after another.  The leaves were at their peak - firey reds, golden yellows, laying a carpet underneath our feet as we trekked from my parents' house into downtown Madison to board the train for the big city.

my street in madison

a neighbor's fence around the corner

In New York, we ate at some new favorites, all recommended by our virtual tour guide, Tara Leigh, who was just a phone call away...places like Max Brenner's Chocolate by the Bald Man, Spring Street Natural, and Think Coffee.  We camped inside Chelsea Market hoping for a Rachael Ray sighting (no luck) and strolled through Central Park where the curbs were scattered with leaves, and folks were already ice skating at the whimsical Wolman Rink.

It was jacket weather, and it was heavenly, of course.

Back in New Jersey, we spent an afternoon in the woods at Drew University where Brad and Steven sat on logs and smoked cigars, and Mary and I walked under the canopy marveling at the leaves.

Finally, our friends The Sullivans who live in New York came to the "country" to join us, and we set off to find a roadside pumpkin and apple stand just like it was in our idealized minds.  They do exist...just a short drive away, outside of Chester, NJ!  Here is Alstede Farms...

brad, steven, and david

shawna, mary, and me

Back at my parents' house, since we were all together, we had an early Thanksgiving meal.  This had to be one of my most memorable meals, ever.  It was the perfect fall day, and we borrowed our neighbor's picnic table to set up an outdoor feast featuring my mom's vintage cookery and dishes filled with already-prepared items from Whole Foods - roasted turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, chewy Italian bread slathered with creamy butter, and of course, lots of red wine.

As I look back on these autumn moments, I know that there is hope for the stark winter days that seem to literally and figuratively suck the life out of us.  As long as there are seasons and color and leaves and shared meals and friends, it is going to be okay.