29 April 2009

Never too old to color.

On Saturday afternoon, I took one of those naps where you wake up and have no idea what day or time it is anymore, and you've slept on one side for so long that your hair is smushed into a conehead and, more than likely, there is a pool of drool on the pillow. You know that kind? It was so refreshing. And the first thought that occurred to me when my eyes peeked open was, "I am going to color now."

It was a strange thought, considering that up to that point, my Saturday had been filled with a very adult-like and responsible task: hauling compost back and forth, back and forth, between the huge mound in the driveway and each individual tree stump and veggie sprout and plant base in the front and back yard. It felt so "homeowner." It was great functional exercise though {all those squats and bicep curls with the shovel and wheelbarrow}...and I actually liked working with the compost. You might think it's smelly and full of flies, but compost actually feels fresh in an earthy kind of way. The only unfortunate fact is that it’s so powdery that with a light Texas wind, it seeps into any crack and crevice of your skin that is not covered with an article of clothing. I didn’t realize this until I heard Steven singing, “It’s A Hard Knock Life” from Annie, complete with flamboyant hand gestures, as I passed by with the wheel barrow for the umpteenth time.

Uh-oh. I went inside to check myself in the mirror, and it was not a pretty sight. The white tube socks that I had pulled up to my knees and over my workout pants were now black. My hair was frizzed almost to the point of no return, and dirt had caked on my face and formed so many visible lines and smudges that I looked like a coal miner...or perhaps a street sweeper from the movie Oliver...or, admittedly, one of the kids from Annie. Maybe compost-hauling doesn't have to be so adult-like after all.

I took a very welcome hot shower and scrubbed myself from head to toe with my honey mango shower gel and then collapsed into bed for that perfect, drooly nap. I don’t know what happened in my dreams, but when I woke up, all I wanted to do was color. You're never too old to color, you know. In my "Rain Washed" craft room, I found my box of Crayola State Collection Crayons and a butterfly coloring book that Steven got me as a surprise at the Mennonite grocery store. I set out for the back yard with my supplies tucked under my arm like a little girl on her way to kindergarten.

Outside, Steven’s phone rang. It was my dad calling from New Jersey. Steven answered it, they exchanged greetings, and then there was a pause on our end of the conversation - my dad must have asked what I was doing.

Steven answered nonchalantly, "Oh, she's coloring."

{"Coloring??" I imagine my dad must have asked in his brash Jersey accent.}

Steven answered again, "Yeah, she's coloring...with crayons."

I looked up at him and smiled. Then I went back to busily coloring my butterflies as the real-life ones hovered above the flourishing lavender bush.

27 April 2009

Meet Heidi!

I'd like to introduce you to our ridiculously cute 3-month-old Doberman puppy, Heidi! Our Dobie Greta now has a little sister. We've been wanting a "Heidi" for awhile now...and actually Steven wanted a second dog so badly that he said he would - and I quote - "give up his birthday and Christmas gifts and any other gifts for the next 3 years if only we could get another dog." How could I possibly resist?

We'd checked the Doberman Rescue {which is where we found Greta 2 1/2 years ago} but none of the dogs there felt like "ours". If any of you are pet-owners, you know that feeling when you just know. And all the Doberman breeders in the area charged a minimum of $600, which was way out of our budget. So we resolved to wait and let the right dog find us...

Then, completely unexpectedly, Steven and our friend Paul were driving home from the Full Quiver Dairy Farm in Kemp, TX on Saturday, where we go every weekend to pick up fresh dairy for the co-op. They passed the Aggie Feed Store up on the hill as always, but for some reason, this time they decide to stop and get some small starter okra plans for the garden. They drove up the gravel driveway to this truly country establishment that was selling ducks, chickens...and an entire pen of Doberman puppies! Steven went up to the pen where the puppies were and called out "Hellooooo..." and over came our Heidi, who put up her paw to his hand on the other side of the fence. She was the only red female in the entire littler. He said he knew right then - she was for us!

Meanwhile, I was back at home on a seemingly ordinary Saturday, drinking some Enfusia, when Steven called and said he was on his way home to drop off "something" he got at the Aggie Feed Store. I went outside to meet him in the driveway, casually sipping my mug of hot tea, figuring he had some plants or bags of manure or something. They pulled in the driveway, and Paul pulled a saucer-eyed puppy out of the car! My eyes uncontrollably welled up with tears - I was so surprised! She was exactly what I had pictured.

Steven and Paul proceeded to drop Heidi off with me so they could get back to The Movement Studio to deliver everyone's milk orders. I was left with the task of giving her a bath, since she was absolutely infused with the smell of poo. Oooh boy, what a task. This photo is post-bath, and pretty much explains how difficult it was to bathe a scared-to-death puppy with no collar and nothing to grab onto except her slippery little legs. Note the nice smear of mud on my upper arm.

Here is Heidi - all clean...and a little shell-shocked!

Don't you just want to squeeze her? After her bath, I wrapped her in a towel and held her in my lap for a few minutes. She was shaking so much but slowly calmed down and layed her head on my arm for awhile. So sweet.

We introduced Greta to her little sister, and she was SO not amused. On Saturday, she seemed excited at first and played with her in the dog run in the driveway. On Sunday, the reality kicked in that she was no longer the queen bee around here, and she practially spoke aloud, rolling her big brown eyes, "I am SO over this. I mean, really?" Heidi isn't phased at all. She clomps around clumsily like a fawn or a Claymation puppy from Wallace and Gromit, romping back and forth in between Greta's legs. Greta just stands there rigidly, her eyes rolled to one side, completely mortified.

Soon enough though, they'll be licking each other's ears, playing in the sun all day, and completely inseparable. I just know it. Greta and Heidi will be the best of friends.

Our Greta, 3-years-old

24 April 2009

"Thank you, and keep going."

"To all the secret writers, late-night painters, would-be singers, lapsed and scared artists of every stripe, dig out your paintbrush, or your flute, or your dancing shoes. Pull out your camera or your computer or your pottery wheel. Today, tonight, after the kids are in bed or when your homework is done, or instead of one more video game or magazine, create something, anything.

Pick up a needle and thread, and stitch together something particular and honest and beautiful, because we need it. I need it.

Thank you, and keep going."

~ Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines page 230

21 April 2009

Why I need people.

The Year of Reading and Writing is going well, {more details to come soon} and I'm currently reading my 9th book in 2009: Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. Yes, I know...I'm probably the last person in the world to read it, but I'm actually glad I didn't jump on the Donald Miller bandwagon five years ago with everyone else. If I'd read it then, it certainly would have felt more radical and revolutionary, as my thoughts and beliefs align more closely now with Don's. But now, the timing is just perfect. It's speaking exactly to where I am right now. It's giving order to some of my tangled thoughts that I've had trouble putting into words.

Blue Like Jazz is reminding me how much I need community, how much I need people. I'm so introverted {an INFJ, the rarest of the personality types...oh dear...} that I can even border on reclusive at times. I know I need a lot of alone time to refuel, but I also realize that being reclusive = not good. We were created to be with people. God shows Himself through people. We can never truly be successful...or happy...living a life of complete isolation.

So this part of chapter 14 meant a great deal to me...

"I am something of a recluse by nature. I am that cordless screwdriver that has to charge for twenty hours to earn ten minutes use. I need that much downtime. I am a terrible daydreamer. I have been since I was a boy. My mind goes walking and playing and skipping. I invent characters, write stories, pretend I'm a rock star, pretend I am a legendary poet, pretend I am an astronaut, and there is no control to my mind.

When you live on your own for a long time, however, your personality changes because you go so much into yourself you lose the ability to be social, to understand what is and isn't normal behavior. There is an entire world inside yourself, and if you let yourself, you can get so deep inside it you will forget the way to the surface. Other people keep our souls alive, just like food and water does with our body." - Blue Like Jazz page 152

"There is an entire world inside yourself..." That is exactly how I have felt for so long, yet it's a feeling that's been incommunicable to me. It's why I can become frustrated when my idealized world is not realized; it's why I can become frustrated with people who are too practical.

It feels like my soul is being stifled to harness that imaginative part of me. I say "harness" because I don't think it should ever be completely cut off, but I do hope to find more balance. Creativity and imagination are what make me an artist; they are what make my outpourings unique from others. But I must never allow these gifts to be misused as an excuse to not allow others into my world, or to not take time and emotional energy to pour into other people.

See...this is why I read. There is nothing like finding inspiration in another person's story... and then knowing that somehow, in some way, it was written just for you.

20 April 2009

Flowers, flowers everywhere!

Something I've always wanted: fresh flowers in vases all around the house, from the first day of springtime, to the last day of summer. And that is what I'm aiming for this year. With the way my roses are blooming, it should be pretty attainable!

On Friday night, our dear friend Kyle came over, toting her parents from Nashville, her sister who is a baker, a gorgeous bouquet of ranunculus and other wildflowers {for me!} and this incredible mascarpone tart with balsamic glaze {swoon}. We grilled chicken and brats on the barbie and roasted carrots, onions, and new potatoes. Michael Bublé serenaded us in the background as we drank Cabernet, talked about exotic places we'd traveled, and enjoyed the delicious food we had each contributed. And I even got to wear my favorite skirt. Perfect.

So I've been admiring these fresh wildflowers about a hundred times a day since Friday...they seem to stop me in my tracks every time I pass by. There's something striking about the bright colors of grape and tangerine against my chocolate brown walls...

The bouquet was so large that I gave some of them a home in the kitchen...

{another gift from Kyle in the background...a bottle of wine she brought back from Greece - there's not a single word of English on the bottle!}

But that's not all...I also have gathered every vase, glass jar, or bottle I can find and stuffed them with fresh roses from our garden - on the kitchen window sill, in the guest room, in the bathroom, on the dining table. Some stems have 6 buds about to burst open!

Mmmm, fresh flowers. Such a simple gift in life.

12 April 2009

The light of the world.

"Jesus said, 'I am the light of the world.'"
~ John 8:12

Today is Easter - Resurrection Sunday - and I want celebrate this light that has entered the world...my world. Today, I am struck with the fact that I've seen the literal light of God shine down on so many places in this world. I have seen the skies open up over Florence after one of the hardest rains. I've seen dots of crystal dance on the water in a New England bay, and greenish-goldenness highlight a single blade of grass in New Mexico. There is so much light around us, so much light to be captured. I think it's amazing we were given this light first in Christ Himself. And then we were given things like grass and sky and sea and people's faces, so we wouldn't forget. Oh God, I hope I never stop seeing it.

{For more, see The Perfect Time Of Day. And last year's post on Eastering.}

{rome, italy: vatican city}

{dallas, texas: SMU campus}

{florence, italy: sunset from piazza michaelangelo}

{india: peace city orphanage}

{dallas, texas: my livingroom}

{las mochas, new mexico}

{palos verdes, california: my and jen's shadows}

{manhattan beach, california}

{franklin, tennessee}

{dallas, texas: at the arboretum}

{clinton, new jersey: roadside harvest stand}

{kampala, uganda}

{nairobi, kenya: at new life orphanage}

{new york, new york: central park}

{east texas: blueberry farm}

{nashville, tennessee: centennial park}

{san antonio, texas: guadalupe river}

{nashville, tennessee: belmont campus rose garden}

{seaside, florida}

{maine: acadia national park}

{deer isle, maine}

{new york, new york: my and steven's shadows in central park}

{mackinac island, michigan}

{tuscany, italy}

{cinque terre, italy}

I watch this morning
for the light that the darkness has not overcome.
I watch for the fire that was in the beginning

and that burns still in the brilliance of the rising sun.

I watch for the glow of life that gleams in the growing earth

and glistens in sea and sky.

I watch for your light, O God,

in the eyes of every living creature
and in the ever-living flame of my own soul.

If the grace of seeing were mine this day

I would glimpse you in all that lives.

Grant me the grace of seeing this day.

Grant me the grace of seeing.

~ from Celtic Benediction by J. Philip Newell

07 April 2009

A new piece of paper, please.

Growing up, I loved art class with a passion. I lived for the moments spent each week in that classroom at the end of the hall at Central Avenue School, tucked away as if it was an afterthought. Instead, the art room was more like the center of everything in my world and where all of my senses came alive...the scent of tempura paints dried around the rims of the plastic containers...the texture of prickly brushes crammed into a mason jar...the feel of tissue paper as thin as poppy petals. And the colors. Bright colors, lots of colors, millions of possibilities, like wildflowers.

But even in third grade, I wanted all of my artistic outpourings to be perfect, or at least perfect to me. I wanted them to come out exactly as I saw them in my mind. And when it didn't come out that way, or just when I felt I needed to start fresh, I loved the freedom of asking for a new piece of paper.

And that is what I love about gardening. Gardening is forgiving. We start with a blank piece of paper, and each year right before the last frost, we get a new one with which to begin again.

"More than anything, I must have flowers always, always."
~ Claude Monet

Before we had our home, we borrowed a friend's backyard where he generously allowed us to dig up a patch of soil and plant some vegetables. Bless our hearts, we were so desperate to grow something - anything - that first year that we drove across Dallas a few times a week just to visit and water our fragile seedlings. I'm almost positive we had no idea what we were doing then, and no matter what happens now, it has to be better than harvesting one single cucumber, which is all we got in the summer of 2006.

That fall, we moved into our home and stood on the back steps overlooking our positively blank piece of Texas soil - a perfect square with a bit of grass and an old brick patio framed by a new wooden fence. I knew one thing - I wanted flowers. Lots of 'em.

But that winter of 2007, a fire pit and some tiki torches was the best we could do.

Come spring, we tried our hand at a small square-foot garden with a few marigolds and some very sad tomatoes.

Then, on Christmas Day 2007, we really started digging. We first started digging up the brick patio to form flower beds {landscaping edging isn't cheap, you know}. I attacked weeds so fierce that they bit back, throwing me to the ground, leaving me with a few shredded leaves in my fist, the stubborn weed still firmly planted in its place. And oh, the "treasures" we unearthed, decades of debris - old pieces of shag carpet, bent spoons, plastic action figures, and even a cat skull {sorry, kitty}. But little by little, it took shape...

{december 2007}

{march 2008}

{summer 2008}

{now: spring 2009}

I never knew how building and growing something from scratch would teach me so much about life and patience and hope. Yes, hope. We are hopeful that the time we've spent building this together will be an investment into our marriage and into the people we love who finally get to exhale and relax in the red hammock after a tough day. We are hopeful that we'll cook a meal for someone with the tomatoes we grew from a seed starter in the dead of winter. We are hopeful that our labor will turn into something useful...and beautiful.

In the garden, I've spent quiet hours with my own thoughts {much like those moments in art class when the entire classroom was hushed and hovered over their pieces of paper}. I've watched my husband as he so diligently and meticulously plants vegetable seeds, reminding me of another reason I married this caring man. Our garden is a home for birds, a haven of rest, the site of laughter over a camp fire, and a place where hymns are sung on guitar.

It's our fourth year of trying, and we're certainly not pro's, but we've figured some things out. I'm fairly sure we won't try to grow wildflowers in the shade anymore, and I won't step my ruby red Crocs into any more red ant piles {owie}.

But the most important thing I've learned is that in the garden, if you mess up, that's okay. Just clear the land, amend the soil, and start again. It's okay to be creative and to just be yourself and to ask for a new piece of paper. Please.