Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Past, Present, and Future Dreams

Yesterday I had the fascinating experience of opening up my old "All About Me" - Dr Seuss fill in the blank book from when I was six. Other than learning about how many hairs I believed I had on my head (eleven) and the farthest I had ever walked (about 60 miles - ha), I saw that I had filled in writer and farmer as my dreamed of future occupations. This surprised me as I had thought those were new dreams. I didn't remember them being childhood fantasies. Recently I have been marinating in Dorothy Sayers mysteries and my genius at guessing the ending of these twisty thrillers 9 times out of 10 has lent to my husband (always looking for some exciting career for me to pursue) trying to push me into writing detective novels, which unfortunately I am not at all interested in. But, I am in fact quite interested in SOMEDAY, not now, pursuing writing in some format. But, this specific piece of writing will need to come to an end now since my lil rascal who I have thought was asleep for the past hour just walked out of his room without a hint of bed head. Bummer

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Family or Rend and Repair

The family provides a place of deep comfort and healing in this fractured world. Confucius has a quote that paraphrased says that if we want to have a healthy country we must first have healthy families, and to have healthy families we must first be healthy ourselves. But how difficult this can be! Our families once disordered, no matter how much love they include, can often be such a deeply destructive force in our psyches that we have to climb huge mountains to be healthy ourselves. If we don't find healing we then bring that brokenness into the next generations of our families and continue this pattern of pain.

There is such pain in this world, such deep, deep pain, whether we look in war torn tribal areas, or peek behind white picket fences in the quiet suburbs.

I know. I know that Christ brings the redemption not only of the world in mass, but for each of us in particular. But, how does He choose to package that renewal? It obviously doesn't seem to come in one installment. Wham bam, I'm all better mam. Nope. That's not how I've seen it. How does He deliver His monthly installments of grace? Where are the streams in which the balms of Gilead flow, because I have a whole lot of people I want to send to them. I know that we are the Bride who stands with the Spirit and sings, Come, Come, Come to the living waters. But how is one to bathe in a stream that is so polluted by the Bride? I know we are God's hands but so often in our brokenness, despite our best intentions, our hands hold switchblades and we further rip rather than repair.

Thankfully, although Christ left us here to be His bodily representation after His ascension, He can still transcend our stumbling attempts to love. He can even fill our love so that it really does provide healing despite ourselves.

Considering my background I tend to mull over these questions quite a bit. I grew up a pastor's daughter who has seen my fair share of ugliness within the Church. I also got my undergrad degree in Christian Formation and Ministry. So, I ask these questions. I know that especially those in "high church" see the healing as coming mystically through the sacraments, and I believe this can be true. I know those in pentecostal churches think that you just need to pray or perhaps even pray in tongues to be given that healing, and I again believe that that can be true. But I have seen deeply committed Catholics and Protestants who wrestle with their wounds despite these measures.
I am not satisfied yet in my knowledge about how to be a conduit of God's love that will mend people's brokenness. But, considering the pain that I see multiplying and being passed down through this lack of healing, I am motivated to learn and grow in my ability to be a Peacemaker on earth. Whether it is from my living room or a literal battlefield I want to Live bringing life to those I touch.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cut off and isolated - (its not as serious as it sounds)

To all who follow my blog - thank you - and I have confession to make. We moved into our apartment sad about our lack of internet access (we had chipped in and shared a wireless connection with friends at our previous place.) And then opened our MacBook and voila, discovered that we picked up at least five signals from apartments and offices around us. So... we used it. We decided that if people left them un-password protected we wouldn't feel guilty about using their connections. We didn't download large files, or live online, we rationalized. Right or wrong we did it. And now judgment day has come, well, sort of. As of Saturday passwords have been erected all around and we are cut off from the cyber world. Oh well, I will now have less temptation to battle about how I use my time. And, we do have a library with wireless access just half a mile down the street so I can tap in every other day or so. But, I guess the point of sharing all of this is that my habit of posting almost daily will have to be adjusted accordingly. No, no, don't weep. And to all those closet readers out there... COMMENT!! I found out this weekend that two of my old friends (you know who you are) joined CSAs after my postings on the subject. Until then I had no idea that they had ever read a single post! I want to know if you read. I want to interact with you, and grow alongside you. Perhaps next time I wander down to the library I'll post a link over to a great blog post about the value of commenting. Thanks again for stopping by!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Soil for the Soul

“When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be -- I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
- Wendell Berry

Today I am looking out my window into bright greens and blues, procrastinating on a CT project I'm working on, and dreaming about our CSA which will start sending goodies soon. What is a CSA? Perhaps all those who would be reading a blog are savvy enough to know that CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, but perhaps not. I only learned about it a few years ago. Twenty minutes south of us there is a small holdout organic farm that is sustained by early spring member donations. Each year those who choose to join pay out a lump sum at the beginning of the growing season to provide capitol for the farmers. As soon as plants are ready to harvest we start lining up weekly to reap our bounty.
This ties us into the land and agricultural community in a small and yet powerful way. We make the sacrifice financially with the growers and thus we share the risk with them. If its an amazing season our fridges and freezers and pantries will overflow with the goodness of fresh, locally grown, organic, veggies. If its a bad season for our crops we take the hit along with the farmer. Ben and I found ourselves actually praying for rain for the first time last summer (yes, there were a few Christian rain dances included). It felt so wholesome, from our suburban, apartmented, vantage point, to have a place where our nails could get black with beautiful, rich soil. I know, for those of you out there who actually live on farms this might seem rather pathetic and synthetic, but for those of us who can't for whatever reason right now, this is salvation! Saturdays we drive down and pull weeds with abandon, and chase our lil rascal through the rows of our meals to be; eggplant, zucchini, kohlrabi (no we didn't know what this was either until we joined up!).
And then we return home grateful, souls refreshed, ready for another week bricked into our home, with no soil but that in our potted plants to call our own.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Gratitude Monday week 4: on Wednesday

Sorry for the belated Gratitude day - my whole life has been a bit belated recently - if that makes any sense :)

1. I am so grateful for my husband who never lets me settle into complacent, mediocre living. He challenges me to keep my mind sharp, to live in a manner consistent with my expressed beliefs, and to be excellent in the spheres of life in which I flutter. He is such a wonderful man to walk side by side with through life. (Yes - sometimes I do have to remind myself that its wonderful to be constantly called farther up and further in!)
2-5. I again am grateful for my families proximity, generosity, and helpfulness. This week has been a bad week for cars in our family. An inopportunely bad week. It all started on Monday when I loaded up the car for errands, turned the key, and... Bilbo (our forest green Volvo) wouldn't start. The radio etc worked so I knew it wasn't the battery. From the back I had a concerned little voice pleading "Go, go, gooooo?!" And I had to tell him that our car was "broke". "Boke? Boke?? It" So, I called my mom and cancelled our plans, and she
sent out my dad to try to jump us just in case. So within a few hours my dad came and tried to jump us to no avail. My parents are amazing.
Ben had a business party in the city that I had been planing to drive to that my sweet mama babysat during (4:30-11:30 yikes!) (For those who went to high school with me, it was on the Odyssey. Remember our after Jr/Sr "cruise ship?") So instead I hopped on a train and everything worked out ok. Yesterday they let us borrow a car, and it worked fine all day until I made the unwise decision of running over to check out the house my grandparents were emptying (they run estate sales and sometimes let us treasure hunt) less than 1 1/2 hours before I was supposed to hop on the train for the second night of festivities, this time at the ESPN zone, that my mama was again babysitting during. Right as I turned onto the street where the house was located I heard an awful metallic grating noise. I pulled over, looked under the car, and sure enough, some misc. car part had partially dislodged and was dragging on the ground. "Great! Now I've broken their car too!" So, I called my mom and she came and picked me up in her car, so I could get home in time to freshen up and go downtown. We lingered and talked a bit when all of a sudden my husband called me in a panic bc he had arranged for his wonderful brother to use his AAA to tow our car for free, but I was gone with both sets of keys! "Where was I? Why did I have both sets of keys? Did I think I had time to go to the mechanic with his brother?" By now it was 4 and I had to catch the 4:57 into the city. My wonderful husband had been coordinating things with his brother from afar, and had failed to let me in on the details. So, things were a bit crazy. But, with the help of all of my family, our car got to the shop free of charge, my parents car was fixed sans my help, I was whisked home and prepped in time for my second evening out getting to know Ben's new coworkers, my son was fed and loved, and through all that I came home with bags and bags of beautiful linen tunics, tribal jewelry and rugs, art books, vegetarian cookbooks, vintage toys for lil rascal, a gorgeous sheet set, stationary, Aveda beauty products, perfumes, etc etc etc.
6-9. And the night at the ESPN zone was a blast. We don't make enough of an effort to get out alone together. Since Ben didn't have any clients at the event it was "revert to little kid - fun time." Ben called it "guy heaven" but I thought it was more like a deluxe Chucky Cheese! We walked up the stairs and waitresses were holding trays full of icy drinks. To our left was a long table set up with chefs who would make you burgers to order on the spot and to our right was a room full of lazy boys, 20 television screens, and tables and tables full of more food. (They even had great veggie options -yea!!) Once we had eaten to the point of bursting (mmmmm.... I can still taste the pound cake topped with fresh whipped cream and berries!) we took our unlimited play cards and ran into the game room and skied, kayaked, bmx raced, rode motorcycles and race cars and motor boats, played basketball and had tons and tons of fun just being stupid together. This night also reaffirmed something that I love about his job - a lot of people brought their whole families. It was adorable to watch guys wave running with their pig tailed 10 year olds! I really appreciate the family friendly attitude in his company - at least three of the lead guys have five or more kids - thats not common anywhere anymore, let alone in the world of finance,
The beautiful finale to our evening was a raincoat-less, umbrella-less, run from the train station to our apartment late at night, in the midst of pounding rain. I love being in the middle of rainstorms at night - it makes me feel alive.
10. Today I am just grateful simply for a day OFF. Other than grocery shopping and cleaning house, I have NOTHING on my agenda, so I get to crash for awhile, while my poor husband is plugging away at another day of work. (Although I found out last night that their lunches have been at the Ritz all week bc of their conference, so I don't feel too bad for him!) Plus, tonight my beloved brother comes home from college for a week (although my sweet brother in law leaves tomorrow), and we already have plans to hit the free iced coffee promotional at Dunkin Donuts. PS Did you know that they often give out free munchkins if you bring your kids?

Wow this post is different than most of mine - HA! The ESPN Zone, the Ritz, Dunkin Donuts...
Forgive me, every life needs a bit of variety!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Wellspring of LIFE

"The condition of most men and women seems to me a life in death, an abode in unwhited sepulchres, a possession of withering forms by spirits that slumber, and babble in their dreams.
There is nothing for man worthy to be called life, but the life eternal--God's life, that is, after his degree shared by the man made to be eternal also. For he is in the image of God, intended to partake of the life of the most high, to be alive as He is alive. Of this life the outcome and the light is righteousness, love, grace, truth; but the life itself is a thing that will not be defined: it is a power; the formless cause of form. It has no limits whereby to be defined. It shows itself to the soul that is hungering and thirsting after righteousness, but that soul cannot show it to another, save in the shining of it own light." George MacDonald

Two questions have been swirling through my head for the past few weeks.
The first: What is the best path to goodness? Is it through intentionally choosing to treat others well and hoping that our outward righteousness will seep into and change the pattern of our souls, or through basking in the presence of our Lord and our Healer so that eventually our hearts are so likened to His that we naturally live well and are full of Life?
Though we must always seek obedience, I recognize often the dangers of forcing myself to act righteously when its not in accordance with the attitude of my heart. I risk deep pride issues and hypocrisy. I become pleased with myself that I seek to care for people as Christ taught or that I try to be a good steward of our finances or our ecosystems; but then when I really search my heart I realize that I am not yet good. I am merely acting as if I was good. Neighbors will go home and I will find myself at least inwardly complaining about the waring nature of their visits, or as I spoke of last time, I will find a deal at a thrift store and buy it rationalizing that the money will go to a good cause, its recycling, its creative treasure hunting, whatever, while when I get down to the truth of the event, its just gratuitous, consumptive behavior, needing to buy and own, in order to be happy.

The second: Did God intend for us to live ascetically, set apart like the Desert Fathers, spending all of our energy and time on purifying our souls and coming into right relationship with God in that manner, or does He want us to live our lives deeply rooted in His creation, earthily, getting dirty, making mistakes, but LIVING, and learning in that way to live in harmony with Him and His creation?
As my husband and I have talked about this recently I think that I have worked out a bit of an answer. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. You can be a mystic, constantly drinking from the wellsprings of God's Life, eyes focused on Him, while still having your toes digging into the soil, your arms around your loved ones, your body dancing. You do not have to separate yourself from the world to avoid being "of it." He says to be "in", not "of". This though does not mean that we shouldn't take seriously the need to have our souls refreshed and centered on our life purpose through spending serious time intentionally focused solely on His love, filling our minds with His words. If we truly hunger and thirst for righteousness we must come to the table and eat. I much, much, too often am slack in this area thinking that I can just live with my hands and feet according to His will and maintain my hearts alignment with it also. I have found this to be untrue. I guess this answers my first question also. When I don't renew my soul and its life at the fount of Life, my attempts at good deeds and good living fall hollow. I serve my husband and son, but my soul is grudging and resentful. I feed my neighbors and invite them into my house, but I only have food to share with them, not love or compassion.

For Mother's Day, my husband gave me Madeleine L'Engle's new novel, The Joys of Love. (It was on its way to publication prior to her death and was written in the late 70's. ) In it a character struggles with coming of age as so many of L'Engle's heroines do, but she particularly focuses on learning to have a truly gracious heart.

"Aunt Harriet took me because it was her Christian duty, not because she wanted me. Please, Jane, if you ever see me doing something because it is my Christian duty, stop me."
"You aren't apt to," Jane said, "You're too good a Christian."

I hope that eventually I will come to a place where His life flows out of me so that I live like Him due to the overflow of His love in my heart, and that I too can avoid doing things merely out of "Christian Duty."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Update: the Battle has been won - now on to my battle against the Deal Demon

As I sit in my living room, breathing in the clean, wet smell of drying clothes hung everywhere around me, I am celebrating. Why? Because the battle has been won...

Score: netti pot 1 - sinus infection 0.

Thank you so much to everyone who gave me advice about this. I plan to buy golden seal as soon as possible and have thrown out a lot of not so subtle pleas for my husband to get me some Lavendar and Tea Tree Oil essential oils soon. It is so nice to be able to breathe and smell again, and I am quite proud of myself for not succumbing to antibiotics. (Sorry Emily for suggesting that you needed to last month. I didn't know it was possible without them!)

Through my recent expedition into the world of natural medicine I have learned more and more about my body. It is interesting. Yesterday I felt 100% better, today I'm having a 10% relapse and I know its bc I skipped a day of sinus irrigation and have been sneaking sugar! Oh the delicious evil stuff. I used to think its only danger was for my waist line, now I know its dangerous to my health! My friend Annie just recently wrote a whole post dedicated to sugar the "miracle drug" I think, that cures all grumpy, new mom, ills. I say beware - I've been there- don't become a strung out sugar junkie. (JK - sort of).

While I am on this subject that makes me feel like a decrepit old woman discussing my aches and pains I suppose that I will continue, for the sake of potential advice gained, and tell you that I think I have mild Psoriasis on my knees. My mom has a mild case, and I know its genetic. Oh how terribly itchy and unsightly!! But its receding through my home remedy of apple cider vinegar (dabbed on) and also the occasional baking soda and water paste. I've been almost itch free for 2 days, and the swelling and inflammation are nearly gone, so perhaps my home remedies are working! I just thought that I would share this as you guys had so many wonderful ideas for me last time. Any takers? Advanced cases I've looked at online are sobering, thus, I am trying to pay attention and take it seriously.

PS Another "Works for Me" that I accidentally left off of my last list. I realized a few months ago that my son was wearing holes in his clothes that are my favorites while perfectly good but less exciting options were decaying in the back corners of his closet. Therefore I have devised a new system that, yes, "works for me." As soon as I wash and dry lil rascal's clothes I sort them into outfits on hangers (saves time and space) and put them in at the left side of his closet. Every morning I then simply grab an outfit from the right side, and voila, he is clothed. (I'll make exceptions for special occasions or weather purposes, but otherwise I stick with the system!~)This way his clothes are rotated so none of them feel left out and none of them get overly worn out.
PPS For those of you who know me, I am following more and more in my grandmother's footsteps. Which means, I love thrift store shopping. Its becoming my vice, (that and cookies) so I need to put the kibosh on it. But, I have had a few excellent scores in the past two days, that I have to share -
2 new looking kenneth cole oxford shirts for my husband for 50c each. He's new in the business world for those of you new to my blog, so we're beefing up his work wear options.
1 vintage Neiman Marcus drop waist, v neck and backed, cobalt blue with white trim, sun dress. Also 50c. (As soon as it's over 70 degrees out, I dress almost purely in skirts and dresses. I'm AWKWARD in shorts and tanktops!)
1 retro gap sweater for 50c.
1 apron with wonderful pockets made from traditional Swedish printed fabric for 2.25
1 silk, blue and green batiked, knee length skirt brand new from Neiman Marcus for $5 (this was my splurge, but with all the pleats and gathers I'm sure the fabric alone would have been worth 5 times that, and its one of the most beautiful skirts I've ever seen.)
and finally
1 needed navy blue puma bucket hat for lil guy. (He's a strawberry blond uber fair one who I keep in necessary layers of sunscreen, rash guards (stretchy beach surf shirt), and big hats all summer.) $2
1 pair of blue and yellow Quiksilver board shorts for 1.99 for my lil dude. Now he can be a rock star surfer at the lake this summer.

but that did all add up - over $13 I think, so I'm swearing off those little dens of iniquity - I mean thrift stores - until some real needs come up in my home.

All right, that's all till next time! I look forward to hearing your advice for my aches and pains.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Gratitude Monday Week 3

1. My 5:30 bike ride next to my husband as he ran this morning! I actually wore shorts it was so nice out. (Put "Loving Movement" into my day, check. Fly Lady's new May habit. A good one as we prep for swimsuit season I must say.)
2. Sunday dinners at my parent's house! Delicious food and so good to be with family. I love this weekly tradition.
3. Also, the leftovers my mom packs for Ben's lunches. Yea for kind moms!
4. Rowan's sweet little voice. He's begun to love to sing. (PS For those of you who follow this blog regularly, we figured out where he learned his singing style. The talent show in Little Rascals - hilarious!)
5. The Prairie Path!! It is so nice to be close to such a great trail system that preserves a bit of nature in the midst of the suburbs.
6. The gorgeous weather yesterday for our all Parish (Anglican) picnic! I'm avoiding sugar right now to try and kick my cold (its WORKING, YEA!!!) but I decided that I can partake on Sundays, and someone brought the most delicious chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. Ooh lala, does anyone have a recipe for those?
7. For Free Cycle. What a cool way to share stuff, get to know people around you, declutter your house, and keep perfectly good things out of landfills. Thanks for the tip Emily!
8. The green onion plants we are receiving from our dear friends digging up their yard for an expected move.
9. The fact that God really does love me. Its one I have to remind myself of. It seems the more intentional I am about trying to live well, the more I see all of the sick ugliness in my heart.
10. The movie camera my parents just handed down to us so that we can catch lil rascals craziness on tape for all of time!
For all of these things I thank you Lord...

Simplify to find freedom Part 2

Simplification that "works for me"

Recently I realized that keeping everything tidy and my lil guy out of trouble was harder than it needed to be. Here are a few of the changes I've made to correct that:

1. In my living room I have one couch and one futon that I kept "artistic" and colorful throws and pillows on. But, keeping them straight enough to really look nice and be an overall positive in the room was more work than it was worth. So I removed the throws and even though a stain now shows here and there, I'm happier with this final result. (Esp on the futon as we sleep on it every night so I have to completely remake it every morning!!)
2. Same thing in lil Rascal's bedroom. I used to have his crib made up with a fitted sheet, a folded feather comforter, two soft, furry blankets folded at the head, a pretty sheet folded over the comforter and a quilt hung over the edge, with a few favorite stuffed animals arranged through out. It looked great, but he developed a bad habit of chucking EVERYTHING out of his crib when he was mad about naptime, so I was constantly remaking that bed. I eliminated one of the furry blankets and the top sheet, and its much easier to make.
3. I kept getting frustrated bc I would clean his room and then as soon as I had left him playing for 10 minutes while I finished up dinner or something I would return to find EVERY toy he owned strewn about. So, now I put half of his toys up high in the closet, and the other half in his cabinet behind locked doors. I also got rid of all his little toys that he no longer played with. Now, he has to ask for a toy before he plays with it. I'm a bit more sane and I've heard that that is better for a child's development bc it forces them to really focus on one challenge at a time and increases the chances that they'll really pound away at it until they figure it out, rather than just throwing it down and moving on to the next toy.
4. I got sick of telling him not to touch cords and outlets and the computer and printer etc etc. So... I rearranged. Each morning I put away the phone charger (oh yes the brilliance is astounding, I know.) I moved the computer and printer onto a high shelf and off of its precarious perch on stacked suitcases. Now their cords are safely tucked away. Ben got rid of his record player that we had to always keep lil rascal from drumming on (though we only listened to it quarterly I think. We loved the idea, but it was too fragile to listen to with a toddler around and too loud to listen to while he was asleep! Catch 22. ) It made a good present for a friend.
5. We now stash the kitchen chairs in the bathroom so we don't have to constantly pull our boy off the table and clean up his salt and pepper sand castles. I also joined Free Cycle and scored a three tiered metal hanging fruit basket for the kitchen. No more bruised apples and pears as I try to convince the lil one that they're NOT balls. That seems to be a hard one to catch on to.
6. I'm also trying to weed out the clothes we don't wear / need. Limits the size potential of our clothing piles!
7. Here's one you might think is gross. But, I've been thinking, every load of laundry I do here costs me $1 (and that's with line drying) otherwise it would be $2. It also wears out the clothes, and uses lots of water, soap, and energy. (Not to mention my time and energy as I wash, and sort and fold!) So, I'm trying to be more discriminating about what goes in the laundry bags. "Is it really dirty, or did I/they just not feel like hanging it back up?" That's really the main question we ask. I'm a firm believer that showers don't need to be taken every day, and that clothes don't need to be washed after every wear! :)
***** Ok, these two are my next ideas to implement****
8. Every night we put lil boy down and then hang out for a couple of hours before we get ready for bed. That means that our clothes get dropped in the living room instead of hung up (our closet is in his room), and I have a pile to put away each morning, that I may or may not get to. Yes, sometimes that pile becomes a monster that starts to take over. So I'm going to try to talk Ben into changing into his night stuff with me before we put lil rascal down, and ... putting our clothes away.
9. I'm also toying with the idea of finding old wooden framed windows, putting hinges on them, and putting them on our book shelves stacked two high. Then I'll put latches on the other side. (Does that make sense? They would be like window doors and would keep the little one from climbing adventures and pulling all the books off the shelves day after day after day...)

Why did I share these often common sense ideas? Because I figured that I am probably not the only mom who occasionally gets so brain dead that I can't think of creative solutions to solve simple household problems. Then I waste so much energy chasing the boy, getting mad at the boy, feeling bad about getting mad about the boy, cleaning up after his escapades etc... You get the point.

OK what are your ideas in this realm? Please do share...

Friday, May 2, 2008

PS An Update on the Sinuses

PS Update on my sinus battle...
Day 3
not much better - not worse...
I feel way better after using the Netti Pot (water and salt), but its only a temporary fix. (Does anyone know how many times a day its safe to use it?)
This morning I was so clogged that I couldn't use it until an hour after my Mucinex. The water would just go up and.... stop. It never came out the other side. Lil Rascal has started imitating me. He will tip his head to the side, stick a finger (which I believe represents the pot) up his nose, and go mmm mmmm. Ahl done! I need to be so careful about what I do in front of him!

Oh... idiocy confession on my part... I used the term homeopathic thinking it meant any sort of self treatment with mostly natural products... I was a bit off.
plus I am using Mucinex.

I think I'm going to have to boost my strategy (currently ginger/lemon/honey from scratch tea 2-3 x daily, netti pot morning and night, mucinex a few times a day, and garlic garlic garlic in my food, but not between my toes!)
I think I might use some of your suggestions. (Fancy that?) Thanks for them!

ALSO... last nights first dinner with neighbors went well. We invited an African American family over from downstairs (2 middle school girls and one mom with MS). Ben and I recognized at least three area that we need to pray about, we need to grow in:
1. Normally we make friends with people who share some commonality with us. How can we befriend people very different from us in a genuine way so that we don't view them as charity cases?
2. Cross cultural communication can be very difficult when communication styles are different. Their style seemed to be more of taking turns telling long stories when we are used to dialoguing. It was hard to know how to further conversation and engage everyone.
3. I realized that right now I might be trying to do things that the ideal me would do, but that I am not yet the ideal me. Its not from an overflow of the heart. Its from an act of stubborn decision. "This is the right way to live. This is how I will live." I need more love.
Please pray for us as we continue these weekly dinners with various neighbors.

PS Does any one know a good place to buy essential oils? Thanks!

Fun, cheap, natural

For those of you who have asked, here are some of the recipes I've been using for natural home and body products:

I have all the ingredients for the household cleaners, but have not needed to use them much yet b/c I am still finishing up the expensive but delightful Mrs. Meyers products I got with a gift certificate still left from my wedding two years ago. (We bought them 3 or 4 months ago. As a plug for them they are natural and have nice gentle scents like, geranium, lemon verbena, and lavendar.)
The ingredients I have for the cleaners are:
Baking soda - (Used it today with a bit of peroxide on a sponge to scrub the tub. It worked great and the best part was that since it was all natural and gentle I was able to scrub the tub with my baby in it!- *If anyone knows a reason why that was a bad idea please let me know.)
Borax (found in the laundry aisle of most major supermarkets) - around $3 Its a laundry booster and great disinfectant. Mix 1/2 c. borax w/ 1 gallon hot water and your favorite fresh herbs, strain after 10 min if you want. Store in a spray bottle and use as a disinfectant spray.
White Vinegar - I use it most often with baking soda to dump down my drains, followed in a few minutes by a pot of boiling water - helps unclog and freshen them. Its also a great glass cleaner.
Castile Soap (I got Dr. Bronners online 32oz for $8 at IHerb I think, but I think something like Murphy's would work and be cheaper.) - this can be used for anything - dishes, skin, deodorant, floor soap etc. Its supposed to be even gentle enough to be used as a baby soap! (I'm not sure if its safe for eyes though so watch that.)Its super concentrated so almost always dilute it. Mix it with baking soda or borax and lots of water to mop your floors.
Lemon juice - Can be combined with hot water and lemon juice in a spray bottle as an air freshener.
Hydrogen Peroxide -

They suggest using essential oils to scent them, but that starts making them pricy...
(I got almost all of my ideas from a funky website (that I can't promise is legit in any way, but I like what I've tried) called Loretta's place. Not super professional but it has "worked for me!" It has tons more recipes so go there to continue learning.)

For skin care my mom found these sweet little apothecary bottles at a thrift store, disinfected them and gave them to me, so my concoctions are oh so pretty and it makes all of this more fun.

In the mornings I use either an apple cider vinegar "balancer" or a lemon juice witch hazel combo.
Apple cider is 9 parts water to every 1 part vinegar.
1/2 c lemon juice, to 1 cup water, to 2/3 cup witch hazel.
Store and apply with a cotton pad.

Then I moisturize with organic coconut oil. Strange I know, but my old roomate did it and it worked wonders for her skin and made her glow and smell yummy all the time so i've been dying to do it. I can't vouch for this one for my skin yet bc I just started using it. I also have slight concerns that it will make me fry in the sun. Even at pricey whole foods you can get 15 oz for 7.99, and you only need a tiny bit each time. Don't go overboard or you will look like a grease monkey!

At night I clean my face with... sesame seed oil. Ben laughs that I smell like food, but he likes it whenever I do anything funky like that. Rub it on with a cotton pad and wash it off with a hot, wet, wash cloth. Follow with one of the toner options. I'm currently spoiled bc my mom shared a gift certificate with me to the lovely L'Occitane store and I am using their almond apple creme at night and their olive something eye treatment. Bye bye dark circles and those faint hints of beginning wrinkles! But, alas, I'll never buy them again bc they are uber expensive. (Also, if you ever find yourself with a gift card to a place that sells Origin products, their "have a nice day" cream is the best I've ever used.)

If I have a blemish I put a bit of straight lemon juice on it and it disappears overnight.
For blackheads make a mask of oats, honey, and a bit of hot water and leave on for 10 minutes. I've thought it was better than Biore Strips.

I've also been brushing my teeth with hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. No, it doesn't taste great, but it costs pennies, is natural, and my teeth feel smoother and cleaner than with normal toothpaste.

All right, well that's all for now. I hope that answers your questions. But please remember with the skin products how different every one's skin is, so even if it works for me it might not for you.

PS Mom, if you got this far, I finally gave lil boy his first real haircut, sides and back.
And, he adopted a candle stick and ran around our apt singing, bobebobe baaaaaaahhhhh!!! At the baaaaah! portion he would throw his arms open and sing to the sky. Where does he get this when we don't have a TV? Worship at church? Anyways, super funny!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Reading to my 19 month old/ Universe-Disturbers

I try to read to my lil rascal as much as possible since I credit anything positive going on in my brain and IQ to the great books I heard growing up.
At breakfast I read to him from a Madeleine L'Engle devotional called Glimpses of Grace.
And currently during his wind down times before naps and "night, night" I read him Farmer Boy, the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder's husband's childhood. In the past we've read The Silver Chair, The Princess and the Goblin, Tolkien children's stories (sadly he didn't like the Hobbit yet) and Dance in the Desert by Madeleine L'Engle just to name a few. I know, I know, he's only 19 months old. Perhaps I should be reading him picture books, but he asks for these. "Buhk? Mo buhk puhleeez."
Here is an excerpt from today's L'Engle breakfast reading.
"Jesus was a great universe disturber, so upsetting to the establishment of his day that they put him on a cross, hoping to finish him off. Those of us who try to follow His Way have a choice, either to go with Him as universe disturbers (butterflies), or to play it safe. Playing it safe ultimately leads to personal diminishment and death. If we play it safe, we resist change. Well. We all resist change, beginning as small children with our unvarying bedtime routine, continuing all through our lives. The static condition may seem like security. But, if we cannot move with change, willingly, or reluctantly, we are closer to death and further from life."

This idea keeps coming up with Ben and I. How can we live it out? How can we integrate it into our lives? Even though we see it riddled throughout Scripture it rubs Ben the wrong way. He is so heavily trained in medieval philosophy that many of his fundamental values are based on temperance and balance. But Christ seems to upset that and call for radical life. His life was not at all temperate and balanced. If we are to follow His way the world will hate us. If we are lukewarm He will spit us from His mouth.

(quote continues)
"If we disturb the universe, no matter how lovingly, we're likely to get hurt. Nobody ever promised that universe disturbers would have an easy time of it. Universe disturbers make waves, rock boats, upset establishments. Gandhi upset the great British Empire. Despite his non-violence, he was unable to stop the shedding of blood, and he ended with a bullet through his heart. "

How do we live that life from our suburb? How do I live that as a mom who has that deep maternal instinct to protect my family. Any takers on this one?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My battle with the sinus monster Part 1

So I have a sinus infection... I think. Why am I divulging this bit of information? Because I have decided to forego professional treatment and have a go at it homeopathically, and I want your advice. I used to get these pretty regularly and would always eventually just sign up for the antibiotic. It worked well for me, but I've been hearing a lot about super virus strains recently and don't want to contribute. Plus, I now have a copay on both Dr visits and meds that I would like to avoid.
After a bit of Internet research I hit the store today and got a Netti pot... oh joy... water up the nose.
I'm also avoiding sugar and dairy, drinking ginger lemon tea, sleeping my 7-8 hours, and engaging responsibly in garlic consumption.
There was a lot of advice to juice garlic, smear it on your feet, put cloves between your toes...
I'm just eating it minced in salads and stir frys.
Do you guys have any advice for me? I'm willing to try crazy non-uber-stinky stuff...
I will chronicle my battle with the sinus monster here publicly so as to discover whether or not it is possible to kill one of these things without antibiotics - here goes!


Wendell Berry speaks about environmental and societal problems, rebuking us for not taking personal responsibility for the care of our land and communities.

"The danger, in other words, is that people will think they have made a sufficient change if they have altered their "values," or had a "change of heart," or experienced a "spiritual awakening," and that such a change in passive consumers will necessarily cause appropriate changes in the public experts, politicians, and corporate executives... The trouble with this is that a proper concern for nature and our use of nature must be practiced, not by our proxy-holders, but by ourselves. A change of heart, or of values, without a practice is only another pointless luxury of a passively consumptive way of life. The "environmental crisis," in fact, can be solved only if people, individually and in their communities, recover responsibility... We have an "environmental crisis" because we have consented to an economy in which by, eating, drinking, working, resting, traveling, and enjoying ourselves we are destroying the natural, the God-given, world."

How often have I been the one who thought I had made a "sufficient change" because I cared about an abstract "environmentalism." In college in CA I was an "active" (attending) member of the environmental club. I spoke passionately about how we needed to care for our earth. Then one day when I had moved back to the Midwest it hit me. I didn't even recycle. (I actually don't right now either, I've been a bit disillusioned by it.) So, I began packing up all of my recycling from my cabin 15 minutes from my campus and sorting it into their recycling bins. Just that small step made me feel a bit more legitimate deep in my soul. Imagine how appalled I was the day the expose came out in our college paper that the college didn't actually recycle! Everything was put in the same dumpster.
But, Mr. Berry's point goes further than that. He calls us as a community to become less dependent on people we can't touch for our lives. He wants us to make and grow as much as we can and then buy the rest from locals. He wants us to take our elderly into our homes rather than putting them in impersonal state-run homes, to care for our neighbor's children rather than having them go to day care, even in organizing local entertainment rather than going to a movie theater. Through this he believes that real healing will come not only to our land, but also to our relationships and souls.

For me today this means that I am baking my own bread and line drying my families clothes. How does it look for you? (I know cheesy question to elicit reader response, but I truly am curious! I'm always looking for new ideas.)
to be continued...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

true enjoyment of life.

"To enjoy a thing exclusively is commonly to exclude yourself from the true enjoyment of it." Thoreau

My husband and I are returning to a habit we began in Norway of reading aloud to eachother in the evenings. (While there we read the whole of the Lord of the Rings together. I know, we're a bit nerdy.) Last night we began Thoreau's essay entitled "Walking" that contained this quote. It convicts! This morning we read a corresponding passage in Mark. It spoke of the young rich man who obeyed the Judaic Law perfectly but could not bring himself to give all he had to the poor and follow Christ. My husband and I got into a discussion as to whether that is a universal and literal prescription for mankind; that we are to own nothing, and leave all to enter the kingdom, or whether it spoke to a mindset he had about possessions.

To enjoy a thing exclusively is to exclude yourself from the true enjoyment of it.
If you cannot leave all and follow me you will never enter the kingdom of God.

I do not believe that when Christ speaks of the kingdom of God that He is only referring to our after life experiences. I think His kingdom is also something to be entered into here on earth. It is fullness of life and joy. It is the beginning of the redemption of His broken people and land. His laws and teachings all guide us into that life eternal. He says it is hard for a rich man to enter into that kingdom. Relative to global situation we are wildly rich. Should we give away everything and find work with the poor as we intended? Or can we enter into that kingdom if we have hearts that value people over our possessions?

This question is intimately pertinent for us right now as my husband recently began a job in the world of investment banking. *See my post "My Story" for that strange tale. If Christ was speaking of his heart, then we can obey Him fully by having a house (someday) if we have an open doors policy and share empty beds with those emotionally and economically in need. We can make money if we give it away. Basically if we follow the principles from the Beatitudes that if we have two of something and see someone in need we ought to share, and to give to all who ask of us,then perhaps we can live obediently.

What have your experiences been as you have wrestled with these sorts of questions? I would love to hear your stories.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Thanksgiving 2

Proverbs 10:21 The lips of the righteous nourish many,
but fools die for lack of judgment.

The lips of the righteous use many different mediums to nourish -
internet, books, music, paintings...

Today I am grateful for these lips:

1.Marc Chagall - whose incredible paintings and stained glass inspire new worship in my soul, and inspired my husband and I's first kiss!
2. The blog "A Holy Experience". The author of this blog inspires me through simple and poetic words to see and listen for my Lord in every nook and cranny of everyday life. For her I am thankful.
3. William McDonough & Michael Braungart who wrote Cradle to Cradle, a great book that teaches us how to better care for our earth.
4. Derek Webb - this musical artist who was once a member of the popular group Caedmon's Call, has a prophetic voice that cuts to the heart of my faith and helps to radicalize and reform it.
5. The blog "A Fruitful Vine" that chronicles the story of a woman in my church whose husband is battling cancer. Its honesty and hope refresh me, while its raw pain brings me to tears. It reminds me of how precious my loved ones are and what a gift life and family are.
6. Laura Ingalls Wilder's beautiful Little House series is teaching me day by day about homes in the past, as I read Farmer Boy to my son. I love learning about how they filled their lives with such necessary and fulfilling work, even in their "leisure time" knitting and whittling. Wholesome.
7. The lips of my son, that give such sweet kisses that nourish my mother's heart.

Other things I am thankful for today:
8. The rain! Nourish, nourish, the little seedlings growing at my CSA. We are busy counting down the days until mid June when we start to receive weekly baskets of fresh and delicious, locally grown, organic vegetables. (Look into joining a CSA this summer. We LOVE ours.)
9. Our dear friends Jill and Alec who might be leaving us this summer for him to further his education. We mourn the fact that they might leave this area soon, but are grateful for their friendship and the opportunities they have for first rate education.
10. And my two wonderful grandma's who had birthdays last week!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Love thy neighbor as thyself.

If you have ever read the little blurb on my profile you will know that I am an idealist struggling to live out my values. I am terribly excited to be a wife and mother. Its funny, my husband keeps on looking at me and asking "When are you going to snap? I think of you as my splatter paint personalitied, hippy wife but now you have a Fly Lady journal, you keep the house clean and you're content to be a stay at home mom!" I realized today that being a stay at home mom in today's culture seems like the hippy thing to me! In today's women's lib culture this way of life is RADICAL, COUNTER CULTURAL, and something deep in me rejoices. I feel in a tiny way that I am connecting to the strong, adventurous women of our countries pioneering past who had to grow their own food, can things, sew their clothes, make their cleaning supplies, make all of their food from scratch, live on a dime. They all worked, and worked hard, but they weren't usually working outside of the home. Today so many people think of a stay at home mom either as an unintelligent, unmotivated, and unsophisticated mess, OR, as a snooty, country clubbing, latte drinking, (perhaps even husband hopping?) spoiled human being who contributes in no way to society. But, once someone has committed to many of the ideals espoused on my blog and others similar (natural living, healthy eating, frugality, simplicity, generosity, etc.) neither of those remain options. In reality this community of stay at home moms tend to be empowered and informed, creative, industrious and compassionate women.
Wooohhh... ok, time to get off my soap box. Sorry.
I love being a stay at home mom, but I don't want to become insular, ignoring my "neighbor" in need because I am so engrossed in my own family. Recently I applied to volunteer with a local ministry to refugees but something got stuck in the wheel and the process moved very slowly. In that time it hit me that my "neighbor" in need, can be my ... drum roll please... neighbor! Who of us live in places where no one around us could use help financially or emotionally or in some other way? Why don't we start by caring for those directly around us? I'm not saying that we should only do that as I am aware that there are some people in the world who probably would not end up getting cared for properly in that system since some whole countries are in deep need. But still, it is a good place to start.
Since my husband and I have chosen to keep our housing costs as low as possible right now we are in an apartment building where many of the people are below the poverty line and on some sort of government assistance. We realized that when our next door neighbor generously offered to take us to all the local food pantries etc. obviously assuming that we would need it. She taught us about generosity by giving us all of her son's outgrown clothes. I recognized some ugly pride in myself when it was very hard to accept them from her. A little voice in me wanted to shout, "No, I'm WELL OFF, I'm choosing this life right now, it hasn't been forced on me. I should help you, not the other way around!" That moment humbled me as I realized how far I still need to go in becoming a true servant (quite, quite, far really, just ask my husband, or my son once he learns to speak in sentences!) I have in turn had many chances to return her kindness; filling up a gas tank for her when they were out of money in between pay days, taking her son to school when their car was broken or she was out of town helping a friend who was having custody problems with her child, and trying in my broken and stumbling way to explain to her that Christ was the reason for my actions. I have no idea if she was able to understand me, or if she cared, but I am glad that I said it. Especially now that she was just arrested for drug use (turned in by her husband) and her kids were taken away. We don't really understand whats going on there, but need to figure out how to help.
Our informer was another neighbor we have recently met. A round little African American girl who showed up at my door the other day to borrow some milk to make her macaroni. She then asked "If it wasn't too much trouble could she come in and look around?" and then "My mom doesn't get her government check until the end of the week. Could I have some change to go across the street and get some snacks from the vending machine for school tomorrow?" I gave her the change but then asked her if she couldn't possibly get something healthier for her snack. She said, "Well, I get chips, they're healthy right?" When I shook my head she asked, "Should I get HoneyBuns? Would they be healthier?" I sighed and smiled and doled out some of our precious fruit for her snack. I then made a decision. I asked her if she would like to come over a few times a week to help out a bit with my chores and watching my son in exchange for healthy snacks, ( I thought it might be good for her character and her pride to have to work a bit for her food.) She's lonely and jumped at the chance and we have now been doing that every day this week. Yesterday she helped me make soup for dinner (she loves to cook) and took out my trash. In return she got two clementines and celery sticks with all natural peanut butter. Her mom also stopped by during the day for some cinnamon so I got to talk to her for about half an hour after giving her our extra jars of spices that we were given by my grandparents. She talked about her church downtown and her desire to have her daughter take music lessons. She ranted about her ex-husband who wasn't sending child support and the government who only sent $224 in food stamps every month. She wondered if I could take her daughter to her saxophone lessons across town once a week.
All of this has led me to ask more questions and work through more heart issues. The hard thing about giving to neighbors is that you can't "leave them at the door" like you could with other ministries. You go home to them every night. They can knock on your door and ask for more at any time. I am learning to give more, but I am also learning boundaries. Yes, if I have two of something and you are in need I will give my extra. (But, why is she in need when we make do with a $160 monthly food budget (and that's with a 25% increase in the past few months), and she gets $65 more dollars a month for a family the same size?) Yes, you are lonely. You can come spend time with us in the afternoons and "help out." But, no, you can't stay all afternoon, we need some alone time. And yes I do now lock my doors since I know people around me know we have a MacBook etc, when before I didn't lock them. Is that wrong? should I trust more?
I don't know.
I am sorry that this was such a long post, but I have a lot going through my head that I wanted to share. Does anyone have any advice for me? I know Christ says I am to "Love my neighbor as myself." So pray for me as I dive into figuring out what that looks like!
And, I will keep sharing esp. as we begin our Thursday night neighbor dinners where we hope to get to know a new neighbor or two every week!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Simplify to find freedom

(This is adapted from a comment I left on Money Saving Moms blog about simplifying.)

After reading ideas on blogs recently about CVS and coupons I have felt a rush of adrenaline - "oh fun! what a challenge! what a way to save money with grocery prices rising so quickly." But then I talked to my husband and realized that we not only try to keep things simple financially and clutterwise in our home, we also try to keep our lives simple in general. Bargain shopping for me I think would become something to just clutter up my time and mind.
The way that I have found useful to save money is in simplifying our home. Our monthly costs are low bc we live in an inexpensive apt, keep lights off during all but the gloomiest days, don't own a microwave (saves on electric), we dont have clocks (again saves on electric and changes perspective too!), we only have cell phones no land lines, we also dont have a tv which saves electricity, the intial cost of purchase, hours of mindless entertainment, and the extra costs of things like cable etc. When we do watch movies its on our Macbook (a splurge for Ben's grad school and work) that are borrowed from the library that we walk to down the street, and we are very careful to return them on time so the fines don't start adding up.
A way we have found to save money in the kitchen is by not buying meat, I am a vegetarian and my husband only eats meat served to him outside of the home. We don't replace meat with expensive fancy veg options, we just eats lots of vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
I hate the cheap chemically options of things so I have started making my own cleaning supplies, skin care prod and toothpaste out of simple things like hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and lemon juice and I have to say my skin is actually glowing through this pennies and dimes treatment!
We only buy clothes from thrift stores (and i'm trying to only get them when we need them after a recent pep talk from my husband!). We try to mend broken things rather than replacing them, have one car that we try to use as little as possible and instead get exercise from walking and biking. This all has enabled us to live on my husband's start up salary while letting me stay at home with my son while we pay off school loans. I never feel deprived by any of these choices. Start paring down and you'll be surprised by how little you miss and how much you enjoy your new freedom. Plus its fun and empowering to learn to make things from scratch!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The art of informal hospitality PART 1

My husband and I both find deep satisfaction in inviting people into our homes and creating for them a sense of community and loving family. We meet deeply in that common joy and therefore I want to chronicle our stumbling attempts; give advice where I have it, and seek in turn to learn your stories and wisdom in this matter.

When my husband and I moved into our first apartment after returning from our summer-long excursion backpacking Europe two and a half years ago we were hungry for community. As we had never had the blessing of having friends who were also married (or even dating!) we were absolutely delighted to begin forming a friendship with the couple in the apartment across from ours. I had known Emily for most of my life since our moms had been roomates at Wheaton but we had only interacted during occasional reunions esp after Emily's family moved to Alaska. Our paths crossed again at Wheaton college but we lived separate lives where in her words we were only "hi" friends. But, all of a sudden we had all of this shared experience to bond over; both newlyweds married a day apart, childhood friends, parents with history, same college, etc etc. We loved those first awkward dinners and game nights where we strove to dive into relationship. We were both so hungry for couple friends. Then Ben began to invite other young couples from our complex to join us for dinner once a week. After our initial shyness wore off joy abounded. All of a sudden 6 couples had a community where before they had been aliens in a new land!
We finally had those neighbors we could pop over to to borrow a cup of sugar, or a movie, or invite to an impromptu picnic in the courtyard. We shared life together; them watching me as my stomach grew to the size of a barn during those sweltering August days. Them surrounding us and sending dinners and cookies and free babysitting as we adjusted to the 9 lb 7 ozs of screaming new life in our home. We discussed theology and ancient languages; hermeneutics and philosophy in the common context of grad school. We learned the art of squeezing 12 people into a small apartment and cooking a big, healthy and inexpensive meal without getting stressed out. We had SO much fun that year, learning to live life together.

All it took was the initial awkwardness of stopping someone in the hall or on a sidewalk, getting to know them, and inviting them into our home. I challenge you to enrich your lives by practicing the spiritual discipline of hospitality.

to be cont...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


The beautiful, and sometimes frustrating thing about life, is that we always have more to learn. The more we peel away of our ugliness and our selfishness the more we see its ugly heart and how many layers are left to remove.
And yet God is patient with us as we dig deeper and He provides us often with beautiful soundtracks to our lives and our work. Right now beyond the clicking of the keyboard, I hear my toddler fighting off his nap by talking to his stuffed animals, and I smile. In the kitchen is the sound of my lentil stew boiling. It fills our house with delicious scent that is making my stomach rumble. It will be my lunch for the week. Outside cars engines are revving and I celebrate the fact that I do not have to leave yet. I am at home with my son. Again birds are tweeting and chirping, new babes calling out for food, moms gossiping through the trees as we call to eachother through the internet.
But, back to what I have to learn in the midst of these blessings given by a patient God...
I am realizing that I need to better use my time. As I have begun to so appreciate the blogs that people have shared with me, I have allowed myself to spend too much time sitting and soaking these things in. Yes, I am mostly getting my household chores done, but there is other maintenance necessary, that of my soul, and my mind, and my body.
As my little one still blesses me by napping, I need to take full advantage of that time to GROW. I have been learning to get my cleaning done while he is awake by letting him be my shadow and my apprentice. He loves it. Yesterday we swept together, he held the pan and I the broom. We scrubbed the floors together, he splashed and rubbed, I scrubbed. We did the dishes together. We vacuumed together, him with his Littly tykes vacuum, I with the real one. We did the laundry together, I pulling out things from the washer, and him throwing it into the dryer.
My mom sent me a great article on child rearing and one of the things that most stuck out to me was that we shouldn't do all of our chores and then spend a bit of time playing with our kids. We should include them as much as possible in EVERY area of our life to mentor them, so they learn, and grow.
All this has meant for me that I now have the gift of very free time during his two naptimes. And I shouldn't just plop down and scroll through the internet, or pop in a movie. I need to read challenging material to keep me informed and my mind sharp. I need to exercise to make my body strong. And, I need most importantly to really set aside time to pray and dive into Scriptures. Even the wisest and most spiritual blogs can't replace that :)
So, yes. Hold me accountable to that. Ask how I am doing. I want to use my time well.
But... today it seems that my son isn't going to give me the gift of a nap as he is in there now hollering out "mama!down down oh please please." Now that he's learning to talk its so much harder to be strict about his naps! Well, goodbye until tomorrow then.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Count your blessings day... or something like that

I have decided to make every Monday both on my blog and in my life a day of Gratitude (inspired by the blog, A Holy Experience. ) I chose Monday b/c so often it can be a day we dread. It might mean five more days of school until I get to another weekend. Or, five more days of work at a job you're not crazy about, or five more days with your husband gone at his work all day. No matter what your circumstance, I though Mondays might be days where we needed to be reminded of all the good in our lives and all we have to be thankful for.
Therefore, every Monday I am going to post 10 specific things that I am thankful for.
Here goes...
As I sit in my one bedroom apartment I am thankful...
1.) That we found this place so quickly upon our return from Norway for about the same price as our old apt. and that it has so much more space than our old apartment (good esp. with our toddler and for entertaining) but is still in walking distance from everything.
2.) Also, that it is run by our old landlord who is extremely lenient about everything which means that we painted our living room wall "Courtyard green" a bright and rich evergreen color, with a white Aragorn tree on it. Beautiful...
3.) After 3 months kept indoors by the cold Illinois weather, that it is 74 degrees outside and birds are chirping and the sun is shining welcoming spring ! (which means parks and hikes and picnics and flowers and animals etc!!)
4.) Speaking of birds I am so grateful that my son is learning to talk so much now (bird being one of his latest words. He likes watching them through the window). His 50 odd words (I counted the other day for his baby book) have alleviated so much of his frustration and enabled him to communicate very well.
5.) Looking across the room from where I sit I see a beautiful asian style quilt that my father's mother made for my birthday. I am so grateful for the artists in my genetic line that have infused me with just a bit of their genes. It helps me to create and see the world in a richer way.
6.) I recently attended a MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) gathering at the church of the lady I babysit for. While there we painted pots and were given seeds and soil to plant them in. I have been like a child every day going over at least twice to see the miracle of new life pushing through the soil and bending toward the sun. It is amazing watching things that were once just small seeds turning into LIFE, vibrant green first and then a glory of color and style. I can't wait to see how the flowers turn out and to begin smelling my basil and cilantro. I am SO thankful that God wrote this beauty into creation.
7.) As my head continues to swivel around the room I spot my bookshelves that are bursting at the seams and I see titles and names of authors that have shaped me in such deep and lasting ways that I am greatly in debt to them. These include George MacDonald, Madeleine L'Engle, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and on and on. Hmmm... perhaps they will become topics of some of my postings this week!
8.) My feet right now are propped up on an antique trunk that my mothers father (my "mor far" in Norwegian) found for me. My grandparents are some of the most generous people I know and they have found great fun in running estate sales in their retirement days from which we constantly receive treasures. Their example of love and charity deeply bless me.
9.) While on the topic of family I will delight in the fact that I am currently living so close to mom's entire family. We are surrounded by local love and get to share meals with parents and grandparents and aunt and uncles and cousins weekly. This I think is increasingly rare as people choose their home spot based on its location or job possibilites rather than family. Perhaps we will follow that example someday and move into the mountains or by the sea, but for now being wrapped in the love of family has enriched our lives amazingly.
10.) And finally I guess I will say that I am thankful for blogs! There are parts of the technological age we are in that I feel cheapen life, and alienate and ostracize people from real relationship. But, the blogs that I have interacted with surround me with such a great cloud of witness and give me a direct link into the hearts and minds of people (esp. women) who are following the same road as I. They share wisdom and wit and encourage me to dive more deeply into the love of Christ and hold me accountable to continuing to grow more into His likeness.
For all these things I thank you God

Saturday, April 19, 2008


As I briefly mentioned in my first post I went through a valley a few years ago that most have to travel through at some point of their lives. I had a broken heart from a relationship that had turned sour, and a church that I had become deeply disillusioned with. Sometimes I worried I might be losing my faith, and with the loss of that I would have been lost indeed. I learned the depth of His meaning to me in the tears I cried. He brought me through my specific valley and taught me even more to trust His promises that he knew the plans He had for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
This song by Bebo Normal both articulated the state of my heart and helped to mend it. I hope it is an encouragement to any of you who might be going through valleys of your own.


Sometimes when I'm all alone
I don't know if I can
Take another breath
Some say home is where the heart is
Tell me where my home is
'Cause i'm scared to death

Falling from the rooftop
Crashing like a raindrop
Can you make my heart stop
Shaking like a leaf
Standing at the floodgate
Steady as an earthquake
Can you hear my heart break
Tearing at the seams

I am drifting in the deep end
Holding on to your hand
Is all that saves me now
Life can treat you like a beggar
You hold me together
But I don't know how

Falling from the rooftop
Crashing like a raindrop
Can you make my heart stop
Shaking like a leaf
Standing at the floodgate
Steady as an earthquake
Can you hear my heart break
Tearing at the seams

Some say home is where the heart is
And my heart is in your hands
You are all I need

Rising from the ashes
Lifting from the madness
Now you see my heart is
Deep enough to dream
Heal me from the deathblow
Lead and I will follow
Now you feel my heart glow
Mending at the seams

Friday, April 18, 2008

Learning to contribute

As I have mentioned I have recently started following the Fly Lady system which I highly recommend. It has really helped me establish routines in my day to make me more productive. Its interesting that the more i've done in my home the more empowered i've felt to do more! I have been feeling guilty that my husband works such long hours while I get to be at home enjoying my son. Now that i've started taking better care of the house and working more throughout the day part of that guilt has become unnecessary.
But I have still wanted to contribute more financially than I have been.
So, I've done two things...
1. Beginning already a rather thrifty person (by choice not nature ha!) I have begun looking for even more ways to SAVE money. I went to the library and checked out some Tightwad Gazette books to help myself get ideas and more importantly get in the right mindset.
a. Whenever we need something now I am trying to have my first thought be "how I can I make or get that for
free?" What do I already have that would substitute for it. Who could I borrow that from? Or
where could I find something that could work instead? We are too often in the habit of
rushing out and buying things as our consumeristic "right and ritual." We think that if its on
sale that we've been good stewards of our money.
b. This has actually been a fun challenge that has unleashed my creativity. When I think of
throwing away a pair of old stretched out, or uninteresting pants I now try to come up with
ways that I could simply update them. When we began running out of kitchen soaps, and
body wash I went online to find out how to make natural versions out of simple ingredients.
2. I have also started looking for small ways to make money.
a.My son and I babysit a local family with two girls 2-3 times a week which has worked really
well for us as its a way to make money without leaving my son, and we get out of the house in
a way that lets him play with other kids.
b. As i've been decluttering my home i've realized how many books we have that we will
never read or even need to lend out again. So, today I put them all up for sale at If
all eleven sell we will have around $250 coming in! (Two of them were old textbooks.)
c. I love thrift store shopping. I recently found a Michael Kors tunic new with tags for $4. I
checked and I could easily sell it on ebay for 5 times as much. Or, I might send it to my
grandma for her birthday, she loves his clothes! (Yep, my dad's mom has cute, funky, style.)
d. Finally, I have tons of ideas for things I want to make and sell somewhere like if I
ever get up the nerve. One of them is a spin off of the Fly Ladies office in a bag. it's a great
idea but hers just kindof looks like a binder cover. I want to make one that looks like a cool,
vintage, messenger bag, but still has all of the pockets necessary to hold note cards, pens,
your journal, paper, a calculator, phone, post it notes, etc. etc. I have started doing this with
my beautiful messenger style, multi pocketed diaper bag that my dad got me for my birthday
from Moveable Feast in Geneva. Now, whenever i'm stuck in a waiting room or as a
passenger on a car ride I can just whip it out and write Thank you notes or letters that I
normally would never get around to. My mom just called to tell me that her parents had
received a card I wrote in a spare moment and were so touched they were nearly in tears. All
it did was put down in words how I feel about them and what i'm grateful for about them. But
if I hadn't had those cards with me I probably would never have thought to write it.

Well thats all for now but this is probably a topic I will be revisiting quite often as I come up with new ideas of ways to save and make money. Please send me any ideas you have had!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A verse for my day

Pro 14:1 Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Being a blessing

When I first got married I had the humbling realization that I wasn't going to have a happy, healthy marriage, and be constantly adored just on the merit of my charming personality. I needed to learn to be a contributing member to our home and our partnership. This especially hit home in the area of our house.
I grew up untameable in my messiness. I saw it as part of my free-spirited personality. Procrastination was my middle name. My mom tells stories of telling me that I "at least had to make my bed each day!" So, I made it once, and then slept on top of the covers every night to avoid the daily chore. Once I got married I realized (and was told) that this attitude wouldn't be accepted. God chose to mold my, and my husband's, characters by letting two opposite personalities fall in love.
My husband is a very driven, hard worker, with high standards for himself and everyone around him, who never puts anything off that could be done immediately. He can't rest in a space until its clean, uncluttered, and beautiful. If I planned on "doing it later" he in frustration would end up doing it himself and resent me for it. I struggled with my unwillingness to love and serve him by better caring for our home. To add to this challenge, I got pregnant immediately after getting married which sent out the window our plans for me to work to put Ben through grad-school. I refused to put my son in day-care. Therefore, Ben worked long hours at a few part-time jobs to pay our bills and I slept continually, exhausted by my first trimester of pregnancy.
Once I had my son, my husband started a full time Masters program and fostered the growth of a small tutoring business he had started. I began trying harder and harder to do a better job of caring for our home, but I had SO MANY years of bad habits to unlearn. I would be incredibly proud of a baby step and my husband wouldn't see its worth as the overall cleanliness of our home was still sub-par. I started working two exhausting part time jobs when Rowan was 4 months old, and left him either with Ben or with my mom. This didn't improve my abilities as a homemaker. Obviously, this all put a huge strain on my marriage and at some points it felt that we were barely hanging on.
We never would've thought there could be such screaming matches and disillusionment due to cleaning! We had gotten along so well in dating, but living together was hard. Honestly it went deeper than just cleaning habits. It was a heart issue. I was not willing to serve my husband in the ways he needed to be served. I loved him how I wanted to and not in the ways he could receive that love. And he perceived that. It put such a burden on him to work so hard while I wouldn't pull my own weight.
Finally, this year my attitude changed. I loved him so much I wanted to bless him by giving him a peaceful home to return to each night, esp. now that he is working full time and I am full time at home. A huge help for me has been the Fly Lady system that humorously, with understanding and grace, has helped me to become more organized, and to replace my bad habits with good ones. I have made friends with other young moms who could share in my struggles and achievements when before I had no one to walk with me in that way. I started attending mother's groups through my church, and following Blogs such as Home Living, A Fruitful Vine, and At a Hen's Pace that all mentored me in how to grow.
I had been so scared of losing my identity and my free spiritedness that I was allowing myself to cripple my marriage and be enslaved to constant chaos. Now that I've become willing to change, I find that I can still be myself while having a handle on my life. And Ben loves it! He loves to come home to a clean house, a hot healthy dinner, and a happy well rested boy. (well... most of the time! :0) We now enjoy each other without constantly bickering over things.
I'm still taking baby steps on this path, but the results are so gratifying and immediate that its encouraging me to run. I enjoy being a blessing and now that my home is less chaotic I have so much more energy to not only bless my family but to bless others as well and build life giving friendships and community. Thank you to all of you who help me to be a blessing.
Please pray for me as I continue to follow this path.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Please share advice!

As those of you who know me know, I have a wonderfully loving, adventurous, intelligent, and RASCALLY toddler. I'm not even sure if I can properly call him a toddler anymore b/c now he's more of a sprinter, esp. at the library. As soon as I turn away off he goes, head tucked, arms pumping, weaving his way around the library. Last night when Ben and I went for a run he insisted on running with us instead of riding in his stroller. He got to the sidewalk, and then gave up and crawled into his stroller huffing and puffing.

All that to say, I need some advice from those who have gone before, or those who are fighting this delightful and still trying battle beside me.

My son is at the stage where he is constantly testing me to see who the authority is, to find out the boundaries. But, I don't think I have yet convinced him that I'm the authority, not he.
He reminds me of my parents black lab when he was a puppy. You had to watch him constantly b/c he was always roaming looking for the next thing to steal and chew and jump up on.
For example, yesterday I was sweeping the kitchen and he came looked at me defiantly and started dancing in the pile, no matter how sternly I spoke telling him to move. Once, I had finally finished and moved him away he ran over and climbed on the table (a no-no) and started dumping the salt out. When I removed that from him and put him back on the ground, he snagged a candle stick and began running around the room and banging things with it, and on and on until I wanted to lay down and throw a temper tantrum.

I have tried all the things I can think of with him as consistently as possible and not met with success.
We have tried time out in his crib - it makes him see it as a place of punishment and refuse to nap in it afterwards.
We have tried time out in his room - he throws lamps on the ground and breaks them, and then refuses to let us back in the door to get him. I guess punishing us for punishing him!
We have tried turning him around at the table when he throws food - but he turns around and throws it again immediately.
We have tried spanking his hand - but its not enough of a deterrent to the delightful mischief he wants to engage in. When we were in Norway the only source of heat in our old farmhouse were a few space heaters with BIG, EXCITING, RED, on and off buttons. He would go over to them, we would say no. We try to give him the opportunity in non dangerous situations to make the right choice. He would look down at his hand and stroke it, and go ohhh ohhh with a concerned look on his face thinking through the consequences of what he wanted to do. He would look at us, look at the button, look at us, look at the button. And then, push the button. Over and over. Sometimes he even spanks himself, and then proceeds to his misdeed.
We have tried ignoring him so as to not give negative attention - this just gives him free reign!

Dobson recommends basic deterrence tactics - baby proof your house to the point that there is no longer anything to say no to. But this is only possible to a point. There will always be cords on lamps to yank, things to climb.
Honestly, for those who know my husband and I, we are pretty laid back people. We only say no to things that will seriously injure him or others or break things(ie we let him dance on the chest in the living room even though he occasionally falls off, but we don't let him use our CutCo set like swords, he can drum on the walls with spoons but he can't drum on our faces.)

Is it possible to mold an obedient spirit in a toddler, or is the highest goal at this point merely to deter him from harm and redirect him?

Please send advice. I welcome ideas and stories to help me raise my fun, crazy little son to be a good man.
I don't want to force him into being a quiet child who sits in the corner and twiddles his thumbs. I LOVE his adventurous curious spirit and want to foster his zest for life. But, I also want to see in him a willingness to obey me, in order that he will learn to submit to God.

Ok thanks in advance! I look forward to reading your advice.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sauntering to the Holy Land

from Thoreau's essay, "Walking"

"They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean...the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea."
I want to point out something that hit me while I was reading this essay today. In our lives we are to be saunterers; walkers, explorers with purpose. We are seeking the Holy Land, God's kingdom on earth, not geographically but in justice and beauty. We are actively seeking to join in the process of our sanctification. We must never sit back and let life happen to us. Even though sometimes we will feel like a meandering river we must remember that that river is, and must be "sedulously seeking the shortest course" to its destination or else it will dry up. Sometimes the shortest course is not an obvious straight line. And lets also encourage ourselves by remembering Tolkien's quote in the prophecy about Aragorn, "All who wander are not lost."While we choose to trust God in where He will take us we must still saunter on. And when we feel lost in our sauntering we must turn our faces East, trust our guide even if we cannot see Him, and take another step toward the Holy Land.

Friday, April 11, 2008

To Hope

When by my solitary hearth I sit,
When no fair dreams before my mind's eye flit,
And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o'er my head.

Whene'er I wander, at the fall of night,
Where woven boughs shut out the moon's bright ray,
Should sad Despondency my musings fright,
And frown, to drive fair Cheerfulness away,
Peep with the moon beams through the leafy roof,
And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof.

Whene'er the fate of those I hold most dear
Tells to my fearful breast a tale of sorrow,
O bright eyed Hope, my morbid fancy cheer;
Let me awhile thy sweet comforts borrow:
Thy heaven born radiance around me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o'er my head!

Should e'er unhappy love my bosom pain,
From cruel parents, or relentless fair;
O let me think it is not quite in vain
To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy siler pinions o'er my head!

In the long vista of the years to roll,
Let me not see our country's honor fade:
O let me see our land retain her soul,
Her pride, her freedom; and not freedom's shade.
from thy bright eyes unusual brightness shed--
Beneath thy pinions canopy my head!

And as, in sparkling majesty, a star
Gilds the bright summit of some gloomy cloud;
Brightening the half veiled face of heaven afar:
So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed,
Waving thy silver pinions o'er my head.


This poem is in a book I keep in the bathroom for some of my only minutes of privacy a day :)
I highly recommend poetry in the bathroom!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

My story

Here I am, sitting in my living room, doing precisely what I used to scorn my mother for. I'm a mom of an 18 month old rascal who I adore. I'm the wife of a man who is currently working in the world of high finance, (although we want to eventually become farmers and sink our fingers into the soil... its quite the long story of how we are where we are.) And I am NOT a high powered member of an NGO, which I always expected.
Life takes twists and turns; ducks into valleys and then races up mountaintops.
I love it.
Once I learned to trust that I was loved and would be cared for I began to truly enjoy this unpredictable journey.
5 years ago I was in California studying International Politics and planning to change the world through grassroots NGOs.
4 years ago I was in California planning to forsake my education and travel the world with an evangelical, fundamentalist missions group.
3 years ago I moved back to the Chicago area, committed to a decade of singleness, my cynicism running so deep, and my angst so overwhelming that I nearly lost the soul of my life, my faith.
2 years ago I married an incredibly intelligent and driven man who held my hand while together we battled out of that pit. He planned to be a professor of Philosophy and I planned to work in the inner city until we could join the Peace Corps.
That summer we travelled Europe together and experienced deep healing from our church related wounds. When we returned home we sunk our toes into one of the healthiest church bodies i've ever had the chance to be a part of and drank deeply from its fount of grace.
1 1/2 years ago I gave birth to a 9 lb 7 oz bundle of energy.
1 year ago Ben lost his faith in academic philosophy's power to transform, and I was working two part time jobs and caring for a six month old son.
8 months ago we cut all ties and planned to move to California to pursue a lucrative job opportunity in the medical business community.
7 months ago we opted out of that move and instead spent 2 months with my grandparents deep in Louisuana, marinating in the rich traditions of Southern community and hospitality.
6 months ago Ben ran the Chicago Marathon and the next day we moved to Norway and lived, praying and listening for direction, and peace while making organic soap and tending the grounds of a Cistercian monastery on the island of Tautra.
4 months ago we returned once again to the Chicago area, with much more peace, but still no direction except that eventually we hoped to own and work a small organic farm, positioned so we could still serve others, and yet deep in beautiful (hopefully mountainous) country. And we also knew that close community, deep roots, and rich hospitality were central and integral to our vocation.
2 months ago, after applying for jobs across the globe from house parents in Omaha, to directors of a homeless shelter in Seattle, Ben was offered the one job in the "for--profit " industry that he had applied for. He took it, and now he is gone from 6:24 until 5:52 Monday through Friday working within a bond-sales firm. He is learning deep and good lessons about hard work and integrity from these men of character that he is daily surrounded by.But, we keep casting out the line for people to join us, buy land, and create rural utopia. (I know, I know, it doesn't really exist.
This month, and this day, I look back over those years and laugh at myself as over and over again I sought to control my life, and over and over again control was taken from my hands and I was forced to follow and trust and then receive a life better than what I had raced toward.

I am a DEEPLY happy and contented mother, dreaming of having more children, rejoicing in each day I spend getting to know the one I already have. I am reclaiming the delightful role of homemaking that I scoffed at along with most other women of my and the past few generations. I love learning to better love my husband and my son. My soul dances at learning to mold a home that can be a refuge of beauty not only for my family but for our friends as well. I take joy in simple things like baking bread, developing friendships, and learning, LEARNING, the complex art of shaping a home, a good life.
I welcome your help along the way.
I am newly fluttering on this path.

I invite you to join me as I contemplate and process what I discover.

But now I must say, "It is well, it is well, with my soul."