Archives for January 2014

A house, a love story.

house love via

With this polar vortex I call the North East, I’m discovering once again why we never see real live people outside of vehicles or over-heated buildings in the winter. I’m not sure I remember what my neighbors look like, as we’re all huddled inside our homes trying to stay warm. As I sat on the sofa today, I could hear sheets of ice slipping off the roof and cracking on the back deck. The house is sighing and shifting her weight under the lukewarm sun. She’s settling in.

I feel like we’re settling in too. I rearranged the family room furniture to fit just so. I dug out the photos of my husband’s grandmother, walking towards the camera, hand in hand with her young husband on an urban Philadelphia street. I light the candles at night and I let them burn, burn, burn their way into my memory. This is what home smells like. These are the people who smile on me here. This is my table, my comfy throw, my stack of magazines. This is where you sit, and I sit there. The cushions conform to our shape. This is the shape of us.

Man, I love the rhythms of our life. I love the washing machine humming down the hall, and the way my girl squirms when I wake her with a “Guten Morgen, Liebling.” She hates that, but I know she’ll remember it fondly, someday. I love the glow of her bedroom lamp slipping through the cracks in her door, the boy snuggled in bed with the man watching whatever it is boys watch together. I almost love the Lego set strewn across my dining room table. Almost. I love neat and tidy more. I love the kettle and the way I sometimes smile over a particularly well-brewed cup. No one sees my smile but the few pictures hanging on the wall, and they smile right back at me.

I love the way she makes the piano sing, the way it doesn’t know what to do when I finger its keys. I could write a love song to my slow cooker, she of great patience and long-suffering, who has saved more cuts of meat than I can say. Things I also love: The pup waiting patiently at the back door, morning, noon and night. The thump and groan of the heater as it wakes up the house at 5am. The light shifting from one side of the house to the other over the course of the day. The way we’re shaping this house and it’s shaping us.

It’s a love story, and we’re writing it.

Five Minute Friday: Visit

Hello, Friends. Welcome back for another Friday spent with Lisa-Jo and the Five-minute crowd. Today, we’re taking five minutes to write on the prompt Visit. Do you have five minutes to write, read, or both? Why don’t you join us?

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community…

Today’s Prompt: Visit

ruby ring via

The summer before she died, we traveled to Texas to visit my grandmother. I only knew her through the snippets of stories I caught through door cracks and loose family lips. As best I could tell, the stories were better left untold. I rarely saw her, and the only thing she ever gave me were legs that can run long distances without falling to pieces.

She fell to pieces in other ways, and all the gifts she may have given over the years lay dormant, trapped in her grief, cigarettes, and far too many bottles of wine. That summer, she gave me a ring. She slipped the ruby off her finger and put it in the palm of my hand. I don’t think it fit me just yet.

Months later, after her death, my father drove up from her home in Texas with a U-haul full of her things. I slept in her four poster cherry wood bed after that. I wore her ring sometimes, and I caught myself staring into her dressing mirror and wondering what it was she saw there. I won’t ever know.

I hear the full stories of her life now. Of the loss and the spiraling and the sadness that she tried to drink away. She made horrible choices, she took and took, but just before she died she gave something precious away. And I still wear it today.

Aspirational living or Getting practical

longwoodgardens via

I often get so busy living life, that I forget to stop and take in the long view. I wrote a little bit here, about taking the time to examine what I want my life to look like, and then taking some real-life steps in that direction. Over the past few months, I’ve given a lot of thought and, more importantly, a lot of prayer to bringing together the vision for my life and my everyday reality.

I read an article recently, in which the author talked about her time working as a salesperson in a clothing/lifestyle store. She wrote about the customers who spent their time and money obsessively (and excessively) on an imaginary lifestyle curated for them by this particular shop. The writer found it ridiculous that women were shopping for a fake life, one that looked artistically crafted and handmade, when the goods really came off an assembly line in China. She said these customers chased a life that looked fancy, expensive, and vaguely European, but in reality, it was lived out in a suburban colonial three streets over from the local mall.

She took a lot of license and made some unfair assumptions about her customers, but she got me thinking. How much of my time and money do I spend cultivating a life I will never live? How much time do I spend pinning beautiful photos on Pinterest that have no correlation to my reality? How much money do I spend on cookware that will never meet the front burner because, as we all know, I hate to cook. How many books will I read on topics I have no interest in pursuing? Am I wearing, eating, writing, participating, and investing in things that belong to the me I used to be or the me I pretend to be rather than the me of today?

Over the past few years, I’ve become more selective about the things I bring into my life and my home. Some of this is a function of time and space, but hopefully, it’s also because I have examined my heart with care. I play out various scenarios to the bitter end in my head, and this has served me well in determining what I truly want out of life. The idea of living in a large, international city long-term sounds romantic and utterly delicious, but at the end of that trail of thought, is the fact that I would raise rootless kids. Buying ‘one of each’ from the Williams-Sonoma catalog sounds fabulous until I come to the end of this ridiculous fantasy and admit I’d rather make pancakes on the old sticky griddle than add another saucier to my collection (my husband, the true gourmet of the family, would stop me here and say something like “sacrilege!”, but it’s true. I don’t even know what a saucier is, much less how to spell it).

The key for me, is learning the difference between fantasizing about a life and aspiring to a life. If we live with intention and authenticity, our aspirations will naturally lead us to the real thing. Want to live artfully? Consume art. Make art. Paper your doors, your floors, and the walls of your heart with it. Want to live in peace? Create quiet. Pray. Bite your tongue until it bleeds, and then bite the words back some more. Want to live healthy? Quit buying workout clothes at Lulu Lemon until you have the exercise routine to support them. Want to be well-read? Put the People magazine down and pick up a real book. Want a better relationship with your mother/friend/neighbor? Pursue them. Preferably not in a creepy, stalker-ish way.

As a sarcastic, People reading, cookie eating aficionado, I feel comfortable telling you, I’m preaching to myself. As I discover more of what I want and who I want to be, I realize it takes both aspiration and perspiration to get there. I am the curator of my own life–not the shop down the street, or the lifestyle magazine, or her blog, or my fake fantasies, or their expectations. Let’s start cultivating the lives we want to live, right where we are today. Baby steps, friends. Let’s take them.


What’s one thing you aspire to in your life? What step can you take today to move towards that bright, shiny vision?

Un-word 2014: Expectations

paris cafe via

I wrote about my word for the year here, but a few days after posting it, I came across a few writers who decided to not only embrace a word, but give up a word for the year too. Receiving a word is great, but releasing a word is even better. My un-word for this year? Expectations.

I have great expectations, grand ones, expectations that pedestal people and churches and locations and writing communities and my own talents and gifts to such a high and lofty position, that they can do nothing but strive for perfection and inevitably fail. This year, I intend to give everyone, including myself, a break. I aim to settle for progress rather than perfection. This is where expectations and intentionality meet for coffee and hash this year out over a cuppa and a croissant.

I will never write the perfect sentence, or post, or book. But, I will write something. I will set aside time to practice this craft and this art because it is as vital to me as breathing air, whether ten people or ten thousand read it.

I will never find all of Jesus at church. But, I will find Him in the scriptures, in your prayers, and in my own. I will seek Him in every psalm and every hastily uttered prayer, and I shall find Him there too.

eiffel tower via

My husband’s job will not relocate us to Paris, and I won’t spend my days perfecting the classic red lip and rolling my r’s in conversation. I may not haunt the halls of the Louvre, but I will learn French and I will lavish myself with books on art. My photo of the Eiffel tower will grace the living room wall because honestly, that’s as close as I’m going to get.

And perhaps, most importantly, I will never have the perfect bikini body. Three kids, a penchant for cheese, and the soft ticks of time on my skin make sure of that. Can I release us all from that expectation today? However, I intend to make progress. I will run and practice pilates, and I’ll wear the bikini regardless because why the heck not?

Somewhere along the way, I gathered expectations for a life that doesn’t really resemble the one I currently live, and my goal is to make the ends meet, to decide how I want my life to look over the coming year, and make intentional decisions to bring that vision to life. I’ve never done this before, perhaps because I lived in a fantasy world in which the view outside my home resembled a post card, I pretended cheese didn’t really contain calories, and I never had to pay the mortgage (Oh, Switzerland, you with your mountain views and your ex-pat perks. I miss you.) This is real life, right here in suburban New Jersey with the mortgage and the slushy snow, the old friends and family nearby. The dog still curls at my feet and the shelves are still lined with my books and my family of five still need to eat dinner every night.  Some things will change, and others will stay the same. Expectations, I release you. Intentions, refill your cup. We’ve got imperfect, but important, work to do.


I’m linking up with Edie and friends to talk about Un-word 2014. Do you have a word you’re giving up?

Five minute Friday: Encouragement

Hello, Friends. Welcome back for another Friday spent with Lisa-Jo and the Five-minute crowd. Today, we’re taking five minutes to write on the prompt Encouragement. Do you have five minutes to write, read, or both? Why don’t you join us?

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community…

Today’s Prompt: Encouragement

be the light

My middle schooler came home with a story of a fellow student who said she wants to die. This story (all true, all unfolding a few miles away from my front door) is about a kid who put those words in a poem on the internet, who was found out, who had a counselor follow her around to each and every class all day.

This kid faced the shame of everyone else’s looks, of their whispered concerns, and their gossip and misunderstanding. This kid is clinging to life, but certainly her soul died a thousand tiny deaths for each and every story that got whispered down the lane of the school corridors.

My son doesn’t know this student, but he knows of her. Now, he knows the rumors too, and I don’t know that he’ll ever eat his way down past the juicy flesh of the gossip to the pit of truth at the core. I asked him to pray, but more than that, I asked him to encourage his friends to stop the whispering, to stop partaking of the fruit. Be a friend, I said. Be a friend who listens, rather than speaks.


Oh, for the wisdom of Solomon when it comes to these difficult conversations. Have you had some tough talks with your kids? I could use your encouragement and wisdom today.