Monday, December 28, 2009

A Flurry of Activity

In the past week there has been a lot of this...

...which has led to this.

After more than one book on tape, 35+ hours in the car, and several stops at taco bell, we have visited or crossed thirteen states, way too many gas stations, and many friends and family. I am thankful for good company, beautiful countryside, and (for now) a week to relax and refresh for the new year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Things (and people) I Share


The first Christmas I visited Curtis when we were dating, his mom gave me a metal tube of lotion, explaining that it was some of her favorite. Not being a regular connoisseur of lotion in metal tubes, I sensed its value and kept it the drawer of my desk back at my dorm, pulling it out in the midst of evening studying, the smell bringing me back to relaxing times with people I love.

There would be other birthdays and Christmases with the metal tubes wrapped in tissue paper, promising soft hands smelling mildly sweet and refreshing. Even as I saw Curtis’s family two or three times a year, I had a constant reminder of their love and care from afar.

Yesterday another metal tube found its way into a gift bag, this time from another mother-in-law—one of my good friend’s. This lovely woman, like my husband’s mother, had only sons, and relishes those females with whom she can share feminine pampering products to appreciate and relish (along with good company, and a warm meal).

My friend has her own stock of metal tubes, which she generously shares with me when I have lost my own, much like she shares her mother-in-law.

And for that, I am grateful.

*Decorative details in this lovely woman's home...

Monday, December 14, 2009

When I Live By Myself...

This weekend’s project…

I don’t enjoy cooking. I end up eating whatever I cook for the next seventeen meals, and inevitably get sick of it.

I go to sleep later, because no one in the house is getting up at 4:30am.

I work on projects for hours at a time, leaving dishes, messes, and laundry to wait.

I inevitably revert to former habits: tidying everything, going to bed at a reasonable hour, and cooking because I can’t eat frozen pizza and taco bell for every meal (because that would be irresponsible).

I'm glad I'm only living by myself for a few more days.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

“Last Day of Math FOREVA”

That is what my sister proclaimed after taking a final exam in her college algebra class. Thanks to a liberal arts education, as an art major she still has to solve and balance equations.

As much as I love learning, final exams are not something I miss.

I do, however, miss my sister. I am anxious to rejoin her (in a month!) in the frigid north, so we can catch up while she makes me lattes and biscotti. We are even hoping to fit in a photo session, where she will cover me in hair spray and face paint while I hopelessly object.

Siblings are a wonderful thing indeed.

*Taken last summer, on the sister road trip.

Monday, December 7, 2009

In Due Time...

Today was the first snow. It has been a long and beautiful fall, with leaves fresh with color lingering on tree branches and in gutters much longer than usual. It has been warm on some days, fresh and cool on others, but void of snow all along.

My classroom, which sits on the corner of the third floor, was cold from a weekend void of heat, and the old radiators that line one wall struggled to make a difference in temperature. Something about the fresh flakes made me earnestly desire quiet, an unlikely reality in my profession.

But even more, I craved peace.

It was a silently tumultuous weekend, full of discontent and frustration and memories of unfulfilled hope. In church we spoke of advent, of being pregnant with hope and anticipation, of being present and full of peace and love and joy. And my eyes welled with tears as we spoke of it. I wanted it: the peace, the love, the joy.

And it was then that I realized that I had much (or just something) in common with Mary and all those that desperately awaited the arrival of a Savior for 400 years: I was ready.

I am ready to be free of the frustrations and brokenness that comes in this fallen world, but even as I am ready, I accept that there is much to be done in the mean time. There is much to love, much to find joy in, and much to appreciate with hope and peace.

Even as the snow covers the lush green earth that bears fruit in season, it promotes a time of peace and rest, revealing fresh life in due time.

In due time, much like a Savior, and the first snow.

*Photo from here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Why I Will Bother To Decorate

Right now I am the proud owner of a wonderful conglomeration of household décor that has been pieced together from hand-me-downs, garage sales, the side of the road, and the landlord’s girlfriend. My house was assembled with these items, with tasseled embroidered curtains in the living room, long white woven curtains in the kitchen, and wallpaper border that mirrors the shower curtain, accented with lavender paint. And even though it may not be to my taste, or coordinated it is better than nothing.

I visited a friend from high school last week, whose apartment felt so warm and inviting. There was a color scheme (what a thought) and throw pillows and rugs and curtains…and the contrast to my own mismatched décor was striking. Things fit together. They did not just function or serve a purpose, they were beautiful.

Every morning when I wake up I (somewhat) decide whether I want to be functional or fashionable. Do I grab the khaki pants and the comfortable sweater? Or do I don the tights and heels and complimenting skirt and cardigan?

And now, in the midst of a holiday season grows another dilemma: Do I decorate?

Now I’m not so much of a scrooge as to pass on holiday decorations as a rule, but this year they don’t seem so worthwhile. First of all, I’m the only one that will be living in our apartment until after Christmas…do I assemble decorations—just for me? Second, I’ll be out of town part of the month anyway…do I hang decorations—just for two weeks? Third, compared to my good friend (the holiday decoration queen) my selection of all things red, green and sparkly is mediocre and lacking—at best…do I arrange decorations—even if they are pitiful?

She promises to come and admire my half-hearted attempt, despite my submission to her reign.

While the lack of décor comes from limitations in finances and the absence of fashion comes from lack of energy, I have come to the conclusion that lack of gusto for Christmas decorations comes from an abundance of practicality. I love all things sensible, functional and realistic. Holiday decorating is none of those things. (Neither are wedding cakes, long hair or meticulously crafted cards). But despite my practical leanings, I also am drawn to that which is beautiful and creative, even if slightly frivolous.

And holiday decorating (and creatively assembled outfits, and thoughtful home décor) is all of those things.

So rather than letting everything remain packed neatly away in two boxes in the attic, I will set our two foot Christmas tree on the end table, circle it with lights and dutifully turn it on and off as I come and go. I will hang spools of ribbon from the picture frames and garlands from the curtain rods. And I will sip egg nog while sitting on gold velvet, listening to a constant stream of holiday tunes, appreciating the beauty—even if it is impractical.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Narrating the Journey

Wisconsin Farm
Somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin...

It started three summers ago, the summer I spent trying desperately to find a job in a market that was oversaturated with teachers—experienced, inexperienced, elementary, secondary, whatever.

There were hundreds of applicants for every teaching position in the area. Every Monday I would check every website in the district, don a professional outfit that would hopefully make me look older than twelve, and try to make it past the secretary in order to hand the principal my resume and hopefully set myself apart from the growing stack of applications.

When it wasn’t Monday, I lived an independent and thrifty existence, biding my time while I waited for a more scheduled, constructive life. I would often ride my bike the four miles to the library to use the internet and gather new things to read. It was then that I stumbled on the audio book section, or rather rediscovered it. I listened to hours of tape that summer, while cooking and quilting and running. It made me feel productive, even as I was unemployed.


When I was a child my family would travel to Eastern Washington each August so that we could spend a couple weeks with relatives. Traveling 1000 miles up the West Coast with four children is no small feat, however, and my mom was always prepared. In addition to a large supply of snacks, treats, coloring books and regular stops was a brand new set of “Adventures in Odyssey” Tapes—which we were not allowed to touch until we were on the road.

Over the course of the travel---16 hours there and then back—my sisters and I would swap tapes from walkman to walkman, chatting about the various episodes, quoting funny one-liners and trying to work out a system so that no sister had the buzzing walkman longer than any of the others.

It was somewhere on I-5 that I developed a love for stories during long car rides.


Last summer my sisters and I revisited the Odyssey saga as we drove to New York City for a couple days of touring and exploration. We laughed and reminisced as we drove through the night, too cheap to pay for a second night at a hotel.

This past weekend my husband and I drove for hours across the Midwest, enjoying hours of barren farmland, billboard advertisements, holiday drivers and…a book on cd. The drive was littered with intermittent conversation, about the book, about the scenery, about how much we were not looking forward to three weeks apart.


Various times and trips have become laced by the books I read and listened to while I was experiencing them: winters of quilting, summers of running, long trips here and there and back again.

And even though I have a job now, and a car, and the internet…I still treasure the simplicity of a story that unfolds over time. It can’t be rushed or controlled. It develops with twists and turns. And in the end truth and character are fully revealed, all because of the journey.