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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

winter

 
I walked in the pasture today.
 
The sun shone, but a chilly north wind rattled the bare branches of the trees and rippled the grass beneath my feet. Brown. Everywhere I looked, I saw somber shades of brown and grey. In the grass, the branches, the rusted fence posts, the curled leaves. I sat under a tree and an empty cicada shell rattled down the hill. All around me, the world felt dead.

 
  
The reality was that under that dead fa├žade, life pulsed in a myriad of colors. There was the brilliant blue overhead.
 


 Small ants scurried around my feet, working frantically before the next cold front arrives. Birds twittered. Shakespeare the mini-schnauzer snuffled in the grass, then dug enthusiastically to try to reach a mole or a gopher buried deep underground.



I knew that in the branches of the tree above me, blood will flow again. Leaves will emerge.




I found that if I parted the dry grass, at its base I could see small green shoots.

I discovered a patch of chickweed, Spring's hardiest edible, pushing its way through the dead leaves and grass to reach for the sky.

On these days that are only shades of brown and grey, there are reminders that winter is not forever.


Struggles come. Bad things happen. Depression threatens to overwhelm. And yet I know that underneath the darkness, through these winters of the soul runs a current of Life and Light that is far more eternal than what we see with our eyes. Weeping may endure for a night but yes, joy will break through in the morning.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

i pulled the plug


Yes, I did. This week, I pulled the plug on social media. Not only did I delete my Facebook account, but I (gasp!) also deleted my Pinterest.

The reasons are many, and I won't go into all of them here, but bottom line: I'm not so convinced that a lot of modern technology has been so good for me--physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. I am feeling the need to focus on real life. I feel the need to slow down, to immerse myself in good books, in face to face conversations with friends and family, in long walks and shopping in real stores and cooking real food. I want to end my dependence on a screen.


People will call this unrealistic, because, frankly, they say, that's not how the world works any more. And I get that. I don't plan to become some Luddite who washes my clothes in a bucket with a stick and skins squirrels to make shoes for my family (although if someone wants to live that way, good for them!)

 I ask myself: If I am not online, if I am not watching movies, if I am not immersed in someone else's life as depicted on a technological device...what will I do?


I will learn things. I will make things. I will get to know people. I will have the silence that my mind so desperately craves at times.

Pulling the plug was unexpectedly scary, like my life as I have known it was ending. But at the same time, I feel like I have received a reprieve from a death sentence. Cynthia Swindoll once said that the greatest emotion in the world is relief, and that's what I feel. Relief to be done with the pressure and the bombardment of information and the expectations of people, many of whom I barely  know or don't know at all.

Maybe I will start a one-woman campaign to end dependence on technology. I will crusade for phone-free family gatherings. I will champion the freedom of Facebook deletion.

Or maybe I will just work in my garden and listen to the birds sing.

P.S. In case you're wondering, I do plan to continue blogging and to use the computer for school and other necessary things. But hey, maybe one day I will ditch it completely. You never know!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

little boots



 
Once upon a time, we had a little boy. And then another little boy. And then another little boy. And we decided that we were going to be a boy family, and that was fine with us. We felt perfectly happy with snakes and snails and puppy dog tails.
 
Than we had two girls. And now we have dolls and tea sets. We have a lot of clothes. We have accessories.
 
We have pink boots. And we wouldn't trade our life for the world.

Friday, November 28, 2014

bread

 



The latest issue of Taproot came last week and it hadn't been in the house for more than two hours before this bread was rising in my kitchen. Hearty, rustic breads are one of my great weaknesses, and this one is perfect. It can be mixed up in about five minutes, there is no kneading involved, and the final product in dense, chewy and satisfying. It has a long rise time, which gives it a complex, tangy flavor, like good sourdough.

Buy the magazine. Bake the bread. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

whatever is lovely


I've mentioned here before that I don't listen to the news. We don't have TV and my radio is limited to an occasional five minutes when I am driving and no one is talking to me (which happens about once every seven years). Even when I am alone in the car, I might turn on some uplifting music, but I honestly can't remember the last time that I listened to a news program or a talk show. It's just not something that I do.

Lest you think that I am some kind of an ostrich, we obviously have internet and I do try to keep abreast of current events that way. I know who won the major races in the election. I know what is going on in Ferguson right now. I know about the President's speech on immigration. I am not ignorant. But I choose not to dwell on the news. I would venture to say that I know as much, factually, about what is going on as the next guy--and I get that in about five minutes online every day. Anything that goes beyond facts, I consider not only unnecessary, but detrimental to my mental, emotional and sometimes physical well-being.

As someone who has experienced a lifelong struggle with depression, I have learned to be very, very careful about what I allow into my mind. But even for someone for whom depression isn't an issue, I think that the truth stands: you become what you digest, not only physically but also mentally. A steady diet of agitated, negative thought turns me into an agitated, negative person. Conversely, consuming life-giving things fills me with life, with joy, with peace.


If you listen to talk shows, pay attention to the level of agitation in the host's voice and to what it does to your heart rate and your anxiety level. The shows are designed to titillate, to invoke an emotional response, to keep you churned up. If they didn't accomplish that, they wouldn't stay on the air. Very rarely do they offer actual valuable information that you don't already know...they chew on what has already been stated, like a dog worries a bone, coming at it from all angles, offering this person's opinion and that person's opinion and a long litany of "what ifs". But when you stand back and look at it objectively, what information have they given you that is actually uplifting and helpful? And what are you going to do with what you have heard, other than stress about it for the next two weeks? On television, a commentator covers the news story in a few brief sentences. What follows for the next twenty minutes is commentary and opinion on the story, it's interviews with "experts", and it is repeating those same headlines again and again. I remember watching TV after the 9-11 attacks on the world trade center. For hours, newscasters repeated the same few sentences (cleverly reworded to fill more air space), interspersed with the same video footage of the planes flying into the buildings. Over. And over. And over. And every time I saw them, my blood pressure rose a few points, even though I was learning absolutely nothing new.


Scripture talks about focusing on whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report. I don't find these things at the touch of a radio dial. I find them in the everyday rhythm of life. I find them in meaningful conversations with family and friends, in the pots and pans on my kitchen stove, in good books that stretch and challenge me to be a better person.

The world does grow darker. I am aware of that. There may come a day when we experience that darkness in a more tangible way than we do now. But on that day, will we regret spending time focused on the good and the lovely rather than on the darkness? Will I wish that I had spent more hours glued to a television screen instead of reading to my children, baking bread, walking outside, listening to good music, laughing?

So here's my challenge for you: Next time you are tempted to turn on the TV or radio, to flip that switch and flood your mind with negativity, purpose to focus instead on something meaningful and happy. I'm not talking about some kind of Pollyanna, fake happiness--but something life-giving. Music and books can be filled with human drama and emotion and yet still fill you up rather than pull you down. Pick up a good book. Watch I Love Lucy (yes, I consider Lucy extremely meaningful, especially when your entire family is rolling on the floor as you watch it together!). Fill your mind with beauty and purpose. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

A photographer spends two weeks in Iceland. Is anyone else as fascinated with this country as I am? These pictures are absolutely amazing.

This book is the perfect companion to the pictures above.  A writer and his family spend a summer in a remote, off-grid Icelandic farmhouse. (Note: I wouldn't recommend this book for young people, at least until you proof it first...it describes a tragic event in the author's family in somewhat graphic detail).

This post on Soulemama's blog about the simple art of woodcarving and knife sharpening (don't miss the video at the end!)

Anything by Ben Hewitt.

This story of unexpected love...so sweet!

The new issue of Taproot looks just wonderful.

Cook something that will nourish your body and soul, like this brussel sprout and winter squash recipe. With cranberries and a Dijon vinaigrette? Oh, yes!

Hug someone close to you.

Then notice how happy you feel, filled up with good things. I'm telling you, it works!

Friday, November 21, 2014

pulling out the sweaters




Our first really cold spell hit last week. We were actually out-of-state visiting family for most of it, but we got home in time to enjoy a couple days of hunkering down by the heater with cozy throws, lots of coffee and hot soup, and yes, a little stitching. Inspired by the fabulous Soulemama, I am trying my hand at rug hooking. It's really just cushion hooking, since it is a very small project, and I don't think it could officially even be called that because I don't have all of the proper equipment--but I am enjoying it nonetheless. I crave repetitive handwork. I am convinced that it has saved me thousands in therapy bills.

One of the best things about wintry weather, of course, is that the handknits can be pulled out of my cedar chest. This sweater that I knitted for Beatrice last winter was a little large on her then, and it fits her perfectly now. Another bonus: since she is walking this year, I don't have to worry as much about it getting shredded when she crawls around. I especially love the buttons on it, made from coconut shells.

The pattern, which I found on Ravelry, originally had a large, floppy hood that looked adorable but didn't seem practical for my wild child. So I left it off and just knitted a simple neck band. Sweaters are not exactly my forte and I hold my breath to see if they will fit the way that they are supposed to...but I must say that I consider this one a success. There is nothing quite as cuddly as a toddler all wrapped up in handknit wool.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

in her kitchen

 
 
Gabriel Calimberti traveled the world visiting and interviewing grandmothers from many different countries. Through their stories, their pictures and their recipes, compiled in this beautiful cookbook, he shares how food brings families and people together.
 
Whether its an egg and custard pie from Albania, a vegetable and fresh cheese stew from Bolivia, or a moose steak from Alaska, a cultures' food--and more specifically, a families' food--is a source of comfort, of stability, of definition, a grounding that we take with us wherever we go.
 
While I might or might not try some of the recipes in this book (caterpillars in tomato sauce, anyone?), I love it simply as a book to sit down and read, a glimpse into the lives of older women around the world. I also find it fascinating to see how people take basic foods that grow or can be raised where they live and turn them into such unique cultural dishes.
 
Highly recommend!
 
For more information, click here.
 
To read more about the author, click here.
 
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.