29

Friday

What I’m Into {a snapshot of August 2014}

August has gone by quickly in some ways, slowly in others. I’m starting to be ready for fall in my bones. I’ve been wearing boots and leggings to work (and sweating all the way home). Part of me is even a little wistful about not heading back into a classroom, even though it’s been a while.

Fall is my favorite season, though, with all of the beauty and death and promise of regeneration, so I can’t say that I’m too sorry to see summer fading (though transition is always a little hard). I have done my best to enjoy August to the fullest, accepting the month as it came and letting go of it now.

Once again, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for What I’m Into (check out the rest over at her site).

I hope you enjoy this little peek into my everyday, and I hope you’ll share a little of yours with me.

Reading

perfectly-imperfect-home-coverThe Perfectly Imperfect Home
by Deborah Needleman

I returned to a favorite book this month (since I’m decorating my new house). I first picked it up for the adorable illustrations, but I fell in love with the conversational writing and relaxed way that Deborah Needleman (founding editor of Domino magazine) approaches decorating. There is a section called “Glamifications” and one called “Cozifications” which just about sums up the sort of home I want to have. This is a book that I will probably return to again, as needed.

The-Girls-At-The-Kingfisher-ClubThe Girls at the Kingfisher Club
by Genevieve Valentine

The Twelve Dancing Princesses is one of my very favorite fairy tales (I must have worn out the library’s copy of the Faerie Tale Theatre version with Lesley Ann Warren). When I read a review for this retelling, set in the 1920s, I was intrigued. There is something both beautiful and sad about any story set in the 1920s for me. Maybe it’s because I know what is coming in 1929, maybe it’s because of all the sneaking around to speakeasies. This book had that same sadness to it (as well as all of the sparkle). I enjoyed it, but I’m still not quite sure what I think about it.

WDBWriting Down the Bones
by Natalie Goldberg

I finally read this classic (after numerous times checking it out at the library and so many recommendations). It was everything I hoped it would be and more. I’m sure that these words wouldn’t work for everyone (which do?) but I found Natalie’s zen approach very calming. I tend to be anxious about most things (even about writing, occasionally). I found myself wanting to take a deep breath as I finished each short chapter. I’ll be going back to this one (and moving on to the rest of her work).

jennifergwyneth_1217-1Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time
by Rachel Bertsche

I was such a fan of Rachel’s first book about friendship (MWF Seeking BFF). When I saw that she was writing another book (another work of stunt non-fiction, even) I didn’t bother looking too closely before requesting it. This book is Rachel’s attempt to see if copying certain elements of celebrity’s lives will make her happy. The premise sounds sort of shallow, but the book itself is poignant, thought-provoking, and well-written. I loved this little look inside her head, and the personal way she chose to share things. It made me wonder about the people that I’m emulating, comparing myself to, and even dismissing.

Watching

My mom and I went to see The 100 Foot Journey this week. It’s a story about food and family, hope and ambition. It’s set in France, in a beautiful little village and if it had been an hour longer, I would have sat there and continued to soak in the gorgeous scenery and the fast chopping of garlic. Like most food movies, it’s about so much more than food, and this one is very emotional, as well as being satisfying.

I was home sick for a couple of days this month and the time seemed right to finally start watching Parks and Recreation (as my roommate suggested when I moved in). Nothing could have prepared me for how much I love this show. My little type-A, perfectionistic soul finds a kindred spirit in Leslie Knope (who also just happens to work for the government). These characters have become my friends, and binging on this show has also provided an opportunity for roommate bonding. I’m working on season four (no spoilers please, la la la la).

For those who are paying attention, I’m still working my way through season two of Sex and the City.

As much as I enjoy the unstructured nature of summer TV show watching, I’m really looking forward to my shows coming back in September.

Listening

Ever since I heard about The Civil Wars official break up, I’ve been listening to the most recent album. It was sad before (they never were very happy songwriters) but now there is a deeper sadness to it, in the wake of the split.

But it’s beautiful.

I took a road trip with a friend this month (more on that later) and we listened to I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing as audiobooks on the way and back. It’s been a little over two years since Nora Ephron died and it was about time I heard her voice again. If you’re a fan at all, I highly recommend that you listen to the recordings of these books by the author. She’s funny, and honest and such a good writer, and her tone is always so telling. I found her style sneaking it’s way into my writing in the days and weeks after listening.

Living

The last few times my alumni magazine has come, I’ve been overwhelmed with all of the marriages and babies in the pages. I decided to submit my own version of a “baby announcement.” This blog is my baby in so many ways. Unfortunately, even though they mailed this magazine to me, they still can’t figure out what city I live in. Oh well.

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Some wonderful friends of mine have a big backyard, a screen and an old-fashioned popcorn machine and they take advantage of this by having movie nights to watch campy movies. This month I sipped signature cocktails and ate gourmet snacks while watching Kung-Pow: Enter the Fist and Fantastic Mr. Fox. I doubt very seriously whether many people can say that.

These are just exactly the sort of evenings that I want to have in my real life, so I’m glad they are happening. Life shows no sign of getting realer.

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In pursuit of a few essentials for my house, I convinced a friend to travel with me to IKEA in Seattle. We left at 7am, listening to Over the Rhine (with whom she fell in love, as I had planned) and Nora Ephron. Four hours later, we arrived. I sampled my first ever IKEA food (mmm, meatballs) and we plunged in. Three hours later, we emerged triumphant and picked someplace lovely to go to dinner. In the middle of my craft cocktail, as I ate foie gras without bread (because I forgot you were supposed to eat it with bread), I was heard to remark: “You know that single girl dream everyone is always talking about? We are living it.”

After dinner, we turned around and were home in bed by 10:30 (which may also be the single girl dream).

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I made salsa one Sunday for hours (truly, there was a movie and two TV episodes involved). It was only after I was finished and washing my knife that I cut myself and had to put my nurse roommate to work. Incidentally, this was also when we realized that we should probably have some first aid stuff around the house (oops). No permanent harm done.

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We went dancing (which is not something I’d done before moving into this house, at least, not like this). We go to the lounge at the casino and we go in force. This time, the theme was the 90s (note my Relient K t-shirt and jellies). I wore workout pants and prepared to get in some cardio. I do not wish the 90s back, but we had a lot of fun (even if I was exhausted by 1am). I would like to think that we ruined at least five one night stands with our jubilance.

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I’m going to take you on just a little house tour (just in case you’re curious). This is where I live:

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Clicking

Harry, Severus, & David: The Danger of a Single Narrative by Laura Brekke at On Pop Theology

I found this post very thought-provoking, but then, literature is the way to my heart. There are Harry Potter spoilers here, so if you haven’t read them, steer clear.

What I Left Behind from My Childhood Faith by Rachel Marie Stone at onfaith

I relate to so much of this piece, including the part about hoping that the rapture would wait until after my wedding night. Oh dear.

Unusual Jobs: Pastor’s work takes her beyond church walls by Pia Hallenberg at The Spokesman-Review

This is my pastor.

A Memoir is Not a Status Update by Dani Shapiro at The New Yorker

‘Nuff said.

Making Space Anyway by Addie Zierman at SheLoves

Thoughts on mentoring.

Be Sweet to Me by Erin S. Lane at Holy Hellions

This poem did me in. So beautiful.

Writing

This month, I wrote about my St. Martha’s Day party and the waves of blessings that washed over me that night. I wrote about some of my thoughts on weddings. I wrote about some things that I don’t regret.

In Single Minded Mondays, I wrote about my baggage with the phrase “put yourself out there” (and about the beautiful already).  I wrote a Monday prayer (you’re still welcome to join, even though it isn’t Monday). I wrote about a dream I had when I was young that still shapes my vision for relationships and I confessed some grocery shopping melancholy.

In the de(tales) series, I had the honor of hosting Nicole Sheets (writing about the one-piece rule and online dating), Caris Adel (writing about her first memories of safety), Abby Norman (writing about purple glitter), and Aaron J. Smith writing about some little hands.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss one of my posts, you can subscribe by email.

What are you into this month, friends?

27

Wednesday

de(tales): hands

Aaron is a consistently honest and real voice on the internet. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him online, and also spending time with him in person, at the Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference. He writes with passion and beauty and speaks often to one of my great passions: the left out ones. I hope you’ll enjoy this beautiful de(tale) about his son as much as I did.

de(tale): hands

His hands are small.

His little fists fit into the palm of my hand, and I am reminded that he is still a small boy. After four years of growth, I forget that he is still my baby, my little guy. I remember thinking about how small and tender his hands were when he first grasped my fingers as an infant. I’m still reminded of how small and tender he is when he holds my hand as we walk down the street.

It’s not that he is small. In fact, he is big for his age. He is solid and strong. He is also still growing, and I forget that he is not yet what he will be. I remember it when he sleeps, when he is vulnerable and small in our king sized bed. It’s then I see what a child he still is, how much he has grown, and how much he has left to become.

When he holds my hand as we sleep, I can still feel the smallness of his tender hands. It reminds me of when he was younger, a baby. It reminds me when I was struck with the realization that my first born son – MY SON – was holding my hand. It was one of those moments of pure shock and bliss that strikes you and makes you remember it forever.

As my boy holds my hand and we walk, I remember when he held my hands learning to walk, learning to take steps and support his body on those chubby little baby legs. I remember sitting on the floor of the apartment with him, watching him pull himself up to stand leaning against coffee tables, couches, chairs, and anything else those little hands could grab. I remember him as a toddler, learning to use his hands to not hit and to grab his own spoon. I remember the mess his hands made of spaghetti.

His hands are small, but already they are traced with the lines of life and living. Already they remind me of my own. Already, I can see how someday his hands will outgrow mine. What will happen when my child grows bigger than me? What about when he simply grows too big to hold in my arms the way we snuggle now. My son is growing up, his hands are getting bigger, changing what they can do, and someday those hands will be fully grown, big, and independent.

Right now, those hands remain small. For now his hands fit into mine. For now, he has so much more growing to do. My prayer is that my hands, my older, bigger hands might lead him in the good paths, the ways that let him grow well and grow good. My hands hold his for now, and I feel the weight of those little hands. It’s something special and unlike anything other weight my hands can lift in this life.

So we hold hands, we give high fives, we play with toys together, we learn to be gentle with our hands, and together we walk, crossing streets and climbing hills. As we hold hands, we move through life, even while we sleep. I never really thought about it until now, but I see that his hands lead me to grow just as much as my hands guide him in his growth. It is a beautiful thing, something sacred. Those small hands are something holy, and I get to touch and hold them. I handle the sacred when I hold my child’s hand.

No matter how small they are.

Aaron SmithAaron Smith is a husband, father, believer, writer, nerd, coffee chugger. Just a typical Jesus obsessed, question everything, bipolar, poet-punk-theologian. You can connect with him further on his blog, Cultural Savage, and on Twitter.

You can check out the other de(tales) (so far) here.

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25

Monday

Grocery Shopping Melancholy

Grocery Shopping Melancholy

Yesterday, I went to the grocery store. I had reached that point where my options for lunch were iced tea, juice, or a bottle of wine (I never run out of beverages).

I worked in a grocery store for one of my first jobs. I started as a box girl and worked my way through almost every department (including floral, which comes in quite handy). I don’t know if it is because of my past employment history, or in spite of it, but I often find grocery shopping comforting.

But not yesterday.

Yesterday, instead of feeling grown up as I asked for seven pieces of bacon at the meat counter, I felt pathetic. I placed the bacon in my cart, the little kind with two tiered baskets, and made my way to the produce section.

I’ve been having trouble with bananas lately. They seem to be perfect for about ten minutes, between being a pinch too green and covered in brown spots. Buying even three seems too many. The produce guy is stocking the banana display and he smiles at me and moves his cart to the side so that I can take my pick. It’s the first one-on-one interaction I’ve had with an attractive man for a while, and I enjoy it.

The last time I bought bananas, I noticed a sticker affixed directly to the fruit. “Freeze me,” it says. So I do. I arrest the ripening process and put the bananas directly in the freezer, forgetting to take off the peel at first (rectifying the situation later, with effort). The finished product is delicious, but not at all the same as eating a regular banana. I am not able to succeed in freezing a banana, or a moment, in time. It must change, or go to waste.

I select my bunch and begin to count out 14 dates which I plan on stuffing with honey goat cheese and wrapping in the seven slices of bacon I have just purchased. This is still the only recipe from Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine that I have tried. As often as I buy dates, I think about her words on how to prepare them: “Slice alongside one side of each date, from the top to the bottom, so you can open it like a tiny book.” As I count out my tiny books from the plastic bulk bin and scoop them into my bag, a young, very attractive woman walks into the produce section and begins chatting with the produce guy with a casual familiarity. She reminds me of the girlfriend of my drummer-crush in middle school: put-together, seemingly effortless, and confident (for all I know, it might have been her). After she leaves, with a parting “tag” on his shoulder, the produce guy turns to another friend (does he work? I think) “We’ve been playing tag for months,” he says. “You’ve got to do something.”

By the time I get to the bread and deli side of the store, I am exhausted by the process. I leave the hummus, the english muffins and the rows of miniature cupcakes and check out. At the register, my checker attempts to make casual conversation. I always tried to do this when I worked at the grocery store. I loved trying to guess what people were making for dinner. “Are you having some people over?” he asks me. I survey the belt and realize that my melancholy is laid bare for everyone to see, and, apparently, it looks like a party.

“No,” I say, “it’s just for me.”

Later, I try to figure out if it was the cheese, the fresh bread, or the salsa that helped him to that conclusion. I still can’t figure it out. While I might have bought the ingredients for Shauna’s dates to cheer myself up, my cart wasn’t very different from any other week.

Once, during an interview with a Nepali family, I discovered that my name means banana in their language, which explained all of the giggles during the introductions. I seem to have two choices, banana-wise. I can buy them one at a time, waiting for that ten-minute window and peeling rapidly to take advantage of it, or I can put them on hold in a freezer bag, awaiting my pleasure, but changing their character. Neither of these options compel me, but they are what I have. Tag, or no tag, you have to do something.

For more Single Minded Mondays, click here.

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22

Friday

Things I Don’t Regret

Things I Don't Regret

There was a moment where I hesitated.

The processing fees and the plane ticket and the long drive suddenly seemed like a lot to trade for an evening with a band I loved. The Civil Wars had come to my town, the year before, but not this year. I hovered over my computer, ready to buy my tickets to the Portland show.

I did it.

I flew to Portland and met two college friends. We ate noodles before the concert and squealed in line from time to time. The show was different than the small, intimate one I’d attended the year before, but the music filled that big space, making it’s way into the elaborate dome above us.

I thought I’d have many more chances. I never considered that this would be my last opportunity to listen to those two voices harmonize live.

But it was.

I’m glad I took it.

I probably should have known better.

I was in the midst of unhelpful therapy, recovery from a devastating summer, and Daring Greatly.

It’s possible that I did know better.

But I fell in love with what it felt like to be myself without apologies (perhaps for the first time, certainly for the first time in a relationship). I held everything loosely, like a breath, even as my heart raced.

Maybe that’s why my heart didn’t break when it all fell apart. It was always built like a pie crust, rather than a chocolate cake.

I still think about all that time we spent by the lake in November, from time to time.

I’m still glad we did.

I got up early, far earlier than I usually did.

It was for a boy.

At least, it was at first.

I knocked on the back door in the alley, and they let me in. I started flipping pancakes before I took my turn at the serving line. Then, I went from table to table re-filling coffee and bringing syrup where needed.

There are songs that still take me back to those sun-streaked mornings, too early for my own comfort. I would watch the line of people forming outside, men and women set against the cold they’d spent the night inside, waiting to come in for a hot breakfast. I had the chance to look these men and women in the eye, a chance to say: I see you.

It didn’t matter, in hindsight, that the boy I was originally going to see, didn’t see me.

After a hard winter, I went to an art show, an opening for a friend of mine in college. There was something healing about her work, something that spoke to my tattered soul. I lingered in front of the paintings, letting their calm wash over me.

I had never bought a painting before, had never even considered it. But I didn’t hesitate. I wrote my friend a check for the full amount of my tax refund.

Those three paintings still hang in my bedroom. They still speak.

I poured out my prayers every day in my journal. I have my traditional prayer journal, the one that I got at youth group, with the suggested readings for each day. It had space for a prayer, and a journal response to the Scripture. I was supposed to use it in my “quiet time,” or “PB&J” (prayer, Bible reading, journaling).

I don’t do it that way any more.

But when I look back at those journals now, I can still see that earnest, sweet girl, just trying to do it the right way. In the pursuit of checking all of the boxes, somehow, the Holy Spirit still came.

20

Wednesday

de(tales): purple glitter

I met Abby originally online, through Twitter and an online writer community that we were both a part of at the time. She is spunky and driven and always has lots to say. When I met her in person, at the Festival of Faith and Writing, I realized that this is true of her on and offline. I hope you enjoy this glittery de(tale) of hers, today. 

de(tales) purple glitter

My girls are two and three, and cannot get enough of girly things. Their grandparents got them two baskets full of dress up clothes this Christmas, and it has been a rotating fashion show every day since. Pink bunny masks, pointy princess hats, beloved white heels that clop-clop-clop through our wooden hallway.

But nothing compares to the pretty skirts that the girls can scoot up their legs by themselves. For about a month after they opened them, my girls wore those dress up skirts every day. We had to draw the line at wearing them outside the house. Not because I am terribly concerned about the impression we will give the neighbors (our neighbors love the crazy flare of our daughters ). Rather, the rule of no “fancy skirts” outside the house came because I did not want to inflict the trail of glitter these skirts leave on anyone else.

One of the skirts was covered in purple glitter, neon purple glitter. Within 24 hours my house was also covered in neon purple glitter. It was everywhere. On the couches, the carpet, all over our wood floors there was glitter. The girls room looked like a purple fairy had exploded. Their bed was covered in the stuff.

At first, it was cute, the glitter everywhere. The girls were so enchanted with their fancy skirts they even slept in them. It was an instagram-able bedtime if there ever was one. How precious. Being a mom who is delighted, or at least amused by constant  glitter is the kind of mom I like to be.

Slowly, the glitter started wearing on me. It stuck to my black work pants when I sat down on the couch for just a second before work. I could feel it stick to my bare feet when I walked along the hallway and into the girls room. I tried to vacuum the one small square of carpet we own; the glitter was impossible to get out. Without even realizing it, that glitter I had once been completely enchanted by, became a constant source of torture.

The glitter my girls left around the house gave way to all my mothering insecurities. Surely, a better mom would vacuum more often. Surely, a better mom would clean the couches on a regular basis. Surely this purple glitter all over the house spoke to when and how I was failing my girls. I gave into them too much. I don’t say no enough.

And then I stopped noticing the glitter all together. I was surprised when my co-worker asked me what was with the streak of glitter across my cheek. I shrugged, glitter in random places is just what happens when you are raising two tiny girls.

Parenting, for me, has been a lot like my battle with the glitter. My kids get to a new phase and I am thrilled, then all too quickly I am ready to move on. I blame myself for normal toddler troubles, potty accidents or tantrums. Then I don’t even notice the things I used to delight in.

A few months after Christmas the girls found something else to be enamored with. The fancy skirts are trotted out only occasionally. I find myself missing the purple glitter all over the house.

I am tucking that longing away in my heart, and learning to embrace the stages my kids are in.  Purple glitter is a small price to pay for two little girls, completely ecstatic to be wearing their fancy skirts to bed.

Abby NormanAbby lives and loves in the city of Atlanta. She swears a lot more than you would think for a public school teacher and mother of two under three. She can’t help that she loves all words. She believes in champagne for celebrating everyday life, laughing until her stomach hurts and telling the truth, even when it is hard, maybe especially then. You can find her blogging at accidentaldevotional and tweeting at @accidentaldevo. Abby loves all kinds of Girl Scout cookies and literally burning lies in her backyard fire pit.

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18

Monday

The Yellow Dream

The Yellow Dream

For a long time, I dreamed of someone who would buy me flowers, just because it would make me smile. I’m very much a romantic, even though I’m not always sure how I manage it.

When I was young, not older than twelve, I had a dream. It was one of those dreams that had a color (it was yellow). There was a warm, cozy light throughout. Unlike many other dreams I’ve had, before and since, this one felt safe. It was the first “romantic” dream that I remember, but that’s not why it stuck with me. My boyfriend, in the dream, was so proud of me. He was excited for me to come over to his house, to introduce me to his friends. He wrapped an arm around me and called me his girlfriend.

It was hard to wake up.

Since then, I have searched, honestly, for him. But more than that, I have searched for the way that he made me feel. I have laid my cards on the table early on in every relationship, thinking about that dream. “It’s important to me that you’re proud of me,” I would say. They would agree. Sometimes, they would squeeze my hand.

But for one reason, or another, they weren’t proud of me. Those were the biggest fights, the ones that made me cry on my way home, time and again. When I met their families, they introduced me as their “friend.” When we walked through the streets, in the cool of the evening, they wouldn’t hold my hand. They asked me to lose weight, they ignored my writing, they planned their weekends (and weeknights) around “the game.” They didn’t want to hang out with my friends and they preferred to spend time with their friends, rather than with me.

Though I had three boyfriends, and many more dates, and though I hinted and even just asked, they didn’t bring me flowers, just because it would make me smile (or for any other reason).

But it hasn’t stopped me from dreaming. When I think back on some of the hard things in relationships, I often start humming an Over the Rhine song: what a waste that I’m not jaded, once in a while, I even smile.

And I do.

I have kept right on hoping. I have woken up most mornings with a little of that yellow from my dream still clinging to the corners of my heart. I have seen it, and I won’t believe it can’t be. Not without a fight.

They say you meet someone when you’re not looking, in the most unexpected places. Perhaps this is true.

For me, it happened in the grocery store. I was staring at a display of orchids. Orchids have always scared me. They seem so fragile in their beauty. I have never quite felt worthy of them.

They say that the right person is sometimes right under your nose, just waiting for you to notice them. Perhaps this is true.

I reached out and picked up the most beautiful orchid I could see. It was almost smiling at me. I smiled back. It is possible that people stared, but I didn’t care. It is hard to care about the stares of strangers when someone is busy buying me flowers (orchids) just because it would make me smile.

I have not given up on my yellow dream and the boy inside it. I have not given up on being introduced to loved ones as a loved one. I have not given up on finding a man who is proud of me. But for many years, I wasn’t proud of me. I was so afraid of being selfish, or unattractive or invisible that I wore out thoughtfulness and care on other people and left none for myself. I wasn’t setting a good example.

I’m choosing to believe, these days, that I am worthy of an orchid, even though I am not very good with plants. Still, she smiles at me from my windowsill every morning with no sign of stopping, even though it’s been over a month.

Still, I can’t help but smile back.

For more Single Minded Mondays, click here.

 

13

Wednesday

de(tales): love sounds like metal

Caris was one of my first internet friends. We talk about the deep and the day-to-day. Her writing challenges me frequently, but she also blows me away with the careful beauty of her wordcraft, which seems effortless. I think you’ll find that to be the case with this piece. 

Enjoy friends. 

de(tales): love sounds like metal

It’s a sound.  A metal sound.  When you’re 10, love sounds like metal.

You’re lying in bed, upstairs in the old farmhouse.  The room is covered in wallpaper probably from the 60s, and you are buried under layers and layers of blankets.

Grandma is always worried about the cold, so she piles you high with covers at night, making sure the nightlight is on.  She prays with you, and even at 80, she still ends her prayers with ‘in Jesus’ precious name’, and so now often, you do, too.

And in the morning, as you see the sun streaking through the window, as it rises over the big hill in the cornfield where you go sledding, you hear the sound.  It’s the sound of the square black metal grate opening the vent between the living room below and the bedroom above.

She opens it up, hollering up that the oatmeal is done.  Smells and more sounds drift up.  Sounds of the morning news, maybe the tv preachers from Channel 46, turned way up to reach Grandpa’s hearing aid.  The clanging of the metal wood stove, as the door is opened and logs thrown in.  Kitchen sounds.  And the warm smell of wood heat.

You lay there snuggled under the love, your senses taking in the peace, and it will take you years to realize that what you felt in that house was safe.

You can’t know how rare it will be to experience an undercurrent of joy upon waking up.  To know that the sounds below you are ones of happiness, not anger.  You can’t grasp how peaceful this is, because your home hasn’t fully sunk into tensions.  The eggs have been cracked, but not scrambled, the shells not yet the path for your feet to walk on.  You won’t know how these memories will embed themselves into your brain, providing a baseline of what love is, what it looks like and sounds like.

And you will need that line.  You will need a knowledge of peace to endure the chaos.  You will need these years of visits to the farm, to let nature imprint herself on you.

You will need these wide open spaces to counteract the boxes you will be put into.  You will need the hugs and the cookies and the homemade play-dough.  You will need to remember what it was like to be surrounded by unconditional love.

So close your eyes and listen.  Listen and count.  It’s been 20 years since she died.  20 years, 5 weeks, and 4 days.  And in some ways it feels like yesterday, doesn’t it?  You can still hear the sliding of the grate, the tumbling of the wood, the morning news, and the call for oatmeal.  Because that’s love.  Safe, and forever love.

CarisProfilezoomCaris is passionate about recognizing the image of God in everyone and looking for ways to disrupt her status quo. She lives as a minority in her current neighborhood, along with her husband and five kids. You can connect with her on her blog and on Twitter

You can check out the other de(tales) (so far) here.

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11

Monday

A Monday Prayer

A Monday Prayer

There was a time when I believed in my own eloquence.
I thought that I could move You (and those around me),
by talking slowly and deliberately.

I thought that I could tell You that I was good
on my own.
I thought that
(if it would work)
I might hide myself from You.
(To get what I wanted.)

But all of that has passed now.
I talk to You like an old friend,
or, sometimes, an old lover.
I have very few things left
to prove.

I see You moving.
I ache, occasionally,
about how much You move.
It is clear that You haven’t forgotten me.
It seems clear that I don’t know what I need.

You do not often move the way that I ask
You to move.

There are moments
(fleeting, and tense),
where I don’t think I can wait
any longer.
But I have, and I will.
I will.
(If, indeed, I am waiting at all.)

I curl in the crook of Your arm
just now
and look back.
It has all been made well,
even when it didn’t seem
possible.

For more Single Minded Mondays, click here.

{photo credit}

8

Friday

Drawing Back the Veil: Thoughts on Weddings

 

Drawing Back the Veil

I like to have something to do with my hands at weddings.

For years, I have volunteered, as early in the process as possible, to do anything a hopeful bride could think to ask of me. When she wasn’t particularly good at delegating, I would suggest tasks. I have been out tasting cakes and choosing wedding invitations at several stores. I have put together those same wedding invitations. I have helped bring out food, calmed fly-away hairs, and fetched emergency sunscreen. I have personally walked through the buffet line to get food for the bride and groom.

These are only the sort of things that I have done for free. I have also photographed several weddings in my day. If you are reading this and you desire to hire a wedding photographer, I am happy to suggest someone else. Those days are over.

I don’t know what it is exactly about a wedding that seems to snap me to attention. I am a hopeless romantic, and I’m hoping for a wedding someday, but even more than that, I love to be near romance. I love the sweet little looks exchanged between the bride and groom. I love the way the flower girl always seems to be twirling (or getting into trouble). I love the hopeful way that every bride seems to think that her wedding will be different, that people will dance.

This spring, I read a book called One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding. It was written by a brave journalist named Rebecca Mead, who talks frankly and conversationally about what weddings used to be, and what they have become, in America. The friend who recommended it did so with a caveat: “You can never go back,” she said. “It will change you.” I recommend the book to you with the same caveat. Friends, it changed me. (And I loved every moment of it).

Over the years, I have bought into weddings, hook, line, and personalized garter. I have sighed and cried and reveled.

I have a wedding Pinterest board.

It wasn’t exactly that I fell out of love with weddings. But I did begin to wonder about the emphasis that I, and those I knew, placed on that one day. I began to think that I wanted to break up with the American wedding.

The ways that my thoughts on a (potential) future wedding have changed over the course of reading that book, as well as many frank conversations, are beyond the scope of this post. I will simply say that now I am concerned mostly with the liturgy, and those in attendance, (and that I will probably not wear a white dress).

But so far, 100% of the weddings that I’ve attended have not been my own. It was these weddings that I thought about as I read Rebecca Mead’s book, as well as Jen Doll’s funny, heart-aching memoir-in-essays, Save the Date. I thought about the tiny bags of birdseed that I’ve stuffed and the labels I’ve affixed, and the times that I uttered the phrase: “Whatever you want. This is your day.”

In the midst of processing these emotions, I was invited to a wedding. It seemed the perfect opportunity to work through some of these ideas, at least in my own mind.

As I arrived at the wedding, I saved my seat with a cardigan and a bag and moved to get a program. Everywhere I looked, there were people helping. The large tent held kiddie pools of ice, laden with potluck dishes the guests were bringing. Someone was lighting candles and opening bottles and managing music and flowers. For the first time, perhaps ever, I decided not to offer to help. I would not be codependent at this wedding.

I chatted with people I knew, explored the grounds a little bit (the wedding was hosted at the groom’s father’s house, in the country), and spoke briefly with a horse.

I took my seat.

I listened to the ceremony, taking in the words everyone was saying to one another. I am a word person, and as much as I have liked the frippery in the past, I have always loved the words more.

I walked through the buffet, not waiting for everyone else to be served. I even went back for seconds.

I hugged the bride, and took lots of pictures. I borrowed a two-month-old baby to hold for a little while, during the speeches.

Then, when all of that was over, the music began again in earnest. Reader, I danced.

After the revelry was complete and the band of friends had begun tearing down the tent, and packing presents and flowers into Uhauls and pick-up trucks, I snuck off for a moment to the grassy area beside the house.

There had been enough children in attendance that the hosts had ordered a large bouncy castle. To my elation, it was still inflated.

I kicked off my shoes and stepped inside, barely making contact with the smooth floor, before I started jumping as high as I could (surprisingly high). For just a moment, I was weightless.

{photo credit}

6

Wednesday

de(tales): the one-piece rule

Nicole and I met online. Our friendship is a testimony to the fact that many of us have no idea what cool people are under our noses, in our very own cities. It took me a little while before I realized that this was the same Nicole whose essay in Jesus Girls had resonated deeply with me. By then, we had already become friends and it was too late for me to be intimidated beyond speech by her amazing-ness. She remains one of the very coolest people I know, and one of the best writers I have ever encountered. I am delighted to share her words with you today. 

de(tales): the one-piece rule

My goals for online dating
Find someone awesome.
Lock that down.
Leave no trace that you ever prostrated yourself before the internet in the search for lasting love.

Other guiding principles
Don’t take this too seriously.
Don’t take any of those compatibility quizzes lest you signal that you’re taking this too seriously.
Think of this whole foray as writing practice. Nothing is wasted, right? Certainly not all of that time you spent crafting the “self-summary” portion of your profile, the profile that you hope sounds modest yet extraordinary, unusual yet relatable, down-to-earth yet with a shimmer of intrigue.
Don’t lie.
It’s OK to acknowledge that this experience demands more perkiness and optimism than your saturnine constitution could ever provide.
Also, it’s helpful if, say in the six months before you launch into online dating, you break off a wedding engagement, rebound with a weird guy from church, and then begin taking an antidepressant.

Background
I did this online stuff ca. 2011 and used both Match and OKCupid, which are owned by the same company. OKCupid is free and a bit of a junk drawer with, of course, some treasure underneath the canopy of expired coupons. Match was mostly dudes in their 50s who realized that they couldn’t score with ladies in their 20s, so they reached out to people like me. Match guys mostly just sent little wink emojis in lieu of words. I have nothing against silver foxes nor the occasional flirty emoji, but I can’t be wooed by winks alone. As my profile made clear, I’m a text-heavy dame. A girl’s gotta have some sentences to work with. Simple, compound, complex, whatever. No dependent clause? No problem! Just some subject-verb action is what I’m talking about. Or use an implied subject and let your verbs do all of the heavy lifting! Verbs are sexy! Can I get an a-men?

My online dating experience was limited to the heterosexual, W-seeking-M kind. I was tired of long-distance relationships, so I limited my search to a 150-mile radius from my town. A lot of straight guys within this radius own trucks, and they aren’t afraid to post photos of those trucks, and that’s OK with me.

Lessons learned
Some people are just not going to dig your A material. Also, at some point, you just have to let your freak flag fly.

An anecdote to illustrate these lessons
On day on Match, Flyguyidaho winked at me. I liked the look of his dreadlocks and his variations on a mustache he called The Gunslinger. He wrote for fly fishing magazines and managed a school for kids who’d completed a wilderness therapy program. His son worked out in the field for the same program, a son with whom he was well pleased.

After exchanging several messages, flyguy ended a missive with “tell me more.” I knew this could be dangerous, like that point in a job interview when the person behind the desk asks, “Do you have any questions for me?” It’s not OK not to have questions. But how do you know if your questions are the right questions?

I figured that the outdoors would be one way to connect with flyguy. I told him that since I’d moved to Washington, I’d bought a tent for real camping. I’d started lifting weights. On a good day, I could bench 45 pounds. I told flyguy that Spokane was making me a real woman.

I hadn’t grown up doing outdoorsy things, I explained. When I was younger, camping involved a fortress of couch cushions draped with a blanket or sheet, depending on available materials and the weather forecast for the greater living room area.

Later it meant Camp Jerri, named in memory of an athletic girl who died in high school, whose soft-focus visage stared down at us in the white cinderblock building that was our dining hall and chapel.

I told flyguyidaho about the one-piece rule. At Camp Jerri, girls were only allowed to wear one-piece swimsuits, even though boys and girls had separate swim times. In retrospect, the segregated swimming likely had as much to do with the size of the pool as it did with curbing the lusts of the flesh. But I felt extra godly that our pool would not be confused with a secular pool.

I didn’t recall any discussion about boys’ swimwear. Of course, no young man in late 80s West Virginia was going to roll into a conservative Baptist youth camp with his King James Bible, a notebook, and a Speedo. It was just not an issue.

Sometimes a girl would wear a dark t-shirt over her swimsuit. What may have happened, I told flyguy, is that an unchurched girl would show up for camp, and maybe her mom hadn’t received the flier about what to pack. This was certainly a document of its time, forbidding boomboxes and Walkmans, magazines, any books besides the Bible, short shorts, and two-piece swimwear. Rather than deny this girl some good Christian poolside fellowship, the counselors must have decided that swimming with a long t-shirt over the two-piece was an adequate compromise.

I asked flyguy: Were we girls, so many of us knockkneed or spindly or chunky or covered in mosquito bites, were we really such a threat to virtue? What was everyone so afraid of?

Reader, I didn’t tell flyguy anything about Bible trivia, or about the testimonies ‘round the bonfire, or the afternoon AV presentation warning us against the powers and principalities that ruled rock music. During Pastor Dwayne’s presentation, we listened for messages released like demon genies when you played hard rock LPs backwards. (“Soft” or “light” rock was also not OK, but the evidence in this category was less impressive.)

I wanted flyguy to know that I am religious but not kooky about it. I have a sense of humor. Didn’t Norman Maclean, who also had a lot to say about fly fishing, claim that “both agony and hilarity are necessary for our salvation”?

I told flyguy that I’m planning to edit an anthology of church camp essays. Church camp is a hinge between the scatological and the eschatological, I continued. It’s formative experience for so many people, believers or no. My students tell me about roping calves for the Lord at rodeo Bible camp. They sleep outdoors in covered pioneer wagons. They launch one other into lakes. They are strapped into body harnesses and pushed off of high platforms. They sing in weird skits like some kind of chaste cabaret.

Trust me, I emphasized to flyguy, church camp is a gold mine of writing material.

I was on a roll.

I was just getting warmed up.

I dug further into the box of Cheez-its I planned to eat for dinner.

Only after I clicked “send” did it occur to me that this might not be the “more” that flyguyidaho wanted.

But it was too late.

nicole with hamsNicole Sheets lives with the awesome spouse she bagged on OKCupid. They share a house with her spouse’s brother and sister-in-law, who also met on OKCupid. They should really get paid to do a commercial for OKCupid.
Nicole is the web editor for Rock & Sling, and the editor of How To Pack For Church Camp , a soon-to-launch online anthology of creative nonfiction about, well, summer camp. She teaches at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. You can find her on the twitters as @wanderchic.

You can check out the other de(tales) (so far) here.

{photo credit, creative commons}