Monday, December 31, 2012


January through March [aka winter] is the most difficult time of the year for me.  I'm not a fan of cold weather.  I don't like the interruption to normal schedules that snow days can bring.  Sure, back when my kids were young and I didn't work full time, a snow day was a beautiful thing.  Now snowy days mean a bit of a treacherous drive to work and way too many people shopping at Kroger for white bread.

Partly to help me happily navigate the dark season [what I've labeled winter], and partly because I think it's an obviously good idea, I've broken down {resolutions/goals/things I wanna try to accomplish} by category and by month.  I'm reading The Happiness Project and though I've just completed a few chapters, I'm taking some leads from Gretchen Rubin and tweaking them to fit my life.

I've got some things at home that desperately need to be organized.  Perhaps not to the average visitor, but there are some projects that are calling, actually screaming my name, "Organize me, NOW!"  So, I've decided to pick one project a month.  I'm being kind to myself, in that I don't have to list out 12 projects today.  I'm sure some will come about during the year. far, I've got myself through winter, which is the focus time right now anyway:

recipe organization [my recipes are a mess, and that's no way to live]
kids' papers organization, as in all that stuff they bring home from school [yes, even into their senior year of HS]
craft supply organization [every couple of years I reorganize.....and alas, it's needed again]

I've decided to also pick one project a month.  I greatly enjoy these type of home projects and if I don't actually record a commitment to do them, years can go by with only good ideas and intentions.  So, here's my plan so far:

art for kids bathroom [the walls are pretty bare in there]
frame some of the pictures from the Renoir and van Gogh books I purchased at Half Price Books months ago for this purpose and hang in our kitchen
paint our inside doors that face out [this one will take some working up to, as it will take decision making on colors, and will be a rather bold statement for our home]
plant flowers in pots outside and make new front door wreath
create something to hang on wall in master bath

According to Brene Brown, we all need to take time for creativity.  Even those of us who don't label ourselves as creative.  I akin it to working out.  I am not an all-star athlete.  I don't expect to win any races this year or be drafted into the WNBA [does it still exist?], but I still should exercise.  Likewise, whether or not my artwork or crafts or photos or whatever are professional quality, the point is I need to use my creativity.  All too often, I've considered this type of activity as a luxury or something to do when all other tasks are complete.  Well, not in 2013.  Creating will become a regular part of my routine.

I also want to set some food goals/personal eating restrictions.  I won't bore you with those details, but I will say I'm tired of feeling guilty each time I indulge in bottled water [therefore I should stop] and I have not done well in avoiding processed foods.  I need to make my eating rules more of a priority, even if it means skipping eating at a restaurant that all the cool people are going to.

As far as other goals, I'm allowing myself to take it month by month.  I'm interested in human trafficking prevention, but am not sure how to get into it.  I'm interested in helping people who are not literate.  I'm interested in joining a book club.  But I realize I'm not going to have all of these ready to check off on Jan 1.  So......  I'll keep them on a list and see what comes about.  Oh, I'll pursue them, but not simply for the sake of accomplishment.

There are also the randoms:
  • visit the Cincinnati Museum of Art at least once [our fam typically does]
  • hike Red River Gorge [haven't done that in a while]
  • read back through my 2011 Fruit of the Spirit Journal entries
  • send more cards via the USPS [who doesn't like to receive mail?]
  • email my mother more [she likes this]
  • eat more raw foods
  • avoid Velveeta
  • spend a day at The Abbey of Gethsemani 
  • journal more
I'm looking forward to April and spring and getting my recipes organized.  If you have a good system, let me know, ASAP.

Resolutely yours,

P.S.  Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

{advent hope part 2} aka dueces.dos.deux

I am one of those people.......I have to hand make some of my Christmas gifts.  It's an oddity too difficult for some to understand.  Yet, it's me.  I generally make gifts for the grandparents, sometimes for my sister and family, and the last few years I've gotten into producing handcrafted items for my husband.  Much to his happiness, I have not taken up knitting [as of yet].  But I like the whole [let's paste some meaningful stuff on a canvas type idea]........

This year's theme is HOPE.

Actually, I've decided to make HOPE my word of the year for 2013.  I've come to the conclusion that we need more of it.  We, as in, all of us who are human.  And it hits home.  This year, within a football field's distance of my home:
  • a house burned down
  • a 19 year old was shot and killed
  • I've witnessed a woman in the act of solicitation [as in prostitution for the street naive] on a Saturday afternoon
  • a young man living across the street was arrested and hauled off in the back of a cop car
  • a second floor apartment where children live was barged into by armed, masked bad guys
  • more than a few drug deals have gone down
  • and just the day before ambulance, multiple firetrucks and a few police cars gathered down the street due to this lovely story
I'm HOPING for a less eventful 2013 on Loudon Avenue.  And I'm HOPING I am hopeful and not resigned to negativity.  It's easy to give up and wish for the next ticket out or up or through.

This might surprise my husband and kids, but 2012 was, perhaps, the best Christmas I can remember. Granted, my memory is pretty much shot.  But I can't recall a more peaceful, comfortable holiday.  Trust me, I've had some quite unpleasant ones.  And this one was far from it.  I guess the fact I was able to give my husband a toaster for Christmas says it all.  There was a day when I would have never taken the risk of giving kitchen appliances.  While he's probably the only one who'll grasp the concept, it's taken a long journey to get to the point where a toaster is acceptable and not a ridiculous thought.  But since our toaster oven doesn't adequately brown a slice of bread in a timely manner, we're giving the old fashioned Proctor Silex the old college try.

Which brings me full circle because my word for 2012 was RISK.  I'm not sure how much I participated in risky business this year.  Yet, I'm reminded the toaster was a risk.  As was the artwork. Going off the list, away from the norm, putting myself out there.  Even after 22.5 years of marriage, that can still be difficult.

So here's to hope and hoping and being hopeful.  That Loudon Avenue will not produce anymore felons.  That our toast will never burn.  That the University of Kentucky Museum of Art will contact me regarding a display of my work [not really, but I can dream....].

Happy {hopeful} advent and new year!  

Monday, December 24, 2012

{advent hope}

Sometimes things don't go as planned.  I'm sure that's an obvious fact to you, my blog reader.  But I'll give an example anyway.

I frequently place books on hold at the library.  A while back, I placed John Grisham's latest novel, The Racketer along with Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior.  I was number 1,023 [not really, I can't remember the exact number but it was in the 100s] on the Grisham wait list.  The Kingsolver number wasn't near as large.  I figured what are the chances they'll arrive at the same time?  Slim, very slim.  Meanwhile I was reading Anna Karenina on my Kindle [I got it for free, since it's a classic].  I wanted to finish reading it before I watch the movie that was just released.  But alas, Tolstoy [the author of AK] is anything but brief and I was about 45% through the novel when I got the library notice:

Flight Behavior is ready to be picked up.

Mind you, on these newly released bestsellers, you only get a 14 day window to read them.  I put AK aside, and started in on Flight Behavior.  Which I'm still reading.  Meantime, I received another notice:

 The Racketer is ready to be picked up.

Meanwhile [again.....], I like to read a non-fiction book while reading fiction.  It keeps me balanced.  I've been reading Outliers.  I'd put The Happiness Project on hold a while back [another huge wait list]. Well, it's now in my possession because it became available too.  Fortunately, it's not a 14 day-er, so I've got a good month to conquer it.

Lest you think I feel my library/reading issues are a big deal, I don't.  It's just an example of what seems to happen when I try to balance out an aspect of my life that really is out of my control.  I can't pick and choose when the library books become available.  Sure, I could  purchase all my reading material, but that would get mighty expensive.  I simply HOPE it all works out.

I believe most of us understand the concept of love.  You've heard it as many times as me....."the word LOVE is overused."  We love our spouses.  We love pizza.  We love San Diego.  We love all the merchandise sold by Anthropologie.  We love the ring inherited from Grandma.  And really there's absolutely no comparison because I'd give up pizza forever if my husband's welfare depended on it and though San Diego will always hold a sentimental place in my heart, I might never return.

We get faith too.  We understand there are some things we can count on.  I know for a fact my dad is there for me if I ever need ANYTHING (like money).  Unless he goes through a horrific brain shift, that's not going to change.  He will never willingly allow me to become homeless or destitute.  I know my husband will never, ever eat corn.  He had a bad experience with it once.  These are things that won't change.

But hope, hope is somewhere in between and I think somehow we've misplaced it.  We use the word a bunch, like we do love.

I hope I get an A.
I hope I receive a raise.
I hope it doesn't rain.
I hope my car doesn't run out of gas.
I hope I can sell my home.
I hope he calls.

But we also go out of our way and use preventive measures.

We study to get the A.
We work to get the raise.
We take an umbrella just in case and some of us even have cute rain boots.
We watch the gas meter and fill up before it becomes worrisome.
etc. etc. etc.

Yesterday my husband, daughter and I went to the discount theater and saw The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Again, things often don't go as planned.  I'd hoped for one of those teenage angst type films.  A few laughs, maybe a tear, and then we'd get on with the day.   I have to tell you, a movie has not affected me like that in years.  I'm a reflector.  I'm a processor.  And I, probably more so than most, think back to the past and sometimes unhealthily dwell there.  This movie took me back to 16 again.

Upon leaving the theater, I wanted to begin giving my daughter a speech.  Maybe I should write her a letter.  I just want to make sure she knows.  And I need to include my son, who didn't see the movie, but needs to know these things.....

Don't choose the punk over the kid who likes Hemingway.  Dreams of Cal Berkeley should always trump dreams of the US Marine Corp.  Because ex-Marines often end up fat and people who like Hemingway end up in cool places like the Pacific Northwest.
Don't choose the popular people over those who compliment you when you wear your aunt's old clothes from the 1960s you found in your grandma's garage.
Be yourself.  It's alright to dress up even if it seems the entire world is wearing jeans.  Befriend the people who are different because they're probably more interesting than those who aren't different. 
Be patient with the people who've been through much.  Not everyone has had the fortune you have.  And be patient with those who have never been through anything worse than a B- on a test.  They need love too.  Because hardship is relative.

And always, always hope.  Hope the world will change.  Hope we'll no longer need the US Marine Corp and no one will end up fat.  Hope someday we'll live in a world where Goodwill always trumps Abercrombie, because that's probably how it should be.  Don't conform.  Because conformists end up in the suburbs.  

I apologize for the scattered nature of this entry.  I've thought about [hope] for over a week, and just couldn't seem to write anything that measured up to my thoughts.  I've rambled.  I hopefully haven't offended you.  I do wish you a {hopeful} holiday and new year.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

{adverse Advent}

I have multiple journals.

One is green and I carry it in my purse.  It's purpose is prayer and devotional thoughts.

One is small and brown and I also carry it with me.  I use it to jot down writing ideas, mainly for my blog.  It's also handy if I come across a good quote. 

I have a journal on my nightstand, in which I write the more diary type stuff:  personal rants, how I'm feeling, why I should be the first female president [not really].

Having multiple might seem odd to some, but I desire to keep things separate.  The nightstand journal absolutely could not travel around with me.  It's too private, and to be honest, I don't use very good penmanship in it.  The green journal is nice to have around, especially if I catch a spiritual thought while at work I want to jot down, or if I feel the need to write out a prayer.  The little brownie is not neat.  It's mainly used for brainstorming.  It gives me that Hemingway vibe.

Anyway, the point of all this......I looked in my green journal earlier this week and realized I haven't written anything in quite some time.  The last entry was a prayer I copied, most likely from Common Prayer:

Lord, you have brought them in safety to this new day.  Preserve them by your mighty power that they may not fall into sin nor be overcome by adversity and in all that they do, direct them to the fulfilling of your purpose, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Above the prayer, I'd written:
Prayer for husband and kids

My kids have not really faced extreme adversity; nothing life shattering has ever, thank goodness, happened to them.  But I'm a firm believer that much in life is relative to your circumstances, so when they do face what is difficult for them, it is, in reality, difficult.

It's easy to gloss over the adversity of the Christmas story.  Yet, so much of it is stark and not so pretty.  Yes, it's the most beautiful story ever.  But at the same time it's a young girl put in an unfamiliar, risky situation.  It's a young man trying to do the right thing even though it would be easier not to.  It's life in an occupied country, where the adversary is very real and powerful and dangerous.  When I imagine my young daughter put in the situation Mary was in, it's overwhelming to comprehend.

Our kids face decisions that have consequences.  Not just the drugs and sex and uber serious stuff.  But the "should I be in the percussion ensemble?" and "should I try out for the school play?" questions do have the ability to take one down a certain path.  And while they might not be life altering, even a little change during one's freshman year of high school can be BIG.

I'm finding one of the hardest aspects of parenting is helping our kids through their difficulties and decisions.  It's fairly easy to tell them what to do.  But letting them make the call.....  that can be hard.

Jean Vanier's quote was part of my morning devotional today:

"To love someone is not first of all to do things for them, but to reveal to them their beauty and value, to say to them through our attitude:  'You are beautiful.  You are important.  I trust you.  You can trust yourself.' We all know well that we can do things for others and in the process crush them, making them feel that they are incapable of doing things by themselves.  To love someone is to reveal to them their capacities for life, the light that is shining in them."

That's a great goal, to reveal the light that is shining in my kids.  I hope I'm getting there.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

{Advent renouncements}

The contrast between {being humble} and {being all you can be} is glaring.  I am reminded often [mostly by my sweet husband], that what I do, as in work, does not define who I am.  Last night I read a chapter of The Gifts of Imperfection and it again helped me see this.

I want to learn to renounce what the world says is important.  And though in some ways I'm there.....I get it and embrace it, in others I'm far away. 

As I transverse through the Advent season, I really want to focus on the simple, dirty, raw and real story of Christmas.  I want this to be my prayer:

Hound us, Lord, with affection and conviction until we renounce all lesser things to follow you. Help us see that in giving up the fool’s gold of the world, we open ourselves to heavenly treasure that lasts forever. 
Amen. [Common Prayer]

I like that....{fool's gold of the world}.

I recently read this:

Justin the Martyr wrote in the second century, “He called Abraham and commanded him to go out from the country where he was living. With this call he has roused us all, and now we have renounced all the things the world offers, even unto death.”[Common Prayer]

That's pretty extreme.....{even unto death}.

I seriously doubt I'll ever face death because of what I've renounced.  But I do face death of self.....everyday.  And while it's a completely different thing, it is difficult to renounce what the world deems as success.  At the end of the day, I want to feel like I've accomplished something, and I confess, sometimes I wish I could accomplish something BIG.  Or what the world deems as big.  And that's simply {fool's gold of the world}.  My OT scripture reading for today is Isaiah 2:12-22.  It's a pretty good summation that the things of this world will pass away.  Especially the stuff that makes us proud and egotistical. 

It’s early December, God, the first excitement of calendars and wreaths is passing; we wonder if we’ll be able to keep up even our simplest daily discipline. The promise and danger of Advent is that it changes our habits, even for just a few weeks. Use this time to remake us, Lord, in the image of your Son. Amen.  
[A Homemade Prayer for Tuesday in Advent 1 by Josh Thomas]