Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Second Night-sky

Although I am hemmed in by the comforting quilt-like folds of rolling mountain ranges, the ocean's landscape still fascinates me.  On the one hand, the immensity of oceanic space overwhelms me with fear.  If I were pinpointed upon the silken skin of the most remote water, that expansive fluidity would appear as mind-boggling as the distance from Terra to her sun.  The cold sweat common with delusional illnesses, when clouded nightmares prickle neck-hair and the body projects itself from the dream by sitting in shivers stark-straight in bed, provokes the edges of my mind when I mentally thrust myself on the horizon of the sea.

And yet, on the other hand, I imagine the rhythmic current, constant on my limbs and back, the support of the seawater, and the under-viewed beauty of nature's puddled tears.  Consider the multitude of sea creatures, whose shimmering glow mimics the stars that shine above, so as to create its own map of constellations.  And, there, pressed at the point where two night skies meet, I imagine the stories above and the stories below that thread these stars together.  Or, consider the brewing clouds, whose fullness brings a silent snow or heated thunderstorm battering upon the land, but also glistening onto the flourishing ocean.  What would it be like to see firsthand snow sift onto ocean-dunes?

Friend, does something terrify you?  Perhaps you have an impending decision or a looming deadline; perhaps an illness caters that which you want not or a past experience emerges from the depths?  Regardless of the fear that threatens to overwhelm, try to turn your eye in a way that sees beauty where you dread.  Remind yourself of the comfort of a friend or love, and cautiously peer at that second night-sky to imagine the beauty there to see.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reeling shadows

In the waning sun, light sprays over a frost-bitten hibiscus tree, whose leaves wrinkle into brown and yellow chrysalides—but ones hanging like hollow wombs. Instead, those leaves proffer life to a shadow display, which holds the essence of Impressionist work in a slowly moving reel. It falls on the light cherry laminate, on the walnut-stained baseboard, on the white-wash wall.

The animated painting seems to breathe, even as the day fades. And amidst this dying, a whirlwind of white noise, like the sharp murmur or the speckled texture of out-of-tune frequencies, amasses and works to consume that shadow. This swarm, friend, resembles the multitude of love-negating happenings that infiltrate life. Harsh words, pride-filled sins, torturing memories, aging aches—all those heart pangs that press like weights upon our backs can easily overtake even our most engaging attempts at grasping the way we want to live. We try to hold and contemplate and experience beauty and truth, but in so doing, we smear them with our fingerprints, so that our faulty vision is further skewed by our humanness.

Do you feel this way, friend? Does the day seem to convolute into little tornadoes of negative emotion: anger, pain, despair, anxiety? You do not need to experience these things alone. We are meant to be communal creatures. Who do you trust? Who can show you love beyond the layer of common colloquy? Reach out to them, today. And know that you can be a source of light to others, too. Even in our mutual brokenness, we can cast shadows that proffer a projection that dances with a love ready to withstand the chaos that envelopes the day.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

This little light of mine...

When I was very young, like my sons are today, myriad people reprimanded me for being a loquacious and hyperactive child. I still recall the day a pastor stopped mid-sermon, cast his eyes earnestly in my direction, and told me to settle down. In kindergarten, my cheeks blushed fire-pink when a teacher shamed me for wiggling and whispering from my padded mat at nap-time. Other elementary experiences left me in fear of a particular teacher, who admonished me to stop talking when a girl beside me was the guilty party, who denied my request to use the bathroom during her mathematics lesson and smirched me for the result of a pungent puddle on my plastic chair, whose overtone - even when she was absent from the room - led me to clean up my own vomit (that I unintentionally let loose one day upon arriving in her room) so that I would not have to experience her humiliating gaze.

These experiences remind me of the quote sprawled across the wall of the Dotheboys Hall schoolroom in the movie-from-a-Dicken's-novel, Nicholas Nickleby: "Fear him who formed thy frame." This quote, for me, exudes the knowledge of Psalm 103:14, "for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust." But, the mercy and compassion bolstered by scripture is completely lost on the schoolmaster that wields such a weapon against his school children. For God holds pity on mankind; God knows our limits and does not seek to break us.

Reflecting on the pains of the past and resolving to live differently are fundamental to showing and experiencing love in this world. My pains have caused me to become a contemplative spirit. Charged with being shy, I take things to heart. And yet, I want to interlace my actions and way of living with the careful observation needed to show compassion for others. Perhaps this derives from that sensitivity.

Our social and cultural standards dissuade individuals from such sensitive and reflective living. Constant motion, egocentric striving, and characteristics of mania are endorsed, as the blogger of Forever Becoming also purports, but not a quieter and more-intentional way of life. Friend, let us encourage more contemplative and meaningful living. Dare to talk less and observe more. Dare to consider the impact your words, your demeanor, and your way of life have on others and on the world. Dare to be a source of encouragement, rather than a source of denigration.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Autumn Unveiled

The color splash of autumn is inspiring. A mix of fresh blue from sky, soft white of cloud, rust-red-auburn-vibrant-orange of leaves is like a master-made painting, where each brushed stroke adds a bit of soul; or a richly-woven tapestry, whose colors and cloth-materials work in harmony together; or a musical composition in which the notes tickle your ears long after the piece is played; or a person devoted to God in such a way that produces selfless acts, both tangibly love-based and life-altering.

Imagine the brightness of a stained glass window - one with colors so mellifluous that they seep into the very soul of the viewer. Truly rapturous moments do not happen every day. And when they do, they are written on the heart. Remembering such moments, especially when the evils of the world have brutalized one's senses, is like flashing a flood of unveiled heaven before the eyes. When trees unveil their colorations without chlorophyl, the enchanting beauty that results connotes that same spiritual spark that spirals us onto a journey to know God. When lichen and moss kiss silver bark on a fallen tree, it seems to signify the life-filled possibility in ourselves even when we feel broken. When we are juxtaposed with moments that exude God's presence, we yearn for more as soon as they are gone.

Today, friend, I pray for your eureka moments. I pray for your soul to be cleansed by the light-giving burn of a candle during prayer or the mesmerizing marrow of hallowed words or the immense peace of spending time in nature or with a forever-friend, all the while engaged in the moment.

Today, friend. Today.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sharing apple slices

"I'm not an expert or anything.  But I think I did a good job," Joey said.  Since I was in another room at the time, his proclamation sparked both alarm and curiosity into my head.  I quietly went into the kitchen and saw two little boys with their shaggy-haired heads close together.

A butter knife in one hand and a juicy apple in the other, Joey was slicing the apple for Ezra to eat.  Not only did he have a cutting board covering the work surface, but he even fished the miniature shape-cutters from the gadget-drawer to use in popping stars, hearts, and ovals from the cream-colored meat of the fruit.

Have you ever counted yourself unqualified or unable to do something?  Have you ever felt you were unworthy for a particular hobby, station, or other life experience?  Often, I downgrade my own worth because I don't think I'm making a difference in a tangible way - do you ever feel that way, friend?

Perhaps you'll never win a Noble prize or travel halfway around the world; maybe, your life is filled with the routine of caring for children or fulfilling responsibilities at work.  But, this doesn't mean that your life has little worth to those around you.

You would be surprised how the choices you make each day can impact others when you least expect it.  Smile, savor the view your life holds, and know that you are not alone.  We - each of us - can be a benefit and joy to one another.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cocoa-induced warmth

Steam whistles from the kettle.  Picking it up, I pour a slender stream of water over the cocoa granules nestled within waiting mugs.  Silken milk cools the drink enough for a toddler's tongue.  After stirring the hot chocolate, I settle the cups in front of my sons.

"Oh!  It's a good day to drink cocoa!  I'm going to drink my cocoa in front of the fire," Joey says with eyes filled as much as his face with smiling.

So, two little boys warm their toes by the kitchen's black-belly stove and sip warm chocolate until their day defrosts.  The gray clouds continue to drizzle, here, while reminding us that winter's chill is just beginning.  The tug-of-war between two seasons brings us an almost disorganized mingling; and yet, we somehow sort out the day.

Friend, do you feel disorganized like the weather?  Perhaps, a warm cup of cocoa by a radiant warmth will help your day feel more relaxed and set your perspective in a better state to do what you need to do.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Car wash

Splash - plink

"Ha! Car wash!"

Looking up from reading the morning paper, I notice that Ezra smiles widely in his joy.  His fingers, which recently were running a frost-blue car over the table, now flail open as if trying to use The Force in order to direct an object back to him.  That object is his car, now front fender down in his water glass, which of course is full of water.

Ezra wears his newspaper hat, painted blue.
My two-year-old son is full of funny puns these days.  He'll laugh, saying "I tooted."  Or, chuckle when he sees Daddy make a fish face with his pursed lips puckering hollows into his cheeks. Or, pull out laughing peals more quickly than painted strokes on canvas. And the result is as Van Gogh's sunflowers, whose vibrant yellows contrast upon themselves a sense of happiness, even if the world dances to darker notes.

Friend, do you feel the wash of laughter lighten your soul each day?  Let it ring out today and, for even just a moment, lift off the burdens that weigh upon your heart.  If you need inspiration, just think of Ezra's car wash and picture his smiling face.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spiraling possibility

Acorns Joey gathered on a recent nature walk.
The smooth, brown sheen of acorns glistens underfoot as much as those nuts crunch with each step. My four-year-old delights in gathering acorns in their great variety: some as colossal as a baby's tender foot, some dappled more yellow than Autumn's hue, some capped for an outing; others sleekly shaven, others blacker than India ink, others as petite as a newborn's smallest nail.  Joey bags them for further study at home, Ezra decapitates the ones still headed, Daddy minds them not until he steps on one, but Mommy rubs a thumb across the silken skin and admires the beauty that spirals from possibility.

Friend, we all feel the singularity that life brings to each one of us.  On a crowded subway car, bumping close to other travelers, we are as alone as the monk nestled in a crag on Meteora's lofty stones.  It is easy to feel isolated, uncared for, forgotten.  As time whirls by, we're left so caught up in our own place that we often forget that the faces we see have names, stories, worth.

A single, meadow-rooted tree, captured as the car quickens by, holds beauty.
Perhaps today, friend, you will take the time to really look at those around you - look for a name, a story, someone's worth you did not see before.  Maybe there's a long-ago friend that needs reminding that you care.  Maybe someone you see everyday needs the tender touch you've forgotten to give.  Maybe, friend, you can admire the beauty that spirals from possibility.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Singin' in the Sunshine

Ezra portrays his rendition of Gene Kelly's famous Singin' in the Rain dance scene admirably.  But, instead of raindrops pouring down, sunshine drips and pools.  My little toddler tips and taps and sings, "La, la, la..." with great heart.  All the while, a smile spreads like the spinning of an umbrella's arc when Gene has it in hand.

Just last night, a long-felt fever still radiated from Ezra's skin.  He was lounging around on his favorite, comfort pillows in a pose that oozed "I'm not feeling well." But, today, he is spry, even if a rough bark betrays his verge near croup.  And, how like Gene when he originally danced through the deluge!

Friend, do you wish for such gusto amid the torrents of life?  Even when we're ill or lonely, crestfallen or overwhelmed, friend, we can still start the slow steps of a happy dance.  We can still attempt to share joy with someone else.

A more positive demeanor does wonders for the world at large, too.  Just think of Ezra merrily prancing among halos of sunlight and let the smile seep through your burdens, today.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Flipping pages

Flipping pages, both boys intently stare at or randomly jabber about the pages in two different books.  Ezra's bare toes pop out from under the book's open yawn and barely peek over the couch's cushion; blue slippers encase Joey's feet and hang on for dear life as he taps the bookcase and jiggles in tune to his spirit's whirlwind beat.

Ezra changes from a book about a bear hunt to a slender dinosaur reference.

"Ezra, I will read it to you," Joey says as he puts down his hardback, which guides the reader through Roman numerals utilizing painted pigs - as many as duo milia (MM).  Just picking out words, such as color, Ezra, mommy, and paint, Joey would have a hard time telling Ezra much more than the letters on the page, but his desire is admirable.

Running about the room, Ezra ends the chase by throwing the book behind the couch.  Joey's prompt smack of Ezra's noggin sends him to his room, crying and screaming.

Life is filled with such adorable moments - ones you want to press into a book and savor on a rainy day; with such beauty and kindness.  But, as quickly as one flips a page, the moment clouds into such chaos and woe.  Only, then, to return to sweet smiles, remorseful kisses, and eager enjoyment of the day's delights.

Friend, is your day like this?  Sometimes, you feel no matter which way you turn the pages of a book, you cannot make sense of what you see there.  Other times, reading is smooth and delightful - you are eager to get to the next page.

Today, I'm hoping more for the latter for Joey & Ezra, for me, and especially for you.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Palsy-walsy Spirits

"No, no, no, fly!" Ezra says while dramatically waving his chubby little hand in the air.

A fruit fly or two circle his head while eager to dive into his snack.  Whether Ezra eats french vanilla yogurt with homemade granola or chocolate ABC cookies or sweet grapes, it matters not to the pomace fly.  He is content to sip the flavorful waft above the food as much as dining on the flesh itself.

As a result, we wave our hands or swatters exuberantly.  We pour little viles full of vinegar and ensnare the opening with perforated plastic wrap ready to trap the poor small flies.  Even bagging fresh fruit, slipping ripened tomatoes into the refrigerator, or covering the compost container seem to be futile efforts.

This time of year often brings visitors from the family Drosophilidae.  They are thick as dew upon over-ripe tomatoes, dangling on the garden vines near the house.  And despite the friendliness suggested in their family, it is not so.  For, they are more nuisances than loving guests.

So, too, the ghosts bundled away in baggage we lug with us year after year.  So, too, one unkind or insincere comment out of a million salutations.  So, too, pains long ago felt, but fresh as new wounds.  So, too...

Could you add to this list of nuisances that plague your current experiences, friend?  Do you, too, brandish a hand flagrantly?  Are false friends hovering in the background, waiting to prey upon your faults or mistakes?

Fear not and let your smoldering cease to consume yourself.  Let the smoke die down for you, surround yourself with more favorable advocates, and enjoy the fruits of life before they fade away.

Friday, August 31, 2012


The emotional and physical pains of a miscarriage are breathtaking.  I'm not talking about breathtaking beauty, although there is that, too.  Mostly, the experience is breathtaking in that it literally steals your breath away and leaves you grasping at ways to work through the pain.

The bleeding started on a Monday.  It seemed like the usual show one expects after intimacy, but soon turned into something scary: bright bleeding to cover a pad by Wednesday.  The amount of blood heightened until Saturday's first non-periodesque pains mounted to jolting stabs.  Unlike normal, natural birth pangs, these stabs were constant and worsened until they reached a crescendo right when the sac, fetus, and placenta slipped through the cervix opening.

It lasted four and a half hours.  I paced, practiced Lamaze breathing techniques and focal pointing; my husband read fairy tales aloud; Enya's soothing Memory of Trees softened the atmosphere along with a vanilla-scented candle and low lighting; I danced, I rolled into a ball on the bed.  Unlike previous birthing experiences during which the birthing ball provided immense relief, I squealed in pain when I tried sitting on the ball.

The silvery sheen that slowly emerged looked like a teardrop.  It was entirely intact: sac with amniotic fluid, soft pink placenta, and chain-like cord.  In some ways it was beautiful and resilient.  It was a world that could provide every possible need for a baby-not-yet-born.  But, there was no baby.  Curiosity prevailed and carefully cutting open the sac, a barely developed ovum no longer grew within.  Like a minuscule peach pit unsheathed from the flesh, the hope of a child was lost with this painful unveiling.

The pain stopped immediately; at least, until a week later.  Small clots reminded me that not only had I experienced an actual birth, but needed to experience proper recovery time, as well.  With two little guys to care for, it is - admittedly - difficult to find rest amidst the turmoil of the day.  But, friend, if you have experienced or know someone who has experienced a miscarriage, that strong woman needs rest and she needs to know you care - about her, her family, and about the loss of life, of a dream, of the hope that she recently cradled in her womb.

What can we do, friend, to help others that need us?  Make a meal that can be made immediately or frozen.  Many friends were kind enough to perform this simple act that shows concern for daily needs.  If the family has other children, offer to take them outside to play while mommy can have a little nap or just put her feet up.  This shows recognition that full-time motherhood is a consequential and exhausting non-paid profession.  If they do not have children, offer to help with house cleaning or grocery shopping.  A third way you can help, friend, is through the compassion of care: pray, call or e-mail every day or every other day to check on the mother that recently lost a child.  This shows you truly care and do not want your friend to suffer alone.  Another way to mourn and celebrate the hope this life had brought is to take a living plant to the family.  This gives a tangible remembrance of the hope the couple had and encourages them to see the bittersweet beauty of the experience: that their strength, love, and compassion for others in painful situations is heightened because of the happenstance.  Friend, if you've experienced a miscarriage, what has been a comfort to you?

There are so many ways in which to help someone experiencing a miscarriage.  My earnest desire is that you, friend, understand the true pain of such a situation, even if you have never experienced it personally, and that it encourages you to reach out in ways you may not have before.

In our household, a weeping redbud grows above the remains of our little one.  It provides comfort and hope to our family.  We'll mourn the loss of a hope, but still dream.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lush lavender

Lush lavender, with spires of purple blossoms here and there, are the only sweet smelling plants in my garden that Japanese beetles do not munch.  Those iridescent, blue-to-green bugs pile onto the yellow Midas touch roses in a huge orgy; they mate on myrtle, overeat okra leaves, scarf down swaths of strawberry greens, and nibble cherry leaves into tin-punched art.  So, a quart of soapy water in one hand and a green garden glove on the other, I pluck bugs and dunk them in their bath.

I need to plant more lavender, I suppose.  Their resilience to bugs is inspiring.  The dusky green fronds remind me of the blue Aegean, whose islands each hold beauties to discover.  In the case of lavender, one swipe with the hand or brush of the leg summons a subtle scent sure to soothe.

My life needs more soothing and less stress.  Do you understand, friend?  Do you yearn for planting life events that inspire your soul, rather than surmount your day-to-day with energy-sucking endeavors?

What makes your day more joyful and less stressful, friend?  Perhaps a person to make your smile complete, like my Rustle?  Perhaps a story or poem?  Perhaps a movie or game?  Do you enjoy hiking to a rugged mountain peak or watching the sun's rosy rise sparkle on surf?

Let's make it a point to add something soothing to every day's adventures.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The mimosa's redolence

It is the last summer to enjoy the mimosa.  The tree hangs its limbs to the windows, which gather sweet perfume from morning to morning again.  Even in sweltering heat, the heady aroma seeps through the screens, intoxicating the inhabitants.  A window fan swirls the smell until the whole room seems thrust into that tree, like a clubhouse for which Joey is constantly advocating.

Our septic failed.  The travails of an old house, I suppose.  And, the health department has demanded sap to pay: trees near the distribution box, a perennial bed atop the distribution lines, a pear tree twenty feet away, a peach tree too close, my beloved magnolia, and - yes - the mimosa with her sweet-smelling puff-balls in full bloom.  What a shame such genocide is not as alarming as those occurring in other parts of the globe and across generations!

Do you have fond memories of a tree, friend?  One you climbed as a child or not so long ago?  One that shaded your searing days or moods?  A tree that delights your mind's eye to think about it?  Nature is quite agreeable at times and reminds us of the beauty we have beheld and will behold, yet.

So, for one last summer, I'll savor the joys of this limb-sprawling tree.  Joey will learn to climb.  Ezra will dance in a sprinkler under the shade of her archaic, compound leaves.  Russell will help me locate the best place to plant a future tree, for her starts are prolific!  And, I will admire the hummingbirds that flit between her blooms, while the mimosa's redolence bathes me.

May today give you a chance to enjoy a bit of beauty, too.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Kindled hope

Boughs bow, leaves flit, and sunlight simmers every tree it touches until it glows, gilded.  Light's receding touch yet lingers on the backporch, where shadows begin to overtake dappled day.  A thin thread of web shimmers as the breeze casts it into pooled sun; otherwise, board edges bear a bold blackness and even a bumbling borer bee seems swallowed by night.  Twilight looms, ready to weave a tapestry of stars, moonlight, and the pervasiveness of clinging darkness that coats us all on the inside.

Eyes closed, I sit in a movie theater when the main feature is about to begin.  The first note, word, or image nears every moment and I anticipate the adventurous journey unfolding.  Oh, if I could live like that!  And you, friend?  Do you seek to live each moment as if it were the beginning of something grand?

We can learn a lot from the sun, whose early rosy tendrils alter not, though the variables of the day do.  It still shines brightly, even when the clouds quilt the sky and keep it from our view.  And when we sleep - the dark tucking us in - the hope of the coming light remains.

Let such hope kindle in you, friend.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tearful stains

Long, black lines of permanent marker stain the faux suede couch.  Each one - soaking in a white vinegar, dish soap, and water solution - resembles a drop of dew that sparkles on the grass in early morning light. 

One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  Five.  Six.  Seven.  Eight.  How did Ezra get to an eighth mark before I noticed?  Russell's skype persona held my attention; Joey's funny antics amused; even, the flickering fireflies caught the corners of my eyes.  But, Ezra's guile alluded me!

Have you ever been so duped, friend, into enjoying a moment only to have it followed with long hours of work to make up for a grand mistake or painful heartache? 

I'll be carefully blotting marker stains late tonight, while savoring a moment to see my love's sweet face.  Tears may creep into the soft green cushion while I dab rubbing alcohol on the fading fringe Ezra drew, but my two-year-old's happy smile will mingle with that ache.  And, when a final rinse and brush reveal - prayerfully - a faded if not erased repetition of lines, then I will sigh and give a hearty laugh in conjunction with Joey's jovial humor.

Perhaps you, too, can smile or dare-say laugh amidst your strife today, friend?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Holding hands

"Let 's hold hands, boys."  I grab Ezra's hand; Ezra slips his hand into Joey's sure palm; then, linked together like paper-chain angels, we cross the parking lot to the library's door.

Like a mommy duck's desire to line her little ones in a row as they wade through water, teaching my boys to keep together when we're near a car-frenzied place or in a crowd has been just as important as their learning to share, not to fuss when things don't go their way, or not do bodily harm to one another.  It's a slow process - learning to live in harmony with those we love.  How do you fare, friend?

There are times when I feel buoyed by the love of family and friends.  During these times, I cannot imagine the weary days that lap at my feet.  Do you know what I mean, friend?  Has love lit your life in an extra special way?

On the other hand, I often feel so disconnected from others that it's overwhelming.  Like sitting on the subway: each individual bundled in an invisible box that keeps bumping the one next to it as the train barrels through dark tunnels, I feel like despite the close connection between family and friends we are still so far apart.  Is it this way for you, too?

Holding hands with my little boys reminds me of the close connection I want to keep with those I love and that love me.  How refreshing that Joey and Ezra want to hold hands through a self-involved and fast-paced world.  My prayer is that it will last and so, too, your close friendships, friend.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lovely lunch

"Lovely lunch, Mommy," Joseph exclaimed - a rarity in our household.  My 4-year-old loves bread, cheese, and certain meats.  He does not like sugar snap peas, plump and crisp; watermelon, juicy and sweet; or even fried potato cakes, milky yet crunchy.  And those were a large portion of the meal!

He did like the hot dog, though, sprinkled with cheddar and rolled in a tortilla.  And that is what made the meal lovely.

Ezra, on the other hand, gobbled the hotdog, savored the snap peas, slurped up juice with his watermelon, polished off a potato cake, and still asked for more.  So, I added applesauce to the smorgasboard of food on his plate, with which he was quite content.

Every meal to my two-year-old is lovely.  It is rare to find even one scrap left.  He simply enjoys food.

Do you enjoy food, friend, or are you picky with what crosses your palette?  How does that enter your daily life in other ways?  Perhaps you're hesitant to show patience or complete trust with everyone?  Do some people spoil your mood - even for food?

We all have moments of heightened blood pressure throughout the day.  Perhaps if we take a moment to balance ourselves with something lovely that heartens us, we will have more patience when the demand for it arises.  Take a walk through a meadow bursting with color, play a non-online game in which you interact with someone that draws out your heartiest laugh, cook up a flavorful treat to tempt the good mood in you...

What sounds lovely to you?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rippling wine

Snot oozes out of Ezra's nose like a slowly-creeping glacier.  Forming a squeegee from my hand and a tissue, I gently scrape away the dribble, dab the clinging clots, and toss the wet cloth into the trashcan.  Sliding into the sixth day of head colds, we are all ready to be healthy again. 

Before colds, we endured an entire month of pink eye.  The inevitable domino effect applies to every illness that infects our family.  One person feels the fringes of the illness, then in a day or two another person falls victim.  By the end of the week, the entire family is suffering together.

Does the same ring true in your life, friend?  Or, if not with illness, then with relationships or events?  Do you ever feel that a single stone tossed in your general direction leads to a ripple of waves that crashes over your head, one after the other?

My mother always says that bad things happen in threes.  It does seem to happen that life events - both bad and good - tend to cluster.  Perhaps, friend, we should delight in the wine we can make with such clusters; share with a friend; and, toast to good health.  Then, whether bad or good, life's events can hearten our souls, just knowing that it is shared with those who care.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Happy heaps

A simple pile of blankets sits upon the sofa.  Velveteen and fluffy, each one provides more than warmth and coziness.  With the help of two creative kids, these squares of soft cloth become elaborate tunnels, the roof to a toddler-sized house, cushions for jumping into, and togae or capes.

With the vast array of kids' toys that are on the market today, it always amazes me that the most fascinating objects to my boys are often the most common.  Blankets, shiny pans, wooden spoons and whisks, a painted turtle crawling through the yard, a bit of yarn, tinkling bells, and books gallore.  These bring more smiles to their faces than most of the toys we have for them.

Life is like that for adults, too.  Think of what brings you true moments of joy?  For me, smiles on the faces of those I love, freshly blooming flowers in the garden, a colorful sunrise or sunset framed by deep blue mountain crests, and the magical beauty of transformation - the emerging butterfly, a cicada skin, the reawakening of a tortured soul.

How does happiness creep into your life?  Which simplicities matter most to you?

Perhaps you could share some of life's beauties with a friend that may need reminding of how much you care.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Authentic attempt

Imagine you are painting a picture.  The feel of the brush in your hand is comfortable and sure.  Bright white canvas, freshly gessoed, anticipates your masterpiece.  Vivid colors blot your palette and seem to whisper the elements of life: blood-drop red glistening, clay-rich orange red that clumps in calloused hands, yolky yellow that seems to cling like a cloak to fluffy chicks, greens that creep through an array of hues depending on the season, bountiful blue shades braiding skies and dancing along riverbeds, indigo stains like velvet twilight, purple plumes present on mountains, eggplants, and even dawn-breaking cloud-wisps.

Each stroke captures an intricate image from your mind, whose storehouse swells with memory.  Emotion creeps into the arrangement of color: some reverberate joyous occasions; others, hellish recollections.  But overall the picture is an amazing creation.  It intertwines moments in such a way that a grand pattern emerges in staggering complexity that appears with such simplicity.

Now, close your eyes.  Imagine what your painting would be.  What colors would bedeck your palette?  Which imagery would impress upon the viewer?  How would your life whisper from the folds of time? 

With a sigh and a smile, dare to really look around you: does the day dazzle your eye even amidst the trudgery?  Does your perspective need some readjustment to scatter inspiring prisms about you? 

Let yourself limn an authentic attempt at a life well-lived.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Myriad Messes

Lush soil pools into the palms of eager toddlers.  More dirt spills onto the tabletop than the containers for transplanting seedlings, brimming with the promise of smooth-skinned eggplant, tasty tomatoes, dark green zucchini, broad basil leaves, and sweet Mediterranean melons.  The bare wood floor seems to sprout a dark brown carpet under the footfalls of enthusiastic tykes.  I pull out the vacuum and vroom about the kitchen.

Joey tips a spout.  A stream of water pours into an advancing puddle, which threatens to overtake the available space on the table.  He adjusts the watering can and soaks the soil engulfing tiny sprouts, instead.  I blot the liquid spread with cotton cloths and ring water into the sink.

We return the trays to the covered porch, where sunlight slashes slits onto the baseboard, and keep them in a well protected location.  Ezra chases bubbles that Joey creates with a sticky wand.  Bubble solution trickles down the canister, crosses over fingers like cars over speedbumps, and drips onto the gray porch boards.  Inside, Ezra takes a turn and spills soapy solution on the floor.  Miniscule bubbles froth and foam as I wipe them up. 

Tension tightens my shoulder blades, then froths and foams inside like the bubble solution.  Motherhood is constant motion; there is never enough time to finish the tasks at hand.  Taking time to teach my sons life virtues and skills saps my own patience now and then.  It reminds me of the human propensity for messes.  Do you ever feel tension mounting and patience dwindling, friend?  Do you ever feel that there are more messes around you than not?

Each day holds ample opportunity to make a mess.  Sometimes, we moan and groan and make it worse.  Other times, in quietude, we clean it up.  Either option has varying results, depending on our bearing.  Sometimes, just pausing and reminding ourselves of the direction we want to take can make a huge difference.  A difference that, when internalized, can also impact the world.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Backdoor blessing

The kitchen has a back door, which yawns open to overlook the honey-hued morning sunlight dribbling on leafy rhubarbs, a white-washed storage building that emits as much hum from boring bees as from the drone of a freezer, and a simple porch that allows easy access to a flagstone walk edged by a mob of mint.  The door is not seen by passers-by.  And yet, it is the most gracefully adorned exit from inside the house.

Lace-edged curtains seem to droop a profusion of daisy-looking flowers, that part just enough to show the swaying green trees mingled with blue sky outside.  A silvery white, diamond-shaped bead garland stretches across the doorpost and sprays a gleam here, a glint there - something pleasing to glimpse.  A gold-lined frosted-glass angel, with wings whispering mid-flight and a held breath about to create the first notes from a musical lute, hangs from the curtain rod.  I imagine a blessing sprinkles down as someone leaves through that back door.

But, I wonder, am I always receptive to that blessing?  Often, my shoulders are tensed with the day's concerns and irritations - the long list of items left unaccomplished.  Is it like that for you, too, friend?  Do failures and nonfulfillments distract you from that which you did do, today - no matter how few those achievements have been?

Let's imagine a blessing sprinkling down on us, today.  And, instead of passing by unaware, lift your head and smile - knowing that if nothing else today, you let some joy seep hope into your heart.  A hope that is sure to grow and spread like mint.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chasing chickens

Swift hens dodge the boys, whose gleeful gaits continue tirelessly for almost an hour.  It amazes me that chasing chickens can hold such fascination for my little boys.  A Rhode Island Red would stop to peck and scratch at the lushly-weeded garden only to take off like a roadrunner a moment later with a toddling 2-year-old in chase... an empty planting pot held high in his hands.

But those chickens are smart.  And after an hour of exercising those children, the hens were ready to return to the comfort of their coop.

Sometimes I feel like my boys - chasing after dreams that are always just out of reach.  Do you ever feel like that, friend?  Is there a dream you need a net to reach, and even then it seems impossible?

I want to believe that anything is possible, and yet I am realistic enough to know there are some dreams I will never realize.  On the other hand, my life is full of opportunities I never could have dreamed.  So, perhaps I need to focus on how answers to my dreams have been fulfilled in ways I did not expect.  I'll keep chasing chickens, sure, but also realize that sometimes (when those dreams are ripe for picking) they just might come to fruition on their own.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sunpooled footprints

An azure orb of sky stretches over bristling gray trees, a calm duck pond, and the expanse of indigo mountain that sleeps along the horizon.  The pond reflects thin white wisps where once a plane traversed, but already the lines unravel into azure. 

As I trek across the wintered field, dodging "moo-poo" (Ezra's clever coinage) while grasping a little hand in each of my own, the plodded paths of cows become more evident.  Overlain hoofprints keep the grass at bay in some areas and clear larger swaths around the waterers and vitamin-block holders.  Mud sucks prints off Joey's boots as he runs ahead to follow the distinctive tread from tractor tires threading through gates toward the barn.

In the field on the edge of the woods, we find an abandoned birdnest, wound from coarse tendrils of cow hair, pine needles, and even shriveled, slate-colored cedar berries.  Sleek black feathers, shimmering with turquoise and purple when twirled in sunlight, and fluffy feathers like unmeltable snow dot our path back to the house. 

Traces of life abound around us.  Not only those we found during our walk today, but also the finger trails on handmade pottery, colorful toddler footprints plastered to a recent painting, tire tracks along a snow-covered road, kiss marks on glass (left by a compassionate almost-two-year-old), cookie crumbs trailing across the floor, a circle of leaves showered from a tree, ...

What types of traces can you add to our list, friend?  What traces are you leaving with each step you take?  Imagining the evidence of my life in its wake, I am more mindful of the ways I live and the impression I make.  When waves of time lap my footprints from the shore, will the world be sad to see those traces go? 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Busted Pot

Having slipped bare feet into the mud-splattered muck boots by the back door, I ventured into the below-freezing darkness that seemed to quilt the porch.  An outside light barely pushed back the night and created more shadows than visible splotches along the path.  After three confident footfalls, my boot slipped on an ice patch clinging to the second step.  A wild rush sent an electrified heart into my throat and roving arms into the banister.  Time slowed as I watched the pot I had been carrying to the kiln for its final firing pitch into the air and suddenly drop with a sickening clatter onto the hard stone walkway.

Such moments poignantly clout life from time to time, do they not, friend?  Perhaps it is the shattering glass or explosive impact of a car accident, the unexpected job loss and inability to find new employment, the last egg splattered across the floor while your child fusses for food (and only egg satisfies his palate at the time), the overwhelming panic of impending deadlines and expectations...  Could you add a few?

After the tears dry and the shards are swept, take a deep breath and venture into those other extreme emotions: an expression of love from someone who means the world to you, completing a project that has required extensive commitment and received your personal praise (even if no one else sees it), settling in awe of natural beauty perhaps at the peak of a mountain or by the lapping seashore or near the scent of garden flowers...  What softens the tension from your limbs, friend?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mailed with love

"Mommy, I want to mail this."  Joey held out a postcard, which was part of the day's discarded junk mail.  Joey and Eza love to sift through the stack and color or cut the papers.

Joey had decked out his postcard with a cheerful duck sticker where the postage stamp should have gone, colorful scribbles and wheeling lines to one side, and two letters with wobbles scribed beside the addressee's information: T O

"Um, Joey, what are these?" I said, pointing to the letters.

"A T and an O, Mommy.  This letter is ready to mail.  Can I put it up to mail?"  Before receiving an answer, Joey nimbly climbed onto the woodbox lid and slipped the letter he addressed into the letter holder by the door (our official "this-goes-to-the-mailbox" locale inside the house).

It is amazing what children learn from their parents!  Often the times I try the least to teach my sons are the times they learn the most.  It makes me more mindful of the example I am setting.  As my children grow, what words and images will they associate with me?  How will my actions affect the lives they lead?

Do you ever have that feeling, friend?  Are you surprised by the image your dearest have of you?  I do not mean everyone, of course - there are some people you will never please - but, what about the people whose opinions do matter to you?  Are they learning something about the beauty of life from your example?  Or do most of the perceptions you exude negate the world around you?

I am opting for more cheerful scribblings mailed with love.  What about you?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Startling realities

There is a two-dog chorus outside my window this morning.  Actually, there is a two mutt serenade outside my window most mornings at five-thirty.  Their long howls and quick yaps flurry into darkness and startle even the stars.

What life experiences have startled you into reality, friend?  Perhaps they are beautiful moments, like standing on a precipice that overlooks cascades of mountains or roaring waves slapping against a rocky shore.  Or, perhaps, the reflection of a great monument like the Parthenon wavered in a puddle on a rainy day and reminded you of the thin gossamer of time that seemed to fill the air thick with history.  Or...

After one short month of living in Athens, Greece, I recall the first time black-tinged-snot filled my tissues.  It was quite startling.  Upon coming home to the rolling mountains of the Shenandoah Valley before venturing back to Wayne County in Ohio, the water washing my clothing was so black that I thought I would never get those cuts of cloth clean.

Another startling reality is gas.  Pumping gas in my car is one of the guiltiest feelings I have.  For now it's a necessity, I know, but I sorely miss the walking lifestyle I had in Wooster, Athens, and when I visit my friend Jenny in New York City.  And, I'm thankful for brilliant minds working hard - and dare I say in spite of the lack of our government's more discerning hand - to make a difference by slashing the amount of emissions our often one-passenger vehicles are creating.

So as our family saves to buy a more environmentally-friendly car, perhaps I should learn to ride a cow.  My mother did once, but most people think of raging rodeos instead of peacefully-plodding herbivores.  I'm convinced farmers are far more environmentally-friendly than most people claim to be themselves.  So, what do you think, friend?  Do you believe cars are ready to make way for cows?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Beautiful creation

Friend, why do weight issues bother us so?  Perhaps it has something to do with our cultural preferences for skinny chicks and buff dudes.  Or, maybe it's closer to home: for me, I have a tendency to be over-self-critical.  So, my propensity for comparing myself with others, whether I'm cognizant of the fact or not, gives me a poor personal image.  Past criticisms reverberate from the torrents of my mind when I least expect, let alone want, them.  And those never help.

It shouldn't be this way.  We all have talents and traits that make us beautiful creations!  You, friend, have the ability to do good, to help those in need, and to share a selfless smile or restorative encouragement to those God situates in your life.

A wide smile consistently spread across his face, Joey said to me: "Mommy, I think you're just the right size for you."  Regardless of the physical changes that happen throughout my lifetime, I know that my son will love me.  His smile radiates from his soul, not his face.  Friend, are there people like this in your life?  Those are the people who matter - those are the people who really care about you!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Merry memories

Blue and white splotches spread across the smooth, enamel bucket, filled with crayons of every color.  Joey carefully selects one wax stick at a time and smears strokes of green, orange, indigo, yellow, torquoise, and red across plain newsprint.  Folding the paper just so and snipping here, then there, I unfold a long paper chain of angels and trace the outline in bold black marker.

The chain still hangs along the ceiling and whispers merry memories about the room: times spent savoring the true gifts of Christmas - love, joy, peace, and hope - with someone you love, whether its baking and building gingerbread houses, dipping pretzel rods in melted chocolate and crushed candy canes, winding fragrant evergreen branches into wreaths for welcome-doors, decorating gingerbread men with white icing and rainbow nonpareils and gumdrops, wrapping presents for children in need of a reminder that someone loves them, ...

Can you add to that list, friend?  Does the season's beauty still linger in your soul, if not in your home?  May today bring you an opportunity to share that beauty with someone in need of a smile.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Howling balloon

Soft lighting indoors and rosy tendrils of dawn outside provide a mood of quietude.  I anticipate a cup of smooth tea - the necessary water not yet boiling in the shiny kettle.  Sleepiness still settles on my sons, whose wide eyes peer up at their papa, fidgeting with a straw and a long balloon.

Suddenly, a high-pitched howling slashes the serenity even as the now-colossal balloon hurtles about the room.  I duck!  Just in time.  The balloon rockets past my head and careens about a corner where wall meets ceiling meets wall.  Like a dog, head to the ground and dodging here then there, intent on sniffing out an interesting smell, pressure from releasing air bobs the balloon about until the howling ceases and the bit of rubber drops.

Joey, having hid himself in the kitchen, peeks warily around the door jamb.  Pointing to the deflated balloon, Ezra emits an "uh, uh, uh" as if to query what just happened.  I, on the other had, liberate my bottled-up breath in a long sigh.

Are you familiar with that moment when you realize you're on a wave's crest, friend, distanced from a painful past experience so much so that you did not ascertain the pressure built up inside you?  It's uncanny how that release comes so suddenly - not necessarily changing everything, but making you more aware and amenable to personal growth that will keep such pressure-cooker tension from forming.

It's uncomfortable to experience those howling balloon moments when they conflict with our own, idiomatic status quo.  But, it also might be exactly what we need.  If life persists in calming undulation, it will not require the courage that accompanies every great discovery.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Squishy pea

Finger shoved far up his nose, Ezra said, "pea."

"Um.  Ezra, did you stick a pea up your nose?"  My interrogative was insufficient for a response I did not want to hear.  And, the smile spreading between my twenty-month-old's cheerful cheeks brought me dismay.

A cooked pea connotes squishiness.  Consider the softness of pea soup, for example.  But, I have learned that a cooked pea shoved relentlessly up a nose by a toddler intent on discovery does not imply friability.  Instead, that pea was like a hard pebble lodged perfectly just out of reach to everyone but a trained specialist, who swaddled my son and hooked it out whole.

Stubborn pea!  But, then I'm reminded of stubborn me.  How often do I intentionally exert my own preferences over the benefit or desires of others?  Do you empathize, friend?  Do you, too, want to peel away that sticky layer of pertinacity?

Admission is a good first step.  Perhaps these need to be baby steps to learn that we shouldn't stick our own assumptions into everyone else's estimations.  I guess my toddler and I have a lot in common, but that doesn't mean I plan on sticking a pea up my nose anytime soon.