A simple part of our Nature Study for the past several years has been to simply pick a spot outside (each of us in a different location) each week and for just a short time to sit still and observe. While you are observing you may lie still with your eyes closed or you may draw what you see or record what you hear or let nature inspire you to draw or create in some other manner.
Recently, this is what I heard and what I saw and what I wrote after one of our observation times.
When a bird makes a noise that distinct
I wish I had paid better attention to Sibley or Peterson or Bergen.
I’m as tone deaf to the distinctions in bird calls as I am to the differences in
soprano vs. alto vs. baritone.
But I can feel beauty
and I do appreciate the magic made
between the sounds of the wind chimes
and the breeze making music of the drying leaves
and that bird’s shrill repeated cry
that sounds like both
You sound as lovely as you look.
The day my friends and I visited Charleston we found street parking near the ice cream shop we wanted to visit.
The meter required actual coins and the four of us were digging around in our bags, searching for quarters and coming up mostly empty handed.
A lady was standing nearby as we hopped out of the car, wallets opened as we searched.
She said words to me but I had no idea what they were. She was rather difficult to understand. I stepped closer to her in an effort to understand what she was saying. The mumbling was so thick her words were basically incoherent. With my ear practically to her mouth, I asked once more, “Please repeat what you said, I’m having trouble hearing you.”
She said, with effort, “Please can you give me money. I promise to buy food. Pease can you give money. I promise to buy food.” And then she said it maybe two more times.
“Oh, look,” I said, “We don’t have any cash – we can’t even find quarters. But we’ve just had a picnic so we have lots of food. Hold on, I’ll get you a bag of food.”
I moved toward our car to get the oranges and crackers and whatever else I could find.
Her face fell. Disappointed. She spoke again. “I’m a diabetic.”
“Okay,” I said. But she was already moving on.
I didn’t have what she wanted.
And I’m not telling this story to point out the sad state this individual had found herself or placed herself or been propelled into.
Because we’re just like her – right?
I mean, I am just like her.
Incoherent. Desperate. Mumbling about what I want. How I want my help to look. What should be happening and what I need.
And sometimes, in so many ways, help is offered.
And I don’t want it.
Not that sort of help.
I don’t want healthy food, I want dollars to feed my addiction.
I don’t want what I need, I want what I want.
In a hundred ways told over a hundred times,
I’m asking for the wrong thing and when I’m offered the right thing I walk away.
That lady is picture of me and of you and of all the ways we turn down the gifts being handed to us.
I’ll give it a go this week.
Although I have enjoyed watching soccer and I know London has enjoyed playing it too, I am looking forward to not attending a practice two nights a week during dinner time.
I’m in literal shock that it is October and I am in some sort of consistent anger that the weather is so warm that my air conditioning is still on.
Hello Friday. How are you?
In the store the other day, the kids and I saw these bath loofahs.
At first I thought it looked like marshmallows were inside the loofah. Which seemed weird.
Turns out they are actually bits of soap. Like – bits of leftover soap or something. Maybe less weird than marshmallows, but not by much.
I saw this t-shirt on Instagram this week.
I’m not sure why, but I love it.
In fact, I love the entire line up. I’ve never even tried on those little boot shoes – do they call them booties? (I don’t care for that name. Can we use another name?)
Anyway, I think this might be the season I want to try them on for myself.
Mosley’s chocolate chip muffins.
I was going to share the recipe. But I can’t find it. So you’ll have to just have the photo.
The kids tell her “These taste store-bought” which they find to be a tremendous compliment, not recognizing how lovely their food life actually is.
But they are really delicious.
It’s a long read but I think it’s a valuable one.
About freedom and humanity and treating others as we would like to be treated.
I love this quote by Mary Oliver. (And I like writing on my walls.)
It’s a good thing my computer saves my password to sign into this blog.
I almost forgot it myself.
It’s been a busy couple a days y’all.
Here’s what I’ve been doing since last I wrote a post:
Of course teaching school. (High school science say what? I don’t even think the letters strung together make actual words on some of London’s biology book pages. On the other hand, two real winners this year in the curriculum category are Visual Latin and Language Lessons. All the thumbs up.)
Taking my youngest students to the cutest classroom on a farm. A classroom alive with birds and fish and geckos and chameleons and yes, even a tarantula. (Who, in my opinion, was far too alive. So alive, in fact, that he had shed his disgusting skin and was eating it because he is disgusting and even as I type this and am reminded of his disgustingness I am making a scowling grossed out face all alone in my chair in our library.)
Getting up super duper before the sunshine early to ride to the beach with dear friends to celebrate Hilary’s 40th year of life. And what a fun adventure it was. Laughter and easy chatter and more ties that strengthen our bonds. And ice cream. Jeni’s Ice Cream. My first ever trip to one of the actual stores.
Pulling off a surprise dinner with an out of town guest for Hilary – to cap off the 40th celebrations. Because, you know, forty calls for pulling out all the stops. Her backyard is picturesque and with a little this and a little that, it was a dreamy dinner spot.
(And all of those adventures and dinner out was supported back on the home front by generous chid care for which I am truly grateful.)
Spending a little time watching my eldest son acquire five stitches in his ankle from leaping out of a tree and on the downward landing catching a glass bottle and sending it shattering across the lawn. (Poor fella. The stitches are uncomfortable for sure, but the worst of it is the hole in the ball of his foot that no stitch can fix since it’s just as if a tiny ice cream scoop scooped out a serving of his foot and there’s a tidy hole remaining. And that all sounds very disgusting now. Disgusting in a similar manner as the tarantula skin. All horrifying images for which I sincerely apologize although I have had to live all of them so maybe someone should be apologizing to me for the love.)
Finishing The Hunger Games and then speed reading Catching Fire, the sequel, because who knew those books were so engaging?
Trying to be a responsible pet owner and taking Puck to an early morning appointment for her to get spayed. Why on earth have I fallen in love with this particular calico kitten?
Running errands and having meetings for work with marketing directors that are closer in age to my daughter than to me. (Yes, in case you are wondering, that does indeed make me feel old. Although he was a very nice human and I am glad to have met him.)
Attending soccer games early int morning with the rain lighting coming down and then again where the night darkens before the buzzer signifies the game’s end and it’s crazy hard to watch kids play soccer who can hardly see one another, let alone the ball.
And that’s basically a wrap — what have you guys been doing?
It’s probably the changing of the seasons.
Or being without a car. Because even when you don’t want to go anywhere, you still like the freedom of the knowledge that you can go somewhere.
And it could just be me.
It’s probably just me.
There’s nothing technically wrong but I sort of am standing here disgusted with all the things.
And thinking thoughts rapid fire ….
This house feels so constantly dirty.
No one seems to know how to return anything to its home. Ever.
Bergen lost at least three of his school books over the course of this single day.
Ryder was rifling through the trash in the kitchen and as I grew increasingly irritated at him I vaguely recalled one of my children reminding me that we are out of dog food and so his pilfering feels more reasonable and I feel like a terrible dog owner.
I suddenly don’t care for anything on my walls and want to give it all to the thrift store.
Do I own a single piece of furniture not weather beaten or scratched?
It’s probably all the lack of sugar that makes me feel this way.
Who am I kidding – I haven’t really entirely given up on sugar.
I think I’ll go make a cup of tea soon.
That’s it – I’m rearranging the living room furniture at least.
Did someone get undressed behind the sofa, like two years ago, and leave all of their clothing in a pile here?
For the love, I need to get this TV mounted on the wall.
Can we move already?
I have to wait until tomorrow to watch This Is Us, but I bet if I could drink a warm cup of English Breakfast tea and watch Randall figure out his life I would feel better.
Pretty sure there are thirty neighborhood dogs barking their ever-loving heads off tonight.
I’m over the color blue on these walls too.
I own too much furniture. Too many tables. Whatever will I do with them all?
I just boxed up a bunch of stuff off the walls that no longer gives me joy.
You know what also does not give me joy?
Weird blank spots on the walls and little nails everywhere.
When you live in a home with two adults, one adult looks to the other adult at some point during a regular old evening and says half of these things – or all of these things – out loud. Sometimes they might laugh in between these comments. Commiserate. Pat a shoulder or lend a hand. Maybe offer comforting words or chide the other person out of their odd mood.
When you are the only adult in a house, you find some other ways of coping. Of talking out loud, so to speak.
That’s what I did here.
Thanks for listening.
My desk is wherever I am.
Tonight it’s the extra leaf at the end of the dining room table.
I’ve spread my supplies wide,
stacked in an order that follows my brain and makes Lacey Logic.
I hear laughing.
My Piper and her friend Hanna.
They’ve asked to bake chocolate chip cookies together.
Before they began, they prepared.
Not the flour and the butter,
They have raided the dress up closet and put on
fancy Cinderella style dresses
They have turned on the music of the Okee Dokee Brothers.
Dropping cookie dough on the floor.
I’m actually working here in the next room, school prep.
I hear tid bits of their conversation.
“Does your sister ever ….”
“Sometimes my dad says ….”
“Did you know that ….”
I look up.
Take the time to
Put my pen down
Rest my chin on my propped up arm
I see past the flowers on my dining room table
(generously gifted to me by Hanna’s mom actually).
The girls are dramatically framed by the door.
Serious and jolly.
Silly and full of promise.
Beautiful in the Right Now.
I’m really just so glad to be alive right here,
on the other side of that door.
Glad to sit at this scratched table on a Monday night
Living some sort of broken beauty
That brings two dancing girls into my kitchen.
One from Ethiopia and one from Virginia.
Past and present full of Things Known
And Things Unknown.
The big sister comes in,
beckoned by these two,
to answer the questions the ten year old bakers have
from her storehouse of experience.
Do you use a toothpick for cookies?
The singing continues.
And so does the laughter.
Shares her Big Sister knowledge.
I seldom look at my children as adopted versus not adopted.
From this view point, however, tonight,
I am suddenly struck.
Tears stacked neatly at the edges of my eyes
At the absolute wonder of it all.
Of how when we said yes to a chubby-cheeked infant,
we said yes to this complicated and beautiful teenager,
capable and all but grown in stature and in shape
and yet so being formed in a myriad of manners.
I cannot imagine This One without our last name.
Cannot imagine me without her,
Her without me.
I’m sitting here.
Thankful to be.
I don’t even have to try to generate story ideas.
Life just keeps handing them to me.
May I present to you –
A Portrait of a Sunday.
How We Surprised Uncle Danny and Got a Little Surprise Ourselves.
On Sundays in our home we sleep in. We make a big brunch together. We attend our church’s evening services. And that’s about as busy as we like our Sundays to be.
But for the sake of love we broke from routine, rose early, loaded the car with picnic supplies and headed to Knoxville, Tennessee to surprise Uncle Danny for his birthday.
Aunt Beckey and their son Max were pulling together the other end of the surprise. We arrived at our rendezvous spot, the World’s Fair Park, only to find the entrance blocked off and a large race being prepped for the day.
No worries. A quick google search sends us to another park and we agree to meet there.
It’s lovely fun to surprise a person who truly does not suspect anything and Uncle Danny had no idea the kids and I were hiding out at this sweet little picnic spot.
My children adore their uncle and he’s a pretty lovable fellow who adores them just as much. All the mutual feelings. We sat in the shade, ate lunch, caught up, threw a kickball into the trees, sang happy birthday and were momentarily disappointed that the breeze rendered our trick candles completely ineffective.
It was a perfectly wonderful picnic and surprise.
Then we headed back across the mountains and through the tunnels (for real) and back home. I commented that the air conditioner was not very cold and that the car still felt hot inside. We were stopped in traffic for a bit, cars backed up in one lane for several miles. I see that the exit ramp is the problem – there’s construction or something happening there. Naturally it’s our exit but there was no way I wanted to sit still in that line so I decided I could just go up and take another road back through Asheville.
Barely off the exit, a blinking light on my car alerts me. Suddenly about eighteen blinking lights are talking to me. Stabilitrack off. Engine hot. Air conditioner turning off. Check engine. Service engine. Engine overheated. Power loss.
All of those blinking lights were telling the truth.
It’s funny how at that moment you forget where your hazard lights are.
I turned those on and proceeded at approximately 4 miles per hour. I pulled into the first parking lot to the right. McDonald’s.
The car barely does it, but it somehow slides into a parking space and as I turn the engine off the kids exclaim, “Oh – there’s smoke or something coming from the engine.”
That was a first for me. We’re 45 minutes or so from home. And this car will not be getting us there tonight.
Turns out, trimming this story up for you all, that Oma and Papa Dale were driving through town in their RV on the way up to the Virginia farm and were originally hoping to have dinner and hang out with us tonight. Instead, we ate at McDonald’s and they drove their RV up to rescue us.
Which was like a miracle.
We sat in the McDonald’s parking lot for a handful of hours. We played a few games. Watched Tripp & Tyler videos. Made a dozen phone calls to figure out towing and car solutions. Spent thirty minutes on the phone with my car insurance company only to realize that I do not have roadside assistance. Realized that I really should invest in Triple A or something already. For the love.
Praised God for allowing us to not have been waiting in that long line of cars on the interstate when the car overheated because interstate waiting for all the hours would have been far worse than McDonald’s parking lot waiting for all those hours.
Praised God that my brother and his wife kept checking on us and insists on helping us in some manner even though this is not their problem.
Praised God for the remarkable good attitudes of my kids as they laughed and joked and – seriously – never once complained or whined or acted like their lives were the worst. (I am astounded at what good company those humans are in a crisis. And I told them so tonight.)
Praised God that Oma and Papa Dale were able to rescue us and rejoiced when we saw them pull up.
It was actually wonderful to ride back home together and laugh and share stories and how gracious and kind of them to act as if it wasn’t a pain to spend more time in their gigantic rig on the highway today, back tracking and hauling people around.
By the time we reached our driveway it was full on darkness and well after 8:30. The RV is much too large for our driveway and there was literally no way it could even be pulled in. We all had a good laugh as we realized that Oma and Papa Dale had to literally stop in the road and just let us off by the mailbox, cooler and bags and all.
And, I was reminded again of what I love about my people as we walked up our sort of long driveway in the dark, hauling a cooler and a handful of bags filled with food in them. I love that (mostly) when struggles or frustrations come, particularly ones we have to face as a unit, we are able to let big deals become small deals and laugh at the ludicrous. It was really comical, the six of us walking up our driveway by moonlight, laughing and being unbearably loud for such a random time of night. (Yes, our neighbors heard us – they told us.)
We may not have our car in our driveway tonight, but we’re all home with our dog and our cat and one another and we all still like each other and tomorrow we’ll have to trust the new morning mercies to take care of the rest.
I worked a little extra hard this week to balance the work/life/home routine and said no to a few things so that we could say yes to slower afternoons and being home together during that time since our nights are currently in a season of being busy with soccer and such.
I think it paid off, but goodness – balance is a tight rope, is it not? (And even on the weeks like this where I put in the extra effort, by Friday it seems to fall apart again.)
Life is a steady tension of push and pull, give and take.
This week I found extra time to write while sitting in the automotive shop getting my vehicle’s brakes repaired.
This week we sat in a hammock for a few hours together by the river and that restores an awful lot of order to the kingdom, in my mind.
And now here we are – Friday Friday Friday.
This weekend is his birthday. Well, technically, this weekend is the birthday of two of my brothers. They were born on the same day. But they aren’t twins. Two years separated their births. So – happy birthday Dean and Danny.
But this is the “funny” category so Danny’s latest fish video makes the cut. (Dean – make a funny video if you want the extra air time, bro.)
Please forgive my brother for using the letter “z” as if it was an actual word. He’s an imperfect man.
The Title Nine catalog appeared in this week’s email deliveries.
I heart them all – all the dresses, all the skirts, all the sweaters. All the everything they make or produce or gather or promote. Where’s my bazillion dollar clothing budget so I can own every thing featured on every page, from foot to head?
Will it ever get cold enough here in South Carolina to wear thick sweater dresses and leggings and warm boots? I need to move to Colorado – don’t I? Or – you know – just visit more on the regular.
I mean – this look is pretty much my winter uniform. Minus the skateboard – because I know my own weaknesses.
But I’m all ready to turn off the air conditioner (it’s the end of September for the love)! And I want to bring the big boots down from the top shelf and layer it up.
I think I mentioned how we were able to tour a local tea farm – is that the right phrase?
Anyway, the couple was fantastic and their tea is SO good. And – so much fun.
I love this Jacked Black tea – it has brown sugar in the tea. (Which I shouldn’t be consuming – right? Oops.)
And it keeps happening.
The kindness of people – both strangers and friends, people with nothing to prove and everything to lose – always surprises me and always always always leaves me changed.
The story isn’t really a story I can share here because the people wouldn’t even want to be praised, but I’m telling you, there’s grace when you need it. Hope when you think it’s lost, kindness when you think the world is too broken, friendship when you feel without. There’s generosity when your cup is empty and courage to borrow when yours is depleted.
We get to be both givers and receivers. To bless and blessed. To spread the love and to accept the love.
May it ever be so.
I just can’t tell you how sweet it is to hear Otto’s voice declaring his love for me or for his siblings. Of all of the kids with whom I get to reside, he is the most affectionate, the most verbal in expressing it and the most cuddly.
Last week he was getting ready to head out an adventure wth friends and he made certain, came back inside actually, to find someone to be sure to deliver a message before he left. “Tell Mommy I love her,” he instructed.
It’s just – for real – the sweetest. (And it goes a LONG way to balance out the entitlement issues that seem to inevitably come with the youngest in a large family.)
One of the more challenging aspects of homeschooling five students at once in five different grades is that their needs and desires and skill sets, both educationally and otherwise, are so varied.
When they were all younger, this seemed less dramatic. There seemed to be less of a division.
Now London, in high school, can be rather tethered to giant books or a computer for her math program. Her science can take nearly an hour to wade through each day. Labor intensive. Much more so than elementary school.
So the dreamy Little House on the Prairie days are fading and it’s certainly plausible that I am holding more tightly to them than my children are.
Occasionally though I put my parental foot down and say, “We are ALL going to do this together. Same place. Same time. Same event. All. Together.
And today I just knew we all needed to be outside more than we needed to be inside.
We brought the school along – and the snacks. Because sometimes homeschool gets to look like this. (Thought not nearly as often these days as it once did. And I’m allowed to mourn the passing of that a little, alright?)
We hung up hammocks and we read our books and I read out loud while the boys chased the bass in the river and we wrote a little poetry and it was entirely and perfectly the sort of day I needed and even though a couple of my kids may not admit it any longer – I think it was the sort of day they needed too.
It all reminded me of a line from an Avett Brothers song,
“And you know I’ve been drinking sunshine all day long.”
Wheels falling off the cart.
These are the words I have used to describe my life. My heart. My story.
Sometimes they are the words I feel are true.
Sometimes they are the words I assume other people feel are true when they look at me.
They’re definitely the words I have felt have been chosen for me.
I am beginning to see how they are also the words that I have chosen to sit under. The words I have circled in red. Underlined. Used a highlighter to accentuate. The words I might as well have tattooed on my body. (Don’t worry Dad – it’s just a point I’m making, not an actual tattoo I have received.)
These are my words that I let stick.
And on two different occasions in the past several weeks through two different sets of friends I have been gently reminded that these words are lies.
As in, actual lies.
Just legitimate, from the pits of Hell, lies.
It feels a little like I’ve been outside, wearing sunglasses. And then – at some point – I walked inside but I kept my sunglasses on. And I walked around my house seeing things through the darkened lenses but thinking it was normal, thinking it was just the way things looked now. Then someone pointed out that I was inside – wearing sunglasses. And removing the sunglasses makes all the ordinary stuff seem brighter, more in focus, less shaded. I had just forgotten to remove my sunglasses.
This is less like a giant epiphany and more like the steady retraining my heart and mind have had to undergo over the past two and a half years.
See the light. Remove the sunglasses.
Or, as my friend Jo reminded me this weekend… Taste and see that the Lord is good. Taste and see. Ah, yes. I had forgotten. Taste and see.
My life is not less than.
The wheels on my cart are not flying off haphazardly, beyond mine – or anyone else’s – control.
That is a lie.
I am not on a sinking ship. My family is not drowning.
Some days we might be doggie paddling or treading water for a spell. But lots of days we’re doing the backstroke and inviting our friends to the pool party.
I’m okay. (Except when I’m not. And that’s okay.)
We’ve got stuff to offer, like everybody else. We’ve got open arms and family dinners and that open door policy has never shifted.
Maybe it took some dear friends willing to say the hard words to my heart. To brush off those bits of clinging scales and debris and residue that long to trap me and hold me captive, that long to make our family suffocate under the burden of lies.
We are not drowning.
I am not sinking.
And that feels important to declare. Significant to see it for myself.
To stop seeing myself as this trapped person living under this burden and to begin to see myself as a free person living a free life.
Love the words?
Feel free to share that love!