Tuesday, March 24, 2020

WALKING CONTEST



I love this video by Daniel Koren.  I read about it first in the book, "The Art of Noticing" by Rob Walker. The message is so perfectly delivered in its video form and it's a message that everyone can relate to.

Monday, February 17, 2020

BRUNCH WITH MY PARENTS


I'm going to shift the purpose of this blog from primarily documenting life happenings, to a place where I can share ideas and inspiration. I've gotten back-logged with life event posts that I have meant to write about from the last few months of 2019, but those will be captured in the Chatbooks I've been making and printing for each season.  I've been more interested these days in posting creative prompts that I am mulling over.  I will still post life things but won't feel pressured to do so if I have something else I'd rather share instead. This is me giving myself the permission!

These photos here are from a brunch that I had with my parents a few months ago on a Saturday morning. It is always a pleasure and privilege to converse with them. They are traveling now, and I've been inspired by my mom's photos and my dad's drawings as they explore new places.

I've also been inspired by a lot of good writing lately. In particular, two very different styles: Lionel Shriver and Jacqueline Woodson.  What Mark Twain said about how a good writer treats a long sentence rang particularly true for Shriver's writing:  "At times [she] may indulge [herself] with a long one, but [she] will make sure there are no folds in it, no vagueness, no parenthetical interruptions of its view as a whole; when [she] has done with it, it won't be a sea-serpent with half of its arches under the water; it will be a torch-light procession." 







Tuesday, February 4, 2020

A BIRTHDAY CAMPING TRIP



Scenes from a backpacking camping trip last September of women and some of their children: the sturdiest and dreamiest bunch I ever did see.














Friday, January 31, 2020

PUFFED SLEEVES


I've been reading Anne of Green Gables with the girls at bedtime and we are all enjoying it thoroughly.  I came across this dress today and look at those puffed sleeves! 

"Well, how do you like them?" said Marilla.
Anne was standing in the gable room, looking solemnly at three new dresses spread out on the bed. One was of snuffy colored gingham which Marilla had been tempted to buy from a peddler the preceding summer because it looked so serviceable; one was of black-and-white checkered sateen which she had picked up at a bargain counter in the winter; and one was a stiff print of an ugly blue shade which she had purchased that week at a Carmody store.

She had made them up herself, and they were all made alike--plain skirts fulled tightly to plain waists, with sleeves as plain as waist and skirt and tight as sleeves could be.
"I'll imagine that I like them," said Anne soberly.
"I don't want you to imagine it," said Marilla, offended. "Oh, I can see you don't like the dresses! What is the matter with them? Aren't they neat and clean and new?"
"Yes."
"Then why don't you like them?"
"They're--they're not--pretty," said Anne reluctantly.

"Pretty!" Marilla sniffed. "I didn't trouble my head about getting pretty dresses for you. I don't believe in pampering vanity, Anne, I'll tell you that right off. Those dresses are good, sensible, serviceable dresses, without any frills or furbelows about them, and they're all you'll get this summer. The brown gingham and the blue print will do you for school when you begin to go. The sateen is for church and Sunday school. I'll expect you to keep them neat and clean and not to tear them. I should think you'd be grateful to get most anything after those skimpy wincey things you've been wearing."

"Oh, I am grateful," protested Anne. "But I'd be ever so much gratefuller if--if you'd made just one of them with puffed sleeves. Puffed sleeves are so fashionable now. It would give me such a thrill, Marilla, just to wear a dress with puffed sleeves."
"Well, you'll have to do without your thrill. I hadn't any material to waste on puffed sleeves. I think they are ridiculous-looking things anyhow. I prefer the plain, sensible ones."
"But I'd rather look ridiculous when everybody else does than plain and sensible all by myself," persisted Anne mournfully.
"Trust you for that! Well, hang those dresses carefully up in your closet, and then sit down and learn the Sunday school lesson. I got a quarterly from Mr. Bell for you and you'll go to Sunday school tomorrow," said Marilla, disappearing downstairs in high dudgeon.

Anne clasped her hands and looked at the dresses.
"I did hope there would be a white one with puffed sleeves," she whispered disconsolately. "I prayed for one, but I didn't much expect it on that account. I didn't suppose God would have time to bother about a little orphan girl's dress. I knew I'd just have to depend on Marilla for it. Well, fortunately I can imagine that one of them is of snow-white muslin with lovely lace frills and three-puffed sleeves."

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A WEEKEND AWAY IN DC



A few months ago, Ken and I left town to head north and meet my sisters, their husbands, my cousin, and my nieces at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly.  It was an appropriate place as any to send off my sister and her family, as they were preparing to move to Romania. We spent the afternoon talking around, joining part of a tour, and talking over snacks at the McDonald's before we said our final goodbyes. It's been three months since then, but it feels like it's been much longer and I miss them dearly.





That night, Ken and I spent the night in the area. We checked into the Hilton in Arlington and took a car into DC to attend a concert at The Anthem, which we thought was an impressive venue. We immediately started scheming of ways to come back. I'm recording it here so I don't forget about those plans. The concert was really fun, but more thrilling was being out and about with my best friend and having space and time to dream, adventure and hold hands.



Wednesday, January 15, 2020

DATE NIGHT 2020



Ken and I went on a date night the other day (first date of 2020) and these were some of the topics on the agenda. 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

JENNY ODELL ON WRITING AND SHARING "HOW TO DO NOTHING"



I LOVE this talk that Jenny Odell gave about her book, "How to Do Nothing." It's really good. She talks about what it felt like to write a book about resisting the marketability and capitalistic attention economy and then have to sell the book and appropriate parts of it into sound bites and neat categorizations. She says at one point she found herself wondering, "Am I bird watching or fulfilling the image of bird watching? Am I living or am I maintaining my brand?" 

She then describes some of the positive results of putting the book out there, which included hearing from people who appreciated for specific reasons and shared their ideas and books they were reading. She found it to be a crisscrossing of different genres and types of people and it made her proud that her book was part of the conversation.  

She concludes by saying "...it turns out that this process (of sharing ideas and self in conversation) might apply to the conundrum of self-promotion as well. Because this experience of hearing from and being with others, including this conference, mimics something I described earlier, which is the uncanny sense of self I had while writing the book. In opening a connection among people or parts of history that might not have been in conversation, my ego once again disappears and I'm once again in the realm of surprise, emergence and encounter. I was never comfortable with the self-promotion because that's not how my identity works and it's not how the book got made. But I am okay being the atmospheric river that connects two places or field that provides the meeting ground for others where something new might happen." 

This last part especially resonated with me because that is often when I feel "most myself", when I can provide a loose space for conversations and connection to be made.  It's a mindset that works well with my need to be constantly growing and shedding, dreaming and questioning.  


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

LOGAN PRE-K PICTURES


I'll just leave you on this hump day with this preview of Logan's adorable Pre-K photos that we got a few months ago.  We couldn't narrow it down and these photos cost a small fortune, so we now just have these watermarked photos and so forever they will live in infamy.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

2019 READING LIFE SUMMARY




Happy New Year! I'm afraid I am very behind on my "What I'm Reading" posts. I may have to do a compilation of the last bunch of them all in one post: behold, the consequences of procrastination!

In the meanwhile, a quick summary of books I read in 2019:

Of the 117 books I read, 56 were fiction and 61 were Non-Fiction (a pretty even distribution! unintentionally). I listened to 48 of them as audiobooks, read three of them as e-books, and read 66 as physical books.
  • Favorite fiction: "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. 
  • Runner-up fiction: "Olive Kitterridge" by Elizabeth Strout. 
  • Favorite non-fiction: "Braiding Sweetgrass" by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Runner-up non-fiction: "How to Do Nothing" by Jenny Odell 

While reading last year, I made even more of an effort to be consistent about taking notes along the way (in Gmail drafts, in my Notes on my phone, in my journal or on random scraps of paper) and then summarize them afterwards.  This was supremely helpful in not only appreciating my reading life as pleasure, but for enriching my thinking life.  It helped me connect ideas better (between books, between ideas, between my thoughts and other people's thoughts, etc.) and as a result, I enjoy talking about books with others even more too.  We were consistent with book club meetings, which I look forward to every month, and due to me posting about books I read on social media I have had more book talks this year than any other year! So I will plan to keep doing that this upcoming year.  What a privilege it is to read! And what a privilege it is to be around others who read.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

APPLE PICKING AND A VISIT TO HARRISONBURG AND FAMILY MISSION



We did apple picking earlier than usual, in the middle of September, and I am finally getting around to writing about it now.  At certain points it got too warm, even though we had started out first thing in the morning, and we slowly shed all the layers we had on, but the apples were delicious and it wasn't freezing cold (like it was last year when we went), so it was exactly what I was hoping for.  When we go, we pick a whole bunch of apples and then eat them over a span of a couple of weeks, and that is what I look forward to most about the fall. 

We decided to make a whole weekend out of it and go visit Harrisonburg (where Ken and I went to school and met for the first time) with the girls. So we booked a cute Airbnb in Mt. Crawford and had ourselves a family retreat. Ken put together a little video (above) of our couple of days away, and we have loved watching it over and over again! 


And here are some photos, a mix of iPhone camera and the DSLR:




In light of driving to articulate my life mission statement I've also been thinking and discussing the idea of a family mission statement with Ken. We keep adjusting it, but currently, it sounds something like: Our family mission is to create and offer a safe space for rest, conversations, and growth (for others, as well as ourselves) so that we all can thrive and be able to love ourselves, each other, and God in the ways we are created to.

During this weekend away, we took time to talk together about some tangible goals that we thought our family should work towards together. Ultimately, we would want the girls to be able to contribute to our family mission statement, but while they are young, coming up with a list like this shows what is important to us in this stage of life. Here is the list we came up with:  



Family goals:
  • Go horseback riding together (Sloane)
  • Go to a farm (Logan)
  • Play in a volleyball quads tournament together (Ken)
  • Do BJJ together (Sloane)
  • Travel to Taiwan and Korea to visit where our families are from (Ken and Christine)
  • Ride a train (Sloane and Logan)
  • Sloane and Logan buy mom and dad a meal (Ken)
  • To get Rusty back (Sloane and Logan)
  • Do all do our homework and housework
  • When we see a need, try to help - even if it's little, do something!


We also talked through what we each thought are behaviors and attitudes that are important to us as a family. This seems like a good way to introduce the idea of family values that we can hopefully hone down and in on as the years go by: 

Family Behaviors and Attitudes: 
  • Sharing 
  • Using our words 
  • Being a good listener 
  • Asking good questions 
  • Being a leader (in action and in thought)
  • Always choosing to be kind 
  • Being honest
  • Gratitude
  • Not wasting food
It was really fun to talk through these things together as a family!


PAY ATTENTION



photo from Austin Kleon's blog, which I have found inspiring lately

As odd as this may sound, my busy these days feels a little different because it's not just the activities or to-do list that take up my time, it's the thinking. There is so much to think about! I have started making "to-think" lists, because I have found it critical to carve out time to think deeply.  

It comes from a place of wanting to go deeper in the ways that we live - in my relationships, my reading, my work, parenting, creativity, etc. I want to work through the what, how, when, where and especially why I am doing what I am doing. It's invigorating and challenging, and sometimes I get a case of brain strain. ("I'm sorry, I can't make it tonight. I need time to think.") 

Thinking time has become some of my most valuable time.  Thinking time these days looks like not filling in with noise, music, TV, or busy work but sitting in silence with the purpose of thinking through a problem or question. It's helpful to take notes, so does bouncing my thoughts off of friends and family.  Walking time is probably some of the best thinking times, but it's harder to fit in. 

One of the questions I'm chewing through lately comes from wanting to be more specific with my purpose and life mission statement.  This sort of exercise requires deep diving into my stories, knowing my strengths and passions, and envisioning the future, so it's quite the endeavor. It's especially pertinent because we (at work) are working through what it means to help our clients through this process, so I'm approaching this from several angles.  I'll share what I come with here on this blog as I go.

Friday, October 11, 2019

DINNER PARTY MEAL


You know that question that you get asked sometimes about what you would do with your life if you didn't have to worry about money at all? 

I have varying and many responses to that question, but one that stays up there in the top five is that I would host dinner parties. Lots of dinner parties. With friends, neighbors, and strangers. The trickiest parts of a dinner party to me is the money and time, so if neither were an issue, I think I would enjoy even more of it. I like everything else about it: the planning, the strategy, the shopping, the prepping and arranging, the cooking, even the cleaning (it's a great excuse to clean), and then of course the conversations. 


Repeatedly over the years, as I have gotten several years into putting in the kinds of things that are important to me, I
 get to see the adage of "the more you do something..." come true.  I can see that it does indeed get, if not easier, more a part of who I am.  And that's the goal isn't it? That the thing you love, the activities you put the hours into, become things that a natural rhythm of life? Not easier, but better, and more cohesive with who you are.  In the case of hosting, my experience has been: the more you invite people into your home, the more normal it will feel, the more 'failures' you will experience and grow from, and the more you will want to do it. 
  



Some ideas and recipes from a recent summer dinner that I would do again (inspired by this post): 

Appetizer: Fig Caprese salad - Used burrata instead of mozzerella, and added walnuts. Basil leaves a must. Served it with salami and sliced baguette.)

Drinks: Bees Knees cocktail 
Salad: Cherry Tomato and White Bean salad - I love this salad!
Main course: Instead of the one-pot Zucchini Basil Pasta the post mentions, I went with this Basil Zucchini Parmesan Pasta and it was delicious, easy, and paired so well with the pasta.
Other drinks: A bottle of white, a bottle of red, and water 
Dessert: Sorbet in coupe glasses with Pellegrino splashed in

The other thing worth mentioning about this meal was that there was no meat, but we didn't miss it at all because everything was so flavorful! 


Thursday, October 10, 2019

HOW TO DO THE RIGHT KIND OF SOMETHING



In a recent post, I wrote about how I'm making a shift back this season to writing about things that are close.  At least starting there. It is a returning, because I used to write about the smallest of details: what I saw on my desk as I studied, the smell of the air when I walked outside, the closeness and vastness of the space between me and my babies.  

It is my own potion making, this sort of writing. 


I recently finished a book called, "How To Do Nothing" by Jenny Odell, and if you have seen me or spoken me lately, I have likely mentioned this book to you. Her introduction is titled, "Surviving Usefulness" and she makes the case that we need to get over this idea that everything needs to have utilitarian value. When this is the lens through which we see everything, we can't help judge things by what they can contribute, how much money they can make, or how many people it can attract.  Only when we can see things for what they really are, and put the emphasis on the seeing, not the object, will we be able to understand the true value of things and have deep gratitude for it all. 


It's exercises in attention rather than usefulness that I'm going for here, not just with my writing, but in any creative endeavor - photography, sketching, and music. 

Also, as of the most recent post, for the first time in my blogging career, I've changed the font I use here.  Inconsequential! but a pivot. 



Tuesday, October 8, 2019

WHAT I'M READING V. 57




I am behind on these posts, but it's not a terrible thing. It's been a couple of months now since I've read these and having to write brief summaries here is a good practice of how much of and whether or not these books have stuck with me. 


Meditation Made Easy by Lorin Roche 

Curious to learn more about meditation, I saw that this book had good reviews, and meditation made easy was exactly I needed for my ramp up into forming my own practice. I've tried meditating before, but always felt a pressure to erase my thoughts or force myself to feel a certain way, and I would end up feeling like I was "failing" at meditating. This book was very helpful to me because it clarified that meditation was more about paying attention to one's body and thoughts, rather than suppressing them. I mentioned this book in a podcast episode we did lately with Taylor Campbell on mindfulness.

Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

This one was a book club read, which I had been excited about because I love these types of books that have memoir-style essays about life and food with good recipes included. Unfortunately, I didn't like this book as much as I had hoped. The writing was a little stilted, and the essays felt disjointed, without a believable thread or narrative to walk be through.  Part of it may have also been due to the fact that I was reading "Braiding Sweetgrass" at the same time, and that one was just stunning and gripping me with its writings and revelations. It wasn't a fair comparison.  This one did have lots of good nuggets and takeaways, so if you love this genre, it's worth a read, but it wasn't my favorite one of its kind.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

This was a marvelous about a man who is one kind of way - grumpy, stingy, and lonely - who is made to melt and open up little by little by visits from his neighbors and small connections that are made.  The characters and dialogue are vivid (I could see each of the scenes play out in my head as if in a movie, which is apt, because they have made a movie from this book) and I fell in love with all the characters while going through this one, especially the main character. There were many funny moments throughout the book as well, making me laugh aloud, and by the end of the book I was moved to tears by the way it all resolved. 

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmer 

This is my favorite non-fiction book from this past year, and I keep telling anyone I think might be remotely interested about this one. This too is a collection of essays of sorts- they could stand on their own - but they work and weave together as a memoir as well as passionate and gentle advocacy for noticing and respecting the nature around.  It is full of wisdom and beautiful writing, and I savored this one till the very end. I had read the library's copy, but immediately bought my own so I could reread it.  It is really wonderful. 

Friday, October 4, 2019

END OF SUMMER THINGS


Always start close. 

That's going to be my mantra for this next writing season.  I've always posited that some people write to express and others to communicate, and mostly I've put myself in the "to communicate" camp. But more recently, I'm realizing that focusing too much on sending words out zaps some of the joy, wonder and mystery out of it for me.  

There needs to be both, if not in equal measure, and maybe sometimes it's one or the other.  I'm not doing this for anyone else except myself, and the doing of it is what matters to me.  I feel the must-ness of writing, for what purpose, that is unknowable to me and I'm at peace with that. 

Sometimes writing feels like how A.A. Milne describes it: "Ideas may drift into other minds, but they do not drift my way. I have to go and fetch them. I know no work manual or mental to equal the appaling heart-breaking anguish of fetching an idea from nowhere." 

So I start close. Not with grandiose ideas that I've been daydreaming and munching on, because those need to marinate for a long time. Not with to-do tips or life lessons because I don't feel this need to verbalize them just yet.  But with details. The details that surround me. 

I woke before the alarm today. A little confused and discomforted, was it too early or did I oversleep? Then the alarm went off and it felt good to be wide awake, not groggy.  I put coconut milk in my coffee today, remembering how good coconut cream was in hot coffee during camping last weekend.  Must put coconut cream on shopping list. Mom got up too, I made coffee while listening to Joshua and Mark, and then we read our books in silence. I gave Sloane a gazillion kisses to wake her up.  She cried when she discovered I threw out some of her school papers, she brushed her hair a gazillion times. To match my kisses?  Logan opened the porch door my dad saying, "Come on in man!" and we all laughed. I forgot to make my green smoothie, but I did havetwo cups of coffee with coconut milk.  

Sloane got stuck, mentally?  She couldn't stop brushing her hair. At first I said it gently, "that's enough honey." Then, exasperated at my 12th time, "PLEASE stop brushing your hair" so I could get her to focus on getting her backpack and water bottle to leave. "It's not smooth," she was fixated and tears sprung to her eyes. I gave her some spiel about how it doesn't matter how her hair looks, it's about how she feels and her attitude. But of course it matters. So I awkwardly did the dance of acknowledging yes it does matter, yes it matters to you so it matters to me, but it's not the most important thing, and still felt like I failed.  There was not enough time to cuddle and ask questions.  Her tears of course, was probably due to the rushing. Even when there is seemingly ample time, there isn't.  I held her face into me, and held her there for as long as I could, both of us pausing, to make up for my flailing words and the lack of time.  I miss her today especially because of this. I know she'll be over it in a few minutes, but I don't get to see her recover.  But at the end of the day, I will get to draw her into me again, and usually by then she is ready to talk about it.  Solutions and resolutions don't come immediately; we are all learning that.  

These are some photos form the end of August. That was a really good month.