Saturday, February 18, 2017

that's the good stuff

Current status:  a Dairy Queen Blizzard (Reese's Peanut Butter Cup) and an electric blanket.

This is the cap to a very full and very long week.

Life was real this week.  And I'm thankful for every bit of it.

Let's rewind to last Saturday when my husband got up ever so early to get our youngest son to the high school to catch the bus to the Regional wrestling tournament, came home to sleep for another minute then left the house again to meet with clients.  I drove our eldest son to a NJROTC competition a little over an hour away and my husband met us there later.  We watched him shoot.  Got coffee.  Watched the award ceremony.  Received text updates from our youngest son on how he was doing at his tournament.  Then we drove separately home.  Eldest son and myself stopping for Mod Pizza, husband meeting youngest son back at the high school and grabbing Little Caesar's for them.  Then we went grocery shopping and probably passed out shortly thereafter.

Valentine's Day.  Blake's end of the season wrestling banquet happened that night.  It was a potluck and I made spaghetti sauce in the crockpot while I was at work and it overcooked and burned to the sides.  The banquet was great though, albeit not a romantic dinner for two.  We returned home to a bit of ringworm on our wrestler that needed a doctor's note and our eldest son packing for a flight to Alabama the next day.  You know what is romantic though...watching your husband interact with your sons and show them love and support day in and day out, in whatever they do.  That's the good stuff.  That's what puts the love in the everyday.

Next day, eldest son to the airport shuttle.  Youngest son to the doctor who just happened to be able to get him in that very day.  And work.  And life you are so full.

Next day, I had a class for work.  Our youngest son left with the team to the state tournament.  I dropped a chicken strip with honey mustard sauce on my scarf so I stopped at home to try to pick other clothes before returning to the office but ended up putting back on my honey mustard scarf because I just couldn't pick anything else.  Then there was a meeting at the office and flyers to make.  And staying at the office a little later because there were no kids at home to rush home to but we made the most of it with a Netflix movie and Papa Murphy's pizza.

Movie recommendation:  Unconditional

Pizza recommendation: Canadian bacon, pineapple, bacon = YUM


Austin traveled to Anniston, Alabama to compete with the precision team at the NJROTC Nationals.  They ended the two day competition in 8th place.  It was his last big competition.  Just two more local matches and he'll be done altogether.  It is bittersweet, reaching the end of something that has been a great adventure for the last four years.  In all honesty, he's ready.

Shooting in the kneeling position...

 
The team and his personality...




Blake competed at the Washington State wrestling tournament.  He earned 6th place.  It has been an impressive season for him.  He accepted a lot of coaching and became better for it.  He's so fun to watch, as he wrestles on the mat, or as he interacts with his teammates off the mat.

Here's Blake at State under his dad's alma mater's banner with Coach Fakkema.
22 years ago his dad wrestled here.




I don't know what else I can say about this week.  It's a week inside of a month that builds a year that turns into a life.  And I'm thankful that I share it with a good man; as we watch our boys grow into men, as we see the things they can accomplish, all their strengths and weaknesses, as we ourselves grow up and grow older, as we move from season to season.

Until next time!


Sunday, February 5, 2017

wading in the shallows

It's been awhile.  Perhaps I owe my blog a little more.  Perhaps I don't.  It just is what it is.  Some seasons feel more private, some less.  Maybe it is the winter that causes my soul to sink in, button up, quiet down, and reflect.

Whatever it is, sometimes I'm a lousy communicator.  And I know that my mom and my sister and my best friend read this blog.  And at least for them, I should probably write a little bit. 

Sometimes I don't write because more than just those three people find their way here, and that intimidates me.  Yes, you there.  If you're not my mom, sister, or best friend, you intimidate me.  But please, don't let that stop you.  In the intimidation is a challenge to be honest and real in my writing, to be transparent.  It does my heart good to hear from someone who has read my words and been affected enough to tell me about it.  Thank you intimidators.  You are welcome here.

In an attempt to ease back into the blogging pool, I'll wade here in the shallows with a little ditty I like to call "Currently".  It goes like this....

I am currently

Reading...  A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

Watching...  The guys are watching the Super Bowl.  I watched a few commercials and the half-time show and now I've retreated to my bedroom.

Cooking...  Seeing as how it is Sunday we are having our traditional Sunday night sandwiches.  This is our tradition for almost eight years now.  Tonight I'm having a BLT with turkey and avocado added.  Also chips and dip in honor of the Super Bowl.

Drinking...  water and coffee and water and coffee and water...I'm predictable.

Doing...  After nearly 8 months off, I am back at work.  But I have to tell you, I didn't do this.  I didn't seek a job.  I didn't apply for a job.  All I did was pray that God would make clear what it was He wanted for me.  And this job fell in my lap.  I've been working in a real estate office for almost two months as an administrative assistant.  I'm optimistic as to where this job could lead.  Right now it's not glamorous as I've been set to the task of archiving over a decade of paperwork into digital form; alternatively, I battle daily with staples and scanners.  A really great job perk: I work with my husband every day!

Going...  It's a busy month of wrestling and JROTC competitions.  Blake wrestled over the weekend and earned first place at Districts which put him in the running at Regionals next weekend which is the step just before the State Championships.  Austin has a trip to Nationals in Alabama sandwiched between two weekends of drill competitions.  Full speed ahead.

Wearing...  Pajama pants and my wrestling hoodie.  Oh sweet comfort.

Enjoying...  my chickens.  They are almost three now and have weathered some storms.  No eggs for a couple of months which I am chalking up to a long, dark winter.  But they still make me laugh!  I call them my bitties and talk to them constantly when I'm outside.  They just waddle around my feet and talk back, saying whatever chickens say.

Thinking...  this quote: "Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness, and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns."  Because I live there sometimes.  In the emptiness and the mess.  Maybe more often than I care to admit.  But really, the light never leaves, just my ability to see it. 

Listening to...  comments about the game.  A snoring puppy dog.  Cozy Sunday sounds.

Smelling...  a clean dog!  My Charlie got a bath today and is a cleaner, fuzzier version of himself.

Thankful for...  my husband and our life together.  We don't have it all figured out by any means but he is the best of me, my encourager, my confidant, my heart.


There you have it.  Life in a nutshell.  My "currently" status and my wading in the shallows.  Until next time!


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

tis the season

It was a sunny afternoon as Aaron and I traipsed through the holly farm behind Isaiah, the "tree guy" to the farm's collection of cut trees.  He was really more of the "holly wreath guy" and a wealth of knowledge about the holly trees (90 years old) and the overgrown Christmas trees (40 years old) and the lone male holly tree in a sea of over 240 female holly trees and the resident robins that flitted from berry laden tree to berry laden tree.

As we weaved our way to the back side of the property my ears caught sound of music and not radio music, but living, breathing, in the flesh music.  Certainly there isn't music out here in this grove of holly trees, is there?  Isaiah continued as if nothing was out of the ordinary, but there it was again, the distinct sound of music.  We caught sight of the musician, Isaiah's younger brother serenading a holly harvester with songs from his harmonica.  It was an unexpected moment, but beautiful in it's simplicity. 

We were delighted by Isaiah's conversation, his impromptu holly lesson, and his eagerness to serve, our "tree valet".  We brought home this year's perfect Christmas tree and gave it a place of prominence inside the front window.

As life has it right now, this was the second year that Aaron and I picked out our Christmas tree just the two of us.  Last year it was dark and windy and bitterly cold as we weaved through the Lion's lot adjacent to the Chamber of Commerce.  This year, a bright chilly afternoon in a holly farm.  Gone are the days when our two little boys with rosy red cheeks circle lopsided trees, proclaiming them "perfect".

Austin competed in his first JROTC competition of his senior year over the weekend.  He has stepped away from many of the competitions he had shot in previous years in favor of only shooting the ROTC comps.  This picture shows him there in the middle in the off-hand position, in his precision gear, the others are all shooting sporter. 



Thirty minutes away from Austin's JROTC competition, Blake was competing in a wrestling tournament.  He wrestled three matches and we were able to be there for the last two.  As always, it's amazing to watch him wrestle.

If you've never been to a wrestling tournament there is really no way I can accurately describe it.  There is chaos, movement, whistles, cheering, sweat, kids catching a nap in the bleachers between matches, and sometimes blood.  I'm not one that loves sports but I do love competition and I can appreciate the dedication and very soul that gets poured into what these kids do.  I admire their passion and perseverance.



Also over the weekend, Aaron and I took in a concert of the Whidbey Community Chorus.  It was at a beautiful church in town that was packed well before the concert was due to start.  We found seats in the choir loft which ended up being even more exciting because we could spy on all the townspeople in attendance and point out people we knew.

The choir was amazing, better than I could have imagined a group of volunteers from our island could be.  For a portion they were joined by the high school's Harbor Singers.  The amount of voices that filled that building and the quality of the performance was moving. 



 
Oak Harbor High School's Harbor Singers
 


It's a beautiful season, this Christmas time.  I love that many of our neighbors have put up lights this year, more so than in years past.  I love that everyone has a different style in decorations.  I especially like a layering of different types of lights such as a strand of large bulb colored lights with white icicle lights hanging underneath them.  Our house has large white bulbs across the front gutter and also on the point of the roof.  Then around our living room window is a strand of small colored lights.  And of course the lit up tree in the middle of the window.

If you have time, read the first few chapters of Luke.  I've been especially struck by the heart of Mary, Jesus' mother.  Many will say she was an insignificant young woman, not chosen for any particular reason but I respectfully and passionately disagree.  Just read the beginning of Luke.  You'll see.

Until next time!



Saturday, November 12, 2016

aspiring beam of light

This week I've been thinking much on light.

Light
Being a light
Reflecting light
Spreading light
Shining light

 
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
Genesis 1:3-4

There's no doubt that this world has enough darkness.  Too much darkness.  But maybe, if those of us who have light just let our little lights shine and light other candles and spread the light then we can drive out some of that darkness.  And in so doing, we can ease a little of this world's burden.

For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
Psalm 18:28
 
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1


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The morning after the historic election I woke with much optimism, a feeling of peace.  But I know not everyone feels this way.  I know there is much unrest, much fear, much anger.  I hope there is unity to be had in this great country.  As I shine my light in my corner, I hope others shine their lights in their corner and we can point others to the beacon of hope, and that hope lies not in a President or a government or in ourselves but in Christ alone, the one true light.

Later, in the morning after the election, I drove down the island.  I stopped by a marina, looking for a sense of perspective while the rest of the world seemed to be in such upheaval.  Perspective comes to me in moments, in tiny details, in fresh air, in change of scenery.






 
Same day, I had the opportunity to meet Nancy Pearl.  The book nerd in me looks to her as somewhat of a hero.  As a retired librarian, she now spends her time writing books of recommendations, reviewing books, speaking with people about books, and she has even written a novel (due out next fall). She is the book lover that all book lovers should measure themselves by.  And for that little while, while I sat in the audience at the Center for the Arts, I was encouraged as a reader and I was inspired as a writer.  I even fan-girled out and got her autograph in my book journal!!  Squee!!
 

 
 
This next picture is less about me and more about that massive gilded frame in the ladies' room at the Center for the Arts.  Would you look at that thing!?

 


While I ruminate on being light and all the things that means, I was recipient of someone else's beam of light this week.  And can I say, THANK YOU for just wanting to do something nice for someone.  THANK YOU for wanting to give without expectation of anything in return.  THANK YOU for shining your light.

We were given a new-to-us stove.  And she is a beauty.  Yes, she.  This beauty comes with convection oven options, delayed cooking options, proofing options.  And I look at her and think, WOW. 

There is the matter of having to cut a hole in the floor to install the output fan, and perhaps insetting the outlet so she sits more flush against the wall.  But I don't bother myself with those details and dance willy-nilly about the kitchen while baking pumpkin Snickerdoodles and berry pie.




One last thought:

We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are,
but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.
 
-Madeline L'Engle

Thursday, October 20, 2016

make the soup

It is a beautiful Thursday afternoon.  The sun is bright as fluffy clouds hustle through a cerulean sky.  It felt luxurious to sleep late this morning as there is no school today or tomorrow.  I slept late then lingered over my Bible a little longer.  Even the coffee tastes better when it is enjoyed slowly.

As I practiced yoga this morning I had to laugh at my Charlie dog.  He always thinks I'm doing the downward facing dog just for him.  He likes to be right under me/beside me/contacting me.  While I try to be patient with him and nurture the balance that yoga brings there are sometimes that I just can't play along with his clinginess.  Like today, I placed him up on the couch where he could be near but also out of the way.

Here is his face as he watched me, half on the couch, half on the coffee table that was pushed up close to the couch.  Then you'll notice his face when we were reunited and his heart was whole again.



Today for lunch I heated up some soup that I had made myself yesterday.  It is soooo good, especially when the weather is chilly and the trees drip with leftover raindrops.

Here is the recipe:

Chickpea Stew

1/2 of an onion, chopped
1/2 of a bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 carrot, diced

Brown these in a saucepan in a tablespoon of butter or a swirl of olive oil.

Add:
1 small diced tomato
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 T. chopped fresh basil (or dry is ok too)
a sprinkle of oregano or Italian herbs
a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh pepper
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
1 T. tomato paste
1 c. chicken broth or water

Let simmer for 15 minutes and enjoy.  This makes two hearty servings.

I served mine with a scoop of leftover rice yesterday but it is fine without it as well.






The other day as I walked outside to grab an armload of firewood (it's fireplace season!!) I spotted a bird on the cherry tree.  We don't get many of these here in our neighborhood as they prefer the country life a bit more but there on the trunk of the tree was a Pileated Woodpecker.  These are impressive birds with their large bodies, long beaks, and bright red heads.



He was patient as I slowly stepped closer and closer.  Never once did I see fear in his body which was a surprise to me.  Instead, he studied me as I studied him.  He seemed thoughtful, curious, and at ease.  As I got closer I was able to see his red cap and noticed that when he lifted his head taller the red feathers also stood taller.  I thanked him for his time and turned back toward the house.

I have a confession to make.  I'm a nail-biter.  I've been a nail biter since I was little.  I've only ever once been to a nail salon and had a French manicure after a season of kicking the habit and letting my nails grow.   Stress and anxiety pull me back into the habit time and time again (maybe there should be support groups for this kind of thing).  I've never been interested in fake nails but always desire to have pretty, painted, well manicured nails.  It's been a few months now and my nails are pretty amazing if I'm being honest.

I took these pictures because this was day FIVE after painting them and the polish was holding up like a champ despite hand washing dishes, cleaning a chicken coop, and wielding an axe.  Amazing!




This is Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear in Gunmetal.  The accent nail is Pure Ice in Beware.

My nail care regimen is pretty simple.
  • Starting with clean nails I file them smooth with a metal file.
  • Then use a filing block to buff and polish them. 
  • I massage cuticle oil into the nail and cuticle then use a rubbery type cuticle pusher thing (that makes sense, right?) to gently push my cuticles back a little. 
  • I trim off any dead skin or hangnails then wipe any oil remnants from the nail.
  • Then I paint, usually two coats.

I love gel polishes for their ease of application and longer life.  And obviously Sally Hansen makes a long wearing polish as well.  FIVE days!!



Thursday is calling now and I must return.  Make the soup, paint your nails, and think of me. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

gratitudes

Dear Self,

It is easy to be plagued with doubts and fears.  There is so much corruption prevalent in humanity.  Sometimes living just hurts.

But never, ever forget the amazing things there are to be thankful for.  Always remember the beautiful gift that life is.  Your every heartbeat has been ordered by God and He breathes the very air into your lungs.

So dearest Self, ruminate with me, if you will.  Let's remember together the ways in which we are grateful.


1.  What small thing happened today that you are grateful for?

This morning I prayed.  This in itself is an amazing gift, that I'm able to commune with the Creator of....well...everything.  I was praying rather specifically, asking for some clarity in a particular area, wisdom to know how to move forward, if at all.  Separately, I prayed that I would be able to serve Him with the very life and salvation that He gifted to me.  Then I opened my Bible to read and God gave me this verse, my prayer:

Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust.  Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.  Psalm 143:8

In that moment it felt like God was reading my prayer back to me, acknowledging and affirming my words.


2.  What memory are you grateful for?

Sometimes I bring to recollection moments of time when my boys were small, when their little, warm bodies sat in my lap while I read book after book to them, when I would bury my nose into their hair and inhale life and purpose.  I picture their chubby hands gripping hard onto a toy car or gripping my hand as we walked.  Now, when my little boys are big boys, when we are navigating hard life decisions, when my mothering heart aches with the change, I'm ever so very thankful for the memories that come to mind, the memories that will always be mine.


3.  What about your grandparents makes you grateful?

Three of my four grandparents passed away before I could know them.  I've always felt a little like an orphaned granddaughter without their presence.  I've never had a grandma that baked with me or gave me those big warm grandma hugs.

But Grandpa Neil gave me great memories.  He smoked a pipe and drove El Camino's.  He was a classy, well dressed kind of guy.  He was always smiling a kind of mischievous grin.  He did marry a woman named Irene late in life and their love story was a beautiful one about meeting as kids and being reunited again after long full lives apart.  It always warmed my heart.  I loved my grandpa.

Although I never knew the others, I do feel quite close with my grandmother just because of the stories my own mother has painted of her.  She was a beautiful woman that loved the Lord.  She was warm and open and loved to serve people.  She was a hostess that loved to cook and open her home to guests.  I'm jealous that my sister got all of her good genes.

These people that went before, the ones born and raised in an era I can only read about, the ones that grew up, fell in love, and raised families, it is to them that I am grateful, grateful for the choices they made and the history that they wrote that led to me.  You are but ghosts in my memory but your lives are palpable in my heart.


4.  What is something your spouse has done that you are grateful for?

There is no way that I could accurately depict the depth of gratitude I have for my husband.  I'm grateful for who he is at his very core and also for who I am because of him.  I'm grateful for the every day of his life that he commits to being married to me.  But on a simple level, something he has done most recently:  I'm thankful that when we sit down to watch The Lord of The Rings, he gets up from his cozy spot to track down my glasses, not because I asked but only because he wants me to be able to see clearly.  That is love.  And I am grateful.


5.  What is something about yourself that you are grateful for?

There are many aspects of my personality that I would change if I could.  I'd be more bold, I'd be more confident, I'd be comfortable in social situations.  But I also thank God for making me just how I am, because He doesn't make mistakes.  And because He doesn't make mistakes, I'm thankful for my quiet soul, for my sensitive heart, my awareness of people.  I'm grateful for my body's ability to carry me through yoga.  I'm grateful for my abilities, however humble, to play instruments and sing.  I'm thankful for my capacity to live and love and see beauty.



Wednesday, October 12, 2016

the things that make a life

The sky was clear blue this morning as the sun rose on a fiery orange horizon.  Frost flirted here and there, landing mostly on roofs around the neighborhood. The beets and carrots have been harvested and I've relinquished the garden to the hens.  There may be a few more bright yellow summer squash over the next week and those are safe because the chickens don't like them.

It's been a wee bit since I blogged last.  Last month I was able to go to the Northwest Baptist Ladies' Conference in Puyallup.  This is always, always a huge blessing to my heart and this year was no different.  It was amazing spending time with my "sisters" from church.


 
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One evening last month both of the boys were gone doing something, I can't recall now what, so Aaron and I were on our own.  We took ourselves out to a new restaurant in town (great atmosphere, delicious food, tiny portions, and steep prices).  The presentation of the food was beautiful and every self-respecting blogger takes pictures of their food at a restaurant, don't they?
 
 
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Over the weekend was Homecoming.  Aaron and I went to the game together.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love that?  I love sitting in the energy of the home town crowd and hearing the band play the Star Spangled Banner.  The Homecoming game is extra special because the NJROTC Sword Guard and Armed Drill Team get involved at halftime to crown the King and Queen.  And I wax nostalgic because 20 years ago, wearing a borrowed dress and with my dad standing next to me, I was crowned Homecoming Queen.  Sigh.

Austin and Elena went to the dance together.  But first, they had a candlelit dinner at our house catered by yours truly.  The menu:  grilled filet mignon, oven roasted potatoes, asparagus, and brownies (cut into heart shapes by Dad).  It was pretty epic.  My favorite part was before she arrived, he waited at the front window with an umbrella in hand so he could meet her at her car and walk her in.  Ever-lovin' sweetness right there.

 
Waiting for his girl...

 
 

Candlelit dinner...
 


 
Putting on her corsage...
 

 
 
I love this kid...
 


 
 
 
Wait...what???
 
 
 
 
Pinning on his boutonniere at her house (yours truly reflected in the window)...
 
 


That face...
 

 
Success!!
 


 
 
I'm telling ya, this kid has enough personality for the both of us...
 
 
 
 
Sisters and their dates...




Sparklers!!


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Did you know I have a lot of opinions about current events and politics?  Well I do and I often write things in my head regarding these topics but they NEVER make it to my blog.  Sometimes I think it is just a waste of time to even bother over any of it.  There are facts (which we cannot change) and there are opinions (which are wide and varied and ever changing).  So it seems we ought to accept the facts as what they are, throw out the opinions as what they are, and move forward.

I will not dwell on fear, or gossip, or scandals.  I choose instead to see the good (there is good).  Mr. Rogers always said to look for the heroes and that is applicable now.  If you can't find a hero, look up.  The author of the Universe knows this story well and he's got us in the shadow of his wing.  And turn off the poison that is the media.  Instead, dwell on those things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of a good report.  If there is virtue, if there is praise, think on these things.  (Philippians 4:8)

Finally, if you  are overwhelmed by bad news and despair - make a difference.

Be the good.

Be the change.

Be the hero.


Moving on...

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I made this Autumn inspired Chex Mix.  Super yummy and super easy to throw together.
 
 



Mix together:
4 c. Cinnamon Chex
4 c. Vanilla Chex
1 1/2 c. candy corn
2 c. chopped mini candy bars (Hershey's assortment)

Lay out on a couple cookie sheets and drizzle with:
2 c. melted chocolate chips mixed with 2 T. cooking oil

Cool.  Break apart into chunks.  Serve.

If I had it to do all over again I would add 1 1/2 c. peanuts.  And maybe pretzels.  It needs a touch of salty to counteract all that sweet.  And I don't like candy corn so maybe Reese's Pieces would add that same pop of Autumn color without being gross?

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My boy came home from school on Monday looking like this!  Be still my heart.  I snapped a quick picture through the front window much to his excitement.

 
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My every morning looks like this.  Journal, Bible, coffee, blanket, Charlie.  It's a pretty great set-up we have.
 
 

These verses stood out to me yesterday and today:

Keep me as the apple of thine eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings.  Psalm 17:8

For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. Psalm 18:28

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Take care, my friends.