Friday, May 31, 2013

We Come Upon a Little Pond

I take a walk with a friend out in the country. Just around the bend from my house, you find nothing but farmland and ponds.

We pass a little house that used to be where folks cast their ballots in elections.

We come upon a little pond.

That's all. A walk out in the country, along a winding road, is what life is like here some days. Even at my age, I look for turtles and scan the banks for duck nests. I watch for minnows and muskrats. I can recognize the deep call of a bullfrog.

We walk and talk and promise to return later to see the geese with their goslings.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Warning: What Not to Do With Your Restless Heart

Every few years, I grow restless.

I begin to believe that a more exciting life exists in another town or in another career. My soul feels sick inside, and my imagination tells me I'm living the wrong life. My instincts tell me to beg my husband to take our family and flee. Everything in me believes something must change. 

This week, I hear the gentle admonition, Do not flee. Do not change.

I'm learning instead to settle deeper into my own soul. The restless heart isn't a cry for new and different; it's a longing for truth. It's a longing to go even further into the restlessness till you strike pure gold.

I'm not there yet. I write things in my journal about whether I'd stake my life on the truth that Jesus brings the life that is truly life; that you lose your life and find it; that you come to God and never thirst again; and that the restlessness is there to drive you to a different kind of vibrant living.

Yes. Yes, these things are true.

Do not flee. Go deeper in. 

I'm wandering the garden, and I see the stakes around my blueberry bush. I observe the impenetrable netting that keeps the birds away. The beautiful bush is trapped on all sides except one: beneath her. So she sends down roots so unimaginably strong. And within the cage, she produces the kind of fruit only possible here.

After all, these boundaries are protection. They exist to ensure her fruitfulness.

When I feel restless, I send down roots instead. I go deeper into the very soil I think holds me back, and I rejoice in the pleasant boundaries around my life.  

Do you have restless years?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Simple Pleasure in Your Home

Finally, the lilac bush blooms.

We bring some into the house, and already, the wafting fragrance greets anyone who enters. It's gentle, sweet, and calm.

I love thinking about the simple pleasure of it. I want to build more simple pleasures into my home environment: gentle, sweet, and calm things that waft about soothe and delight. Music, great smells of baking things, the swish of a cat around our ankles, the crinkle of a page turning in a book. . .

What's a simple pleasure in your home?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Something to Enchant the Rest of Your Life

Today I recall  E.O. Wilson's confession in his memoir, Naturalist, that his searching the sea for mysterious creatures was really about something else. He says, "I also hoped for more than sharks, what exactly I could not say: something to enchant the rest of my life."

Aren't we all searching like that? Aren't we all secretly hoping to come upon the sort of mystery and beauty that will fascinate and enchant our whole lives?

As I think about my love of art, music, poetry, and theater, I know I love it because it fascinates. It enchants. But it cannot be the end. I remember the way C.S. Lewis came to know Jesus. He was searching for a form of enchantment he called Joy, and he says this:

I saw that all my waitings and watchings for Joy, all my vain hopes to find some mental content on which I could, so to speak, lay my finger and say "This is it," had been a futile attempt to contemplate the enjoyed. All that such watching and waiting ever could find would be either an image (Asgard, the Western Garden, or what not) or a quiver in the diaphragm. I should never have to bother again about these images or sensations. I knew now that they were merely the mental track left by the passage of Joy — not the wave but the wave's imprint on the sand. The inherent dialectic of desire itself had in a way already shown me this; for all images and sensations, if idolatrously mistaken for Joy itself, soon honestly confessed themselves inadequate. All said, in the last resort, "It is not I. I am only a reminder. Look! Look! What do I remind you of?"    ~~ C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

When I encounter beauty, I remember it's a wave's imprint. It's a reminder. Everything we experience--the best of it, the absolute most enchanting thing--is simply a signpost pointing to God. 


Monday, May 27, 2013

You Won't Miss It

All month, I've been searching for a new robin's nest. Ever since the chipmunks ravaged the nest outside my window and destroyed those lovely eggs, I've kept my eyes open for a new nest to enjoy.

This morning, while searching for climbing roses at the local garden center, my daughter points out a curious sign:

Retail suspended: Robin Eggs Nearby! We look down and see them within the roses.

I chuckle at the sign and the unlikely nest. I love that it didn't require any work on my part to find it. The sign pointed the way.

I want to remember that I can relax into God's love and wait. He knows what I'm looking for and won't let me miss it.

Isn't it true?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

It's Happening Whether or Not You Know It: The Update Walk

The youngest and I take a walk around the garden once a day now. We have to provide updates for the rest of the family.

Miracles are happening, and we realize that they'll go on without us whether or not we attend the show.

So we must attend the show!

The strawberries are coming along.

We'll have to net the blueberries soon to protect against birds.

Best of all, we report that we love the beautiful color of pink!

At least on this day, we saw it all.

Do you have things you're checking on each day?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Making Time to Get Lost in Books (and Other Joys)

We find cozy places to read in our home so we can get lost inside of a book. Reading--as one of life's greatest pleasures (at least for me)--allows new worlds and experiences to open for us, and I love encouraging it now that every family member can read.

"Go to the bookshelf and find a book to get lost in," I tell the youngest. She snuggles up by the window with a big pillow beneath her head, and she goes inside the book.

Just yesterday, a friend's older daughter gave my daughters her old books from her pre-teen years. Driving away from her house with a treasure box of books, I can hardly wait to introduce my youngest to new characters and new adventures: Winnie Foster in Tuck Everlasting, Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables, and more of Nancy Drew.

I lose myself inside of a book. I love that feeling that time has passed, and I've been somewhere else, unaware, at peace, and full of joy.

It's that way with writing, too. My oldest says she feels that way working on a certain school project or with knitting. For my husband it's woodworking and gardening.

But for all of us, it's reading.

What's on your summer reading list? I like to reread my favorites from high school including A Separate Peace, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Great Gatsby. Throw in some Steinbeck and some poetry anthologies, and I'm one happy reader!

Friday, May 24, 2013

10 Things You Learn About Healing When You Raise a Wounded, One-Eyed Cat

A few nights ago, Jack starts pushing his nose against us and rubbing our legs with his face as we approach him. As a classic cat declaration of ownership, this behavior is Jack claiming we belong to him.

It's authoritative. It's bold. It's a way of leaving a territorial mark upon us. He never did this when we first took him in.

If you remember his journey, healing came slowly and curiously. With one eye, a broken tail, an infected mouth, and no interest in being his true cat self, he seemed half-alive.

And then, then!, he learned to purr again. He figured out how to meow and finally spoke to us one day in the kitchen.  Then, he began caring for another cat. One day, he stood up to our dominant cat. A month later, instead of moping, I found him basking. Sometimes, his wounded eye would leak, and I felt like we were back to square one. He then learned to do things normal cats do that he had forgotten. Then, he bonded with our cat, Snowflake, began napping only with her, and seemed he had found his true love.

And now, he's rising up and declaring what belongs to him.

As I think about healing processes, I've learned some things from Jack:

1. Wounded cats--and people--slowly find their voices.
2. They'll cry out when they're ready.
3. Part of healing is caring for others.
4. You have to stand up for yourself and your needs.
5. Begin to worship again. Let yourself experience beauty.
6. You'll have setbacks.
7. You'll remember what it feels like to be healthy.
8. You'll find friends.
9. You'll let yourself love and be loved again.
10. And finally, you'll be strong enough to claim who you are and where you belong with a particular type of authority.

I love my little wounded cat.

Have you learned something about yourself from animals?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Are You So Offended?

Today, I remind myself and my family from Proverbs 12:16 that "fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult." Likewise, in Proverbs 19:11, we learn that "it is to one's glory to overlook an offense."

My dear neighbor reminds me of these verses at just the right time this morning. She has children, too!

I realize how much time we walk around in this house with hurt feelings. I think about the number of conversations I mediate between offended children. It seems like it feels good to always be offended. It makes us feel important, entitled, and right.

Always being offended and hurt can quickly become a way of life, like an identity you choose.

With sibling rivalry at an all time high these days, I smile when I hear my husband tell my daughters, "You don't have to always be offended."

It's true. It's a choice to overlook an insult or offense. It's the sign of a wise, patient heart who entrusts herself to God's care. It's the mark of love which is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs.

Oh, to be so free that we might live this way!

We can. We can because we operate in another economy and by a different law.

How would you advise a child that's easily offended?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Happy Little Morning

The poppies have popped in my neighbor's yard this morning.

That's right! They just sort of pop out in fireworks of color.

How can we not smile?

They simply burst forth; there's no middle ground, no in-between state for a poppy. Poppies live vibrantly, dramatically, largely, colorfully, unapologetically, and beautifully.

They bring us a happy walk to school.

I want to live more like a poppy, don't you?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Praying Away the Thing You Should Welcome

I had just been lamenting the fact that ladybugs will most certainly bother me again this summer. It drives me crazy when they sneak in the windows and end up in my house. One year, the whole wall seemed covered with them.

Another year, I spent each week vacuuming more dead ladybugs than you can imagine.

Oh, the ladybugs drive me crazy! Oh, Lord, just send them away!

Later, I'm out in my yard near my most precious Winterberry Bush, and I notice a sticky substance on each leaf. Then, I see them.

Black aphids everywhere! They're eating my bush!

But then, I see what's eating the aphids: ladybugs.

Come, ladybugs! You're welcome here! We love you! I know you are the predator of the very thing I need removed!

I wonder how many things I pray away that I should welcome instead.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Listening to All Your Old Music

Driving with my husband and stuck in traffic, I pop all our old mix CD's in the CD player. 

It's a drive down memory lane. John Denver, Johnny Cash, various worship tunes from the turn of the century, too much Taylor Swift, obscure folk music, a children's CD from VBS's past, the Beach Boys. . .

It's good to remember how much time has passed and how we loved certain songs during certain times of our lives.

I'm glad we took this drive.

Have you played old tunes lately?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Glorious Homemade Trellis

My husband calls a neighbor to help dig holes two-feet deep. He'd built my trellis for Mother's Day and needed help putting it in the ground.

The trellis for my climbing roses is officially in!

Now, with this structure in place, the climbing roses might be planted, tended, and enjoyed for years to come. The roses will span out far and wide, and I will love them.

I like to remember the order of things: create a sturdy structure, and then let the beautiful things grow wild.

Do you have a favorite kind of climbing rose? Do tell! 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Spiritual Lesson from My Compost Bin

I stick my hand into my compost pile to pull back a space to dump some more fruit peelings, coffee grinds, egg shells, and vegetables.

It's so hot in there under the leaves and grass that I actually pull my hand back in shock.

(Aerobic bacteria that's breaking down my bucket of offerings releases so much heat as it works. Decomposition isn't easy. It's hot work. It's a smoldering mound that you can't use for a long time.)

"It's working! It's really working!" I tell my chemist husband who agrees it shocked him the first time he felt the heat of composting. The heat is a sign of conversion: what we put into the pile transforms into nutrient-rich soil that allows our garden to bear glorious fruit.

In the process of breaking things down inside my own heart--of purifying, refining, and becoming a useful vessel for divine activity, I remember that in that dark space of change, it's real work. There's a heat involved in that refiner's fire--that compositing bin--that lets me know I'm changing.

It's working.

It might take a long time, but I can feel the heat in my own heart.

Don't you love spiritual illustrations from nature?

Friday, May 17, 2013

10 Tips to Revising a Story (and a Life)

I've been learning so much about fiction writing these day, so I thought I'd share various tips.

If your story's stuck, maybe try this:

1. Chop off the first 50 pages. Start here.

2. Start at the end. Then tell the story through a flashback.

3. Put characters in the middle of a crisis on the first page.

4. Reveal a character's past through dialogue or flashbacks instead of a long narrative.

5. Remove details so the reader feels smart. Readers can fill in details better than you think.

6. Switch the point of view from third person to first person or vice versa.

7. Have a character summarize the conflict of the story in just one sentence.

8. Ask how every chapter adds tension. If it doesn't, maybe cut it.

9. Introduce an enemy--or at least a distasteful character--early on. Readers like to root for characters against other characters.

10. Remove a subplot if your narrative gets too complicated. Complex doesn't necessarily mean good.

I think about these tips in the same way I think about living. In other words:

1. Stop living in the past. Start with today.

2. Remember that we win in the end with God. Look at our life as one big flashback from a glorious ending.

3. A little adventure goes a long way. Don't run from crisis; get right in there.

4. If we're replaying a long narrative about our pasts, it's just boring.

5. We don't need to know all the details. That's not faith.

6. Maybe we need to consider another point of view.

7. What's our personal mission statement in one sentence? What's the driving force of our lives?

8. Unresolved things can be good. They drive us to seek God and move more deeply into a life of faith.

9. There is a real enemy of our souls, but Jesus wins. 

10. Simplify. 

I love the writing life!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Give Them Time to Unload

Today, my friend reminds me that I need to give my daughters time to unload the burdens of their day. They hold so much in, so at some point, they want to talk about everything.

This means I sit there, completely available to listen and support.

I don't schedule anything but listening time.

I picture myself with open arms and ears in a ready position to receive their burdens. I'm not doing anything else but sitting there, inclined towards them, listening.

Can you imagine a friend taking you by the hand and saying, "I am going to listen to you for however long it takes for you to just unload whatever is on your mind today."

A friend to receive all of my burdens? Someone with open arms to listen and support me? How wonderful!

I forget that God makes this offer to me daily. I forget that, as a mother, I unload my burdens into God's great arms so I'm then positioned to help my children unload their burdens. Maybe I need to make this offer to others--expanding that mother's heart outward--to ask if someone just needs to unload their burdens of the day.

Living with flair means just sitting there, listening.

Did you let someone unload their burdens on you today? Did you unload your burdens?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Only Cure for Envy

I used to think that shame was the most tormenting of human emotions, but lately I've observed the way envy causes unimaginable misery. With envy in our hearts, we lose happiness, security, and well-being. We focus on the prosperity of others so much that we cannot see the blessings in our own lives.

Envy is a terrible thing. And it often leads to aggression or at least a secret wish for misfortune to fall upon the prosperous person.

Often, children exhibit unhappiness because of an envious heart. Another child's achievements, attention, or possessions steals the contentment from the envious child. Another child's good fortune diminishes the joy this person feels. The envious child begins to resent her own life. She begins to live a life of comparison, discontent, and confusion.

It's not just children. I've experienced envy even last week.

We've seen envy in our family, and I'm always at a loss for how to cure it. I usually focus on building self-esteem or minimizing the achievements of the person they envy.

This strategy fails.

It doesn't get to the root of envy which is this: Envy comes from a distorted view of where one finds the deepest happiness.

I think about how living a life absorbed in God's love, wanting to please Him, and wanting to serve a hurting world takes our eyes off of others and--most importantly--ourselves.

We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and live a life of love. It takes the power of God in us to change our envious hearts to loving hearts that delight in how God blesses others. It takes the power of God to realize that happiness comes from following His plan for our lives that won't look like anyone else's plan. We can no longer compare our lives to others. We no longer feel discontent. We feel happy and at peace.

The only cure for envy is God. If I'm busy loving God and others, I have no reason to envy.

What would you add to this cure for envy?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Unexpected Outcome

Everybody needs a good dose of unexpected outcomes to spice up the day. It's a form of situational irony to have something happen that's definitely not supposed to.

On the walk to school, a father plays a song for the children called, "Before I Could Rhyme" by Songdrops. The writer cannot rhyme, so every line that's supposed to end in an obvious rhyme doesn't.

The children laugh so hard every time the singer breaks the rhyme scheme. They know what's supposed to happen, so when it doesn't, there's a particular enjoyment. Hey, I wasn't expecting that! How interesting! How wonderful! 

As we're all laughing together, I consider the joys of the unexpected:

I remember when I served dinner in the wrong room just for fun.

I remember when, instead of chores, we took our daughters to an afternoon movie.

I remember when, instead of going home at the end of a date to pay the babysitter, my husband said our bags were packed in the trunk for a weekend away.

The element of surprise matters so much for the enjoyment of fiction and real living. I want to remember to include this element in our family story.

I want to look in their smiling faces and say, "I bet you weren't expecting that!"

I think God must like to do this, too.

Did you orchestrate an unexpected outcome today?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hearts Set on Pilgrimage

This morning, I read in Psalm 84:6, "Blessed are those whose strength is in [God], whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they regard it as a place of springs."

I learn that the Valley of Baca is the valley of weeping. It's a metaphor for desolation and despair. With God's strength, however, the traveler regards this valley as a place of abundance. It's fertile and flowing.

It becomes exactly what it doesn't seem to be.

With a heart set on pilgrimage, we look around and see things differently. Every depressing valley isn't actually a valley of weeping; it's fertile ground for whatever's growing. It's a condition perfect for our journey.

With God's strength, and with that mindset of pilgrimage, the whole landscape before us changes.

Have you taken a pilgrimage?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Asking Moms What They Want

Sometimes when you ask a mother what she really wants, she can't answer you. She's not used to thinking of herself like this. She's not used to considering her own desires.

It might seem selfish and wasteful to her, so you need to persevere. Or she might feel lost, as if she's forgotten who she is.

Give her time to reach down deep to some nearly forgotten place. Remind her, if you have to, of all the things she loves. Tell her it's not selfish and that she shouldn't feel guilty when she brightens up, sticks her pointer finger into the air, and says, "Yes, I know now."

The other day, I told my husband that I sometimes dream of a little cottage somewhere with climbing roses all over the place.  What a dream! What a little fantasy!

"We can do that," he says. "I can make you a trellis in the wood shop and we can plant climbing roses on the side of the house."

"Can we? Can we? Can we really?"

My Mother's Day gift from the family is a handmade trellis with climbing roses.  He's still in the wood shop at this very moment, so pictures will come later.

It took some time to look around me and think: What do I really want? Nothing useful, practical, or for my children or husband--just something for me, so when I drive up to my home, I see roses.

That's what I really wanted.

Is it hard for you to answer that question?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

3 Ways to Recover When Things Fall Apart

We journey into the Weeping Cherry to check on the beautiful eggs. Something's not right; the birds have fled and we see fragments of those precious eggs all over the ground. A predator--maybe a squirrel, a bluejay, or a chipmunk--has feasted on our eggs.

The girls hold a little funeral. I begin asking questions. I have to know what a Sweet Robin does when her nest falls apart. How can she move on? What does she do? Does this happen often?

I learn from an expert that this is common. The Sweet Robin actually learns from the event. She builds a new nest in a better location and lays a new clutch within 10 days.

She starts fresh. That's what she does.

I sit in this reality for a few hours. I think about the ways things fall apart. I think about ways God invites us to start fresh. It's funny because at that very moment, another rejection comes from a publisher who wanted something different. The Sweet Robins learns and then builds anew. So shall I.

I sit in this reality for a few hours. And then, I start again with a fresh page.

Meanwhile, we stomp around the garden in the early morning hours to see what's happening. True, there's no nest to observe, but we do find the most beautiful blooms in the berry patch.

I tell my youngest that with every bloom, a berry will come. Soon, we'll have strawberries and blueberries. We'll have more blackberries and raspberries than we can eat in one season.

We aren't watching eggs, but we are watching berries.

We learn. We rebuild. We look for new blooms.

God is good.

Don't you love the Sweet Robin's perseverance?

Friday, May 10, 2013

My Favorite School-Yard Goodbye

This morning, my Very Philosophical 5th Grade Friend asks me what I blogged about today. This question happens regularly at 8:15 AM.

Every morning, I tell him I haven't blogged because nothing's happened yet.

He still asks. He still wonders if something amazing happened to have happened in the time I woke up and walked to his house down the street.

Not yet. Nothing yet.

As we approach the school and get ready for our good-byes, he says, "Well, take it all in, and see what you find."

Yes! This is a great good-bye. That's what I'll do. I will take it all in and see what I can find. 

I hope he's doing that, too.

I love this particular parting to students: Take it all in! See what you find!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

When You Stop Forcing Things

Today, one of the Italian Mamas tells me that you can't force things. If I'm trying too hard, I need to step back.

"You have to think of certain things (especially mysterious things like creativity, romance, joy) like you're chasing a butterfly. You really can't chase a butterfly. You have to let it find you."

I picture myself sitting quietly and patiently as I wait for the thing to land.

"No. Don't wait for it like that. You have to do other things. Forget about the butterfly. It will land on you when you're doing something else. It will be there at just the right time precisely because the pressure's gone."

We talk about all the ways we force things. We try to force our creativity, our relationships, and our own maturity even. We steamroll into things that cannot be approached in that manner.

Some things are as fragile as butterflies who dart away the closer we come. There's another way to approach, and sometimes it's by not approaching at all. It's by doing everything else you're called to do. It's by forgetting about the butterfly--losing that particular obsession--and knowing it will land when it's supposed to.

You invite by holding back. You beckon by stepping away.

Some things can't be chased.

Have you found this to be true?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

10 of the Greatest Last Lines in Literature

On the walk to school, my third grade writing friend asks me what to do if she can't figure out how to end her story.

"I don't just want to write, And they lived happily ever after."

Another friend adds in, "Or what about, And they were never heard from again? That's bad, but it's my favorite."

We talk about endings on this walk. We talk about how some of us like a little summary--a neat bow--that wraps everything up. Others like a little mystery. They want a cliffhanger that keeps them up all night. Another friend says she wants endings with hope and a promise that the story will continue.

We talk about the greatest endings in all of literature. We can quote some by heart, but others, we search for.

Here are my favorites:

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." The Great Gatsby, F. Scot Fitzgerald.

"He would be there all night, and he would be there when Gem waked up in the morning." To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.

"All of them, all except Phineas, constructed at infinite cost to themselves these Maginot Lines against this enemy they thought they saw across the frontier, this enemy who never attacked that way--if he ever attacked at all; if he was indeed the enemy." A Separate Peace, John Knowles

"Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody." Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

"After all, tomorrow is another day." Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell.

"'God's in his heaven, all's right with the world,' whispered Anne softly." Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery.

"They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow / through Eden took their solitary way." Paradise Lost, John Milton.

"Then shouldering their burdens, they set off, seeking a path that would bring them over the grey hills of the Emyn Muil, and down into the Land of Shadow." The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien.

"I love you right up to the moon--and back." Guess How Much I Love You, Sam McBratney

"My troubles are now over, and I am at home; and often before I am quite awake, I fancy I am still in the orchard at Birtwick, standing with my old friends under the apple trees."Black Beauty, Anna Sewell.

And one more just because:

"From the Land of Oz," said Dorothy gravely. "And here is Toto, too. And oh, Aunt Em! I'm so glad to be at home again!" The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

I love a great ending! What would you add to this list?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It's Sort of Awkward

My youngest daughter shares the incredible news: The classroom eggs have hatched!

"Wow! What was it like?" I ask. I've never actually seen anything hatch before--at least I can't remember that I have. I imagine it's very fast. A few taps, and then the duck just comes out.

That's how I want it to be. I imagine a little tap, chirping, and a beautiful fuzzy duckling popping out.

"It's takes an hour," she reports.

"A whole hour?"


We watch the tail end of the hatching video her teacher records and posts.

It's not pretty. It's sort of awkward, time-consuming, and unattractive. It's floppy and strange.

I suppose we imagine our own hatchings into God's new plans for us to be very fast. I think of suddenly arriving into some new part of my life with ease, beauty, and speed.

No. I think it's more awkward, time-consuming, and not always attractive. But once you dry your feathers, get your bearings, and shove off that shell, you finally do come into your own. It's just not struggle free. It's just not quick.

I love the wonder of a second-grade classroom awaiting ducklings! Have you watch something hatch lately?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Life Changing Advice for the Exhausted and Irritable: Stay at 60%

This morning, my friend tells me her secret for sanity in the midst of pursuing a Ph.D., raising young children, maintaining a great marriage, and hosting neighborhood events.

"I live at 60%."

"What do you mean?" I turn to her, curious and confused.

"Some women live their lives at 90% capacity. They are already nearly at their energy expenditure limit each day. So when a new stressor adds into the mix, they explode. They go ballistic. They're atomic bombs that go off in their own homes."

"That was me last night," I confessed. The tiniest comment from a child set me off into tears.

"But if you live at 60% of your energy capacity, you're ensuring you have buffer for emergencies and any changes. You're able to deal with life as it happens. You have reserves."

She walks on, smooth and carefree, while I'm chasing after her to learn more.

"How do you live at 60%? What's the secret?"

"Well, I was chronically ill for six years, so I know how to ask myself what I have to offer energy-wise each day. Then, I do even less to protect myself from what might come. I say 'no' a lot. And I know what I need to reenergize."

She lives less than what she's actually capable of each day. Instead of do more, it's do less.

I live at 99%--nearly maxed out, wild, multi-tasking, over-producing, checking-off-my-to-do-list kind of living.

I want to live at 60%. I need to live at 60%. I think I need to slow my own children down as well.

I don't want to snap at my family because I have no reserves. I don't want to raise my voice because I'm maxed out. I don't want to fret when the car needs repair, if dinner burns, or if a supervisor gives me a new assignment.

Today, I slow down. I don't jam everything in. And sure enough, at 2:00 PM, a neighbor calls with an emergency. I was ready. I had energy to spare.

The Robin knows this. I check the nest today, and she has stopped laying eggs. The nest, with four gorgeous eggs, is at capacity. Natural processes tend to stick within their boundaries. Animals rarely do too much on purpose.

Living with flair means living at 60%.

What do you think about this advice?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Secrets of the Robin's Nest

She leaves her nest again at 4:00 PM today. I use my phone to peer inside. I'm hoping to find another egg.

Robin Eggs 

I do.

In just a few days, we'll have baby robins!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

New and Improved Hamburger Cupcakes (We've Improved Our Technique)

I'm thankful for edible paper made of sugar.

We're really improving our technique with the hamburger cupcakes.

This means I can cut out lettuce and cheese for my hamburger cupcakes without having to color and roll out fondant.  If you remember, first, we had plain old hamburgers. Then we used fondant to make cheeseburgers. (click links for the pictures and recipes)

Now, paper. Yes, we find edible sugar sheets just for decorating.

Lettuce from Edible Sugar Sheets

Cheese from Sugar Sheets

The end result?

Hamburgers with cheese and lettuce, carried to school proudly.

One daughter turns 8 tomorrow. I'm off to hang the piƱata!

I really love cupcakes, and these were a hit. Enjoy!

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Most Beautiful Color in Nature

I sneak under the Weeping Cherry. I part branches like great curtains and tuck myself inside. It's quiet and earthy in there. It's cool and still.

I weave my arm up and then arch my hand over the Robin's Nest to spy inside with my phone's camera.

It's a blind activity; I'm trusting the camera to focus on something and return to me with the spoils.

I fumble to press a button I cannot actually see, finally hear the click, and then steal away as fast as I can.

Hidden away in the garage, I view the photo.

We have an egg, folks. That's possibly the most beautiful color in nature: Robin's Egg Blue. 

I'm hoping she'll lay more eggs this morning.

Look at that egg! So blue!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

"We Are the Somebody Else!"

My husband calls to report a flair moment from the hardware store. A older employee stands in an aisle cleaning up something with a younger employee by his side. As they work to complete the task, the younger man says, "Well, let's just leave the rest for somebody else."

The older man looks at the younger man and said, "We are the somebody else."

So they finish the task.

It reminds me of all those times I say, "Somebody should really. . . " and the day I realized I could make myself that somebody. 

I am the somebody else. We are the somebody else.

Are you waiting for somebody else to do something you can and should do?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Not If But When: The Fine Art of Expectancy

Years ago, folks would ask me if I was going to write a blog that day.

Now, they ask not if but when. When will the moment arrive? What will the flair be?

Not if but when.

There's really no question now. It's going to happen. No more if. No more doubting. We move from doubting to waiting.

And then from waiting to watching.

And then from watching to seeing.

And then from seeing to proclaiming.

I don't live in if anymore.

The robin eggs are coming! She hasn't laid them yet, but I know she will.