Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chanukah - Picture book line-up

We STILL love our Christmas/Chanukah picture books! I sometimes think picture books are written as much for adults as they are for kids. We find that we enjoy them just as much, and Mane still loves them after all these years. This is the line-up for seven of the eight nights of Chanukah reading:

The Story of Hanukkah by Bobbi Katz & Illustrated by Linda Dockey Graves
In the Month of Kislev by Nina Jaffe & Illustrated by Louise August
Nine Spoons by Marci Stillerman & Illustrated Pesach Gerber
The Hanukkah Mice by Ronne Randall & Illustrated by Maggie Kneen
Elijah's Angel by Michael Rosen & Illustrated by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson
Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco
The Tree of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco

Monday, December 15, 2014

Miriam, Ruth, Esther...

In this past week of Advent, we've read the stories of both Miriam and Ruth. ...and coming up this week, we have the story of Esther. I am surprised by the number of Jesse Tree outlines that do not include the stories of these women. Ruth and Esther have entire books of the Bible that bear their names, yet they tend to be neglected in the telling of the redemption story. (Though, since we celebrate the Biblical holidays, Esther gets an entire holiday, and we read the story of Miriam at Passover. Sooooo...)  Here are the books we like to read about these women for our Advent Jesse Tree.

Miriam's Cup by Fran Manushkin:

It's important to note that there's no sugar coating on this story. We read about the Pharoah having all the Hebrew boy babies killed. So, if your children are small or sensitive, it might be best to wait on this version of the story.

Ruth and Naomi by Jean Marzollo:
Quite to opposite of the Miriam book, this one is written for the very young. In fact, this year, we opted to also read the book of Ruth from the Bible (only 4 chapters) to fill out the story for us.

Queen Esther The Morning Star by Mordecai Gerstein:

Again, this one is not a sugar-coated story. Pre-reading may help you filter out whatever you want to skip for the very young children.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Music Monday - Burn by Ellie Goulding

Today I'm featuring one of Mane's favorite songs! Somehow all the lights in this video make me think of Advent....

We, we don't have to worry bout nothing
'Cause we got the fire, and we're burning one hell of a something
They, they gonna see us from outer space, outer space
Light it up, like we're the stars of the human race, human race

When the lights turned down, they don't know what they heard
Strike the match, play it loud, giving love to the world
We'll be raising our hands, shining up to the sky
'Cause we got the fire, fire, fire, yeah we got the fire fire fire

And we gonna let it burn burn burn burn
We gonna let it burn burn burn burn
Gonna let it burn burn burn burn
We gonna let it burn burn burn burn

We don't wanna leave, no, we just gonna be right now
And what we see, is everybody's on the floor
Acting crazy getting loco to the lights out
Music's on, I'm waking up, we stop the vibe, and we bump it up
And it's over now, we got the love, there's no secret now, no secret now

When the lights turned down, they don't know what they heard
Strike the match, play it loud, giving love to the world
We'll be raising our hands, shining up to the sky
'Cause we got the fire, fire, fire, yeah we got the fire fire fire

And we gonna let it burn burn burn burn
We gonna let it burn burn burn burn
Gonna let it burn burn burn burn
We gonna let it burn burn burn burn

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Noah's Ark

It's the 3rd day of Advent and time to remember the story of Noah. Our favorite picture book that tells this story is Noah's Ark by Jerry Pinkney. The illustrations in the book remain some of our very favorite. Mane was delighted to learn that the book was published the year she was born and that the author/illustrator lives in New York!

Monday, December 01, 2014

Advent/Jesse Tree 2014 - the short(er) version

A few years back, I wrote and wrote and wrote...and wrote...about our Advent/Jesse tree traditions and posted a week by week plan of possibilities for celebrating Advent. This year I want to gather it all up into something more concise. Sooooo...this post is going to contain the master lists and basic information.

 Advent always begins four Sundays before Christmas. If Christmas is on a Sunday, this would be the 5th Sunday. Advent means "coming," and during the season of Advent we remember the coming of Yeshua, the Messiah. Our family uses a Jesse Tree to remember and tell the story from Creation to the birth of Yeshua. For each day of Advent we remember one person or story from the Biblical genealogy, and we hang a symbol of that person or story on our Jesse Tree. We also use an Advent wreath with four candles in a circle and a 5th candle in the middle to mark time as we pass through the Advent season. Each Sunday we light a new candle. On Christmas we light the 5th candle. Here is the meaning for each candle:

First Week - Hope
Second Week - Peace
Third Week - Joy
Fourth Week - Love
Christmas Candle - Yeshua

It is traditional for the Hope, Peace, and Love candles to be purple, for the Joy candle to be pink, and for the Christmas Candle to be white. In our home, we don't always use the traditional colors, but we do distinguish the Joy candle from the rest. We have used the same white Christmas Candle for many, many years since it only burns for a short time on Christmas morning.

And here is our list of stories for our Jesse Tree and the symbol we use for each story. The longest possible length for Advent is 29 days. So, we have 29 possible stories/people/ideas to cover during Advent. Many years, Advent is shorter. On shorter years we combine stories. If you look through the list, you'll see that many of the final symbols are part of the relatively short story of the birth of Jesus (Mary, Joseph, Travel to Bethlehem, Angels, Shepherds, & Wise Men) and can easily be combined into one day or spread out over several.
  1. What is a Jesse Tree? (Isaiah 11:1) -  Tree
  2. Creation - World
  3. The Fall - Apple
  4. Noah - Ark
  5. Abraham - Camel
  6. Isaac - Ram
  7. Jacob - Ladder
  8. Joseph - Coat 
  9. Miriam/Exodus story - Music Notes
  10. Moses/Mount Sinai - Stone Tablets
  11. Joshua - Trumpet
  12. Ruth - Sheaves of Grain
  13. Samuel - Lamp
  14. David - Harp
  15. Solomon - Crown
  16. Elijah - Raven
  17. Elisha - Dove
  18. Isaiah - Scroll
  19. Jeremiah - Teardrop 
  20. Esther - Scepter
  21. Nehemiah - Cup
  22. Zachariah & Elizabeth - Pencil and/or Mother & Child
  23. Mary - Lily
  24. Joseph - Hammer
  25. John the Baptist - Seashell
  26. Travel to Bethlehem - Donkey
  27. Birth a Jesus - Baby in a Manger
  28. Angels & Shepherds - Angel & Staff
  29. Wise Men - Star
Stories/People we have included from time to time, but aren't on our official list for this year:
  • Gideon - Clay Water Pitcher
  • Deborah - Palm Tree
  • Jonah - Whale
  • Daniel - Lion
  • Micah - City of Bethlehem
  • Hezekiah - Empty Tent
  • Habakkuk - Stone Watch Tower
  • Nehemiah - City Wall
When Mane was little, we covered most of the Jesse Tree stories by simply reading them out of a Children's Bible. It doesn't have to be any more complicated than that. Over the years, we've collected some lovely picture books that tell some of the individual stories, and we read these instead. (Many of these can be found by clicking the appropriate label in the sidebar.)

Happy Advent!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Music Monday - Bed of Roses

Brings me back to the early days with Mango, when I was first learning about Bon Jovi, U2, Bob Dylan, and Bill Staines. Good times. Bed of Roses by Bon Jovi...

Monday, November 10, 2014

Counting Gifts again...for Thanksgiving

Last year we started the tradition of writing gifts/gratitudes on decorated squares of paper throughout the month of November and dropping them in a jar. At the end of the season, we hole-punched the papers and put them on a ring. We hung it from a hook on our mantle all year. We've got the jar back out this month again, and we're counting our gifts again.

Pastor Healy preached a sermon recently about keeping our oil lamps full...about paying attention to what fills the lamp so that, at a moment's notice, we are ready. We are never left dry and empty. We don't leave the house without it. We don't put it off until later. I was reminded of all the time I spent counting One Thousand Gifts over the past years. And this, I think, is how we receive oil for our lamps: through gratitude, which, in turn, brings joy. It fills our hearts. Our cups overflow with "the oil of joy."

Music Monday - Hallelujah

This song reminds me of Friday night Shabbat with everyone sitting around singing and playing guitar. It was originally written and performed by Leonard Cohen. I really like this version by Bon Jovi. Hallelujah...

I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

There was a time when you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well, really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Monday, November 03, 2014

Music Monday - Make You Feel My Love

I heard this song in church a month or so ago, and it was perfectly fitting as a spiritual song, as well as a love song. It was written by Bob Dylan but first performed by Billy Joel. Make You Feel My Love...

When the rain is blowin' in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love.

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love.

I know you haven't made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I've known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong.

I'd go hungry, I'd go black and blue
I'd go crawlin' down the avenue
No, there's nothin' that I wouldn't do
To make you feel my love.

The storms are raging on the rollin' sea
And on the highway of regrets
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain't seen nothin' like me yet.

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
There's nothing that I would not do
Go to the ends of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Restoring the Vitamix 3600 - Plug the spigot, replace the seal...

I bought a VITA-MIX 3600 from someone on Craig's list yesterday, and I am so very excited! We LOVE the stainless steel container and the old-fashioned-looking base.

Before we could use it, though, it needed a little maintenance. Since Vitamix no longer carries replacement parts for the 3600, it also required a little innovation.

We took apart the blade assembly in order to clean and oil the parts and make the blade spin smoothly...

(We also accidentally took apart the motor and put it back together...but we're not going to talk about that here...or anywhere...probably ever.)

The stainless steel canisters have a spigot in the side, like this:

But I am not a fan of the spigot. It seems like a really great place to trap food and grow bacteria. Yuck. So, we took off the spigot, and I went to my local hardware store this morning and asked how I might close the hole.  They sold me this solution:

That's two washers (1.25") and two neoprene gaskets held together with a a washer and a lock nut.

Finally, the rubber seal around the dome was aged, cracking, and...well...gross. I saw that I could buy replacements on ebay (since, again, Vitamix no longer supports this product), but I was in a bit of a hurry to get to use my new blender. So, I went to the grocery store, found a lock & seal type container, took out the seal, and found that it fit in my blender dome! Yay!

Old seal to the left, Hefty Clip Fresh container seal on the right.

Ta-Da! Dome with new, clean seal!
And we made our first smoothie! This blender is so quiet compared to our previous blender, and it did a great job!!

Later we made squash & sausage soup from the squash Vespera brought us. LOVE autumn soups!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cultural Identity

What do you consider your cultural or ethnic identity? What traits or practices do you associate with that identity? Are there things you would like to do to enhance that part of who you are?
I chose this blog prompt because it's hard for me. And because it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately. Do all parents begin to feel that their time is so limited with their children and there are still so many things they want their children to know and learn? Mane is in 7th grade. She's 12. And already I am beginning to feel that my time with her is stretching thin. I have only so many years left. There's so much I want to squeeze into our lives, into her learning. I remember that when we got married, Mango's mother warned me that she wasn't finished with him yet. She wasn't prepared for him to marry so young, and she was still parenting.

One of the things I want Mane to have is a sense of cultural identity, as sense of where she comes from and who she is. I think this is an essential human need - to know our place in the world. I find that many families I know struggle with a lack of cultural identity, in particular those families who have no recent immigrants. We look at the more recent immigrants around us and long for what they have - foods, traditions, clothing, holidays that define who they are as a people. Perhaps, though, our ideas of cultural and ethnic identity simply need some expanding.

Ethnically, I am primarily German and Swedish (with a little Irish, Dutch, Swiss, and Prussian for good measure). Very little of those ethnic cultures have come to me through my family, other than a stubborn German/Irish temperament, and, perhaps, a Swedish love of the dark nights of winter, wool sweaters and candles. I love the Swedish Christmas goats and Dala horses, chocolate from Switzerland, and the music of the Irish.

As a cross-cultural family, we're also part Mexican. Ha! And from this adoption of Mexican heritage, we've developed traditions of authentic Mexican food - Tres Leche cakes for birthdays, mole, caldo, enchiladas... Strangely, we've done very little with the holidays...except read about them. Food was such a daily comfort and such a foundational piece a bringing Vespera into our family that we integrated that first and best.

In terms of holiday celebrations, we actually look a whole lot more Jewish than anything else. Or, perhaps, we've adopted church tradition and Jewish tradition as a way to feed the need for cultural identity. Religious practice can be a huge part of cultural identity for people. At our house, Advent has become the anchoring season...because we light candles nearly every night, read stories, and pray. We have a Jesse tree, an Advent wreath, a stack of picture books, and...often...somewhere in the middle of it all...a chanukiah. We trace the seasons of the year from Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Chanukah, through Passover/Easter, Shavuot/Pentacost, and, of course, a weekly Shabbat.

On a different level, our "family culture" also includes homeschool, whole and organic foods, and natural living choices. It's not the culture of my childhood, but a culture that has developed over the last 16 years, as Mango and I have developed our own "culture," as our separate cultures have blended into each other.

I would love to nurture more of an ethnic and cultural identity for us, and I think I know how to do it. It's about picking up the little traditions and just doing them. Three Kings Days and Cinco De Mayo...Santa Lucia and Saint Mary's Day. It's about reading the stories and visiting the food markets and cooking the food. I have learned that it isn't really about big things but about simple moments.

I want to visit the Swedish Institute more and Mercado Central. I want to find a Dala Horse that I love for mantle. I want to learn a little German, take Mane to German restaurants, and read about German immigrants. I want to attend the Cinco De Mayo parade and make a Three Kings cake. This is who we are. Our stories shape us, whether we know it or not.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Few Things My Mother Taught Me

I've been thinking about this post for a long while. The things my mother taught me are both so simple and so formative. Most important things in life are. It isn't the big, huge once-in-a-lifetime things that make up the stuff of life, but the small every day things.

It's so cliche to say that she taught me to work hard. But she really, really did...from weeding the garden to shoveling snow, my mama did it all. She wasn't afraid to dive into a room that needed to be cleaned at school or a pile of paperwork in the office, either. She taught me to do what needs to be done, no complaining. I'm afraid I've moved away from that lesson as I've gotten older...being now somewhat more inclined to procrastination and whining.

My mother also taught me storage solutions for small houses and how to minimize clutter without throwing all the fun stuff away. She new how to keep games and craft projects and her favorite coffee mug without all the little stuff cluttering up the house. Maybe this is more about knowing what really matters and getting rid of the stuff that doesn't. But, you know, you can keep the favorite mug that you really don't need, if you keep it in the cake pan in the oven (where else would you store your cake pans? and your mugs?). 

My mother taught me to keep my mouth shut when the conflict isn't really going to be beneficial. I don't think this is about avoiding conflict or sweeping things under the rug. She could confront when something needed to be said. But, it was more about extending some grace or having some patience to see how some things might pan out. It was about holding back the biting comment when someone was all sarcastic and crabby...to give them the opportunity to settle down themselves. Because, you know, most of us know when we're acting bad anyway. We seldom need someone to point it out to us.

My mama taught me to hunt for bargains, to substitute ingredients in recipes, to make do with what I have...to turn old things into new solutions. She taught me how to play rummy and make salsa and cook beans from scratch.

Sometimes I'm surprised by all the ways that I am like her because I've often thought myself so different from her in personality. When I surprise myself with a piece of her appearing in my own living, I am so proud. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ideal Weekend Away

I'm not sure I can even write this post without crying. I want this weekend away SO BADLY...and I'm not too hard to please. It's just that timing is hard to work out...

I'm also betting that those of you who know me can guess what I'm about to write...

Go ahead. Guess.

My very most ideal weekend is camping near Lake Superior. No rain...or possibly only rain at night. Because who doesn't love the patter of rain on the tent at night? Sooooo, maybe one beautiful night when we can leave the rain fly off and look at the stars. And another night with the lullaby of rain.

We'd make pie iron biscuits for breakfast to go with our iced coffee in mason jars.

There would be no mosquitoes.

We'd take long walks in beautiful places. And maybe we'd bring our bikes along and go biking, too.

We'd sit on a pebble beach listening to the waves crash on a windy afternoon (that's the night the rain will come). We'd face the wind with our arms outstretched and let our souls fly free for a while.

We'd read stories and play games and make smores around the campfire at night.

There would be drawing and guitar playing and crocheting.

We'd watch for birds and identify trees and clouds.

We'd talk about life and God and people. And listen to good music in the car. ...and stop at a cute small town coffee shop on the way home, just to make the trip last a little longer.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Their Names Matter

From A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle:
“Progo,' Meg asked. 'You memorized the names of all the stars - how many are there?'

How many? Great heavens, earthling. I haven't the faintest idea.'

But you said your last assignment was to memorize the names of all of them.'

I did. All the stars in all the galaxies. And that's a great many.'

But how many?'

What difference does it make? I know their names. I don't know how many there are. It's their names that matter.”
A litany of names.

Micheal Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The four I will think of during the Stomp Out Suicide Walk on Saturday:

Robin Williams.

Those that we have lost to cancer...
My mom

Those who are fighting cancer...
Sandra's friend
Kathy's brother in law

And those lost to accidents...
Uncle Sunny


This is not an exhaustive list...just the names that have been close to me this week.

I read today that one thing we can do to fight racism in response to events like the shooting of Michael Brown is to stop telling the "Good Kid Narrative" about how his death is sad because he was such a good kid who was about to start college, who was well-loved and liked by his community. Those things are true. But, "The Good Kid narrative says that this kid didn’t deserve to die because his goodness was the exception to the rule. This is wrong. This kid didn’t deserve to die because he was a human being and black lives matter." (12 Things White People Can Do Now Because Ferguson)

...And I thought of the words of Progo. "What difference does it make? I know their names. I don't know how many there are. It's their names that matter."

On Saturday when I walk the SOS walk, I'm sure I'll be overwhelmed by the numbers. By the sheer volume of people who have experiences the tragedy of suicide and/or depression. We human beings are impressed by numbers.

But you know what? The numbers are not the part that matters. It's the names that each of those numbers represent. Whether there are four or one hundred or one thousand. It's all the same. "What difference does it make? ...It's their names that matter."

Friday, August 15, 2014


"Savoring is the capacity to notice and appreciate the little joys, the small pleasures, and the enjoyable moments in our everyday lives.
Walk around your home and savor what you love. It could be a painting someone gave you, a lamp you found at a flea market, or the smell of something cooking in your oven. Then write about it..."
I'm hanging out in my kitchen today making pumpkin pie for a benefit bake sale. I love the smell of pumpkin pie, and this is one of the few gluten free desserts I've perfected. AND, I can do it sugar free, which means that both Mane and Mango are happy!

Pumpkin pies make me think of autumn, too, and autumn has always been my favorite season - full of the color of changing leaves, visiting the apple orchard, hot cider, ginger snaps, pulling out the sweaters and wool socks. There's definitely something about it that reminds me that I'm German - loving the Scandinavian sweaters and quiet, dark evenings with candles.

And then, right here in my kitchen, there's the ceramic sun flower face that Vespera brought me from Mexico. It just makes me smile with all it's cheery smile-y-ness and long eyelashes. I love it that Vespera was thoughtful enough to bring us all gifts from her home country and that she thought of just what might fit where in our house. She knew this little smiling face would fit right where it hangs in the kitchen.

I love, love, LOVE this little country church painting that also hangs on our kitchen wall, under the lights that Mane picked out for our kitchen (with the help of Grandpa-Upstairs):

Mango always tells me of how this reminds him of a church he visited in Russia and what a powerful emotional and spiritual experience that was for him. To share in a spiritual experience with people you cannot even speak with because you do not share a common language is an amazing thing. To recognize in them something that you have in yourself is an experience that changes a person. 

I love my yellow kitchen walls, though I would never in a million years have painted a kitchen (or any room) yellow. It's so warm and cozy. When I'm in here in the morning with my cup of coffee and some candles, my wool socks and the radio, I'm so settled and happy. 

Monday, August 04, 2014

Who was kind to you this week?

I've had so many kindnesses bestowed upon me. So many. It's hard to choose.

My good friend kindly went with the spontaneous suggestion to go see the dandelion fountain...and then delivered my child back home for me so that I could get to work!

Mango cooked and cleaned while I was sick. And watched a marathon of Harry Potter movies with Mane & I over the weekend while we were recovering.

Vespera came to visit. And talked about theology with me!

A coworker put up photos of all our families at the front desk to help us all make it through the crazy, busy weeks of summer.

Another coworker offered to pick up lunch for me while she was out.

So many clients expressed gratitude this week!

The clerk at the store actually had a conversation with me, rather than just a "Hello, How are you? Did you find everything you were looking for? Do you want to sign up for a credit card? Have a nice day!"


This blog prompt brings me back to 1000 Gifts. I think of how much joy small gifts of kindness can be, and how much kindness is like an offering of grace. Kindness is a gift in a world where we are often too busy to take time. Kindness slows the world down a little bit.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Seven songs that speak to me...

In no particular order:

1. Dragonfire, performed by Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian on Sandra Boynton's album dog Train. This is a kid's tune. I don't care. Lyrics (many repetitions omitted):

It burns so hot, 
It burns so bright,
In the dark...Dragonfire.
In the cold...Dragonfire.
In the dark, In the cold
There's a spark that I hold 
Here within me 
My own Dragonfire.
So small I am
So newly made
Within Me a Flame 
To keep me Unafraid
Most Unafraid
Ever Unafraid
I am Small, but Complete
I have Light, I have Heat
I am never alone
I can summon my own

I just love this. I love the idea that children have, within themselves, this flame of life and light, that is meant to imbue them with courage and a sense of wholeness, completeness. I love the sense that we are all born this way, with a burning flame. I think, in theology, I might call this "dragonfire" many things. Perhaps, it's a convergence of things that create a fire within us - the Image of God, the soul that brings us to life and makes us human, the spirit that connects us to both the Unseen and Supernatural and to the earth and the created ones.

This song almost never fails to bring tears to my eyes. I love the simplicity, the harmony, the truth of it. It reminds me to call on those things that I know when I am feeling small, cold and in the dark. When I am feeling afraid and alone. I am not in the world alone. And I can call on a sense of purpose and courage when I choose to fan that fire.

2. Remember Surrender by Sara Groves is my next choice. I referenced this on in a recent previous post: What give me peace when I'm sad/mad?

3. Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls. See a previous post from 2009: Music Monday - Closer to Fine.

In 2009 I said that this song is frequently quoted in our house. Just a couple of weeks ago Mango texted me at the end of his two-week conference in Mankato, "Got my paper and I am free." A reference to Closer to Fine. We come back to it over and over. It's so dense and rich.

I think this has become my mantra more and more over the years:
There's more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in a crooked line
I find myself living more in the unanswered questions of life, in the ambiguity and the not-knowingness. It's not super comfortable here. And I don't often feel "fine." But maybe I'm a bit "closer to fine."

4. I am Bound for the Promised Land by Jars of Clay, which I have also previously written about in 2007: I am bound for the promised land... This song always, always brings me back to our early years with Vespera. And then it's like my whole life since then comes slowly into focus. I see how the things I wrote back then have become foundational to the way I live life now.

5. Prairie Song by Bill Staines. This song goes way, way back for me...to an album Mango made for me when we were in college...on a CASSETTE tape. If you happen to know my email addy, this song is partly where it comes from. Lyrics:
He told her he was free; he was as free as any wind.
“Don’t you count on me, for I may not be by again.”
Then she touched him oh so easy
As if she were but a child;
And she whispered soft as willows do,
And looked at him and smiled
She said, “I have known the wind;
It’s been a friend all of my days.
I have seen it dance, across the prairie when it plays.
And I have known the freedom too, in a wheatfield’s rolling sea,
And they have never left me blue, so play your song for me.”
When the morning came, he took the train to Omaha;
Starry stars and midnight hours riding with him on the car.
Now he’ll say that he is free, that he’s as free as any wind,
But he’s feeling differently; he’ll not be the same again.
For he sees her face in daytime dreams,
And it lingers through the miles;
She still whispers soft as willows do,
And he listens, and he smiles.
I don't know what I can say about it. I have known the wind. And I still love the feeling of the wind in my face. When I think of standing in the wind, I think of cornfields when I was a child, I think of the sea in Scotland, I think of the shore of Lake Mille Lacs and Lake Superior. I think of facing the wind with my arms outstretched and my face to the sky. I think of the wind whipping our tent with the rain pouring down while we're snug in our sleeping bags reading stories.

I think of the freedom that is the wind, but also the constancy. I think of the moods of the wind. I think of how we let each other fly free...like the wind. But we also embrace each other...like the wind.  I think of how the wind gets in every crack and fills up all the empty spaces, how it infiltrates. I think of how it can't be contained, but/and so it's everywhere.

6. Everywhere I Go by Jackson Brown. Mango sent me this song the first time he went to an out-of-town conference in Baltimore.

7. Waving Flag by K'Naan. This is why we live in the city. We live where we do to bear witness. To see and know what really happens here where all the ethnic groups collide and poverty abounds and crime is a constant reality. We live here to bear witness and to find hope.
When I get older I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom, just like a wavin' flag

When I get older, I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom just like a wavin' flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, oh

Born to a throne, stronger than Rome
A violent prone, poor people zone
But it's my home, all I have known
Where I got grown, streets we would roam

Out of the darkness, I came the farthest
Among the hardest survival
Learn from these streets, it can be bleak
Accept no defeat, surrender, retreat

So we struggling, fighting to eat
And we wondering when we'll be free
So we patiently wait for that fateful day
It's not far away, but for now we say

When I get older I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom just like a wavin' flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, oh

So many wars, settling scores
Bringing us promises, leaving us poor
I heard them say 'love is the way'
'Love is the answer,' that's what they say

But look how they treat us, make us believers
We fight their battles, then they deceive us
Try to control us, they couldn't hold us
'Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers

But we struggling, fighting to eat
And we wondering, when we'll be free
So we patiently wait for that faithful day
It's not far away but for now we say

When I get older I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom just like a wavin' flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, and then is goes

When I get older I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom just like a wavin' flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, and then it goes
And then it goes

And everybody will be singing it
And you and I will be singing it
And we all will be singing it

When I get older I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom just like a wavin' flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, and then it goes

When I get older I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom just like a wavin' flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, oh

When I get older, when I get older
I will be stronger just like a wavin' flag
Just like a wavin' flag, just like a wavin' flag
Flag, flag, just like a wavin' flag

Honorable Mentions:
Forever Young by Bob Dylan - A beautiful blessing.
Light a Candle by White Heart - For high school graduation, I gave everyone a candle with this song.
Good Rain by Chris and Johnny - My graduate school song.
The House That Mercy Built by Point of Grace - The story of our house.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I wish I could [fill in the blank with at least 5 things]...

I wish I could...

Camp ALL summer! Yep, I sure do. Mostly I think I just want to live in the moment, and I do that more when I'm camping than any other time. The distractions are fewer. The day to day little bits of work that you have to do for cooking and cleaning and taking care of everyone is earthy and grounded.

Read Everything! Every time I go to the library or walk through a book store, I am struck with the impulse to read and learn everything. The library, especially, is like a giant candy store, and I can never get over the fact that I can actually take things home with me. All too often I check out way more than I can actually read.

Make another denim quilt. I say "wish" because I don't think I ever will. I don't actually believe I'll have the patience ever again. But, I sure do love the one I made. And one of the first projects Vespera ever helped me with was tying the corners.

Build Furniture... Again, this is a wish because I just don't know that I'll ever get around to actually doing it. I want more bookcases and little tables and custom pieces that fit in all the right nooks and crannies...

Lead retreats. Yep, I think I'll actually end up doing this one someday. I used to be drawn to the idea of leading marriage retreats. ...Then retreat-style childbirth classes. ...Occasionally I've thought about creative retreats, ladies weekend retreats, grief retreats, and spiritual retreats. I think people need retreats for differing reasons at various times in their lives, especially transitional times, and I'd like to be part of making that happen someday.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Music Monday - Can You Canoe?

Our newest fun folk music find? The Okee Dokee Brothers!! I just love this song!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rules of Friendship

This week's blog post prompt: Rules of Friendship...

I am sooooo not a rule follwer...or, um...no, I am not panicking that is is Thursday and I have not completed the blog post yet. Right. Not a rule follower.

But, in all honesty, I think it's in the nature of rules that there will always be exceptions. Humans are human. We don't always fit into nice neat little boxes with a right and a wrong way to do things. That said, I think the questions behind the question is not so much, "What are the rules of friendship," but "What is friendship? What makes a friend a friend?" or maybe, "How does/should a friend behave?"

I'm arguing semantics now in avoidance of the actual blog post...

Hmmm...so, ok...

-> You don't clean your house before a friend comes over. I mean, a real actual true friend...not an acquaintance or a coworker, but an actual friend. A kindred spirit. A real friend doesn't care what your house looks like, and you're supposed to be able to just be yourself around them. No masks. No pretending.

-> Friends have integrity. I always say I married Mango for his integrity. He is who he says he is. He does what he says he's going to do. He is honest about who he is and what he thinks. I think that true friends need this kind of honesty and reliability.

-> Friends make sacrifices for each other...they sacrifice time, energy, and resources without keeping accounts.  I don't mean that anyone should give and give and give and never get anything in return.  I mean more that good friends know that the giving goes both ways. So, they don't keep score. They know that when the time comes, the shoe will be on the other foot.
In the words of Solomon, "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

-> I think that true, honest, good friends assume the best about each other. They offer each other grace, rather than immediately assuming negative intent or taking offense. In the words of Anne of Green Gables, "If we have friends we should look only for the best in them, and give them the best that is in us, don't you think?"
“If we have friends we should look only for the best in them and give them the best that is in us, don’t you think?” - See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2011/04/dont-be-a-drama-queen-and-other-lessons-in-friendship-from-anne-shirley/#sthash.AdeJ8L7M.dpuf

-> Good friends can look to each other for honest opinions and sound advice, knowing that these things spring from a place of love and respect. "The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense." (Proverbs 27:9)

-> Friends accept each other's quirks and even learn to love them.

I could have written this post about different types of friendship - coworkers, acquaintances, neighbors, etc... but I decided to write about what I think the deeper kind of friend looks like - the "kindred spirit," "the bosom friend." Of course, there are all kinds of friends in the world, different types of friendships that serve different purposes. I'm speaking of the gems of friendships, the rare jewels that endure and grow more lovely with time.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What gives me peace when I'm sad/mad...

This week's question: What gives me peace when I'm sad or mad?

This is so, so hard for me. Peace. I've written a lot about peace. Perhaps, one of the reasons I'm drawn to the celebration of Advent every year is because peace is one of the four candles. Perhaps, the reason I sign many emails with "Peace!" is because I hope for it so much, and I think we all find it so elusive. Advent helps me go back to the basics.

"What is peace?" We ask each other every Advent.

Every year the answer is the same. Peace is hard to describe. It isn't really knowing that everything will be ok. Because we don't know if everything will be ok. And it isn't really quiet, though we speak of "peace and quiet." Because we can have peace while listening to some really loud music. We can have peace in the midst of lots of laughing people. We can have peace...in the middle of a storm. In the middle of the sadness. And the madness.

So what is it? From a 2006 blog post - Peace: The Second Candle of Advent:
Me: Now, what is the second candle for?
Mane [age 4]: Peace.
Me: What is peace?
Mane: Calm. I don't know.
Me: Yes, peace is calm on the inside. It is not fighting. It is feeling content inside.
So...yeah...back to the question. How do I get that in the midst of being sad or mad?

One thing that occurs to me is that peace comes with surrender. In the words of Sara Groves:
Remember surrender
Remember the rest
Remember that weight lifting off of your chest
And realizing that it's not up to you and it never was

Remember surrender
Remember relief
Remember how tears rolled down both of your cheeks
As the warmth of a heavenly father came closing in

I want to do that again
Why can't I live there
And make my home
In sweet surrender
I want to do so much more than remember

Remember surrender
Remember peace
Remember how soundly you fell fast asleep
In the face of your troubles your future still shone like the morning sun

Remember surrender
Remember that sound
Of all of those voices inside dying down
But one who speaks clearly of helping and healing you deep within

I want to do that again
Why can't I live there
And make my home
In sweet surrender
I want to do so much more than remember
Oh surrender

Surrender. Rest. Surrender. Relief. Surrender. Peace.

In letting go, I find peace. In remembering that "it's not up to you and it never was." In releasing control, there is a certain peace.

When I was in college I used to get so angry when then final answer on a topic of philosophy or theology was, "It's a mystery. This is something we can never really understand." I am on a constant quest for answers. I used to think the "mystery" answer was a cop out. But, now, (and maybe this is a sign that I've grown some since then), I find a certain comfort in that answer. When I've worn the questions ragged and beaten my fists against the patient doors of heaven, to fall to my knees and be wrapped in mystery, to sag my tired weight into the vastness of the things I don't know and just admit, "I don't know," is a relief and a comfort.

I don't know.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

I feel happiest when...

I feel happiest when the whole family is playing guitars in the living room...with sheet music all over the footstools and everybody singing and strumming.

Or when I'm camping and there's a fire and pie iron biscuits and coffee in a mason jar.

Or when my house is full of people and I don't have to do anything to make them happy. They're just there and we're living life together, and I don't have to host.

...when the candles are lit for Shabbat and we put all the work away.

...when Mango & I listen to podcasts and talk while making breakfast together.

I am happiest in the middle of a great conversation.

Planning a camping trip.

Picking apples.

Lying under the ceiling fan on a warm summer night.


Weekly blogging!

So, a couple of friends and I decided we'll be doing some regularly weekly blogging! We plan to all blog on the same topic/prompt each week and post in our own blogs. We're taking turns deciding the writing prompt for the week. Blog post deadlines will be Thursdays!

Links to their blogs:

Driving With the Windows Wide Open
Candle Lake

This week's prompt (due tomorrow): "I feel happiest when..."

Monday, June 09, 2014

Music Monday - Waka Waka

In honor of the the 2014 FIFA Soccer World Cup...a throwback from the 2010 World Cup:

Monday, May 19, 2014


I am so, so, so very grateful for the opportunity to go camping, and I LOVE to plan camping trips!

Getting ready for our first trip of the season, I'm thinking of adding a few candles to the packing. I have a few LEDs from the thrift store. If it's windy, these will work better than flame candles:

I dug out the fire starters to see what we have left & what we still need. Three left over from last year with a bunch of matches, kept safe and dry in a Folgers container:

I STILL have the yarn crafts from 2 years ago, when we had the best decorated site!

Certainly there will be a yarn bag coming with us to camp this year! As well as drawing supplies, bird books, tree books, and The Fellowship of the Ring. Last summer was the summer of Harry Potter. This will be the summer of The Lord of the Rings. I'm not sure what could be better than nature, campfires, books & yarn all together on a trip!

Making a meal plan right here:

Day 1:
Dinner - Tin foil Packs: Sausages, Broccoli, Cheese, Corn

Day 2:
Breakfast - Pie Iron Sausage Biscuits (photo from the Duluth trip last year)

Lunch - Something like this (photo from Williams Sonoma):
Or this:

Dinner - Pie Iron Sandwiches, Cabbage Salad (shredded cabbage, corn, chickpeas, lime juice, salt...maybe some sweetener like truvia, maybe some slivered almonds)

Day 3:
Breakfast - Muffin Pan Eggs from Vien's Kitchen (I would scramble, though, with poblanos, sausage, cheese, broccoli, onion flakes)

Lunch - Cold Sandwiches (so as not to start another fire), Carrots, Hummus, Cabbage Salad
Dinner - at home

Chips & Salsa
Nuts & Raisins

Coffee & Cream, Tea, Ecodrink, Almond Milk


Saturday, April 12, 2014

One Thousand Gifts...

Gratitude List...The Final Countdown (Count Up?) to 1000:

972. Beautiful day for a birthday party
973. Great community meeting
974. Talking with the neighbors
975. Possibilities for positive change in the neighborhood
976. Discovering a cute coffee shop
977. Listening to the local coffee shop lady be the community communication hub/therapist/social worker...
978. Seeing the gang of homeschool girls run around together outside
979. Time to work on the Bible study blog
980. Winning Peace Coffee in a raffle
981. The descriptions on Peace Coffee labels!
982. Slideshow of neighborhood photos
983. Knowing our state rep
984. Mane getting a letter (hand delivered) from our state rep in response to a letter that she wrote with her homeschool group
985. Tamales for breakfast
986. New windshield wipers
987. Having books delivered to the library where I can most easily pick them up
988. Finding birthday gifts at one of our Three Rivers Park District parks
989. Happy greetings from my coworkers when I stop in at work
990. Sara Groves music
991. Encouraging email from a Bible study group member
992. Rain in the morning
993. The birds still tweeting and the sun still out at 7pm! Summer is coming!
994. Watching a movie about the Bermuda Triangle with Mane & Mango...just because we all thought it was fun
995. Digging into Passover studies over Shabbat candles with Mane & Mango last night
996. The Passover Haggadah from Hebrew For Christians
997. Talking over the table with Vespera, Mane & Mango about all the things we're thankful for
998. That...finally...we can be thankful for time. Mango says that time is the one thing we don't have to work to keep it going. It just happen. And, for this, we are grateful.
999. I would add to Mango's gratitude for time, my own gratitude for a God that holds all of time and our lives in continued existence, in continuous creation, even.

One Thousand. It has been a few years in coming, but here I am. One Thousand Gifts. Like drops of water. Like grains of sand. Like the leaves on the trees, the rocks on the Lake Superior shore, and the wind that fills in all the empty spaces, the gifts are continuous. 

I have learned to slow down and notice. I have learned to list gratitudes when I am most anxious and afraid.

I want to learn how better to encourage a household of gratitude, an atmosphere of thanks, a legacy of thanksgiving. We are cynics in this house, prone to melancholy and criticism. Gratitude takes practice and...more practice. So, now I am mulling over projects...things I can do, things I can touch, things I can share with others. ...stay tuned...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Starting with 949

Gratitude List:

949. A cleared off table on the back porch
950. Bubble stuff
951. Mane reading in the cleared space on the back porch
952. Having the doors and windows open all afternoon
953. How light it is in the evening
954. The things I've learned about lashon hara this year
955. Getting excited for Passover
956. The Bible Study ladies talking about how it doesn't matter what we study. It's our group that MAKES the study.
957. Wind whistling around the car while we were stopped at a stoplight
958. Early morning phone conversation with my cousin
959. Sweet facebook message
960. Watching the little guy transfer books from one shelf to another in the sunroom
961. A quiet pool on a Tuesday afternoon
962. A green polka dot box with flowers scattered across the top - full of Mane's yarn
963. Mane making her own hashbrowns!
964. That they DID NOT start tree work in the boulevards at 7am, despite the signs saying that all cars had to be moved by then
965. Ideas for what to study in next year's homeschooling
966. Mane's love of quotes and poetry
967. Hardwood floors in this old house
968. T & J looking at the map hanging over my couch! Yay for finally hanging the map!
969. Mane working on a nature project
970. Vespera calling me for cold medicine the other night and sitting with her for a while in her little basement apartment
971. Choosing new Bible study materials

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Starting with 929

Gratitude List:

929. Sitting in the sunroom every morning this week with a cup of coffee
930. The way the trees outside the window can look like I'm not in the city when I'm squished down into the couch... :)
931. The sun coming through the aforementioned trees
932. Word games with Mane
933. More energy with the warmer weather
934. Dark, dark chocolate
935. Lunch date with my mom's best friend
936. Watching the little boy be so excited to explore a new room in my house
937. The little people so happy to be swimming!
938. The racoons in the back yard treehouse
939. Painted mugs
940. Poetry in the kitchen...even if it is a little disorganized and chaotic
941. Lime tortilla chips
942. Seeing all the new babies on facebook
943. A walk to the new coffee shop by T's house
944. A baby in a sling
945. T's soup. WHY am I always thankful for her soup...because it's SO GOOD!
946. Passover plans with friends
947. Helping Mango see the light at the end of the tunnel
948. Mango's field trip today

Friday, April 04, 2014

Starting with 915

Gratitude List continued...

915. Braids
916. Mango's help with an avatar
917. Sunshine after a mountain of snow
918. Hanging up the wall map!
919. Pinterest idea for hanging the wall map

 920. Mango recognizing that we're playing The Secret Garden on StoryNory!
921. Olives and artichokes on pizza
922. Blankets strewn about the living room
923. Spring-colored hair binders
924. Licorice dolly sitting on the arm of the green chair
925. Cleaning out the desk drawers and finding all kinds of things!
926. Mane organizing and reorganizing beads and bands and jewelry containers
927. Taking the plastic off the windows
928. Good sleep

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Joy Dare - No Promtps

Three months in, I think I'm done using prompts to post gifts. The prompts have done their job. They gave me a kick-start to revive my old gratitude list. They have gotten me into a regular habit of giving thanks. Now I'm finding that I want to skip over the prompts to get to my "real" gratitudes.

So...here's a continuation of the list, sans prompts:

907. Homeschool projects
908. StoryNory's The Secret Garden
909. Pickles
910. Gluten free biscuits with sausages
911. Evernote
912. Christmas lights in April
913. Hashbrowns in cartons
914. Winter storm in April...I've been whining, but, let's face it, the weather is interesting in MN and always something to brag about!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Joy Dare - April 2

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts White

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
877. Mane's eyore pajamas
878. Baby socks
879. Mannequins for photographing hats
880. Old friends at Bible Study
881. Chocolate at Bible Study!
882. Mane's 50 states book
883. Reading in the window at Nokomis library
884. Finding the book club book at exactly the library I happened to be at
885. Mane laughing over Garfield comics
886. Time to browse at the library
887. Time to workout at the Y
888. Mango puttering around with computer equipment spread out all over the house
889. Mango wearing my old headlamp
890. Facebook messages from K.
891. The way K. makes me happy for snow and living in MN
892. Turning the heat off for a while today
893. Opening the window
894. Warm almond milk
895. Funny emails
896. Mane's gratitude list
897. Lunch with friends
898. All the twins!
899, Tickets to the Guthrie
900. Salsa!
901. Dinner with the grandparents upstairs
902. Squash in the soup
903. Conversations with neighbors out on the street....which definitely means that it's spring!
904. A TV series that makes us think
905. Good theology talks with Mango
906. Audio books from the library

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Joy Dare - Round Edition

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts Round

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
870.  Buttons!
871. The attic window
872. Enamel bowls with painted flowers
873. Balls of yarn
874. Hair binders all colorful and clipped to Mane's swimming bag
875. The green roller ball on Mango's mug
876. The dark brown of Mane's eyes

Monday, March 31, 2014

Joy Dare - March 29-31

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts of God's Promises
3 Gifts Uncovered
A Gift Heard, Held, Hoped For

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
845. That God never leaves us
846. That, in the end, God wins
847. That we are loved
848. Curbs and street corners when the snow melts
849. Bare arms after a winter in long sleeves
850. A nature center I never knew about
851. Birdsongs at the Nature Center
852. Little fingers
854. Mane painting at the window
855. Mane identifying birds that I can't identify
856. Seeing a coyote walk across the ice
857. Huge windows letting in the natural light at the nature center
858. The peace that comes from getting away from city scenes for a while
859. A homeschool-y book club meeting
860. Feeling respected by other homeschoolers for how far we've come on this journey
861. Realizing how well so many things *are* working in our homeschool-y world :)
862. Feeling secure enough to read someone else's schooling/parenting philosophy and NOT feel like I've failed somehow
863. Seeing the Robettes win the robotics tournament!
864. Having the tradition of attending the robotics tournament
865. Laughing with the teenagers singing to Sweet Caroline at the Robotics tournament
866. Weather that's spring-y enough to park far away and not freeze!
867. Popcorn on a Saturday night in our little kitchen
868. That we STILL have an extra bedroom with enough space for a bed! Yay!
869. Pasta with chicken and artichokes!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Joy Dare - Entwined

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts Entwined

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
842. Colors in a double stranded hat
843. The rose and the thistle on my wedding band
844. All of us in a pile on the couch last night watching Once

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Joy Dare - March 26-27

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts Almost Gone
3 Gifts Redeemed

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
836. Refried beans from yesterday
837. Homespun yarn from M. for Christmas over a year ago
838. The beautiful snowflakes of winter
839. Rough yarn, when mixed with fun fur, makes a soft hat
840. An old 50 states coloring book coming out of storage for a new homeschool project
841. The whole world when the snow melts

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Joy Dare - March 25

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
A Gift Sung, Written, Painted

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
811. Dragonfire
812. Blogs!
813. The picture on my mantle that Niteo painted
814. The morning sun coming over my shoulder
815. There really is grass under there!
816. Laughter at seeing so many references to snow in the Morning Blend gratitude list!
817. Mane & J. working on a project together
818. Wind in the trees outside my window
819. Finding old music on youtube
820. The many possibilities for playing music in our house
821. Organized Harry Potter audio books
822. Clean laundry
823. The quilt I made for our bed
824. Reusable drink straws from Target
825. K.'s coffee photos on facebook...thinking of her always makes me think of my mom...in warm fuzzy ways
826. Chicken Soup With Rice - the book
827. Chicken Soup With Rice - the real thing
828. Snippets of poetry on the message board
829. Remembering how much I have loved poetry all my life
830. Remembering what it was like to find GUYS who enjoyed poetry - Mango & his brother...and, later, many others
831. An old friend coming to book club
832. Teddy looking in Mane's bedroom window (he's a dog, not a person)
833. How confused everyone was that I was laughing about someone looking in Mane's bedroom window (it was Teddy, NOT a person!!)
834. Critical Thinking warm-ups
835. Free online keyboarding lessons with student and teacher accounts

Monday, March 24, 2014

Joy Dare - Spoken Edition

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts Spoken

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
791. Conversations with Mane
792. Conversations with T.
793. Well...I really like good conversation...Saturday morning conversations with Mango...
795. This American Life podcasts
796. On Being podcasts
797. TED Talks podcasts
798. Harry Potter on audio for Mane
799. Anne of Green Gables on audio
800. Memories of Sandy N. reading Anne of Green Gables aloud to her 2 kids & I when I spent the night at their house many, many years ago
801. Mango reading a magazine article to Mane & I
802. Poetry readings at Bethel years and years ago
803. David Sadaris podcasts...how strange to finally hear his voice
804. Story Nory
805. Classics for Kids
806. My name, when Mango says it
807. A. trying to say some of his first words
808. My mom's voice inside my head
809. Vespera's laugh on the porch when she comes home late at night
810. Niteo's accent

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Joy Dare - March 19-23

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts Eaten
3 Gifts that made you laugh
A gift salty, sweet, just right
3 Gifts found in God's word
3 Gifts found in women today

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
756. Reuben Sandwiches made by Mango after a long day of work
757. Donuts at the salon
758. Tacos! in all shapes and forms
759. Photos of babies with pets on facebook
760. Text message from J. telling me about a dog up for adoption
761. Niteo learning to crochet...and he's quite good, actually
762. Cashew nuts
763. Mane's pudding
764. Mexican cheese
765. The humanity of Paul's letters
766. The story of Jesus getting angry...so we know that anger isn't always bad
767. The layers that unfold the more you study
768. Nadia Bolz-Weber
769. Anne Lamott
770. Madeleine L'Engle
771. More than 1000 donations to TeamYarn!!
772. Box of buttons
773. The sunset over Lake Calhoun in my rearview mirror last night
774. That nobody honked at my when I stopped in the middle of the road to take a photo of my rearview mirror reflecting the sunset. Maybe they saw the same thing, too!
775. Time with G. in the salon
776. Photos of tall ships for my computer background
777. Being passed around by phone to all the members of a good friend's family!
778. Planning for Passover
779. Spring break is coming!
780. Crocheting again
783. Crochet flower patterns from the book T. gave me
784. Team Yarn boxes all over the house AGAIN!
785. A peaceful lunch with my dad and S.
786. Folks making friends at the Team Yarn meetings
787. Having so many thanks mixed up with T's thanks that I sometimes can't remember if I wrote it or if she did!
788. Tiger balm...I'm sure I've given thanks for that before
789. Footsteps upstairs
790. Hearing Teddy growl through the floor...makes me laugh

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Joy Dare - March 16-18

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Hard Eucharisteos
A Gift Turned, Folded, Hung
3 Gifts Red

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
736. Growing up
737. More snow
738. Less work, more time
739. New book pages
740. The laundry on Fridays before Shabbat
741. Photos on the wall
742. My mom's ABC Construction jacket, which Mane has been wearing
743. Frozen strawberries
744. The birdfeeder on the clothesline outside the window
745. The Riverview Theater with $2 tickets
746. Seeing Frozen with Mane last night
747. A theater packed with happy kids and parents
748. T.'s homemade pudding! YUM!
749. Pie day last Friday
750. Reading The Hobbit with Mane at night
751. Finding the owner of the lost phone
752. Conversations with the grandparents in the hallway when we happen to be coming and going at the same time
753. Silly stories of Mane's cousin
754. Lots and lots of yarn!
755. I FINALLY made two hats...the first ones since the concussion in November...finally had the inspiration and energy

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Joy Dare - March 14-15

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts Found in Silence
3 Gifts Given Away

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
720. Time to think my own thoughts
721. Time to pray
722. The ability to hear
723. Baby dresses for the twinsies birthday!
724. Seashell with the Lord's Prayer
725. Books to the little free library
726. The whole megillah
727. History curriculum at the homeschool book sale for $6!
728. Writing curriculum at the homeschool book sale for $5!
729. Only spending $11 at the homeschool book sale! ;~)
730. A borrowed sled
731. The children coming in SO WET from springtime snow
732. Hot drinks by the fire at Silverwood
733. The wind in my face
734. That sweet feeling of release, of the tight springs inside me uncoiling, with the coming of spring
735. The smell of rain in the air

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Joy Dare - Round Edition

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts Round

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
705. The bellybutton song!
706. Bouncy ball at the computer
707. My uncle's photos of the moon on facebook
708. Lego graggers...with...um..round gears
709. Finger puppets for Purim...to go ROUND those little fingers
710. T's mosaic on the bathroom wall! Amazing!
711. Round, sparkly gemstones in the mosaic
712. J's tins for keeping her own treasure trove of gemstones and whatnot
713. 50 state postcards project...passing postcards 'round the U.S. and 'round the world
714. The way Mane is always ready to jump into a project!
715. Nearly 50 degrees today! Such a nice round number!
716. Mane talking about celsius and farenheit on the drive to the Y
717. Mane looking up current events and keeping a journal of them. I think of what an interesting read that might be for her when she's older.
718. Purim ideas on pinterest
719. Mango speaking tech-language I cannot possible understand. He's wicked smart.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Joy Dare - March 11-12

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts Read
A Gift in Wind, in Water, in White

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
678. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy - like balm to my soul
679. Pastrix - my mother-in-law's copy, since I bought it for her for Christmas ;~)
680. Iditarod articles
681. The great swish of wind in my ears at Lake Superior
682. The song, I have known the Wind
683. The color "Pass White" that they can mix at the local hardware store
684. Sun coming in the window and pouring over the steam rising up from the artist-made coffee cup
685. Thick coconut milk pouring through the steam into the cup of afternoon coffee for Mango
686. Mango's voice
687. Mango noticing my hair in the sunlight and the steaming coffee cup and the thick coconut milk
688. Mane adding homemade, gluten free meatloaf to her gratitude list
689. Mane and Mango laughing together while he's saying goodnight
690. A. paddling around in his puddle jumper
691. J. accepting my snuggles as good enough while her mom takes care of her brother
692. Good, clean food
693. Time to read a 550 page book in 2 days
694. Hearing about the robins in a friend's yard just 60 miles or so south of here!
695. Twinsies, like little dumplings, smiling on the couch
696. A relatively easy trip to Rochester
697. Enough hats to donate to TWO places in Rochester this month
698. Clearing out the space that all those hats took up in my house...knowing it'll fill again
699. A visit with family at Ronald McDonald house. I never know what to say, but somehow it always goes ok.
700. A friend at Bible study asking how I'm doing with grieving my mom, these so many months later
701. So many people offering thanks at Bible Study this morning
702. Planning for Purim...planning is half the fun, you know
703. Just thinking about camping
704. T.'s listening ears in the car on the way home from Rochester

Monday, March 10, 2014

Joy Dare - March 10

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts in Christ

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
675. The way people can connect around the world when we walk into a church. I'll never forget the church we attended in England...the small country Methodist church that felt just like home. Or Mango's story of the little church in Russia.
676. Knowing that the value of each person is rooted in their creation by God and the image of God in them
677. The historical existence of Jesus as a person here on earth and the stories we have from that time.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Joy Dare - March 9

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts Carved

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
669. The aardvark :)
670. Frog that L. carved for Mane
671. Fairy that L. carved for Mane
672. The five-day forecast includes 4 days above freezing!
673. Planning playdates with friends, who also have cabin fever
674. Grocery shopping with Mango

Saturday, March 08, 2014

It seemed pertinant to the discussion of Lent, Suffering & Joy

“If we accept that we have at least an iota of free will, we cannot throw it back the moment things go wrong. Like a human parent, God will help us when we ask for help, but in a way that will make us more mature, more real, not in a way that will diminish us.” —Madeleine L'Engle

Joy Dare - Loud Edition

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts Loud

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
662. The little boy's monkey screech
663. The Pines of the Appian Way orchestral piece at MN Orchestra
664. STOMP
665. The kids after they've listened to Stomp
666. The cacophony birds outside my window in the morning
667. The music coming from downstairs - lets me know everyone is happy and alive!
668. The locker room after Otters practice

Friday, March 07, 2014

Joy Dare - March 7

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts in the Kitchen

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
659. Pizza night
660. MORE daffodils from another friend on my kitchen table
661.  A cookie press from the thrift store

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Joy Dare - March 6

Today's Joy Dare Prompt:
3 Gifts Found
A Gift Bent, Broken, Beautiful

My list (picking up from the last list - and often adding more than just the prompt):
645. Enamel bowls
646. Tall chairs
647. Speakers
648. Spoons
649. Wooden xylophone from Romania
650. Cookies from Whole Foods
651. Seeing a good friend that I haven't seen in a long time
652. Noisy children playing happily together
653. Short, silly skits by noisy children!
654. Curly haired little people
655. Public Radio
656. Percy Jackson books
657. Snow melt
658. Temps above freezing

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Lent, Suffering, and a Joy Dare

The thing that "gets" me every time I sit down to really take a look at joy, at what it is, what it means, and how we find it (practice it? develop it? live it?) is the inclusion of suffering in the equation. A discussion about joy only goes so far before one runs into some seriously dark questions. How can I find joy when I lose someone precious? When war erupts? When a job is lost? When trust is broken? When hope seems so very, very far away?

It's easy to be joyful when life clips along smoothly and things go as planned. But is that really joy? I think sometimes it is. We can be both happy and joyful. All too often, though, when happiness wanes, we find that we must dig deep to find an underlying joy.  Walt Wangerin, Jr. says,
"The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can't stand pain. Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief."
Wangerin then draws a connection to the church season of Lent, a time when many church folks mark themselves with ashes and put on grief and mourning, when we deprive ourselves in order to remember suffering and to bring forth...joy?
"In the sorrows of the Christ - as we ourselves experience them - we prepare for Easter, for joy. There can be no resurrection from the dead except first there is a death! But then, because we love him above all things, his rising is our joy. And then the certain hope of our own resurrection warrants the joy both now and forever."
In the same way, the Jews taste the bitter herbs during the Passover Seder, to remember the suffering, to increase the joy. "When Adar comes, joy is increased."

So much of me is still resistant to this idea.  Does this mean that God wills suffering? Even that God allows suffering for our own character development is too much for me. I can abide that God allows suffering because people have free will, and God allows for free will, and free will sometimes means that horrific things happen. But I cannot abide a God who allows suffering for my own character development. Maybe minor suffering - like reaping the consequences of my own mistakes. This is the kind of suffering I allow my children. I want them to learn from their mistakes. So, I don't step in and fix everything for them. But if something or someone else is threatening my child? You better believe I'll step in. You better believe I'll do everything I can to save them.

William P. Young takes on this idea in his book, The Shack, by suggesting that it makes a difference that we are all children of God. So, of course, I would defend my child against someone hurting them. But what if one of my children hurts one of my other children? Am I quite so ruthless then? Will I still go all "Mama Bear" when my child is being hurt? Most likely, the answer is more that I want to save both of them. I want the perpetrator to be spared...in case there's a possibility for a change of heart. I want the victim to be safe. I want them both to know I love them. I hope that my love has the power to change.

But then, the analogy also breaks down when we are talking about God because God has the power to bring about both outcomes, right? And it seems that at least some of the time God has stepped in to save some children, who need saving, and to destroy some children bent on destruction. The Bible tells us so. And then I come all the way back to the original question. Is suffering allowed because it brings about greater joy? Is it really true that we only know true joy in the face of (or aftermath of) sorrow? Is this why some suffering is allowed? I am afraid I don't have any answers. My hands come up full of ashes.

I know for sure that, as a human, I am, indeed, more aware of the joys in life when I have suffered, when I have been wounded. The joys, then, are piercing, poignant. I remember this beautiful scene in Tolkien's book, The Return of the King, when Frodo and Sam return after destroying the ring: 

“And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them, now in the Elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.”

 I know that feeling...when joy is like swords.

And I think that maybe this is something we can only understand in stories. It is something we only know in the living out of our lives. It isn't something that can be known in so many words or explained in the theology books. It isn't something that makes sense. It is something that is in the fabric of our humanness, and, perhaps, it is something of God's image in us. Joy following suffering, following the epic drama.

And does God allow it? Does God create it? I don't know. I know God uses it. I think I understand that God suffers, too. That God suffers with us. Mike Freeman in his blog, "wordhavering," sums up some ideas of Nadia Bolz-Weber and Richard Rohr this way (from his blog post: caged god):
"In our suffering we tend to experience God as outside of it all, watching, a omnipotent bystander who by all rights could and should be able to do something, but he just sits there, stands there, whatever, letting it all happen anyway. Helping it all happen anyway? And for his glory? Yes, let me slap that.
And that’s what I appreciate about Rohr’s musing. He taps right into main line of biblical teaching when it comes to suffering – though we seldom perceive it. God participates in our suffering. In all of it. He feels each deep wound, screams in each terror, groans in each injustice more profoundly than we can begin to fathom. We groan. Creation groans. God groans."
 And maybe the knowledge of God's presence in our suffering is where we find our source of joy?