I learned on our marriage retreat today that I am a Lion personality type. My husband is an Otter-Beaver hybrid. He pointed out immediately that lions would devour otters and beavers.

It was a good day, good retreat and though there wasn't a ton of new material I found the familiar teaching still calling me to grow and change. An afternoon of introspection every now and again is so necessary.

My little brain feels overwhelmed though. Adulthood really sucks. No, I'm not kidding. Sure we can buy and consume wine - the upside - but the downside of all the responsibility, expectations, and maturity really means it's gonna take a lot of wine to balance the scales.

I just want life to be easy for awhile. Is that really so much to ask? If I'm the one making it complicated then I want to stop.


A Tale of Two Cities

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way..."

Not only is this among my favorite books, and quotes but I find it perfect for tonight.

Edwardsville, IL 2013

A head full of thick sandy, brown hair sleeps beside me with a stuffed animal and real dog cuddled up tight. Dad's away and that means he has found the right excuse, to sleep with mom in the great big bed of awesomeness and comfort. O what he would he would give to sleep with us all the time. He would love a room with a giant bed, where all the build a bears, toys, animals, siblings and parents could all relax and retire each night together in safety snuggling. His measure of adorable is truly off the charts. Life is still very simple for him and he, to his own credit chooses to keep it that way by avoiding those things which serve only to complicate, dramatize and detract from his happy life. Things like complicated pre-teen peer groups, online gaming addictions, girls, and low self worth. No he is happy. Just happy. Imagine if he manages to live his life with this philosophy? How happy he could he be? How unburdened, unfettered, how blissfully unaware he might be to other people's mania?

This age of foolishness, this age of hope.

Carol Stream, IL 2013.

Short trimmed sandy brown hair lightened by sun and chlorine, is sleeping in a strange place. There is nothing familiar save is own blankets. No one is beside him, no one in the room. Roomates down the hall know virtually nothing at all about him. Challenges, struggles and new horizons will rush him literally with the dawn of the next day. Life is work. Life is school. Life budgeting money, budgeting time, coping, planning, doing and praying. There is little time to relax and the real world is around ever corner. Yet, all these are met with anticipation. Eagerness not anxiousness. Hope, not fear. 

Apropos

As this month of being thankful comes to a conclusion I decided to share with you, the blessings I have been contemplating these last 30 days.

My husband, my hero.
My children, my treasures.
My close family, good friends, and material security from the roof over my head to the shoes on my feet.

Like all of you I am thankful for these often, daily and overwhelmingly. But...

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I wanted to contemplate pieces of my life, much harder to wrap my arms around and embrace and so I share this with some hesitation. It's a process I suppose of acceptance I am working on. Take from it what you will.

I'm thankful for Multiple Sclerosis because it has taught me to love life, to love every step, to celebrate it and live it out loud.

I'm thankful for all the choices I made from age 17-24. The sins were forgiven and lessons learned. They grew me up, super-quick.

I'm thankful for being overweight. It's not healthy for me to stay this way of course but experiencing this has helped me begin to sort out vanity and pride. 

I'm thankful for having been divorced very young. The devotion I feel for my husband and family of 15 years is fierce and in no small part a result of having not understood this sacrament.

I'm thankful for having grown up below the poverty line. Depending on family, on charity, and public assistance for survival shaped how I see "things" and how I see people. No amount of money can buy you character or faith.

I'm thankful for having lost nearly every possession we owned in 2005 to Hurricane Katrina in Biloxi, Mississippi. Monday August 29th taught me to have no treasure on this earth. I have things I like, things I enjoy, even love, but not one thing I can't live without. Not.a.one.

I'm thankful for all my shortcomings - my temper, my need for control, my resistance to authority, my appreciation for sarcasm, irony, and questionable humor. My refusal to eat the ends of french fries, crusts or the squishy, white, umbilical cord-thingy in eggs. They are just a few parts of me God is still working on... I keep Him busy.

I'm thankful for the people who have hurt me the most. They served a purpose in my life I wouldn't undo if I could. They made me strong, resourceful, compassionate. They made me want better for myself, my children and for others in those same situations. The causes I care about stem from the reactions started in my heart. Every thing meant to bring darkness was turned into light. Every evil returned as good by a grace which I can only glimpse through this redemptive process.  


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Praying my way through these is not a one-shot, or a one month deal. I find myself revisiting them throughout my life and each time because time, age, children and experience have been calling me to more and I need to draw on these trials to manage and to grow. Embrace even that which you think you cannot embrace and it loses it's power over you. I saw something this week, one of those little Pinterest signs/cards- It said something like every moment you carry a grudge you are allowing someone to live rent free in your head. Apropos :)

God Bless and Keep You.


and the fit hit the fan

Once. One time, 20 years ago, my son threw a tantrum in a store. A doozy. We hadn't gotten 30 feet inside when he asked for a quarter for the bubble gum ball machine. I said if he behaved we would get one afterward (you can see here how I was totally asking for it, baiting him) and as we say the fit hit the fan.

I immediately returned my cart and apologized for the few items that would need to be restocked and I removed him from the store. Twisting and screaming as if I were ripping his finger nails out with rusty pliers, I walked (read dragged) him to the car. Where he attempted to exit the car. Where he wouldn't stay in a seatbelt. Where he was screaming and crying blindly with no memory of what he was upset about, I'm sure. I just sat in the backseat, letting him scream, preventing him from opening the door and letting it all flood out. As he began to exhaust himself, I offered some comfort, ssshushing, it's okay now. He moved beside me and laid into me to rest. The consequence was that we were leaving. He accepted it and fell asleep driving home. Calmly we talked about it later.

He was a child with hyper-focus. Sometimes he would latch on to an idea or a thing and he couldn't shake his focus on it. I had learned with him, to head off that at first sight but I missed it that day. No biggie. Tantrums happen. No guilt, no shame, no blame.

But that day led me to this. And this was the very best $5 I ever spent at a yard sale - hands down.


I am not sure that I ever went to the grocery store without 1-3 of these in tow ever again for the next 15 years, no kidding. Shopping trips were never a nightmare. They were an outing for us that we truly looked forward to having. Shopping Day was a big day. The kids would sit and we would make the menu and the list. Their lists had things we actually needed on it. They had money, coupons, and they had special assignments. Each week they got to pick a mystery fruit or vegetable for everyone to try. They had to check the price of milk to let dad know and we had to choose 3 boxes of cereal. It was busy stuff. We weren't in any hurry. We talked and sang songs, and looked at things. As they got older they used regular carts and had more meal planning responsibilities. By the time they were 12, I could let them go inside the store, shop for a list, pay with their own debit card, check out at the self serve checkout and come back out. They felt so proud of themselves. As well they should.

We always, always went to get a bite to eat before shopping - no hungry shoppers. They thrived ont he routine. We always had drinks with us. I miss shopping with my babies more than I can tell you. Bargain hunters all of them, self-sufficient, smart, impressive. They don't just go and blow money and get whatever they "feel" like getting - they understand that the food costs are the second highest expense in our home, next to the mortgage. They don't usually opt for easy food when they can prepare it. They are kind of frugal, but they also know they can splurge on their favorite yogurt and good toilet paper.

Now, I either go to grocery alone, or I just send one of the minions. I miss taking my little pack to the store, with our carts and their lists. Lindsey with her little purse flouncing through like she was in a magical forest and Corey attacking his list with efficiency and zeal. William, was somewhere in between the two flouncy but on a mission.

Buy one of these carts, keep it in the trunk, always have a plan for the store and soak up those moments before you blink and they are gone. 

Pretty things makes me happy

This will be in the projects file too, but I just wanted to share it here. It was SO pretty but lasted just a short while. A very short while. As I continue the de-modernization of my house it's pieces like this I'll be keeping and loving. This one however is making someone else's home prettier! And wooden birdhouses... 'nuff said.

Sausage fingers (not a recipe)

"Mama always said you could always tell a lady by her hands." Scarlett O'Hara's middle sister said this, or something to that effect while she was picking cotton after the South surrendered and the Civil War ended.

It is unlikely that Mrs. O'Hara, would have ever thought me a lady by observing my hands.

I always wanted long thin fingers, perfectly for playing piano or modeling small kitchen appliances but instead my stubby fingers are more Shrek-like, short, fat little sausages. I wanted medium length strong finger nails. Nails I could always keep in a squared french manicure. I thought they'd make my fingers look longer. Alas, my nails are so thin you can bend them in half. They grow unevenly, and a couple of them sort bow and curve. If they were strong I'd have double, double toil and trouble nails curving all over the place.

No my hands aren't very ladylike by any standard. They are even beginning to show age. You know when you bunch of the loose skin and it doesn't snap right back, but sort of yawns and slowly makes it's way to the rest of your hand?

My hands have been covered in paint for the last year at my workbench. But before that they were covered with lots of other things. Flour, dirt, finger paints, clay, chalk, and tears.

My hands are not delicate. They held my husband and told him everything would be alright before dawn one morning as he boarded a plane to head to Iraq. They comforted babies, and fixed toys. They sew, cook and build furniture. They fold in prayer and remind me to be still before my God.

The hands of a housewife are not very lady-like at all but they hold coffee and tea cups as gently as the next. No, housewife hands do it all. All that needs doing.

It seems like it was just yesterday these hands reached down to scoop up toddlers. Now they hand over car keys.

Somedays, ms doesn't allow my hands to maneuver at my workbench my tools but they will still turn the page of a book to read to my son.

Planning your home and planning your life, are pretty similar endeavors. You may want one thing, but you gotta work with you got. What makes life extraordinary is being content, and feeling blessed with what you've been given.

let us prepare

A formal declaration has been issued: this is going to be the very best Thanksgiving & Christmas ever!


So saith my daughter extraordinaire, Lindsey. The house will be the most beautiful it's ever been. The fire warmer, the gifts wrapped to perfection, the Christmas cards handmade, the photos will have everyone smiling and no one will have bed head on Christmas morning (even though her brother has bed head each day, all day, all year round, especially holidays and pictures). 

The house will be filled with delicious foods, on hand at all times and warm.

Everyone will be pleasant and grateful. Mercy will just flow through the house and bounce between us like a ping pong ball.
Christmas music, Vivaldi specifically will caress the ears to recall all good things of yule. It will snow each weekend, and melt every Monday morning. While we are on snow, it should also snow lightly as we leave Midnight Mass. 

We need new lights, decorations and I need to make all new stockings (apparently). *note to self

Part of me could react in a snarky, sarcastic way and say oh yes, and we would also like to arrange for tiny, green, glitter-covered, baby piglets to fly out of my rear singing Have a Holly Jolly Christmas. But I can't be snarky not about this. She has these Christmas dreams because they are visions of her Christmas Past and she is determined to recreate as much and as many of our wonderful Christmas memories as possible. 

As an adult now, I see this as my opportunity to model for her how to do this well. Not just how to make beautiful stockings, create amazing tablescapes or bake the best banana bread that ever was baked, (which I totally do) but mostly how to plan out these celebrations with an eye for detail, a heart for our family, and a spirit that will accept the limitations of time and money.

I owe it to her, to see me when I'm tired, see my budget, my planning and to know the difference between what I hope to accomplish and what I actually accomplish. When they were little all the magic of these months seemed to sprinkle over their blessed little lives. I wanted it that way, and I wouldn't change a single thing. To hear my children share their memories of our family holidays it's filled with love, food, beauty, laughter, and traditions that knit us together like a warm wool sweater. 

Yes, they are older now. The bed head, is still only 12 though so his childhood is not even remotely close to being finished. Saint Nicholas will come on Dec. 5th and Santa Claus on the 25th and those gifts will be wrapped in special paper and I can only hope that Santa drinks his milk. We'll have an Advent Calendar filled with celebrations, special nights, feasts and family straight through to Epiphany.

This is the season of preparing for the coming of our Lord, and because it is for Him and the treasures He has given me, in my family, I will lay out and put forth my very best. Come, let us prepare the way.


Can you even do that?

As I excitedly explained to my husband that I was going to can our own green beans the following spring, his response was, "Can you even do that?" Not could I do that so much as, can it be done?

His response was more incredulous when I said I wanted to make cheese a couple years later. Make cheese? You buy cheese, you don't make it. So it was no surprise how seriously he took me when while he was away on a business trip I told him I bought a goat. By that point he never knew what I was going to come up with next. I was teasing.

There was no goat, but only because we lived inside the city limits and goats are always escaping their enclosures. I have better things to do than chase goats, like figuring out how to make deodorant.

I was not a country girl, or Amish or anything cool. I was a city girl, a poor one at that. We sort of lived in the projects, well the neighborhood beside the projects but no one really appreciated the distinction.

Only 2 generations away from share cropping, quilting, brilliant women I think most of my desire to do these things is hard wired.

Even though I was a teen mom (at 19) when my son was born, I was determined to be an extraordinary mom, starting with breastfeeding. It was extremely difficult but we hung in there and mastered it. Nothing else in my life had ever, or since, felt more perfect than when I held my babies in my arms and nourished them. <insert longing sigh>

At 8 months it was time to introduce some foods to my healthy boy and I started making my own baby food. It wasn't really even a decision I made, it seemed silly to me to purchase cold food in jars when I could smash a banana and feed it to him, fresh and flavorful.

And so it has gone my journey as housewife and mom. I find that no matter how much a gal is into the housewife role - maybe she is like me and this is her full-time gig, maybe she works outside the home for some or most of the time, but everywoman, every.woman. has these desires hard wired in her. Sometimes it's expressed in cooking, or decorating, or parenting. Maybe it's gardening, flowers, sewing, or lots of little things like braiding their daughters hair and dressing their children nicely. Every woman finds herself at different times and in different seasons connected to the housewife in all of us.

This blog, these ideas, this lifestyle, is for every woman. You don't have to attempt to do all this- heavens I hope you don't think I try to! Right now there are 6 loads of laundry waiting for me to finish blogging. So, uh, we'll keep it real.

Moreover my hope is that together we find things that help us connect with that womanly desire to feather our nest, create our home and care for our family so that it's a beautiful place to grow.

With blessings and grace,
Robin