Tuesday, July 22, 2014

summertime, and the living is easy...

Just living is not enough, said the butterfly.
One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.
~ Hans Christian Anderson

I'll be honest. My summer hasn't felt too summer-y to me this year. Much of my focus, time, and energies have been spent at doctor appointments, dealing with the stress of ongoing illness and injury, driving kids here and there, and adjusting to the dynamics and  needs of each of these children who are all living at home this summer. Preparing, within the next month, to also send Sam off for his two year church mission.

There's been a lot going on in my life and in our home. Days that have been hard, stressful, and disappointing. Through it all, I've felt strung out and stretched thin.

The summer that I had anticipated and planned for just didn't materialize. I longed for a vacation. I longed for relaxation and rejuvenation. I longed for carefree mornings and afternoons. I longed for healthy, whole bodies for me and my daughter. Days without the pressure of crossing off to-do lists.

As I'm starting to realize that there's really only one month left of summer before school and routine start up again, I'm kind of panicking with this tug of war between the pressures of the to-do list versus the desire and need for rejuvenation and ease. I'm trying to let go of some of my summertime expectations of the past and especially of the now, and just be able to find contentment and beauty in the moments that we have been able to experience this year.

What I've finally come to realize is that for me, summertime really is a state of mind. That for me to be truly happy and at peace, I must search for the the joys that already surround me. The simple pleasures of this season. The beauty in the quiet, everyday moments of my life. It's a conscious decision; one that I needs a mantra of sorts to remind, review, and repeat to myself to help me get through this next month:

I choose love.
I choose beauty.
I choose ease.
I choose joy.

P.S Jane and I secretly agree that our summertime will officially start when everyone heads back to school!

I'm posting these old photos more for my sake than anything. So good for me to see the fun and simple moments of those summer days we spent in years past....

Here are some things that make my summer soul sing:

paddle a canoe

play lawn games or night games with your friends

go barefoot

light sparklers when it gets dark

bring the flowers indoors and make beautiful arrangements to fill the house

go on bike rides

sit around a camp fire, sing songs, tell stories,
and make s'mores

eat corn on the cob

eat our meals outside

go to a cabin in the mountains, watch the clouds go by, and star gaze at night

enjoy a vegetable garden 

go to a lake or the seaside

pick some berries

go out for ice cream

have some fun and thrills at an amusement park

make a trip to the library and immerse yourself in a good book on a hot afternoon

enjoy the smell of a newly mowed lawn

explore nature and go on a hike

plant some geraniums, sit on the porch, and sip a cool glass of lemonade

Don't hurry, don't worry, you're only here for a short visit. 
So be sure to stop and smell the flowers.
~ Walter C. Hagen

Sunday, July 20, 2014

little and big

this post got me thinking. the times when i feel small and those times i feel large. the littleness and bigness of me. i can see so many contradictions and opposites in my nature. the essense that is me.

at first glance it might be that a person is either one way or the other. but i've found that if i'm living true to my nature, there's bound to be huge contrasts and variations in every aspect of my life. this play of opposites is what makes a person interesting and even beautiful, i've decided. it's what makes us each human.

so here's what i've discovered about the little and big in me:

i like little things. i pay attention to the little, tiny, quiet details in life. those things that often go unnoticed to the common eye. sometimes i seem to focus or get caught up more on the details than the bigger picture. it's something, for example, that i can see in myself by the way i take a photograph. i like those little details i create that make my life and other's lives special, meaningful, beautiful, comfortable, cozy, and memorable. i like the subtle, little nuances in people and things. the little glances, the little touch on the shoulder, the little twinkle in an eye. the way two sets of eyes can catch in a briefly fleeting look of quiet understanding and connection. i like the littleness of that.

i have felt small when i've been teased, ignored, or when others have laughed at me. feeling the smallness that comes when i've allowed my feelings to be hurt, or those times i've felt humiliated or belittled. or the times i've felt so small that i want to disappear after saying or doing something that has caused pain to another. i feel little when turn around and walk the other direction, pretending i don't see someone i know at the grocery store. the smallness i feel when i'd rather be alone or those times i'm craving solitude. i often find comfort in this, though, and have discovered, in recent years, i'd rather have a small group of close friends than feel lost and disconnected in a crowd of many. i like the littleness when i can go under the radar and be invisible. i'm little when i want to say no and say yes instead. small, depleted and exhausted when, more often than not, i put other's needs before my own. i've felt pain and smallness many times as a woman in the culture, traditions, treatment, and history of this imperfect world. my patience is often small when it comes to long lines, heavy traffic, and just getting to the point of things.

i like big, powerful things. the beating rhythm and heavy pulse of music when it is turned up loud, or the crashing pound and unleashed power that i can actually feel within my body when there's a thunderstorm. sometimes i dream that i live in a big house. a house so big with rooms upon rooms to wander and  discover and inhabit. probably a subconscious need of mine for freedom, newness, discovery, and change.

i go big when i make a grand production of things. things like dinners and parties and events i plan and host. i want to impress and execute in a perfectly big way. my laugh bursts out big and cackling, my kids tease. i'm big in my movement, my quick, long walking strides, the way i rush about or run up the stairs two steps at a time. the need i have to do things in the fastest, most efficient way i can. i'd rather just get it done, than do it right. the big way of mine of not being able to express myself without using my hands. the need i have for deep, long, and vast soul-to-soul conversations. i need to see the real and sincere side of a person and i don't appreciate pretentiousness in any way. and the absolute hugeness that came to my body in childbearing with that ripe, round belly and those full breasts. the grandness and larger than life feeling it was to cross the marathon finish line, and the unforgettable grandness when i held up my arms in v for victory. my feelings are heavy and all-consuming. i feel things so big, so deeply. sometimes i think i feel things too much. when i feel anger, joy, sadness, passion, or injustice, you will know it. i guess you could call me intense, or even demanding. i love and am attracted to deep, rich colors, textures, and chunky jewelry. my appetite has always been rather enormous, and my mom said i wasn't satisfied if the meals weren't "substantial" enough. and of course, to this day i am always the first one done at the dinner table. i live life large and i live life loud.

Friday, July 18, 2014


enjoying:: this gorgeous bouquet (leftovers from a wedding the night before) Jane brought home today after meeting with a wedding planner and reception center people. No, not her own wedding. Tagging along with her friend Sarah who will wed in November. Jane will get to be a bridesmaid for the first time.

thanking:: for a miraculous, wondrous gift of kindness and generosity. for the relief and outcome of my sister's surgery yesterday. for friends, new and old. for Jane's second interview for a job at DoTerra (their brand new, beautiful campus is just down the road from us) going so well. Keeping our fingers crossed that she'll get the job.

feeling:: the contrast of slow and busy. Seeing how I have a real need for plenty of margin in my days and feeling so grateful that I can find solitude and a sense of freedom through my time at the pool and on my morning bike rides, then, coming home and heading out to weed in the garden. All of this before most people are up. 

Then taking time in the late afternoon to go up to my bedroom, close the door, read, or lay down and take a nap. Or sitting in the dark on the porch swing late Sunday night like we did, just talking with Gary and Eliza. Him whipping out his iPhone and snapping a selfie of us. So fun and rewarding how our relationship is expanding as they are becoming adults.

How I love all these times. How I need this to balance and keep me sane with all the needs, schedules, demands, and dynamics of each of the children. I find myself playing the roll of taxi driver very often most days. Taking Jane today for more blood labs, then again to the doctor on Monday, Isaac last week to get his stitches removed. Shopping outings for and with Sam in preparation to send him on his own mission. (He leaves August 20). 

I'm tired of all the running around. Drained with all the demands and responsibilities of my motherhood. But at the same time, happier than I've felt in a long time. 

going:: I've been feeling like Isaac has been a little neglected this summer with much of my focus and energies being on the big kids. So yesterday I announced to him that it would be our special day together. A trip to the library, lunch at Mountain West Burrito, and later in the afternoon, two games of bowling and a stop for ice cream. He is still hugging me today for that memory. 

Today, in between picking up Sam and dropping off Gary, these boys convinced me to stop for another round of Mountain West Burrito. Good, even the second day in a row and fun doing things like that together. Even without anything really vacation-y happening this summer, it's things like this that make the days special and memorable.

eating:: with the brown bananas calling me, how could I not resist baking some banana bread. Gluten-free/vegan and everything. We've had pretty good luck with our experiments so far.

making:: a huge list of all I have to get done from now until mid-August. Not so overwhelming getting all those thoughts out of my mind and seeing it all on paper. I work like that.

reading:: big stack. All at the same time: (click on each title for an Amazon summary)

The Kite Runner 
The Giver
Rawsome Vegan Baking
The Gluten-Free Vegan
The Gluten-Free Vegan Comfort Food

wearing:: brown leather sandals, brown pants, leopard print T-shirt. Necklace, earrings, bracelets like I do everyday. A new habit this year that makes me feel good.

listening:: loving this song lately. Especially good when I crank it up loud when I'm by myself in the car. Fleetwood Mac, always a familiar favorite.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

come to my garden

As I spent most mornings in the garden last week, sprucing things up in preparing for having a crowd coming over on Sunday (always a good motivation), I thought I'd take a few photos when everything was looking its best.

If you enjoy vegetable gardening, you might enjoy taking a stroll with me.

Things are coming along nicely. I really start to enjoy my garden come mid-July. The plants have filled out enough to crowd out most of the weeds (I tend to cram in more plants than I really have room for.) and the harvesting begins in earnest.
Probably the biggest joy in having a garden is just for it's aesthetic beauty and appeal. It becomes a work of art to me-- a canvas of colors, shapes, textures, aromas, and tastes. I'll often just walk around the paths just for these sensorial pleasures.
 I'd be surprised if I'm not the only one that will stoop down to basil or rosemary bushes and pluck off some leaves to just inhale. Ah, there's nothing quite like it.
Or just going out for no other reason than to really see. Taking my time to mindfully look and examine all the intricate details of this world within a world-- the insects and earthworms that might not be noticed at first glance, or the way droplets of water form little beads that cling to the leaves, reflecting light like tiny, crystallized gems do.
The pleasure it is to pick a small bowl of raspberries to top my morning oatmeal, or clipping a handful of greens for a smoothie or stir-fry.

Or the joy it is to spy the first red tomato of the season.
A little celebration in itself!

Then, there's the peace I feel in my garden. I love to go out in that morning quiet or the cool of the evening to weed. I feel a sense of grounding. (Literally--having my hands and feet in the soil). A sense of quiet, calming, and stillness comes over me. Weeding has really become a very meditative and relaxing practice in my life. In it, I find myself in the present-- immersed in the now, the task at hand.
And even while I enjoy the mindfulness of that, I often use this time to think, remember, plan, and dream.
I think about so many things while I'm weeding.

Some years our garden seems to flourish and produce more than other growing seasons. Especially when we've brought in a truckload of compost in the spring. I wish I would have made the effort this year. Some of the plants like my peppers and tomatoes just aren't as I'd like them to be at this point, but overall, I'm satisfied.

Here's a rundown of what I'm harvesting right now:
:: we've got zucchini and yellow summer squash coming out of our ears.  
:: herbs and green onions. Especially nice for Sunday's potato salad.
:: the greens are flourishing. Kale, chard, and collards. Noticing that the leaves aren't as big this year and a few holes eaten through and sunburned spots, too. I think I'll give up next year with growing bok choy. Not a success.
:: no success with the broccoli as well.
:: a few English cucumbers. Lovely, long, prickly, and curly. Perfect eating and not a trace of bitterness. No sign of the lemon cucumber plant-- I think someone pulled it out when they weeded.
:: noticed yesterday that the green (bush) beans will be ready to pick soon. I didn't plant as many this time, as some years we've been inundated and had some bags remaining in the freezer way past their prime.
:: I guess I could harvest the rhubarb. It kind of hurts me to pluck all those beautiful ruby stems, and like the green beans, I still have a few forgotten bags in the freezer from last year.

Since there are a lot of gardeners in our neighborhood, we've enjoyed having a "garden share" table set up throughout the summer (on the front porch of a willing and hospitable family) for folks to drop by any surplus produce they'd like others to enjoy. This also goes the other way in that if there's something you would like, you can help yourself. The whole idea based on sharing and helping each other. A really wonderful way to strengthen and bless our little community.

Don't you think these tomatillos are beautiful? Delicate and papery, they remind me of Chinese lanterns.
I wonder what it would look like if I shined a flashlight through them in the dark?

Yes, so much beauty and goodness in this little corner of my home. And I can't think of anything more rewarding or fulfilling than growing and harvesting my own food.

A garden is a delight in so many ways. Thanks for letting me share it all with you today!

other garden-themed posts here:

:: harvest and may second then and now (poem-ish gardening thoughts)
:: a handy trick for staking tomatoes
:: a "I Need To Do Something With All These Veggies" chopped salad
:: sweet days... and my own homegrown sweetener
:: picking pears and other garden/harvest musings

Monday, July 14, 2014

i like to ride my bicycle

I've been riding my bike lately.
About three days a week mixed with 
swimming laps at the community pool.
The freedom of movement and being outside everyday 
once again has brought me so much happiness.

I leave the house just as the sun 
is coming up over the mountains.
One minute the sky is blazing pinks and yellows and then in a moment, it's gone.
That full, white moon this morning 
just hanging there against the blue was just so beautiful.
An ethereal stillness which is so calming.

This trail against the foothills once was an irrigation canal.
It's paved now and enjoyed 
by bikers, walkers, dogs on leashes, and runners.
These folks are so friendly with their smiles and waves
and friendly nods.
I often see the same familiar faces and it's starting
to feel like I'm part of a community.
And that's a fun aspect to the whole experience, too.

There's so much to notice on my rides.
You can see our whole valley and town 
from this grand view.
I just had to bring my camera and capture
it all this morning.
And I took my time.

I came home to a quiet house
and ate a peanut butter cupcake and called it my breakfast.
Lots of leftovers from our big homecoming gathering
for Jane yesterday.
Washed it down with a big, cold glass of almond milk.
Oh, baby.

What a great way to start the day.