Building a House – Summer 2012

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Siding. Paint. A farmer’s porch. Squint and imagine it with it all.

Every day it gets easier and easier to visualize. I love it.

And…the blackberries are pink! Almost time for picking and more jam-making.

Life is busy, but good. July is already so full of things: family and visits and beautiful sunshine and summery things. The conundrum of being busy: you don’t have time to post about it! Still, I hope to follow up with posts about visits from family, a positively amazing Fourth of July and oodles of other things. Back soon!

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Love & Commitment

If we commit ourselves to one person for life, this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather, it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession but participation.
– Madeleine L’Engle, The Irrational Season

Letters: Finding Time

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“I don’t have time to write letters.”

True, there are times in life when there really just isn’t time to sit down with fancy paper and pens to write a newsy epistle to your great-aunt Mildred. Sometimes there honestly are periods of life when you won’t have time for these kind of things; babies need to be held, over-time hours at work suck away any spare time and honestly, the mound of dishes in the sink come before writing. There a numerous reasons why you don’t have time to write a letter.

But sometimes, you just have to make time. Sometimes you just have to take the opportunity, even if it’s just a snatch of one. Suggestions on how to squeeze letters into your life?

  • Tuck a small pad of paper and a couple greeting/note cards into your purse. When you’re out and about, but have a few minutes, take the time to write a quick note to someone. I always carry a pad of paper and a couple blank cards along with a pen in my purse. A lot of my notes and letters are written while waiting for the spin cycle to complete at the Laundromat. There are plenty of opportunities to be found while: riding on the subway, waiting in line at the RMV, sitting in waiting rooms for doctor or dentist appointments, etc. Prepare yourself with materials and you can use these opportunities. Just like you should never go places without a book, never go places without a pen and paper.
  • Pick up a few postcards of your local attractions. Jotting down a quick note on a postcard takes all of a minute, but is still a pleasant surprise for the recipient. It doesn’t have to be much – just let them know you are thinking of them or give them a quick glimpse into your life.
  • Leave a notebook, pen and stash of greeting cards where you can easily access them. Stick them in a bedside table drawer, so if you have a moment you can jot down a quick note. Or on your desk by the computer so you can start a letter while waiting for a website to load or an update to finish uploading.

In the end, it’s what you make of your time. If you make anything a priority, you will find snatches of time – however brief – to make it happen. Even writing a letter.

At home

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While driving up to Maine for our anniversary getaway last month, my husband asked if there was anything I especially wanted to do while we were on vacation. My reply? “Find a used bookstore!” And so we did.

When we walked through the door, the thrill of book-chasing filled me. Bookcases filled the walls from floor to ceiling, towering tall over our heads. My nostrils tingled with the aroma of books: paper, dust and print. Stacks of books were on the floor, in boxes and on tables. Bindings of every color and books of every shape, paperback and hardcover beckoned me to crane my neck and read their titles.

It reminded me of a quote from Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart:

The books in Mo and Meggie’s house were stacked under tables, on chairs, in the corners of the rooms. There where books in the kitchen and books in the lavatory. Books on the TV set and in the closet, small piles of books, tall piles of books, books thick and thin, books old and new. They welcomed Meggie down to breakfast with invitingly opened pages; they kept boredom at bay when the weather was bad. And sometimes you fell over them.

Books feel like home. I think I could find a corner in nearly any bookstore and find a book-world to lose myself in. And this time, that corner was the biographies, surprising enough since literature and children’s fiction tend to be the homiest spot for me. It was a surprise for myself, quite honestly. I hadn’t had much luck in the children’s section – a smaller selection there than I’d hoped – and I always feel overwhelmed by shelves of adult fiction, as it is much more of a challenge to find treasures there. My head dizzy with titles and author names that I didn’t like or even recognize, I moved on.

And as I walked past the shelves of biographies, my neck craned upward and angled to read spines, I saw her name.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

I read her first diary, Bring Me a Unicorn, a few months ago and honestly wasn’t sure if I loved it enough to warrant moving on to the four other books in her collection of journals and letters. Still, I found a stool to perch myself on and, with the extra 12 inches of height it afforded me, pulled the two journals out from between a biography about her and her book North to the Orient.

The third and fourth journals, entirely out of sequence in the quintet, but at $4.00 and $12.00 respectively, how could I resist such bargains when I knew that they go for over $20.00 each on Amazon.com? I paged through them and read snippets. Just as brilliant with prose as with Bring Me a Unicorn, plus the last book covered the start of WWII, which sounded immensely intriguing.

I tucked them under my arm and hopped off my perch. They were coming home with me, I was determined. And so they did, along with a nice shiny treasury of Calvin & Hobbes (totally classic and essential for my husband to be introduced to). And just as I felt entirely at home in that bookshop, I think my new book friends feel just as home sitting on my bookcase here at home – or in my hands as they have been often for the last month.

And as May turned out to be the month of reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh, thoughts on Locked Rooms and Open Doors and War Without and Within will come as soon I have them organized into something readable!

Letters: In the post

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In this day and age, the mail in the average mailbox generally consists of bills, junk mail, catalogs and fliers. Occasionally a magazine or a package of things ordered online. But an old-fashioned letter? Those are generally things of the past and a true rarity in the age of texting and blogging. Even thank-you notes are beginning to fizzle out, replaced by thanks dashed off in an email or forgotten altogether. We’re too busy for letters, they aren’t worth the bother, especially when you can have instant gratification of a Facebook message or text.

But perhaps this is why sending and receiving snail mail can be such a treat. A hand-written letter is a rarity that harkens back fond memories and romance of ages past. Somehow, a hand-written love note is so much more romantic, memorable than a dashed off text. Texts and emails are deleted. But letters? They’re stashed away in a drawer, waiting to be rediscovered and remembered. A piece and parcel of history.

And besides – what is more cheery than discovering a hand-addressed envelope holding a cheery, newsy epistle tucked in a pile of boring bills and junk flyers? You just might make someone’s day with a letter in the mail!

So – write a letter today!

To whom can you write a letter?

  • Pen a love note to your significant other, even if it’s just a short, but sweet thought. Send it to him or her at work or at home; or tuck it in their lunch bag, brief case or in their sock drawer, waiting as a surprise.
  • Write a thank-you note. Express your gratitude to a veteran or a soldier stationed overseas in a letter. Write to a parent, grandparent or mentor, thanking them for the impact they’ve made on your life. Even write a short note to someone who made positive impression on you: a clerk at the store, a teller at the bank, the postal worker – the possibilities are endless!
  • Write a newsy letter to a friend or family member who lives far away. Include a snapshot of a recent event. End with a cheery invitation to return the favor: “We’d love to hear from you!” or “Write back soon!”
  • Write a series of letters to a child in your life. A son or daughter, a niece or nephew. Even if they’re too young to appreciate a letter, write anyway. Write letters of advice, wisdom and memories of them at a young age. Include all the letters in a birthday box and save them for a keepsake for a milestone birthday, like sixteen or eighteen.
  • Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper. Make your voice heard! Let them know what you think about current events in your community.
  • Find a new pen-pal and begin a regular correspondence with a new friend. Suggested places to find someone to write to…
    – Soldiers’ Angels. If you join, you will be given the name and address of a soldier serving overseas who wishes to receive letters and packages. You won’t necessarily receive a response back from your soldier, but it’s well-worth the effort to support our troops!
    Letter Writers Alliance. To quote their site: In this era of instantaneous communication, a handwritten letter is a rare and wondrous item. The Letter Writers Alliance is dedicated to preserving this art form. Prepare your pen and paper, moisten your tongue, and get ready to write more letters!

*snip, snip*

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I nearly chickened out at the last minute. After all, I had four years worth of maintaining it, caring for it, loving it. When you’ve invested so much time and care into something and have lived with it for so long, it’s a little scary to be parted from it.

But…I did it.

I got my hair cut. (Or – as my dad would say, my hairs cut.)

I asked my hair-dresser to chop it all off. Four to five inches of hair, take it and throw it on the floor. Snip, snip, snip and it was done before I could think about running out the door again.

And soon I was looking at my new summer self.

I love it! No regrets in losing the hair, I’m having a blast playing with different short hair-styles and love how easy it is to deal with, especially when it’s unbearably warm – as it was just last week.

Plus, there’s the fun behind everyone’s reactions to my new look. The best one of all? Compliments of my aunt: “Oh! You got your hair cut! I like it – you look grown-up!”

Oh yes…nice to finally look like a grown-up now that I’m getting closer to thirty than twenty. 😉

Making Do/Old Things

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The factory at my workplace is downsizing their inventory, from parts to finished product. As a result, they’re getting rid of a ton of old boxes for transferring parts and tools from department to department.

I grabbed one box from a stack next to the dumpster and brought it home, not sure what we’d do with it. I thought maybe my husband would want it for something, since he works in construction.

And then I found the perfect use for it. The two slots in the box are the perfect shape to display jars.

Yup. Jars of jam. Don’t they look perfect in this old parts box?

I think I’m going to go back for more. After all, blackberry and blueberry season are just about here and we’ll need to store many more jars for the winter. Plus these boxes will look amazing on our future home’s pantry and kitchen shelves!

Reusing and recycling. I love it.

The summer side of life

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We harvested the first head of lettuce from our garden this past weekend. How is it that anything home-grown or harvested seems to taste better than anything that comes out of a grocery store?

Since I had about 13 pounds of strawberries sitting in my kitchen, compliments of my strawberry moment last week, I decided be Suzy Homemaker and made strawberry jam. Fifteen jars later, I surveyed the fruit of my labors. They look good, don’t they? 9 jars of the regular recipe and 6 low sugar. I’ve learned that the regular recipe is incredibly sweet, while the low-sugar tastes like a perfect summer day. As a result, I’m determined to have another jam-making session before strawberry season is over, so we have a few more jars of the low-sugar option.

My husband says I’m turning into a regular country girl. My response is usually to stick my tongue out at him and say, “What, city girls can’t make jam, too?”

Still hard to believe that yeah, I live out in the sticks now and I really am a country girl.

The blackberry canes up by our future home are loaded with what could potentially be a gorgeous berry harvest in July, provided we get some good rainfall between now and then. I can smell blackberry jelly already. It makes me smile to think of one-day, some-day, having little kids to help pick berries and eat up all the jam we make. A family of our own. What a strange, yet natural thought at the same time. Still, we’re quite content to eat the jam ourselves and give it away to friends and family while there’s just the two of us in our family. 😉

I love this summer part of our life.

[currently] reading

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There are always far too many good books to read and far too little time in which to read them. And that means, you always have at least three or four books sitting in your ‘current reads’ stack. What am I reading right now?

Grace for the Good Girl – Emily Freeman
Blackout – Connie Willis
Rumors of Water – L.L. Barkat
Locked Rooms and Open Doors: The Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh – Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein
I Love a Fire Fighter – Ellen Kirschman

What’s in your stack of current reads?

Strawberry Moment

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Strawberries taste like summer, I think, dropping another ripe berry into my cardboard flat. My younger sister’s lips are stained pink from taste-testing the fruit of her labors. The berries are plump and ruby ripe, perfect from a rainy week followed by days of sunshine.

The sun is hot on my back and I hope I don’t get a sunburn. Still, I can already smell jam cooking on the stove and taste fresh strawberries with shortcake and cream.

It’s within moments like these that I feel most content and right with the world. The dirt beneath my feet solid and comforting, the promise of sweetness for a winter to come. I feel safe, right and well with the world; not insecure in myself (for the moment, at least) and not striving within to compete and compare with others.

The moment just feels right.

It’s like Rich Mullins says in his book The World as I remember It: Through the Eyes of a Ragamuffin

Not often, but every once in a while you have that perfect kind of moment when you put everything into a task and find you have enough, and you feel that, even if you bungle the job, there is little at stake. You sink your teeth into something, put your heart into it, act deliberately, by choice–not by coercion of immediate necessity. You mean what you do as if there is no meaning at all in anything else–you do it for the joy of doing it, not just to get it done. You shoot from the hip, swing from your shoulders and feel that exhilarating grace and balance of having found your center, or having centered yourself.

…It is in those moments that we find some sense of who we are. Regardless of how grand or common the event of the moment is, in it we see ourselves at our absolute best–focused, posed and pure–no compromise, no ulterior motives, no self-deception or pretense. We see what we are like when we have no point to prove or score, no bills to fit, no scrutinizing to endure…

Between the stress of my workplace, a full life, a never-ending to-do list, plus a harsh inner critic, moments like this are uncommon for me. As a result, they are all the more sweeter and this strawberry morning moment…tastes very sweet indeed.