Friday, January 17, 2020

Weeding Through and Dreaming Big

Walking through the kitchen a few days ago, I was struck by the beauty of the light that fell across the towels I have hanging on the front of the stove. I bought these on clearance at Hobby Lobby just after Christmas and I love them. This may not be their permanent resting place, however, as I've already noticed a tiny splatter of spaghetti sauce that we made earlier this week, and since my plan for these towels is more decorative than functional, I'll have to see.

I don't really have a lot to share today. It's been a busy week of freshening up spaces post-Christmas and I've started the process of downsizing a bit and selling things on the various Facebook yard sale groups that we belong to. January is usually a slow month for sales, so I wasn't expecting much, but I sold five items the first day. What's left for now are some higher ticket items which are usually slower to sell. I really hate the constant maintenance and having to go in and refresh the posts to bring items back to the forefront, but it beats setting everything up on tables and working in the elements, plus in an apartment there's really no way to do that. I still have other items to post, but to keep things manageable I'm posting five items at a time and adding new items as others sell, and so far that pace seems doable.

I've also been muddling my way through all of the bookmarks on my computer, and there-are-so-many. I am so bad about coming across things and thinking I might want to look at them later, and before I know it, its out of control! So I'm being considerate about what I keep, and rather than keeping it as a bookmark, I'm putting things into documents and saving them in a somewhat manageable format. Most of the ideas are for celebrating and observing the seasons and the liturgical year, and there are TONS of recipes, of which I've actually eliminated about half. At some point my goal is for the seasonal and liturgical ideas and resources to find their way here, then I will have access to them in more than one place and they'll be organized in a way that makes sense, instead of all of those random book marks. Once I finish with the book marks then I'm going to begin the time consuming process of weeding through the files on my computer and keeping the things I truly want and deleting the rest. And then . . . there's Pinterest, which is daunting, especially in light of the fact that I apparently can-not-help-myself, and I just keep pinning!

But there's a bigger end goal for all of this weeding and organizing, and that is my long-time dream of a writing a book! In my mind it would be much like the seasonal day keeper's I've compiled, but on a larger scale. I haven't decided at this point if I will still break them up by season, or just write and compile them in one large volume, and that's not even a question I have to answer right now. But what I do know it that it will include ideas and resources for observing and celebrating the seasonal and liturgical year, including recipes and craft ideas. I also love quotes and book passages, as you might have gathered based on the number of times I post them here, so I want to include them, as well, for some added embellishment. My original goal was to complete it this year, but as I've been weeding through things I think perhaps a more realistic goal would be to have the autumn, or depending on how things progress, perhaps the winter edition ready to go by the end of the year. That is why I think it might be better to write and compile four small volumes rather than wait until I have all of them completed before I make it available. I also had the idea to write four smaller volumes, and then once I have them all done, I might compile them into one large volume and add a little bonus content to it. This is all very much in the beginning phase right now, so nothing is set in stone. I would most likely offer them for purchase as .pdf downloads so that I don't have to bother with actually publishing it, but I am still toying with that as well. Anyway, I'm rambling again, so let me wrap this up. As this is an ongoing process (I am committed to working on it daily!), I'm sure I'll share more in the days to come.

But before I go, I wanted to share this sweet little poem I came across earlier this week.  It reminds me so much of one of my favorite passages in scripture;

"And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice."

- 1 Kings 19:11-12

Small Things

It usually starts taking shape
from one word,
reveals itself in one smile,
sometimes in the blue glint of eyeglasses,
in a trampled daisy,
in a splash of light on a path,
in quivering carrot leaves,
in a bunch of parsley.
It comes from laundry hung on a balcony,
from hands thrust into dough.
It seeps through closed eyelids,
as through the prison wall of things, of objects,
of faces, of landscapes.
It’s when you slice bread,
when you pour out some tea.
It comes from a broom,
from a shopping bag,
from peeling new potatoes,
from a drop of blood from the prick of a needle,
when making a blanket for a child
or sewing a button on a husband’s burial shirt.
It comes out of toil, out of care,
out of immense fatigue in the evening,
our of a tear wiped away
out of a prayer broken off in mid-word by sleep.
It’s not from the grand,
but from every tiny thing
that it grows enormous,
as if someone was building eternity
as a swallow its nest,
out of clumps of moments.

by Anna Kamienska

Today I pray that in the pause you look for the little things, and in that, you will find Him there!

Until then,

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Dance of Time

Chapel at Randolph College.

I've posted this before, but in light of my all that I shared with you here yesterday, it seemed fitting and I was happy to come across it again.  If taking note of the seasons and building rhythm into the fabric of your days appeals to you, perhaps this will bless you, as well.

In ancient days, the world itself served as a vast clock. People closely watched the seasons change. Winter thawed into spring, which warmed into summer, summer surrendered to cool autumn, until the first freeze of winter descended and the cycle began again.

The heavens kept time with the earth, the sun dependably marked off the day's hours as it journeyed westward across the sky: one circuit of the sun from dawn to dawn is in fact, the very definition of a day. The sun also acted like any sensible person, retreating from winter's cold and returning with the warming days of spring.

After sunset, in any season, the lambent moon rose to guide travelers through the night. The moon also mysteriously, but conveniently, changed its shape, growing from thin crescent to full orb and shrinking back to crescent again in a cycle that took about twenty-nine days. The inconstant moon proved a reliable measure for longer stretches of time, from new moon to new moon. The ancient Germans called this period of about thirty days a monath, and but for a sliding vowel, so do we still.

From the ancient times, people recognized that the earthly and celestial turning points of the year were linked. The sun's travel delineated the seasons. The solstices, when the sun reached it farthest northern and southern position in the sky, inaugurated summer and winter, the equinoxes; when the sun and moon stood midway between the solstices and and the length of day and night were equal, marked the advent of spring and autumn.

The gauzy night sky held other signposts. Certain stars appeared annually, like heralds announcing the seasons. Throughout the Western world, the great hourglass shaped constellation of Orion warned of impending winter, while Leo the lion's right triangle marked a sure sign of spring. The Pleiades, so diaphanously lovely that to really see them one had to look the other way, led summer into fall.

All nature obeyed the dictates of cyclical time, not least human beings. Just as the sun waned from blazing summer strength to a feeble spark on the far horizon, so too, did the young eventually grow old. Just as the trees in the forests and the crops in the fields withered with the onset of fall, so did human beings age, sicken, and die. Nature yearly reiterated the life cycle of humankind, and each individuals fate reflected the dance of the cosmos.

Although life was shorter, time was longer, moving with the steady but unhurried sun from one season to the next, changing in increments with the moon, wheeling with the great circle of the stars.
Then around 1350, carefully stowed beneath the decks of trading ships, keeping company with gunpowder and the astrolabe, the first mechanical clocks arrived in Europe. Modern time made its debut, and forever changed its creators."

- Michael Judge The Dance of Time

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Finding My Rhythm

See the picture above? This is the library/office space in our apartment that I just finished cleaning and giving a little post holiday organizing. For the most part, this is what our home looks like, clean enough that I would feel fairly comfortable with just about anyone stopping by at any moment.  But here's the deal and a confession, . . . I am really NOT that organized, at least, not in every area of my life.

Oddly enough if you were to ask my friends to describe me, organized would probably be among the terms they would use, and I can see where that opinion, albeit an illusion, would stem from. Based upon the look of our home, it is fairly organized, at least, on the surface. And it is likewise true that I like to plan things in advance. I function best knowing what the days and weeks hold. I'm GREAT at planning! The downfall, and the reason I'm not really that organized is distraction. I can plan things all day long, and I LOVE planning, it's the carrying it out bit that gets a bit muddled. And while things do get done, so much of the time it's because I worked myself to a frenzy at the eleventh hour. Even then, for everything that does get accomplished, there are other things, often things that are important, that are left undone. All because I allowed other, less important things to distract me and chip away at my time.

Another thing about me is that I've also never been very good about keeping schedules. Such things have always left me feeling boxed in and rigid. But without them, well, you can probably guess.Yes, the sheets get changed, the laundry gets done, and no one is going hungry over here. As I mentioned previously, all the order such as is depicted in the picture above is maintained, just not exactly on a set time frame. Most things play out rather haphazardly. I've said for years that I'm too much of a free spirit for planners and schedules, and yet based upon the number of calendars and planners I've bought, printed, downloaded, even created myself, it's been apparent even to me that I need one. The problem for me is that I can't seem to find one that suits me, and then because it doesn't, I give up on the whole idea. I've tried so many, but typically what happens is I'll come across them weeks or months later, with **maybe** a few days penciled in and the rest, now outdated, wasted. My only defense, at least in recent years, is that for the most part its just me and my husband. The girls are grown, and while Kate is still living at home, she manages her own life, for the most part. We no longer home school, so there certainly isn't as much to manage as there was just a few short years ago. That being said, without a rhythm and routine to my days, I'm left feeling frustrated.

- Frustrated about the number of books I've bought over the years that still sit on the shelf (taking up space), and still unread. I say I don't have time to read, but the truth is that time is spent doing other things.

- Frustrated that I now own three containers of paprika because I didn't check the pantry first before buying all the ingredients for that recipe, that I'll probably make one time, because . . . . it's new, and we (as in me, I'm the picky eater over here!), probably won't like it anyway. All because I was busy doing other things to check to see what ingredients I needed or already had beforehand.

- Frustrated that we bought tickets for the opening weekend of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and then missed it by a week! I thought printing out the tickets and putting them on the refrigerator was enough to remind me. But at some point I got it in my head that we were going to see it the Saturday AFTER Thanksgiving, when it was actually the weekend before. Thankfully it mattered little to the theater, we had paid for the tickets, they got their money, and they were very accommodating. We ended up seeing it on Thanksgiving Day. BUT, if I penciled this in on a calendar or in a planner, or SOMEWHERE, that wouldn't have happened and all because . . .

. . . I was busy doing other things. These are just a few examples, and I could go on, but maybe this gives you an idea.

So what are these "other things" exactly? That answer is easy, social media! I have to confess and admit that it occupies far too much of my time. I honestly don't mean for it too, and when I explain to you exactly how this happens, maybe it will paint a better picture. I don't offer this as an excuse, because there is none. I'm really just thinking out loud here and trying to help myself, so if it interests you at all, stay with me. Maybe you struggle with some or all of this, too.

You see, another thing you should know about me is that I am a bit of a Rodgers and Hammerstein production, albeit on a Dollar Tree budget, well, most of the time. But please, don't ask me how much I overspent this year on Christmas!, I do get sucked in!  What I mean by this is that I like to suck the marrow out of life, I want to do ALL-THE-THINGS! For being as much of an introvert as I am, I do suffer from a pretty hefty case of FOMO (fear of missing out), but in my case, my fear is that I'm going to miss the absolute best recipe that could possibly exist for, oh, let's say wassail, and I want wassail for our Winter Solstice celebration. But in the end we don't have it at all, because . . . I was too busy scouring Pinterest for more ideas, or that carefully curated picture that one of the gazillion people I follow on Instagram looked so much better than what I was going to make! And then, before I realize it, it is THE day and, oh well, let's melt some cinnamon candy in our apple cider and call it a celebration! It's far from the lovely, intimate occasion I hoped and imagined it would be, and I'm left feeling a little empty and disappointed. In reality our solstice celebration was a little more involved than this, but you get the picture. For everything we did there were ten other ideas I had planned that didn't happen. But even as I write, I am thinking . . . honestly, how grand does it really have to be to be special, especially when it's typically for two people, and even more so because the one person all of this really matters the most to is me? My husband appreciates and participates, but he could just as easily live without all the pomp and circumstance. You think I need to lower my expectations and simplify? I think so!

When I look at our celebrations, such as The Winter Solstice, the things I did manage to achieve were for the most part traditions. I made our traditional Winter Solstice Stew, the same one I've made almost every year, that we love. So, why do I spend so-much-time on the internet looking at other recipes? Because, and here's probably the biggest culprit to my problem . . . I'm a perfectionist, and if there's a better recipe to be had out there, then by all means I want it. But can I just tell you that the two occasions when I tried that "better recipe", I regretted it and in the end wished I had just stuck with tradition. I may have to go back and re-read this post over and over again in the coming weeks to remind myself. . . . it's not about "better", it's about what is "best" for me/us.

I had the same struggle in our homeschooling years, because there were just so-many-choices and  opinions and philosophies, it was honestly mind-boggling. It left me anxious and afraid that I wasn't giving my children the best, or that I was doing it all wrong. In the end I took an entire summer and paired it all down to what worked for us and what we loved, and after that it flowed. Now I need to take that same wisdom from all those years ago and regroup.

I crave beauty and order and rhythm in my days. I love the rich meaning, traditions and celebrations that observing The Year of the Lord (The Liturgical Year), holds, and I especially love living seasonally, but I can't do it all, none of us can. The internet is a wonderful thing and it provides us with so much "scope for the imagination" as Anne would say. But for me, at least, I need to narrow my focus and decide what is best for me, and in so many cases, stick with what works and what I know. There's an old saying, why fix something that isn't broken?.

And so, as part of my "dwelling", I am prayerfully considering the rhythm of my days, beginning with the big picture and drawing from nature and the seasons, and then I'll be narrowing that down to what the months and then the days will hold. It's all a bit scrambled right now and while I have an idea of what the end result will look like, I'm still working through a lot of it, taking lots of notes, deleting things here, and keeping others. This includes things such as bookmarks on my computer, people I'm following on social media, because I don't need any more inspiration, or temptation to do more, or do it differently! And while daunting, this will ever so s-l-o-w-l-y include Pinterest. Do you know how much time I've spent building and filling those boards, and do you now how much of it I actually use, and then how much time it takes me to find what I want to use because of all of the other ideas I've pinned? It makes me tired just thinking about it. I briefly considered just deleting my Pinterest account, but there are a number of things that I do want to keep, just in a more tangible and easier  format, like a file on my computer, or I might get REALLY old fashioned and print some things out and make actual files! What a concept, right?

I feel like I'm starting to ramble now, and I don't want to go on much longer. I wish I could tell you more about what all this might translate to here in this space as I dwell, rest in the Lord, pair down, and look for ways to better manage my time, it will probably be a little of all of that, yet somehow, at least in my mind, it all makes sense and fits together. So if finding a rhythm to your days, months, seasons and years, developing routines that support that rhythm and living seasonally, and with intention perks your interest, you'll find a lot of here in the days and weeks ahead.  I will most likely stumble and fall, try and fail right here for the whole world to see, because I'm figuring so much of this out as I go, so I'll just plead for grace now!  And once again, if you've read this far, bless you! I hope you'll continue to visit and be blessed in my mess!

Until then,

Monday, January 13, 2020

Keeping Winter

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it; the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show." 

 - Andrew Wyeth

Despite the fact that winter has been with us nearing a month now (January 21), in my neck of the woods it has yet to arrive. (The pictures in this post are from January 12, 2019). It feels more like early spring, and on Sunday with temperatures in the high 60's I could almost believe it was going to pass us by altogether. But according to the experts, after this week things should be cooling down a bit, and winter, hopefully, will begin behaving more like itself. This news makes me happy, as winter is my second favorite season! I'm not put off at all by the colder weather and dropping temperatures. I can always put on enough clothes and wrap up in enough blankets to be warm. And I am also admittedly blessed to be a home keeper, so when the cold days come, unless I choose to I don't have to get out in them.

With the predicted forecast in mind, I've been thinking about winter. Recently I read that back in the 18th century there was an old English expression of "keeping" a season, which referred to the traditional ways that people in the country restored their bodies and nurtured their souls by honoring in their daily routines, the rhythms of the natural world. Sowing, reaping, rest. In those days when the deep snows of winter came, there were no plows to come and dig people out, or trucks to salt the narrow roads. In the winter, in the country you "kept" yourself and your family at home.

In today's world the very idea of "keeping" any season, much less winter, is unheard of. For the most part, businesses remain open and employees are expected to brave the less than ideal conditions and report for duty. Both my husband and my daughter work retail jobs, and it is a rare thing for them to not have to show up for work because of the weather. It's made for a few nail biting moments for me as I anxiously awaited news that they had arrived to work and back home safely. But even those of us who are blessed with the luxury of staying at home don't really "keep the season", at least not in the sense that such a statement evokes for me. In this day and age, technology keeps us joined at the hip, rarely missing a beat. As long as we don't lose power, we march forward, undaunted.

But for me winter especially is an invitation to rest, or at the very least, to slow, and on the rare occasion that we are all able to stay home together as a family, I do my best to insure that those days are exactly that. An unexpected and welcomed reprieve. Sleep in. Stay in your pajamas all day.  Cuddle up under a blanket and dive into a good book. Play board games. Make hot chocolate, and with as little effort as possible, put a pot of hearty soup or stew either on the burner, or even better, the crock pot! Typically when they are calling for a possible storm of any significance, we have a few days warning and time to prepare. In those cases I plan our meals accordingly and make sure I already have everything I need on hand to make up something warm and filling. For me, this is "keeping winter".

In her book Romancing the Ordinary: A Year of Simple Splendor, Sarah Ban Breathnach writes;

"If you can't even remember the last time the very thought of snow brought a twinge of pleasure, take yourself to the children's section of the library (preferably without a child so that you can dawdle).  Ask the nice lady behind the desk to point you in the direction of the winter picture books. Take a few or as many as you can carry. Sit in a little chair and slowly peruse the pages as if you're discovering winter for the first time as an adult."

So the next time there's a winter storm in your forecast, why not plan ahead, maybe borrowing from a few of the ideas and resources I'm suggesting and linking below, truly "keep winter", at least for one day!
First, if you know at least a few days in advance, plan ahead.  Look through this selection of soups that can cook away all day in the crock pot. There's sure to be one you and your family will love.  Maybe add a simple salad and crusty loaf of garlic cheese bread, and you're good to go! And to keep lunch simple, kid's typically love grilled cheese sandwiches, and if you just happen to have a mitten or snowflake shaped cookie cutter around, you could press a cute pattern into one side of the bread for and added touch!  No kids?  Check out these recipes for those of you with a more "mature" taste!

For these games, it's simple, all you need is a deck of cards, all the instructions are here.  Snow days are also perfect for classic board games like Monopoly, Life and Scrabble!

FUN (Not just for kids, but for the kid in all of us!)
- Build a snowman.
- Have a snowball fight.
- Make snow angels.
- Go sledding.
- Make paper snowflakes.
- Make ice lanterns. (right)
- Make suet ornaments for the birds.
- Make snow ice cream!
- Build a blanket fort and fill it with comfy layers of pillows and more blankets!
- Have a read-a-thon.

And in the event you yourself have never truly enjoyed the pleasures of winter, here are a few of those picture books that Sarah mentioned. I would encourage you to not only read them, but to dive deep into the beautiful illustrations and learn to see winter with new eyes.

- Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares For Winter
- Over and Under The Snow
- The Mitten
- The Hat
- Owl Moon
- The Snowy Day
- Snowballs

I hope that you have been inspired and that several days in the coming season will find you "keeping winter".  To me it's such a lovely season, and I'd love to help and encourage everyone to find its beauty and come to truly appreciate it!

To close I want to share one of my favorite children's poems which I think is fitting for this post.

Picture Books In Winter 

 Summer fading, winter comes—
Frosty mornings, tingling thumbs
Window robins, winter rooks,
And the picture story-books.

Water now is turned to stone
Nurse and I can walk upon;
Still we find the flowing brooks
In the picture story-books.

All the pretty things put by,
Wait upon the children’s eye,
Sheep and shepherds, trees and crooks,
In the picture story-books.

We may see how all things are,
Seas and cities, near and far,
And the flying fairies’ looks,
In the pictyure story-books.

How am I to sing your praise,
Happy chimney-corner days,
Sitting safe in nursery nooks,
Reading picture story-books?

- Robert Louis Stevenson

Until then,

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