Monday, November 28, 2011

Half as Much

At the beach last weekend they had rules against picking up any shells, rocks or animals (duh!). Driftwood, however, could be collected, with a limit of fifty pounds a day. Fifty pounds??? We walked along the beach, exploring the tide pools, enjoying, appreciating, reveling in the colors and variety and sounds of the crashing waves. Any interesting shells were occupied by some little creature - not too tempting. Toward the end of the curve of the beach where we decided to turn around, I found lots of interesting driftwood. Pieces with color, texture, interesting angles, odd shapes. I started picking up the pieces I liked, thinking I would take them home and add them to the glass jar with driftwood from other beach trips.

I am more of a collector than I'd like to admit. Walking back along the beach with two handfuls of driftwood seemed silly. I had to put them down to take more photos. It wasn't fifty pounds, but still way too much. I set it all down on a rock, and kept only what I could fit in one hand. A fifty percent reduction.

That, I think, will be my theme song for this Christmas. Fifty percent less: less food, less spending, fewer new decorations, fewer plans, less shopping. Probably not an exact fifty percent less, more of an attitude, being happy with less, making choices for the options with less. Traveling Lighter.

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving. Giving Thanks. Beyond the traditional holiday, before and after, part of my journaling each day is to add to the 1,000 Gifts List (based on Ann Voskamp's  One Thousand Gifts).

Most days I already know what to write down. Scenes that caught my eye. Events that sparked gratitude. Words that spoke encouragement. Connections, relationships that are full and fulfilling. And, also, the challenges, emotions and events I need to face head-on and tackle with courage.

Some days, though, I sit there, needing an attitude check. A gratefulness generator. When I have to dig for something to write down, first, my heart needs to refocus. There is never a shortage of people/events/things/scenes/life to be grateful for. But there can be a dire shortage in my ability to see and understand and acknowledge those items.

That is where the 1,000 Gifts List comes in. It inspires me, in a gentle, quiet way, to pay attention, to see ( to learn to look) and to be aware of all there is around me. Far too easily, I zero in on the uncomfortable, the bad news, the harsh word, the shortage. All that causes me to miss out on the abundance abounding around me. Sometimes I can almost hear Ann's voice saying, "Wake up to the moments...figure out a way to stay fully awake...these fleeting moments, this is all we have...".(from her trailer for the book on the website)

I step back, take a breath, and write my list. Things I wouldn't have noticed, events that would have eluded attention, scenes I really didn't stop to admire and appreciate; they become part of my list, part of the record, the journal of my process. There are still days of foggy understanding, days of tears and frustration, days of discontent and chaos. Many, too many.

Another reason for the list is as a review tool. To thumb back through the filled in, scribbled on, quickly jotted pages [I keep a handwritten copy, then type it onto the computer, again, as a review] brings a smile and relief, filled with memories, hope and love. The foggy, frustrated, discontent, chaotic days  become colored with hope, framed with love. In spite of me and my bad attitude days. Don't think this means I'm always happy and smiling and thrilled with life. Those are the days I really need this list and the effort it takes.

Writing down the list turns my attitude inside out, spilling peace and content and calm and order, not because of me, but instead of me. Instead of my grumbles and frowns, a calm breath and quiet. Opening my line of vision beyond my narrow little world, opening my sights to greater things, to light beyond anything I could imagine or think. Beautiful. It is a process. Progress.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Now, Then

"For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known."
I Corinthians 13:12

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Our Alternative to Holiday Shopping

A crazy day at the mall, or take advantage of an extra low tide at the tide pools? Not a tough choice for us. And we saved more and got a better deal than the hordes at the mall.

Trying to catch the lobster
Crab tracks, like a mini-tank

afternoon shadows are so flattering - I'm tall and skinny

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Negative Spaces

From an artist's perspective, negative spaces are just as critical to draw as the object itself. What are negative spaces? Between the chair legs. Between the bent elbow and the waistline. Underneath the horse, the air around his legs. The shape of the sky around the tree and the sunlight between the leaves. As a non-artist, I asked, "How do you draw air?"

My artist friend, Jane, patiently explained that if you draw the shapes around something, between, you will draw the shape of the object. A different perspective. I see a house, a chair, a tree. She sees light and shadows and motion and shades and shapes and details unnoticed by me. She sees and draws the empty space that to me would seem a non-space. To her, it appears full of details.

To an artist, the folds of the shirt and the shadows on leaves are a contrast of negative space and shape, dark and light, color and tone. She takes an object and is able to interpret the details on to a paper or a canvas and give them dimension and life by accurately describing the negative spaces.

In this photo, look carefully at the shape of the spaces between the rungs, between the stair rails, between the stairs and the floor.

Don't look at the letters, look between them, around them

How we look at things, at life, makes a big difference in our perspective. This week, as families are gathering for the Thanksgiving holiday, remember to check your perspective and notice that even the negative spaces around us are critical to the whole picture. The sad, empty places of our lives give form to the full, happy spots.

Have you thought of any comparisons to life? Our choices not to do something are just as critical as what to do. The spaces in our lives that feel negative or empty, are what actually give definition and shape to the rest of the days. We are as dependent on our negative spaces as on our full, positive times. How we use our down-times, the spaces in our homes, how we choose to fill our minds, all are influenced by the positive and the negatives in our lives.
Look between the lines that mark the spaces in our lives, find the color and beauty in a fresh perspective.
If you can stop being mesmerized by the eyes, look at all the negative spaces defining the shapes in this drawing.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Notebooks

As our grown children began to leave home to join the military, to work away from home, or marry and move away, I wanted a way to send our holiday memories along with them. We compiled all our favorite recipes and our traditional concoctions and decorations into a notebook for each of the older ones. Just reading over our typical menu list brings smells of cinnamon and nutmeg, turkey and sweet potato baking, the sound of the mixer mashing the potatoes and the trays of food being carried out to the patio. Usually, here in Southern California, we can still eat our meal outside, enjoying the crisp, fresh fall air, the leaves drifting down from the trees. Our feast is a together time. Family members sign up for different dishes, everyone playing their part in getting it all on the table, ready to share.

 It took us a couple of weeks to make these notebooks. At that time, living in the Colorado mountains, we didn't have access to copiers or printers, so we hand copied all the recipes, the stencils and the artwork. Some of the kids were still pretty small, but they could color in stencils or add stickers. It was a fun, though lengthy project with colored papers, markers, colored pencils and some old photos used to create a simple record of  the memories we have shared, together.

I pull out my own copy each year for the holidays. With spouses, new places, they are willing to try new versions, new flavors. From home, they want the traditional, the usual, the familiar. Whenever I try to be creative, they remind me that they want the same old foods. That's fine, it keeps things simple for me, and keeps me focused on the family rather than a fancy display.
 I am grateful for that.

There are notes on the pages, doubled for a big crowd, or memories tied to the recipe. Did you notice on the Sally's Dip recipe, the note to not spend all afternoon eating it before Thanksgiving dinner? It is yummy, and the kids snacked so much they could barely touch their feast. After that Thanksgiving, we would use Sally's Dip (named for the aunt who prepared it) as an easy Sunday afternoon lunch, a full meal in itself.

                         Gobble Goodies are our favorite, edible table decoration.
Now, we are too spread out, with various jobs and responsibilities limiting the schedules to have everyone get together for the holidays. I'm grateful we took the time to compile these notebooks, full of memories and fun. I am grateful for the years, for the times together. It's been good.

To my family, I am grateful for each one of you.
To all of you, a happy, blessed Thanksgiving week.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Every Morning

This is part of Sunday links, sharing verses and photos. Click here, to jump there.

"The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, 
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Thy faithfulness."

Lamentations 3: 22-23
Interesting, that this verse, so full of hope and energy, is in a book called Lamentations.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gathering Places

The holidays are right around the corner. Families and friends gathered together. We are not hosting either major holiday this year, a big change from last year when we had a full house. I have still been thinking about the holidays, though, and ways we can have a crowd-ready home.

We laugh when we realize how often we all end up standing, squeezed together, the bunch of us, together in the smallest space in the house: the doorway to the breakfast room, the hall connecting to the dining room, the entry room blocking the door, the narrow kitchen. Not sure why we gather like that, like moths around a light.

I love this idea from an IKEA catalog: back to back couches. Two couches, about the same height, placed back to back, either to divide a room into defined areas, or like the old courting couches, S-shaped for easy, comfortable conversations. A creative alternative to the traditional couches against the wall, and focused on cozy group gatherings rather than screen gazing.

Another IKEA idea was a living room without a couch, but lots of comfy chairs, grouped in a loose circle, a low table in the center. These would be easily moved around to create whatever groupings were needed for the moment.

From a Pottery Barn Catalog (out of our price league, but fun for ideas) I saw a couch idea: sectional pieces that push together to form a huge backed, padded square. Imagine a left-arm chaise, an armless loveseat, a right-arm chaise or a corner seat, with a padded ottoman to tuck in the center. I couldn't find the photo of it all put together. Can you picture this? A Monopoly game in the middle surrounded by competitive real estate tycoons. A wrestling match (inevitable with our guys). Everyone tucked in with afghans to watch a favorite movie together, the popcorn bowl passed along the row, legs stretched out. An extra guest bed. A pile of grandchildren, giggling together with their parents. Long conversations and laughter, together like petals around a flower. Maybe this will give you ideas for ways to reconfigure your existing furniture to make it a place for gatherings.

Does this make you think of any ways you could re-configure your furniture to make it comfy for a cozy group?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Five Second Decorations

If you are short on time, want a pretty decoration, or need a quick hostess gift, try these, from the inspired room: epsom salt snow candles. Could it be any simpler? A no-brainer for the holidays when our brains are already on overload. The first time I saw these, I wondered what she added to the epsom salts to make them look so sparkly. Nothing. Just the way it is. Brilliant!

Just for fun, I actually timed making one of these. Aside from washing the jars and drying them, and having the stuff collected on the table, a candle took five seconds to make: dump in some epsom salts, don't even bother leveling it so it looks like drifts, stick on a votive candle - could it be much faster than that?

 I bought a new carton of epsom salts, the white votive candles, and did up seven jars in less than two minutes, with enough salts left over for the next episode of ingrown toenail. Not bad for something that will last us through the season.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Two Roads

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

...Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by..."

-Robert Frost

This poem, "The Road Not Taken", and the following lines from "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening," both resonate with the theme song:

  •  stop to pause;
  •  pause to notice, look, see; 
  • and seeing, to make a choice. 
  • The choice made, not to wander, but to move forward, not looking back.

My favorite version of this poem, illustrated by Susan Jeffers

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."

-Robert Frost

Traveling Lighter, choosing the path, making the journey. Even if it is the road less traveled. Maybe because it is the road less traveled. Traveling, undaunted, on the path of Today.

 These verses, comfortably familiar, practical and down to earth, speak to me as I go about my day, making choices and attempting to fulfill my responsibilities, with "miles to go before I sleep."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Belated Veteran's Day

I neglected to plan ahead to do
a Veteran's Day honor to each of you,
(don't worry, this is not all going to rhyme)
to you who have served and worked
so far away from home;
far away from your own dreams
 and goals and hopes and loves;
far away from all that is familiar
and comfortable.
Those of us left at home,
keeping the dreams while you are gone,
keeping the safe and the familiar
while you face the risk and the uncomfortable,
keeping the doors and the hearts open until you return,
thinking of you often, missing you,
frightened for you, but knowing we haven't the foggiest idea
      of the fear you actually faced (not wanting to know),
trusting the Lord for His work to be worked in you..

I have trouble saying it out loud,
the words get soggy when I talk,
especially when the phone rings from Iraq or Kuwait or Japan
or the distant corners stateside: Maine, Florida, Washington, Hawaii to California:
I deeply appreciate the risk and the heart
of the steps you took, the steps you are taking,
to live and serve and love.

Thank you.
Deeply, thank you.
From my heart to yours.