Monday, September 28, 2015

Learning the Value of Being Still

It's incredible to me (really, unbelievable) how this year has gone by, nearly unnoticed, in a whir. Seemingly moments ago it was January and I was writing about change and moving, and now we are decorating with pumpkins and preparing for harvest festivals. As the end of the season for us at our mountain home draws near, I steal away bits of time to think about everything we have experienced over the duration of three seasons.

I write about knitting and what knitting reveals to me in life, yet I find there is little about my knitting over the course of several months. I settle into my favorite spots to open my project bag and contemplate the work on my needles. It has been a year in the making with this particular project, and during that timeframe, I admit (when no one else can hear) that I've become bored with the project... the tedious neat and tiny rows of purl and knit that create the fine gauge of stockinette stitch. It is beautiful work. The yarn is exquisite. It feels amazing to the touch... and yet like many things in life that require an extended commitment without evidence of progress, my amusement with the project has waned.

And there it was.

That moment when you realize what the whole thing is showing you. I have often found with life that the relationships and things I value the most, were the ones into which I had to put the most work or dedication. Mothering. Marriage. Friendships. Even the objects that are worth the most to us are often those which were obtained through hard work or sacrifice. It is the history and time of a thing which makes it an heirloom.

As with my year, I have lost track of time as the shape and pieces of this sweater have come together. Knitting for hours, I would examine my work and wonder if I had progressed at all.  Yet as I reach the final stretch of the last sleeve before I can carefully seam the pieces of the cardigan together, I realize that what I have created for my son through love and perseverance is a thing of great beauty.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Borrowing Farmhouse Charm from a DIY Pallet Project

What to do with the large wall in my dining room, I wondered. The formal dining room in our new home has large expanses of wall space, and the area behind the table is a focal point falling at the end of a long corridor of living space. We had discussed a large mirror to reflect the furnishings and space leading into the room, or perhaps a great piece of art paired with a buffet table. Yet we couldn't quite find something we both felt was absolutely perfect for the space.

Spending a little time out of the Vegas heat at our mountain treehouse (as we like to call it), we wandered into the Lofty Nest, a local consign and design store in the village. My husband found a place it sit down while I browsed through the beautiful vignettes in the shop. In a stroke of creative brilliance (in my opinion), the shopkeeper had fashioned wall display units with vintage weathered pallets. We loved the idea, but couldn't convince her (through no small amount of negotiation and encouragement) to sell us four of the perfectly aged pallets.

Coaching us on a variety of techniques which could be used to "weather" pallets, she assured us we could duplicate the look.  We loaded up a foursome in the back of my husband's Expedition and determined to make it work. Gathering our list of necessities, we set out give the DIY project our all, but we were less than completely pleased with the outcome yielded by our first mixture of vinegar and steel wool.  The stain rendered the pallets a dark walnut brown, not the fantastic ashy-grey we hoped to achieve.

On a subsequent trip to the mountain, we made a concerted search for discarded naturally-weathered pallets behind businesses, trash dumpsters, and vintage cabins where no one had been for decades. Collecting six we thought were acceptable, we loaded a stack of four again into my husband's Expedition for the trip back home after hosing and brushing the earth and webs from the old weathered boxes.

Screwing the pallets (topside down) directly into the studs behind the finished wall, I bit my nail beds with self-doubt while we fashioned an arrangement of two-on-two just above the height of the electrical wall outlet. 

Adorning them with a collection of items I found in my house, the Lofty Nest, and Target, my heart leapt with excitement over the finished wall. The cross-supports of the pallets provide narrow shelves inside which to nestle electronic candles and picture frames, while the vertical boards give support for eclectically arranged wall-art and lanterns. 

Peering down the corridor of space from the entry, I am pleased with the transitional French country farmhouse charm of the room. I'm not sure why I (invariably) second-guess the design work I do for my own home. Perhaps it's the emotional attachment to the space that creates the self-doubt. Whatever the cause, I find when I just go with my instinct, things simply turn out as I planned them in my heart.

Friday, September 4, 2015

To Busy to Be Lonely

It's been a big week. With kindergarten (incredibly) starting for our little guy and my husband traveling to spend time with his brother and sister before school starts on the east coast, it seems like blur of micro-changes over the span of 8 days.

When my husband is out of town, I keep myself busy working on little projects, sandwiched between spurts of me-time. The change of pace helps pass the time and keeps me from feeling lonely.

I knit. I read. I catch up on home projects. I take my little guy to a movie or do something just the two of us. This time was no different.

I sheepishly admit that I stripped (last year) the stain from the circa 1920 library table we use in our kitchen dining room. The first couple of weeks, I kept the table carefully covered to prevent us from penetrating the unprotected wood, but as weeks turned into months, I abandoned the ceremony telling myself I could sand it should something happen to the unfinished surface, then silently cringed every time I set down a plate or glass of water.

My girlfriend was refinishing a table of her own and posted some pictures of her progress on her Facebook page. With a few days on my hands, and the supplies already waiting on the countertop of my laundry room, I was charged with determination to tackle the work. Slipping on some latex gloves, I opened my well-shaken gel stain and posed to make the first contact with the table top. There is always (for me) a moment of last-minute hesitation right before I plunge fully-committed to the job.

It was all good.

Energized by my progress, I moved right around the house putting an end to the little projects nagging for completion. I installed spice racks in our cabinetry, purchased the last chair I needed for the living room,

and even managed to find some quality time with my mom when we shared a gluten free pizza with a glass of wine for lunch.

My husband will be home this evening, and I can't wait to see him. All my favorite times are with him... he is my best friend, my boyfriend, my security. Yet, I'm thankful that I have learned (as I have grown over the years) to enjoy being alone with myself. I'm okay with me.

Monday, August 17, 2015

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The House

Letting go can be hard. Following our move into a new home in March, we listed the house where we lived for 17 years for sale. It was in that home we became a family. I remember how we knew, the moment we stepped across the threshold of the model home, that it was the perfect place for our family. As construction commenced, we walked the boundary of the property and prayed over the home to be built, and the years we would spend there as a family.

And so it became the place where our fondest memories would be created and shared. The walls of the house saw us celebrate birthdays, milestones, graduations, and weddings. It would be the place we made traditions, and where we would gather for holidays and laughter. We learned, we struggled, we loved, and the house would see it all.

Against all we had ever imagined, it would become the place where friends and family gathered around us in large groups as we stumbled through the hours, days, and weeks when it was time to bury our son. There would be people in every conceivable space of the home, crowded to be with us in the darkest hours of disbelief. And several years later this last Thanksgiving, we had no way of knowing as we assembled for our traditional photo shoot that it would be the last time we would take photos at the house.

Our children grew from elementary to college, then would come home for summer vacation. We made our story in the house. Every floorboard, every wall would see us through all we became.

With our home 136 days on the market, I began to pray that God would bring us the right family to purchase our home. And then the offer came. My heart began to hold tight to the memories at the house.

This morning, I hurried from the office to meet the home inspectors as part of the due diligence in the sale. As I stepped away from my car in the driveway, I was greeted with the familiar face of a man who had helped my husband coach the boys in little league years ago. We chatted a bit to catch up over the years as he and his wife conducted their report, and I had the opportunity to meet the buyer for the house, which has been our home for so many years.

I greeted him with a smile and handshake, and he told me that they selected our home because they could tell it had been well-loved by a family. "Thank you, Lord", I thought as I drove away. Our God pays attention to detail. He sees our hearts. He hears our prayers.

I will hold tight to my heart the memories of our home...all we experienced there as we became who we are. I pray the house will be a blessing to the new family as they make their way through their years, and as it wraps its walls around them, I remember all it has been to ours.

Monday, August 3, 2015

227 Reasons This Was the Perfect Place

I couldn't believe the cabin was built just 12 years after America became a country. I wandered, literally awestruck and stunned, as my husband fumbled our luggage down the narrow stone pathway alone. I knew I should be helping with our bags, yet I couldn't escape the spell it had me under. Taking in the perfect blend of rustic historical finishes and added modern comforts, I rejoiced in my heart that our niece selected this as the perfect place to celebrate her husband's birthday.

We have become a bit of a surprise party family. It's comical, really, that any of us is still genuinely surprised, yet the surprise is, nonetheless, every bit as authentic as the heartfelt planning that goes into these occasions. When I came to my senses, we moseyed outside to survey the grounds.

The cabin was nestled onto a large grassy stretch of property with its back to a channel of lake water. Our little guy couldn't wait to get in the water with his great aunt while we enjoyed the property in wait for the guest of honor.

Some time after the surprise, I poured a glass of wine and walked down to the dock to find my husband. Struck once again by the overwhelming beauty and history of this place, I smiled and said out loud to myself, "I'm so lucky."

I'm grateful for my family and these times we get together. When I look at the photographs in my mind of all my most beloved memories, these same people are pictured. There is no place else I would rather place else in the world I feel completely and wonderfully myself.

We were there to celebrate Andy, and we did. We laughed, we swam, we cheered and we clinked our glasses in honor. But just being part of all that this family is, well that felt like a precious gift for me.

Monday, July 20, 2015

It's Not Just a Little Poison

I have a colleague at the office who is often suggesting that I try "just a little bit" of cake or home-baked confection even though he knows I have a gluten intolerance. "That little amount isn't going to hurt you, right?" he says. "Of course it will," I respond as I shake my head in disbelief. Gluten is toxic to my physical body, and so a small amount, even just in my cosmetics or hairspray, makes me sick... really sick. I can't help but think about all the toxic things we expose ourselves to, even when we know it will wreak havoc in our lives or our body. Back in the early days of my diagnosis with gluten intolerance, I used to think I could "treat" myself to some baked good every once in awhile, but it didn't take long (thank goodness, I'm a quick learner) to figure out that it was so not worth the price I had to pay.

I think about all the little bits of toxic things we allow into our lives. Maybe it's a nibble of bread for a celiac, or a spoonful of ice-cream for someone who is lactose intolerant. Why not? It's just a little poison (to your system) right? We know we need rest, yet there are times we can get so busy doing, that we run ourselves down without enough sleep.

Maybe (and for me this one is big), we deprive ourselves from the water we really need to keep our bodies hydrated, or we hang onto a friendship or relationship with someone who drags us down and makes us feel like we are less than we are.

It's impossible to completely avoid the intrusion of toxicity in our lives, and every once in awhile we just need to cleanse...purge all that is dragging down our bodies and minds and fill them instead with a healthy dose of something amazing.

Time with the family and the people I love does it for me. I need to get away, and take in the beauty of the world around me. That's where I can reflect upon the goodness in life and come back to the center of who I am.

Why are we so prone to take in so much of what we know isn't good for us? Where did that expectation come from that we must tolerate the unhealthy, and why are we afraid to just say, "no"?

I'm working on remembering to notice the simple beauty in each day. I want to take in what nurtures me to be my best self, and be brave enough to close out the toxic people and things that corrode my I can be all I wish to be.