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True friends September 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 9:19 pm
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True friends never owe each other anything. (from Bear Circus by William Pene du Bois)

Let me start this by saying that my husband and I have never really moved in the traditional sense of the term. When we got married, I was living with my parents and he was living in a dorm. Several months before our wedding, we decided we would rent a house from his parents once we were married. That house was vacant at the time and they gave us unlimited access to it, so every time we had a wedding shower we would just take the gifts over to the house and put them away in their places. At some point we took a couch in, at another point other furniture, stretching out the process of moving our pieced together hand-me-down furniture over about five months. It was so easy. A day or two before the wedding we moved the bulk of our clothes over to the rent house and the last of the things we hadn’t yet moved. We got married, we started living there, and we lived there for nine years.

Until a couple of weeks ago when we moved into the home we have been saving up for. It was a completely different experience. First of all, before moving in we set aside two weeks to peel wall paper, paint, change light switches and outlets, and do other general repairs to our new home. Jon has a full time job now, we’re nine years older (read nine years less energetic) than when we married, and we have two small children. This made working on the house every day for two weeks a bit trickier than that time I unloaded brand new plates from wedding gift boxes and took a minute to hang up curtains in the rent house with no children to chase. This time we were arranging for Jon’s mom to watch the kids, making daily trips to Lowe’s, working as fast as we could in the two hours we had between Jon leaving work and the kids’ bed time, and basically living off of fast food. It was fun and exhausting and would have been absolutely impossible without the incredible help of a few great friends.

What can you say about the kind of friend who also works for a feverish two or five hours painting your living room paneling? What do you say about the moms who take your children every single day and don’t roll their eyes once when you come an hour past their bed time (again!) to pick them up, paint splattered and exhausted? Or the friends who bring a meal and plastic ware and paper plates to a house with no table in it so you can enjoy a picnic of NON-fast food in your future dining room? And there’s the one who kept us all filled up with the perfection that is ice cold Sonic beverages. The friend who came early in the morning on his actual birthday to help load our moving truck blew me away, as did my husband’s boss who came and both loaded and unloaded on a hot Saturday. A friend from MOPS cleaned my kitchen counters and drawers so I could unload my dishes and she helped unpack my closet and has now seen my lingerie. This is how she spent a rare afternoon of freedom from her own two small children. I was just humbled and amazed by their help. I was exhausted from this work and I know they had to be exhausted too, and they didn’t have to do it!

Towards the end of the day, my friend (who had arranged childcare for her three children for the whole day so she and her husband could be there packing, loading, unloading, and unpacking) had to call it quits because her nursing baby needed her (do you know how exhausting that stage of motherhood is? Do you?). I looked at her and thought about how tired she must be and what a sacrifice it was for her to do this with a Saturday and I just couldn’t even think of what to say. I said something about being beyond all gratitude and owing them big time. And she said, “We will always be even.” And another friend said something similar after he worked probably more on our house than I did over that two week span (during which time he also started a new job!). He painted and peeled wall paper and ate fast food and wrapped quilts around my antique chairs so they wouldn’t scratch in the back of his truck and we could never in a hundred years say thank you enough but he is okay with that. And we can rest in the knowledge that we haven’t just racked up a whole lot of friendship debt because there is no such thing. We would do the same for them and I hope we get to, but it is not repaying a debt. It is just friendship. And there is this great form of love where a man lays down his Saturday for his friends and I am not going to say anything else here because I am literally weeping with gratitude and fullness of heart and friendship and I just can’t.

 

That’s a lot September 18, 2013

“…we got each other,” she said, “and that’s a lot.” (from Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt)

I’ve been reading Crossing To Safety by Wallace Stegner and it has me thinking about friendship and family and the wealth therein. My family is reasonably comfortable now but we have been through times when we lived on a pittance. I will not romanticize living on little. It was stressful. But I can not tell you that we have ever been poor. We have always had the wealth of one another. It’s not just enough. It’s a lot. An excess of laughter and comfort and presence. I have always said that our one great talent is friendship and we have surrounded ourselves with just the loveliest people. It’s weird because we are introverts by nature yet we have these wide circles of friends and deep pools of them. We are also close to our families. We live where they live and we don’t plan to move away. This is what is most important to us, these people.

And the astonishing grace of the whole thing is that enough would have been enough. Just Jon and I loving each other or just our families or just a couple of close friends–any of these scenarios alone would have made us feel secure in affection and comfort. As Ma Ingalls said in one of the Little House books, “Enough is as good as a feast.” Enough would have been enough. But instead we have more than enough. We have a lot.

 

Quiet ways September 17, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 10:18 pm

Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways. (from Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery)

I love Anne Shirley’s wake up about romance in the Anne books. I love that she has the opportunity to go with the mysterious, romantic ideal of her childhood but finds she is more comfortable with the love of an old friend. Did you ever have any of those “choose your own ending” books as a kid? At the end of a chapter it would give you a choice to make and you would skip to a certain page based on that choice. I, of course, always read them both ways. Not great books but kind of a funny concept. I sometimes think about the Anne series that way. What if she had married Roy? (If you haven’t read the series but have only watched the movies you will be very confused by this. If that is the case, go now and get the books. Read and enjoy.) The idea of Anne and Roy just creeps me out. How disappointing that would have been.

I married a Gilbert, an old friend that I knew I could trust. He’s not a brooding, romantic poet. He’s not mysterious and melancholy. Neither is he some brazen heroic knight riding down to save the day. He’s a very good looking, introverted, masculine, good man. He has terrible hand writing and he’s not a good dancer (neither am I so it’s a wash). And here’s a good thing about a Gilbert versus a Roy: he works hard and then comes home and loves us well. He does all the little un-romantic things that make our lives work. He unclogs the dryer vent and installs the smoke detectors, grills the steaks and brings home the bacon. He tickles the kids on the living room floor and he buys stamps. These things are not beneath him. He is kind and forgiving in a way I aspire to. He doesn’t do large romantic gestures very often at all. Our favorite dates are pick up dinners, browsing a book store, renting a dvd, sharing some candy, roasting marshmallows. It’s what we like and when we find something we enjoy we do it again and again.

A friend of mine went on a sunset sailboat cruise with her husband for their 10th wedding anniversary and another couple on the boat were on their very first date. We laughed about what an over-the-top first date that was. Setting the bar a bit high right there at the first, I think. Sometimes Jon and I like to save up and do something special like that too, for an anniversary or a special occasion. But our first date? I don’t even know. We joke that we “pre-dated” for years before we made it official. We are both introverts and neither the kind that’s going to take the big risk. So it took years for us to finally admit that we loved each other beyond the friendship we cherished. We probably had a hundred dates that we had no idea were actually dates. There was no sunset sailboat first date, no pomp and blare. There was just an old friend and his quiet ways. A Gilbert, not a Roy.

 

Going to believe September 16, 2013

Filed under: Chapter Books,Classics — Kristi @ 9:25 pm
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I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe the best does. 

(from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery)

 

 

 

A plan for when you’re losing height September 13, 2013

Filed under: Chapter Books,Young Adult — Kristi @ 10:32 pm
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Most of the quotes I chose for this blog are pretty obvious and make sense without needing context to support them. I’m going to veer away from that today a little bit and I’ll need to set up the context for you in case you haven’t read the book. Last night, my husband was listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (read by Jim Dale, the audio book is not to be missed) and I walked into the room in time to hear the quote I am using today:

There was a deafening bang and the sidecar broke away from the bike completely: Harry sped forward, propelled by the impetus of the bike’s flight, then the sidecar began to lose height–

In desperation Harry pointed his wand at the sidecar and shouted,Wingardium Leviosa!”

(from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling)

What struck me when I heard this small portion of the final Harry Potter book, is that in a moment of desperation, when losing height and on the brink of death, Harry doesn’t use one of the more sophisticated or advanced things he learned in six years of wizarding education. Instead, he uses one of the very first (maybe the first?) charm he was ever taught.

I think this is why the early lessons we teach our children are important. This is what sinks in. If they learn this now, it could be the thing that makes them soar when they would otherwise fall to the unforgiving ground. What are the first lessons we learn? Treat other people the way you want to be treated. Listen before you talk. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Tell the truth. Be brave. Be kind. Forgive. Love one another. When we start to lose altitude, these are the lessons that can bring us back up. These first lessons are the ones we know so deep that we can call them forth in a moment of desperation without thinking. They can become like instinct, that thing that stops you from saying the horrible thing on the tip of your tongue that can never be taken back. These are the lessons that can save your marriage,  your job, your friendships, your life.

What you learn as a young child you will use until the very end of your story. I hope I can teach these lessons very well.

 

Just have some pudding September 12, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 9:19 pm
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No, I think I’ll just go down and have some pudding and wait for it all to turn up…It always does in the end.”  (from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling)

I’ve been trying the Luna Lovegood approach to life over the harried, frenzied approach lately and it seems to be working out well. Luna’s attitude assumes that peacefully and happily waiting for things to work out, enjoying and relying on friendships, and calmly doing what needs to be done without overly stressing, is preferable to the worried and frantic doing or searching or trying that seems to sap the rest of us of our joy.

Things usually turn out all right. If they don’t, worrying over them wouldn’t have made a difference in the outcome. I love in the most recent film adaptation of Charlotte’s Web when Wilbur says, “Should I be worried?” Charlotte answers, “Of course not. What good would that do?”

Recently a friend and I had plans during lunch. She was supposed to bring some brisket but left it behind in her attempt to remember all of the things and all of the children that women in our stage of life must juggle and shove into the all the right places of our cars every time we go anywhere. We unloaded all of the things and all of the children at my house and then we realized the brisket was not in the car. There was a moment of sagging shoulders and sighing between us. Then we just laughed and I said, “Let’s just see what we have in the fridge!” In a calm 35 minutes we had baked chicken breasts, rice, and broccoli on the table. We slowed down enough to allow our better thoughts to work through the situation and come up with a solution. Another day with the same friend, I was in charge of picking up lunch at a local restaurant but I was having a rough day. I was hot and tired and had too many things on my mind. I received three different phone calls on the way to the restaurant. I turned the wrong way leaving and took several blocks to realize it. I missed my exit going back to my friend’s house. I felt bad for making my friends wait for lunch while I drove all over tarnation, for leaving them with my kids who were probably getting cranky from waiting for lunch and I couldn’t believe how much gas I was wasting. In my sweaty, messy, frantic state of mind I started driving too fast. I got pulled over by a very kind police officer. He reminded me of the speed limit and checked my license before letting me go with a warning. I took a deep breath. I reminded myself that if I could just calm down for a second, I would end up at my friend’s house with the fajitas still plenty  hot and the guacamole still plenty cool and I would be much more pleasant with a smile on my face.

As I reflect on those two lunches, I am resolved to take the calm approach on purpose. It was just so much more pleasant. And, like Luna, I can trust my friends with my weird and wandering mind. They may think I’m loony, but I know they will still love me.

 

The letter from frog

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 1:30 am

Frog and Toad waited a long time. Four days later the snail got to Toad’s house and gave him the letter from Frog. Toad was very pleased to have it. (from Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel)

September is always such a time of new beginnings for me. It’s probably the school supplies and the cooler air, but I feel like it’s the beginning of the year. I always feel more motivated in September to start something new–working out, writing, setting goals, cleaning my house. If I made my resolutions in September rather than January, I do believe I would keep them better.

So I am making a resolution to write more hand written notes and to send them via snail mail.

I used to write letters all the time but have gotten away from it in recent years. But doesn’t it always feel great to get an actual letter in the actual mail? It’s such a small thing to jot a few lines, but it can be such a big thing to read a few lines jotted just to you.

Before I sign off, I do want to say that this day is such a day of mourning for most of us and I recognize that for some of you, it’s personal rather than national. I hope you feel the love going out to you from all over as we remember with you. I hope the years have brought you some comfort. I am thinking of you today and sending up some prayers. We moved to a new house a few days ago so I am extremely disorganized right now and can’t lay hands on most of my books and notes and such, but I can from memory recommend two great 9/11 inspired children’s books. Fourteen Cows For America is stunning and lovely and will make you feel grateful and hopeful but it will probably make you cry. And The Man Who Walked Between The Towers is a bit more light and looks at it from a slightly different perspective. If I could have I would have quoted from one of them today.

 

Most beautiful September 6, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 3:34 am

Where you love somebody a whole lot, and you know that person loves you, that’s the most beautiful place in the world. (From The Most Beautiful Place In The World by Ann Cameron)

I love my home town. Love it. I honestly can’t think of a single place I would rather call home. Strangely, I often hear people lament that there is nothing to do here. Sometimes they look at me like I’m crazy when I say I love it here, that I hope we can live here forever. “What is there to do?” they ask.

Here’s what we do here, in this town:

We stroll the paths of the city zoo at dusk while a jazz band plays in the pavilion and the sky melts into watercolor pastels.

We take our son to art classes at the local museum and dramatic readings at the public library and watch his love of art and literature blossom before us.

tot spot

We take blues dancing lessons and find that we are terrible at it.

We drive just about an hour in one direction to hand feed animals at a petting farm and just about an hour in another direction to pluck fresh blackberries from thorny bushes.

We bake pies and share them with friends.

We visit the planetarium and learn about the stars and then when the children are in bed we sneak outside to trace the constellations we’ve learned. Crickets and cicadas serenade our stargazing dates.

We see classic movies at a gorgeous 70-year-old theater and enjoy live piano music at intermission.

ParamountSign

 

We watch a bubble artist create enormous bubbles in a down town park while our children squeal with delight.

We climb into a large plastic bin at the winery and squish grapes beneath our bare feet.

grape stomp

We build a fire in the back yard and make hundreds of s’mores with dozens of friends, talking the way people do when the night and the firelight diminish inhibitions. We hear our friends’ deep hopes and secret nagging fears and we share with them our own.

We sleep in on weekends and enjoy pancakes and bed head.

bed head

We settle in at church with people who have known us long and loved us.

We follow our favorite food trucks around like addicts, waiting in ridiculous lines for a feast in a paper bowl.

We drag our quilts and folding chairs up the hill of the university to watch movies they project on the side of a building while we enjoy picnics and popcorn and the laughter of our community.

We drive the roads between our own home and the homes of our friends and family over and over until we could drive them asleep. We strap the kids in their car seats in the dark, hear their breathing change on the way home and then we carry them inside to their beds.

We pass the schools we grew up in and the church where we met. We find our own history in parks and churches, streets, schools, restaurants and theaters. Here is where we became friends. And there is where he first held my hand in the snow. This is the town where we grew in love and married and had our babies. This is the town that gave us our friends and our teachers. This has been both launch pad and landing site.

And I suppose the truth is these things could have happened anywhere. If we had been born somewhere else, we would have launched from some other place and we would have loved in other ways other people. But we were born here and we grew up here. And it is in this place that we love somebody a whole lot and we know with great conviction that we are loved in return. To quote the inimitable Ray Bradbury, “In what way then was the town special? Why, I was born there. It was my life.” The most beautiful place in the world (and with plenty to do, thank you very much).

 

 

This is now. September 5, 2013

Filed under: Chapter Books,Classics — Kristi @ 2:16 am

She thought to herself, “This is now.”

She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago. (From Little House In The Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

 

When I think about now, I feel as if there could never be a better time or a time more worth remembering. Just now everything is going well and my healthy children are sleeping peacefully and all my needs and a lot of my wants are met. It’s a good place to be. We don’t have the kind of lack that creates fear and stress and we don’t have the kind of wealth that produces the same. My relationships are all fine. We just bought a house we love and we’re leaving a house that we have loved. I feel very cozy.

There have been times when I have lived in fear and worry. I was worried that the rug would be pulled out from under me, that if things were going well it must be just a matter of time before something goes terribly, terribly wrong. I had major anxiety about the safety of my husband when he was away from me or the safety of my children even while they were under my gaze. But what does it serve, this kind of worry?

As certain as I am that things are well right now, I am equally certain that they will not always be this way. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are hard times to come because it is the way life is. Someday I will surely have to deal again with a crushing loss. It is entirely possible that we could yet face financial upheaval or a devastating injury or illness. Natural disasters will strike. Hardship is a given.

But now, right now, is a gift.

Rather than squander the gift worrying about what shape future hardship may take, I will snuggle down and enjoy it. I choose to enjoy the people around me and the time that we have together, the wonderful place in which we have the privilege of living. And someday when we do have something hard come our way, the memory of this time will be sweet to us. Now. This is now.

This is now.

 

Hello again! Are you still there? September 4, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 2:30 am

Hello, reader.

I was overwhelmed and I had to take a few steps back. So I stopped posting. I love writing and I love this blog but for a season, it just didn’t rank high enough in the priority list. For a while, I needed to step back and focus where I was needed most. There are seasons like that and that’s okay. But I missed this. I missed you, reader. I missed the clicking of the keys as I type and the need to grab a sticky note for jotting quotes as I read to the kids.

Now, I’m no less busy than I was a year or six months ago. In fact, I may be busier than ever. But I am healthier and more capable of dealing with the many plates I juggle. So I’m back.

Let’s begin again where we began before, “In the great green room, there was a telephone…”

When I started this little blog, I was reading Goodnight Moon to my son. and he was an infant. Now he is four years old. We read chapter books to him now. But he still loves to hear the books he knew as a baby when we read them to his baby sister. And Goodnight Moon still has the power to calm their mama like nothing else. The cadence of those words slows my heart rate every time and I feel myself letting go.

So good night to-do list and household chores.

Good night to the loud neighbors next door.

Good night dirty socks.

Good night clocks.

Good night to the thing that’s been keeping me awake.

Good night to the calendar and the plans that we make.

Good night stars. Good night air. Good night noises everywhere. 

(from Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown)

And, for those of you who don’t have young children and may not have a copy of Goodnight Moon to calm you: http://youtu.be/9yu_g5x3ZoQ