what’s eight weeks?

I have said it before and I am sure I will state it again:

I could never live anywhere that did not have the four seasons.

I am too restless for a mere two.

Summer in the Northeast is pretty much ten weeks.

Ten weeks of guaranteed heat, of no hectic school schedule.

That is what summer is for me: not feeling cold, not having school.

That first week school is out and the one prior to it revving back up again; don’t count.

Bumping up next to school demands sullies it.

So that leaves eight weeks.

Eight weeks as wide and welcome as blue skies over a waving meadow.

I have the added blessing of working for a public school so that means no work schedule as well.  I am a substitute teacher so it also means no pay.  We just call hot dogs and watermelon diner about twice a week and drink less wine to cope.

To help pay for our beach vacation we took the day after school was let out I worked nearly full time in June.  To many, that is like saying: I got out of bed in the morning in June.  So what?  But with four daughters still at home, a home I have to keep in order or I turn into captain scary crazy pants, I only allow myself to work part time since going back to work.

Ergo: working everyday all during the week drained the life force out of me.  And of course, keeping in how this world always works, this June had several extra stressers thrown in.  My continual motion, my ceaseless brain trying to organize, my seized-up then sputtered out Adrenalin glands, were all functionally poorly by the end.

Our vacation of four days in Maryland was very much needed, but I still had residual out-of-wack inner man issues.  I felt horrible for my struggling to relax and enjoy when everyone else was.  I should naturally too. The accusation of:

“There are billions of people right now who could not even fathom what a vacation is, much less have the luxury of escaping a beautiful home to travel to another beautiful place to stay”.

This is absolutely true of course.

However, my personal guilt over the validity of this, was very misplaced. It did not have to do, in reality, with the turmoil I was feeling.  I will have to tackle my privileged Western guilt for another day, I suppose.

So we returned. The unpacking and the buying of groceries done. I had those eight weeks staring me in the face.  I will be honest: I still had this invisible stifling pressure bearing down on me, like a swimmer going deeper and deeper down in the water.

I knew I needed a game plan of how to handle NOT having a game plan, if that makes sense.

This is what I concluded would be the most beneficial way for me to deal with eight weeks of warm freedom:

*Wake early to write every morning after coffee outside with chickens and the dog

* Work in the garden every evening after dinner and daughters are organized to do their dinner duty

* Spend that time between my am and pm bookends of writing and gardening maintaining the house, keeping animals alive, raising daughters, maintaining a relationship with the husband, keeping up with others in my life via texting and prompt text reply, emailing, and actual face-to-face interaction, usually over food and alcohol.

* A few times a week volunteer at the local library

* Allow myself to see how I can serve at church

 

That is pretty much it.

My writing/gardening is strictly weekdays.

My in between writing/gardening that allows home maintenance feels like a luxury of unprecedented time, that calms me more than I can say.

My volunteer times are at set times and days, otherwise the pressing, draining need that are the nature of volunteer organizations will drain a person until they burn out.

This leaves ample room to allow my relationships with others to expand, unfurl, send out runners, like cucumbers in July.

Not to say I only keep up relationships in the summer, that would be odd. But it is undeniable that it is easier and therefore more pleasant in the summer. It repairs the damaged widening riff of my winter silence.

Without breathing room for relationships human existence gets dwarfed, sometimes to the point of blight-ridden and shriveled so much so he or she no longer even looks like their real selves.  For the believer in Christ, this is especially damaging as the spiritual relationship with the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, is the springboard in which all our other relationships stay healthy, life-giving, bear good fruit.

Really, isn’t that what we all love about Summer so much?

It is the season of good fruit.

I’m no artist, but I love painting outside signs for my garden.

The fact that they soon get covered in nature and will be completely rotten in a few years, takes the pressure off to make it look like something I bought; lets me not be bothered by the fact it looks like something an elementary student did.

Cheers.

 

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why chickens?

why chickens

in some ways it is almost obligatory:

you move out to the sticks, you get chickens

amidst all the pintrest-fluff on self sufficiency

there is something deeper and richer about the food on your own plate coming from your own toil

a brood of fluff ball chicks

it is simply the easiest and cutest way to first step that 1,000 mile journey of being more self-sufficient

may i add,

frugality should not be the primary motivation

like all projects the start up costs are always steeper than advertised

we did everything as creatively cheap as possible but building a solid, dry, yet well-venalated, racoon-and-fox-proof 8×8 coop cost money

however, our CLUCKINGHAM PALACE was fun to plan and build and all six of us were involved, and so higher cost was more easily swallowed

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not to mention

have you recently woken up on a saturday and thought

hey,

how about we all see that new disney movie today…

and get popcorn…

and then go out to eat afterwards…

all six of us as a family…

our lumber cost probably neared that typical saturday at the mall with the family excursion

another thing:

almost everyone told us:

“don’t name them”

i almost always never listen to given advice

and so,

“josephine”

“lady”

“flo”

“myrtle”

“eggs”

&

“toast”

met an untimely and messy end

and i kid you not:

the chickens we never really got around to naming were the only ones to survive!

graphic life lesson?

six laying hens that include three different breeds remain

we have a pretty assorted half dozen eggs each morning for the eating

we have come to love quiches and french toast

even a family of six can’t eat three and a half dozen plain cooked eggs every week

we realized our name-less breakfast providers were being executed by chicken hawks

keeping them cooped up

{hey, that is where that term comes from!}

in their coop seemed mean or corporate or something…definitely not hip earthy organic cool like we like to THINK we are

a pretty cool solution emerged:

the solution that presented itself does nothing if not laud the natural eco system circle that emerges when a family starts to lives more natural and organic

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let me explain:

we have a big ole vegetable garden

of course

because like chickens it is pretty much something you have to do or you are just pretending to be a hick

i love gardening and love growing my own veggies

however come august, i am like:

“…meh” when it comes to weeding

{i should also mention i am real cheap when it come to mulch in may}

so,

“pick some veggies”  turned into   “try to find some veggies” by september

it is the folowing spirng

i am lamenting my cheap–may-self and lazy-august-self

i now have two problems:

my chickenS being air raided

my vegetable garden flowering so many summer weeds i cant even find the garden stakes left from last year

let me plant another visual in your mind

chickens are good at three things:

scratching the earth

pooping

& laying eggs

the last we are reaping the protein rich rewards, aplenty

the first two we have recently put to good use in our unsightly weed garden of doom:

plop our six ladies inside our fenced garden every morning

{after their morning job has been accomplished}

the ladies then are employed to do nothing but paw at the ground, eat the weeds and their weight in bugs {many garden pests} to boot, and poop…and chicken poop is another word for fertilizer

however before we could put our girls to work we had to hawk-proof it:

that entailed stringing about half a mile of various string, rope, and cord from post to post, criss-crossing it over and over until there were no spaces left wider than a foot

{hawks have a very wide wing span}

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it is beyond humorous to see family members

corner

catch

carry

squawking hens each morning to then fling them in between stringed spaces inside our garden fence

because we kept them contained in their coop for about two weeks once they were feathered their instinct to go back to the hen house every evening is strong

when the shadows get long we look out

the ladies are gone

they have put themselves to bed in their hen house

 

yet all wild things wander

that is partially why we got a dog:

Padfoot was a

hyper

willful

nipping maniac

puppy that for weeks i feared had ruined our life,

but perseverance

common sense discipline

a strong bond of love for the furry beast

and careful controlled use of a shock collar

has transformed out menace of a puppy into

watch dog…ever on duty

he is as viligant as he is enthusiastic

he herds and gently nips his feathered charges

tail thumping with glee the whole time

again, the cohesively working together; we bought chickens, and a dog, and seeds, and plants not to just buy and consume and dispose of, like so many of our purchases

each purchase has a purpose, and that purpose improves our life

enriches it in terms of:

food

nourishment,

beauty,

companionship,

or entertainment

A movie in a theater or stuff for sale on a rack can’t compete with that

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WATCH DOGS DON’T GET SNOW DAYS

Cheers!

why lent?

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my husband and i reflect often that these are the

“weary years”

we both work

we have four children

two are teenagers

we own two homes

not selling the home we do not live in means we can not accomplish what we desire in the home that we do

working  parents, every week day, come that  witching hour of 5pm, have been upright and doing for 11 hours

now we must rev up for the next four hour job

rev up, when mentally, physically, emotionally we naturally should be winding down

it seems like harsh unfairness

but it is life:

ergo, i love wine

 

declaring, “man i need a drink”

is politically incorrect in evangelical christian circles

but i do

and the grace of the Christ covenant is this:

He reigns in authority in all spheres in my life including relaxation and pleasure and use of stimulates

now there is always the tension between holiness and grace but i rest in the reality that since i willingly bow my entire life to Christ I can trust being led by His Spirit in how to walk out my daily life

i feel no grievance of the holy spirit for drinking wine,

for declaring,

“man, i need a drink”

what does this have to do with lent?

i gave up wine for lent

not because wine is bad

rather,

i desire to deny what i have a natural right to, so as to make myself that much more dependent on Christ-my strong man- to do what i cannot do very well,  in my flesh

for me, my flesh is weak at the end of the day

i have been upright and doing for 11 hours

my family has to be fed

my dog has to be walked

our family is together under one roof

my inner man has to preform the balancing trick of relaxing just a bit, so as to charge up to keep working

because that witching hour of 5pm:

it is the starting gun BANG!

it is ringing out now is the start of the few hours in which we as a family can simply be and do life together

they matter enormously 

these are the few hours my school-aged children are

at my fingertips,

under my feet,

asking me questions,

pushing my buttons,

need to be corrected,

need to be listened to,

need the kindness and grace of Christ modeled,

need the righteousness and authority of Christ modeled

need to be told “get over it, the world does not revolve around you”

need to be told ” don’t listen to those lies, you are loved and matter”

these are the fleeting hours of the day where my mate and i can talk and laugh and discuss and co-labor for our beloved children, in our beloved home, together

and yet,

i am weary

i want to order dinner, flop down, put my feet up, and read a book till the girls need to go to bed

but of course i cannot and i feel bad for wishing so

being caught in these late-in-day-cross-hairs every single day seems

harsh

unfair

impossible

and demoralizing

all at the same time

so let me repeat:

“ergo, i love wine”

wine biologically floods the weary chaos with a deep lungful-breath of well-deserved relaxation that energizes me enough to switch gears, to end my day well

however, believers for the last two millenniums have observed lent because life in the kingdom of Christ now has us walking a life that is a spiritual battle, in addition to the everyday, common to man, stress of relationships and finances

confession:

since ash wednesday i have not been pleasant to be around come 5pm

i guess i am not as uber spiritual as i think i am, eh?

i have questioned, constantly these last 10 days:

“why am i doing this?”

“what is the point since after lent i will go back to drinking”

then i remember Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness to be tested in matthew 3:

He was recently given public supernatural approval of  being “beloved, the Son of God, and well pleasing” in matthew 2

He did not suffer those 40 days to become better

He suffered those 40 days to crystallize where the real battles lines are drawn:

satan assaulted Him with half truths about what was the purpose of the kingdom, the new Kingdom that Christ had been charged by The Father, to bring in

those 40 days of lowly weakness were refining fire to bring forth the good glory of God that Christ already possessed inside of Himself, through authority

how much more do we, his “peculiar people” and “sojourning strangers”, need to be refined so as to bring forth the good glory of God’s kingdom that we possess inside of ourselves, through grace

why lent?

sleepy, dulled-over eyes needs be perpetually made open and sharp

soft, weak, pampered flesh needs be hardened and strengthened by breaking the inner man fibers through a process that is uncomfortable

i practice lent NOT to prove some theological point, achieve some spiritual special-ness to boast of

i do lent to keep humble

to stay wise

to the hills

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This is my longest post by far since getting back into posting once a week.

But Lent is vague and confusing for lots of people; both for evangelicals and the non-religious.

Most assume with a shrug, “it’s like a Catholic thing, right”?

I was one of those until a few years ago.

I really wanted to skip Lent this year, but I kept being drawn to it.  So I did what I always do when uncertain how to proceed, and spent purposeful time praying about it. Because one thing I DID KNOW for certain, I did not want to do it out of performance or duty or superiority.

This long post is my attempt to answer the question of why? Why I, or anyone else, would bother in the first place.

Cheers.

 

 

selah

dscn2009

Madeleine L’Engle called it “a circle of quiet”

a space for one’s own

in the many spheres of one’s life:

family

home

work

service

finances

pleasure

labor

creativity

having a tiny slice that consists of simply being without distraction or duty without even onesself clouding over and sullying up that circle is unheard of

our previous home was a bungalow of many tiny rooms all with firmly shut doors

we added on square footage with cathedral ceiling and open floor plans to accommodate our growing family and my desire for a large lovely house

but i kept going back to the pokey dated room with the old wall paper and drafty windows because it was small and mine

our new home is a sprawling mid-19th century farmhouse

big rooms

but i miss a pokey simple little space

ten months in our new home and i did not have my own space and so for ten months i seldom sat and rested in peace in my home

my eye can not stop roving on stuff and need and people

i needed a space that i did not have to maintain

though i love to keep house

needed a space of silence

though i love interacting with my family

so i made my own

with the help of husband brawn

and 24 hours of daughter, cleaning, cooking, neglect

a craft room that is twice as long as it is wide was cut in half

cut in half by:

gray sheer curtains

pink walls

removed closet doors

one $10 salvation army vintage chair

hand-made pillows i quickly hot glued and badly hand-sewed together in a single night because i only had a single-fueled-by-caffeine-night, while the family was asleep, to be crafty

a curtain made out of a pillow case

a drop ceiling swathed in 8 yards of tulle

and four sections of wall paper that took four days to put up properly

i call it my “Selah” room

“selah” is a very ambiguous, mystifying hebrew word that biblical scholars can not agree upon

it could come from the hebrew word calah, which means “to measure or weigh in the balances.”

or the two hebrew words  s_lah, “to praise”; and s_lal, “to lift up.”

or simply a musical notation signifying a rest to the singers and/ or instrumentalists who performed the psalms.

i like the ambiguous, the mystifying, and seldom agreed upon

it keeps man’s pride in his proper place

being a good mom

being a good wife

being a good christian

having the nice

house,

body,

vacation plans

occupies my brain a lot

it occupies yours too i know

not because we are horrible

but human

driven to survive, do well, and achieve better than others, better than the other you of yesterday

the problem is:

it starts to reek of vanity, every time

but in those quiet, undistracted spaces i can lose my well-intended, often moral and noble pursuits only when i ask God to speak so i can see His Kingdom, not my own.

what his kingdom looks like,

what it sounds like,

how it walks,

how it talks,

does business

does family

does pleasure

does labor

when I string enough of those moments together in my “circle of quiet” in my “selah” room with its ambiguous meaning and purpose

i always, always

see Christ

He is the only one devoid of that stinking vanitydscn1983

Cheers.

After months and months of not blogging this is my third post in three weeks.

My goal is to post on my one day off a week.

Something relevant in my life right now, written in prose with reflection and also a bit of  humour and with lots of photography.

“music” 2.21.17

a sports pub friday night

an arena sunday night

about 50 people

about 2000 people

after work crowd drinking

believers praising

there were those moments that bothered me at the bar even though I was there because my husband was singing and playing

and enjoyed myself

there were those moments that bothered me at the concert even though I was there as a believer at a Christian concert

and enjoyed myself

we live in a fallen world

filled with fallen people

we are all looking to feel something real

from pub revelry

to concert emotionalism

all were there to feel something

all were affected by the experience of the music

in a world gone numb

tunnel visioned by scrolling screens

tumbled vice in a  glass

the music still plays

and God still speaks

always

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I can’t play a thing.

I can sing okay…when I have a stronger voice and a melody to fall behind.

But I married a muscial guy and we made musical kids.

I have come to appreciate the flowing power of music to make one feel and remember.

I am better for it.

Cheers!

sing

 

 

02.13.17_snow day

the dog woke me, rudely, at 6am

only minutes before my alarm was programmed to wake me, rudely

neither dog nor alarm were a necessity turns out

he was just torturing the cat, again

we had another snow day from school, again

but who does not love a monday snow day?

even one that starts rude

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outside with the white stuff

 

dscn1958

inside with the wii…

escaping in the music room

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It has been about a five-month pause for me on “many slices”.

Lots of reasons; none I have any desire to explain.

I just know life gets lackluster and tedious without some sort of creativity.

Then there is social media; dangling just enough of a hunk of vanity to keep my public blog up.

In attempt to stay organized and purposeful I have always subscribed to the practice or perhaps better stated, the discipline, of keeping hard edges to my daily schedule.

I practice this in my spiritual life, marital life, parental life, my exercise, my nutrition, my job.  Why not with my creativity?  Since my “hard edge” of my work life is to not work on Mondays, it is a natural segue to snap photos,write a few lines, and post on Monday too.

We shall see how long it lasts.

Here is one of my favorite photo edits…

 

ann3

Cheers!

 

 

five_five minute friday post

Five

Such a small number

The just enough number

The digit of fingers attached to our hands to hold and do

Five years of life is deemed the best age for tiny humans to pitter-patter off to school with backpacks wider than the width of their rib cage

Five Minute Friday was imagined and birthed and carried out by Lisa Jo Baker because she is among “those who have ears to hear”

Hear the importance of silence over the din of doing

Hear “be brave”

Hear “stop worrying about perfect”

Hear ” social media stats and likes and follows are chaff  blowing in the wind…here today gone tomorrow…unremembered”

Five Minute Friday is a lot of things but I say what stands out the most is that it is genuine.

Stop.

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Linking up today with Kate Motaung who took the Five Minute reins from Lisa Jo Baker a while ago.

I am so thankful I “so happened to stumble upon” this weird hard to explain thing called Five Minute Friday.  I confess, I always go over five minutes….I have not even posted in nearly three month due to our moving to the sticks and now have the world’s worst internet connection, and being in my own season of waiting silence.  Also, I don’t even do twitter or instagram!  Yet, I have stuck around.

 It keeps pulling me back because it is my online tribe: women who doggedly listen then write about life in between living life.

I am amazed at the broad spectrum of women who contribute. Their life experiences, ages, demographics.  It is another reason I stick around.

I was nerdily excited when I found out that one of my Five Minute Friday posts and photography was selected to be in Susan Shipe’s new book, coming out next week.  I am probably the least visible contributor not only because of the whole “our internet now sucks” thing but because I find the social media world much too loud.  I don’t do any of the things one is supposed to do to increase readership.  Well, I should clarify that: I have started doing all those things one is supposed to do to find your stand out twinkle in the vast black hole of the world wide web…for about a week.  Then I get in a very bad mood.  The cynicism  I constantly keep in my back pocket gets pasted on the front of my T-shirt. No one in my family likes me like that. I don’t like me like that.  For reasons I can’t quite articulate The Holy Spirit starts to get muffled in my inner man.  I begin to feel I am playing a part in someone else’s money-making-scheme, not being genuine. I begin to feel angry about things that are not worth getting angry about. I begin to feel bad about myself over things I should not feel bad about.

********************************************************                             So read this plug fast and stick it good to that swollen memory bank of yours because the chances are high I will not get around to plugging it again! ************************************************************

 

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Go to katemotaung.com on September 26th to treat yourself to a copy!

Knowing Kate she will be doing lots of give a ways and fun stuff at her site that day.

Who knows the stars and my moods may just so align that I get in on the promotional action and give some copies away here at many slices too.

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Here is to five!

Cheers