Thursday, March 24, 2011

Walking to Walden

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

Oh, Thoreau.

Brief disclaimer. I have never read Walden. I began to acquaint myself with notable quotations from Henry David's masterwork because it made getting through my English major (or at least the half of it that I did get through) a little easier. My knowledge of a few lines here and there may have also served me well (impressive!) in a few dating situations with a few unsuspecting young men. Unsuspecting and unread young men.

I am not proud.

A year or two into my marriage (and adulthood) it occured to me that Thoreau's words might be more useful than the pseudo deep prelude to a make out session (always regretted) with those unread young men. Maybe he was actually saying something.

"...I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach..."

The beauty of an existence lived according to my voice and desires. To choose the essence of LIFE over the distractions of the world. To have breathed deeply, tasted discerningly, walked with wonder. That is a life I want to live. It is the life I need my children to live. Riley and I have spoken extensively about living our lives deliberately. We talk about a little house on a little land. Used cars and new garden tools. Books, song and homemade sauerkraut.
There are plans and hope and intent.

There is also the untenable state of my reality. I drive more than I walk, the maintenance of our house overwhelms, and I have never planted that cabbage for that homemade sauerkraut. I don't know how to change. I need a little help. And while Walden Pond and it's poet inspire, I could use assistance from a slightly more practical source.

Enter the lovely, the inspiring, the accessible! book by Tsh Oxenreider, Organized Simplicity. Mrs. Oxenreider is an advocate for intentional (hello, deliberate) living. She loves her children, her husband and her God. And, my goodness, she loves life. This little tome covers everything from writing and implementing a family purpose statement to the best way to fold a fitted sheet. She advocates a tolerant and individualized approach to a simpler and more meaningful way of life. A framework for creation and play and laughter and happiness. I know what I want, and this lovely stranger has given me the tools I need to attain it. Excessive praise? Not in the opinion of this wannabe Walden child.

So an experiment. Thursday posts will be dedicated the triumphs and sure to be funny failures in the process of deliberate living. Steps I have taken, book held in hand and others I have taken on my own. Little. Simple. Happy. Who knows, I might even find the time to read that one book Thoreau wrote.

Let the living begin.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oh Curtain, my Curtain!

This one is for Heather, my first reader to ask a question! Hello MILESTONE, how are you doing?

It is one of those mornings. Nearly 9am and I am still in my grinch pajamas. (Yes, I own a pair of those, and yes, they are worse than you imagine.)

There was a time, not so long ago, when everyone on our block was privy to our undressed inactivity on mornings like this. The Bingham house is a little gem from the 1920's with eight, yes, eight windows in the cozy (read small) front room. A charming fish bowl. Budget constraints led to a year and a half of curtainless living. At first it didn't seem like a deal. I mean, so maybe the neighbors saw me in my towel every morning. And maybe Riley and I made out on the couch a little too often. And maybe any passerby could see I was still in my grinch pajamas at 11 am. And maybe....maybe it was time for some window therapy.

Enter the lovely, the whimsical, the ever colorful, brand Karma Living. I found them at a trade show I attended in my last job and fell IN.LOVE. I happened to have a great boss at the time (my mom), who happened to suggest I order them wholesale. How could I not just happen to do so?

Those little panels of delight are the most commented on aspect of my house. My neighbors love them. I choose to attribute their love to the gauzy otherwordliness of the window dressings. Not to the fact that the curtains protect their innocent eyes from me and my morning hair.

Okay, time to go de-grinch myself.

It was one of those mornings...but it will not be one of those days.

I think.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I am woman, hear me...

I should be writing about something spiritual or uplifting. Some act of kindness I witnessed or an insight gained. I should take this time, on this fabulous Monday, to better the world.

I really should.

Instead I am going to write about my haircut. Is there anything more magical, more relieving, more woman making than 45 minutes in a salon chair? (ok, probably. But let's pretend the answer is no...just for the sake of my happy post haircut mood.) I always wait too long in between cuts. By my appointment, drastic measures had been taken. Bobby pins, headbands, clips....all stuck together, the last defense against the beast my hair had become. Every woman needs a dress with good twirl, red lipstick and a hairstylist/confidant. I have the dress, the lipstick and Danine. (find her here!) She is a miracle worker, a slayer of ugly, the best, the brightest, the perfect.

I L.O.V.E. love her.

It may seem frivolous. This haircut bliss in a world that aches. Spending (grocery!) money on something that I could have lived without. Women are well acquainted with that peculiar ache that can accompany life on earth. We bear and raise babies, sometimes losing them along the way. We see what life could be and are too hard on themselves when reality just isn't quite what was envisioned. We cry, pray and act for those that are hurt, alone, in need. Women create homes for our men and children, dream their dreams and hurt their hurts. We change the course of history one dinner at a time, even when that dinner is burnt chicken...again. Once in a while, in the midst of all that world changing, we get tired. We are mother, wife, confidant and friend. Sometimes, we need a little boost, a little reminder that we are also, women! Feminine, lovely, soft and hella sexy.

The visit with the magical Danine was just the reminder this (faux) red head needed. I am a woman! Oh my goodness. That means there is nothing that I cannot do.

This pixie/bob cut fusion and I are ready to conquer the world, one dinner, one diaper change, one scraped knee at a time.

I tried to take a few pictures that showed, you know, my face. They were, ummmm, less than excellent. No biggie. I look pretty good from the back, too. Wink.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Day like Today

This morning, Margaret woke up crying and I woke up happy to help her. Is there anything more pathetic (or adorable) than a two year old crying for her "mommy, mommy? MOMMY??." And then the snuggling afterwards. Oh, my cup OVERFLOWETH.

My goals for today aren't what one would call grand. There will be a shower, there may be lipstick. We will walk to the grocery store and get some fixin's for dinner. Margaret will ask to watch Hercules for the hundredth time and I will let her. Tomorrow, I will conquer the world. For the next 24 hours, I think I will just float in it. Funny. Six years ago I would have held a day like today in contempt. Where is the goodness, the adventure, the gobbling up of life?

I know better now. I love today.

A few pictures my friend, Heather Mildenstein, took while we had a playdate at her oh so lovely house. And yes that is her son, Cole and yes, he and Margaret are betrothed.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Night Well Spent

What? This isn't how it works?

So Mr. Husband left last Wednesday on a business trip to California and did not return until late last night. He claims he worked very hard. I am sure he did. He claims business trips aren't all fun and games. Even ones that take place in Orange County. In theory this may be true. However, certain words that have the connotation of "good times" kept popping up in his conversations with me. Words like, "Bravo Burger", "Newport", "just went to see a guy movie, you wouldn't have liked it", "Jalapenos", and (this one hurt the worst) "Akbar". (Hmmm, almost that whole list is food oriented...I am a total glutton.)

When Riley left to not enjoy himself at all those fabulous places, he gave me a handsome little stack of bills. More than enough to cover the entertainment/food needs of the girl and I through the rest of the week plus a little in case of emergency. I also had my bank card to use in an emergency's emergency. We were set.

So Margaret and I were on our own for five days. And I was a little weepy (this we can definitely blame on the pregnancy). When the weepies hit there are some things that are very helpful. Carl's Jr. New lipstick. Girl Scout cookies. Vintage glassware. None of which is exactly, umm, free.

The handsome man came home last and I was, well let's just say, very ready for him. That new lipstick and a couple of other purchases were put to good use. Ahem.

This morning I get a call from Riley,

" looks like you spent all of that cash...including the emergency money."

"Oh really? Hmm. Yeah...I must have."

"Ok. It also looks like you spent a good amount on the bank card."

"Oh yeah, I really did. Man. That got a little out of hand, didn't it?"

And then do you know what that lovely, tie wearing hunk of a man did? He laughed. I could give his fantastic character all of the credit for his equanimous reaction. Or I could give credit to last night.

I am going with last night.

Friday, March 11, 2011

What I Want Today and Donation Information

*info on donating to The Clouse Fire Relief Fund at bottom of page.

My favorite children's book is called, Heckedy Peg. It is a fairy tale of the Grimm variety and, at 5 years old, I thought it was positively adult. A poor hard working mother is raising her seven children on the outskirts of the local village. The children are named Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. On this particular day, the mother, so impressed with her hardworking babies, tells them that she will bring home anything they want from her daily trip to the market.

The children were overjoyed and knew exactly what they wanted. Monday asked for a tub of butter. Tuesday asked for a pocket knife. Wednesday asked for a china pitcher. Thursday asked for a pot of honey. Friday asked for a tin of salt. Saturday asked for crackers. And Sunday asked for a bowl of egg pudding.

The mother leaves for the market with one admonition,

" Now be careful, and remember - don't let a stranger in and don't touch fire." (I suppose all mother's worry about the same things, fairy tale or reality.)

As happens in these stories, a stranger does come along. An old woman, named Heckedy Peg. She tells the children she will give them a sack full of gold if they let her in and light her pipe. Surely, mother would not be angry at the children for disobeying her for a sack of gold! And so they do. Heckedy Peg, walks into the opened door, throws her pipe down and shouts,

"Now I've got you!"

And with that the witch turned the children into food. Monday became bread. Tuesday became pie. Wednesday became milk. Thursday became porridge. Friday became fish. Saturday became cheese. And Sunday became roast rib.

Heckedy Peg takes her moveable feast deep into the woods to her lair. Poor mother returns to an empty home. With the help of a talkative black bird, she makes her way to where the witch lives, still clutching the basket of gifts she purchased for her children. Heckedy Peg refuses to give up her beautiful spread without a fight.

The witch pointed to the table.

"Here are your children," she said. "If you can't guess them right the first time, I'll eat them for my supper."

The mother despaired. How would she ever know which food was which child? She looked into her basket,

Here are the things my children wanted, she thought, and now they will never have them...Suddenly the mother knew what to do. Taking the things from her basket, she said, "I know my children by what they want."

"Bread wants butter. That's Monday."
"Pie wants knife. That's Tuesday."
"Milk wants pitcher. That's Wednesday."
"Porridge wants honey. That's Thursday."
"Fish wants salt. Thats Friday."
"Cheese wants crackers. That's Saturday."
"And roast rib wants egg pudding. That's Sunday."

The children turn back into themselves and the mother goes on to chase Heckedy Peg to her demise. Off a bridge. Of course.

I have read this book to Zuzu a dozen times over the past few days. (She really likes my witch voice.) There is one line that gets me every time. "I know my children by what they want." How true is this? In so many ways we are what we want. Some days (bad, little days) I want smaller thighs, thicker hair and new jeans. Other days (better days), I want a little working garden and a pie baking in the oven. Then there are days (the best days), when I want exactly the life I have, the very moment I am in.

Today, I want to live in a world where tsunami's can't tear apart countries and families and hearts. A place where fires don't rage in quiet little homes. A world where we are all safe and happy.

We can be known by what we want, but we can also be known by what we do. Please help this family in the best way you can. Today, in a world struck by so much tragedy, it would be nice to know exactly who we are.

Donations can be sent to:

The Clouse Fire Relief Fund
Care of Bank of Landisburg
PO Box 179
Landisburg, PA, 17040

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Just a little help.

This morning I woke up ready to blog about a lovely little children's book and a lovely little girl.

It will have to wait.

Rather, I will take just a few lines to ask for your help. Late last night, a family in rural Pennsylvania was finishing a long day. The children were inside settling down for the evening, while the mother and father finished chores out on the land. Smoke began to fill the home and the three year old ran to the barn to get her mother. By the time they got back to the house it was already lit bright with flames. The firefighters came and were too late. Seven children were still in the building. They didn't get to come out.

I don't know this family, but I can't breathe again until I have done something to help them. Tragedy is constant and I have had to learn that I can't help everyone. There are things that we have to let go. I know that. However, I just can't let this one go. Seven caskets. How can any mother survive that?

I called the Pennsylvania State Police and spoke with Colonel Woodcock. He told me that a fund is going to be set up for the family in the next 24 hours. I will post all of the donation information as soon as I get it. This family is going to have to bury their children and rebuild their home, their lives, their hearts. I know that things are a little tough right now. None of us have much to give. However, this man and woman are a brother and sister we just haven't met yet. Their burden has become too much. We can help. Giving just the little you would have spent on Diet Coke's this week can make a big difference.

Let's lift them up, the best we can, together.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Punch! or The Night I Went Hungry

Saturday night I had tickets to the Punch Brothers concert in Ogden. Two precious slips of paper I kept track of for months. There were times when I was not sure where my wedding ring or my daughter was, but I always knew where those tickets were. Let's just say I was excited.

It was quite a night on the town. My skirt was a little short and my lipstick a little red. Riley looked, I will just say it, delicious. My Mr. Husband in his levi's just tight enough and tie just smart enough. The show was at the Peery Egyptian Theater, a gem from the 1920's wedged between empty buildings. It's exterior is all color, art deco, and heiroglyphs. We got to the theater hungry, an hour and a half before showtime. There were ten people in line. Riley seemed to think that meant we had time to get dinner. Cute. I knew it meant we were ten people later to the line than I hoped to be. I may have said, "Riley, we can ALWAYS eat. We can't always be 11th in line." Annoying, right? But the sweetie jumped right into line. Happily.

I pretended I couldn't hear both of our stomachs rumbling while we waited.

The inside of the theater is almost as fabulous as the outside. Gilded kitsch. The Peery Theater is one of only a handful of deco era theaters that still maintain an atmospheric ceiling. Their promotion of this is enthusiastic and extensive. And I quote, "with the flick of a switch, a daytime sky magically turns to nighttime, replete with twinkling stars." Sounds like the dining room in Harry Potter. The lights dimmed and the stars did twinkle. All four of them. I am sure it was very impressive in 1924.

The Punch Brothers took the stage and my heart. It is a group of five string instrument rock stars, representing the best of the fiddle, guitar, bass, banjo and one sleek little mandolin. Nattily dressed purveyors of a bluegrass/jazz/classical fusion that makes you want to dance, sing and create. Create anything! A story, a sonnet, a moment. The music worked its way into me until I felt that maybe I was made of the notes, maybe life is a symphony and maybe I am a composer. Riley and I kept turning to one another, smiling in amazement. What a lovely thing, a world in which noise can be bent and held and controlled until a song, rich and lasting, emerges. What a lucky thing that we get to be a part of it...together.

The show ended and we left happy and starving. Apparently, one can't "ALWAYS eat", as I so naively proclaimed. At least not in Utah. There is no such thing as a restaurant opened after ten between Ogden and Provo. Not even Chick-Fil-A.

The night that inspired also left me with a rumbling, hungry question. The same world that produced Chris Thile and his Bach playing mandolin cannot produce a local late night burger or carnitas taco. How is this blasphemy possible and how long can it stand?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Knock, knock.

Lately, we have been teaching Margaret to knock on doors. I suppose this seems an odd thing to focus on with a two year old. Especially a two year old that is still ignorant of many other two year old that we don't lick our friends on the cheek. I can pinpoint my passion for teaching the art of the door knock to a couple of Saturday's ago. Mommy and Daddy thought Margaret was busy watching a movie, so we went in our room for just a minute to get a little, ahem, busy ourselves. I am still laughing about the face Riley made when she threw our door open.

As with everything I deliberately set out to teach the girl (which is not much) she has learned with a seriousness that is far above her age. Heaven help the poor soul that opens a door without knocking first in Margaret's presence. The acceptable sequence is simple and unchanging.

Me: knocking on the door three times
Margaret:COME IN!
Door thrown open
Margaret: I SEE YOU!

I see you, too, baby girl.

A few days ago Margaret and I were having a jump party on my bed, she stopped and looked at the photographs and art hanging just above it. They are colorful and lovely, moments captured by my Dad in Hong Kong, bits and pieces collected from consignment stores and yard sales. The girl studied them for a bit and then began to knock on each one. Three times. Pause. Then move onto the next one. She was waiting for one of the world's inside the frames to shout "COME IN!" It was a lovely lesson. I could just see it in her eyes, "Mom, don't you know all you have to do is knock?"

The jump party continued and I couldn't stop smiling. I am going to throw open every door for that girl that I can.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Because gyms aren't embarrassing enough.

So when I am pregnant I cry. And cry. And cry. Nothing is too lowly for an outpouring of some serious emotion.

Fantastic performance on American Idol? Tears.

An episode of Antique Roadshow? Sniffle. Wipe. Sniffle. (okay, but I tear up with joy for those people even when I am not pregnant...)

The most humiliating moment by far (so far) happened while I was at the gym last night. Our Gold's Gym has a big movie room equipped with stationary bikes, treadmills and ellipticals. As far as I am concerned it is the exercise worlds' equivalent of the holy of holies. It is always dark, always chilly and sometimes they show movies with Robert Downey, Jr. That's right. Up to two hours of Mr. Downey while I am sweating for a better me? I, mean, if you insist. Yesterday was not a Robert Downey, Jr. day. It wasn't even a guilty-pleasure-I-swear-I-only-watched-because-it-was-all-they-had-on day (Every Jennifer Aniston movie, I am looking at you).

Yesterday was Inception day. It seems to me that I loved this movie in theaters. Yesterday, not so much. I made it to the part where Leo can't see his kids faces in his dreams.

And then I lost it.

Could you imagine? Not seeing your babies faces...not even in your dreams! Because this could all really happen, right? It is really only a matter of time before somebody figures out the science of extraction. IF THEY HAVEN'T ALREADY. And then what? We are all just supposed to go around having dreams where we can't even see our children? The ones we had to leave behind because their mom went crazy, killed herself and framed us for the murder? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO LIVE LIKE THAT?

It was all a little too much.

I had to hiccup back the sobs as I wobbled into the locker room. I think I will call and ask about the movie selections ahead of time from now on.

The Prodigal

The day is bright. Margaret is watching Enchanted and eating pretzels. I just finished a breakfast of egg-n-a-nest followed by a brownie chaser. Today won't be all movies and eating. We are going to the park, taking treats to friends and (finally) removing the last of our Christmas lights. Yeah. We are totally THOSE people. Although, I would keep Christmas lights up all year long if only Riley would let me. Oh...I am so oppressed.

I disappeared from my blog last week because I was oh-so-anxiously preparing a lesson for our stake Relief Society conference. I think it may have come together alright in the end. We discussed the concept of perfection. That to be perfect does not mean freedom from error, instead it is a matter of allowing the Lord to make you whole. That the Atonement is not the cherry on top of everything you should have done, could have done, needed to do, right. Rather the Atonement, in its incomparable grace, is everything. It is perfect, it is complete, and through it so are we.

As I prepared the lesson the parable of the prodigal son kept returning to my thoughts. I have always had a great love for this story. I suppose it because I understand that by nature of my mortality, I too, am prodigal and hoping to return home.

The parable is the story of a young man who asks his father for his share of his inheritance, receives it and then leaves home. He goes off "into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living." The far off country is struck by a "mighty famine", and the prodigal son begins to starve. He goes to work for a man of this country, and is sent into the fields to feed pigs. This tragedy of descent was immediately understandable to Christ's contemporaries. Under the mosaic law, swine were considered unclean, to be associated with them was to invite dishonor. The poor prodigal gives the swine their meal of scraps and in his hunger he wishes he could lay down and eat with them. It is at this moment that his fall is complete. The man that once had the audacity to demand his inheritance, had become the boy that could not have a pig's portion.

It is in this darkness that the prodigal son remembers his home. He says,

"How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants."

With this humble hope be begins his long walk home. "But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." And there, in all its poignancy, our Savior gave us one of the most hopeful sentences contained in any book of scripture.

"But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him..."

The prodigal son's father was watching for him. Hoping for him. Straining his eyes, looking to the horizon, waiting for the first glimpse of his returning son.

"...and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."

The distant form of his undeserving son appears against the sky and his father is moved not by a sense of justice or anger, rather he feels compassion. What majesty! The prodigal son began his return home aware of the consequences. He had brought dishonor upon his community and he knew that for this he could be greatly, painfully punished. His father knew this too, and so he runs to his son, robes gathered up in his hands, ankles exposed, his father runs to him without thought of self or dignity. He falls upon him and kisses him. This is not merely the greeting of a grieving father. It is an act of protection. The father casts himself upon his son and makes him his own again.

We all know the end of the story. The prodigal is brought home and restored to his father's house, he is given the robe, the ring, and the fatted calf. And there is joy, so much joy, for the son that "was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found."

I know our Heavenly Father is watching for us on the horizon. I know that all we need to do is begin our walk to Him, just take one little step, and He will run to us. He will run and fall upon us and kiss our necks.

We will be protected. We will be forgiven. We will be restored.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Until Tomorrow...

My lesson has been taught. My birthday has been had (26!). I am back amongst the living and blogging.

The birthday celebration thrown by Mr. Husband was lovely. There was sushi (cooked), some of the best baked goods I have ever had (check it out here), and the perfect gift...a camera (pre-ordered and to be delivered into my greedy hands the first of April.)

Happy girl.

I am going to head to bed and snuggle up the Mister. Will be back bright and early tomorrow to post some in depth happiness.