Wednesday, December 29, 2010


photo credit: Amy Melious, Winter Branches 

As this year o'2010 draws to a close, I find myself in an even more reflective state than usual in this passageway between old year and new. I start December full of busy intention, then shed all but the most essential plans and expectations of self as the days whoosh by, leaving me bewildered as to how I once again ended up so unprepared for all the doing/making/buying/sending that is Christmas. Wasn't I going to start earlier, having learned my lesson from all the previous turbulent December rides?! Why is personal change so hard to enact? It's like trying to use the same materials to make two vastly different products, say, a sweater and a guitar.

But this holiday season has been different for other reasons. Reasons that dissipated all my busy intentions and blew them away like a snow swirl in a gale. This Christmas was no ordinary happy holidays. No, this Christmas was a time to mark the days leading up to an incredible woman's departure from this life. My husband's Aunt Faye was in the thick of being a vibrant, compassionate elementary school principal in a low-income school with a large population of non-native-English-speaking students. She had a dazzling smile, a hardcore work ethic, a keen intellect and a rippling laugh. She listened intently and was extremely intuitive and insightful. At Thanksgiving, she was diagnosed with an incurable, degenerative neurological brain disorder called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and by Christmas she had ventured from this life into new, uncharted territory beyond.

Along with the sadness and surrealism of witnessing an amazing woman's dying days and her family's and friends' sorrow, there is something else I feel. I feel enriched. Faye, at 60 years old, was working, living and loving passionately. She was giving life all she had and was inspiring people of all ages as she went about her days.

Her family, friends and colleagues gathered during a week that would normally be dominated by holiday preparations. In place of all that hustle-bustle, we sat.
We sat with Faye.
She could no longer speak, and the silence of sitting with Faye was profound. It left us with time to contemplate who she was while still in her presence, listening to her breathing, holding her hand. Each visitor who came and each story told about her added to the resounding consensus that she was extraordinary and beloved.

The vulnerability of her position touched me deeply. She couldn't make decisions, couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't eat or drink. I wondered if those who were charged with caring for her and making decisions concerning her felt humbled by so weighty a responsibility. It seemed like tenderly and gingerly caring for a very powerful, beautiful, rare bird that had been injured, with the uncertainty and hope that you were helping and not hurting, wishing she could tell you what she wanted, felt and needed.

Somewhere in the interlude of sitting in a room with Faye, when there was nowhere else to be but there, all of life was distilled down to what remains when there are no more plans and no more activity. I found that what remains are the transcendent properties of faith, hope and love, just as found in the biblical passage I Corinthians 13:13: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." Love carries the day and covers us when we are stripped bare.

This Christmas I was given the gift of this interlude, and I am enriched by the last hours I spent with Faye. Even in dying, she imparted something so deep and true that I hope to still be contemplating it when life resumes its usual distractions and demands. I hope it will anchor me and give shape and purpose to all I undertake henceforth. I am thankful for the time I had to keep vigil with Faye and her family and friends. I kept wondering why I was there, and I think I know now that it was for me to receive nourishment that can only be spiritually discerned and digested.

Faye, thank you for the gift of this interlude. May your life and your death continue to inspire and touch us. And may I seek more than just self-improvement or personal change; may I seek nothing short of transformation, the kind that radiates like your smile and ripples like your laughter.
photo credit: Amy Melious

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Bits of December

It's late o'clock, and I will have to peel my eyelids open in fewer than six short hours, but for the moment it feels good to be awake blogging by the soft white lights of Christmas by night. I can already smell the morning's coffee in my head, and I wish I could get started on it now. Thank goodness for the anticipation and comfort of morning coffee after the folly of staying up too late.

Here are some bits of December that I've enjoyed so far ...
 Father-son lumberjacks
 These two don't leave home without a football to toss.
 The Kickoff
 Hay bale snowman (only in Virginia!)
 Hauling the Catch
 Holiday party for Clayborne Education, waiting for invitees to arrive
 A busy elf
 "Have a peppermint."
(from my favorite girlhood books, the Anne of Green Gables series)
 The Life
(I envy the life my cat leads on a daily basis, and especially so on frosty, sleepy mornings when it would be sooooo very nice to stay curled up in bed.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Marshmallows Anyway

         Image taken from:
It doesn't take much for me to feel palpably discouraged. And I tend to blog when I'm down rather than when I'm up. Makes for a pretty uninspiring blog if you ask me! This is really not the stuff of public consumption. It's more like a therapeutic journal entry. Tonight I feel derailed by trying to limit my son's computer and video time while doing things together like decorate the Christmas tree and make tissue paper flowers to bring cheer to a dear relative who is very ill in the hospital. The discouragement set in when my brand-new strand of twinkle lights turned out to be defective. Half the strand lights up with a cheery twinkle and the other half is dark and dead. There's no use decorating a tree without working lights. No use making hot chocolate and trying to create a festive atmosphere for an aborted evening of decorating. Besides, my husband is out working so it's just Knox and his tired mom to make merry.

So we moved on to the tissue paper flowers. Happy, cheery and bright, right? Except that after diligently cutting out tissue paper squares of all colors, I discovered that I didn't have the beads or the pipe cleaners needed to assemble the paper bouquet. So instead, Knox is watching a DVD after I had already given him extra computer time while I talked to a long-distance friend. And I am pondering how quickly discouragement can set in and how little it takes to deflate me until my spirits have all the oomph of a limp, sagging balloon. Creating an atmosphere and keeping it all going (the laundry, the dishes, the meals) is hard work. I'm discouraged by the setbacks and the sink full of dirty dishes as my energy wanes and the evening's intended cheer has been dampened.

But Knox just asked for hot cocoa with marshmallows anyway. He doesn't need everything to be just so. There's no valid reason in his book why we can't go right ahead and have hot cocoa and marshmallows anyway. What better way to cheer up a dull evening? Enjoy some marshmallows anyway! Pile them high! Maybe I need that little child of mine to show me the way sometimes more than he needs me to make everything as wondrous as a storybook or a catalog page or someone else's blog ...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Murphy's Oil Soap Kind of Day

It's a domestic, Murphy's Oil Soap kind of day here at Chisholm Place. I did some actual hands-and-knees scrubbing of my kitchen floor. That's a mighty rare occurrence 'round these parts. The soft lemony smell of Murphy's Oil Soap makes it worth it--domestic aromatherapy. I also take a certain satisfaction in aggressively rubbing out spots and blemishes; insert Lady MacBeth quote here: "Out, out, damned spot!" I'm taking this wee blogging break to connect myself to the millennia of women who have kept their homes and done domestic labor. It's never-ending. My home will never be as shiny and dust-free all at one time as I would like, but at least I'll have one or two places to look that are cleaner than they were before. It's all about the psychological editing and cropping of the view. And at least the Murphy's Oil Soap makes it smell clean! My boys are out buying twinkle lights for the Christmas tree, so I'd better get back to my domestic chores before they return and the decorating begins!
P.S. These vintage housewives smiled incessantly while scrubbing filth.
I listen to music and sigh and groan a lot. ;-)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Too Busy (and Tired) to Blog!

I hate the "I'm so busy" truism that most of us are afflicted with in modern life, so I've tried to make mine original by saying: "I'm uncomfortably busy right now." What I'm actually trying to convey with this little phrase is that I don't want to be so busy and that it is uncomfortable and that it's only right now--it's not a perpetual state that I will choose to remain in. It's right now while my husband's new office space needs attention to be ready for business. It's right now while we enter the holiday season. It's right now while so many good things to be involved in doing sprang up so quickly that I'm left with not even enough time to go out and buy the new shoes that I badly need. I'm not talking about a stereotypical woman's love affair with shoes. I'm talking about my shoes are so old that rainwater seeps into them, that one pair fell apart completely, and that my feet are sore every night in exaggerated ways. I'm talking about actually needing new shoes, not just coveting them!

I love my therapeutic exercise of blogging and I hope to have more time to do it soon, and more nights that I'm not drooling on my pillow by 9:30pm. But blogging, like Facebook, is something that I can put aside when my days are full up. I've drafted posts in my head, like I've drafted thank you notes and birthday cards that have never seen a stamp or envelope. I do, however, manage to keep up on my favorite blog (SouleMama) and squeeze in a few visits to a couple others (recently, LifeInGrace and Monked&Fifed) in the beloved blogosphere. I love SouleMama for many reasons, but one of them is that there is a rhythm and a schedule to her blog, so I know that Fridays will simply be a photo of a special moment, the weekends feature her sponsors and their giveaways, and M/T/W/Th will be snapshots of her life of home, family, farm and craft. Blogging really takes time, and those who do it regularly are truly committed to it. I admire them and love to read their blogs, but I honestly wouldn't want to manage a much-visited and commented-upon blog. But, as an acquaintance in high school commented once when I said I couldn't imagine being a supermodel: "Oh, Sara, you'll never have to worry about that!" (It was funny, honest and a little mean.) I like that my blog is quietly waiting here for me when I get the urge.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Big, Happy Exhalation

     Somewhere on this playground behind my house, my son and his playdate are playing at this very moment while I sit on my back deck that overlooks the park, keeping one eye on them and the other on my laptop. I am exhaling deeply and happily as they play outdoors together without me! No waiting to exhale, although I am wondering if this miraculous event might be interrupted at any moment. Could it be that I am entering a new era wherein Knox plays with an age-mate in ways that don't involve mom??!!
     This half-hour is the longest Knox and a friend have ever gone without my involvement. This strikes me as so natural and healthy. It's the way my childhood was. I played for hours on end with my neighborhood girlfriends, outdoors and indoors, without any direct participation from our mothers. We even got our own snacks and drinks, as I recall. Perhaps they occasionally served a snack or procured some material we needed for our play, but we were blissfully self-sufficient for the most part, unless my childhood memory distorts the truth.
     I so want to raise a child who has the wherewithal to play with his friends unassisted and unrefereed. I want him to know the boundaries like I did as a child, and to have instinctive good sense about people to avoid or when to holler for mom. I remember when I was in second grade that my school in San Diego had a half-day each week, and my friends and I would walk unaccompanied across a major intersection to the Carl's Jr. fast food joint at the top of our street. We ordered our lunches and ate together, completely unchaperoned. We were allowed to walk without parents to Baskin-Robbins or the drugstore ice cream counter. I even walked two miles to a gift shop with a friend at age 8. We never went out of bounds or encountered any problems whatsoever. I knew to get away from any adult who made me uncomfortable for any reason, and I did have to do that on a few occasions throughout childhood.
     It will be interesting to navigate a shift toward more independence with my now 6-year-old son. I tend toward hovering and protecting, but right now I'm enjoying hovering from a safe distance and allowing both him and myself to taste some very healthy, happy freedom!

Thursday, October 07, 2010


I have an obsession. I'm obsessed with SouleMama's blog and the spaces she creates. I know I'm not alone in this because she (Amanda Soule) has thousands of devoted blog readers who have an emotional and visual connection to her blog because it feels like coming home to a place you love and want to be. I have collectively spent hours and hours reading and studying her blog and the comments people leave there. She reliably warms, soothes and inspires people with the way she lives her life as a nature- and beauty-loving creative mama. She uses her blog to focus on all the good and beautiful favorite things and moments in her family's world. She's extraordinary. Off the charts, really.

I come away from reading her blog wanting to be just like her and wishing I could go spend a week in her home. I would so happily follow her around all day and night (as I get the impression she stays up late sewing, knitting, writing, or painting and decorating her new farmhouse).

She reminds me of one of my favorite people on the planet, my friend Lauren, who similarly creates beautiful art and spaces and loves her children, friends and family well. Both women cook and craft and love nature. I have happily followed Lauren around her space and her family many times, just perfectly content to be with her in her world--a world where life is beautiful and children's hearts and creativity are cherished. It's not a world where no one cries or disasters and disappointments don't happen--they do, daily-- it's a world where these extraordinary women never allow life's stresses and strains to in any way slow them down or stop them from seeing life as beautiful and making it more beautiful for everyone in their life. They are forces of energetic creativity and love. They are as productive as I am lazy! They are as highly motivated to make things for people as I am to sit and read a book or browse the Internet. ;-)

The key here for me is not to fall into despair and discouragement that my life and my space don't resemble theirs. The key is to realize that people inspire others by living fully and richly their own lives in whatever way comes most naturally. I'm thankful to have so many inspiring guides and fellow travelers.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I've been listening to an audio recording of E.B. White reading his "Charlotte's Web" with Knox and my nanny kids, so the Goose's manner of speaking is rubbing off on me: Oh, how quickly ickly ickly my days slip away from me! They just slip slip slip away from me!

My new schedule with Knox in school and me working part-time feels very fragmented. I suddenly have more free hours during the week, but they fill up so quickly with household work and errands, exercise, volunteering, and the occasional meet-up with a friend. There are too many good options! I feel more stress and am more tired than I was when all my days were spoken for with being at work. That seems so silly--extra time? Ohhhh, how stressful! When I'm at work, I crave this extra time and envy those who have it. But I forget that work removes options and imposes limits in a way that can be helpful to the brain. You can't fit anything else into those hours, which allows you to focus on the immediacy of the job. It also assuages guilt and gives you a valid reason (excuse?) for not accomplishing the other things on your list: I worked today. With me and my free time, how do I explain to myself why my house is still messy and I still haven't unpacked the rest of the boxes? All I can say is that I had time but I didn't get to it because I was busy doing other stuff.

I don't like fragmentation, on the job or off. I'm not a proficient multitasker. My days are suddenly so fragmented that I'm experiencing some adjustment pains. I've been falling asleep at 9:30pm, unable to keep my eyes open even for reading or watching something or surfing the 'Net. And I'm desperate to go to the chiropractor to relieve all the tension in my neck, shoulders and back. Man, free time is stressful and exhausting!  ;-)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Cosmic Gesture of Creation

    The video below, called "On Handwork," speaks to me and I want to save it and share it here in my blog repository. I found it on the Rhythm of the Home blog. While I am not a knitter, I appreciate Renate Hiller's ancient wisdom and the calm, centered solidity of her voice, her movements and her conviction. I have certainly noticed that children gravitate toward practical work and skillful making when it is available to them. My son will gravitate toward a video game or television when it is available, and I want to exert the effort to make handwork available to him. One of our best family moments all summer was when we assembled our new deck furniture together. We didn't skillfully make furniture, but the act of working together on a practical project was satisfying and fun. Knox was completely engaged in the labor and enjoyed working with his hands and the tools.
    I also love her introduction about the spiral being a cosmic gesture of creation.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Birds and the Grasshoppers

(image of mating grasshoppers courtesy of
    Yesterday I was playing outside with the little girl I nanny (I'm a nanny to a sweet brother-sister duo) when I noticed two large grasshoppers assuming THE position on her potted mum. I called her over to check out the grasshoppers up close. We get excited about our nature sightings--butterflies, birds, worms, caterpillars, deer, squirrels--and grasshoppers are rare. After a moment, she had to ask the question I was hoping wouldn't come up: What are they doing? It was literally my birds-and-the-bees moment, only substitute grasshoppers. I didn't feel it was my place to provide full disclosure about reproduction. I dodged the question and proposed that perhaps they were resting? They were quite still for two grasshoppers getting it on, after all. 
    I told her dad when he got home about what we saw and how I handled it. He told his daughter the grasshoppers were makin' babies! He also suggested that they were "being friends." I liked that one. I'll tuck that away in my Good Answers for Good Questions file. 
    When I left their house two hours after first catching the grasshoppers in the act, I felt compelled to go see if they were still there. Not only were they still doing it, but there was a third grasshopper watching and waiting in line! Kinky stuff, this grasshopper mating business! It was a day I sincerely regretted not having my camera handy. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

perfect lullaby::The Parting Glass

I should really just let this lullaby sing for itself. There's nothing I can add to it through my words. It's perfect all on its own. I am listening to it again and again as it melts away the noise and tension of the day and carries me soothingly, driftily, soul intact, to sleep. May it soothe and enchant you at whatever time of day you chance upon it. (I do wish they had just walked silently offstage at the end and not broken the spell they cast.) 
The full lyrics of this Irish folk tune, "The Parting Glass," are printed for you below. (The Wailin' Jennys omit the last stanza.) Goodnight ... and joy be with you all.

The Parting Glass

O, all the money e'er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm that ever I've done,
alas it was to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit
to mem'ry now I can't recall;
So fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be with you all.
O, all the comrades e'er I had,
They're sorry for my going away.
And all the sweethearts e'er I had,
They'd wished me one more day to stay.
But since it falls unto my lot,
That I should rise and you should not,
I gently rise and softly call,
Goodnight and joy be with you all.
If I had money enough to spend,
And leisure time to sit awhile.
There is a fair maid in this town,
That sorely has my heart beguiled.
Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips,
I own, she has my heart in thrall;
Then fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be with you all.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Humboldt Hippies (or Shiny Happy People, Everywhere!)

 I recently traveled to northern California for my brother and sister-in-law's post-wedding bash. They married in impromptu fashion in New Zealand, too far for most friends and family to travel. They've since settled down with their young son and a couple horses in Arcata, which is a small, coastal town five hours north of San Francisco. Arcata boasts Humboldt State University, and more pot, dreads and underarm hair per capita than most places. For my debut visit, I considered wearing a tee shirt that said I BELIEVE IN SHAVING, but I didn't know if the locals would appreciate my humor or understand my goodwill toward woman--shaved or unshaved.

The post-wedding bash took place on an organic farm in Willow Creek, which is 45 minutes over the mountains from the coast. The farm overlooks the Trinity River, so the backdrop for the weekend was river, mountains, Douglas firs, wildflowers and blackberry bushes. The farm even boasts a bear, who was very polite and did not crash the party. The friends camped and the family members stayed in gorgeous cottages nearby. We rafted, feasted, danced, ate fresh farm-grown food (and cardamom ice cream!), and made merry.

My brother and his wife are outdoorsy and nature-loving, and all their friends are too. I spent the weekend with people who truly love and care for the earth and each other. They are herbalists, landscapers, musicians, artists, yoga instructors, teachers. One friend strummed a guitar and sang countless folk tunes by heart under the trees on Sunday morning while we ate blueberry pancakes cooked on an outdoor stove. It was an amazing weekend, some close calls on the river notwithstanding. (I learned that I should never, ever jump out of the raft in the middle of the rapids to try to rescue my mom, who went overboard! She and I both survived the incident, thanks to my raftmates who hauled me back on board, and to Kai, a river god who kayaked against the current to rescue my mom, who was clinging, petrified, to the riverbank!) A flurry of photos follows...
My beautiful sister-in-law, the bride, flippin' blueberry flapjacks
My "little" brother and my mom--river rafting survivor!
The photos that follow are of the amazing artichoke. I was sooooooo excited to stumble upon artichokes growing in the flower garden. I grew up eating them, dipping their leaves in melted lemon butter and running my front teeth along their meat, but I had never seen them before they landed in the bins at the grocery store. They're so beautiful in the garden!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Oh, how I wish I were blogging to say that I've done some summer nightswimming recently, but no. That would be rather too much excitement in my humdrum, utterly ordinary days as a mom and nanny. I've done a hefty dose of dayswimming at the city pool this summer, but that's a topic for another blog post. The city pool is where I ponder economics, poverty, obesity and the summer camp/day care situation. I hope there are teenagers doing some carefree nightswimming in some nearby swimming hole tonight. I would join them if they invited me.

The nightswimming I'm referring to is an R.E.M. song. It's been playing on my mental soundtrack lately. I wonder if the human brain feeds on certain melodies for a purpose. I swear that I've been craving the sound of this song like one might crave a particular food. Do I have a key-of-F deficiency, or are my levels of acoustic sonority dangerously low? It has repetitive melodic phrasing, according to Pandora. I do respond to the repetition. It's soothing. Whatever the reason, I can't get enough of this song right now. I'm playing it on constant repeat as I write. It's relevant to my topic, which is blogging.

Blogging is a strange exercise. There are so many blogging moms now. Most of them are also crafting, photographing and unintentionally making you feel like a chump for feeding your kid McNuggets on a once-weekly basis as they post their "In My Kitchen" or "In My Garden" photographs and recipes. They're baking bread and crushing their garden-grown mint and basil with mortar and pestle. They're freezing their cubes of pesto and canning their fresh-picked berries for winter. I drool over the photos of their fresh food while I open the box of Triscuits and a container of applesauce and consider my son fed.

I realized that, like my affinity for the song "Nightswimming," my affinity for blogging involves chords of wistfulness and sadness. I often write when I'm tired. I write when I'm feeling a bit low, or when I want to work through something in my head--something that is bothering me perhaps. This is not the stuff of blogs! But I enjoy this bit of writing. I like that I get to sit down and see what spills out. I like immersing myself in writing and looking up words like "affinity" and "chump" to make sure they mean what I think they mean. I like forming semi-coherent thoughts on a subject. It's completely unlike anything else I do during the day!

This is not the inspirational mom blog with the amazing photographs and the mouthwatering food. And that's not what I'm going for. There are so many wonderful blogs that already do that. (See my blog links for a few examples.) This is just my space to write whatever I feel like writing when I have the time to sit down and do so. I DO happen to have a photo of a baby calf's nursing bottle on a windowsill, taken at a very idyllic farm yesterday, so that makes me feel too legit to quit just yet. ;-) BUT the photo is in the camera of the family I nanny for, so it will be a bit before I get to post it. And that's par for my blogging course.


a completely unrelated photo of some very happy piglets, who might benefit from some nightswimming after a long day of lounging in the dirt at the county fair

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Never (ever)

It's so humorous that ever since I wrote the blog post about Yoga Home & Life, my mind, home and body have been the opposite of balanced, calm and synergized. I have felt physically and emotionally crappy. I've been angry, irritable, frustrated, and yearning for quiet and escape. I've been crabby to children and have felt utterly crushed by the weight of responsibility and Things To Do.

I haven't exercised in weeks. That might account for 80% of the problem. I should stop writing mid-sentence and go do that, but I want to write these thoughts before the feel-good endorphins kick in and alter my entire outlook and energy level. (Why am I still sitting here when I could be altering?!)

Life will never (ever) be the neatly packaged thing I want it to be. I like my towels folded and stacked perfectly. My husband just very helpfully folded a load of towels and they weren't the precise packages I need. I will refold them. I can't let it go. I have a compulsion to have control over at least the towels in my life. I should do something else with the 5 minutes he saved me, but I will be happier with towels that live up to my precision specs.

I will never fit into each day the things I want to, need to or should fit in. I will encounter daily snafus in multiple areas. I will not become as knowledgeable on a wide variety of topics as I want to be. I will not see all the films or read all the books or listen to all the music or travel to all the destinations I want to explore. I will not write all the letters or send all the gifts I want to. I will not have the taut, toned body I dream of. My house will not look like I want it to. I will not suddenly become a prolific writer or quilter or gardener or actress or do-gooder. I will not be the epitome of anything. I will be like every other person on the planet, strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage, or traversing the "vicissitudes of life," as my dad always says.

My husband and child are about to burst in the door with their noise and needs and commotion. I am not ready to receive them. I want hours upon hours of quiet and time alone, but that's not the life I have. I need to accept that life will almost never feel just exactly how I want it to. If I could just get that through to my feeble, wish-deluded brain, then maybe I could really enjoy the messy, imperfect, incomplete thing this life is--it's like trying to sit and enjoy dinner and a sunset over glistening water with a hemorrhoid, mosquitos and severe food allergies.

While writing this post, I burned the dish I was making to bring to our church group tonight. I will now have to go to the store and start over.

And I will feel so infinitely, temporarily better about all of this in 40 minutes after I oxygenate my cells and flood my body with endorphins from exercise!

(My laptop is broken and I'm unable to access my photos just now, so I'm going imageless, except for my mental image of sitting in the perfect spot and trying to enjoy it while dealing with hemorrhoids, mosquitos and an allergic reaction to the meal.)

Thursday, July 29, 2010


It's possible to be boring at any age, but there's something particularly depressing to me about middle-aged boring people. Maybe it's my fear of becoming one of them. Or my concern that if they haven't become interesting yet, they may never get around to it.

I was sitting in my local bagel shop eating lunch with Knox today and eavesdropping on three boringly dressed and boringly accessorized middle-aged women conversing, and I thought: "Man, adults are so boring." One woman was telling her lunchmates about so-and-so's divorce and Catholic annulment and how she was trying to piece it together from snippets on Facebook and texting someone's brother. It was neither juicy like a novel nor sad like something closer to home; it was just boring. The only mystery involved was trying to figure out why the marriage needed to be annulled--turns out the Catholic partner wanted to remarry. No discussion of civil and religious marriage laws ensued. The conversation didn't lead to any heated debate on same-sex marriage. No one volunteered that they had had a huge crush on their priest when they were in high school and still felt guilty for trying to flirt with him. They just sat there next to their boring, middle-aged handbags and moved on to talking about contractors for home renovations.

I was so glad when at that point Knox stuck his fingers up my nose to liven up my lunchtime, then told me I looked weird wearing my stupid Nantucket cap. I don't think you have to live an exciting life to be an interesting person. I want to practice the art of conversation and perhaps learn a thing or two from the stage so that I can be in character as an interesting person so that when I am lunching with the ladies, the lone mom eavesdropping on my conversation won't be relieved when her child does something obnoxious simply because it breaks up the boredom of overhearing me talk.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Yoga Home and Life

I realized tonight as I moved through my home that it feels a bit like a yoga studio to me, in the best sense. Certainly the hardwood floor area would be perfect for practicing yoga poses. It feels open, uncluttered and light. Even while littered with boxes, its bones and spirit are open and uncluttered. It is meant to be a clean, simple space that feels good to be in. I want to respect its nature by allowing it to be light both in feel and visually. I want to be sure it doesn't groan with excess and heaviness or become defaced by clutter and dirt. It has so much peace and restoration to offer its inhabitants if I work with it and not against it. It is my yoga home. Yoga stretches and poses create space in the body and allow the body to correct itself and bring mental and physical
and peace.
I want my home to be a space that has that same effect on my family and our visitors.

I also want to live more of a yoga life when it comes to taking care of children and interacting with people generally. Yoga requires concentration and quiet strength to move the body so fluidly. What if I set my mind to offering quiet strength and gentle respect to my son and the children I nanny? In yoga you soften your breath. What if I softened my voice when I speak to children? Yoga encourages practicing a gentle gaze (drishti). What if I practiced having a more gentle gaze upon children in their worst moments to help them find their balance again? What if I concentrated on these yoga extrapolations throughout the day, like changing and holding yoga poses, according to the moment? What if I were more gentle to myself and the people around me--less full of cursing and griping--by practicing physical and spiritual inhalation and exhalation? What if I could be just a little bit more open and alive every day?

photo credit:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Neighborhood Exploration

One of my very favorite cheap thrills in life is exploring on foot. I love a good meander.
You never know what you're going to discover. My previous neighborhood was wonderful for walking. There were so many interesting houses and gardens to look at. I love the little touches that make a home: an inviting porch, a lovely potted plant, old architectural details, a bit of scrollwork, a flourishing garden.

I was concerned that I would not enjoy walking in my new neighborhood, so I was thrilled when my first exploration on foot yielded more than I could have imagined. This is one quirky little section of the city! Here's a sampling of my new 'hood. (I'll probably have a Part 2 to this post.)

At the intersection of 18th St. is Short 18th!
I love arts & crafts style, especially nestled so cozily, though if it were mine I would lose the front bush to show off my arts & crafts porch!
A large cemetery 
where laid to rest are Lively 
and Quick
(thought I'd throw in a little cemetery humor)
Our neighborhood is in the old Woolen Mills section of the city, where several mills were established and operational in the late 1700s and throughout the 1800s.
an old church established for the mill workers and their families
(it still holds Sunday services)
a funny garden goddess statuette
I am equally excited by dream homes and abandoned, dilapidated structures.
a pretty dreamy home with mountain backdrop and lovely garden
an old factory chimney?
railroad bridge
And lastly, one of many modern designs in the neighborhood.
I'll have to do a post some time of all the mod houses because there's an interesting group of architects who chose this neighborhood to place several of their very contemporary designs.

Can you believe all of this is in the same area within a 15-minute walk of my house? It is so very quirky.
I love that!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Reality, or Woe Is Me

UGH!! This is my environment right now. And there's more in the bedrooms and bathrooms! It's awful. I don't remember unpacking being this bad before. Have I forgotten, or is this time just worse? We got rid of lots of stuff, but we are still way overloaded. And this is a small home. There's nowhere to escape our stuff. It's everywhere! I bet I could take any 10 full boxes to the dumpster and hardly miss whatever is in them. My goal for today is to stack boxes and clear surfaces before despair sets in! 

I flipped on NPR and "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" is on. Everyone's laughing hysterically, and it is truly medicine. It's making me feel better just listening to people laugh. I need a steady diet of comedy to listen to while I slog through the unpacking until things begin to take shape here. Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to unpack I go!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Facelifts and Fresh Starts

I've digitally unearthed and dusted off the old Knoxlife blog and given it a facelift. I had let it languish for almost three years--half of young Knox's life! I've also renamed it; it is now Chisholm Place Chronicles, in honor of our new nest on a street called Chisholm Place. It's such a sweet little street, and we're so happy to be here, where light streams in the windows. It makes life seem full of possibility, and this blog is where I plan to chronicle our life happenings. The Chronicles of Chisholm Place ... surely that holds as much possibility as "The Chronicles of Narnia" or "Chronicles of Avonlea"? :-)
It's nice to think so, anyway.

I'm expanding the scope of the former Knoxlife blog to be more of a personal space for me to write and post things. I seem to crave a space beyond the confines of Facebook--a place to publish unobtrusively in whatever way I wish; a space where people can choose to visit (or not) of their own accord. But I do want this renovated blog to be a useful place for far-flung family and close friends to check in on Knox and his parents when they want to.

Hooray for digital facelifts and fresh starts!

Knox and his new next-door neighbor running gleefully through the empty house
while the grownups conferred about boring things like filters and spare keys

Open floor plan (before we backed the moving dump truck in to unload our STUFF)

Summer swingin'

Ahoy there, cap'n!
Knox on a boat ride at the Outer Banks in North Carolina

An interlude to concentrate on BrainQuest in the ship's hold

My other favorite passenger, Luke, the old sea dog

A shot I took from the boat of the sun and dramatic clouds at sunset

Knox cutting up for the huge wall of scrolling photos at the Pittsburgh Children's Museum