Isn't It Always The Little Things?

Good Sunday evening, friends.

In case you missed out, today was an INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL day. Knock-your-socks-off gorgeous. Full of all the things that are beautiful about living here: sunshine, warm air with a cool breeze, springtime singing in the air... Ahhh. Gloriousness.

It really is these little things that make me so grateful to be alive and able to enjoy what God has put in this world for us to enjoy.

So of course, we decided to go to a local nature preserve/park thing and take a good, long walk... Too perfect of a day not to, right? And it was... Just perfectly lovely.

First, just let me say that the "mountain," as KayKay called it, totally kicked my butt. But I'm glad for it,  because I definitely needed the exercise. Certainly *not* a little thing, but a good one, nonetheless.

We explored the lake and the trees and the rocks and looked for deer tracks and fox dens and chipmunk... Nests? Lairs? I don't know what they're called, but chipmunks are evil, and therefore it seems logical that they would have lairs. Although, I suppose a nest could be equally as evil and menacing, amIright? (In case I haven't mentioned it before, I used to think chipmunks were all cute and furry and adorable and "Awwww, wouldn't it be awesome to have a pet chipmunk?!?!" ... Until we had Chirpy the Chipmunk move in and CHIRP RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR WINDOW FOR HOURS - and I mean HOURS - EVERY FREAKING DAY FROM SPRING UNTIL WINTER. Chipmunk society as a whole is dead to me now. There could be a worldwide chipmunk extermination and I wouldn't bat an eye. Chirpy has ruined the whole species for me. The only enjoyment I get from them now is to imagine what one might taste like if properly stewed up.)

Anyway... Train derailed. MUST. GET. BACK. ON TRACK.

So. We had a fun, happy time.

We saw a turtle. (He chose to show us his butt. I guess turtles can be snooty sometimes.)

And we saw lots of trees. Dead trees. Live trees. LOTS of trees. Yay for trees! (I love them, really! Although I did *not* go about hugging them as the Ladybug did... I felt like it, though. Just... THAT HAPPY.) Anyway, I thought this log was pretty darn cool. I love moss, don't you? 

So we walked and walked and walked, and talked about the rocks and the trees and what if Reddy Fox lived under that fallen log? And Paddy the Beaver? I'll bet his dam is in the lake somewhere! And was that Sammy Jay I saw flitting through the trees over there? (We are very much into the books by Thornton W. Burgess  right now - they are wonderful stories with short chapters about a variety of animals. They have a definite Beatrix Potter-esque feeling to them, but also contain great - and often funny - moral stories that are perfect for young children. Both the girls have been enjoying them.) 

Then we saw this cute little guy, who wasn't doing much pecking, but was spending a lot of time calling. He doesn't have a name, because I don't know if Thornton W. Burgess wrote a story about a woodpecker. But that's okay, it was still a joy to watch him and listen to his quiet calls. I did not know woodpeckers had such soft, sweet calls. Simply lovely.                                                                                                                                                         There were about ten thousand people at the preserve today, but fortunately, up where we spent most of our time, there were very few people, so it was easy to imagine that we were (very nearly) alone in the woods. The Ladybug and I have started reading Little House In The Big Woods together, and I'm sure she was thinking of the description of the little house all alone in the woods while we were walking... She's quite taken with the story, and is insisting on reading large(r) chunks of it aloud to me, which of course, I am thrilled with! 
We also saw a few bright and happy little cardinals flitting about in the trees, although, rather disappointingly, no bluebirds this time. The last time we headed out that way, we saw a half-dozen of them, brilliantly, beautifully blue and so close we could almost touch them. But the red of the cardinals seemed to better suit the mood of today anyway: warm and bright and tinged with the fire of dancing sunlight and joyful skipping little girls.

On an aside, the trip uphill was the most exertion I've put forth in some time, and other than a large amount of huffing and puffing and feeling rather like a whale being unwillingly rolled out of its natural habitat, I also had an extreme drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia). I had specifically checked my blood glucose levels right before embarking on our little adventure, and had also made certain to throw a few extra carbs in my body beforehand without compensating for them with insulin... And still. A ninety-point drop in 45 minutes. That's pretty intense. Eeep!

Fortunately, we'd brought some snacks and had a little impromptu snack-stop at the top of the ridge. It was an amazingly beautiful few minutes... Just us - the Daddy, the girls and I - at the top of the ridge, overlooking the world (it seemed), surrounded by quiet winter trees and the calls of little birds, wrapped in the golden light of late afternoon, a cool breeze fluttering through the leaves as we shared grapes and bunny crackers and dried fruit. So many little things make those moments a shining memory in a corner of my mind.

At the end of our hike, we had a few minutes of fun for pictures while the Daddy was getting the car, so I snapped a couple of (as usual) silly shots... Because of course, no trip anywhere would be complete without my children showing THIS side of them... So I give you these:

We're thinking about making these a part of our next holiday card(s). What do you think?

And really... Isn't it always the little things that make life so tangled and glorious and gripping and beautiful? Those little moments of perfectness that drop into our laps - just waiting to be exclaimed over and remembered and tasted and lived? 

The One Where I Talk About The Little Things (Or, At Least, TODAY'S Little Things!)

Lemme tell you - you haven't truly lived unless you've seen a group of hairy, awkward men wearing ill-fitting red dresses saunter down the street. There may have been a few red-clad women in there, too, but it was the men in flowy skirts and the men in the mini-skirts that caught my attention. I mean, who doesn't love hairy legs and chest hanging out of a red Hawaiian-print dress, amiright?

You also haven't lived until you've had a pair of big, serious, six-year-old blue eyes announce to you that they need to drink more water because they're "not hibernated enough." We then had to have a conversation about the difference between hibernation and hydration. Just sharing that may be enough living for some of you.

Today has been a day of ordinary interestingness, like so many others... Well, except for the army of men in dresses. But yeah, otherwise... Relatively ordinary. Filled with hours of mostly meaningless tasks, punctuated by moments of brilliance and beauty and laughter, beginning and ending neither high nor low - just in the that place of routine normalcy.

I love it.

I hate it.

I love the rhythm. I love the pace of the days, and the patterns the weeks follow - in many ways constant - like the stars moving across the night sky, just as they have for thousands of years. I love the establishment of home and chores and routine (As best as a person like me can have one... I still struggle with remembering the day-to-day things that some people could do in their sleep. But that's another post entirely! And anyway, I love the routine such as there is.)... I love the movement of the hours, one into the next, the flow of time like water from one thing to another and yet another after that. I love the way our days make quiet moments, and happy moments, and sweet ones, and how I've learned that through routine, even hard days can become easier.

I hate the quickness of it all. I want to squeeze the life out of every moment lived, and I feel like half of the moments are gone before I realize that I haven't really even touched them. I want to hold every laugh, every breath, every giggle and innocent smile, and NEVER let them go. I don't want to lose them, and I do. Every. Single. Day. I hate the monotony, and how I let the days slip into weeks and SO MANY things are left undone and Facebook has just sucked the life out of an afternoon and where the HELL did all that time go?!?! I hate the promise of "Not now, honey, dinner/laundry/dishes/shopping have to be done before I can play with you." I hate the years that have rushed by and not even stopped to ask me what I thought of it all. I hate the decade that I've spent not achieving some stupidly easy goals that I set at the beginning of this century. I hate the time and it's passage. I just want to freeze NOW. To taste it and savor it and breathe it and feel it and record it.

I definitely have a love/hate relationship with time. Like a lot of other things. I have a love/hate relationship with quite a few things, actually. Like food. And exercise (Although that's really mostly a hate relationship at this point.).

Although I will say I definitely have a love/love relationship with indoor plumbing. The toilet is my friend. As are running water and long hot showers. I was *not* made for the days of chamber pots, thankyouverymuch. Nevermind the fact that I would probably have been born as a hideously poor servant and would be the person who had to EMPTY the chamber pots. *Shudder* No. No thank you.

But anyway. I digress. I guess this whole post got started when I was thinking over the day - and most of the last week - and realized that there wasn't really anything that I felt was extraordinary enough to write about. It was mostly just... Ordinary. As KayKay likes to say, she has an "extra-ordinary" life. More ordinary than most. Ha! Although I must disagree with that... With her, nothing is simply ordinary.

But much of today felt peripheral, tastelessly normal. Like so much of my life, it feels. I love it; my heart often longs for more quiet and rhythm (Which we've had some of lately.) than we seem to get... I hate it; I don't catch hold of the moments and DO the things that I really want to do with those moments.

It's a dichotomy of longing and fulfillment, of want and reality, of truth and desire. And I guess, herein lies the moment where I can find grace. And choose to do *more* with the minutes and hours I am given tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'm going to leave off with a little gem the Ladybug threw out at me today:

We were in the car, on the way to the store to pick up a few things, and out of nowhere, the Ladybug says, "Mommy, the whole world is like a big puzzle game to God."

I responded, "Oh, really? Like how?" And she said, "I don't know, it just is. All the things that happen are like a puzzle and God is playing with the pieces." (That last sentence is a paraphrase, I can't remember exactly how she said it, but it was something very close to this.)

To which I said, "Are you sure it's not a puzzle for us people because maybe we need to figure it out and God already knows it?"

And she answered, "No, it's not for us. The pieces are too big for us to figure out."

And I... Yeah. Mind = Blown. Wisdom from a six-year-old mind. Beautiful.

My Understanding of Winter


I've been thinking. (As usual.)

Been marinating in the idea of winter lately. For a good long while, actually.

Although it's been an exceptionally mild winter this year as compared to the last few, we are still in the midst of it - and the middle of an actual cold snap! - and I've been thinking about what winter truly means.

Winter is a season, of course. A space in which we live our lives differently than we do the rest of the year. A space for layering and bedding down and keeping the cold out and the warmth in. A space for times of great celebration and generosity and family gatherings... And all that those entail.

Winter is a time of death, waiting for its resurrection; of earth full of grief; of the laying down of life; of decay... As in the tale of Demeter and Persephone.

In my mind, winter has always been a time of waiting.

Waiting for the cold to end.

Waiting for the sun to come back.

Waiting for life to return to the rhythms we find through spring, summer and fall... Winter's rhythm has always found its place in waiting.

I know in some places - like my hometown of Miami - winter isn't much different than the rest of the year. Still sunny, still warm, the winter days are much like the summer ones, except it's slightly-less-than-hellishly-hot.

But here, things are different. There is a marked change of seasons that I love with every ounce of my soul. I love the marking of time through the seasons, and the movement of life. Such beautiful transitions.

But lately, I've discovered that my ideas are shifting of what winter really is.

We've spent some time outside recently, in the woods (Yes, there are woods in my urbanesque life!), and it was there that my thoughts really began to gel... Until then, I'd not really been able to put words to the feeling; it was just an odd sort of knowing that winter was MUCH MORE than I'd given it credit for.

I began noticing all the signs of life in the middle of these cold-barren trees, dead grass and sullen rains. In fact, the natural world was teeming with life. Not the vibrant, twittering, sunny glowing life of summer, no. No, this is a DIFFERENT sort of life. It holds the rich and earthy smell of moss and the color green.

Despite the snow (what little there has been) and leafless existence of the trees, now suddenly even the dirt looks alive to me... I hear the birds singing their winter songs and wonder, "Why has it always seemed so quiet before?" I watch the squirrels chase each other, flying through the trees, and think how happy they must be just to have another day. I uncover an earthworm quite by mistake and realize that its work is moving forward just as it had on those hot July days not so long ago.

So here I've thought all this time that winter was a time of dying before the act of truly living could begin... When instead, it's just been a different kind of living all along. One just as important, where we have to dig down deep into our roots to find the sustenance that we need to savor the moments before we burst into bloom.

I'm not in the space of the phoenix in death, waiting for its rebirth into the fiery glory of living, of spring, oh no. WINTER IS LIFE. Abundant, brilliant life.

A different kind of beautiful living, certainly. A different kind of life. But everywhere I look, I see it. I see life.

And that's the one I want to live. No matter what season I happen to be in.

So no more waiting. Time to jump in, eyes wide open.

It All Started With The Chicken Pox...

...And then ended up with me not writing on here for like... EVER.

So much has happened since I last posted, I don't even know where to begin!

Okay, so rather than starting at the beginning like a normal person (Because, since when have I ever claimed to be normal anyway?), I'm going to bounce around and give the highlights. Yay for highlights!

Okay, so beginning at the beginning, and a little backstory:

First off, you should know that in 30-odd years of living on this planet, I have never had chicken pox. I've been exposed to it FOUR TIMES. Never had it. Until the end of last April. *Sigh*

I got a cold. Mangy cold. Felt mangy for a week. Ugh. I hate colds.

Then, like four days into it, I start feeling better. Yay! Feeling better rocks!

Then two days after that... Life sucks. Sick again. But now, with rash. So now I have this weird (BUT NOT ITCHY) rash all over - but mainly on my face and torso. Crap. What gives?


Holy $%$#!!!


Seriously, I have CHICKEN POX? Who gets chicken pox as an adult???? Apparently, it's SO FREAKING RARE that I have to have like 3 doctors look at me to confirm. Rawr. The pox sucks.

*Sigh* Okay, whatever. I'm resigned. But now the HAZMAT suits have come out at home... See, the Daddy has never had the pox, either. And neither have the girls.

So, of course, the Daddy goes on Mommy strike. He wouldn't come near me in any fashion and I was relegated to the couch for almost a week. The children were quarantined and not to be touched by either of us, too (the Daddy wouldn't touch THEM because they had touched ME before we knew it was the plague).

The children decided to formulate their own version of the strike, namely by making signs: 

Their sign reads: "Do No Touch!! (Chicken Pock layed on it.)"
Note the fact that the exclamation points all have skulls and crossbones on them. I am now affectionately referred to as "Chicken Pock," among our family and friends, although fortunately the name seems to have started to fade. I'm sure righting about it will spark a revival, but whatever. I'm cool.

The pox, however, is NOT cool.

It was, though, overall, a very mild case of chicken pox, especially given the fact that I'd heard my whole life about how awful it is to have it as an adult. There was little fever or anything else, and mostly it was just the misery of being itchy and covered in blisters. Benedryl was my friend, let me tell you!

But in the midst of dealing with chicken pox, I was completely stressed out because the girls and I were leaving for Florida in just a couple of weeks and I wasn't sure if I'd be well enough to travel AND the fact that the girls had never had the pox, either and I was worried they'd get it... AND BESIDES all of that - I was going to a once-a-year conference that I had been committed to assisting with for months.

Whoa. Stress city.

But as it turned out, it was fine (well, mostly).

We left on a plane for Miami about two-and-a-half weeks after I first got sick, and I still had a few spots on my face (thank goodness for makeup!), but had been cleared by my doctor of being infectious. Yay!

So off we go, only allowed carry-on bags, for the first leg of what I like to call, Our Whirlwind Tour of the U.S. And it seriously was.

We were in Miami for a week before the conference, then the week of the conference - the girls were in a local summer camp program while I went to help out, and supposed to be there another week after the conference before heading off to the West Coast.

But then... Dum-dum-DUM... The last day of the conference, KayKay woke up with the pox. SERIOUSLY?!?!? According to everything I'd read and my doctor, there's only a 21-day incubation period, and that had been WELL over before the conference even started! But oh-no. She got it too, poor kid. So our last days in Miami were spent with a miserable kid and me apologizing a hundred times to everybody (Especially the summer camp with the 150-bajillion other kids that were exposed to her!!) because I honestly thought we were in the clear. Ugh.

But away we flew anyway, there was a wedding waiting and 30 hours in San Francisco wedged in there, too.

So, now back to highlights:

May, June and July were spent on the Whirlwind Tour with three-ish weeks in Miami, 30-ish hours in San Francisco, a week on the central Oregon coast, and five weeks along the California-Oregon coast. And two cases of chicken pox thrown in for good measure. Yes, the Ladybug got chicken pox, too. *Sigh*

Then back home for three weeks of August, just to head out again, this time to our lovely in-laws in central Florida and then back down to Miami again for the rest of September.

Whew! Are you exhausted yet?

Yeah. I was, too. It was great, but exhausting! We had a busy, busy, busy, BUSY year.

Fortunately, the chicken pox which started it all was pretty mild for all three of us, and the Daddy didn't get it at all (How unfair is that?!?!), and at least now we don't have to worry about getting it again.

But now I'm back! Let's get the party started back up! So much to tell... So little typing time.