Thursday, August 3, 2017

Life vs. Mountain Biking

Mountain biking here in our neck of the woods means hitting the world class single track through the old mining land of Cuyuna. The dirt is red iron ore, so a ride in the Cuyuna Recreation Area is referred to as "shredding the red." Bless. The deep lakes (made decades ago by mining iron ore) are clear as glass, surrounded by evergreens, making the water look like a magical fairy land. And naturally, moving the dirt formed great hills beside these plunges, creating a unique landscape. It's a fearsome thing to behold. (You can read more about the rich history and a community revived here.) Every time I'm in those woods feeling that rush of balance and speed and presence of mind, I can't help but think of the parallel between biking and life. Here:

  • Come prepared with the proper gear for safety and survival. There are specifics for biking (helmet, padded shorts, water bottle, tools), and life (Jesus). But there's also the common necessity: a group of friends who know where you are and will encourage you, helping you back up when you crash (the crash is inevitable). 
  • Remember the past/what you've passed, but DON'T LOOK BACK. Looking back can mean instant disaster for you and the friend following you. The friend in front of you will have to stop their own progress, back-track, all because you weren't attentive to the right thing. But don't feel bad! Your friends have messed up too. But hopefully you're all learning and leaning in.
  • Look ahead- but NOT TOO FAR AHEAD. Have an idea of what lies farther up the path, but don't focus on it. Pay closest attention to the here and now.
  • Learn from other riders/life-livers, but don't expect your bike/life to take the same bounce as the next person. Your own particular path won't be exactly the same as anyone else's, but that's fine! It's necessary, actually, and will make for the most interesting ride. 
  • Train expectantly. Your training will help guide your thoughts and actions in a smooth, methodical way. Not to say there won't be unplanned difficulties, but if you expect the unexpected, you won't be surprised when it's tricky. Or when it's fun.
  • Recognize and appreciate mercy. There will be danger, but there will also be piles of close calls that, in hind-site, have your guardian angel's finger prints all over. Be in awe of those moments. Grace is amazing.
  • Be teachable. Hearing advice or correction with openness, humility, and discernment will grow your character- after all, God uses people to be his voice so often, it'd be a shame to form a critical response habit and miss solid tips on magnifying your adventure.
  • Rest reverently. Even if you're on a mission to shred the red, stop at the top of Yawkee trail, look out over the water, reflect long enough to be awe-struck by our huge God. There are many moments in our daily living that we often miss because we're on a get more done, to read one more chapter, to watch one more episode. Rest is SO DIFFICULT for me. I am a doer. But I want to learn to be a rester too. Using rest to refocus is a way to sharpen our senses, make us grateful, and ultimately draw out reverence for our Savior, Creator of the Universe.
Happy Trails!

Monday, January 30, 2017


Oh Friends. So many subjects flashing through my brain these days. I tried to have a conversation with Andrew about current events, but it was a fragmented and confusing monologue (sorry dearest).

I deleted Facebook from my phone (not to be dramatic! to make room for more photos! Look out world- more iPhotography coming your way soon). But I don't know that I'll go back to FB-- let me tell you about my social media feeds lately. They're the worst. If I see one more post of belief declaration- mama gonna lose ho mind. Though I do love a set of strong beliefs, I don't necessarily want to see them flaunted all over the WWW. While rallies and marches are empowering for the people present, the people who didn't go and didn't hear the real words and tones and feels aren't necessarily motivated by it. Not that that's true for everyone, but when it comes to controversial issues the internet is typically not the best outlet. "I'm marching for my daughter, nieces, etc." Explain. What I've heard and seen is so disturbing I can't imagine you had a child in mind while you were holding that sign or wearing that hat. I think what gets me the most is the underlying angst behind so many people's soap boxes. I hear equality while people are holding signs glorifying vulgar language that pushes them further out in left field. My kids can read and if they see your poster I'm going to have to remove their eyes. Can our beliefs come out publicly through our actions more and our words less? Because the words that are being used...tell me you're angry at people who don't think the way you do. But I bet that's not the message you're trying to convey. We want to empower and be ambassadors for ourselves and our causes, but sometimes the trade off is further segregation. I understand not having the right words to match your passion. E'r day sister. Even now... So let's shut up and ACT. By act I mean actually do a good deed, not get high on a feeling while walking with strangers.

On the subject of womanhood: A beautiful movement I've been able to be a part of that encourages and empowers me to be the best and do the best is a book club called Well-Read Mom. A book club? Be serious. I am! The mission of this organization is to provoke and encourage deep thinking and searching while adhering to Christian values and the truths of Scripture. You guys. I have been challenged and stretched and humbled and found such confidence in my calling as a woman through the books that we read and the women I've been able to grow closer to through our monthly discussions. The group's founder started with a vision of seeing mothers be able to reach a depth of relationship and imagination through the theme of Pope John Paul II's letter to women in which he encourages us to be better wives, friends, daughters, sisters, workers. Our most recent book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, has been eye-opening for me. Have you read it? The character that is built through hardship is so moving and makes me wonder if I take advantage of hardships in my life as a means to deepen my faith, or do I hold my breath until it's over?

On the subject of others: The other day Oliver started memorizing a poem for school written from the perspective of a former slave, right after the Civil War. When he got done with his first reading, Georgi said, "I'm glad there's not slavery anymore." Oh baby girl. I told her that there are a great number of slaves today. Her response was, "I wish there was something we could do about it." There is! We're not going to any rallies or marches- though I don't think those things are bad. I grew up going to a Pro-life march every January and I get why being with your people while speaking up for those who can't speak for themselves is an awesome thing. But we're going to do some research (painful as that is to a hair stylist) and find a cause we want to get behind. Sort of put our money where our mouths are. My sister in law used to work for the International Justice Mission, and I think that's where we'll start. When words don't come out right, act. They say actions speak louder than words anyway.

On the subject of race: I grew up with racial diversity. Something that speaks for those without a voice, caring for orphans and marginalized is the act of adoption. I have 3 beautiful siblings and a nephew who were brought into our family through adoption. I can't think of a more direct way to impact a life than folding one into the love of a forever family.

This may sound prideful..but I don't mean for that. I'm proud of the causes we've been able to get behind. One of the books we've read in the club with my homies this year is I Believe in Love which is a compilation of teachings from St. Therese. She spoke of humble confidence. I'm confident that through power bigger than us, we can make a difference. I pray for humility as we work toward unity in the body of Christ. These aren't the perfect or only solutions. Truthfully there is no complete solution this side of glory. But as the saying goes, "we're all just walking each other home." Let's go together.

Most of the siblings and spouses celebrating a birthday last summer. These are some of my closest companions on this journey.

Monday, January 9, 2017

One Life

Andrew's one gift request for Christmas this year was that I hand-letter a quote from a man named C.T. Studd--

I have little to no experience with watercolor painting but it was super fun.

But about this quote- can you even? It's hanging in our bedroom, so every morning it speaks to me. Unfortunately its voice is quiet, and the voices of my children (AKA the four horsemen of the apocalypse) are L O U D. And my voice becomes louder than all others when: we're in the middle of school and I hear glass shatter in the other room or I'm trying to read with Georgi and the younger two are fighting (over something we have two of) or we're having 'quiet time' and it sounds like elephants are on the loose in the girls' bedroom (you should hear me shout-whisper)  or I'm trying to think..or not think. There are many times throughout the day that mama's voice is like a fog horn. Oh that I would stop to think of Mr. Studd's poem more often. The glass breaking would be no thing but a chicken wing. Winston waking up early from his nap wouldn't mean my death, but would mean more opportunity for me to show him love that day...or patience, joy, self-control, etc. If I considered what lasts more often, I would calmly use the children's fighting as a chance to talk to them about grace, peace, and putting others first.

Our home school journey has been stressful and tiring as of late. I'm worried I'm not teaching them enough- like if they went to public school tomorrow they'd be 2 grades behind. Or I worry they're too sheltered- like if they went to public school tomorrow they wouldn't know what to do with people who are different than them. I'm worried we spend too much time together- like if they went to public school tomorrow they wouldn't want to come back home. When we started home schooling 5 years ago, I wanted to do it because it was familiar. I was home schooled, so it felt natural. Every year that we choose this for our family it gets harder to feel am I doing this because I'm not being brave? Lots of people tell me I'm brave and doing the right thing, but is it bravery just because not many are doing it? Or is it cowardice because I'm used to being the minority in this situation and I'm completely comfortable with it? What makes it 'right'? Because we're christians? I wrestle with these thoughts on the daily. Ask Andrew. He's starting to think mama's gone cray zee. He hardly gets a toe in the door in the evening and I'm rolling my eyes and sighing deeply about 'his children'. We spend late nights talking about our calling- where/how/what?

But then I read this incredible work of poetry, and all else seems to shift into place. No matter what we choose, may it be with our eyes on the prize for the joy set before us. We've been given this little tribe to love and lead and let go, we hope to do so with zealous certainty.

First day 2015-16 school year
First day 2016-17 school year

The rest of the story..poem..

Only One Life
By C.T. Studd
Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Room of Two Stooges

[This post title could mean Georgi and Margot's bedroom, but I'm talking the boys' combined/compiled bedroom.]

It's been about 3 months now that Oliver and Winston have been in the same bedroom (there's a peek when the room was just Winston's here. Oliver was on the landing area. I'm not totally proud of all my past design choices...but they're there) The boys are 7 years apart, Oliver will be 10 at the end of the month and Winnie will be 3 next week, so I wasn't sure how it would go. So far it's been fun to see them bond as brothers, not just a baby and a big boy. Little Winnie in that bed...looks like one of the seven dwarves crossed into Jack and the Beanstalk's story and took a nap in the giant's bed. P. S. he has only fallen out once.
{there's a light dusting of Christmas spread through these photos, like the beads across the window.}
Okay, I gave the curtains to the boys (remember my attachment? I re-dyed my old DIY panel in my bedroom and said see ya on the other floor to this pair). This curtain rod is some sort of pipe from Home Depot that was black already, hung by some wooden brackets that I spray painted. The beds. I saw them at the Habitat ReStore on a Saturday and bought one for a boy's (not mine) bedroom redesign I was doing. I didn't love it in the space, but I loved the beds so much I wanted them for my very own...but I only had one. Do you know how difficult it is on Sunday to wait for Wednesday when ReStore will be open?! Time stood still, friends. Alas, the twin of the twin bed was still resting comfortably at the store 4 days later! Sconce lights are from our favorite vendor at our favorite east coast flea market (I feel like I can say that because we actually did go to a few). The nightstand was a $7 garage sale find. I got one army blanket at a flea market and one from Ebay (is that gross? I didn't think it was until I wrote it..) The rest of the bedding is from Ikea.

That glorious vintage orange faux leather (too many oxymorons?) ottoman was also from Habitat. I am certainly not an expert at styling photos (I can't be an expert at everything, and I'm already pretty spectacular at iPhotography) plus I'm always trying to hustle before a kid streaks through the shot or throws something into it, so I notice annoying things in the pictures as I'm putting them on the blog. Like woof, wish I would have ditched that pillow or decluttered those shelves a little... But that's all treasure. That giant Chewbacca Pez dispenser? Treasure. Copper faced bread box? Filled with magical treasure. There's also a small collection of found things that I maybe talked about in Winnie's bedroom post. When we were remodeling our house we found lots of funny little cars maybe from the 50's, a baby-sized pipe (?), a little clock, some marbles, an airplane hood ornament from an old car. The horseshoes were in our barn. I also see Oliver's favorite children's book series on the shelf- Imagination Station from Adventures in Odyssey. I wish I would've taken a close up of the silver you see him in front of the wooden trees (irony)? Oliver made that when he was so little- from 3 Styrofoam balls coated in glue and glitter, thin cardboard formed a hat, small screws for eyes, the lead of an orange colored pencil for his nose, maybe wire for his arms? The yellow frame has a picture of my dad when he was little. Obviously we're also featuring the O's little league baseball team.

Oh this poor ceiling fixture! There were two of these girls in the house when we bought it, but only enough unbroken glass shades to complete one fixture. I rewired it (!) and painted it and loved it. Then one day when my brother was so kindly getting Winnie out of his crib...he overestimated the distance between Win's head and the light. I don't think the baby dude felt it as much as the antique glass.
I didn't know how much I loved the new wall color until I looked back at the old. I can't remember what that wretched tan was called, but I never liked it. I painted it when I was 8.5 mos. pregnant with Winston- Christmas Eve 2013. The new paint is 'Moonshine' by Benjamin Moore. I've used it on a few bedrooms including my own. 

Oh my. My skillz pay the billz. General Mills called- they want their grain back. This is an attempt to feature the boys' built in closet and drawer situation. I took these photos a while ago intending to write a post about small space storage solutions. I know I'll win you with these cunningly professional pics. 
When we realized we couldn't do a conventional swinging door because of a light switch on one side of the doorway and closet on the other, Andrew built and installed  this sliding door. I had him do a vertical ship lap.

My other dynamic duo (Mo and Larry...I mean Georgi and Marg) will have a bedroom feature next week.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy happy happy

  1. 1.
    a firm decision to do or not to do something.
  2. 2.
    the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.

I recently shared with friends what I'd like to be resolved to in 2017. I know there are some negative aspects of a New Year's resolution, but if I'm only trying to be resolute, acknowledging that there's a good chance I'll that okay? Hm.. 

Well, here it is anyway- I want to say what I mean, and not say what I don't mean. Do you know what I mean? There are always opportunities to speak or suck life. My reasons for saying or not saying what I wish I would or wouldn't is that I get nervous or rushed or absent minded or mad (or any extreme emotion). I find myself thinking a kind thing about the friend I'm with but not saying it out loud. Other times I find myself saying unkind things about people instead of keeping those thoughts to myself. I need articulation, courage, discernment, wisdom, humility. A divine act of Jesus. Basically I've resolved to pray without ceasing.

Happy New Year

1940s its a wonderful life

Friday, November 25, 2016

Merry Christmas and a Happy New School Room!

{After taking the pictures and writing a draft, I hung our basement Christmas tree- a tapestry from Ikea. Andrew mounted a copper pipe across the ceiling that I leave up year-round, slipping my *ahem, glow in the dark* curtain tree on at Christmas time.}
{Old school photos we picked up at an antique store in Maine last spring}
Every year in August I have a mild panic attack because I'm sure I'm going to home school again this year, but look at the school room! Through the summers it's neglected yet severely lived in, know what I mean? There are times throughout the school year (or every week..) that I question our decision to teach the kids at home. It's this strange feeling of trying to discern guidance vs. control. Do I home school because I want to be the primary influence on my children while they're young and impressionable, or am I doing it because I want to be in control? I think it's a combination of both, though I hope that when the time comes for me to send them out I can do it knowing they're ready because of what they learned at home. I want to prepare them, not so much protect them. I don't know if that makes sense. I didn't think this post would turn into a crisis of belief... I'd love to converse more about the school decision, but let's turn our attention back to the actual room. I think part of my struggle every year is the make-shift designated area. Like so much of our house, our basement has gone through multiple transformations. But none exemplified the word transform like the new school room. It's still not completely completely done, but so close and so functional and I can't help sharing!

The center island is for crafting and game night  and folding laundry while the kids teach themselves at the desk. So much use out of this little work mule! Including corralling wrapping paper. Glory be. As someone who struggles with organization, wrapping paper has been the bane of my existence. No more, wrapping paper fiend. I won the war. About the counter top--I've always loved soap stone, but haven't had a place for it until now. It's beautiful and smells like genuine dirt when washed. Mmm.

I bought these metal file drawers off Craigslist last year as a set of 4 that can hook together. I had three of them stacked (on top of each other and under a pile of books and papers). When we were designing this space I really wanted to bring the old drawers back so Andrew built them in. I love the original green metal so much..I should label the drawers, but don't want to ruin their simplicity.

Okay, do you want to talk about the stools or the tile? Or the Constitution hanging on that back wall? Kidding! I'll tell you the completely unexciting story about the chairs in a minute. Those tile floors that are drawing the hallelujah from your lips? Home. Depot. I'm telling you, they're just ceramic-made-to-look-like-cement tiles. Andrew installed them and I watched.
I honestly can't remember where the pendant above the island came from. I've had it for's old just like me. And the ceiling. Andrew has white painted planks that will be sort of ship lap ish, but wider. I asked him to take a break from this room so I could use it for a little bit before he overtook it with sawdust and sawhorses.

If this isn't just the worst iPhotography...I don't really have time to hone my skillz. Forgive. Let's pretend it's brilliantly clear. That counter top? Menards. I'm not even kidding you. It was just raw maple butcher block that we used as a desk before, the kids challenged its ability to absorb..everything. Marker, paint, lipstick, glue, play dough. Poor Andrew couldn't take it anymore. He sanded the evidence out of it and stained it. Now- that giant sconce has a small story behind it. Andrew had borrowed (all the while thinking he had been given) an exhaust fan for his spray booth at work- for those who don't know, mister mister is a cabinet maker. The gentleman who loaned (not gave) the fan wanted it back. Well Andrew dear had built that puppy right into his Osha approved spray booth. It was not to be extracted. Alas, a combing of online auctions commenced, where he found a new fan for the old friend and what do you know he got a big old light covered in ages of finish thrown in. We've been hoarding it (along with so much other GARBAGE) in our garage in case we could use it someday. Write it down, take a picture- it was worth keeping.
This blessed bank of cabinets were the two original upper cabinets in our house's kitchen when we bought it. They were the color of pea soup, but not in a bad way. More like in a Kermit the frog kind of way..endearing. But recently I've come to understand myself more- I appreciates small doses of big color, not an entire wall's worth of cabinets indirectly featuring the Muppets. They were already in the basement, but not used very efficiently. Now my fabric is neatly folded and stacked, craft supplies are controlled, and my sewing machine is on a roll-out behind those doors so I can pull up a chair and pretend to sew. Um, that globe on the curved acrylic frame? Garage sale. For real. That chicken feed box? Straight from our broken down coop. I would like to fill it with plastic succulents. And I want to do silhouettes of my kids (like that sweet one of Oliver in 1st grade that I pinned up between the chalk boards) for above the feed box.

And these stools. Craigslist, I think they're old lab stools? Heavy duty and industrial and already broken in, so our job is done.

Saturday, November 19, 2016


As I considered writing a political post (and swallowed the puke that came to my mouth) a thought hit me. We are all more (or less) than our words. This is true for all of humanity. We say things we don't mean, and mean things we don't say.

I love where I live. I love freedom, I love cold weather, I love the clean country air. But when my thoughts shift outside of my little circle of influence, and focus on the influencers at large, fear/worry/depression sets in. I can only control myself (and sometimes not even!, chocolate). I need to think about my people, my attitude, my calling- and hope and pray that as I stay true to Jesus and the truth of his Holy Bible, my small circle of influence will be bettered. And in turn, the circles that overlap mine will reach beyond and use my courage to light their group, and on and on. It's sort of like pay it forward. We all do as much as we can on a small level, and pretty soon it's a movement toward truth and respect and forgiveness and justice and mercy. But don't try to make your circle too big. Eventually you may be responsible and mature enough to handle more humans, but start by getting deeper with just the folks you already know. Strengthening your current personal relationships will increase your zeal and love for life. The Bible tells me to do everything without complaining or arguing, so while I'm getting deep with my peeps, I need to be mindful of keeping the conversation high and tight- like my brother-in-law's haircut. I mean encouraging and pertinent. No gossip, no dragging down. High and tight.

There's a chance I watered this down to the point of ineffectiveness. If so, here are some wise words from Valley of Vision- a collection of Puritan prayers and devotionals:

I commend my heart to Thy watchful care,
     for I know its treachery and power;
Guard its every portal from the wily enemy,
Give me quick discernment of his deadly arts,
Help me to recognize his bold disguise as an
     angel of light,
   and bid him begone.
May my words and works allure others to the
     highest walks of faith and love!
May loiterers be quickened to greater diligence
     by my example!
May worldlings be won to delight in acquaintance
     with Thee!
Let my happy place be amongst the poor in spirit,
     my delight the gentle ranks of the meek.
Let me always esteem others better than myself,
    and find in true humility
    an heirdom to two worlds.