Twenty-one Years

Plus one week. That’s how long we have been married. We celebrated last week by camping for two days at a quiet state park that was so beautiful that we couldn’t believe it wasn’t packed out. The Simon B. Elliot State Park has no water features, which is likely the reason the cabins weren’t filled, but in this season of brilliant foliage it was breathtaking, completely quiet except for the rustle of leaves floating loose when the breezes blew.

I got up early one morning to trek to the bathroom watch the sun rise as mist swirled over the sphagnum bog in the field behind the cabin. The bog was ringed by the crimson of maples and the scarlet of sweetgums, with a brushy circle of burgundy blueberry bushes and within that circle there were the cottongrasses lifting tufted silvery seed heads around the very center where the cattails grow. I didn’t dare to walk across the spongy turf, but I stood at the edge while the bluejays scolded and the grey squirrels nearly choked on their acorns. I thought about how fast twenty-one years can move along, and how an onlooker could think that we have some charmed secret for living together so long in relative harmony. (…Anyway… clears throat…)

We don’t have a charmed secret. If there is any secret, it is the vow never to quit, never to give up on each other or on our marriage or on becoming more one. I saw a sweet motto at Hobby Lobby one day, “Together they made a life they loved.” It is what we all want, I thought, and it is not a simple thing to meld two people with ideas and opinions and feelings into one life. But on this anniversary trip I felt like that is where we are: in a life we love.

It isn’t everybody’s idea of fun: staying in a ninety-year-old CCC cabin, pushing the bunkbeds together to form a bigger bed, reading by the fireplace, cooking our own steak and potatoes, hauling water from the pump with a bucket.

This- I thought- this is what it means to dwell together in knowledge. When you put in the time, you figure out what fills each other’s soul and what nourishes the both of you. You learn to avoid the things that do not make the other feel cared for. My husband, who is just a bit of an adrenaline junkie, does not suggest bungee jumping or paragliding as a fun couple’s activity on our anniversary. I love words and writing down what is processing in my head, but I do not insist that he compose me a sonnet. Nor do I ask him to play Fast Scrabble, which he loathes.

We played Canasta instead, late at night, round after round. The first game I trounced him (a rare occasion) and the second round he routed me by a mile. He humored me with a round of “state of the marriage” questions that I found online. We ate peanut butter cereal for breakfast and took a long drive to look for elk. I may have seen one lying in the weeds under a power line cut, or it might have been a brown barrel. In the afternoon we traced the story of the park on their marked history trail, strolled under chestnut trees to look for some spikey nuts to take home for the children. We marveled at the ethereal quality of the light filtering through the birch leaves, reflecting sunshine off the bracken ferns so that the entire woods glowed golden.

We slept a lot on the foam mattresses or in the hammock, or in our z-gravity chairs. I know- tame, middle-aged pursuits and where are the passions of youth? the big ideas? the grand plans? I don’t even know what to do with that question anymore. Something about living life faithfully, day after day doing what is given one to do… it saps one! It takes a firm commitment to do that for years and years, to look out for each other and for the people in our world. We put in the time. We commit our work to God, humble as it is. We offer each other our best years, our dying to self, our willingness to bend and give when the strong winds blow.

I guess that is how it happens.

Together we make a life we love.

Stream of Consciousness

Our outdoor activities were just interrupted by the 137th gulley washer of the year. The girls screeched and threw all their dolls and snacks and purses onto blankets and skittered into the house as the big drops began to splash. I was in the process of washing the algae off our white deck railing because with 136 rainstorms in the recent past we are growing moss in unusual places. My aunt said if I spray a solution of Norwex detergent onto the railings and wait five minutes, it will hose off like nothing. It’s true; it really does just wipe off. I sprayed a few sections of railing quickly before the storm, just in case it would rain hard enough to hose off the green. The boys yelled and stowed construction materials from the back yard into the shed.

As soon as the lightning subsided, the children whooped and danced in the rain as if they were welcoming a monsoon after a prolonged drought instead of getting themselves doused by the 137th rainstorm of the year. I wish I could be just a little more like that. Besides, when have we ever had so many rainbows in a year?


Last week the little girls brought me enough ground cherries from their garden so that I could make a pie. Then they politely declined to eat it because I put raisins in the pie. Ordinarily they love raisins, but I suppose the rehydrated ones do look a bit odd.

I am happy that the end of the gardening season is here. We will gladly pay for fresh lettuce and cucumbers raised by someone else during the winter season. Modern shipping, while controversial in terms of effects on the ecosystem, is still a wonder I applaud. Oranges in winter? Yes, please! Tomatoes raised in the south with an astonishingly long shelf life? I won’t sneer at them either. I try to imagine how the “eat only local food or die” movement would look to the pioneers who survived on prairie chickens and salt pork for months at a time, with no option of fresh food shipped to their supermarkets. I suppose it is a modern luxury like tiny houses. Ma and Pa would probably shake their heads at the kids these days.



We celebrated our 17th anniversary yesterday. By that I mean we didn’t forget it in a day full of normal things to do. Probably this would have seemed a tragedy of middle age when we were newly-wed. No roses? You forgot the card? What? Not even going out to eat? We did squeeze in a coffee shop stop on our way to Gabe’s dad’s birthday party. “Are we even any further ahead now than we were then?” was the rhetorical question as we were discussing our starry-eyed honeymoon love and now. The answer is, “Yes! Yes, indeed!” Neither of us feels like we know everything, but we would not prefer to go back and start over.

The hard-won lessons of living and loving have given us perspective and courage for the future. Sometimes that thing you just can’t see past or through, that just stands there in the path so that you face it down and figure it out? That is the thing that you might not even be able to remember what it was, but it stretched you and wisened you up in the processing of it. It’s kind of hard to explain to a newly-wed, but when you refuse to retreat from the impasses of marriage (what? are you saying you don’t just love to talk everything through while sipping fancy coffee and gazing into each other’s souls?) you come through feeling safer and stronger. You learn to like each other better, and you learn to like yourself more. Funny how that works.

We are dead opposites. It’s what makes life so hilariously interesting and undeniably annoying. He is careful and quiet. I am impulsive and chatty. We are both opinionated. Can you see how that could produce some jolly times? He is a perfectionist. I am a rip-into-it-and-see-what-happens person. When we talk about a project on the house, I am ready to do demo day tomorrow and he makes plans on paper for years.  He uses graphs to plan his trees and berry plots. I like volunteer sunflowers cropping up everywhere in the garden. When we shop, he never ever buys anything without fitting it on. I have been known to say, “I can always return it if it doesn’t fit.” He keeps our finances carefully, accounts always balanced, bills paid on time. I keep my receipts in my wallet and wait to enter them into our budget until I can’t ignore them anymore. He wears Converse and I like my Flex-soles.

We each have our systems, how we like to do things. Neither one of us is always right or better than the other. Both systems work pretty well by themselves; the great work of our marriage is blending them.

When it comes to the sanctifying that God wants to do in our lives through each other, there is no question that our opposite-ness is by design. I am learning to be more patient, do research, read the reviews, think ahead. He is learning that life can be pretty great even when it is messy and flinging us in circles. It’s really an amazing plan God had, and we look forward to figuring it out as we go for many more years.


We have a project going on that is pretty exciting. I moved my pottery paraphernalia outside into what used to be a garden shed this spring. Raw clay cannot freeze, so we were trying to decide what to do about winter. My skills are tentative enough that I was afraid I would have to relearn everything if I took the whole winter off. The basement was not a good option, because we do so much living down there. Gabe decided that wiring, insulating, and heating the shed is a viable option. That’s what is going on now. This was his first post-and-beam construction project and I have always felt affectionate about the braces and rough wood. It’s too bad that the insulation will cover it up, but there are plans in motion to make it cute again once the wiring is complete. At least the outside will remain the same, including the rounded doors.

I am delighted with this upgrade! The broken window will be replaced and the wrens will no longer be able to squeeze in through knotholes in the siding. This should also fix the carpenter bees that dribbled sawdust onto my workbench every day, and possibly discourage the field-mouse family that remained unfazed even when the father drowned in my bucket of water.


School has gotten off to a strong start. Alex is still working/doing school in the evenings and on weekends. The rest of us power through the basic lessons every day. I have learned that things just go more smoothly when I stay right there in the school space with the children, even when they know exactly what their assignments are. I don’t know how other people turn out conscientious little students who diligently do all their lessons without a hitch, but that just isn’t the reality here. I have figured out a strategy that works pretty well for the child who just can’t resist poking a sibling: disturb another intentionally and you get to do their next main task, which is likely to be dishes or laundry.

This year I am not letting my checking accumulate. Yet. And our daily read-aloud is a delight for us all. I say it again, this is So Much Easier without toddlers.

A friend of ours just sent her only child off to college, and then packed up totes and totes of craft supplies/ toys/ books for our children. It has been like Christmas for them! And it has been like mid-winter for me, with that choking feeling of being up to the neck in projects and not-always-successful results. The window clings that just went wrong?… I peeled them off and dropped them into the trash as soon as they were dry. But the fresh stack of woven potholders is great!


Well, I see it’s time for my husband to return from work. I will save my best pig story of the summer for tomorrow. Have a nice night!

What do you mean, “Rejoice”?

Repost about an event six years ago… I still haven’t learned to rejoice right away when yucky stuff happens. I want this to be my default mode, but I need to be reminded so often.

As a family, we are memorizing I Peter 4:12,  Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” It goes on to say, “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” I am not good at that: rejoicing-in-hard-stuff.

Gabe and I took a weekend off to celebrate our tenth anniversary (3 months after the fact) at a friend’s cabin. We had a nursling to take along, and my husband had such a severe Crohn’s Disease flare that he could hardly carry our luggage or the fat baby. It was raw and damp outside, brown dirt and chopped off cornstalks lining the driveway, a steep slope up the ridge begging to be hiked. I had packed the most tempting foods I could think of, and I grilled and cooked with care. He wasn’t hungry, picked at a few bites, and left the rest for me. We built a fire, played a game of Canasta, then he was tired. I put the baby down for a nap and tramped outside, my heart heavy with forebodings, my spirit rebelling against these circumstances. This was supposed to be our tenth anniversary celebration, after all! 

I was mad. Why weren’t our prayers answered? A whole year of nursing school yet… how could it possibly be better that my husband be sick? While the baby napped, I clawed my way up that steep ridge, tears stinging my eyes, self pity washing over me. What are we going to do if he never gets better? What if we will never be able to make plans again without adding, “If Gabe feels well enough”? How would we support our family if he can’t work?

The angry questions kept swarming, all the way to the top of the ridge where the turkey trails came out of the woods into the corn field. I stood there, my hands clenched, my heart screaming for answers. I felt the bitter core swelling inside me. “WHY, WHY, WHY?”

Did you know that God’s children can be incredibly rude and demanding sometimes, desperate, afraid, and He doesn’t ever turn His back on them? As I looked up into the solid grey cloud cover, my faith was so small it was hardly measurable at all. Miserably I waited for some reassurance that everything was going to get better, that life would be good and become easier. Nothing. No wash of love came over me. But I sensed this fact: No matter what (insert worst case scenario), He is there. Slowly my hands unclenched as the truth settled my soul. No, I didn’t understand, but I gave up trying and I believed. Slowly my heart softened in worship as I relinquished the control I didn’t have anyway. I threw down my worries with my drenched tissues in that forsaken turkey grazing field. They were biodegradable anyway. 

Maybe that is what it means when it says, “Rejoice.” Maybe it doesn’t mean, “Feel good.” Maybe it means, “Be glad that you don’t have to be big enough to handle this all by yourself.”

This is six years later. Gabe had an emergency bowel resection about a month after the anniversary celebration I was referring to, and has been dealing with the issues that brings up ever since. I want to say just this: God really has been with us, the entire time. I feel completely safe to stake eternity on that faithfulness.


Love Is…

Today I needed to shuttle Olivia to a dentist appointment, so I took my Little A along too. I gave up on my audio book within a few minutes and just chattered with my girls. “I am SO GLAD that it’s not sloppy-floppy on Valentine’s Day,” Addy said. (She really does talk in CAPITALS.) We talked about love and marriage.

Olivia wants a house with a wraparound porch to entertain visitors, and a creek nearby for her children. That is, if she gets married, but maybe she will try a tiny house first because they are less work and everything is arranged so neatly.

Addy wants a humongous yellow house with pink shutters and golden doorknobs. Also ten horses, but if her husband isn’t rich, then just two horses would be fine. She kind of doubts that she will want to marry anybody, actually, when she really thinks about it. Besides, she is too little.

How can one girl and one boy fall in love and spawn 5 such opposite people? I thought opposites are just two things, like cold and warm, but it turns out that there are a lot more than two opposites when you start categorizing personalities. It can be a little disorienting to think you have a certain facet of parenting figured out, only to discover that you are back at base 1 with the next baby. But it’s never boring. Oh, no, never that.

I asked the children for help with a Love Is… list. I will start with Gregory (Alex was skiing, plus he wouldn’t have ventured a peep if he had gotten wind that I was gathering material for a blog post) and end with Addy, who spouted truisms faster than I could write them.


Love Is…

  • a penguin fasting for months while incubating an egg. -G
  • a chick nestled under its mother’s wing. -G
  • going on a date with Papa and eating pancakes every time. -O
  • when Mama gives me a cup of tea after my math lesson is done. -O
  • cleaning the bathroom. -O
  • throwing a stick over and over for your dog. -O
  • when a chicken lays an egg for your breakfast. -O
  • Mama showing me how to cook spaghetti and meatballs.  -O
  • a soft flannel quilt that you made for our bed. -R
  • helping me make a doll with fabric scraps. -R
  • my big sister making me a purse. -R
  • when we are allowed to play “rish-rosh” in the house.  -R
  •  a long story at nap time. -A
  • when Mama lets you light a candle by yourself. -A
  • kisses on your cheek. -A
  • when Papa takes me on a canoe ride. -A
  • being allowed to swim. -A
  • looking at the stars. -A
  • when I go along out to the barn to gather eggs. -A
  • Mama taking me on a special date (McDonald’s drive-through) while the other kids are on a field trip. -A
  • letting me pick my nose. -A
  • Papa tucking me in at bedtime and asking me if I had a good day. -A

My children appear to have very homely ideas about love. Houses, eggs, dogs, food, and being allowed to tear around or hone bad habits. And that flamboyant small one… Oh dear, but it is a thrilling ride to parent her!

Our Valentine’s Day was (mostly) that sort of loving. There was sunshine and bike rides in it! There was a supper that was a joint effort, with one person making salad and one setting the table and one cutting lemon wedges and spooning sour cream into a pretty dish, and one snitching bits, and one mother trying to keep her sanity and actually succeeding. We ended with stories and chocolate fondue for all. Also. A BIG ALSO, the man of the house is home this week, and I wish you could have heard how calmly bedtime went down.

Maybe we will get a date later this week, but at any rate we are happy to be doing life together, all of it, ordinary and thrilling alike.

It’s Been a While

I have been waiting to post until I have time to upload photos and do a proper, pretty post about our long-anticipated anniversary trip to New England. The thing about going away for a week is it takes about 3 weeks to prepare and 3 weeks to catch up. I am not joking.

Pre-trip: Should we stay home and work on our barn before winter? (Probably, but scratch that. You don’t have a 15th anniversary every year.) Are we sufficiently on course with school to take off for 5 days? (Yes and no.) Is the broccoli crop going to burst into flower while we are gone, or should I process it now? (Yes.) Do the children have enough (presentable) underwear and socks? (No.) Is our Air B&B reservation all lined up? (Yes, after days of deliberations about which one we want.) Is our vehicle reliable? (Not without a bunch of oil fed to it every couple hundred miles.) Do we have a dog sitter? (Yes, at the last minute.) What about the mail and the packages that are coming? (Stop the mail.) Shall we take bikes? (Not this time, only to regret it every day.) What about food? (Buy it at Trader Joe’s close to our cabin for less hassle and kind of a lot more $.)

We don’t get out much, especially not without a lot of forethought and planning. It’s what happens with a family, animals, and a job that isn’t terribly flexible. At least, we don’t usually go far. But 15 years is 15 years and we haven’t had a  just-us-two trip for a very long time. We tried to balance the need for some down time with the responsibilities of parenting and decided that 5 days would probably about max out the children and their caregivers. (And their parents. 🙂

So that was the big deal in the beginning of October. Once I find the camera, I will endeavor to post some more photos, but here is a cell pic of the Portland Headlight for your enjoyment.


We hit leaf peeper season square on target in the White Mountains. It was absolutely breathtaking, and so relaxed. If we were hungry, we ate. If we were tired, we slept. (We did that kind of a lot. Neither of us knew how bone-weary we were until we didn’t have any schedule yapping at our heels.) If it was nice outside, we went on walks. If it rained, we read by the fireplace or watched “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage”. We were so relaxed, in fact, that we lost track of which day we were scheduled to check out of our cabin until the cleaner showed up. I can assure you, after checking our email confirmation to see that we were indeed supposed to be cleared out by noon, we checked out faster than we ever have in our lives. It was feet first back into the real world, running. Somehow we had forgotten that we were planning to start south in the afternoon and get a motel before picking up our scattered crew at various grandparents and aunts and uncles the next day.

Post-trip has been all about battening down the hatches and sealing the leaks before winter. The goats needed to be moved, since their portable pen was on a piece of the neighbor’s property while we were gone and he wanted them off. The lawn needed to be mowed and the weeds whacked down one more time. We only have 5 acres, so it’s very manageable. When we stay home. The last of the plants in the garden kept putting out astounding goodness.


We hopped back into school as well. Alex is doing 9th grade algebra and I am finding myself doing the lessons right along with him most days. He was frustrated and bombing his lessons even after listening to the video teacher. I cannot tutor something I never mastered, and while Gabe is a terrific algebra teacher, he isn’t here all the time to help us out. I am actually enjoying the study and the orderly rows of equations after I have applied the distributive or commutative properties. Alex is not so much into it, but it boosts his morale to have me figuring it out right with him. I am hopeful that with enough practice, it will all become a little more elegant. Right now it’s just time consuming and occasionally it makes us both cross.

Elegant. What a laughable way to describe homeschooling. Somedays I think we all must be a little crazy. There has to be a better way to get an education, no? We are not die-hard homeschoolers, as in “It’s the only way to go, so help us, Lord.” We weigh our choices every year, trying to determine if this is the best fit for our family. So far it has always been the best fit, but elegant it is not. I would describe it more as a mash-up of lovely-learning-is-a-lifestyle with messy-who-let-the-monkeys-out?

Being away from the rush made us both aware that we really belong in the fray of everyday life. As exhausting as it may be, this is the life for us.

I have only one condensed observation to share about being married 15 years: As we were watching the marriage DVD’s we kept looking at each other and laughing, “We know this!” But we didn’t always know; it took a lot of years to figure some things out. (The last session is titled, “How to Stay Married Without Killing Anybody”.  :/ ) The point is, if you are committed to not just making your marriage work, but actually really enjoying it, the years cannot help but become better!



It’s in the Air

I could hardly suppress my amusement as I stood in the Hallmark card aisle and shamelessly eavesdropped on a phone conversation the young man next to me was having. He kept pulling out cards, replacing them impatiently, talking to his friend, “So how much would that cost? Eighty bucks??? I don’t have that much with me!” There was a pause while his friend gave him further advice and he restlessly plucked out more cards and replaced them. “Look,” he said, “I have only been going out with her for five months. I don’t want to be all smarmy. And I only have like thirty dollars on me.”

At this point I had an urge to pat him on the head reassuringly. He was shorter than me. No joke. But he had a little beard, so I didn’t think I was old enough or he young enough for me to tell him what I was thinking, “It will be easier when you have found her, Sonny. When you have walked life together for a while and you know she hates coconut candies and loves vanilla anything at all.”


It’s hard to define love. Lots of people have done it well. I will just aim at one of my lists here. Love does things. Things like

  • buying salami and turkey for humdinger sandwiches so that he doesn’t go hungry his whole shift
  • stopping at Aldi’s for the stuff on her list, even though you are dog-tired and would rather just go straight home
  • plotting out the gardens and disagreeing about eggplant
  • clearing the coloring books off the couch so the other can sit to drink coffee
  • cleaning up the mess the dog made because it makes her really mad
  • buying sheets that don’t get pilled in the laundry because he hates how that feels
  • never eating pretzels in bed
  • kissing in front of the children
  • prioritizing some foods you don’t personally enjoy, like olives, for the other person’s sake
  • cleaning out the family car, even though she mostly drives it
  • dealing with the offspring’s issues because she is showing signs of strain from a day of too many spats
  • treating aching feet with peppermint lotion
  • listening without even laughing… at least until he/she thinks it is funny too
  • knowing exactly which books she will swoon over at the library sale
  • disagreeing kindly
  • remembering the hilarious things that happened throughout the day so that you can tell him about them
  • holding hands to pray

There. I wasn’t too smarmy, was I? 😉 There used to be these little gum packs with “Love is…” cartoons in them. I thought they were cute and terribly cheesy. But there was a lot of truth. Sometimes love really is a phone call in the middle of the day, just to say hi. There is so much ordinary life that fans the love affair of a good marriage. Gabe says his friends at work tease him about his lunches because they know I pack them, and I pack the best lunches I can because I love him. Somehow it all ties together, if you get what I mean. I want everybody in the world to see that this is my man and we intend to stay together all of our lives. Why not expend my energies to make it a pleasant journey?

And now, because one cannot have too much Pride and Prejudice:




Blogging 101, Assignment 1

It was with a bit of trepidation that I signed up for these assignments from WordPress, seeing as I usually only write when the phrases start scrolling through my head. Sometimes it’s the middle of the night and sometimes it is while I am on a solo walk that I get inspiration. A bit of discipline is a great thing though, so I will introduce myself to the world today, along with my blogging goals, as I have been instructed. 🙂

As a little girl skipping to the Amish school where my formal education started, I had no aspirations to be a writer. I just wanted to learn to read those letters that fascinated and scared the wits out of me whenever I looked at a book without pictures. I was fairly certain that reading would be too hard for me. Fortunately for all of us, we had an amazing teacher who pulled out our strengths. Even though she had about 30 students in four grades, she noticed us individually and managed to pull us all together in a joyous quest for knowledge. Once I could decipher the puzzling groups of letters in the books about Reuben and Rachel, I galloped along reading everything I could lay my hands on, including cereal boxes and shampoo bottles. Literacy was for me a portal with endless vistas to explore.

It has been about 30 years since the Amish school days, but I still think of myself as a learner. We are all apprentices of life, whether we like it or not. I have failed a lot of exams in my life, but I get to do them over until I pass. There are plenty of activities for my hands to do and unending conundrums for my head to figure out just here in my little house with my family.

My husband is my best friend and my encourager. When we got married 14 years ago, we didn’t know much, but we did know that whatever comes, we are in it together. I stand by him and he stands by me. Don’t try to get between us or we will raise our hackles and fight. We are blessed with five children, ranging in age from 4 to 13. Those life exams I referred to are mostly courtesy of the children. 🙂

Some may think the life of a stay-at-home mom to be impossibly restricting, and I have to admit, it is harder than I ever imagined. While my children are smallish I am “keeping” our home. I mean that both in the Biblical sense of a woman who stays at home and in the contemporary sense of someone such as a zoo keeper who keeps the habitat pleasant and cares for the animals. I consider this my life work, worthy of all my consideration.

Part of that consideration is homeschooling our children. Some days I love it and some days I hate it, but it does work really well with our lifestyle. My husband is an RN with odd 12 and 8 hour shifts and mandatory weekends as well. Our school days are flexible and vacations are always off-peak season so we can stay a family unit. Speaking generally, we like learning about stuff together. Research reports are a little “meh” says my oldest son. My personal enthusiasm for practicing the writing craft has not yet translated to my children.

I process life through writing. When I started blogging eight years ago, it was mainly to stay in touch with distant family members. Then I realized that I really liked having this record of our lives and the developments in them. Eventually it sort of became a record of God’s work in my heart, and now my blogging is a mash of all of the above.

One night I needed a new title, since my first blog “Living and Learning” was not working out. I sat at the computer, sorting through the innards of my shiny new WordPress site and got an idea. There was a bookcase of children’s books right beside me. What better way to give a nod to my insatiable love of books than to play with a title? “Make Way for Ducklings!” I thought. Alas, every variation of the title was already taken. How about “Mrs. Tiggywinkle”? Nah. She was too prickly. I wanted something easy to remember, which is how I came to “Wocket In My Pocket”. Thank you, Dr. Seuss. I like that wockets are anything. We have wockets everywhere around here. Lots of them are fun to write about.

I chose my tagline “looking for the unexpected in the mundane” because that is what I do. It takes conscious effort not to settle down among the clods in the mind-numbing mundaneness of laundry piles and sticky floors. I am trying to dust off the ordinary and find the shiny bits in life.

Nobody was more astounded than I was when I started to get loyal readers. It is the best part of blogging: getting feedback, hearing that what I wrote connected with someone else, feeling that putting my heart out there may have cheered another person on. Blogging is scary enough that I have considered quitting altogether many times. But here I am, still getting up early or staying up late to try to string words together in a compelling way. Thank-you for reading.

What Have I Been Doing?

I looked at the calendar recently and thought, “What have I been doing?” I can tell you what I haven’t been doing pretty easily. I haven’t been sitting around reading a lot and I haven’t been writing. I can honestly say that I missed the writing bit pretty much every day. One sentence in a diary doesn’t scratch the itch at all. I sat around just enough so that I wouldn’t miss it too severly. Haha.

We had days and days and days of rain in late September. It was cold and the dog stank and there was mud in our classroom every day. I started burning candles and plugged in air fresheners.

During the long wet I sewed dresses for the little girls so that we could coordinate somewhat for a family photo shoot. Then I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out what I would wear to coordinate with everybody else. Shall I just admit that I got three sweaters at Boscov’s so that Gabe could help me figure out which one to wear because I really just don’t have a good sense for that sort of thing? And that, of course, I wore the simplest, most unassuming one and took the other two back? At the last minute I decided not to wear the charcoal skirt after all, but the grey dress. Why was that decision so hard to make in the store? I did not consult Pinterest, which is what other people do when they can’t figure out what to wear, because I don’t get along well on Pinterest. ‘Nough said.

We had an anniversary, our 14th, and it was the first sunny day after all that drear. I dug out our love letters and we read a bunch of them, laughing a bit at ourselves, reminiscing and agreeing that 14 years has taught us a few things about loving each other, even though sometimes we lose track and forget to appreciate the one we love. Which is why we took a day off and went biking Rails to Trails without the children. No eavesdroppers in the vehicle! And just for a day it was nice not to have to settle any fights or wait for the slow ones. We ended the day with dressing up for a fancy meal out, then descended gratefully back into normal life. After all, back in the day when we had dates every weekend, we yearned to live normal life together, more than anything. And here we are, doing it!

Gabe has lived with me long enough to know the kinds of books I love. For our anniversary he got me blink (you have no idea how hard it is for me to write a book title with a lower case letter) by Malcolm Gladwell, subtitled “The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”. It is packed with insights into what makes people decide things: those split second impressions that affect our choices. For the first week or so after he gave me the book I only had time to stroke the cover, but by now I have read enough to know it is just as interesting as The Tipping Point, which I discovered a few years ago.

Once the weather turned clement (is that right? the opposite of inclement?) our friend Michelle Fisher took the photos. I knew she had lots of experience in posing children because she has nine of them and they always end up with really sweet family pictures. Want to see a few? I think you will agree that she did a good job on them. When these were taken, the children were 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4. This only lasted for one month, but it was kind of fun to say. 🙂 The 10 turned 11 yesterday.

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My friend Caroline and I spent a forenoon together, picking up a large meat order about an hour’s drive away. Either one of us could have gone alone, but it just so worked out that we could team up. I was supposed to be the navigator, since we didn’t have GPS. Even with a Google Maps printout, I stink at navigating. Let’s just say we saw a lot of beautiful countryside and enjoyed our extra time to visit. It was nice to be with someone who didn’t get uptight about the unmarked roads and was game to try routes that appeared to go in the right direction. Not to mention someone who didn’t run out of interesting topics of conversation, especially with no eavesdroppers in the van. 😀

The next day I texted her that I had just been running some errands in a nearby town and had to turn around three times, so I think I do need a GPS because of all the stuff in my head that isn’t down on the earth. She replied, “Well, I just read, ‘Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.’ With that mindset you might lose your way driving every now and then.” She is witty like that. The thing is, I am pretty sure I was thinking about that meat we hauled home and how it needed to be canned, as well as these apples I am picking up and how they also need to be canned.

I have 2 1/2 bushels of apples still sitting on the front porch and some frozen tomatoes that I have to process and after that I put my foot down. No more! Today I tilled the gardens one final time and sowed a cover crop of rye. I love summer so much, but at this point it is only sensible to move on, wouldn’t you say? For the first time we put in a bed of garlic. Some bulbs in and some bulbs, like the dahlias, out. Gardening is endlessly fascinating. And time consuming. I hope to have more time to write now that the outside stuff is getting wrapped up.

Last, but not least, I have been industriously starting a small book selling business. I signed up to become an Usborne consultant and am still learning the ropes. So far the most rewarding thing has been to be able to send really nice books to refugee children in Iraq. I also was thrilled to get our church school a lot of free merchandise through a book show.  I genuinely like connecting anybody to a source of educational books like these. Someday I will do a whole post on this topic. I have been having a blast with this, especially when the boxes of books come and I can sort out orders and stroke the covers (I know. I have a problem. But it isn’t a bad problem.) But there. The final and biggest reason why I have not been writing. I am still figuring out how to fit this business, not into every crack of spare time, but into reasonable hours. My children don’t mind. They drool over the catalog and revel in all the new books! I am systematically turning them all into bibliophiles (That’s not a bad thing either. After the dishes are done.).

Gabe is back on an evening schedule, which means he will be home around midnight. It has been a pleasure chatting with you kind folks while I wait up for him.

Be Mine, part 4


There was a weekend of quietness, of deep thinking. Those fears she had… if he really thought about how old she was, nearly 24, heavens! he would rethink his request to court her.

It was an irrational fear. She should have known him well enough to know he didn’t make impulsive decisions, but of all the things they had talked about after hours at school, they had never discussed marriage. That would have been too weird. When he assured her that marriage really was in his dreams too, and that she fit into them like she was created for the part, she was almost giddy with relief. She no longer thought of him as too young, but of herself as too old. He didn’t care a fig.

All right then! How about a date at Red Lobster? Sure. Tomorrow night.

She ordered the coconut shrimp, he got fish. Cheddar bay biscuits became for them the food of delight. They talked and listened and lingered so long that the waitress seemed unsure what to do with them. When the coconut shrimp were barely touched an hour into the meal, she asked if everything was all right. Oh yes, they said. Just more water, please. Eventually they left with most of the meal in a take-out box. She shrugged. Communication was more important than food, apparently.

It was important not to let the romance overshadow the work at school. They tried hard to stay as neutral as possible while the students were around, but as soon as the last one was out the door, the tea got brewed and the day got hashed over with the frankness of best friends rapidly turning into lovers. The upper grade teacher was engaged to his girlfriend, and all around there were a lot of heads in the clouds those days.

Her siblings rolled their eyes and trotted out those strong-minded phrases she used to say. The girl just laughed because she knew better now. They said she was sunk. She agreed and swallowed her words cheerfully. A friend suggested that it was just proximity, after all, that causes so many to fall in love. Well, thank God for proximity, she said, because she believed with all her heart that this particular case was arranged by Providence.

It was an exhilarating time. Soul mates, that is what they felt they were discovering about each other. They were definitely traveling the same direction! Made for each other! Love covered them in a blanket of bliss. It wasn’t that they were just infatuated, forging ahead. It was the joy of feeling the smile of God on them, His fingerprints on their story. They already had a strong groundwork laid. She knew what he believed and how he responded to life. He knew the things that she carried in her heart, how she wanted to live. They had similar backgrounds. There simply were no huge hurdles.

Six weeks of this brought them to a sunny evening in June, sitting on the porch of the family camping cabin, the sun slowly sinking toward the horizon. “Is there anything else you want to talk about?” he asked. “Because I have something on my mind yet… Will you marry me?”

“Yes! Yes, I will!” she said once she recovered from her surprise. There may be some details that would bore the general public, but that is the path that they walked from being two to becoming one.

The wedding day was just a few months more than a year after she had shown him those stacks of text books in the school closet. He was 20, she was 24. They came back from their honeymoon pretty much broke, moved into a little grey house, and had a bunch of babies. It hasn’t always been “happy ever after” but you didn’t expect that, did you?  Of course, they discovered some discrepancies, such as his preference for mayo instead of Miracle Whip, her aversion to onions that he ate in great raw slabs on butter bread, the temperature in the car, and a few things of more consequence. The promise was to love ever after. It has been a journey they have never regretted and they certainly hope to be granted the privilege to grow old together.

Want to see their engagement photo?




Be Mine, Part 3

Just friends. About six weeks before the school term ended, the girl was straightening her classroom, watering the plants by the window, mentally preparing herself to grade an enormous stack of worksheets when he appeared at the door.

“This is for you,” he said, as he handed her an envelope.

She sort of sagged against the wall, “Is this what I think it is?”

He seemed in a bit of a hurry, grinned, wished her a good evening, and left.

“Duh, duh, duh… Is it what I think it is? What kind of dumb thing is that to say? What if it’s a thank-you note?” She beat her forehead with her palm. Then she laid the envelope on her desk, did every bit of that grading, passed out the papers, prepped the next day’s lessons, and cleared everything away. Slowly she picked up the letter, studied the flourish under her name.

It wasn’t a thank-you note. In fact, it was a rather eloquent request for a deeper relationship focused on seeing if they were suited to get married. He did not try to assure her that he knew this was God’s will; he did not say that he had fasted and prayed for years; he did not even say that she was the only one for him in the world, etc. She appreciated the simplicity of his request. Apparently she made him happy. He liked her! He thought they were heading in the same direction in life. So let’s seek God together, how about it?

There had been a lot of pressure to discern God’s will concerning marriage before ever going out with someone, like you shouldn’t just get to know each other, but really know that you are supposed to be together for life before you ever take a step. The girl had been terribly afraid of making an error in judgement that would hurt another person. She had been afraid that she would never be certain enough about a guy to dare to be “in a relationship”. She had prayed many prayers that God would give her clarity concerning who she should marry, like when she was twenty-eight or thirty, preferably. Writing in the sky, maybe? She just never expected it to hit her like it did, all unaware.

She sat at her desk until it grew dark outside, thinking, thinking. So God knew just how scared she was of making a mistake. He let her fall for someone that she never even thought of in a romantic way until after they were good friends. He got past her prejudices about someone younger by letting it be someone so much younger that she hadn’t even considered him possible husband material. It was really kind of funny.

She went home and talked to her parents, who already knew about her letter, because the young man had done the respectful thing and asked her dad for permission to court his daughter. They had only blessings for her, no reservations, provided that she was clear that this was a person she was genuinely attracted to and could have confidence in. “A spark,” her parents said. “More than just feeling like it’s a good thing, there has to be a spark.”

It was customary to fast and pray and agonize over this sort of decision, but it seemed silly. She knew. There was a spark, all right. Deep in her heart she already knew what she wanted to say. There was just one thing that seemed big to her. How could it not be big to him? The age discrepancy.

She wrote a letter back, because writing was how she processed all the big things in her life. “What about your dreams of adventure, of travel, of higher education? I don’t want to go into a relationship that will cramp what you want to do with your life. I don’t want you to ever resent marrying young…” and more in that vein. She told him that she was honored, that she really did like him, but she put the ball squarely back in his court.