Sunday, July 5, 2015

We've Moved the Blog

Hi there,

I've finally made the jump. Head on over to for all the updates.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Leaving Home

A few years ago I had a dream. We were living in Texas at the time, but in my dream I was here, at our little yellow house in Colorado, the one we left when we moved, and the one we came home to. I dreamed of standing in the backyard watching birds build their nests. The mommy birds fluffed and arranged, and the daddies flew back and forth, going to work and coming home again, gathering supplies and watching over their lady birds. I remember being delighted and thinking that I needed to call my best friend, because she would love it. In my dream, she was at home in her house, not far and a phone call away. In reality, at the time she lived an ocean away, in Germany.

About a month or so ago, I was standing on our back porch, watching two different bird families building their nests, just a few feet away. The Wrens chose the bbq grill, the small, round, vent holes providing the perfect doorway. They would fly in with sticks and strands of grass longer than their bodies, and angle themselves like a pole vaulter to dart in through the opening. Sometimes the angle was wrong and they would twist away, somersaulting and realigning their burden, time and time again before getting it just right.

The Robins picked a spot at the curve of the drain for the gutter, protected by the eaves and right next to Chloe's window. Momma would fly in with string and twigs, carefully making her selection of different materials. Then she would sit down and wiggle around, making the inside as smooth and firm as an eggshell.

I stood there and was delighted. Then thought, I need to call Sarah, she would love this. And I did, because she had come home too, from her world away and was close enough to share a morning coffee.

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Momma Robin
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Babies. (And yes, 3/4 of our house is yellow, but the back is a brilliant shade of teal.)
This morning, I came outside and two of our robin babies had flown the nest. After watching her sit for days and days, and then the hatching, followed by barely heard peeping and naked little pink heads peeking out, then watching as the babies growing stronger and bolder and louder, I feel like they are our babies too.

The momma and the daddy sat on the back fence and worried over Roscoe's sudden appearance. They fussed so much one of our chickens caught the alarm and started clucking loudly in sympathy. Sure enough, there in the bush sat a dark speckled shape blinking at the wide world it had found itself in. I confess that I wanted to scoop them up and deposit them back safely in the nest until they somehow grew stronger and bigger and more ready. This must be the scariest part, watching your littles be big enough to leave the nest, but not quite strong enough to fly away from danger.

I told the Momma Bird I knew how she felt, and I resisted the urge to plunk them back in the nest because they will not be strong enough to fly if they don't stretch their wings now. So I left them be, and kept my two hairy carnivores in the house instead.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The First Days of Summer

Summer brings me a welcome exhale. Freedom from packing school lunches, ferrying to soccer practices, the morning rush, and the demands of homework. It's all over for a blissful few months, and we are taking deep breaths indeed.
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The view from the kitchen window
We have a momma robin who has tucked her nest right under the eaves by Chloe's window. Her babies just hatched, not yet to the peeping stage, and outside we sit and watch her bringing them food. Today she flew in with a huge moth that was quickly snatched up by reaching beaks.

There is a tiny wren family that built a nest inside our BBQ grill. Momma has been diligently sitting on the nest while the daddy hovers close by. And we are now trudging over to our neighbor's house with our plates of meat.

And inside our nest, two days into summer and we have built a fairy garden, played an epic game of Monopoly, made homemade lemonade and popcorn, eaten outside and watched Agents of SHIELD until far past bedtimes. And also this:

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Cello Love
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Aidan and Roxanne
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Learning the mandolin
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Chloe and Bessie
Here's to summer.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

On Stage

I'm staring at my yellow mug, filled with my friend, Bindi's, home made chai, and fervently hoping for some sunshine. "Unprecedented" is what they are calling this rainy Colorado spring. We are used to 300 plus days of sunshine a year, so the constant gloom and drizzle is taxing my outdoor style. The rivers are oversaturated again, our xeriscaping and "drought hardy plants" are drowning with root rot, the chickens are up to their ankles in mud, and my heater is still sporadically still running. On the plus side, everything is green.

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Aidan had his last middle school orchestra concert last night. It's really hard to find ways to express your individuality in orchestra. You are supposed to blend in with the group and create one movement of music and matching style. Aidan's teacher hasn't always appreciated his efforts to set himself apart. The fake mustache didn't go over so well that one time. But for someone who appreciates order as much as she does, she stretched to accommodate his personality, finding ways for him to step out of the box. And for the very last concert, she said "yes" to the kilt. Well done, Ms Plattenberger. 

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The clan Cummings
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8th Grade
Chloe and her two cousins, created an original comedy skit for their talent show. It was a parody on "What Does the Fox Say" with clever slapstick humor. I was in the back, and couldn't hear because the younger kids in front were laughing SO hard.
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Talent Show
Our formerly stage-shy daughter was the mischievous fox, who wouldn't do anything the way that ringmaster wanted. Caedmon was a natural ham, playing the frustrated, serious role, while Chloe danced around, sang and wrecked havoc with his plans. She wasn't sure that she wanted to go through with the idea, but she didn't want to let Caedmon down, and then she loved it. Good friends are like that, they invite you into spaces that you never would have been bold enough to try on your own.
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Talent Show
Noah was the distracted stage hand, Chloe's cohort in crime. He played his part rather naturally.

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The Fox
I took Aidan out of school to skip health and sneak over to watch Chloe. The ladies at the front desk gushed over what a sweet brother he was to come with flowers. Looking closer, they wondered if he had picked from the school's gardens. We assured them of course we wouldn't steal from Ryan Elementary.  Now Angevine Middle School on the other hand...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

More Than Middle School

Mom, this was my last Monday in elementary school...

Every day Chloe has been finding new ways to tell me that she's growing up, that she's leaving familiar things behind for unknown, uncharted territory. And I respond, I know, Baby. Because I do.

I've known from the very moment that I held my newest little bundle in my arms, that these moments are precious, and fleeting. In high school we had to decorate a poster to show what we wanted to be when we grew up. I found a picture of a lady in an apron, holding a spatula, baking something in a large bowl. I'm sure it was some sort of advertisement for Betty Crocker or something, and it was cheesy and stereotypical, not at all trendy or cool. And I remember thinking, Whatever, I don't care what anyone thinks. Because when I grew up, I knew I just wanted to be a mom.

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Me and the Veggie Tales, making something amazing.
So yeah, I'm kinda aware that my baby bird is growing strong flight feathers, and is peeking over the sides of the nest. And I'm super proud. Part of me wants to build the nest higher, but the other part, the better and more selfless part, whispers, I know, Baby, it's almost time to fly.

She will fly because I know what's inside of her. Even though she's a black belt and can disarm an attacker, flip them over, and break their elbow in three places; even though she plays soccer like a fierce little tiger and can out run a cheetah; even though she's beautiful and smart and funny, those things don't define her. And even if someday she can't kick a little white ball into a large net as well, or if she trips and falls and can't run as fast, or if she finds someone more beautiful, smarter or funnier. She's going to be okay. Because her character is what defines her, and her Creator whispers you are enough.

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The Sugar Queen
If I have done my job well, then she will face life head on, knowing that she is precious, priceless, and studded with stars. The thing that I pray over my kids, more than anything else, is, God, help them to know how much they are loved.

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The reason our yard is full of dandelions
Because when you know you are loved, the little things don't matter as much and the big things are more manageable because you know you have a safety net when you fall. And you can do hard things bravely.
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This coming fall, when she heads off to 6th grade, I'll tell her the same thing I told her brother: Decide who you want to be, and be that. With confidence. Everyone else is trying to figure out who they want to be, sometimes they hide themselves by picking on someone else. But if you're brave, and you know, and own, who you are, everyone else who is looking for their place will respect you too. But if you're afraid and insecure, those who doubt themselves the most will try to make you smaller to cover their own fear of not being good enough.

I know you're growing up, Baby Girl. But you're going to rock middle school, because you are more than enough.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Almost Done

We are grinding away towards the end of school. I'm not sure if the kids are more, or less, excited than I am. It seems like everyone is in a final rush to fit things in. My counters are cluttered with papers to sign, field trips to pay for, and my inbox is a steady stream of details to be ironed out. Yesterday, I noticed bits of paper sticking out of open spaces in my purse. It was an eclectic collection of to-do lists scribbled on envelopes, half finished grocery lists in folded up rectangles, and receipts that need to be recorded.

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Chloe had her first "real" concert. All of the 5th and 6th graders in the area schools came together fot a joint concert. She's the cutest little cellist who spiced things up by adding a little tremolo to her song, something she learned from her brother. Her cello is almost as big as she is, and every Tuesday and Thursday, she heads off to the bus stop in her Bombur outfit: cello on the back, backpack strapped to the front, and a folded music stand on the side.

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flowers from daddy
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We drove out to Leadville to watch this guy play some soccer. The other team's coach was a long haired hippie sort, laid back and leathery. He was wearing shorts and a sweater, in contrast to all of us lowlanders, who came decked out in layers of North Face, gloves, hats and blankets. The coach had spent the week shoveling the snow from the field so they could play. And since the referee was in Ukraine, he officiated the game and let his boys coach themselves. Aidan scored the most beautiful goal. Just past mid field and far over on the right, he launched a shot into the upper corner of the net. The parents were all so stunned, we didn't realize it was a goal, because we didn't see how he could have made that shot. In the span of an hour it alternated between gorgeously sunny, snow, and hail.

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Hiding from the camera
Chloe's loving playing club soccer. She's a fierce little whirlwind and has scored in all but one of her games, a couple of times from mid field, sending the ball in the air, over a crowd of defenders. Aidan's been giving her slide tackling lessons because she really, really wants to slide tackle someone.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Staff, Snake, and Brownies

When Moses was confronted with the burning bush, and the voice of God telling him to go and lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, he was a little resistant. He had several logical reasons about why he wasn't a good choice, and why God should choose someone else, and what if no one believes him.

 And so God asks him, "What's in your hand?". Moses replies, "A staff".

(This is my favorite part...) Then God gives him instructions to throw in on the ground and it becomes a snake, which freaks Moses out, and he runs away until God tells him to reach out his hand and pick it up by the tail, and it then becomes a staff again.

The thing that I love so much about this is that I imagine Moses giving his objections out of his own insecurities and then God says, "Fine, what's in your hand? A stick? Great. We'll use that then, so you will know this isn't about you anyway."

This idea "What's in your hand?" is beautiful to me. That rather than feeling insufficient for what we don't have, or who we are not, we can just run forward with whatever we're holding in the moment, because it's not about us anyways, and trusting that God can move in our lives as He chooses.

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On the outside

When I jumped into the contest for Dream Jobbers and needed to create a social buzz for votes, I looked around and thought, "What's in my hand?" The answer was brownies and 8th graders. Aidan trotted off to school with a lunch bag stuffed with homemade goodies. Soon enough, we had quite a following. Some became so dedicated that they obsessively checked my progress, and created multiple accounts in order to cast a vote for all their family members.  Some people (who shall remain nameless) created accounts with names that could have only come from an 8th grade boy, and left comments with spelling errors and enthusiasm for my awesome skills. Voting spiked at Angevine Middle School's lunch hour. I discouraged plots to sabotage other contestants, offers to hack the system, and schemes to boost my street cred with falsified claims about my ability to cure cancer.

World Vision ended up picking someone who had in his hand some sweet videoing skills. Whatever. I still made some kind of impression on the tender hearts of children. In fact, just the other day, Aidan came home with a request from a friend who hadn't seen baked goods in a while. "When is your mom going to try to go to Africa or something again, so we can get some more food?" Brownies matter too, take that, video guy.

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Fluffy, the broody chicken
In conclusion, here is a picture of a broody chicken. This is an example of a sweet, small brained, shy little hen, turned into a crazed velociraptor that chased the German Shepherd around the yard. Proof of what hormones can do.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ginger Black Pepper Cookies

You know those food blogs that promise a recipe and then make you scroll through 25 pictures (sometimes artfully photographed) of their food, and short stories about everything under the sun, until you finally reach the recipe? That annoys me. Cut to the bottom line, as my dad used to say. Give me one beautiful, picture to see that it looks yummy, and the goods. Seriously.

In fact, I'll even go first. Here's a recipe for my new favorite cookie: (Adapted from "The Kitchen Ecosystem" by Eugenia Bone.)

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cookies for all
Chewy Ginger Black Pepper Cookies
2 1/4 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground cloves
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
2 heaping tablespoons of grated fresh ginger, or 2 tsp ground ginger
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
3/4 C sugar
1 egg
1/4 C molasses
Raw sugar

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine flour and spices. (If using fresh ginger, wait and mix in with butter mixture.) In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Adding one at a time and beating well after each addition, beat in egg, molasses, and fresh ginger (if using). Add flour mixture and beat to combine. If you cannot roll into little balls without it sticking to your fingers, add up to 1/2 C more flour.

Place raw sugar in bowl. roll dough by heaping teaspoons and then roll in sugar. Place on baking sheet 1-2 in apart.

Bake 8-10 min.

And there we are, short, sweet and to the point.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Blue Funky

There's a creative blue funk I'm sitting in right now. I keep waiting for it to go away, but it seems to be lingering, leaving a lack of creative motivation as its calling card. All of my usual jump starts are not jump starting anything, and I keep making coffee only to leave it sitting untouched in the mug. The only creative juices that seem to be flowing are in regards to how to next email Aidan's teacher.

There was nothing else to be done, but to head to the florist and gasp in sticker shock buy plants, because putting things in order makes me perfectly happy, and quite frankly, the front yard looked like an overgrown beard begging for a trim. I've conquered my fear of the weed eater, no doubt inspired by my brothers' dire warnings of chopping my legs off. I also have an irrational fear of spiders that can be laid at their feet.

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The good news is that I did not chop my legs off, and my favorite part of weed eating is making crisp tidy lines around the sidewalk. Instant gratification.

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pansies & creeping thyme
We finished the day with Sicilian Pistachio gelato because today was officially the end of science fair. The board is packed up, and ready to be made into a dressing room or whatever other creative use Chloe will dream up. And since we survived with minimal scarring, no complete meltdowns, and all of our hair, I consider it to be a raging success.

And as a side note, we couldn't even view the winning project because the dad was standing in front explaining everything to a captive audience...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Science Fair and Therapy

I dread science fair more than my kids do. They pick a topic and then spend the weeks leading up to the finish line forgetting about it, but I know what's coming.  Looming over my head is the deadline, the crying, the arguing and fit throwing, and that's just me. (Kidding, sort of) Aidan is possibly going to need future therapy for his 5th grade science fair project. That was three years ago and the events of that last weekend leading up to project completion are still convulsing in his memory.

I'm so over the need to "help" my kids with their projects while casting sideways looks at the other parents' boards who were also "helping". It's a cutthroat science fair war out there, and I'm out. Now I look at it as more of a character building experience. "It has to be done, but nobody wants to do it, it's fine if it stinks, but it has to be your best effort, and sometimes in life you just have to do things that you don't want to do."

This year was much more relaxed, now that we worked out some of the kinks on Aidan. Chloe picked a topic and Chris was assigned the job of being her support team. As the resident engineer, after about 3rd grade, all of the math and science things are automatically dropped in his lap. A little time out to talk about engineers. They are perfectly wonderful, and I adore mine thoroughly, but they do have a certain complex way of thinking. They can be sometimes like a Rube Goldberg machine taking ideas from point A to point B. (This might be the moment when Aidan starts twitching)

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Imagine this: Chloe is on the computer creating a spreadsheet to graph her electrical output from her lemons and potatoes, Aidan is not at all helping by continually offering his memories of science fairs past, and I am lecturing Chris about exactly what it means to be a support team as opposed to a project manager. And then, the science stuff is all done, and now it's time for design. At which point, I stop lecturing my husband, and start project managering the photographs and painting (Chloe stopped me from photo shopping her pictures)... See? Character building.

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The cutest little scientist
Petrichor: the pleasant earthy smell after the rain.
Vellichor: the strange wistfulness of used bookshops.

There needs to be a special word for that euphoric, blissful feeling, when the science fair project is finished. Or I guess, we could just say that it's ineffable: too great to be expressed with words.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Swing of Things

We've been trying to get back in the swing of things over here. Spring has come and brought a change from winter rest to spring busy. So, in the midst, I'm working out how to not let busy define us. Here's a few glimpses:
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The Trebol Terminators
Somebody cute and feisty has switched focus from tae kwon do to soccer. The girls had their first game last Saturday, and they came out of the gates like champs. Chloe scored once and also had a beautiful save as goalie. She's been telling me, "You're my mom, not my coach". Which I'm taking to mean, that she wants me to cheer for her wholeheartedly, and not to notice if she doesn't do something correctly. Fortunately, I'm only assistant coaching now, so I can leave the hard stuff to the Actual Coach.
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Trebol Green
This guy has finally found his wheels, and it's super fun to watch. He's becoming quite the leader on, and off, the field.
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eTown Hall
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Getting ready to perform
Aidan had a performance at Impact for Education's award ceremony. They played Imagine by John Lennon. Aidan has dress clothes that he never wears and only brings out at these sorts of occasions. And he's growing, quickly. Which became rather apparent when his pants had risen to levels to escape a small flood, and his shirt prevented him from lifting his arms. Fortunately, you don't need to lift your arms to play the cello, and he was wearing cool stripey socks. But now we know, that we need to literally have a dress rehearsal that takes place sooner than an hour before the show.
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The Treats
We had to watch from the downstairs area, on a big screen tv that didn't actually have sound at first, and then only in parts. But Aidan looked awesome playing his cello. The good part was that it put us right by the lovely treat table, and those chocolate covered pretzels that look like pencils were quite tasty.

The end for now.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tattered Wings pt 2

I couldn't finish the story. I was stuck. I tried to think of the ending, just the way that I wanted it to turn out. But the truth is that we are still in that place by the side of the great water, looking at the water and wondering if we have the strength to keep flying.

Let me back up a little, this whole adoption journey has been much more taxing than my Anne-with-an-E self enjoys. I'm a sprinter, I like to see the finish line from my beginnings. Run hard, turn left. I like happy endings, ones with a nice tidy bow, where everyone ends up where they belong. I like sunshine and rainbows, and answers.

We thought we had our answer several times. The last time, we were giddy with anticipation. We'd been frustrated with the lack of communication etc from our agency, and contacted another local agency (with great reviews) that also worked in Bulgaria. After the briefest of communication, on the phone, they asked if we would mind switching gears and considering two sisters from Guyana. They were the right age, both our kids jumped on board, and get this, their names were Destiny and Devine. It felt absolutely perfect. They sent over a picture and we fell in love, all of a sudden. All we would have to do was transfer our home study and within months, would be expected to bring them home. We said YES, less than 24 hours after they asked us. Then, nothing. I sent emails, waited, nothing.  Weeks went by and I asked for a meeting, and I heard, "Yes, we'll get back to you". Nothing. Again.

Now I was getting more and more frustrated. We finally pestered enough and sat down for a face to face with the founder of the agency, at which point, we heard, "Oh, the girls are already spoken for by a family further along in the queue". Are you freakin kidding me? But she cheered us on, sorry that we had had difficulties to that point, and declared that sometimes people just had issues for no apparent reason but now, things were going to be different. We decided to go ahead with the Guyana program anyway for a bunch of reasons that fit us. Until months later, after more radio silence, we find out that they discontinued the program....

Meanwhile, our enthusiasm for Bulgaria had lost steam as the projected time to completion stretched from 3-5 years, becoming more entangled in red tape, and the frequent switching of our social workers. So we decided that we might limp to a different program, only to discover that our agency had lost the contracts to work in the other country we were interested in...

So we put all of our stuff on hold while we waited to hear back if our agency won the contract to work in Brazil. They assured me they would get back to me as soon as they finalized in January...

And then there was quiet.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Tattered Wings Pt 1

We sat at the table when our social worker asked a question, "How do you plan on making an adopted child feel a desired part of your family?" Instantly, I knew. "I will write a story" I told her.

Once upon a time, there was a family of birds. There was a momma bird who was good and kind, a daddy bird who was gentle and strong, a brother bird who was brave and fun, and a sister bird who was both caring and fierce. The bird family lived in a cozy little nest, with bits of straw, sunshine and love sticking out everywhere.

Every day, daddy bird flew off to gather plump worms and bits of curvy sticks. Every day, Mommy bird flew to the tippy top of the wide spreading branches of the sweet smelling apple tree to sing her heart out. As the sun began to dip beneath the outline of the sky, mommy bird's song guided a swooping and soaring Brother and Sister home from testing their wings in the wide open spaces at the foot of the mountains. Every night, Daddy bird stretched his wings out over his family and whispered the names of the stars as they blinked to life one by one, until the eyes of the small birds drooped to a close.

But as the small bird family watched the dance of the seasons pass, they began to feel as if they were missing something, and a small hole began to stretch in their hearts, a hole that ached to be filled with another little bird. Mommy bird began singing louder, hoping to draw their small bird, home, to their nest. Daddy bird began flying in farther and farther circles during his gatherings, adding more bits to their nest. Brother and Sister began testing the strength of their muscles by swooping and soaring higher and higher, all the while glancing up to see if their small bird might drop from the sky.

At last, one day, the bird family decided that their little bird must be lost and could not find its way home. So Daddy bird, Mommy bird, Brother and Sister, left their snug little nest and took to flight. They flew high over mountains, dodging eagles and airplanes. They swung low through canyons, searching in crevices and old forgotten trees. Once, they thought they spotted something and their hearts leapt inside, but it turned out to only be a misshapen twig.

The skies gathered darkness as they left behind warm sunlit areas. Their wings ached from flying and their hearts were heavy for home, but the longing for their own, lost little bird made them continue on. Finally they reached a mighty water that stretched  so far it seemed to blend into the sky. Mommy bird's hat was tattered from the journey and brother and sister birds' wings had grown as strong as could be. The ocean seemed so huge and the journey now so impossible that their hearts quivered with fear. But as that instant grew into a long moment, a gentle wind lifted their feathers and whispered, courage....

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Little About Dog Piles

I don't like picking up dog poop. Except for the times when I wander outside because I need to be outside, and I just happen to notice, and casually clean the yard. Those times I feel happy and satisfied. But the times that I'm scouring the yard to "get ready" for something, not so much. All I can see are piles and piles, evidence that Roscoe has been snacking in the compost bin again. Then, I don't enjoy myself any, even with a nice clean yard, because I'm too busy to notice the clean; it's just one more thing to be checked off my list. Maybe that was the problem with Martha, in the Bible, she was out of rhythm with work and rest, and was locked in a cycle of the next thing to be accomplished, fixed, or finished. That's me a lot of days, and it's exhausting.

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The Pile Maker

This Lenten season, I haven't given up anything per se, because to be honest, sacrifice and self denial of things can be difficult, but not necessarily life changing for me. I come from a family where difficult things were woven into the fabric of our lives, and I can do denial and self discipline. The harder thing for me is to rest, and to listen. To listen, instead of doing. To sit in quiet and contemplation when it leaves my hands empty and my chores undone. I'm finding when I lift my eyes up long enough to see the big picture, instead of losing myself in the tiny details, I notice more. I feel more alive, connected and peaceful. Time slows, and I'm not exhausted anymore.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Dancing Sober

In December, I read a book called "Carry On Warrior" by Glennon Doyle Melton. She talks about that first time she danced sober, without the aid of alcohol to make her feel brave. And how hard it was. Scary. And how she did it, sweaty with her eyes clenched shut, because she dearly loved to dance, but was afraid of all those things that we're afraid of when we're worried about who's looking.

This challenged me, because I'm really brave about some things, but not so much about those secret places in my heart.  Those things, the ones most dear, I guard fiercely. I hold my dreams close and I don't do vulnerable easily. But I decided that I wanted to be like that, to be bold about dreams, and hopes, and brokenness.

It's hard to put yourself in that place where you say loud enough to be heard, I want something, because the very act of wanting leaves you open, with holes waiting to be filled. And sometimes, instead of being filled with hope, they start to swell up with something else, disappointment, sadness, and questions.

When I signed up for the dream jobbing contest, I didn't actually expect to win. Which is good, because I didn't. I just knew that I had to try, and I hoped that I would win. It was scary, uncomfortable, and sweaty, but it was also fun. There's something so odd about video, because you see yourself in a two dimensional form, outside your body, almost like a stranger parroting your thoughts. It's such a contrast to constantly looking through your own eyes at other people watching you. I sat there watching myself and I thought, I like that girl. And I think that's the way that we should live, to be someone that we like, rather than trying to measure with a yardstick of other people's favor.

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Captain Fareed, the Iraqi Goodwill Ambassador

I was sad that I didn't win, because there was that initial left out feeling of not being chosen. But there was something else that showed up as beautiful. It was all the friends, strangers, and community who linked arms in support. There was an army of 8th graders with smart phones and creatively manufactured names who voted, commented, and obsessively checked on my stats. Friends, and friends of friends on Facebook who cared as much as I did, and Chris and Marshall and Aidan and Chloe, who outdid themselves in the name of promotion. (If you haven't seen the videos check out here and here.)

Dreams don't always come out the way that you want them to, but they can have happy endings nonetheless.

Monday, February 16, 2015


My darling husband rented me the Sony A7R for a weekend as an early Valentine's present. He took a Friday off work and spent the whole day doing some of my favorite things. Breakfast at a little bakery, walking the streets of downtown Denver looking for photo opportunities, and popping into all the unique coffee shops that we passed.  It's a good thing the Sony had such a beautiful anti-shake mechanism after all the coffee and sugar.

Chris headed to the mountains for overnight camping with the guys, so the kids and I hit the streets in downtown Boulder.
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For some reason, I really like corner shots of buildings
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A vanilla latte truffle
We ducked into a shop called Piece, Love, and Chocolate. They had rows and rows of beautiful truffles. Chloe stood at the counter for ages trying to decide which one to buy, changing her mind half a dozen times.
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Plates in a window
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We bought spices at the Savory Spice shop, pesto parmesan, which is one of our favorite things to put on popcorn, and iced coffee at Ozo.

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Bikes in a row
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Smells like fish and chips
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A disclaimer about the amount of times I mention pastries and coffee: really most of my diet consists of things like kale, avocados, and squash. Kale just isn't that fun to talk about. Whoever gets happy feelings thinking about a kale smoothie? No one, that's who.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


There's this thing about gratitude that changes the world around us.  You know how when someone gives you an unexpected, extravagant gift and then you feel crappy because you either didn't deserve it or don't have anything in return?  Maybe that's just me, but I tend to like things to feel even.  I don't like to be in debt to someone.  I don't mind giving more than I've received, but I don't like it the other way around.  But when you realize that you've received something totally undeserved, there is the crazy sense of gratitude and desire to reciprocate. Grace is like that. Undeserved and upside down.

 When I start to feel like I've really got it together and am doing this life thing pretty okay, I think I start to feel like I deserve goodness.  And then, I feel a little less grateful.  But then something happens to remind me again that I am made of dirt and clay, and suddenly when I'm given Grace, I realize how much it means.  And it makes me want to live this crazy life, grateful again.

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Aspen Leaves
I keep a list of things that make me happy, a little like collecting shells from the sea shore. I find that the more I notice, the more my hands are spilling over with good things. What's interesting is that they are rarely things I have, or possess. They are more often gifts that I can't control. Beauty in unexpected places, laughter. Moments that my heart collects and notices-this is good. Sudden stabs of Grace.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Terrorists and Christians

I've been reading this book, "The Terrorist's Son" by Zak Ebrahim. Zak writes his story about growing up as the son of a convicted terrorist, locked away for murdering a Jewish rabbi and helping to plan the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

He talks about learning to question and overcome the bigotry and dogma that he was raised with...."They all sounded like facts. Who was I to differentiate? I was made to fear people who were different and kept away for my own "protection". Bigotry is such a maddeningly perfect circle-I never got close enough to find out if I should fear them in the first place." The funny thing is that he finds freedom working a summer job at Busch Gardens.

"The flood of people, people, and people in my life is intoxicating. I walk around Busch Gardens with my head literally held higher because I know people who are not like me. I've got incontrovertible truth that my father raised me on lies. Bigotry is stupid. It only works if you never walk out your front door."

I love that statement, "people who are not like me" because I think it's so easy to get caught in a cycle of isolation of sameness. I grew up in a Christian culture that defined who you were by what you did or didn't do. You could tell who the "Real Christians" were because there was a prescribed set of rules that you either followed or didn't. If you followed all the rules, you were a good Christian. And if you didn't, then you were a bad one. And I was a really good one.

We built ivory towers and looked out the windows, pointing our fingers at the ones who were doing it wrong. We spent a lot of time pointing our fingers at people who followed differently than we did. I guess there is some safety in that. I mean, if you know the rules, and follow them, then you can feel like you're ok. The problem occurs when you ever bump into someone who has a different, or (gasp!) smaller set of rules than you do. Then, you have to either stretch your mind to let them into your space, or shut them out, because they are not like you. It's much easier to hang out with people who are the same. Then you can validate each other and no one is rocking the boat with some controversial idea. Then you can all be safe and right together, because obviously, everyone else is doing it wrong.

The only problem with that, is just about everything. Fear that someone different might make you worse of a person, that they might rub off on you like a communicable disease, keeps compassion away and love bottled up in a tiny, tiny jar. Fear rarely brings you to a better place. It just seatbelts you in and careens around the corners, out of control, taking you to places that you never wanted to go. It's easy enough to love your neighbor when your neighbor is just like you, it gets quite a bit more complicated when they are not.

I don't want to live like that. But in order to really live, you have to be vulnerable, because as we walk around in our clay vessels, sometimes we bump into each other, and we crack. And it hurts. You have to be willing to be broken, to not have all the answers, and to love people because we share the same skin of humanity. Beauty and ashes come from the same place.

 I want to live in my broken vessel, wildly, with love and light pouring through the cracks like water. Some days I do it fine, and other days, I think I crawl back into my ivory tower. Some days I'm wide with Grace, and other days Mercy is a notion in my mind that never reaches my fingertips. Some days I'm so busy being right, that I don't Love. But then, I guess that's part of being broken, knowing that no matter how I hard I want do it perfectly, I still can't. And in that way, we are all just exactly the same.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Black and Blue and Yellow

Yesterday, Aidan and I played out our now well-developed emergency room routine. It starts with witty banter with the registration lady (this one actually thought we were funny-points for Avista-usually we are the only ones amused). Then we move into hopeful chair waiting-as in, we are hopeful that this will not take all night, which gradually moves into the stage called "we have been waiting here all night".  At this point, our slouching grumpy posture, only briefly alleviated by a short Pinterest moment, conveys our displeasure. This is when Aidan starts coming up with fantasies about how to make our stay shorter, some of his ideas are not so helpful, which is when I smugly remind him that we are sitting there, because perhaps he hadn't thought through his previous actions. Finally, when there is no one that they could possibly call next if they tried, and the seats have long conformed to our shapes, we finally get in for our blasted x-ray. The final stage is when I get to spend the remaining bits of my night at Walgreens waiting for a prescription to be filled. Because no matter how I try, they will still somehow either forget to fill my prescription, or overlook the fact that I am sitting in the hard plastic chair right in front of them, and forget to tell me that it is ready. Maybe the little black storm cloud I was sitting in, obscured their view.

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But there is always beauty, even in the junkyard. We had the sweetest, kindest nurses, who clucked over Aidan sympathetically. And Aidan chose to have a hole drilled in his toenail to relieve the pressure and spent the rest of the night thinking how lovely that tool was, and how handy it could be in all sorts of scenarios. (Our doctor's cousin did the same procedure on himself, with a drill.) Never mind that it turns out he didn't actually need to have a hole drilled in his nail, it just added to the already chewed up look. His gym teacher is going to be unhappy that she has lost her "ninja warrior" to compete with the other gym classes, and his coach is unhappy that Aidan is going to miss his soccer tournament, but the 8th grade girls have been very empathetic...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

High School

You know those moments when you take a hard swallow and know that life is not going to be the same, ever again? Last night we sat and went through the classes Aidan is choosing for high school. HIGH SCHOOL! This is the little guy who spent most days of his of his toddlerhood, clad only in a t-shirt and diaper, playing in the mud with streams of water and plastic dinosaurs. Sugar Bear to his momma. And now, he's casually tossing around terms like "Chemistry/Physics, the IB program (which is apparently NOT "irritable bowel", in case you were confused.), pre-engineering and advanced humanities. Sheesh. Part of me wants to go back to the diaper days when I knew he was always an arms reach away, but the other part of me swells with pride to see the fella he's turning out to be.

We've spent the last 13 years giving our son wings. We've encouraged him to dream, to learn, to create; to reach. We've told him stories and given him adventures. We've fostered his love for far away places, and people not the same. Along the way, we've nudged, and pushed, and pulled, and prodded, until he could stand on his own, walk on his own, and now, I'm half afraid, he's really going to fly, on his own. I get the sense that this mountain range out our window is going to become too small, to cramped.

The kid who danced with abandon, flinging one arm out in rhythmic slicing motions, is now the young man who still sees the world with enthusiasm and optimism. Who takes sides with the disadvantaged. He has a sense of adventure and daring, the fernweh of his ancestors. He wears the olive skin that hints of Cherokee heritage, his  PopPop's sense of humor, his daddy's smile and generous heart, and my brown eyes.

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Aidan in Georgetown, CO
In the Jerusalem market, the old Arab trying to sell Aidan a dagger, shooed Chris away..."No, no, he is man, you let him choose...". And we will. Even if it means those wings that we've carefully watched grow, will take him far from the nest.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Glass Blowing

Aidan teased me that there weren't going to be any presents under the Christmas tree this year, only rolled up pieces of paper. Because I had discovered Groupon and Living Social. Which combined with our love for giving our kids experiences rather than things, is sort of like a perfect marriage.

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Glass Blowing Class
Just to prove him wrong, there were some other really fun things under the tree. But also, some boxes filled only with paper...

First we drove to Fort Collins and had dessert at the chocolate café, then we went to Loveland for Aidan's glass blowing class.

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Ornament making
The instructor was a grizzled oldish hippie sort. He gave commands with an impatient bark, which I guess is understandable when dealing with liquid glass and a 13 year old.

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Rolling the ornament in the color
The studio was an old shed, on a dirt road behind the train tracks. The three teachers that went in front of Aidan showed him the things not to do. But they did it cheerfully and with lots of teacher type words of encouragement to each other.

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Blowing the glass-while it's rolling.
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Becoming a ball
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Creating the loophole
Fire melting glass until it glows liquid orange, and becomes as malleable as play dough, is really amazing to watch. Aidan loved his experience. He loved the science of it, and the art. Beauty made from glass, heat and air.

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An ornament, made with those two hands.