Saturday, November 30, 2013

On Being Real

So this is my house on an average day . . . 

And this is what I want to know. How much would you judge me for the cluttered tables and clean clothes hanging around? And why is it so hard for me to admit that this is normal in my home? When did it become imperative for my home to look like a showroom?

We live in this house. And living is messy. And, yes, I'd much rather crochet and read and talk with my family than run around picking up every little thing and putting it away. And why does that seem like a bad thing? That I've failed as a wife and mother (and possibly a person) because I choose this? 

I love neat and orderly, and I have periods where that happens, but not unless I'm constantly focused on it, and that grows old after a while. Perhaps I'm just a petulant child who wants to do what she wants to do. What I really believe is that creating and talking and loving and learning are a lot more important that appearing. Maybe my real problem still comes back to needing everyone else's approval -- which I'm not going to get.

So this is what my house really looks like. If you don't care, welcome. I'll fix you a cup of tea and you can move the dog to sit down on the squished out sofa. If you do care, then maybe you shouldn't visit me after all.

Friday, November 29, 2013

With Thanks to Lisa-Jo Baker

Repeat after me:

1. I shall not wait for my house or my life to be perfect before inviting someone in.
2. I shall remember that big hospitality has nothing to do with the size of my house.
3. I shall not judge my house, my Holidays or my gift wrapping skills by Pinterest’s standards.
4. I shall tell myself that no one ever did actually die of embarrassment from a small or messy space. And that missing out on community is a much worse kind of dying.
5. I shall not compare myself to others’ traditions, decor or gifts, but find my identity in the God who came to *be* the gift to me.
6. I shall play music loudly and teach my kids the joy of wildly off key carols.
7. I shall accept that a messy house at peace is better than an immaculate house tied up in knots.
8. I shall remember that guests will only feel as comfortable in my home as I feel in my own skin.
9. I shall embrace the fact that in becoming a mom I traded perfect for a house full of real.
10. I shall remember that there’s no shame in paper plates if they’re heaped high with delight in each others’ company.
11. I shall give my friends the gift of comparison-free friendship.
12. I shall pause between preparations to savor the celebrations.
13. I shall remember that hospitality is about opening the door, not about how fancy the furniture, decor or dishes.
14. I shall treat my family with the same grace I offer my guests.
15. I shall treat myself with the same grace I offer everyone else.
16. I shall leave the dishes and lean into the conversations.
17. I shall not focus on fear of appearances but on fully opening my arms to my friends and family.
18. I shall not be intimidated by how the holidays, the turkey, the tree or the memories “should” be celebrated but love the people I’m celebrating with instead.
19. I shall welcome my kids into the decorations, preparations, and celebrations.
20. I shall remember that I want you here. Whether I’m perfectly ready or not. Just the way you are. Which will likely mean most days, I must open the door just the way I am too.

~ with love from one tired, happy mother to another.

From Lisa-Jo Baker with much gratitude!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Something to Be Thankful for . . .

:: a warm house

:: sweet doggies to snuggle

:: my talented husband

:: my grown-up daughter

:: my funny son (even with his growing pains)

:: good friends through thick and thin

:: crochet -- mandalas and shawls and blankets

:: blogging -- struggles and cooking and crafting

:: baking -- bread and pies and squares

:: curiosity -- reading and listening and watching

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

linking up with Writer's Workshop

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . November 26, 2013

Outside my window . . . heavy gray clouds and saturated earth. A neighbor walking his dog and drinking coffee.

I am thinking . . . about all the things that need to get done today.

I am thankful . . . for my friend, Reco. He was in a terrible wreck yesterday morning. After hours of surgery yesterday, he is in ICU, and will have additional surgery today if all goes well.

In the kitchen . . . Sal's Pizza last night. We were all wiped out from worrying about Reco.

I am wearing . . . a summer weight gown and my flannel robe. Not enough for how cold it is this morning.

I am creating . . . an amigurumi gnome, 2 shawls, and a scrappy scarf. I may be a little ADD right now :)

I am going . . . to the grocery, TJ Maxx, and Michael's.

I am wondering . . . if I'll get everything done today that needs doing.

I am reading . . . Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

I am looking forward to . . . getting some things accomplished. I'm still behind from being sick last week, and Thanksgiving is just 2 days away! 

I am hearing . . . the ticking of the clock and the furnace running.

Around the house . . . Alan is finishing our new bed frame in the bonus room. There is laundry that needs tending. My work table is covered in detritus. And I'd be just as happy to sit down and crochet.

I am praying . . . for Reco and his family, and all the professionals caring for him. I pray for a full recovery, as he has a long road ahead of him.

One of my favorite things . . . is peace. I like having the family get along, and have my life running smoothly. It's been haphazard of late.

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . errands and baking today, packing and travel tomorrow, Thanksgiving with family on Thursday, and home again on Friday. Alan has a colonoscopy on Monday, so we'll spend Sunday prepping him for that after worship.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . .
gnome in progress

for more visit The Simple Woman's Daybook

Monday, November 25, 2013

Christmas Mandalas

I'm not sure why I'm so taken with these little mandalas, but they just make me happy.
They are like the doilies of yesteryear but with a little more character. I'm using mine as decorative pieces on furniture, but they could be framed and hung as well, and possibly, used as trivets on your holiday table. Whatever you choose to do with them, they are quick and easy to make and brighten any little spot.

I used Premier Serenity Gardens yarn in red and green (both are variegated), and I alternated which color I started with, doing 2 rows in each color before changing. I used an E/3.5mm hook.

The pattern is Crochet Mandala by Karen Janine. The only change I made was leaving off the embroidery hoop. I just did a final row of single crochet in the opposite color. I did a light steam with my iron hovering just above the mandala to block it, but you could pin it to a towel or your ironing board to make it more exact.

Happy Hooking!

linking up with Made You Monday

Saturday, November 23, 2013

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Friday, November 22, 2013


I watch the boys on the swings in the park. They are swinging in tandem, hoping to lift the swing set from it's foundations. They are college boys/men, but they look like 5 year olds to me. They are at once thrilled and worried. It's so exciting -- flying through the air, masters of their ships. But, but. Something could go wrong. What is so exhilarating one minute might be disastrous in the next.

That's life, isn't it? It's wonderful and happy and exciting one moment, and the next might be a mass of tangled bodies and hearts.

Flying through the sky and through life without a care in the world, and yet knowing it could all end in a moment. 

I watch them fly through the air (with the greatest of ease . . .) and I marvel at their abandon. Their willingness to risk is exhilarating for me, because I want to fly as well.

linking up with Five Minute Friday

Books You Need to Read

List 8 books you've read that you think everyone should read in their lifetime.

Really? Really? That's what I'm supposed to write about? I'll give you a list as long as it's understood it is subject to change at a moment's notice. And I don't like "shoulds", so let's just say I strongly encourage you to give these titles serious consideration, okay?

1. In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden

I suppose I should (oops!) be able to tell you why this novel had such an impact on me, but I can't really. Perhaps it had to do with the time in my life, my own questionings, and a desire to explore a more contemplative life. I know I am not alone in my feelings for this book. Just read the reviews on Goodreads and you'll see people reading and re-reading the novel.

2. Keeping House: the Litany of Everyday Life by Margaret Kim Peterson

I'm always searching for ways to make my life run more smoothly, and ways to feel that my service to my family has more meaning than society seems to imply. Peterson's book struck a chord with me by changing the mundane to the holy.

3. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

I read this when it was first published in 1989. I saw myself in Owen. That small, dwarfish boy with the funny voice. He didn't fit in and neither did I. As usual John Irving had something to tell us all about life, living, and loving.

4. You've Got Dragons by Kathryn Cave and Nick Maland 

A children's book for sure, but with a message we all need to hear. I found such comfort in this book during some of the worst of my PTSD. It's about acknowledging and naming fears; needing and seeking comfort. 

I admit it, I initially picked up this title when Josh became our minister. I wanted to know more about him, and maybe impress him by being able to say I'd read his book. What I got was a full out lesson in living Christ in the NOW. I was afraid it was going to be so missional that I would recoil, but I rather found the book to be encouraging and uplifting even for an introvert like me.

6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Yes, you've seen the movie. Yes, you had to read it in school or kid is reading now. Please, for the love of God, read it as an adult! The beauty of the language. The power and gentleness of the story. The wonder that is Atticus Finch. You need to read this book, for the first time or again.

7. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

I read it because everyone had it on their lists, and then I understood why. Read it with an open mind. Be Pi. Investigate and question through the first section of the book. Do what Pi is doing. And then settle in and journey with Pi. I had to read this one with a pen in hand -- for underlining, marking with ?, and noting. I looked up information in between reading sessions. I re-read the last portion at least 3 times. And then, and only then did I see the movie. You simply cannot be unmoved by this book.

8. The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough

I read this book many years ago, and it was a little treasure I had stumbled on. I gave copies as gifts. I lingered over it's few pages, and have thought lovingly of it since then. It's a light piece of fluff, but it's nice fluff. I've only recently read about it being possibly plagiarized from L. M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle. I was hesitant to keep it on my list, but the reality is, at the time I read it, I adored it. (I'll get back to you, after reading Montgomery's book.)

9. Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout

As one reviewer said, "It was not about religion but about human nature and how we overcome some of our basic and more ugly tendencies" and another, "It is a testimony to the enduring power of love." What more can I say.

Oh, it was supposed to be 8 books? Oh well, you got 9.

Happy reading!

linking up with Writer's Workshop

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . November 19, 2013

Outside my window . . . I see blue sky and wispy, white clouds. The trees are looking more and more bare. 

I am thinking . . . that I am glad to feel some better this morning. I got hit with a stomach bug early Monday morning. It was the worst I've felt in a very long time. Kudos to Alan and Claire for taking such good care of me.

I am thankful . . . for intellectual growth. I never want to stop learning, and I always want to be open to new ideas and concepts.

In the kitchen . . . lots of saltines and ginger-ale.

I am wearing . . . my Chinese lantern pants, a white t-shirt, and my FIL's denim shirt.

I am creating . . . not sure right now. Yesterday I didn't feel like doing anything. I'd like to finish my Danish shawl, and then look over some other ideas, now that Presents with a Purpose is behind us.

I am going . . . nowhere today!

I am wondering . . . how much I'll feel like doing today.

I am reading . . . well re-reading Alias Grace, but I checked out 2 other books from the library as well -- The Golden Notebook and Still Midnight. Not much reading going on right now as it was hard to concentrate. I have a ridiculously large stack of books I want to read, but I've been a bit ADD about it, skipping from one to the new without completing anything.

I am looking forward to . . . feeling better today. 

I am hearing . . . absolutely nothing, but the hum of electricity.

Around the house . . . it's pretty chaotic. It's amazing how quickly things fall into disarray when I'm not feeling well. I don't really think I do that much, but based on a day and a half of sickness and the current condition of the house, I must do more than I think.

I am praying . . . for more and more people. I just found out last night about a 40 year old husband and father who died from a heart attack on Sunday. I am so grateful for all I have, and yet so overwhelmed with sadness for the suffering I see around me.

One of my favorite things . . . is feeling well. I know it sounds a bit silly, but it's so easy to take for granted. A day or two of feeling really sick certainly puts things in perspective!

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . everything's on hold until I see how long it takes to bounce back from this crud. 

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . .
part of our display at Presents with a Purpose

for more visit The Simple Woman's Daybook

Saturday, November 16, 2013

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Recently my husband had to make a genogram for a class he's taking. It's a detailed description of family connections including medical history. Sort of a family tree on steroids. He asked his professor if he could include my genogram as well.

The whole time he was drawing and tagging it, I kept thinking, "I am fine with this", but if I focused on it too much or he asked me for additional information my head would begin to ache and spin a little. 

I've been through this once before. I saw a therapist once who was more interested in my story than in me as a person. I recognize the value in looking at family history and patterns to help me understand and heal now, but I am so much more than my story.

So this was the first "tree" that popped into my head this morning, but I'd rather remember the circle of trees that was my special retreat as a child, because I think that's where I met Jesus.

linking up with Five Minute Friday

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What's in a Name?

GENDER: Feminine
USAGE: EnglishGermanDutch
PRONOUNCED: MEL-ə-nee (English), ME-lah-nee (German)  
Meaning & History
From the French form of the Latin name Melania, derived from Greek μελαινα (melaina) meaning "black, dark". This was the name of a Roman saint who gave all her wealth to charity in the 5th century. Her grandmother was also a saint with the same name.
The name was common in France during the Middle Ages, and was it introduced from there to England, though it eventually became rare. Interest in it was revived by the character Melanie Wilkes from the novel 'Gone with the Wind' (1936) and the subsequent movie adaptation (1939).

For years I've known my name means "dark". It was a family joke of sorts. My sister's name means "light", and she has fair skin, blond hair, and hazel eyes. I'm dark haired with brown eyes, and skin that tans. 

Let's be clear -- I like my name. I like being a Melanie. I'm not found of diminutives, but I don't mind Mellie. But that definition has caused some trouble for me over the years. My name means "dark" and I am the one who was abused, repeatedly. I assume my family tends to see me as the "black sheep" because of some stands I've taken. 

The real reasons my sister and I have the names we do is not about coloring. Our dad was an English professor. My sister is named after a character in an Edgar Lee Master's poem, and after ancestors on both sides of the family. A nice and meaningful choice. It reverberated well when my father used it in my sister's wedding ceremony -- reading the poem in its entirety.

I on the other hand am named after Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind. Named after a character in a popular novel from the 1930's. No familial connections. When I was a kid, my grandmother would take us to see "Gone with the Wind" each time it came out in theaters, and I would be reminded of my namesake, the long-suffering Melanie whose husband almost cheats on her with the more exciting Scarlett. Mewling was a the word I attached to her as I grew older.

I re-watched the movie a few years ago, for the umpteenth time. This time as an adult dealing with PTSD and healing from childhood sexual abuse. And I noticed something. Melanie Wilkes is no mewling weakling. Melanie Wilkes is one tough cookie, full of grace, compassion, and strength. So I began to think about her and me in a different light. Maybe I'm not the bad guy. Maybe I'm gracious, compassionate, and tough. I like those terms a lot more than mewling. 

linking up with Writer's Workshop

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fractured Childhood

I've been thinking a lot about a conversation I had recently with another survivor. We don't know each other well, and don't know each other's story, but we know we are both survivors. I mentioned that those of us with fractured childhoods need to find ways to reclaim that time in the present. I've done it through collecting stuffed animals and dolls. I color. My husband bought me a silk and flannel fairy blanket that I slept with for years. And of course there is Yolie

The greatest gift toward reclaiming my childhood has been my husband. From the very beginning he embraced the idea of creating new memories. Part of my attraction to him all those years ago was his ability to have fun and be silly without worrying about perceptions. I have learned much from him. He is constantly making suggestions and reminding me to do something nice for my inner child. 

She is Lucy. Years ago I named her to avoid confusion when discussing things with my therapist -- not another personality, but a way of recognizing the little girl who was so damaged in those years. I still have difficulty talking about the abuse in the first person, so Lucy carries a lot of the weight for me. I owe her a great deal. 

She is named for my great-grandmother who cared for me while both of my parents worked, before I was old enough to go to school. "Nur" (pronounced nuh) loved me unconditionally. She taught me to make biscuits and how to braid hair. She sang hymns while she pegged the laundry to the line. Her sister was my dearest Auntie whose home was a refuge. 

I read the verses in scripture about children. About how Jesus honored and sat with children, and I am reminded that He still loves me like a child. And if He does, then I will too.

linking up with imperfect prose


linking up with Wordless Wednesday & The Jenny Evolution

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY . . . November 12, 2013

Outside my window . . . it is cloudy and VERY windy. We're having snow flurries which has everyone around here super excited.

I am thinking . . . about honesty and how important it is in real relationships. Tact is important too of course!

I am thankful . . . for my warm and cozy house on this cold, blustery morning.

In the kitchen . . . last night was franks and beans with iron skillet cornbread. Not sure about tonight, yet.

I am wearing . . . my favorite gown, flannel robe, and pseudo-crocs.

I am creating . . . lots of goodies for Presents with a Purpose.

I am going . . . nowhere today!

I am wondering . . . why my mind seems to be mush since returning from our weekend getaway!?!

I am reading . . . well re-reading Alias Grace, but I checked out 2 other books from the library as well -- The Golden Notebook and Still Midnight.

I am looking forward to . . . Presents with a Purpose this coming Saturday.

I am hearing . . . wind howling, wind chimes ringing, and my dd on the phone.

Around the house . . . things are looking good. Part of me is dreading the holiday decorating just because of the added clutter.

I am praying . . . for so many people! My bestie and her husband as they look toward their future service to God; two friends with advanced breast cancer; a 16 yo trying experimental treatments for treatment of lyme disease.

One of my favorite things . . . is learning more and more about the Bible. Not just the text itself (although that is wonderful), but about the history of the times and the people, and the on going impact these words have had on history.

A few plans for the rest of the week . . . Starbucks with a friend in the morning followed by counseling, and then a follow-up mammogram (prayers please!). Thursday is Bible study. Maybe lunch with another friend on Friday, and then Saturday is Presents with a Purpose. Busy week.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing . . .
my dd husband strikes again!
From a hike at Pickett Park last weekend.