Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Words for Wednesday

In the search to improve my writing skillz, I recently read that poetry helps one refine the clarity of a thought. I had initial doubts, given that my mental impression is of either Seussian singsong or careless words


like so




Both cute, but I don't see much meaning to this kind of poetry. Apparently my browser doesn't either, because those words were supposed to be sprinkled, not centered.

In high school I studied the iambic pentameter of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and wrote one of my own. It was even fun. But for the most part when I read poetry, my brain gets all fuzzy the same way it does when I listen to Mexican radio. Apologies to Byrde, my poet friend. Your sonnets are beautiful even if I don't get them.

Then I recently discovered that some poems are given a structure that does not include couplets or rhyme. After practicing, I learned that it wakes up my brain, too. So while I am no poet, I present you the first poetry I have written since 1994. I may possibly be addicted to writing poems as warm up exercise on writing days.

The first stanza is a Crapsey Cinquain (2-4-6-8-2), the second a haiku (5-7-5). Who knew, a haiku can actually say something. If you would like to try your own cinquain or haiku, leave it in the comments. I would love to hear it. And if you're not ready, I might make this a weekly feature and try to get a MckLinky going or something. So you will get another chance.

Ahhhhh.... sharing this is harder than I thought! I feel all sheepish!

Okay, I took a deep breath. I think I'm ready now.


White breath
tendrils caress,
numb my humming senses,
eerily tease dormant spirit

Blanket, hide world's roar
Suffocate all swirling thoughts
Reveal Creator.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Fall is in the air!!! As I recall my days living in cold-weather climates, fall means morning chill, turning on the furnace, pulling out long sleeves and jeans. My northern facebook friends are referring to these experiences this week.

In Central Texas, however, fall means something different. When daytime temperatures no longer crest in the 90's, and humidity drops below 75%, then people begin to emerge from their air-conditioned houses. Joggers and bikers escape from the gym; kids can be found playing in sandboxes and on the jungle gym. Small towns all around begin to put on their annual street festivals. We all collectively sigh with relief as we get back to mowing, weeding, and other yard work in less stroke-inducing weather.

First Jalapeno Flowers 9/10

This fall, my thoughts and efforts have turned to gardening. In August I started some tomatoes and peppers; a few weeks later I planted three blueberry bushes. The more I do, the more ideas I get for future seasons. So far, in addition to 100 square feet of vegetable garden in the spring (meaning late February), I've begun thinking about planting some fruit trees. And as I begin to consider trees, the desire grows stronger to get them now and get them growing so they can become fruitful as soon as possible. Those blueberries are already going to make me wait 18 months before seeing any fruit at all. I can hardly stand the idea of waiting so long.

First Tomato Flowers 9/26

Trees require commitment on my part. First, a commitment to stay in one place. Not just in the same town, but on the same plot of ground. This is a bit of a challenge for me, as I have moved about every 2 years since I was 14. Unfortunately, an acre of fruit trees is a little difficult to transplant every 3 to 5 years. So either my lifestyle has to change in order to grab hold of my dream, or else I'm just dreaming about these fruit trees.

Currently I compromise with container gardening. It's about time to invest in a dozen half whiskey barrels for my portable orchard. It won't be effective forever, but it will get me a couple years before needing to settle the trees permanently in the ground somewhere.

The second commitment I have to make in order to seize this dream of a fruit orchard is to nurture. I need to commit to paying attention to individual water, soil, fertilizer, pruning, and temperature needs. Our little corner of the world here is not exactly hospitable to untended greenery, as evidenced by the predominance of slow-growing deep-rooted live oaks and a whole lot of mesquite scrub. Nurture requires patience before, during and after growing seasons.

The third commitment is to be ready for the harvest. Fall always inspires me to consider canning, preserving, freezing and food gifting, and I think I can be good for this one. Except that in central Texas, harvest begins in June and carries on until Thanksgiving. And once we get going, it's going to be harvest time for five months of the year, every year!

Patience, I whisper to myself. You don't have to launch it all at once. The blueberries are a good start.

Rabbiteye Blueberries in their new pots

But if you were wondering about a good birthday or Christmas gift, I'd probably ask for a Zone 8 appropriate sweet cherry, peach or pear tree.

You can keep the partridge.

Monday, September 14, 2009

So Civilized

So there I was sitting in church Sunday morning, drinking my coffee, waving at my friend Holly in the row in front of me, about to listen to another message deftly woven by Pastor Will.

I felt so normal, so civilized.

In terms of being accurate, insightful, and challenging, Pastor Will seems to have a pretty high average of hitting the ball out of the park. This week's topic was no exception; it covered loss (dreams, relationships, chapters) in our lives, and Jesus' resurrection power, the power to redeem every situation.

Recently, we have begun to exercise a little redemption power in our yard. For a year we have lived with a blank square, full of nothing but grass and a trampoline. But the landscape is literally starting to change. I started three tomato plants and a jalapeno pepper two weeks ago. I also bought a hook to hang my hummingbird feeder, since I have no trees from which to hang one.

Last week I purchased some Esperanza bushes (bright yellow trumpet shaped flowers to attract butterflies, hum-birds and buzzy bees all summer long). I then spent several hours beginning to dig out a flower bed, but that is just going to be a horrible, wretched job. I now have a row of plants lined up along the fence, just waiting for a home. The race is on to get them planted before they go dormant for the winter.

Saturday brought the dawn of a new era, as I brought four 12' crepe myrtles home to my yard to live. The hum-birds appeared giddy with glee. They zoomed in and out, perching, flitting, testing each tree in turn. What a laugh.

And this business of working on our landscaping felt so normal, so civilized.

For the first time, we are entering the second year in a new house with no big change plans looming on the horizon. This yard work is for ourselves, not for resale. This must be what normal people do on the weekend (when they are not taking their kids to football games or cheer practice).

Oh, but Sunday morning brought with it some significant aches and groaning. To get ourselves up and running, we kicked off the morning with some hot coffee and a painkiller. Mellow city.

And then on the way to church, the little alarm in the back of my head started dinging. What if, in the moments I reach for something anything to ease the moment, what if in those moments I made more of a habit of reaching for God? Of inviting him to join me in those moments, to show me his power?

Oh, I do not like that thought. I reach for comfort quite often, in the form of coffee, chocolate, an apple martini, a Tylenol PM, or occasionally even a leftover pain pill from my last baby experience. To be honest, I think God even made us that way on purpose. He gave us the sense that we need to reach for something outside ourselves, to help us right the imbalance in our soul.

But in his inexplicable wisdom, he left the choice of what to reach for, up to us. So that when we do reach for him, we do so out of our own desire, not out of compulsion.

I tell you what, though, it kills me that I don't reach for him more often! I'll be honest, the comfort foods and sleep aids are really useful and, well, comforting. But I often get mired in my me-centric ways, and neglect my Maker.

And recently, I've begun to wonder if I'm getting close to my lifetime limit on fresh starts from Jesus. Can he possibly redeem my tendency to get caught up in myself, and get me to a place where he can use me to reach other people? After years of starting over, I'm starting to feel a little lost. Like, where should I be, what should I be doing to make use of the mix of skills and experience he has given me? I don't know the answers with as much clarity as I seemed to have at the age of 25.

So that's what I was thinking about on Sunday morning, when Pastor Will opened his message with the declaration that it was about loss, and Jesus' resurrection power to reclaim every situation. Bam, he hit me right between the eyes.

So how exactly can I tap into this resurrection power to reclaim my own situation? To reclaim my sense of purpose?

The first thing is to acknowledge that Jesus is the one with the power to fix. Seriously, how arrogant am I when I think my little problems are too complicated for the Maker of the Universe to fix? C'mon, I think it's time to let go of that.

The second way to claim Jesus' resurrection power is to recognize that he is God. When I believe in Jesus and his message, I move from spectator status to being a participant in God's divine plan. I am asking God for help, knowing that in his answer he is also moving me forward in his cosmic drama, putting my chess piece into play, to so speak.

I also have to believe that Jesus not only can, but will set me back on the course he has for my life. He might even use other people to encourage me along the way.

The final point I heard, the one that challenged me the most, is that to experience Jesus' power in my life fully, I have to be willing to shed the old habits and addictions, maybe I might call them my comfort moments, that help me self-adjust my situations. Maybe... those are the times I need to seek Jesus, and ask him in those moments for a little resurrection power.

It all sounds a little dangerous, scary, and not really so civilized. Perhaps the landscape of my yard is not the only one about to go through a little change.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Ooh, it's still a decent hour, I've already done my task for today, and everyone's asleep! I will ignore the dishes, the laundry, and the siren call of the Blue Bell in my freezer, and make a little bloggy time! My clutter free house is a little unraveled at the moment, but I've just got to check in with the big wide world.

I had the pleasure of seeing a theater movie yesterday, and I have to admit I'm still a little giddy with thrill of it. Four unrelated women, connected by our marriages to four related men, stole away for the day's first showing of Julie and Julia.

This movie inspired me. In all my years of cooking, I have had less than zero interest in French cooking. Other than champagne and--well that's really about it. I love Italian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, Chinese cuisine, and Indian cuisine. I even tolerate Bar-B-Q (yes, I'm still working on a full conversion to Texan). But French? I don't even know what makes French food, well, French. And for someone who prides herself on her kitchen skills, that's probably blasphemous.

I am inspired to snag myself a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and try Julie's challenge of trying every recipe in the book. Maybe except the aspic part. No interest in aspics. At. All.

I am inspired to find anything and blog about it faithfully. I am inspired to keep plugging away at writing. I did take a photo of my pepper plant today. I could post daily photo updates as the teeny flowers turn into jalapenos. Call it My Little Peppers and How They Grew.

By the way, I am so pleased to report that I have finished my very first ever writing assignment and mailed it off to the editor. Woo Hoo! It's just a small, unimpressive thing, a series of short reflective essays to go with a set of Bible study lessons, but it feels like a milestone.

Now that I have that bit of closure, it's time to go looking for opportunities once again. Especially since I also finished the stuffed cheetah project from last week! I felt like such an awesome mom when that turned out actually looking like a cat.

This inspiration is a little overwhelming, I have more great ideas than I have time. But since most of the inspirations this week are food related thanks to Julia, I will be posting mostly over on my food blog. Why not post all my thoughts together on one website? I don't know either. Because that's where I keep all my recipes and cool food thoughts, I guess.

Oh, also because I have something else being published in the next couple weeks, that directs readers to that website. Because 8 months ago when I submitted that article, I was blogging about food a little more than I have been lately. And now I need to beef it up a little since I might be getting a little more traffic over there in the near future.

So I'm going to put on my chef hat now. Join me if you want, for food related fun. Just give me a day, I'm about pooped out now and need to go to sleep soon! But tomorrow, after I straighten out those dishes and clothes, and re-ravel my clutter-free house, and take Boo to the orthodontist, and stop by my local nursery's Quitting Business (sniff) sale, I hope to be right back here, food blogging away.

Click on the image to visit

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Because I didn't already have enough to do

I heart blogging. It completes me. But I don't know where to come up with the energy right now. There is just not enough of me to go around to do all the stuff I have to do, and also have time to think about what I'd like to say, and then take pictures and sit down to tell you all about it.

First it was the last week before school started, and besides all the last minute prep to get Boo ready for 2nd grade, I successfully attacked the clutter monster threatening to consume my home.

As long as you don't count my bedroom. Because that room has been completely vandalized by the clutter monster.

Then it was the first week of school and I don't actually know what happened to that entire week because I didn't actually do a single thing. Not cleaning house. Not playdates. Well, not until Friday anyway. I think last week could be accurately called a "mental health week."

And this week I am weakly trying to get back into some kind of groove. Over the weekend I planted some new tomatoes, and installed a barrier around my flower beds to keep out the vigorous St. Augustine weed that passes for grass around here. I have not taken photos. Other than the first day of school, I fail at photos for the entire month since returning from vacation.

Tuesday I got Rooster enrolled in MDO (Mother's Day Out). I am SO EXCITED because this is the beginning of recovering my Circle of Quiet! This morning I went walking at 5:30am with a friend, hoping to clear my head enough for a meaningful 6am quiet time. Missed part two of that plan, but I did get an early shower. Which is also an accomplishment.

As of now, I have had two days in a row this week to pretend I am a professional writer. I have been working on an assignment (oh those words taste so good in my mouth). And I am pleased to say I am halfway done with it. The hard half, even.

Tomorrow is the first day of my new Bible study class. To be transparent, my soul is parched from having neglected to spend much (actually any) time reading God's message lately. And I can feel it. I'm all frayed around the edges, even some places in the middle. I am eagerly anticipating the new beginning that tomorrow will bring.

At the end of that class, I will commence my weekend. The Captain's brother and his wife arrived from PA this evening, and will be here through Tuesday next week. So we are about to party hearty for the next six days. As much as I can stand.

So this afternoon, in the middle of this busy week, what was I working on? Was it watering my tomatoes? Folding laundry? Beating down that clutter monster that wants to creep back into my living spaces? Designing my future backyard with long-handled garden tools and a hose? Maybe Facebook? Those are all good answers, and I admit I did bits of those things all day long. I also fed my baby and had a nice long coffee time with the Captain, who had a vacation day today. Nice.

But there was also a random project I threw into the mix, that has been in the queue for a couple weeks and for whatever reason finally percolated to the top of today's To-Do list.

I began to make a stuffed animal.

Oh no, you didn't.

Oh yes, I did.

Not because I am an awesome mom. While I would like to take credit for that, awesome would have been to help Boo make this animal back when she first asked about it, when she was on summer vacation. Before she gave up that once again I was not coming through for her.

More because I have a random brain that likes to do anything other than what I should be doing. Like parking my hiney in my chair and plugging away at this writing assignment. Or folding the laundry that lives on my couch so often I should start charging rent. Or tackling my horridly messy bedroom.

On a side note (this is, after all, a post about how random I can be) it's actually possible that there is a library book lost in that room. A book entitled, of all things, Have You Seen My Cat? You will not even be surprised to hear that every single time I mention this, I get the same response: Have you seen my library book? It's good. Even I am compelled to say it, if someone else doesn't beat me to it. But that is the only room in my house that has not been completely stripped down and put back together the right way, since that book disappeared. The only other option remaining is that we somehow took the book somewhere besides Grammy's house, and left it there. Which is possible, but not probable. But I will never know for sure until I get to the bottom of the cluttery mess in my bedroom.

Anyway. Where was I? Oh, yes. The level of my procrastination is such that I would rather start a whole new project, and make a whole new mess, than work on bringing any of five other projects to closure.

So I started to make a stuffed cheetah today. Lord knows when it will get finished, because he also knows how many other pots I have just stuck my fingers into. I hope soon, because I really want to be my daughter's hero for once, and not the parent who lets her down on all the fun stuff. I'll keep you posted. For now, this is how far I got today.