Thursday, April 30, 2015

{pretty, happy, funny, real} - Easter Sunday

| a weekly capturing the contentment in everyday life |

| pretty |

Our Easter table.
I stopped by the Next to New shop the day before to get matching water glasses and white place mats.  I found some clear bottles at the hardware store and "pencil" daffodils at Central Market.  Napkin rings are just odd bits of ribbon I'd stashed away.  

| happy |

Easter desserts
It's always wise, I've found, to invite dinner guests who have culinary degrees: lemon tart and blueberry pie from our friends.  Also, who can pass up the dark chocolate, caramel and sea salt truffles from Central Market?

| funny |

Easter egg hunt
Our guests (a co-worker and her roommates + another co-worker) not only brought dessert, they also brought the party.  They walked through the door with painted eggs, cascarones and a pinata. No one was exempt from the fun.

| real |

When's the last time you tried to crack open a pinata?  It's serious work.  We all ended up channeling long lists of people we'd like to take a crack at.  Cray-zay!

Missing Alex and the boys' girls, but glad to be together!  Please notice the confetti.  We found this on our floors, beds and porch for days afterward.  A happy reminder.

| Join in at P,H,F,R to see what others have to say. |

16 thoughts for 16 stanzas about practicing resurrection & regretting that hashtag

Two years ago today I published this list of ruminations on the Mad Farmer's Manifesto.  You could call it a conversation between me, the daily news headlines and Wendell Berry's very good poem.

If I re-wrote it this week, I'd include words about Baltimore and Boko Haram.  I'd still talk about Boston. I'd probably say a bit more about Jimmy Fallon and include a paragraph or two about The Overnighters with the bit about The Queen of Versailles.  I'd mention women giving birth in Syria, Iraq and women grieving children in Pakistan and Nepal.  I might include a paragraph about driving through New Mexico, right through Fort Sumner where in 1865 the US Army was charged with the internment of 9,000 Navajo and Mescalero Apache men, women and children. 

As for doing something every day that won't compute I'd have to question the wisdom of creating a hashtag slogan to celebrate Eastertide.  To be honest, I've pretty much regretted it since the moment I clicked "publish".  I think I'm just not a #hashtag sort of girl.  Can we share photos and stories anyway?  I hope so.


originally published at catapult* magazine on May 9, 2013

With due credit to Mr. Berry.


Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made.
When I read the first stanza, all I can think about is the documentary my husband I saw recently. We watched The Queen of Versailles because our Canadian friend told us one of the characters comes from Binghamton, our hometown. I watched 20 seconds and knew it was the Queen herself, Jackie Siegel (former beauty queen now married to the man trying to build the largest single family residence in America). I knew because of her accent — perfectly nasal with harsh, flat vowels. But I also knew because of something less tangible, something about her perspective on the world and economy — a sort of blithe expectation that she did not have much to contribute to the success of her family, and, therefore, she could not help the impending economic collapse. Which really made no sense. Before she was a beauty queen, she was an RIT-degreed engineer for IBM. She worked for IBM at its world headquarters in Endicott, NY at its zenith.

This was the culture we grew up in. It wasn’t necessarily a class system, but everyone knew if your dad worked for IBM. Siegel tells the story about a colleague who wrote a computer program that would count down each year, day, hour and minute to his retirement. And just as clearly as I recognized her accent, I recognized this mindset. This is the culture we were steeped in growing up in central New York in the early 1980s. IBM thrived, President Reagan spoke at the high school football field a few blocks from the factories and corporate offices, and we all benefitted. Until IBM moved out.

But Siegel wanted more than that retirement mindset — the grin and bear it wherever you can earn a living, dreaming of the day you can get yourself a little plot of retirement vacation land mindset. However, as the documentary reveals, you can take the girl out of the status quo, but not quite the other way around.


Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
In the steamy summer of 1948, E. B. White, on guest assignment for the New Yorker, spent a few days strolling his former hometown. The essay was released in 2000 as the slim volume, Here is New York, which The New York Times calls one of the ten best books ever written about the city.

One of White’s most perceptive observations, in my opinion, is this:

New York is peculiarly constructed to absorb almost anything that comes along…without influencing the inhabitants; so that every event is, in a sense, optional, and the inhabitant is in the happy position of being able to choose his spectacle and so conserve his soul… I sometimes think that the only event that hits every New Yorker on the head is the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, which is fairly penetrating — the Irish are a hard race to tune out, there are 500,000 of them in residence, and they have the police force right in the family.
I wonder if an unintended progress, of sorts, resulting from an event like the terrorist attacks on 9/11 — an event which penetrated every New Yorker so completely they’re still looking at the skies for wayward aircraft and checking skyscrapers for fire exits — is neighbors noticing each for a literal fear of dying.

It may be that the only good to come from each wave of tragedy we experience is the way neighbors share a conversation. Boston, West, Newtown — neighbors experiencing the same story. Neighbors making certain someone’s going to notice if the ground opens up beneath their feet.


And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
When I was in middle school, we heard a lot of sermon illustrations about the apocryphal sign of the beast and how in the End Times our government would act like the KGB and know everything about us. That was then, before the Wall came down and we breathed a sigh of relief.

Now when I write an email to my friend about, say, moving into a new house next month, an ad for new Sears appliances shows up at the top of my inbox. And it’s not like Google’s trying to be secretive. Their courtesy is so thorough they provide a hyperlink “Why this ad?” with the answer: “This ad is based on e-mails from your inbox.”

Well, thank you, Google. You’re way friendlier than I ever imagined the KGB. Your art is cooler, too.


So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute.
One of the most well known contemporary Chinese artists, Ai Weiwei, created the world-acclaimed exhibit in 2010, Sunflower Seeds. The exhibit featured 100,000,000 porcelain seeds. One hundred million unique sunflower seeds hand-painted by 1,600 Chinese artisans, piled into an exhibit hall to be kinetically experienced by exhibit attendees. The artist hoped visitors would contemplate the exhibit as a “comment on mass consumption, Chinese industry, famine and collective work.”

Ai Weiwei has been openly critical of his government’s position on democracy and human rights. He currently lives under house arrest.


Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Fifteen years ago, when I was in my late twenties and early thirties and my children were in preschool and I was exhausted and broke, I created a dream scrapbook as a sort of reminder that better days were ahead. I listed, among other things, “own a bed & breakfast,” “RV across America” and “earn a six-figure income” — my version of counting down the days to retirement, I guess.

Now I’m in my forties living out a dream with my family we never knew we had. And we’re dead broke. We’re broker than broke. Dreams — at least good ones — are expensive. They’ll cost you everything — in our case, even our retirement.


Love someone who does not deserve it.
In the PBS series Call the Midwife, based on the real-life memoir by Jennifer Worth, viewers are invited to re-visit an era when doctors made house calls, nuns delivered babies and midwives rode bicycles. Before The Pill and after England’s National Health Service Act, poor mamas delivered babies in their own beds, surrounded by several generations of family. The nuns dedicated themselves to caring for human life no matter how poverty-stricken, uneducated, diseased, moral or sober the patient.

Medicine has come so far. And yet, it has not.

Yesterday I read in the news that the night bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was admitted to Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 11 other victims were still being treated there. By the same medical staff. In the same institution.


Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
My 17-year-old daughter thinks our country hasn’t been its Best Self since the time it was founded. She wonders about a government that permits torture. She wonders about the American citizen lying in a Boston hospital bed, held without Miranda rights, facing the strong likelihood of torture by his own government.

When I read her this stanza from Berry, she thought, perhaps, we should denounce ourselves, instead.


Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
“There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yes, four which I do not understand: The way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent upon a rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the way of a man with a maid.”

—King Solomon


Ask the questions that have no answers.
My friend Jenny is trying to cure cancer.

My friend John and his sister Michelle make art, raise money and tell stories hoping to eradicate sex trafficking in our city.

My friend Phaedra wants to be a working artist and a mom.

I’d like to write something meaningful here.


Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Recently clicking my way through hipster house tours on a high end design blog, I paused my image-pinning long enough to wonder at a statement from one of the urban home owners: “What I love most about our house is that it feels like our grandparents might have lived here.”

May the same be said about our earth.


Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts
Actual headlines:

“More people 34 and younger watching The Daily Show than actual cable news for political convention coverage” (September 5, 2012)

“Daily Show’s ratings now higher than most of FOX News” (June 6, 2011)

Also, this study exists.


So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
ERSAL, Lebanon, September 10, 2012 (UNHCR) — For Syrians fleeing their homeland, there is never a right time to leave. Zaina, 24, endured more than a year of fighting in her hometown of Homs before 10 neighbours were killed in a single helicopter attack last month. Nine months pregnant at the time, she decided she had had enough.
“I felt I am going to give birth and that I have to leave this place,” she said.
Zaina, her sister and sister-in-law left Homs but did not get far. Before reaching the border, she gave birth to a little girl with blue eyes and porcelain features in a canvas tent, attended by another Syrian fleeing the conflict.


Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

— Mother Teresa

May all progress lead us to this sort of greatness.


As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.
Put another way: may all pollsters be confined to getting their information from the selected majors of college freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors and then their resulting occupations.

Another option: may all market researchers know only what they can discover strolling through a suburban neighborhood garage sale.

A third possibility: may all would-be tyrants study only the “How to Get Your Baby to Sleep” section of a Barnes & Noble.


Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
After we moved 1,700 miles across the country to a city four times larger than our hometown, we said things like, “Thank God for our GPS!” and, “What would we have done before the GPS was invented?” Then our GPS was stolen by what I can only assume was another mom who recently moved here, crying and cussing at the steering wheel, driving in circles around Austin’s highways. That was the day I started learning my way around Austin. Wandering — a lot — taught me how to get around.

Other possible methods to make progress like a fox:

Walk a prayer labyrinth.

Pray a rosary.

Follow a toddler.


Practice resurrection.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Easter daybook, week 4: I know my own and my own know me

An Easter daybook for these 7 weeks of Alleluia! Join me, won't you? 

(see all Easter daybook 2015 posts here)


Shepherd at Sunset - Vela Zanetti


John 10:11-18: I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me.

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. source


Psalm 23
 Brian Moss (with Katy Hutson)

Listen to my Resurrection playlist here



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catching up with 7 quick -- and random -- takes (with photographs)

Cleaning up my photo files this afternoon.  My hope is to actually get photos printed in time to put Natalie's graduation album together throughout her upcoming senior year of high school INSTEAD of printing them and putting them in scrapbooks non-stop for the week leading up to her party.  Maybe the fourth's time the charm.

--- 1 ---

A few weeks back our dear friend Phaedra cleaned out her closets and thoughtfully imagined my daughters getting to look through her stash before sending it to Goodwill.  Oh, my.  They chased her down the Sunday she visited Austin and came home from church ahead of me to "prep" the living room for a fashion show.  

You might think -- looking at the abundance of clothing in this photo -- that there would be no possible way for the girls to squabble over individual items.  You would be wrong, of course.  We had to resort to a time-honored tradition that our children created themselves as youngsters whenever taking turns or sharing toys became a problem.  They call it "drafting" -- after tossing a coin for first picks, they alternate back and forth choosing the item they would like.  There are hard and fast rules that no one questions.  In 2002 it was for stuffed animals or favorite action figures.  This Spring, it was for Phaedra's closet cast offs.  

What brilliant children.  In an unexpected failure of the time-tested system, there is still one blouse that the girls are sharing joint custody.  Some weeks it lives here in a closet and other weeks at the University of North Texas.

One thing (of many) I re-learned during Lent is my almost-infantile reaction to self-denial.  I gave up certain food and beverages and activities and before long took most of them back up again.  And just to reward myself for even considering giving up something I love (red wine/evening bowl of popcorn with Brian) I added in a few treats here and there.  By Easter my body was convinced of it's mortality.  I guess that's the point of Lent, but didn't feel very holy.

In the brightness and hope of Eastertide, I begin again.

--- 3 ---

Have I mentioned that Brian and I spent almost a week in New Mexico at the end of March?  I'm not sure that I have.  Well we did.  The decision to make this trek presented itself the day of my 44th birthday (on March 9th) as Brian and I each tossed and turned with a stomach bug.  I may have been a teensy bit motivated in a similar fashion to the reasons I overate during Lent when I was, in fact, trying to fast.  Frankly, I was mad that we were sick when it was time to celebrate.  And that we'd been sick off and on for much of the year.  

I also had it on good authority that our plans to get away in November to celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary might be in jeopardy with a scheduling conflict (not the sort we have much control over).  And, so, we decided that Right Now was the time to get away.

First I thought direct access to the Sea was required to salve my overburdened, slightly self-piteous soul.  Brian gamely went along with this idea -- from his side of the sick bed -- even though I recognize in hindsight he knew full well the math would eventually make itself known to me.  When you live in the middle of Texas, getting to the Sea requires airfare.  I'm a dreamer, he a pragmatist.  

Thus, we began backtracking to driving distance.  People in Texas often travel to the mountains.  Somewhat dubiously, I concluded that mountains might possibly be as Grand as the Sea and began looking up locations for us to sleep in New Mexico.

the "back yard" of our airbnb

Turns out that mountain views are pretty grand, indeed.  Unfortunately, Brian was sick (different sick than the birthday sick two weeks earlier), but we managed to still enjoy our time with a balance of exploring new places (Monastery of Christ in the Desert , for one) with simple, restful reading, cooking and hot tubbing.  We did attempt a game of dominoes at one point.  I thought about writing; Brian thought about studying.  Mostly, though, we just tried to notice the day and place together.

sculpture garden at New Mexico Museum of Art

I'll blog more of this trip soon.  I promise.

Back at the birthday week: Did I mention the beautiful gift my Momma sent me?  It wasn't a surprise since I emailed her a few weeks before my birthday and asked her to pretty please give me this gift for my birthday like she did last year. 

If you get a pretty card from me this year, it will be because my mother sent me hand-made stationary for my birthday.  I hope this tradition continues for a long, long time.

One snapshot of the March birthday girls, about 10 days after the fact since Kendra was home for Spring Break the week after her birthday.  Thankfully, by then we were all feeling much better.

The stack of books I found cleaning up Kendra's space after she went back to school.  How'd I get to be so lucky?

While I'm catching up here on my quick takes post (maybe I'll get to Easter Sunday next week?!?)  please join me in my weekly Eastertide blog series:  Easter Daybook (on Sundays) and Practice Resurrection Photo Stories on Mondays.  Join me as I keep looking for the Risen Christ every place I find myself. I'd love to hear how you are practicing resurrection during Eastertide.  

Check out the #practiceresurrection2015 series and send us a photo story or two in these coming weeks, won't you?

--- Other good words online this week ---

  • Freezer Baking Day Recipe: Chewy, No-Bake Granola Bars by Kaley Ehret (my sister!) at Cha-Ching on a Shoestring:  This post is about two things: 1) A recent freezer baking session which resulted in some grab & go snacks 2) Secondly – and possibly more importantly – the brilliance of including friends in such endeavors.  LOVE the idea of "baking with friends"!  While you're checking out this post, don't miss another of my recent favorites from Kaley: My 3-Step, Simple Laundry System
  • Who Made Your Clothes? A 'Slow Fashion' Revolution Rises at Fortune:  I've been listening to several interviews and reports this week on the 2nd anniversary of the April 24, 2013 garment factory collapse at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. The incident led to the death of 1,129 workers — a tragedy that revealed the ugly truth behind the clothes on almost everyone’s backs: it’s very likely they were made in sweatshops like this.  Here's one result:  a Slow Fashion movement.
  • Zacchaeus and Shame by Todd Hill (my brother!) at Rooted: It's not every week I get to link to two different siblings!  Todd's been digging into some hard subjects as he digs in deep to his role as a husband, father, brother, son, youth pastor and child of the Most High God.  I'm grateful for his insights on failure and shame.


Hoping for a good and content weekend for us all, friends.


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