Aaaaaaannnnnnnddddddd…….

 

 

Just going to put this on ice and wait.

This Is Only Another Opportunity

The pleasure of writing includes the freedom to write about very certain and particular topics.

This means there is a process of editing and filtering of my life involved.  Otherwise my writing would be a diary, instead of a blog.

This process of filtering gives a certain voice to writing. You know the difference between Poe’s writing and Tolkein’s writing because they have very distinct voices in their works.  I actually wrote this huge long post last week that I thought would be great, but the next day I reread it and it just wasn’t the voice I had curated for my blog.  It didn’t sound right, and so even though I spent hours  writing it, I had to shelf it because it just didn’t fit.  It was not part of my voice.

Something that is difficult to see in writing is the hardships of the soul.  If I filter the hardships out, no one will ever know they even exist.  And on one hand, that is nice.  I am a rather private person, despite having a blog, and I am very selective with what I share with the world.  I am not entirely comfortable sharing problems, for a few reasons.  One is obviously pride, if I am going to be honest with myself.  I know we will get through whatever we are going through and be stronger in the end, and I am not entirely comfortable sharing my vulnerabilities with everyone, at least on a regular basis.  Another is that I do believe some things are genuinely private, and only the business of our family.

And lastly, I have a very English-Victorian mindset way in the back of my brain that thinks, “Oh, I don’t want to be a bother…

This all being said, I do think it is fair to share some struggles here.  Otherwise there would be the impression that we live in a magical wooden fairyland surrounded by beaches and unicorns.

Now, I haven’t found a unicorn yet.  The rest is rather true, though.

 

Some things we have had to weather through include the huge break-in of our California house that we are trying to sell, which I wrote about a while ago.  That was definitely a tough one to get through, but we are doing fine.

Another is that a week after we moved in, the empty lot behind us went up for sale, and so we had a for sale sign in front of our house for a month or two, as well as calls from real estate agents letting us know when people were coming to look at it.  The reason why we needed to know was because our long driveway as an easement at the front, and it is the only method by which to reach the lot.  So, now I had cars finding our remote house and people walking around in the 2 acres around us during the day.  All in all, everyone was extremely respectful and very polite, and we never had any problems whatsoever.  It was just frustrating that we just moved in, and we finally thought we could relax and let the kids play in the yards safely, and now there are cars driving up to our house and unloading people to walk around.  Not entirely the best situation, but it all worked out in the end (I believe the property has sold, as the sign was finally taken down the other day).

We had to take down the fence around our backyard as soon as we moved in, because the real estate agents informed us that the previous owner had built it almost entirely on the property behind us; so that was kind of annoying.  Again, we just moved in and we already have to start tearing things down.

We still have to fix the septic system and have mold removed from our roof, which we have needed to do ever since we moved in, but have been up to our ears taking care of other things. Oh, and our house ran out of propane last week and we can’t get a truck here to fill the tank until later this week, and I haven’t been able to use the stove or have had a warm shower in days…

This weekend we got another call from the police department, and they let us know that the California house that we are really, sincerely, eagerly trying to sell, was broken into again.  The front door was kicked in and the frame is demolished.  Our agent sent over a handyman to screw a huge piece of wood onto the frame to keep it somewhat secure.

10348224_10203840098664937_8855671420198016848_nThis was my front door when we lived there.

2015050995212004This is what the home looks like, now.

So: recap. The front door is gone.  The carpets are gone. The kitchen is totaled. The ceiling is caving in. No stove, island, cabinets, oven, cupboards, sink, dishwasher, etc because the upstairs flooded when the first break in happened and they unplugged the toilet and flooded the house. No doors on any bathroom cabinets because they were stolen. No closet doors. My sewing machine is gone. My laundry baskets are gone.  The kids’ bikes are gone. My telescope is gone. The wagon is gone…and on and on ….it is ridiculous.

I almost want to think….I don’t know what the hell is happening anymore.  I just don’t understand this madness.

But, it is what it is.  And we can only move forward and be stronger in the end.  I certainly am not going to let bastards who destroy homes of good people also destroy my deep-rooted belief that there are still good people in the world: and anyone who says differently is a damn fool.

Good will always triumph.  There will always be people who will rise up and make the world a better place.  There are people from every corner of the world who bring peace and joy to our lives, and they are the ones who will triumph the most.  The men and women who spend countless hours volunteering to make sure kids have safe places to go, or that families have warm meals or clothes for their children.  The groups that work tirelessly to get clean drinking water to third world countries.  The men and women who look after single mothers and help their children out of the love from their hearts.  The men and women who do even simple things, like being good friends to people in their lives, or love their neighbors.  The men and women on the streets just seeing things that need to be done, and finding the time to do it.  Good people see their time as the biggest opportunity to offer to others, and they spend it finding ways to serve others in ways that would make a real difference.  Not just something you can put on paper, but something that will really impact their community and bring genuine peace and earnest love into the lives of those around them.

Now, this all doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen.  There will always be toil and grief in life.  Jesus even said Himself, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

It means good will be given the opportunity to triumph.

That is the entire point.

And if you cannot see the good in people…if you cannot see how much good is in our world…if this wooden door that encases the shell of a house I used to live in is the blinder on your vision that keeps you from being able to see the incredible, unending love that people will always bring into our lives…

then this is opportunity to take this plank out of your eye.

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

Life can be tough, no doubt.  Not all roads are paved with brilliant sunlight and easy journeys.

I have faith, though, that the roads never end, despite that some roads may travel in periods of shadows.  But the love and inherent good in ourselves and in people will always be the most triumphant, and one criminal alone cannot undermine the countless hours of good that thousands of people invest into the world.

That’s what I think 🙂

Parenting Online: Taking The Internet By The Horns

Last year I had this grand vision…which I know is a big surprise.  I have huge ideas about a lot of things, and most of the time I just make a list and sit on it.  I don’t really have the supplies to complete the groovy and hip cross stitch quotes I have logged away on a Sticky note on my laptop, or the time to devote to learning how to can properly.  Some ideas I have are just too time intensive, and I never get around to carving out chunks of our day to accomplish them. Some ideas I just have to let go, but most I just forget about while I finish the laundry.  I may be an idea-person, but I hardly ever finish the majority of them.

I’d like to think that I only complete the great ones.  (I’d like to think that…)

But this time was different…

This time I had a great idea, and after I sketched out the skeleton of the idea, I put in the effort and actually did something with the idea!  I sat down, and plotted it out and fulfilled the agenda and completed something great!  What was this incredible idea, you ask?

I had this big idea of creating a website hub for parents who were interested in education for their kids.

Yeah, I know it isn’t curing cancer, but it is something that would have significantly helped me when I first began homeschooling.

Homeschooling has been a part of our lives for the past 8 years, and it has been a fascinating journey.  Never did I see myself homeschooling my children, when we first began to have children.  I saw myself sending our little kids into a brick-and-mortar school, just like I had and just like my husband had.  Really, my husband and I met in German class in high school.  I just figured we’d do the same thing as our forefathers and foremothers.

When I first started homeschooling, the sheer volume of teaching styles, different curriculums, books, textbooks, co-ops, online sites, et al., was quite more than overwhelming.  The first two years we went through a virtual charter school that sent us their curriculum, and that worked well for the time.  However, by the third year I understood my kids’ learning styles and which methods of teaching worked, and which didn’t; so, it was a good time to move on and do independent homeschooling.  I got to buy my own curriculum and I got to pick which subject sets to use, since I had a better idea of what worked better as well as what the kids actually liked.  It was a liberating year, and I have sincerely enjoyed the creative avenues we have discovered through our homeschooling travels.

So what I wanted was a hub that would pull together all these resources that I have used over the years and put them all in one place, and organize it so the idea of teaching your 5th grader isn’t the most impossible idea on earth.

I called this idea “Breaking Orbits,” to symbolize breaking free of the normal orbiting routine, and exploring outside of the norm.

Through the filter of my hubris, I thought it would be the beacon of light for parents, and we would create this underground network and revolutionize the world.  I mean, if Twitter could revolutionize the world by tweeting a short sentence about what you are doing, then creating a place for parents to participate in educating their kids should be a piece of cake!  Who doesn’t want this?? Right??!

Anyway, so I am big on ideas, and I am not big on networking.  I just am not a networking-PR-Advertising kinda gal.  Unfortunately, I have an “Eh, it might work. It might not. It’s still a good idea.” thing going…which has 0% entrepreneurial foundation in it.

 

This all being said, I kept the website around and just plugged stuff into it over time.  Just for myself.  Because I still liked the idea.

Then I sat on this website for a few months.

 

sciencekidslogo3

One day, I found a really neat site with fun experiment videos for kids.  I showed the website to the kids after they were finished with their schoolwork.  I showed them the Science Videos 4 Kids site that I had linked on Breaking Orbits, that was originally put there to be a resource for other parents, and my kids spent all day exploring the website and finding experiments they could do at home.

 

Suddenly, I realized I could put things onto Breaking Orbits for my kids...it can be a hub for us!  I honestly don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that we could use it for ourselves; I thought it had to be this world-changing revolutionary thing.  It didn’t occur to me to do something just for me.

Everything changed after that day.

 

Now…now it is a truly amazing, revolutionary idea.

 

I am just sharing my idea with you in case you want to use this idea for yourself.  This is not a networking idea, because I am not a networking person.  I am an idea person, and I believe good ideas are meant to be passed around and grafted into other ideas.

 

So here we go: Breaking Orbits

Screenshot 2015-05-11 11.34.16

 

Breaking Orbits is the safe webpage that I can trust.

Because I made it.  I know what is on there, and I update it regularly so my kids will always find something new and interesting.

It is a site that encourages my kids to be curious and to explore topics of science, literature, programming and history.  They learn about music and art.  I feel comfortable letting them play around on this site on their own, because everything on the site was hand chosen by me.

The internet is an incredibly big place, and there are so many amazing things out there!  What I have found and organized into pages is a fraction of a fraction of the opportunities to learn.

So what kind of pages are on Breaking Orbits?

 

A page for Curriculum Resources and listings:Screenshot 2015-05-11 15.04.38

 

A page for eBooks and eTextbooks:

Screenshot 2015-05-11 15.04.53

 

A page for DIY/Make/Electronics:

Screenshot 2015-05-11 15.05.11

 

A page for S.T.E.M. resources:Screenshot 2015-05-11 15.05.22

 

A grok page for starting coders:Screenshot 2015-05-11 15.05.38

 

A page with links to the online school sites the kids use:

 

Screenshot 2015-05-11 15.12.39

 

And finally, my kids’ favorite page and the one I update the most – a page for kid sites and videos.  On here I keep it updated with bug information and identification sites, book videos, nature documentaries, musician videos, Nautilus webcams…and whatever else I find!  This is probably the most fun page, and definitely the one the kids visit all the time:

Screenshot 2015-05-11 15.06.59

 

 

So, visit Breaking Orbits and enjoy!  Or take the internet by the horns. make your own site!

 

Motherhood Isn’t What I Expected.

I can’t say I am a particularly “emotional” person.  It has never been a quality I have been able to possess, even though it would be really handy at times.  There are definitely times when I envy women who are able to read a Hallmark card and start weeping, or hear devastating news and are overwrought with empathy.  They make it look so easy!  Somehow, this gene just never made it my way.

Let me put it this way:  I can sit through “The Notebook” without any tears.

201432720564938786
Tough as nails, am I.

When Ben and I decided to have kids, we really spent years discussing it…to the best of our ability.  Neither of us have older sisters, aunts available, cousins who have done this before.  We were pretty on our own, so we just bought as many books as possible.

And man there are a lot of books out there.  Just shelves and shelves and shelves of parenting books available…which means most of them are weird, some of them are helpful, a few are interesting, and maybe one we found that we really liked.

When we first got pregnant, there wasn’t a whole bunch to do, honestly.  We went to all the doctor’s appointments, I got all the blood work done, we had all the genetic testing taken care of.  Everything was fine!  I mean, within reason.  I had a raging case of PUPP, which is hives upon hives all over your body.  For months.  But it went away, and all was good.

We weren’t really nervous, all in all.  On one hand we had 9 months to adjust to the idea of having a baby, and that is a long time to wrap your heads around this; and that time is helpful. We went to a few baby classes our health care provided, we got a few books. When it came time to have the baby, it was pretty easy. Easy like, you feed them, get them some sleep, burp them, give them baths and stare at their adorable faces for hours and hours (this is normal…I’m pretty sure!).

The panic was not what I expected, though.

This wasn’t a panic of, “the baby isn’t burping, oh no!” This was a, “Please God in Heaven don’t take her from me…don’t let her heart stop beating, don’t let her lungs stop breathing, don’t let her brain stop functioning.  Please let her keep living and I swear I will do anything.”

And I couldn’t sleep for months because of this panic.  I could not lay in bed with my baby in her bassinet next to me, sleeping, and let myself relax.  I was terrified if I was not awake, or alert, or constantly watching her, that something terrible would happen.

This kind of panic is nothing like anything I have ever experienced.  It is a long tap root to the depths of your being that pulls every ounce of energy from you.  Parenthood is something so grand that you cannot put it into words.  Every parent who has sat by their child’s bedside and prayed for hours on end that a fever would break knows what this feels like.  The parent who receives a diagnosis for their child which will impact the rest of their lives knows.  Every parent who watches their child enter through the school gates on their own, who begs God for mercy for the doctors to find a cure for the incurable, every parent who looks over their sleeping child at night and worries about what tomorrow might bring.

Every parent.

I really don’t remember reading about this in any book.

————-

The other day my curly 2 year old was riding our dog and she was in heaven.  Fortunately our dog is cool with it, but she just loves riding our dog!  It is absolutely hilarious to watch.

Recently I had to tell my 8 year old son not to rappel the walls (so proud!).

Our 5 year old is reading already, which is amazing to me.  He is the one with the twinkle in his smile and a cackle in his giggle that we kind of have to keep an eye on….but he is so loving.  He will yell across the room, “I LOVE YOU MOM!!” because he feels like it.

Today my 4 year old princess daughter came outside to watch me trellis my grapevines, and she walked back and forth gasping, “oh Mom, this is so beautiful!”

And my 10 year old daughter has the tenacity of a war general and the heart of a dove.  Her strength and sensitive heart are things I could only hope for her.

We take the kids hiking, swimming in lakes, camping, we take them to the shooting range with us, they love riding go karts. Right now the kids are all facing Dad at a battle on Quake in the other room.

Every kid comes out different, but they are a part of you…so you’ll know your kid better than they know themself because you’ll see yourself in things they do, and it’s just fascinating.

These are the extreme highs during the day where it just feels like your heart is going to explode from joy.

And then there are extreme lows when you feel yourself being crushed.

—————–

This week has been extremely difficult for Nova in school.  The dyslexia will come and go, and when it comes it’s pretty frustrating for both of us.  I’ve been trying to work with her one on one all week, and you kind of hope that by Friday things will have improved…but today was still frustrating.  So I have just been trying to rethink things this afternoon, trying not to lash out, etc.  I just get so worried about her learning because some periods it seems like we are doing great, but then weeks like this come and I can’t even figure out where things went wrong.

This is very typical of our schooling and very normal with dyslexia.  There are waves that come and go, and you just have to roll with the waves.  Some days she can memorize a whole book, and some days she has trouble remembering the math we have been working on.

So, the kids go to martial arts twice a week and that gives me some good time to read the Bible.  Today I was going through 1 Peter again, and really…everything I was reading was just God telling me to be patient because he is patient.  Have hope in the future because the future is His.  Lay all my anxieties on Him because Satan is always prowling like a lion in order to destroy me.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty haand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. ”

also

“Be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you…”

and most importantly:

“To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  (1 Peter 5:6-11)

It’s just such a relief reading this.  I needed to hear again that the future is not mine, but God’s.  My children are in His hands.  Tomorrow will come, and He will still be in control of everything.  I just need to keep teaching the kids the same as we have been doing and keep trusting in God to lead them in their journey through life.  I don’t need to hold my breath every night and beg for their lives as I have done in the past: God is in control of all of our lives.  He brings the sun, and He brings the rain.  I have to remember, and to be comforted by the fact that “For thine is the kingdom,and the power, and the glory,for ever and ever.”

It is not my world, it is not my kingdom.  And my life is not my glory, but my life should give glory to God.

————-

Motherhood is definitely not what I expected.

It isn’t full of clean laundry rooms with empty stainless steel buckets laying neatly around with the happy dog being chased by oddly perfect children carrying butterfly nets without a care in the world.

Motherhood is not the easy task of having children and going on a picnic until they leave for college.

Motherhood has been this agonizing, grueling, emotionally wrenching experience that has turned everything I knew about life upside down.

Before I had children I was worried about my life.  I was worried about what people thought about me, about how I looked to other people.  I was worried I was never going to amount to anything worthwhile in my life, if I am going to be honest.  I threw myself into my jobs, into college, into personal projects in order to find value within myself.

When I had children, I never looked back.

I looked at them and thought about their future.  I worried about what was best for them.  My thoughts were on how to feed them better, teach them better, and love them better.

I rethought every single thing I ever thought I knew about life.

Motherhood has given me more than just the amazing insight and personal reflections I walk away with every day.  Motherhood has enabled me to understand what patience is to a degree I never would have discovered on my own.  After I had children I am more conscious of other’s needs and feelings than I ever have been.  And Ben and I now have the ability to love them on a deeper level than we have ever loved another person before.

I really couldn’t imagine the words to describe what motherhood is actually like for me.

But it certainly hasn’t been the empty magazine cover I was expecting.

 

*posted last year, but I still like it 🙂

Scotch Broom Parade

This is the story of our Scotch Broom Parade.

It is as ridiculous as you can imagine, because there is very little fanfare behind this very impromptu, eclectic, ironic parade celebrating an invasive plant found all around the island.

IMG_3630

Scotch Broom is a beautiful yellow flower that grows on large bushes, and are pivotal in protecting erosion.  In the beginning of the 20th century, the island’s forests were clear cut, to harvest timber for ship making.  Suddenly, there was empty land being pounded by the PNW rains, and slowly being stripped away.  The community came together and replanted indigenous trees to repopulate the forests, and used Scotch Broom to keep the soil together.  They are very hardy plants, and they thrive wherever they go.  Hence, they are also rather invasive; which, at one point was an advantage.  But a hundred years later, not so much.

 

Scotch broom Big 

“The essence of the Bainbridge Island Scotch Broom Parade is its capricious nature, unlike “real”      parades and unlike the plant, which blooms true every May with bright and enticing yellow flowers  that make this aggressive invasive species hard to hate. 

Also known as Scot’s Broom, this flowering  shrub was originally introduced from Europe for its ornamental and erosion-resistant qualities.  Unfortunately for the Pacific Northwest, it reduces wildlife habitat, bullying out ecologically  sustaining native vegetation.”

So why hold a parade in its name? According to Island historian Gerald Elfendahl, the event’s original conception, carried on today, was an ironic joke. In the early 1960s Bainbridge’s Strawberry Festival was petering out, and its annual Grand Old Fourth parade hadn’t yet begun. When Island architect John Rudolph stopped in one day to visit a friend at the Chamber of Commerce and happened upon a state questionnaire asking what our community’s annual festival was, he sent in a frivolous answer and thought no more about it—that is until people showed up the following May to see Bainbridge Island’s Scotch Broom Parade.

Within an hour, the event was thrown together with a “queen” pulled off the street, a few impromptu joiners, and some bouquets of Scotch Broom.”   (insidebainbridge)

 

This is a parade I can get behind!  So spontaneous.  Community-organized.  Fun.  Spunky.  A little unorganized…

It was supposed to be on Wednesday, but last minute they changed the date to Thursday.

I wasn’t sure where it started, when it began or who to contact to get more information.  So, being the adventurers we are, we just got in the car and headed downtown and just waited.  Seriously, what else are we going to do?  Not Go???  Psh, I am a hound dog for parades.

IMG_3615

 

We found the Scotch Broom Parade car in the parking lot of a grocery store!  Woot!!

I wasn’t sure if this was it, though.  Some people were decorating the car, other people were taking pictures.

So, we just hung out for a while.  And then we went into the store and picked up some things.

IMG_3619

 

And then we got in the car to go home, since the Scotch Broom Parade car was gone from the parking lot…

when suddenly…

 

IMG_3638

We saw the parade in action!!  SO EXCITING!!!  Ben asked if the roads were blocked off, or if they had a police escort, or if they had a banner…

Nope!  They were just walking down the street, dressed to the 9s, carrying Scotch Broom bouquets.

That is our annual parade 🙂  You really can’t get more awesome than that.  I love this place.

 

 

I was so taken with the beauty of the parade, we stopped off on a side road and picked some Scotch Broom to adorn our house.

 

IMG_3639

 

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Sometimes Motivation Is Just Staying Home

This article originally appeared on Ravishly.

Featured on:Ravishly-300x102

Pinterest Motivation Is A Lie

What's stopping you?What’s stopping you?

Motivation helps us see a higher mountain to climb. A loftier goal to which we arise. A greater accomplishment to envision. Motivation keeps us going when it seems impossible. Motivation is the fire that burns within us to finish the race. Motivation can be a very useful fuel in life, to say the least.

I like motivation.

I have motivation to do a great many things. As they say, “Motivation is for closers” (unless you haven’t seen the movie, and then that quote is kind of random).

Motivation helps us see a higher mountain, a loftier goal, a greater accomplishment. Motivation keeps us going when it seems impossible. Motivation fuels the fire within us. Pushes us to finish the race. Motivation can be a very useful fuel in life, to say the least.

Yet, sometimes the Pinterest motivational posters are not as helpful as they aim to be. Sometimes, they picture unrealistic vacation shots with a pithy statement: “Be the best you can be! (If you don’t have a job, and are on a 6-month long, $25,000 vacation in the middle of nowhere.)”

On one hand, do I want to grab life by the horns and experience new things on a yacht in the middle of the Mediterranean, wearing a new bikini (that doesn’t look like I just forgot to actually get dressed)? Sure!

Do I want to go mountain climbing in Yosemite? (NO.) Sure, I’ll give it a try. I’m going to make it 10 feet up and then my wobbly arms are going to be carrying ice packs (and wine) for the rest of the day, though.

Do I want to just take off and go driving in the country in my 1957 convertible with my hair beating in the air, losing my scarf to the wind and throwing my hands up like I just don’t care? Maybe…I liked that scarf, though.

On the other hand, day-to-day life is not a motivational poster. Day-to-day life is waking up earlier than the kids, making sure they have breakfast, getting them to do their chores, reading emails, making lunch, doing school, getting some laundry done, planning for the week, making grocery lists, and chilling with the family.

Day-to-day life is not a motivational poster.

Day-to-day life is going to the DMV, picking up a few things at Home Depot, and going to bed early. Although I really do like the spunk of motivational posters to put the idea of “what if” into our heads, I think the motivation we have every day is finishing a project at work, listening to the kids laugh outside, or making a killer meal for dinner. Those are real motivations. Those moments are the fuel that keep the fire in me going. They are what make life amazing.

Here are some less-than-motivational posters I found. Thanks, Pinterest:

Not really the goal I was looking for, exactly.

I also need a babysitter, who will work for free.

Laundry? Because we do need clean towels, now that you mention it.

That looks really cold. I’d rather stay home.

I don’t know, Steve has a point here.

I made the best lamb roast.

You really can’t ignore that.

Top 5 Reasons Why My Bedroom Is Immaculately Clean.

This article originally appeared on Ravishly.

Featured on:Ravishly-300x102

 

5 Reasons My Room Is Immaculately Clean

Because behind every clean room there is a vacuum cleaner holding a story.

Will you look at this room?

This is the beautiful room in which I live. Notice the clean space on the floor? Ahh, the floor. You can actually see it.

immaculate bedroom

immaculate bedroom

You just don’t know how clean this room is.

Perhaps that is because you do not live with me. You don’t see the endless fountain of laundry, the crackers snuck into my bed while people watch cartoons in the morning, my own terrible habit of leaving coffee mugs on any level surface within reach. Perhaps you don’t see explosions of granola that overtake the very volume of space which was bequeathed to us in this room.

Aye, this room is terribly, oddly clean.

If you don’t count the unmade bed (I am sitting in it right now, so I don’t think that counts against the room on a technicality), or the clean laundry on the window seat…this is one, very clean room. The carpets have been vacuumed.  The baseboards have been vacuumed. The sheets have been taken out, shook, washed, fluffed dry and then put back onto the bed. The clothes have been picked up and put away. There are no old coffee mugs sitting upon the quiet windowsill. There are no longer  papers/books/binders/pencils/crayons/Snuffleupaguses laying around, discarded from today’s schooling of the children.

It is oddly quiet in this room, amongst all this clean space. Quiet, like an old western mining town, lost in the winds of time. The peculiar wind creeping through and sniffing in corners, looking for mischief. Where could it be? Where was the mischief that it sensed only 10 minutes ago?

Okay, it isn’t that quiet. You might as well just put static on the television and a blue light on the ceiling at that point. But still, oddly clean.

Especially for me.

Now, if you’ve been following along and you know me, you might be thinking to yourself, “But she hates cleaning. Especially her room. Who cares if her bedroom is clean?  Guests will never see it…what’s up, Buttercup?”

Well, I’m glad you asked.

Because behind every clean room there is a vacuum cleaner holding a story.

Top 5 Reasons Why My Bedroom Is Immaculately Clean.

folded shirts, huh?

folded shirts, huh?

1. My 3-year-old opened a new bag of Costco granola on my dresser while watching “Jake and the Neverland Pirates.” On the plus side, all the baseboards in a 15-foot radius have now been vacuumed.

2. I opened a bag of granola while watching “Jake and the Neverland Pirates,” because I forgot I am an adult and I can legally change the channel when the kids leave the room.

3. I have spent four (okay, five) hours reading and blogging and the guilt is overwhelming, so I am trying to clean as many rooms as I can until I feel like I am still taking care of the house and not actually ignoring the litter box that you can smell from the hallway (everything has been sanitized and order has been restored).

4. I clicked on a Pinterest link on how to clean your whole house in 10 minutes (actual time: 3.5 hours).

Who puts folded shirts on top of your closet shelf? I can hardly reach the hangers. Honestly, people.

5. Guests.

Why Anne Bronte’s “Tenant of Wildfell Hall” Is More Badass Than Jane Eyre

Why Anne Bronte’s “Tenant of Wildfell Hall” Is More Badass Than Jane Eyre

Big words.

I know. Because I based my life on Jane Eyre when I was younger….

Who wouldn’t? She is the epitome of the stolid, English heroine.  Brave. Fearless. Troublesome…yet, she looks life straight in the eye, does her job, and does it damn well.  I swore Charlotte Bronte would be my #1 pick until death do us part.

And then I found Anne.

I will pitch this book as long as I live.

I have introduced it to every book club I have attended.

There was an entire “No-Commitment Book Club” on my blog, and the only book featured was “Tenant of Wildfell Hall.”

Emily Bronte brought us the epic English story of Catharine and Heathcliff, bringing together the Olde English money and the Newe English Industrial generations through a story of crumbling love.

Charlotte Bronte brought us Jane Eyre, who has been the role model for every wildly independent book-loving girl, and woman, on the planet.

But if you thought that was the end of the Bronte saga, you are pleasantly mistaken.

 

three.sisters.ambrotype.x600Emily, Charlotte and Anne.  Being epic together.

 

Let me introduce you to Anne.

Some of the undisputed facts about Anne Brontë are that she was the youngest daughter of the Reverend Patrick and Maria Branwell Brontë; that she was born in the northeastern county of Yorkshire, England; and that she spent her childhood and formative years in the Brontës’ family home—the parsonage on the outskirts of the remote village of Haworth. She received her formal education between 1835 and 1837 at Miss Margaret Wooler’s boarding school. During Anne’s attendance there, the school was relocated from Roe Head to Dewsbury Moor, near Leeds. ” (poetryfoundation.org)

 

 

I discovered this book when I was in university.  I forget which class it was for, but being a Lit grad…the classes kind of blend in together, after a while.  Out of the hundreds of thousands of 1850-1950 American/British Literature pieces I read, I am still reading this one.  It speaks to my fearless values, my radical dedication as a mother and to my uncompromising belief in myself.

Anyone who believes differently of themselves is obviously an Austen fan.

 

 

The heroine of Anne’s book is Helen Graham, and she is a thoughtful and intelligent woman who is disappointed with her extremely wayward, stupid and perilous husband, but boldly confident about her motherhood and, furthermore, her purpose as a person.  How can I not love her.

Anne Brontë’s books are primarily concerned with morality; she is preoccupied with the ethical principles which, for good or ill, govern human behavior.”

My writing (or maybe more correctly, my thoughts) has a penchant to go from “funny story,” to “this is what I learned,” to “and that is the meaning of life.”  So, naturally I fell in love with Anne’s writing.  When I read about her protagonist, Helen Graham, I found that I followed along far too easily with her thought process as she goes through different levels of her life.  In an exceedingly toxic relationship with a person no one else sees as a problem? Chuck it. Need to make income to be financially independent? Use your talents.  Raising your child? Expert level.  Believing you have exceeding value as an intelligent and loving woman?

Like a Boss.

I love Helen Graham because her bravery speaks volumes through her actions.  She knows what’s right in life.  She know’s what’s up.  And she will take on a whole town full of “yes-men” without blinking an eye; because “yes-men” will only get you so far in life.  “Yes-men” will provide an environment of harmony…no, empty harmony…with very little conflict, but a complete vacuum of value structure.  You may not disagree with anything, but in so doing, are you not the worst of hypocrites?  Are you not merely enabling the most vapid and dull-witted of the denominator?  At what point do you strike out and declare that jumping off a cliff, en masse, is a bovine idea.   When in life do you stand up in the crowd and walk out in order to blaze your own trail.  To discover a different pasture.  To explore grand ideas outside of the pleasantly, and sometimes ridiculously, accepted.  Sure, you won’t have many friends this way.  Sure, you’ll have more enemies.  But, is the point of life to merely have the least amount of enemies?  Are the strongest and most noble characters not in fact those who have the boldest of adversaries?

Honestly.

“Brontë’s publicly declared purpose as a writer was “to tell the truth, for truth always conveys its own moral to those who are able to receive it … and if I can gain the public ear at all, I would rather whisper a few wholesome truths therein than much soft nonsense.

(I love her)

 

The thing I didn’t expect with this novel was the opposition from her sister, Charlotte.

Charlotte Brontë was disturbed by The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and made no secret of her distaste for the book. In her “Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell” (1850), she referred to the fact that Anne’s second novel had had a predominantly unfavorable reception: “At this I cannot wonder. The choice of subject was an entire mistake. Nothing less congruous with the writer’s nature could be conceived. The motives which dictated this choice were pure, but, I think, slightly morbid.”

Although Charlotte struck out against the nature of the book, I believe it is because she saw Anne as actually holding herself back from her true potential.  Anne’s first novel, Agnes Gray, was very autobiographical in structure and she spoke harshly against mindless beaurocracy in society and the abuses of higher levels of society.  In comparison, Tenant is almost pedestrian in nature.  I think Charlotte expected Anne to make a wider swing and a more focused hit on her topics than she did, which drove her to be dismissive of Tenant‘s capabilities.

One thing I particularly liked in this novel is that I never felt emotionally connected with any of the other women in the story.  I was honestly surprised how little social gatherings have changed throughout the years.  There are still gossips, there are still flirty 19 year old girls hungry for attention, and there are still judgmental, sanctimonious women throwing their useless advice onto other mothers.  Not a lot has changed.  And women like Helen get caught in the marginalized categories of mothers who still use logic and thoughtful discipline to love their children.

 

In a couple of places I’ve seen this book compared to Charlotte’s works, or even Emily’s works.  The heroines are strong, blunt, brave…but not reckless.  Through trials, through errors, through mistakes, through misfortune, through tragedies and through love, these women use the sense that they have to forge a new road ahead of them on which to structure their lives.  If these women are not the role models on which we should aspire to, then we are all lost.

I am fascinated with the fact that this was written in the mid-19th century, and it is still as applicable to the inner wrestlings women have today.  Is this a wrestling that speaks to women on a societal level, or is this a deep-rooted, philosophical realm women ruminate over regardless of nationality or time?  Is the fact that she marries in the end the way you thought it should go?  Are independent women “allowed” to fall in love?  How do you think her son will go on to view women when he gets older, with Helen as his mother?  And finally, how do you think Helen will feel in her old age?  Comfortable with other women, or still plugging away at her thoughts and finding the meaning of life through her paintings?

What do you think?

DIY: Crazy Paper Making Parties

I had this crazy idea of having a paper making party…

to make our own paper for Mother’s Day cards with glitter and flowers and whatever else we can find.

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I have never made paper before. I have never even thought about making paper before.  Do I need to fell some trees for this?  Do I need a paper making permit?  What kind of a master blender do I need to blend a log into pulp?  I had a friend recommend looking at the pulp under a microscope…I can’t even get my microscope to work! I think the lightbulb is burnt out or something.  But the battery is also over 10 years old.  Maybe it is a battery problem.  What do I do with the pulp once we have it?  Do I need a paper making machine, or is this like making tortillas?  ….wait, I have never made tortillas either.  Is this way above my Etsy paygrade….what are we doing??  What have I gotten us into???

 

Nah, I just looked up some YouTube videos on DIY paper making and bought a kit.

And We Did It.

 

I would highly recommend this as an afternoon craft.  It was a lot of fun, and everyone got into it.  Here is how to get started!

What You Need:

  • Arnold Grummer’s Papermill Complete Papermaking Kit paper making kit (Amazon)
  • Shredded/ripped Scrap paper
  •  A large pot of warmer water
  • Blender/Stick Blender
  • Glass measuring cup
  • Glitter/Flowers/Leaves/Herbs/Ferns
  • Rectangle casserole dish filled with water
  • Lots of dry towels
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Some flat surface that is safe to put things on to dry, that the dog won’t get into or the cats won’t find to eat the paper, or whatever hazards you have in your house

 

 1) Rip scrap paper and put into pot of warmer water.

 

IMG_3417Paper, Y U No Rip?????

I would personally avoid ripping important documents or term papers that are due this week, and stick to scrap paper…but that’s just me.  I did a few experiments using newspaper, binder paper and construction paper.  I preferred the binder paper, because it was more white, but adding construction paper added more color.  The newspaper was okay in texture, but it is a very bland gray…and it is hard getting the ink off your pot afterwards (use vinegar).

I tried boiling the pulp, and I tried just lightly warming the pulp…it seems like you just need to get the paper to break apart to become pulp, so turn the stove on for a few minutes to get the water warm, but that’s all you really need.

 

2) Add decorations to your pulp

Use 1 cup of pulp for 1 sheet of paper.  No more, no less.  Any more, and it is way too thick for paper.  Any less, and it falls apart.

We had glitter, flower petals, different colored paper, herbs, ferns, flowers, leaves…this is definitely the fun part!


IMG_3419My glamorous friend, Melissa, helped throw our paper party!

 

IMG_3420They were putting all the glitter/flower petals/herbs into the pulp, which was in a glass measuring cup.

 

 

3) Blend the pulp together to make it a fine pulp

I used my stick blender, and it worked just fine.  If I had a larger blender, I probably would have used that…but this pulp is very soft. You don’t need anything strong to get the job done.

 

IMG_3421

 

4) Now, get out your paper making kit mold:

Set the mold, with the screens attached to the mold, into the rectangle casserole dish filled halfway with water.

Then pour the 1 cup of pulp into the mold, and just swish it around until it is evenly coated.

Then pull it straight up out of the water, and let it drain until no more water is leaking.

 

IMG_3418

 

IMG_3424

 

IMG_3425

 

4) Take the mold and set it on your ironing board.  

Release the velcro and lift the mold off of the screen.

IMG_3422

It will look like this.  This is already a piece of paper, and it holds together pretty well already.  It is just very wet.


IMG_3429

 

Now, flip the screens over onto a dry towel, and use the sponge to push water out of the paper.


IMG_3431

Then take the screens off of the paper, and put a dry towel on top of the paper and push a hot iron on top.

IMG_3432

 

5) That’s about it!  I let the paper dry over night, and they were done!

IMG_3433

 

This is a fun, interactive project that anyone can do. Also very nice for making your own cards, stationary, paper airplane paper….whatever you can think of!

Have fun!

Pistachio Salad: The Salad of Champions

I’m going to make this quick and easy for you:

Jello, Cool Whip and Pineapples.

I grew up with Pistachio Salad as a staple in my life, and it didn’t occur to me until the other day that I have actually never made this for my family.  Maybe it is a little too 1950s, maybe it’s that it’s green…who knows.  One way or other, this never made it to my kitchen.

UNTIL NOW.

 

I wish I could make this sound like a really impressive and complicated recipe to woo you into thinking I am some Jello mastermind, able to turn weird Jello flavors into ravishing desserts that Wolfgang Puck will pay good money to discover…but it’s just not going to happen with this one.

Three ingredients. Throw them into a bowl. Enjoy thoroughly.

The only thing I can think to make this more interesting is trying to figure out which cocktail goes with it best.  Probably an Appletini, or maybe chilled Reisling wine. Oooo, or a champagne cocktail….

 

Here’s what you need:

 

1) Pistachio Jello, a container of Cool Whip and a large can of undrained crushed pineapple.

You can also add walnuts…I guess.  If you need walnuts in your life.
IMG_3416

 

2) Throw Everything Into A Bowl and Stir

Gently, though.  Let’s not be barbarians about this.

 

IMG_0400

 

3) Chill for an hour…

and enjoy!  It was really good, and just what I remember.  Pistachio salad is a very unique flavor, but it’s nice.

You’ll like it 🙂

 

 

 

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