31 December 2010


so all the cool kids at flickr are whisking up these year-in-review mosaics, and as i do have a few photos wandering the back alleys of my hard drive, i thought i'd give it a whirl.


[speaking of mosaics, katie of my pencil box has the most gorgey collection up right now. it's like a beach house in the best way: bright but soft, with a sunwashed feel. i just want to climb on in and stay forever.]

truth be told, i had lofty hopes for 2010, the foremost being that our littlest would be in thisveryhouse as we speak, curled up sleepy and warm in the bottom bunk. instead we watch him grin and stretch taller from the other end of this screen, and it's not nearly enough, but it's something. and we learn to trust God to make good on his word to father the fatherless, and we pace and we yearn and we rest.

this year was full and adorned with joy. and true, it weathered a good dose of heartbreak, but we never stood alone.

my right-now goal is pretty much identical to the one that sat fresh in my palm at the year's opening: to be the girl crazy in love with her God. the road from me to her unwinds long and hazy before me, but he knows the way.

bring it on, 2011. i can hardly wait.


30 December 2010

death wishes and related items.

so i wasn’t going to share this, because i think the mister is going to murder me in my boots a little bit, but we’re knee deep in muck out there and i think we could all use some General Cheer.

[exhibit a: muck. knee-deep. i had to do it.]

but first, some background.

growing up, we didn’t have the sort of christmas tree where everything was matching and breakable and pretty. we had the other sort of tree. the one decked out in homemade ornaments and popsicle stick sleds and an overall cacophony of all things crooked and happy.

so as a big person, it only seemed right to carry on this proud tradition with my littles. and lucky for me, they’ve cheerfully supplied our tree with a legion of school-made trimmings:

[see that there felt skate on the far left? i whipped that baby up with my brownie troop, circa 1984. i haven’t stitched anything quite so meticulously before or since, but it’s heartening to know i did have one shining moment of domesticity.]

but back to embarrassing my husband. so unlike the rest of us, he is a reluctant contributor to the Display of Kidmade Glory. every year, the ornaments he fashioned in grade school mysteriously relocate to the back of the tree, or, as was the case this year, disappear altogether.

take for instance, this one:


i covertly snapped this pic the other day justincase he decided to 'lose' it, and what do you know. it plum up and walked off.

[isn't he the darlingest thing in his giant specs that it turns out he didn't even need as his eyesight was just fine? and that smile, like he's up to something, and that messy-cute hair...if i'd known him back then, the grade school me would've been crushing hard, that's all i'm sayin'.]

and now, in an effort to preserve my life or at least lengthen it past five o'clock, i shall share with you one of my elementary photo creations. which is not cute at all, and does not seem to be helped with any amount of squinting or even closing one's eyes entirely.

are you ready for it?

i do not think you are ready for it.

let's take a collective deep breath. yes, i am stalling.

alrightfine, here it is:


i am at a loss for where to even begin. we'll bypass the unfortunate fact that i seem to be going through a pudgy stage and also a cross-eyed stage all at once, and instead consider my wardrobe choice.

the right-now me would like to travel back in time and politely ask the third-grade me exactly what i was trying to achieve with the high-neck ruffled frock plus shoulder-tie jumper. it would seem that my inner-victorian was arm wrestling my devotion to laura ingalls wilder, and the person who lost was me.

and even more pressing: why was i allowed to select my own attire for picture day when clearly i was not yet up to the task? what has become of responsible parenting, i ask you?

oy vey.

but let us put that behind us. because i am not so cruel and unusual as to leave you with that particular hideousness burned into the back of your brain, we shall part with another mucky shot:

ah. much better.

please repay my thoughtfulness by promising to attend my funeral. [and if you show up in shoulder-tie jumpers, i shall love you forever.] adieu.

29 December 2010



elle punches our tickets, and we catch the sled-train to the end of the hall.


she greets us in her best fancy voice [please do come in!], serves up frosted donuts before we can even take our seats. this is my kind of joint.



the daily special is peanut-fish soup with chips and a block of butter. there’s live (indie) music and some apr├Ęs-dinner dancing of the jiggish sort.


in her establishment, there's no tab to pick up and every patron is sent off with a waist-hug and a 'happy day' paper plate.



i'm a lucky mama to spend twenty minutes in my daughter's world, to still be saved prime real estate in her imaginings.


27 December 2010

personal flood zone.

i’ve long been the family’s Designated Crier, but this past week i’ve taken my responsibility to new heights.

my little brother rang from oahu on my birthday. those few small minutes of our usual silly banter blurred the whole room, and i had to feel my way back to the table.

then friday night we gathered the littles and traveled snowy streets to a Christmas eve service. we sang of ransoms and God with us, and my lashes coated up thick and salty with all that liquid wonder.

we read from romans 5 and circled the church to share communion, and i joined expectant faces lining walls pink with candlelight, crooked an arm around the littles, drank in remembrance of unfathomable love.

the room was so pungent with hope, most of our eyes took to burning.

gratitude jar

her song

Christmas dawned lucid and tipped with frost. we gathered with family for glazed ham and cobbler and fruit, and the boys read from luke 2 and elle sang God a birthday song.

and the sounds of grace in small mouths made my heart wobble and flood its capacity till the excess slipped wet down my face.


'twas a mighty good, albeit damp, week.

* * *

gratitude, #57-66

people who give good gifts (ie clean water and ducks)

ornery relatives and wrapping paper fights

mom's voice on the phone

a God who redeems

almond joy coffee creamer

flannel sheets worn whisper soft

the hope of a son soon home

the littles running amuk with their cousin

kleenex :)

25 December 2010

isaiah 35

unspeakable joy.

24 December 2010


he arrived in a drafty barn in a one-light town in the middle of nowhere.

and though he was Divinity, the angel bypassed the priestly and the royal, the influential and the prominent, and heralded this God-Son's birth to a handful of flea-bitten guys in the hills far enough out of town that no one had to smell them.

God comes to the rejects and the nobodies, the stumbling and the hopeless. God comes to me.

he comes when we've scraped rock-bottom, desperate for mercy; he shows up on the spot and grace floods so fierce that it cannot be kept to ourselves.

he wraps the shaking in thick coats, visits hospital rooms, sets orphans in families. he comes to us so he can show up through us.

the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
[luke 4.18&19]

God comes. and our hearts weep with relief, kindle bright with joy.

22 December 2010

bits and pieces.

the littles are officially on holiday, and life has been a whirling dervish of sweet.


peppermint bark in the making.


snowflakes cut from festive magazine pages.


a box chock-full of goodies that make me hungry for home--thanks, emi!


a fresh stack of fabric for the boys' quilts. which may or may not be done by saturday. alas.


thoughtful treats from a friend.


more forced family fun. :)

i hope your days are just as bright.

20 December 2010

to have and to hold.


they spoke the words shy into the hush of the church. for richer, for poorer. in sickness and in health.

and they kissed like a promise and the world was their oyster and they didn’t know then, some thirty-nine years ago, all that lay ahead. but they could hope and hold on,


and just look at them smile.

so they held on and hoped through early years of tiny rooms and growing churches and scraping by.


they held on through the bustling of children and soccer and sleep-jolting phone calls summoning my father to mediate another 4am crisis. through weddings and deaths and breaking ground for a new building and watching their sons sing like wonder.


they held on when the keening of a siren split the night, when my dad’s brain shuddered and bled and the doctors shook their heads.

they held on when dad woke to a world shaken wrong, and they each flopped around in ill-fitting roles. they wove their hands together, clinging, watching dreams shrivel small.

and now life is slow, and dad putters about the house, volunteers now and then at the bookstore or senior center. mom comes home from long days at the preschool, stirs beef and broccoli on the stove, waters banana trees that line the back fence. and the phone sits quiet and the children are grown, and still: they hold on.

this is what it means to have and to hold.


and just look at them smile.

* * *

gratitude list, #50-56

parents who cherish each other

the husband of mine who makes the choice, every day, to view me with tenderness

cable heat

peppermint bark

everyone feeling quite healthy, all at the same time

God coming to the very least of us

18 December 2010

outside : inside (with narration)


something about this shivery baby maple makes me happy and lonely all at once. beautiful, brave little guy.

it is glimmery bright and white-skied cold out there, hills of snow squeaking under my weight and slipping wet into my boots.

i love the morning and the glitter and, well, not so much the frigidness, but most everything else about december is sublime.


[if the top quilt looks oddly familiar, that's because it is. this is the lovely thing i started back in 1972 and am just now quilting in trying-to-be-straight lines with my ebayed walking foot.]

if all goes well, it shall bundle up under the UglyFakeTree as our gift to elle.

few things warm this heart of mine more than boxes of love (the edible-drinkable kind of love) that pop up in the mail from back home.

little pearls from the mister. not only are they the best kind of m&ms in candied existence, he gets extra credit for fighting back his aversion to coconut for the fifteen minutes required to stand in line and purchase and drive home with them.

a feverish little (who's doing much better now).

a second grade masterpiece.

missives strung bright along the hearth.


15 December 2010

in which i am a slow learner.

i unflap a cardboard box soft from years of waiting in damp spaces, pull out a painted tin stable and slide it deep on the shelf of our dining room window.

the littles jostle and crowd to help peel back layers of tissue from each resin figure, and we take turns assembling the scene: the angel, the wise men (who were a bit ahead of schedule), the donkey, a pair of awfully cute sheep. a shepherd. proud, bewildered parents. baby Jesus in a feed box.

after the kiddos have scampered off to find play or sleep, my inner perfectionist is unleashed. i rearrange the small pieces just so: the wise guys stage right and facing outward, monsieur shepherd and his duo of wooly folk opposite the Christ child, angled at such a degree that we can see how his face alights with wonder.


the next morning, however, i amble past the window to find that someone has rearranged my rearrangement:

and so i scoot the pieces out, spin them a good one-eighty so i can see their faces again, stagger small figures with large until the composition's right.

i walk away.

and lo and behold, i happen by the window not twenty minutes later to find that my little rearranger is persistent:

and i say, guys! in the general direction of the kids. (in my vocabulary guys is an equal opportunity term pertaining to all sexes.) and i say, who keeps messing with this? who keeps crowding everyone around the manger and giving us this fantastic view of their backs?

and i'm working whilst complaining, ever the multi-tasker, swinging each figure out and around to face us, making them back off and spread out, and you know. look right.

and the kids blink at me and one of them says quiet-like, mom. but they came to see Jesus, right?



i pause with a sheep in one hand, marinate in my foolishness for a moment. and of course they came to see Jesus, the one who forges stars and gives planetary systems a twirl and washes a winter sunrise soft with cream. of course they're pressing close around Jesus.

and so the children help me again, and we turn and scoot every wise man, every shepherd and angel and sheep and donkey to huddle close to God the Son, our hearts revolving around the hope of all creation.

"The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light...
For unto us a child is born." (Isaiah 9.2&6)

14 December 2010

and now the moment you may or may not have been waiting for.

and the winner is...




#37, megan, who wrote:

I sing this carol year round and it moves me to tears almost every time I hear it. O' Holy Night is my most favorite for sure! Thanks for a chance, I just love that necklace!

intriguingly (is that how you spell intriguingly? it looks weird and also somehow italian), she also got the answer 78% correct. nearly all the time o holy night is the best carol in the history of holiday tuneage, although occasionally it is o come, o come emmanuel or what child is this, as my mood dictates.

megan, i shall be contacting you to discuss the making of your custom necklace.

**bonus points to candi for your multilinguality and general awesomeness, and to karen for making me laugh.**

thanks, all, for sharing your favorite carols with me. happy tuesday!