Thursday, December 31, 2009

my perfect night


I am not very photogenic. I know this about myself and I'm okay with it.
However, my new camera lens (an EF 50mm f/1.8II, given to me as a gift from some of my favorite girls) may be changing all that.
Even me, with tongue exposed in our low-lit kitchen, i don't look half bad. Weird, yes. Bad, no.

Last night we spent the evening how we should have been spending every evening in December.
With camera in hand, we went first to gorge ourselves with sushi. Except for one unfortunate moment where Curtis, (who hates the seaweed in sushi) could barely get a piece down and almost lost his lunch (or his dinner) at our table, our dinner was lovely. Maybe it was all the cold meds I had been taking, but I was in a rare mood, making everything, even the near-vomit incident, laugh-worthy.

After dinner we walked down to Barnes & Noble bookstore and wandered through the shelves, with only the intention to each buy a daily calendar for our offices. But, having not bought a book in a long, long time, my dear, loving husband had sympathy on me and bought me not one, but TWO books. I was in heaven and even kissed him in public, which i almost never do.

We then wandered through a fancy kitchen store, where Curtis pretended he was interested in buying an espresso machine, so they'd make him a shot and then just as we approached Anthropologie (which I was beside myself about visiting, after over a year since my last visit), they were locking the doors, literally as we approached. I was devastated, but got over it quickly as we walked hand in hand back to our car.

On our way home I fidgeted with my camera, taking pictures of the passing Christmas lights and silent streets. We took the long way home and laughed all the way home, despite my still sore throat and runny nose. At one point, he turned to me and said,

"Why don't we do this more often?"

"I'm not sure," I responded. And I'm not.

At home we snuggled on the couch and watched an episode of Mad Men, before heading to bed, where i folded back the front cover of my new book, smelled that familiar new book smell and sighed while entering my literary happy place.

This has been a good year, I think to myself.

Burning the Old Year

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.
So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.

Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.
Where there was something and suddenly isn't,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn't do
crackle after the blazing dies.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

a glance behind before looking ahead







"do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
but remember that what you now have was once among things only hoped for."

I read this quote and remembered back to our first year of marriage. I was working retail and he was going to school and serving tables in the evenings. We were barely scraping by, often paying for groceries and gas using credit cards. I remember sitting one night thinking, how wonderful it will be to oneday have two steady, 9 to 5 jobs, where we work in the day and have evenings free to spend together.

Mere weeks later, Curtis had a "real, grown-up job" and mere months later, i did too. While we still don't have the luxury of having every night together, i look back and think, we hoped for this. this life. a house, a dog, two stable jobs, a church we are coming to cherish and each other - relatively healthy and happy and whole.

So, as 2009 comes to a close, i am struck with words that seem to sum up the year.
sometimes silence.

It was surely a year where testing came and we were asked, what do you believe?
and the answer, strong and simple came:
We believe. and so we wait. and hope. and wait some more. and in the waiting, we find not only peace, but happiness.

"Happiness...not in another place but this place,
not for another hour, but this hour."
-Walt Whitman

We have come to the place of thankfulness for what we have. And although longings aren't far from our minds, we understand that even if this was it, it would be enough.

2010 is going to be a year of preparation. Preparing for whatever is to come. Within the year we will look ahead at what's to come, but we will also be mindful of where we have been. i have made many goals for the new year. Some personal, some lofty, some creative, some simple and some which i have already completed.

Although i am not in love with winter as some are, every January, I cherish the chance to start afresh in some ways, and to carry over other ideas, from year's past. This year will be a blending of lessons in the midst of being learned, fresh realizations of all the goodness we been given and an expectation of all that is uncertain in the year to come.

"I dwell in possibility."
-Emily Dickinson

*images of our tree

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

sick but not slowing down

last night i went to bed with a sore throat. this morning i woke up and it was even worse.
swallowing fire in never a fun way to start the day, especially since this is the way Curtis' strep throat started on Christmas Eve.

i am not usually quick to go to the doctor. but in this case, i figure it's better to be safe than sorry, and have made myself an appointment for 2pm this afternoon. i am headach-ey (which isn't unusual for me), my throat is burning and my body is kind of sore as well (but that could also be atributed to the fact that i did an hour of Kenpo yesterday). Either way, i'm feeling under the weather, but it hasn't stopped me from getting stuff done.

As i type, i have a pot of split pea soup on the stove. My mom gave me her ham bone from Christmas dinner and i took that as a great opportunity to spice up some split pea goodness.

I also took all the leftover roasted cauliflower i had and made a small pot of cauliflower soup. i am looking forward to indulging in homemade soups until my throat cools down.

and lastly, as i get some work done from the comforts of my couch, i also continue the "quick cabled neck warmer" that i started knitting on Christmas Eve...yes, that is cable knitting you see, i am proud to boast that i taugh myself how to cable knit last week and eagerly anticipate all of the cabled patterns that are now available for my knitting consumption! (sidenote: learning to cable knit was on my 2010 goal/resolutions list - but i guess i'm just anxious to start a new year)

i took these pictures last week when i had just begun the little scarf - it is now over a foot long and is nearly finished (i'm just too lathargic today to take more photos). And if the color/yarn looks familiar, i'm knitting it out of the extra yarn from my last sweater project.

i hope everyone's enjoying this week between Christmas and New Years...i'm hoping i'll be back to my somewhat-healthy-old-self soon so i can put the finishing touches on my holiday to do list (which i must say i'm slowly but surely accomplishing) and finish writing my 2010 new year's goal list which i hope to share later this week.

until then...




Sunday, December 27, 2009

a very merry christmas, maybe not, but a very happy birthday indeed


Today - two days after Christmas, our household is slowly recovering.
Not from festivity withdrawal, but from strep.
yup, that's right, our holiday was thrown a tad off course when my husband, so excited to have a couple of days in a row off work, came down with the fever-inducing, tonsil-swelling, moan-making virus.

It was sad, and although i had the chance to celebrate with family and friends, it just wasn't the same. Him at our home trying to lower a fever, and me, opening gifts and feasting with relatives. I kept joking that it was our It's-a-Wonderful-Life-type Christmas - me with my family, sans Curtis, opening gifts on Christmas morning, like our marriage had never happened.

But it did.

Boy am i glad it did.

So today, as he is recovering, we celebrate his life as he turns a year older.

And his only birthday wish - to order pizza for lunch and to watch football together as we lounge on the couch and enjoy his new t.v.

He is so easily pleased (maybe that's why i married him!)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

tonight is enough


Tonight the air was still, snow fell, the fire burned, and I felt utterly small and stupid in the narrow little cocoon of my life. Tonight the sum of all my efforts thus far are two boys who won’t shut up and a husband who has his own issues and a job I don’t (mostly) know how to do. The novel waits. The dreams wait. And already, I am half way through my life.

This breaks my heart.


This is all I have.

~All I Have - from a post by Christina at {MyTopography}


This is all I have.


This moment where my body still quivers from unbalanced yoga,

and my fingers type fast,

cheeks flushed with the remembrance that it is a Tuesday night,

and I am home with the one I love and that is enough.

Enough for today

And my mind is far away from doubts and disbelief.

Tonight I believe

And that too, is more than enough.

i don't take smoke breaks, so i'm entitled to a blog break every once in a while...

Today is my last day of work, for the next six days…{hence the lack of focus and a mid-morning blog post}

I then have another two day work week next week before another extended four-day weekend.

I am besides myself with anticipation, I just can't take it.

I haven't had six days in a row off since we vacationed in Florida almost a year and a half ago.

Kind of depressing to think about, but now, I am simply giddy with the possibilities of all I can do and accomplish with six days at home.


My Christmas shopping is already done, gifts are wrapped, cookies have been baked, a trip to the grocery store has been made.

I have set myself up to enjoy this week {albeit, without my husband, who has to work every day besides Christmas and New Year's Day}


I will use this time to:


clean the house from top to bottom

block {my sweater}

knit the last rows of my last Christmas gift

have a special lunch with some special sisters

finish {this book} and {this one} too

write in my journal

run around town with my mom

unwrap my 2010 etsy calendar

read Vogue from cover to cover

finish reading the Old Testament

wander a bookstore

start a new knitting project

add P90X to my morning routine

clean out my closet

look back on 2009 with fondness

prepare myself for a fresh new year


Monday, December 21, 2009

one day i wish upon a star...

IMG_3528, originally uploaded by jpenick999.

to be out of debt

for a home library with a rolling ladder

to start a family

for a walk-in closet

to write a book

for a husband who has his nights and weekends free of school work

for peace and contentment and long, long hair

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

more wisdom from brin

Still reading through the archives over at {My Messy, Thrilling Life}.

Brin writes:

God only knows where you are, but I suppose I write all this to say this: we aren't meant to understand. We're meant to believe. Faith is daring ourselves to go where our eyes can't see. And we can't expect understanding to come easy here... here in this land of the living. But God... our loving Father... He holds our lives. He holds it all. Before we ask our questions He has our answers. Before we word our prayers He's heard our cries. And as we drift over our deep, deep seas of emotion or grief or doubt or difficulties, He sees our seas and knows the paths He's buried in them.

{see her post here}.

I find it fascinating that something written at another time can resonate with me so fully exactly where I am tonight.


That’s what that is.

Monday, December 14, 2009

book of days and bagpipes

Some days you must learn a great deal.

But you should also have days when you

allow what is already in you

to swell up and touch everything.

- E. L. Konigsburg

Today, I read Brin’s post called {Book of Days} on one of my new favorite blogs. {My Messy, Thrilling Life}. It’s another post from her archives, but it got me thinking.

She writes:

I've kept a diary since I was 12, which was about the same time my Great Grandmother, Mary Tankursley, advised me to always use moisturizer and keep a diary. These two things, she said, you'll never regret.

I haven't. Throughout my teen and college years, I dutifully wrote in my diary several times a week. The pages are full of big letters and heavily underscored sentences that spell out detailed exasperations with parents, first loves, and school. As I transitioned into my 20s, the writing grew smaller... tighter... stressed... and shorter entries mentioned money and job and boyfriend woes. When I turned 25 and bought Freeman House, diary keeping as I had always known it came to a stop. If you, I thought, plan to continue to ink all your daily frustrations and challenges, you will fill all the books in all the world....

So I did this: I bought a small but thick - blank and fresh - leather bound book. I bought a brown pen. And I made a point, several times a week, to open it and write... or even sketch... not what frustrated me, but what delighted me. Not what tore my soul apart, but what made my soul sing. Instead of detailing a bad day, I went back, back, back in my memories and thought of a good one. When I had a particularly horrible day, I made a list of the most wonderful days of my life. (I refer to that list still, whenever I have a bad day.) Poems, scriptures, quotes, jokes, fortune cookie predictions, paper clippings... they've all been pasted and penned inside. And slowly, over the last two years, this tiny book has filled with the sweetest moments, the loveliest memories, and the happiest thoughts and dreams and wishes a life can hold.

I call it my Book of Days, and it's one of my favorite things.


I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, my habitual journaling has slowed to an almost hault.

I have kept a journal since I was 12. I think I have mentioned this before. I began writing the afternoon my uncle died. I remember laying on my parent’s bed with my mother, who had just returned from the hospital for the last time. We layed together, diagonally across her comforter in silence for a long time. I remember silently crying, my face turned away from hers. I didn’t want to see her cry. But she was. I could feel it, but couldn’t bare to see it.

I don’t think I understood death back then. Still don’t really. But I know the sadness scared me. Still does.

I broke down at the wake. I saw the casket and I lost it. I remember being embarrassed at the thought that I was crying in front of strangers. My mother’s eyes looked tired and sad. My other uncle stood with me at the casket as my eyes dried and I remember thinking how strange it was that he came to my rescue as my parents watched. Or didn’t even see, I can’t remember it now. They probably couldn’t either.

Days later, I offered to watch my two now fatherless little cousins during the funeral so my aunt could mourn without distraction. I’m not sure where it came from, but even at this early age, I did all I could to get out of attending the funeral. And I succeeded.

I stayed back, at my parent’s house with the little ones as everyone else, clad in black and navy and grey, made their way to mourn and grieve and celebrate. I missed the bagpipers, and to this day regret it. I should have went, but fear kept me away. Still does sometimes.

All this to say that it was in that week that I began to find my voice on the page. And although it has often been neglected, it is a voice I cannot lose.

So, as the year winds down and I am reminded of the past as I look forward to the future, I will try to do as Brin has done and keep a memorial of the good.

If you, I thought, plan to continue to ink all your daily frustrations and challenges, you will fill all the books in all the world....

So, I will not do that, and will try not to let this space do that either.

And my book of days continues on.

sweater success


I’m not sure if I mentioned this to you or not, but I have been knitting myself a sweater over the past couple months…

I was determined that my second sweater would not turn out like {my first}…and lucky for me it didn’t.

Although not exactly what I expected, I am quite proud of myself and fond of it.

So, what do you think…?

coffee and clementines


…my breakfast this morning…

possibly my favorite thing about winter, besides knitting and soup and Christmas, are the clementines.

And I take full advantage and then by the wooden boxful.

The sweet smell of citrus reminding me that all is not lost in winter.

This morning the air was pleasant.

The wind was not blowing hard like last week as I made my way through the streets before dawn.

There was no thin layer of snow, blowing in circles and swirls across the footprintless pavement.

There were no twisters of silver in moonlight, spinning white records across the streets and sidewalks.

Last week was cold, but lovely – like a dream, but today the chill is barely in the air and I can breathe without gasping in the icicle air.

This week looks like rain, while last looked of snow.

I prefer wet and warm over cold and frozen any day.

But give me coffee and clementines in the morning and I’m set.

Sunday, December 13, 2009



I got out of bed this morning – the first day in over a week that i haven't been sore.

We are doing the P90X workout program together and by the eighth day I am feeling so much better... no longer feeling every muscle in my body contracting and expanding as I move throughout the day.

I must say though, we are enjoying it. It was a long, painful week, but I now remember how good it feels to push myself past the limits and sweat until my body burns and throbs and twitches.

Sunday is a day of rest - or you can choose to do an hour's worth of stretching. we choose the stretching and carry on.

This past week, however, has been a blur –

between working and working out and eating and sleeping, there hasn’t been time for much else.

Or maybe my body was aching too much for anything else?

Whatever the reason, the fact that I rarely see the sun between Monday and Friday is wearing on me. Weekends are sweeter, yes, but the weeks are long and endless.

Doesn’t winter know I have gifts to knit and buy and make and wrap

And a to do list that takes up both sides of a big sticky note

And a google reader filled to the brim of unread posts.

And I have a life outside of working hours.

And all I want to do is curl up with my laptop on my lap and read blogs and read books and be lazy and warm.

this is what winter is good for... curling up and laying low.

But instead, i tie up my sneakers and push back the couch and do some stretching to start off another week on the right foot.

linger and learn


A few days ago my friend {Kate} recommended a new blog to me and I’ve enjoyed it so much that I thought I would share.

It’s called {My Messy, Thrilling Life}

It has all of my favorite things - beautiful photographs, honesty and a ton of great quotes to scribble into my quote book.

She just has a simple way of putting things that makes you feel like there’s someone else out there like you.

I have been going through the archives and find myself continuing to read further and further back.

Today I arrived at {this post} that she wrote on May 7, 2008, titled, “The Beauty of In Between (Or, Into the Day).

She writes about how she was given the name of a christian counselor by a friend…I’m still not aware of the whole story, but I do know, by this point she has already been through a messy divorce, this is what she writes:

You know where you are now, right? he asked.

No, I said. I have no idea. I clenched my fists into tight bone balls and tried not to spill any tears.

You're in between.

I'm sorry? I'm where? My heart pounded.

In between, he repeated. You are not where you've been but not yet where you're intended. You are in between.

I glared at him. And what... what the crap am I supposed to do there?

He smiled sympathetically. Linger, he replied. Linger where God has you. Linger and learn.

I paused.

Advice for me today as well…

And maybe for you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

from generation to generation

There are a few people that I consistently go to for book recommendations. They have similar taste to mine and virtually every book they recommend, I read and enjoy, with few exceptions.

One of my main book gurus is actually my grandmother, whom we affectionately call, Nana. Today Nana turns 80.

Nana has been a lifelong reader and book-lover, and somewhere along the line of my life, we connected about the books we like and have never looked back.

She claims that my love of books comes from her, and at 80 years old, I don’t argue with her.

So for her birthday, I will buy her a gift card to borders, barnes and noble or joseph beth and watch her eyes light up.

She’s told me many times that there’s nothing like free money to a bookstore. For girls like us, it’s like a child in a colorful candy store. Similar to my feeling of wandering through my favorite yarn shop or a chef strolling the aisles of a gourmet grocery, we love books like others love food or yarn or beads or tools or gadgets.

So, although she has the money to buy herself all the books she could ever want, I will honor her today and celebrate our shared love of story.

I’ve recorded before my love for books, so I won’t digress, except to say that although we have quite a substantial age difference, our taste in books is frighteningly similar, save the courtroom dramas and murder mysteries she peppers into her reading list on occasion.

If she gives me a book, which is often, there is a 99.9% chance that I will like it. She’s turned me on to authors, genres and topics that I would have never known I liked.

So now, as I read Someone Knows My Name, by Lawrence Hill, I stick with it because it has come from a very respectable book critic.

Yes, it is long, and slow and detailed, but it has come with a lofty recommendation from a well-loved reader-relative from whom I wouldn’t expect to like this subject matter - and so I keep reading.

It’s the story of Aminata Diallo, who was torn from her African village as a child. In a story that spans six decades, three continents and an encyclopedia full of world history, Aminata’s story is both dangerous and endearing.

And although I am still on the pages detailing her childhood, I am slowly being drawn into the pages of her history.

And when I am finally done with this hefty read, I will turn to my nightstand and decide between the other books that have come from my most beloved reading companion.

Happy Birthday Nana.

I love you dearly and cherish this special tie that binds us.

Friday, December 4, 2009

time to process


I am no longer surprised when my cycle comes -

No longer overwhelmingly sad or depressed or disheartened.

I see the pieces of our lives falling into place and am increasingly aware of the gift of perfect timing –

Timing that we, luckily, have no control over.

A few nights ago we had a great night with friends we are slowly getting to know better.

An inquisitive, thoughtful group that understands us, and somehow, we them

It was good to be around people with whom we feel a connection

A deep, rooted, unspoken bond.

We left in that unmistakable, curious caffeine-laced way that we often do after we’ve been together. Like sleep is unnecessary and thoughts are unending. But because sleep is, in fact, not only necessary, but desired, we fell into cotton, crochet and down within minutes of arriving home. Slept soundly and woke up, still thinking from the night before.

There is a lot on my mind, even today, and not enough time or energy to give myself over to the thoughts that are swirling. But they are there, surely not going anywhere...and looking forward to the weekend, giving time to process.

*crooked photo of my advent calendar

Change is in the air…


I am typically not good with change.

I like stability, undisturbance, peace, fluidity.

This year, however, I am learning to not only embrace change, but learning to welcome it.

Changes in plans,

Changes in hopes,

Changes in expectations,

Changes in the way in which I think and pray.

So, this week, when we were given some unexpected news about some changes taking place within our extended family, I made an effort to sit back and think about how I was meant to respond.

It is interesting to see how different people respond to change.

Looking around even our small extended family, it is like an experiment into the emotional psyche of humanity.

I am trying to tread gently here…especially as emotions are raw and loss is being felt on many different levels right now.

But, I think as we enter December and I begin to reflect on my year, I have taken a different approach to this change, as well as others -

I embrace it.

Not because it makes life easier (because it doesn’t), or because it’s a welcomed change (because it’s not), but because I am learning that change isn’t random.

Changes are perfectly planned opportunities meant to change us.

And for that in itself I welcome change.

Expected and unexpected.

Desired and unwanted.

Small and life changing.

Change is not just a part of life, it is a gift.

I will leave you with this – wisdom from those who have gone before. Who have known change, and have lived to speak well of it:

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy;

for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves;

we must die to one life before we can enter another.”

Anatole France

“When we are no longer able to change a situation,

we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Victor Frankl

“When you are through changing, you are through.”

Bruce Barton

“All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.”

Ellen Glasgow

“Things do not change; we change.”

Henry David Thoreau

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