Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Why Blog?

Last week, a friend asked me what it is I write on this here blerg...aah...blog.   I fumbled for words because...what do I write about?  I threw out some random answer like, "I write about the funny things my kids say and my vocation and motherhood," but I wasn't really happy with my response.

Yes, I do write about those all those aspects of my life, but so do a lot of other people. I thought about this brief conversation for a few days afterwards and then I read one of my favorite creative gurus' thoughts on why he maintains a blog.  This is what Steven Pressfield says:

..."I don’t ask myself, “What do I imagine others want to read in this space?” I ask, “What do I want? What issues are bothering me? What questions am I exploring?”

Why write a book?

Why make a movie?

For myself, I set aside such answers as “To make money,” “to achieve success,” “to deliver a message,” “to change the world.”

I don’t believe in any of those. In my view they’re either unattainable or, if attained, do not produce happiness or peace of mind.

How about “to have fun?” “To produce beauty?” “To tell the truth?” “To serve the Muse?”

          Now, for me at least, we’re getting closer.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Marriage: The Joy Is In The Struggle


 In the first few months of our marriage, John and I had a fight.  It was loud.  It was passionate and I haven’t the faintest recollection of what it was even about.  I remember being so angry, I got in our newly purchased SUV and drove off.  

This is it, I thought.  I’m leaving him.

But I had nowhere to go. 

We lived seven hundred miles from my mom and dad and I couldn’t crash in my younger sister’s dorm room apartment.  So after an hour or two of stewing and driving, I drove back home.  It was the first of at least one thousand fights (both big and small) we were forced to work out. 

We’ve been working it out ever since.

When you’re a twitter-patted, starry-eyed singleton staring into the eyes of your beloved, it’s impossible to believe marriage is hard.  There is simply too much love and way too many hormones coursing through the bodies of dating men and women to accept potential marital difficulties.   I recall sitting through pre-Cana classes on communication, sex and money while nursing smug thoughts like, “Really?  Well, you’re not us” or “That will never happen.” It just seemed impossible that I would ever feel anything but pure, unadulterated joy and affection for John.

But then life happened. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I Have Kids. They Break Stuff. I'm Detached.

I've never considered myself a materialistic person bound by designer names, but I do like to take care of what I own.  While my worth is not tied to my possessions, I experience a sense of well being and pleasure from the good things for which we've worked.  If, however, there ever was a moment where I allowed the American tendency to have my things define my status in life, my children have eradicated this weakness from my being.

Mainly because they ruin every nice thing I have.

Allow me a pictorial representation, please.

We've lived in this house three weeks.  This towel rack was busted after week one.  A small person decided to jungle gym on it.

John's solution to hide the nasty rips the kids have deliberately made in the couch?  Duck tape.  Chic, posh, and swank all rolled into one!  

This is what every single one of my tubes of lipstick has looked like for the past 8 years.  I use a lipstick brush.
One of the kids helped John paint my closet.  When I opened the door last night, I realized someone's overzealous strokes landed on two of my winter coats and a Jones Of New York suit.  Thank you, helper!

There may be one piece of functional jewelry in this entire lot.  The rest?  Cut up or pulled off my neck or used for pretend play.  It's been years since I wore coordinated jewlery with an outfit.
Lamps?  I don't buy them anymore.  We like it dark, just like vampires.

This pic is a repeat, but I really liked this statue.  My sister gave it to me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Raspberry Days

The kids discovered wild raspberry bushes on the perimeter of our property.  For the past two days, they've occupied hours stuffing their mouths full of the tart ruby red fruit, the proof of their labors stained all over hands and mouths.  What they have not eaten, they've managed to squirrel away in Rubbermaid containers set aside for pie or jam. 

"If you want jam," I told them, "We're going to need a lot of berries."

Out the door they went to pick, taking seriously the challenge to gather bushels full.  I followed behind them with the camera and found them deep within the berry bushes, yelping as they went.  I tried to help harvest, but soon realized the picking came with a price.  When I carelessly grabbed the bushes, I was pricked by thorns.

Bushes and bushes full of this sweet fruit, and we can't get to it because of the thorns! I thought.

I'm sure the delicious fruit caught between painful thorns contains a metaphor about the spiritual life somewhere in there, but I'm too tired to sort it out.

I do know the all the blooming raspberries are a is a gift and we're not going to let those thorns stop us from picking or eating. 

There are many things I love about our new place, but one of the things I love the most is our circular driveway.  Christopher has discovered bike riding since we've moved and it's all because he can practice pedaling on his big boy bike.  He rides round and round the big circle, his tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth and his uncombed hair sticking out like a cockscomb.  I'm trying to convince him he's strong enough and good enough to lose his training wheels, but he's too cautious to try it.  Until he's ready, I'm content to let him ride from morning to night, which he does with determined alacrity.

It warms my mama heart to see him fly.

We're finally settling into the new house and for perhaps the first time all summer long, I don't feel so harried.  We've spent the last two weeks mostly lolly gagging and playing in between fits and bursts of my desire to Organize The House And Be Productive.

Mostly, we're just playing.  I've decided even if the house isn't "perfect" when school time rolls around, everyone will survive.

I'm trying to say "yes" to the mostly simple requests the kids make during the day, which is why Camille is wearing Vamp like lipstick in the photo above.  It also means the girls are spending many hours in my kitchen.   Saying yes usually means more mess, but it also means happy and engaged kids who aren't looking to be entertained via television or video games.  

I carried my camera with me most of the day yesterday.  The leisurely moments we've experienced as of late lend themselves to taking time to do things I enjoy most--photography, reading, a little bit of writing, picking berries.  I'm reflecting on the frenetic pace we experienced this past year because of our schedule, because of school, and because of me.

I don't want to recreate that craziness during the upcoming year, which means being intentional about the activities we chose.  I missed the Fall early bird soccer sign up (which also means I missed the steep soccer discount) and I'm not so sure that's a bad thing.  I'm not opposed to sports, but I am opposed to the insanity that we all sometimes feel--the kids and me included-- when we have too much going on.

(Side note:  we skipped swim team this summer and would you believe the kids haven't asked ONE TIME to go to the pool or to swim or anything?  Makes me wonder why I'm so hell bent on offering the kids different opportunities, if they don't even care if they participate or not.)

Mark 6:31-32
And He *said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while." (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.
- See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Leisure,-Nature-And-Purpose-Of#sthash.YAYcZj5m.dpuf
 "And he said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile."  (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)  They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves."

Mark 6: 31-32
Mark 6:31-32
And He *said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while." (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.
- See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Leisure,-Nature-And-Purpose-Of#sthash.YAYcZj5m.dpuf

Friday, July 11, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday: The Hodge Podge Edition


We had a fascinating discussion at my Great Books Book Club last Tuesday evening about whether or not it's possible to be a cranky saint.  We are reading the classic novel The Brothers Karamazov by Fydor Dostoevsky and we were comparing two of the characters, Father Ferapont--a prayerful, religiously fastidious monk and Father Zossima--a prayerful, relationship-oriented monk.  I argued it was impossible to be cranky and be a Saint.  Not everyone agreed, though.  I really enjoyed the discussion, but was particularly moved by a story one of the participants shared.  I'm paraphrasing below:

There was a Catholic priest whose relative, Aunt Sally, caused a lot of drama and emotional turmoil within the extended family.  As Aunt Sally aged, instead of mellowing, her cantankerous ways worsened and were the source of much contention in the house.  When the old woman finally died, everyone in the family, including the priest, breathed a sigh of relief because...peace.  Finally.

The priest said shortly after his aunt's funeral, he had a dream where he went to heaven and when he got there, he was shocked to find Aunt Sally sitting at one of the tables!  Not only had St. Peter let her in, but when he spoke with her, he was shocked to discover how pleasant she was!  She made jokes and she was interesting and there was nothing at all off putting about her personality. 
It was then--through his dream--the priest realized how much his aunt physically suffered during her life and that suffering rendered her unable to be pleasant.  She was actually incapable of a gentle demeanor.
Yet God didn't judge his aunt on her ability to be pleasant, like the priest and his family judged her.  He judged her according to His standards and His standards are different than ours.  The world might have condemned this woman to hell, but Aunt Sally was counted as one of the Saints in Heaven.

2.  Speaking of dreams, both Mary Bernadette and Meaghan have had intense dreams recently where I played a starring role.  I worried when they told me I was in their dream because what the heck?  If these were the most horrible kind of nightmares what exactly was I doing while my girls were being maimed and murdered in their slumber?  Did I just let some whacko take them while they helplessly struggled?  Did I allow them to suffer while I sipped on a Diet Coke and painted my nails?

Neigh, my friends.  Neigh.  It was better.  I slayed the dragons.

In Mary's dream, a python snake was charging at all five of the kids at full speed while they were outside playing.  Mary, convinced she would be swallowed whole,  started to panic when I ran into the middle of the kid huddle, handed the baby to Meaghan and yelled, "Run!  Let him take me instead!"

In Meaghan's dream, we were all in a grocery store when the store manager attacked Meaghan, punching her in the face and kicking her in the gut.  When I saw what was happening,  I ran over to the manager dropped kicked him to the floor and then fired him.  

This is probably sick and twisted, but the girls' nightmares made me feel so good about myself as a mother.

Even while they sleep, they know if anyone ever messes with one of my kids, I will finish them.

3.  Deedoe slipped each of the kids a $20 the last time she visited.  She claims they did something to "earn" the money, but her definition and my definition of the kind of work it takes to merit cash payment are different.

Deedoe gives money for things like getting dressed, brushing teeth, and going potty.  (I can see her huffing and puffing in disgust at her keyboard now.)

I give money for things like mowing two acres of lawn, doing the Thanksgiving dinner dishes/pots/pans, and cleaning toilets that have seen two weeks of the Bubonic Plague.

In any case, the kids all had money burning a hole in their piggy banks so I brought them to Michael's to pick out some new craft supplies.

See if you can guess what Camille picked out.

Ironically, she also purchased a pair of purple flip flops, but her most favorite possession is the purple plastic cell phone with which she currently sleeps and takes photos.

She's a Diva, that one is.


As many of you know, I lived in southern Louisiana for eleven years and over that time, I perfected a couple of authentic area dishes.  However, I never had much luck with Jambalaya, which is strange since it's one of the easier ones to perfect.

When my friend, Janet, came to visit me in June, she rectified my lack of kitchen know-how by slipping me her Jambalaya recipe.

It's slap your mama good and because I love you, I've included it below. 

Your Welcome.

Janet Hoover's Awesome Jambalaya That Will Feed A Large Crowd

1 lb chicken cut up into bite sized pieces
1 lb loose sausage
1 lb link andouille sausage
1 lb country style pork ribs grilled on the barbie
1 to 2 onions, green peppers, celery
White rice
Can of Rotel (or tomatoes depending on the kind of heat you want)
Salt and pepper

Saute loose sausage.  While sausage is cooking, add an onion, a bell pepper or two, and some celery and saute.
Add some cayenne pepper (I only used half a teaspoon) and some salt and pepper.

Add a can of Rotel.  (I skipped this step because rotel is spicy and my kids don't like the extra kick.  Too bad, so sad.  I added a boring 32 ounce can of tomatoes instead.)  Add 3 cups of rice and 4 1/2 cups of water.

Bake in a deep dish with a cover at 350* until it smells donzo.  (Janet said two hours, but mine was finished faster.  I'm not sure why.)

5.  Behind our house is a gigantic golden corn field and a safe haven for copious deer.  For the last few weeks, my family has been privy to up close and personal sightings every afternoon from around 4:00 pm until dusk.

Every time I see one, I think of that line from scripture that says,

"Like a deer thirsts for running water, so my soul thirsts for you, My God."

The deer are my constant reminder of how parched I am.

6.  Were slowly settling into the house and things are returning to "normal".  I can't believe it's the middle of July already.  Before I know it, we're going to be gearing up for another year.

7.  Some photos of our "ordinary" summer days:

Go see Jen for more quick taking.

Happy Friday.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Confessions Of A Good Enough Mom: Why We Dance To Top 40 Tunes


Yesterday, I was back in action after the three-day weekend, organizing the new house, keeping up with the laundry, feeding my small army of children, and walking my daily 10,000 steps.  At some point, after I finished preparing a pesto pasta and chicken dish for the evening's dinner, I sat spooning sweet potatoes into Edward's mouth.  Children swirled around me when one of them--I can't remember who--asked to turn on some tunes.

"Of course!" I said and within a second, I was streaming my playlist to a portable speaker I keep in my kitchen.

Instantaneously, there was dancing and impassioned signing and mucho bootie shaking to top 40's hits. 

And for a moment, I thought about a few of the families I know who might judge me for our song choices.

I thought about the criticism I would receive from some about the silly dance moves I've taught my children.

Then, I started with the internal lecturing...

"Colleen, you really shouldn't play this type of music for the kids.  You should be using this time to instill a real love of Classical music in your children, music that is elevated and good and beautiful and true."

I engaged in that kind of negative talk for about .02 seconds before I swatted those niggly flies away.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Monday Musings

Happy Monday!

Did you have a wonderful three-day weekend filled with all things patriotic?

My sister, Sarah, sent me this decadent photo of her succulent July Fourth meal.



Palate pleasing.

While she was dining on lobster tails and sipping cold champagne, John was doing this because we were locked out of the house.

Happy Independence Day!!!

Oh, the irony.

Ginger and the Professor eating lobster and John and Colleen jerry rigging ways into the house.

I knew that furniture on the porch would come in handy!

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