The Scariest Month of the Year is September

It has not escaped my notice that three of the last five posts have contained numbered lists.

(Be assured that your disappointment is no match for my shame.)

Regardless, somehow today turned into October. Amazing really, as I thought September and all it's horrors might never end.  If I wanted to, I could make quite the numbered list, starting with "grrr" and ending with "ugh" and all the exhausting, soul-killing, first-quarter-back-to-school grievances in between.  If I happen to find myself in purgatory at the end of all this living, mine is sure to be an eternity of September.  Excruciating.

So, in a rare display of holiday spirit I dressed my mantle up in eagerness for the upcoming holiday.  The kids, who know I have always downgraded Halloween to "minor holiday" status, hardly know what to make of my new-found zeal for Halloween.  What can I say?  October has never looked so good, with its promise of fall break and a few days of sleeping past five, fall food menus, a perpetual apple pie in my refrigerator, and six tickets to the BYU Homecoming game clipped onto my calendar.  There will be fall leaves and crisp temperatures to go with the game, not to mention twenty or so uninterrupted hours in the car with my lovelies.  It's nearly enough to make me weep, and more than enough to make me decorate in anticipation.

Now if only the election were already over, my life would be near perfect.  Please Fox News, give my husband back.

Home Making

Did anybody else think today was Friday?

After months of unemployment, the five-day work week seems interminably long.  (There were perks, see?  If only it paid better.)

Things are moving along here at home.  The only boxes left are in the garage and I'm half tempted to donate them somewhere...unopened and unpacked.  What could be in them, I wonder.  Clearly nothing vital.  I'm trying to hang the last of the pictures...a sure sign we're staying for a while, even though I keep expecting someone to show up and ask us what were doing in their house.  I still wake up and wonder where I am. 

Every morning David kisses me goodbye and goes to secure our place on the rock.  (Lindbergh's oyster bed has been heavily on my mind this week.)  I sense his giddiness as he leaves.  He is happy to be providing.  Deliriously so. 

My job is more complicated.  Because the light in my new bedroom is golden rather than blue.  The sun is coming in at a different angle, and I don't yet recognize the patterns it makes as it rises and crosses the south wall.  To calm my fears, I rise and do what I know best.  Home making.  And perhaps my brilliant skills were never more needed.  To take the uncertain and make it familiar.  To take the unknown and make it recognizable.  To take the difficult and make it a little easier with the simple rituals of daily life...food on the table, the same stone dishes being revealed by each successive bite, the smell of heat and starch as I line David's dress shirts along the end of my ironing board, the sheets and blankets whispering their old secrets as my darlings climb in bed, the circle we form on our knees at the end of day. 

To take a house and make it home.  (Good thing I'm amazing and stuff.)

In an effort to make it feel more like home, this week I did get the quilts hung.

The walls are telling me this is where I belong.

I wonder when I will believe them. 

The Long Overdue Update

There is no good place to start.

Let me sum up.

For a long time it felt like we had been forsaken.

For a long time it felt like we had been left alone.

For a long time I had to force myself from fear to faith, at first at the start of every day, and then at the start of every hour, and towards the end at the start of nearly every other minute.

But then, just at the moment of great alarm, salvation arrived.

Last Monday, David dressed in his new shirt and tie and drove to a new hospital and started his new job.  That same morning, after I ironed his shirt and kissed him goodbye, I met the moving trucks at our new place and started the overwhelming job of setting up house.

Savannah says that's my new favorite word.  Overwhelmed.  I said, "What do you mean?"  "Well, now you say it all the time."

Well.

The other day we had a family meeting.  I tried to tell the kids how I was feeling.  I told them it was like I was digging out from a mudslide while it was still raining.  Ethan looked outside.  To see if it was raining.

Nevermind.

So, we are starting over.  New job.  New house.  New ward.  New friends.  New schools.  New streets and grocery stores and doctors and gas stations and banks and post offices and when I drive down the street I don't know what's going to be on the next corner.  I've been to the grocery store twice and got lost coming home both times.

It won't take long I tell myself.

What's not new?  The weather.  After all those plane flights and hotels and tempting views of some gorgeous eastern rivers, the place prepared for us was on the other side of the valley.  Just an hour up the road.  No one was more surprised than I.  And I wonder when I will learn that I am not in charge.

For the record, there are joys to this new life.  My favorite:  that particular joy of greeting your husband at the end of the day.  I'm in the kitchen starting dinner.  He walks in in his shirt and tie.  Hey you.  And then a little passionate necking.  (This never gets old.)

And what I think about most as I sort and unpack and hang and rearrange, is how Sariah made a home out of a tent and how when she was unpacking carpets and dishes and liahonas out in the desert she might have used that word "overwhelmed" too.  And how even though it might not make much sense to me now, the Lord knows what he is doing.  He has a plan.

Even in the middle of the desert.

A Post In Which I Bless Your Life Again

I am making steady, wondrous progress on my "before-school's-out" list. 

The swim cupboard is accessible (no small feat) and pleasing to the eye.  The school file boxes have been readied.  The ironing has been completely caught up.  (A gasp and three cheers are in order here, should you feel so inclined.)  I have made summer pillows and bought the fabric to recover the cushions in the girls' room.  I've made cookies twice, for no reason at all except pleasure.

On Saturday afternoon I bought a round table on Craigslist (oh joyful day!) and I have begun sanding my kitchen chairs so that I can stain them to match.  (I'll take before and after pictures and save them for another post, because, as you know, there is nothing I like quite so much as bragging.)

In short, I am a domestic goddess.

And so that you might be too, (I find most people want to be like me...that's what happens when you're amazing) here are a few things to help you on your way:

1.  This Book

My lovely and talented Aunt Jill wrote this book and it is gorgeous and drool-worthy for several reasons:

  1. There are lots of pictures of me in it (reason enough right there to buy it).  There are also lots of pictures of lots of people who are related to me and who happen to look EXACTLY like me as well, so if you like pictures of me (and who doesn't?) this is the book for you.
  2. It is FULL of beautiful quilt patterns (really beautiful quilt patterns) that you can do with a group (if you have lots of domestic goddess friends to hang out with) or by yourself (if you are into making everybody else jealous of how amazing you are).
  3. So many other cute projects like pincushions and notebook covers made from selvages.  Just yum!
  4. Speaking of yum, it also has some favorite recipes. 
  5. I wrote the foreword.  And some people have told me that it made them cry.  And I think even if it doesn't make you cry, it will make you want to call all the women in your life and tell them that you love them.  And even if it doesn't do either, it may be the one and only time I am ever legitimately published and so get it while it's hot.

2.  Bamboo Sheets

A long while back I heard Martha Stewart say that she only sleeps on bamboo sheets and I thought, "Egyptian Cotton is out?  When did that happen?"  A few weeks ago I put the summer sheets on the bed only to find that they were worn out and threadbare and needed to be replaced.  I went to Tuesday Morning (where I always go to buy sheets, because I love quality sheets, but I refuse to pay for them.  See how that works?)  Anyway, they had a set of bamboo sheets and my inner Martha was delighted.

It's been a couple of weeks now, and I've got to say, for the record, that there is a reason she is Martha Stewart.  And she was absolutely correct about the bamboo sheets.  They are so soft they are almost more like leather than fabric.  Even though that sounds a little weird.  (Probably especially to Kelly.  You'll have to trust me.)  I told David these are the sheets that Adam and Eve slept on to populate the world.  They are that good.  And cooler than cotton too, which is a delightful characteristic in your summer sheet set.

3.  I am recovering my kitchen chair cushions after I re-stain the wood and so I have been looking through upholstery fabric swatches.  Talk about joy!  (There are times when I am completely my mother's daughter...this is one of those times.  She used to carry swatches around in her purse for months.  I am just now discovering that she did this just for the fun of it.)  Anyway, I found these lovely designs from Thomas Paul.  (The two owl prints at the bottom are Alexander Henry.)  You have my permission to drool, and then find something to recover.  I think I will do the piano bench while I am at it.  Perhaps Aviary in Tangerine.  Be still my heart.

This Morning

 

This morning

I am thankful to be reunited with my kitchenaid

(gorgeous isn't she?)

together we made two pumpkin pies that are cooling on the counter

two deep-dish and stacked-high apple pies that are dripping all over my oven

(let them drip, the juicy darlings...

I'll take care of it on National Clean Out Your Oven Day)

and one chicken pot pie that just went in, because I said as long as we're making pie,

let's make one we can eat today

and she agreed

(brilliant isn't she?)

the new Christmas CD is playing in the stereo,

my house smells like I am a genius with cloves and cinnamon,

(let's face it, I am)

and in a few minutes I will drive to the school where my nine-year-old will put on a play about the First Thanksgiving and I will be filled with wonder at their courage (the pilgrims') and her beauty (my daughter's).

And a few hours after that,

after I have folded wontons and wrapped smokies and dipped pretzels

my darlings will burst through the doors, the anticipation coming off them in waves,

and then David will arrive home and we'll do a little passionate necking right in the middle of the kitchen,

in the middle of all those smells and cooling pies and fruit of our loins,

and I will be thankful, thankful, thankful.

Conversations and Visions From My Bed

I was going to do a quick, effervescent post about my Thanksgiving preparations.  About the 12 cups of shortening chilling in the refrigerator waiting to become pie...(lots of pie, apparently.)  About the scrubbing and the shopping and the aprons I washed and pressed this morning for the occasion, the occasion of one the greatest weeks of the year for domestic goddesses everywhere.  There would have been mention of National Clean Out Your Fridge Day last Thursday and how I didn't clean out mine and how I regretted it yesterday and how it is a terrible thing to live with regret.  And how today I wore my Superman shirt under my apron so the kitchen would know who's boss.

And you would have enjoyed it.

But I have something else entirely coming out.  Don't worry.  You'll probably enjoy it, too.

The talk in our bed lately has been about the coming holidays.  As we're drifting off and slowly waking there is talk about lights and gifts and cards and decorating and budgets.  Last night I was listing the flaws in the current version of the Christmas CD we are giving to our friends and neighbors, the songs that have to go and the songs that just have to be on it regardless of what anyone thinks of us afterwards.  (The integrity of our holiday music mix must be preserved afterall.  We have a reputation to uphold.)  And this morning as I awoke, I told David that I received an email that our Christmas cards had shipped and he said, "Well you know what that means..." and then said the rest of it with his eyebrows, which was all about how I need to get writing and how he was nervous about this but was doing his best to keep it to himself and wasn't I proud of his effort. 

And lately I have been sighing inwardly that this is how it will be (waking and sleeping) for the next thirty days or so, despite my deep need for it to be different this year. 

Every year I think, "Next year will be different."  And every year it isn't.

So far this year has been no exception.  I started having actual nightmares about Christmas Eve in early October.  I have earnestly tried to "do less" and "simplify," thinking that will make it different, but honestly it doesn't fundamentally change the way we prepare and celebrate the holidays.  It just makes me anxious that "less" won't be "enough."  I have also tried to "do it early" but somehow this only seems to prolong the process.  There needs to be a change at the heart of it all.    

Early Monday morning I dreamed that David and I were at a beach house.  He was smiling at me under the sheets, and the sunlight was streaming through the windows setting the white sheets ablaze in light.  His skin was glowing like resurrection morning.  His eyes were pure love beaming up at me.

I woke up breathless, blinded by light and beauty and a feeling of overwhelming contentedness.

This morning under the covers I thought about that dream again.  I thought about how there has to be a better way.  A way full of light and love and contentedness.  I thought about how afterall that was the whole point of the birth we are so madly celebrating.  I thought about how tired I am already and how many lists I've made already and how I want to give up already.  I thought about those blazing sheets and resurrection morning and the love of my life.  And I thought about how to create a space big enough for that, for each one of my darlings.  Big enough that they can each be overwhelmed by love.

When I told David about the dream I said, "That's what I want for Christmas."

He asked, "A beach house?"

"No."

Confused, "No?"

"I want that feeling.  All that light and joy and love spilling out of our eyes and our fingertips and our windows and our doors."

He nodded, relieved, I think, that I did not want a beach house.  But I was less relieved.  Because I am good at fighting.  I am good at anxiety.  I am good at grudges and blowing things out of proportion.  (Boy, am I.)  I am good at stress and short answers and rushing through my days for the sake of a list.  I am good at missing the good stuff.

I want light and love and resurrection morning.  I want it all month long. 

Is this too much to ask?  Perhaps.  Especially given my considerable talent for the opposite.  But I'm asking anyway.  I can see why all that white, delicious fruit was so appealing to Lehi.  I am after a basketful of it myself.  I want light and love and resurrection morning dripping from my chin.

Let's eat.

More Evidence of My Good Taste: A Love Story

(This is the gas station where I fell in love with David.  I know, romantic right?  We stopped here on our way home from Canada this year, and I took this picture.  We spent the next 100 miles of the trip reminiscing.)

Last night after David read my post and we were lying in bed in the dark he put his hand on my back and said, "I think you've got great taste."

I asked, "In men?"

And we laughed.

And then he continued doggedly forward and hunted around a little for the right words about my writing.  I could tell it was like finding his way in the dark.  But I appreciated the effort.

This morning as he left for the hospital, I asked him to kiss me with courage and determination.

He smiled at me and then complied.

He knows I need the courage to face my chores today and did his best to pour a little into me.  I appreciated the effort.

And then a little later this morning, as I followed him out to the car and held his hand in a silent plea to stay and help (or at least stay and talk to me while I work) we passed the calendar.

He tried to be bolstering, "Hey, it's the first day of autumn."

I rolled my eyes.

"No, come on, that's encouraging.  Even if it doesn't feel like it.  We could celebrate.  Let's bob for apples tonight."

He was teasing me, of course.  But it was enough.

I felt propped up.  And a little more courageous and determined, I made a menu for our celebration.  It will include 

 

the solstice candles

pumpkin soup (with curry and apples)

homemade bread

fresh raspberry jam

and, for dessert, I will take a break from peach pie and make one out of apples instead (my specialty)

 

When your courage is failing you on a very ordinary Tuesday in mid-September, it is very nice to have such good taste in men.