Friday, September 12, 2014

It's Friday... And Fall (Some Random Thoughts)

Last weekend I made this pound cake. And all I can say is, make it too. I used the cinnamon glaze from this recipe for some added deliciousness. It really added to the overall flavor. I'm a big believer in glazes and icings.

This weekend I might make these. Don't they look delicious? (It is no coincidence that they also have a glaze.)

Now that I have conceded that it is fall I am game on. It's time to decorate my house and make All The Pumpkin Stuff. If you love decorating and cooking in the fall, check out my Fall Pinterest board. I plan to get the fall decorations out of the attic, with the help of my loving and ever-helpful family, this weekend. Then my house will be transformed to a fall wonderland. Interesting side note: while summer is my favorite season, fall is only second to Christmas in the amount of decorations I have hoarded collected.

This made me laugh-- 25 Things All Basic White Girls Do During The Fall-- it's a little irreverent but, still, funny. I sent it to my 20 yo daughter and she thought it was funny too. I think she recognized herself and her friends.

I've already been burning this candle. I especially enjoyed it on a cooler day this week that was overcast and felt very much like fall. The glow of the candle and the quiet of the house while I took care of little business things made for a peaceful day. If you gotta do busywork, this is the best way to do it, I say.

Whatever your weekend holds, I hope you'll find a way to make it satisfying. Whether it's adding some touches of beauty to your home, taking a nice long walk on a fall afternoon, playing relaxing music (I highly recommend the Autumn Music station on Pandora if you're looking), lighting a candle that smells nice, or baking something sweet and fallish. How will you embrace the season?
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Happiness Is A Chicken Biscuit

He wakes up and crosses the hall into my room wearing a mischievous, knowing smile. It is mischievous because he is going to ask me for something; it is knowing because he trusts I will say yes. His request is simple. He has woken with a hankering for a Chick Fil A chicken biscuit. Will I go and get him one? Please? He even offers to pay for it with the last bit of his birthday money. He turned 12 a few weeks ago.

I look into his not-11-anymore eyes and see desperation mixed with dependence and, though I am perfectly comfortable right where I am at that very moment, I answer the only way my heart will let me as I take in that face: Yes. Yes I will leave my perch and drive to the nearest Chick Fil A and I will get you your heart's desire. It will cost me $4.15 and you will be happy.

I wish it were that easy all the time.

The price tag varies on my children’s happiness. A new iPhone, acne medication, mint chocolate chip ice cream, family movie night, a birthday party, a new bathing suit, summer camp, pita chips and hummus-- all range in price and yet have bought happiness at different times in our house. But sometimes there is no price tag at all. A broken heart, hurt feelings, rejection, uncertainty, a careless, unkind word finding its mark-- these can't be remedied, save for the balm of soothing words, nearness, listening, promising that time does heal and this too really shall pass.

The waiting costs me more than I ever knew it could.

When they were born I walked the floor and whispered promises into their tiny, seashell ears. Promises to protect and provide. Promises to always, always be there. I meant those promises with all of my fierce, naïve heart. I believed I could protect them from all harm and provide them every happiness. I did not realize that they would not always stay where I put them. That I would not always be the gatekeeper of their lives-- that circumstances and people would slip past me and there was just no way I could always, always be there. I would have to let go. I would have to trust.

Later, he walks by me, the biscuit gone, a smile on his face. "Thanks, Mom," he says.

"Are you happy?" I ask impulsively, the question surprising us both. It is not something I ask very often. It is possible I have grown afraid of the answer.

He nods, gives me another grin, and saunters away. I watch his back, retreating. The leaving is something I have grown accustomed to over time, a grudging acceptance of the process of growing up. But just for a moment I am that young, new mother all over again, believing with all her heart that happiness is a chicken biscuit; that it could possibly be that simple.
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Monday, September 08, 2014

Dear Fall

Dear Fall,

I heard you were back and, while I mean no offense to you whatsoever, I wasn't exactly tickled to hear about your return. Please don't take it personally, fall. I mean many, many people declare you their favorite season, so that should make you feel good. And I really do like you, I do.

I mean, what's not to like? The dip in temps, the flannels and denims, the smell of wood smoke wafting through the air, snuggly sweaters, football on the tv on lazy Sunday afternoons, big pots of soups and chili, pumpkin flavored everything, the changing leaves. I see the appeal and, eventually, I will come to embrace you.

I do every year. But it just takes me a bit.

Because, you see, you have the misfortune of coming after summer. And summer is, let's face it, a hard act to follow. The beach, the sun, fresh corn on the cob, shorts and skirts and sundresses, the pool, vacation, firecrackers and watermelon and peaches and popsicles, flip flops, white pants. Summer is, without a doubt, my favorite season.

And so it's truly nothing against you. It's just so, so hard to let summer go. But alas, Labor Day has come and gone and I am, reluctantly, resolving to be a good sport, which is why I'm writing this.

This is my letter of welcome, my missive of no hard feelings, my written resolution that I will make the best of the season I'm in. Even if it means I have to ease out of red, white and blue and into orange, yellow and brown. Even if it means the soundtrack changes from the shouts of happy children diving into water to the cheers of raving football fans. Even if it means that instead of eating homemade ice cream on the back porch we're eating big slices of pumpkin pound cake by a glowing fire.

Every year I eventually accept you, and even enjoy you. I grudgingly make the transition and by Halloween I am fully into the essence of this season after summer. Because I really do, deep down, like you. You do have a lot to offer. And starting this week, I'm going to focus on those things. (But I admit, I will still be counting down the days until summer comes back around.)

And if it's any consolation, I will not be writing a letter like this to Winter.

Yours Autumnally, Marybeth

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

What I'm Into (August)

August wasn't all bad. (See my past two posts to understand what I mean by that comment.) There were some good parts. August is always a good and hard month for me-- we face the end of summer (bad!) but ease into a routine that involves large blocks of time for me to write in silence because the kids go back to school (good!). We have our oldest and youngest birthdays AND our anniversary in August (good!). But we also deal with heat and humidity here in the south (Bad!). In short, August is the month of emotional whiplash-- I'm happy! I'm sad!

My baby is 9. Nine. How can that be?

So without further ado here is what I was into this month-- the good stuff and only the good stuff. Because it's about time I bring some uplift to this here blog.

I love this interview with Andrea Logan White, one of the stars of Mom's Night Out. I got to see this movie last winter and was totally remiss in sharing it with you guys. If you've not seen it, I definitely recommend it. And it's safe to watch with your whole family. It's available on dvd Sept. 2nd (this Tuesday!), so you can curl up in your jammies on your couch to watch-- my personal favorite way to watch a movie, if I'm honest.

And speaking of movies, my whole family loved When The Game Stands Tall. I typically don't like sports movies, but this one was an exception. And the best part was we all liked it-- from the 8 year old to the 20 year old. That's not usually the case. Go. See. It. And be inspired.

Not a great photo but see how close he was? Amazing.

For our anniversary we had FRONT ROW TICKETS to see David Gray. His new album Mutineers has been on constant play in our house and cars this summer, becoming a sort of soundtrack of the season. Snow In Vegas, Back in the World, Gulls, As The Crow Flies etc. are the songs I will always associate with this summer. So it was amazing to see him live and up close. And the best part is, he's coming to Charleston SC in October and we got tickets to see him there too! It was the only way I could deal with that concert coming to an end-- knowing I was going to see him again real soon. If I had my way he would move to our town and perform locally every weekend.

I also accomplished a bucket list item this summer-- 2 actually. One was to grow my own tomatoes. I shared about that earlier this summer. The other was to grow mammoth sunflowers and they bloomed this month. I planted them in different areas of the yard but they only came up in one. Needless to say I had to get a photo to preserve the occasion. Sunflowers make me happy.

This thing was mammoth. See the white bit behind it? That's the top of our house.

I shared what I've been reading over at She Reads' What We're Into post if you'd like to see the books I've enjoyed this month. Plus my She Reads partner Ariel shared about a super fun weekend I got to take part in with her that was all about reading and writers and story-- my kind of weekend.

This Labor Day weekend I intend to spend all the time I can soaking up the last of the view below, which is what I see from my lounge chair at the pool, looking through the fence at the lake beyond. It's a peaceful view to me, and I'm going to miss it. I always do. There might even be a few tears when we watch the lifeguards close up the pool for another year. Saying goodbye to summer is hard-- and August has been about enjoying every minute we have left of it.

This photo doesn't do it justice but it's quite the serene setting

I will leave you with this video montage put to the music of David Gray's song Last Summer. Because summer of 2014 is, as of this weekend, officially "last summer." Fitting. Enjoy the music-- I know I do.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

In Thanks

A quick thank you for the lovely comments and sweet notes in response to my post yesterday. After reading it my husband called me and said "That was pretty raw." (He was surprised as he's been challenging me to be more real here, but I don't think he thought I actually would.) I agreed that it was pretty raw, and for a moment I felt weird about it, but then I remembered my resolve, my promise to myself.

One of the things I'm trying to do is to not only show my best side here on the blog. It's easy to only show the happy, the joyful, the positive stuff. The happy kids, the golden moments, the domestic bliss. But I think that can be deceptive and discouraging. It can send out an incorrect message and make others think that it's possible for other people to have it good all the time. If all I share is the good stuff, then how will you ever know I have bad stuff too? And yet, on the flip side, if I share too much bad stuff then I become depressing and a drag and you guys don't read anymore.

So I'm looking for a balance.

I've had several private notes of thanks for what I said yesterday-- notes along the line of "I needed to know someone else feels like I do. It's good to know I'm not alone." Which is why I wrote what I wrote. As I wrote I knew that there was at least one other soul out there who just needed to know that someone else felt it, saw it, and was hurt by it. Turns out there was more than one. I heard from people who were grieved by the loss of Robin Williams, people who were struggling with a string of bad things happening, people who are troubled by the headlines, people who had to say goodbye to a child going to college, and people who are dealing with financial difficulties. There are a lot of people hurting out there, and that can be hard to admit, hard to say out loud. So I decided to go first.

To all of you, I offer the same grace and hope I'm seeking. May we seek it-- and find it-- together.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

All The Faith I Have

I am not going to lie, life has felt pretty awful lately. (How's that for a first line after a month of silence?)

As I ran yesterday, I told God how I felt about it-- how it just all feels like too much. It took until this morning until I heard back from Him. He reminded me that in this world I will have trouble. So I asked, "But this much? Really?"

I'll let you know what I hear back. But I suspect I already know the answer.

Yes, this much. This terrible, awful, brutal, unfair world we live in... isn't going to change. Things are going to keep breaking and cost money, and people we love are going to leave us-- by their choice, or not-- and disease is going to be rampant, and time is going to keep whizzing by, and it's going to rain on days we need it to be sunny, and we're going to hear no when we want to hear yes, and there are going to be boring meetings to sit through, and whiny children, and there is never, ever going to be enough money.

The past few weeks have felt especially terrible to me. Maybe it's because summer is ending and that always makes me inordinately sad. Maybe it's because I've had a string of disappointments on the writing front (suffice it to say there will be no summer of 2015 book... and I've spent the summer adjusting to that fact). Maybe it's because an actor I loved more than I realized chose to end his life, and broke all of our hearts in the process. Maybe it's because the bad news just seems to be freaking everywhere these days. Beheadings and weird weather patterns and vicious viruses and the untimely loss of the husband of a writer I don't know, but whose work I loved. Her eulogy to her young husband keeps on breaking my heart.

Maybe it's because the start of college and school has broken our bank, and left me feeling broken to boot. Add in a couple of unexpected expenses and we are wrung out. Every year I forget what it takes to get them all back in school-- logistically, financially, emotionally.

And I'm not sure how much more I can take, which brings me to this morning... and tears... and a desperate cry to God, three words I don't utter nearly enough: "I need You." The thing is, I'm not even sure what I need Him for at this point... provision? Yes. Solace? Yes. Control of uncontrollable circumstances? Yes. Inspiration? Yes. I am just... needy. All around.

And so I sit in my quiet house (quiet now that the children are tucked away in school) and I ask for... the thing I don't know I need. The thing I can't name. But I trust that He can name it. And provide it. And that is, I guess, all the faith I can ask for today. It is all the faith I have. But I think it might just be enough.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer Break

Summer is ticking away and I don't have much time left to enjoy these long, lazy days free of schedules and demands. 

So, I'm taking a break from blogging until my kids head back to school. I plan to spend lots of time at the pool, reading, and maybe finding a few adventures to get into. Mostly I just want to enjoy the rest of the time we have left. Summer is always too fast. To borrow a line from Aerosmith, I don't want to miss a thing. 

I'll see you in a month! 
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