Sunday, June 29, 2008
It's been a blur of headlights and highways the past several days. Driving from Monticello, Utah, to Ft. Worth, Texas, affords a lot of scenery and time for reflection.
Colorado was one of the most memorable months of my life. I'm sorry to see it done with. If you're ever handed a chance to spend several weeks in the mountains, take it. Don't think, just do it.
If, however, you are ever handed a chance to spend several weeks in New Mexico, um... think about it first. (My sincerest apologies to all New Mexico readers, but the drive on I-40 between Albuquerque and Amarillo nearly killed me. Never doing that again.)
So I'm not home, but I'm headed there soon. Not for long... just for a pit stop. I understand I have big gardening news to share, so we'll get to that before the fourth.
Until then, my best. -Brin
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I wish I could send each 85 of you a subscription. But I'm no Oprah. So, in no particular order (at all), here are the randomly-drawn winners of the Life:Beautiful subscriptions, together with their comments:
"I always think my life would be more beautiful perfectly arranged like that lovely picnic. But it is in the mess that the true beauty of God's provision -- husband, daughter, son that I couldn't imagine having just five years ago -- shines through."
"What makes my life beautiful? These days its a phone call from my Marine son in Iraq. Just hearing him say *Hey, Mom*, and knowing that, at least for this moment, he is safe can light my entire week!"
"Hmmm, there are so many beautiful things about life. One of them are those brief moments in the midst of crazy, hectic fun or sublime merriment where you pause, take a deep breath, glance around meaningfully, and realize just how blessed you really are--that profound stillness filled with thankfulness directed to the God who has graciously allowed us to enjoy all things."
Congrats, ladies! I'll be in contact shortly for your information and Life:Beautiful will be on its way to you soon thereafter.
To the rest of us - thanks for sharing your lives, your families, your hopes and your thoughts with me. It means more than you'll ever know. The community we have here at this blog is one of the many, many things that makes my life beautiful. God's blessings on you all! -Brin
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
But I continue to get comments and emails from folks who read my blog often... questions asking who I am, what I do, if I like this or if I've been there. Some questions are about my house, my background, and once, even what I do with my leftovers.
So let's do this: I'll summarize myself here and you'll see that, really, you're probably better off not asking. [laugh]
I have a dry, sarcastic, and self-deprecating sense of humor. But I love to laugh and find most things hilarious.
I quilt and knit and hate to exercise. I also just bought a kayak. Go figure.
I try to be in bed by 10 PM but I write best late, late at night.
I am constantly fluctuating between a low carb diet and a low fat/high carb diet. Don't figure.
I want a simple job... like baking cookies... but right now I'm determining "working interest" in a federal CO2 unit for an oil company. Beats me.
I love shopping for frilly skirts and love sundresses. But most days I wear jeans.
I recycle everything I can get my hands on, compost, and always look for ways to save energy. But I drive a Jeep SUV.
Over the weekend I watched CNN's full-length documentary We Were Warned: Out of Gas three times before composing an essay from the industry's point of view. Last night I watched the Bachelorette and bawled my eyes when she let Graham go. (The Moen ad guy? Is she crazy?)
I'm a serious homebody and would prefer to stay in any night over going out. But I travel over six months out of the year. Go figure.
At home, I teach Sunday School and adore my church. Yet churchy people creep me out.
I hate drinking water. I drink 75 oz. of water every day.
Dealing with money is my #1 Top Hated Thing, but I'm constantly buying stocks and moving money around. Much to the chagrin of the guy I pay to do those things.
The only pie I'll eat is chocolate. But I don't like meringue and don't eat the chocolate part, either.
I love eating out, but I travel with a crock pot, a hot plate, and a toaster oven so I never have to. (Huh?)
The idea of being tied down scares me. At 25, I bought a home.
As a lover of fine cuisine, I dream of pancetta-crusted pork tenderloin with a rosemary/shiraz reduction. My wish for my final meal? Taco Bell bean burritos with Fire sauce. (See comments for what I want inscribed on my tombstone someday.)
I listen to Christmas music all year. By December I'm tired of it and listen to Coldplay or something.
I love snow and mountains and cold weather. I live in Texas.
My favorite movies (right now) are Pride and Prejudice (with Keira Knightley) and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Favorite TV shows are History Channel documentaries and Pushing Daisies. (What?)
And last, but not least, I tell myself every day that I'm going to hit "delete" on this blog and happily walk away. And here I am, telling you even more about myself. :)
Okay. So there's me. (And before anyone asks, I told the lady who asked about my leftovers that I eat them or compost them. And yes, I find this terribly funny and am laughing even now.)
Oh. And I'm convinced I'm sacrificing my retirement by giving too much money away. We draw for magazine subscriptions tomorrow. (!) See you then. -Brin
Friday, June 20, 2008
It's magical here today. I've noticed dozens of folks having picnics and cookouts. What a way to spend a Colorado Friday! I swung by the market after passing everyone by and bought scads of cucumbers, mint and yogurt for a sweet little summer dish that's calling my name. (I'll share the recipe tomorrow.)
Doesn't a picnic sound glorious on a day like today? I found the perfect spot... the place where we'd surely enjoy a gourmet supper this evening if only you were here. It's down by my old cabin and a stone's throw from the river. I love it there. You would, too. I'm sure you would.
Okay. Comment below and tell me what makes your life beautiful... from the simple to the complicated... from the ordinary to the rare. (Be sure to leave your name!) Tell me what makes your life beautiful and Millie will draw three names on Wednesday so three of you can get a free year's subscription to this breath-taking, soul-reviving magazine.
Life:Beautiful? Definitely. Hope your weekend - picnic or no - is beautiful as well. -Brin
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I was making dinner last night when it happened. A Giving Lesson. I can't complain. I asked for it.
Remember the beginning of the year? The big resolution? Here it is, June. July almost. And on the six month anniversary of my little/big resolution, I found myself praying, "Lord, the year's half over. What have I done? Teach me to give, God. Teach me to give."
So the financial analysts say we're looking at a recession. Food is expensive. Housing is expensive. Gas is ridiculous. Here we are... trying to pay bills and stay afloat... and in the back of our minds, as Christians, we remember: I'm commanded to give. I'm entrusted with a responsibility to be a good steward of what I have.
It's strange how we view giving. Even as Christians. I don't know about you, but I view tithing and giving as two separate issues. Tithes aren't negotiable. But giving? I usually wait to give out of the abundance of what I have. And I'm not alone. I had an interesting conversation with my pastor some time ago about "recession".
"Wait. Churches have recessions, too?" I asked, laughing. "Surely God doesn't leave His checkbook at home."
"No," he said, seriously. "But we do. When a congregation falls on hard times, so does the church. The first check we stop writing is the one to God."
Ouch. Understandable, perhaps, but ouch.
I love Luke's retelling of Jesus at the temple. There He is - talking, maybe? Praying, perhaps? And He looks up to see a parade of people marching up to the collection plate. And then here she comes. A single woman - widowed - with two coins in her purse. All the money she has to live on. What do you suppose she was thinking as she opened her fist and watched that money fall into the collection box?
Three guesses what I'd be thinking. I'd be thinking: This is crazy. Irresponsible. I have bills to pay and a mouth to feed and no man at home to take care of me.
I'd also be thinking: Let the rich folks handle the giving. Money's nothing to them. How far will my pitiful offering go, anyway?
And then: Here's the thing, God. This is all I have. How about I catch You later, when I have a little cash to spare?
But no. If the woman... that poor, single woman... was thinking those things, we'll never know. We'll never know because she gave anyway. All of it. She gave it all. [And you know how we know those two copper coins were all she had? Because Jesus said so. He knew exactly how much money she had. He knew her finances down to the penny.] And her faith and faithfulness... more than her money, I suspect... touched the very heart of the One who'd provided for her in the first place.
What a legacy. What a testimony of a life lived beyond its means! What a picture of a woman who mattered. Not because she gave the most, but because she gave it all.
It served as a wake-up call to me. As I was sitting down to eat my dinner of potatoes and green beans, I shoved my purse aside. My purse. Then I prayed. How do I give, Lord? I asked.
You give in faith, He answered. You give what you have, and trust that I'm here watching, knowing your finances down to your last two pennies.
So did I write a check to my church, cleaning out my purse? No. But I decided to give up a few things over the next month in order to get money into the hands of people serving meals and helping rebuild a flooded and devastated Midwest. It's not much... it's not all... but maybe it's a start.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Oh. And help. Help! Someone please stop me before I do this.
(By the way, my summer reading list has been updated with notes and a few new reading suggestions. Enjoy!)
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Then it all goes crazy.
Soon after we hopped off the train, we snapped on our life preservers and tripped our way onto a raft, ready to ride back down the same river we viewed from our rail car. I had never been rafting before. I was ready. Really ready. I wanted big waves and harrowing rock misses and a tale of river adventure and survival.
For the most part, I got it.
I would have been happy to show you more, but here's the thing: you can't hold on for dear life and take pictures with your disposable, underwater camera at the same time. You want to, but you can't. The only pictures you come up with are right before the wave smashes you in the face... before you're gasping from the 41 F degree water... and while you're bracing for another hit.
Or during those precious moments you're trying to admire the scenery before you get to those splashes and rocks ahead.
I joked with the guy in front of me, promising him that all 27 of the rafting pictures I took were of his elbow. "But it's tan and looks fine from this angle," I assured him. He was a Texan, too. During the ride I took great comfort in that, and the fact that I wasn't the only one clinging to the "chicken line" on the side of the raft.
Told you. Even here, when it finally calmed down to a smooth sail to the shore - just beyond the bridge - I was still clinging to the chicken line.
Truly one of my Most Fun Days Ever. I could rail and raft every single day of my life. Or... you know... most of them. Some of them. Okay, on those days I wouldn't mind getting into the shower with a bra full of coal specks and shorts full of sand. Those days would be great.
The Rail/Raft Adventure. Won't soon forget it. Not sure I want to, either....
Saturday, June 14, 2008
It wasn't a stretch to feel like a character in an Agatha Christie mystery, what with the old, coal-fed chugchugchug... the depot and the tickets... the mishmash of passengers... the smoking, black engine... the shrill, familiar whistle. We stopped four times on the way up the mountains: once to pick up hikers, twice for water, and once for riduculous passengers who hopped off at a water stop. They braked the train - mid tracks - so the people could catch up and all aboard! again. Then we were off.
I adored the scenery. God's brilliant, gorgeous scenery:
I would loved to have thrown the brake - at least once - and just stopped it all and stared. I could have stared until my eyes burned holes through my head. Why hadn't I been here before? Surely God passes through here each day, if only to stop and shake His head and say, "Wow, it is good."
I'm going back another Saturday with a book and an iced coffee; I just want to sit and ride and look and quietly absorb.
Unless Conductor Jared is aboard. Then I'll have to plan a third rail ride.
Oh well. [wink]
Thursday, June 12, 2008
We saw a snake yesterday, Millie and I. She almost hopped right onto it before it began slithering and I began shrieking like a... like a... like a woman who's just seen a slithering snake. That was it. It's been down in the 20s here at night and I've been freezing and tired of walking to the outdoor facilities on the bear look-out. I marched immediately down to the lodge yesterday and told Carole, the proprietor here, "I've seen a snake. I want a different cabin, please."
I got one. It has a loft and a stove and a bathroom! and a heater. Hardly know what to do with myself with all these amenities.
I suspect Millie will miss the old cabin. She'll have to be a bit more supervised here in civilization. But she'll be fine.
You'll be fine, Millie. You'll see.
(By the way, I had so much fun reading about all the cravings! Seemed most agreed that chocolate, caffeine, salt and grease rule "the day". Thanks for your input! And special thanks to the gals who googled Turkish restaurants for me, or invited me to theirs...)
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Men: this post is really for women, as most guys can't possibly understand the intensely physical/emotional food cravings that go along with being a girl. I'd thank you to come back and read another day. -Brin
There. That got rid of the lot of them. Mostly nothing but ex's and former co-workers and no-do-gooders anyway. (Smile) Glad it's just us girls now.
So here's a very different post for me. For you. For you and me. But it's a tricky time of the month craving/calorie/cramping wise. You know how it goes. I woke up this morning incredibly hungry for... for... what? What was I hungry for? Not the usual french fries and mayonnaise, as is typically the only thing I want to eat 12 days out of the year. Nope, this time I was hungry for something exotic and spicy and warm and tender and...
... oh no. I'm hungry for Istanbul.
I've been a lot of places in the past year, but none captured my heart so completely as Istanbul. I was so surprised to find that I enjoyed - no, adored - the food there. (Americans are always so snobby about our food, aren't we... so particular and demanding and scared to death that a mouthful of something not regulated by the FDA will surely, without fail, kill us dead.) And of course, we know that Americans can cook. Can we ever. But there sure is some delicious cuisine to be had across those wide oceans.
My two favorite foods from Turkey turned out to be pide and iskender. Hands down. Peter Cherches explains pide best, I think: a flat bread topped with cheeses and/or meat... a Turkish version of pizza. But oh, it's so much more than that. Today I would give my left foot and both my ears for a slice of pide. Just one. Quick. Does anyone have a Turkish restaurant near you? I'll hop a plane tonight.
This is iskender. The lamb ones I had are... sinful. Spicy, tomatoey meat piled on warm, freshly-baked flat bread with butter sauce and yogurt, or something akin, served on the side. Sounds unappealing, I know, but... I dream of it even now. Why does Istanbul have to be so far away?
So. Funny question today, but I'm looking for something to get my mind off pide. Tell me: what do you crave? What do you go reaching for in the middle of the night? What chases away your crampy blues? What food from your past would you like to see on your plate (bowl) again? What recipe has gotten away from you that you'd give anything to find?
Hmm. There. Feel better already. Interested to see what you all crave, and am glad us girls could have this chat. *wink*
Sunday, June 8, 2008
We don't deserve it. Not any of it. God's goodness, I mean. Even at our best, we're the worst. We betray Him, blame Him, butcher His Word, blow His commandments. We are a sorry lot of debts and regrets and failures and needs. But still He came. And still He loves. Our mistakes and problems won't change that.
God is so good. He didn't have to supply all the things we take for granted, you know. He could have put us on Mars. He could have postponed making strawberries. He could have changed His mind about creating cats and dogs. He could have forgotten the flowers. He could have stuck us in bodies that forgot to breathe... in skin that permanently stained. Or worse, He could have simply made us and then forgot about us altogether. Think how that would be.
Strawberry shortcake. Made it this weekend and looked at the little dishes and my heart felt so full. I thought, how good is my God! How generous and patient and sweet...
How blessed are we that even when we deserved it the least, He gave us the most.
For the LORD is good; His steadfast love endures forever.... -Psalm 100:5
Monday Moment is a little devotional to kick start your week. See you again next time.
Reading is such an escape. I think that's why my sister and I both have turned out to be such voracious readers: reading provided an easy, strict-parent-approved escape from our lot in childhood life. Even though I don't read primarily for the escape anymore, I do still appreciate the transportation to other times, lives, and places. Even if the ones I'm living now aren't so bad.
So here you have it - my summer reading list for 2008. Some surprises, some old friends, and some new delights. Be sure to tell me what you've read and/or suggest, as I may be looking for new titles soon....
A Long Fatal Love Chase - a little known Louisa May Alcott, and likely my favorite book by her. If you've never tracked this one down, do.
The Chronicles of Narnia - (Sara, quit jumping up and down.) I know, a strange pick for me. I was strongly encouraged to read these as a child but rebelled when The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe started featuring fauns that talked. Twenty years later, I've finished the aforementioned title (pictured above) and actually enjoyed it. Surprise, surprise.
Rose Cottage - I've never read Mary Stewart before, but at Alicia's recommendation, I'll try. Besides, it looks like just the sort of thing I always gravitate to. Here's to hoping it's not boring or vulgar. (UPDATE: I like it! Decent, solid writing. Predictable, maybe, and a smidge slow, but good. I'd definitely add it to your summer list...)
The Ivy Tree - "I might have been alone in a painted landscape." That's how this Mary Stewart novel starts. I'm excited about this one.
Half Broken Things - My college pal Lacy, now an English teacher, swears this book is awful, but she's... wrong. (!) This book rules. I'll read it ever summer until I die, unless Morag Joss comes out with a better one. (And I think anyone with a name as intriguing as Morag Joss should be read, at least once.)
40 Days in God's Presence - Because you know how I love devotionals. And you will too with this one. Thus far, it's excellent.
The Shack - My friend Lisa recommended this saying she adored the book even though she found bones to pick with the theology. I'm in. Has everyone read it already?
Saturday, June 7, 2008
If simplicity is an acquired taste, I'm afraid I'm acquiring it.
After an early trip to the Farmer's Market this morning, it was time for chores. I swept the cabin and put fresh water in the flower vases and wiped the oil lamps clean. Then I did dishes. As my cabin has no running water, it required bringing up a bucket of cool, clean water from the well just a few yards away. Millie helped... hanging her nose over the bucket as it filled. We trotted back down the dirt road, sunshine and cool mountain air and dandelions all blowing and bowing on their way down to the river.
Have you ever done dishes in a bucket on the side of a mountain? I hadn't. At the Farmer's Market I was careful to buy organic, non-toxic, biodegradable soap so that everything that ran back to the river would be safe. It's really made me think - even more than usual - about how closely tied we are to this beautiful place. The deer Millie watches drink out of the same river that we raft in and catch our trout from. We all live here and have such an enormous responsibility caring for this beautiful, old earth. I thought these things as I watched the river and washed dishes.
We're making strawberry shortcake and hazelnut coffee tonight and having new friends over... photographers with National Geographic who are camping nearby. They've promised me camera and photog tips, which we all know I desperately need. The guy, Curt, loves Millie, so I could hardly mind when I saw him on our Wishing Island yesterday. He called Millie over and together they found the butt of a rifle pressed into the cakey mud. Last night I dreamed the authorities excavated our island and found Jimmy Hoffa and National Geographic ran a story titled "Millie Finds Jimmy"....
Did I mention? I slipped on the rocks late Thursday and gashed my head pretty badly. It was late and I wasn't about to try to walk to the lodge, and I was bleeding too much to get in the car, so I wrapped a whiskey-soaked towel around my head and curled up on the floor next to Millie and cried to her. I went to the rural clinic yesterday and they said I did a good job. So no wonder I'm having Jimmy Hoffa dreams. They almost could have dug me up on that island...
Anyhow. Dishes are done and there are books to read out in the sunshine. Hope your weekend is beautiful. -Brin
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Soon the water slowed enough to splash across quickly and easily, so Wishing Island became ours.
I think everyone, at some point, needs their own Wishing Island. On such an isolated place, you're allowed to think only your best, contented thoughts. You're permitted to lose chunks of minutes... hours, even... to dreams and hopes. And you're given a chance to speak your deepest pain... your foremost hurts... into the depths of open water and watch the river carry them away.
You're left then, alone on your little island, with your wishes.
But they grow so big, as wishes often do, that at some point there's no room for both of you on the little island. So you splash back to your life, where you can look at your wishes from a different shore before turning them Godward....
I never had a Wishing Island before. Everyone needs one, I think. So come, I'll share mine. Be sure to turn up the sound so you can hear the river...
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
This is a humble cabin. Rustic, I believe is the term nowadays. Don't expect any decorating inspiration here. I purposefully came with little decor; I didn't wish to fuss with it and wanted, if the urge struck me, to be able to leave it all behind without a second thought. The cabin affords me a bed, a night table, a stuffed chair, a refrigerator, a dining table-turned-desk, a dozen hooks for clothes, a shelf, and a vanity.
That said, I always have flowers and books. Always. I once read that Michael Jackson spends over $1,000 a week on flowers for his home. I wouldn't spend that kind of money if I had it, but I would kill myself trying to grow that many flowers if I had a castle on a ranch. Here, though, I just have one skinny arrangement in a bud vase. Nothing spectacular, but cheerful nonetheless.
Most days Millie and I spend the late afternoons getting our feet wet in the river and collecting firewood and picking wildflowers. It's like a movie, almost. Very, very soothing. Although firewood is available at the lodge for free, so far I've collected enough driftwood to get us by. That will likely change tomorrow, however. It's getting down to 35 F. Thursday night and my cabin isn't heated.
It does, however, have sweet linens. I brought them from Freeman House.
On the nightstand, behind the books, you may have noticed the glass bowl. Every day when Millie and I go down to the river, I've carried a stone back in my pocket. Each is worn smooth and was ice cold when I fished it out of the riverbed. One of them has dull flecks of something in it. I tell myself it's gold, just for fun. (They did mine gold out of these mountains, after all.) Anyway, each day I plunk a stone down into the bowl as a sort of count your blessings exercise. I want to do something with them when I get home to remind me of just how blessed I am....
... "kitchen" not withstanding.
(By the way, what do you think of the yellow I've gone with? I'm not a sunshine person, per se, but I think it fits here. I'm trying to hurry and finish the quilt and then I'm going to braid a giant, fluffy rug. Then I'll show you more.)
So. That's all the pictures for now. A storm is blowing in and it's cold and dark and pictures weren't turning out as well as I'd like. We'll pick up here again soon. Got to go gather more wood and shut the windows before it rains. Enjoy your evening. -Brin
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
My cabin passage. You could almost pretend you're on a ship, if you wanted. The water lulls you to sleep... always rushing... always flowing... always constant with its gentle lullaby. This is the most peaceful place I've ever been.
I'm getting tan and the sun is lightening my hair. I look in the mirror and think this place looks good on me.
Feels good, too. I have a picnic table on the deck and a firepit in the "yard". I use the table all the time - I'm writing from it now, in fact - but I have yet to use the firepit. I'm thinking of making a peach cobbler in my cast iron dutch oven this weekend, though. The grocery store in town, simply marked by a sign that reads: THE GROCERY, has fresh organic peaches. I think I'll try those and let the sugary/cinnamony summer-in-a-pot bubble as I rest in the grass by the river and read.
I have birds in the eaves of the cabin's porch. They're sweet birds - not the loud, squawking ones that jolt you out of your dreams at sun-up. We've all gotten along fine, the wildlife and cabin and Millie and I. I hope it continues. The man at the laundrymat (nearby the grocery; it's called THE LAUNDRY) says they've spotted several black bears this week. A note on my cabin door this afternoon reminded me not to leave food or drinks in the car and immediately dispose of trash, etc. Oh my gosh. I can just see myself - lying on my stomach, tanning my back and staring into the river - and suddenly seeing a bear reflection opposite mine. Scares the jeevies out of me. I'll sleep with one eye open tonight.
So bears aside, I'm in love with my new place. Feeling very Thoreau these days.
Tomorrow we'll do interior pictures, if you're curious. -Brin