Thursday, April 30, 2015

Paradoxes, Part Two

Our ancestors are totally essential to our every waking moment,
although most of us don't even have the faintest idea about
their lives, their trials, their hardships or challenges.
-Annie Lennox 

There's a mystery in my ancestry. A closely-guarded secret that went to the grave three generations ago.

But I'm about to dig it up.

I remember being about seven. It was Christmas day. My cousin Matthew and I were sitting on my grandparents' bar stools, swinging our feet and drinking Nesquik hot chocolate with marshmallows. Across the bar in the living room, the "old people" were gathering to take pictures by the mantle- my Dad, his mom and her mom. And my Papa. He stood to the left of my Dad, by himself. After the picture, I asked my Meme, Where is Papa's family?

I'll never forget the reply: Christmas is a happy time. We don't talk about that.

And that is the first- and only- time it was ever discussed.

It wasn't enough. It wasn't then, and it isn't now. My family tree, stretching wide and beautiful back to the 1600s, is sawed off on this side of the tree. The missing branches haunt me.

After asking some hard questions and joining, I've found a few answers. My Papa's mother, who died the same year I was born, had my Papa when she was 26. That was easy enough to find; my parents still remember her and she is buried near my Papa. It was the 1930 U.S. Federal Census that made my heart stop. There she is, my Great-Grandmother, Delia, living with her brother, Hugh, and her mother, Lou. And there's my Papa: Paul R... with... wait. What does that say??

Runnels, Paul R. nephew.  Runnels? Runnels?! Our last name is Wisdom. His last name is Wisdom!

I was shocked. Shocked and intrigued. Further study has turned up nothing. Following census records revert to the family name and never hint at anything amiss again. That one slip, on that one census record, has changed everything. I have far more questions than when I first started. Than when Christmas was a happy time and we didn't talk about this.

But I can't let it go. I have to know: what happened to Delia? What story did she go to the grave with? And when I find those missing branches, where will they lead?

Most importantly: what is my real last name?

This morning, I nervously opened my DNA kit from Ancestry and followed the instructions. It was simple and only took a moment. 

So now, I wait. I wait, and wonder with nearly every waking moment. Annie Lennox is right: we haven't the faintest idea of these people's lives, trials, hardships or challenges....

 Read Paradoxes, Part One, by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My Bee-Day

She liked to tell everybody that women made the best beekeepers, 
'cause they have a special ability built into them to love creatures that sting. 
It comes from years of loving children and husbands.
-Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

My bees came yesterday. I am a real life beekeeper now.

If you've been around here any time at all, you might remember me going on and on about wanting to keep bees. I mean, wear-the-suit and rob-a-hive and nurse-bee-stings kind of keep bees. Local, red clover honey was calling me. So was my own beeswax for making candles and salves. Then along came The Secret Life of Bees, and the obsession solidified: I had to find a way to get a hive.

And yesterday, under the gathering gray sky, it finally happened. The bee man came with girls for my hive.

The bees came from a well-respected bee man about an hour away. His girls are chemical-free and bred to be gentle. He's also inspected by the state, ensuring scary issues like disease and the varroa mite- the believed reason for colony collapse disorder and bee shortages everywhere- will not be a problem. Hopefully. Hopefully not. I will have to stand guard.

I like Jesse because he's soft spoken and completely, bewilderingly calm, even when the bees land on his bare skin. Being near him, I wasn't afraid, either. In fact, I was enthralled. I lifted and examined the frames before installing them in my new hive. The only time the bees got agitated was when, like the klutz I am, I bumped the third frame while installing it. Jesse said nothing for a moment, then, softly, "Yeah. They don't like it when you drop them."

Can you spot the queen?

So here's my hive. These are the girls that will (literally) work themselves to death over the next several weeks building a hive, nursing brood, guarding the colony, gathering pollen and nectar, drawing out comb, and making honey. Among other things.

By twilight, right before darkness fell, the wayward bees found their way inside the new hives. I stood outside, listening. Their buzzing is hypnotic. Have you ever heard the sound coming from a beehive? It's the warmest, fullest, steadiest hum you've ever heard. Your heart hears it.

Much, much more to come on beekeeping. So much more... -Brin

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sleeping, Safety and Seeing

In peace I will lie down and sleep, 
for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
-Psalms 4:8

 Millie, during weekend storms

You know the crazy back story behind that verse, Psalms 4:8? David, the man who penned that psalm, wasn't known for having a peaceful life. In fact, his life was deadly dangerous and full of turmoil. But David was known for his confidence that- no matter what came his way- God saw him. God was good. And God was mighty to save.

Go your way today... and sleep tonight... in peace, my friend. God sees you. God is still good. And He is still mighty to save. 

Monday Moment is a little devotional to help kick start your week. See you again next Monday!

Friday, April 24, 2015


Look what I found on the realtor's website this morning!


Unless the sky falls, we close in less than two weeks. You guys!! A new house/garden adventure! Can you believe it?! Could I use any more exclamation marks?!

Sorry. I'm just so excited!

Last one. That was the last one, I promise.

Just got a forwarded an email between the title company and the realtors yesterday and it showed a beautiful termite inspection report and evidence of pest treatment this week. It also mentioned title should be in any day. I whooped and hollered. I can only assume we're out of the woods with any last minute crash-your-dreams-down-to-the-ground issues, but I'm cautiously thrilled.

Can someone be cautiously thrilled?

Not that I've thought about it...because I've tried NOT to think about it... but the first thing I'm doing is ripping off that terrible awning and the railing on the front porch and steps. Bye bye. Then I'm patching walls and priming the whole interior and airing the rooms. Everyone who's walked through the old place says it stinks. Bad stinks. So that's getting done and then we'll move in. Only then.

I haven't shown you any interior shots yet because the home is occupied by a retiring nurse and, recently, her elderly mother, and their personal items are still displayed. (Just seemed wrong to plaster their personal space on the world wide web without permission, you know?) But trust me. I'm going to bore you half to death with pictures.

Things I'm also considering now that we're marked SALE PENDING:

- I have to transplant all my roses and plants. In May/June. In Texas.
- I'll be doing most everything myself.
- I hope they leave all that super cool stuff in that far/dark corner of the attic, including the carved antique rocking chair and the (original?) mirror above the fireplace.
- I have to get a chimney sweep out immediately to check that and the fireplace on the sun porch. Yes. There's a working/cooking fireplace on the sun porch. (Note that I showed restraint and did not use an exclamation mark there. Winning.)
 - I have to throw the biggest, most joyful new house party ever. This house is big for me, folks. BIG.

Probably should log off now since I feel lines of exclamation marks coming on....

Hope you have a great weekend, wherever you are.  -Brin

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Paradoxes, Part One

I have said that Texas is a state of mind,
but I think it is more than that....
-John Steinbeck

I wore boots yesterday and went to a ranch. The community's raising money for a local young woman, an avid equestrian, who has cancer. She's a beautiful girl from a beautiful family, and folks turned out to buy nachos, sing karaoke, bid on auction items, and take selfies with horses named Rio and Blackjack and Pongo.

Have you ever been to Texas? It's a confounding place. It's the land of paradoxes- it's steamy and it's dusty. It's the plains and the ocean. It's palm trees and snow. It's liberal hipster and skeevy redneck. It's loud, it's serene, it's bustling, it's remote. 

It's impossible to be bored in Texas. I think that's why I stay. That, and it's where my family is- both sides. They all sailed from England, landed in Virginia, wagon-trained to Georgia, and settled in Texas. The men had names like Bird and Tavner and Abner. And William. Always, William. They worked hard and fought harder and preached, some. I've been putting together a family tree on Ancestry and got word that I could apply to be a DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) gal, just like Emily Gilmore on Gilmore Girls. That revelation hit like a smack to the funny bone- hilarious, yet sharp/deep at the same time. Paradox, again.

Lately it's been on my mind how important it must be: the where we come from and who we are. Is it something you ever think about? Is it something you believe matters? I mean, I was raised to understand that Texas isn't just a place, it's in your blood. It's your birthright. But I have always felt like I belonged in a windy, gray, salted-air ocean place, too... like I know something I don't and am carrying a secret no one's ever told me. Crazy paradox, I know.

So I'm about to tell some stories... I'm about to string words together and make a chain from William to Brin, from history to present. It feels necessary, somehow. Necessary, and yet a completely frivolous way to spend these precious days. Could be a present state of mind, but I think it's more than that....

More to come on this.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rocks and Roses

....It struck her that that perhaps everyone 
had the ability to see themselves in others. 
Even in the rocks. Even in the roses.
-Holly Lynn Payne, Damascena

I'm glad you're here. 

We're kind of like a family, you know... those of us who come here. You read me, I read your comments, and I think we see ourselves when we look at each other. Rocks, roses and all. Hi there, you.

The roses are blooming and so I picked some and brought them in. But really they're for you. Thanks for sharing my days, my quiet thoughts, my messy life.

Call it Earth Day or Wednesday or whatever you'd like. Today I'm grateful for... and looking at... you.

Let's be friends always, okay?  -Brin

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Whippoorwills, Singing, Gardens and Houses

A feather from the Whippoorwill
That everlasting—sings!
Whose galleries—are Sunrise—
Whose Opera—the Springs....
-Emily Dickinson

Everything is alive here- sprouting and swaying and singing. It's all just so... alive. I'm not sure why, but this spring has brought so much reassurance for me. I've heard her opera of hope: we may be facing chaos, but God is on His throne and He has a plan. Just look at the roses and tell me He doesn't. The Everlasting still sings.

Is this not just the most beautiful, Secret Garden-like place you've ever seen? It's Whippoorwill Gardens in Cass County, Texas. I went not long ago, and we wandered around until it clouded up and threatened rain. I want something like this- these rooms of roses and fountains, I told him. I want something like this at the new place.

Speaking of, so far, still so good on the new house. We're on schedule to close May 9. I'm in this alternate world right now of gardens and paint colors and flea markets and list making. And how wonderful that it's all happening in spring, with all her galleries and operas and whippoorwills!

We're so blessed to be talking gardens and houses. The Everlasting... He still sings.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday Moment: The Lord Lenders

 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, 
and he will reward them for what they have done.
-Proverbs 19:17


You all know how home is such a big deal to me. I love being home. Home is my favorite place. I need a reason, and a good one, to walk out my front door and get in my car. So a few years ago, when the plight of the homeless people in our area was (honestly) kind of dropped at my feet, it seemed predetermined: homeless people would become my "thing".

And so it began. I was stunned when our local yarn store agreed to collect homemade hats for our homeless friends. Gorgeous hats, like the one above. I was floored when people started showing up with bags of socks for our Socktober event last October. And now? Now I'm giddy that we are 40 pairs of underwear in to collecting 500 pairs of new underwear for our underwear campaign. The local radio station is running public service announcements. The city's event page on Facebook shares nearly every status. Word is getting around!

But even more, I love the way the Bible deals with giving, especially giving to the poor. God makes it clear: He is all about the poor. Want to touch on something that touches the heart of God? Start with the poor in your community. Your neighborhood. That school down the street. 

In fact, God says it this way: if you are kind to the poor, you are lending to Him. And He always repays. Isn't that wildly awesome? Giving to the poor is lending to God, and He repays.

I can't think of anyone I'd rather lend to. Can you?

So let's do it. Let's be the ones who rise above circumstances and setbacks and walk out of our own homes and become a people who are known by our kindness to the poor and overlooked. 

Let's be Lord Lenders.

Monday Moment is a little devotional to help kick start your week. See you again next Monday!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hope and Home

Y'all. That inspector's report came back a 42-page heart attack.

I have been knitting a Seed Stitch pillow in an attempt to keep the hope alive. I paused last night to ask the question I didn't want to send out into the world: Do you think the bank will still lend after it sees the inspector's report? The realtor said he didn't know. I knit faster.

But surely they will. Insurance agent and realtor friends have gone out of their ways the past two days to assure us that it will be fine. Good. Fine is good. Banks expect things like this with an old home, they said. 

Maybe we're overreacting, I said. knitknitknit

Hope with me, won't you? I have a vision to establish a house of refuge... a house with roses and a screened porch and fresh-baked bread and fluffy quilts and reading alcoves in the attic. We have a vision of one day adopting a child who has no home. Of welcoming people without a place. There are dreams here of hope and home...

knitknitknit -Brin

(Later note: I feel compelled to add that, 1. A 2011 inspection report showed issues that had all since been addressed by the current owner, and 2. The Seller's Disclosure was beautiful and didn't note anything alarming. It cited two concerns, so we were prepared for some issues. But not 42 pages. Egads.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Grays and Greens

Driving home - Cass County, Texas

Have you ever been to Northeast Texas in the spring? It's like rural England, almost. I wish you'd been in the car with me this morning, right before it rained, heading down the highway. Just over this hill, there's a pond and a field of wildflowers. Gorgeous.

I've decided I want to take a break from my usual color schemes and go with whites, grays, greens and antiqued golds for this house. The landscape today captured the colors perfectly. I feel my best on cloudy days in spring or fall, and I think I want that muted- yet hopeful- feeling in this new house.

We leave in 15 minutes to meet the home inspector at the house. I have the tape measure ready and am eager to see just how the little kitchen measures up. 

I'll report back, with pictures, very soon. Enjoy your Wednesday! -Brin

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Miscommunications and Muffins

We have lots and lots of house stuff going on these next few days. As you can imagine. There are meetings with insurance agents, the bank, the realtor... and then the 5-hour home inspection we need to be present for (and simultaneously get bids from companies on repairs that have to be done immediately). The home inspection was set for today but had to be rescheduled this morning due to realtor miscommunication. I had taken the day off and everything.

Maybe I need to take the realtors/inspectors/repairmen muffins to help speed this along and get everyone reading their texts and emails. Or maybe not. We are stress eating them kinda quickly. Ha!

Do yourself a favor and make these Streusel Crumb Blueberry Muffins. Go preheat the oven now. Seriously. I don't even like blueberries, but these are incredible! Perfect. Everything a muffin should be... and more.

Many pictures to come... just as soon as I can get in the house. Tomorrow, hopefully? 

In the meantime, happy Tuesday. If you were close, I'd offer you a muffin and coffee and drive you by the house....

Monday, April 13, 2015

Big News

We got the house!!! (And I guess a white flamingo, too.)

So, so, so much more to come. Get ready!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The (House) Game's Afoot!

Home wasn't built in a day.
-Jane Sherwood Ace

We got a counter offer yesterday. A gut-punching counter offer, but one nonetheless. The game is afoot!

Of course, I've been waking up between 3 and 4 AM since Monday, pacing, making kettles of tea, sketching out bathroom layouts, and telling myself to calm down... this is part of it. The realtor and I, meanwhile, are playing the game nicely. It's driving me crazy. Why can't we just walk up on porches, explain situations, have a glass of iced tea, and make a deal? The owner is a single woman several years older than I am. Let me at her. I know I could bring her around!

You get too emotionally attached to houses, everyone says.

Um, have you met me? Emotionallyattachedtohouses is my middle name.

I have so much to show y'all. And a dozen questions to ask. What should we do with the glassed-in side porch if we get the house? The alcove in the attic? The kitchen? The back garden?

Say a prayer, would you? We meet the realtor again this morning! -Brin

(By the way, your birthday wishes are treasured. I commented in the post below. Thank you all so very much! You made my day.)

(Oh! And my tea addiction is so out of control that Sonic Drive-In unofficially named their Sweet Cranberry Tea in my honor yesterday, nationwide. No joke. You can see it here. Nuts, right?!)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Freeman House the Second??

She woke each morning with a glow of hope,
not because a new dream had been born,
but knowing the one she carried
inside her heart would last.
-Jodi Hills, An Imperfect Life

I've had a secret, but now I'm telling you: I found a house. But not just any house. The house. I think I've found the house.

She reminds me of Freeman House- heavy wood floors, thick window panes, awkward rooms, soaring ceilings. But unlike Freeman House, someone hasn't abandoned her. In 2013, a nurse took pity on this house and gave her new electrics, a new roof, and a good leveling. What she hasn't had the time or inclination to do is give this old beauty her life back. 

Late in the afternoon on Easter Sunday, as it rained, we met the realtor and signed a contract. Are you sure? he asked, searching my face.

Absolutely, I answered. I've waited for this day.

Well, he replied, We should know by Wednesday

Wednesday is tomorrow. Tomorrow is my birthday.

So tomorrow, my birthday, is the day we hope to hear if we got Freeman House the Second.

Could y'all do this all again? We could be in for quite an adventure....

(A few things of note: like Freeman House, this house needs a major facelift, inside and out. And also like Freeman House, it sits in town on a third of an acre, with old rose bushes and ivy. Unlike Freeman House, this girl is on a corner lot, has a detached storage building/cottage, and is close enough to the ground that a donkey can't get stuck underneath it. Win!)

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Great Gift of Easter

The great gift of Easter is hope -
Christian hope which makes us have
that confidence in God, in His ultimate triumph,
and in His goodness and love, which nothing can shake.
-Basil C. Hume

Thank you, Jesus, for making a way. For being the Way, Truth and Life. Because you died, I now live.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The God of Spring

The day the Lord created hope
was probably the same day He created Spring.
-Bernard Williams

Spring is so reassuring to me this year. 

Undoubtedly, change is coming to the nations. Big changes are coming to our doorstep. Although I'm not a news reporter anymore, I'm still a news junkie. But it doesn't take a news junkie or an acclaimed economist or an ivy league rocket scientist to tell us that change is in the air for our beloved country.

That's why I'm so grateful God made Spring. It's His reminder that He makes all things new. That He is the God of life.

So let's make our lemon cakes, even in times of turmoil. Let's raise our families and work our jobs and sing our songs and wash our dishes with a steadying hope that the God of Spring is on His throne.

Let the earth rejoice and hope, even still! 

Happy Spring.  -Brin