Sunday, March 30, 2008

4 little thoughts

This Sunday night, my mind catches these three (okay, four) things:

-How did I never notice that there's a $.93 store on my street?  Ninety-three cents!?!?  I gotta believe this odd amount means that, with tax, everything is exactly a dollar.  Which makes it feel like a dollar store in a way that most aren't.  But kudos to them for unabashedly marketing it for just what it is: a $.93 store.  I love my neighborhood.

-Church community can be really beautiful.  There was a really nice moment for me in worship today, in the midst of one of our periodic bluegrass banjo-driven Sundays.  While singing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" the background images were a loop of stills from various pieces of church life that I put together a couple of years ago.  I noticed three beloved people who have died since making the loop; instead of feeling awkward, it felt really lovely, like we were in an unbroken circle, indeed.

-Our anemone moved this week.  I didn't know anemones could move.   Noticing it not in its usual location gave me a bit of a scare: I'm a little insecure about my ability to be faithful in aquarium custody during this deployment.  I worried something had happened.  Thieves, again, perhaps?  Rationally, breaking in to our house to steal an anemone seemed absurd; I'm not always given, immediately, to rationality.  But apparently, especially when their living conditions become adverse (as happens when I get a bit lazy in adding new water to the aquarium and the pumps and filters begin to create more splashing bubbles near the surface), anemones can pick up and relocate.  Somehow, that seems really hopeful to me.  I love resilience.  I also like the little alcove the anemone has claimed as home (and, consequently, the clown fish, too).  It feels cozy.

-Thieves, however, have found my dear husband's laptop.  How sad is it when someone's stealing computers and ipods out of the tents of Army Reservist training for deployment to Iraq?  That's just wrong.  And pretty sad that the personal belongings of folks in the military are not safe while they're in the U.S., on base.  The Army should give them a way to keep their things's not like they're getting paid so much they can just write off these things.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

food security

I've been reading Deep Economy, which my brother sent us recently. Challenging us to think about economies in different ways--and clarifying that, since the 1950's, increased wealth has not meant increased happiness--it picks up discussions many of my favorite writers have contributed to. Folks like Wendell Berry, Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Pollen, and more. It's also given me more enthusiasm for my garden.

I've also been paging through Jesus for President, which calls us to similar attentiveness to a different way of living in the world. Here, Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw challenge us to claim allegiance in the kingdom of God rather than any nation or community. Doing so demands that we make choices about how we'll live that express a love for neighbor that demands we do things differently--less as consumers and more as community members and those who want their actions to have positive effects on all others and on creation. Again, here, gardening seems important.

So, I thought I'd share today's update of how the garden looks. I've had some problems with a mischievous garden visitor. I suspect my cute, adorable, adventurous little neighbor, D. There are two small footprints on the top of most of my hills of squash. And all my clever popsicle stick labels at the end of rows have disappeared. Alas, who can really be mad at a 3-year old with a special gift for finding tomatoes in late-summer vine jungles?

Gardening is very satisfying for me--it feels hopeful and constructive in all the right ways. A good kind of economic choice.

We installed a gate, thinking it would make us feel a bit safer in a neighborhood where there's a bit more drug and gang activity than any of us wants. Turns out it may also help my relationships with a little neighbor--I can enjoy gardening with him when we're together, and not be mad about his little footprints or his habit of pulling up tags and tomato seedlings while I'm away.
Our fence is now complete, all the way 'round. It's gotten good reviews from passers-by, which makes me hopeful that it's not TOO unfriendly of a sort of fence. The avocado tree Marian shared is busting out new leaves, and I'm hopeful about the asparagus I planted in a trench. Now, I need to arrange the water system, and plant that last big section. What fun...
When I was planting on Friday, a man stopped by to chat. "I'm your neighbor!" he said very enthusiastically. He then offered me some mint out of his garden, bringing it over in a plastic saucer. Now, it's happily nestled next to some heirloom petunias, watched over by the lovely flamingo my mother sent. I feel a little bad about putting Mom's flamingo near mint, as she hates it so much, but I figure grace is big, and it's all a pretty long ways from her nose. (The other flamingo is watching over a pineapple, which I know is more agreeable...)
And, these bachelor buttons (at the top) are blooming nicely. There a favorite of Mom's too, so that should make everything okay.
Our little redbud tree is looking great these days--the blossoms are beautiful, and I can see the leaves beginning to grow!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

colorful, sweet easter treats

Three (seems like a holy number) colorful, sweet Easter treats to share:

1.  work by an artist, Tattfoo Tan, that I'm enjoying: a placemat (and, later, a mural) made of squares of color that were taken from fresh foods--fruits and vegetables--purchased at a market in Brooklyn.  What a beautiful, fresh palatte.  Check his work out.
2.  Success at dying Easter eggs with natural stuff.  I tried onion skins (see below) and red cabbage to get brownish-orange and blue (see further below.)  If I were doing it again, I would have used fewer onion skins (as I got kind of excited and put skins from most of the $1 bag of onions from my corner market in the water) and more cabbage (I used half of  a little head).  The one downside was that it made my kitchen smell like boiling onions and cabbage, but it was a warm day and the open windows cured that quickly enough.  The blue is not quite as subtle as it seems in this picture...

3.  I'm *finally* putting the ice cream ball that Er and Joel gave me (long ago) to good use.  It's fun to make your own ice cream, especially when the work involved is, like, rolling a ball around.  You just put ice cream ingredients in the littler inner chamber, and ice and salt in the bigger, outer green part and then play.  Then, you get ice cream.  What could be better?
That's my cheer for the day.  I'm feeling tired after an intense weekend of church creativity.  I love our Easter Vigil prayer stations.  And Easter worship was a fun trip today, too.  We shattered old plates with a hammer and made them into a swell new mosaic.  You don't always get to swing hammers in church.  ;)  So, it's mostly a really good kind of tired I'm feeling.  I think I'll sleep well tonight--no more clever worship bits to plan.  At least for a few days.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

in the ground

Holy Week is as good a time as any to stick seeds in the ground--it feels wonderfully hopeful.  Today I had some help from a pair of friends.  We put in some corn and beans, sunflowers and okra.  More will come.
You can see our exciting new fence.  I think we did a decent job of marking a boundary without putting up a hostile barrier.  No pointy things on top, and no solid walls.  

We also got a thank you note from our postal carrier today for finally replacing the horrible mailbox we've had.  She didn't even make mention of how long it took to do so...just said "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

I did a good job of bringing in the mail, sorting it, recycling what I could, and not throwing anything on the table.  That makes day 2 of my attempt at de-cluttering my living space.  Of course, I was also buoyed by some extra and gracious cleaning help from Matt's mom.  ;)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

limitations and abundance

I thought dyeing Easter eggs with natural dyes sounded pretty cool.  And, I had this chard languishing in my kitchen; I picked it in a hurry last Saturday, when the garden was being dug up.  I used part of it then, but didn't really have a plan for the rest.  I have observed how the red stems turn my chard-artichoke dip pink, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Just in case you were wondering, chard is not effective as a dye.  Neither the deep green leafy parts nor the garishly bright pink stems had any noticeable affect on my eggs.

Guess I should stick with the plants the recommend.  But hey: now my kitchen smells like stewed chard...

In other news and adventures, I'm feeling pretty blessed these days.  I mean, sure, I'm still dealing with the depression of Matt's deployment departure, but other folks have sure been good to me lately.

First, my obsessive lurking around crafty blogs led me to a fun give-away on Betty Ninja's site--and I won her drawing.  I'm waiting anxiously for the happy hedgehog to appear in my mailbox...  Then, I happened upon Oodles and Oodles' clothespin apron giveaway, and won again.  Now I can hang clothes in style on my new backyard clothesline.  Such a run of blogging grace!

Then, at work yesterday, two women in the office showered me with a magical sunflower basket of goodness--with cookies and a fun t-shirt and music and chocolate and lots more.  Just 'cause they were thinking of me and wanted to cheer me up.

All that's not even counting the carrot-dill bread Marian and Wayne brought by--or their avocado tree which is now planted in the yard.  Or the window and door trim my in-laws installed yesterday and today.  Or the books my brother sent me in the mail.  Or the care package from my mom.

So: today, deployment sucks, but it sure is beautiful to know that I'm surrounded by lots of caring folks and beautiful, thoughtful things!

I'm trying to ride out this wave of happy vibes and see if it will sustain me through an attempt to de-clutter my house.  It'd take a miracle...

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I spend the first part of today studying and discussing proposals that will come to our church's General Conference next month--suggestions of how to change the church for the good.  (Not all suggestions seem to think that the same changes would be good...)

And, this evening, I've been studying and scheming about which seeds to plant in my garden.  I've narrowed it to:
2 kinds of corn, 4 kinds of beans, 2 melons (even though I know my soil is mostly clay and they'd be happier in sand), 3 pumpkins, 2 kinds of zucchini, okra, 2 eggplants, leeks, turnips, chard, spinach, lettuce and some herbs.   (Did you know that you can grow a watermelon with ORANGE flesh?!?)

Perhaps seed packet descriptions and petitions to change the church aren't so different: hopeful descriptions of possibility that may or may not actually take root in beautiful ways.

(This is making me ponder, a little too deeply, what might be the church equivalent of the nasty little horned bugs that like to eat my plants.)

There are these very brief little "rationale" statements after General Conference petitions that have about the same depth as seed descriptions.  (That is, they tell you about the lovely orange flowers but not about the plants nasty habit of spreading itself all through your garden.  Or its susceptibility to powdery mildew.  Or its demand for a whole lot of water.)

So, here's hoping we'll have the wisdom to wade through all these pages of legislation and find what will grow the Kin-dom of God!  I'm sure thankful to have companions on this journey.

Friday, March 14, 2008


I'm pretty excited about the newly-enriched, freshly-dug-up soil in my yard today.  I think my tomato seedlings are dreaming of their days ahead out here, too.  
It's come a long ways from what it was when we moved in: pavement.

What vegetables (or fruits, perhaps?) do you think would be most wonderful, beautiful and tasty in this front yard garden?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

like cream without its cookies...

My sister-in-law came to hang out the other day.  We joined some other friends in a rousing game of Cranium, and then a little RockBand action.  And ate ice cream.  Thing is, someone forgot to put the cookies in the Cookies and Cream container we bought.  For real.

All of which tempts me to muse about how, now that Matt's deployed, I feel like cream that's missing its cookies.   

I hope that sweet metaphor doesn't make you want to toss your cookies.

In other news, I'm grateful for the lenten group I've been meeting with at church.  It's an odd mix of people, but we've gotten to a place that's beautiful and tender.  It's a little bit like I hope church community will always be--a place to take this stuff seriously, and to really struggle with that means.  All the while knowing that somebody's got your back.  It's not like any other class I've led here before--a bit more like retreat community, but not even exactly like that.  Refreshing.

Almost as energizing as laughter over a birthdays cake (not a typo--it was for 2 people) in the office today, as momentum began to gather for an idea I shelved a while ago: worship using ikea-style pictograms as liturgy.  My dear coworkers thought it would be fun to illustrate the 10 commandments with pictograms.  (I thought it all sounded a little naughty.  I mean: the international sign for "do not commit adultery"!?!?)  Sacraments might be easier.

But, who are we kidding.  I have no time for pictograms.  I have 1500 pages of petitions to General Conference to be reading.  Like, I suppose, most things that are worth doing, I had no idea what I was getting into when I registered myself as someone willing to be elected to our delegation.  

My new hope: we'll be so buried in paperwork and worn out from days upon days of plenary gathering (with no day off in the middle--hey: isn't Sabbath one of those 10 commandments?) that we won't know how to block the Holy Spirit when she blows through the Fort Worth Convention Center.  Who knows what might be in store for the United Methodist Church?!

And, who knows where those cookies ended up...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

strange things growing

I finally dug my carrots this past week.  It turns out that they were looking a bit mutant.  Perhaps this is what happens when you don't do a good job preparing the soil down deep before you plant?
I think they look like little, headless carrot creatures, with big, thick tails.


But, then, it's been a strange week.  Some expected and some new--and several days of reporting for jury duty.  The prospect of being on the jury for a murder trial was sobering, but the long hours of waiting to get into the courtroom made for good reading time.  I escaped via the pages of "Friday Night Knitting Club," and enjoyed the diversion.

Now, my trick is going to need to be to stop thinking of new projects and focus on the ones I've already started. 

I spend made a quick trip to Sacramento this weekend to get a bit more time with Matt.  Unfortunately, my visit to him came with a sit through a "family briefing" courtesy the US Army.  I'm no fan of such things, nor can I stomach the way they refer to Matt as "my soldier."  I don't want a soldier, nor do I want to possess my husband.  The upside is that I got to meet some of the folks he'll be spending the next months with in Iraq; somehow, making it through seems more possible when there are real (even, sometimes, delightful) people involved.

Work is continuing here at the house--all the concrete (except for the driveway and front walk) is now taken out, and someone's coming on Friday to dig up the dirt and add in compost.  Perhaps so my carrots will be less mutant next season.  Here's hoping.  Then, soon, I can plant vegetables!

Oh, and my papaya seeds finally sprouted, which gives me great hope.  I'd thought they were too old and dried out.

Monday, March 03, 2008

on the homefront

As soon as got the unavoidable news of Matt's deployment, he stopped going to school (since he was going to have to leave before mid-term, anyhow) and launched into house projects that have been waiting.  And now things are really starting to look good.  I'm just sad that he's not here to enjoy them...

I'm quite excited about the kitchen, which now has totally-finished concrete counters by Matt, and a backsplash, too.  Once I get some light switch covers and trim's gonna be crazy.  Matt's dad is milled the window trim as we speak.  (Aren't the cabinets he made of reclaimed wood beautiful?)
My happy at-home eco-creation this week, though, is a clothesline out back.  It occurred to me that, while a solar energy system on our roof would be very cool, using solar energy to dry clothes on line in the meantime would be a nice step.

I'm stoked about my simple design.  It sits in these brackets, so it can also come down if we want to use the space for something else.
And, finally, my happy report of the week: some plants that mysteriously appeared on the ledge on the side of the house.  I haven't figured out who put them there, and enjoying the mystery.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

little things and big things

Matt's pick of how to spend our last whole day together before deployment was a hike.  It was beautiful.  There was a good amount of water in the river--enough to make some waterfalls--and little things were growing and budding and thriving.

spring buds
in the valley, these buds were growing on beautiful orange and red branches in the wide part of the river.
rocks and mosses
Up higher, in the cracks of the rocks that run down to the river, mosses and things and something a lot like an onion were growing.
the group
Here's our group, at our furthest-up point.  It's good to be together, in the beauty of these places.
This Live-Forever reminded me of the tenacious power of life to hold on.  If it's making it in just a little crack on the side of a vertical rock, we can all make it through this deployment (even if it's to a war that feels ill-conceived, at best...).