Wednesday, March 22, 2017

where are thou? I blame the bedbugs...{2017 beauty hodge-podge}

What have we been up to you ask?

1. BED BUGS ~ read about this family adventure here.
  • Some day I may not see pictures of bedbugs in every article and newsfeed on my phone. I was researching how to deal with these little monsters so extensively, bedbug extermination tips and related businesses are apparently the only advertisements I will ever see again. Irritating. Salt in a wound.
  • Bedbugs did not exist before the fall of man, or maybe they were more like ladybugs, but I digress...
  • The above picture will soon be hanging in my laundry room. This is how I felt and how very tempted I was to crawl into an industrial dryer, click my heels and get out of OZ.
2. Oh life...
  • new company for my husband 
  • new classes and so much lovely learning for me 
  • + so much of the every day ordinary ups and downs and messy beauty.
  • Oh, and my kids are doing PARKOUR! My brother may have placed bets on how soon and how often we will see the inside of an ER and/or Urgent Care. But my youngest girl is a delight to watch ~ like she found her home planet.
3. New projects afoot...details to come, but most often you'll find me on Instagram: @literaturethreads.
  • I saw an Instagram site once that said "Instagram killed my blog". I totally get it.
  • But how do I love Instagram? Let me count the ways...
4. Speaking of poetry, we have been placing Poetry Tea Time into our weekly rhythms. We all love it so much. A few links for you:
5. With all that pulls on my heart, mind, and physical abilities, I think of how to savor my moments ~ in solitude and with my people. 
  • I really enjoyed this book about Denmark this summer ~ I did not come away thinking Denmark was amazing. Like every country, it holds claim to great strengths and deep weaknesses. But still, great read.
  • I most like the Danish concept/practice of Hygge
6. I haven't forgotten about my 300 days of beauty. I will finish, but was much too ambitious for last year. (In this post I stated that I was realistic to pick 300...delusional/optimistic might have been more accurate!)

I hope this post finds you well, encouraged and choosing hope. 

(Some pictures of our recent months...)

Soft boiled eggs and hot cocoa for breakfast...

Poetry Tea Time

It's important to buy pretty cakes sometimes.

More Poetry Tea Time with homemade maple cakes by Cece

Many nights called for sparkling cider in stemmed glassware just because.

Brother-sister sugar-cube pyramid creation

This version of audio fairy tales is just lovely...

Dinner party using only recipes from Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist.

When you don't have a fireplace, Netflix delivers. Hanging with D during a wintry cold day and loving it.

Laundromat pizza picnic (one of many)

This is how you save a table in the laundromat...evidently. No one sat here ALL DAY. I know because I was there ALL DAY.


    Friday, December 9, 2016

    To Be Still...Together~read-alouds to savor with your family this season...

    (some links may be affiliate links~for information on what this means, please read sidebar entitled "just a note"~thanks so much!)

    I admit that December feels magical until about December 3rd. This year that is when I hit my first "wall"~ completely overwhelmed, somewhat discouraged, and exhausted. So much I want to do, so much to do, and so craving to just be, to sit, to be savor.

    I read enough to know that pulling everyone together for a family reading time can be challenging. There is a certain extra exhaustion in reading aloud that is different than reading on my own. In spite of this, with my whole-heart, I recommend picking one book to read together this Christmas season.

    Put cider in the crock pot, heat cocoa on the stove or brew a pot of tea. Grab lap blankets, rest in the glow of twinkling lights and snack on Christmas cookies (we like Trader Joe's seasonal varieties!) or sliced oranges and apples (my son's winter treat of choice). Be still...together, for a few moments each day.

    Here are a few of my favorite Christmas reads:
    This year for an "official" Advent read, my husband is reading through Ishtar's Odyssey: A Family Story for Advent. In past years we've read through Jotham's Journey, Tabitha's Travels, and Bartholomew's Passage from this series. Dear friends surprised us with Ishtar this year and it has been wonderful. Also, as a bonus, Ishtar's Odyssey is a journey through food with Persian food suggested for each day and each week. Theme food is my favorite.


    Wonderful picture books abound for Christmas, but these two have topped my list for many years: Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson and The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado.

    Mortimer is a house-mouse looking for more comfy quarters, so he continually is kicking each Nativity statue out of the stable. This is an adorable and creative telling of the Christmas story--love the illustrations too!

    Some day I may be able to read The Crippled Lamb without crying. Joshua, a sweet lamb who has trouble keeping pace with the other lambs, sees how his limitations give him a very special gift during a monumental moment in history. 


    For any age, really, but great for Elementary...not just for girls!

    Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John—Written in 1948, set in Switzerland, the author felt that her country needed a story to illustrate the power of forgiveness after the horrors of World War II. I recommend making “gingerbread bears” decorated with white icing to munch and savor while you read this soul-stirring book.

    Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald~Two orphaned sisters, living in a less-than-wonderful boarding house are determined to not spend another Christmas in this cruel place. You'll love these two girls~we picked this book for our mother-daughter book club several years ago and my son (then 11) was quickly sucked into the story.


    Tween to teen family read-alouds:

    A Redbird Christmas: A Novel by Fannie Flagg—Quirky, captivating, hilarious, and heart-warming, this book features Mr. Oswald T. Campbell who upon hearing that he has only months to live, heads from Chicago to a small town “...deep in the southernmost part of Alabama.” My son finished it in less than a day. I recommend it to everyone. And next year, I think we'll make it a family affair.

    I saw my FIRST red bird this September in Manteo, North Carolina when my husband and I were celebrating our 15 year anniversary. It was magical.

    A Wreath of Snow: A Victorian Christmas Novella by Liz Curtis Higgs—Liz Curtis Higgs does historical fiction so very well and this novella is no exception. A wounded, hurting family and a man desperately seeking forgiveness are thrown together on Christmas Eve, 1894 in Stirling, Scotland. Best enjoyed on a gray and snowy evening with a steaming pot of Scottish Breakfast Tea and a piece of Scottish shortbread (sneak a peak in the back of the book for a recipe).

    A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens~I know nearly everyone has seen the play or watched a version of the movie, but there is something about reading the original.

    “And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well..."
    Be Still...together...happy reading!

    Friday, December 2, 2016

    So, it's December, and I choose hope...{mish-mash and encouraging links}

    Where has the year gone? I sit surrounded by boxes of decorations and ornaments with idea and to-do lists nearly writing themselves in frantic fashion. 'Tis the season! I use this phrase so much (all year round) that my kids make fun of me.

    Can I be honest? I feel like I cannot escape negativity and pessimism pressing in on many sides, from within and without. So, I'll share a few links~there is good stuff happening in the world around us. CNN, MSNBC, and media in general have skewed reality, they do not hold the patent rights on truth, they are not concerned with infusing people with hope or joy or kindness or peace, they are concerned with ratings. The media, the people around us should not dictate our ability to hope.

    Take a moment to watch this short video and read the article about ministry in "The Forgotten Southern City" of Fairfield, Alabama. 


    I saw an interview with the man who created the non-profit "My Block, My Hood, My City"~check out his work and mission in Chicago here


    A shout-out to Toyota for a commercial speaking to what our country so desperately needs. Let's Go Compassion.


    25 days to quiet the crazy of Christmas. Enough said.


    I liked this post that documents the simple and the beautiful from the author's autumn, from food to books to every day life. I walk through this pseudo-scrapbooking-journal process on occasion and it's good for my heart.


    LOVE this quote from Pollyanna:

    "The influence of a beautiful, helpful, hopeful character is contagious, and may revolutionize a whole town . . . People radiate what is in their minds and in their hearts. If a man feels kindly and obliging, his neighbors will feel that way, too, before long. But if he scolds and scowls and criticizes—his neighbors will return scowl for scowl, and add interest!”

    (For an encouraging family movie, I recommend this version of Pollyanna.)

    This season and coming year, I choose hope. I choose joy. I choose to find beauty. I choose kindness, patience, gentleness, and self-control. I choose Jesus.

    *     *     *     *     *

    {Coming soon: This years "wills and will nots" for December AND Christmas book picks. 'Tis the season!}

    Friday, September 16, 2016

    300 days of beauty, days 83-86 {Jenny Lake}

    Oh, how I love our family adventures. Four days by this gorgeous lake~the sweet life.

    She captured a fairy...

    Monday, August 8, 2016

    on the value of re-reading for the refreshment of your soul...

    "No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally--and often far more worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond."  C.S. Lewis

    If C.S. Lewis said it, it must be true. One hardly need convince me that good [fiction] literature feeds the soul and the best books are worth reading again and again. I never leave home without a book at my fingertips or a book recommendation on my tongue.

    Over the years I have found what I call ‘soul books’--kindred spirits that I read yearly, seasonally, and simply when I need a comfort read. Not all books reach this status, but I have quite a few on my list. Books by Robin Jones Gunn, Francine Rivers, Lisa Wingate and Louisa May Alcott to name a few. What I’ve seen over many years of reading and re-reading is backed up by Louisa May Alcott: "Some books are so familiar that reading them is like being home again."

    When I pick up one of these books to read again, I often times expect a sentimental road trip or a brainless read. But instead, I “always find a new book” as C.S. Lewis put it. My life experiences have changed. I am older, a different phase of life, and these books speak to me in a completely different way than when I was a teenager, a college student, young single, young married, young mom, and the life phases parade on.

    For example, take Harry Potter. Not to douse Harry Potter fandom but I hated the fifth book. I felt agitated during the entire book and at the end I was simple ticked off. [Vague spoilers coming in droves]

    Harry was nothing short of angsty, brooding and irritating. I wanted to shake him and say, “Get it together, man!”

    A key (and favorite) character is murdered. I wanted to give J.K. Rowling a piece of my mind, “Lay off the death, and lay off Harry! I’m trying to enjoy reading this book!”

    I re-read the series again about 10 years later with my son. In ten years much had changed for me. I had three kids. I had lost my dad and several other family members in tragic and unexpected circumstances. I had walked through a situation of stinging betrayal unlike I had ever experienced.

    I read through the fifth book of Harry Potter and I cried...often. The characters are in terrifying and uncertain times. Many have died, friendships have been betrayed. And I understand Harry. Losing so much breeds a certain amount of anger and fear that cannot be dismissed with trite words or even personal desire. Instead of shaking him, I think “I get you, Harry. I get you.”

    Even the character who dies in the end affected my heart in a different way. A bit angry, yes, but mostly a sad resignation. I get it, this extreme loss— unfair, senseless, confusing, part of life.

    New to me was my connection to Molly Weasley, the spunky and endearing mom in the book series. Molly Weasley had always been so strong and fearless and determined. In this book, the characters are living in a time of great danger and extreme stress. Although, Molly Weasley is walking with courage and hope, she is not immune to the mounting effects of fear and stress. There is a scene where she is battling a boggart [harmless creatures who take the form of what you most fear]. This boggart becomes, in succession, the corpses of her husband, her children, and Harry, whom she loves as a son. She can’t fight it. Harry finds her sobbing and dispatches the creature. I was sobbing by the end of the scene. I have battled that fear. I have felt completely paralyzed. Watching her I empathize, but also evaluate how I react to my fears and how I deal with stress.

    "In great literature, I become a thousand different men but still remain myself." C.S. Lewis

    And what would a blog post on re-reading popular and classic pieces of literature be without mention of Jane Austen? Not much of anything to be sure. Pride and Prejudice had always topped my list, followed closely by Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion. Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey came next and Emma sat at the bottom. Emma was my most disliked heroine. Flawed. Irritating. Arrogant. Manipulative. "I judge you, Emma. I judge you."

    Life has a way of humbling your soul. In a good way. When I read Emma now, I relate to her. Her flaws breed hope in my heart. Her failings and weakness allow me to examine my own. Her triumphs and ultimate heart change bring tears to my eyes (not totally surprising, I cry a lot…). Her transformation is painful to watch or read, but the reality is that change is painful especially in our own hearts. The hope comes from seeing that transformation is possible. There is nothing encouraging in perfection. As Jane Austen states in a letter to her niece,"Pictures of perfection, as you know, make me sick and wicked."  

    Reading gives me the opportunity to view my life as Ebenezer Scrooge does in A Christmas Carol. A clearer lens, an outside perspective. Re-reading books gives me that same experience, but more so, because I can see how my life has changed. I can trace my change in heart and perspective. I can see where I have erred and where I have triumphed. As C.S. Lewis said, “Literature irrigates the deserts that our lives have become.”

    Our lives need fresh water. Which book will you re-read first?

    Sunday, August 7, 2016

    my love-hate relationship with summer (plus 300 days of beauty, days 65-82)

    summer garden beauty

    I confess, I sometimes feel that I hate summer. I also confess that I wrote most of this over one month ago and then disappeared down the rabbit hole that summer schedules tend to be. I've never like Alice In Wonderland.

    Each year I walk through the same diagnostic state, evaluating why summer is so very challenging. Several reasons: the randomness of summer activities and options, constant people (I do like people, but need time alone too...), and kids who suddenly see unlimited potential in every moment, every day.

    I can be random and spontaneous, but my brain cannot keep track of the amount of outings and appointments that are so far above our normal level. I would consider myself a social introvert—I love people, but need “hermit days” to rest and recharge, which summer does not oblige. And my adorable, wonderful kids, whom I love to death, ask me 50,000 questions before 10 in the morning and have a hard time accepting that fun cannot be 24/7. Real life still exists. I wish Mary Poppins were a real person, but she is not. The house does not clean itself.

    I began the summer ridiculously overwhelmed. Burned out from the year, transitioning to summer—like being on a pot-holed highway and hitting a rocky, washed out dirt road. Now (in a flash) I have arrived in August. And I would say that we have lived in a happy-exhausted-flurried-blur of summer scenes. Family, friends, neighbors, food, laughter, pool days, books, gardens, parks, rivers, walks, hikes, bike rides, iced coffees and ice cream cones.

    We've had good days, hard days and the messy beautiful sprinkled and scattered throughout. I have not settled down to write in this space, but have been capturing beauty in each day through my camera lens and my phone (Instagram is wonderful, but may have killed my blog...). I also have decided to declare the first three week of June “no man's land”; not belonging to spring or summer, a time to plan, rest, and see what we want our summer to be. I realize not everyone has this flexibility. I can choose my summer because we homeschool, others cannot. However, I think a space with no pressure or expectations, even if just for a week is a sweet gift for a weary heart and frenetic pace of life.

    In spite of the layout of my schedule, I've grabbed my moments. Time to be still. Time to savor. Time to breathe. Summer and I have come to a generally peaceful truce. We still have adventures ahead as we plow through August. I'm thankful (and still tired). And I may or may not have been dreaming of winter yesterday...

    Here's snapshots of our summer beauty:

    swim team, swim meets, and pool days
    laughter--meaning she had the grocery store laughing. She has found unique ways to hitch rides in the grocery store since birth. I think I may have finally given up fighting it.
    summer sunsets--I know, right? Breath-taking.
    My kitchen has looked like this...often. Filters make it look almost artistic. There is a beauty in letting go. This is where we were for awhile and it's okay.

    breakfast parfaits and morning devotionals...I do like lazy summer mornings...
    river vistas and time with family...the Missouri River...
    Costco date with my girl who LOVES hotdogs!
    mini-bagels and cream cheese--I kid you not that we have mostly survived on these...devouring bags upon bags and tubs of cream cheese (cooking is at a minimum in the summer)
    lots of reading...we read wherever we go... #ohtheplacesweread
    visits to my hometown to be with family
    when "pop and pizza" place settings look artistic--more than that, this evening was spent with my brother and parents with conversation and laughter (and lots of pizza!)
    when my daughter uses the steam from my coffee to warm her hands in the morning...still makes me smile... "It's SOOO toasty warm!"
    lots of tree-climbing--all of my kids use the trees to have a quiet space for their hearts...
    paddle-boating--laughter and LOTS of geese (geese not shown...;-))
    when Jack and Jill went up a hill...cousin time

    water balloon need for the catcher, D hit nearly EVERY ONE...

    I love windmills.

    Sunday, June 19, 2016

    my dad...[on finding beauty in the broken]


    Today we celebrate Father's Day. My focus is on my husband and how so very thankful I am for how amazing a dad he is to our kids. They have no idea how lucky they are. Next I turn my focus to other men in my life~my brother, my step-dad, uncles, and other "father-figure" men who have loved me, mentored me and built into my life. Thankful.

    My dad is sometimes an afterthought. He has been gone for almost 10 years. Before he passed away, I can remember the internal struggle of buying a Father's Day card. I wanted to mean the words written on the inside. This sounds harsh and unfeeling, but it was reality. I loved my dad very much, but his story was not what is should have been or could have been.

    I wrote the words below last year, but they seemed appropriate for today. Amidst the broken and shattered, God still bestowed beauty...

    We've had a lot of "Mayberry days" recently. For me, this means a simple day, a day spent "sitting on my front porch drinking iced cold Cherry Coke" (or iced tea although I do love Cherry Coke). I love the Rascal Flatts song, I run to it. I love country music (most) and old-fashioned simplicity where progress and productivity are set aside and I read a book while my kids sketch chalk designs on the sidewalk and dance in the front yard. I like the Mayberry ideal. It doesn't hurt that our neighbors down the street have chickens in their backyard--clucks echo off the surrounding houses, birds twitter, a dog barks, and I can almost ignore a siren in the background.
    Mayberry and country things in general also remind me of my dad. Music from Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers and the Oak Ridge Boys were melodies of my childhood soundtrack. We played Elvira at his memorial service. We knew he'd appreciate it. We always laughed at this song and loved the Oak Ridge Boy with the deepest bass voice in the history of the world. No joke! (The video I linked to is quite hilarious, the "boys" are...aged;-)).
    All things cowboy and country bring back those memories...the good ones. Bittersweet is still sweet. I'm no cowgirl. I'm legitimately citified, but I have fond childhood and adult memories of county fairs, state fairs, stock shows, and rodeos. Part of my love is simply the small town America atmosphere felt at county fairs. Life seems simpler, purer, pointing back to my Mayberry ideal. 
    Until I was eight or nine, if you asked me what my dad did for a living, I would have told you without hesitation that he was a cowboy. This was my dad's answer to me when I asked him this question. I was young, and I believed every word. He had the props to back it up. Cowboy hat, countless pairs of cowboy boots, and his twangy country music was gospel. I told kids at school this "fact" and was quickly called a liar, but I held fast in my resolve.
    As much as Old Spice aftershave, these country things bore his essence. I remember him with a smile, a poignant sweetness. I have many very hard and bitter memories. I've even gotten rid of possessions in my house because every time I saw them, I would face a memory I wished long forgotten. The most unsuspecting items would transport me to a scene, like immersing myself in Dumbledore's pensieve.
    But at rodeos and county fairs and on front porches, I can bask in memory of a dad that I haven't seen in a long time. Wheat fields as far as the eye can see bring comfort. I can feel what he was supposed to be, what he was at his best. It's not to say that he was a different man who shed his struggles during these times, it's more symbolic. He was country born and bred. Growing up on a farm in Western Nebraska with three brothers his life brimmed with possibility, talent, charisma and hope. We all make choices, he made his, and it's not how good stories end.
    I know that small-town life does not mean that life is easy. Life is not. But the memories remain pure to me. The antics of boys on a Nebraska farm, the walking up hill both ways to town (he had a car by the way), Coke in glass bottles at the local store...these stories I love. I pair them with my childhood watercolor memories of wearing my white cowgirl hat, accented with a purple feather, as I tagged along with my dad at the stock show, climbing into the back of his car cringing at the country twang, seeing his many pairs of boots lined up on the floor in my parents' bedroom (proof of his profession), and pots of his famous "ranch-hand" chili simmering on the stove.

    Several years ago, I went to a rodeo with my in-laws. It was there I realized the sweetness of these memories. But as with mourning, something sweet can be a double-edged sword. I often don't think about my dad, I can avoid it. But good memories bring back the sting of loss. What could've been but wasn't. And suddenly I missed him painfully. I couldn't keep back the tears. I wanted to stay because the memories were good, but at the same time I just wanted to escape because I could do nothing to change the reality that my dad was gone.  I loved it and I hated it.
    In spite of the loss, I'm thankful for these memories. I still love county fairs. I'm not quite sure how I feel about attending rodeos, sometimes it's easier to love them from a distance. Country music I now love for me and not just because of my dad, something we share. I don't know that my kids love country music, but it will be in their childhood soundtrack also. And this makes me smile.
    And I'm thankful for my Mayberry days, where life feels peaceful and simple even if just for an afternoon.