Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming!

Guys, its been a while. I’ve been, well, in a weird place…

Today, as I was starting to put together a picture book of moments from the year for Elias’ Christmas present, I realized just how little I’ve picked up my camera in the last 6 months. Then I came to this blog and realized I haven’t posted ANYTHING (anything!?!)  in almost 6 months. That’s a little, um, telling. I can’t fully explain where my head has been without going into pages and pages of formal discourse. I guess the best way to describe it would be to say I haven’t been as focused on the outside world  and instead turned that lens to explore myself… If that all sounds a little nebulous, that’s because it is! It has been a beautiful process, however a daunting one at that. (Remember when I wrote this post? Yeah, that was sort of the beginning…)

But I’m OK. I’m here! I’m happy! I just wanted you to know! I surely don’t have anything more figured out than I did before. I can’t even speculate when the next time I’ll update this blog will be, or if I will be returning to regularly posting. I do know though that I am on a journey. Striving to constantly grow, learn, and connect with myself so I can connect with my loved ones and the world around me. Hopefully that will involve grabbing my camera to capture more moments as they come about. To keep track of time in this way that is permanent and shared.

Hopefully soon.

For now I’ll say Merry Christmas and share some pictures of the last month or so. (If you’ve talked to me recently you might know I’ve been more “Bah-Humbug” about the holiday this year. Not at the moment though. Sufjan Stevens Christmas music. Hot Chocolate. Pictures of my family. Warm slippers. Sleepy house. Sigh.)

 

“Keeping track of time, doing this kind of personal accounting, gives things context; it marks the passing of time not unlike the demarcation school enforced, where time was punctuated by semesters and summer breaks. When you mark time in chunks, you can name it– “Its fall,” “I’m in my 40’s,” we’re in the “aughts”. Shared vocabulary has value because there can be a conversation. Being aware of time allows for both an objectivity and a shared experience that weren’t there before.

What you actively spend time on, and (far more difficult) what you choose not to do, who you choose to not spend your time with, and who and what you decide to say no to– what you choose, then– is how you mark time.

And that is all there is.”

Liz Danzico via Brain Pickings

 

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset photophoto (20) - Copy Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with x1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset photo (22) - Copy Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

 

A Gift From the Sea: Simplicity

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Do you see those buildings in the picture above waaaaaaaaaaay off in the distance? They sort of look like a continuation of the water… See them? Okay. That’s where we chose NOT to go this time for vacation: The place where there are people.

When we were kids my mom and dad would pack my sister and I up in the family minivan and drive the 14 hours it takes to get to the gorgeous waters of Destin, Florida. Twenty years ago, few people knew of the magnificent beauty of the white sand beaches, clear water, and beach-front properties. Well, maybe not few people, but a lot few-er than nowadays. Currently in June or July Destin looks a lot less like a beach haven and a lot more like a beach version of daycare. This was something we learned when my family returned two years ago. So. Many. People. Gone were the vacant days spent lounging uninterrupted on the sand. The oh-so-anticipated feeling of being left alone to play in and stare at the ends of the earth- that feeling I faintly understood as a kid and cherish as an adult– not available anymore in a one-day drive.

Or at least I thought.

As July approached, my summer quickly fading, I talked my sister, Jenn, into taking some sort of trip with me to get away. We didn’t know where we could travel on our shoe-string budgets, until the idea of beach camping was floated to me by my husband. Huh, beach camping? My first thoughts (fears):

Heat.

Mosquitoes.

Sand (everywhere).

The biggest thing I kept thinking though was that “roughing it” never came to mind when I thought about Florida. All those years of going to Destin we had stayed in ridiculous high-rise condos equipped with fresh towels, amazing views of the ocean, seashell decors which in any other setting would be cheesy, full kitchens, and always too many mirrors placed along the walls. (Who wants/needs all those mirrors?). Maybe that is why so many people go to Destin, now. I’ll admit experiencing the lost-feeling you have at the beach in tangent with ton of luxury sort of appeals to a certain aspect of day-in and day-out self.

But the more I thought about it the more I realized that roughing it was exactly what I needed. And, air conditioning be damned, I needed to go without constant comfort for a few days to clear my head after kind of being in a weird place for a while. I recently read a quote that I felt summed it up pretty quickly:

“In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.” —Albert Camus

So we did. We packed up all of our camping gear and enough clothes and swim gear for 5 days and left the world behind for a little while.

It was glorious.

Our campsite was in a state park called Topsail Hill Reserve. It is close in proximity to Destin, but not too close; about 20 miles away. The land is full of pure white sand dunes and pine trees and campsites of people from all over the country who set up shop in tents and RV’s. (And for a minute let me get off-topic to talk about those RV’s: holy crap. Decked out with all sorts of wonderments to make them feel Just Like Home. Read: Tiki lights wrapped around the perimeter of your campsite are a thing.)  So, I guess there were some people around, but far fewer than what I was used to. Just the right amount of people that you don’t feel lonely.

The trip took us one full day of driving there and one day back, a luxury of leaving your little world behind all on its own. Podcasts, good conversations, naps, music– these are the things that I wish I had more time for. Making yourself sit for 14 hours to do nothing but let your mind trail off, well that’s a good primer for beach-living.

The first thing we did when we arrived was set up camp, but after I talked a very travel-weary Jenn into it, we walked the .7 miles it took to get from the campsite to the beach (don’t worry- there were trams to take us there during the day) in pitch blackness to the sound of a chorus of frogs. I’m pretty sure we both let out a collective sigh when, after all that traveling, we reached our destination, laid our heads on the sand, and looked up.

Stars. All of them the world can possibly see. I wanted to settle in that sand and never close my eyes, never leave. Something about seeing the enormity of all those stars and hearing the sound of the waves crash into the shore helps rest the mind and remind one of one’s insignificance in the world.

With that as a starting point, the remainder of the vacation I let my mind rest and wander.  I started and finished probably the best book I’ve read in a long time, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s A Gift From the Sea. The premise: she likens different parts of life to seashells while on a beach getaway from her husband and five kids in the 50’s. Lord Almighty. Talk about perfect timing. The week before while perusing through a very cute bookstore with a friend, I told her about our plans to go beach camping. She insisted right away that I needed the book. She was right.

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

Upon reading the first chapter I came across these words:

I want to give and take from my children and husband, to share with friends and community, to carry out my obligations to man and the world, as an artist, as a citizen. But I want first of all- in fact, as an end to these other desires- to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can.

Okay, yeah. I won’t go into depth as to how it spoke to this existential place I’ve been as of late, or what that existential place has been like– I did a fairly good job of describing that in my last post. -I will only say that I am entirely certain that I will start buying copies of this book and hand them out as presents for my friends for birthdays and Christmas and such. Maybe tell them to save it until they get to the beach so it can be completely appropriate. (GET READY FRIENDS)

Oh, and as a side-note, I later found that a really great bookstore in Seaside, Sundog Books, appreciates the book as much as I do. So much so that they dedicated a parking space to its readers:

photo 3 (2)

When I didn’t have my nose in that book I spent a lot of time just watching and taking things in. Camping was also quite an experience. Most of its charm rested on the simplicity of it all.  The only true luxuries I brought with me was bug spray and a blow up mattress (back pain, people) . The remainder of our at-home amenities, though, were intentionally left at home. Its interesting, as a 20-something I would spend a good portion of my summers sleeping under the stars or with only a backpack as my gear for a week in the mountains. This was much, much different– we had an electrical hookup and showers close by– but the effect was the same. How very quickly one starts to realize when spending several days in the open air just how much one can do without. So much of my life is spent in a distracted haze– worrying about all the little things that add up to one big thing:  Appointments, self-imposed work deadlines, dates, friend outings, daycare, being sure that my son is learning at the correct (and maybe advanced) pace. None of that has much to do with furthering my inward self. I thought for quite a while about how modern life offers a certain sort of severance:  “This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that wise men warn us of. It leads not to unification but to fragmentation. It does not bring grace; it destroys the soul.”  (And yeah, that’s from the before mentioned book)

camp

So the majority of our trip was spent reading, collecting seashells, driving up and down 30A, swimming, eating whatever we had purchased at Walmart the night before, chatting up travelers, and just simply being; taking in our surroundings. It will be one of those times/places I hold in my mind as a remembrance; a simple woman enjoying simple time with her truest friend.

Ugh, can I go back already? Well, not now at least. But I can take with me the few lessons I learned and try to enjoy a resemblance of simple living every once and a while.

But now back to air conditioning (and pictures).

image

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

photo 5 (2)

photo 2 (3)

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f3 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f3 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f3 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

You wanna get better

 

 

 

This may look a lot like you someday.  Actually, it will look exactly like you, but maybe in a less parodied way.

Ten, fifteen years ago you dreamed about your profession. You dreamed about helping others figure themselves out. How to stumble through their own situations and come out better. You chose the profession because you were a “good listener” and you had a sense of intuition that lead you through most situations to come out on top. You gave good advice to your friends in breakup situations. You knew you would do well because you rarely really struggled – possibly due to a myriad of reasons: Your blonde hair and slight frame or outgoing personality or the wealth your parents afforded you or country of origin or decent education or that your parents are still together or knack for avoiding uncomfortable challenges that you knew you wouldn’t look good trying so you didn’t try.

At this point you have put 10 years into your profession of helping others stumble through their situations and (try to) “fully realize” themselves, but you are left pondering that you don’t really know if you are anywhere close to realizing yourself.

You may have a small child- something only three years ago you were “sure” you were ready for, (obviously understanding the work it takes to raise another human being because you saw a few of your friends go through the process, and you were near the ever-present Thirty-Year-Old mark), but now you know better. You may have just come out of the sleepless fog of parenting your first baby fully understanding after going up that hill how quickly “it all goes” because you have seen time slip so fast with someone much smaller and more precious than yourself. You conclude that time will continue to go at light speed from this point out, however illogical you thought it was that adults used to say this happens before you experienced it yourself. You now believe that time does in, in fact, speed up. Left with that thought, you are not so sure with the quarter of your adult life that you have given if you’ve ran the race that you intended to.

Late at night you will have insomnia- at times you think you might be going crazy. But then you won’t feel as bad because you get on Twitter in those wee hours and see that your friends are also posting content that you know are thinly-veiled attempts at relieving anxiety at 2am. In those late moments you’ll think about God; your lack of closeness with “Him,” and how when you were in your twenties, you never thought you would wonder so much about his existence. You felt so clearly back then that He was, at least in the way you grew up understanding Him, the “I Am”. Now you’re starting to think there is more to that statement than a church could ever teach you. In fact, you haven’t gone to church in many months, and it’s convenient that you can blame it on your toddler who hasn’t liked the children’s classroom from the onset of stepping in it when your friends ask, “What church do you go to?”

You might realize in those late moments that thinking and feeling are two completely different things, which you never really grasped or thought of before now.  So much of your time up to this point has been spent either feeling your way through life or trying to not feel. You did not know that thinking actually tempers feeling and that neither is very helpful if relied on by itself. There is this balance to it all with the desired outcome to simply just be.

You have spent a lot of time wondering recently if there is an acceptable way out of the life you have built for yourself. You may have done a few things to grasp that, knowing full well, however, that this is the life you planned for and aimed for and should be thankful for. You are frustrated with yourself that you have attained your goals, but that you are not sure you want all of those versions of your goals anymore. They shifted over time at such a snail’s pace that you didn’t recognize the movement until you hit your mark.

You start to read books. Ones that you haven’t thought about since they were possibly assigned or recommended to you by your college professor who said you had a “talent” for philosophy when you were a freshman in college. (He tried to get you to switch from your more practical major but you stayed the course of the financially responsible planner you were who knew you’d never get a job as a philosophy major). You start to write poetry in those late night insomnia sessions. In kind, you start reading poetry when you didn’t give a damn about it before. You drink too much wine too often in social situations or as you lie on the couch alone to “loosen” yourself. You understand that this, and the other ways you have tried to let go, are just ways out of the anxiety and worries that you now face but you have to do what you can to get through the days and the moments.

Late at night all those years ago, in a camp bunk-bed, you listened to cheesy Christian music in your Discman player. You pictured who you wanted to marry, figuring that 19 was a very good age to start considering such things. You had no idea that you had just met your future husband. That he, who you were fantasizing having children with, would be the one you now sleep next to and pee in front of and remind over and over again to do the dishes and love in that comfortable “I-know-everything-about-you” sort of way.

If you could talk to that 19 year old starry eyed girl, you would tell her to not rush so fast through her upcoming relationship or to wish so much to be married as a twenty-two year old. Twenty-two is impossibly young for such decisions to be made. You would tell her to go study abroad or move somewhere else even though she would be in-love a few months later and would insist it wasn’t something she wanted anymore. You would tell her to take more risks and to not take herself so seriously because the next 10 years would be for exploration and understanding and mistakes. You would tell her to make lots of mistakes, for there would be no room for them later, knowing that she is more of a dreamer than she realizes. You would tell her to let him go a little when he will eventually need to.  “He will always come back,” you’ll say, and you will be right.

But you have no ability to do that and spend too much time thinking those thoughts. Recently you have started to ruminate and possibly, just a little bit, you are understanding more the deeper elements of life and love and letting go. That you have a choice to see beauty in the mundane everyday tasks that face you day in and day out, and how even that existence is actually connecting you with yourself, the “I Am,” and others if you look at it in the right way. Maybe it’s through those books you are reading and all the late nights sitting up challenging yourself to actually work through you. You took a trip recently to rid your mind of the cobwebs and push your boundaries and it helped. You have figured out that when you take long walks or get enough sleep or travel or take some time to listen to more of that same band you’re in love with lately that you are more creative, attentive, and present– able to face the self that you wish you were a little more cheerily. You recognize that you are getting closer to that self every day just by merely letting go of her more often. You’ve sat and looked at sunsets for longer than you previously thought was reasonable. You are confident that at eight o’clock on a Tuesday night the top of the parking garage downtown is going to be barren because you have been there so many times now. You’ve taken chances in small ways and big ways that haven’t worked out, and you’ve even felt pretty awkward and embarrassed about some of those moments, but know that in the act of putting yourself out there that you are winning. You have opened your eyes to love deeply, and have fallen in love a little more.

You know that it was, and always is, a mistake to think you can “fix” people in your profession- and even though you would never admit out loud that you believed you could do that, if you were honest you would say you at least hoped you were fixing them. You understand more now that people don’t need to be fixed or even guided, but given a hand to hold along uneven paths. You fantasize that tomorrow at work you will grab all of the teenagers and lost parents who want a little bit of encouragement and take them up on that stage to sing along with you as you all collectively work out your problems.

You want to, and are going to try to, do that same thing you now see in front of you and can relate to so freely: Sing into the contrast light screaming on the overpass that you want to get carried away…

You wanna get better.

Travel Days // KC & Indianapolis

HOUGHTON FAMILY VACATION SUCKASSSS!

Okay, maybe it hasn’t been that exciting (I mean, we are traveling with a 20 month old so we’re not talking luxurious beach vacation here) but it was pretty great to be away for a week.

Let me take you through it…

The trip started early for me when Jenn and I left to help our cousin, Taylore, out with setting up her wedding in Kansas City last Saturday. It was horribly hot and tiring to work outside for two days straight, but the wedding went off without a hitch and it was beautiful. I highly recommend getting married at an orchard, people. There are ducks. There are apples. There are  beautiful houses with comfortable furniture that you can stay in.

The morning following the wedding Elias, Jeff and I woke up before dawn to start traveling to Indianapolis to meet up with Jeff’s family– all 18 of us — for the week. It was going to take about 7 hours, and we don’t have A/C in our car (a very tragic long story there, but I’ll spare it), so we wanted to get to Indy before it got too hot. Well, plans be dammed, we ended up getting a flat tire around 7am. It sort of turned me into a crazy person right away. I had received little sleep the night before (thrashing toddler in bed with us in a hot room) and had endured two days of manual labor outside in the summer sun to set up this wedding. 15 hours in the hot car later, I could have killed people.

The next day though turned out to be wonderful, and each day thereafter were a series of little gifts. Huzzah! Bad travel day redeemed! First of all, Elias enjoyed being around his cousins so much that I thought a permanent smile had been plastered on his face. Hugging everyone.Clapping. Blowing kisses. Dancing. Playing kindly with the other kids. There is something about seeing the world through a child’s eyes– everything is a new endeavor, which brings out playfulness and a sense of insight. Good things, I think.

The second part of the trip which I really enjoyed was  just exploring the city. Indy has a bike share program so it was incredibly easy to navigate and get through. This leads me to another unrelated point: I love cities. I like being outside and the country all of that, but there is something about the energy of a city that gets me going. It feels like possibility.

Requirements to make a city “cool” (and how Indy fit the bill):

  1. Plethora of pretentious coffee shops. They do, in fact, have the best coffee.
  2. Local music scene or ability to access good shows. -I attempted to catch a show on my own but ended up getting there late (family walk turned into an Entire Evening Event) and I had a hard time finding the venue. Also, as my family and I were walking along the canal one night we caught the beginning of an outdoor O.A.R. show. That was fun.
  3. Local shopping spots; like record stores (found a great one), vintage shops, local book stores, some sort of artisan snack shop (Indy has a POPCORN shop. Didn’t visit it, but oh-my. Popcorn!) , etc.
  4. Some way to be a pedestrian in the city- Indy has a canal, a bike trail through downtown, and the Monon. Good stuff.
  5. Groups of people with skin pigment that isn’t the same as mine. Note: doesn’t exist here.
  6.  Tall buildings. I love looking up. Again: possibilities.
  7. Art everywhere.
  8. Good landscaping. Strange requirement, but I love me a well landscaped space.
  9. Someone special to share it with (sometimes– sometimes I need some room to explore).

Finally, though, it was nice to be with family. Assuredly there were a few times I was slightly out of it and a bit detached– I think all in all I’ve been pretty exhausted from everyday life lately– but everyone being together was pretty wonderful. Jeff’s family = wonderful, kind, intelligent, caring people.

So to add it to the record- I enjoyed myself. Thanks, world, for some blessed time away.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset photo Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetimage (28)Processed with VSCOcam with x1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with a5 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetimage (30)Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with b5 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with hb2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetimage (37)image (20)Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetimage (15)Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with m6 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

20/52 // In my head

P1110088

“A portrait of my son once a week, every week, in 2014″

I’m sorry I called you a baby Asshole yesterday, Elias. It wasn’t to your face, so you actually have no idea it happened, but I’m sorry regardless.  I said it with a glass of wine in my hand and a whole lot of expletives to back it up when I went to meet my girls’ book club group for craft night. (insert laughing/crying face here). You kind of deserved those adjectives, though. And don’t get me wrong, I love you dearly; extremely, in fact. Seriously though, crying and throwing fits for an hour straight while I exhaustively try to entertain you or get you what you need/want/don’t really want but THINK you want was awful. Two nights in a row, too. Once Jeff got home from work last night I just broke down and cried.

People are right when they say that a baby brings you more joy than any other experience in your life– its more than true, its truth. But lately you’ve been giving me a lot of “i’d like to pull my hair out” moments with the temper tantrums over NOTHING.

Summer is coming, Elias. The kids are gone from school, I’m working my extra hours after they leave getting things ready for next fall. Its hot outside. You played with the hose watering the dirt and the fence for a good while yesterday. With summer brings time to contemplate things in life, too. I’ve been reading more, thinking more– most of the time I’m running from place to place thinking more about how my hair looks and if I remembered to put the wet clothes in the dryer than the ins and outs of life and if I’m living it to the fullest. I’m pretty sure that most of the time I’m not, which disappoints me. I’m not sure how to do more though. I’m going to work on that. For us.

Rambling. Apologies. You’re not a baby asshole though.