(more) baby steps.

My friend Dickie posted this quote on her blog yesterday and I had one of those YES! moments reading it, because this so clearly sums up the intentions that Drew and I have set for this year, for our life.  Well, the simple things with a dash of glitter, that is.

“Learn to like what doesn’t cost much. Learn to like reading, conversation, music. Learn to like plain food, plain service, plain cooking. Learn to like fields, trees, brooks, hiking, rowing, climbing hills. Learn to like people, even though some of them may be different… different from you. Learn to like to work and enjoy the satisfaction of doing your job as well as it can be done. Learn to like the songs of birds, the companionship of dogs. Learn to like gardening, puttering around the house and fixing things. Learn to like the sunrise and sunset and the beating of rain on the roof and windows, and the gentle fall of snow on a winter’s day. Learn to keep your wants simple and refuse to be controlled by the likes and dislikes of others.”

-Lowell Bennion

That last line especially resonates with me.  I’m on a serious life-is-short kick right now, and must admit that my answer for everything these days is, “Life is short! Why would I/we…” This is not entirely all fun and games, it’s also motivating me to get my booty to the gym and eat mindfully and clean up a little more etc because life is short! Why would I live in a space I’m not proud of? Why would I neglect my health? Why would I jeopardize even one single ‘extra’ day with my son way on down the road?  So you know it’s not all vats of butter and sleeping in and disco balls, but there’s a little of that too.  I just really want to do this human experience well, to suck the marrow out of life, to cry over those bird songs and laugh about spilling the milk, to have 100 pictures of Asher’s eyelashes (check) and aqua walls (check) and tread lightly but dance hard.  I’m working on it.  I’m learning.

People of Charlottesville Project

I have been having a little lovefest with our fair city of late.  There are so many working minds and hearts here, so many people looking to not only make a difference, but to explore and expand, to ameliorate (couldn’t resist, sorry), to make creative experiences common, and common experiences creative.  2011 seems to have brought even more of these folks into my life, and all I can say is I am feeling motivated to keep making discoveries of my own to take a modest stab at keeping pace with everyone.

One of these projects is something that my new photographer friend has cooked up and dubbed The People of Charlottesville Project to capture the faces and stories of the members of our community, and she graciously shared her talent and lens with me last week.  Sarah is a phenomenal photographer, able to seamlessly blend the emotional and the playful, and to capture not only the moment, but the core essence of the moment.  If you’re in town, I highly recommend checking her out, this is a lens and eye that you won’t regret standing in front of.  AND…this month she’s running a Love The One Your With special and offering $100 off portrait sessions!  I encourage you to think outside of the ol love box here and consider a photo shoot with your pets, your favorite local spot, your best friend, your big sister…if you can dream it, she can capture it, so just give it some thought, and then check out Sarah’s blog here and give her a shout.

So without further ado, but with a little blush, here a couple of pictures from our session.  Thank you Sarah!

***Really quick aside: Sarah didn’t pose me at any point during this session, I grabbed the stool and got all lean-y on it. Maybe I see a professional photographer and instantly revert back to the school picture days with my Blossom hat and fist under the chin pose, but as I was just looking at this, I thought I better clarify that you’re looking at 100% Walton moves there.***

3.

A few glimpses of just some of the things that make children so cool:

This is our sweet little friend Austin shredding the slopes during our last snow.  Apparently they bundled him up, took him out, and he passed out as soon as they started pulling him around.  This makes me want to write a little love letter to winter and apologize for all of the mean things that I’ve been so thoughtlessly saying about it lately; without winter we would miss iconic moments like this one and the word “cozy” would only apply to something you cover your teapot with.  Sorry Winter, next hot chocolate’s on me, ok?

And not to be outdone, here is Asher, the little box head:(Are your knees twitching a little looking at that picture?  Snips, snails and puppydog tails?  I think not.  Little boys are clearly made of playdough.)

And while this is not my child, or one of his friends, here’s another darling picture to share with you:

This is a little lady named Nella, daughter of blogger, photographer, and mother, Kelle Hampton.  It was just about one year ago that Nella was born and revealed that she has what Kelle calls magically enhanced chromosomes, and what the lay person would call Down Syndrome.  I can’t remember how I found Kelle’s blog, Enjoying the Small Things, but I’ve been reading it for about a year now and I am always so moved by her photography, her grit, her zeal, and her desire to turn just about every minute of her life into a celebration.  In honor of Nella’s first birthday, Kelle and her family have set up a fund called Nella’s ONEder Fund to support the National Society for Down Syndrome (NDSS).  What I love about this, is that Kelle has asked everyone to contribute a little, $5 or $10, to help raise awareness and support for the 400,000 people with Down Syndrome.  And folks, it’s working!  Over the last week, through the support of her readers, Kelle has raised over $40,000 mostly through these small donations and I wanted to give you the opportunity to contribute a couple of bucks (the cost of a latte/magazine/3 pm snack) to this incredible cause, and feel the power of being a part of a whole lot of little that adds up to something really big.

As Kelle said, “The mission of the NDSS is to create a culture that fully accepts and includes individuals with Down syndrome.  Let me say that more clearly. The mission of the NDSS is to create a culture that fully accepts and includes our little girl. Our Nella.” Well, that got me.  Read Kelle’s full post here.

Click here if you would like to make a contribution to Nella’s ONEder Fund, and please feel free to share this on Facebook, Tweetytwiterrer, or anywhere else!

And if you have an extra moment and want to read one of the best pieces of no-holds-barred, honest, and inspiring writing about a birth story, click here to read about the day that Nella was born.  If you have ever given birth, I especially recommend reading this.  Just grab some tissues before you head over there.

So that’s all for today.  Aren’t children magical little beings? 

Abundance, part 2

Ok, so I talked about the sentimental side of this season yesterday, but today kids, it’s time to talk stuff.  Good stuff.  Great gifts.  So with that in mind, here are a few books that I thought you might like to have in your life too.

BOOKS!  And lots of them!  Exclamation Points All Around!  I’m still having trouble with my computer battery, so rather than spend its precious life with downloading pictures from my camera and editing/uploading/whatever, we’re relying the lovely Miss Interwebs for this tour or covers and pages.

1. It is Folly to Assume that My Awesome Lies Dormant, by The Mincing Mockingbird.
This is a book of paintings of birds, which is in and of itself interesting enough.  However, each painting comes with a clever, irreverent, and seriously fantastic caption that has left Drew and I in stitches for days.  The paintings are emotive and lovely, and the captions…well, let’s just take a look, shall we?

This is a particular favorite of ours:

My Modus Operandi is Dial Up the Awesome and Break off the Knob.

Except that it’s a whole book of these.  Hilarious.  Beautiful.

2. Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters’ Guide to Shooting from the Heart, by Tracey Clark et al.

I have been wanting this book from the second that I first saw it. This is a mostly non-technical book with tips and motivational words about the importance of photographing from somewhere other than your brain, which definitely speaks to me.  If you’re looking for a hard hitting instructional guide to photography, I don’t think this will be your cup of tea, but man do I love it!  While I will never be a professional photographer, and my skill set leaves plenty to be desired, I do love finding myself behind a camera, and this book is the perfect motivation to keep foraging ahead and look for the emotion in a picture, not just the subject.

3. Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor, by Peter Reinhart
Be warned, this book will make you salivate and want to stop what you’re doing and get thee to the kitchen.  What’s cool about this book is that Peter Reinhart takes a very scientific, but easily accessibly approach to baking wholesome bread that he promises is a far cry from the dense whole grain loaves that we’re used to.  Doubly cool? He lives in NC now, and features a number of bakers from the Asheville area, including the wonderful baker who gifted us bread for our wedding.  I am incredibly excited about getting elbow deep into the recipes of this book and promise to share my progress.

5. Crafting a Meaningful Home, by Meg Mateo Hasco
No lies, I got really excited flipping through this book.  It’s emphasis is not just on making lovely little things for your home, but about capturing the memories and heritage of a family (well I mean, your family, not just any family) for your house.  I cannot wait to get cracking on these projects, and just looking at the pages makes my fingers start to twitch a little.

6. Come Back, Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parish
I cracked up when I opened this lovely hardcover book from my mother-in-law.  Oh Amelia Bedelia, you and I still have so much unfinished business together. I am not lying when say that I had (and have lost?) almost the entire collection of Amelia Bedelia books.  I can’t wait to start fresh and share her antics with our little ones.

7. Lotta Jansdotter: Simple Sewing: Patterns and How To for 24 Fresh and Easy Projects, by Lotta Jansdotter and Meiko Arquillos
This book makes contemporary sewing seem like a snap.  I’ll let you know how I fare, and if you’re not familiar with Lotta Jansdotter, I highly recommend checking out her other books, and especially seeking out her textiles.  Seriously beautiful, simple designs that make me feel all cozy inside.

8. New and Selected Poems: Volume Two, by Mary Oliver

I learned poetry, like so many others, from Mary Oliver’s pen.  Every single one of my writing teachers has turned to her seemingly infinite understanding of the world and the written word (and the relationship between the two) to help shape our feeble attempts at what is so clearly her craft.  The very first thing that I remember giving Drew was her storied and often printed poem, Wild Geese, which I made into a little book with pictures of us in a futile effort to assert his, our, place in the “family of things”.  In this collection, I have already found so many gems, the kinds of lines that make you want to drop everything and see what the grass has been up to for the last couple of hours.  She is the kind of writer that you just know has been responsible for the emotional education of the world, and I am delighted to return to her again.

Ok, ok, that’s a lot of books and I find it hard to believe that anyone has stuck with this post this long, so I think I’ll stop there for now.  Just in case there’s still one or two of you out there still reading, I wanted to share one last thing, my most sentimental gift this Christmas…
A  sterling silver necklace with Asher’s fingerprint pressed into it.  I know that this picture doesn’t really do it justice, so here’s a picture from designer Tina Steinberg’s site:I LOVE this necklace, I love having Asher’s little fingerprint right there where I can reach up and touch it, and I think that this is such a cool twist on all of the “mommy jewelry” that’s out there right now.  That kid, his little tiny fingerprint, his perfect being, hanging around my neck in all of the most wonderful senses of that phrase.

Ok, so that’s that.  Abundance. Joy. Reading. Making. Lucky Duck.

**I didn’t include any online links to the books because it’s time for me to go to sleep, and also because your local bookshop, the one that is counting its beans right now and hoping to make it through the winter, that one, really wants your business.**

Holly Jolly

I was thinking this morning about holiday planning stuff and realized that I need to get on the ball in a pretty major way.  So this is where I launch into full-on confession mode.  Well no, what I’m actually launching into is full-on-awknowledging-that-I-am-as-cheesy-as-you-already-know-that-I-am mode.  Does that make any sense?  Lemme ‘splain.

I have been in semi-denial for years that I actually love a lot of stuff that us young folks are supposed to be too cool for.  I read crafty blogs like it’s my job, I love glitter, I love good thick paper, I love holiday decorations, I love (most) Christmas Carols, I love spending my time thinking about cupcakes and slip covers and organizational bins, and tiny clothespins, and coordinating nurseries and whatever else goes on to this list of domestic cheese.  And while working and being a mama and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life does not currently allow me to be the domestic diva that I aspire to be, rest assured that the life that I’m living in my mind always smells like baked apples and is outlined with the loveliest of felt tipped pens.  So with that in mind, here we go…

It’s Holiday Card Time, friends.  I am not making our cards this year as I have sometimes done, because…well.  You know.  I’m just not.  So I’m ordering them from Shutterfly, and I thought that today I would take you on a brief tour of what the fine folks at Shutterfly are offering for all of our holiday paper eye candy needs…

Cards:

Gift Tags:

And my personal favorite…Stickers!

But this is really just the tip of the iceberg.  They also make great photo books and calendars and pretty much anything else that you think about sticking a picture to and sharing as a gift.  And guess what?  Bloggers get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly! Sign up here: http://bit.ly/sfly2010

So that’s the gist, thank you Shutterfly, and thank you friends for putting up with me, my cheesiness, and this shameless commerce promotion!

Weekend

Notice anything funny about these pictures?  No?  How about…there’s no baby.  Anywhere in sight.  Neat trick, huh?  A big thank you to my kind parents for keeping Asher on Saturday so that Drew and I could head over to The Festy, a freshly minted local music festival, for a few cold adult beverages and some live music.  We had a great time soaking up the afternoon, and while I wouldn’t trade Asher for anything on the planet, it was kind of great to be off duty for the afternoon and to be together.  Drew and I both make an effort to make sure that the other is getting time to do adult things that don’t involve a diaper bag and cherios, but we so rarely get that time together.  He gets football nights with the fellas, I get date nights with the ladies, but we’re still figuring out how to swing that time together.  Anyway, thanks to Mom and Skip, we did it this weekend, and it was so nice.  And by the way, I would totally marry that guy, he’s a great date.  (Photos by Tom Daly.  Check him out, you will like him.  That’s a promise.)

Reading List!

Of late, most of my reading has revolved around pages that have some kind of touch and feel aspect to them, and instead of reading quietly to myself, I can be heard doing an incredibly convincing impression of a baby duck or most impressively, a horse.  Yeeeeeeaaaah.  So, I am really excited to announce that my aunt Vicki’s newest book, The Day of Small Things, is hot off the presses and in the delighted hands of readers everywhere!  And while you’re welcome to read this out loud making all kinds of funny noises, I’m looking forward to the depths of my cozy covers, a good reading lamp, and the promise of another one of her remarkable stories.  That is, if I can steal it away from Asher…he tells me that I’m am really in for a good read.

What: The Day of Small Things by Vicki Lane
Buy your copy here (or better yet, at your local book seller!)
Follow Vicki’s fantastic daily blog here
Learn about Vicki’s other books here

Like sands through the hourglass…

I’ve been thinking a lot about  moments.  I love being human and alive and I love all of the unkowns that come with and from that, and I especially love what I consider to be the knowns.  I feel rife with memories and words, and I just want to always keep the feeling of my collective moments all around me like that oversized sweater that we each reach for on that really cold day.  Really, I think that we all know that I’m just over the moon for my nostalgia.

So are these folks.  Here’s a Friday treat from a group called Everynone.  The film is called Moments, and pardon the pun, but I think that you’ll enjoy taking a moment of your own to watch. (slightly annoying, but you have to click the link to watch…totally worth it!)

Moments from Everynone on Vimeo.

10 things to be happy about…

Leslie over at Five to Nine posted 10 things that she’s happy about today and asked a couple of fellow bloggers to do the same.  I try to keep a gratitude journal where I jot down a couple of things that I am thankful for every day, but I have been slacking a little of late, so this is a great kick in the knee to get started again.  Ok, so  here goes:

1. I am wearing a spring dress that I got with my mom recently which makes me thankful for three things: fun with my mom, this amazing warm weather, and bright spring patterns.

2. My mother-in-law, Jo Ellen, is on a plane to come visit today.  Her visit makes me happy, but more importantly, it makes me happy that I have a MIL that I love and whose visits I look forward to.  I won’t name any names, but I have a couple of friends who cannot say as much, and it’s just such a drag for them to have to navigate that tricky relationship.

3. Drew and Asher are at home together today.  I have a husband that volunteered for childcare on the days that he’s not at the hospital which is just so cool.  It makes me happy that I just talked to them and Drew said that he and Asher were doing the dishes and then they were going for a walk.  Dad and son.

4. This is a little long winded, but I listened to NPR this morning on my way to work and as I was listening to reports on Nigeria and Palestine (not in the same report, for those keeping tabs), I looked around at our beautiful Spring weather and I won’t lie…I felt happy to be safe in this country.  America has quite a lot of room for improvement, but at least our food wasn’t smuggled to us across a border through a tunnel that could be bombed at any moment.

5. I am enrolled in a writing class on Monday nights and absolutely everything about this makes me deeply happy.

6. I transplanted peonies last summer and after being sure that they weren’t going to make it, they are thriving this year!  I go out every evening and check on their progress.  I can’t wait for those heavy blooms to emerge…

7. Honestly, I’m happy that Leslie asked me to do this.  My aunt Vicki keeps a blog, and while in North Carolina this past weekend, she and I both commented on how cool it is that blogging has brought so many people from around the world into our lives.

8. We are sleeping with the windows wide open which makes me think that I’m getting a better night’s sleep.  I did not grow up in an air conditioned house, so we knew it was really Spring once the windows were pushed open and the sounds of the night floated through our dreams.

9. Chocolate.  Chocolate always always always makes me happy.  The darker and more fragrant, the better.

10. This picture says it all:

Crocus.

Our local NPR station, WMRA, ran a little segment yesterday asking people to send in crocus sightings.  This gave me a literal shiver, thinking about how thrilled I am at just even seeing the smallest spec of blooming color on our otherwise snow and mud laden landscape.  The pictures above are borrowed from Creative Commons; I hunted around our yard this morning for some of those handsome little blooms and sadly came up empty handed.  The day lilies are starting to press their shoots up, and I have seem some delicate crocus stalks tentatively easing into this soggy winter weather, but no blooms…yet.  You know how you’re not supposed to go to the grocery hungry?  I think if I even glanced at a nursery right now we’d be paying the debt down for many winters to come.  Sweet lady Spring, where art thou?

I like the idea of hunting for flowers, I’ll make sure to post when the first blooms show up!

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