The Perfect Date

Here we are, about to make the leap from two to three—from you and me to mom and dad. We’re soaking up the time we have left together before life is forever changed. Last night I asked you what your idea of a perfect date would be—you talked about the ocean and the water, about the beach and boats—and if you could really truly do anything…a few days away in the Caribbean. You asked me the same—what the perfect date would be. I talked about camping under the stars, sitting by the fire at night, biking, hiking, and tubing—that would be the perfect date for me.

We can’t go far from home right now—not with this baby ready to come whenever he pleases. So there will be no Caribbean vacations or nights in a tent under the stars—not right now at least.

But today we found a way to spend time together—outside, on the water…combining what bits and pieces we could of our ideal date ideas. We rented a canoe and took off together down the river—soaking up the sun and the breeze and the stillness of the water—and more than anything, the time together away from everything else.

PicMonkey Summer CollagePanorama 1PicMonkey Collage Row

Water Panorama

Baby Belly Crop

Food Collage

Ice cream and lemonade from the corner store. Burgers and fries from our favorite burger stand. And homemade strawberry limeades when we were sunburnt and ready to call it a day—I would call it a perfect day, a perfect date, and a perfect day with you.

Kiss Monkey B&WIn a few days we celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary—just two days before our baby is due. Thank you darling, for the best six years of my life. It won’t always be just me and you but you—you will always be my favorite.

Us Monkey B&W

 

Overflowing.

I haven’t thought a thing about resolutions this year because I feel there is nothing in the whole world I could possibly want right now. I feel full to the brim and overflowing. I feel like my heart will burst and to want anything more than what I already have is just plain greedy.

2013 was a bright, beautiful year for me and Darren. Not every year is of course. Actually, the last two or three years before it have been pretty tiring and blah and perhaps that is part of why this past year stood out as such a happy one for us.

Sometimes I’m afraid to talk about the good things in my life—the things I’m most thankful for—because I don’t want to sound like a braggart or someone who has absolutely everything. No one I know enjoys being around someone like that so instead I tend to focus on the hard things in order to be real and relatable, in order to let others know that our lives aren’t perfect and we do truly understand what others are going through. But right now I feel that not being thankful and mentioning the good things would be the exact opposite of real and relatable—we have much to be thankful for and to pretend otherwise would be a little dishonest.

DSC_0532 crop

Before this year, I had gotten to a place where I knew certain things in my life needed to change but I couldn’t see any end in sight to the way things were. It was quite depressing, actually—struggling through each day as it rolled in exactly the same as the one before and wondering if there would ever be any way out. I was exhausted and lonely and struggling along but didn’t know how to make any real changes. I felt like the way things were was just exactly how they had to be and how they would always remain.

I started reading about the children of Israel wandering through the wilderness, hoping I would find something to encourage and carry me through what felt like a private wilderness experience. I felt parched, dried up and alone in the desert.

But this year some light broke through and things started to change. I know that real change needs to be internal not circumstantial. But sometimes when you’re drowning, all you really need is to be pulled to shore before you sink completely. This year anchored me and pulled my head above water—it feels really good to breathe again.

DSC_0530

First of all, in April Darren and I bought an old colonial house needing a little love. The most important thing about this house is its location—in the country, close to the woods, wrapped around by trees. Both Darren and I grew up in the country and I don’t think either of us realized how much we would miss the land and the woods. We’ve lived in town ever since we moved to Massachusetts five years ago but have been hoping ever since then that we would be able to buy a home of our own in the country.

DSC_0376

{Wild flowers Darren picked for me in our new yard}

I grew up in a place that was a little bit magical—though I didn’t know it at the time. In the country, in the woods, close to the land…that is where I was shaped and made into who I am. I left the woods behind and took off as fast as I could for Massachusetts and all the excitement of the coast and the cities out east. I like it here in New England; it’s a lovely place to live.

But I miss the woods. I miss the wheat fields—the golden stalks turned pink and orange in the late afternoon sun. I miss the vastness, the endless rolling hills of crops. I miss the grass and dirt beneath my bare feet. I miss the rhythm of life lived close to the land. I miss having enough time and attention to notice the palette of colors used by the sun in painting the earth awake and asleep each day. I miss how bright and clear the stars were over the fields at night, unobstructed by the lights down here, enchanted by the lights up there.

All these things got into my blood and my soul, and though I left them behind, they won’t leave me alone. I can’t find my place, my peace, my sense of balance without them.

I don’t know that I’ll ever make it back to the plains or the prairies where I’m from but I’ve known for a long time now that I absolutely must find my way back to the woods. And this shabby colonial of ours is just exactly what we’ve needed to do that.

Knowing that soon our days spent sharing a duplex and yard right on the road will end and we’ll be able to settle into our first single family home with our own private back yard is just about too much…I. Am. So. Excited. and so, so thankful. When I get frustrated and discouraged about where we are I’m encouraged by knowing there’s end in sight and soon we’ll be back in the woods where we belong.

DSC_0560

DSC_0558

{Still waters found on a walk through the woods near our new house}

Here we will have a place to plant a garden and a yard to walk around in. We’ll be able to raise our kids close to the land which is so very important to both of us. We’ll be able to see the stars at night and watch the sun cast its brilliant rays across the fields at sunset. I think we’ll both breathe again and feel like we’re really living the way we’re meant to, just the way our souls were put together and intended to get along. It’s a huge gift and I’m so thankful.

House Grid

In June we went to Europe—Europe! This was not just a fancy vacation for us—it was a giant adventure we had both hoped for since our teens. We wanted to see the world, experience different cultures and see what people so different from us are like.

From Spain to France, Italy to Croatia and on to England we were able journey and explore. We rode trains and ferries and shared a taxi with strangers from other countries. We jumped in the Mediterranean and Adriatic and wound in a bus up the Amalfi Coast past lemon groves and rooftop gardens.

We walked and walked…through Pompeii, Sicily, Venice, Marseilles, Rome…on and on until we collapsed in bed each night…exhausted but happy.

We drank the best coffee in Barcelona and ate scrumptious pizza while we sat on the curb waiting for the train in Pisa. We found that people all over the world are kind and friendly and willing to help when you are lost and confused and don’t speak the language.

It was magic and I’ll never ever forget what it felt like to be lost and found at the same time stomping around the globe and seeing the world with my own two eyes.

Europe Grid

Finally, in the fall my sneaking suspicion that a baby was on the way was confirmed. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to stay home and raise a family. Though I’ve enjoyed the years I’ve spent working outside the home and am thankful for the skills and experience I’ve gained, I’ve always looked forward to the day when I could wholly focus on raising a family instead.

Maybe some people will think less of me for choosing housework and a baby on my hip over a career at a growing company—that’s fine—we don’t all have to be the same or want the same things. I want to stay home, cook meals from my garden, and raise a houseful of munchkins and I’m thankful we’re finally on the road to starting a family of our own.

I’m sure there will be days when I wonder what on earth I was thinking and will wish for high heels and the office. But ultimately, I know my heart and soul are most settled at home—this is the place where I’m most gifted and centered and I’m ready to make the trade for this new life—however difficult and exhausting it may sometimes be.

Travels Grid

{Moments from our year}

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace

He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 & 11

I’m thankful for a year of much-needed change that helped refresh our spirits and renew our focus. I’m thankful too that life is all about seasons and that nothing is forever. I’ve enjoyed this season of our lives and look forward to the seasons to come. Thank you for sharing the past year with us; I’m looking forward to sharing this new year with you too :]

Fleeting.

The sunsets here in New England have been stunning lately. During the day the sky is a crisp, clear cobalt blue. Then as the sun slips down in the evening it paints everything in shades of pink, orange, and gold. For a few fleeting minutes the whole world from land to sky is on fire with brilliant color. The leaves are gold and blushing. The sky is gold and blushing. And we are gold and blushing standing in the same brilliant light.

DSC_0199

100_2256

I chase the sun and the light around with my camera trying to capture and tame them in my lens but they’re rebellious and always run ahead of me. The sun and the light are not meant to be captured or tamed, just soaked up and enjoyed instead.

The other day I was at the beach at sunset and the sky was showing off again. I had to catch it. It was too pretty not to hold onto. I was with my brother and his family but I just took off running for the sun and left them without explanation standing on the beach. I held tight to my camera and ran across the sand, crossed the road holding up traffic, down the sidewalk to the end of the houses and out to a clearing where I could get an unobstructed view. But the sun wouldn’t obey. The colors were perfect—and gone before I could rein them in and save them to show you.

DSC_0151

So I walked back up the sidewalks, back across the street, and back through the sand to the water. When I came in view my nephew came running and pulled me along by the arm saying I must see what he’s done. I must see the hole he dug. He was digging for gold, you know, and his work must be reviewed. He ran ahead of me on the beach and I followed his little footprints in the sand.

DSC_0157

I praised the hole he had dug that was now filling with water. And I thought—this moment, these babies, those little footprints in the sand, a tug on my arm to come see what he’s done—all this is just as fleeting and perfect as the ever-changing sun.

DSC_0049

DSC_0053

1375975_10151851378171072_1779867856_n

Then & Now

Sometimes it feels like everything has changed. Sometimes you look back and realize nothing has changed at all.

DSC_0366

DSC_0363

This year {above}

Last year {below}

DSC06406

DSC_0457

This year {above}

Last year {below}

DSC06416

DSC_0427

DSC_0384

DSC_0526

DSC_0467

DSC_0527

DSC_0530

DSC_0563

DSC_0390

DSC_0562

DSC_0567

DSC_0568

DSC_0576

DSC_0546

We chase the sun across the waves.

We taste the salt water kisses on our lips.

Summer won’t get away from us, not today.

I Fell Asleep Under the Stars

We pack our things and run away to wide open spaces. We zip along from Massachusetts to Vermont. The people grow fewer and the trees multiply in number and variety and I always think it looks like God poured a packet of mixed seeds along the landscape and now trees and wild flowers pop up in colorful abundance.

DSC_0594

We set up camp and sleep outdoors and it feels good to be close to the earth.

DSC_0837

DSC_0835

DSC_0742

We sit under the trees and the sky and breathe in the outside air. The campfire smoke swirls around in our lungs and we are alive in this wild, outdoor space.

DSC_0710

We gather around campfires and relax in the warmth of the mesmerizing flames.

DSC_0900

DSC_0821

DSC_0815

We swim in the cold mountain water and tip toe along the river bed filling our pockets with river glass.

DSC_0877

DSC_0878

DSC_0861

DSC_0787

We ride bikes and stretch our legs and souls—shaking off the dust of life lived away from the woods.

DSC_0853

DSC_0857

I caught these sneaky little ninjas poking around my tent…

DSC_0715

DSC_0718

…And I couldn’t seem to shake the little savages….but as it turns out—I really, really love them.

DSC_0806

God kissed the sky and it blushed pink at his touch.

DSC_0730

And the sun set on our outdoor adventure for one more year and we all fell asleep under the starlit sky that seemed poked through with the light from another world.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Thoreau, Walden Pond

Happy Birthday, America

A brief intermission from the Europe posts to say—Happy Birthday, America.

DSC_0386

Yesterday, we took the train to Boston to see the fireworks light up the city.

DSC_0388

You hang a ribbon with a prayer written on it…many, many prayers for Boston in these days.

DSC_0390

DSC_0392

A burger and fries for dinner at Cheers….because what is more American than a burger and fries…from Cheers?

DSC_0402

And then we found our place by the Charles River and listened to the Boston Pops playing live in the background.

DSC_0414

DSC_0410

And we laughed at all the perfectly normal grownups dressed in their crazy patriotic outfits :]

And then….

DSC_0467

DSC_0470

DSC_0506

The sky lit up over the Charles River and the music soared around us and I was happy to be home, happy to be a part of this place, and happy to wish America a very happy birthday.

Life Lately.

DSC_0219

Two of my dearest friends came to visit for the week.

DSC_0233

DSC_0235

We talked and laughed and explored the streets together and were reminded why we have loved each other so much from the start

DSC_0216

Who couldn’t love a friend with penguin socks?

DSC_0221

We ransacked the dessert section in my favorite Italian coffee shop

DSC_0251

DSC_0254

DSC_0256

DSC_0280

And explored all the beautiful streets and corners of some of my favorite towns. I could take a picture of every perfect little piece of New England architecture

DSC_0269

And perfect little bird houses too

DSC_0202

DSC_0203

The other day after exploring my favorite bookstore I came home with lots of old maps, a book printed on a letterpress with raised words you can feel when you run your fingers over the page, a stunning book of American poetry with a bunch of my favorite authors all wrapped up between the same two covers, and a little bitty book of Shakespeare too :]

The trees are blushing crimson in the warm light of spring

DSC_0094

And the sunshine is warming everything up

DSC_0098

DSC07191

And these two are warming my heart up :]

To Fresh Woods and Pastures New

Yesterday, Darren and I closed on our new home. And by new I mean new as soon as we rebuild it kind of new ;]

We bought a little Colonial built back in 1860—you know, the year Abraham Lincoln was elected President and the Pony Express was still delivering the mail. So yes, she is old and she is a fixer-upper. But we love all the old New England charm about her and even though I’m certain we don’t yet fully know what we’ve gotten ourselves into, we are excited and thankful for this new road we’re on.

I was starting to feel like we had looked at every piece of real estate in the whole entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts and there was nothing for us. But here we are. Now we own an old Colonial in a quaint little New England town. We have a big yard and woods behind and before us—I can’t explain how much the yard and woods mean to me. I have a nice sunny spot picked out to plant my first garden and we are within walking distance to the lake where we can swim and canoe. There’s a nice flat road for riding bikes and my very favorite book store is just a few miles away. I’m really, really thankful.

Please remind me of these pretty words come the middle of this project because I will probably be threatening to burn the whole place down once I’m covered in paint and sheetrock dust. I’m moody like that. Oh, and I give up easily so this should go really well ;]

Seriously though, I’m excited about preserving this old house that has seen so much and adding our own lives and memories to her walls. I’m excited about walking out into the yard and working in the garden, excited about jumping in the lake, excited about watching the trees blossom and the leaves fall as we work away on making this very old house our home.

I’m thankful that old things can be made new and that so much of what’s broken can be fixed…not only in old houses, but in our lives too.

Here she is. I call her Abigail. Don’t judge her–she needs a touch of lipstick and rouge–most ladies do, you know.

DSC_0128

And the view…

DSC_0131

“And so you sign a mortgage but also body and soul, spouse and children over to an idea that will soon become a joy and a burden, a black hole that devours every molecule of your time, money, and spirit. Yet even when you discover that the only thing keeping the place from blowing away is the weight of the mouse droppings in the attic, you wouldn’t have it any other way. If this is the case, you might be one of those old-house people, a peculiar kind of maniac who is one part ability, one part inventiveness, two parts determination, three parts romanticism, and six parts damn foolishness.”  {George Nash from Renovating Old Houses}

I think maybe we fit the part? ;]

“Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new.” {John Milton}

Behind the Clouds

On Thursday a winter storm rolled in. Winter weather is always disappointing this time of year when our hearts are set on spring. Apparently Mother Nature does not care if she’s a heartbreaker and was happy to shower us with snow and cold.

We couldn’t get our car up the hill we live on with all the snow on the road so we ended up abandoning it in a parking lot a mile from our house. Darren and I walked the rest of the way home at midnight with the snow still coming down. We were a sight with Darren wearing my fur-lined hood and each of us wearing one of his gloves. We were also carrying a box of ice cream because, snow or not, you don’t want to leave a perfectly good box of ice cream behind.

The next morning we grabbed a shovel and loaded backpacks up with rock salt hoping we would be able to get the car out of the snow. We bundled up and began marching back down the road to the car. We took about five steps before we started falling on our butts. Darren was walking along and fell flat on his bum. I try to be supportive so I laughed at him. He fell two or three more times and I started telling him he would have to walk alone if he was going to be so embarrassing and then I fell right flat on my bum too; that’s what you get for running your mouth and teasing. Every time one of us would get up the other would fall down and we slipped and slid the whole way down the road. It was very funny really, and there is nothing you can do but laugh at yourself in a moment like that.

We made it to the car and were happy to see it hadn’t been towed; we were very worried about that. But it was very, very buried in snow. Honestly, you could hardly even see it in the snow drift. Darren started shoveling it out and I started cleaning it off but the snow was coming down so hard that all my work was covered right back up. We got in the car dripping wet with melting snow and after a couple tries, we were back on the road.

When the wind and the snow are blowing in your face and the whole world seems buried beneath a veil of grey and white, you can’t imagine that the snow will ever melt or the sun will ever shine. But we woke the next day to a clear blue sky and mild spring temperatures.

It is just like Robert Frost said in his poem:

“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”
From the poem Two Tramps in Mud Time

The warm temperatures quickly melted the snow off the roads and Darren and I actually went for another walk the next day—only this time it was for the pleasure of the warm air and sunshine and neither of us fell down. I kept looking at the cobalt sky and I was a little amazed that it had actually been there all along, only hidden behind the clouds and the snow. The blue sky never exactly went away; it was only veiled by the weather.

Life is like that too, I suppose. Life gets stormy and we fall down and it’s hard to imagine that the sun ever shone or will ever shine again. But it does. The clouds clear, we get back up, and the sun continues to shine. Even though we could not see it, the sun never stopped shining and the blue sky never failed. Our vision was veiled but nothing was ever really lost to the storms and clouds.

I’m trying to remember this, that the sky is always blue…right behind the clouds.

DSC06321

A Winter Wonderland

Eleven inches of snow fell flake by flake into our yard last night. We woke up this morning to a winter wonderland. We tried and tried to get out of the drive, but alas, we are stuck. Since we are snowed in and I have nothing better to do, I decided to treck out into the snow for some pictures.

DSC07138

DSC07157

DSC07129“Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast

In a field I looked into going past,

And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,

But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

 From Desert Places By Robert FrostDSC07147{The bird house is wearing a snow cap}DSC07154

DSC07127{Today is the perfect day to put your feet up and watch the world go by}DSC07185{I’m going to sip some coffee and finish reading The Hobbit}DSC07187{Katniss thinks he should be sipping coffee too}

Are you snowed in too? :]