Wild Flowers

 

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Perspective is a powerful thing.

I remember riding the train through southern Italy, snaking along the glittering Mediterranean and gliding past yellow and wheat colored stucco houses. I was lost in thought, captivated by how beautiful it all was. I had expected to be disappointed by Italy, as people and places don’t often meet up to our expectations after years of building them up in our minds. But Italy was perfect…perfectly modern mixed with all the old charm and personality the pictures had me imagine.

So I was surprised, offended even, when I heard a fellow American on the train proclaim loudly, “look at all these crappy houses…how do people live this way?”

I’m sorry? I’d sell all my American everything to live in one of those “crappy” houses—just ask Darren, I’ve tried ;] It’s true, the paint was peeling, the stucco was chipped and cracked, and the whole place looked a bit wild with clothes lines strewn between houses. But I felt magic there and I’ve never been able to shake Italy off; the clothes lines and sunshine and window boxes crept right down into my soul and I’ve tried ever since to sprinkle some of that Italian magic into the way I live here at home.

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One traveler saw only brokenness and decay; I saw charm and beauty—that day at least. Our perspectives were different and so our whole experience of that place turned out differently.

I thought about all this the other day when I was looking at our rather ragged yard. With building our house, we’ve had to level and landscape our lawn. All our grass was scrapped off and all winter our house sat in a sea of brown and mud. I bought what New Englanders call “mud boots” to walk from our house to the car because it was so messy and mucky and our feet were always sinking in the dirty sludge. Last winter was the first time I’ve hoped for cold temperatures to freeze the ground and snow to cover all that brown.

So imagine my delight at all the green in our yard this summer—yes, most of that green is weeds, some of it weeds nearly as tall as me—but it’s green. I’m sure our wild, unruly lawn looks like nothing but a disaster to the neighbors around us with nicely manicured lawns, and you know, grass. But to me, our yard is lovely and I’m so happy to look out our windows at green…green weeds, green grass, I care not.

I tend to like the wild flowers best, far more than store-bought roses or houseplants. I like the way wild flowers poke up with the weeds—sometimes they are the weeds. There’s something a little bit daring and rebellious about Queen Ann’s Lace, don’t you think? The way she stands alone in a field or along the road outshining every well-tended garden flower she meets.

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My mom told me once in a card, “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.” And ever since reading that, I’ve tried to remember how much my own perspective colors the world around me. Will I be the traveler who sees brokenness or beauty in a place different from my own? Will I be the mom who can see the joy in a sticky toddler or the one who resents the frustration and restraints of parenting? Will I appreciate all the magic fluttering past me each day in the sunshine and wild flowers growing free among the weeds?

It’s up to me, the way I see my life and the world around me. Sometimes I let darkness settle over me and it’s no surprise in those moments that the whole world looks dark and bleak. But when I focus on the light, I see the light.

Perspective is a powerful thing, after all.

Québec City: A Photo Journal

We slipped away to Quebec City to celebrate our anniversary. I think of Canada and Canadians as cousins and neighbors, so I was surprised with how completely French Quebec is. Everything felt very foreign and we, very lost. But what’s the fun of travel and adventures if you don’t feel a little lost and foreign every now and then?

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We’re learning that however long a road trip should take, it will most certainly take longer with a toddler. Sometimes you have to pull the car over and let wild things be wild. After a good long run through the grass and a proper sward fight with sticks, our wild one was ready to complete his first trip in another country.

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We arrived in the evening and spent an hour getting the room set up for Roman to sleep in a new place without burning anything down ;] I sat in the living room watching Darren on the baby monitor lying on the floor on a mattress with Roman tucked into him falling asleep. It had been a long day driving 10 hours from home. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, having spent our anniversary with a rowdy toddler in the backseat screaming off and on the entire trip.

And then I watched my husband being the amazing father that he is; watched him snuggle our son close in his arms until he felt safe enough to fall asleep in a new place. And I realized that this is what marriage and parenting are all about—about road trips made longer and louder by little ones but more magical and memorable because of them too. About learning to love each other and find ways to celebrate and seek adventure even when it might be easier to just stay home. I lucked out on the boys in my life, no doubt about it.

I’m usually well prepared for our trips but Quebec surprised me at every turn.  It was cold, much colder than I ever imagined a place could be in July. I wore my one long-sleeved shirt every day and drank hot coffee as much for the comfort of drinking it as having the hot cup to warm my hands.

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Our first day in the city, we pushed Roman in his stroller, not realizing that Quebec is basically all uphill and every shop entrance has steps up into it…we got a good workout and Roman got a sweet ride :] The next day we smartened up and hauled Roman around in a backpack carrier instead—still a workout but a little more manageable on hilly cobblestone streets :]

The giant toy moose, or “foof”, travels with us everywhere :]

I love walking cities and feeling the culture of the people living and playing out before me in the sound of foreign language and the smell of food and coffee and cigarette smoke a little different from our own. Quebec was full of inspiration in the architecture and the way small, simple spaces were made even more beautiful by plants, flower boxes, and bright pops of color.

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We walked around eating crepes and getting lost on streets that seemed to wind endlessly one into the other.

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donutAnd of course no trip to Canada is complete without about 37 trips to Tim Hortons :] We ended each day back at the apartment with a pastry and a hot cup of coffee—which is quite hard to order when you don’t speak French; we were surprised every day with what kind of coffee we ended up with but it was always good :] It was a fun trip and a sweet little getaway with my two favorite boys ❤

Look Up

We just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary, Darren and I. We sat trying to decide how to celebrate. All either of us wanted was to get away for a few days—away from work, and house remodeling, and life’s routine. We talked about Quebec City or Acadia or Niagara Falls. And we talked about fresh air, and crisp river water, and camp fires beneath the stars. And that’s when we decided camping would be the very best celebration this year. So we packed, and goodness, I’m amazed how much stuff it takes for us Americans to sleep on the ground properly. This was Roman’s first time camping in a tent and it takes as much stuff for one baby as it does for 8 adults I think. You should have seen our car, loaded down with tent, and pack n play, and bike rack, and a million other things to help nature out with our high maintenance ways. And then we were off, up to Vermont, to the woods and river and biking trails—up away from work and routine and all that wears us down these days. The sky was playing games and just starting to spit rain when we arrived. We moved fast, taunting nature back, and got our tent up just before the heavy rain came. We stay huddled together in our tent that evening watching Roman run from one end of the small space to the other. We made sandwiches for dinner and went to bed as soon as it was dark, listening to the sound of the rain beating against our little shelter all night long like a song. setup DSC_0468 We woke to a cool, foggy morning. We and everything else felt damp but how good it was to wake up with the sun and our baby boy snuggled between us on the floor. A crackling campfire was built and soon red potatoes and kale were cooking for breakfast. DSC_0330 I like the pace of nature and our pace in nature when we work with instead of against the morning light, and dew, and cool air wrapping around us before the heat of the day comes and pushes us back inside. So we took our time that morning, tasting our breakfast not just eating it. We took sauntering walks and breezy bike rides and looked at each other, not past to the next item of business. DSC_0763bikecarrierDSC_0815 DSC_0817 We filled our hearts, and lungs, and minds with all the good thing of nature and quiet time together. We held hands and held our son and snuggled close together around campfires at night. DSC_0436 One night, our last night, I walked back to our tent alone in the dark. I thought about the sweet days we had enjoyed and was sad to see them ending. I tried to soak up everything around me one last time–the smell of the woods, sound of the river, feel of the night air wrapping around me—and the stars, I thought—don’t forget to look up at the stars one last time for they look nothing like this back home with all the other lights hiding them. So I looked up at the night sky and all the millions and billions of tiny light freckles poking through from heaven to earth. How enchanting the night sky is and how mysterious. When I got back to the tent, Darren traded watching Roman with me and started to walk the dark path himself. I told him, “Don’t forget to look up” —and off he went with eyes to the sky. I watched him walk away and heard those words echo back to me in my head— “Don’t forget to look up.” momandrome DSC_0417 Don’t forget to look up. I have thought about that phrase many times over the last two weeks since camping. I’ve thought about it when the waves of life have washed our feet out from under us and brought us humbly to our knees. I’ve thought about those words when I’ve grown overwhelmed or discouraged and can’t find my way. Don’t forget to look up—not just to the stars, but to the God who made the stars. Look up to the God whose light shines through to us, not just in a million freckled bits of light but in our hearts and lives every day. Look up to the God who is present and in control and loves us even when we think perhaps he has forgotten. Don’t forget to look up—first, always, to the God who is there in every bit of light in the world, for he and he alone is The Light of the world. Look up.

Equinox

Look at me writing a post two days in a row…who knew I had it in me ;]

It’s spring today everybody! Not that the weather agrees here in New England but I’ll take the end of winter either way. I decided to celebrate by wearing a springy little sundress…and am compensating for the cold with a cardigan, long socks, and riding boots so I don’t freeze to death. I can at least pretend spring is here even if freezing in a sundress is a poor way to do it.

I wore this dress in Italy when we explored Naples, the Amalfi Coast, and Pompeii by foot and train. That was a magical day in a magical country and this bright little dress always reminds me of those sweet, warm memories.

Today, on the first day of spring, I’m dreaming of the Italian sun, of lemon groves and street vendors selling bright flowers, and of taking a long walk in the sunshine…either here or there, anywhere so long as I’m warm :]

catKatniss is helping me celebrate…all snuggled up in my lap while I write this post.

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Walking the streets of Pompeii in my little sundress

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Flowers for sale on the streets in France

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A sunshiny day on the Adriactic

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Birds sunbathing in Croatia

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Poppies growing up out of the rocks in France; I think they love they sun as much as I do.

Happy spring, everyone :]

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Look a Little Harder

We just spent a week in the Tennessee mountains. Darren was turning 30 and as he has been saying such things to me as “the buttresses of his soul are collapsing” and “his youth is now a distant memory”….I thought maybe he could use a week away in the woods to soothe his sorrow as he faces this new decade of life ;] It worked too.

We spent most of the time tucked away in our cabin but we ventured out for a couple hours each day and wandered through the different shops in town. Then on our last day we decided to drive up into the woods and see what was hiding beyond the edge of town; it was worth the trip.

Just a few minutes out of town and we started noticing the distinct frost line running around the mountain tops and leaving everything capped in white.

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We drove up and up the mountain trying to get a better look.

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And soon the frosted trees looked more like fluffy billows of whipped-cream clouds than anything tethered to the brown winter earth.

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And we learned that sometimes you need to look a little harder to find the places where magic is hidden and winter is sleeping quietly on the snow-kissed mountain tops.

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{18 weeks pregnant and feeling a bit like a mountain myself}

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.

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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.

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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.

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{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.

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{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.

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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.

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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.

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{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 :]

Then & Now

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

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This year {above}

Last year {below}

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This year {above}

Last year {below}

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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.

Memories of Mexico

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I spent a couple different weeks in Mexico when I was a teenager. I was going through a box of photos the other day and came across some of the pictures taken while I was there. Back then I took all my pictures with one of those disposable cameras with film. I was crazy about cameras and pictures and I remember driving my mom crazy when I had film to develop. I would ask her every day if I could take it to the store to develop and then I would ask her every.single.day. if the pictures were ready to pick up. She’s a profoundly patient woman :]

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These first two pictures were taken when I was 16. Though the quality is not very good, these photos bring back a world of memories. Everything from how sweet these kids were—always on our heels wanting to play and have their picture taken, to the way the air smelled up in the humid mountains of Mexico. I remember the meal a group of women made over an open fire in a kitchen with a dirt floor…I was afraid to eat it at first but it tasted so fresh and good. I remember sleeping on a cot on the ground and being woken up by a very loud rooster every morning.

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The rest of these pictures were taken in a different part of Mexico when I was 18. Again, the kids were the best part of the trip. Darren pointed out to me that all these kids would be in their late teens or early twenties by now, older than I was when I took these…amazing.

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Exploring the streets with my best friend :]

I’m so glad we have photos to capture the present and take us back to the past. I had all but forgotten about these trips and now they are alive in my heart again.

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.

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

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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.

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

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

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

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I caught these sneaky little ninjas poking around my tent…

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

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

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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

London, England

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Our very last stop in Europe was London. We were excited. Darren had been to London before and wanted to show me around. They speak English {obviously} so we figured it would be easier to know what was going on. We had navigated our way all over Italy by train so we figured England would be easy.

And yet…the minute we walked through customs and stepped into England, we were lost and confused. Let me just say that England English is not always very much like American English and the difference in our accents made understanding each other downright comical sometimes. We still had lots of fun though.

We had to blitz London because we were only there with a few hours between flights so we decided to see all the big sites in central London and took off on the train for Big Ben.

The train ended up being my favorite part because of the people watching. London was so dramatically different from Italy, especially on the trains. Italy was loud and hot and busting at the seams. London was cool and rainy and so, so quiet. Everyone was dressed for work and man did they look sharp. They all wore black like they knew something I didn’t and every one of them looked like James Bond with an umbrella. No kidding. Like James Bond with ear buds and a book. It was impressive.

I felt so underdressed and I’m pretty sure I was the only person in all of England wearing flip-flops that day in the cold rain. People even had coats on. Coats! In June! But I didn’t mind the cold or the rain because it gave me an excuse to get a proper hot English tea and I just don’t think I could have come home satisfied otherwise.

The people at the tea place laughed at me because {a} I probably sounded like a hick {b} I was wearing flip-flops {c} I didn’t know the answer to any of their many questions about what kind of tea I wanted. What do you mean what kind of tea do I want? I want the kind you put in hot water. So they pointed to an elaborate collection of tea varieties and I’m like, errr, Earl Grey, yep that sounds familiar. {d} There was a lot of confusion about how to put milk in my tea…I know that doesn’t sound complicated, but seriously {e} The tea bag went on the fritz and all the loose leaf stuff started getting in the water and I was panicking and Darren was laughing.

It was exhausting.

But yummy :]

Anywayyyyyyy….here’s what we saw.

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London bridges falling down…nah, just kidding, they didn’t fall down.

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Parliament

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Westminster Abbey…which I keep wanting to call Downton Abbey…but it’s not.

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The London Eye

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The Tower of London and some fancy pants building in the background

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Look at the set up for tea in our hotel room! I pocketed all the tea bags as a souvenir and Darren was like, did you steal all of that from the hotel room? And I was like, yes…no…yes…leave me alone, it’s mine.

And that kids, was London and the completion of our little European adventure. Now I want to go back…forever…and live under a lemon tree in Italy…but Darren says I can’t…men, marriage…sigh.

If you missed any of the earlier posts in this series about Europe, you can still read them here:

Barcelona, Spain

Marseilles, France

Florence & Pisa

Rome, Italy

Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast

Taormina, Sicily

Dubrovnik, Croatia {Former Yugoslavia}

Venice, Italy