Can beauty save the world?

Now THIS is a book I want to read. I am so intrigued by the title alone and the concept is something I have been thinking about for months now. Not really that EXACT concept (saving the world and all) but mainly that art, in a variety of its forms, and the dignity of beauty for beauty’s sake are slowing dying in our Western culture, being replaced by stoic ideologies and political blah, blah, blah. I have been thinking tons about education since….another drum roll….we are sending the boy back to school again this year (more about that later) and as Matt and I have been considering the environment which he will spend a good portion of his day (another topic I have LOTS of opinions on) we have researched school after school. The one we are sending him to has a strong focus on nurturing the arts and literature in little kids while most schools these days are freaking out that our kids are failing math and science. “We’re behind China for the love of GOD!” We also only speak one language by and large so sorry, researchers, we’re behind on languages too.

I’ve been thinking a bit how science is not separate from art and math is an art in itself rather than a series of absolutes that must be memorized and regurgitated in order to make it into a good college. I have a lot of great talks with Naomi about college and education and the empire it’s become. We shed sad tears that apprenticeships are a thing of the past. But there is just something about the arts that cause us to ponder, to ruminate (one of my favorite words), to create solutions for difficult problems and there’s a place where we experience the dynamics of faith in the presence of the arts. Faith isn’t just a set of ‘things’ that you do or that we are, it’s beauty, fluid and graceful. It’s profound and transforming and because we are all so wildly unique, faith really is swooning with beauty.

Lately I have been too worried about how my kids are going to turn out based on the education I will provide for them (homeschool, private, public) and it’s just driving me crazy.  Even my own life has been wrought with stress because I feel such a pull towards justice and it’s killing my insides to think of all that things to be done alongside with everything I’m not able to do right now, or will ever be able to do. But there is something calming about fixing the worlds problems through civility and creativity, through beauty. Yes, I believe it but I am trying to slow down and live like it’s true.

If anyone has already read this then I would love to hear a review.

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Rose

There are a number of people that I miss back in Madison and every now and again they come to mind. Some have made such a lasting impression that, even if I never see them again, I think I might just be changed forever by knowing them. We lived with some great friends for a season, had our kids all around the same time and even went to South Africa together (for different reasons but that’s not important). Tonight I was looking through some old photos of my baby shower back in Madison when I was pregnant with Sylvie and I came across this shot of my friend Rose.

 

She didn’t know the person was taking it and that’s what I love even more. It really shows her personality, I think. It might not even be a side of her that everyone sees but I’ve always noticed a depth in Rose. She taught me a lot about hospitality and she is one of the few friends I had in Madison that would stop by my house because she was driving by and thought of me. For some reason I really enjoy that. I love it when people just stop by because they were in the area and thought they’d like to hang out at my place, with me, for a little bit. It’s like they are comfortable enough with to come over even though so many people live these lives of solitude and likely don’t want to be bothered by ‘drop ins’. Maybe that’s what everyone assumes and never decide to stop by someone’s house anymore. I don’t know. All I know is I love it when people drop in unexpected. Usually I offer them tea or something to eat if they do come around. Something I learned from my hospitable Asian and African friends. Always offer something and don’t worry about the time.

 

Rose was there when my son was born….I mean she was there! There! I had Matt and Rose with me. Why did I want her there? I don’t know all the reasons. She’s just special to me. She has a calming effect and I wanted that. I trust her with my life. I love Rose dearly and I actually miss her stopping by my house. She always brought chocolate and she knew which type I liked. If she saw it at the store she’d pick it up for me to give later. I’ve also seen her mature over the years. She use to be more shy but over the years I’ve a strong dignity develop in her and I can’t wait to see the lucky bastard who is going to have the blessing of a lifetime with her.

 

When Oliver was only a few months old Matt went out of town on some sort of outreach. The friends we lived with were all gone with him and I got a bit freaked out for some reason being in the house by myself with only my son. I called her up and said, “I’m a bit lonely and this house is empty, Rose.” She didn’t even pause. She just said, “Why don’t you come over and spend the night, OK?” I arrived to find she had given me and Oliver her bed and made up the couch for herself. Classy lady. I think I’ve always had a place in her heart and because of being there when my son was born he’s always been very special to her too. Anyone who thinks Oliver is amazing is amazing to me. She use to call him Little Man.

 

Time seems to make memories more meaningful but you have to fight to remember them. They get a bit foggy and less colourful over the years. If you retell them they sort of live again and the meaning deepens. So tonight I’m just remembering Rose.

 

 

Cars

I was speaking with a friend today about our move to Hilltop and all the emotinos it’s bringing up in me. She mentioned that she drove by the house, thought it was cute but worried for us in the neighborhood. Funny that this was her first set of thoughts about the house. I keep driving around the area,  just checking out the houses and getting my bearings for the neighborhood. I find myself looking at the cars, the types of cars seem to signify the quality of the street (so goes my rationale). In the past I’ve looked at cars as well as upkeep on the houses when we’ve been searching for a new home. This is our third house and while we look around, scouting out an unfamiliar area, I rationalize that the cars parked in front of the homes say a lot about the type of area we are in. Most of my reason has been because, in the past, we’ve bought a home in order to sell it soon after so I was always trying to look for curb appeal and resell-ability; would someone else want to buy in this area?

If I was unfamiliar with an area I had to do my best to take it all in and decide if this was going to be a place that other people wanted to live. I’m not an expert on why people buy the homes that they do but I do know when buying a home the three main things you look for are 1. Location 2. Location 3. Location. So in my detective way I have found myself sniffing out an area and looking for visual cues on what will sell again. It’s sort of trained my eye and now I can’t seem to stop noticing cars when I drive around Hilltop. There’s the 77 Nova with a brown door and yellow body (I actually had one of those as my first car- haha). There’s the Jeep Cherokee that was uqibitous in the 90’s. There’s a lime green beetle with a vase for flowers in their car. Who needs to put fresh cut flowers in their car? There’s a shopping cart! And another one!

I often find myself judging the area based on the quality of the vehicles parked on the street. If it’s got some up to date transport it must be up and coming. Right? If all the cars look unkept then the neighborhood but be unkept. Right? Well there is some truth to that way of thinking but it’s all a personal judgement that I do inside my head to scope out whether or not I feel clean, secure and and justified where I live with my little kids. I’m sure it’s something we all do without thinking about it but I’m very aware how much I’m doing it as I drive around my new house. There’s a 2008 minivan. Must be a stable family with wee little white kids. Ahhhh….my people. I guess it’s just little pockets of fear that wants to stick with people I’m familiar with that still reside in my core. I’m sure more will come up as I live in one of the most diverse areas in all of Tacoma but I am committed to engaging with the unfamiliar emotions, fears and cultural stereotypes that come into my mind by habit.

The irony is that I actually like the diversity. I’m comforted by the colour and the culture of Hilltop. I find communities that aren’t strictly caucasian to be very welcoming and hospitable rather than standoffish the way a lot of suburban areas can be  can be. Yet I still find places in myself where I don’t feel like I relate or understand ethnicity. I try to but there’s a lot of areas where I feel lost and incredibly white around people of color, sort of like the white girl trying to find her groove at a good dance party, but failing miserably.  I was raised poor but I wasn’t raise a poor, black child (I just had to throw in a bit of Steve Martin there) so I am trying to relate but still feel I have a lot to learn. I do know that, regardless of our racial or cultural differences, we all want the same things in life. If we have kids we all want the same things for them, even the roughest of parents really want their kids to succeed and want the highest for them. Don’t believe me? Try messin’ with Shaquita’s kids and see how fast she lays into you!

It’ll be interesting when the weather warms up and I start to bring my kids to the parks and out to community events. That’s one thing I’m  looking forward to. I’m looking forward to meeting people in my community and making friends as we push our kids on the swings.  Out in the suburbs people just sort of keep to themselves but in the city there’s usually so many community events that bring everyone out pot-lucking. Sometimes these hard areas bring people together in ways that are unique to any other setting I’ve ever lived in and I think our little world is going to become very large in just a short span of time.

Getting Old(er)

After I hit 30 I noticed that certain things began to change. When I was 29 I was probably in the best shape of my life. I was getting married so I did what most people do….worked out a lot right before the wedding day. I was going to Hawaii for honeymoon and also going to be ‘neked’ in front of the husband for the first time so I wanted to look all splendid and stuff. I look back at photos of our honeymoon and think ,”Dang! I was pretty hot!”

I got pregnant four months after being married so watching my body shift and morph into a house for a baby was very surreal. I loved the preggy look but it was strange to share my space with another human. I’ve had two more since then and I’m closer to 40 than I am to 30. I’ve noticed a lot of changes since I was married and some of them are very profound. Some are pleasant, some are welcomed, some are very unpleasant and some just are. I want to see a bumber sticker that reads, “Cellulite happens” but I’m sure no one is brave enough to stick it to their car. It’s a lot more daring than throwing up “Obama ’08” or “I heart Pat Buchanan”

I find that there are areas that I buy into culture like the next shmuck when it comes to body image. This culture idolizes youth in a variety of ways but the young body is probably the most pervasive. Every check out stand I go to (except Trader Joe’s) I find magazines shaming female celebrities who dare to go out to a public beach with saggy thighs. There are also times where I really don’t care what is happening to me as I age. I like my grey hair and my wrinkles. I dye the grey sometimes otherwise I’d rockin’ the bride of Frankenstein look. It’s only greys on the sides. I also like my crows feet and laugh lines. I like my narrow face and the fact that I don’t look like I’m 25 anymore. I think there’s a certain dignity in getting older and watching things change.

The other areas that are hard to accept are back problems and various pains through the body. It seems like you hit 30 and your body turns on you. It slows down it’s metabolism so you just look at food and gain weight. Seriously, what is with that? Seems as you get older you actually need energy to keep yourself from atrophying. I have also noticed how my teeth are failing me. After nursing three babies they are really not as good as they should be. Now that I’ve had so much work done on my mouth I’m thinking of my teeth everyday. I think of how much sugar I eat and how it’s effecting my teeth. I notice other’s teeth like some sort of obsession. Just the other day an old man, maybe in his 80’s, was talking to me and I was noticing he had his original teeth….and, they looked great! Great for being in his 80’s. I can’t believe how much I’m noticing teeth now that mine are becoming weaker and weaker.

I don’t lament the loosening of my skin or the changing of my body as much as I’ve actually been heartbroken thinking of more pain, sickness and decay as I get older. The beauty of age is wisdom, peace and experience. I want to be one of those old women who smile a lot and drive so slow that everyone behind them gets pissy. Those slow drivers have all the time in the world to take it easy. They’ve rushed their whole lives, it’s time to rest and enjoy now. Ah, peace! Come to me in my old age! But can you please just leave my teeth in tact?

If there is one piece of advice I could give the youth today I would tell them…. Floss!

Home again?

Writing an update has been the hardest thing for me to do since we arrived. I’m busy setting up our little home, hitting garage sales, seeing the midwife and trying to get the kids to the beach whenever we are graced with the sun’s presence.

It feels amazing to be back ‘home’. The smell in the air is fresh and foresty, at least where we live. The fragrance at the beach is salty and reminds me of clams and sandy sandwiches in the summertime. We go to parks and there are actually children playing in them. In fact they are usually pretty packed out with families. I’m amazed how much people come outside here…. I actually love it!

Slowly our home is becoming what we want. I guess I’m nesting because I can’t stop working on our living spaces until they are just the way I want (within a budget, of course). The first night we were settling in Chloe wanted to help me put away items that we were unpacking. I told her to take something to her room and she went down the hall but came back a few seconds later pouting. She said in a sad voice, “I don’t know where my room is” and it was sweet and pitiful at the same time. Her and Oliver are very settled now but it made me nervous for the decision we made in uprooting our family. Now that we’re settling it’s been an exciting ride for us and I’m finding my place here in the city I grew up.

I am trying to keep writing but lately I just haven’t had the time. Hopefully I can keep up after the baby comes. She’s due in just under two weeks and I’m not sure I’ll be up for writing quite as much as when I was in Madison. Thanks for continuing to check in here.

A long and chilly winter

I have been off of my site for a while for a variety of reasons. I’m having a bit of a rough spot with homeschooling (the motivation is at an all time low and the discouragement is at an all time high). Most of my free time is filled with working on our house to get it ready to sell in the Spring and I have been a bit discouraged by other small elements of life, some I may write about.

All that to say, I’d like to write again just for the sake of writing and for the fact that I am committed to it. I don’t think this blog will ever become the sort of mommy-blog that has advertisements or one which draws several thousand viewers. I write for my peace and pleasure and I’m thankful for my small group of friends who read. I do think the fact that this is not my full time job has given me an out when I get lazy or unmotivated to say anything so I do tend to ebb and flow with my commitment level.

I’m in the process of reading the Happiness Project blog and I may even get the book. It’s compelling to say the least and in terms of personal disposition, which plays a huge role in someone’s happiness level, I’d like to be a happier person. My life is fantastic and I want to agree with this on a regular basis before I get to the end of my life and say, as someone was quoted as saying, “My life was amazing. I only wish I would have realized it sooner”.

Happy Wednesday and keep smiling

Me?

My friend posted something on her blog that someone had posted (I just love how these things get around). I actually like taking those little quizzes that go around on Facebook and such that are a ‘get to know one another’ of sorts. “When did you fall in love? What is your favorite food? When did you start hearing voices in your head?” So here are my answers:

1. where is your cell phone: On the kitchen island. That’s where it usually stays all day. I answer it and I like having one but I only want to use a phone to make calls, not to text, not to watch trailers or to play games or to create a cool ring tone.

2. your hair: Long. I started dying it when Matt and I got married. My friend, Jen, convinced me that the gray was obvious. I’ve always liked to go natural but there’s just so much gray and it makes me look washed out.

3. your father: Good question.

4. your favorite food: Fresh made pasta is up there. Oh man! Italians and their cheese, cream and fat. I love it!

5. your dream from last night: Lately I’ve been having a lot of random dreams and they are very vivid. I don’t usually remember them but every once in a while I have a dream about something profound and it speaks volumes to me.

6. your favorite drink: I still love coffee with cream in the morning but just one or 1 1/2 small Euro-size cups. Caffeine makes me jittery so I don’t have much. I love beer though. Belgian ales! I can’t have much of that either because it gives me migraines if I’m not careful-lots of sugar in ales. At the moment I am craving the raw milk I’ve been getting from a local farm. Oh man, it’s so sweet and creamy.

7. Your dream/goal: To have a large family and to move back to the Pacific Northwest. I don’t know if I really have it in me to have a large family but I do love the idea of kids around everywhere. I would love to make a living writing and I greatly miss teaching. I would like to be involved with a community development project like a local gardening program. I’m all about seeing people’s lives change on the small and practical level.

8. what room are you in: The living room. But our multipurpose room is the dining room. We eat, do school, play legos, colour, eat some some more, all at the kitchen table. It also has a lovely bay window with an apple tree right outside so I love the view and the light that comes in.

9. what is your hobby: I have a lot of hobbies and interests. Cooking, learning (I love podcasts of all sorts), writing, a bit of sewing and definitely gardening (even indoor gardening during the soul crushing winter months here.

10. what is your fear: Losing any of my kids or my husband. My family are the most important people in my life.

11. where do you want to be in 6 years: With more kids, more in love with Matt, owning a home that is a place of rest for friends and family and a bit more time to be locally  involved where we are living. I’d also like to have more free income to take occasional vacations overseas.

12. where were you last night: Home with the kids. Later I was reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma then Matt and I watched a French film. Good times.

13. something you are not: Slow, uncommitted, left handed

14. muffins: Not a huge fan of muffins. I order them at coffee shops if the only other options are super sugary sweets and I make them for the kids (minus the sugar) as a healthy snack. Otherwise, I avoid muffins.

15. wish list items: A Eurovan. I would love a sweet minivan that isn’t…well, a mini van. I also like driving stick so I think it would be super fun to own one. I’d also like to have our house paid off.

16. where did you grow up: Washington state but I’ve lived in a lot of states since then.

17. last thing you did: Talked to my son about being a bit more mellow with the cat and with his sister

18. what are you wearing: Jeans and a sweater. I always wear tons of layers inside living in WI. It’s cold here even indoors. Ugh!

19. your tv: Resting in peace in the basement. We’ve never been huge TV people, just watch videos, so it was an eyesore in the living room as well as a power hog. We put her to rest with a towel over her head.

20. your pets: A cat named Rushmore after Matt and Tracie’s favorite movie, Rushmore. We were going to name him Bill Murray but it’s a lot to say when you’re calling him inside at night. “Here, Rushmore-Bill Murray”

21. your friends: Are a lot of fun and I wish I saw them more. I miss my WA friends painfully.

22. your life: Has changed a lot since having kids but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s what I make it.

23. your mood: Pensive. I’m usually thinking A LOT. It’s a gift and a curse.

24. missing someone: The CA Bonjours and Burtnesses, my mom and brother, and a whole lot of old friends from WA.

25. vehicle: Geo Prism with the hub caps missing. It’s been such a faithful car but it is a bit small for us. Cars, to me, aren’t something that I need to have the newest and flashiest one. I’m not usually impressed with pricey, luxury cars. I’m practical and think money can be better spent. I’d still love a Eurovan though.

26. something your not wearing: Mittens. It’s hard to type in them.

27. your favorite store: I don’t know if I have one. I love to get new things but I’m not a huge fan of shopping.

28. your favorite color: I’ve always loved the colour green but I don’t really wear it.

29. when’s the last time you laughed: I laughed with Matt this morning. He’s getting funnier and funnier.

30. when’s the last time you cried: I don’t even want to say the movie that made me cry. It’s such a stupid film but at one point the man looses his friend/father figure and I felt really bad for him. Seeing death in films really gets to me.

31. your best friend: Probably Matt. I like to be with him the most. I have some dear friends and they are wonderful for different reasons. Not sure if I can nail down one BFF.

32. one place you go over and over: The library. I LOVE the library!!!

33. one person who emails me regularly: Amanda. She cracks me up.

34. Favorite place to eat: I don’t have a favorite. I love going out to eat more than most forms of entertainment. I love good food and great atmosphere. I wish we could do it more. It is one expense I would throw down a lot for if we could. Tutto Pasta was the last place we went but we rarely go out for a pricey meal. When we do it’s very special.

 

My sister in law, Marie, posted her answers