the introvert card

Last night after our birthday guests left, Josh and I tumbled on the couch in collective party-stupor. And the clock read only 10:00 p.m. So. We're those friends now.

I spent today winding down from birthday week. Birthday week was delightful, albeit mentally and physically taxing. We had a wonderful time celebrating our newly minted 29-year-old. (Remind me to tell you about that time around Thanksgiving when Josh didn't know that he was already 28. The ensuing crisis was all too funny to behold.) Tonight, Birthday Boy is off doing something adorably nerdy at a game shop, and I get a night alone.

After a week like this one--and really, a month like this one--I am ready to play my introvert card and hole up for the weekend. I have done absolutely nothing productive this evening besides load the dishwasher, and that only made the cut because I pushed off unloading the dishwasher until dinner time. Tonight is not a night for sewing or cleaning or list-making. It's barely the night for blogging. Tonight is the night for Parenthood, stretchy pants, a long shower, some cocoa, a book, and very likely an early bedtime.

So world, I'm playing that introvert card, and in my game it's the trump card. If you want to go and party, then please enjoy yourself. Tonight my party has a guest-list of one, and I'm loving every second of it.


why I like unhappy books

I've mentioned in the past couple of posts that I've been reading a lot this year. I'm on to reading book nine (with book ten almost finished and ready to return to the library and book eleven as my current audiobook). And for 2014 I thought I'd be lucky to get in 25 books. I think I undershot myself on this year's challenge. (Josh even said to me tonight when I informed him of my speedy progress that I am a bad goal maker. I shoot either too high or too low. To my credit, I was right on par with last year's goal of 20.)

With everything I've been reading, I've been thinking about why I read what I do. I have an eclectic reading taste. I enjoy Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, Cormac McCarthy, Chaim Potok, George Eliot, John Steinbeck, and Thomas Hardy. I also enjoy Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, and Agatha Christie. I like young-adult authors like John Green, Robert Cormier, Suzanne Collins, Markus Zusak, and Shannon Hale. I can be persuaded to read almost anything, even Stephen King. And when it comes to Harry Potter, I'm a die-hard.

Some of my bookshelves, unedited

When someone asks me for a recommendation, I have to know at least one thing before proceeding: Do you like unhappy books? I have several friends who don't enjoy reading books about tragedy, loss, or darkness. And that's okay. Everyone reads for different reasons. If you read to be entertained and feel good, then perhaps Jude the Obscure is not for you. But if you're like me, then something like The Road may be right up your alley.

My own motives for reading are diverse: to learn, to relax, to be entertained, to escape. To feel, to experience, to savor the language. I can't experience everything there is to experience in this life, not firsthand anyway. So I read. I read to briefly live others' lives. I read so that I can live my own life better. I read to expand my capacity for empathy. I read because if I didn't, I fear that I'd be missing out on such a beautiful sampling of humanity.

I had a friend a while back ask me if I would write a post about why I read J. K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy. (It was a post that I think was intended as a guest post on her blog, but I let that ball drop completely. I'm chalking it up to having had a three-month-old at the time.) The Casual Vacancy is a book that received harsh criticism and mediocre reviews. I read it, and I can't say that I loved it. But I didn't hate it either. I'll probably never read it again, but I'm not sorry that I read it in the first place. So here I am, telling you why I finished it and why I like unhappy books.

The Casual Vacancy is a dark book. It's gritty and sometimes icky. I liked maybe two of the twenty-fiveish characters. And yet. That book presented such complex and thorough characters that you couldn't just love them or hate them. That book taught me that everyone is complex, that no one is two-dimensional. The Casual Vacancy is sad, tragic even. It tears at the humanity in your heart and leaves you at the last page feeling raw and unsure. And yet. I walked away from that book needing to be more compassionate, less judging, and more loving to the unlovable. And that, dear readers, is not a bad thing.

In the culture of my religion, we are encouraged to immerse ourselves in uplifting media, to seek media that invites the presence of God into our lives. I can see why some people choose to apply that by reading only that which has a happy ending, and I can't judge them for that. For me, though, I've found that I can feel God just as potently in tragedy as I can in triumph. I understand my faith in unique ways when I read unhappy books. For me, understanding a measure of darkness is essential if I want to understand and choose the light. As incomprehensible as it sounds, unhappy books are good for my soul.*

This post is not passing judgment on people who don't like unhappy books. I say that as long as you're okay with your reading guidelines, then no one should make you feel bad for liking what you like. Just don't let that long-established rubric limit you from books that have the potential to change you for the better.

Do you like unhappy books? Why or why not? What are your reading motives?

*For the record, I read plenty of happy books as well. Especially after finishing heavy books I need something fun and relaxing. After I finished The Stand this week, I promptly dived into an easy romance novel. It was a delight.


a covetous post

Grandma always cautioned against coveting your own things. You may wonder how that could be a thing, but it is. You know how when you covet something you don't have and obsess about how much you want it? You can covet your own things by continuing to be obsessed with how much you love owning it. That's a quandary I find myself in.

Josh gave me this bluetooth speaker for Christmas, and I'm smitten. I carry it around with me everywhere in the house. I use it to listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks, and TV streaming. I can perch it out of the way in the kitchen while I cook or in the bathroom while I do my makeup, or even in my bed when I watch late-night Netflix shows on the iPad. I have to charge it about only once a week, and Josh scored extra bonus points with that orange case. You may think this is a sponsored post, but it's not. I just really, really love this gadget so, so much.

So. Ownership coveting is a thing. And I'm afraid that I've come acquainted with the condition.

Do you own anything you risk coveting? Does ownership coveting make you feel guilty?



My calendar the past couple of weeks has been packed fuller than usual. So I've dealt with that by focusing on input rather than output. I've been reading and reading and just last night finished my Stephen King novel, which blew me away. You can read my review of the book here. The energy that I have had for output--in addition to the energy required for my calendar--I've spent on sewing.

I finished my contest entry and plan on taking pictures for the submission this week. I will certainly share the photos with you! And I have to say that I am thrilled with how this jacket turned out. I'm not always thrilled with my final products, but I am tickled chartreuse with this one. (Catch that little teaser?)

Really the past couple of weeks have been lovely, albeit socially draining for me. I've had a wonderful time chatting with friends, returning childcare favors, throwing a Valentine party, attending church functions, and watching Under the Gunn with the girls. The thing is that after all that, this blogging introvert can't muster the energy to write.

Josh's birthday is this week, and I have just one more sewing project to get in before then. (Details to come after Thursday. You understand.) Perhaps I'll have to dip into my list of post ideas to get this space rolling again, because believe me when I tell you that I love being here and miss it when I'm not.



Our Valentine evening was low-key and lovely. Josh brought home a pizza and we snuggled while watching Monster's University. It wasn't anything to make a movie about, but we liked it. Saturday I went to Fabric Depot with a friend (both of us were kid-less, and it was gold), and we both went a little textile-crazy. It was a delight. And since then I can hardly tell you what I've been doing. The past few days have been a bit of a blur.

I've been reading here and there, sewing a bit, and battling this finicky migraine that pretends to go away but inconsiderately comes back. I'm woefully behind on laundry and though the chore is a necessity my motivation to tackle it is zero compared to how badly I want to sew or read.

When I put Asher to bed tonight, I should have known he wasn't going to go down easy when he playfully growled after the lights went out. When that kid gets wound up he means it.

What has your lately looked like? Mine contains nothing noteworthy, just several little things that are important to just me. You know what I mean?


other valentines

This week I've been crushing on other things in addition to my man and babe.

:: sequin shirts
:: Brooklyn Nine-Nine
:: hot cocoa (obviously)
:: overcast days
:: the Test Kitchen
:: sugar cookies
:: chocolate sugar cookies
:: toddler hugs
:: Neil Caffrey
:: my Bose Mini Soundlink
:: pink everything
:: chevron blankets
:: sequin slippers
:: my polka-dot Zinnia skirt
:: back episodes of Books on the Nightstand
:: audiobooks
:: regular books
:: stretchy pants

What are you crushing on this Valentine's Day, romantic or otherwise?


why we work

I'm linking up this post to Bonnie's blog!

{2013 family photos, Laughing Stars Photography}

I was listening to the This American Life episode this week, and they were replaying various Valentiney segments from years past. This one particular story is one the show has played for the past two years (sidenote: TAL, come up with something new for 2015, yeah?). The reporter interviewed a guy who had taken a rumspringa with his long-time girlfriend. The girl didn't want to get married until they had slept with other people, and so they took a month-long break and hooked up with as many people as they could. Frankly, I think that whole idea is awful. Unsurprisingly, the couple broke up.

In follow-up questions, the guy said that if he ever does get married, he wants reevaluate the relationship every seven years and then recommit if he wants. He thinks that the seven-year plan will make it so he can re-choose his marriage. That idea is also awful. Because here's the thing: if you want love, you choose it every single day.

{Engagement photo, Laughing Stars Photography}

Josh and I work because we choose to work. We work because we work to work. We work because we don't want an out--we work because we are eternally committed.

We work because he takes out the trash and I make his lunch.

We work because we both say sorry.

We work because I rock Asher in the night and Josh lets me sleep in on Saturdays.

We work because we cuddle in the mornings and kiss before bed.

We work because we know how important this marriage is. We work because we promised God--and each other--that we would.

{Wedding day, Michelle Olivier}

Every day Josh and I choose God, and we choose our marriage and our family. Love--real love--is hard won. When love is easy it's really, really fun, and we may be tempted to think that fun love is the important kind. But love is most important--and most soul-saving--when it's really, really hard. What good is love if it can't weather storms? What good is love if it can't power us through our ugliest moments? Josh and I work because our efforts are continual, because we choose to try again and again and again. We don't work because it's easy or because it's always fun--we work because we love. 

*This post is in no way passing judgment on people who are divorced or otherwise single. Relationships take two people to work, and sometimes relationships need to end for our good. It's no one's job to pass judgment on a couple's decision to break up or divorce. All working relationships--romantic and otherwise--require the decision to love.


crushing and linking

I was going to talk about celebrity crushes today and how my celebrity is gorgeous and gay, so even in an alternate reality, this crush wouldn't amount to much of anything besides turning into a rom-com parody about that girl who's in love with her best friend but that friend happens to be gay. In a movie with Matt Bomer playing himself, I'd be the beard.

So I was going to write this witty post all about celebrity crushes, and how my celebrity girl crush is JLaw and Josh's boy crush is Ewan McGregor. But really there isn't much of a post there beyond adding some pretty photos. (And really, who doesn't have a crush on JLaw?)

Today I'll leave you with some lovey links to past Valentine's posts, because my brain is currently sputtering on fumes.

You can read about what Valentine's Day looked like for me last year.

And you can read a series of posts about mine and Josh's love story. Sometimes I'm still amazed that the two of us actually worked out.

Check out this post including Harry Potter Valentines, the best of all the Valentines, obviously.

This is a very short post from 2012 about imperfect love.

And this post is where I detail my rejoicing at deciphering Josh's love language, because let me tell you, I'm a love languages believer.

Of all those links, I'd most recommend the love story one. Of all the love stories out there, I've got to say that mine and Josh's is my favorite one.


how Portland does snow

It's no secret that I harbor a measure of derision for Portland's "snow" days. Coming from a place where I had to go to school after two feet of snow fell overnight, it's hard for me to muster excitement for school children who get a snow day for frost. But that's just the way it is here, and even after 8ish inches of snow fell last week, I have yet to see that one snowplow Wilsonville allegedly has.

Snowfall like this comes to Portland about once every five or so years, and I'll be honest: I loved it. With legit snow being so rare here, it was nice that the whole area shut down. Josh came home early from work Thursday and Friday, and I did lots of baking and cocoa drinking. On Saturday we drove to Josh's parents' so that Asher could sled down their driveway, and on our drive we saw people out everywhere. Not many cars were on the road, but there were kids and adults alike bundled up, carting sleds, throwing snowballs, and building snowmen.

Snow comes so regularly to Denver that it rarely produces such a communal thrill. As a kid of course I'd have my mom help me with my snow pants and parka and boots and gloves and hat just so I could play in the snow for 20 minutes. We made snow men and even went sledding a time or two. But life had to go on, otherwise our whole winter (and a good chunk of spring and fall) would be snow days. Here in Portland, though? Life is paused for a time, and even this Rocky Mountain girl will admit that's pretty fun.

So yes, I may never stop scoffing at the minimal amount of weather it takes to constitute a Portlandian "snow" day, but when those snow days are real snow days? Portland sure knows how to do them right.


a perfect day for cocoa

Want to brave the weather and come over for some cocoa? 

Yesterday Portland got some real sticking-to-the-ground, piling-up-on-cars, big-snowflake snowfall. This is literally the most snow I've seen in Portland since moving here three and a half years ago. This snow snob approves.

So head over, and I'll have the cocoa ready. 

What kind of cocoa do you want? My current favorite cocoa concoctions are Safeway-brand cocoa with York Peppermint Pattie creamer. When you have the dark chocolate cocoa, the creamer makes your drink taste like a Thin Mint.

Speaking of, I ordered three boxes. Of Thin Mints. Obviously. Every year the boxes get smaller and the prices remain the same, and every year I'm suckered into buying those over-priced delicious treats. Perhaps I'll have to try dipping Thin Mints into my Thin-Mint-like cooca. Whoa. What's your favorite Girl Scout cookie? I mean, you have to have a favorite.

Has it been snowing where you are? It seems like it's been snowing all over the country lately. Josh came home early yesterday because of the snowfall, and we bundled up Asher and took him out to play.

He loved it. Obviously. That's no surprise.

Can I tell you about how much I love Josh as a dad? Seriously, those two make my heart just melt. Even in the snow. How is your family doing? Your husband? Your children? Marriage and family are hard sometimes, and it's okay if you don't feel like you have it all together. Because chances are we're all doing a little bit better than we think.

What do you think of my tablecloth? I found it at Target on clearance for $6.50, so I bought it. Having a tablecloth on the table somehow makes me feel like I earned bonus housewife points. My mom always has a tablecloth out, and I think I need some more to feel legit. My grandma had the biggest tablecloth stash you could imagine. Are you a housewife? Do you like it? What earns you extra domesticity points?

What's on your Netflix queue these days? Believe it or not I don't have a TV show I'm bingeing on currently. Once I wrapped up Chuck I just haven't been in the mood to find something new. I've been reading a lot, and I like that. I'm really enjoying my Stephen King novel, and I'm almost finished with this book by Sheri Dew. And I have access to my dad's Audible account, so that's awesome. Obviously.

The snow gave me permission to stop counting Weight Watchers points this week so that I can enjoy M&Ms, homemade bread, and extra mugs of cocoa. Isn't that considerate?

The snow is falling heavy now, so you might want to head home since Portland doesn't exactly have a huge supply of snowplows. Getting around in even a mild snow storm can prove dubious in these parts. After you leave, I think I'll hole up in my sewing room and work on that jacket some more.

Thanks for stopping by! And thanks for looking at what is essentially the same picture over and over. I just can't get enough of that kid in puffy snow clothes. Also, I really love our cocoa dates. I'm so glad we're friends.


my village

When Josh and I went to DisneyLand, Asher stayed with Josh's parents. The day we left, however, his parents were working all day and we had to be at the airport mid-afternoon. So I arranged for Asher to stay with a friend. When I dropped him off, my throat choked up and my eyes welled with heavy tears. This was the first time I'd ever been apart from Asher for more than a few hours, and I was nervous about it. And though I was nervous, in my heart I knew my boy would be just fine. Because Josh and I aren't the only ones who love him. As I worked to gain control of my tears, I told my friend how much it meant to me that I had a place where I felt 100-percent comfortable leaving my son. It means the world to me that I have people in my life whom I trust with my lifeblood. That's no small thing.

I used to hear the It takes a village to raise a child adage and think it meant that every adult needs to be the parent, and I don't think that one kid needs a million parents. But since I've been a mother, I've realized that the village isn't there to be a parent--it's there to support the parents. The village is there to welcome my children and love them and be their friends. It's there to love me and support me and listen to me. And I'm a part of the village so that I can help and listen and love. I'm a part of the village because it's the only way I can give back to those people who love me and my family. The village thrives on reciprocity, and boy, it's a beautiful system.

I have many friends here whom I can call when I need childcare or a listening ear or an inconvenient favor. This village is full of many homes who welcome my son and my husband and myself without a second thought. And I have so many friends here for whom I would do anything. And that willingness isn't rooted in obligation, but in love. The village isn't there because I'm an inadequate or lazy mother--it's there to help me be the mother I want and need to be. It's there because we were never meant to raise children all alone. The village is there because it's one of the best systems for learning how to both give and receive love. The village raises the child, because it also raises the mother.

I used to think that I didn't need the village, but I was so wrong. I need it, and my family needs it. We need to serve and be served, love and be loved. And doesn't everybody?


the mantle and the cake guts

When we moved into our new home last summer, I casually asked our friend Blair--who's extremely skilled in all things handy and building--if he wouldn't mind making us a mantle to go over our fireplace. We have this fireplace with brick reaching straight from the floor to the ceiling, and a mantle would just look so pretty. (Josh at first wanted to put our gargantuan television above the fireplace, an issue which caused some contention in our marriage for a time.)

So after we spent several months settling in, I reapproached Blair with my proposal. He said yes, and last month came over with this:

I am blown away by the craftsmanship and am absolutely giddy about how perfect this mantle is for our home. It's the kind of thing that I'll take down when we eventually sell this place so that buyers can't ask for it in the contract. It's the kind of thing that will have a place in our home forever.

When we asked what we owed him for supplies and labor, Blair very graciously stated that this was a housewarming gift. So. My brain started whirring for a way to express our gratitude: cake. Obviously.

Yesterday was Blair's birthday, and I thought, What better day to bake him his favorite cake than on his birthday? So I went to work during Asher's nap making a German chocolate cake. The smells coming from the oven were delicious, and then it was time to take the layers out of the pan.

And all three layers stuck and fell out in chunks. All of them. That chocolaty, moist cake came out in clumps and crumbs, and I was left facing a bowl of cake guts next to a bowl of signature German chocolate topping.

I didn't have time to make another and had to face the facts that instead of bringing over birthday cake for Blair that I would instead come bearing a bowl of crumbs. At least they were delicious crumbs.

So we picked up Tillamook ice cream on our way to their house, because cake guts are still pretty good when you involve ice cream. I'd like to claim a do-over another day, but Blair and his wife, Kate, were very gracious about the whole thing, because they're good people like that.

At the end of the day when I crash on the couch and look up at this space that's mine to personalize and beautify, I'm just grateful to have wonderful people in my life who are so kind to me and my family. This place here in Oregon is so good to us, even when I produce cake guts in place of a layered dessert.
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