Learning Something New

I’ve JUST begun a wonderful, basic online photography course. I’ve learned some working definitions of Aperture, ISO, don’t know how to adjust the exposure, or what metering EVEN IS yet (talk about a long way to go), but I’m already learning so much.

So far, I’ve had very little opportunity to practice clicking away in the daylight, so grainy, indoor, night time shots will have to do for post one.

20106246_10155618208553987_8688929711193053761_n.jpgSilly and insignificant as this may seem, it was my first time adjusting the aperture to get that vase in focus and that background out of focus. I get an F for composition, and think it’s pretty overexposed with some distracting magenta, but I LEARNED during this photo. So I give it a 10 out of 10.

I am learning this skill for my job at Sumner Academy, but have been pleasantly surprised by how much I’d like to learn this purely for the sake of personal enjoyment.

Lucy.JPG

The handiest subjects are our two pups when I’m confined to the house at night. I love seeing them snuggled into the pillows (yes, we let our dogs on the sofa whether the sofas are donning white or light beige slipcovers; the whole point is that you can pop them off and wash them clean).

I just love the way Lucy looks so nestled in and cozy.

Harley 2.JPGSnoozing Harley was next…

Harley 2_1.JPG…Though the sound of the shutter woke her right up.

Mr. S was kind enough to get the camera for me so I wouldn’t disturb the sleeping dog. If I’d gotten up myself, she almost certainly would have followed me. She’s my little shadow most days, most content within a 5-foot radius of my feet.

Harley.JPGMy little subject just kept wiggling; you can just make out her little raised front paw, as she’s hoping for affection and confused by lens zooming in toward that nose.

Ricky.JPGThen, of course, there’s my favorite subject of all, Mr. S. Those baby blues, that kind smile, and those laugh lines all around his eyes. I could look at that face all day.

In the garden 

I knew I dreamt of gardening and planting things in our own soil long before we owned a home. 

But I didn’t expect to be the sort of person who dreams about getting home to the yard while on vacation. Or who runs out to the yard every day after work to inspect for new growth, leaf spot, or weeds. 

But, a year and a half of home ownership and a space to cultivate and call our own has brought unspeakable pleasures. 

I do think there are a hundred or more lessons to learn in the garden. This year, I have been learning several. I’m seeing the rewards of discipline (that daily upkeep yields so much more joy, while periods of laziness only leave me with hours of catch-up), and that mentality has carried over into other areas of my life. The patience and foresight of buying smaller things and waiting for them to mature and grow (like when I planted shrubs too close together for their mature size and had to dig them all up, or when I expected instant gratification but realized our budget meant that it would be many years before we enjoyed a full laurel hedge). The wisdom of seeking out expertise has also become apparent, because if nothing else, I’ve begun to see how little I actually know about gardening (not to mention lawn care; ours looks particularly pitiful). 

The limelights we planted last year with (with a pick axe through the hard, summer clay) have grown many feet, perhaps three feet just in a year’s time! The two nearest the bench stand even a little taller than I am. 

We laid down pine straw out back and plan to mulch with it elsewhere as well. I’ve sort of accidentally created a little, informal perennial garden that’s taken on a life of its own. I learned right away the deception of no-stake gladiolus. These things need a stake no matter what the bulb packaging promises. Phlox, echinacea, Shasta daisies, veronica, and salvia fill this space. I’d like to sow some larkspur in next year in early spring, and perhaps tucks away some dianthus in the front. The phlox and coneflowers seem to especially attract honeybees, while others are favorites of butterflies. I’ve greatly enjoyed picking all the flowers my heart desires. I fell for mini pennies right away, and I expected not to see any this year (I’ve been told hydrangeas often establish root systems the second year, and we experienced a late frost that killed off most budding leaves), but was delighted to see three flowers spring forth anyway. That spinach on the far left above, almost out of the frame, was a total failure this year. I haven’t determined why, but I’ll try again next year after more research. Our hostas and autumn ferns all returned this year, bigger than last year.I spent many hours out here digging up built-up mulch, cleaning up the edge with a spade, and ensuring the beds slope away form the house. After a recent minor operation, this was perhaps the most unwise endeavor in recent memory. These hostas, like everything near the back patio, were quite an adventure to plant due to all the gravel underground near the poured concrete sidewalk. 

If only our front yard were still this tidy; beginning in June, our river birch develops spots and constantly sheds leaves. I cannot determine if the problem is fungal or insect-related, but I hope to consult with an arborist soon. What a sweet spring of learning and dreaming in the garden. 

The Bird.

robin-eggs.jpg
source: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=66107&picture=robins-eggs

Last week, Lucy got a baby bird. I often think of Lucy as our very own precious, little pup, but she sure seemed like a giant with that tiny, fragile robin chick in her droopy, slobbery muzzle.

We know from experience that any time the beagles collide with nature’s fauna, the results aren’t pretty. From the shrill bays over passing deer, to that baby rabbit they tossed around like a stuffed toy, to the last few birds who’ve mistakenly fallen or landed in our yard, tragedy is sure to follow.

This evening, I wandered in and out, yo-yoing aimlessly as I do (I’m the queen of piddling around at home and can begin 5 chores in an hour without ever accomplishing one). A little pause to thin out the zinnias, back in to organize my bathroom drawer, back out do a little weeding, back in to google tomato cage styles, back out to admire the gladiolus, back in to do my hair for dinner with girlfriends from church.

But as I picked up my flat iron and fussed with my hair, I heard THAT bark. Dog lovers know what I mean; we’re well versed in what each bark, whimper, snort, and growl means. They’re distinct when you really know your dog.
Not the “Let me in!” bark.
Not the “A neighbor is walking!” bark.
Not the “You have a toy I want!” bark.
This was the very particular, “WE HAVE SOMETHING AMAZING!” bark. Urgent, high pitched, and panicked, this bark told me a simple, “No” wouldn’t do.

I looked out and saw it. Lucy’s mouth. And from it, a wing. And beside her, the little maple sapling that had held the most precious robin quadruplets.

Not again! The second bird this month. And yet, this time it hit me harder, like a punch to the gut. Dismay.

I loved those birds, y’all. From finding bright blue shell fragments while mulching; to seeing their bare, alien skin; to watching them cry out to their mother for food; to seeing their feathers fill in, I’ve loved every second of them living in our yard (though Mother Bird always complained loudly from a nearby fence or tree when I would take a quick peak).

I knew Lucy would rather do just about anything besides walking away from that bird. To her, my horror and dramatic yelling was just her master trying to rob her of a wonderful surprise.

I sprayed her with the hose in desperation, and that little bird dropped to the hard ground while Lucy dashed away to hide in the hydrangea bushes.

Before I knew it, I’d run to it and had scooped it up in my hands. The warmth of its tiny body radiated through the skin of my palms. Though its neck was flopping and its legs were limp, I began to search for signs of life.

Was its chest rising and falling?
No.

Could I see a tiny heartbeat?
No.

Could I feel a little heartbeat?
No. 

I found myself hoping and praying and pumping with one finger on its tiny chest, expecting it to spring back to life. Nothing.

After a moment of horrified stillness, I raised made some raucous noise.

I burst back into the house, bird in my open hand, and slammed open the door to our room, where my precious husband was sleeping soundly in preparation for his night shift.

I woke him, tripping over my words as I spat them out, “Wake up! There’s a bird! Lucy got him! Is he dead? Is he gone? Can we save him? Look! Wake up! Hurry!”

He jumped from the bed, took a good look, and tenderly touched my shoulder as he calmly said, “No, Lindsey. He’s gone. I’m so sorry.”

Friends, if you know anything about my husband, you know his job is to deal with things much darker, sadder, and harder than the backyard bird. Just this week, he told me about a couple of young people whose time had come much too soon.

I cried anyway, feeling the folly of my tears in front of a man who has solemnly and calmly told me about true human suffering many times. Yet here I stood, weeping to him over a bird.

He could have corrected me for my folly. Of course this bird was a goner.

He could have reminded me of how desperately under rested he is.

He could have shamed me for being so insensitive after the losses he’s seen lately.

But instead, he quickly dressed, suggested we take the bird to the front yard, and quietly went to find a shovel as I slumped on the porch stoop and wept.

“This was so silly, I knew it was gone.” I stammered apologetically.
“It’s OK,” he replied kindly.

He squinted in the sun as he dug a hole for the bird in our shade garden bed. I apologized again, thanking him for helping me, guilt sinking in at how ridiculous and childish it was to wake him up over a dead bird instead of calmly discarding it in my hands.
“It’s OK,” he said again, sincerely.

I thought about the fragile, hopeful, newness that is a baby bird. And how, in an instant, it was gone.

I ranted about how warm he had been, then admitted he was getting cooler in my hand as minutes passed. “I know,” he said gently.

I sat right beside him, shoulder to shoulder and asked him to pray. For a bird, y’all. Like he shared my feelings of loss. Crazy though it may sound, it felt like his little life needed to be acknowledged, and I could barely speak.

So, my strong husband prayed on my behalf tenderly, if unsure of exactly what to say at a bird funeral on the spot.

He thanked the Lord for the bird’s short life. He expressed sorrow that he never got to fly. He thanked the Lord for his wife’s tender heart.

Then, leaned back so I could gingerly place the bird in the hole, carefully arranging his legs and wings like he was in a nest, settling in for slumber.

“There, he looks nice.” I said. He nodded back. Then, he buried the bird.

We used a little stepping stone to mark his grave. And I apologized again.

“I’m sorry. I should have let you sleep. You’ve seen so much and this must be the dumbest thing.”

“No,” He said, “Always wake me up for things like this. I love your heart. It’s good not everyone is just like me.”

And, as the spouse who couldn’t even bring herself to pronounce a clearly-dead bird “dead,” I could say the same about myself.

Being married to someone so the opposite of me has been quite an adventure for us both. But, in Jesus, it’s been the sweetest journey of inching closer to the middle.

Me loving his tough. Him loving my tender.

Thank you, Lord, for a man who is strong enough to do the hard things, and kind enough to give a bird a proper funeral.

Updates All Over

Here’s a quick photo update of our progress on our sweet little first home. 

We are so grateful for it, love to fill it with people we love, and hope to stay here for a long time! After a year of planning, our layout is how we’d like it for a while! We have some pretty low-end furniture here mixed in with a few “grownup” pieces. I’m going to resist the urge to replace until I have peace about investing in more.I hope to enjoy our kitchen table for decades to come! This little sideboard was actually our Homegoods media stand until we mounted the TV above the fireplace his summer. I refinished our guest room dresser. This is the one we inherited from my parents who got it from my grandparents. Updated hardware and Mindful Gray by Sherwin Williams gave it a fresh look. We also finally found a mirror that’s better scaled for the piece. There’s so much painted furniture in here that I wanted to incorporate more natural wood. Nearly everything in this photo was in our apartment, and it’s all just found homes here. The side table served as my nightstand, but I only keep a Bible, commentary, and journal at my bedside, so this piece now houses our very-small collection of movies, remotes, leashes, and not much else. I’m determined not to overstuff our home. Little lambs that were found last Easter have returned. They remind me of several sweet scriptures. We love to light the lamp and copper lanterns at supper instead of the harsh overhead lighting. We’ll always prefer a soft glow after crazy days of work. I brought in the rug and side table form the living room into our bedroom. We’ve swapped our heavy curtains for sheer linen, too. 

I searched for over a year for just the right bench for the end of our bed; it needed to be wide enough to look proportionate at the foot of our king-sized bed. I have enjoyed having a landing spot for our pillows and a place to put on my shoes in the morning. It’s the little things! I printed this free botanical art from The Graphics Fairy blog! I already had the frames on hand. The euro shams are from the Southern Living collection at Dillard’s. Harley can finally get on the bed independently. Mr. S pretends to protest, but deep down, he loves this! I found the large-scale vase at a Franklin antique store and liked that this Lowe’s lamp feels somewhat symmetrical. Someday, we’d like to replace this dresser. I’d prefer natural wood in our space, and a few bottom drawers need repair. This would be perfect for a guest room, but for daily use, it may be time to upgrade this piece to something we’ll keep for many years, Lord willing. Recently, I’ve really fallen for the online store Everyday Occassions thanks to the influence of a friend whose style I admire. I was particularly excited about these labels for cleaning supplies, since I have always had a (totally silly) dislike of busy product labels. Why not have a little more joy when doing the dishes and cleaning house? 🙂 My Rosemary topiaries are still thriving in this South-facing window. I’m so pleased! 

A Few New Additions

My favorite thing to do is to have people in our home. I love to brew people coffee, make people meals, and encourage them to kick up their heels and rest!

A couple of months ago, I rearranged our living room to make room for two new chairs. 

The sofa was moved to right against the wall, and the two chairs we brought from the apartment were left in front of the patio door.The TV was hung above the fireplace. This was probably the first time I’ve truly done the opposite of what Mr. S wanted. Truthfully, neither of us are fans of this look. However, it’s a small sacrifice to make considering that this means we can welcome more people into our home.A pair of swivel gliders has arrived from Ballard Designs. The shape and function of these chairs have captured my eyes for a few years, so I was so excited to grab them while they were on sale. Our bookshelf has moved back, too. I haven’t bothered to style it.I knew I wanted everyone to have a place to set their drinks, but because of our small space, the side tables needed to be petite.

This brass side table from Urban Outfitters did the trick and on a budget. I decided to use the same table on both sides of the room to unify the mismatched pairs of chairs.This side is shaping up, and this place if finally starting to feel as homey to me as the apartment. This lovely poster from Tanmachi goods arrived this week. It brings to mind one of my favorite scriptures:

“Seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you”

Bright and sweet and happy. Maybe it’s not like a designer room, but it’s certainly a lot like home. 

I’ll Drink to That!

Better health, that is!

This fall marks the beginning of something I’ve neglected for years; self care.

I am sometimes consumed with the idols of work, busyness, and people pleasing. I need to begin with that confession. 

I have neglected caring for my body and my mind these last few years. As I inch (more like race) toward thirty, I am beginning to feel that lack of care. A less trim waist is one thing, but tired eyes, an achey body, a weak immune system, and a scattered mind are not acceptable. I have too much good work to do to let my body become a hindrance.

I realize that these years before children will set a precedent for the rest of my days and the way I care for the well being of my whole future family. 

So, I have a few specific goals:

  1. Exercise moderately. 20 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of strengthening just three little times a week. This may seem like a small goal, but for me, it’s a far cry from where I have been
  2. Make meals at home, eating out only twice a week for any given meal. I always choose health groceries, but I always choose unhealthy options away from home. I may also have to skip eating with those who will make unhealthy choices until I have practiced self discipline, since I always fall off the wagon when others do. I will instead recommend little coffee dates, walks, and hikes. There are many reasons to get together besides food. 
  3. Sleep. 8 full hours a day. I want to go to bed in time to do that. I think a big part of this can be accomplished by simply leaving my phone on my dresser instead of scrolling through it before bed time.

So, onto the eating front for now:

I know how good fruits and veggies are so good for us, but I could always incorporate more. Especially vegetables!

Their nutritional value and lower sugar make them so healing for our bodies, but if I reach for any healthy snack on the go, it’s much more likely to be a piece of fruit than a veggie.

But you can fit the nutrients of so many veggies into a single glass by simply juicing them. 

My favorite juices  are veggie heavy with just a little fruit, but there’s no harm in easing your way in with extra fruit until your palate adjusts.Now, this is no substitute for the fiber found in whole foods, but it sure makes a nice supplement.

Look at all the gorgeous, fresh-washed produced that fit into my glass.

I can hardly wait til Mr. S is home and I can surprise him with a glass of veggie juice. He would love it!

Today

I had a quiet day of solitude, bluegrass music, hymns, hot coffee, and laundry. Between loads, here’s what I did: Reworked these shelves to include just a few decorative touches.Did some serious online shopping to prep for future guests (and switching slowly to more faux flowers for a little less maintenance in this life)Took in Brother’s girl, Remmington, for the week. Played with things that have been in storage since we moved.The rug is only gone because of the extra pet around here and my desire for easy clean up.Washed the soap dishes I hoard (I’m too ashamed to show you how much hand and bar soap I have).This.
Thanking the Lord for the blessing of peaceful days. For bills to pay and work to be done. And for the beauty to be found right here without ever leaving the comforts of home.