Monocles, Maps, and Minutia


Slant snowflakes and slate gray sky, just outside the window. Today was a day of catch-up. I say that everyday around here. Lassoing laundry and slinging sud-soaked dishes was the first order of the day. George Gershwin’s cheery Concerto in F propelled us along. The pellet stove was extra hungry, the smell lingering in the air, not unpleasantly mixing with coffee. The children laugh at me and my Magic Elixir, mmmm, I’m brewing more now.  I must admit, I feel old and worn out with all the questions, hullabaloos, and to-dos. Yet, these beautiful people keep me from rusting, well-oiled am I with six of them. Wonder, amazement, and simplicity are alive and well here, and I have them to thank for that. The last page of a wonderful story was turned today, and how extra bittersweet it was to share it with other kindred spirits. All the dust and crumbs of this life, swirl, crescendo, into a lovely soup-y mix. The snowy boots and little mittens. Sweeping up the spilled sunflower seed, a tromp out to the feeders, a welcome respite. A new poetry book to crack open, the tang of the Emerald Isle air hitting me full salty-spray in the face, Yeats wooing me from afar. Arguing about a sewing project, a daughter recording her dreams on my iPhone, admiring two kerosene lamps from Valentine’s Day past, and not to mention a dirty football on the table, crumpled bits of everything, everywhere. Whispering the fortifying words of Apostle Paul, over and over again, whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Over and over again, I’m astonished that I get to live this life. It’s not romantic at all, in reality. It’s hard work, the same mind-numbing work, over and over again. But looking at it slant, looking at it through a monocle of love, what I see is an amazing journey in miraculous minutia. My back may ache, my right foot has been bothering me, I need a shower, and extra weight hangs around, but here I am. Discussing the American Civil War and Abe Lincoln with a group of interesting and intelligent people. They remind me of differences in the Union and Confederate flag, bring in the battle of Fort Sumter, and chuckle about Davy Crockett. I just sit and soak it all in. I laughed with them as we listen to the Taming of the Shrew, so much to learn through Will, that’s for sure. Good and bad. Heads get bonked, angry tears happen over messes to be cleaned up, and garbage knocked over. Snow ice cream, taco dinner plans, and endless noise. The sibling riots settle and we pour over maps of Africa, searching the web for information on Cameroon’s violence. Our hearts and souls fly upwards and outwards, beyond the walls of our little home, our state, flitting past our U.S. borders, over the ocean, and enter into the wounds and dusty tears of others. Snow is still falling as the evening envelopes us. My green mug is running on empty, my geranium is blooming, and I’m going to light my lamps for dinner.

Another gift unwrapped here and enjoyed. Good night.





Stitching February Farewell


Februa, the Roman goddess of health

Hot showers, ice, soup, stirfrys, stircrazys, wealth

Sewing stays, crocheting hearts, piano practice

Jotted jumbles in journals, bleak blackness

Juncos, woodpeckers, sparrows at windblown feeders

Jane Brocket’s Lemon Cake eaters

Carafes of coffee, book packages, thick socks

St. Valentine’s letters, pencils, chalk

Laundry piles, fix-it piles, snow piles, lore

LEGOS, bits of paper, four stitches more

Up, down, down and up, bloody finger prick

Running, hemming, gray-day stitches, quick

Pen pal letters, loose threads, taxes due

Red quilt of a second month, darn pipes blew

The needle set down, the thread wound away

Glad this year, the 28th, be its very last day.


How Thy Heart was Set


“Rose From Brier”

Thou has not that, My child, but thou hast Me;

And am not I alone enough for thee?

I know it all, know how thy heart was set

Upon this joy which is not given yet.


And well I know how through the wistful days

Thou walkest all the dear familiar ways

As unregarded as a breath of air;

But there in love and longing, always there.


I know it all; but from thy brier shall blow

A rose for others. If it were not so

I would have told thee. Come, then, say to Me:

My Lord, my Love, I am content with Thee.


Amy Carmichael

Mountain Breezes, p. 294


{Thank you for all your thoughts and encouragement yesterday here and on Facebook regarding my questions about writing. I spent some time this morning praying and reflecting and was so blessed by a few things deep in my heart. This poem above is a recent favorite and is VERY pointed and convicting in a good, challenging way.}

A Chat about Writing


Hello there,

Welcome! Please pull up your chair and grab a cup of your favorite coffee or tea and let’s talk writing, shall we? I’ve been thinking about writing lately, well, more like, I think about words all the time, my brain is always swirling with ideas, stories, like a little spider on my web, latching onto moments, wrapping them up for later opening, assimilating. The question is how does one take all that is up here and put it out beautifully down there? Onto that blank, crisp journal page, or get that blinking cursor moving? Well, the short answer is to just do it.  The long answer, I don’t know. I find that it is so hard to roll out a lovely smooth dough from all the ingredients being mixed in my head. I realize I have way too many metaphors going on here. That’s just how fast and how convoluted my brain operates. That’s part of my huge problem. Do you feel the same way? How do you organize your writing? How do you separate different threads and veins and voices rambling in your head? How do you choose which to give priority? How do you remember the light-bulb moments in the midst of cooking dinner or reading to a child? How do you turn off the tide when needed, but like the moon turn it back on and faithfully keep the ebb and flow going? How does one live real life, when the brain is living a thousand others? It often feels like it has to be all or nothing for me. That’s unrealistic.  I have a blessed, wonderful life here on earth. One that deserves faithfulness and attention, gratitude in action. One that actually is my real living breathing muse. However, I can’t silence those things happening upstairs and don’t really want too, necessarily. They are beauty, light, and a bit of wrestling with darkness as well. A continuing conversation that  binds all of the realness of this life on earth with the moments that inspire and lift us to our life beyond.

I vacillate between just spewing things out (like currently) or taking time to carefully think, research, edit, and meditate on something before the ink dries permanent. The latter takes huge amounts of energy and brain power, which I’m sure we all find in short supply.  I fill up on conversations, prayer, nature’s messages, my faith taking on wings, floating through my days, the books I drink from bringing me closer to a small glimpse of glory. I feel desperate at times for it to congeal into something with jello-like form.

Where does one find the stillness to process, slow down, and prioritize? I know for myself, it’s a choice. It’s a choice between getting my to-do list done, or sitting in a comfy arm chair snuggling with my little boy. It’s a choice between conversations with my oldest daughter sprawled on my big bed, or vegging on another Doctor Who episode. It’s a choice between scrolling through Instagram or reading another chapter of a delicious, enticing book. None of these are necessarily better or worse than each other, but for every yes, it’s a no to something else. Excess isn’t necessarily better, but how does one drain away the pond? How does one satisfy the insatiable hunger for words, thoughts, and newness? How does one be content with the little gift pulled from the squeaky bucket from the bottom of the well? How can one stop the constant motion and voices that never shut up, and birth something into life from that mess?

Anyway, just thoughts I’m thinking, metaphors I’m mixing, and awesome alliterations I’m always assembling.


Thanks for listening. Please feel free to chat back.


Good Morning, February.


The sun is shining. The fire is hot. The door opens with ease. The blue sky spills down into the dankness. The cellar door clanks back and forth, back and forth, my friend wind waving well wishes.  But it cannot block out the fluffy bits of fullness floating through the firmament. I turned the calendar page. A new month, a brilliant blue moon to love. A clean slate, chalk-dust free, full of promise.  The books are opened, tattered bookmarks and all, candle wicks blackened from light and heat, mugs with rings around them, grounds in the bottom. The ice is still here, the ice is still everywhere, but the sun glints off of it, a jewel shining in my heart. February, welcome.

Meditating on grace and truth:

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:17



New Year’s Ramblings


Icy fingers wrap around my ankles as I sit here at our big wood desk. I feel shackled, worn, old, and frankly, cold.  The pellet stove is chug, chug, chugging, the edges of our old home are a bit chilly.  Thank God for the licking, crackling warmth, for piles of quilts, and thick socks. How are you beginning out the new year? I feel a bit stuck, dazed, and confused, which is how I probably am every year after the holidays. Not the cheery new year post you were looking for? I’m sorry for that. I just needed a place to ramble.

Foremost on my mind is our formal learning beginning again Monday here at Hearth Ridge Farm. I’m excited and anticipating diving into all the beauty with my children. Meeting again our favorite friends through the piles of books, forming relationships with many things, and being pointed in a subtle, gentle, really loving way to the One who gave it all to us.   I’m very aware of the fortitude and determination this takes on my part. It’s a humbling and a discipline to choose this educational path for our family. I’m extremely grateful and know it’s a privilege to even HAVE this choice. Not all families are able to walk this road, even if they desired too, and I know that it isn’t always the easiest route in some countries with legalities. I’m praying and ruminating on this and have things generally set for beginning.

I’ve been thinking about peace and relationships. That they aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Although they certainly seem that way at times. By peace, I mean, a quietness, a calmness, a sameness. Ha. Ya. Really the opposite of relationships. Real relationships are a tension, a messiness, and a dance. Of course, that’s what makes them so beautiful and so ugly.

I began reading Les Misérables as part of my goal for classics this year and I’m really enjoying it so far. I knew I had to get started on it so that I can savor and not get rushed and bogged down in huge sections to read.

I enjoy writing so much, but sometimes I think I overthink how much time or quiet it takes. It DOES take a lot of editing to make a thoughtful piece, but the initial puking it out doesn’t have to be fancy or long-winded. Sometimes I feel like there are a thousand little dwarf ideas pounding at the inside of my head with their pickaxes, but poof, they are gone in an instant, and if I don’t write them down quickly, I forget. So, I have piles of gems waiting for me to refine, buffing to bring out their shine. I keep reading things how one needs to just do what they want to do NOW, you know seize the day and all that rot, because we don’t know how much time we have, but that wars within me due to the season I’m in. The truth is that I find it VERY difficult to have the mental space and clarity to write very much. And I’m ok with that. Or rather, I’m learning and choosing to be ok with that. The rewards for what I’m privileged to do right now, far outweigh any perceived level of greenness I can only guess at on the other side of the fence.

I don’t have a lot of goals or resolutions or even really a word this year. Not yet, anyway. Aren’t I just a ray of hot sunshine? I think it is going to boil down to something to do with how seriously I take my faith. How do the affections of my heart order? How am I walking in obedience to what I believe is true? How can I quiet and yield myself, listening for His still, small voice? I also have been praying about how easily I forget my faith for ungratefulness when plans go awry, or dryers break for a time, or relationships rear the ugly side of the head. Oh, to live on a higher plain then the immediate.

I probably sound depressed, but I assure you, I am not. I’m trying to be realistic. 😉 However, I have some bends in the yellow brick road ahead. For instance, I’m very inspired by Edith Holden’s nature notebooks and have plans to work on mine. Our feeders are full of birds and there is nothing better than quietly watching them. I have an embroidery and quilt project on the docket.  My oldest daughter and I are going to take a sewing class. Our Charlotte Mason group will beginning again and I’m honored to be researching and planning for our new poet. Piles of books, mugs of coffee, gorgeous, never-ending views, a family gathered, and a Love of a Savior that never gives up on me.

I’m good. Happy first week of January. Stay warm.











Dancing with them was the best thing that happened last Tuesday.

Curls flying. Laughter. Little, slippery hands in mine.

“Faster, Mommy!” Ella said, on her tippy-toes. We circle dance, meeting in the middle like a bunch of Celtic monks, flowing in and out. It doesn’t matter if the music doesn’t exactly match our dance moves or rather our lack there of.

Loreena McKinnett sings “The Highway Man”, a haunting poem by Alfred Noyes, remember Anne reciting it in front of an admiring Gilbert in the movie version of Anne of Avonlea? My reverie about poetry ending as three year old Ben stomps on my bare toes.

“Dance, Mommy!” he hollers, daring me to stop thinking, pay attention, and just keep dancing.

Giggling, spinning, chattering, and trying to sing the eclectic ballads swirling from the “Book of Secrets” CD.

Phoebe grins her toothlessness up at me, readjusting her iron-like grip. I keep going, huffing and puffing, trying not to accidentally trip and make an even bigger fool of myself.

Collapsing, we start talking all at once, even the non-dancing, by-standing critics. “Remember the ‘Charleston’, that Jimmy Stewart did over the swimming pool?” I throw out into the fray. “Mom, you mentioned maybe learning contra dance,” Annie adds. “Let’s look up circle dances on You Tube,” one enthusiast says, “And swing like from the Glenn Miller songs from the other day.”

Eyes rapt with amazement, we watch the beauty of dance, movement, swiftness, creative precision.

It begins again, inspired and intrigued, we badly “Charleston” around, hilariously attempt Highlander jigs, float like butterflies and, well, you get the picture. We pump up the music and just let go, following a cadence of joyful footsteps dancing away the ages.

So simple, the world to them.

Shining eyes, quick breath, smiles look up and over at me. Like I hung the moon specially for them. All from a simple dance together.



Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #8


{continuing my gratitude list}

71. Outdoor Christmas lights popping up here and there. They are so cheerful driving along on deepest, darkest country roads.

72. My long-suffering Charlotte Mason book study friends, who once-a-month have to listen to me blast them with what I’ve been reading for the last month and all the ideas that come out of that reading. I don’t go out much. Poor friends, you know who you are.

73. My husband who attempts to follow my incoherent ramblings and rantings.

74. Brioche. Need I say more?

75. The beauty and inspiration I learn daily with and from my children as we learn together here at Hearth Ridge. It’s subtle, but astounding if I really pay attention.

76. A week or so without WiFi, showing me that many things I think are important, ahem, aren’t that important. And really, not having WiFi, isn’t even a problem in many areas of the world. Perspective.

77. My mother! It’s her birthday today. We get to go out to lunch together tomorrow.

78. Christmas secrets and surprises being worked on and planned.

79. Pie baking today and tomorrow!

80. Pen pals




I’m sick of fortitude. She’s been staring at me ever since July. Botticelli’s painting, a small print of it, a bit worn around the edges, stuck to my fridge.

My single-eyed focus is wavering. Miss Navel-Gaze and Mrs. Self-Absorption are friendly companions. Over a mug of steaming coffee, they commiserate with me.

They help me try to figure myself out, no rigid battle mode here. At their kind insistence, I’m giving myself a little more-than-usual grace. We’re going to figure this out, create some some steps for fixing things. Just why can’t I get myself together anyway?

I’m nervous I’m going to mess up, fail. But my companions are helping me take care of me, to keep my focus on my needs.

Who’s that peeking in at the window? That headdress is hideous. She’s pointing, dress billowing in the wind, towards my daughter, who needs help. I stand, push out through the door, and reaching Ella, I breathe a prayer of thanksgiving. She has only a small cut. My companions beckon at the door of the house, fresh coffee and ease in their hands. I look hesitatingly to the side of me. She stands there. Still, resolute, obedient, faithful. Weariness and slothfulness tug me toward the house, forgiveness, understanding, and strength ooze from this warrior.

I slowly turn, bare feet on cold earth, seeing my husband getting out of his car, eyes weary, arms full. I see gardens needing clearing after the frost, I know of four pounds of beef thawing on counter for this evening’s meal.

Fortitude calmly takes my hand, her sword held purposely in the other. She gives me a tiny smile.

I want that inner strength I see in her battle-worn face. I want this posture of restful readiness and watchfulness. A waiting purposefully for the next right thing.

Ignoring the clanging coming from those voices, I squeeze her hand back and take a step towards living death. Death to self as primary. One of love, not of anxiousness, which I sense from her is really selfishness, after all, it is a preoccupation with self. I take a step towards my husband, kissing his cheek, her sword slashes at the hovering navel gazing, never loosing her grip on me. I do menial tasks, her by my side, I listen to endless conversations from children, cooking meals to feed a crowd, she is stomping self-absorption into dirt. Together, the hard, becomes beautiful.

I look over at that wretched-lovely art print and I thank God for it. It’s trumpet call to humble myself under the mighty hand of God, and He will lift me up. I’m armed and restfully waiting with Fortitude.

May I be bold enough to dive into the tumult with her each and every blessed day I’m given. Fortitude, stand on and continue to shine forth.


“Life isn’t all fricasseed frogs and eel pie.” – Puddleglum



Puddleglum is one of my many favorite characters from C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. He is just such a funny, creepy mixture of doom and gloom, Eeyore-like qualities, yet with a steadiness that helps the other characters in a myriad of ways. He appears in The Silver Chair, joining Jill and Eustace on their quest to free Prince Rilian of Narnia from the witch.

I think he cracks me up so much in that I’m sort of the polar opposite of him. I like to see the positives in any situation, in fact, I have to see the positives, or I’ll go crazy. I’m not sure if this is part of my personality or if it’s just a product of my life, or just the season I’m living in. I think in some respects, it’s a habit to be cultivated. I don’t think it’s always necessarily a conscious habit, but at times I do focus on looking at a situation, no matter how bad, and picking out the beauty or the good to be found in it. And really, that is the essence of a habit, you first must choose to do something, and eventually you are doing it without even thinking, because it is so ingrained into you. This is something I must do in order to keep perspective, to stay healthy mentally and emotionally. It does not make me better than anyone, it’s a life-giving practice that I know I must prioritize. Focusing on my problems, worrying, and striving rarely fixes them and makes for so much angst in my life and those around me. Ignoring problems doesn’t help either. However, if I can just sift through the dirt and find just one gleaming pebble, it makes walking through hard things bearable.

Is there such a thing as being too idealistic? Or too optimistic? Possibly. Probably. I mean, one has to get the ‘ole head out of the clouds and get some things done in order to just live normal life. However, I’m not sure being idealistic and optimistic isn’t a good thing. Just look all around you…things are dark, scary, depressing. Are we lying to ourselves when we focus on things that are good, true, and lovely? No, I believe we are battling the darkness. When I write here or talk with my friends about light, beauty, tea, gorgeous trees, and clouds, I’m not saying my life is perfect. I usually have my share right at that very moment of relational heartache, dirt, laundry, bills, and craziness. I am just choosing to look at the crack of light seeping in under my door. I have to hold onto that Light and follow it with all my might.

How ’bout you? What do you think?



Daily Diary {School Daze}


I pound down the stairs to the screams of multiple children, I enter the room dubbed “Lego Land” and find them wheeling a extra twin bed around with various appendages flying in all directions. Children on mattress joy rides. Can we call it Physical Education? Creative Expression Class? Anger Management? I calmly direct the mattress and WHOLE bed be put back, the LEGOS and other debris swept and children report the the table for lunch. Well, in my saintly dreams, anyway. I was frustrated and exasperated. It actually seemed like a perfect time for locking myself into my room with 14 bars of Hershey’s chocolate. Good thing I don’t have any. Good thing I’m self-disciplined and have good habits, Charlotte Mason, dear.

The morning started off slow, as I woke earlier than my alarm, mumbling about my traitor body that wouldn’t let me sleep another seven and half minutes. I turned it off and then went back to sleep. Disorientated about the light blinding me when it was suppose to be 5:00 am,  I stumbled out of bed, horrified at the late hour of 6:53 am, stared out my window, a deep, fog not unlike that of Barrow Downs hovered, one-eye half open, I started my life-giving brew, and sat down to check-in to the all-important internet world. My brain slowly unscrambled, a slight hum beginning to drift down from upstairs. Goodness. They’re awake. Those wild, crazy, lovely, delightful children of mine. My hubby bids me adieu and good luck. I barely turn from him when I feel the First-Tug-On-My-Sleeve of the day. It’s my three year old wanting me to read him a book. An hour later, I gulp a swig of cold coffee, put down the board books, boy, and realize that my oldest hasn’t stirred out of her room for KP duty. She is my Chief Oatmeal and Taco Maker.  Thank goodness gracious for her.

Well, with a morning that’s lagging a bit behind, one has to reevaluate. I’m outnumbered. Only one thing can be done to preserve whatever sanity one has left. You go slow, you hang laundry on the line to blow in the breeze, you turn on Rachmaninoff, you let boys build their battle fields, other kids draw, and you heat up your coffee, waving your white flag of Early-Start Surrender. I regrouped, and by regrouped I mean get dressed and brush one tooth. My oldest made delicious oatmeal, the table got cleared, and we were acting slightly more human-ish by now. A pile of apples and pears later (didn’t we just eat?), we attack copywork and maths. My daughter took one look at her towering stack of books, a slight shiver running down her back, and dug into it all. I’m the lucky one, really, I get to hear her narrations, have discussions, on all the interesting things she is reading. I get to hold the sticky, brown-sugar-y hands, get burdock out of curly hair, and clean up the little, darling toddler pants. They are urine drenched, but hey. I alternate sending children outside for fresh air (aka keep-mom-sane) and helping them each with their individual studies. I laugh with my middle son over the silly happenings in Twenty One Balloons by William Pène du Bois, talk Feudalism with another, and listen to piano being practiced.  My oldest son stabbed a few taters and threw them into the crock pot for lunch, Baked Potato Bar. This sounds more romantic than it is. Basically, hot potatoes with all the unwanted frig scraps on top. It feeds a crowd. Potatoes have kept whole country’s alive, surely they will do for seven people to survive a Thursday. After wrestling teens, toddlers, and table cleaners, (and finding out we cracked the poor old crock pot insert !), we settle down into our blissful messiness and enter other worlds together.

Flying, dipping, diving, we float through different stories, narrations, sharing, singing, and talking. Cain and Abel. “The Wreck of the Hesperus”. Abe Lincoln. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”. The murderous mayhem and mattresses are forgotten, the piles of toys, crumbled bits, discarded clothing, and half-eaten, browning apple cores a distant (for the moment) memory. Our voices raised together, we sing the “Doxology”, we listen to a bit of Tanglewood Tales, we learn a little about architecture, our Constitution, and finally, we sit around planning story-inspired art that we are working on. The afternoon sun glows cheerfully, I fold some more laundry, hide for a bit in the basement near the washer, laundry is helpful like that, always waiting, always there for you. We make pancakes for dinner, little sailboats made out of plastic ice cream dishes and morning glory leaves are floated in the puddles, a few tears are shed over a sharp knife ban, and I breathe an exhausted thanks Heavenward . Thanks for these children, for a home, thanks for this life, Lord. A swirling daze are these home schooling days, but I wouldn’t trade ’em for the world.


Be It Ever So Humble


There is no place like our little home of learning. Yes, we are returning to the book shelves, returning to an invitation to enter in. The rustles of paper, woodsy pencil smell mixed with burnt electrical odor drifting up from our faithful sharpener, and the back acres’ beckoning call. Embroidering little gifts for Grandparent’s Day and Christmas, enjoying a hilariously performed narration of Saint George of Merrie England, inhaling loaves of fresh bread, digging into their maths with happiness (how I have children that enjoy Mathematics is nothing short of miraculous, they are actually teaching me the fun of it), watching our Monarch caterpillar build its gorgeous chrysalis, and measuring, crisp ruler lines emerging, seeing little paper envelopes unfold.  Journals cracked open, new sketches join the old. Belly laughs over Edward Lear’s Half Magic, thoughtful discussions on silkworms, and diving back into the beauty, magic, and intrigue of history. Loreena McKennitt playing softly while morning breakfast is served.  Milk, walnuts, and brown sugar poured over hot oatmeal, salty popcorn for elevenses, tapers are out, for autumn is slowly approaching. Soup and chili are back on the dinner menu, thank goodness.

The ecstasy, the sheer delight of this privileged life I’m blessed with is true and it is here. I choose to see, I have to see it. I closely notice the green vine of it peeking up through the cracks. Because as the big picture flickers by, playing out a tense-feeling mother who is fumbling along, trying to help us all get back into a regular rhythm, the habits of what we ought to do versus what we would like to be doing. Or in reality, the tension of what I like to be doing versus what I ought to be doing. This is ministry at its finest. A ministry of listening, the ministry of time, a ministry of stories, a ministry of delicious meals, a ministry of love, compassion. It is the ministry of relationships, possibly the hardest thing of all. It’s the piles of overflowing laundry, the grocery shopping, the garbage, the lawn to be mowed, the appointments to make, the filthy floors, the beauty and beast of it all. 

In a few weeks, the flow, and the newness will even out, the three chocolate bar afternoons will end, and the semi-sanity will return. I will get gradually use to the indoor noise level again, the four-persons-asking-me questions at once, and the proverbial split milk, but now on top of someone’s copywork. The glorious thing is that as we soak all of this messy beauty in together, it begins to seep out in our stories,  our art, our conversations, it becomes part of us, it forms our relationships, it enriches us. It changes our path, informs our decisions, turns our hearts, hands Heavenward and outward. An unseen beautiful vine of love twining its way through our home. And that is worth every minute of it all.