cloistered away | enjoying simplicity

Friday

25

July 2014

6

COMMENTS

on courage

Written by , Posted in writing in the margins

on_courage-1

on_courage-6

Sometimes perfectionist slips in here, only wanting to present that part of our life which is pretty and organized and complete (even in thought). I try to sit down and write out the drafted in-betweens, the messy [emotional, physical, spiritual] process of our life, only to walk away with a few words, an unfinished script. It’s not an intentional edit on our life, really. I’ve always struggled with writing in the process, writing in the middle.  I find it easier to do something and then work backward through the process, like a recipe or a book, assessing the parts based on the whole, understanding the end from the beginning. I feel silly saying this now, as if any of us knows the end when we begin anything.

Earlier this summer, my sister and I (and our six kids) drove to the coast to meet our sister-in-law and nieces for the day. Storms over the Gulf caused more substantial waves and tides, which meant fun play for everyone and close eyes on the kids for safety. We left the day with salt and sand in our hair and minimal pictures, but later Kristen sent me these. As parents, we tend to focus more on the logistics of raising up people (an important focus, by the way), mostly conversing about everything from the napping and feeding schedules of infants to the nurturing of souls in childhood to the burgeoning and transitional landmarks of teen years. However, maybe the journey of parenthood is more than raising children. Maybe parenthood is also a deeper journey into ourselves, a teaching tool for our own hearts.

As I watched Olive stand fists to the sky, the fierce waves crashing her chest, I learn more about courage, about standing firm when life bring higher, stronger tides. Sometimes courage helps us overcome loss–a job, a house, a dream, a person. In the hardest seasons, courage roots us, reminding us to stand, to endure what is hard and pushing against us. Other times courage propels us out of security into something new, into deeper waters. This is every parent’s journey, every person’s journey. When the future paralyze us with fear–the fear of failure, the need for things to be a certain way, the idea of perfection–courage calls us forth. Sometimes we must move forward alone, a personal journey or experience. In the best times, we move forward with someone, hand in hand.

Over the last two weeks or so, I’ve been reading memoirs* one after another, wildly moved and bolstered by the face of courage in real people. Although with different voices and perspectives, each narrative has carried one single message: today is a gift; be brave with it.

———————–

*In case you’re interested or looking for something to read, I’ve recently read Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (I can’t recommend this enough.), A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor by Dana Canedy, Paris in Love by Eloisa James, and A Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (currently reading). Before summer ends, I still hope to read: The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxes (really gearing myself up for that last one–it’s substantial).

All images by Kristen Douglass.

Wednesday

23

July 2014

2

COMMENTS

simple summer style

Written by , Posted in style

market_colors-3

We’re trying to establish routines again–a bit of play, a bit of house work, a bit of school work, a bit of rest–dividing up hours of sweltering heat. We barely go outside in the middle parts of the day right now–except for yesterday when I made the older ones run 10 laps around the house perimeter for repetitive arguing with one another. The heat combined with long periods indoors makes everyone grumpier. And don’t worry I gave them plenty of water. (wink.) Olive came home with strep throat this weekend, which means she’s spent the last few days wrapped in my arms or snuggled into my lap.  It’s the only redeeming part of sickness, really. She hates her medicine so much that each morning she tries to convince me she’s well enough not to take it, “See mom? My throat doesn’t hurt anymore, so I don’t need to drink that stuff, right?” Apparently, the idea of completing the disgusting antibiotic is too conceptual for the five year-old who doesn’t feel sick any longer.

market_colors-2

After a summer of erratic living, I, too, am finding steadier rhythms. I’m waking up before the kids again, and although a part of me grumbles at this, my days (especially the mornings) always go a bit smoother when I begin with an hour or two that doesn’t involve me talking with someone. I enjoy my first cup of coffee in silence, sometimes writing or reading, sometimes watching the sun rise over our neighbor’s roofline. Either way, I feel more prepared to lead my children through our day, opposed to the willy-nilly routine we’ve had most of the last six months–which I always enjoy for seasons.

market_colors-1

Although I generally have a simple style aesthetic, it’s even simpler in this heat. Most days, I tie back my hair or quickly sweep it up into a messy bun or braid. I dab a bit of concealer under my eyes–because I never want to look as tired as I am (wink)–swab on a bit of blush and lip gloss, and try to drink plenty of water (after morning coffee). I stay cool in simple summer dresses or shorts, and usually pick one piece of jewelry with it–this time the skyline medallion, courtesy of Market Colors.

You all know how I love highlighting small businesses, especially ones who give back. Market Colors is a business supporting craftsman artists in Africa. Each affordable purchase directly helps these craftsmen build a steady income for housing, food, and education. Plus, their handmade products are beautiful–like this clutch  or this wallet both crafted in Kenya. See anything you or a friend might like? Enter cloisteredaway at checkout to receive 20% off. Code expires Friday at midnight EST. Enjoy and stay cool!

shirt (similar) / shorts / necklace / shoes 

 

 

Monday

21

July 2014

4

COMMENTS

stay-cation

Written by , Posted in writing in the margins

backyard-1

Although Mark and I try to have at least a weekend or two a year to ourselves, we generally go away for those days, holing up in a place where someone else makes our bed and food, and we can slip out of most every typical role and routine, parenthood included.  As I mentioned before, this week was different. We certainly worked. We still made our bed each morning and cleaned our home. We rearranged furniture and cleaned out neglected piles and closets. Mark painstakingly installed floating shelves in our kitchen (which look incredible–I can’t wait to share), while I painted the rest of our cabinetry (white, of course) and left for work at the college on my two usual days. Some friends lamented us, wishing us to spend the week in real vacation mode–and honestly, going into the week, I felt a tinge of my own sadness, too. However, remaining home this week was pleasantly surreal. Void of the usual [running, squealing, laughing, fighting] noises, I could hear our home’s more subtle sounds, the way our old windows vibrate when the AC runs or the way our floors creak under our footsteps. I listened to the birds chorus each day’s beginning and the locusts hum its end. I moved through ordinariness almost seamlessly–without bodies draped over me or “emergency” helps like finding shoes or snacks or a babysitter. I listened to the audiobook Paris in Love, a memoir of a couple (both professors and writers) who decide to move their family to Paris for a year. Distracted by James’ description of patisseries, and Parisian style, art, and architecture, I lost track of how long I painted. On a side note, when possible, always listen to an audiobook while painting. I had a night out with girlfriends and went on a movie date with Mark. Of course, Mark and I also enjoyed uninterrupted conversation and time together, too, and for the first time in a while, we could discuss and dream possibilities instead of merely what we had scheduled for the day. We ate our meals together, sometimes with other people, sometimes just the two of us. When I picked the kids up on Saturday, ready to squeeze and kiss them, I realized the most restorative part of last week was remembering life with just the two of us, before the decade of parenthood, before the home renovations and interstate moves. Just the two of us. This week, I remembered the quality of our life isn’t about what we’re doing; it’s about whom we’re living it with.  A good note, I’d say.

 

Tuesday

15

July 2014

6

COMMENTS

little things

Written by , Posted in life lately

summer-1

I met my mom for lunch and ice cream yesterday and then left all of my children with her for Nina Camp, a week of fun the grandparents host/plan each summer. The only prerequisite for this special week is that you are at least five in age (and their grandchild, of course). This is Olive’s first year to go–the first thing she mentioned the morning of her fifth birthday–meaning she has officially graduated into the “big kids” category, and subsequently, Mark and I close a chapter of parenthood. We no longer have babies.

Typically, Mark and I would seize this opportune week for a romantic adventure, just the two of us. However, this year, with the kitchen still in-process and our checkbook tighter than ever, we’re enjoying a “stay-cation” as they say–meaning we’re working on the house and working our jobs instead (you know, in hopes of relaxing that tight checkbook). Don’t feel too sorry for us, though. The kitchen is turning out beautifully, and we’re indulging ourselves a bit this week by eating out for breakfast, going to the movies, drinking good beer and malbec, listening to audiobooks while we work, and enjoying silence or one another when we’re not. It’s the little things, right?

In the meantime, I apologize for the sporadic posting here and hope after this renovation to be less flaky and return to some sort of normalcy, whatever that means. Hang with me, friends. Updates on our kitchen progress are coming soon. xo

Wednesday

2

July 2014

2

COMMENTS

our kitchen inspiration

Written by , Posted in inspiration, our home

kitchen_inspirationMark and I dry-fit our kitchen cabinets today, and I’ll admit it was wonderful seeing some more of our vision for this space come together. I’ll share more pictures of the progress soon, but for now I thought it might be fun to share some of the inspiration for our new/old kitchen. Although we are adding so much newness to this room, we wanted to pay tribute to our home’s 1920 origin. We’re trying to keep an early 20th century feel by mixing a few industrial elements with the warmth of aged wood and marble. Although I originally dreamed of white subway-tiled walls, Mark nixed the idea due to shifting foundations and fear of cracking grout. Overall, I imagine the space to feel warm and minimal, full of clean lines and workspace for our family life. As I painted cabinets for hours today, I couldn’t help but swell with gratitude. Stay tuned.

all images sourced on my kitchen Pinterest board

Monday

30

June 2014

10

COMMENTS

kitchen phase 02 | tear it out

Written by , Posted in our home

kitchen_phase02-6

 

When we first bought the house, the kitchen was dark and ugly. The faucet leaked incessantly so that the sealant around the sink wouldn’t hold. Although the space was decently sized, there was barely any counter space, half of which we allotted to a dish rack (no dishwasher). It was dark, which we helped immensely with white paint, and divided into two parts by a partial wall/shelf, limiting the flow light of the space. Since the kitchen was built in the 1920s, it’s doubtful they ever considered a place for a large fridge. As a result, the fridge sat on a wall too short in depth, making it feel like it was floating out of  place in the middle of the kitchen. Ironically, my favorite part of the kitchen was the vintage oven/stove. The stove heated instantly (once I turned the gas knob on the wall and lit a match), but the oven would never reach above 200 degrees. After a handful of service visits, our home insurance decided we needed a new one–a huge gift for us although we were sad to see the old one go. We did hold onto the old one as a future project or in case any of you know how to fix it. (Wink.) Regardless of all of the ugly work this space needed, Mark and I fell in love with the place, determined we could love it back to life and planned a full kitchen renovation in 2015. I was convinced we could make it work a year while we adjusted to our new home and saved money for a larger renovation, but after a few months of cooking and preparing food with the kids, I felt more and more defeated by the dirtiness and lack of counter space. Mark and I decided we needed to move this project up on the priority list.

kitchen_phase02-3

During the girls’ weekend earlier this month, Mark sent me a picture of the kids tearing out the kitchen laminate. He was dying to discover the condition of the wood beneath FIVE LAYERS of laminate flooring. If any of you have renovated an old home, you know it’s a surprise each time you tear something out. The wood was a pleasant surprise–it needed scraping and sanding but otherwise was in good shape. He then tore out the partial wall–we had already removed the shelf above it–and discovered this wall was not load-bearing, another win! Originally, we planned to leave the top cabinets, but now we could remove that entire wall and lengthen the shelf and counter space! At that point, everything came out.

kitchen_phase02-4

We moved the fridge to the boys’ room, stacked all of our dishes temporarily on the dining room wall, and began clearing out everything including the leaky, dingy kitchen sink, the tile board wrapping the bottom half of the kitchen, and the cool but not practical ironing board cabinet on the kitchen wall.

kitchen_phase02-1

The guys re-wired the kitchen installing a new larger ceiling fan, grounded outlets, and spots for new light fixtures in the next phase. Mark tore out the rest of the overhangs, opening the ceiling and walls, making the space feel more cohesive. Although we would have loved opening and moving the wall with the oven, the gas line is on that wall and the water heater is behind it in the pantry. We knew that small wall would drastically increase our rather small kitchen budget, so we left that entire corner alone structurally. We plan to cut into the existing cabinet to add space for a fridge, but that will happen in one of the next phases. Now, it’s time to begin the rebuild.

kitchen_phase02

 

Thursday

26

June 2014

4

COMMENTS

weekend snippets

Written by , Posted in life lately, our home

weekend_02

weekend_01weekend_03The last few months have consisited of moving, living with one bathroom, unpacking, living without a stove, homeschooling, fixing the fridge, unpacking some more, fixing the second bathroom, being without electricity, getting a new stove, building bookshelves, going to soccer games, fixing the fridge again, tearing down walls, going to dance recitals, building out our closet–and as a result, I’ve been struggling to find some work flow here (or anywhere for that matter). Each time I have a few simple days strung together it seems the rug–and all of the construction dust on it–is swept out from under me/us again. Life is dirty and unpredictable right now, and I’m doing my best to go with it.

Last weekend, our good friends (Danny and Buck) helped Mark replace and bring up to code all of the electrical wire in our home. I can’t say enough how impressed I am with them. Over those three days they worked almost 40 hours, finishing after midnight on Sunday night–which meant aside from meal drop-offs, we didn’t see Mark for three days. We also temporarily moved back into Kristen and Tim’s house, which honestly felt a bit like coming home from university. The house was clean, the kitchen in tact, and at the end of the day, we could plop on the couch to watch a movie. Simple pleasures, really. On Saturday, I worked my first wedding with Fidelis (eep!), preparing for an exciting transition with them soon. Kristen and Tim left town for the beach early Sunday morning, and HGTV showed up at their house to film House Hunters with our friends Tiffany and Corey who are moving to town. Yes, that’s right. We spent Sunday filming with them, trying to go about “normal life” with boom mikes and large cameras in our face. Given the circumstances of our real life, I found the whole situation horribly ironic. The kids loved it though. The camera crew generously shared  information about their equipment and jobs with them and helped make the experience memorable.

At some point between the cameras and running food/drinks to Mark and the other guys,  I noticed a tiny, collarless puppy wandering our driveway. The kids jumped out of the car, scooped her up, and pleaded to keep her. We took care of her that day and night, but ultimately I had to make the cold-hearted decision–no. Sadly, we couldn’t possibly take care of a puppy right now (refer to the first paragraph). The girls sulked a bit until I explained all the care and attention little puppies require. Content with the answer, they ran off to play in the other room, while I  greeted Monday, a welcome rest.