Monthly Archives: August 2014

On Russian Literature and beauty

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I’ll admit, my exposure to Russian literature lays within the bounds of Tolstoy,Dostoyevsky. and Solzhenitsyn. I am in no way any type of expert, nor do I claim to be. So understand that the following treatise is limited at best.

That being said … I have found that the way these three men, representative of two very different Russia’s, have a way with the written word that few other cultures seem to have. Watching again the most recently adaptation of “Anna Karenina”I am taken away with the depth of things the author says without actually saying them. Those words … things like, “Divorce is one thing — dinner is another,” or, “I thank God the curse of love is lifted from me,” or even this: “He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.” Beautiful. And as you continue to read, you catch the heart of Tolstoy … you heart hears the heart of Tolstoy. This book is stunningly deep and relevant and lives still because Tolstoy chose to live in the words he put down on the page. They took on their own life, in the moment, and continue to resonate through the years. 

I recently heard Don Miller (In case you don’t know who he is) say that if you write with the thought of the grandeur and glory and money, you will lose the love of the craft. Writing is something that resonates in the soul. And the practice of writing — the discipline — somehow has the tendency to get lost in the economics of it all. Somewhere between the actual putting down of words on paper, and creating characters and setting that last for hundreds of years, there is this sweet spot where the hard work of writing takes place.

I, for one, struggle to live there. Writing was always second nature to me, so when it came to actually trying … I was at a loss. I think, like so many things that become “function” in life, I lost sight of what was truly important. And it was easy for me to remember the “glory days” when words came like summer rain — powerful, torrentially and left pools for me to splash around in for days after. 

As I got older, words became a way to future glory. “If only I could …” because a phrase that brought me false comfort and caused me to waste time dreaming that I should have spent writing. Not that dreaming is bad in and of itself. But when it provides an outlet to simply keep you from doing what you “should” be doing (a distraction), then it loses all it’s benefit. My “someday” kept me from concentrating on what needed to be done in the here and now. 

That’s what NOT living in the moment brings us. We are creatures that tend to default to either side of the present. The line that is “the now” is tiny and difficult to walk when we look and notice there is so much space on both the past and the future side of it. And while that concept can be dragged to extremes (it’s kind of what got Anna and Vronsky in trouble), living in the moment actually gives perspective to what was, and lays a healthier foundation for what is to come. 

What am I saying? Living in the moment is a continuing, constant struggle for me. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. I desire to “walk the line” when it comes to experiences and energy and desire, because right now is the only sure thing we are given. To truly be present and breathe in all that is right in front of me makes me appreciate my life and those who are a part of it more fully. I want to be focused, taking mental snapshots of people and things I love that are blessing me right now. My third born headed to college. My time alone with the youngest. My dad. My husband. Vicariously experiencing the things my older two are as they are so faithful at staying in touch on a daily basis, and sharing the part of their lives that I cannot be a part of because of physical distance.  Living — truly living – in the right now.

I also think I fell back in love with language today, and how it works within the process of writing. The words, the phrases … they brought to me sight and sound and feeling. And I was reminded of how powerful a well placed turn of phrase and such can be. It literally moved me. 

One of the most famous quotes comes when Anna asks why Vronsky loves her. He tells her, “You can’t ask WHY about love!”I think there are many things in life like that. We as humans have this desire to love things we don’t understand. Be they supernatural (as in faith) or creative (as in abstract art) or affairs of the heart (we can say we love this or that in our significant other, but isn’t there always “something more” we cannot articulate?). My love for Russian literature falls under that nebulous category of “Things I can’t quite place my finger on”. And today, that “love” moved me into other realizations.

It truly is a beautiful thing. 

 

Thunderstorms

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There’s a tremendous summer storm going on right now here in mid-Michigan. It’s glorious … lightning, thunder, torrential rain, the whole nine yards.

I’m a big storm fan. There’s something about storms that make me want to hole up in my house, watching familiar movies and just being with my family. I’ve got one of my favorite Christmas movies on right now (please don’t judge, I know it’s August). All I need now is a hot mug of tea, and some greasy junk food, and I’ll be set for the night.I love just being with my family. There are a thousand things I SHOULD be doing right now. But every fiber of me cries out to just BE.

Just being … sitting, laughing, talking. That’s what we’ve been doing a lot of this past weekend. I had all six kids here (for those keeping track, I have four birth children, two of which have brought intelligent and beautiful in-laws into our midst over the last two summers). We also had my husband’s sister and part of her family (MORE newlyweds), as well as heart-deep friends. Our weekend was rich and dripping with dividends on relational investments we’ve made throughout the years.

And I relished in it. Just like this storm outside, those few blessed hours gave me … peace. It was a good thing.

However, we have had tremendous tragedies falling around us recently. Not our immediate family, but people we love have been through “it” these last few weeks. Like the storm, it came on fast and furious. And like most people, I attempt to make some kind of “sense” out of tragedy.

It’s an act of futility. Tragedy happens. Whether you believe in God or not, we see tragedies daily, whether then are nearby or across the world. No news here. But still, sometimes it seems like the storms are relentless and I stand back and wonder why it seems to pour out so randomly and yet sometimes so specifically on certain people over and over and over again. Unanswerable.

My own sky is cloudy today because I had to say goodbye to 2/7ths of my heart. My oldest and his lovely left for their

IMG_3318    second go-round of teaching in China (Find the kids’ blog here). I’m excited for them! They will have a GREAT year. They have beautiful and wonderful things ahead. I know … I know. But they are now in Los Angeles. And soon, will be half a world away from me.

My daughter and freaking-fabulous son-in-law are here right now. Then, they leave again and continue the job/apartment hunt … but only two hours away. Excited for them. Only good things ahead for them. Can’t wait to see what happens next. But they will be gone soon, too. Moving into their new life, whatever and wherever that might be.

My little lion boy has two weeks before he leaves for college. I can’t wait to see what happens in his life. He’s soooooo ready to go to the next step. He’s amazing, and has only good things ahead for him. And he, too, will only be two hours away. Two hours further away than he’s ever lived for more than a few days. Opposite from my daughter.

These things in my life are NOT tragedies … they are transitions. They are storm clouds sliding across the sky of my life and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the sun’ll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar … oh. Sorry. Got lost in a musical moment. I’m back now.

Anyway … transitions. Storms.

I know that like the storms, these things come and go. Unlike tragedy, I don’t feel the need to make sense out of any of it. It’s life … pure, simple, exciting, beautiful. And I was reminded this past weekend that between the times of transitions, there are these moments of clarity when the people you love dearly are close to you, laughing uncontrollably and making the place you are so real. Like the atmosphere, after a storm. Truly sweet air.

I’ve found a new friend!

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Ok , Ok … maybe not in the sense of a “friend” that you share your life and activities with.

The internet and various social media outlets has given me the ability to stalk follow various bloggers and photographers from around the world that help me imagine something more than my midwestern limitations wrap me in day to day. Sometimes, I actually take what these amazing people say/do to heart and put it into practice. 

I think that’s one of my “biggest” issues (and no, this is not a therapy session, so you’ll just have to imagine what all my issues are if you don’t really know me) is the idea that I want to “do” so many, many things. However, most days I end up being swallowed by the “have-tos” that keep my little world (and that of my beloved family) spinning comfortably. Sure, there are adventures (the DH happens to currently be in Haiti planning trees), and I tend to not fear the new so various things happen around here that may or may not be successful (still trying to sell the family on the joys of lentils ten different ways). 

But most of my days look scarily like the day before it. And the previous week. And the unending months … the spirit of discontent is my constant advisory and ironically, one of my best friends. 

All that being said, I ran into (via a beautiful Tuscan chicken recipe found here:  My “recipes to try”) Wanderlust Kitchen (http://thewanderlustkitchen.com) this morning! Anetta has traveled extensively, and brought home with her recipes from around the world. I’ve done a little exploration around her blog, and two thoughts came to mind:

One, I want to do that.

Two, I am a failure at life, and deserve the endless piles of laundry to fold and dishes to do. 

OK, I don’t spend too much time wallowing in domestic self-pity. But it does make me wonder why I “know” what elements I want in my life and why it’s so stinking hard to commit to making certain changes. Forward motion never becomes easy. the idea that “A body at rest ends to stay at rest” is perhaps one of the truest things I’ve experienced in my life. 

All that to say … Wanderlust Kitchen inspires me to just keep swimming. Every little thing that moves me forward … moves me forward. Little things (new systems, new recipes, new adventures) are all a part of the journey that takes me from where I am to where I want to be. And that’s good. 

So go check out Wanderlust Kitchen. Challenge yourself to try something new today. And remember the cliched (but true) statement that life truly is a journey of many little steps that add up to miles on your way. 

Now I gotta go fold laundry … 

Thinking …

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I made a stupid comment the other day. To one of my running friends. Out of the blue, I said, “I think I’m going to try a 1/2 marathon.”

Understand I haven’t been running, “for real”, since October.

What the heck possessed me in that moment? ˜

Sure, I want to start running again. I need to start running again. There’s the physical aspect (how strong I felt when I was running) but there’s also the emotional benefits. Change is the ONLY constant in my life right now. I remember finishing a run, physically drenched with sweat and sometimes sick to my stomach, but having enough endorphins in my system to take me through most of the day.

I need … something. Today, walking through the grocery store, I realized I was talking myself down the entire time … warding off an unwarranted panic attack. My life is good. Incredible, even. And yet there is this constant unknown that stalks me. I often use “busy” as my drug of choice, because it keeps me focused away from whatever is happening in my heart. And “busy” is acceptable, because it gets stuff done, and there is always someone willing to accept help for something.

Running did that for me. I was better — consistently better — when I was running 3-4 times a week.

But really? A half marathon? There is no way I could do that. I’m old, and out of shape. I lack discipline. I’m really a lazy person, so to even start running again seems like such a stretch … and yet, the idea that I could run 13. 1 miles? I mean, seriously?That’s a little more than 6 1/2 miles one way, turning around, then running all.the.way. back to wherever I started from.

I looked up a walk/run plan that would get me race ready by the third week of October. Do you know that part of that plan has me going 10 miles at a time on some beautiful fall Saturday yet to be determined??!!?? I just don’t know …

Commitment. It’s not something I’m known for. I’m good at follow through, but the whole “getting me to commit” is a big thing for me. Still, the idea of doing something I absolutely thought would never, ever interest me is intriguing.

If you would have told me a year ago I would have flown 15 hours to see my kids in China, I might have said, “Yeah, probably not.” If you would have told me I would make a good chunk of the food for a wedding reception of 300-ish, I would have said, “Not likely.” If you would have hinted to me I’d shoot my first wedding for my nephew and actually enjoy it — and felt fairly competent in the process — I would have shook my head. If you would have told me a couple of years ago I’d actually enjoy being a part of a local church, I would have probably said bad words to you.

So … I don’t think this “thing” is out of the question. I’m not willing to jump in quite yet. But I have stopped saying “No freakin’ way.” I’m finding that without some type of challenge, I will simply grow old. And that’s NOT my plan. Half marathon? Maybe that’s the next thing. I guess we’ll see …