Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Happy Place

I do love a fun blog. You know the kind, where you happen across their latest post quite by accident, and find yourself deep in the archives an hour later, wondering if the writer would find it weird if you emailed an invite for coffee?

The Painted House is one of those places.  Angela at The Painted House is an artist, a foodie (a vegan one at that!) and a decorating geek.  Does it get better than that? (Well yes, I suppose it does if you're an unattached network engineer who enjoys Star Trek and LOST and t-bone steaks. Anyhoo.)

I believe this is one of Angela's own pieces. (Illustration from her site.)  Pretty, no??

Angela took a break from blogging for a few months, and I'm delighted to see her back. She's kicking off her return to the blogosphere in big style, with a new look and a great giveaway - I'll just whisper Williams Sonoma now, and watch you all scamper away to visit her....

Full of it

My wedding ring has the words Semper Fidelis engraved on the inside. So does Torbjorn's.

Of course I knew this was the Marine Corps motto when we picked it.  I so *totally* knew.

But I digress.

What amazes me, fourteen years later, is that the phrase 'always faithful' would strike us - so young, so clueless! - as the words that would define our marriage.  I like to think of it as further evidence that even at the tender age of 23(!) we had some instinctual knowledge of what it would take to make a marriage work.

These days, with the Tiger Woods and the Jesse James stories breaking big in the headlines, the notion of 'faithfulness' is getting a lot of lip service.  But the word faithful means so very much more than simply 'not cheating on your spouse.'

Take faithful, and take it at face value:  let's look at it as literally being full of faith.

Faith is the belief in something unknowable, something for which you may not have proof.  Faith is saying, despite all evidence to the contrary, I believe that this is a good thing.  Faith, be it a trust in a Higher Power or a trust in your spouse, relies upon a willing suspension of disbelief.

Because we are humans.  We will screw up.  We may make the wrong parenting decisions, we may make really ill-considered purchases (I'm just saying!), we may say or do incredibly hurtful things.

But a relationship full of faith means that even the worst days are better together - better than a pretty good day alone.  Living faithfully means that even in the midst of anger, in the midst of hurt feelings, in the midst of deep disappointment, you have faith in this person beside you.

You have faith in their ability to come back to the negotiating table. You have faith in their ability to see the funny side of it (eventually.)  You are full of faith that the time and energy and love invested in this relationship will be the foundation of your marriage and that that is solid enough get you through.

It is really the only way to live in relationship with anyone (spouse, partner, friend, or fellow Marine, even) - if you can't live full of faith, if you can't be faithful,  then all you are left with is the suspicion that around every corner is disappointment.   Surely this is an impoverished way to live.

This post is linked as part of Bridget Chumbley's One Word at a Time blog carnival. This week the topic is (obviously) Faithfulness.  I'm post #41 - that's a lot of writing about Faithfulness!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

And it was all YELLOW

I hate the color yellow.

Sure, go on about how cheerful a color it is, how it brings sunshine into your life, how it automatically makes people feel all rainbow-y and unicorn-y.

Hate it.  99% of the time, it trends towards mustard baby poop yellow (lighter and darker shades thereof) or ooey gooey baby-nursery-yellow (lighter and darker shades thereof).  Our house, lovingly (and creatively!) named The Yellow House, is one of the ugliest shades on the planet:  the color of congealed banana pudding blended with stomach bile. 

Fine:  yes it is a signature color of both Cezanne and Matisse, it evokes the baking heat of Southern France, and one could scarcely make a dijon vinaigrette without it.

Yes, and now you mention it,  the memories of vast fields of rapeseed in springtime England, with bright flowers transferring their glow onto your t-shirt and winter-pale skin DO stick in my mind.

On one of our college-era adventures.  Somewhere in the wilds of Berkshire.

 Oh.......... and the daffodils.

In the ugly pseudo-modern planned community of Bracknell, some bright minded bureaucrat (probably quite junior) came up with a plan for establishing huge swathes of daffodil fields on the roundabouts, on the embankments of council housing and even in the grim town center shopping district. Sheer genius:  paint the town with the shade of sunshine, and they'll never notice they don't have any.

I might not make it through March without the daffodils.

Just when you think you Will. Not. Survive. one more cold gray day, you notice a small bunch of narcissus at the grocery store checkout.    The yellow of a daffodil works its way right into your cold gray heart, and promises the thaw that's coming. 

This has been a particularly bleak March - full of gray days and lots of storms, both inside and out.  I have never been more grateful to welcome a little bit of yellow back into our lives.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Patrons with Beer and Chili

I am not famous for my artistic abilities.  My Drawing 101 teacher was polite about my efforts, and in Painting 101 was...guarded about my self-portrait in oil. My college poetry is cringe-worthy, and let's just say I've never tried acting because I'm not even a good enough actor to be a waitress when I'm not acting.

No.  My unique gift seems to be finding & keeping as friends amazing artists of all varieties.

I have friends who are authors, painters, filmmakers, actors, designers, glassblowers and all-around-crafties.  These days I can't turn around without one of my peeps launching something amazing.

This past Friday we had our lovely neighborhood happy hour (Paradise:  where the kids are happy but the parents even happier!) and at our table we had not one but TWO Smithsonian exhibit designers (married! how cute does it GET?), and they were full of excitement about projects launching this week. 

Clare is the exhibit designer for the fantabulous new display "A First Lady's Debut," at the National Museum of American History.   She had to remain very close lipped about the details as of Friday, but now that the exhibit's opening tomorrow and the First Lady's gown is safely ensconced, maybe it's ok to namedrop? OMIGOSH MY FRIEND CLARE WAS THE DESIGNER OF AN EXHIBIT OPENING WITH MICHELLE OBAMA TODAY! CHECK IT OUT!

And Jer was equally excited about an exhibit he's worked on for almost a year, slated to open March 13 at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery:
An extraordinary Buddhist shrine room will be on public view for the first time at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery from March 13, 2010, through July 18, 2010. "The Tibetan Shrine from the Alice S. Kandell Collection" will offer visitors a unique opportunity to encounter superb works of Tibetan Buddhist art in the sacred context in which they were first created and displayed. The shrine room is considered to be the only one of such magnitude and artistic quality in the United States. [To read the rest of the press release click here.]
And then, the Happy Hour crowd got to quiz our favorite photographer Dave K Cooper on his latest occupation - filmmaking for Embarq - a group of people working to promote sustainable transport on this little globe of ours.

I am so genuinely excited for all these amazing people.  I went to bed that night bubbling over with enthusiasm for their projects, and their successes this week.  As we curled up under the duvet, I exclaimed ooh, honey - you know what we're like? We're like patrons - our house is like the salons of Paris in the 1920s!

An exhausted Torbjorn rolled over, and here's the last thing he said to me:  Kirsten. To be a patron you have to have money. I think we're the only patrons in the world who support with Beer and Chili.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Heaven in a bag

It is hotter, said my husband.

If this is the highest compliment you can offer your morning cup of joe, my friends, then you probably should just walk away, towards a nice cup of Earl Grey or something.

Here's the thing: coffee and I have this completely co-dependent relationship.  Co-dependent in that IT depends on me to drink it, and I depend on IT to complete me. Yes.  Coffee, you complete me.

We've been experimenting the last year or so - for a while we were brewing coffee in one of those sweet little Italian stovetop espresso makers, and steaming our own milk in a separate saucepan.  The theater and drama of said preparation was remarkable [for example, the time Torbjorn put it on to boil with no water. Cue fumes from melted plastic handle for days.]  After that episode, we were obliged to switch to regular drip-method coffee, and I have explored Trader Joe's vast array of different coffee beans which you can grind yourself in the store.   I tend to stick to the fair trade and organic varieties (try reading Animal Vegetable Miracle and not feeling that compulsion), and have found a few that we like just fine.

Then, brewed nirvana presented itself on our doorstep.  A little bakery opened up in our town, a little joint called Atwater's.  They sell phenomenal bread, lovely homemade soups, and scones that my children will stomp each other to obtain.  The bread is really their 'thing.'  But their coffee. Oh! THEIR COFFEE.  They serve - and sell - Counter Culture Coffee, which, if I had a bag here I could tell you more about.   But I will say this:  drinking that inky goodness brings to mind notes of chocolate, cherries and a little tar and angels and heaven and Oh My.  

We finished our most recent purchase of Heaven in a Bag yesterday morning.  And let me just tell you, HiaB does not come cheap - you don't just stock up on 14 bags of the stuff.  We found ourselves without any ground coffee at all today. 

Instant.  Instant coffee is what laid in our bare cupboard.  (My husband may or may not have called me Old Mother Hubbard.)   We bit the bullet, boiled the water, and brewed up the liquids necessary to Get Mommy Thinking. 

Well, it is hotter,  he said, grimacing. 

I'll be at Atwaters first thing in the morning.  I do believe they open at 5.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The End of the Experiment

Oh hey!  Is it March already? 

My kids have been counting down to March 1st since well, February 1st.  You see, today's the end of our Great TV Experiment.  (If you missed it, you can read about our kickoff of the Experiment here.)

Today I'm guest posting over at Classic Play, where I share all the deeply scientific data we collected in our month-long experiment.

We are celebrating a entire month of TV-free living with -ta da! - yet another sick day where my patient wants to do nothing but lie on the sofa and watch Bugs Bunny.  And I'm ok with that.  With warmer, healthier days just around the corner, I think the occupants of this house have figured out that life without TV is no tragedy, and the outdoors is sounding its siren call.

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