Friday, November 02, 2012


I've come to this keyboard a thousand times in the last month. It's not that I have nothing to say, but perhaps, I have too much.

My heart is full. The last month has been heavy with moments and memories. Prayers answered and yet to be.

But in all these things my heart is laid open because I am surrounded by a great cloud... people set before me whom I am allowed to love. Really love. And what's more... who love me back.

The calender very recently flipped into a new decade. Forty. Such a round and hearty number. The celebrations long and lavish. I drank chocolate martinis on the beach with dear and faithful friends. I sipped tea with my favorite English Amiga. I sat around a table with new friends who are teaching me how to grow in strength and wisdom by simply loving. Tonight the party continues with one last round of celebration; dinner with two kindred spirits. Its been a month of gifts in the mail, phone calls and messages... people giving so much. Simply loving through time and words and prayer. Precious gifts.

I am thank-full.  Filled, and yet not stuffed. Where there is overflow, there is much to give. That's the great part about gratitude. It's contagious and, given the proper prospective, can be found in any age, in any circumstance, in any place in life. Right here, in "middle age", I'm filled beyond the depth of words.

Today marks 30 days before Thanksgiving. Today I am grateful for many things... too many to list. For this moment I am grateful for the gift of relationships. Friends and family, near and far. I am thankful for their love, and pray that I will be as generous with others as they have been to me...

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Read, Write, Relate...deeply and intentionally

September alway feels like a new beginning for me. With the opening of new reams of paper and colored pencils comes the time when I like to evaluate "things" in my life with a critical eye; to pray about what needs to be picked up, and what needs to be put down.

I made only one personal goal this year, but its going to take my whole life to hone it: Read, Write, and Relate...deeply and intentionally. To start, this means my days of social media (apart from this blog) are all but over. I cannot write or relate on a deep level if all I am reading is status updates and bits of useless information that doesn't intentionally foster deep thinking or relationship.

The biggest thought and time sucker in my life is Facebook. So I'm cutting way back. It's not that I don't think there is room in life for fun or fluff. However, even "fluff" (good fiction books, movies, light conversation and time having fun with actual people) lends to a thought process that runs deeper than pictures of newly painted toes, snarky sayings, or emotional opinions given over the internet that would not be verbalized face-to face. For the record, I'm not talking about politics here. Nor am I nursing a wounded ego from cutting words on the Timeline. This isn't a personal diatribe to vent feeling or frustrations I will not take to someone face-to-face. This post is born out of a deep thinker's need to re-learn the process of thoughtful thinking and living. A gift I gave away when I chose to lend the whole of my thought life to stats, tweets, #ideas in 140 characters, more or less.

The thing is this: I do love Facebook as a means to connect with those outside of my community; to see pictures of growing kids, vacations, pregnancy/good news announcements, and to get prayer requests from those who are hurting. I enjoy seeing updates from those who were a part of my life for a short season, but are no longer even acquaintances. I like that there is a place I can contact people whom I would love to keep in touch with every once in a while.  The truth is, I wouldn't be in contact with this group of friends every day, month or year (and some cases, decade) but its nice to check in when we can.

Then there are my dear friends on Facebook (and in real life) that I rarely get to see, but when I do, its like the distance never exists. Those friendships have stood the test of time and will continue to do so whether I log in every day or not.

Relationships within my community are entirely different. They deserve more than a quick push on "like", they deserve deep and abiding connection while I am here to do it.  Obviously, I cannot do this quickly, or even everyday, but that doesn't relinquish my responsibility in the building of relationships with those within my reach. The lie of Facebook is that it keeps us connected with the click of a mouse and we call it "relating." It just isn't true. We aren't meant to live life this way. It isn't true living. And its killing my ability to think.

The initial concept behind Facebook and other sites was a good one: to serve and help foster relationships and ideas. For me, it has done the exact opposite. It has dulled my senses and strangled my thinking. I am meant to foster relationships in a meaningful and authentic way; not be a slave to the shallow stats of life. To this end, I'm reserving my Facebooking time for occasional weekend check-ins, making more time to think deeply, read thoroughly, write more thoughtfully, and enjoy living life with those who are willing to spend it with me.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Confession from the CoffeeGal

I have a secret I've been keeping for 106 days.

I've told a few people, so its not entirely secret. Two months ago I shared my hush-hush news with the Carpool Queen and her eyes weld up with tears. Her baby blues looked upon me with a mix of pity and unbelief.

In the past I've shared many parts of my life with (what I hope is) transparent honesty. But this... well I just haven't been able to bring myself to write about it.

Honestly, there are still days I can't believe it myself.

I gave up caffeine.

Nope, that's no typo.

I. gave. up. caffeine.

I mentioned a health crises I had in late May. One morning I woke up so panic and anxiety ridden, I was not functional. I was literally sick in the bed. Not sick like the average mama who can run a fever of 104, be completely run-down, but still manages to go to bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan  I'm talkin' bout an I-can't-get-out-bed, have-to-call-a neighbor-to-drive-me-to-the-doctor (because my husband was out of town), can't-sleep-eat-or-think; feels-like-someone-hit-me-with-a-mack-truck-after-running-a-marathon kind of sick. I didn't know that anxiety could have such an absolute, complete, head-to-toe physical aspect to it... but it most certainly does. It came on suddenly, lasted for weeks, and wasn't very fun.

It all started early on a Thursday morning while I was out for a run. My heart rate went up, and over, the normal pace, and never came down. I came home, crawled into bed, and stayed there. For the course of a week I was doing nothing more strenuous than getting out of bed once in awhile to use the bathroom or to bathe, but my heart, mind and body continued to race. Even if I had had the energy to descend the stairs to the kitchen coffee pot, the thought of drinking a stimulant was more than I could bear.

Still, I missed it.

I've been a coffee drinker from the tender age of sixteen. For the record, that's nearly a quarter century of early morning roasted deliciousness. I did give it up twice, for nine months each. Enough time to incubate my chicks. The moment they hatched my first "solid food" was a cup of hospital coffee with powdered creme. Not exactly gourmet, but good enough for me.

It was the hot caffeinated beverage that got me through early morning breastfeeding sessions after long nights without sleep. It helped me to stay up late on weekends with girlfriends, when late night chatting sessions were in full swing. Coffee has been the catalyst for many wonderful conversations with my husband, friends, and family. It's been the conduit for a cozy morning read, and warm respite each afternoon.  I've built this blog over the course of seven years, most posts typed with one hand, hot mug in the other. After all, this is La Vida Dulce, named after my favorite coffee (now discontinued) and I am the CoffeeGal. She doesn't drink decaf.

Only now,  I do.

Have I mentioned its been nearly 106 days and I still miss it?

But I'll tell you what makes me grateful.

I used to worry when I traveled: Where would I get coffee in the morning? Would there be enough? How would I deal with the headaches and sluggishness if I couldn't find the Joe?  I was using coffee as a stimulant. I was (although I despise the use of this word) addicted. I couldn't function without it. It's nice to have the freedom to go somewhere and know I won't "need" a fix.

I have been a notoriously "bad sleeper" for most of my life. Having trouble getting and staying asleep.
I still struggle a bit with sleep, but its different. Now I can fall asleep easier, and if I wake up in the middle of the night it doesn't take three to four hours to catch some z's.

My morning workouts feel more productive.  I was waking up in the morning, having a HUGE cup of coffee (usually 18 oz) , and then slogging through a run or workout still not feeling fully awake. I had to have two (or more) mugs to rev up my engine. Now I enjoy working-out more because I feel refreshed when I start.

I'm still drinking one cup of decaf (10 oz - Keurig style) in the early morning, pre-workout. Then having a second cup with my breakfast. Every once in while, when I'm needing the comfort of a warm cup in my hand, I have one in the afternoon. I am grateful that I don't have to choose good health or something good to drink. I think that might be the most amazing part: I hadn't realized how caffeine had drastically changed my health and perspective. I believed the lie that I couldn't live without coffee (because I felt horrid without it.) But the truth is I can enjoy coffee and feel good. I can have both. When you are always searching for the next "fix", you cannot see that truth. I still enjoy my coffee. But now I'm enjoying it while having a more balanced perspective, and improved physical and mental health along the way.

As for the anxiety and panic issue, I wish I could say that lack of "the real stuff" is the cure.  It's not quite that easy. But, I'm doing so much better with the help of a supportive husband, family and friends, and with copious amounts of prayer. Oh, and pharmaceuticals are helpful too... but that might be confession for another day.

La Vida Dulce! 
(The sweet life!)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Summer Unexpected

Much of the last 100 days has been a lesson in unexpected changes:

-anxiety threatened to steal my joy;
-illness cancelled trips;
-a friend decided to unfriend me (not on Facebook, but in real life);
-I received a call that my father was in an ambulance with chest pain;
-our long planned trip to Montana was re-routed to Arizona;
-we walked into our AZ rental home to find it was trashed;
-families we love choosing different ways...

Last week I was just outside of Des Moines, Iowa, in a beautiful town in the heart of the mid-west. There isn't a commercial coffee shop, nor a big box store of any kind. The grocery store is tiny and independently owned. Only 3700 people live in that simple town, and as providence would have it, my dear friend is one of them.

As we walked and talked and took in the blue sky, I was hardly aware that this part of the country is experiencing a devastating drought.  A bit of rain had come the week before and spruced up the greenery, but it was too little too late, for those whose lives depend on rain.

I was struck with gratitude that that truth is not my own. I have been in a bit of drought myself. Parched from the winds of change, the fear of the unknown. Its true that I have experienced bits of refreshment which have perked me up along the way; small rains that take the sting from the biting heat but don't rinse the difficulties of the season.

I left Iowa on a beautiful Friday morning. As we took that last left turn towards Highway 80, the sunrise was almost more than I could bear... it was a magnificent showing of rays that would not be darkened by a few wispy clouds. Suddenly, I felt a burst of inspiration to view my circumstances through a different lens...

We started school today and have some order and routine.  One-hundred and six days ago this felt mundane, now its a welcomed friend.

Each year I make goals for the year to come. This year my goals are simple and based on Questions/Answers 27 & 28 in the Heidelberg Catechism (my paraphrase):

  1. To be Patient when things go against me,
  2. Thankful, when things go well; and for the future I can have
  3. Confidence in our faithful God and Father, that nothing will separate us from His love.
I am grateful:

-for a God who is in control, even when I feel I'm not;
-for trips not taken,
-for broken relationships, although i don't understand it, must be for our mutual good;
-for my dad, who is alive and well and will make a full recovery.
-for the ability to hug his neck, and that of my mom, and to sit together in gratitude for a happy visit    
-for the ability and means to care and keep a second home (even though its not what we planned!)
-for family who loves us in spite of our differences, and walk toward us in relationship.

I am thankful for the privilege to live the life unexpected...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rainbow's End

Every once in awhile I make something that I am super proud of... this, is one of those projects.

I had my eye on this pattern by Drops Design for a long time. I read it over and over, until the time came to pick up a hook and a skein of Pistachio Green. The pattern is very easy to read (although it does use British English crochet terms, which isn't hard but took a moment to translate) and the Drops Paris yarn sews up like a dream.

With every row I became more enamored. I learned to crochet about two years ago and I am still completely amazed that a simple twist of the wrist and turn of a hook can make simple string into something beautiful.

Yesterday I had lunch with the Carpoolqueen who has the best family room for picture taking. Its a warm and happy place, with sunlight that fills the room. I knew I just had to bring this new project to her house for a little photo shoot. I paid her in cookies.

So she made the coffee while I made moved cushions and generally made myself at home.

Oh! That picture makes me happy! It was so nice that CPQ's new throw pillows perfectly matched my new blanket...if those pillows show up missing one day....

I even gave the blanket a little test run by sipping my coffee in the coziest chair in the house, and day-dreamed about those cold winter mornings that are certain to come... but I'll be wrapped in a rainbow and perfectly happy.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Color Me Summer

This poor tired blog... so neglected. But its been too difficult to sit down and write when the summer is in full swing. I don't want to miss one moment of fun.

I was in the neighbors yard again... this time taking pictures of her beautiful flowers. I call them Helen's Hibiscus, and they are lovely. You can't tell from the picture above but those blooms are about 10 inches across from petal to petal. She sits in her hot pink glory on the edge of Helen's property and is the Bell of the Ball this year... just gorgeous.

Thursdays has become a favorite day in my house. It's when my box(es) from The Produce Box come with all those delicious fresh veggies. Every week I line up my boxed bounty on the counter top and take a picture...Organizing them properly as if I'd grown the prize winning tomatoes myself.

The Boy started Driver Education at our local high school this week. No one warned me that I would feel much like i did when I dropped him off at kindergarten 10 years ago: I felt excited and scared, with a side of its all going so fast and oh my goodness I'm old.

So I indulged in a little yarn therapy.

I've had my eyes on this pattern for a couple months but had told myself to finish a few other projects before ordering more yarn. Discipline... its so hard where crafting is concerned. But I stuck to my guns, and when the yarn finally came last week, I walked directly from the mail box to that spot on the floor... and stayed there for several days hours.

Forty-eight hours and 3786 double-crochets later my wrists desperately needed a break so I decided to organize my embroidery floss. I'm getting ready to make my annual Christmas Ornaments and I needed order in my floss box.

I'm glad for the distraction because The Girl was picked up on Friday night for her first official-without-an-adult-present babysitting job. She is absolutely ready for this and is a great babysitter. Her next few weekends are already booked. I'm very proud of her.

Since I had a free night all to myself I pulled out the wool felt and began to cut and sew while watching Lonesome Dove for the first time.

Why Lonesome Dove? Because I've been on a Montana kick lately. In August we are going to Montana (one of my favorite places) so I have been reading books, watching videos, and surfing the net in anticipation!

If you throw in some housekeeping, swimming at the pool with friends, lesson planning for next year, and driving the kids to all their fun summer activities you've got broad strokes of my color-filled summer. Hope yours is as bright!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Tis the Gift to be Simple

I woke up this morning with these words in my head:

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.

This one verse song, written in the 1700's is titled "Simple Gifts".

This summer has been gift. Even though it has had its disappointments and closed doors, they were truly gifts.

Because I wasn't feeling well I didn't get to go on a beach trip in May, and there was a cancelled trip to Colorado Springs on the exact weekend that the nation watched in fear and prayed for the mercy of rain.

There were several other things that I wished and wanted to do... but instead I have received the simple gift of rest, time with those I love, time to care and keep my home. I feel 100% better and the hindsight is bright and clear.  I struggled, deeply and with many tears, but as i have felt better I have been given the time to take longer walks with my husband, to exercise with a healthy mind and body; to share life with those I love over tea and cupcakes.

I've been able to use my creative talents with joy.

Today we celebrate the gift of Independence here in America. But this summer of unplanned rest has helped to change my focus. I am not to strive and push and run for an independent life, I have been given the gift of dependent living on Christ, who orders my days and give gifts that are good and right. His timing is perfect, and His care never ceases, even when I have trouble seeing it.

I am very grateful for the gift of living in this great nation, but I am profoundly grateful to live simply, in love and delight, when I turn, turn, and trust my every breathe to the Giver of life.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

WIP Wendnesday: Dahlia Two

This week I am officially back into obsessive crafting mode.

I haven't written much about the last 6 weeks, but the truth is I had a rough patch with my health. The good news is that I am BACK! And what's better is that my creative mojo is back too!

I was able to finish a few projects that I wanted to complete and now I am elbow deep into a new WIP (work-in-process.)

I'm calling her Dahlia Two.

I found this Dahlia square as a free .pdf on Ravelry and fell in love. You can find it HERE.

I was so enamored by it that I immediately picked up some yarn purchased nearly a year ago and began hooking away. After a few adjustments (I had to go down a size of the recommended hook) I was soon dreaming of a little lap throw that would make someone happy. I won't be keeping this piece, and having the recipient in mind while I busily work the hook makes the creative process just that more sweet.

In the past I haven't been fond of piecing together squares, but something "clicked" when I put together my last afghan (a different kind of Dahlia Throw) and now I'm headlong into this new square hook up.

 This time I will be using this tutorial, Flat Braid Square Join, to bring everything together.  I have read through this tutorial three times and it is a well done tutorial with pictures.

Can't wait to see how everything turns out.

I am so grateful for the gifts of creativity and for feeling back to my old self!

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Three Pounds, Three Ounces

This weekend I had the opportunity to walk through the garden of a dear friend and neighbor. She and her husband keep a large patch on their property, and grow a plethora of fruits and veggies.

Being a new gardner, I am always interested in talking with seasoned growers. Especially gardeners who enjoy sharing their tips.

This weekend I didn't just walk away with advice, but arms heaving with vegetables.

I came home with cucumber, yellow squash, green beans, a bell pepper, and the BIGGEST zucchini I have ever seen.

It weighs in at 3.3 ounces. I've known newborns smaller than this veg.

Earlier in the morning I had been in my small patch and had pulled a cucumber that closely resembled a bowling pin, and two small zucchini. When I put the Big Zucchini next to my mini-zuc's I started humming: one of these things is not like the other, one these things is not quite the same. 

Looks like it will be zucchini for dinner, and zucchini bread for dessert.

Thankful... for the abundant gift of friends and neighbors and delicious food.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Five on Friday


I finished the Dahlia Afghan this week. I love it, but was surprised that it isn't quite as big as I thought it would be. I think it will be great in the fall when I am sitting on a soccer field sipping coffee and trying to keep warm, but it isn't quite big enough for a full cover up. The only thing I did differently from the pattern was place an shelled edge around the border. It was just too plain without it.


The Girl and I had planted some Gladiolas in March. They grew up immediately, but never produced flowers. I figured we had done something wrong. Turns out, we were just a little early! They are amazing.


I went berry pickin' with my friend Elisa and her kiddos last week. We picked blueberries and (the BIGGEST) blackberries I had ever seen.


If you need a good but very simple Blueberry Coffee Cake recipe, you can't beat Ina's... so, so good.


I've also been eating granola with greek yogurt and berries for breakfast nearly every day. I promised to share my latest granola recipe. My other favorite granola recipe has more sugar and isn't dairy free, but this one is equally good... I like it even a little better because it isn't quite as sweet.


4 cups oatmeal
1.5 - 2 cups combined nuts and seeds*
2 tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
4 - 6 Tbls oil ( I used coconut oil, but I have used melted butter or canola in the past. Using less oil          
                       yields a crumblier granola, more like a cereal than big chunks)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup or honey
2 tsp vanilla

Mix oats, nuts, and spices in a big bowl. Combine oil, syrup, and vanilla in a separate dish and pour over oat mixture. Spread into a greased jelly roll pan, and cooke for 15-20 minutes at 350. Granola will turn golden in color when done. Cooking longer will lend to a crunchier texture.

*I use a combination of walnuts, sunflower seed, pepitas, pine nuts, chopped almonds, whatever I have in my cupboard. I have also added cranberries, but if you add them I would add them to the granola after baking, otherwise they get REALLY dry and hard.)


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Blue

I went to visit a friend who lives just down the street. She has hydrangeas that have been growing in her yard for nearly thirty years.

Lilac. Blue. Purple. They amaze me.

Perfect little bouquets...
... that faithfully come up year after year.

As I snapped pictures she clipped several bunches and wrapped the stems in a moist paper towel and gave them to me. Its nice to have generous neighbors who enjoy sharing beautiful things.

I loved the short walk home with my colorful bouquet; feeling the pride of a child who has just picked flowers from her mothers garden, and dreaming of what they would look like in my white pitcher on the dining room table.


See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 
 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, 
O you of little faith? 
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or 
‘What shall we wear?’  
For the pagans run after all these things, 
and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, 
and all these things will be given to you as well.  
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, f
or tomorrow will worry about itself. 
Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6: 29-34

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Gratitude Giving

Today I am thankful for...

... quiet spaces.

... being tucked under the wings of God and his people.

... peace that comes in the morning.

... the harvest of working hard in the sun and depending on rain... but ultimately knowing that the timing of fruit comes from the Father's hand.

You may need to click on this picture to see it clearly.  

...for levity.

... for the gift of making tangible order from messy items... like laundry and muffins.

... for new hair cuts.

... and smiling faces.
Do you think we're related?
... for finding not one, but two, copies of a book I need to re-read.

... for a change in plans.

... for a husband who is truly my dearest friend.

... for prayer and God's word.

... for the ability to write these words...

For all these things I am grateful.