about bliss

Sunday, December 09, 2012

daily bliss: snowflakes

The first snow of the season has danced through the sky all day long, prompting two passes by the city plow, and creating a soft landscape. I've been ensconced in fleece inside all day, still trying to overcome this late semester cold. Besides a walk through freshly fallen snow on a crystalline, blue, sunny, crisp winter morning, this is my favorite way to experience snow: from the warmth within.

As I watch the Lions-Packers battle on the frozen tundra (also from a safe distance), I cut several snowflakes from copy paper. Folding, snipping, playing, experimenting, I created six lacy flakes to grace our front and back door windows.

And I felt a little like a kid again, playing with snow.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

daily bliss: taking care

Mrs. Grass' chicken noodle soup, flavor enhanced by a wee golden egg. Kraft macaroni and cheese. Tea. Juice. Warm blankets. Mom's soothing care.

When I'm feeling under the weather, these are the things I long for.

For many years, living alone, I had to drag myself to the store for the provisions, and fix my own soup, brew my own tea, and feel sorry for myself in silence, regaling my Mom with details of my illness over long distance.

Through the years, I turned to friends and neighbors for supplies the very few times I was sick enough to not leave home.

Since Gregg and I have lived together, we've taken on the loving task of caring for one another in sickness. We've discovered that I like to be taken care of; he mostly wants to be left alone. And so we nurture each other in the ways that suit us best. This time around, he fixed me tofu noodle soup following my detailed directions, brewed me tea, brought me water and juice, cooked oatmeal for breakfast, and gave the bed over to me the night I was tossing and turning, shivering and sweating.

Today, when I started feeling better, we made homemade mac-and-cheese-and-broccoli together, and diced peppers and onions for black bean soup, taking care.

There's an art to taking care, balancing the needs of the person being cared for and the person caring. We're finding our way, and giving each other comfort.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

daily bliss: haiku

Scratchy throat heralds
One last semester cold
Just in time for finals!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

daily bliss: tree

At one time, my Grandparents V. had a Christmas tree farm. And, when my Dad was younger, he and my Uncle sometimes drove trucks full of trees for another farmer. I'm not sure of the logistics of these stories, but I know Dad tells some interesting tales about his brief stint trucking...and I know that for many years, my family would traipse in the woods behind my Grandparents' house in search of a Christmas tree from the stragglers left behind after the switch to a more fruitful form of farming: blueberries. 

Looking for the tree was an adventure, with snowflakes and chilly temperatures adding a certain charm...and discomfort...to our task. I loved trudging through the snow, and I liked watching my dad, and later, my brother, run the saw through the tree trunk. As my feminist consciousness grew, I wonder why I couldn't help with the cutting...until I tried and readily relinquished that task. Mom and I scouted and commented on tree shape. 

After college, when I lived in a series of apartments, I would waver on a tree. It seemed a waste to buy and decorate a tree for a short period of time, as I always spent several weeks back at my parents' house at the holidays. Trees were sporadic. When I moved back to Michigan after grad school, I would trudge through the now sparsely tree-d fields and find a small tree for my apartment. I decked it with my growing collection of keepsake ornaments from my Grandma C. 

In all of these years, I've never had a taller-than-me full size tree.

Until this year. 

Our new living space and higher ceilings, our expanded collection of ornaments (what perfect shower and wedding gifts!) demanded a bigger tree. G and I headed to our favorite tree lot, a family owned business at a local coffee and ice cream shop, where we've purchased the cutest small trees the past few years. This year, we measured our designated tree nook ahead of time, and then unfurled the tape measure in the tree lot. We selected a tall, slender-ish balsam tree on a damp, grey December 1st. We tucked her into the corner of the dining room, where her lights will be seen from outside, and where she will stand at the center of our home. 

Tonight, we gilded her with our ornaments, and dressed her with the skirt Grandma V. made for my bridal shower gift. The stockings I made are hung on the Hoosier cabinet, and memories are everywhere. Each ornament tells a story, represents a moment in time, a friendship, a family connection, a craft project. 

Welcome to our home, tree. We're so glad to share these weeks of love, laughter, stress, baking, shivering, planning, tears, and singing with you. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

daily bliss: books, identity, possibility

My Women and Popular Culture class is currently reading one of my favorite books, Stealing Buddha's Dinner, a memoir by Bich Minh Nguyen, and today we discussed identity. Specifically, we talked about the struggle to claim your identity as an adolescent, torn between being yourself, and competing visions of what's cool or right or comfortable. One of the many aspects I love about the memoir is that Bich reads voraciously, piling up library books, delighting in the free books on Reading Is Fundamental Days, and ogling the Scholastic Book Catalogue. I should note that she's my age, so her examples resonate in that deep "you're of my moment" way.

But I digress. Bich finds herself in books. As the class discussed her identity struggle, I shared some of my story—how being the bookish girl, more comfortable and happier in books than real life, made me a target for some of the "cooler," jockier girls in middle school. I mused to my class that it's a wonder we make it through those times, and bragged that despite, nay, because of my bookish past, here I am, with a whole room of people, who are listening to me...talk about books! Take that, J-- (I named the most obnoxious middle school girl I could remember). My students laughed.

This evening, as I sit here feeling a bit blue, a bit overwhelmed with all the non-reading bits of my job, I realize a few things. One, I'm fairly certain that J- had issues of her own. We all did. Two, I don't think I've entirely made it through that struggle yet.

I am confident with who I am, knowing all too well my flaws and strengths. I know my quirks, and I realize elements that might still change and grow, and elements that are likely fixed (insert detailed list of your own here, dear reader). But as I age, I realize the identity issues remain. They simply take another form, and I don't turn to books as often as I used to for solace, comfort, or understanding (something I need to fix).

My mind keeps circling around motherhood, as that window inches more closed everyday. My fingers ache to trace out gorgeous, achingly true poems and stories, but my mind-heart-soul holds them close out of fear that they will not, ever, be good enough. My soul longs to reconnect with so many friends who've been my saving grace and delight through the years, and who now seem just out of reach. I long to spend as much time as possible with my family. I dream of ways to make my already strong marriage even stronger.

I think about the years I've spent and the years I have left. What do I want to do? Who do I want to be? How much time do I have? I'm at turns urgent and contemplative, anxious and laissez faire.

When the questions and longings seem too much, I cull one of my favorite lines of poetry out of my memory (or flip over my iPad, on which it is engraved):

I dwell in Possibility

And I try to transform the struggle into a wide, free expanse where the future is open before me...sublimely.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Sunday, December 02, 2012

daily bliss: weekend breakfast

Back when G and I were dating, I made special breakfasts most Saturdays and Sundays. These days, I strive to create a non-oatmeal breakfast at least one weekend morning.

As I attempted to fall asleep last night, I conjured up this morning's breakfast: sour cream pancakes (made with part whole wheat flour and touched with cinnamon), with quick strawberry sauce, maple syrup, and toasted almonds.

G magically appeared, bed-headed but bright eyed, right as the last pancake was bubbling in the skillet. Excellent timing.

What a sweet start to a domestic day of holiday decorating and leaf hauling and essay grading and laundry.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

daily bliss: purple haze

Purple Haze, Sequim, WA

As the days grow gloomier and colder, small pleasures become more meaningful. 

A wee bottle of lavender essential oil offers tranquility, and happy memories every morning (and some nights), as I shake a few drops in the shower before turning on the water. 

On our honeymoon, Gregg and I stopped at Purple Haze Lavender in Sequim, WA. It's one of many lavender farms in the area, planted with abundant varieties. While Sequim is known to be a sunshiny spot amidst coasts and mountains of grey, on the day we visited, the only color came from the fields of fragrant blossoms. 

And so, as December makes her cool, damp, and grey debut, I conjure up the lavender fields of the Pacific Northwest, and dream of long days of exploration, fueled by love, with every drop of essential oil.