Retrospective Pondering


I wrote this Daybook on Saturday, offline, leaving just a few things to fill in once I had Internet. I pretty much didn't have Internet until now, back at home. So, bear with my cobbled together chronology of comments, please:-). Also, Katie used my big camera and took pictures all week, but they're very stuck somewhere between camera and here, so, you get iPhone shots...

Outside my window:  Crepe myrtle and hydrangeas in yards and around big porches, all on the way to the seashore. It’s mighty beautiful outside my window this week.

Listening to: Silence. Absolute silence, except for the occasional street noises and the whir of the ceiling fan. It is Saturday as I begin journaling here and we are in Bethany Beach. My girls have gone to the convention center in Ocean City with my friend Nicole, to watch her daughter dance. Since none of mine are dancing today, I opted to stay behind: to walk, to read, to write, to rest, and to have dinner ready when they get home. The quality and white space in my planner are both so strange to me right now....


Clothing myself in: Capris t-shirt, running shoes. I desperately need a shower. The heat index is around 100. I’ve already taken three walks for a total of 8 miles today. If I shower, I won’t walk again until we walk to church. If I don’t, I might squeeze one more in before everyone gets home…


He said, “There’s a sermon of John Donne’s I have often had cause to remember during my lifetime. He says, Other men’s crosses are not my crosses. We all have our own cross to carry and one is all most of us are able to bear. How much do you owe him, Vicky?

I replied slowly, “I don’t think of it in terms of owing, like paying a debt. The thing is—he needs me.

 “Grandfather looked away from me and out to sea, and when he spoke, it was as though he spoke to himself. “The obligations of normal human kindness – chesed, as the Hebrew has it – that we all owe. But there’s a kind of vanity in thinking you can nurse the world. There’s a kind of vanity in goodness.”

I could hardly believe my ears. “But aren’t we supposed to be good?”

“I’m not sure.” Grandfather’s voice was heavy. “I do know that we’re not good, and there’s a lot of truth to the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” 

--Madeleine L’Engle, Ring of Endless Light


Carefully Cultivating Rhythm: We sat yesterday evening--Nicole and I and our five girls, with planners and highlighted pages all spread out--and we worked together to understand where we needed to be this week for this competition and how we’d manage time, meals, housekeeping duties, and the myriad of costumes. I feel like we have really good rhythm. We’ve done these competitions together so many times now that the familiarity is our friend. Also, we are staying in the home of a mutual friend, and we are surrounded by gracious loveliness that makes this all so much better.

Creating By Hand:  This week, sewing will be limited to costume repair. Cooking is a little creative, but I’m not making anything that isn’t well-tested and already favorited. So, true creativity, if it happens, will happen with words, I think.

I might be finding my words again. I’d like that. I’ve missed them. 

[Real time edit: I do have words. Turns out, though, that I didn't even have time, place, or utilities to upload these words, so all the others are still stuck in my head. Next week. Maybe...]

Three books going

On my kindle: Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way. Since I feel like I could write a book on this topic and I’m exhausted by the mere idea of it, I’m really glad that Shauna Niequist did. I love her work and I’m looking forward to her new book. This is the only one I have not read, so I snatched it up when I saw the good Kindle deal.  

In my earbuds: I actually have two going in my earbuds right now. Emily suggested A Ring of Endless Light and it was the perfect length for our trip to and from the beach. Despite the fact that I knew it was the story of a family awaiting their grandfather’s death, I took a chance. Turns out, that wasn’t really a good idea. The subject matter of the book is handled in a way that is too mature for my girls to listen to collectively. I persevered through over an hour until a young man confided that he’d attempted suicide.  Then I clicked out before we went any further. Definitely not a good idea for the gathered audience right now.

However, it’s a really, really powerful book. I returned to it privately the next morning for the first of my morning walks. I’m immersed in a big way and it’s hard not to binge. I haven’t finished yet, but I think it might rank above A Grief Observed in ranking of books to read when grieving. Perhaps more accessible, certainly very useful with teenagers…

[Real time edit: I listened to the whole book while walking at the beach (and in the convention center, actually mostly in the convention center) and this book vaulted to my top five forever favorite books. I ordered the paperback version on Sunday and had it shipped to the beach house for Mary Beth, who dislike audiobooks.]

When I finish, I still have The House at Riverton going. Love that. [Finished that one, too, and started listening to Simply Tuesday again because it was already in my phone and I was walking. I like it even better the second time around.]

In my hands: I’m re-reading Colleen’s new book (reviewed in detail, here) I read it the first time using a digital advanced copy. It’s nice to hold it in my hands and meander through and mark it up. This one will be a classic in our household, which means I will require the reading of it…

Learning lessons in: Ah. I’m not quite sure really. But I think the Madeleine L’Engle quote above is the short form of the lesson I most need to learn. Last year, I think I picked up some crosses that aren’t mine to carry. I’ve grown so accustomed to the weight of them on my shoulders, and I’ve so adjusted my gait to compensate for their heaviness, that I’m finding it tricky to put them down. But I really need to learn how to do it.

Encouraging learning in: reading. Just reading. My girls are reading so much this summer. I feel sorry for Karoline, whose cast is making it hard for her to go or do anything with her sisters and friends, but I also see the silver lining. This will be the summer she learned how to find a friend in a book. That will serve her well forever.

She left her non-digital books at home this week and I didn't want her to take a Kindle to the convention center. Since she can't dance, she's got loads of down time alone. So, I walked to a bookstore on the beach and spent a pretty enchanted hour finding books for her. Kristin's mom is an elementary school teacher and she recommended a couple authors last week. I found them there in that sweet bookstore and brought them back for Kari. So she's got Walk Two Moons and Because of Winn-Dixie for the week. And that hour in that beautiful bookstore? I loved that hour so much!

Keeping house:  It’s always easier to keep house at the beach, isn’t it?

Crafting in the kitchen: I did some cooking ahead of time and did a whole lot of grocery shopping, so meals will come together easily. Last night, we had farm stand corn on the cob and tomato fresh from a nearby vine and potatoes crisped with olive oil. (Oh, and they had hamburgers, too, I guess, but I didn’t miss them;-)

To be fit and happy:  I’m walking and walking and walking and walking. Sometimes I run, but not often. The convention center is big and sprawling and I'm taking every opportunity to walk, both inside and out. [Real time edit: My fitbit tells me I've taken 128,768 steps in the last seven days. That's about 51 miles. Good week.]


Giving thanks: for Nicole. I know what a rare gift it is to have a friend who can live through the worst of weeks with you and then, the next year, agree without hesitation to enter into whatever might come, in the exact same place at the same time of year, even knowing that anniversary reaction is a very real thing and I’m just the one to have it…  

In the company of a friend, good memories are being made in a place where once the bad ones dominated my mind.

Living the Liturgy: Sarah Annie celebrates her name day this week. The church here at the beach is called St. Ann’s and they do make a fuss. Last year, we were here as the novena began. This year, we’ll be here when it ends. And there will be ice cream.

Planning for the week ahead:  Sometime next week, I think I'll see my husband again. Mike and I are in a stage of big family parenting that is very intense and very hands on. I'm betting that the preceding sentence will cause eyebrows to rise on foreheads of folks with five under ten. Yes, dear friends, you, too are also in an intense, hands-on period. Parenting teenagers is a different kind of hands-on and a different kind of intense. We've had to divide and conquer because they need us, but they are no longer gathered most of the time under our roof--all together. So, between his work travel and our kid travel, we keep missing each other. And our morning conversations look a little like this.