Lately, I’ve been thinking about my family’s life and traditions as an outsider. Meaning, do I understand and appreciate the traditions and quirks of this life that we live together? Can I recognize that which is in my own family life that is special and unique– worthy of recognition and gratitude? It’s easy to pass it all by, go through the motions, act like it’s all normal.

Then, one day last week, I asked Chris to play Beastie Boys as we cleaned the kitchen, and as we air guitared and fist pounded, I thought, perhaps, by some standards, this is strange?

See, we play music in the kitchen. My mother always played music in the kitchen…Loud. Like, drown out the noise loud, where the music is the main actor on the stage, not our conversations or the instructions to the recipe. Kitchen work becomes a dance– literally and figuratively. It’s the spatula as a drumstick and the chopping in perfect step. And it’s exactly what I love about working in the kitchen– the electric guitar of Gary Clark, the piano of Phillip Glass, the twang of Hank Williams. Each unique, each loud, each full.

There’s something I’ve learned about a kitchen full of music– it’s typically a kitchen full of joy. The mood is light, it’s swaying and laid-back. And it invites anyone in– a siren call to the family members scattered around the house or in the yard. It’s an approachable kitchen, a welcoming kitchen.

I’m currently reading Soul of a Chef, and Ruhlman describes James Beard– who I knew little to nothing about previously. Apparently, Beard was a champion for having fun in the kitchen. He’s quoted as saying, “It’s something you enjoy and have fun with, and if you don’t, to hell with it.”

Playing music in the kitchen isn’t new information, or I sure as heck hope it isn’t. But what I’m discovering is that sometimes we have to name things– call out why it’s good and right, so then we can be grateful for it. And loud music in the kitchen is a good thing. I’m thankful for a mother who showed me this, and I’m thankful to a husband who appreciates it. Because if not for this joy, to hell with it.

 

I’ve been a languid writer of late, everyone. I know that discipline begets inspiration, and both of these noble qualities are eluding me recently. Is it laziness? Busyness? Preoccupation? The jury is out. But I look at the page, and I’m frustrated. I push the page with the back of my pencil, then walk away. “Maybe tomorrow,” I think. My mind reels with a thousand thoughts in no direction.

Writing is a sport, a practice, a discipline. And I am out of shape.

Yet still, in this dry time, I am not wholly lacking. Writing is good for my soul and my mind, and I need it. But it is not the only thing. Recently, the rhythms taking place around my kitchen are keeping me and comforting me and inspiring me. Menu planning and setting a table, chopping vegetables and melting butter in my cast iron, deglazing a pan and sticking a skewer in a muffin. These routines of planning and cooking and cleaning and repeating are just so familiar to me. This is what I grew up around. These are the activities that comfort me, that I understand, that make me feel like my feet are on the ground again.

Because even when my well is feeling dry, I can look to the greats– rifle through my cookbooks and my mother’s salvaged copies of Cooks Illustrated — and make something worth sharing. When I can’t find my way, I can find my way through my beaten up old recipe journal. I can feel inspired, and I can feel that power of creating something good and giving it freely to those I love.

I am, as Shauna says, getting to the place, where the most important words are, “I love you, and dinner’s at 6.” And that feels plenty inspiring.

food

Chris and I are approaching a young year of homeownership. Such a low milemarker on this life together but worthwhile nonetheless, for us at least.

The other weekend, as we stayed inside on one particularly summery Saturday to chip away at some lingering projects, I felt this peace here in this little house– despite the not-so-distant wish that we were at the pool instead of vacuuming. The peace is just this: that when you love your home and the ones you share it with, not much can compete.

The older I’ve gotten, the more hard, demanding, impactful decisions I’ve had to make– like that’s any surprise. To take this job or that. To move here or there. To commit to this or that. And what I’ve realized is that you can cruise through this life. Go here, take that, sure that will work, why not, that seems like a decent fix.

But I think about this little house and this little life that Chris and I have carved out, and all that is good and joyful has not been a product of nonchalance or acquiescence. I’m learning– like hopefully many young people turning into adults– that the good life is the thoughtful life.

Chris and I belabor over decisions– sometimes to a paralyzing, anesthetic extent. But still, we think about it. We think about our motives, we pray, we wait, we listen. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes this means we don’t make a decision or sometimes we say no, but at least when we do make a choice, we know why we’re doing it. This house on this street with this little porch and backyard is a result of that. The little dog collapsing at my feet was a result of that. Our physical life all around us is bursting with stories of conversations and patience and sorting and understanding.

Now, I want to pull all the other things under this umbrella of thoughtfulness. That which is routine, innate– that which comes so natural because it’s so easy– that too bows to the lens of discernment and wisdom. Because the fruit of these choices is contentment and, God bless it, gratitude. Or like how I feel in this home now, as if absolutely nothing could be better for us.

backyard

This is a busy season. Isn’t every season? But seriously. We’ve been flung from shower to wedding to shower to birthday. And let’s be honest, these events can hold your time hostage (or, really what you perceive to be your time…). More travel, another gift, and look, I forgot a card again. Shocker.

Then I remember the comments I hear from co-workers and other acquaintances casually referencing, ‘well, I’m not going to any more weddings these days. Everyone I know is just getting divorced now.’

I’ve had a bad attitude, rotten really. Because here’s the thing. Why do I not bask in these celebrations? For isn’t this what life is made of and made for? Aren’t these the things that make life worth it…all? People who love each other so much they want to commit their lives to serving the other? People who love each other so much that they want to make a life together? People who love one another so much they want to celebrate one person’s existence, simply because that person is here and they are a joy?

fathers day

I was with all my sisters this weekend to celebrate my dad for father’s day, and it was these weirdos around this weird, somewhat contrived holiday that reminded me this life is good.

I think this is what they call perspective. [Quickly followed by a sincere apology for my rotten attitude about all the social engagements of recent.] I’m proud to be doing this life among so many admirable and delightful people who are doing brave and beautiful things, like get married and have babies. And I hope and pray against a time where all this joy ends.

As a disclaimer, I am quite aware my blog has fallen to the wayside of recent. Of course, I’d love to rectify it, but let’s be honest, there are other important things that are detracting from it. I’m becoming okay (sorta, kinda, maybe) with the rhythms that are right for me now, which are different than the ones when I began this blog, and will be different in another year. But I would love to spend more time here. Anyway, let’s move on…

Recently I’ve been trying to take a harder look at myself. Self-reflection: truly, deeply, and at times, painfully.  And for the first time in a while, it’s been self-reflection with the hope and desire to change. See, I’ve noticed some things in my self that I haven’t particularly been proud of. Bitterness, anger, judgment, to name a few. And I’m not impressed.

Instead of the casual, “I know myself” and “I’m self-aware” speak that I’ve been accustomed to saying, I’m ready to know myself and want to be different, or at least, better. Because I’m learning, yes now, I’m learning that there’s a difference between those two things. And you can have either without the other.

So I’m seeing in myself a lack of grace. Blurring lines between was is true and what is right. That space between what is certain and just, and the love and acceptance that transcends all of what we deserve, that’s the space I’m lost in. Spinning around like a dog chasing his tail, too focused on what I want and what I think to see the field in front of my eyes.

All this to say, I’m learning about myself because I need to. I don’t want to be the person who becomes more bitter or cynical or negative with age. I want to be the woman whose character is more like an aura– radiating and full.

But for now, I’m gonna go play with the corgi in my kitchen and drink a glass of wine. Because sometimes learning grace means first learning you just don’t got it all.

wendell at the pond