Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dream Anatomy, Or the Hope of Loved-Up Hearts

The fear of suffering is worse
than the suffering itself.
No heart has ever suffered
when it goes in search of its dream.
-Paulo Coelho

I have this picture in my mind: that - one day - I will retire to the porch of a little farm house. The wind will blow and the grasses will sway and I'll hum and strum a guitar and flop my dusty, bare feet over the side of a chair and swing them to the beat. An apple pie will bake in the oven and quilts will wave on the clothesline. Children will scale trees and play tag and feed horses. There will be music and games and laughter. There will be fluffy beds and bedtime prayers and warm fires. There will be lullabies and Sunday lunches and midnight walks under star-splattered skies. There will be Christmas trees and family recipes and full tummies and loved-up hearts.

Places like this pull at me in a way I can hardly describe. This is somewhere in Kansas - far west Kansas hugging the Colorado line - and I blew by it yesterday only to make a sharp u-turn and end up right back in front of it, staring. The wind through the grass sounded like whispering - all around me - and the house itself seemed to sigh with stories and memories of decades well lived.

I don't just like old houses, apparently. I like sad old houses. I like the promises they keep and the possibilities they hold, if only someone would love them again.

I'd come close to giving away my world for a place like this. It sits, I noticed, about two miles down the road from a Mennonite community. (Is that what they're called: communities?) They don't get any more peaceful than this. At night I close my eyes and dream about the serenity and the satisfaction a place just like this would afford. I think of how busy and stressed and tired we all are. How our finances and relationships and health and time are all pushed to their limits. How - if we could just get our families back together and our priorities in perspective and our stuff... our debt-inducing junk... cast aside - how relieved and content we might all be.

Hmm. These are the things I think as I'm driving. These are the hopes my heart suffers as I live my dream for right now....

And that is the amazing thing about dreams, isn't it? The fear of not living your dream is worse than not actually living your dream. And the fear of reaching your dream and meeting disappointment is foolish. For dreams, once you come upon them, spark and split in two, leaving you with the piece finally realized and the start of a whole new dream just waiting to begin.

(By the way, Barbara said she read this and immediately thought of the poem The House With Nobody In It. Love that.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Missing...

All a woman needs is a good bath.
-Hedy Lamarr


... and warm, fluffy socks and a cup of hot chocolate and a pillowy-soft bed. And maybe her kitty. My adventures are catching up with me and I find myself missing Freeman House and her clawfoot tub filled with foamy, floating piles of bubbles. That and the sweet kitty named Maebelline who used to hide in the clawfoot tub when it wasn't filled with foamy, floating piles of bubbles. We played peek-a-boo each morning and night, whenever we could. It was one of our many things. I miss that. I miss our things.

And I still miss you, Mae. These miles haven't driven you from my heart.

Still in Kansas. Can't wait to show you what I saw today. Just missing things and too... (yawn)... tuckered..... out...... tonight......

Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday Moment: He Leadeth

Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me....
-Joseph H. Gilmore, 1862

Are there all that many times in our lives when we recognize - in the midst of our happening happenstances - that God, Himself, is leading us? That He, in His omniscient kindness and grace, has reached out and taken hold of our hand and is leading... gently, steadily pulling... us along?

If it's happened to me before, I didn't recognize it. I've never, at the end of the day, sat back and said, Wow. This day wasn't me. This day wasn't my own. Have you? I hadn't....

Until today.

The things we passed, right? After eleven hours on the road, we took in quite a bit, didn't we? First, the pastures of northeast Texas. Then the cattle and equine country of central Texas....


Yikes. Then the rattler-ridden Texas panhandle....


...Then the mishmash Texas/Oklahoma/Kansas cotton and wheat fields.

Finally, here we are tonight in Kansas. In the town that's home to the Wizard of Oz museum. I honestly feel like I'm in Oz. I feel like I traveled a pre-laid yellow brick road to end up, so far, here.

Do our lives require leading? We have plans, after all. Plans. Huh. I marvel at the turn my life has taken in the past month. Remember how excited we were about the beginning of fall? I had so many plans. I had things on the calendar and things going on and things to do. I had, I thought, my days arranged. Then one thing after another... bam, bam, bam... and here I am. In Wizard of Oz Kansas. Here I am, in place where I know no one and need a map to find my way out of town. Here I am, feeling as though I'm being physically led to another place.

Do we have a God who leads? Absolutely. Look at Abram in Genesis 12. Look at the nation of Israel in Exodus 14. Do we serve a God who rearranges lives and details to accomplish His purpose? Yup. Check out Joseph's wild ride beginning in Genesis 37. Look at what happened in Joshua's life in Joshua 10. God watches. God moves. God directs. God leads. What a kind, all-knowing God... a loving, leading Father, who isn't above tipping over lives or reaching out and taking hold of hands to lead us to another place. A place of learning. A place of leaning. A place of seeking. A place of healing.

Most of you have never met me. Trust me, I'm nothing special. My life is nothing cool. But my God, on the other hand, is awesome. I stand amazed in His presence. I lived in awe of His mercy and His goodness and His never-ending patience. I get up tomorrow morning in expectation of what He'll do and say and where He'll lead. And the wonderful thing about His leading is that sometimes it's not even to a place. Sometimes it's just to pray. To give. To forgive. To stop. To be still. To turn back to Him.

But He does lead. I experienced that today. If He's found my hand, He can find yours, too. If He can make something of my messy life, He can make something beautiful of yours, too.

Lead on, O King eternal. We're waiting to see where You go. Lead on.

He leadeth me, He leadeth me;
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stars, Snowflakes, and Word Adventures

Begin doing what you want to do now.
We are not living in eternity.
We have only this moment,
sparkling like a star in our hand
and melting like a snowflake.
Let us use it before it is too late.
-Marie Beyon Ray


This is my favorite picture. My favorite picture of me ever. I was... what?... eight, maybe? We lived in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, where it actually snowed in the winter and our mothers dressed us like Ralphie in A Christmas Story. I was such a mess... even then. So ready to take on the world. So eager to see what lay just beyond that picket fence. I wanted, at first, to be a librarian. Then a fabric cutter. Then a horse roper. Then a singer. A famous singer. I had every intention of inventing the world's smallest piano... not a keyboard, but a real, live piano... to take with me on the road. You'd hold it like an accordion, only it would sound like a baby grand.

Inevitably, as these stories go, I grew older and my dreams swayed and shifted and switched names. Now I think I want to be a writer. I want to get up, each morning, and play amongst words. I like their rolling rhythm. Their pull. Their power. I like the way they look, all lined up and neat. I like the way they sound, all varied and free. They suit me. I like them.


So we're off. Off on our adventure. Our word adventure. I've said goodbye to those I could and "sorry" to those I couldn't. (Like my childhood friend Amber, who yelled into the phone when I had to cancel our last-minute lunch. Sorry again, Ams. And my partner-in-crime JoAnne, who said she threw down her tea and stomped out in the middle of our blog tea party on Wednesday.) But I did wave a few goodbyes. My friend Shelley gave me a hug and a copy of What Smart Women Know. My favorite person Sondra made me the most amazing lunch ever, and afterward leaned back in her chair and advised me to "put a band-aid on your heart... and GO".

Gosh. We have so few moments... sparkling like stars and melting like snowflakes. Let's do what we want and be who we are... before it's too late. What do you say?

Ready? Still don't have many details to share at this point. All I can say for sure is we're bunking down in Colorado. Long haul, huh? Don't worry... I have Tristan Prettyman's The Story in the CD player, and plenty of magazines in the floorboard. Oh... and my lucky pen. It says: Let's go find some boys to beat up.

Okay. I'm ready. I've found that eight-year-old girl again. That arms-thrown-open, laugh-at-the-world, bring-it-on girl. She's ready to go. We're not, after all, living in eternity. Let's go find new words and see new places and sparkle our stars and melt our snowflakes and use our moments. And if we find some boys to beat up, all the better. :)

Can't wait to see what this brings! See you all in Colorado....

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pasta Alla Brin


You missed a great Freeman House dinner last night. I think we have a new winner here.

I've been washing and packing and cleaning and running around like a crazy thing for the past two days. (Shutting up your house and skipping town for a few months is more involved than one would think.) Late yesterday afternoon I got around to cleaning out the refrigerator - one of the worst chores ever - and found a package of mushrooms. Probably would have composted them, only I had just picked the last of my summer basil to dry. Still might have composted them, only my friend and neighbor JoAnne left her copy of October's Gourmet magazine on the dining room table. And fortunately for last night's dinner guests, the cover recipe involved pasta with basil:

They call their dish Pasta Alla Norma, and it's a Jamie Oliver recipe. (I, for the record, am in love with both Jamie Oliver and Jamie Cullum... two British guys who cook and sing, respectively.) Jamie Oliver could develop a recipe around old tires and I promise you'd see me out there prying the wheels off my Jeep in order to make it.

Jamie's Pasta Alla Norma calls for eggplant and spaghetti, as you can see from Gourmet's cover shot. Since last night was a clean-the-fridge meal, mine was carefully crafted from aging mushrooms and broken bits of linguine. Bottom of the barrel here. But you'd never know by tasting it. It's was county-fair-blue-ribbon good. It was call-the-in-laws-over good. It was in-Jamie-Oliver's-sweet-face good.

If you're a pasta person, you have to try this recipe. Just sayin'.

Anyway. Almost ready to head out for parts unknown. How's your packing coming? I'm both dreading and looking forward to this mammoth adventure. I also want to say that I deeply appreciate your unwavering support and kind encouragement. I got emails from 71 of you all late Wednesday/Thursday, and I promise to make every effort to get through them all before I leave. But yes, I will still blog. And no, I'm not selling Freeman House. And yes, I know running away never solved anyone's problems. But it never hurt to try. :)

We'll talk Sunday before we leave. Until then, enjoy your weekend! -Brin

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hobbies and Mental Illness

There is a very fine line between
hobby and mental illness.
-Dave Barry

I realized I'm crossing that fine line between hobby and mental illness when I disembarked from that cruise ship. I took three bags aboard, after all: one for clothes, one for hair, makeup and toiletries, the other for books, magazines, and knitting/quilting projects. Seriously. One-third of my "embarkation" stuff was brightly-colored yarn and fabric.

It gets worse. My friends and I were on our way to the deck late one afternoon, so I had this cool brown sequined cord I'm crocheting into a belt. Anyway, we got sidetracked by a guy from the Czech Republic who was making pina coladas faster than folks could drink them. One by one, we plunked down on bar stools, and as we talked I began fiddling with my yarn. Before I knew it, I'm sitting in the Atrium of a cruise ship drinking a Dirty Monkey and crocheting. The saddest part of this story is I didn't think a thing about it until this handsome guy found the bar stool to my right, sat down, and started up a conversation. "What are you doing there?" he asked after a minute or two of introductory conversation. "Crocheting like a grandma," I deadpanned, without even looking up.

He invited me to the Dance Under the Stars later that night and said I could even bring my "string and hook thing". I knew, right then, that this 'crafty addiction' is slipping into the mental illness stages.

But look what other cute things I've found! I bought this book, Knitted Toys, at my favorite local yarn shop. It has dozens of the most adorable, squishy knitted animals I've ever seen. The patterns are fairly straightforward, too. Like the one for this butterfly...

... and these Goldilocks and the Three Bears finger puppets....

I think, as I prepare for my Big Adventure, I'm going to tuck in enough yarn to complete a menagerie of these animals while I'm gone. I can just see me now, clamoring my way back into Freeman House next spring dragging a trail of yarn elephants and monkeys behind me....

Oh well. Since I don't have children, I'm pawning these plush lovelies off on our church's new nursery. A girl could have worse hobbies (illnesses?), right?

(Quick by the way: I left the story unfinished, didn't I? The guy, my friends insist, was married, but I can't say for sure as he either had his arms crossed, hands in his pocket, or a bare ring finger every time I saw him. Hmm. Perhaps he was a sad, cruising widower looking for a brown-haired, watery-eyed, crocheting friend. :) Good thing I turned him down for the dance. Oh, and knitting is in the air today, apparently. See Alicia's post for today.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tea For Two and Two For Tea

(Oops, I sloshed some of your tea. Here... we'll trade cups.... Okay. There.)

I'm beginning to think that when you have something important to tell someone, you should tell them over something to drink. Tea. Or coffee. Or cocoa. Something hot to drink. It seems very civilized and comforting... like a scene from Sense and Sensibility. I'm fairly convinced that half the blows that have landed on me lately would have been marvelously cushioned - if not entirely absorbed - by a good cup of tea. Or coffee. If only our lives could work this way.

Anyway, I have something to tell you and ask you, so I'm inviting you to tea. Will you come? And look: on the way home from Galveston Saturday, my friend Shelley and I stopped at a roadside estate sale where I quickly snatched up this tea service. (It's not a complete set, but I suspect eBay might turn up the rest.) They all have Fruit Harvest, JAPAN imprinted on the bottom. Aren't they a fantastic addition to a fall tea? I thought so. They're my new favorites. Six dollars. I couldn't be more pleased.


Anyway, here's your cup. Are you all settled in? Good. Here it is then:

I've decided to board up Freeman House for several months and head out on an adventure. Really. As things stand at this very moment, the train leaves Sunday. I'll fly home for the holidays, I'm sure, and anticipate a frantic and fun frenzy of decorating trees and airing out beds and banging out Christmas carols on the piano. It will be hectic, but it will be fun.

I'm not, at this time, saying a whole lot about where I'm going or what I'll be doing. Just know that it's an extremely enormous blessing, this opportunity, and I have a sneaking suspicion that a book... not a cookbook but an actual book... will come from this. But that's just between us.

Will my blogging be affected? At this time, I hope not. But it could be. We'll still meet here for Monday Moments, of course, and I'm excited to see what other things await many, many miles away for me to show and share with you. It'll be thrilling, I'm sure... as my life always has been. And I'm counting on you to consider going with me. To take off on this adventure with me and live it, see it, and do it right alongside. You will, won't you?

We leave late Sunday. Can you be ready? Pack warm, snugly clothes and lots and lots of mittens. I'm not sure why, but I have a feeling we'll need them. Pack books and music and hobbies, too. There may be a few days we'll have to make our own fun.

How's your tea? Cream? Sugar?

Well, there it is. What are you thinking? Oh, I do hope you'll consider going. I'd hate to leave all you dear, dear friends behind....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Vacation... Or the Life of a Drowned Snorkel Rat

A vacation is what you take
when you can no longer take
what you've been taking.
-Earl Wilson

Oh, so true, right? So to the wild and wonderful seas I went aboard a Carnival Cruise Fun Ship! Thanks to the most incredible cruise hook-up girl ever, Jae, The Cruise Princess, a few friends and I boarded this ship, the Ecstasy, and away we sailed...


See the "C" in Ecstasy? My cabin was just below that letter "C". That's me. The back of the ship. Wow. It was amazing. The watery blue view was amazing.


The cabin had a window seat of sorts. I'd sit there... right against the window... and drink my coffee and read my magazines and stare out at the waves. Just look:


Unbelievable. That first night the waters were choppy and I got very, very dizzy. Not sick, but dizzy. I felt as if I was walking like those people on the V8 commercials. "Let's take pictures before we go to dinner!" my friends cried. Okay. As the boat rocked, I stood in front of my little cabin window and then shrieked, "Hurry, would ya!? I'm about to fall over!" You can see it, too, in the picture one of them took:

Boy, my head was swimming!

But we got to port after a day or two at sea. The boat docked or anchored or whatever they do, and off we hopped. Eventually, we ended up here, in Cozumel:


What do we want to do? we all asked each other. Snorkeling!! was the reply. So snorkel we did. Donning fins and masks we jumped, one by one, into the blue, silky waves above the coral reef off the coast of Cozumel. Jumped off the boat and into the center of another world. Fish and creatures swam by as the waves carried us away from the boat. "Mirarse... alli es barracuda!" the guide shouted above the foamy roar, grabbing my hand and spinning me around in the water. "Barracuda!" he yelled again, pointing.

A few yards away, my bobbing-in-the-waves-friend Kim stopped choking on inhaled salt water long enough to shriek, "DUDE! Whaaaat's a freakin' barracuda?!"

We laughed so hard I inhaled salt water. Later, when a sting ray inched our way, I laughed so hard at Kim I could barely swim. Um, I mean snorkel.

Later, in the bathroom, I looked into the mirror and shuddered. "But look at my Jennifer Anniston beach waves," I told my friend Shelley. We laughed. "Put on your sunglasses," Kim said. "You look like a movie star."

Whatever. I looked like a drowned snorkel rat.


Or a Cozumel beach monkey wearing a red hat that says, "Charlie's". Too bad you can't see my Jennifer Anniston waves here.

But oh, the fun we had! On dry, non-sandy land we watched the Mayans dance...

... and said hello to sombrero-wearing horses...

What a vacation! What a week! Seriously, if you get to a point where you can no longer take what you've been taking, call my friend Jae. She can make you a window-sitting, barracuda-fleeing, Mayan-watching, Jennifer-Anniston-haired, drowned snorkel rat anytime you please....

Seriously, Jae. We love you and thank you. I'm so appreciative of one of the most fun weeks of my life!

P.S. We have underwater barracuda snorkeling pictures. Kim's getting them developed. Y'all be sure to help me bug her until she sends a CD of them my way!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Moment: Paths of the Seas

Where does understanding dwell?
It cannot be found in the land of the living.
The deep says, 'It is not in me';
the sea says, 'It is not with me.'
[But] God understands the way to it
and He alone knows where it dwells,
for He views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
-Job 28:12-14, 23-24


We were only at sea a few hours when I made my way to the deck and leaned over the ship's railing. Blue. It was blue... blue, blue, blue... as far as I could see. The air was wet. My breath was heavy with water. I drank in what I could and then closed my eyes and breathed in the rest. The ship sailed on and on, slicing its way through the rippling water. I watched as waves churned and parted and then slid back in place, leaving no trace of where we'd just been.

It was, to be honest, a rough ride. Gripping the railing once more, I strained my eyes out over the water and prayed. "Lord, I don't see Your path right now," I whispered. "I can't see where You're taking me. I'm feeling a little lost at sea these days, Lord. Don't lose me. Don't let me drown during this time of questioning. Don't let me go."

The water lapped up the sides of the ship and on we sailed.

Later, as friends and I piled onto the deck to eat dinner, we noticed the water in our glasses bouncing and jiggling. The waiter, quick to assure us, mentioned something about the how-many-ever knot winds we were sailing into, and how the sea path would soon even it all out.


The sea path...

I'll never forget the day I learned of Matthew Maury. Do you know his story? He's credited with discovering the Gulf Stream in the 1860s. The story, as I know it to be, was that pioneer oceanographer Maury stumbled upon Psalms 8:8 one day and carefully read about "whatsoever passes through the paths of the seas". He was immediately curious. Were there "paths" in the sea? If so, where were they? What were they for?

Maury met with his fellow "oceanographers". I want to find these paths, he must have said. But they thought he was crazy. They encouraged him to redirect his efforts into something more productive. No, he said, I believe God put paths in the sea ... that He made paths for us there... and I'm going to find them.

Maury began studying and sailing and soon found a path in the sea that connects North America with Europe. It's 50 miles wide, 3,000 feet deep, and travels at a rate of 140 miles per hour. Ships now use it to save travel time. God had placed paths in the sea, and a seeking Matthew Maury found one.

As I remembered Matthew Maury, suddenly it was all there, a rushing tidal wave through my heart: "Don't lose me, Lord." ... The paths of the sea... Where does understanding dwell? God understands the way to it.... It splashed through my mind at once, and with it a surge of assurance. I returned to the same place on that deck and looked down, down, down into the sea and prayed once again. "Lord, I can't see your path, and can't find any understanding here in this land of the living, but I'll trust You that it's there. I'll lean on the hope that somewhere under this deep sea of longing and questioning and wondering, You've placed a path for me. And as You see everything under the heavens, Lord, see me. Don't forget to see me."

I arrived back to the table in just enough time to hear the waiter say that the ship had settled in, and we were in for a great night at sea. A peaceful night sailing the paths of the sea.

We were. It was.

God only knows where you are, but I suppose I write all this to say this: we aren't meant to understand. We're meant to believe. Faith is daring ourselves to go where our eyes can't see. And we can't expect understanding to come easy here... here in this land of the living. But God... our loving Father... He holds our lives. He holds it all. Before we ask our questions He has our answers. Before we word our prayers He's heard our cries. And as we drift over our deep, deep seas of emotion or grief or doubt or difficulties, He sees our seas and knows the paths He's buried in them.

I believe it. I truly do. And I know He's watching and loving us as we travel our own paths of the seas.

Monday Moment is a litle devotional to help kick start your week. See you again next Monday!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I Saw the Sea...

I saw the sea...

... and the sea saw me.

Saw me lying under a coconut tree...

...With swollen feet and a sunburned knee...

...By sweet young men who sang to me. :)

And brought Diet Coke that was far from free...

With bowls of sure enough guacamole...

Happy, happy, happy me.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Adding Up To A Life... Or 'Bon Maison'

Old and young, we are all on our last cruise.
-Robert Stevenson

... I take that to mean something like no matter our age, we only get one chance to do this right. We only get one shot at this life. One try to go and do and see and learn. To capture the small moments and lump them together to craft satisfying years. To take our days - the terrific and the terrible - and line them up... end to end... and see them add up to a life. A good life. A happy life.

I'm headed to the Gulf. When my marriage ended I began paying for a lot of things in cash... collecting change and hoarding one dollar bills. I cashed it all in several months ago for a cruise, so I'm leaving to sail the Caribbean for awhile. That girl will be me in several hours... swimsuit, let-down-hair, barefoot and standing at the ocean's edge. No more TATS (Tired All the Time Syndrome) for me! :D I'm not much of a sand-and-water person but I am looking forward to this...

Can I wish you a bon voyage... even though I'm the one who's leaving? Oh. Well, bon maison. I wish you a good, happy home while I'm away. I'll miss you but am excited about the sights and sounds I'll collect to show and share when I return.

I'll be home in 10 days or so. Until then, my love and affection. -Brin

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Movin' On Out

I'm moving, you know. I'm packing up and moving. To the backyard. I've decided that I'll sleep under the rustling leaves and the big, night sky. The old train bench will be my bed and the fire pit will be my heater. The stars will be my night light. The squirrels and birds and rabbits will be my TV, the distant rooster and church bells my music.

This place steals your heart. It's enchanting. We've spent every evening this week alongside the fire pit. Of all the things I've done to this place, this has been the cheapest, easiest, and loveliest. The bricks came from a crumbling chimney on the east side of the house and after I did all the prep work, the actual brick laying took all of a few hours. I adore it. Such a simple, fulfilling, happy way to live.

My Mom presented me yesterday with this quilted throw to use fireside, among other places. I love it, Mom. The fabrics were bits from my stash that I've held onto for awhile - some since my first apartment in 1996. Pieces of this quilt are special to me, as things like this end up being. Some, like the plaid square below - sandwiched alongside the toile and the log cabin type square - are old clothes. I wore that skirt my first day at CBS. Others, like the toile, came from old apartments. The cranberry toile was my first ever curtain set. Made them myself. But my Mom... she's amazing. I gave her the scraps in a heap last week, and within days she'd spun them into exactly what I'd asked for: a pieced, illogical crazy quilt to match the time in my life that these fabrics appeared.

Not to brag or anything, but my Mom can sew her own magic for you, too. She's opened her own shop. You can stop by and tell her hello here.

Yep, this messy, thrilling life. Although... I've been thinking. Maybe I should amend that to read: my crazy, cozy life. These days that fits too.

Anyway. Didn't mean to type all this. I really just poked my head in to put the apple cider on and grab another cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee. I'm doing my taxes today. Outside, of course. Only sane, reasonable people do them indoors on a day like today.

Better head back out now. I think the squirrels are fixin' to come on again.