This Bright Sadness

I started to jot down some quick thoughts on Lent for this blog entry, and then my site just shut down, so now my “quick thoughts” aren’t so quick anymore.  Let’s see if I can re-create what was swimming about in my head….

I have been thinking a lot about why Lent resonates so much within my soul.  There is a pull, a tug, a call that I don’t think I could ignore even if I wanted to. 

We didn’t practice Lent growing up, mostly, I think, because it was something Catholics practiced, if you want the honest truth (I talked about this a little bit two years ago here).  While perhaps it might be true that Catholics focus too much on the image of Jesus on the cross (think the ubiquitous use of the crucifix), I also believe that Protestants focus too much on the resurrection.  I said that wrong.  I don’t mean that Easter should not be focused on and celebrated—I do.  But before the brightness of Easter, I think you need to feel your way through the darkness of Lent, and I don’t think that attending a Good Friday service alone demonstrates enough the sharp contrast between the darkness and the light.  Before rejoicing in the light, it is much more meaningful, for me anyway, to have journeyed through the “Bright Sadness” of Lent. 

For some reason this is my favorite time of year, perhaps because it is a time of sadness before joy, perhaps because it just appeals to my melancholy nature, perhaps because the “Bright Sadness” is shadow and light (chiaroscuro), and perhaps it is because this time of year is very difficult for me, and as I process through a time of personal darkness, I am accompanied by the comfort of Lent’s Bright Sadness.  I don’t know what it is exactly.  I just know that I do find comfort, and I feel closer to God, as I walk through my days cloaked in the shadows of Lent.  And I pray that you, also, will find comfort, and God’s presence, and healing this Lenten season.



on vinegar and Lent

Here we are, four days into baby step 2, and I have yet to utilize this baby’s step only ingredient: vinegar.  Here is the next baby step:

Baby Step 2: The Wonders of Vinegar
Discover a multitude of household uses for vinegar, puzzle over why you haven’t used this incredible, frugal and even nutritious substance before, and add a few uses to your repertoire. 

I learned some interesting things about apple cider vinegar from these websites:

I have decided to try out 5 uses for vinegar by February 28th (which is my birthday, btw, in case anyone is interested).  🙂

* I want to buy some raw apple cider vinegar. I didn’t realize the difference between raw and conventional apple cider vinegar until reading the first online article.  Actually, as an aside, from some other books I have been reading (Eat Fat, Lose Fat and Nourishing Traditions) I am realizing more and more how all of the processing of our foods is such a horrible thing.  I am trying to integrate more “real food” into our diet, and I suppose raw apple cider vinegar is another real food to add to my growing pantry and fridge (although for cleaning, I will certainly use just regular vinegar).  I can’t say in all honesty, though, that I actually picture myself swallowing a tablespoon or more of vinegar before my meals, even though doing so might very well save me from various maladies.

* Add 2 Tbsp of vinegar to water before boiling eggs to keep them from cracking.  We eat a lot of boiled eggs in our household.

* Use vinegar as a window cleaner.  Has everyone else had a problem using vinegar as a cleaner?  Every time I use vinegar it streaks.  I’ll try it again, though.  Maybe if I use newspaper instead of paper towels it will work better.

* Add vinegar to warm water to rinse hair after shampooing.  According to the second website, vinegar “adds highlights to brunette hair, restores the acid mantel, and removes soap film and sebum oil.”  I don’t understand half of that (acid mantel?  Sebum oil?) but I like the highlight part at least. 

* Soak wilted vegetables in 2 cups of water and a Tbsp of vinegar to un-wilt. 

 Stay tuned to see how I perfect myself in yet another path to becoming the perfectly healthy—and perfect—homemaker.  🙂

 (No one needs to know that as I write this I am drinking a Diet Pepsi, that I just sneaked a piece of chocolate that I wasn’t even hungry for, and that I am pointedly ignoring the mess Jack just made when he dumped out my purse.)

 And now for Lent.

Let me say, first, that I am incredibly disappointed in how my Lent began.  Last night I had to miss the Ash Wednesday service at Revolution because I had been at a birth since 1:30 in the morning and I was driving back home from the hospital during the service. 

I had this idea in my head that Lent was going to be different this year because I was going to start it with the sacredness, the ritual, and the solemnity of an Ash Wednesday service.  As I walked out of the service with the ashen cross swathed upon my forehead, I was going to walk through the portals of the sad beauty of Lent and into 40 days of quiet reflection and simplicity, and, perhaps, a bit of poetic melancholy.  (Um, anybody remember this?) 

Instead, at 7:00 last night, I was driving home, and I was exhausted, I was disheveled, I was hungry.  I had witnessed a miracle that evening, for sure, and I don’t want to trivialize that.  I had seen the wonder and beauty and sacredness of birth somehow unfolding under the artificial glare of a birth room spotlight.  My experience at that birth was valuable and useful and beautiful and sacred, and if I had actually had the choice of attending the birth or attending the Ash Wednesday service I would have chosen the birth. 

But I think that I had hoped for Ash Wednesday to be a magic pill that I would have had brushed across my forehead rather than swallowed.

But the thing is…while I wish I could have attended the service, it would not have been a magic pill.  Perhaps I would have walked out of the service last night feeling peaceful and solemn, but this morning I would have woken up to my real life–the noisy, disorganized, crazy one.  And then I would have felt disappointed that the magic feeling had faded away.  And then I could have felt disillusioned.  And then I might have given up.

Instead, my Lent beginning has been more fitting: it has begun in chaos rather than quietness.  The quietness and the sacredness and the reflection of Lent are going to have to come with work.  I have to carve it out of my day and into my heart.  There is no Ash Thursday service to escape to tonight.  It’s just my life, and the beautiful mess of it. 

And so today, my Lenten season roots itself in a life that is blown about in the winds of chaos and battered by some uncertain storms.  My hope and my prayer is that the holiness of this Lenten season plants itself in my heart and that it grows, and that I grow, and that, perhaps by Easter, something sacred within me will have bloomed. 

 Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
                     ~Leonard Cohen

waking up from my blogging slumber

I am sure that I lost my faithful band of readers long ago, but I have been feeling, lately, the tug to blog again.  Then, I got this email: “Hey – what happened to this?”—“this” meaning my blog.

Good question.

So here I am.  Blogging again.  I am deciding to blog again at a very bad time to start anything new.  Life is c.r.a.z.y. 

I am homeschooling Amélie this semester (which is at least three blog entries worth of a story).

I have a precocious two-year-old.  He is a joy.  He is a challenge. 

My grandma is sick, and we have been trekking out her direction more than usual to check in on her.

I have  No time to myself.  No time to breathe my own air. 

And, perhaps, that is why I am blogging again.  Perhaps here, in this space, I will remember to breathe my own air, process my own thoughts, untangle my emotions.

Also, Lent is approaching, and I seem to feel compelled to blog through my Lenten experiences. 

So there you have it.

I recently ordered the e-book Healthy Homemaking: One Step at a Time by Stephanie Langford.  I am the type of person who decides she wants to change her life approximately 101 ways, and I want to make all of those changes NOW, and I want all of those changes to be TOTAL, COMPLETE, and PERMANENTLY INGRAINED in my head and body and habits.  The thing is….I fail at this.  Every time.  You would think I would learn, but I don’t.  Therefore, I decided that a program to follow that included baby steps would be perfect for one like me.  I downloaded the e-book, copied it off, and then my computer rebooted so I can’t find the flippin’ book on my computer.  I am very frustrated.  Matt tried troubleshooting the finding of my lost book over the phone, but that didn’t work, so I am hoping he can find it when he gets home.  I thought I had saved it.  I really did. 

I started the process on Sunday, January 31st, and I am allowing myself two weeks on each baby step.  There are 26 baby steps, so it will take me a year to transform myself into the perfect, and perfectly healthy, homemaker.  Just kidding.  I am sure I won’t be perfect.  Just almost perfect. 

I started with…

Baby Step 1: Reduce Waste

 The objective of this baby step is “to find three practical ways to reduce the amount of waste that your family is producing.”

I felt pretty good about this one, because we are already doing several of the suggestions she listed.  We recycle, we reuse plastic bags, and we compost.  As stated above, I am just supposed to pick three ways to reduce waste, but I always want an A+, so I picked more, of course.  Here are the suggestions I chose to help us reduce waste:

 * Bring cloth shopping bags whenever you grocery shop.  I have the bags, and I always remember to use them at Aldi’s, where I would have to either pay for bags or scrounge for empty boxes if I didn’t bring my own bags, but when I shop in other stores, I invariably forget.  It makes me crazy, and while I should probably trek back out to the car to retrieve the forgotten bags, I never do.  So, I have been trying to remember my bags when I grocery shop.  On Sunday I visited three different stores, and I remembered to bring bags in at two stores.  It’s a start.

 *Examine your recycling habits—Before throwing anything out, examine it carefully to see whether it could possibly be recycled.  We are pretty good about recycling, but sometimes I am lazy.  If I finish a roll of toilet paper, for example, I may very well throw the empty cardboard roll into the trash rather than bring it back to the recycling bins by the back door.  Pure laziness.  I am really, really trying to be more conscientious about recycling absolutely everything I can.  I think, though, that there is one empty toilet paper tube roll in the trash can in the bathroom right now.  As soon as I finish blogging I will dig it out and return it to its proper, environmentally friendly home in the recycle bin.

 *Try to use as little tin foil, paper towels, plastic wrap, etc. as possible.  [Try to use] glass jars with lids and re-usable Tupperware-type containers to store everything in the fridge (or [reused] Ziplocs).  As I write this, I have a plate of brownies covered with foil to deliver to some friends tonight.  I guess I should have put the brownies in a Rubbermaid container instead.  Obviously I am still learning.  I have, however, been trying to use containers rather than Ziploc bags.  For example, I have been compulsively buying bagels from my sister-in-law Becki.  To keep them fresh, I keep two of each flavor in the fridge, in a plastic container, and the rest are in the freezer.  Also, over the weekend we had pizza, and I put the leftovers in the plastic containers rather than Ziploc bags.  Yay me.  I have to admit, though, that I hate washing Ziploc bags.  Hate it.  I never know how to dry them, and, admittedly, I think I am a wee bit lazy about it.

 *Use cloths and rags for cleanup.  I don’t have that many worn out t-shirts or socks or towels right now, but I am trying to use those rather than paper towels as much as I can.  Jack just spilled his drink everywhere, for example, and I used a kitchen towel rather than paper towels.  It’s still a lot easier for me to grab a paper towel, though, so I need to be more conscientious. 

 *Use cloth napkins  to completely remove the excuse to ever need to use the paper ones.  I bought some kids’ cloth napkins on Etsy, which they love using.  That has been fun.  I have some cloth napkins that Rachel made me that I have been using more diligently, and I would like to get some more.  I have enjoyed this step, although I am just remembering that I just served Amélie a brownie on a paper napkin.  I’m still learning, and I also have exactly three more days to perfect myself.  😉

 *Look for used items on Freecycle or Craigslist before considering buying them new.  I actually looked for cloth napkins on Craigslist before buying some new ones, but there weren’t any listed.  I am not a member of Freecycle in Kansas City, so I should join. 

 Stay tuned for Baby Step 2: The Wonders of Vinegar.  Sounds exciting, no?  🙂

Also stay tuned for this year’s Lenten Adventure.  I have yet to decide what to give up.  Here are some ideas:


 Any other ideas?

HOPE in Kansas City

I know, I know, this has been the longest blogging hiatus EVER.  Yoo-hoo!  Anyone out there?  I hope so, because I have something exciting to share.

First, though, let me say that I have missed blogging.  I took blogging time off during Lent, and then I just haven’t gotten back in the groove.   Truthfully, I am not in any groove right now.  I haven’t been writing.  I haven’t been reading.  I haven’t been thinking and analyzing and ruminating.  I don’t think I’ve been me.  I miss me.  I need to start nourishing my soul again.  She’s hungry. 

This weekend, I am going to nourish my soul by participating in something very exciting for Matt (who, btw, has a photography website set up here).  He was asked to contribute a photograph to be auctioned off during the upcoming Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fundraiser.  The theme of this year’s fundraiser is “Hope in Kansas City,” and Matt came up with a brilliant idea.  Those of you familiar with Kansas City have probably driven downtown at night and noticed the Marriott lit up with a design or a message.  Matt’s idea was to ask them to design the word HOPE to be displayed on the side of the building, and then he wanted to take a picture of it to be auctioned off.  There was only one little problem.  They never say yes to requests.  If they did, they would probably have proposals and baby announcements lighting up downtown every other night.  Matt was persistent, however.  He called one person.  They said “no,” but you can talk to so-and-so.  He called so-and-so, who said “no,” but you can try talking to this other so-and-so.  He tried calling this other so-and-so, who said “no, but you can try asking….. ”

You get the picture. 

Finally, after a month of voicemails and waiting and lots of “no’s,” he got the right answer: Yes!  So tomorrow night the word HOPE is going to light up the night in downtown Kansas City.  Can you imagine it? 


It gives me chills to think about it. 

A middle-aged man who just lost his job will trudge the streets of KC on an evening walk, trying to clear his head and not panic about the future, and he will see it:  HOPE

A young mom will be driving to the hospital, yet again, to spend the night curled up on the couch next to her son’s bed, and through tear-filled eyes she will see it:  HOPE

A runaway teenage girl, strung out on drugs, will stumble upon it:  HOPE

A scraggly homeless man will wander out of his alley to go look for some food, and he will look up and see it:  HOPE


I need it.  Your neighbor needs it.  Your co-worker needs it.  And so does that annoying kid in your son’s first grade class.  Your mom.  Your dad.  Your son.  Your daughter.  Your partner.  Your best friend.  You.


Come see it for yourself tomorrow night.


“Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism.
Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.”

– Archbishop Oscar Romero, quoted in a November 2008 posting on Daily Verse and Voice

Happy Easter

by John Updike

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

I wish I could grasp this…

All shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things will be well.
~~Julian of Norwich