Friday, July 14, 2017

I love road trips...

It's true. I do. I absolutely adore road trips. I wouldn't necessarily call myself an experienced roadtripper; however, I have moved across the continental United States twice, not quite coast to coast, but I'm only a couple states shy. I've lost count exactly how many states I've been through or my children, and I'm pretty sure my husband only beats me by two tops, but I think it's safe to say, most. In fact, it'd be easier to count how many I haven't been to: Maine, Vermont, NH, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts (hmmmm, I'm seeing a pattern here). So pretty much New England. I haven't yet experienced New England. Or Michigan. Or New Mexico. But that's about it. 

And growing up, we went on a lot of road trips. It's the absolute best way to experience the United States, in my opinion, especially the Western United States, which is where I hail from, though not originally, but you knew that. Now experiencing the deep South is remarkable and has given me a greater, grander appreciation of the people, places, and things, all the nouns that make up this country. However, at the same time, there's something just a bit off. Maybe it's with me. Entirely probable, since I can't seem to shake a perpetual anywhere-but-here mentality, and want to fulfill a nomadic existence which grows more and more impossible the more children I bring into the world, and yet, I just can't not bring more children into this world. They're too perfect, even and especially in their imperfections.

This blog post read recently sums up my current feelings about living in this beautiful country: 

"There is something particularly dissonant about it, something that explains so much of why the culture can't seem to pull together, to truly embrace its diverse origins... it does shed a light on what I consider a truly American dilemma: rootlessness. The sense that one can do anything, move anywhere, experience whatever kind of spirituality, lifestyle, culture, bioregion, is emblematic of the American experience, and yet, the "freedom", the endless amount of choice doesn't seem to make people happier, or even create a more diverse culture. Many, if not most people here seem lost, wandering to different places every generation, and the dominant culture, for the all the diversity on offer, seems strangely mono-cropped, and constrained..." 

I was fist pumping, hallelujah chorusing, and checking if anyone else could read my mind because this gal sure did. You can read the entire post here. She goes on to explain in other prophetic words how the internet monetized blogs and that people are out to get a buck by branding themselves, which I find terribly amusing because I have tried. More than once. To "brand" myself. But, it turns out, I don't fit neatly into a box. Or a hole. Or a peg. I cannot be branded because I am a million different facets rolled into one and those facets change as I change. 

I originally started writing to show off my crafting, which went well enough. Then I had a baby and didn't craft for a loooonnng time. And since that baby brought my current count to four, I didn't really have time to do much else, except eat, sleep, work and care for younglings (and a husband who is going through grad school and rockin' it, I'd like to add). I also tried my hand at photography and I LOVE it. Oh, how I love photography, but that wasn't really a new thing, I just started pushing what I and the camera could do. 

I've been stealing my dad's camera for as long as I can remember and there's photographic evidence of my charades as a "camera bag holder" on many a vacation. However, a pattern began to emerge. When I put too much pressure on myself to really be fantastically amazing at something I realized that I wasn't that fantastically amazing. Don't get me wrong, I take some pretty amazing photos, and I never ever shoot on auto, but when I was caught up in the staging aspect and getting my children (or other people's children) to look and act a certain way it just wasn't natural. I love being behind the camera and capturing moments that are real. Moments that will transport me back to that moment. That joy. That surprise. That awe. I love photographing people (so it's a good thing I'm surrounded by so many). But I also don't want there to be photographic evidence of the fact that it's been three days since the dishes were cleaned and put away. I couldn't brand or stage or construct my images any better than I could brand myself. 

So what does all this have to do with road trips? My, what a good question. Honestly? 

I don't know. 

I began writing about road trips because I'd like to go on one. I just love being in the car and staring out the window at God's and man's creations. I love listening to audio books as a family and piling pillows so high I can barely see the people in the back row who are play fighting with action figures and actually fighting with fisticuffs and throwing sandwiches and Twizzlers every which way hoping they land on someone's lap. Before my computer crashed I had a photo, two actually in succession, of a road trip we did early in our marriage, back when we only had one kid. The first is of my husband, at the wheel, with a Capri Sun (Mountain Cooler all the way) hanging from his mouth (both hands on the wheel), he's slightly smiling and the trees are blurred behind him. And the next image is the cup holder console area of our Subaru Forester (loved you Suzy) filled to the brim with the discarded silver pouches. For some reason, those two photos epitomize my roadtripping fantasies. Maybe it's just me, okay, it's totally just me, but I like being trapped in a car for hours on end. That's a box I'll happily climb in. 

So what does this mean? Nothing really. I'm just putting it out there that I like road trips and hope to someday soon enjoy the open road to somewhere. I don't like self-branding, I just can't fit in a box, there is too much happening in my head, too many interests, not enough time, and lots of little people. I have learned to love and appreciate this glorious country while also taking a long hard look at why it is the way it is and how that has shaped me to be the way I am. These thoughts were jumping around my head and desperately wanted to get out. So here they are. 

Friday, June 2, 2017


I needed a swift kick in the bum the other day feeling all sorts of sorry for myself and lost in the confusion of decisions and circumstances. So I scrolled through the photos on my phone looking for a little happiness. And I found it.

It was so neat looking through all the images of the year thus far and I felt overwhelmingly grateful for this life we're living and the husband and children I have. I find it just so easy to scroll through other people's instagram feeds (my social media weapon of choice) and just slowly creep into despair about how little I'm doing or how dull my images are or how I can never for the life of me think up a clever caption for my own photos. Comparison is the thief of joy. And you should never compare your behind the scenes to someone else's highlight reel. And all that. Not that you should air all your dirty laundry either, too much keepin' it real is just too much. Sharing the good is good and it helps, at least for me, keep my life in some perspective. I've got four wonderfully amazing kids who I genuinely think rock their socks. My husband is working incredibly hard and is such an example to me and my children. I am so lucky and should thank my lucky stars (and God) every single second of every single day that I get to spend as much time as I do with these awesome people. We live in a pretty incredible city with good restaurants, cool local haunts, lots of parks and outdoor spaces to roam around, and humidity. Wait a sec, that last one isn't really something I count as a blessing really, but it will help me appreciate the not humid places all the more. And that's keeping things in perspective.

That very same day as needing the bum-kick, my husband also explained some much needed truths about myself. Things I knew but needed to have explained to me in such a way that would not send me either into a rage or a panic and he did so beautifully. This then led to the scrolling and the gratitude and the glow of past remembrances, the joy of our present, and the excitement for our future. I want to do just about everything, as evident from my constant inconsistencies in writing. I want to quilt, and cross stitch, and write, and photograph, and inspire, and lead, and follow, and mother, and wife, and live fully, and live simply. I want all these things pretty much all the time. Which is impossible. I can't do everything all at once. No one can. 

Taking stock is never easy, especially when my tendencies are prone to wallow in self-pity and misery. Sometimes that's a really nice indulgent place to dwell for a time, because I do think self-reflection can help. But my time was up. Giving over fully, completely, totally to these types of feelings allow for bitterness, resentment, and hollowness to take root and eventually consume all that is good and humble. That feels quite dramatic. But in the moments the very real, raw, unabashed moments when I feel these feelings, it feels an awful lot like descending into a cave, experiencing total darkness or being swallowed by a black hole. Luckily, stars, in their multitude, lighten and guide in darkness and there is no pit so deep that the Savior of the world cannot get to me (or you for that matter). And all I needed was a little perspective. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Roll Tide

Let me start by saying this is not a football post. For one thing we are clearly not in the right season for a football post and for another, I'm not actually that invested in football, Tide or no Tide (but don't tell my kids, okay?) Okay. But all these photos were taken during A-Day when Alabama plays Alabama and Alabama wins. 

In Tuscaloosa, you will hear "Roll Tide" said over and over again especially during college football season but not limited only to those six months. Though the phrase has its roots in relation to the Crimson Tide, it seems to have taken on a life of its own and is used for just about anything. Child received high marks on difficult test? Roll Tide. A family member has fallen unexpectedly ill? Roll Tide. You find a penny on the ground? Roll Tide. A really good BBQ joint opens up downtown? Roll Tide. The Tide wins the National Championship again? Roll Tide Roll. Each of these "Roll Tides" have a different inflection of course, one wouldn't cheerily shout the phrase at someone whose parent just passed. But you would say it.

The proliferation of this saying got me to thinking about Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift of the Sea. There is a tide/sea correlation so that's what I'm working with. In this book Ms. Anne discusses some of her time at the beach. It is a lovely, philosophical little book that inspires me to pack up and head to the beach...alone. However, since that is not humanly possible at this stage in my life it brings me to reflect on my current stage. Ms. Anne describes how a woman's normal life tends to run counter to creative life, and that the problem is "more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel [which is mothering and the interests and duties are the spokes]." In some ways, life has sucked all the creative juices right out of me. I have little time to dream either during the day or in the night. Exhaustion prevents creative brain function. And so I wait. I wait until I get a little burst, a glimmer of what dreams may come and I hang on desperately to those starbursts until the time comes when I can examine and develop and cultivate my creative dreams. 

Right now, I'm in my Roll Tide life. Which means a couple different things, but here's a snapshot of life currently: Living in Tuscaloosa, literally Roll Tide Country. Husband. In graduate school. Working hard. Grueling summer schedule. Me. Currently working full-time. In a library. Working hard. Four children. Each growing. Each learning. And differently from each other. Each talking. Each touching. Fighting. Playing. Me again. Hormonal. Pregnant. Weepy. Making tough decisions easy and easy decisions tough. Always. Feeling. Love. Happiness. Despair. Joy. Hope. 

The current season of my life is temporary. I know this. My children will grow, to my never-ceasing sorrow and I know that I will look back with some regret. Regret that I wasn't fully present. That I was always looking to what was next in the daily schedule, to the next meal, the next grade, the next phase, the next milestone, the next day, the next week, month, year. I'm not the only one. I read enough of other mothers to know that I am not alone. Neither in my "forward-thinking" nor my lack of energy for dreams. I'm great at starting things, not so great at finishing them. Sometimes it's time. Sometimes it's interest. Sometimes it's exhaustion. But it's just phase. Like the ebbing of the tide, sometimes cast out to sea and other times sticking to the shore. 

I also like what Ms. Anne has to say about relationships stating that "All living relationships are in process of change, of expansion, and must perpetually be building themselves new forms." As a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, colleague, I see how each of these relationships change and morph into something different over time or even in a single moment. Ms. Anne continues, "The light shed by any good relationship illuminates all relationships. And one perfect day can give clues for a more perfect life." I seek after these clues. I catch glimpses of them in the ordinary moments with my husband and my children, with my work and with my friends. They graze my heart and soul and brain leaving minor gold flecks, traces of their having passed through pointing and preparing me for what will come next, because I need those bursts in order to maintain the consistent balance of the tide. I need to be steady, coming in and receding at regular intervals. While also remembering that in any phase of life "Roll Tide" is a legitimate response. 

My next phase won't necessarily be a Roll Tide phase, as I may not be in Roll Tide country, but I will always have the experiences that led me here and here will shape me for hereafter: "For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well." 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Glaswegian Reflections

"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect" - Anais Nin

While I was in the UK last summer, I had the opportunity to visit Glasgow, and can you believe that I didn't take a single big camera picture while there? I am agog at my own blunder. It certainly traveled with me, but I must have been too consumed by the thoughts I will now share to have pulled the contraption from my bag. The image above was taken right before we left in July of 2012 and shows the back (or the front) of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and some graffiti in the skate park. All things remained as depicted by this image, but the graffiti was different.

I had the highest of high expectations for this quick little visit to the place that shaped so much of my early-adult development. In the moment, I wrote about four lines in my journal about the experience but shall write more than that here in reflection.

Returning after a four year absence was surreal. Everything had changed. The bus routes. The subway. The restaurants. How is that even possible? While still riding high upon our arrival, my sister asked what it was about Glasgow that drew me to it and I think my response was something like this:

Glasgow is the ugly step-sister to the prettier, more well known Edinburgh. But Glasgow has grit. And determination. The people are friendly, unless there's a Rangers/Celtics match. And the city has heart. It digs in its heals and won't give in without a fight, and I find that admirable in a city and in a people.

My response is still true. Glasgow is all that (and a bag of chips) and MORE. It is a fantastic city and well worth visiting (and living in given the opportunity). But for me, Glasgow now lives enshrouded in memory. I had built the city and my experience in it up to unattainable and unrealistic heights. I did a lot of stretching, both in the belly and in the brain while living and studying in that glorious city. I realized how desperately I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom in that city. I connected with people and built a community and made some of the best friendships I've ever had (barring SBC and now Titletown). But it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows - it never is - and coming back after having been away for so long showed me just how rampant my imagination had run not only with the city, but also with me.

I had this image of me in Glasgow that was not accurate. Just as the city had changed so had I. Sure, the memories I made while there are true. And the feelings were felt and the sites seen. But I had built up this otherworldly interpretation of myself in that particular location that upon seeing Glasgow again in the flesh reminded me how impressionable the human mind came be. I fancied myself smarter, healthier, and stronger while living in Glasgow. Again this is in retrospect. I had conceived this idea of my experiences there that though true were only one version of the truth. For example, I gave birth to our second child in Scotland, naturally. Drug free. Not completely by my own choice. It ended up being a terrifically wonderful and character building endeavor. Less than a year later, I gave birth to our third child with lots of drugs and it was not a wonderful character building experience. In fact it was pretty dreary altogether and I suffered for weeks after because of it. (SIDEBAR: all the comments I make on this blog are personal to me. I do not advocate natural childbirth or one with drugs, I've done both and have my own opinions about how I (as in ME) do in each scenario and in MY instances using drugs is not as wonderful as not: SIDEBAR OVER.) Because I managed to miraculously deliver baby #2 without drugs and felt wonderful and because my birthing experience with baby #3 was not-as-wonderful I felt like I (as in ME) was more wonderful in Glasgow and that therefore Glasgow was the only wonderful city in the whole wide world. It's a stretch but the mind does that sometimes. I let the one experience (or several experiences for there are a few others) define my whole experience. 

But what I have now realized or am coming to realize through reflecting and rereading old journals is that I am what I am and I am that wherever I may be and that there are some wonderful moments intermixed with the not so wonderful moments and that allowing one experience (or few experiences) define an place or phase in one's life does not do the place or the life justice. 

That's not to say that I don't progress or change or that Glasgow doesn't have the right to change, although changing ALL the bus numbers and routes was seriously inconvenient. Because as hoomans we certainly have the right to change, especially if we're wrong, we need to grow and progress and experience. It's how we learn and live and love. But as I've grown up I've become more and more concerned with what is true, and the version in my head of Glasgow is not the truest version of the city nor is it the truest version of myself. So much has changed - in the city and in me. I am older. I have many more children. I have a slightly different view of the world than the wide-eyed-bushy-tailed-newlywed-expectant-mother of the Glasgow Rosie. But I still love her and love remembering her and bringing her out every once in a while to reminisce with my children about the adventures we had traipsing around Scotland and other parts of Europe.  She and the city are beautiful memories that have helped form the woman I am and the woman I will be.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Twenty Seventeen

I love the new year, don't you? It's like new pencils at the start of the school year or the first page of a new book or the world after it snows and the sun is shining and all the world glitters. Sigh with me, won't you? *Inhale**Exhale* Ah! Lovely!

This year I've got some goals, do you? I recently wrote a review of last year's goals which I gave a mediocre performance and finished less than half of my sixteen items. I decided not to set number this year, just in case I couldn't get to seventeen. What I chose to focus on instead was areas where I wanted to improve or areas I found lacking.

First, Shakespeare. The Great Bard himself. I have a Bachelor's in English and I have never, not once, taken a Shakespeare course. I vaguely remember in high school watching the Romeo and Juliet (the one with tights) my freshman year, attending a school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (where I had a crush on Puck) my sophomore year, doing a spoof on Julius Caesar (where I cut out paper ears for Antony's speech) my junior year, and watching the Reduced Shakespeare Company my senior year. At college, the year I was supposed to take the course, the university offered an author symposium on Jane Austen that could be taken in place of Shakespeare. True Austen aficionado that I was I promptly signed up for that course, and almost regret it now. I'll never be able to truly regret Miss Jane but I do feel my education was insufficient (in more ways than my lack of Shakespearean knowledge) and that I am responsible to fix it. So though my goals are in no specific order, my first is to study Shakespeare.

Another area where I lack is that of the gospel. I am a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (let me know in the comments if you would like to know more about the Church or my conversion) and since I converted from a position of basically zero knowledge of the Savior and God and that that knowledge has grown minimally in the six years since my baptism, I would like to feast more fully upon the Word and better understand the Atonement. Last year, I read the entire Bible and we read almost the entire Book of Mormon as a family. I was called as a teacher in the women's organization and have been so lucky to read and study the current council of our prophet and other leaders and now I've been called into the children's organization where I teach simple doctrinal principles. But that still feels like it's not quite enough. I would like to gain greater understanding of Christ's life and how to emulate His teachings. This form of study would include reading the Bible again cover to cover, the Book of Mormon cover to cover, and studying in smatterings the Doctrine and Covenants, and works by Church leaders and others on specific topics chosen throughout the year.

Next up, budgeting. I recently read Rachel Cruze's new book "Live your Life Not Theirs." I highly recommend this book. Cruze is funny and serious, loving and critical, and above all honest. It felt like we were having a conversation, a pretty personal conversation actually, about finances and at times I found myself answering out loud and also texting my husband in an anxious panic. I think making sure that our finances are looked at regularly and setting a monthly budget would be most helpful for us to get where we'd like to go.

Record keeping for myself and my kids - Last year I bought four record books for the kids. Nothing fancy just some blank notebooks that I could fill with words about how much I love them and how much they stress me out. I read about the concept in the book 5 Spiritual Solutions for the Family. Record keeping and family history has always been something I've been interested in (as my Archives degree will testify (I think family history and familial ties are very important) and I would like to give my children a tangible gift of there growing up years, because if they are anything like me they will have terrible memories. I've included photographs and anecdotes. I have a few pages written in each and would like to be more regular in my chronicling their childhoods.

In addition to writing to my children, I would like to write more to others. I know I enjoy receiving mail from loved ones and would like to send more letters, especially birthday cards. Who doesn't love a note of cheer for their birthday?

I have a little bit of a soda problem and so getting that under control is of the upmost importance to my health so after much deliberation I've decided to quit cold turkey. I tried last year and did not succeed but this year I will. I just know it.

Amusingly, I'm noticing that my explanation of goals are getting shorter and shorter as I go.

By and by I would like to attempt to finish some crafty-like projects this year. I didn't quite finish any last year, something I sorely lament now. I will have (at least) three cross-stitch projects going in the foreseeable future and would like to finish one this year. Surely, one is feasible. Similarly, I would like to finish a quilt. I have lovely fabric just sitting in the box and my poor husband's 50 states quilt has sat near completion for almost two years, whoops. So I'd like to finish a quilt and a cross stitch. 

In past years, I have had marginal and resounding success with trying new recipes. I've set the goal at 12 in hopes that carefully considering these recipes will encourage them to become a regular part of our meal plans. I received a wonderful book for Christmas and this one comes out around my birthday. I gain considerable pleasure cooking in the kitchen and would love to devote more time to trying new recipes. 

And finally, 52 weeks of Family Home Evening. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have been asked to set aside one day a week, typically Monday, to have a family night where lessons on gospel instruction are given and family's make sure to spend quality time together. In the past, we've done alright at being consistent, but as my children grow older I can see how valuable this activity is not only the gospel instruction where the children participate in teaching, but also the quality time spent playing games (we love games at our house) and just being together. 

So those eleven items made my resolution cut. What made your list? 

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Year in Review

So, yep. I sort of dropped the cheese on just about everything I had set out to do this year especially in regards to keeping up appearances on this blog. I hardly wrote anything at all. I also wasn't as consistent with my resolutions as I would have liked to be. Let's review what I set out to do and how I did with accomplishing said goals, shall we? 


I am happy to report that with only a few minor snaffoos I am on track to finish the entire Bible this year (I am writing this on the 30th but I'm just so darn close, I don't imagine I'll mess this one up). So YAY! 


Ummmm, so yeah. I think I lasted about a week on that one and that lost count. I only wear dresses to work, except on Fridays, so it's safe to say that I do indeed wear dresses frequently, though perhaps not half the year. 


I got up to about 20 before losing count. There were a couple that have made it permanently to our cooking roster. Chicken Tikka Masala - from scratch not a jar. Homemade Buttermilk biscuits - that includes a super trick to getting the wonderful flakiness expectant of the biscuit. And more recently I made an entire traditional English fruitcake complete with homemade marzipan and royal icing. It was a feat, lemme tell ya. I was so super stressed making the marzipan and royal icing I'm pretty sure my husband thought I'd gone completely mental, especially for something that no one really wanted to eat (except me; I LOVE me some fruitcake). But it was so SO worth it and I'll definitely do it again next year ... though I may halve the recipe. 


This, ladies and gentlemen, is where I completely exceeded expectations. I read 36 books this year. Thirty-six!!! And man alive did it feel good! I have been lucky enough to have been part of a book club this year and it's been so wonderful discussing fantastic books and also rereading some of my favorites for myself as well as discovering new ones. I may publish a full list at some point but I want to mention just a couple that I absolutely adore and will read and reread and recommend to anyone who asks. First, kids books. I've always read aloud to my kids, waaaaay before they could talk or hold a book and so this wasn't really a new concept for me except now the girls get to pick some of the books that go in our nightly sessions. We alternate and because of that I've read some wonderful children's books. We read all of the Chronicles of Narnia together and listened to the dramatized version on Audible when we took our long road trip. These stories are just wonderful and I know we'll return to them again and again. Whenever anyone ask me for a good elementary level chapter book my first answer is always and resoundingly FRINDLE! Andrew Clements has written such a compelling and beautiful story in this book and this is another that I will return to again. For a little adventure look no further than The Green Ember Series the second installment was published this year through a Kickstarter campaign and recommend that when the 3rd comes out you all do the same ("my place beside you...."). We read loads of other books too but these ones really resonated. In addition I read a good mix of fiction and nonfiction. Finally read Till We Have Faces and just loved it (I'm pretty positive this will be my pick for my book choice in book club). A co-worker recommend Gilead which was so hauntingly beautiful I added it to my wish-list. And finally, you guys, I read The Hiding Place. Oh my stars. This book. THIS book. I returned my copy to the library and immediately purchased a copy because it is that important that we own this book. Corrie ten Boom's voice is so positive and so strong and despite all the hardships and difficulties she and her family faced remained so hopeful that I can hardly keep from tearing up even now. It was a great book year for me and I hope to continue this trend into 2017. 

The next 7 or so resolutions had to do with SEWING and sadly I did not do much in this area. I have almost completed two cross-stitch projects (almost) and I did almost finish a dress for myself (can't figure out the darn sleeves). But I severely lacked in the sewing department this year. 

Also I fell off the no SODA wagon but will try again. 


I did surprisingly well here and just placed an order for more prints to finish out the year. I'm pretty much completely caught up. Woot woot! (I totally raised the roof there, not gonna lie). 


I bought a desk which was really all that was entailed in the sewing space and I organized everything into a nice big pink bin when we moved so it looks good, even if I was a slacker and didn't do much with it. 


I don't think we did every week consistently, in fact I know we didn't do EVERY week, but we did put the technology and TV away a lot more and spent more quality time with each other playing games. This is also evident in our Christmas purchases to each other - we each got the other a chess set. I bought him a traditional wooden set and he got me Wizard chess (we got A LOT of much appreciated board games this year and have already played most nights since). This is one that I think we'll definitely continue and this year I'm going to beat him at chess! 

And finally MOVE. 

Yep. Definitely did that. In a big way. 

Wow, if you made it this far, you are super! So that was 2016 goals broken down. In addition to those goals a lot else happened. We all had birthdays. I got to travel home to the UK for a week. We all got to travel across the country and moved to a wonderful city. I received full-time employment (it was a bit touchy there). We all get to spend much more time with cousins and extended family. I read A LOT. We added Picket, an English Springer, to the family. And many bumps, bruises, and big smiles all year round. Thanks to you all for reading a little bit about me and my likes here. 

I don't yet have a concrete idea of what I want 2017 to look like. I've been intrigued by the one word year philosophies but I just don't think that's something I can do. I just love making resolutions and having a goal to work toward even if I don't end up doing half of them. Making a list is much more my style. I'll leave you with this cliff hanger and then we'll see where 2017 takes us - Shakespeare and Flannery O'Connor. 

Happy New Year! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Shepherd's Life, read from the Lakes

Our family philosophy is a reading philosophy and I love sharing all the books. In lieu of this philosophy, I want to create a series of posts highlighting books that I would recommend to others because EVERYONE needs good literature. #roseandtoastreads

Over the summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to the UK for my granddad's 90th birthday. My whole little external family on his side, would be there for this reunion and it just so happened to be held in the land of my birth. The exact land of my birth,  just a few miles from my old coach house in Lake District. Yes, yes, you should be jealous that I was born in this breathtakingly beautiful country and you should be equally jealous that I got to spend a whole week there this summer; though it is I who is jealous of all the people who get to live there full-time - Like James Rebanks, author of the book The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape (ps follow him on instagram for all the herdy picts you'll ever need, @herdyshepherd1).

When I was six or seven, I proudly exclaimed from the back seat of Betty Margaret (our little red BMW), that I would be a farmer when I grew up. This occurred while we were paused behind a herd of sheep crossing from one side of the road to the other so I'm sure the accuracy of the statement was fleeting at best. I knew no farmers. I had very little experience with livestock. And no land from which to raise my fleet of sheep and pack of dogs. However, as I grew, that tiny little stubborn girl kept saying, "wouldn't it be awesome to be a shepherd in the Lake District?" and now thanks to James Rebanks I want to quit my life and relocate.

His book is downright beautiful. Not only is it a testimony of the land and the profession, but it is a beautiful memoir of his family, his granddad and dad in particular. The book is divided into seasons, much like his life, and he weaves the history of his family with the history of his profession and his own personal journey providing insight and grit to a long-established, necessary and hardy way-of-life.

He begins with, "There is no beginning, and there is no end. The sun rises, and falls, each day, and the seasons come and go. The days, months, and years alternate through sunshine, rain, hail, wind, snow, and frost. The leaves fall each autumn and burst forth again each spring. The earth spins through the vastness of space. The grass comes and goes with the warmth of the sun. The farms and the flocks endure, bigger than the life of a single person. We are born, live our working lives, and die, passing like the oak leaves that blow across our land in the winter. We are each tiny parts of something enduring, something that feels solid, real, and true." Each aspect of life is connected - the physical changing of the seasons, the routine of managing the sheep, the daily humdrum, and the life well-lived.

Throughout the book, Rebanks moves seamlessly between the past, present, and future within each seasonal section. He explains how his granddad did the job, how he and his dad do the job, and how his children will likely do the job - in the exact same way as the vikings who brought the sheep thousands of years ago. This is no one-time offer of a profession, this is a lifestyle in an era when "lifestyle" has become a catch-phrase, a buzzword, lauding the busy-ness of so many people without actually accomplishing much in the way of living. James and his family are busy folk, but not unnecessarily so. They do what needs done, when it needs doing. Another aspect of life handed down from generation to generation.

I find it particularly interesting that the title is THE Shepherd's Life, instead of "A." Yes, he was alluding to another book of the same name; however, I think it is worth noting that this life is not unique to Rebanks and his family. Quite the contrary. This way of life is lived by hundreds of others around the globe; the ordinary folk who do the necessary jobs. The average Joe who is always so much more than average. Often, he points out the irony of our modern education and way of life, with examples like, "My father can hardly spell common words but has an encyclopedic knowledge of landscape. I think it makes a mockery of the conventional idea of who is and isn't intelligent;" and "modern life is rubbish for so many people. How few choices it gives them. How it lays out in front of them a future that bores most of them so much they can't wait to get smashed [drunk] out of their heads each weekend. How little most people are believed in, and how much it asks of so many people for so little in return." Rebanks describes the community, the camaraderie, and the education required to sustain a life on the land. A life that is filled to the brim of every emotion, including the bad ones, which are necessary to living a full, un-secluded life.

The lives we lead are not led in isolation. There's a meme-y, tumblr-y thing or something similar that's floating around the internet that tells the story of a man who has died and meets God. During this meeting, he, the dead man, is told that he will live again as another person, and that ultimately all the people in all the world that ever lived was this one person. Though religiously I cannot believe this story to be true, I believe it contains elements of truth. And it claims a point that Rebanks reinforces, that is our stories are entwined, "we are, I guess, all of us, built out of stories." Our stories connect us - to our landscape, to our jobs, to our community, and to our people

I could never end this discussion better than he did so I would like to share one last block quote from this tremendous and lovely book: "Working up these mountains is as good as it gets, at least as long as you are not freezing or sodden (though even then you feel alive in ways that I don't in modern life behind glass). There is a thrill in the timelessness up there; I have always like the feeling of carrying on something bigger than me, something that stretches back through other hands and other eyes into the depths of time. To work there is a humbling thing, the opposite of conquering a mountain if you like; it liberates you from any illusion of self-importance."