Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Fare Thee Well

Dear 2011,

I'll admit it:  I'm not sad to see you end.  You chewed me up and spat me out, but I learned few things in the process.  Things like:

I learned how to say goodbye.

I learned how to enjoy the moment.

I learned how to breathe deep, freak out, then breathe again.

I learned that a friend of mine (who shall remain nameless, but who once spilled an entire bowl of melted Cheez Whiz down some stairs as I was walking behind him) is capable of petting porcupines and possesses magical powers too.  (He actually wears a cape under his casual Friday attire.)
I learned that "Crazy Town" is not only a noun, but can be used as a verb as well, as in, "She's just gone crazy town."

I learned that carving out space to be creative is necessary to my happiness and sanity.

I learned (again) that unhappy people are the cause of all unhappiness in the world, and it behooves each of us to grasp our happiness by the shirt collar and hold on for dear life, 'cause honey, there's road work ahead.

I learned (again) the power and joy of friends who sustain, guide and grant extravagant love with every breath.  I'm even going to call them out right here, and now, in no particular order: Sassy Britches, B.Ram, Clover, Rocky Babe-Boa, Mrs. Marcus, The Fancy Hatted Baptist, Lover, Mountain Man and GW Guy; and all of you who read, comment and share your stories with me.  I never dreamed in a million years that writing a blog would bring such wonderful people into my life.  Thanks for being here.
Here's to a new start, a new day and a new year...

Bring it on 2012!!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Three Beautiful Things Thursday

Clean, birthday, split wood.

Clean.  Grandma is coming, the house is cleaned, a joint effort by the entire clan.  I breathe in sweet basil.  Mmmmmm...

Birthday.  Brace face will be 13 on Saturday, an official teenager.  She's fun to be with and talk to, she will soon be getting her braces off and her name will be changed to Straight Face.  I like to wrap presents for birthdays.

Split wood.  Mountain Man comes in sweaty and mannish from splitting wood.

What are your three beautiful things?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

January is coming, and so is small stones writing month.

Last January, I participated in small stones writing month.  A small stone is a polished moment of paying proper attention.  During the last two cycles of small stone writing, (last January and July 2011) I posted my small stones on my blog.  This cycle, I'll be writing my stones in a small book I made.  It looks like this:

This has been one heck of a year over here in the Square Tooth/Mountain Man clan.  It's been filled with many blessings and peaceful moments as well as some pretty rough patches--but, who's year hasn't?  I've felt like a top spinning out of control for the last 10 months.  I'm ready to reconnect, slow down, and pay attention.  

The best part about writing small stones everyday is that the process of writing them provides me with the opportunity to focus on the present moment.  The only way to truly describe what writing small stones is like is to borrow the words of Hafiz:
To be humble
So that God does not
Have to appear stingy.

O pray to be honest, 
And pure, 

So that the Beloved is never miscast
As a cruel great miser.

I know you have a hundred complex cases
Against God in court, 

But never mind, wayfarer, 
Let's just get out of this mess

And pray to be loving and humble
So that the Friend will be forced to reveal


The process of writing anything can be powerful--(sometimes it's just for the writer, not the reader, but hopefully both.) Writing small stones can shine light on the miracles that live in each moment.  
Join me, won't you?

Want to find out more about writing small stones, Click here.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Merry Christmas from 
our SquareToothed/Mountain Man clan to yours!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen--and Ladies, or, the update on the most relaxed day I've had in a year.

Guess what?  It's Christmas.  Eeeeeeee!  I'm not expecting a present under the tree this year, because I don't really care about stuff--it just ends up broken or out of date and I give it to Goodwill--but I am over the moon this week because it's time for me to disengage from my life for a good ten days.

My phone just rang for the first time in 3 days, and it was a wrong number.  People have stopped sending me emails because I keep telling them I won't be in contact until January.  I've cancelled or said no to all commitments, save one on Christmas morning, and I am done. Done. DONE.

Hallelujah!  Today I spent running errands that I've put off for the last month but that I actually like to do.  I went and washed my car.  Mountain Man had the day off of work (due to the holiday season) and he accompanied me on my miscellaneous adventures which included going to the car wash.  (Side note: If you haven't made out with your husband in a car wash in a while, you definitely should.)  

Then we went to a fabric store, (where I did not buy fabric because I try not to sew unless someone needs swaddling clothes,) and I purchased paper to make Christmas ornaments.  I'll post more on that adventure later...

Homeward bound we headed, where we ate leftovers, watched White Christmas, and laughed while the kids assembled their annual lego town on the dinning room floor.  

I did not clean.  I did not bake.  I did not answer the phone, solve any problems, think deep thoughts or speak to a single crazy person.  This is the first day of the year that I have felt truly rested.

Thanks be to God.  

Have you been able to take a breath this holiday season?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coats for Kids, one opportunity to give...

Today, I want to tell you about one of my favorite organizations  Coats For Kids.  Established in 2004, their aim is to see that every kid who needs a coat gets one.

Recently, my daughter, (Brace Face) ran a coats for kids drive at our church.  It was really easy.  She painted a big box we fished out of the recycle bin, and put a sign on it that said "Coats For Kids"  over the next three weeks she collected new coats and in the they went.  At the end of the three weeks, she took all the coats down to a local shelter where they would be distributed to kids in the community.

The entire cost of the project was the time it took to fish the box out the a recycle bin, and paint it.  Many kind, and generous people took the time to support her in this project and make a difference in the life of a kid they don't even know.

I don't know about you, but nothing says "Christmas" more than that kind of generosity.
Thanks, Smallville, for showing us your gigantic heart.  It's one of the reasons we love you--(that, and it only takes ten minutes to drive across you...)

Merry Coat Giving!

Interested in giving to Coats For Kids this holiday season?  Click here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Here We Come a Wassailing...or a Cookiemaking.

I realize yesterday's post was a downer.  However, I believe in authenticity, so it was what it was.  I am well rested this morning, the traffic has subsided, and I will never go to Walmart again.  Problem solved.

Today, my kids have a mysterious illness that is keeping them home from school (it's called Christmas-is-coming-and-enough-with-school-already,) Mountain Man is skipping work and no one here will be answering the phone.  We are baking Christmas cookies alllllllllll day, and eating some too.

*Here's a cookie and a glass of milk  for you! *


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

In the Bleak Mid-Winter

Ok, here's the weekly update of the Square Toothed/Mountain Man Christmas Project:

I am emotionally exhausted, physically in the gutter, and ready to tuck into that "long Winter's nap" as soon as humanly possible.

Where's the joy?  It's there, but just wedged between rush hour traffic, people who make it their life's calling to create problems where none exist, and Walmart.

Walmart?  (You may ask.)  Think about it--can you imagine a worse hell that Walmart in December?  (I can't.)

However, there is hope underneath it all.  At the end of each day, we gather as a family and read a Christmas story and then sing a carol.  There is joy...

...even in the bleak mid-Winter.    

How do you manage the stresses of the holiday season?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rise Up Shepherd and Follow!

I was born to one of those amazing women who brought home the bacon AND fried it up in a pan.  She also sewed, kept house better than Mr. Clean, and baked like Julia Child.  Every Christmas, she would make delicious treats and her minions children would be put to work rolling, flouring, baking and packaging her Christmas goodies for all of our neighbors.

I don't know about you, but I don't have near the relationship with my neighbors as my parents did with ours when I was growing up.  Louise and Al across the street were our surrogate grandparents, Mamie was the older southern belle across the street who knew more about my schedule than I did.  Peggy lived on the corner and was the one we went to in case of emergencies if Mom and Dad weren't home.  There are literally countless other neighbors, friendly faces I can see in my mind's eye; peripheral characters who cheered me on from across the street or right next door.

Each Christmas, my mom would load up our red Radio Flyer Wagon and load it to the brim with Saran-wrapped goody plates.  There were sugar cookies, Hello-Dollies, Grandma Capell's doughies--so many varieties I can't remember them all!  We would drag our red wagon from house to house and make our deliveries.  There were hugs and carols and "Merry Christmas!!" over and over, and there was always something more, something I couldn't name as a child, but now see it clearly:  It was Love.

Grandma Capell's Doughies

1/2 lb butter
1/2 C sugar
2 1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
vanilla to taste
nuts (as little or as many as you like)

Mix butter and sugar together with hands.  Pre-heat oven to 350F.  Add  flour, salt, vanilla and nuts.  Shape into balls or half moons.  Bake until golden brown.  Remove from sheet and roll in powdered sugar.  Allow to cool, then roll in powdered sugar again.

*     *     *

I think it's time to drag out the wagon, rise up and follow this sacred family tradition!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Deck The Halls

I posted this on the book of face yesterday, and just had to share it here...Deck the Halls!!

Enjoy your Saturday!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear?...or wish that I heard, or heard once and am trying to reconnect to.

As you've read, if you have been reading, we are saying 'no' to commercialism this holiday season...and here's the thing, we aren't really saying 'no' to commercialism as much as we are saying 'yes' to something more  substantial, something more abundant and something that will not fade, or break, or become a passing fad.  I ask myself each day, What gift would I like to leave my children?

The short of it is: to focus on what is truly important, and that's Love.  To love themselves, family, friends, God, beauty, truth (whatever that may mean to them), and to find the joy in learning to love better every day.  Our project is designed to refocus what we already know: that true happiness can't be found in the material, but in the intangible beauty of thought and feeling. 

I am not an extremist--not by any means (except maybe in my hatred of math).  One of the guiding principles of my life is that by small things can big things happen.  I feel like so much of my time and (other people's) is consumed by things that really don't matter.  With our family Christmas experiment, I'm just calling out the material stuff first and tweaking this one thing that makes the rest of our season feel out of whack.  There are a million distractions out there that can make our hearts wander, but lucky for us, we get to start anew each day and begin again.

I came across a story on Pinterest yesterday that really drives home my point. (And yes, even cool Pinterest can become a life suck without moderation, but seriously, what do you know that can't?)  Anyway, here's the story:

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. 

Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the top musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written,with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station 

was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty?

Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Here's the video:

So, this little refocus during this season of joy is an attempt to reconnect, say 'yes' to the present moment and slow down enough to really, really notice the beauty all around us and focus on the Love.

What beautiful thing did you see, hear, taste, touch, smell or experience today?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Joy to Our one.

Welcome to the Square Tooth-let's-just-say-no-to-commercialism-put-joy-back-in-the-holiday-season....(I know, this project needs a new name.)  In a previous post I mentioned that our family would not be participating in the commercialism of the Christmas season.

Once too often, I've given in to the thrill of Christmas shopping.  Not so this year.  Each member of out family will receive one gift, and one stocking.  My hope is that our focus will be turned to service and simplicity.  The remainder of the funds usually spent on Christmas will be split between our favorite charitable organizations, which I'll highlight this month.

There will be recipes, craft ideas (even though I am SOOOOO not crafty) and maybe a few Christmas stories.  My friends Sassy Britches, Rocky-Babe Boa, Mrs. Marcus and I also have more than one night highlighting cookie decorating, concerts (free of course), more than a few evenings focusing on other culture's Christmas celebrations and even a night devoid of our precious little ones and our respective mountain men.

Today, in an effort to kick start the season,  I decorated our house for Christmas.

Then we went out for dinner...what?  I never said we couldn't eat out! :)

Season's Greetings!