Thursday, June 30, 2011

Brave on the Rocks

Several years ago I read Brave on the Rocks by Sabrina Ward Harrison.
I like the title.
Bravery, like a good drink, on the rocks...
And as much as I like my margaritas, no salt, on the rocks, I got it all wrong.

When Sabrina was a little girl, she was following her daddy, walking barefoot in his footsteps. He got to a rocky stretch of the path and she didn't want to follow him any more. He told her that she had to be brave on the rocks.

I remember following in my daddy's footsteps more than once as a little girl. In the summer time, I often walked barefoot. It got easier as the summer went on. And the rocks became less painful. I started the summer with soft feet, and when i walked barefoot in gravel, it hurt. Or if I walked across hot pavement, it burned and I would run to get to the other side. As the bottom of my feet felt pain, the pain developed callouses. As the callouses became thicker, the rocks were less painful, and the pavement didn't feel quite so hot.

I walked gently at the beginning of the summer, but by the end of summer, when my feet had developed thick, protective callouses, I would run without looking down first. The rocks were still there, but I no longer felt the pain.

This realization changed my outlook at the beginning of the summer. When I approached the rocks, I knew they would hurt. But if I avoided them, then my callouses would never become thick and tough and able to withstand the careless freedom of running barefoot. I spent the first few weeks of summer approaching the rocks with the purpose of enduring the pain to toughen up my feet. I didn't avoid them. I welcomed them, because I knew they were a means to an end.

In today's world, the word callous is not considered a positive thing. As an adjective, it is defined as insensitive, indifferent, or unsympathetic. As a noun, people go to the salon to have their callouses removed so they will have soft, supple feet.

But to me, as a young girl, building callouses were essential to enjoying the freedom of being barefoot in summer. I think that callouses are a good thing. It takes pain to build them. It takes endurance, and persistence. They don't look pretty, but they are protective. And their protection provides a freedom that you cannot get any other way.

If you want to run barefoot, you have to build callouses. Because when you have callouses, you can be brave on the rocks.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

no apologies

my little blog is out in the world, very small and insignificant compared to many blogs that are out there these days. but that is just fine with me. most of my writing has been on paper this year.

i've neglected my blog these past several months. i have no apologies for that. no sense feeling badly about myself because i haven't written to you, whoever you may be that is reading this. because it is mine, to do with as i please. it's not for you anyway. i do this for me.

summer is here, with all of its humidity and heat and gnats and bees. with sunshine and thunderstorms and tomato plants and lima beans. with flowers and weeds and grass, always growing. with still air, and swing sets and hammocks and lounge chairs.

i enjoy looking out my kitchen window, while i am doing dishes, and seeing how our garden is growing taller and taller each day. i can see the fruit trees along the back fence, and it looks very promising that we will have a fairly large harvest of apples and pears. we have blueberry bushes, planted last year, that are giving off fruit, just a few berries ripening at a time. they will continue to grow bigger and stronger, and one year, not far away, we will have enough blueberries to make a pie. right now we just keep eating them as they ripen.

we have some little jalapeno plants that don't look sturdy enough to grow peppers, but they are still standing straight and tall and trying to grow strong. we have muskmelon and watermelon plants that have not been growing long, but are already starting to spread out as if to say, "the largest part of the garden belongs to us." we have given them plenty of room to grow big.

all of the growing in our yard happens because of sun, AND rain. both are necessary for growth. and yes, i'm going to go there. i'm going to make one more comparison to sun and rain, and good and bad, being necessary for growth.

there has been a lot of growing inside our home this year. there have been challenges that we didn't forsee. difficult things that have hit us square in the chest and took the wind out of us as they knocked us to the ground. pain, and sorrow, and loss. human-ness, in many kind and loving ways, but sometimes in fallen, hurtful ways. frustration and feelings of being overwhelmed. desires lost, and trust betrayed.

don't we all experience these things? every one of us. no matter what your home is like, these things are the dark side of life. and if you are alive, then you experience these things. sometimes they come in short punches. sometimes they come in waves. and sometimes they are a steamroller, flattening us out...leaving us wondering if we will ever be filled with life again.

and comes back into us. there is still pain as a result of the trauma, but over time, that too will fade. (or at least they have good drugs that help it not be so severe!) when i am overwhelmed, my reactions and responses are very unpredictable. sometimes i cry and for reasons i cannot explain, that often helps. sometimes i pull away - into quietness and solitude. sometimes i scream and yell and swear - LOUDLY.

i don't know how these experiences are helping me grow. sometimes it becomes clear after a few days or months. sometimes years. sometimes never. i think that often, the growth is not directly correlated to the situation. pain does not teach me to appreciate the pain-free days, but rather it teaches me to humbly depend on others and ask for help when i need it. i don't know if i am expressing it right, but i think that our growing times are meant to bring us closer to the people in our lives, not closer to understanding ourselves. we need other people. we weren't meant to do life alone.

the good sometimes seems to happen less frequently. i think it just seems that way because the hard things can be all-consuming. but the good is still there, even in the midst. sometimes it's just not as loud. and often, when we are in the midst of a good spell, when the good seems to be lasting longer than normal, we are just waiting for the bad to drop and spill itself on us. and this fear can keep us from enjoying all that the good is.

i know i have not been specific. i've been talking in generalities. so here is something specific. God promises that He is Goodness. He is Love. He is Peace. He is Refuge. He is Healing. for every bad that exists, God, in His very being, is the opposite. He is not forceful, therefore He is often overlooked. but that doesn't mean that He is not right there with us in the midst of the bad. this is Truth. it is the Truth that i hold onto when the world seems to be suffocating me. and if i turn to Him, he will continue to breathe life into me, even when i cannot breathe on my own.

He is Abba, who loves his children. and I am one of His children.

Friday, January 14, 2011


"that's another thing. we all have to look at the stars more often" says lorelai gilmore as she, sookie, jackson, and michel are lying on a blanket, sleeping with the zucchini.

henry van dyke said, "be glad of life because it gives you the chance to work and to play and to love and to look at the stars."

"can you tell my step-mom likes stars?" nathan asked dodger the first time he came over to visit. then two thirteen year-old boys stood in the living room and counted all the stars. there are a lot. without even getting out of my comfy chair, i can see fifteen.

about thirteen years ago i started noticing the shape of stars. i have no idea why i was drawn to them. i remember making christmas cards that year with water-colored stars on them and wondering how long my affinity would last. i was aware than this was a phase, and like many others, it would pass. thirteen years, and a star tattoo on my foot later, i am willing to admit that i have more than an affinity for stars.

i still have no idea why...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


it is autumn in virginia. the days are getting shorter. the nights are getting cooler. the air often smells of burning wood. apples are in season, in several varieties, just begging to be crunched into or made into pie or fruit butter.

the leaves will be changing colors soon, showing off their photosynthetic magic, as they change from shades of green to yellow, orange, and red before turning brown and letting go of the branches they presently clothe.

this is when the light, summer, cotton covers get stored away for winter, and the thick, fluffy down comforters come out of storage to adorn the bed. our kitties like the down comforter. all four of them were curled up on it yesterday, doing what kitties do - sleeping and dreaming. in the early hours of morning, when daylight was just breaking, the kitties started parading up and down my sleeping self like i was a runway or something. now i know why they call it a "cat walk"! of course, this is their most effective way of letting me know that the food bowl is empty and will i please come fill it, NOW!

earlier this afternoon i was preparing marinade for chicken bulgogi so we could have korean food for dinner. as i was chopping the fresh ginger, i was overcome by a longing for african chai tea. i haven't made it in about two years, and i'm not sure why i don't make it more often. i heated milk and water on the stove, poured in loose tea, and plopped in a few slices of fresh ginger. i heated it through until it was steaming, and strained it through a sieve. i usually think of hot spiced cider as the appropriate warm beverage for autumn, but i think this year it is going to be african chai. i am fondly remembering my time spent over there, the friends i made, and the love that was shown to me. isn't it great how smells and tastes can transport you to another time and another place?

i do not welcome winter, with its bare branches and cold winds like i welcome autumn. i will purpose to enjoy this present season, without acknowledging that it leads to the next. i will enjoy autumn as long as it chooses to stay. and when winter comes, i'll dream of spring...

Saturday, August 07, 2010


it was about 6:30 in the morning. the trailer was small in a cozy way. he was about to leave for work but there was one thing he had to do before he left. it was hard leaving for the day, leaving two at home in the cozy trailer. he walked over to the bassinet and peeked in. she was pink, and little, and sleeping. he almost hated to wake her, but it was seeing her little, sleeping body wake up and s t r e t c h that put a smile on his face. his baby girl. he kissed his beautiful wife and headed off to the base.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


it is the middle of the night and i am up because i cannot stop itching. my face. my arms. my shoulders. my belly button. i chase it around and just when i think i've gotten it, it jumps to a new or old spot and itches there.

annoying is one word to describe it. frustrating is another. stupid works too. the itching is a side effect of the pain medicine that i am taking, quite regularly, for my back. it used to be that for every pain pill i took, i added a benadryl too. that has worked nicely for several years. maybe it is just that i have taken so many pain pills so frequently over the past several weeks, that the benadryl has decided that it is no longer going to do its job. kindof like my back.

so, thank goodness for google at 3am when you are itching and for 24-hour walmarts. luckily, i did not have to venture out to walmart, or ask my step-son to venture out for me, as i found a medicine in my basket that can ALSO be used as an antihistamine, therefore quelling the itching sensation that was jumping all over my body. but it's nice to know walmart is there if i had needed it.

so i decided to give the medicine a chance to work before i climbed back in bed to nod off to dreamland, which has been very action-packed recently. last night the pilot stopped the plane at the bank so i could make a deposit, and then the pilot wandered off and we could not find him. i have no idea where we were flying too, just memories of looking and looking and looking for him so we could get on with our trip already. who knows what tonight's dreamland adventure holds...

i think it is time to go find out...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Calondra Mirembe Stickley

On Saturday, June 5, 2010, I betrothed my unending love to my dear Robert and became his wife! What a happy, joyous, peaceful day!

For several months I enjoyed thinking and dreaming and planning. Then we started putting those thoughts and dreams and plans into motion. It started feeling "real" to me the day after Christmas when we went shopping for bargains. We found long strings of little white lights for 50% off. We found tissue paper (for the "poofs") in white and blue with sparkles for 50% off. And then we decided to go to Ikea and they were having a one-day sale on champagne flutes - 25¢ each. But there was a caveat - limit 6 per household. So we could buy a total of 12. Hmmm, not quite enough. We talked to a manager and told her we were getting married and would she sell us 100? Please, please, please? Well, she must have been feeling the Christmas spirit, because she said "yes, as long as you don't try to return them." So we loaded them up!

I had decided that I wanted hydrangeas to be my flowers, so I went with periwinkle as the color for the wedding. My friend Debbie scoured her neighborhood for hydrangeas in bloom, and bravely knocked on the doors of stranger's houses to ask if we could buy (or if they would be willing to donate) their flowers. They all graciously donated these lovely blooms, in every perfect shade of lavender, periwinkle, and light blue! I found taffeta on the $1.00/yard table at Wal-Mart and bought all 4 yards to use to make table runners. I found dresses for my bridesmaids at on clearance for $24.99 and they were perfect! And I found a beautiful dress that made me feel like a princess and had a big, poofy, tulle skirt.

The dress. The dress. It became time to order the dress. And I decided, since I had wanted to since I was young, to make my wedding gown. I based it off the dress I found, but was able to make several "tweaks" so that it was Perfect For Me. I drove to Karen's (my Maid of Honor) in Suffolk, VA to get her help with the fitting, since she too is a master seamstress. We made the entire dress in 2 1/2 days! Cotton lined and lightweight, perfect for an outdoor evening wedding in June!

The invitations were designed and assembled by me and I had such fun doing them! One of the funnest parts was finding the font. We chose one called Love Light and it has little hearts in the capital letters. Of course, they were periwinkle with hydrangeas. We "closed" the invitations with a wax stamp with two hearts (which was Robert's idea, and a great one!).

I had an image in my head of an ambiance that I wanted to create for the wedding and reception. We rented a farm and it was the perfect setting. It was only about 3 miles from our home, so it was extremely convenient. We were able to drop things off in the kitchen throughout the week before the wedding. The venue included a gorgeous, rustic, red barn as a backdrop. We had a pavilion for dancing and a kitchen right next to the pavilion for preparing food. The big, big, tree (I don't know what kind) had two tire swings and provided the perfect amount of shade for the ceremony. My Robert strung lights from the pavilion to the tree and we hung tissue paper poofs from the lights. Long tables were set up, end to end, in three rows with hydrangea centerpieces and lots of tea lights. It all turned out exactly the way I hoped it would!

The night before the ceremony we had everyone who was in town over to the farmhouse for fried chicken and fixin's. We figured that we didn't need a rehersal - how hard could it be to walk down the aisle? :) After the dinner, and after the men left for the night, us girls changed into our jammies and sang along to "Mamma Mia" while we made the tissue paper poofs that hung from the strings of lights. We awoke to the sounds and smells of Robert cooking breakfast for the ladies in the kitchen! He got us started off right with sausage and eggs, and Tara brought my favorite pumpkin muffins!

Becky treated me to a manicure and pedicure, which was a treat and let me feel like a princess! I was amazed at how relaxed I was throughout the day, but I had such a great team of friends and family that jumped right in and made my dream wedding a reality. They worked hard all day, and even into the night, cleaning and packing up. To all of you - THANK YOU for everything you did for us! Your love is amazing and we appreciate it so much!

My pastor from Northern Virginia, Ed Allen, came down with his wife, Diane, and he conducted our ceremony for us. We set up the chairs under the big tree with the tire swings, and in addition to providing shade and a breeze, the branches dipped low and framed the barn and mountains in the distance providing the perfect backdrop. I didn't mean to sing to Robert. Okay, at one time I meant to sing to him, but I chickened out and told the dj to play the version of the song with the lyrics. But he played the wrong one. So when the first verse didn't start, I realized what happened and, well, decided that I guess I was supposed to sing to him anyway. So I reached into my bra, where I had the lyrics on a sheet of paper. Everyone laughed! Ed asked if I had anything else down there...! So I sang "Keeper of the Stars" to my dear Robert. And Ed pronounced us husband and wife, and we kissed!

The chocolate fountains dripped dark chocolate and were complemented by various scrumptious dippers - pound cake, pretzels, marshmallows, toasted coconut marshmallows, strawberries, bananas, and cheesecake! Yes, we served dessert first, as our friends indulged while we were having our photographs taken. There were no complaints!

We decided to go with an Italian buffet for the dinner. Sharp Shopper (our favorite "overstock" grocery store) hooked us up with fantastic bargains on Zesty Sausage Pomodoro and Fettuccine Carbonara. Add salad, seasoned green beans, and bread sticks and that's a yummy meal! Would you believe me if I told you that the lettuce was the most expensive part of the meal? Now you know why Sharp Shopper is our favorite! Deals galore!

We honored Nikki and Karen and their birthdays before we cut our cake, as we brought out a birthday cake and sang to them! Surprise! My cousin Crystal made our wedding cake and it too, turned out just as I had hoped! We froze the top tier and then vacuum sealed it to keep it for our first anniversary. We've thought about breaking into it already, because that was the Best Cake Ever!!! The layers were devil's food and lemon poppyseed, with white buttercream frosting, and perfect hydrangea blossoms "falling" down the tiers with a big bow on top! Yes, he smashed it into my face and then he presented the kindest, most loving toast that I've ever heard! (I freaking love you, honey!)

It was truly the happiest day of my life, becoming Robert's wife. We laughed, ate, and danced under the lights into the night. Then we headed off, for our first night as husband and wife, to a little cabin in Love, Virginia...


"it is good to remember that we need each other greatly, you and i, more than much of the time we dare to imagine, more than most of the time we dare to admit." - fredrick buechner

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