Sisters in Spirit is a series of essays by a group of women who felt a spiritual perspective lacking from the steady stream of daily news. They each agreed to carve space monthly on their blogs for a spiritual conversation. The topic this month is: accountability.
I am self-motivated, but much more so when I have someone holding me accountable. An editor nagging for pages on deadline. A running buddy waiting on the trail, tapping an annoyed toe if I’m late. A coven of girlfriends who hold me to my long-held and loudly voiced beliefs. Especially when I get off course.
Have you ever heard Louis CK’s take on beliefs?
“I have a lot of beliefs and I live by none of them.”
He calls them “believies,” and the entire bit is terribly vulgar and twice as funny. He nails it: we hold these ways of proper living close to our mouths, not to our hearts. We spout how important doing XYZ is until it actually comes time to do XYZ.
Pick your believie:
We are flawed by design, some of us (ahem) more so than others.
I’d repeatedly said I would never live with someone before marriage.
Rationale: I’m an independent Christian woman who runs her own household. If a man wants to live with me, we should be married first. It is the right thing to do to honor God.
Reality: I had to quit my job and move across the country to give this relationship a real shot. Those decisions did not come without considerable prayer and counsel. I know it is right to be here, and I couldn’t have financially made it work without living under the same roof. God is under this roof too; He is present in this home.
I still have a lot of mouthy believies these days, but now I see life is a bit more nuanced. I’m not excusing my behavior. I’d be lying if I said I’m not embarrassed. I spend far too much time worried our mothers are embarrassed, and that my views are so old fashioned, I’m completely isolating myself from my peers.
I’m thankful for those who do hold me to my beliefs, and mock my believies. There is a heap of comedic fodder found in both.
As to holding others accountable, this verse rings true: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” — Ephesians 4:32
Does someone hold you accountable? What are you working on?
Sarah is municipal attorney, mom to a toddler boy, and United Methodist’s pastor’s wife. (She does not play the organ.) She is a life-long Missouri girl with a heart for hospitality and social justice. Sarah enjoys cooking, running, knitting and embroidery, reading, and playing in the sprinkler. Sarah blogs at www.beautyschooldropout.net
Bianca is a Navy wife from the great state of Texas (where she coincidentally currently resides), and she and her husband welcomed their first child in the fall of 2012. She has a passion for serving others, asking hard questions and sharing The Gospel with both her words and actions. Bianca loves Jesus, her hubs & her son, authentic friendships, traveling, making lists of all kinds, and trying new recipes which she blogs about onBecomingBianca.com
My new kitchen is full of color, and is my favorite room in the house. It is wacky, fun, and space-challenged, but all together perfect. I’m not working yet, and so each afternoon looks a bit like a scene from a 1950s television show. I usually wear a dress and apron, and am elbows deep into a new recipe until the moment D gets home from work. He goes outside to throw the ball with Nelson, while I put whatever odd concoction we’re eating on the table — which has been set since after breakfast.
What? I’m a writer. Procrastinating is an art, people. And we have to eat…
Yeah. I realize this little routine isn’t going to last long. We’ll be throwing frozen chicken breasts into the Crockpot before scooting out the door to our respective careers soon enough. But, while I’ve got the domestic mojo flowing, we are all enjoying it.
I’ve taken Stacey’s model and adapted it for our life. We eat most meals at home. Between the two of us, I’m either cooking or buying ingredients (cereal, milk) for 36 meals per week. My new goal is to feed us well — local produce, etc. — for less than $100 per week for these 36 meals.
It’s working. This week’s menu includes several recipes from Wine and a Spoon, including chicken tikka masala and meatball soup. Other standards in our weekly repertoire include a roast chicken (which eventually ends up in the soup pot to be boiled down for broth), lots of salad, and several bags of steamed veggies brought back to life with spices and a little butter. We eat a lot of leftovers too. (Risotto, meatloaf, soups — all taste better day two anyhow.)
What is not included in that $100: wine. Ice cream. The random block of gourmet cheese one of us always seems to pick up during the week. The lunch out when we just don’t feel like eating leftovers.
The cost of living is considerably higher here, and I’ve never been much of a coupon/food sale shopper. I’m hoping this new routine of planning our next week’s worth of meals, and shopping once at the most reasonable market will save us time, money and the “what will we eat tonight/what ingredient am I missing” headaches.
I’m looking forward for it to warm up a bit so I can supplement this menu with our own tomatoes, peppers and fresh herbs. And for the BBQ to be fired up.
Another perk to all this budgeting and being a responsible adult? Eating out is way more fun when done sparingly. It seems like a deserved treat to visit our favorite sushi joint Friday nights.
One of my closest friends from college comes into NYC for work on occasion. We were able to catch up last night, with a bottle of wine and far too much food at Manzo. I was so excited for Emily and D to meet; they’d heard a lot about each other. As soon as Emily and I finished hugging, we dug in, telling long, complicated stories of our dorm room shenanigans. By the end of the meal, we had laughed until our sides hurt.
Or that stitch could have been the copious amounts of food we enjoyed.
Oh, NYC: you are such a pain in the butt to access, but the rewards are so sweet for those who succeed.
This is still one of my favorite photos of us, from 8 years ago when she was studying in Boston and I was visiting. So young! Although that time we ate junk food poolside in Costa Rica in our bikinis was pretty ridiculous too. Or the time we did shots of tequila right before she walked down the aisle in Mexico.
In truth, it says something of her patience that she still wants to be friends with me.*
Also: I am really enjoying how many of my friends come through NYC for one thing or another. This is easing the homesickness quite a bit.
P.S. Love you Fatty!*
There are a few things that make a house feel like home. My mama’s quilts on the beds, and the back of the couch — some of them worn thin from more than a decade of decadent napping. My brother’s pottery on the bookshelves, wedged between stacks of great stories begging to be read. A few pots of tomatoes and herbs, stretching their green leaves toward the sun on the veranda. Knitting needles with new projects. Dirty casserole dishes soaking in the sink, with the smell of simmering garlic, onions still lingering — a scent that doesn’t fade until the morning coffee is brewing. Handwritten letters in the mailbox, flag up. Handwritten letters received, with postmarks from the last place we called home.
Nelson, is burrowed at the foot of the bed, yipping as he chases some woodland critter in his sleep. A happy man rests, snoring next to him. I crack open the morning newspaper, dewy after being retrieved from the front lawn, pour a cup of that coffee, and settle in to a new day.
A new home. A new life.
Nelson and I have been moping about for the last week, trying to find a rhythm to this new life. I’m fairly certain he misses his partner in crime, Chaco. I’m also fairly certain I’m reading too much into it. (Hey! I’m at home all day with him and until he starts speaking back, I get to make up both sides of the dialog.)
After several failed attempts at finding a good walking loop near our home — which is beautiful and wooded, and not pedestrian friendly — we adventured to a nearby state park. To my delight, we found a significant map of hiking trails, a lake, long stretches of woods where the cackle of birds overhead sounded like a soundtrack, and fresh air that left me delirious.
Hikers know what I mean. When you reach a point in the hike, breathing in air so clean it smells sweet. You swear you can almost taste it, and you get a little dizzy breathing hard. We found that state of euphoria this morning. After a sweaty hour of climbing trails, we emerged from the forest with renewed smiles.
I needed to explore, feel my heartbeat pound and know I’m with nature. You can take the girl out of Colorado, but you can’t take the pacifist, mountain-loving, Birkenstock-wearing, folk song-singing out of the girl.
Hot tamales, this Garden State is pretty:
Thirty minutes one way, I’m in midtown Manhattan. Thirty minutes the other: forest nirvana. I’m starting to think this part of New Jersey is a hidden gem where the residents appreciate shows like “Jersey Shore,” because it deters more folks from finding them, and the truth. The state seems to be known for orange tans and the violence of Newark. While I don’t doubt those things exist, there is a lot more to the story.
I’m looking forward to discovering the many nuances of my new community.
In the meantime, I’m off to pilates and Nelson is snoring under the dining room table. I should let Phil the groundhog know it is probably safe to cavort outside today.
“Ha ha ha! You will never be safe. Even in my sleep, I hunt you, you dirty rodent!”*
*I might be losing my mind.
We are living in a cottage house on a property with 10-plus acres of groomed grounds. There are giant trees hundreds of years old, sweet neighbors, and a winding drive that goes from one home to the other. So the story goes, there is a resident groundhog named Phil, who Nelson cannot wait to meet in person.
Slowly, our home is coming together. A few photos of the color found in our yard and villa:
I’ve planted a garden, found a church and library, and joined a gym. I’m swimming long solitary laps that bring clarity and peace of mind, looking for a job and passing the afternoons on this patio, with dogeared novels in my lap. Late afternoon, I throw on a dress, pick up D from work, and cook dinner. Nelson runs around like a mad man in the house and yard, while we catch up.
So far, New Jersey is far prettier and more peaceful than expected. It is overwhelming in every good way to be living here, with him.
The next stop on the drive across ‘Merica was the outskirts of Chicago, where I stayed with a childhood friend and her husband. Kacey and Mike were married three years ago; they are both teachers and have moved into a beautiful new home since I last visited. Another childhood friend, Jen, came for dinner with her husband and two children. I had not yet met her youngest — Sam, and immediately fell in love:
Yes, those are really his cheeks. No, he is not part-chipmunk.
His older sister isn’t too shabby either:
I’ve mentioned this roughly 100 times, but it is worth saying again: one of the best parts of this phase of life is watching my childhood girlfriends become mothers. They are just so, so good at it. And their little creatures are so fun to love!
The seven of us once talked about all building houses in a cul-de-sac so we could sit outside on our porches drinking wine together, while our kids played. While that adolescent fantasy is unlikely to come to pass, we do make an effort. Auntie Kacey and Uncle Mike love these two almost as much as their parents do.
Today, I dream of us together on vacation, where the kids swim in the ocean, adults bbq on the beach and our friendships continue on in the next generation. Sappy, but the truth. There is little that makes me happier than hearing from petites, and knowing they are doing well.
While planning the drive to New Jersey, some friends mentioned I could stay with their family in Kearney, Nebraska. It would be a six hour drive from Golden — far enough on the first day, with a heavy spring snow still falling. When I arrived at Nancy and Dan’s home, I was greeted with a warm hug, tails wagging on the porch and an adorable granddaughter running circles around Nelson.
She had just lost her very first tooth. Would I like to see it? And had I ever met the Tooth Fairy?
Nancy and Dan have a 100-plus-year-old white farmhouse — with horses in a nearby pasture and an odd collection of cactus planted between the dog houses and a trampoline for the many grandkids. Spring had been so wet, there was no corn yet planted. Otherwise, Kearney would have been a scene reminiscent of “Field of Dreams.” They were quick to welcome me to their kitchen table, where we sat for several hours, speaking of our families and interests in gardening. Nancy showed me one of her many scrapbooks, and talked about that cactus garden — one she’s created over the years as she can find the rare plants in middle America. Dan talked about his work around town, including at their church. As night fell, they served pot roast, roasted potatoes and carrots and homemade bread and that was as white and sweet as it was decadent. Their six-year-old granddaughter had her own song as she watched the bread come out of the oven to the table:
“Bread, bread, bread. More, more more!” She hummed this repeatedly through the meal, sneaking Nelson the dark tan crust as she could.
These were my kind of people.
Nancy laughed while showing me my room with vintage quilts at the foot of a comfy bed and shaggy green carpet underfoot.
“You know this house used to be one of disrepute,” she whispered. “Way before we bought it, of course.” She raised one eyebrow. We’d just spent two hours talking about families and our love of God. Now that she had me alone, I was delighted to discover this nuance in Nancy’s personality.
“Like a brothel?” I asked, scanning the walls, innocently decorated with family photos and aging school projects.
“Oh, wow.” I wondered where the conversation was going, when it took a very unexpected turn.
“And the rumor is, someone was killed in this room!” She said it with a big smile and genuine enthusiasm. I gulped.
I was thinking, “Uh, Nancy? You should probably tell visitors that after the leave. Not before they climb in.”
Instead I said, “Uh, well thanks for the hospitality!” Crickets chirped nearby.
She must have heard the unease in my voice.
“Oh, honey. You’ll be fine. We’ve never seen the ghost! Good night!”
And with that, she was out the door. Nelson, none the wiser, did his characteristic three turns at the foot of the bed before soon snoring like a lumberjack. I pulled back the quilts, settled in and listened as the house creaked. I heard the old wooden stairs leading up to that bedroom shift several times in the night.
Must have been the Tooth Fairy.
Before I left the next morning, Nancy had cut an ear off of her prized Galapagos cactus to take to New Jersey as a housewarming gift, and had filled a small bag with her handmade stamped cards, which I had admired after dinner. They even called to make sure we got in okay the next night in Chicago.
Families like these that fill me with hope. Their kindness for a stranger and her mutt was extraordinary.Thank you Nancy and Dan — you exceeded all stereotypical expectations for the caring and warmth of a Midwestern family!
Bread, bread, bread. More More More!
Oh, why hello there! It took a full week for the Interwebs to be connected at our new home, and as such — things are a bit backed up. Bills need to be paid, I’ve have 3 kajillion email to return, and there is that small task of finding a new job.
Two weeks ago I was in Texas, with my folks and my Aunt Karen. I didn’t just attend crazy awesome parades. We also did the river walk, the Alamo, and margaritas the size of my head. God bless TexMex.
The best part of the trip? Other than when my mom jumped into a photo with several local beauty queens:
Tough to beat, I know. But spending time with my Aunt Karen felt like a gift. We don’t get to see each other nearly enough, and it was a delight to see how she and my dad had an unspoken language. Their mannerisms and word choices were eerily similar; so much is written in DNA. I am thankful to call her family.