Tuesday, April 1, 2014

owning it

Five years ago this summer, my family went from itinerant rental-dwellers to first-time homeowners. In all those years slogging through the desert of white walls and beige carpets and a few sad plants on the patio, I dreamed a dream of the idyllic life I would have once I had a place to call my own.

I would have goats. 

There would be a huge organic vegetable garden to sustain my family. 

My house would be clean and perfect and artistic and cozy. 

My yard would be a quaint cottage-like riot of morning glories, hollyhocks, foxgloves and daisies.

*Cue epic music*
I dreamed a dream in time gone byyyyyyy…..

And then…we actually bought a house. Those of you with a home and a mortgage and finite amount of money are laughing with me right now. I mean, what a wake-up call, right? 

But still, it's way cooler than apartment living. I can paint the walls whatever color I want and nobody can stop me from destroying all the lawn in the backyard to grow vegetables. Score!

That being said, I have learned quite a few things over the last five years, through a lot of frustrating experimentation. Like:

1. Organic gardening in Florida is really for people who have nothing else to do besides think about organic gardening. It's a full time job. And although my yard is pretty big, the space with full sun is not actually big enough to grow anything besides a few cute snacking veggies. Not worth it for me.

2. Chickens and other livestock are for people who want to be stuck at home. Like, all the time. Cause getting people to babysit your chickens when you go out of town is not as easy at it sounds. Plus they destroy what lawn is left after all that veggie gardening.

3. A clean artistic house is for people whose kids are grown or go to public school. And possibly for people who have maids. The best I can hope for is a moderately clean house that is semi-artistic. Cozy we got. 

4. Cottage-like plants hate Florida. 

So. After beating my head against the wall trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, I've decided to give my chickens away, give up on vegetable gardening, be okay with kid-messes, and stick with what I'm good at, which, apparently, is growing pretty, non-cottagey plants in the yard. After years of dissing tropical plants, I'm learning to love the things that actually grow here. I do still really hate 99% of all palm trees, and I'm not a fan of bromeliads (a.k.a. mosquito breeding grounds), but there are a lot of pretty plants that are way better to look at than a lumpy denuded dirt patch that smells of chicken poop. 

Now my current task is to design an oasis that can take the place of the minefield we currently call a backyard. Today I did a little doodle, to kind of cement in my head what plants I know grow well in my yard, and so I could have a visual of textures and heights so I can start putting things together. Plus I just like to doodle. 

I guess my point is this: wherever you are at, own it. It's not worth the headache trying to be something you're really not (in my case, a homesteading, all-natural, veggie-farming, chicken-raising perfectionist) when you can be just as happy growing what grows and living the life you've been given. I'm finally realizing (after about seventeen years cause I'm dumb) that God has me where I am for a reason. It may not be the life I thought I'd have but it's good nonetheless. 

Now to go hunt down some black bamboo….

Monday, March 10, 2014

bee brave, part deux

Have you ever been around swarming bees? It's kind of intimidating.

When a hive starts to get overcrowded, the bees will start to raise up a new queen, and the old queen leaves with a chunk of workers to go elsewhere. If you can catch or trap the swarm, you will now have two hives instead of one. Which is pretty cool, and the reason we currently have five beehives when we started with one. 

What is slightly less cool is the way they start to freak out, and a giant cloud of darting bees rises up in the air in a cartoon-like ball of activity. Walking outside and looking up, the sky looks darkened and the sound…well, it's just like what I imagine sticking your head inside an angry hive would sound like. You have to wait for them to settle somewhere, and that somewhere is usually an impossibly high tree branch. They start to coalesce into a giant beard of insects, protecting the queen and flocking to her pheromones in preparation for moving on. The trick is to get them before they fly off. 

Enter my husband, with a hacksaw and a deer stand, climbing thirty feet up a skinny maple tree. He gets up pretty high, then looks down at me and says:

"Hey, I need you to go get a veil on."

What? Oh aitch E double hockey sticks NO. I don't even do bees when they're in a moderately calm hive. I certainly don't do falling branches covered in a swarm of ticked-off stinging insects. No. Just…No. 

"You'll be fine, they won't sting you."

Uh-huh. Right. The angry bugs won't sting me. They don't even like me on a regular day. 

But he's insistent. He needs my help. Can't do this without me. I'm having visions of the Hunger Games, tracker-jacker venom making it's way through my system before I die a horrible hallucinogenic death. 

"FINE!" I yell. "But I'm not doing this in shorts and a t-shirt!"

I stomp inside, and put on jeans, put on boots and a button up flannel shirt. Tuck it in. Put on a veil. I look ridiculous but I could care less. I want to be as invulnerable as possible. I go back outside grumbling and stand nervously under the tree. He tells me to stand back for a second as he saws through the branch. Okay, Katniss. You go, girl. Suddenly the ten-foot section of tree falls and thousands of bees are shaken loose and begin to fly around angrily. But the branch is tied to a rope, and when they calm down somewhat he lowers the branch slowly toward me. I have to grab it and stabilize it on the way down, my bare hands just inches from a three inch thick layer of bees encasing the branch. I hold it steady, chewing on my lip, as he climbs down. Then we carefully carry the whole thing over to the box he's prepared for the swarm. 

A short time later, all the bees are off the branch and in the box, with only one sting (not on me) to show for it. 

And now we have five colonies. Eeesh. 

I will admit to feeling a bit empowered by facing one of my fears, but it's not something I'm in a big hurry to do again. My only regret is not getting a picture of the process. I'm sure my outfit alone would have been blog-worthy. :)

Thursday, March 6, 2014


People. I'm a grown up.
The thing is, I don't feel like one. I don't feel like my chronological age matches my internal outlook on life. I still think of myself as "girl" and snort whenever someone refers to me as a "woman." When I get "ma'am'd" at Publix by the sixteen-year-old bagging my groceries, I look over my shoulder to see who he's talking to. Whilst doing cannonballs off the top of an airboat to impress my boys, the thought, "I am probably too old for this" never occurs to me. When I compare my own mom at this age to myself I think, "Yeah, but she was already a grown up then."

There's probably something wrong with me.

Recently though, there was one area of my life where I felt like a little growing up was in order. This is deep, guys, so get ready…it was…my bedroom.

You totally thought I was going to be all existential with you right now, didn't you. Hahaha!

But I am serious about my bedroom. For my entire adult life (and for probably my entire childhood life) my bedroom has always been the ugliest room in the house. I guess because I mostly just use it to sleep in, or get dressed in, and sometimes to read in. But ever since we bought this, our first house, it's annoyed me how hideous our bedroom was. I mean, all those years of apartment living were one thing--you're expected to live like an itinerant bachelor when you're not allowed to do much thanks to a rental agreement. But I OWN this room. And I hadn't done anything about it.

 Dark beige walls. Halfway pulled out curtain rods hanging way too low (with no curtains). Mismatched-but-not-in-a-cool-way artwork hanging on clips. A busted, outdated, brass-and-oak ceiling fan. Only one nightstand. You get the idea. Ugly. Not a place to inspire tranquility. Or excitement. Or anything besides UGH.

Ew. What a mess.

Messy dresser, sad view.

So I started to plan. And think. I knew that if I was going to do something about this, I wanted to do it all at once. No gradual makeovers, I wanted it to do be done and done. So over the course of about five months I started to accrue things. I got some nightstands from a Living Social deal. Curtains from Ikea. Lamps on sale at Target. A velvet quilt on clearance and Target. My mom even got in on the action by getting me a Home Depot gift card for my birthday so I could get paint.

And then the day arrived. I wanted for this to be a surprise for my husband, so I waited for his next business trip to do the deed in secret. Being the most unobservant human on earth, he'd failed to notice my stash of bedroom stuff hiding out in my studio closet. Finally he was on a plane, and I came home and got to work. I spent a week painting (seriously, do you have any idea how many coats of white paint you need to cover a wall? Insane) which is a task I despise with all my being. I cleaned and hung hardware and enlisted the help of a friend to hang a new ceiling fan. I drew lines with a level and a ruler. I painted the insides of the window casings emerald green on a whim. I slept in the living room all week long and went to bed every night aching from all the painting. And then, I was done.

I mean okay, it's not going to be in a magazine anytime soon, but it feels soooooo much nicer to me. Putting the curtains up by the ceiling made the whole room feel bigger and less squatty, and the white really brightens up everything. I love it. I have a few things that still need doing, like some hanging planters I'm working on, and a shelf my husband is going to be build me, but all in all I am satisfied with my little bit of grownupness. One day that dresser up there will be replaced by a handmade midcentury console type of dresser (a girl can dream, and that's a dream I've been nursing since I was a tween) and maybe I'll finally be able to afford a nice persian rug, but for now, I'm happy.

Monday, February 10, 2014

bee brave

A few short years ago, my husband started taking beekeeping classes at the local university. That lead to buying two hives, which lead to swarms and re-queening and the never-ending building of more boxes and frames. And lots of honey.

Today we have four hives in varying sizes. One is very docile (aka: lazy) and the other three are busy and ANGRY. They particularly hate me. Every time I venture near a hive I get a few bees beginning to buzz and head-butt me, and eventually they chase me through the yard as I run yelping away.

They scare me.

But they are also kind of awesome. Did you know, for instance, that all the bees you see flying around are female? And that their stingers are actually ovipositors (egg-laying thingies) that don't work because they are suppressed by the queen's pheromones? It's pretty cool actually.

Still. I dislike the head-butting. I don't know where the panic comes from--being stung certainly sucks but it's not THAT bad. It's more of a instinctual reaction on my part: I hear buzzing near my ear, and suddenly my legs are carrying me far, far away.

Well anyway, yesterday was full of bee-related activity. I felt like drawing a bee, so I drew this:

Right about the same time, my middlest wandered near the hives right after my husband had dropped a frame he was inspecting (FYI--bees do not like being dropped). He had a bee land right on his eyelid and it stung him before I could smack it off. Poor kid. He was a trooper, though. After some understandable tears, he put on his veil and helped my husband inspect the last hive, which was way braver than I would have been. This morning, however, when he woke up he looked like this:

Yikes. Now he's a bit high on Benadryl but otherwise fine.

The moral of the story? I like bees…in theory. I like books about bees, and drawing them. I enjoy honey. But dang. I just can't seem to get to the point where I want to help with them, despite the cajoling from my husband. Unlike my eight-year-old son, I am a bee wimp.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

life, interrupted

Oh, hi. 

It's been awhile. I know. I'm bad. Here's a story to make up for it. 

Once upon a time, on a day during which I was frantically baking sheets and sheets of cookies for our Christmas party, I got an unexpected phone call. It was the assistant pastor from our church (aka my brother's father-in-law and our good friend) calling to tell me that our worship leader was leaving unexpectedly, and could I take over? 

Sure, I said, hardly believing what I was saying. We talked a bit more. I hung up. I stared at my shaking hands, disbelief coursing through me along with a good bit of adrenaline and panic. I started to do the math in my head. Saturday night. Two services Sunday morning. Wednesday nights. Thursday night practices. What am I doing. I am not cut out for this. I'm not an awesome singer. My guitar skills are…okay. My husband is going to have a heart attack when he realizes how often I'm gonna be gone. What if everyone hates me. What if I fail. 

And then…quiet. I felt suddenly like God was saying, "You wanted to be directed, I'm directing you. You aren't good enough for this task, but I'm going to use you despite your own weaknesses." I had peace. 

WELL. I still have peace, but I also have a whole lot more to do now, and my creativity has been channeled primarily into finding new music, goofing off on the ukelele, and trying to figure out slide backgrounds and something to do with the hideous fake plants on stage. 

But I have had time for a few non-worship things. Like:


Quite a bit of painting. 

 Lots and LOTS of bike riding. 

Running through a probably unhealthy amount of colored powder.

Birthday cake making. (This was a favorite--My niece requested "A rainbow cake with white frosting and gold everywhere and unicorns on top." Challenge: accepted.)

I guess I'm not as frantic as I thought. It's more that I have to choose to either do things, or to blog about those things. It's kind of either/or right now with everything, so I choose life. 

On that happy note--see you in six months! Ha.