Friday, March 28, 2014

flannel hope

It was Monday in Chicago in July, and I had a terrible headache. I had just picked Jill up from Midway, and we were at Costco shopping for the food we would be cooking for my sister's wedding that weekend. I stopped dead in my tracks and stared at a display of flannel sheets. (cream with red snowflakes, they were cute)

me: Jill, I can have all the flannel sheets I want!
Jill: Kate?
me: Adam always complained when I put flannel sheets on the bed. He said they were like sleeping in Velcro. But he's not here to complain anymore, so I can have them all winter long. I love flannel sheets!
Jill: Silver lining! Are we buying some?
me: Um, no. Who buys flannel sheets in July? Let's go find the pork loin.

I've described marriage before as balancing on a tightrope in tandem, but I think it's also like trying to fit two people into a space that's very snug. Over time,  each spouse learns to wiggle and bend to make room for the other's knees and elbows. The rather surreal conversation above was the moment when I began to understand that I didn't have to bend to accommodate Adam's preferences anymore.

In the days following that conversation, my crazy family embraced more such realizations with me. Melissa bought me a fuzzy steering wheel cover, because I don't think having one compromises my control of the vehicle. Gwen and Sean gave me a silver owl, which I hung from the mirror in my car, because it doesn't actually compromise visibility, and I'm not worried about a ticket. Jill, Kathy, Tony, and my mom went a little crazy in the lighting section of the d.i.y. store, and the ceiling fixtures at Rambling Farmhouse now sport a variety of interesting and decorative chain pulls, because I should be able to turn fans and lights on and off without a step-stool in my own home, and I am short enough to walk under them, and not matching is its own beauty.

In truth, these objects are all kind of silly, and none of them were things that I had regretting giving up in service to marital harmony. After all, Adam had bent to accommodate my preferences, too, and you can bet that, were the tables turned, there would be towels on his bedroom floor, and he would be frying fish and chips in the kitchen, in bacon grease, without turning on the exhaust fan.

Suddenly finding myself alone on the tightrope was terrifying in part because I had gotten so used to sharing it with someone else, so accustomed to being attentive to and adjusting for my partner's movements. Bringing these silly objects into my life was a first step toward realizing that I could balance on my own again.

These small realizations led to bigger ones. I can look for a job anywhere, and then I can move wherever I find something. I don't have to own and care for land if I don't want to.

I get a second chance to decide what my life looks like.

The awful tragedy that ended the first amazing life I had built together with Adam does not diminish the possibility of a second beautiful life yet to be built.

I choose not to wallow.

I choose to hope.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

a glimpse of spring

As the snow blankets my  world again today, I remember this glimpse of spring just two days ago.

The earth is there, and we will see it again.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Rambling Farmhouse is no longer home to any farm animals.

Rehoming the chickens is something I had been pondering for a while. I've been nervous about the challenges that accompany early spring every year. As the local raccoons, opossums, and foxes are having babies before the wild food supply is plentiful, they prey on the birds, so dispatching trapped predator becomes a daily chore. The sort of chore which I have little stomach for. Meanwhile this winter, our eggs have been selling well via the refrigerator at Bluebird Farm, so when Rachel asked if I might be willing to sell some of the chickens, I offered her the whole flock.

I know that leaving chicken husbandry was a good decision, but carrying that decision out was difficult nonetheless.  Chickens are stupid and dirty, but they are also beautiful and funny individuals, and nothing is better than eggs collected just that day. I won't miss arguing with the children about whose turn it is to do the chores, and I won't miss doing battle with Lucifer the Fiercest Rooster, but I will miss their noise and their popping up in unexpected places when I work outside.

This evening, we crated the chickens and took them to join the flock at Bluebird, where our good friend Henry will take excellent care of them. Then I came home, threw myself on the bed, and sobbed.

I wasn't really crying about the chickens.

Keeping chickens (and later turkeys and ducks) was Adam's project. At first, he had to work hard to convince me that this was a good idea, but once they were here, I enjoyed them at least as much as they pissed me off, usually more.  In getting rid of them, I am one step closer to being able to put Rambling Farmhouse on the market, one step closer to finding the life that belongs to me and not to us, one step further away from the vision that was my guide for so long.

Of all of the spaces I have cleaned out since Adam died, though, the chicken coop is the first one for which I don't have a new purpose. There it stands at the top of the sledding hill.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014


For all my talk about the importance of dwelling in the purple times, I did not attend a service on Ash Wednesday. No ashes marked my forehead. I did not wear my faith publicly today.

In part, this was because of scheduling: Anna had a ballet performance in the morning, and Sofia had gymnastics in the evening. I could have tried harder, though. There are lots of churches in Kalamazoo, and I'm sure one of them was holding a service that I could have gotten myself to.

The bigger reason is that this year I don't need to be reminded that I am dust. I already know. The fragility of human life and the constant possibility of death are real to me in a way that they never have been before.

I am dust; so are you. Precious dust that houses a beautiful soul. Fragile dust animated by breath.

To dust shall we return someday, maybe soon. In the meantime, love.

the purple

Image credit: Michelle Quigley

I love the way that Christianity's liturgical calendar divides the year into seasons that commemorate the events of the gospel. In Roman Catholic and many mainline protestant churches, vestments and altar clothes are coordinated with the colors of the season, and these colors become a visual reminder of where we are in the annual cycle. The persistence of white in our worship spaces after Christmas and Easter have passed on the secular calendar is a powerful call to inhabit the season even while the commercial world places gifts and candy on deep discount to make room for the next holiday.

The white times are our holiest times, our feasts of celebration for the miracles that frame the Christian faith. I love the white times for the family gatherings and the food. But my heart is in the purple. The purple is contemplation. Purple is fasting. Purple is renewed commitment.

Purple is not easy.  Embracing purple time often means making sacrifices and asking oneself hard questions. Purple challenges the people who dwell there.

Today we enter the purple, and I woke up this morning not knowing what my Lenten commitment would be. Most years, I look at my life and try to rebalance what is off kilter. Sometimes this has meant giving up a food (ahem, chocolate) or making a commitment to patience. Usually I hear the call loudly. In the last seven months, my world has been so off kilter that rebalancing has been an ongoing task.

I the absence of a loud call, I commit to listening better in meditation and prayer each day.

"Earth to earth; ashes to ashes; dust to dust: in certain hope of the resurrection unto eternal life." -The Book of Common Prayer

Here are some of the things I'll be reading:
A meditation on Lent and spring.
Daily posts on Observing Lent with a Servant's Heart.
Daily posts from Goshen College.
Sunday sermons on Lent and Easter with Game of Thrones, hyperlinks will appear as the sermons are posted.

Monday, March 3, 2014

road not taken

Dear you,

As I stand here contemplating beginnings and potential, I look back as well as forward. Along the path I have traveled, I also see the paths I chose not to take. While I cannot untake the steps which have put me here, some of the unchosen paths do present opportunities now.

You are much on my mind in particular. But I'm not sure if I'm thinking about the past you or the real present you or perhaps a fantastic simulacrum of you that I've imagined. I'm not even sure how to figure that out.

Are you an oasis or a mirage?

~ me