gloom sans doom

I woke up this morning under a cloud. Not a dark cloud or a rainy one, but a cloud.

There are a couple of identifiable factors at work this morning. The big one is lack of sleep. I haven't been sleeping well, or long, the past few nights. I go to sleep later and later, toss and turn more, and then get up earlier and earlier as Rory has her daily morning meltdown. Today she probably started before 6am; I couldn't even open my eyes until 6:18.

I've woken up the past couple of mornings feeling like I had a light or maybe even medium hangover. I'm guessing this is a combination of being too tired and not getting enough water the day before. Preventable, and all the more frustrating for that reason.

Rory is cranked to 11 when she first wakes up. She is loud and jumpy and herky-jerky - all around bad news for a zombie-tired me, who has to leash her up and take her out. Oh how I long for a yard for days like this.

It's light enough to need sunglasses by 6:30 now. But it's really overcast today, so the light didn't stab at my eyes when we went out. It was actually pretty nice, and there was a brown-grey cast on everything. Interesting. If I were motivated at all, I'd be playing with my camera.

But my instant pick-me-up is gone. I can't see the mountains when it's overcast. So, it's not even 6:30am and I am doing the work of picking myself up. Usually it's best to push myself through the fog, place an emphasis on 'doing stuff' so that the sense of accomplishment improves my feelings. That's what I did yesterday.

Not today.

Today it will probably involve lots of couch time to finish a book I'm reading, and lots of time spent listening to my favorite podcast. It's a knitting podcast done by a guy in Australia. The pick-me-up isn't instant like the mountains are, but it's pretty close. Probably no knitting or sewing - my current projects are taxing.

I realize I sound like a whiney baby. Believe me, I annoy myself more than I annoy you. Compared to most, I've got it ridiculously easy. I can pick and choose the work I do, I don't have to schlep to an office (not until July 6!) and nobody is tapping a foot expecting me to do things. I don't have kids, just a high-maintenance dog, and I come and go as I choose. The truth is, I am so grateful for my life the way it is. I set it up this way intentionally, knowing that I needed to have a short season of my life when being able to take care of myself was the priority. So I don't feel guilty on days like today when I take advantage of that. It's the reason why I (don't) do what I do(n't).

By the way, I've read that overeating sugars or carbs the night before will make you feel hungover the next morning. Have you ever experienced that?

How do you pick yourself up when you're having a bad mental health day? What are some of the constant, little things that lift your spirit? Do you make it a point to take care of yourself when the signs are there?


Wedding Vows

Normally, when it comes to wedding vows (and a whole slew of other things) I am a pretty traditional girl. We had a traditional wedding, fairly Presbyterian in nature, with the hymns and the organ and the no-clapping rule (which was broken, if I remember correctly. I was a little busy at that particular moment.).

In bible study the other night, one of the ladies mentioned a new take on the old wedding vow - promising to be together for 'as long as we both shall love' - which, to me, sucks. There are so many comments I could make about that particular cop-out of choice, none of them nice. So I'll refrain.

Really though, a lot of 'we wrote our vows' vows are pretty lame, as far as I've experienced. Weak, and ignorant, and stupid. Maybe I should tell you how I really feel.

I was over at Flora's blog daydreaming about a succulent wall when I spotted these DIY wedding vows, and I have to admit, I think they're pretty cute. Not for me, and probably not 'solemn vow before God and all our loved ones' vows for a church wedding, but cute nonetheless.

“Jonathan: I vow to love you
Kestrin: I vow to love you
J: to respect you
K: to always make fun
J: to be your best friend ever
K: to constantly generate a force field of awesome to guide and protect us
J: to do what I love
K: to actively maintain our relationship
J: to be lucky
K: to live a charmed life
J: to live as long as possible
K: to ask nicely for what i need
J: to communicate my feelings effectively
K: to live a life of hilarious bliss together
J: to provide for you
K: to solve problems
J: to make time for you every single day
J: to remain curious
K: to stand by my man
J: to put our relationship first
K: to build a community around us
J: to build a family life together
K: to give you babies
J: to change the diapers on those babies
K: to be great parent
J: to sing with you in the morning
K: to give you shoulder rubs, intermittently, for as long as we both shall live
J: to remember how lucky I am
K: to rock out with our great grandchildren
J: to take you on one hundred honeymoons
K: to maintain a menagerie
J: to clean up
K: to sing songs to you
J: to speak for you when you sing your voice out
K: to throw radical parties
J: to be faithful to you
K: to take joy in doing nice things for you
J: to be compassionate
K: to be devoted
J: to be committed
K: to be happy
J: to listen to you
K: to support you
J: to stay with you forever
K: Do you vow to be my husband?
J: I do. Do you vow to be my wife?
K: I do.”

Your turn. What's your take on wedding vows? Did you/would you write your own? What do you think about vowing to stay married for 'as long as we both shall love'? Do you think wedding vows have anything to do with God? Fire away!


tornado watches

I've been a little off-kilter this morning. Brian had mentioned a few days ago that he's switching his day off from Mondays to Fridays during the summer. So, today being Friday, I was in the whole 'Brian is home today' gear. Brian home days are often different from Brian at the office days. My emphasis shifts from things I need to do, to a combination of things we could do and what I'll be able to do with a built-in doggie sitter (read:
contract SEO work). So I was in that gear this morning, until about 7:30 when I heard his alarm going off. I figured he'd forgotten to turn it off last night. And then 5 minutes later I heard it going off again. Weird. It wasn't until 8:10 when I went into the bedroom to put something away that I realized he was putting work clothes on. Enlightenment (finally) came shortly thereafter. NEXT week begins the new day off thing.

I usually plan my day between 6:30 and 7:30am. So I've been fairly derailed. Which has been good, because in my determination not to have another listless day of mediocrity and frustration (I've had a few too many of those in recent weeks), I was GOING to DO STUFF today. So I have. But when it was time to sit down and do my Company Girl post, I was kinda lost.

Until I read Rachel's tornado commentary and looked at that photo (OMG OMG OMG). 

I grew up in North Carolina. In the south, we get big scary things like hurricanes, and floods, and electrical storms, and the occasional ice storm or race riot. Not to mention oppressive humidity. We do not get tornadoes very often, if ever. 

As such, I am no-sweat about hurricanes, but I am TERRIFIED of tornadoes. Ter. Ri. Fied.

But now I live in Denver. Where we don't get hurricanes, and flooding doesn't seem to be a major concern, and snow storms are a way of life (and are usually melted off by lunch time anyway), and people don't even really notice race, let alone riot about it (which, hello, there are more important things to notice than skin color).

Denver's in the mountains, right?

NO. Wrong. Denver is NOT in the mountains. Denver is near the mountains, but Denver is in the plains. 

That's the other thing about growing up in North Carolina. We have the beautiful (and they are beautiful, people!) Appalachians in the west, the rolling hills of the piedmont in the middle, and the flat-tastic coastlands to the east. Heading west, you kind of build up to the mountains with hill after hill after bigger hill after the-mountains-are-just-past-those-big-hills. 

Out here, it's flat-flat-flat-flat-whaBAM you're going up a mountain. And Denver is in the flat part, at the edge of the plains. 

That means we get snow in May (true story - and the snow was gone by 11am an the high was like 60 or something that day) and we also get tornadoes sometimes. 

Wednesday threatened to be one of the tornado days. My county was under tornado watch for many hours. Too many hours, if you ask me...9 or 10 or so. I start getting heart palpitations when there's a tornado watch anywhere within 200 miles of me...when there's one in my own county, I go into hiding. Even if it's just a watch. 

So what did my crazy-pants self do? I made a spur-of-the-moment tornado kit, aka a laundry basket containing my cell phone and wallet, 2 oranges and the last banana, an empty vinegar jug filled with water, a giant quilt, the garage door opener, our checkbooks because our accounts are new and I don't have the numbers memorized yet, a couple books, and some plastic bags for...I don't remember why I had those. 

Can you think of all the things I should have put in there instead? I can, now. Candles. First aid kit. Maybe some extra clothes or at least some sturdy shoes. Maybe some toilet paper, haha. And a million other emergency safety things that would occur to me in any other situation. Our 'weather radio' doubles as walkie talkies and those were at the church, so that wasn't an option. I was afraid to look up 'tornado kit' lists, on the off chance that I wouldn't have something and then I would REALLY panic because WHAT IF I NEED THAT THING WHEN THE TORNADO HITS AND I DON'T HAVE IT, WHAT WILL BECOME OF ME?? WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE DOGS??? ALL BECAUSE I DIDN'T HAVE A BAG OF KITTY LITTER AND SOME GOGGLES!!

Our safest room in case of a tornado is our laundry room / dog crate room / hallway to the garage. All their food and water was in there already, as were all our not-good towels and most of our tools since that's where those things live. So I had 'tornado drills' with the dogs. No, seriously. We would practice. I would give them the crate command with great urgency, looking concerned but strong, wrap myself in the quilt, and take off for the laundry room. I even thought about crawling into Rory's crate with her. That's how out of my mind I was.

Over a tornado WATCH.

At least I didn't time us. 

Suffice it to say, if we ever have a tornado within spotting distance, I will be the lady wetting her pants in the laundry room, not the lady out on the porch with a camera.

I've linked up with Company Girl Coffee this morning. Company Girl Coffee is a fun weekly link-up at Home Sanctuary. Check it out, and come on in!


Oh Happy Day!

Today marks the third anniversary of my starting this blog.

Rejoicing and dancing and gladness, begin!!

Also, let the consumption of cake begin!

And chocolate.  Because no celebration is complete without chocolate.


Old friends

Recently the 27th birthday of my known-the-longest friend passed.

Her name is Laura, my name is Ashley, and there are several photos of us standing underneath Laura-Ashley store canopies. One of these was taken in Finland!

We met in kindergarden and got to be friends when we, or maybe our moms, discovered that we lived in the same neighborhood and had a lot in common. Family friends, you could say. We have a lot of memories together, despite the fact that her family moved away when we were 6 or 7, and we haven't lived within 5 states of each other since then.

One of my favorites is how we used to talk about how we needed her little sister and my little brother to get married so we could be sisters, and we'd execute our little 10-year-old romance plots on the unsuspecting second-graders. Fun times :)

Friends are special, yes, but there's something about old friends. I can say I've known Laura for 22 years. That's a long time! She's one of the dearest people in my life, too, in part for that longevity. We have that kind of friendship that involves not seeing each other for long stretches of time, even years, and then being in the same room and settling in like we are together all the time.

Do you have a friend like that?  How old is your 'oldest' friendship?


call this post anything but 'my best friend' wedding'

I went to Atlanta a couple of weeks ago to be a part of Holly's wedding. Holly was my maid of honor when I got married, and I was so happy to be one of her bridesmaids when she and Caleb got hitched.

So that's the mush. Here's the good stuff. PHOTOS!

Holly's wedding photos are already back, and boy are they good. I have been authorized to share them with you, because they are THAT good. I've pasted a couple below, but what I'd really like you to do is go to the photo blog and see the rest. But what's more...

What I'd REALLY like you to do is leave a comment on the photo blog post if you think they're any good. If Holly and Caleb get 75 comments on the post, they'll get a swanky 11x14 portrait printed on canvas. And if you've ever dealt with wedding photographers and their price lists, you know this is pretty sweet.

So please, if you have a minute and you are so inclined, skip commenting here and go comment there instead.

My friends and I thank you.

I am off to wrangle a border collie into submission after being cooped up for 3 rainy days. FUN. We might need a new sofa by the time the weather gets nice.


Names of God

On and off throughout my Christian life, (which could easily be summed up as my whole life) I have taken passing interests in the names that various Christian cultures bestow upon God. Most of the time, these names were Hebrew in origin and were found in the Bible.

I recently joined my husband's Presbyterian church. The Presbyterian denomination began in Scotland, and as such, there is generally a denomination-wide emphasis on Celtic Christianity, Celtic expressions of worship, Celtic symbolism, etc. And as I have a Celtic history myself, I was particularly struck by an entry in a book I'm reading.

The book is called Moving On by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I've been reading the Simple Abundance daybook by the same author this year, so I thought I'd take a look at this book too. It's about home and approaching how to set it up in a way that is authentic to you and your family. It's a little more ethereal than what I usually read, but practical enough that I don't lose patience. Interesting stuff.

On page 29 of Moving On Ban Breathnach quotes Celtic Devotional: Daily Prayers and Blessings, a book on Celtic spirituality written (or perhaps compiled by?) by Caitlin Matthews. In this entry, Ban Breathnach mentions a few of the "many exquisite and descriptive" Celtic names of God. Check out this list, it's pretty cool:

Source of All Mystery
Gate of Gladness
Mother of Memory
Piercer of Doubt
Kindler of Hope
Keeper of Good Cheer
Ever Present Provider
Compassionate Listener
Guardian of the Hearth
Only Source
Ancient Dream
Glad Giver
Weaver of Wonder
Revelation of Evening
Teller of Tales
Queen of Quietness

A few of these really jumped out at me. First off, I like the acknowledgement of the feminine aspects of God. I grew up with a very masculine understanding of God, and it took me a couple years to get comfortable with the feminine aspects of Divinity and Love. Queen of Quietness especially make me smile a little bit, because it reminds me of my home, where it could be said that I am the queen of quietness.

I also like the notion of God being the Kindler of Hope. Hope is something that has been an important part of my mental and spiritual life. And there have been times when there was nothing I could do to kindle hope except to believe in God's faithfulness.

Funny aside: you'll often see a Celtic cross in the Presbyterian church - it's the one with the regular cross shape, and then a circle where the two lines intersect. There's a prominent one in our chapel. Our children's sermon the other day was discussing the Celtic cross as a symbol of Jesus going up to heaven and out into the world. When the kids were asked what the circle in the center of the cross might represent, one girl said, assuredly, that it's Jesus's head. Kids say the darndest things.

Now it's your turn. Did anything from the list of Celtic names for Divinity jump out at you? Why? If you're not a believer in divinity, what do you make of the different notions expressed?


Learning Search Engine Optimization

There's something so refreshing, and satisfying, about learning a new skill.

Recently I began a new learning journey, and if you paid any attention whatsoever to the title of this post, you know what I'm doing. Or at least, you know what what I'm doing is called.

Search Engine Optimization is what it's called, or SEO for short. SEO makes a website more noticeable on search engines. The more you're noticed, the higher up in the results list you are, and therefore the more hits you get. For many websites, it's all about the hits.

In practice, SEO means making changes to things like your page title and 'meta descriptions' (your page's subtitle, in a way) so that keywords are present.

I've been a writer for many years. I've been an internet user since 1997. Learning SEO feels like a natural extension of those two attributes. It's something I've wanted to learn basically since I first found out about it more than a year ago, and to be learning it, and getting PAID to learn it, is pretty awesome in my book.

It's also pretty cool to be learning all about a subject that interests me anyway - the company whose website I'm "SEOing" specializes in a product that I consume on a regular bases. (Twenty bonus points if you can guess what that is.)


throwback music

I went to college fairly ignorant about what I then called 'the secular music scene.' I listened to Christian music growing up, with some oldies thrown in for good measure. I was seen rocking out to Summer in the City on numerous occasions.

I was cute, too.

But anyway. In the fall of 2001, I hadn't had much exposure to most of the music that most of the people my age were listening to. I would pick up random recommendations here and there, and I'd listen to the radio too, when it was bearable.

One of the talented artists I picked up on was Tracy Chapman. And to this day, she reminds me of my artist friend Sarah, who told me she would listen to the self-titled Tracy Chapman album while she painted.

I think, however, that my most favoritest discovery was Shakira. And I found her in my super lame-o Spanish 4 class, wherein I learned nothing except that Shakira is awesome. The TA played a Shakira song called Estoy Aqui (meaning, I'm here, or here I am) and I loved it. Not too long later, I picked up Shakira's greatest hits album, called Grandes Exitos (which is Spanish for Greatest Hits). It's all Spanish language, and it's all really great. 

Not long after that, or maybe right before that, Shakira began to do her crossover thing into English. And I mean, that stuff is good, but I liked her in Spanish better. 

Turns out, this is still the case. I just listened to She Wolf for the first time...and I didn't like it. I'll take the Spanish-singing Shakira from 10 years ago any time. With a little Hips Don't Lie for good measure.

This story isn't an unusual one - an artist's musical growth over the course of a significant career. Sometimes the changes are great, and sometimes they fail to make an impression. Sometimes both. Metallica and their Black album, for example. Christina Aguilera when she went all dirty. Linkin Park and their most recent release. 

Have you ever been disappointed by the latest album of your favorite musician?