Friday, September 23, 2011

A Few of my Favorite Things: Part Five

My Celtic Jewelry

My maiden name was Fergus, solidly Scotch Irish, but the truth is that I’m over half German and the rest is some sort of anglo-mutt. Still, I feel much closer to my Celtic roots than my German, and nowhere is this more evident than in my powerful affinity for the Celtic knot.

While the Celtic knot as we know it didn’t appear in Celtic art until after Christianity reached the British Islands (5th century AD), nor is there any evidence that knotwork or the spiral and geometric patterns that preceded it were assigned a particular meaning, I have developed my own interpretation and the symbol has become an important part of my faith statement.

A Celtic knot has no beginning or end, evokes beauty in simplicity, and depicts interconnectedness. That’s a lot of how I see God.

I started collecting Celtic jewelry in 1997, with this ring I purchased at the Scottish Heritage Festival in St. Paul. It’s still my favorite piece—simple, silver and stunning. In 2000, I used it as the pattern for the piece de resistance of my collection: my permanent anklet. The truth is that I lose things. Lots of things. I even worried when Dan proposed that I would lose the engagement ring (I haven’t yet!) So I thought a tattoo would be the perfect thing for me: jewelry I can’t lose!

The necklace came from Irish on Grand in St. Paul, probably around the same time as the tattoo. Just a couple weeks ago, I met a woman at the Scottish Highland Festival grounds at the Renaissance Fair wearing the identical piece. She didn’t know where hers had come from—it had been a gift.

I bought the barrette in St. Michael, MD, when I visited Sue just after her son was born in 2002, and I wear it more than any other hair accessory I own. It’s the perfect thing for pulling my unruly mop out of my face.

I have several other pieces, now, as friends and family have figured out these are gifts I’m sure to be happy with. Dan brought me a beautiful silver knot necklace in 2005 when he was in Scotland. His parents have given me a delicate, hammered gold Celtic cross, a stone-carved knot on a leather thong, and a large medallion engraved with the name of Manawydan, a character from Welsh mythology.

In all honestly, I’m not really that big on jewelry. I don’t own anything remotely expensive, have no desire for gold or diamonds or anything of the sort. I prefer simple, rugged and meaningful. And when I wear these pieces, I am reminded of my connection to God and that, as much as the jewelry itself, makes me feel just a little more beautiful.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Few of my Favorite Things: Part Four

My Tupperware Modular Mates

Yes, I’m serious. I like to joke that my kids got my ADHD from me, and that’s why I’m so geeked out over really good organizational tools. Clutter makes me nuts. I find the sense of overwhelm extremely unpleasant and if I have to move more than one—at most two—items in order to get something I’m after, I get really irritated. I have been systematically downsizing my life over the past few years, predominantly because of a change in values and a genuine desire for a simpler, more spiritual life. But the side benefit has been less clutter. In some places, anyway.

But I was introduced to Tupperware long before I was introduced to Recovery. It was a sort of early marital rite of passage, I suppose. I was living in Grinnell, Iowa at the time and a gal from church had a party. I remember looking at the catalog and saying, “My mom has this.” “My mom has this, too.” “Hey, my mom has this. And she’s had this stuff for as long as I can remember. Maybe there’s something to this Tupperware thing.” What my mom had never had, however, was the Modular Mates system. I was blown away by the before and after pictures of a stuffed food cabinet and the promise of a pristine, symmetrical and easy-to-access organizational system. I HAD to have it!

The price was not right, however. I don’t know if you’ve ever considered Modular Mates, but the cost to put together even a basic set was more than my early-married one-income budget could allow. But I was not to be daunted so easily. When we moved back up to the Twin Cities, I hatched a plan to get my dream cabinets! I would SELL Tupperware, buy everything at 35% off, re-invest all my profits, amass a s---load of Modular Mates, and then promptly quit. Sound Machiavellian? Puh-leeze. The Tupperware company made plenty of money from my
sales efforts. Plus I recruited my sister as a salesperson before jumping ship and she made them even more!

And yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am living the Tupperware dream, I tell you! And it was worth every bit of time, money and effort. Because when I want to make scones or granola, everything I need is right at my fingertips! Ahhh. The simple things in life.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Few of my Favorite Things: Part Three

Text Messaging

I know I’ve already written a blog on my affection for Text Messaging, but I think it’s worth revisiting for this series on my favorite things simply because of a text conversation Dan and I had a couple weeks ago that I’m still laughing about. A couple pieces of information you’ll need for it to make any sense follow. I don’t guarantee the information will make the conversation funny to you. It will just help you understand the context. Just sayin.’

First of all, years ago at St. Olaf, when we were dating on the QT, most of our quality time together was spent late at night and off campus. One of our prime destinations was the local More 4 grocery store, where we would just hang out, talking and laughing, messing around with the toys, reading greeting cards and being generally silly. Indicative of the rather off-beat and random sense of humor that drew us together, Dan would frequently threaten to shout out at the top of his lungs to no one in particular, “EXCUSE ME! DO YOU HAVE MAALOX IN THE GALLON JUG?” He wouldn’t actually shout, just fake-shout under his breath, and then continue his imagined conversation by adding, “OH! BUT DO YOU HAVE IT IN CHERRY? OR JUST THE MINT?” And so forth. Being young, deeply in ‘puppy love,’ and generally weird, we found this hysterical and joked about it for years. It’s probably been a decade since anyone’s referenced it, but it’s still there in the back of our minds, a great memory.

Secondly, I am notorious for frequent short-term memory lapses. I can’t count how many times Dan has asked me to stop off at Jerry’s Foods on our way home from church to pick something up and I’ve said, “Sure, no problem” only to drive right by the store not five minutes later. It’s well known among friends and colleagues that if you don’t see me write something down in my planner, there is almost no chance of it ever getting done. And if it’s not on my computer calendar, I simply will not show up. I’m pretty sure my kids get their AD/HD from me, which is why I’m generally so hyper-organized. But on the fly, I’m a total flake.

So a couple weeks back, I had to run up to Jerry’s Foods to pick up a couple items. As I’m walking out the door, Dan says, “Oh, hey! Can you pick up some aluminum foil? We’re completely out.” I say, “Sure. But I’m not stopping to write it on my list so I hope I remember.” He says, “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure you don’t forget.” At that point, I’m expecting a text message. It’s a frequent strategy he employs to help me.

I hear the text arrive while I’m still in my car. Not great timing, I think. There’s still a really good chance I’ll forget to even check once I’ve parked. But I do remember to check as I’m walking in. The following is the complete conversation as I’m wandering through the store.

6:48pm Dan: Aluminum foil

6:49pm Dan: Aluminum foil

6:50pm Dan: Don’t forget…

6:51pm Dan: Aluminum foil

6:52pm Bek: Dork

6:53pm Dan: Soon to be a dork with aluminum foil

6:54pm Dan: That is, if you don’t forget it. Buy aluminum foil.

A brief break while I actually shopped. And then:

7:02pm Bek: What was I supposed to pick up again?

7:03pm Dan: A giant gallon jug of Maalox

7:03pm Bek: Cherry or mint?

7:04pm Dan: Scotch

I laughed all the way home.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Few of my Favorite Things: Part Two

The Big Blue Chair

Dan and I must have sat on every couch in the Twin Cities metro back in 1998, trying to find one we liked. Some of them were really nice looking, but none of them—none of them!—was comfortable to sit on. They were too firm or too soft or crumbled into a pile of pillows as soon as you sat in them. With some you just couldn’t get comfortable, with others you couldn’t get back up! The backs were too low or too high or too deep, the arms too narrow or too hard. After several days of this we were beginning to be discouraged, wondering if we would just have to settle for something that looked nice and was tolerable to sit on.

I still remember clearly the moment we both sat on “the one.” Our heads whipped around and we gaped at each other with bug eyes. Could it be true? Was it possible? We scootched away from each other and then toward each other. We leaned back and then stood up. Dan lay down on it and then got up to let me try. We sat down again. Nothing sagged. There were no pillows to fall off. The seats were cushy and comfortable, but springy and firm. The arms were overstuffed but not obnoxious. And it was even the color we were looking for. It was, in a word, perfect.

Except… well it might be a bit big for our house. We wanted the sofa and loveseat, but told the salesperson we lived in a townhouse. Did he think it would look too crowded with such big furniture? He asked the dimensions of the room and was optimistic it would work. Of course he was optimistic. He was a salesperson. And did we want to get the single chair and ottoman as well?

I loved the chair. It was huge. Big enough to curl my entire body into and read a book or take a nap. But the thought of our small house nagged. If the enormous couch and loveseat might overwhelm the living room, surely we didn’t have space for this. Dan and I talked about it and almost decided not to get it. But his point was that if it didn’t fit upstairs, we could always put the chair downstairs and that if we changed our minds at some time in the future, there was no guarantee they would still make the same set for us to get the chair. And it was a little cheaper to buy the set than to buy each piece separately, so if we thought there was any chance we might want the chair, the time to get it was now.

I was convinced. We bought the set. And it fit beautifully in our living room.

The chair, the afterthought, is now my favorite piece of furniture. I have probably spent more time in that chair over the past 12 years than on the couch, loveseat and downstairs futon combined. And I’m not the only one. The cats and dog love it. The kids love it. Dan… wait… I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen Dan sit in it. Probably because you can’t see the TV from there ☺. But ANYWAY, it has become much more than a piece of furniture in our house. It has become a chosen destination, at times a place of warmth and togetherness, and at other times a place of quiet solitude.

Also as you can see in the picture, it makes a good landing spot if you’re going to launch yourself off the hideabed—not a sharp corner in sight!

It is, in a word, perfect.

A Few of my Favorite Things: Part One

The Susie Mug

Not long after the outlet mall at Albertville, Minnesota opened, my mom and I spent a day shopping there. We stopped for lunch in a cute little café and I was charmed by the mugs they used to serve their coffee. Their rounded bases, sturdy handles and simple leaf pattern in periwinkle blue struck me as warm and comfortable, at once practical and pretty. Mine felt good in my hand, and when I cupped my palms around the base, as I often do to keep warm during the long Minnesota winters, it felt as if molded to fit, as if it had been designed with those cold winters in mind. When my coffee was gone, I turned the mug over. Pfaltzgraff. And, lucky me!, there was a Pfaltzgraff outlet not three doors down the way.

In the time it took to finish lunch and make our way down the strip to the dishware outlet, I first convinced myself that I needed a set of four of these mugs and then talked myself out of getting any. This was pretty typical of me. I reasoned that it would just be an impulse buy, after all. The last thing I needed in my house was another coffee cup. I mean, sure, they were pretty, but they didn’t even match the kitchen. And at six bucks a pop, a set of four seemed a little extravagant. By the time I was holding one in my hand again, this one cool and unused, I was resigned to leaving the shop empty-handed.

Some time later, and having absolutely no sense of time, I can’t tell you if it was months or years, I flew to Maryland to visit my best friend, Susan. The first morning I was there, as we were preparing breakfast, Sue reached up into her cabinet and pulled out a mug for me. I nearly squealed when I saw it for, of course, it was one of those Pfaltzgraff mugs I had so admired back in Minnesota! I excitedly told her the story of how I’d seen them and flipped over them and she just sort of grinned and shrugged. “It’s a coffee mug, Bek,” she seemed to say.

We had a fantastic time, road-tripping to Pennsylvania Dutch country and Colonial Williamsburg. We milked cows and spent a day at Busch Gardens. We talked and laughed and just enjoyed being friends. It was so hard to go home, but all good things must come to an end, and we cried at the airport saying goodbye.

I arrived home and slipped into routine. Eiledon was around one at the time, so it was back to being a mom, a wife, an employee, an active church member. My best friend was a thousand miles away with her own husband, job and community. That’s just how life is.

A few weeks after my trip, a package came in the mail—maybe it was my birthday (again with that no-sense-of-time thing). Tucked inside was the mug. I could have cried. Because it wasn’t just a pretty ceramic dish I’d fallen in love with at some random café at an outlet mall anymore. Susan’s generosity had transformed it into a symbol of a lifelong friendship far more beautiful and valuable than the clay and glaze it was made of. And the love and memories it contained were richer and more delicious than the best coffee in the world.

I use it every morning.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lost Time

It’s mid-September and I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things around here. While I had hoped to continue blogging weekly through the summer, the reality of having my kids home 24/7 simply made it impossible. I’m not complaining—it was a really great summer, well-paced with down time and fun activities and topped off with three weeks in paradise (that would be Indian River, Michigan for those who don’t know ☺). Re-entry is always hard, but we slipped into the new school year with nary a bump and both kids are off to a great start. I think I’m finally done playing “catch-up” and feel ready to dig back in to whatever it is I feel called to do. That’s the hardest part: discerning the call. There are so many things I want to do, so many things that excite me, inspire me, and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and slip into depression about all the things I simply can’t accomplish. At least not all at once.

What I CAN accomplish is a renewal of my commitment to blogging weekly. And to show my commitment, I am going to write an entry for every week I missed during the summer, simply because I never stopped “writing” in my head while I was offline, and actually have five or six already in mind and it would be nice to unload them! So be prepared for a bit of a barrage over the next week or so while I clean out the cobwebs of my brain so I can jump into what’s next with a clean slate.