July 26, 2012

{Book Review} The Care & Handling of Roses with Thorns

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns is a new novel by Margaret Dilloway, author of How to Be an American Housewife. Thorns follows Gal, a prickly chemistry teacher, amateur rose cultivator, and the possessor of one faulty kidney. Despite the colorful roses she grows and breeds, Gal sees the world as starkly black and white. People should stay in their boxes. They should follow the rules without exception. They should remember. And Gal has no patience for those who make messy decisions or follow their hearts. Gal is a modern-day Marilla Cuthbert, and I love her.

via Amazon
It was incredibly refreshing to read a book with a main character who is not beautiful. She doesn't have a cute job in a gallery or a fake girly Achilles heel like a secret shoe collection. She isn't adorably clumsy (ahem, Bella). She's isn't so fierce that she doesn't realize her own beauty (that's you, Katniss). Gal's not even nice. She's real, we all know someone like her, and her story deserves to be told too. Of course she has redeeming qualities, and as her condition worsens, her dreams of winning big at the rose shows begin to dim, and her wayward niece moves in, Gal learns to rely on others and yes, to love.

There were times when Gal made me furious. I didn't relate to her and I wanted to give up on her story. But I think that's how you know it's a good book. Dilloway is a talented writer with a risky protagonist. I can't wait to read more from her.

Want to chat more? Head over to the BlogHer Book Club!

July 23, 2012

a letter to a good dog

dear samba,

you were one year old when we brought you home from the dog shelter. i was thirteen. josh and i had been asking for a dog and promising mom and dad that we would walk it everyday. they wouldn't ever need to do a thing. obviously, fifteen years later, you know firsthand that we rarely (and i mean rarely!) kept our end of the bargain.

i think, as a family, we were well prepared for a dog. we looked up dog names, researched breeds, had all our supplies ready to bring you home. we were prepared for a dog, but definitely not prepared for a samba. you were fifty pounds of hair and enthusiasm. you bolted into your new home and escaped our yard within five minutes. i don't have a clear picture of you in my mind because you were blur. it was overwhelming at first as we tried to find you a place to settle and sleep. there was no way you could be contained in a kennel, but if we let you sleep wherever you wanted in the house, you would whine outside of our bedroom doors until we got up to give you some love.

because that's all you asked for in life, isn't it? girl, you were straight heavenly love packaged up in dog's body and sent down to us. grace upon grace. tail constantly wagging, jumping with joy, kissing every face you could get you tongue on. you probably can't imagine what it was like to be an incredibly awkward eighth grade girl, but i think you saved me. from the time you came to our family, i can see that i started to relax again. your love for me was so open and honest and enthusiastic, that i began to feel lovable. you made me feel confident; less prickly and more comfortable in my own skin.

i think anyone who met you would agree you were a special dog, but sometimes you were a special dog. you loved to lick freshly applied lotion off our arms and legs. you could destroy a stuffed animal within minutes, but carried around a stuffed gorilla for years without harming it (josh and i did not give it a very flattering name, i'm sorry to say). oh, remember the time there was a thunder storm and you trapped yourself in the bathroom, panicked, and then shredded the door trying to get out? oh, and remember the time you did the same thing to the front door? i'm fairly sure mom and dad will spend the next ten years digging up our socks which you buried in the garden. when a dirty sock wasn't available, you weren't opposed to snatching some kleenex from the garbage. you just wanted to be near our smells. you had a special gift for positioning yourself in the exact middle of the family; you'd nose in between hugs, and if we were in different rooms, you could find the exact center of the house and hang out there for awhile, trying to be as near each of us as possible.

in the end, that's how mom and dad knew you were ready to go home to heaven. you couldn't move and cried every time you were alone. sixteen years is a good long life for any dog, and you lived it to its absolute fullest. i'm sorry that josh and i couldn't be there to give you one last belly rub and to say thank you. you were the greatest dog.

i love you, girl.
- b

July 22, 2012

blueberries for cruz

it was my birthday last week, and i got to share a beautiful day with my dear friend ashley and her son.
ashley and i are two out of three gals who were roommates our freshman year at westmont, thanks to the housing department and the grace of God. 
it was as if the three of us spent the entire school year quoting c.s. lewis:
you too? i thought i was the only one.

and it continues today.
all three of us had baby boys within a year of each other! (ash paved the way. i feel like everything i know about childbirth and nursing, i learned from her.) even though sarah lives further away, i delight over her adorable son and any time we can chat, it makes my day. these girls are incredibly precious to my heart and i feel as though i could still relate to them fifty years from now. you know, soul sisters.

so it was a blessing to spend my birthday with ashley and her little lad! 
we went blueberry picking, which was just as messy and delightful as you can imagine it would be to let two busy toddlers free range around a farm. 

cruz took carrying the bucket very, very seriously. 

uh... blue steel?
could you be any cuter about sharing?

as soon as i took this picture, cruz knocked the entire pail over. you guys, blueberries are teeney tiny and it takes forever to collect a pail of them. next time, let's pick something larger, like strawberries or heads of lettuce. 

July 17, 2012

pull out of the system where you can.

sometimes when i am feeling low and insecure those little thoughts start to creep into my mind and i think thoughts like, "was my westmont education worth my being a stay at home mom?" am i disappointing those professors who believed in me and encouraged me to dream big dreams? have i let down my parents? do my friends my high school laugh at me while taking a break from their graduate school studies? 

but those are my low moments. and in my high moments, those four years were some of my most precious. every memory i have of that place is warm and lovely or i see exactly how it changed me and made me stronger. there is one conversation i had with the much esteemed dr. marilyn mcentyre when i was going through a period of compassion burnout. almost every day i was looking at the pain and suffering of the world and my little heart was starting to break and fall into despair. "you can't do everything," she wisely cautioned me as we talked in heironymous lounge. "pull out of the system where you can."

pull out of the system where you can.
feel the nudge of the Spirit.
pray for the Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.

i've been reflecting on those words over the last few weeks as i started reading this series by elizabeth ivie (or 'e' as we refer to her when my girlfriends and i pretend that we're real life friends with her). she's a beautiful writer, and her story of losing the family grocery store is devastating and heart-wrenching. inspired by her story, i have decided pull out of the system where i can and begin shopping at happy harry's, our neighborhood grocery store.

now, i have no illusions that i am on a one-woman mission to "save" this store. the parking lot is crowded every time i go in, so for all i know, they're a sound business. but, i love that my money is staying in my community, that the produce and meat i buy is local within one hundred miles, and that the one gal who works the register gives her dad a call if a customer can't find something. i want to put my roots into my community, to put a face to where i spend my money. this is the system i can plug into. and i think dr. mcentyre would approve. 

July 6, 2012

back from vacation

vacation, when done right, should take you out of the ordinary. so i suppose that when you live a stone's throw from the beach, it makes sense that vacation would take you somewhere in the rainy mountains.

did you know that seattle is closer to canada than to oregon? it is so so close. i grew up spending a week in whistler, british columbia every summer, and this year my parents invited us to join them! i hadn't been back for ten years, and many things have changed (from good to great) since the 2010 winter olympics, but it was thrilling to spend five days showing tovi and cruz a place that i truly love. 

it rained the whole time, but do you know what? there is much more scope for imagination in the rain than in the sun. (it also reminded me of every single field trip i went on in school-- huddled in rain coats under awnings, park rangers daring us to lick banana slugs, sea gulls flying off with our paper lunch sacks. california doesn't build that kind of character)

cruz would have been satisfied if we had spent our entire vacation in the airport.

i think cruz does pretty well for himself as a grandchild, and my parents were born to be grandparents. such mutual adoration.
mama bear and baby bear.
whistler/blackcomb farmers market. note: the children are making little lollipops from hot maple syrup poured over ice. ma, mary, and laura make this same treat in Little House on the Praire (Little House in the Big Woods). and now you know everything you need to know about whistler. 
tovi and i had a date night-- drinks at one restaurant, dinner at another, a little shopping... dreamy!
[and yes, for those keeping score at home, i did try to look like my favorite canadian jillian harris all week]
via possessionista

site of the olympic medal ceremonies and also the site of the cutest picture we've ever taken.

yes, our lions are international travelers. 

diapers and crocs... this is a babe on vacation.
in canada they call reese's a nonpossessive "reese." i don't even know what to do with that information.
thank you, mom and dad, for the lovely week!

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