Snow Thoughts

There were no eggs in the chicken house this morning, and I wasn’t surprised because it’s been so cold. Now, in late afternoon, the snow is falling thick and the window reflects back my Christmas lights. I’ll probably leave them up for awhile because why can’t things be cozy even after Christmas?

I love when snow sticks to forgotten summer screens.

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I love when cardinals and blue jays, chickadees and juncos feed on the porch, leave their prints in the snow.


[Children are laughing outside in the snowy dusk. Imagine the coldness of the backs of their necks, the raw ring between the sleeve of their coats and their mittens, the wind-burned cheeks.]

Blizzard of ’13

The brothers and I went for a night walk in the storm. We used to do this a lot when we were little – bundle up in layers and wander around in the glowy-darkness that only happens when it snows.

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I liked it better without the flash, even though the images are dark.IMG_1253

This picture looks like it could’ve come from the 1950s, with the Coca-cola machine and the clock.
IMG_1256 Kindly posing.

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The plows were the only vehicles out. They probably thought we were crazy. And we were, a little bit, singing Neil Young and Jim Croce songs at the tops of our lungs.

By the end of it, our cheeks were burning and we couldn’t look straight ahead because our eyeballs were getting sliced. “We’re like Laura Ingalls!” I said, laughing. Except, I realized, she would’ve thought we were pretty stupid, choosing to be out in a blizzard. Probably would’ve shaken her head and muttered something about 21st century wackos.

[Did I mention we had a snow day? I think I was more excited than the kids, waiting for the notification, staying up too late because hope is strong. And it paid off! A whole Friday to fill!]

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This is the world I woke up to.

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I love it when the glass gets covered in icy snow.IMG_1300 IMG_1298 IMG_1297 IMG_1296 IMG_1293

Spending my morning in front of the fire. It’s quiet, at least til everyone else gets up. Trying to make a dent in “Cost of Discipleship,” but it’s not exactly a quick read. I guess it goes with the territory – “cost” doesn’t sound easy, and neither does “discipleship,” really.

Writing a letter to Switzerland, wondering what the world looks like from there, trying to share what’s been going on in this corner of it.

For someone who was ready for spring, I am certainly enjoying this wintery place.


[thoughts on february]

February is one of my least favorite months (March taking first, I think). I know I can join the club on this one – there’s just something about the post-Christmas-ness of February, the bleariness, the seeming-longness. One of my coworkers has been trying to convince me that in fact, February has a lot to offer. Her biggest argument is a little subjective, though: “Well, my birthday is in March, so February’s great cause it’s right before March.”


The days are, indeed, getting longer, as another coworker reminded us via a mass email. There was math involved, and the math seems to show that the sun is with us a full hour more than in December. I am trying to believe it and rejoice accordingly.

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I was asked to babysit on Valentine’s Day. It was innocent, a quick text sent: “I’m sure you already have plans, but…” She doesn’t know that I promised myself last year: Never babysit on Valentine’s Day AGAIN. I love children. I love these particular children, especially. But there is something oddly demoralizing about watching someone else’s offspring while they do such enjoyable things as eat at a fancy restaurant, coo at each other, and makeout. This happens on a regular babysitting evening, too, but it is inexcusable on Valentine’s Day.

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It doesn’t help that when I look in the mirror, I wonder if my skin could get any more translucent.

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When I went out to do the chickens this morning, my fingers stuck to the metal waterer. Just for a moment (not quite the drama of A Christmas Story), but just enough that I got a little jolt of “oh!” and realized that I am entirely and completely and unapologetically ready for spring.

That being said, a huge snowstorm is on its way. I love snow. I love storms. I love being cooped up in my house with a hot drink, a good book, and good company.

But after this one? Bring on spring.

IMG_0501Please and thank you.

My 24th Christmas

Christmas Checklist

Christmas Eve Service. Went to two this year (Presbyterian and Anglican services are VERY different). Candles and “Silent Night” and beautiful bells harolding Christ’s birth.

Hospitality. My friend from college who was too far from home came over Christmas Eve. Two nights in our crazy house, a long day of family traditions, and good talks on the couch with rooibos tea, a cozy fire, and the lit tree. It added a new dimension to hospitality, to sharing our blessings.

Christmas morning. Stockings and gifts among the seven of us, waiting for the aunts and uncles and cousins and grandmas. It was a slower Christmas this year (due, in part, to the fact that Anglican Christmas Eve services don’t get out til 12:15am…), but that was a good way to ease into the day.


Christmas walk. Because things were a little behind, we had an hour before the big dinner. The cousins and friend and uncle and the little dog Sammy walked around town. We delivered a gift of honey to some family friends and talked about all the silly things we did before we knew enough to be embarrassed.

Christmas dinner. I could cut the roast beef with a butter knife. My dad made the oatmeal bread. Enough said.

Games. We played our traditional Trivial Pursuit game. It was obvious that Dad’s team was going to win (wow. shocker.), but somehow, miraculously, our team pulled ahead. There was much rejoicing.


Cousin picture. The six of us piled up and took pictures. It wasn’t perfect (the adults in our family are still working out the kinks of all this new-fangled technology), but it was worth it.


Oh, and please note: my brother is wearing the sweater I knit him. It took almost a whole year (because seriously, it gets a little boring knitting round after round of gray), but I couldn’t have given it to a more appreciative guy.

Another reason this year was great: it was my friend’s first (semi) white Christmas.

Christmas number 24, you were pretty sweet.

Pre-Christmas Hike

When people ask me, I will tell them we climbed all the way to the summit. This will be followed quickly by, “Well, actually, we only made it to the warming hut a bit below.” (My conscience often beats out my desire to tell a good story.)

I will tell them that a sunrise climb in December is the best idea ever.

I will tell them that everyone should do it at least once.


(our hiding spot from the groomers)

If they dig a little deeper though, I might tell them that there were times I thought I wouldn’t make it any further. That when I walked through a snow-covered stretch of running water, filling my boots, I wasn’t sure if I would even start the climb. That when I fell through the snow along the tree line WAY ABOVE MY KNEE, I pulled a muscle that hurt with every step.


But what I’ll also tell them, is that when I fell behind the group (which was every single time), they stopped and waited. When I apologized left and right for being slow, for being out of breath, they told me not to worry, that it wasn’t a race, that we’d all make it to the top together.

And I’ll tell them that when I sat down 3/4 of the way up to take my boots off, change my icy socks, and tuck warmers in the arches of my feet, two of them held lights up for me to see, while another held my backpack.

That we toasted our climb with champagne and peach rings and wrote our initials on the wall of the hut.


That I gazed down over the valley and surrounding mountains and thought, God made this. It was in his mind, and he made it.

I’ll tell them I was overwhelmed and proud and grateful. That I looked at the three of them, my climbing companions, and praised God for the mountains.


Mr. Van Allsburg

When I nannyed, I used to read Polar Express to the boys, curled up on the couch. I would make homemade hot chocolate, and I remember showing them how to sprinkle cinnamon over the top before we settled in to read. The story was cute, but what I remember most were the illustrations – the rich colors, the shapes of the snow, the train through the countryside.

Today at the bookshop, we had Chris Van Allsburg himself. He signed copy after copy of Polar Express, but other titles, too: Jumanji, The Sweetest Fig, The Wreck of the Zephyr. People lined up out the door, down the sidewalk. It was a good day at the little bookshop! All of us were there – from the owners and the manager to every last part-time employee – all a-buzz. We even wore necklaces with gigantic colored bells that jingled when we moved. It was like we were Polar Express elves or something.


[We couldn’t believe it when large white flakes began to fall against the gray sky. And when the train came through, it was like a fairytale.]

There was a moment when I was ringing in a customer and the ancient register was whirring away, that I thought Oh my gosh, what if this thing freaks out? What’ll we do?! I’m pretty sure the register is from the 1940s (or pretty close), and I could’ve sworn I saw smoke. I wasn’t the only one eyeing it with a little trepidation.

It held out, though, and at the end of three hours of asking customers if they needed a book, ringing them in, running their credit cards, etc., I was finally able to meet Mr. Van Allsburg. He was quiet, reserved-seeming (but he had been signing books for three hours). He wore an argyle sweater and he had a nice, white beard. He shook my hand and smiled, writing To Catherine – Chris Van Allsburg, 2012.

It’s nice to see how an author does a book-signing; there are kind, soft-spoken, interesting-and-interested writers out there. When I left for the night, I went back and thanked him, shook his hand again. I gathered my things, put my coat on, and stepped out into the lightly falling snow.

What a privilege.


Long Weekend Happiness

My four days off stretch before me – an eternity and the blink of an eye at the same time.

I woke up yesterday to the first snow. It had started the night before, and as we drove up out of the city (book club likes to hop all over the place, this week finding residence in a hilly city neighborhood), I watched the white flakes pelt the windows. I felt young, watching it snow, and later slipping along the sidewalk in my boots.

What I want to do with four days off:

  • READ. Like it’s my job. Finish Circling to the Center, make a dent in Tale of Two Cities, digest a little more Rilke, discover the four or five issues of ‘The Sun’ my writer friend lent me, EVERYTHING.
  • WRITE. I wrote my first short story in a long time this week. It flowed out of me, which was lovely, but now I’m thinking, shoot, now I have to edit it. I’m not so good with that part.
  • SING. Warm-up. Play the piano while I sing some hymns. Pretend I know what I’m doing again. Maybe some German art songs, but I may be too ambitious (again).
  • Finish my brother’s sweater. (Yes, I knit. It’s like the icing on the dork-cake. In my defense, he asked me to make him a sweater, so really I’m just being a kind sister…)
  • WALK. I miss the outdoors. I miss the sunshine, the leaves, the color of the sky. I plan on going for a number of walks in the next few days.

What I DON’T want to do, but need to do:

  • CLEAN MY ROOM. Gross.
  • Find the water heater for my chickens. It’s getting colder (or at least, it’s supposed to be getting colder), and the waterer started to ice over the other day. Not cool.
  • CLEAN MY CAR. Yeah, like that’s really gonna happen.
  • LESSON PLANS. I have a lot of planning for the next week or two of Latin. We’re starting Chapter Six in my high school class, and it’s painful. Remember how in your English classes, your teachers always told you not to write in the passive voice? Well, Latiners LOVED using passive verbs. So basically I think I’ll need to give a mini-English lesson before I even introduce the Latin (i.e., “What’s the difference between ‘Marcus hits Iulia’ and ‘Iulia is hit by Marcus’?”). And welcome to: Prepositions that Take the Accusative Case. And welcome to: The Locative Case.

Now on my way to my favorite little bookstore. Stock up on those books I’ll be reading.