Come to the table hungry

Come to the table hungry,

to be filled with apple pie and grape wine

stories of great-grandparents who look on with pride

from the frames hung there on the wall.

Come to the table hungry,

thankful for hands that are able

to roll pie crust and grasp each other in grace

holding children who prefer to eat off your plate.

Come to the table hungry,

To be fed with what’s consumed by the heart

showing gratitude in action over a hot stove

to delight in the work that made it all worth it.

Come to the table hungry,

and be filled with all that you need.

The ones you love sitting shoulder to shoulder

passing on nothing short of a miracle,

like potatoes

and babies

and traditions to share.

Come to the table hungry,

to be nourished by what needs to be known.

To be thankful

in these moments we have.

Let’s sit a bit longer —

it all goes too fast.

Come to the table hungry.

Education of the heart

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle

It is a day that begs to be lived outside.

The air is the perfect temperature where one isn’t the slightest bit too cold or hot, where long sleeves and sandals provide the perfect amount of coziness and comfort, where the orangey-browns of Autumn trees contrast beautifully against a pale blue sky. It is a day for the park.

My girlfriend and I loaded up our children and snacks and ventured to the playground for a welcome break. We sat at a sunny table. Our older ones ran off immediately, the younger ones swarmed like eager minnows in a pond of snacks, grabbing with open mouths for whatever edible item would emerge before them.

And then I heard her — beside us, a kind voice with a New York accent — “Hi there. I just have to say —”

We looked up into the sun to greet the face of a smiling grandmother who was there with her 2-year-old grandson.

“I just have to say,” she continued, “You have wonderful children.”

“Thank you!” my girlfriend and I said in unison, surprised, trying to feed the babies below us quickly enough to appease the whines and grabbing hands.

“No, really, they’re just great. I’ve been watching them with my little grandson. Often the big kids run away from him or push him away when I take him to the park, but they have been including him and playing with him,” she said appreciatively.

We thanked her for her kind words and carried on to another topic of conversation (about how she, too, had given birth to a child with Down syndrome 30 years ago, and all that entailed). And yet, as I sit here this afternoon, her simple appreciation of our children’s niceness is what has echoed in my mind.

Who knows, our older kids may have distractedly thought her grandson was just another little brother in our brood — and my own young children still need plenty of reminders about sharing and kindness — but yet, I am appreciative to that grandmother for making the point to say something. Their apparent kindness stood out to her — and that stood out to me.

As a mother and homeschooler, I put a lot of pressure on myself: are my children learning everything they should? Am I pushing them enough academically? Am I exposing them to enough this or that for whatever standards we measure these sorts of things by?

But then, on a beautiful day as they play and run and encourage and include each other, I think to myself: well, that’s sort of it, isn’t it?

There are lots of things to be learned in this life, but there’s not much more important than learning how to be a friend.

I don’t remember too many specifics from my academic experiences growing up, but I have been the new girl a lot — and I do remember the kids who stepped out of their comfort zones to say hi and invite me to sit at their table. I don’t recall who all of the CEOs at every job I ever had was, but I do remember the coworkers and janitors who took the extra moment to go out of their way to see how I was doing. It is something not all people do, but that all people need — to be noticed, to be connected with, to be included.

Every day I am grateful to observe and be part of a community of friends and families who model this inclusion. Big kids who aren’t too old or cool to indulge a doting little toddler. Children who aren’t too embarrassed or busy to notice that a new kid is standing alone. Parents who teach from a generous heart by treating others with the same kindness. This spirit of love and inclusion and coming out of oneself is lived within their homes and overflows into the greater community. It is a lesson that grows exponentially as families connect together, as friends meet friends, as love begets love.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou


Home, settling and a new seriousness

“I had come back to stay. I hoped to live here the rest of my life. And once that was settled I began to see the place with a new clarity and a new understanding and a new seriousness.” – Wendell Berry, Native Hill

The leaves are changing slower than last year, but we’re better friends now with the trees, so maybe they’ve given up on trying to impress us. Or perhaps it has been unseasonably warm — or maybe too wet — or maybe I should give them more credit and they’re just trying to keep things interesting. Nevertheless, we will not be taking family pictures under the same tree across the road this week because it hasn’t given way from green to golden and welcomed the Fall yet.

We hiked down to the creek on Sunday and found Kate’s glasses outside the yard fence that she had poked through the holes into the forest for fun. Seeing as we have averaged only a monthly trip to the creek as of late (if that), I consider the idea of a late-afternoon hike to be divine intervention, mostly as an answer to: where in the world are Kate’s glasses?

The mosquitos were worse downhill during our walk, and the old path started overgrowing in our absence. We haven’t lived here long enough to have a “regular” way down there to where the water ripples around the bend — we sort of just wind and wander over fallen trees and mud puddles — but habits will be formed as they do when one settles in. And that’s what we’re doing.

If one’s life were made up of neatly organized chapters, I suppose this rainy day would fall somewhere into the first few pages of my life’s chapter titled, Settled. For this “settling” is a new chapter to me, the child of an Air Force officer who lived on three different continents, attended 6 different schools before college, and traveled every handful of years into my adult life.

I learned my first English words in Japan. I splashed in the salty oceans of Hawaii. I woke up to flaky, chocolate croissants in Paris on my 13th birthday — and attended Oktoberfest long before I could enjoy the heavy steins of rich, frothy beer. I spent summers on the hot porch of my Grandma’s farmhouse in Texas, reading books next to panting dogs and a glass of cold iced tea. After university, I traveled once again (this time on my own) to pursue a career in advertising. And it was during this time that I met the man who I knew immediately was, as Tracey Chapman says, “where all my journeys end.”

Meeting my husband was the end of one adventure and the beginning of an entirely new one, and next month it will be a decade from that first serendipitous evening we introduced ourselves to each other. These ten years, full of change and growth and love, seem long and short for all the very same reasons.

When we met, we both worked outside the home — now, we both work inside our home. He, at a computer during the day and on the land on the weekends and evenings, and often, also, on the livingroom rug while our four young children climb all over him wanting to play “airplane” or simply snuggle.

I also work from home, but not in the same sense that he does. Most of my job duties are spent feeding and teaching and rocking and cleaning and loving children and in this work, I have learned more about life than all the jobs I have ever attempted.

There is a timelessness in this place. I sit here on this rainy day gazing at tree tops that perhaps my grandchildren will gaze at. I look at these walls and these neighbors and these country woods with “a new clarity and a new understanding and a new seriousness” of someone who is here for the long haul.

I don’t know why the term “settling” can have a feeling of inferiority to it. As though it were just a consolation instead of the very thing you were looking for all along.

Maybe we’ll tramp over into the woods behind the wildflower field for family pictures this week into the cleared spot where the pine needles have settled and become one with the earth. We’ll stand on the ground that is new every day, but that owes all it is to what has come before.

We’ll work on the chicken coop and check on the garden, have war with the ant beds and mumble about the weeds, and we’ll work and we’ll love and get lost in the difference.

For we are home.


Searching for buried treasure

I dug my hands into the dark, cool earth, searching for buried treasure.

I felt it before I saw it. The rough, firm skin of the edible root met the tips of my fingers and I gently pushed away the soil that blanketed it with the precision of an archaeologist uncovering dinosaur fossils. Soon it was within my grasp. I delivered it from the earth into the air, letting the first wave of warm sunlight come over its orangey-pink flesh. Ah, our first sweet potato!

After months of watching dark green vines overflow from rustic cedar box beds, wondering what was happening underneath the surface — here was the reveal. A little smaller and sillier looking than I had expected, but still, a miracle nonetheless.

I carried on a bit more hurried, a bit less patient. I became more comfortable with how gentle (or not gentle) I needed to be to dig up the potatoes without damage. My mom helped across from me, her forearms buried in compost and soil, always seeming to win the “biggest catch” prize. As the sun slid into the late-afternoon sky, shade fell upon three wire baskets overflowing with dirt-powdered starches. My little blonde helper piled them in. My 6-year-old boy searched for caterpillars.


No matter how colorful and loud the TV or media may be — can anything enthrall a child more than the entertainment of the earth?

No sound more curious than the croak of a bullfrog. No colors more enticing than the hues of a vegetable patch. There is no artificial replacement for the joy and gratitude of digging your hands into the ground and pulling out something that can be turned into a Thanksgiving pie topped with whipped cream — or baked and caramelized with rosemary and sea salt.

Up the hill I went in bright blue garden shoes to the warm patio where the sun still shed her bright smile. I cleaned off the dirt and trimmed the roots, sitting below the porch swing. It was quiet. So quiet, in fact, that I had time to thoughtfully think about what sounds I could actually hear — a humming car in the distance, a singing cricket, the snip, snip, snip of my garden shears. I poured the pampered potatoes onto spread-out butcher paper to sunbathe and cure, wishing them a peaceful rest.


It has been my most satisfying harvest to date, doubled by the anticipation of holidays to come. For in doing this work and harvesting it from the earth we celebrate, as Wendell Berry says, “our dependence and gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.”


How apropos for this month especially, being that the heart of Thanksgiving is this very thing: an acknowledgement that all we have is a gift.

We spent most of Sunday afternoon searching for buried treasure — but of course, when you dig deep, you find more than you bargain for. And somewhere among that pile of silly looking sweet potatoes is an even deeper satisfaction buried within the gardener. It is a gratitude that overflows like the vines of her harvest into the heartfelt words of daily grace.



I love you because of everything

You have only been here five years, and yet, it is as if you have always been here.

As if you’ve lived within my heart for years. And truly, I suppose you have.

For as the plan has been laid for me, it is for you. I am yours and you are mine. I am your mother and you are my daughter. Deep within you are the dreams and gifts you will come to know when the time is right, just as I came to meet you on a rainy November afternoon when I was just 29.

“But you’re too young to have a child with Down syndrome,” they said. But oh, I’m all the more lucky. For the earlier I met you, the earlier I met a piece of my heart that I had not known until that day.

Tonight at dinner, we went around the table honoring you. Each child and parent shared what they loved about you, the games they liked to play with you, the things you do that make them smile.

When it came time for your 6-year-old brother to share his thoughts, he coyly smiled and then whispered:

I love you because of everything.

And it’s true. I love you because of everything.

Everything you are, everything you will grow to be, everything you bring to our family. Happy Birthday, my sweet child.