15 dinner

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This summer there were some of us that celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. After trials, and turns of this life, we all sit together and reflect on this 15 years. We were all young. We are all friends. We made it a point to spend one evening this summer to gather and celebrate 15.

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The first 15 years are new. We grow up together, and learn to be adults. We have child, after child, and celebrate them all. We go to more weddings, and see more babies. We work crappy jobs, then get better jobs. We go back to school, we buy houses and cars. We send our little ones to their first day of school. Then there are sicknesses, and tragedy, death and sacrifice. Then, there are marriages around us that fall apart. Some heal, some do not. We see friends learn to love Jesus, and friends reject that love that they once knew. Happy things and sad things, we join together and remember them all.

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As we talked about those first years, before we were all married, when we thought we were the most clever folks around, we laughed and felt that young again. At this 15 year mark, I would not go back, except perhaps to hire a better wedding photographer and to let go of bitterness toward people a little bit sooner. I will stand here at the 15 year mark and know that Joel and I are here by the grace of God. Anything on this earth can fail. But because of God’s amazing grace, and the Holy Spirit moving and active in our world, we are still married. We have children, and they are healthy and strong and wonderful.

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There are my fellow 15ers. They are also still together by that same grace. When Linda and I talked about this idea, she whole-heartedly agreed with me that 15 years was so important. It’s not just a potluck, or a quick hang out around a bonfire (although those things are nice), it’s a 15 year anniversary dinner. We couldn’t shoot for all the stars, but we want to make it nice. So we did our best. We strung lights, and planned a nice meal. We had amazingly cozy and lovely floral arrangements. We were given an amazingly cool and happy night. And we laughed.

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We had a fun and wonderful menu:

Appetizers of Antipasto and Bruschetta. Drinks included a Sparkling Cherry Lemonade and Mint Tea. We had an amazing salad of Blackberries, Walnuts, and Arugula. Main Course involved Roasted Veggies, Blanched Asparagus with Sesame and Smoked Prime Rib. Dessert floored us all with Mini Chocolate Lava Cakes and Coffee Ice Cream with Chocolate dipped Strawberries and Coconut Macaroons.

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There is a trend to have these slow, fabulously home cooked meals with others who desire the same things, the same connection, the same patience with the things that matter. People pay for this experience. The thing that seems a little off, to me, is that it is something people are trying to conjure up. Intimacy and patience with life is not something you can just buy a ticket to. It is earned. It takes time and love for those you are joining with. It takes knowledge of those you invite, and joy to celebrate with them. A joy that is deeper than the cool food you get to eat, and the fancy ingredients they contain. No matter how special your alcoholic drink may be, it won’t bring you those kinfolk you desire.

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I’m titilated by the beauty of the photographs of these artisan meals. It all looks so perfect. The pictures I took of our dinner, and those Linda took (and she’s better at it than I am) they blow me away. I feel so blessed to have been such a small part of our honoring God with our 15 years. The pictures are lovely, and I pour over them again and again because I feel so blessed. Even the blurry ones. There aren’t nearly enough moments caught by the camera. At the same time, the moments I want to truly be present in, they have very few photos. I knew that I wanted to be there, with my loved ones, not Instagramming the life out of it. The best images are those I show through the gift of giving it. To hear my friends say,”I have never been to anything like this before.” That makes my gift-giving heart so glad.

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I am thankful. Thankful for the years, the joys and sorrows. I am thankful for the relationships and how far back they go. I am thankful for my home, my family, and my five senses to take in the beauty that they all are. I am thankful that I can rejoice with my friends as they rejoice and mourn as they mourn. I am thankful for being a grown up, and not holding back, but instead being honest and being able to sit with those who agree and can say, “Amen” when I testify to the Gift that is 15 years. Here’s to another 15, and another after that. God and his bounty are rich, and may our hearts be full of the celebration that is rich also. Thanks to all who made it happen. It is a gift to my heart. It is so beautiful.

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Enjoying the place

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Without really trying, we had some fun around our sweet town and our sweeter ‘hood. I am just in love with this picture of the kids at Rock City. Rock City is just a few miles from our house and Joel hasn’t been inside since we all snuck in at night back in college. So, Joel was excited to get us a family pass for this year. Today was a little grey outside, but we had a great time finding the gnomes everywhere, enjoying the coolness of the big rocks, and saying witty and strange things with tourists standing nearby. I think Joel took pictures for the same couple three different times with their iPad. It was a banner day.
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Some Fridays we have free time. Some Fridays we invite friends over to the house, but this week we were all ready to be out of our house. I couldn’t convince the kids to go hiking, so the zoo is always a nice option. We grabbed up a membership when we went to the Atlanta Zoo this fall. It made the trip cheaper then, and now we get to enjoy animals! This Friday was also beautifully cool and sunny. In this golden age of parenting, all my kids walk at a good pace on their own, they can survive with little to no snacks, and they all enjoy what they are seeing. They can read the signs, and have a bit more roaming freedom. These things sound silly I’m sure for others with older kids and teens, but man, I am really loving this stage. Josiah takes off to see the crow and get him to say, “Hello” and the girls can still giggle at my side at the prairie dogs. One of my favorite parts of the zoo is the jaguars. They are almost always awake and roaming. I am hypnotized by their size and pattern. So, so beautiful. This go around, he was pacing back and forth and the kids positioned themselves at different places along the viewing window and the big cat just paced between all three of them. So fun, and wonderful.

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My parents are in the throws of trying to find a new house and sell their huge one. They have a very specific punch list, and we have been giving our advice and perspective when asked. When we were scoping out listings that they have been seeing, we found this place that was around the corner from our mountain home. We noticed it was huge. 3 kitchens, 3 floors…why have we never noticed this spot? So we went on a little walk. This place is enormous, but it needs so much work. The owner had divided it up into three separate apartments and none of them are very nice. But it butts up against national forest and a bike trail. It has an incredible view. It is almost completely sided with mountain stone, and it has so much space. It would make an incredible lodge. Joel and I love to check out these properties, and especially since we are so in love with where we live, we are fascinated by the little places tucked away in the woods.

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Our Snow White cottage. It is owned by the Parks Department and it neighbors the historic Craven’s House. It sits stripped and empty. Not much left of architectural merit on the inside. But it is so magical still. It has a slate tile roof, little rock constructed garage and storage areas, pretty porches with that haunting sage green perfectly peeling and rough. I am always drawn to it. I want to take more pictures of it, I want to pose my children in it, and it has an amazingly large ginko tree in the front yard that makes the whole yard turn to gold in October. Unfortunately, this house will probably be torn down by the Parks Department in order to keep the historic relevance of the grounds. This house isn’t Civil War era, and so it’ll go bye-bye in order to bring the battlefield back to it’s original form.

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We live down the street from the Incline Railway. It’s the World’s Most Amazing Mile right? You can drive under the railway on Shingle Road. There is also a little stopping point at this point where you used to be able to get a “half way pass”. I would love to that pass, it would make our location so much fun! We could bop down to get ice cream or go to Grandma’s. We are in a wonderful location and it is really fun to still have railroad tracks down the street, just like we had in Jefferson Heights.

There are so many wonderful ways to enjoy our spaces. I have always enjoyed those little pathways that are less traveled and less publicized. I want to have these little special places that will fill up our Saturdays and Sundays. I love to learn what our city holds and learn more about it, from that place of discovery with my kids and my husband. If you get to enjoy your places, and are willing to share, I’d love to see them. The places we share become like a special ‘show and tell’ we want to share what is ours, but in order to love those things and places more, the sharing part is oh so necessary.

Halloween, I forgot. Viking, Flamingo, Puma, and Katie Luther.

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I’m a bit behind, so let me catch up. Here are our Halloween 2013 costumes. We’ve got Josiah the gigantic Viking, I was very pleased with his choice this year. Very little to buy or make. We picked up the felt beard at a local craft show a couple years back. The hat was from Warrior Dash that Joel and his buddies ran a year or so ago. Josiah wore my fuzzy vest and my boots ( we are now the same shoe size and T-shirt size) I bought a $5 flat black sheet for his cape. Oh, and his main request was a battle axe. I bought a dowel, painted it black, formed an axe shape form cardboard and covered it with duct tape. Since my duct tape was blue (what the) I had to spray paint it silver. Note to self: Always have SILVER duct tape.IMG_8520

IMG_8525Tessa was a puma (black cat). Again, an easy thing to quickly do. I did make ears and tail. I whip stitched poly felt to a headband and made separate ears that are stuffed. I wanted her ears to have some longevity because the girls play “kitties” pretty often. I added bling, because I had it. Tacky glue is my friend. I bought some feather boa for a the tail. Wrapped it around some floral wire, and sewed a felt nubby to one end so it could be pinned to Tess without scratching. Not as much longevity with this tail. Feathery bits everywhere, bleah. I dislike feathers, but not as much as glitter.IMG_8526IMG_8531
I gave Eden the choice of being a peacock (like she was a few years back) or a flamingo. Pink clothes are easy to put together. I had a blast making the mask. Those flamingo beaks are an unusual shape though! I bought a plain plastic mask and then used a paper plate to create a hook-like tube beak. I attached the beak with duct tape. Creating the curve of the flamingo beak was tough as I had to clip the end of the beak tube, and retape the tip. Once the right shape was achieved, I painted over the duct tape with white paint. I couldn’t think of a better way to make the tip of the flamingo beak black, other than to paint the tip so it could fade perfectly. I glued some coffee filters to the beak to cover up all the plasticky surfaces, kinda paper mâché style. I could not find pink feathers I liked, so I bought pink poly felt and cut feather shapes out. I layered them around the eye area. I did find white feathers I liked, so I glued those to frame out the mask and give it drama. The mask got bling too, of course! My client was happy (Eden B) and I told her I would be glad to make a bird mask each year. They’re fun! I also, made Eden a tail out of another pink feather boa with wire wrapped through it so I could loop it around like a flamingo tail. Again, I put felt at the end where Eden would wear it so nothing poked her.IMG_8517IMG_8519
My mom put on her historical best on to answer the door for trick or treaters. She dressed as Katie Luther. She researches her favorite parts of history down to the tiny bits. She made her bonnet and stuffed it with a grey wig to fill it out and make it look more accurate. Mom says she has made several bonnets for her other dress up occasions, and the adult bonnets are huge, while the children’s bonnet pattern is a little small. My precious peanut-head of a mom. She dresses up as a Puritan for the ESL Thanksgiving feast. Super cute, and her students love it. She’s gotten my dad to dress up too. He loves her a lot.

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I like sharing the run down of how I made costumes. I have gotten really elaborate in years past, but my theory is, buy things you will use again, and the things you don’t use again, don’t spend too much time on them so throwing them away won’t hurt so much. Glue, simple stitches, staples (if you must) and plain bits of clothing, that should do it!

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While life happens

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Tonight I break my long blogging silence because I feel I have something to write about, right? That’s how it works. But I need to reflect on things that are more than my everyday hoo-hah. I’ve been feeling the need.
I’m getting older, I’m 36 these days. It’s a bit mind numbing to know that you’re usually not the cutest person in the room, or the most intelligent either, that person who is ten years younger than you is. But you still must keep your bearings about who you are. Your identity. The lines on your face appear. Your tolerance for things wanes. And so it does with all of your friends! Introspection. Setting life goals. Now or never style. There is that itch. It’s here in my house. What are we doing next? When there is no logical next step, we have nothing to say. We just sit in a holding pattern waiting for life to happen. Things happen in your friends life, you’re mad, jealous, confused, lost, empty. I feel like a lonely teenager all over again. That sophomore girl who didn’t go to the prom. “what’s wrong with me? Why didn’t this awesome thing happen to me?” the popular crowd shifts cast members, but it’s always the same characters. They seem to always win, you don’t. Right?
In the end it’s always crap. You have plenty of wins in your life. Fulfillment, that might be what we wish we had. Should I convince myself, my friends and loved ones, that in fact you all are huge winners, and all your complaining is crap. But that doesn’t make the empty go away. It doesn’t break through the drudge of a dull job, an awkward friendship, a busy schedule, responsibilities.
This time of year is even better for working out those things. The little kid in me thinks that I deserve some big
material good that will knock my socks off. The Barbie Dream House, if you will. So when my mom asks me for my Christmas list, I kinda get sad at the start for all those things I want that can’t be bought. I want that perfect gift, and it’s really really hard to find it. Sharing that part of me is painful sometimes, because I love presents, Joel doesn’t. I love to give presents, and Joel doesn’t want stuff. It can be a strange juggle.
This year I’ve also found that my kids need more things during this Christmas season. Shoes, pants, stockings, yada yada. All I want to do is buy them special stuff, instead I’m buying socks. I’m the Mama, the educator, the organizer of life. I just want to give my kiddies something that is wonderful.
This post is unfinished. But for what it says, I will publish it. I think it is important enough to read. As is 3/5/14

City vs Country

I have the white noise of  trains rolling by, you might have frogs chirping you to sleep. You may have a sky full of stars lighting your path, I have the patterns of streetlights glowing on wet pavement. You may have wildlife that scampers around your world, I can set my watch to the  dog walkers and cats that cross back and forth from sidewalk to sidewalk. You may smell burning leaves, maybe burning garbage, where I smell the chicken factory. You may need a 4×4 vehicle to get around, where I can walk and get gourmet coffee, artisan bread, and amazing chocolate just on the way to pick my kids up from school. You have the seasons waft to and fro around you and you have no need to watch anything else, it’s amazing, God-given, consistent and beautiful. I see the work of men that labor for greatness, sometimes in tower of Babel style, reminding me that God’s way is always better. There is nothing new under the sun. The projects to improve city blocks, the design that reuses refuse and makes it beautiful, the public art, the efforts to make education more creative, the grants, the dreams, the shows, the meetings, the neighborhood watch. It all is meaningless without the knowledge that God has made so many things that contradict sometimes. That there is good and bad things everywhere. I can see God’s fingerprints in every busy thing that passes me by living in the city. 

I look forward to our trip to Helen GA this weekend. We will wind through the North GA mountains and see the colors in the trees. We will build fires and hear the quiet of being away from industry and the joy of nowhere to be. We’ll hike, pick flowers and find pretty leaves. We’ll breathe in the crispness of fall and recharge knowing that the white noise we know will be waiting for us with a rumble and hiss. I’m glad for both city and country. I hope to live in the middle of nowhere very, very soon. While I’m here, paying too much for my plot of land, I will rejoice in its beauty with my senses the best way I know how: conversations with my children and the stroke of my brush.

toast

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This is the toast I read for Cat and Nano’s wedding. I shook like a leaf, but I didn’t blubber. Rumor has it, that everyone else was a little teary. I’m so honored to have been able to share just a tiny bit on their big day.

I am so happy to be here today. I am so happy! Thank you to both families for such a beautiful event.
I have been Cat’s partner in crime for about 15 years. She stood by me 12 years ago when I got married. She’s been beside me through many things.
I was going through my filing cabinet a couple weeks ago and in with a folder of old Christmas cards and pictures I found 29 cards from Cat Collier. It blew me away. About 7 years of her writing me little updates and encouraging words. I can’t bring myself to just sit down and read them all. It’s overwhelming. But in those cards there is a history that is valuable. I have seen Cat grow to become an amazing woman. She was getting ready to be with you, Nano. She needed to be ready. She is encouraging, loyal, and a mighty little woman!
I love your theme “Trust-Love-Respect”. I think it is a reminder to those of us who are married to stand up and keep our marriage great. For those unmarried, it is a goal for that future husband or wife waiting for you, to expect nothing less.
Cat and Nano, May you continue to grow together, seek God together, and sharpen one another. It might not always be easy, but the results are so worth it.
We are ALL here to celebrate you both!! We are all so happy, and so thankful!
To Cat and Nano, and their future that is so bright! May God BLESS you and show you your destiny.
I love you both!

Bachelorette Party on Wheels Part 2

There was something that lined up just right for this event. Something I never could have planned myself. It just fell in our lap and it was perfect. Joel was in a little brainstorming mode one evening while I was talking about the party details and he said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you guys could find a wall to spraypaint?” then he went on to tell me that Shaun Larose was talking about our local dive bar, Discoteca, and how the owners wanted to cover it in street art before it gets bulldozed. I think my mouth was hanging open and I started to feel tired. My creative juices were tapped, how was I going to plan a wall??? I told Suzanne, and her creative juices never get tapped (thank God) and she met with me and Shaun. We couldn’t believe we had a wall!Suzanne reassured me that it didn’t matter what we did, it was a gift to Cat and she would have a month to work on this wall if she wanted to!  Shaun dropped off permits for the wall the day before, so we were all legal. Suzanne got spraypaint and wrapped it up nice and pretty for the final gift to be opened by Cat at Easy. There was a card that was all cryptic about Cat and Nano “making their mark” on the city. Then I was given the honors of explaining what the spraypaint was all about. I think she was pretty excited.

And then, we were off to skate.

 

We had a good 45 minutes of skating before the DJ kicked us out. We vowed to return and show the 9 year olds that kept zipping around us that we actually could skate. And that we would make sure we got some music that we wanted to skate to. It was so fun, I love skating. I’m happy I didn’t fall 🙂

This is our wall. It looks so lonely doesn’t it. NOT FOR LONG!

We used the theme on Cat and Nano’s wedding invite: Trust-Love-Respect. Suzanne bought all kinds of colors (including metallics) and I made a few stencils out of a cereal box. I made a heart, a star, and a pen and paintbrush. We painted and partied until 2am. We only were questioned once by the firefighters across the street. When Cat, Suzanne and I all went to leave, Cat’s car was outta juice. Thankfully Shaun was down the street at my house (playing poker) and was on his way home.

It was so good, what a night. So much fun. I make every excuse to look through these pictures (by Lindsay Aquila) and to drive by Discoteca to look at our wall. I hope Cat and Nano get to work on it some more before demolition. And I can’t imagine a more fun monument to their new life together and to a great night of new and old friends.