A meditation for Epiphany

This is from Evelyn Waugh’s Helena. Waugh’s favorite of his books, it follows the quest of Helen, the mother of Constantine to the Holy Land to see and feel the places where Christ was and to find relics of the cross on which Christ was crucified. In the historical novel, Helen prays to the magi in a church in Bethlehem and has a vision of the wise men, which inspires this soliloquy.

“This is my day and these are my kind.

Like me, she said to them, you were late in coming. The shepherds were here long before; even the cattle. They had joined the chorus of angels before you were on your way. For you the primordial discipline of the heavens was relaxed and a new defiant light blazed among the disconcerted stars.

How laboriously you came, taking sights and calculations, where the shepherds had run barefoot! How odd you looked on the road, attended by what outlandish liveries, laden with such preposterous gifts!

You came at length to the final stage of your pilgrimage and the great star stood still above you. What did you do? You stopped to call on King Herod. Deadly exchange of compliments in which there began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent!

Yet you came, and were not turned away. You too found room at the manger. Your gifts were not needed, but they were accepted and put carefully by, for they were brought with love. In that new order of charity that had just come to life there was room for you too. You were not lower in the eyes of the holy family than the ox or the ass.

You are my especial patrons, said Helena, and patrons of all late-comers, of all who have had a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.

Dear cousins, pray for me, said Helena, and for my poor overloaded son. May he, too, before the end find kneeling-space in the straw. Pray for the great, lest they perish utterly…

For His sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.”

Amen, Evelyn. Amen.

Black-Eyed Peas

My friend Elizabeth brought us some food last January when I was hired to teach temporarily with less than 24-hours notice and my life felt out of control. Some food is actually an understatement. She brought us a box with 7 or 8 big gladware containers filled to the brim and fed us for a week. Elizabeth is a chef, so it wasn’t just a large quantity of the food, it was of the highest quality. When I saw that box on my porch, I started to cry. It’s okay to cry at generosity.

One of the meals in that box was a New Year’s trifecta: black-eyed peas, collard greens and creamy polenta (just fancy grits, y’all.) I ate it at least four times. Let the record reflect that I have never counted myself a fan of greens and I only eat black-eyed peas a few ways, none of them traditional or Southern. But the peas were so good, I found myself daydreaming about them as soon as I thought about the new year, and I texted Elizabeth to see if she had any advice or a recipe. It took some investigating, but the recipe was found and I am posting it here for reference.

This is not a healthy recipe but sometimes you have to live and eat a lot of bacon fat. They may not bring me luck in the new year, but they remind me of the blessings of friendship and that makes me feel pretty lucky and very loved. I served these with Simply Recipes Collard Greens with Bacon and Polenta using the Cook’s Illustrated method (add baking soda to your water.)

Black-Eyed Peas with Bacon

1/2 to 3/4 pound bacon, diced
2-3 yellow onions, chopped
Kosher salt & pepper
2 smoked ham hocks, scored through the meat and fat
4-5 cups of chicken stock
1 pound dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves

Cook the bacon in a large stockpot over medium-high heat until it’s nice and crispy (10 minutes or so.) Add the onions and saute until they are translucent (2 to 3 minutes.) Lightly salt and pepper, too much salt makes the beans break up. Add the scored ham hocks, let them settle to the bottom of the pot and braise for several minutes on each side.

Add the chicken stock and gently stir in the black-eyed peas and remaining ingredients. Bring all ingredients to a boil, and then reduce to a slow simmer. After an hour or so, pull the meat off the ham hock, chop and return to the pot. Cook until the peas are done (1.5 to 2 hours.) Remove the bay leaves and thyme before you serve. Serves about 8.

Books I Read in 2013

Annual round-up, first the list (in reverse-chronological order), then some analysis.

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes | Niequist
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking | Cain
The Book of Jonah | Feldman
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever | Robinson
The Great Brain | Fitzgerald
Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage. | Delaney
Jeeves & the Tie that Binds | Wodehouse
Mississippi in Africa | Huffman
The Fault in Our Stars | Green
The Good Luck of Right Now | Quick
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage | Patchett
Crazy Rich Asians | Kwan
Seize the Day | Bellow
Once Was Lost | Zarr
Lying Awake | Salzman
Someday, Someday, Maybe | Graham
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist | Cohn & Levithan
Nine Stories | Salinger
Parenting With Love & Logic | Cline & Fay
Liar & Spy | Stead
Love is an Orientation | Marin
She’s Come Undone | Lamb
Camilla | L’Engle
Romeo & Juliet | Shakespeare
The Burgess Boys | Strout
Dear Girls Above Me | McDowell
The Art of Family | Bria
Insurgent | Roth
Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing | Lloyd-Jones
Divergent | Roth
Death of a Salesman | Miller
My Name is Asher Lev | Potok
The Complete Stories | O’Connor
More Than Dates & Dead People | Mansfield
I Loved a Girl | Trobisch
Death Comes to Pemberley | James
Go Down, Moses | Faulkner
Telegraph Avenue | Chabon
The Silver Linings Playbook | Quick
Unorthodox | Feldman
The Last Segregated Hour | Haynes
Sticks and Stones | Bazelon
The Giver | Lowry
Pride and Prejudice | Austen
Gilead | Robinson
The Great Gatsby | Fitzgerald

Top 5 New-to-Me Fiction
The Giver | Lowry
Lying Awake
 | Salzman
Nine Stories | Salinger
She’s Come Undone | Lamb
The Silver Linings Playbook | Quick

Top 5 New-to-Me Non-Fiction
The Art of Family | Bria
Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes | Niequist
The Last Segregated Hour | Haynes
Parenting With Love & Logic | Cline & Fay
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking | Cain

Top 5 Re-Reads
The Complete Stories | O’Connor
Gilead | Robinson
The Great Gatsby | Fitzgerald
My Name is Asher Lev | Potok
Pride and Prejudice | Austen

This was not a particularly good year of reading. It was a chaotic year in general, and my reading rhythms were disrupted. This annual review is a good opportunity to recalibrate and contemplate what I’d like to read in the new year.

Lexi is 8!

This girl is eight years old, which is baffling. I remember the day she was born like it was yesterday. She has grown into an amazing little person, full of wit and whimsy and wonder. In a family of first-borns, she rocks our world a little by approaching things differently, but her other-ness is refreshing.

What was the best thing about being 7?  Being alive

What are you most proud of learning? Soccer and surfing

What was the best book you read?  Stallion by Starlight by Mary Pope Osborne

What is your favorite song? “The Fox” by Ylvis & “Let it Go” from Frozen

What is your favorite tv show? Dog With a Blog

What are you looking forward to about being 8? Playing basketball

What college do you want to go to? Ole Miss — just kidding, I have no idea

Do you think you’ll get married when you grow up? Have any kids? Yes, I will get married and have two daughters

What do you want to be when you grow up? A veterinarian

As Seen on TV

I have spent most of my time working in classrooms and as a freelancer, so there are moments in my new job that tickle me simply by being new but stereotypical, like the sort of thing I am used to seeing on television.

For example, everyone was concerned about the affects of the government shutdown. We receive no federal funding, but we are hosting a golf tournament at a military owned course Friday. Oops. Good thing the course is revenue generating so it isn’t affected.

Then I sent a normal email to the publications committee and got an auto-reply from an attorney who works for a government agency in Memphis, letting me know she’d reply when the government reopened. A good reminder that the craziness in Washington does impact people all over the country.

I worked from home today and the printer had my proof ready so he couriered it over. Kind of cool to have something brought to my door.

Yes, we have a water cooler. We don’t really talk about television shows, though.

It’s funny the way that seeing offices in television and movies really has prepared me for some of what my job requires and helped me to navigate it with more ease. If only all of life were more like a sitcom and I could use the laugh track to move things along and depend on repetitive trope to provide the vast majority of conflict and resolution so I’d always know how things were going to turn out.

But that’s just not the way life works. And furthermore, as much as it sometimes pains me to admit, I’m not the star of the show. The story of the world moves on with or without my active participation. I’m but one human among billions and the world does not revolve around me. Most of the time, I know that’s a good thing.

A Round-Up

The last six weeks have been crazy busy.

My sweet sister Laura married a great man we all love and it was a great day for all of us.

We bought a new car that we all love. It’s perfect for our family.

I’m settling into my new job, which I really enjoy, and keeping the freelance plates spinnings for now.

Michael and the kids are settling into another school year.

I celebrated another birthday and survived falling off my bike — it actually made me feel pretty awesome to get that out of the way.

Lexi and Kate had an amazing lemonade stand where they sold fresh squeezed lemonade for $.50 and made over $60 in less than two hours for the annual fund at school. They love their hand-me-down, very official stand and plan to use it regularly.

They’d love it if you joined in by donating online. It’s easy, and this is the last week.

To be honest, not all the things that have made life busy have been wonderful and fun. But I am grateful for family, friends and all the good gifts that we enjoy. I am choosing to focus on the good and the true and the beautiful.

First Day of School


These two had a great first day. We have been telling them that every day is an opportunity they can seize, and I look forward to seeing all they will do. I pray that they use the time they are given to work hard and learn everything they can. Now that they are the establishment rather than the new kids in town, I pray that they will show kindness and welcome others well. I pray that they will grow in wisdom as much as knowledge and learn how to succeed and fail with grace.

Thankful for our school and for our sweet students.

Psalm 23 Printable



I did a custom design of Psalm 23 to print out on colored paper and I wanted to offer it to anyone who could use it as a free printable. This is the older NIV text (1984.) The different font weights indicate the different verses and I retained all periods and any semi-colons or commas that fell in the middle of a line. You can download the PDF here.

Everything Hurts

After fifteen or more years of complete cycling negligence, I bought a bike this weekend. I love it so much that I have reposted this picture from my bike shop several times, a picture that was taken from a squatting angle that is particularly unflattering and featuring an outfit chosen for the utility of riding home.



I did ride home from the shop and then to work both of the days I went into the office this week. Though I remember putting some miles on a pink Schwinn with a banana seat in my childhood, I wasn’t an avid cyclist as a teenager, so I feel like I am embarking on a whole new adventure.

Before riding a bike to work, I believed that midtown and downtown were relatively flat. Now I know about every hill, as well as where to find a decaying carcass and dirty diapers left in the bike lane. Which circle of hell would Dante send those who leave dirty diapers in the street?

Bike commuting is it’s own challenge. I hope to order a pannier soon, but for right now I am bungeeing my bag to my back rack. A bag that has work clothes carefully rolled, a lunch and my laptop and various cords. It’s not lightweight. I am supposed to get a new computer at work and once I can leave the laptop at home, it should be a little bit better. Luckily, I can store my bike in my office and the building security showed me how to access and use the freight elevator. I do miss the thrill of the ultra modern elevators in the lobby.

Another challenge: I don’t know anything about bike maintenance. I do know that if you use a bike for transportation, you need to be able to do some basic repairs like fixing a flat. So I went to my bike shop for a free class and a Ghost River Golden Ale. I learned a lot. Going to test my skills with the girls’ bikes, which both have flats.

Right now, I’m just tired and sore. My office building is just less than 3.5 miles from our house, so I am a little ashamed to admit that. But I am hoping that I round the corner on that soon.

In this time where everything feels new, I can’t wait to get to the routine where biking to work isn’t hard, I have found time to read again and the rest of my life (meal planning, cooking, doing stuff for myself) falls back into place.

Firsts and Lasts

Last fall I had a chance to spend a little time with an old friend, watching her son play one of his last high school football games. She said something to me that I have pondered over the months.

She told me that it is easy to pay attention to the firsts in your children’s lives: you know their first step and their first word, the first time you go to the beach and the first time they play soccer. It’s more rare to know when it’s the last time they will do something. You wake up one morning and realize a stage is over and you never had a chance to realize it was even slipping away.

This perspective has been refreshing, and grown my patience.

If I knew it was the last time my child would want to sleep in between us, would I kick her out of bed?

If I knew it was the last time she ever wanted to play My Little Ponies, would I get down on the floor and play too?

If I knew she was never going to draw for fun again, would I hang this picture up on the fridge?

If I knew this was the last time she’d read Madeline to her Madeline doll, would I stop and listen?


(I think it was. I did.)

Pondering this was has led me to treasure up the sweetest, most childlike moments in my heart. I don’t know how much longer I my girls will be little and frolic in the splash pad or hold hands with their friends when they walk together.

When Kate was a toddler, I couldn’t wait for her to be a kindergartener in a little plaid jumper. Now that she is in fourth grade, I wish I could slow things down.

But as we continue to experience firsts together, I will choose to celebrate with my girls. Growing up is a big adventure. I am proud of them and enjoy seeing them tackle new challenges, even if there are moments I wish I could freeze them in time and keep them just the way they are forever.


Alas, I have not solved the Midtown mysteries from last week. However, I did find a job. I guess I can live with a little mystery.

I’m excited to be the new Director of Communications for our local bar association. I think it’s a great fit for me overall and I will grow and learn in this position as I use my skills in writing, editing, design and social media. I will be producing six magazines a year, as well as more regular communications (social media, email newsletters, etc.)

One of the coolest things about the job is that it is downtown and I love that part of the city. Expect more photos of trolleys. We only live 3 miles away, so I hope to get a bike and commute that way sometimes, particularly when the weather is nice. Our street is just a block off a designated bike route and the whole way is flat, so I really have no excuses once I have a bike and some basic knowledge of how to take care of it.

I start my new job tomorrow, and school starts back up again for the kids and Michael in two weeks. Possibility awaits all of us as we embark on new adventures. The start of a new school year always makes me hopeful. Fun to be starting so close to their start date.

Calling Encyclopedia Brown and Nate the Great

Encyclopedia_Brown,_Boy_Detective_(1963)It’s only Tuesday evening, but the week feels cloaked in mystery.

It all started at 7 a.m. yesterday morning. I hadn’t gotten any sleep at all, but I had planned to run and since I had not ran at all last week, I decided to go ahead and run lest I continue in a state of perpetual excuses. In a non-insomniac state, I am the world’s slowest runner, so I did not have high expectations for my performance, but getting out there at all was better than nothing. About 1.25 miles into my run, I had stopped to walk a bit and a man yelled out his car window at me, “Kristen, you need to pick up the pace!”

I have no idea who it was. The car was unfamiliar to me. I queried Michael and several friends, no one could identify the car in question.

Then, this evening, I asked the girls if they wanted to take a walk with me. They agreed, but wanted to ride their bikes instead. When we got their bikes out, I noticed something peculiar. There were tatters of red, white and blue crepe paper streamers left in Lexi’s spokes. Our street has a really adorable 4th of July bike parade but we were out of town. We participated last year, but this bike was a Christmas gift. Apparently, someone borrowed the bike(s) from our garage, decorated them for the parade and returned them. Perhaps a neighbor had friends come over and they needed something to ride? I don’t mind, and am glad they found their way home, but I’d love to hear the story.

These situations are both intriguing to me. Maybe Kate and Lexi will take up my case.