Around here lately, while Tim has been replacing stair treads, putting up walls, painting the basement, swapping out bedroom doors and otherwise working on this house we're hoping to finish, I've been in charge of keeping us both fed. This…
Tim and I were both a little under the weather this past week, something I always forget how much I hate until it happens. This was the first time we've ever had colds together, at least anything that didn't go…
If someone had told me there were a way to spend $10 to $20 and get (rich, flavorful) dinners for an entire week, I'd probably have imagined some sort of magic with rice and beans. But, speaking from day five…
They say that love shows in the gestures–
A dash to the airport, a big diamond ring;
They say that this is what’s romance–
All that glitters,
All that sparkles,
All that’s bright and glossy,
(You know, those sorts of things).
True, you proposed: it was poetry,
All of your neat lines of verse, for me, arranged.
You made me a picnic and hid it,
A cooler packed with food and a ring,
Then you asked me,
And I said yes, and remember?
Right there, how everything changed?
It’s true, life is beautiful,
(We are happy,
We are together,
But, also true, life is painful,
And we’ve walked through dark times just the same.
What of the times pacing the halls?
The nights of long talks?
The physical pain,
The wounded hearts,
The crying out, over and over,
To God’s name?
It makes me think it’s love in the small and the hard things,
(Maybe the small and the hard things the most).
The dishes, the laundry,
The trash, the yard.
The kind words,
(When you want harsh words),
The soft words,
(When you want hard).
The long talks,
(When you are tired).
The stretched out arm,
(When you want to run).
Could love look like nights in the kitchen?
Like daily dinner?
Like, simply, life?
She said, “What we need is love that’s not tired*,”
What she said is, I guess, what I think.
Love shows itself in daily somethings,
Somethings as simple as this.
The other night, when Tim and I ate this salad, we’d just come back from a few hours of driving through neighborhoods. Tim and I do a lot of driving through neighborhoods. You could say driving through neighborhoods is our thing. I guess that’s good—that there’s a thing we have, you know, together. When my friend Julie got married in 2006, I remember the pastor saying something in his homily about how every couple ought to share a hobby of some kind. “Tennis or cooking or sports,” he’d suggested, right there at the front of the church filled with people and flowers and music. I hadn’t yet met Tim that day, standing up there with three other girls in blue dresses with cap sleeves, but I still like to think about the hobbies we were already sharing, even so.
In 2006, for example, I was baking batch after batch of biscotti for favors at that friend’s sit-down wedding reception. Meanwhile, the Ohio man I would someday marry was rolling out and topping homemade pizza crusts to keep in the freezer on hand. “Like frozen pizzas, but better!” he still says to me, describing that long-ago process in step-by-step detail.
Indeed, since we’ve met, Tim and I have had plenty of things, from loving the kitchen to loving quiet nights on the sofa to getting excited about properties we could dream to call home. And so, the night we ate this creamy kale salad, we’d just returned from spotting one particular 1920s treasure of a foreclosure, with cedar shake details and original stained glass. (Too bad it’s already sold!) And when we came back home, to the work we’d abandoned and a house growing dark, big plates of this salad were the kind of thing both of us had in mind.
Tim went away for a work trip last week, just for two days really, but all the way to New York, putting him not only out of state but also in a different time zone, for the first night (and nights) we have ever been apart since we got married. It wasn’t something we looked forward to, upcoming nights apart like these, and, leading up to the trip, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel dread (or that I didn’t say to him, when I dropped him off at the airport, “Do you think it’s too late to cancel?,” both of us laughing).
It wasn’t that I thought I’d be afraid at night or have nothing to do with myself or break down on the side of the road and not have him to call (OK, a little bit the last one, but only in the same way that I tend to imagine a plane going down once I get on it)—it was mostly that when you love someone, you want to be with them, and I love Tim.
I feel really grateful to have him, and I know I’ve said that before, but I say it again because gratitude isn’t the kind of thing that you can leave on auto-pilot, and whether it’s a good husband or a beautiful September or a dinner that we share with someone we love, it’s more natural to take it for granted than to mark it down.
When Tim came home Saturday afternoon, I think we both let out a collective exhale, grateful to remember we are not each other’s best gifts (and that the One who gave us each other never leaves), yet grateful to be together again. And then, the next day, we killed the fatted calf, so to speak, with home-cooked filet mignons and big salads and mashed potatoes stuffed full of greens.
Then, afterward, in that golden hour when the sun makes everything glisten, we grabbed blankets and sweaters and escaped to the park, soaking up the crisp September air, bright white skies and, mostly, the gifts we’re being given, today.
We brought the camera, and the thing that’s so great about bringing your camera for a few hours at the park is that you get the chance to look through its viewfinder, capture moments through its lens, and mark them down, the way you do when you’re listing things you’re thankful for.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the pull so many of us have towards beautiful things, such as the ideas we mark on Pinterest or the stories we scroll through on blog posts or the pleasure I receive from seeing pretty pictures and photography. When I was really sick earlier this year, I would say to Tim, let’s go walk through Anthropologie!, just to soak up the atmosphere and remember there is beauty in the world. You could, I think, look at all this pull and say there’s something wrong with it, that we want to create imaginary lives that are perfect and flawless and fun to look at, all the time, and that doing so ignores the realities of pain and suffering and poverty and despair.
But personally, I think it points to something bigger.
There is something in us, in all of us, I believe, that craves beauty—whether that shows itself in Pinterest folders or fantasy football scores or keeping the kitchen clean. My blog friend Sarah says we crave beauty because we were made for the Beautiful One. It’s not that we don’t see hard things, or experience them; all human beings do, even if in different degrees. We have loved ones die. We fight with our spouses. We experience serious physical pain that shows us how small we are. But it’s just that, in the midst of all of this, we’re also drawn to what’s beautiful and right and good and true. We look for it, go out to find it, hope for it and want it to exist.
I think about that all the time lately, when I’m snapping photos of wild daisies growing in the grass, sidled along a busy road; when I’m setting a plate before me, as colorful as a garden or an elaborate painting; when I’m listening to someone tell me how she wants to make her living room look a certain way. There can be unhealthy motives in these things, sure, as in any things, but a lot of times, truly, I just sit back and think, how good of God to give us pleasures such as these to enjoy.
Pleasures like sunlight in the evening and foothills in the distance. Pleasures like a bed to sleep in and food in the fridge. Family who loves us when we hurt them. Books that make us think.
Gifts around us, all the time.
Every time we visit Chicago, I wonder how long before it stops feeling like home.
And while missing your family at 30 is not as popular as missing them your freshman year (anyone else cry with “Parenthood” last week?), the truth is that I still miss mine. I miss my dad’s tender heart and my mom’s loud giggle and my brother’s ability to find the coolest new places and products everywhere he goes. My dad picks us up from the airport last Wednesday and we don’t stop talking until we’re in his garage, despite a 20-minute detour when we’re so caught up in conversation that we miss our exit; my mom fills the fridge with food she knows we’ll like; my brother sidekicks with us through dinner in Bucktown, shopping in the suburbs, late-night movies and TV. Sometimes the pain of missing them is so strong that the joy of these visits almost gets overshadowed, like I can’t soak it up while awaiting another goodbye—but, for the first time, instead of feeling embarrassed about this attachment, I am realizing: that’s because my family’s pretty great.
The last night we’re in town, we decide to do an outdoor dinner—take a table and chairs to the backyard, cut flowers from the bushes, carry pots and dishes from the kitchen to the basement and through walk-out doors.
My mom slow-cooks some taco meat; Tim and Adam and I bake sprouted tortilla chips and kale chips and pull together a big salad from leftovers in the fridge. There’s sangria filled with peaches and strawberries; we pour water into tall carafes and add slices of lime. And then, just before twilight, we all come around the table and, together, we eat.
Friday night, falling into bed, Tim and I talk about how much we’ve enjoyed the meal—and the people we shared it with.
“It’s so nice to have people who love you,” I say to him.
People in Nashville and people in Chicago, even when they’re spread out.