Rogue Homilies by Deidre Price

a study of life that smacks of the divine

Month: November 2014

Not Drought but Bottlenecking: Thanksgiving in Any Weather

I’ve been feeling bankrupt lately but not in a financial way. Instead, I’ve felt bankrupt of my time, bankrupt of my joy, even body bankrupt.

I keep promising people miles I can’t deliver. This is only partly metaphorical. I promised one friend a mile a day in October. I did two. For the month.

Another friend was doing forty miles in November. “Sure, put me down! What’s forty more?”

And then there was the 100 miles until Christmas. “Absolutely.”

So, here I am owing the world 169 miles of torture. I’d been better off promising them 169 poems or 169 pages of a book.

And let’s talk NaNoWriMo. That’s a book commitment for 50,000 words in one month. I’m in the middle of writing a nonfiction book, so I didn’t take on the novel challenge, but it’s looming anyway like an exercise thug as though I’d promised it treadmill time.

I spend my days making promises to children, most of whom I keep–the promises, not the children.

I spend other parts of my days making promises to myself about how many papers I can get graded and by when. I’m far too optimistic in this area. I like running more than I like grading. This says something.

In the midst of this, some of my nearest and dearests are traversing what is a terrible, lingering tragedy in their lives, the kind of tough uncertainty that’s been getting all my prayers lately.

In a world of stagnant waters, I might as well be bone dry. But I’d be a fool not to recognize poetry in the middle of it. This is what we writers do, and it’s the life people of faith are called to.

Thanksgiving remains, merely bottlenecking at the scene of the accident.

November 4 / A Gift Gathered, Given, Good

ONE: Myself – Sometimes I’m able to collect my thoughts, and at that moment, when I feel ‘gathered,’ a peace comes, even if I’m gathering the shards of something broken.

TWO: My Children – I’m used to Daina’s being here. She and I are old lady BFFs at this point, but the other two still feel so new and so borrowed. When Atticus’s little, rock-muscled body sits on my lap and I have a face full of blond curls or when Evangeline lean-dances through the house pointing one finger up and shaking her hips down the hall, I look at Jonathan, kind of squeal-eyed and say, “Isn’t it cool? They live here. We’re so lucky.” Part of me keeps thinking their real mom will just pick them up one day, and I’ll have to say goodbye. In the meantime, I’m going to hang onto them tight and smother them in kisses. This isn’t so far from the truth. They’re mine, but they’re not mine. How honored that I’ve been chosen and they’ve been given.

THREE: Apple Oatmeal in the Fall – My mother in law Jackie makes an incredible fruity-nutty oatmeal when we go to their Georgia cabin. I’ve learned to make a version of my own for the kids, and when the cold hits, I make it nearly every day, pouring organic oats into a pot with peeled, chopped apples, brown sugar, and butter. I add raw rolled oats toward the end for extra texture and stir in flax meal for secret nutrition. Everyone eats it, and we all live happily ever after.

November 5 / Three Gifts Acorn-Small

ONE: Wood Shavings That Litter the Garage Floor – My husband and I chase dreams in the evenings. He’s working on a table leaf for a nostalgic project for friends right now. This is my husband at his happiest. Little feet track in the shavings from the garage to the house, and I’m not even bothered by it. I’m seeing them kind of like my pens that lie around: good evidence of life happening.

TWO: Quarters My Son Can’t Pronounce – Choking hazards are the most fun toys. My son loves change. He calls it “his monies.” He’s learned the different coin names and can’t say his R’s. I love to give him quarters, and he makes valiant attempts to get through the word. One day, when he says it right, a tear will fall for a season passed.

THREE: Actual Acorns That Pepper My World – My son squirrels acorns into his pockets and lunchbox at school, fighting his way through the parking lot to pick up every extra one that’s “green enough,” as he says. If it’s cracked, it’s trash. These acorns line the corners of my car, the tiles of my kitchen counter, and our couch cushions. They are evidence of his new, three-year-old life outside our home, his autonomy, and his becoming some sort of acorn-thieving man.

November 6 / Three Gifts Government

ONE: Voting as a Woman – This reminds me I have a voice that others didn’t have.

TWO: Voting as a Mother – This reminds me I have the power to provide a future for my children in everything I believe and act on.

THREE: Voting as an American – This reminds me I have a voice that others still don’t have.

November 7 / Three Gifts from Your Window

ONE: Our Ugly Grass in the Skinny Backyard – Grass can be skipped through and played on no matter its color, no matter the weeds, no matter how patchy. The fact that we have grass that’s ours around a house that’s ours, no matter how skinny the yard or small the house, means I have a treasured thing, many Woolfian rooms and Whitmanian fields to call my own–space to write, to writhe, and to roam.

TWO: The Playhouse – The littles play like an old married couple in their plastic playhouse that sits adjacent to our concrete slab in the backyard. Evangeline sits inside on a chair by the kitchen table, holding the phone to her ear, pointing out the window at Atticus and yelling at him to fetch her things. Atticus moves in and out of the house retrieving whatever she beckons for. Both of them look grumpy but move swiftly, and it makes me the strangest kind of homesick.

THREE: The Neighbor’s House – One of my most exciting things about the holidays coming is my neighbor’s house. Their kids are grown, but they have grands that come, and so they are in that sweet spot of being young and energetic enough to want to decorate the house top to bottom in Christmas lights and they have the time to do it. It’s beautiful in all its blues and whites, and it’s done like clockwork well in advance of our own lights, and we get to reap the rewards of looking at it every night of the holidays. It’s like my own personal Northgate Estates. It makes me want to sip hot chocolate from the back of my car and just stare. That wouldn’t be weird.

November 8 / A Gift Sweet, Salty, Sipped

ONE: My Husband’s Whipping Cream Pound Cake – Aside from this being one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten, this is what I call a Little Red Hen situation: I do absolutely nothing, but it appears as a marvel on the kitchen table, and I’m allowed to have as many pieces as I want. EXCEPT on the night he makes it. When it’s hot, he’ll break your finger if you try to pick off the crust. He wants it to sit overnight. We can’t win everything.

TWO: Ali’s Sea Salt Caramel Espresso-soaked Oreo Dessert – Everyone needs a best friend who can do this. Corningware has never looked so good.

THREE: Maas Coffee on Jazz Days – Maas Coffee Roasters is a downtown coffee shop that makes me forget I’m in Fort Walton Beach for a few minutes. It feels very college-towny, and that’s my favorite vibe, a place where I can sit with crunchy leaves under my feet in a hoodie with a book with nondescript coffee cups around me. And it helps that I have a former student who is the barista there so that I can order adventurous things without her laughing at me for not knowing how to pronounce some words. And jazz days are the afternoons when Daina has jazz, and I have a solid hour to myself. This never happens, but when it does, it should happen with coffee and a book.

November 9 / Three Gifts Harvest

ONE: Apples without the Peel – One day I’ll just put ‘apples’ for this item, but in this season of littleness, we go without the peel–unless I want Atticus and Evangeline hacking like they have hairballs. They’re like the angel in Dogma who can’t imbibe tequila. Only in our house apple peels are tequila.

TWO: “Fresh Soups” – This is my son’s term for a soup I make in the kitchen with him. It’s my most popular dish and comes highly recommended by the sous chef. Or would it be ‘Seuss chef’ in his case?

THREE: Alabama – When I think of the word ‘harvest,’ I think of Alabama. I think of corn and cotton. I think of pecans and field peas and people and plenty.

November 10 / Three Gifts Found in Bible Reading

ONE: The Skipped Parts – I grew up assuming that adult Christians had read their bibles. Or, at the very least, they’d be taught from or about every part of the bible from pulpit exegesis or in their own explorations of scriptures. The more I learn about literacy and the troubling reading, or rather non-reading, habits of adults, the more I’m concluding about the reading habits of people of the church: a large portion of them isn’t reading either. Yikes! In any case, I’ve been reading around a lot lately, diving into history and theology to give me a better context for understanding those often “skipped parts” that don’t make their way to enthusiastic pulpits or inspirational memes. I’m grateful for the writing in the margins.

TWO: The Center – I find my center in some of the words I read. It gathers me.

THREE: Myself – I love seeing messy people like me in the middle of it all. I see their stories and think they’re not so different from mine, all of us just doing the best we can with what we’ve got and planning on God in the middle of it.

November 11 / Three Gifts of Remembrance

ONE: Handwriting – For my father.

TWO: Embroidery Thread – For my mother.

THREE: Freaking Tennis Shoes and My Bankrupt Body – For the many people to whom I owe those 169 miles of pavement.

November 12 / Three Gifts at Noon

ONE: Wet Soup Wednesdays – We celebrate work family on Wednesdays in the fall by bringing soups.

TWO: Goose – I leave work to get my son, Atticus, our Gooseface, from school at noon most days. I love the “Mommy!” he belts from his seat when I arrive. It’s like I’ve been gone for years, and we’ve just been reunited. Pure joy.

THREE: A New Friend – A new friend, a dear one already, meets me for lunch now on a regular schedule on a regular day at a regular place. I love things that become regular, when “I’ll see you there then” means something that only you ‘get.’

November 13 / Three Gifts behind a Door

ONE: Baby Shoes – A mix of girl and boy shoes cover the rack on the backside of the nursery door. There’s something about smallish shoes that warms my heart in the winter.

TWO: The Giraffe Towel – We ‘catch babies’ from the bathtub in a giraffe towel that hangs on the back of Daina’s bathroom door. Jonathan yells when the bath is done, conjuring one of us to come ‘catch a baby’ pulled fresh from the water. The banana-colored towel has a tail and a giraffe head, and no one isn’t laughing when it’s on.

THREE: A Wheel – I need to drive sometimes, and when I’m driving, alone without carseats in the back with the volume at my own favorite level with the windows cracked and lipstick on, I feel seventeen again and small and big all at once. This has happened exactly twice, and it was magic.

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November 3 / Three Gifts That Start with N

Mondays are always the days that make me teeter between wanting to hunker down and wanting to run away. I’ve opted for hunkering down because the weather’s nice, and my feet hurt. It doesn’t take much to make me happy these days. Any old couch and some good conversation will do.

If you’re just joining us, we’re taking Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare for gratitude each day during the month of November.

The prompt for today called for three gifts that start with N. If I’m answering with my gut, I’d want to say Nilla Wafers, Nutella, and novels. But I could see myself tiring of these eventually. Fat chance, I know. So, I went broader. I keep thinking these work like desert island lists, like I’d better be really honest and completely accurate with these in print just in case a day comes when someone says, “You’re being stranded on an island. Quick! Grab your three gifts that start with N!”

I want to leave myself a little wiggle room in case that day comes soon. Here goes.

#1 – The New

Since I first began to understand loss, I began understanding the value and purpose of the new. For me, newness signifies restoration, and that’s what I need and love most these days. Whether I’m reading modern American poetry where the whole gist is “Make it new!” or scrolling through Instagram pictures of The Moore Family Folk Art to see what beautiful upcycled creations they’re working on now, I’m dwelling on the idea that everything can be reimagined, and that’s such a hopeful idea: life as a sentence without a period at the end. Let it not be finished.

#2 – The Now

Having grown close to so many people lately who have experienced great loss in their lives, I’ve had the chance to have meaningful conversations that point to two things: live well and live now. We are so very temporary. I’m learning to create better boundaries around the important things in my life and to preserve what I love about my world so that I can keep it close by as long as possible. I’ve been practicing saying no to more things so that I can say yes to that which makes my heart sing. That, too, is another mantra I’ve been clinging to because I want that in my life–to have a singing heart. And once you know it can, who wouldn’t?

In the past few months, I finished Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, both books that encourage celebrating the ordinary in our day-to-day lives. Ann Voskamp’s posts on her site do my heart good some days, too. I’m eager to read The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst. I’ve recently started following her on Facebook, and I might be in love with her, too. Let me learn in the now so that my next now can be new, too.

#3 – The Naked

Two words: honesty and transparency. Few things mean more to me these days.

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November 2 / Three Gifts Worn

Those who ‘know me-know me’ would say (1) glasses, (2) nosering, and (3) black. This is me on a day-to-day basis, yes, but although the most common to see on me, I’m most grateful for a few other things worn in my home this year.

1. Jamberries 

I’m not big into personal aesthetics these days. It’s not even a matter of the children-first model which forces its way in the door when you live with three smallish people. Rather, it’s a matter of my prioritizing my life. Nails, makeup, and hair? They just don’t even make the list.

Enter: plot twist

A near-and-dear friend of mine, Michel, started selling Jamberries, these prettified nail wraps that smack of my sorority days long passed. However, and this is the huge however: the eclectic weirdo in me who likes things like red lipstick some days, green glasses legs, and bright shoes wanted those nails and thought Daina, my thirteen-year-old who has maybe the world’s largest collection of blue nail polishes, would like them, too, and maybe would be lured away from Minecraft and into my deep conversation lair.

I learned that the password into her heart was two words: Doctor Who. And it just so happened that Michel could get me Doctor Who wraps which made Daina want to check the mail every five hours.

I loved wearing these things this year because each time we put them on, Daina and I spent lots of time together. I know this is the opposite of what the selling point should be: Oh, they’re a snap! So fast and easy to apply! Just a cinch! <winky smiley face> But those things are less important to me when I want to spend some bonding time with my biggest, quietest kiddo.

There’s the potential that the closest we get in height, the farthest apart we’ll be in other ways, and I’m willing to fight it. Even if it means doing my nails.

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2. The swimsuit I put on at the end of summer

I haven’t owned shorts since the nineties, yet on an odd whim, I bought and wore a swimsuit, the first I’d worn in over ten years, to the beach with my kids in August. I’d decided that however mortifying it would be to try on and wear the swimsuit in the broadest of day lights, I still wanted in that water with my children more. So, I did it. And no one yelled at me or laughed at me. And I lived.

[Brave act not pictured. I’m no martyr.]

3. Babies and Help for Babies (and Mamas)

This year I wore my third and last baby lots. This is Evangeline on my back before she realized her independent streak and revolted.

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But holding my babies close are joys laced with reverence and a deeply sincere awareness that not everyone gets to do the same.

Since moving into my thirties, I’ve become far more acquainted with many friends and family members’ stories of infertility and grief, either through miscarriage or another infant loss, than I ever was in my twenties. You just don’t realize sometimes the struggle others are going through to conceive or to have a pregnancy go full term, and it makes sense I’d be the last person some would want to be around: me, who popped an accidental baby out at nineteen, and me, who most recently accessorizes in odd years with spit up on my shoulder. If I were them, I’d avoid me, too. I’m the worst.

But it was also the worst to find out some stories years later and even others years later after ‘rainbow babies’ had been born.

I’m endlessly grateful for some women in my life who have been so uniquely willing and open to share their difficult stories of infant loss, as these are the hardest stories to tell. My friend Tiffany, minister and author of the Fully Alive blog, which documents the experience of healing after the loss of her daughter, Josephine Ava, a day after her birth, tells an incredible story of faith and redemption in the midst of such pain.

Tiffany’s own story has enabled to her connect and to help countless other women with similar experiences. She has sent, too, far more than words their way.

She coordinated a diaper-making day for people in her church to sew cloth diapers sized for premature babies and micropremies who had passed away and a duplicate one to send home with the family who had lost the child–both comforts from one who has been on that same journey to others just beginning it.

She began making glittery jewelry, too, in Josie’s memory, selling earrings, necklaces, and rings to raise funds for The Mother and Child Survival Advance program. Here is Daina wearing her pair in memory of Josie.

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The gifts I’m grateful for wearing today run the gamut, but they’re all tied to people, and maybe it’s those people I’m more thankful for than anything. I wear their stories daily.


Need a little more?

Gift 1: If you scrolled to the bottom to see how to get Daina’s fancy Doctor Who nails (oh, predictable you), know that Michel has the hookup here.

Gift 2: Here’s your Life Bonus Points Extra Credit Homework for the day, three body-image articles I loved this year:

Gift 3: Learn more about Tiffany’s incredible story and her projects to support those suffering from infant loss here.

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November 1 / Three Gifts Eaten

I’m a normal-day person, not a holiday person. I love the everyday, and I love ordinary moments more than the Hallmarky ones. Part of that is because, the older I get, the more introverted I get. I don’t like feigning celebration or forcing conversation when I’m not feeling it. In short, I’m not into hubbub.

I started liking holidays even less when my father died on Christmas morning two years ago. The whole holiday season had been spent in hectic worry of what to pray and not pray and what to say and to whom. Knowing what to hold onto and what to let go of became even more difficult in that coming year, and when the next holiday season came, I just wanted it all done with. Life could have fast-forwarded to February, and I wouldn’t have minded.

I live circles of hyper-holidayish people. They love this crap, from the recipes to the homemade decorations to the Pinterest parties and advent countdown. It’s no wonder that I’ve been planted smack in the middle of them. This is how life and God and luck and serendipity work sometimes. You fall so in love with the people, the place becomes inconsequential, and you just find yourself managing because of the mess between you that causes you to hold hands and link arms and cross all your fingers and toes while holding your collective breath that it’ll all be okay.

I’m taking on Ann Voskamp’s November Joy Dare for two reasons. One, I could use the distraction from this most painful time. And two, I can see myself becoming the old man in Home Alone with the trashcan of salt and the pigeon lady in the sequel and taking on Grinchy hygiene habits a la garlic and onion to keep the carolers away, so I’m taking a stand for goodness and mercy because there is so much floating around in the atmosphere, kind of the romantic version of atoms. Anyhow, I want them to fuse into my being. I want joy and peace and love knowing where my address is, and I’m setting out to send a SASE in case it’s helpful in hunting me down this year.

I invite you to join me. Here’s the link to Ann’s dare.

Today is 3 gifts eaten, and because it takes me a running start to land on specificity, I give you three categories I adore for in-house dining, and I’m packing you two poems to go.

1. The Food We Get

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Daina after the House of Jerky with a fistful of her favorite food in Helen, Georgia.

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Auntie LouLou’s famous cake-balls. These are actual balls of cake. You should all be so lucky in life to have a friend that can do this magic.

Behold the spoils of my farmers' market trip, perfect for making social media spectators think that you produced such goods in your farmhouse. Spoiler alert: I don't have a farmhouse.

Behold the spoils of my farmers’ market trip, perfect for making social media spectators think that you produced such goods in your farmhouse. Spoiler alert: I don’t have a farmhouse.

2. The Food We Make

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Imprecise but pretty. Tell me about it.

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My Atticus at two, making pumpkin bread. The love.

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My Atticus, probably five minutes later, making brownies.

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My family makes this kitchen a sacred space in my home. Warning: Images in this social media picture are much cleaner than they actually appear in life.

3. The Food We Share

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With new friends come new conversations, new ideas, new stories, and new recipes. This is Pam Pork, named aptly for my dear friend Pam whose mother-in-law gave it to her. It’s a Boston butt, fork-poked, doused in liquid smoke, rubbed in Hawaiian sea salt, and covered in bacon. Talk about a good friendship takeaway. Love her. Love this.

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So many meals are attached to memories for me. This picture reminds me of all the food I’ve shared with the ladies in my poetry group. They, like these, are some of my all-time favorites on the planet.

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At work or at church or in life otherwise, when my friends get together, good things happen. Here are some of them at The Sundry Folk Festival, sharing in music, food, and charity for those in need.

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This is what love looks like, shot at our Cider Party last year before the drop off to Waterfront Mission, a local organization to help the homeless.

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My husband’s pumpkin cheesecake which we give to several of our lovelies each year.

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I’m learning that when we serve, they serve. My son makes the best “tea.”

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Life and art have such blurred lines these days. What I get so far exceeds the goodness of what I give. My heart just can’t contain it sometimes. The blessings overflow.

For Imaginary Bonus Points for Life, here is your Thanksgiving homework:

1. Read Galway Kinnell’s “Blackberry Eating.”

2. Read Mark Strand’s “Eating Poetry.”

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