From Personal Growth

Cozy without comfort?

Hygge is the posture of the Danes in the long dark months of a northern winter.  They create environments of beauty and pleasure, safe from the harsh elements outside. Candlelight in the windows, wood piled high for the hearth, knitted blankets, hot tea, and good books. Everything this hobbit of a girl could ask for.…

Last light

It’s late afternoon on a winter Saturday, and I’ve taken my children to the beach for an hour of fresh air, an hour of running around and tossing beach stones into the water before the day is gone. What light we’ll get today in the northwestern corner of the country has already crested and is…

What do you expect?

Hygge is comfort, the long sweater love lingering conversation over coffee leaves falling sweet scents of breads fresh from the oven and joy of the soul. Dreamy. School has begun again, and it always makes me want to rewatch You’ve Got Mail and buy sticky notes. A friend once brought me a bouquet of sharpened…

Pizza and my place in the order of things

I need a single bowl of tomatoes for dinner, but the plant is overflowing with the delicate orange orbs. It’s the end of an extravagantly fertile summer that began with a slow spring and plentiful rain, a rarity for our high desert climate. My garden has responded to the weather, heavy with produce. As I…

Presence

Think of that feeling when you are cozy. Lit candles are scattered around the room, good food is in your belly, and a hot cup of tea is in your hands. Maybe you are alone, on a no-work day, sitting on the couch with a good book and no bra on under your old, tattered…

The Eighth Grade voice of reason

Abandon accolades and Aristotelian ethics. This is the Eighth Grade. There’s too much pressure to be the paradox. Preteens wade between two polars: the homogeneous clones—prone toward whatever the popular populous deems cool—and the individual butterfly waiting to explode in uniquely bold genius. Eighth grade is too much for all of us. In the fever…

The abundant now

My phone alarm wakes me. As I silence it, groggy and half-blind, I see a notification that someone has commented on my post. I swipe to see it. And there I am, phone already in my face, inundated by images and words through a luminous screen. Before I’ve even taken stock of my body, said…

Trains on their tracks

I can hear it from our bedroom, that low heavy rumble of a train on its tracks. There is a faint whistle, but we are many streets up and there are rows of trees and a river between us, soaking up its sound. Often only the heaviness of movement is what I can hear, a…

The call of the wild

Pit toilets are a dismal attempt to domesticate the mountains. The stench hit my nostrils as I rounded the corner and came in view of the toilet, a simple wooden throne with a single step up to it and a hole in the middle. Flies hovered over the opening, which looked half rotten, drenched in…

New mercies

I am typing this on a borrowed laptop. The ceiling paint above me is cracked and peeling, tainted with yellow stains. The bedroom door won’t shut into a door frame deformed from years of settling. I can see out the window because several of the blinds are cracked or missing, but the view is incredible.…

Comic Conomenon

When I sat down to write this article, I could not think of a single new thing in my life. Same job, same house, same brand of coffee (Major Dickason, you delicious, brooding devil, you). Luckily, a quick perusal of my recent photos quickly reminded me of a ginormous, 90,000-person new thing that I just…

Snap peas

Reject the notion that you are not enough. Or that you are too much. Or that you don’t have what it takes. Reject all the lies that you are tempted to believe, and begin the adventure of knowing that it’s okay to be you, exactly as you are now, in your shoes, in your skin,…

The ones we keep choosing

Last week I opened an email that began, “Unfortunately, Joanna, you did not win…” It was lottery tickets to see Hamilton, which just opened in Seattle. The tickets have been at scalper’s prices since like five seconds after they went on sale. This lottery is my best hope of seeing what some have called the…

“Moonless Darkness Stands Between” 

In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a small motley troop of friends offers gifts that prove they’ve been listening to one another, that they care about each other’s details and dreams. If only all gifts could say what we want them to, could show our deep affection, could bless and enrich another for life.…

The Blur

It’s been a blur. My reflection in the glass. For the last seven years. So much so that if you asked me what I looked like, I couldn’t tell you. No matter how long I stand here trying to catch a glimpse of who I am, it plays out in pixelated streaks across my mirror.…

Anniversary interrupted

I woke up to the sound of my five-year-old vomiting and shot out of bed. “Noooo,” I groaned, filled with sudden dread. Not just because I hate vomit. Not just because my son’s suffering fills me with helpless pity. More than either of those, I felt forebodings of disappointment. This was the morning my husband…

Play

Hands poised, I felt brave and silly. How could I have not played before? All those moments I’d spent walking by, watching my kids and husband, I had not even once considered that I needed to play, too. She stands proud in my living room, daily offering her love to me, and I hadn’t realized…

Forgive and forget…and dance

Todd was abusive. Kate was a gossip. Laurel was downright needy. Life was tough in the fifth grade. My mother hated the slang that came from having fifth grade friends. Let one juicy almost swear tingle on the tip of your tongue too long and she’ll sense it. “We don’t say shucks or darn or…

The allure of intentional community

When I was twenty-two, I filled a backpack and flew to Switzerland to live in an intentional community. It’s called L’Abri, which means “The Shelter” in French, and functions outside typical labels—part retreat center, part seminary, and part commune. Despite its name, the main language spoken is English. Its cluster of chalets built onto the…

See those clouds over there?

In junior high I made a tornado machine. For the science fair, I was determined to do something showstopping, something smashing. No clay-made volcano of baking soda and vinegar explosions would suffice. Our summers growing up were often spent driving to and from Minnesota so my mother could help on the farm. I assumed in…