HOPE

I wish the heaviest thing around was the big pot of soup on the stove, but instead, it is my heart. I wish I could  easily gush over the gormeant grilled cheese sandwhiches I made, the concoctions of stew that I have been serving up, and how much I enjoy the hum and buzz of tunes that echo from our record player everyday.

But I cannot.

As many joyous things I find to fill my winter days – how I love this season – no matter what I do to spend the chilly time, my thoughts just keep going in one direction.

East.

Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I keep thinking of those babies, those teachers, that community. Those mamas and those papas.

My heart is heavy with ache.

So I am not going to write about my life and my days of late. I am instead sending thoughts and love to Sandy Hook. I am going to pray for that community. I am going to hope. I am going to try to conjure ideas of what I can do to help. If anything. But at least  – or until then – I will pray.

Eastward.

For love and peace. For Christmas to fill the hearts of those in such pain.

CASSEROLES AND FAREWELLS

Before December takes full hold of me, I had to set aside a few words for November.

November, my favorite month, swept in quietly from the hold of October and greeted me with the known & thrilling excitement of family, friends and delicious food. November, a month that was kind to us, was filled with much family time – visitors from West Virginia, gatherings in Guthrie with the Grays, the discovery of a new church home and dates with lovely friends.

I could not help to think of Lucia this time last year. Our trip to Houston, her prancing around Sasha’s mom’s house in point shoes eight times too big. Her words that were there, but more strangled beneath her tongue -slightly less abundant. Suddenly she has blossomed in my eyes. But maybe that is because my memories from this time last year are so prevalent and strong. November has a way of sticking to my bones. I can see her, with her bouncy curls – shorter at the time – requesting milk and sitting on Lance and Sasha’s couch, watching Sleeping Beauty. Sasha’s childhood bunny at her side. A more limited palate she had –  though cheese and jelly toast are still among her favorite snacks – just maybe she shared a few snap peas with me as we put our groceries away last week.

Thoughts of my grandparents and family – memories of my childhood and good times fill my heart during this time of year. I miss those that I cannot be near & hold the ones that I am with even closer. I dream up activities for my little family, try valiantly to create a holiday season for my daughter, just like the ones I always knew.

This year, though I could not have my Grandpa George’s green beans or my Grandma Airie’s chocolate pie, I made a casserole in their honor – my first ever – because I know they would have had something eighty times more delicious at their table, and I know that they would be proud of me for using that damn stalk of celery: waste not, want not. They must have been watching over me that Thanksgiving morning that I baked because my dish came out of the oven a huge hit – my dad says my Grandma Airie must have left a gift to me. I like that thought.

Happy December.

Ingredients:
1 bunch of celery, thinly sliced
1.5 cans creamy onion soup
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of butter
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare a two quart casserole by greasing the bottom and set aside. Chop and prep all other goodies. In dish, layer celery, soup, almonds, cheese and bread crumbs. Repeat. Top with bread crumbs and some dollops of butter. Bake approximately 40 minutes.

WHAT LOVE IS: OKLAHOMA CHRISTMAS

There is a queer peculiarity about the atmosphere when a little family goes-a-Christmas-tree hunting with crunchy leaves under foot and not even the slightest chill in the air.

On such an early December day, we went to meet our tree match. My husband clad in shorts and my daughter, overly dressed in her “snow boots.” But I would not have had it any other way. We galloped down the lanes of trees, circled the great harvest with joy, and anticipated the hot cups of chocolate and candy canes we would later have, never minding the seventy degree weather. Lucia scurried in excitement, her daddy yelled from behind to watch for the holes where trees had already been claimed from the earth. From time to time she would give pause and investigate the trees with her mama – me, an overly curious gal, obsessed with the various pine specimens, comparing length of needles and widths between boughs.

Our afternoon was filled with a new tradition – the collection of our first real tree, picked out and fastened to the roof of our car. Our house later filled with the delicious smell of pine, hot cocoa and the sound of Christmas records scratching in the background as we trimmed our pretty. Cozy.

SMALL STYLE | FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

Lucia is responsible for her entire first day of school ensemble: horsey shirt – a must, grey leggings and plaid shoes that she had to have because they look like her cousin Adalynn’s.  An apple on the car ride with the the Tarzan sound track blasting in the background. Her favorite song, “Stranger,”  by Phil Collins, which cracks me up every time she requests it.

She had a great first day and came home with many stories to tell. Our return back to the grind has been much more difficult for me than it has been for her; I have been belly aching about all day without my tiny at my heals.

So apt my little girl – the choice of song was appropriate for the start of school and learning new things.

I can see there’s so much to learn
It’s all so close and yet so far
I see myself as people see me
Oh, I just know there’s something bigger out there.

Love you, Lucia-Pucia. I hope you always know that there is something bigger out there. So much bigger. This one is for you:

WHAT I WORE | YET NOT SO FLORAL FEELING

Friday night I got dressed up and wore big fat flowers in my hair. Today you will find me in spandex and a t-shirt, my hair in a bandanna – the last day of such nonsense since tomorrow I will have to be in some work garb. Oh the work attire – translation: neither flowers in my hair nor spandex on the bum.

I just dropped Lucia off for her first day at “big kid school” as we have been calling it, which essentially means that I just took her to daycare – the must-do worst part of a working mommy’s life. I have had myself several good cries, one of which I just dried up, another of which is surely on its way. I have to keep telling myself that everything will be okay. I know it will. Change is hard. I am at least happy for the last couple of months home with little Chee. But otherwise, not feeling so floral today.

GIVEAWAY | SHABBY APPLE $50 GIFT CARD

I am so excited to offer this lovely gift from Shabby Apple – a sweet little shop for women that offers a beautiful array of clothing to suit various styles and specific occasions. One Joyfully Gray reader will receive a $50 gift card to go shopping!

DETAILS & HOW-TO:
“Like” the Shabby Apple site on Facebook
Visit the Shabby Apple site
Comment on the Giveaway post specifying what their favorite product was/what they would buy with the giftcard.
Contestants must have a US shipping address to participate.
Winner will be announced on Monday!!

And even though only one winner will take away the $50 – all Joyfully Gray readers will have a chance to shop with a 10% discount by using the following code at check out: joyfullygray10off.

Good Luck to all!

THESE DAYS

Our days of late have been full of gatherings with friends, painting the afternoon heat away, playing with baby dolls, drinking coffee, nibbling on sweet summer corn, sporting high waisted get-ups, taking self-portraits and chasing shadows. Despite a huge thunderstorm last week and a power outage that hit us for several days, we are well and happy and soaking up our final days before mid-August hits hard and makes us spin in circles.

Tonight Matt and I are having a date night at The Colcord Hotel in OKC – a get away  within our own town –  and Lucia is headed to her grandparents for a final summer hurrah!

Happy Weekend to you.

Homes & Dreams & Searching for My Name

I have a tendency to fixate all of my energy on things and lose focus of all else. Tunnel vision. I recently decided that we would sell our current home; and, after many discussions with my husband, he agreed that it was something we should absolutely shoot for – soon, not today, not tomorrow, but soon.

I jumped on his words, taking them to the extreme, and drove him all the way down to as many open houses in my OKC neighborhood of choice. Enter mistake: real-estate impropriety number one – never look at houses until you are able to purchase; in other words, put current home on market, get a contract, then go-a-hunting. If one falls in love with a place and cannot yet get it? Formula for heartbreak.
We met with a real estate agent last night; the very agent that is currently listing the home I decided that I had to have. We were going to list our own casa and put a contingency offer on the prospective abode through him. I had some reservations going into our meeting last night. For one, I have always known that before I sell my house, I will have to neutralize the color palette that coats my walls in bright hues – not everyone wants a pink living room, I do realize. I also had the nagging feeling that I would need to fatten my pocket with a bit more cash before we could pick up and go to my dream hood, live in my sweet little bungalow.
All these reservations aside, I wanted to hear from the real estate agent – see how much we could list our current home for, crunch some numbers with him by my side. (I had already completed a thorough number crunching: already having done calculations for closing, agent fees, down payment, etc. I speculated just the magic number I needed and knew the realistic total I could list my home for after analyzing our neighborhood market; but again, I needed to hear it from someone else).
An hour later, I heard what I already knew. And mister agent man left with the agreement to reconvene in the spring, when the market was ripe again with possibility and our pockets were a little chubbier with some dinero. Mateo knew I was crushed; and while he too was disappointed, he is better at taking things as they come and realizing there is a reason for everything. Tears ensued. I had myself a good cry and had a good chat with the my mister, who is good about getting my feet back on he ground and calming me. We set some goals, made some plans – those two things help me the most because I am so visionary. We know what we want and have an approximate timeline. My evening presented a hiccup, a little bump in the road. It was a little shoulder tap telling me to chill and relax, reminding me that I am not in control. I was rocked because there is nothing more sobering than the universe punching me with the power of cliches – over used they are, but only for a reason because my life seems to speak them.
So today is a new day and I am going to spend it right, enjoy what I have, and stop obsessing so much over the future. Little gal and I are headed out for some play time at the splash park and I will watch her run in and out water spouts, while she giggles and screams – the truly good stuff in life. I am going to forget about magic numbers and wishes for a while, and let things work out as they will. And I am going to spend lots of time listening to Melanie Pain because she makes me feel happy. …I will keep looking for my name, sing in the morning, sing in the evening, walk through the mountains, walk through the desert.

Here she is live –  Melanie Pain, My Name:

 
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I bet hubs could find this vinyl for me to cheer me up even more?
xoxo

Floral + Aztec + Stripes

This cute Saturday attire was a hard lesson learned – a lesson I should already know after living in this very heated locale for the past five years. Hello, panhandle state! When will I ever learn that no matter how glorious a print mix-up, now matter how fabulous the below-the-knee skirt and no matter how flowery delightful the garb atop my head –  such layered combinations do not harmoniously marry a hot Oklahoma afternoon. No, no, sir-eee. I have to say that this here was a doozy,  a blunder!  I could have at least pinned my hair up and away to spare myself a bit. And, let’s be honest, perhaps even more obnoxious than a hat or mid-calf skirt in the middle of summer, was the fact that the skirt’s material was rather heavy – I hate to admit that it may have been a light wool? Yes, a blunder, I know.

The Details from above – Printed Shirt: Forever 21 from long ago; skirt: thrifted for three dollars; pearls: a Venezuelan gift from my mom; hat: thrifted; sandals: Mossimo from Target last year.
Mix and rock this look yourself; 
I have done the hunting and gathering for you!

For the Love of Tattoos

I have this thing for tattoos; especially black, simple pieces. I love colorful compositions as well, but have have always been drawn to black etched lines for myself. It is a rather thrilling act to get ink on skin – the adrenalin rush involved and then the after – the forever and finality of a piece, my favorite part. And then, it is true, there is this something about one tattoo that keeps you wanting more – an adage that I had always heard prior, but did not understand until I lived it. 
Beyond the act of getting a tattoo, I love the symbolic language in which tattoos speak; one tiny mark could whisper a million words – meanings that are mostly beyond anyone’s understanding but the bearer of the tattoo himself. Yes, a curious cat may inquire as to the symbolism of a person’s tattoo, and the then the bearer shall try to explain his badge as well as possible, but there is still something so private and significant about a piece of artwork that is forever etched on to the skin. 
A tattoo could symbolize a journey – the end of one or the beginning; a time in one’s life; a step forward, even back; a longing for someone lost and gone; a remembrance of a time, a relationship – so many things; why it was done when it was done, who a person was with, what stage in a person’s life he was enduring. A tattoo is different than a hormonally charged haircut during pregnancy, or a bit of a weight gain during a hardship in one’s life because of its absolute permanence. I know this because I have experienced both the pregnancy haircut and the weight gain during a rough time. I can change my weight, my hair, but the ink stays as a true mark of time. 
The placement of a tattoo is also something special to consider: placement is not only key, but meaningful; as is the visibility of a piece – will it be seen, when will it be seen, if at all? Shall it later be tied to another piece?  
There is joy thought and consideration in the art of tattoos, but my favorite thing is the journey leading to a particular choice. Symbolism is one of my great loves. 

Oh, and yes, I will recognize that there is the occasional tattoo that a tattoo-parlor patron may receive on a late-night escapade, but even then, there is a story leading up to the event, and perhaps a rather exciting one at that, if even a little blurry.
Some favorite little pieces that I have found about the Internet that I would love to inquire as to the origins, the stories. Enjoy:

Sources: 1. Sylvie L.S. on Flickr; 2. We Heart It; 3.We Heart It; 4. Need Supply Model; 5. Mary Clair Roman; 6. Razor Blade Salvation; 7. B. Dunlap.