Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Living a Beautiful Life

Desk and Planner

I started writing this blog post nearly two years ago. Seeing a friend’s link on Facebook yesterday about the death of Anne Ortlund spurred me to publish the post finally.

My mother gave me a book—perhaps shortly after I graduated from college—called Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman, written by Anne Ortlund in 1977. It has become one of those books that has shaped me markedly—at least my thoughts, if not always how I live. The book is significant, first of all, because my mother selected it for me. It thus bears her stamp of approval, plus shows how well she knows me—I need extra help being disciplined. It also carries the message of the importance of being/becoming a “beautiful woman,” again, even more significant because it is my mother who believes this is important for her daughter.

I received this book long before I moved to Pasadena from Washington state or visited Lake Avenue (Congregational) Church, where Anne's husband, Ray Ortlund, had been the senior pastor for many years. When I first read Anne’s anecdote about visiting an office supply store in La Cañada after giving a seminar to a “luscious-looking crowd of 150 women” only to find that it was sold out of the notebook products she had recommended, I had no idea that one day I’d live just down the freeway from that exclusive Southern California enclave.

It was Anne’s description of her notebook (or planner as it might be called today) that intrigued me most. My annual attempts at organizing myself via any number of variations on a diary, calendar, notebook, planner or journal, were often modeled on Anne’s description of how she put together her planner—a calendar first, followed by sections for goals and various other lists—and her preferred dimensions of the planner (7” x 9”).

Related chapters discuss goals, daily scheduling, and a woman’s desk.

My image of Anne is from the small portrait on the back cover of her book, perhaps when she was in her early 60s? So, I was shocked to read she was 89 years old when she died on November 4.

Having been reminded of this role-model-via-book, I am encouraged to revisit the many areas of my life—both private and public—that could be more disciplined and, thus, become more beautiful.

What are your thoughts on the relationship between discipline and beauty?

Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Friday, November 01, 2013

Houses, tea, conversation and beauty

Yesterday I went with some friends to a beautiful home nearby, which has been lovingly and tastefully restored and remodeled to recall an early-20th century aesthetic, the time period when the house was constructed. The exquisite attention to the smallest of details throughout the house is not for mere show, but reflects the personality of the owner, as well as incorporates her family’s heritage in antiques, linens, pictures, etc.

The excursion—which included tea, freshly-baked cookies and delightful conversation—was a refreshing reminder to pay attention to and cultivate beauty in whatever surroundings we find ourselves. 

It was not my place to take pictures and “blog” about the house. That would have detracted from the in-the-moment enjoyment of the company I was with.

Rather, I post here a picture of the PROLIFIC Blue Basil in my front yard that feeds many happy bees and that now obscures a small memento from my grandmother’s yard.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Orange! Pumpkins!

It's that time of year again! The pressure cooker is steaming away. The house smells earthy and productive.

Heirloom variety pumpkin
Heirloom variety pumpkin ready for the pot!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Understanding Backwards; Living Forwards

The problem with posting anything remotely religious is that one gives the impression of believing / embodying / BEING what it is that has been written – and that impression may not exactly be true.

Having said that, I am posting this as a record of what struck me on a Sunday in July as I was practicing getting the phrasing right in a hymn for a substitute organist “gig” at a local Presbyterian church:
Hast thou not seen How thy desires e’er have been Granted in what He ordaineth?
(By Joachim Neander, 17th century German Reformed Church)

Then, as part of the sermon from Acts 22 about the second recounting of Saul’s/Paul’s conversion experience, the pastor quoted from Søren Kierkegaard's journals: "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."

The full quote is:
It is really true what philosophy tells us, that life must be understood backwards. But with this, one forgets the second proposition, that it must be lived forwards. A proposition which, the more it is subjected to careful thought, the more it ends up concluding precisely that life at any given moment cannot really ever be fully understood; exactly because there is no single moment where time stops completely in order for me to take position [to do this]: going backwards.
(See documentation of source.)

Later, I was sent this article (written by a 21 year old woman):
Even if we exhausted our own abilities to serve the Lord in our lifetime, we could never do for the world and the kingdom what our families—what our children and their children and their children—will go on to do.
In Luke 13:19, Jesus says this about the kingdom of God: “It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”
As we prepare our students for being agents of massive, earth-shattering revival around the world, let us also remember that Jesus says the kingdom will grow slowly, even subtly, from something seemingly insignificant, like a tree from a seed...and like families.
Finally, I read a post by my cousin’s wife about another Soren that made me want to cry—and which is a perfect REAL HARD LIFE illustration of what the 19th century Søren wrote about:  Although, just when the understanding might come is not clear.

To Do: List ways in which I have seen my desires granted “in what He ordaineth” so that life can be lived forwards NOW.

How about you?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Autumn 2013

"The constant remaking of domestic chaos into the order that keeps a house alive and peaceful takes a lot of doing."
May Sarton in At Seventy: A Journal, page 68

Today was perfect to revel in and take time to reflect on this autumnal equinox. It was an achingly beautiful day in which to do some more organizing in the house but also to escape outside at the slightest excuse.
Seasonal changes are energizing days that bring renewal to the house, and in turn, renewal to our spirits.
~ Corean Bakke in Practicing the Church Year: A Spirituality for the Home.
Plus, this fall there are reminders of the passage of time--a 30-year high school reunion and a 25-year college reunion. (I’m not attending either, but, thanks to Facebook and e-mail lists, the events can be at least virtually experienced.)

The coolness of the air is another harbinger of this turning (and a prod to finish knitting the Elizabeth Zimmermann Pi shawl).

Friday, May 17, 2013

Marcell Inn - Altadena

As of June, it will be 19 years since I moved to Southern California. Pasadena has been a wonderful place to live for so many reasons. One of them is the colorful history and cultural heritage of the area, which is actively protected and promoted. I was fortunate to work with someone very involved in historic preservation, and she generously gave me tickets to various home tours and other events.

So, even though I'm a transplant, I've learned to appreciate the richness of this area's past. So, imagine my excitement when we found a stash of signs from a Prohibition-era eating establishment that had been used to patch the back of the garage!

My neighbor wrote a blog post about the find here:

When the first sign was uncovered, I ran to the computer to see if there was any information about the Marcell Inn. Indeed, I found a carefully researched blog post about the Inn and its storied history. (See also this excerpt about the Inn from a book published in 1935.)

Today, I had an opportunity to meet the author, a long-time Pasadena/Altadena preservationist and historian. He is going to see what, if any, connection there might be between this address and the Inn. How/Why did the signs end up here?

Friday, February 08, 2013

Blood Orange juice!

Blood oranges! Sensory overload: sight, taste and smell! New guest blog post about this marvelous winter gift.

7 Quarts of Shockingly Beautiful Blood Orange Juice!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Garden transitions

I'm (finally) catching up on some guest posts over at the Urban Homestead blog. Today's post is about the summer to fall transition in the front edible yard (which happened around mid-November of last year).

Salad Burnet Herb Border

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Transparent - 2013 One Word

One Word - Transparent
[Composed June 30, 2012]

I think blogging is great. As soon as I read about it in a Wall Street Journal column at my corporate job back in 2001, I knew it was something I wanted to do. I started blogging (or writing a weblog, as I very properly referred to it back in the “old” days of the early 2000s) in August 2001, shortly before the events of September 11, when blogging came into its own.

I blogged fairly regularly for a number of years. However, I was content just to write. It was a long time before I even installed comments on my blog. I never changed the design; neither did I try to “monetize” what I was doing. I did meet some interesting people and enjoyed learning from them. My early mentor (and someone with whom I still keep in contact—now, via Facebook) was Susie of Raspberry World. She started her online journal in 1998. But she has moved on and recently took down her website.

I used my initials only, not my real name. I wrote about what I read and what I did, but not much about what I felt or what I struggled with. Revealing such things in public was not to my taste (shoot—revealing myself privately rarely happens—even to myself). I was cautious about how such revelations might have unintended, unforeseen (negative) consequences in the future. Yes, putting oneself out in the open is risky. “Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law.” Or in the court of the reigning public opinion. Or in any court of opinion, for that matter.

And my, oh my, how the blogging world has changed! All sorts of rules and standards and “best practices,” not to mention conferences and how-to books! It is overwhelming to consider going out there again, this time in a more focused, intentional way. And, yes, I am interested in seeing if this blogging venture can help pay the mortgage.

More than that, I need to change—radically, deeply. I don’t necessarily want to change, but I know I need to want to change. Perhaps, this blog can be a platform for experimentation, documentation and accountability in this life-long process of learning to desire to change. Even though I am resisting it BIG TIME.

As my cousin’s wife wrote when she started blogging about being a mother to an autistic son: “So this blog is a freedom of sorts. I want to be transparent, and I want to move from protecting Others from feeling awkward to just living our lives out in the open. I hope that some day, we all will have been around enough unique people that we won't feel so awkward and we'll instead pop that bubble that separates us from what we fear.”

While she and I have very different lives, I latched onto her phrase, “I want to be transparent.” Yes, I want to become more transparent. And one of the things I need to change is to become less self-centered. So, I take up writing a personal blog again...!

[Addendum January 2, 2013] Via Sarah Bessey, I came across the One Word 365 project or meme. I decided my word in this new (civic/fiscal) year will be: TRANSPARENT.