• Vermont

    mood: Loré Pemberton illustrations

    It’s the season when I can scroll through photos of summer on my phone and stare in awe at the colors in our summertime backyard. We get used to the sight of it by July, but looking back, I realize it’s a rolling lawn of green with verdant jungle-like trees lining the edges. The noise of the wind ruffling through the leaves comes back to me, along with the way the air feels when its both damp and warm in the morning.

    To experience the same feeling about the current season we’re in, I have only to look at Loré Pemberton‘s illustrations. The warmth, the fading light, the weary affection, the shambled chaos that often doesn’t feel cozy, but can be seen as such, if only you step away from it for a moment. I just love her work! I would love to see some older children’s books revisited by her, like Noisy Village, Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, and The Railway Children. Puffin Classics if you’re reading this: call Loré up! Interesting note: Garth Williams, the illustrator for the Laura Ingalls series, was hired to illustrate her first books after they were already bestsellers. I feel lucky to have met the words and the illustrations at the same time.

    I found Loré on Instagram, where she is wonderful to follow, but she has many prints, a printable calendar pages, and $1.50 coloring pages available from her shop throughout the year.



    PS: This week I published my ninth homeschool newsletter, you can read it right here. If you read one thing this weekend, make it Mary H.K. Choi’s essay about intimacy and sickness in the pandemic.

  • Style by Joanie

    white, grey and nude sneakers

    a round up of nine sneakers to wear with everything, by my sister Joanie! So many to love here.

    This post is an ode to the white sneaker! Or, maybe I should say shades of white sneakers. I love a white/cream/tan/beige sneaker all spring and summer long (or if you live in LA like me, all year long!). I love them paired with dresses, long or short. I think they give a relaxed I care about comfortable feet and I’m not trying too hard vibe. They are the perfect thing to pack for vacations (remember those?!) when you don’t want to fill your suitcase with heavy shoes but want to look chic. I went to Paris a couple of years ago and it reignited my love for them. So many stylish woman wearing sneakers with jeans and trench coats and ankle skimming pants with oversized sweaters and slim skirts with tucked in t-shirts. Some wear them sock-less or they have little bits of color and pattern peaking out. The options are endless really! And if the pandemic has shown me one thing, it’s that I probably wear five pairs of shoes in total, three of those being sneakers, and own about 50 pairs too many.

    There is the classic sneaker like Keds that has a low profile. They give you a clean line and are very versatile when it comes to styling them. And then there are ones like the ever-popular New Balance. They have some lift to them, and a thicker sole. Those will give you a longer line on your leg (aka make your legs look longer). If you’re used to wearing something with a heel with your dresses or skirts, you my opt for the latter as the lift will give you the look you’re used to.

    Some people worry about wearing white shoes, that they might get dirty, but I think you should just wear the heck out of them and let them get scuffed and marked. One of my favorite pairs is a 5 year old pair of Keds (the ace ones below!) that look aged yet perfectly worn in. Have you ever seen Golden Goose sneakers? They are the absurdly priced designer shoe that comes already worn-looking, and dirty. I recommend not buying them, and wearing a pair of any of the ones below into the ground instead!

    a. Keds

    b. Tretorn

    c. Veja

    a. These are my most worn sneakers. The style is Ace from Keds. I am not a fan of many of Keds’ style canvas styles, they look too dainty. When it comes to sneakers I want a little weight to the shoe. I love that these are leather. They’re super comfortable and an all around wear with anything sneaker.

    b. I am thrilled for anyone whose size is still available in this Trenton Net shoe. These were my favorite summer shoe for years, I’ve owned three pairs because the mesh does start to fall apart but I love them. They are so comfortable and look cute with anything. I wish I would have bought more before the brand stopped making that style.

    c. These are on expensive side but I like Veja and these are a good example of the style of shoe that has a little lift to them. These also say that they are running shoes, so maybe you can look cute and also sprint at a moment’s notice?

    d. New Balance

    e. Vince

    f. Adidas

    d. So, these are technically more grey than white but they deserve a mention. I’m a big New Balance fan and I love this style. Yes, they look like Dad on a Saturday at his kid’s soccer game but that’s the vibe. You’ve probably seen many off-duty models wearing this style.

    e. I love Vince for their timeless execution of classic pieces. There are a couple pairs from them (on major sale!) that deserve mentioning. One is this perforated pair. I had a pair similar years ago and loved them. You will be reminded of the convenience of slip-on shoes. And also this pair which they call an “espadrille sneaker.” I think they are very smart and a great alternative to a sandal for summer.

    f. I am a fan of the look of classic Adidas sneakers and this slightly modernized version is a winner for me. I love the different textures and the bit of navy with the gold detailing, and the heart on the back. They are on the expensive side but I think these are a timeless pair that won’t go out of style. I also like this ultra boost pair.

    g. Reebok

    h. Converse

    i. Asics+

    g. Reebok has made a serious comeback in recent years and although I am not a fan of the ones that look like you’re wearing boats on your feet, I am a fan of this pair. I don’t like the wide Reebok style because they go out too much on the sides and I think they look sloppy. I love this pair with the green accents, it is vintage but still modern enough. And if you’re tired of neutrals and looking for something fun, I’d do these.

    h. My favorite when it comes to converse are both the low and high tops of either the all white leather or the classic red and white. The leather version definitely stands the test of time, sometimes the canvas ones can start to smell after awhile of wearing them.

    i. And last but not least, this pair of nude Asics. They are on the sportier looking side of things but the color but the nude color with the white accent makes them very chic.

    thank you Joanie! I couldn’t help but note that Keds has the same all-white leather style in kids’ sizes too. All links are affiliate.

  • Vermont

    “She puts flowers on everything.”


    The brand new shows produced by Chip and Joanna Gaines are available to stream for around $7 a month, please choose the ad-free $3 upgrade for your own precious clarity of mind. Right now only the premier of Floret’s show is available (it is SO good). Almost the whole season of the show about Erin French and her restaurant in Maine, the Lost Kitchen, is available to watch. Both shows have tremendous positive energy, I’m just astounded by them. The producers managed to get to the heart of these woman founders who hustled so studiously after their dreams. And the talent in them! Wow. It’s like they had a sense of the visions and abilities they’d been given, so they pursued them, but no one else around them was really clear on what was happening, or how they’d been caught up in this talent vortex. Pretty amazing to get to watch.

    The shows are obviously taking a note from the British Baking Show and have very little worry/scary plot twists throughout. They are beautiful, educational, and calming to watch. The Lost Kitchen episode 2 ends up being a primer in fried chicken and biscuits–what could be better! If you fall in love, Erin’s cookbook is another way to learn from her recipes and perspective.

    Highly recommend for your February.

  • Style by Joanie

    Best of 2020 and a Few Great Sales

    a new style post straight from sunny LA, by my younger sister Joanie!

    We took a style post pause over the holidays because there is already too much pressure to buy the perfect gift and make the perfect list, and think about what you’re cooking and baking, etc.

    But it’s February now! We’re deep in sweater weather, but also already feeling the hopefulness of spring. I always reflect back on my year and look at what I bought and loved and wore the heck out of. I’m usually a little surprised by what becomes a closet staple and favorite. I think the MVP of my closet in 2020 was my Everlane alpaca sweater. I bought it in petal and a size medium which is rather oversized but I like it big and cozy. Second runner up are these $18 H&M sweatpants that I wear nearly every day. I recommend sizing up because they shrink a bit and they also shed when you first get them but the fit is great and I love a wide waist band that doesn’t fold down.

    It was definitely the year of the blouse for me. I think I wore less dresses than usual and gravitated towards pants and with a fancy-ish tops. Ulla Johnson and Emerson Fry are two of my favorites for blouses. I wear this one on lot and Cale (my husband) got me this Ulla top for Christmas and I’ve been wearing it on repeat. What was the MVP of your wardrobe last year?

    And now for a few things that I have my eye on, plus a couple that I own and love. I’m drawn to shades of pink all year round but especially in February, I blame the combo of darker days and Valentine’s spirit. -Joanie




    I love this pink coat from Mango. It reminds me of the one that Mansur Gavriel made but this one is about $800 less expensive. I’m a big fan of colorful outer-wear, you’d be surprised by how happy it makes you to put on a colored coat.

    I have mentioned my affection for Everlane denim and this pair is hitting all the right notes. I’m always looking for something that isn’t a skinny jean but not necessarily a wide leg jean. The sizing seems tricky, the model is wearing a size 28 which tells me you’ll want to order up a size at least.

    This everyday bra has exceeded my expectations, it’s so comfortable and creates a really smooth line under t-shirts and blouses. Good Job, Kim K!


    Clare V

    James Perse

    I like how much fun Madewell is having with their sneakers I am a big fan of sneakers with everything! I like their colorful options and that they’re having a 20% off everything sale this weekend. This neutral pair has rave reviews.

    I think we’re going to see a lot of yellow and orange this spring. If bold colors scare you, adding it in a handbag or purse is a great place to start. I’m a Clare V fan and the price on this suede clutch cannot be beat.

    An ode to a great basic. I love James Perse, they make great t-shirts that last forever and are cut really well. I don’t advocate buying them full price because it’s too $$ but sometimes I find them on epic sale, like this top and snap it up. I also love that Nordstrom’s generous return policy extends to all markdowns at The Rack, which is usually hard to find with sale items.




    My love for H&M knits is at an all time high. I love this chic sweater. Also this in yellow, but be prepared that the fit is going to be very oversized. And this ribbed knit cardigan.

    and finally, I think we should start a movement for the return of wearing silk scarves. They are fairly inexpensive to buy vintage, they can be worn tied in your hair or around your neck or tucked into a coat and they add a burst of color. I love vintage Vera, Gucci and anything bright and floral.

    all links are affliate.

  • Faith


    easter is early this year, so Ash Wednesday will scuttle quickly behind Valentine’s Day, arriving just three days later. When Easter arrives there will very likely still be snow on the ground in most places (the places I frequent) when we do some edition of an egg hunt. Late Easters, like the one we’ll have in 2022, with a chance of tree blossoms and visible grass, are my favorite.

    There will be an abundance of ashes this year. The pre-blessed, pre-packaged, distantly-picked-up kind, the homemade kind from a smudge of ash on the inside of a glass or leaf burned in a dish, its bits smushed with olive oil. And the kind sitting in homes across the world, held in memory or in waiting for a chance to be scattered, from someone who was very much alive last Easter.

    Instead of a gently bold touch of another pressing them against your forehead, there will just be your hand, or the hand of one in your household, to smush them on.

    There won’t be people walking the street in the costumes of plague doctors but maybe there should be. There won’t be weeping and people rending their clothing in public grief but maybe there should be. The sun won’t disappear for 24hrs but it would feel appropriate if it did.

    The dust to dust, the careless razor edge between death and life, the elemental grief of Ash Wednesday will come easy to us this year.

    Thinking of the opening lines of Amanda Gorman’s recitation at the inauguration

    When day comes we ask ourselves,
    where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
    The loss we carry,
    a sea we must wade

    And after pinching ashes, maybe we will take on the voluntarily limitations of Lent with something like joy? Anything we accept will stand next to the limitations we’ve already accepted, the things we’ve given up for so much longer than 40 days: smiling frank handshakes with a new friend, visible smiles altogether, sticky bar drinks at night in the corner, potlucks with baked beans.

    Anything we accept for Lent will be our choice to be our challenge. Ideally it’s a collective choice, one you make with another person or group of people, to experience together.

    Reading through this pamphlet published by the Diocese in Toronto, my imagination was captured by their thoughtful list of suggested fasts. Week 7, an ignorance fast: Only creation can teach us how to live in the the face of creational lament and decline. This week we are fasting from ignorance: ignorance about the injustice that our lives are built on, and ignorance about the creation that surrounds us. They quote Job:

    But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
    ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
    Job 12.7-8

    Week 6, electricity fast: During this week, try to eliminate as much electricity from your life as possible. Light only the area in a room that you need for your activities, and only the room that you are in. Try a week with no movies, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, television, or Youtube cat videos. This week culminates in Earth Hour on Saturday evening: turn off all electricity from 8:30-9:30pm.

    I’m not sure what fast I’ll take, on but I do know it feels best to consider them in advance, and anticipate them. I invite you to click the link to the pamphlet and consider some of their suggestions.

    A bit more Amanda Gorman to close

    When day comes we step out of the shade,
    aflame and unafraid
    The new dawn blooms as we free it
    For there is always light,
    if only we’re brave enough to see it
    If only we’re brave enough to be it


  • Books,  Cooking,  Vermont

    a month of so off instagram & energy bites

    Deleting instagram off my phone ended up being a delightfully simple switch-up for January. My thumb hovered over the vacant spot for the first couple of days. Soon my reclaimed moments seemed to accrue and I found myself finishing more books. I read so many good books that I am now posting my recent favorite reads on the sidebar of this blog! If you click on any of them, you will find a 1-2 sentence review on my bookshop page.

    I also discovered that Libby, the e-borrow service that most libraries use, has a “Lucky Day” feature where requested books popup for quick rental. That was how I was able to read Samantha Power’s The Education of an Idealist, for which I had been on a seemingly endless waitlist.

    I also experienced a faint untethering. In my mind I felt suddenly self-sufficient, wholly encompassed, like a human on a walk through a forest, or a swimmer on her own in the waves. Mentally things felt quieter and more expansive. It is the case with social media on handheld technology that neither the developers nor the users understand what exactly is going on. There is no easy division between participation and absence. It feels like we have to be aware of our own state, and make decisions on an ongoing basis for ourselves.

    I did miss keeping up with people, in an old fashioned way—moves, babies, marriages, the news of their lives! I definitely felt less connected to certain people and missed having a visual, present sense of what their lives looked like. One evening I logged onto my browser, hoping to catch up on news, and I was flooded with posts from business accounts. It took ten minutes just to see another individual human that I followed. That surprised me–had I just been scrolling past these accounts all along? I unfollowed a bunch of those accounts on the spot.

    In similar bite-size capsule theme, I want to share with you a recipe from the new Mennonite cookbook, Sustainable Kitchen. Sustainable Kitchen came out in September, and I purchased it right away because the authors are Vermont neighbors, and Mennonite cookbooks have had a place on my shelves ever since we were given four copies of More with Less when Joe and I married.

    Sustainable Kitchen is a remarkable book. The authors intended it it to work as a stand alone resource, no background googling needed (in fact, one of the authors makes a point of not having internet access at her home). There are recipes for making your own tortillas, nut butters, tahini, basic canning techniques, and a guide to beginning a compost pile. It is a plant-based cookbook, and none of the recipes use white sugar, only a few use white flour.

    The authors also make a strong case for valuing what you eat as an effective everyday way to impact climate change. The more I read about carbon sequestering and watch documentaries like Biggest Little Farm and Kiss the Ground, the more I realize how the time I spend thinking through menus and ways to waste less each week IS important and worth it.

    I’ve made these energy balls a few times and dropped off jars of them alongside children for playdates, as a thank you snack for gluten-free, dairy-free friends. They are very kid friendly, but adults looking for a smart snack may very well eat them first. The touches of sweet, cranberry and mini chocolate chips, are absolutely delicious, and the texture is perfectly balanced.






  • garden,  Vermont

    flowers ordered (2021)

    Black Eyed Susan


    Zinnia Isabelina

    Flowering Tobacco

    Strawflower Silvery Rose

    Cosmos Double Click

    Zinnia Candy Mix

    Calendula Ivory

    Tickseed Incredible

    Ordering seeds is a bit like ordering vitamins because the ordering is the easiest and most optimistic part of the whole relationship.

    Some of these are already sold out from Floret, so I share what I ordered this year more as documentation than insistence to buy (though I am using her photos and thus of course linking to her store!). Floret does have an excellent Email When Available feature for some of their seeds–that option worked for all the ones, pictured above, that I wanted to buy this year.

    Keep in mind too that you can discover a flower through Floret, and if she’s sold out, you can still try that variety from another flower seed vendor, like Johnny’s or FedCo or someone local to you. It won’t be as perfect as what Floret has sourced and evolved (what can we say, she’s dialed in!), but it will still be a lovely happy flower.

    You can also find someone who sells seedlings in the early summer. These are plants that they successfully got from seed to happy plant, and now you get to plant it! The poppies I bought as seedlings had a wonderful year, the poppies I tried to start from seed didn’t have a chance.

    Last year I struggled with poppies of all varieties (honestly it felt like raising orange trees), bachelor’s buttons, celosia, globe amaranth (should have potted it), sunflowers (squirrels), and bee balm! I’m sure these things could be overcome, but this year I wanted to order what worked really well for us last year.

  • Life Story

    a year for the more/less approach

    The MORE/LESS approach to resolutions has always struck me as tepid. If you want something, resolve it! Declare it!

    However, I think this is THE year for it. Goodbye, for now, to the “read 50 books” and the “host a friend once a month” that I had on my carefully specific list last year.

    Once I set about writing mine up I realized I had many mores and only a few lesses. For the things that were under my control of 2020, I’m really happy with the year I had.

    I didn’t dare to go so far as to put things like Dinner Parties on there. I didn’t want to risk disappointment that swiftly.

    here’s what I came up with…

    everything bagel spice

    MORE cocktails: Nine years of pregnancies and breastfeeding really stymies the quest for cocktails. They just phase quietly out of your life for a long while, and you even stop being curious about them. I’m ready to be curious and try new things this year. Ivy Mix’s book Spirits of Latin America and David Leibowitz’s Drinking French look like the perfect places to start.

    MORE help with cleaning: as you may have observed, we moved our family from a tiny apartment to an enormous farmhouse. My cleaning standards are extremely low, but I do like things to be cleaned every 10-14 days or so. And it’s a lot of work. Constant, necessary work. I also like to bake bread, make dinner from scratch, read aloud to my children every day, read to myself every day…you get it. So I think I’ll get some help with that this year. Not, like, for the rest of my life. But this year.

    LESS judging: An unexpected side effect of the pandemic is how banally we began judging one another. They made THAT decision. She did WHAT. It takes a lot of work, this judging, and I’m not sure it’s really worth any of it.

    MORE hugs: Hugs are great and I think we can still do them.

    MORE tidy corners: We rented out our house over the holidays, and as a consequence I had to deep-organize more than I had in the past few months (I also had to move my entire closet to the attic but…worth it!). Many of the nooks and piles I dealt with were things I knew where they were going, I just hadn’t done it yet. Like–this goes on the shelf in that closet, but I haven’t put it there. Or–we don’t really use this but we’re saving it so I’ve just decided to stare at it for six weeks.

    So I finally put things away or gave them away and I was startled by how dramatically everything visible actually looked better. Results! Quickly! Lesson learned.

    LESS seeking perfection: this is a fairly cliche one and it runs off the tongue so quickly you may not realize what you’ve said you want. But what I want is to accept things in their less-than-perfect state as a way toward poking into what they are currently are. Resolved: my family is perfect. This blog post is perfect. My hair is perfect. The way I spent my day was perfect.

    MORE long emails: I deleted instagram from my phone for January (and maybe February!). Within a few days, my envelope of emailing-energy had filled up. I reply to notes now, sometimes within 48hrs! And once I write a note and send it off, I have that feeling of expecting a reply. Such a fun feeling and I’d forgotten all about it.

    MORE flowers in the garden: Joe and I have found that we really love growing flowers. We love looking at them and savoring them. We liked them more than most of the vegetables we grew this year. So, more flowers.

    if you’d like to share some of your thoughts for this year, please do! I found it heartening/startling to see many of my private thoughts echoed in this cheerful poetry by Adam J. Kurtz, and I was thrilled to hear DesignMom is writing a parenting book.






  • At Home

    a few favorite 2020 things

    it’s a list lover’s favorite time of year! Here are a few treasures from my 2020.

    Julie O’Rourke: I was shopping with a friend (a phrase I can use to describe two hours in all of 2020) and the shopkeeper and I struck up a conversation about wool felting and how we wanted to get better at it because of Rudy Jude. “She’s always doing that,” we said to each other, nodding enthusiastically to make up for the way our smiles were covered by masks. My friend said, “Who’s Rudy Jude?” We both looked at her like she had just told us she didn’t know what rainbows are. A mixture of deep concern and regret furrowed the visible and invisible parts of our faces. And so dear reader, I worry that some among you may be similar! I once insta-responded to Julie that she was “the da Vinci of our time” and I meant it fully.

    Airpods: I waited a long time to adapt to these little white plugs dripping gently from my ears like melting taffy pieces. I didn’t buy them when they came out because I was very busy judging everyone wearing them as rude isolationists who were too busy to live. Well, now I absolutely adore them. I love how I can keep one in and actually hear what I’m listening to while doing the dishes. I love how it automatically pauses when I pluck it out of my ear, so I can be a good listener without inwardly panicking that I’m missing great chunks of storyline. I love how it begins again when I place it back in my ear so I don’t have to find and tap my phone with batter-covered fingers. I love how I can listen to something while walking ever-so-slowly at a toddler’s pace around the yard and down the road. I love the way Joe and I can each put one in one of our ears and listen to something adult together on car rides with the children.

    Two Podcasts:

    Poetry Unbound: a man with deep Irish accent reads a poem, discusses it, and reads it again. He references peacemaking, relationships, affection, sexuality, parents, neighbors, expectations of self. The poems are so good and all of them are written by modern authors who are alive. It is short and unmatched in how quick it cuts to the quick the things that drive us. One caveat: I love listening to this show with my airpods, I have a hard time catching his words when played over the speaker or in the car.

    Lazy Genius: with episodes about actually using your iphone photos, how to structure your day, plotting a fall reading list, and how to begin using your instant pot without getting overwhelmed, I find these 15 minute pep talks do wonders for re-scaffolding my approach to things.

    a Sunday afternoon babysitter: When we moved to Vermont two years ago, we gave up on babysitters entirely. Not only did we not know anyone in the area, but we were about to have a baby. Reflecting that she would likely be my last baby, I decide to commit to nursing her exclusively. Even tethered to her nutritionally as well as emotionally, I suspected her first year would fly by. It did! She passed the one year mark just as full quarantine set in, and naturally we had no where to go at that point anyway. Late summer, a friend suggested that a nearby neighbor would likely be able to handle babysitting our gaggle. Knowing that half the mental energy of working with her would go to schedule doggling, I asked if we could just do the same day and time every week. We decided not to bother with bedtimes because what our children desperately needed was someone else to talk to. We settled on a late afternoon early dinner time slot. I’m so thankful we got to have her in our lives this fall  and winter, thank you Izzy!

    An excellent email newsletter: my friend Meredith shared Laura Olin’s newsletter with me back at the tippy of the pandemic and I’m always sparkle-struck by how Laura finds and emails exactly the type of link list I was in the mood for.

    Subscribe, of course! But also browse her archives, beginning with her most recent issue about what struck her in 2020.

    Here is a totally fascinating random bit: when I googled Laura to tell you more about her newsletter, I learned that she’s an incredibly savvy digital social media manager, a primary player in the 2012 Obama campaign. I felt I knew her from her newsletters, knew her taste, her natural sympathies, knew the way she liked cocktails and poetry and internet tv shows. But I also didn’t know her at all!

    Laura pointed me to AOC’s beauty routine recording that she made for Vogue. I think about it every other day or so ever since watching it. She also pointed me to the You’re Wrong About episodes about Diana and the Royal Family–which are AMAZING.

    Company in the Evenings: It feels odd to admit but I do have fond (fond!) memories of those March/April pandemic days when we were all scrambling to adapt and no one really believed 300,000+ people would die and healthcare workers would be asked to sacrifice everything their entire lives and essential workers (which we soon learned meant meagerly paid hourly workers like grocery stork clerks and gas station attendants) would fall sick in droves. As our community around us quickly shuttered, we turned to distant old friends, and family. I began talking to my two old best friends from high school. We love talking to each other, but had completely fallen out of the habit of it. When we did talk, I hated that I had grown so clueless about their day-to-day lives that I had to wade through constant catchup to even begin to relate again. We began talking once a week, and I was astonished by how quickly our friendship flame grew stronger by these little bits of kindling. So grateful for that.

    And then there were the two or three times when my parents shipped three bottles of wine to all their kids’ households, and we sat on zoom and “tasted them ” (downed them) together. A couple of times our conversation and themes were guided by Ryan + Wine zoom wine tastings ($25 per session!), and it was fun to learn something together. Afterward, we would stay on zoom, laugh, and talk, some of us signing off to go to sleep, some of us staying up late talking. I cherish those memories.

    I’m sure, despite how awful this year was, there are more. Just now I think of the way libraries morphed to get kids books again, the thoughtful mail that came, the nostalgia of past adventures that welled up and reminded me of all the memories I had to treasure…and I will try to keep writing them down! But that’s all for now.

  • Art,  Essay

    blankets / waiting on monarchs

    Dear friends, a nonprofit that I follow closely was recently presented with a startling need: 1300 Syrian refugee families living in homes with no heat, no mattresses, no blankets.

    A big part of my winter life in Vermont revolves around blankets. I spend every single evening tucking our two youngest girls under blankets–draping the blanket just over that invisible line across their shoulders, straightening the lines, running the tips of my fingers over the folds. We have plug-in heated blankets piled on couches, waiting for someone to snuggle under them. The girls have large bedspread blankets that they consider their favorites and often drag downstairs to setup the boundaries of a game, or their space for an afternoon. And then there is the three layer cake approach that I like to keep on our bed: a lightweight quilt, then a wool blanket layer, and then a fluffy down comforter layer on top.

    This nonprofit, Partners Relief & Development, is one of those small-team, rapid-action, quick to the disaster operators. I always have the feeling that once my money is deposited with them it is immediately withdrawn to purchase a bag of food or give a reusable feminine hygiene kit to a woman anticipating her next period that very day.

    By their estimate, $35 will buy enough blankets and mattresses for one family of five. And another $35 can buy a diesel heater to heat their space. The temperatures where these families are in Northern Syria is very similar to Vermont right now: 30s and 40s.

    This photo was taken by my friend Ashleigh Coleman. I have an Advent meditation and series of photographs by her to share with you below. She and I want to direct energies toward getting these families supplies to keep them warm. The sooner, the warmer! To that end, Ashleigh will send a 5×5 print of this photograph^^  to anyone who donates to Partners Relief’s blankets campaign.

    To receive a photograph in the mail, email a screenshot of your donation (you’ll receive an email receipt shortly after you donate) and include your mailing address to me at rachael.ringenberg(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Or, if you have a google account, upload a screenshot of your donation and share your mailing address with me right here. For the sake of matriarchal holiday sanity and to give the USPS any break we can, these prints will be mailed in January. If you don’t need a print, but would like to have your donation noted in our collective whole, you are still welcome to share your donation receipt with us.

    Thank you!!?

    And now, for Ashleigh’s mediation on Mississippi monarchs and Advent, accompanied by 17 images from her lockdown this spring:

    Ashleigh writes:

    This is not your typical advent reflection.  This is not our typical year.

    Anticipation and waiting mark this season. But every day since March has been a practice in waiting for answers, in anticipating life returning to normal. So maybe this is a traditional reflection, but instead of holly and lights, I’m meditating on raising Monarchs.

    During March and lockdown, we began walking almost daily. It gave us a combination of burning off anxiety for me and freeing energy for the children.  It also unexpectedly became a tether to hope.  These encounters with the wonders of the natural world reminded me to holdfast to what I know is true and good.

    One late afternoon, the sun low on the horizon, we saw a lone monarch lilting across the top of the meadow grasses.  Having visited Rachael and Joe the previous summer and seeing their monarchs, I immediately looked more closely at what was growing.

    Milkweed.  And 100s of tiny monarch caterpillars munching, unaware of the global disruptions.  Thus began seven weeks of raising monarchs from microscopic eggs to instars to velvety fat caterpillars to shockingly colored butterflies on their way north.

    It had been years since I was so obsessed.  Each morning brought a new note in my journal on the changes in these miraculous insects.  I prowled the fields.  I watched.  I waited.  I squealed with delight when a chrysalis would form and then again when a monarch would emerge fourteen days later.

    Now I keep the chrysalis husks hanging in my dining room— an ebenezer of anticipation.  Waiting.  Wonder.


    Ashleigh Coleman is a Mississippi based photographer, and mother of three. Most recently her work has been featured in A Yellow Rose Project (click that link, it’s an incredible project!) and she was recently named a 2020 Southern Arts Southern Prize & Fellowship recipient.