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Earlier this year, some friends and I were on 17-Mile Drive in Monterey (a scenic road christened by a lazy thinker). Somehow, we got lost along the way. We pulled over to a side road to regroup, and a stranger in another car rolled down her window and told us to look for the red line and then drove off.

What red line?” we asked each other. “Did she mean yellow line?” (since yellow lines are the ubiquitous road markers for narrow, windy roads). However, sure enough, as soon as we got back onto the main road, we started seeing red lines everywhere. It turns out that 17-Mile Drive is dotted with red lines to help tourists stay on the path. They’re hard to see—until you know they’re there. We never saw them before—but as soon as we knew that we should look, of course they kept coming up.

What if faith is like that? You can think you know where you’re going…but it’s not until a moment of revelation, which can come from a fellow traveler or when you look at the guidebook with fresh eyes (yes, as we later discovered, the cover of the tourist brochure said there were red lines!) that you realize how your path has been undergirded by the Way all along.

Someone once encouraged me, “First…we meet each other as children of God and then just trust in Him to order our steps.” This sentiment was so beautiful to me. I love the image of God’s word as a lamp to our feet. I don’t need to know/can’t ever know the biggest big picture—but as a child of God, I can trust that, though I don’t have a set of numbered Google map directions of my life’s course, I know where I’m going and who I’ll be when I get there.

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This year, I’ve been thinking about all the desert imagery in Scripture. The desert is where Hagar truly felt seen/known by God—and the desert (well, technically a ravine—but the rest of the land was in a drought) is where the Lord fed Elijah via ravens—a dramatic (and odd) example of Jehovah Jireh’s provision versus our own efforts.

When I think of deserts, I think of Joshua trees—those twisted testaments of endurance and of being “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Well, did you know that a crazy beautiful thing happened this April? This spring, the Joshua trees in the Mojave Desert and the Southwest started blooming in a way that no one has ever seen before. Whereas in years past, a visitor might encounter a single tree blooming—this year, all the trees—young and old—started blooming all at once! What an awe-inspiring and humbling vision of the Lord’s supernatural abundance and blessings, even in the midst of unimaginably grueling conditions…

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HOMECOMING

Beloved Father/ precious lover/ dearest friend

Even blooming Joshua trees
drenched in grace
can’t grasp your glory

What can I speak
to the one who leaves me
speechless?

All that’s left to say
is you are home to me
and I am welcome here

To Angel, with love and hope

When looking westward, I beheld
A something in the sky.
—”The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” S. T. Coleridge

He was my North, my South, my East and West.
My working week and my Sunday rest.
—”Funeral Blues,” W. H. Auden

Wunderlich, a rural park tucked into the quiet hills of Woodside, California. 2.5 miles in on a solitary upward ramble.

Breathing in the fresh start of a new year, admiring redwoods, sidestepping horse shit.

I pause at a small clearing. A wooden bench planted in the yellow earth. A bronze plaque affixed to the bench, a simple remembrance of “____ ____, Horseman & Friend.” Horseman? Unfamiliar with the first descriptor, I think of a boisterous dapple gray-hided centaur snuffling his feed at a banquet table, alongside the polite chatter and precise forkfuls of his two-footed friends.

Further up the trail, the redwoods recede and the dirt road blooms into four pathways. In each quadrant (no, not quadrantsomething less akin to the Four Corners and more like the squat and shaky “X” where Russia, Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan converge), the dirt borders play second fiddle to expansive verdant meadows.

A fellow sojourner, who has reached this juncture from the opposite direction, comes into view. We smile. Nod. Exchange hellos.

I spot a young madrone on a hill and clamber to reach the tree, its not-yet-ancient roots.

From this heightened vantage point, I breathe in the landscape, the distant mountains, the near-naked skies.

Breathe out.

A small and swift cacophony of clouds to the east, wispy white tendrils moving in a silent symphony.

I play that childhood game. What do you see? What do you see? I see a tuskless elephant, a fleet-footed pachyderm defying the gravity of its weight, this celestial Rorschach scampering along its merry way on a windy January.

I consider the ornery king of Siam. The thing left unsaid. The beast that disappears. And sometimes, an elephant in the clouds is just an elephant in the clouds.

To the west, I see another something in the sky.

Countless black orbs dart and flit, contract and retract in giddy synchronicity. These birds don’t look like the static “m”s  from grade school drawings. In fact, I can’t make out the semblance of fluttering wings at all, just a dizzying display of split-second transformations as the orbs squish then squash, become oblong like beetles then almost as round as hockey pucks.

I consider the singularity of this moment, the oneness of this aerial band of brothers. We’re not sure (don’t care?) where we’re going, but we’re in this together! These never-resting dots are Cartesian coordinates, the axes of their invisible system stretching to the heavens, to the spaces between the stars.

Their contoured flurry is harmonious. Effortless. So different from us, seven billion landlocked creatures traversing a shrinking space, our migratory patterns a function of chance and will and want, passion and indifference, blessings and sorrows, the muck and stuff of life.

We are not perfectly spaced coordinates on a plane. Our paths look more like the furious scribbles from a three-year-old’s hands. Lives intersect. Spaces collide. We pull together. Push apart. Say hello. Say goodbye. Don’t say anything at all.

When the flock doesn’t follow. When we’re on our own. When a bullet sears the chambers of our fragile flesh. When we can’t fly any further. When we are soul tired, bone weary, ready to shake our fists to the heavens (enough is enough!) or rest our weary heads in sweet defeat. In those heavy momentsmoments that are as true and as real and as present as those moments of weightless freedom when we are Icarus ascending or the phoenix rising from what once waswhat are we to do?

So cared for and yet so alone in our anguish, what is there to do but to look to Gethsemane. To gaze upon the man wrestling in the garden, to see the one who pleads and grieves and surrenders to the dark night of the friendless soul.

And though our pain is not like his pain, somehow, on that splintery tree, they are one and they are the same.

But this man is no Icarus. He is a man who was somehow more than a man. He tumbles, he crashes, but then he rises anew. He is the hope of glory, the Prince of Peace.

And in him is order.

In him is simplicity.

In him is Love.

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Olbers’s Paradox & Mr. Poe
Liquid watercolor with glitter, kosher salt, and a spray bottle
Wiley, 2012

There are endless ways to reuse and repurpose old clothes. And catching the upcycling bug can start at any age. This weekend, my friend’s daughter, Caitlin, transformed a simple tank top into a gorgeous, one-of-a kind tote bag. Want to see how she did it?

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One auspicious morning, I saw this beautiful desk (along with a “FREE!” sign) out on my neighbor’s curb.

I was sure someone would snag the desk before the day was done, but when I got home that evening, it was still there!

With my Mag-Lite in tow, I went to investigate. The desk was missing a slide-out tray but seemed awesome otherwise; it had plenty of storage space and was built to last. Feeling a bit like a creeper skulking around the neighborhood at midnight with my flashlight, I stealthily removed the drawers and carried them to my garage. It took six trips.

I left a note letting my neighbors know I’d take the rest of the desk home once I rounded up the troops. The next evening, Walt and Fiona and I lugged it into the backyard.

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to just clean it and use it immediately, or repaint it. My least favorite part of furniture makeovers is sanding and priming, and I wasn’t sure if I was willing to do the prep work to repaint the desk. Then I read a Design*Sponge tutorial about Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I learned that chalk paint (which is different from chalkboard paint—paint that you use to create a blackboard-like surface) can be applied to just about any wooden surface without having to strip, sand, or prime the wood beforehand. It leaves a velvety finish and is good for projects where you want a shabby chic/vintage/antique look.

I decided to give it a go. Even though Annie Sloan products are expensive (1 liter of paint: $38; 500 mL of wax: $28) and the brand is hard to find, I thought the money would be worth the time I’d save not sanding and priming.

In all, I worked on the desk for two days (one day to clean, one day to paint). It really could have taken just one day, but I drove to San Jose twice because the store was out of wax the first time I went. I hope this tutorial will inspire you if you’re considering a furniture makeover of your own!

DAY ONE: WASHING THE DESK

Supplies

  • furniture cleaner
  • steel wool scouring pad (0000)

The desk was originally covered in a thick layer of grime. After vacuuming the desk, I scrubbed it with a cleaner then hosed it down and let it try in the sun. (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you soak your furniture in water. But since it was a very hot day, I knew the wood would dry quickly.)

DAY TWO: PAINTING THE HARDWARE

Supplies

  • screwdriver
  • knobs
  • screws
  • spray paint

After removing the knobs, I spray painted the hardware in a navy blue color. Easy-peasy!

DAY TWO: PAINTING THE INTERIOR

  • paintbrush
  • primer
  • interior paint

At this point, I decided I wanted to compare the “prime then paint” process with the “chalk paint only” process. Since I already had some primer and paint samples from past projects (and since I didn’t want to use too much of the costlier chalk paint), I decided to prime and paint the inside of the drawers.

I painted the drawers with a coat of primer…

…then topped that off with two coats of a light aqua-colored Benjamin Moore interior paint.

Priming and painting took several hours—and the primer/paint smell was strong, even though I was working in an open garage. About mid-way through the process, I wished I’d just stuck with chalk painting the whole thing!

DAY TWO: PAINTING THE EXTERIOR

Supplies:

  • paintbrush
  • chalk paint
  • clear wax
  • rags

Now on to the fun stuff!

I painted the desk’s exterior in “Coco,” a gray/brown color to complement my dresser. The paint applied thickly, dried quickly (in just half an hour), and did not smell nearly as much as the primer and traditional interior paint. It also provided great coverage, so I ended up just painting one coat (with plenty of paint left over for future projects). Overall, I think the chalk paint is definitely worth considering if you’re contemplating a furniture makeover.

After buffing the table with clear wax, my buddies and I managed to get the behemoth desk into my room. (The whole process involved a lot of guesstimating, experimenting, maneuvering, and door removal-ing.) Then we celebrated with beers, brats, and giant pretzels at a local German beer garden.

All in all, a great weekend!

Liquid watercolors—so vibrant and fun, and a fantastic (washable) medium for kids and grownups alike…

Here are some  Olympic flags designed by Walt’s neighbors (ages 3, 5, and 7)…

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…a hungry, hungry caterpillar made by some of our favorite East Bayers (ages 6 and 8)….

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…dip-dyed coffee filters for a summer picnic…

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…a flower garland for a friend…

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…and a quick experiment with liquid watercolors + paper cutting.

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Looking for a way to keep the little ones busy for a bit? Take a look at these kid-friendly printables I helped develop for Kiwi Crate.  :)

Dive into reading with a DIY bookmarkDr. Seuss said it best: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Reading is an unparalleled way to open up wonderful worlds of wit and whimsy. Make a splash into your fall reading lineup with a bookmark that’s easy to make and fun to use.

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Tell tall tales with printable story cardsThese 30 story starters will stretch your kids’ imaginations and help them spin yarns worth weaving.

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Counting down to a special day? Inspire creativity with a countdown chain. This DIY calendar is an easy way for kids to understand how many days they have left until the Big Day. Each day’s link features a word that will inspire your child to get creative. So go on, “play,” “ponder,” and “build” together during your summer of discovery!(pic below by a colleague)

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It’s a really good feeling to see some of my closest friends in an entirely new light. As I eavesdrop on Tawny rattling on about rotator cuffs, I remind myself that this is the same person that I bonded with 19 years ago (and just yesterday) about Calvin’s potato tattoo in Wayside School is Falling Down. As I read Walt’s paper about astronomical instrumentation, it occurs to me that the same guy who relishes playing peek-a-boo with two-year-olds and hiding behind furniture to give me a scare (hm, I’m starting to notice a pattern) is also singularly the most brilliant person I know. (No offense, everyone else I know.)

The last half of June was filled with transitions…and flowers!

It wasn’t until my last year of college that I started appreciating plants. Three of my closest friends (including Tawny and Ingo) were landscape architecture students, and I took a class taught by Robert Hass, a poet/nature lover who stressed the importance of “knowing the names of things.”

Over the years, I’ve become more appreciative of the elegance of a single peony, the heady fragrance of jasmines at dusk, the endless whorls of a field of ranunculuses. Nowadays, I love flowers…and these past few weeks were unexpectedly abounding in blooms that marked a time of transition, hope, and friendship.

The past two weeks were about…

…saying, “Goodbye”

The past nine months of working at a start-up have been an incredibly rich experience. Last week, I said goodbye to the amazing team that I’ve learned so much from, and they, in turn, sent me off with this gorgeous bouquet (sunflowers, Peruvian lilies, lilies, and irises) and their best wishes.

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One of my favorite girls even made a paper bouquet.

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…saying, “Hello” 

Exactly one year to the day that I’d turned in my letter of resignation at my corporate job, I received a delivery of Gerber daisies, roses, and lavender from the new company that I’ll be joining next week. I was stunned by the gesture. The new job is quite literally a dream come true (I’ll be an editor/crafter/blogger for an amazing company that makes activity kits for kids), and I’m thrilled at the prospect of joining a talented team with big dreams and people-centric priorities.

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…saying, “It’s nice to know you”

Walt surprised me with hydrangeas and chrysanthemums(?) last weekend to celebrate our two-year anniversary. Two years would seem like plenty of time to get to know a person, right? And yet the time has gone by in a flash…and it seems like at least once a week, even still, I learn something new and entirely wonderful about Walt. Recently, I found out that he once invented (and still uses) several alphabets, each with its own symbols, consonants and vowels, and usage rules. I feel so lucky to know someone who always surprises me with the depth of his kindness, curiosity, and wit.

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…saying, “Welcome home”

Tawny and Jonathan got this arrangement at the Durham Farmers’ Market to make me feel at home in their new digs. This is the first time that I’ve spent any extended time with just the two of them since they got married in 2010 and also the first time that I’ve been able to get a glimpse of the life that they’ve built for themselves on the East Coast.

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When we were in college, I used to wonder what kind of man would possibly be good enough for someone as inspiring, funny, and unforgettable as my best friend. When Tawny and Jonathan first started dating, I was cautiously optimistic about this guy whom I barely knew but who, by all accounts, seemed like a pretty good guy.

As their relationship grew more serious and as I learned more about Jonathan’s character and sense of humor, I knew that Tawny had found someone who could keep her on her toes—a guy who complemented her sweet yet feisty personality, and who would be able to support and challenge her in all the ways that mattered.

Over the years, I’ve seen that Jonathan is an awesome person in his own right who’s insightful, hilarious, and remarkably hospitable. Like Tawny, he’s become a cherished lifelong friend.

Besides being full of great food and great friends, this trip to Durham seems like a homecoming of sorts. It’s been a good reminder that with time and experience, we hopefully become a truer reflection of who we are and who we want to be…that with friends who touch our souls, we’re always on the journey together even if the road meanders or paths diverge…and that whatever the future has in store, you can always come home again.

What a way to start the week! This pretty pom was hanging above my desk when I got into work Monday morning.

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It turned out that my boss had made it over the weekend to celebrate the launch of a product that we’ve been collaborating on. As if that gesture wasn’t sweet enough, later that afternoon, one of my coworkers asked if I was expecting a package because something had come in for me. I wasn’t expecting anything, but she urged me to open the box. Before I knew it, there was a gaggle of girls behind her. I was confused, but I opened the box — and was so touched by what was inside! The box was filled with homemade and craft goodies — a hand-embossed card, fabric flowers, an adorable tea satchel, scrapbooking charms, and other treats. Everyone’s been working so hard to get to this product launch, and it was very unexpected to get singled out … and in such an incredibly thoughtful and heartfelt way!

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What’s your favorite childhood toy?

Mine’s the Transit of Venus Care Bear.

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More elusive than the furtive Yeti of the Great White North, more wanderlust-y than Nessie of the Scottish lochs, the Transit of Venus Care Bear only appears once every 105 years. But don’t look directly at him! The Care Bear Stare’s* so bright that you gotta wear shades.

Last summer, Walt taught an astronomy class. This sparked (what I think will be) a lifetime interest in star-gazing. When we’re outside, his neck cranes upwards as soon as darkness descends. He looks for familiar constellations and contemplates the wonders of the universe, as I glance upwards occasionally while also keeping an eye out for oncoming cars. This is a good metaphor for our relationship.

This Tuesday marked the transit of Venus, a once-in-a-lifetime (twice, if you’re a super ager) occurrence where Venus travels across the sun, Earth’s closest star. (It’s flabbergasting to consider that Venus is 3.5x closer to our planet than Earth is to the sun!)

People all over the world set up special equipment or donned cardboard glasses to see the spectacle, including at the Stanford Student Observatory where astro enthusiasts brought telescopes and projection solar sun spotters.  (Walt on his Care Bear-ish pic: “This has got to be the best photo of a concrete floor I’ve ever taken.”)

Here are some photos Walt took during the viewing:

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I wasn’t able to make it up to the observatory in time, so Walt set up his astronomical binoculars for me in the flatlands of Menlo Park during the last hours of the transit. Here he is projecting the solar image onto a lens cap he’d crafted out of a Fat Tire container. (“Hey kids! If you want to make a binocular cover, just grab the closest beer cans and…” Just kidding. :))

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Pretty extraordinary!

By the way, my second favorite childhood toy is Teddy Ruxpin.

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*If the Care Bear references didn’t make sense to you, you probably weren’t an American child growing up in the 80s. Here’s a writeup that might help, authored by some of the greatest literary minds in the world.

You don’t need an arsenal of art supplies at the ready to get the creative juices flowing. Here are some easy projects from Kiwi Crate’s popular Two-Ingredient Tuesday feature:

  •  Create a craft stick puzzleAh, the craft stick—that most ubiquitous of art supplies. Craft sticks have fortified countless cabins, propped up innumerable paper puppets, and provided the framework for frames beyond measure. Their versatility makes them a favorite around these parts. And if you’re really lucky, you can obtain them the old-fashioned way. (By snacking on Popsicles.) Craft stick puzzles build up patterning and sequencing skills—plus they’re a hit with kids of all ages!

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  • Experiment with negative space drawings.  Playing around with the space around and between objects bolsters spatial thinking skills…and is just plain fun! Cut out some simple shapes (e.g., circles, triangles) from a sheet of paper, and see what your kids come up with.

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