rituals: paying attention to the sinking sun (micha boyett).

I know I always say “treat of treats!” when it comes to hearing from different voices in the #rituals series.  But I say it again today, because you not only get Guest Post Tuesday, but you also get Guest Post Friday – AND you get to hear from one of my favorite writers, dearest friends, and most sublime crafter of words, Micha Boyett.  Enjoy a look into her family’s nightly ritual.  

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 7.36.03 PM
The view from Micha’s back deck (stolen from her Instagram page).

It was January when we moved into our house over a year ago. We’d lived in San Francisco for close to four years already, but we’d mostly avoided the Outer Sunset District, a neighborhood known for soul-less square houses and tiny front yards paved over into driveways.

San Francisco is a city that was built around the bay, not the ocean. Though its roughly seven by seven miles of land are surrounded by water (the city’s on a peninsula), any iconic pictures of our fair city are pictures of the land beside the bay. The part of town by the ocean is less photogenic, less praiseworthy, plain.

We knew we were choosing our neighborhood based more on practicality and affordability than on beauty. We’d made peace with that reality. Then we happened upon our rental house, built at the perfect angle of the hill, its living room windows overlooking the ocean from a mile away.

Day after day we watch all that water moving straight into the edge of the world, massive container ships leaving the SF Bay for the edges of China. I’m still amazed, like I discovered a secret gem in San Francisco, quietly hiding among the square box houses and paved over yards: Who knew we would find the ocean?

But what we didn’t expect, even after discovering the beauty of our lucky find, was how evenings in this house would transform our family time. The day we moved here it was warm, in the high sixties, and the sky was clear, untouched by the fog that our part of town is known for. We ate pizza on the back patio with the boys and sat down on the concrete just in time to watch the sun fall over the Pacific.  Even our then two-year-old and five-year old quieted themselves as we stared at the path of the sunset. Falling, falling, falling, sink, into the water.

All humans are born with the innate knowledge that we need the sun, and that its path through the sky is our compass, our time-teller, our light-giver. It’s in our marrow to honor that gift from God.

So we watch it. Every day. Sometimes, if it’s warm, we stop and stand outside. Sometimes, we pause in the middle of dinner to stare. Sometimes just-out-of-the-bath my little boys are running naked and I’m shouting for them to put on pajamas, while the colors line the sky outside the windows. But always, we say it:

The sun is setting!

It’s sunset time!

Boys, look at the sunset tonight!

Sometimes friends join us on the patio to watch. Sometimes we stare from our windows, cozy, away from the chill of the wind. Sometimes the fog is too thick to make out much behind the gray sky. On the clear days, my husband is out on the patio snapping a picture for his daily collection of sunset photos.

But always we acknowledge the sun setting.

“Bye sun,” my now four-year-old says, mostly to himself, staring out the window.

There are no special prayers we pray in those moments, no liturgies of song or poetry. Just a unique sort of reverence, a realization that the sun has been sinking into the west for as long as the earth has spun, that long before our family set foot on this ground, people have stood in this spot staring at the same sun, the same sea.

Our ritual isn’t much. It’s simply a moment of acknowledging that God is up to something good, that God continues to whirl this world in its place around a star that warms us and gives us light, and each day wakes us up to the possibility that light brings life and breath and hope.

So we’ll keep watching, even in those moments when none of us have words for the miracle, the strips of orange and yellow and pink dripping through the sky into the dark blue of a still unknown sea.

Because miracles aren’t necessarily meant to be understood. Sometimes they’re just meant to be noticed. 

mbheadshotMicha (pronounced “MY-cah”) Boyett is a writer, blogger, and sometimes poet.  A former youth minister, she’s passionate about monasticism and ancient Christian spiritual practices and how they inform the contemporary life of faith. She is the author of Found: A Story Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer.Boyett and her husband live in San Francisco with their two boys. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook, and find her blog at michaboyett.com

 

my bags are packed…

As you may know, our family is (again) in the midst of this:

file_168205_0_110725-family-packing

Except that it’s not exactly a vacation of sorts, and I’m pretty sure the HBH (Hot Black Husband) has only owned a cowboy hat and a pair of shitkickers in my wildest, most exotic, Pioneer Woman of dreams.

Instead, the reality of packing and sifting, sorting and discarding is here, as we’re moving to Oakland on Saturday.  

Really, we didn’t think we’d be moving again anytime soon.  You may recall this post, written about a year and a half ago: we’d had a big break-in in the city, so we decided to hunker down and move to a quieter, safer neighborhood.  We said good-bye to big city lights (or at least a view of big city lights from our residential pocket of San Francisco), and we eagerly waved a hello to a gated community with views of the Pacific, if you took the time to walk fifty feet to the path on your right.

We’ve gotten to know our neighbors, barbecuing and ordering in sushi, watching football and baseball, drinking chilled wine out of plastic tumblers on the common playground.  We’ve invited people into our messiness, and they’ve invited us into theirs.  I grew a baby here, and we brought that baby into this space (enticing my mother, I might add, to stay for two weeks in our make-shift guest bedroom of a single-car garage – bless you, woman). Cancan has morphed from baby to toddler here, Frodo has spent the entire span of his short life here, and I’ve turned into a Real Live Writer here.

A lot of life has happened here.

But there’s also been a whole lot of Messy Hard.  

As much as I sometimes desire to ignore and flee from and paste a happy smile over the top of these Messy Hards, sometimes we have to jump into the muck feet first and try our hardest to gain footing.

And that’s what we’re doing now.

You see, the HBH started working in Oakland this past fall – and for the first time since I’ve known him, he’s in a job environment that’s healthy, at a company that values him for who he is, that desires to see him succeed and thrive.  But the job has also come with a cost, a cost that has included upwards of a two-and-a-half hour commute everyday.

And deadly commutes are not for the faint of heart …not for those who commute, and not for the families they come home to.  Deadly commutes don’t make for a healthy quality of life, and frankly, they don’t make a fifty-feet-to-the-right ocean view nearly worth it.

So, we’re taking the plunge, again.  We’re packing our bags, excited and delighted and giddy to hunker down in home that’s just over a mile (a mile!) from the HBH’s work.  We’re excited to be in a place brimming with diversity, “…with people who look like both Mama and Dada,” as we tell our boys. We’re excited to be in a house that’s a 92 on the walkability scale, mere blocks from Lake Merritt and Trader Joe’s and independent coffee shops alike .  I can’t wait to string up lights in our backyard, Parenthood-style, and not make my mother sleep in the garage when she visits.

Mostly, though, I can’t wait to have Life back.

Like anything, with gladness comes sadness, too, because we’re leaving behind Our People.  And that, I suppose, is another post for another day, because I don’t think all the newness and the starting over, the rebuilding and the good-byes and the want and desire to be known has quite hit me yet.  Because really, “We do not see thing as they are; we see things as we are” – and the we of our story involves those we have shared in the messiness with, it involves Our People.

So for now, I’ll leave you and I’ll leave me with this picture of our future city, of the place we Really, Truly Can’t Wait to Call Home:

OAKLAND_CA_USA_-_Night_Skyline_with_Bay_Bridge

But until then, I suppose it’s time to get back to packing…

xo, c.

What about you?  What sacrifice have you made for the betterment of you or of your family?  What is moving to you?  And if you have any “must-see’s,” “must-meet,” “must-do” in Oakland, please let me know!

when the honeymoon is over.

Last week, I sat with a group of mamas who’ve walked with me and beside me over the past nine months since leaving ministry and entering into into full-time mama-hood.  Because when you spend just two hours a week with someone (or someones), that person enters into your life, and he or she sees the wholeness of who you are.  Collectively, you start to know each others stories, and week after week, like overlapping patterns on a wore and thread-bare quilt, there’s an interweaving of of our lives, experienced and shared and received together.

And it’s just altogether lovely.  

So last week, the mamas were asking me how I’ve been doing post-break-in, and I was honest: it’s still hard sometimes.  I still feel the weight of that day whenever I enter the front door and see the newly installed bars on our kitchen window, and the crowbar marks that noisily scraped our front door.  In my head, I know that the paranoia and anxiety have calmed and quelled (and will continue to do so), but the remnants of the day’s violation remain.  And I don’t like that – I don’t like it at all.

Mama Anne told the story of a sermon she heard once, about living in San Francisco – there exists a honeymoon period, in which which it’s all dreamy, all breezy, beautiful Cover Girl.  We’re excited that we get to walk more than we drive, and the loudness and the noise and the lights and the grit alights our insides.   We feel like we’re part of something bigger and greater than ourselves, and in the Beauty of this urban jungle, we claim a roaring, gripping sense of pride: I can live in The City, in an urban jungle, in mere 1000 square feet, because less is more – I mean, can’t you?  

Downtown San Francisco.  Photo cred: Wikipedia.
Downtown San Francisco. Photo cred: Wikipedia.

But then, like anyone who’s entered into marriage or started a new job or survived life with a baby after your partner goes back to work and the Meal Train Fairy stops dropping off piping hot dinners on your doorstep, the honeymoon is over.  Something happens and you question whether you ever really loved Her, and whether this marriage is really worth fighting for.

It becomes a matter fight or flight – so what are you going to choose?

Friends, I wish I could say we’ve chosen to fight.  I wish I could say we’re going to continue to enter into the grit and the grime, as we proclaim a zip code that’s not eight miles outside of the urban sprawl, but is in the thick of Living the Apparent San Francisco Dream.

But we’re not: we’ve chosen flight.

And here’s the thing: in my head, I know it’s the right choice for our sanity and well-being, for our family, for our future.  But I can’t help but feel like I’ve lost the battle.  I can’t help but feel like Suburbia won, like another Urban Dweller bites the dust because we weren’t able to cut it in The City.

And that is so lame.  

And so not true.

Because that is Pride and Envy and Arrogance rearing its ugly head into the portals of my mind again, making me think that I’ve somehow been cooler and sexier and better than those who haven’t chosen a particular zip code.

So Friendlies, let’s just clarify: I’m not cooler than you.  I still sport my maternity tank tops and wear yoga pants every other day.  I think that it’s hip to quote songs from the 90’s, and I think it’s really, really funny to have entire conversations and friendships based solely on sarcasm.  And that’s just weird.  I’m also not sexier than you.  The height of sexiness reached its peak about a week or two after the actual marriage honeymoon, when I’d worn all the new pieces of lingerie and decided that sweatpants were far tastier to wear as bedroom attire.  And finally, and with all sincerity, I’m not better than you.  And if I’ve given you this impression, well then, seventy times seven, I ask for your forgiveness.  Because no one should be made to feel like they’re less human than somebody else.

But all humor and tears and honesty aside, Pacifica, we’re excited to get to know you.  

Pacifica, CA.
Pacifica, CA.

Surf’s up, dude!

xo, c.

What about you?  Have you ever experienced the end of a honeymoon, or had to choose between flight or fight?  How did you respond?  

hope found in the orange.

Photo cred: Femme and Fortune.
Photo cred: Femme and Fortune.

True confessions: I have a thing for prison dramas.  Can’t get enough of the stuff.

It’s your fault, Netflix.

I’m having a pure love relationship with old episodes of Breakout Kingsbut especially the first two minutes and thirty one seconds of breaking-out-of-the-penintentiary bliss.  And the show doesn’t even get four full stars.

And Orange is the New Black?  Ugh.  Don’t get me started, don’t even get me started.  It pretty much consumed a good 52 minutes of every night of our road until we wept like little schoolgirls, realizing that we’d have to wait an entire 10 months to view season two.

Now I’ll admit part of the problem is this: I live in San Francisco.  I know, that’s like blaming Netflix for my own love of life in The Farm, when via live streaming, I’m willingly clicking “play.”  First-world problems.  But hear me out: when you choose to reside in the City by the Bay, you’re subconsciously choosing the Giants over any other form of so-called “baseball” in the state of California.  You’re choosing organic meats and free-range chicken eggs, and with giddy delight, you’re picking up your CSA box every Thursday from the Outer Sunset.  You’re biking and walking and taking public transportation as much as humanly possible, and you’ve always got a library book or your Kindle tucked into your bag for reading on the go.  Because you are an educated, literate individual, and a conversation about such literary pursuits is always on the portals of your mind.

You just don’t watch TV, and you certainly don’t admit it as such on the Internet.

But I just did.

Is there a support meeting I can go to for this?

A couple weeks’ ago, Rachel Held Evans wrote a featured piece for the CNN Belief Blog on Breaking Badand while I don’t know if these meth-savvy stars eventually land themselves in Sing Sing, I appreciated her admission of loving the show.  [Following RHE’s post, we too watched two episodes, but couldn’t continue with it: although, as she writes, the show puts us in touch with our own dark, sin-filled humanity, it was just a little too dark for our taste.]

So while Breaking Bad wasn’t my cup o’ tea, Orange is the New Black captured my heart,  boomeranging it back to me again.  And again and again.  Certainly, themes of darkness pervade this show as well: violence and death and prison bitches; sex, drugs and, well actually, but for the Hallejujah-filled Christmas show at the end of season one, there’s not a whole lot of rock-n-roll.

But there is HOPE – and as some of you know, Hope is one of my very favorites.  Hope is all that remains at the end of the day, after all the bad news has set in, and you’re not sure how you can make it another day.  Hope is the grace note that keeps one going.  Hope is that tiny little spark that lights the darkness, reminding all that light can invade the dreariest of situations.

So I suppose that’s why I made the very best of efforts to prioritize streaming Netflix over vacation: in a crazy sort of way, the show reminded me to hope and of hope, through the grimiest of landscapes.  It’s a theme that pervades the landscape of plot and characters, and our leading lady, “Piper Chapman,” realizes that she’s no better than the women around her.  Her experience transforms her, and our hearts are in her own soul’s greatest adventure of discovering true self.  At the end of her orange-uniformed day, hope is all that remains for her and the show’s other characters: hope that she’ll be her authentic, true self, hope that she’ll find love, hope that she’ll empower others to do the same.

I’m in need of hope, in a clingy, desperate sort of way – and I’m betting you are as well.

So Hope, I leave room for you.  I’ll look for you in the everyday, and I’ll lean into You, my Hope of Glory.  I’ll find you in the little things, and when the good-hard comes, I’ll cling to you, for at the end of the day, you’re all I have left.

And don’t you worry, I’ll continue to click “play” on my prison dramas.

 

What about you?  What gives you hope?  Where do you find HOPE in the most unlikely of places?  

 

on traveling with babies (10.5 thoughts – part 2).

When Cancan was five months old, I wrote this piece on traveling with babies – he’s now doubled his digits, and traveling with the little bugger is a whole new deal.  And with it comes a whole new set of traveling thoughts…

happy baby.  Photo cred: the HBH.
happy baby. Photo cred: the HBH.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.  Practice flexibility.  When I was living in Washington, a group of us went to see Cirque de Soleil – and loved it.  But mostly, I, who flunked the flexibility test every year in P.E., loved the bendy people.  How ever are they so bendy?  we’d all wonder, eyes wide, heads cocked to the side.  I realize that the same is true today: the time to be bendy is now, with baby in tote.  Gone is the stringent necessity to make it back to the hotel room for nap time.  Gone is the foodie San Franciscan desire to only feed my baby homemade, organic baby food.  Gone is the ________ (fill-in-the-many-blanks).

2.  Get yourself an Aunt Tina and an Uncle John.  Now really, there’s only a small handful of us lucky enough to stake familial relation to Aunt Tina and Uncle John, so your own relatives will have to suffice.  So sorry!  But here’s what I do know worked so well traveling with them: they love our kid.  They love us.  They, too, are bendy.  We’d all been to NYC before, so no one felt the need to stand in line for the Empire State Building or ferry on over to Staten Island.  Been there, done that.  Instead, their low-key, go with the flow attitude modeled to us the very same response to each other and to Cancan – and that was magnificent.  Oh, and did I mention that they made us leave our child with them so that we could have the afternoon off and laugh giddily at Book of Mormon?  Like I said, do yourself a favor and find yourself an Aunt Tina and an Uncle John.

You can't have them.  They're ours.
But you can’t have them. They’re ours.  (Photo cred: the HBH).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.  Think about where you’ll be traveling.  We realized that we’d only be renting a car for six hours total the entire week we were there, and otherwise would be solely taking public transportation, including the occasional taxi – the latter of which do not require carseats.   So, we only rented a carseat for an additional $10 on the day we drove north to Andover and Salem.  [I also didn’t realize that you technically don’t need a carseat base, so whenever we travel now, we just check in the car seat – for free – with the airline, and then buckle the seat directly into the rental car.]

4.  BOB-it.   I originally planned on taking the following with us: a travel stroller, the Ergo, the carseat base and the carseat.  Here’s what we ended up taking with us on the trip: the Ergo and the BOB (stroller).  I feared wheeling the BOB in and out of crowded east coast sidewalks, but my friend Re reminded me that actual families live in NYC, who navigate the streets daily.  She suggested taking the stroller of which I was most familiar, that also had the option of reclining and therefore possible sleep.  Winner winner, chicken dinner.  Baby took almost all of his naps while we walked the streets of Boston and New York, and the extra space was a welcome addition.  Also, given the miles (literally) we walked each day, over sewer grates and cobblestone alike, I was grateful for the more durable stroller.  I think we would have used the Ergo a bit more had it not been so hot, but having a sticky baby sweat-suctioned to my shirt was not my idea of a good time.  

5.  Find a friendly tourist destination.  Ya’ll, I’m just telling you: San Francisco is not a baby-friendly city.  Yes, I live here.  Yes, my head knew that, but it wasn’t until every other passerby stopped to chat with the Little Man that my heart realized this truth.  So, I look forward to seeing you …not here.

6.  Yelp it!  One thing is true when it comes to traveling, and I suppose to much of our regular life as well: we love finding and seeing and eating local culture.  (Okay, minus Dunkin Donuts in Boston – a must).  So, pull out your iPhone and YELP a lunch or dinner destination right here, right now – and chances are you’ll find a fabulous hole-in-the-wall, non-touristy destination.  This also helps quickly figure out whether the locale is attractive to the under-1  population.

Baby-friendly, Yelp-savvy, NYC.  Photo cred: the HBH.
Baby-friendly, Yelp-savvy, NYC. Photo cred: the HBH.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.  Time change: this was probably the thing I was most worried about: how would we deal with a three-hour time change?  It’d been suggested that we try to have Baby meet halfway, but we also knew that if he was tired, there was no stopping the eye-rubbing and Cranky McCrankerson.  So we let him set his own pace – so instead of going to bed at 7 pm (ET), he made it to 9 pm, which was actually rather, well, nice.  We ended eating dinners out and getting to go to a 7:15 Red Sox game instead of being confined to our hotel room for the majority of the night.

8.  I asked Mama’s Group tips on traveling with babies, and I loved Anne’s answer: “On the plane, all rules go out the window – so bring twice as many snacks as you think you need and half as many clothes.  Bam.  Whip out the boob.  Let it rain Cheerios.  And as soon as Bubs starts to squawk, swiftly insert a packet of baby food in his mouth.

9. Don’t BOB-it through airport security.  Since using the BOB had been going so well, I thought to myself, Self, you really should just keep Cancan in the BOB throughout your time in the airport, and just check it at the gate.  And then this happened: THE BOB IS HUGE. It does not fit through the conveyor belt.  Your stroller will then have to go through its own line and the not-so-friendly TSA agents will think that you’re hiding drugs in the side pockets, so it’ll have to go through its own 10-minute magic-wand screening.  I’m just sayin’.    

10.  K, my last tip doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with babies, but if you’re visiting the Big Apple, do yourself a favor and stay on the Newark side.  Our hotel was across the street from Penn Station (Newark), so we took the 11-minute train over in the morning and evening, and subsequently saved a bundle.    

…and finally, 10.5: have fun.  You’re amazing – so believe it and own it.  You got this.*

What would you add?  What would you change?

* = I hereby own the right to retract this statement and completely change my mind on all of the above matters as soon as another “on traveling with babies” update arrives or another child comes along.  

xo, c.

5-7-5 Friday – join in!

Because it’s Friday, and because some brainless haikus seem to be all I can write today between packing and preparing and homework and that little man called the bay-beh, it’s once again time for 5-7-5 Friday. Just for kicks, just for fun and perhaps with a few laughs in between. What’s your haiku today?

Cancan - startin' the scooty crawl.  Watch out now!
Cancan – startin’ the scooty crawl. Watch out now!

To Cancan:

Bouncy bouncy bounce
If I bounced as much as you
Quite twiggy I’d be.

Knock on wood, I say
Blow-outs haven’t been so bad
Or not so public.

You get so smiley
When you see people
Extrovert, for sure.

To San Francisco:

Nothing like sunshine
And blue skies in this city
Parkas come summer?

Foodies, all around
And this cow grazed where you say?
Organic! Local!

To my love:

Oh, I get so mad
At your own humanity
Because I’m perfect?

(To the above):

Being honest = good
Marriage takes a lot of love
Let’s keep loving, hard.

Haikus …such raw and real truth smooshed into a tiny little package of syllables. Write one and post it in the comments section – I can’t wait to hear it!