July 14, 2014

sail camp & lessons learned from taking the plunge

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to go camping with twenty of my friends. Camping has been a really big part of my life, for like ever, although my camping looks different than a lot of other people's versions of camping. I grew up attending a camp in the Big Bear Mountains where we learned to identify plants, memorized the stories behind constellations, took lessons in archery, and other peculiar activities for a nine year old girl to participate in. My family also camps in Mexico every year, but we bring air mattresses, eat lobster and spaghetti, and have the options of showers. That is not your average person's camping experience, but it's definitely the Novello way.

I was a little intimidated and apprehensive to say yes to the trip because I was nervous that it would be too much. I am such a weirdo, I know. I don't even own a sleeping bag, so I knew I'd have to borrow everything. I didn't want anyone to notice that I was out of my comfort zone. I was afraid to say yes to what turned out to be a really wonderful and beautiful weekend because of fears that didn't even come true. I hate the paranoia that can sometimes keep me too fearful to live life well. I'm working on saying yes to thing before fear gets the best of me.

On Friday, I headed an hour out of Boise and met up with my pals. I was instantly taken aback by the beauty of my surroundings. Lucky Peak is a reservoir right outside of Boise and we were able to secure our little own camping area with a private dock. It was magical. We loaded up our belongings in Chad's sailboat and sailed across the reservoir to our little home.

I think one of my favorite things about the weekend was that there was no cell phone service. Any usage of a cell phone was solely for the purpose of taking pictures. This weekend was an exercise in being present. It's so easy to be with others while being in a different world completely. I find myself more concerned with my phone instead of the person in front of me. This weekend contained none of that. When someone talked, others listened. There was no checking your email, being simultaneously on instagram, or texting someone else. We were present with one another in the way that we have always been intended to be. 

There were some great leisurely moments spent on the sail boat, with the sun on your face and the water beneath you. Even after I got back last night, I still felt like my bed was rocking me to sleep. It was wonderful. I'm a water girl. Much of my childhood was spent in the water and a significant portion of that time, I spent pretending to be a mermaid. Being in a landlocked state, I get serious emoji heart eyes whenever I'm near water. 

Another fear that I had with saying yes to the trip was knowing that saying yes meant agreeing to spend time in a bathing suit in front of my friends. Bathing suits and I have a really long history of not getting along. We are like North and South Korea. I'm obviously South Korea and bathing suits are definitely North Korea. I love being in the water and being near it, but ironically, I'm always afraid of being in a bathing suit. One of the first things my friends did was get on their bathing suits and jump off the dock into the reservoir. I made excuses for why I wasn't out there as well. I realized that not participating in that activity was just so foolish. It was hotter than hades outside and not jumping into the reservoir was just foolish. My friend Diana and I counted to three and jumped in together, as I shouted "TOWANDA!" in my head. If you know what that is from, we are soup snakes. If you know what THAT is from, we are DOUBLE soul mates. After taking the plunge and catching my breath, I decided that some things were going to be different. I wasn't going to be afraid of my body or ashamed of it. I wasn't going to allow it to restrict me from doing the things that I wanted to do. I wasn't going to spend the weekend worrying about how I looked in a swimsuit or what other people thought of me. Frankly, that's a little vain and I needed to get over myself. No one was thinking about me quit as often as I assumed they were. 

Jumping in and taking the plunge was refreshing, both physically and spiritually. This weekend and the quiet moments I was able to steal for myself provided great thinking time of where I am and where I'm going. I'm learning to slow down, to invest in those around me, and to cast away the fear that I sometimes allow to cripple me. 

I'm grateful for these friends and this experience. I'm grateful for them teaching me, listening to me, and loving me in spite of myself. I'm grateful for the water, the sun, but not the snake that we saw in the outhouse. That thing gets no gratitude from me. I'm so grateful for the concept of community and this little one in a small town in Idaho that has welcomed me with open arms. I'm grateful for friends taking the plunge with you, even when they aren't entirely aware of what it represents for you. And I'm especially grateful for no cell phone service, corn hole tournaments, and sail boats. 

July 10, 2014

book review: bread and wine by shauna niequist

I am a lover of food. I bet you couldn't tell by my oh so hollow cheekbones and willowy frame, but I come from a family of food lovers and kitchen wizards.  So many of my favorite memories revolve around being seated at a table with food set in front of me. Whether you enjoying cooking, eating, or some combination of the two, I guarantee that you will love this book.

I found Shauna's book through Lindsay Letters and asked for it for Christmas because I totally judged a book by its cover. I really had no idea what the book was about but it looked pretty and had to do with food. I was sold. When I first opened it, I remember thinking, "This is a little small to be a cookbook." I didn't realize that it was both a cookbook and a memoir, but I'm pretty sure that's my new favorite genre.

One of the really wonderful things that she does in this book is share a story, specific time in her life, lesson, etc. and then pairs it with a recipe at the end of the chapter. There are several chapters in the book that are without a one, but for the most part, the last several pages will contain a recipe. I loved how she wove together her heart and her stomach. I hope that reads as flattering as I intend it to be. Her book reminded me of my own family's food traditions and how special those are to us. There's nothing in the world quite like a Novello Christmas Eve meal and my mouth is watering just thinking about the lagana (not lasagna), ravioli, sausage, and meatballs that my aunts make by hand.

In the last several years, I've been beginning to see the kitchen table as less of a place for me to stuff my face (still guilty though, friends) and more of a place to share stories, experiences, and spend time over full dishes with loved ones. Shauna's book helped me to develop that further and gave me bravery to experiment, permission to fail, and grace for when things turned out far from perfect. I've fallen in love with my kitchen and filling my Great Nana's table with bowls, plates, and friendly faces.

"The art of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It's about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment."
Shauna's writing style made me feel like I was reading a long letter from an old friend. Within several pages, you'll feel like you know her and you'll long to sit across a table from her  dining on literally anything that's been created in her kitchen. She instantly makes you comfortable, even from the very description on the back of the book. She begs you to wreck the book: to spill on it, to dog ear the pages, to dirty it with food remnants. I loved that, I loved the initial invitation to engage with her and others not only through written words, but through action.

While this book is predominately about cooking and her life, it's about  more than that. It's a call to live in community with others. It's a challenge to live presently and engage with others holistically. It presents the notion that not only can we feed each other's bodies, we can feed each other's souls. It's about love, heartache, and everything in between.

I've already lent this book out several times, that's just how much I love it. It's one of those books that you finish, want to place on a shelf because it's so beautiful and meaningful, but you know that in doing so, you'd really do the book and those that you love a disservice. I'm so excited to read more by Shauna. I picked up her book "Bittersweet" yesterday at the library and plan to read it in its entirety this weekend. I'm not one for savoring books or food, when I find something that I love, it must be devoured.
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