Sunday, August 31, 2014


Today, we turn one.

We are remembering this beautiful day one year ago, and how (almost) all the people we love were gathered in one place. I JUST WANTED TO KEEP YOU ALL THERE, for at least one week month. I remember during our first dance I asked Caleb if he was going to cry. "I sort of want to, but I'm just too smiley," he said. That described our whole day. It was so significant that I wanted to weep, but the joy was overpowering, so I laughed instead. It was perfect.   

This has been a whirlwind year, filled with learning about each other, and many life changes. Together we have had four job changes. We became coworkers less than one month after becoming husband and wife. We've traveled to Nebraska four times (plus I went twice by myself), eastern Missouri (twice for Caleb) and Arkansas once. We Caleb trapped about a dozen mice and we've been to three weddings (unrelated). We purchased a car and a scooter. We laughed at least 100 hours and shared more delicious meals than can be counted. We have seen my brother eight times. We lost a very special little dog. We have each had one haircut and we did a cleanse together. We got really good at washing dishes by hand and having spontaneous dance parties in our kitchen. This year, we read a lot of fiction, because story is so good.

Happy first birthday to our marriage!
To celebrate, we made a special meal, dressed up in our wedding clothes, and took loads of photos.

We are so happy to be one! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A spark of divinity

"It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity."
-BKS Iyengar
Photo by The Shalom Imaginative
Sometimes, it seems like all the input in a day is visual and head centered. You know what I mean? We read cookbooks and scan screens and traffic. We have intelligent conversations about things we believe or don't believe. We watch the news, movies and videos of cats. (?)

Have you ever tried to sit still and pray after too much input? 

I knooow - it feels like a hamster is running on a wheel and churning out thoughts in my head too! 

Then, maybe something happens that wakes us up.  Maybe someone gets sick or married or dies. Maybe a song comes on the radio or a friend says they are having a really hard time and suddenly, you don't feel like your mind is racing. You've dropped down somehow, to someplace deeper. A shift from the head to the heart or to the stomach. Suddenly, you can sit still all day. Contemplating. You notice things. The sweetness of the after work ritual. The feeling of a long exhale. The taste of a fresh peach. 

Welcome. You have arrived back in your body and soul after being in what I'm calling "floaty head land". It's a technical term. I think doctors probably are going to start using it soon. 

Have you noticed this before? Being connected with your body leads to a connection with your heart and your soul. One of my friends referred to this connection when she said, "I open up to God on my yoga mat." Another friend just needs to go on a walk after a long day. People talk about runners' high and endorphins. 

For me, a place where I can stop the hamster wheel up in floaty head land is doing yoga. It brings me back to center, back to a place of openness, back into my body. One of the reasons yoga even made it to places like the US is because of a man named B.K.S. Iyengar, who passed away today. He was born in 1918 and lived in India. The quote at the beginning of this post is from him. We can thank him for encouraging women to do yoga. For prenatal yoga. For blocks and straps and other things that make yoga much easier. For teaching yoga in groups instead of just one on one. For training yoga teachers to prevent student injury. This was an influential man. 

In honor of him, I challenge you to move your body. Find your spark of divinity. Get off the hamster wheel. 

I'll see you there... 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Last night, I dreamt I was a refugee. Fleeing war, carrying children and elderly on my back, selling my most valuable possessions - my toothbrush and my deodorant. Sharing a toothbrush with someone I barely even knew, only tasting the salt and grit of tears.

This morning, I dreamt of a world filled with peace and light. A world where Iraq - and every other country - embrace the diversity, where we learn from our differences. Where no one has to worry about if they can afford to pay for water and there is enough food for all the children. And no ebola.

Jesus was trying to explain this vision once and said this: "What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”

This evening, I heard the story of real life refugees. Their community is deep. They've been here a while. But she just wishes she could see her mom again, you know? It's been a long time - more than a decade - but it's too dangerous. But she's being strong for the kids. Because life's been really hard lately.

Her voice breaks during the interview and for a second, you get a grasp of how deeply she is feeling all of this. Then she blinks and looks away. I whisper, wanting to reach out to her, "You are so strong."

"He told them still another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.'"

I want a world full of freedom, peace, kindness. But sometimes, the only way towards that is to be the little amount of yeast that you can be, hold your strength, and work your way deeply into the world. Sometimes, a mama holding space for her kids to just be kids is the most radical act in the world. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mouse tales and reincarnation

Last fall, I read the C.S. Lewis space trilogy. It was awesome. In the last book, the main character is discussing mice.

[Paraphrasing what I remember the quote to be.] "The relationship between man and mouse was not meant to be strained. In fact, it is quite natural. Humans make crumbs, mice clean up crumbs. At this, he sounded a bell, and several mice came out of the walls and cleaned up the crumbs from his biscuit. He sounded the bell again and they all went back into the wall."

Shortly after this, we had a mice invasion in our house. I, who like to live peaceably with all beings, was very conflicted. Could I train our mice to just come out and clean up crumbs? That would be AWESOME. No more vacuuming! But no. We set the normal traps that go "whack" and I put peppermint oil everywhere. And we filled up hole after hole with steel wool and expanding foam. Eventually we went a week with no mice. Then two. Then two months. Then they were gone.

Almost. Cue story time:

Scene: 4:30 a.m. Our bed. Last week.

Mouse (Intonation: this is the best night of my life.): SQUEAK, SQUEEEEEAAK! SQUEAKITY SQUEAK SQUEEEEEAK! WOO!
Caleb: *sits straight up and leaps out of bed*
Ellen: *puts fingers in ears* (to self) this is not happening. LA LA LA LA that was not a mouse. we don't have mice. they are all living happy mouse lives outside. not in here. I am sleeping. (repeat.)
Caleb: *frantic trap setting*

Scene: Kitchen. A few days later. E & C are washing dishes and cleaning.

Ellen: Hey Caleb, is this mouse poop?
Caleb:  Hm.
Ellen: Actually, whatever you think it is, please tell me that it's not. Okay?
Caleb: No, I think this is just crumbs. But hey! Let's wash this really well because it's dirty.

Scene: Kitchen. This weekend

Caleb: Hey, our peanut butter is really runny for baiting mouse traps.
Ellen: The mice don't need organic peanut butter. They have the pasteurized cheese product I bought them last fall.

I heard a rumor recently about the Dalai Lama. I don't know if it's true, but it's a good story. And as our traps continue to send mice to another place, it's comforting to me.

The Dalai Lama was visiting Minneapolis in the summer. You know about the mosquitos there right? HUGE. As he gave his talk outdoors, he suddenly stopped and slapped his arm. "Happy reincarnation," he said.

So to you mice, happy re-incarnation. Maybe next round, you can be a cat. They have nine lives. Winning.