About Shanda

wife, mom of seven, friend, child of God

kitchen-craft

Good morning and isn’t the sunshine and cool breeze lovely? I am back in New England, where I feel certain I belong. I love our Georgia place but it isn’t home (yet), maybe someday. But here in New England are all my people, and all my things, and the air and insects and seasons and familiarity that I do my best breathing, enjoying, and living.

The month and more of Georgia did wonders to my nervous system and I feel calm and peaceful. Rather than doing life at a break-neck speed out of endless adrenaline, I almost feel “too slow” and my brain feels forgetful. I’m used to it firing off information and “things to remember” nonstop, instead, it feels empty in spots. Not to worry, I’m sure this Shanda is just as entertaining as the other one. I feel a shift has occurred, a changing of life that happens to all of us, and it is good. The fundamental things are the same; love of family, a desire to know and love God, celebrating life in all its messy beauty, and a love for home (this one, and the one to come). Just a step down from those things are the primary loves of my life; words written and read, nature, photography, animals, gardening, and homemaking, walking, laughing, learning, growing……..

I’m currently reading a Fannie Flagg book titled Standing in the Rainbow and I came across this quote and wanted to share it here;

“‘ You know, so many of you have written in over the years and asked me what is the best thing to do for a blue mood…….and asked if I have ever been in a blue mood, and yes, you can be sure I have. I can only tell what helps me and that is baking. I can’t tell you how many cakes I have sifted, how many cake pans I have greased, all because there is something about baking a cake that gets me out of a mood, and so I’ll just pass that on for what it’s worth.'”

Standing in the Rainbow, page 268

When I read this I thought of my mom and aunts and grandma and cousins and siblings and myself…..and understood again so clearly how much kitchen-craft serves a purpose not just for the end result, but in the very process of the work, how satisfying it is to make dishes and meals, desserts of all kinds, and even the cleaning up part is satisfying. I want to take pride in my kitchen and making it sparkle. It will always be used and a place to create.

So when we got home on Friday it made perfect sense that on Saturday I made pancakes for Caleb. Granted, it didn’t make sense as to why the batter tasted so salty, but I kept on and was quite proud of the (very very) fluffy stack of pancakes I served up. Turns out the flour I used was self-rising and I didn’t know it. It was a new bag that I opened without looking first, and as I never buy self-rising I didn’t suspect a thing. In other words, these particular pancakes had twice as much baking powder and salt in them. They got eaten, so I guess they were edible enough…….butter and syrup do wonders.

I was very eager to dig around in the garden. This spring I had a bag of grocery-store potatoes that had all sprouted so energetically (so many sprouts, making the potato itself unrecognizable) that I decided to plant them. This was a first for me. My mom guided me through the basics of tending them (now I know why gardeners are always hoeing) and as soon as I could (saturday morning AFTER the pancakes were made) I went outside to see if it really worked; and it did! I’m a potato farmer on a very small scale! I dug up three hills and found about 10 potatoes, and I have three more hills to dig when I’m ready. I also pulled some carrots, a couple beets, and onion, and picked yellow squash and cucumber.

Meanwhile, my husband was busy taking out our old dishwashers and installing these two new kitchen aid dishwashers…….we were both working so hard in the kitchen, we kept bumping into each other as Alexa played our favorite songs. Quite romantic. Since he was working so hard and did such an excellent job, naturally I felt compelled to make ……… meatballs! This was next on the kitchen-craft list of things to make.

We ate our meatballs and sauce (all homemade with tender loving care) out on the porch that evening. (by the way, when making sauce, I only ever use San Marzano canned tomatoes, I have found that they are my favorite by far.)

Cucumber salad, with my own garden onion and cucumbers.

On Sunday, Jacob, Brittnee, Sierra, and Mitchell came over for an afternoon steak cook-out. Jacob grilled the steaks and I prepared the side dishes.

“What am I going to do with all that self-rising flour?” I asked myself, and then baked this very simple cake. It’s closely related to the peach coffee cake I make all the time on Jekyll so I went ahead and made the topping for that recipe (fruit, & brown sugar mixed w/butter). However, this cake fluffed up so much as it baked that it baked AROUND and OVER the topping. (Wow self-rising flour takes itself very seriously!) Therefore, when Sarah looked at it and begged, “Mom, can you please not put sugar on top of this one, pleeeeeeeeeese?” I could, in all honesty, say “no”. What she didn’t know was it was all on the bottom.

I take great joy in making baked beans from scratch. There is something magical about them, a humble package of hard, dried beans developing into a pot of melt-in-your-mouth flavor. I used a basic recipe and then went from there, soaking and simmering and baking, stirring, tasting, adding this and that, for hours and hours until they were perfection. And thank goodness everyone else liked them, too.

While roasting marshmallows outside last night a few hours after our big meal, I let out such a loud toot that Mitchell said in surprise to Jacob, “Was that your MOM? I had no idea Moms could even DO that, I’ve NEVER heard my mom do that!” and later on, when he left he said he felt like he was part of the family.

This is just some of what kitchens can do!

who, being loved, is poor?

What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life — to strengthen each other in all labour, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting? ~George Eliot (1819–1880)

What is it like to grow a daughter and then see her get married?

Sort of like planting a seed, tending it all through maturity, and then at just that time, transplanting the plant into another garden, miles away, to finish growing?

(Dear Brogan, I grew a flower, and gave it to you. Love, Mom)

Sort of like building a house, furnishing it prettily, and giving it away? (giving, the most beautiful expression of love).

Sort of like getting married again, yourself? Reawakened memories, dreams, and expectations.

It’s huge. At times I felt like I was going to go crazy if the wedding didn’t just come and go…….because the emotions were almost unbearable. Dealing with them left me exhausted.

At times I wanted to push stop and rewind to when she was little. Do it all again. And again.

At times I wanted to push pause and keep her a little longer. Please?

Most of the time I was simply thankful in the giving. She’s not just my daughter, after all, she’s herself. She’s Grace. She’s bigger and deeper and higher and louder than “Shanda’s daughter”. I am truly inspired by her in every way. Her unshakeable love for her husband, her friends, her family. She loves well; in looks and little love notes, and tea, and music and books and service. Her quiet wisdom. Her sense of humor. Her “beauty on the inside”, her heart. Her strength and sensibilities. The things she’s interested in, the things we share. She’s made me a better woman in raising her and having her as my forever-daughter. She’s truly unique and special, as all of the children are.

The most difficult aspect is giving away that Grace-part of myself, letting go of something that was not only mine but part of me, the girl who came from her father and mother’s love. And yet, that giving, again, is deep-down joyful. True gifts aways satisfy the giver.

The best part is knowing that she and I? “We still got it”, ready to pick up and enjoy any ol’ time we want to. Mom and daughter…… are forever.

So anyways, here we are, a few weeks after The Wedding Day, and yesterday we got the link to the website which contains the professional wedding photos and I thought I would share some. There are so many, it was hard to chose, but these tugged on my heart-strings the most.

The morning of the wedding we drove to Brogan’s Grandmother’s beautiful home (the wedding was in Pennsylvania, where Brogan grew up and Grace attended college). Gemma did Grace’s hair, and Sierra drove to Dunkin’ with Sarah to get us breakfast sandwiches. Then we all got dressed in our finery.

Grace’s dress was a gift; Gemma was a bridal salon owner a few years ago and some of her dresses were still available there from that time. Grace was thrilled by the meaningfulness of wearing one of “Gemma’s Dresses”.

My own dress was serendipitously discovered at anthropologie just a week or so before the wedding. I had already chosen a dress, but Grace ended up liking this one better and it really did go along with the theme of the day, pink and wildflowers, and love like valentines.

the princesses

The sisters were ready. Sarah was the Jr. Maid of Honor, a set of words which I can almost never get out of my mouth. I hope I wrote it correctly. Sierra and I both curled Sarah’s hair for her with a curling iron, she has a lot of hair but it holds curls very well.

Gemma got us “to the church on time” and Rich was waiting. The photographer did such a wonderful job of capturing the moment. Rich was very emotional throughout the day. His precious daughter’s wedding.

The ceremony was beautifully sacred.

I love the way Brogan treats Grace and people. He is respectful and courteous, and fun without being silly. He has a special maturity, despite his youth, that we admire and appreciate. I’ve mentioned before how these two can talk……and I also appreciate the depth and interest in their conversations, talking and visiting that way is such a day-brightener! I look forward to the times we will be together through the years. They are also comfortable in silence, and Brogan’s mom loves to tell the story of them reading together at her home for long periods of time, lost quietly in their books, yet together.

This is probably the most touching photo from the day, for me. Rich has a vulnerableness that not many people get to see. But I see it, I know who he is, he is my rock, steady and calm, and his love runs deep. During the most important family milestones, his calm exterior and demeanor reveals the honest emotion he has, in his love and gratitude, for his family. His wife and children mean everything to him.

***my heart is bursting***
all photos here, taken by tialeighphotography

My Dad and Mom, with all of us. No one was missing on this amazing day.

“What wondrous love is this, oh my soul”

Let’s be a comfortable couple and take care of each other… how glad we shall be that we have somebody we are fond of always to talk to and sit with! ~Charles Dickens

Who, being loved, is poor? ~Oscar Wilde

grandma’s Granada

Rich noticed the coil-ponytail holder on my wrist just now and said “it looks like my Grandma’s keychain.” It triggered a memory.

“My Grandma had a Ford Granada. G-R-A-N-A-D-A. I was like seven years old and it was a red car and said “Granada” in silver letters right across the right side of the dash. I always thought it said “Grandma”……it was her “grandma car”. How interesting that Grandma found a car named Grandma! And then one day I carefully looked at the letters and I realized that it didn’t say Grandma. See, the letters were all in cursive and I couldn’t read them very well.

So the car lost a little bit of its specialness after that.”

“It’s definitely a true story. I lived it. I know.” Rich

“It looks like Grandma’s keychain,” he said.

good morning!

Hello my friends, we have arrived safely in Georgia and I have been trying to catch up on my sleep (so tired) and getting things orderly here in our cottage. We did a huge grocery trip the day after we arrived and it felt so good putting things away and knowing there was good food and drink for the family to enjoy. Interestingly (and it made my heart happy), our dear Caleb made the main grocery list, filled with healthy and nutritious foods like brown rice, wheat bread, and sweet potatoes, things I didn’t think he even liked. I have been at the pool with Sarah, I finished a book (I Know This Much is True) and started another one (East of Eden), I’ve walked in the sand and the ocean, and have already taken a multitude of photos…………

I find myself missing my girls Brittnee and Grace, a lot, especially the conversations we used to have all day every day about everything and nothing, serious and silly. However, it is good that I can focus on the children left at home with me, who need more of my attention and care. Jacob and Brittnee, and Grace and Brogan, are so happy. Both couples send us photos now and then and I lean into them, I especially notice their eyes (all eight) that sparkle with joy and gladness in these early and magical first days of marriage. I feel excitement, and always so blessed and grateful, to watch them begin their own families, while always part of mine.

Ethan and David are at home in Connecticut, “holding down the fort”. And, trying to stay cool. We don’t hear much from them. LOL. I’m sure the brothers are having a great time, as they get along so well and are great friends. And I miss Sierra, too. I’m glad that I still have her (Ethan’s girlfriend) to spend time with when I get back home. Rich and I have already talked about making her fly down here…………yes, I think it’s safe to say we miss our big girls. But all is well. Rich is at the beach volleyball area down the road with the boys while I type this up and get ready to go. He’s taking me on a morning date for coffees, fresh magazines, and togetherness.

Thank you for being here, and adding so much to my blog with your loving appreciation. I want you each to know how special you are, as we walk each other home………

you are loved.

Quote I clipped from Victoria magazine because I loved it so much: “The poet Mary Oliver expressed it this way: ‘To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.’ I’m grateful that both my loves [art and writing] require the deep payment of attention. As do the boundless other loves out there, including cooking, rearranging pictures on the wall, reading, praying, and, of course, the giving of oneself in relationship with another. I’m grateful that life can still surprise us. No matter what our age, or stormy national conflicts, or aches of the heart, we all can enter more fully into the skin of life itself.” ~Jan Karen

all for love

It’s eight in the morning and I am sitting on the porch. I fell asleep last night thinking about my blog and woke up this morning thinking about my blog. I’m writing this on the verge of tears, but I must write. Something about the nakedness of it all is giving me anxiety…….I share my heart here, I always have. There are some things too painful to share, and that’s okay. I understand that, now.

I am healing. I am so in love with my life; being a mama, being a wife, being a friend, being a woman, but most of all I am learning to love simply being myself. We are allowed, and indeed it is necessary, to put ourselves first. Not in a selfish way, of course. However, I have learned that it is quite selfish to put others first to an extent that I am neglected and suffer because of it. For so long now I have done this. And wondered why I felt so “off”. Why I couldn’t quite feel my best while pouring all of myself into my people and work. Why it (life) felt a little “wrong”.

There are many reasons why a person can become mentally and emotionally unhealthy, it’s often a slow journey there, but finding oneself in an unhealthy state doesn’t matter as much as the subsequent desire to be well. Oh God, how I want to be well. This desire fuels me onward and only recently I have discovered that in my instance, and in most instances, it is possible to find mental wellbeing. In fact, this healing for me is happening now. The hurts and pain cannot be forgotten, but they can be processed, with help from friends. The brain is amazing, God made it that way, “and it was very good” (Genesis). And I realize that it’s not easy and sometimes not even possible to the extent that one might wish. Certainly, perfection is never possible, but improvement in any area of life is my highest goal.

Yes, I thought about blogging and then as I sat down with my computer just a moment ago, I found myself starting to cry. I was feeling fear about opening up. But what made me proceed, was the urge to lovingly give. I know my blog is a delight to others, because you told me (thank you, sweet precious friends). I know in this small blogging-way, I even find a bit of my true self whilst writing and posting photos. I know that the spirit in which I share is the spirit of “take this gift, it’s from me, to you.” I truly love each person who comes here to read and share a moment or two, with me and my words.

But be careful of words. The actions of a person are much more telling that the words they say. I pray that my work here (which seems more like play) never hurts, but only serves to love.

That being said, guess what?

photo by Tia Leigh Photography

Grace and Brogan got married!
on June 12

It was a beautiful, magical, wondrous day.

I’ll tell you all about it, as soon as I can.

Tomorrow we travel to Jekyll for the rest of the summer but I plan to be blogging throughout.

Thank you for mercifully listening and for being here. If you would like to email me at any time the address is goodtobehome76@gmail.com. I love your comments here, as well, please be advised that they go to “pending” until I approve them. Thank you my dears.

You are loved.

~Shanda

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. 1Cor13

Seth and His Beer

oops, I meant “bear”.

Seth is 12. His stuffed bear, Mr. B, is growing old along with him and lives on his bed. Because of this, I tend to bring home decor for his bedroom, from Goodwill mostly, suitable for bear lovers.

He was at school on Friday while Grace and I spent some time at Goodwill together looking for stuff but we weren’t sure what-yet. Right away, in a magical moment, I made eye contact with a dear brown bear whose charm made me stop in my (mama bear) tracks, and……. add him to the cart.

When Seth was dropped off by the school bus later, I was home and ready to say “Seth, there’s a surprise for you, upstairs in your bedroom.” (By the way, this new bear is a ceramic cookie jar.)

As I am easily distracted, I then forgot to wait expectantly for him to reappear, but thankfully I was still in the dining room when Seth came down, gripping both hands on the same side of the railing so he could find me with his eyes, with the happiest smile on his face that I’ve seen in a while. Bright and joyous, with his cheeks smiled out so roundly, on either side of his face. (Seth, are you turning into a bear?)

“I wonder what I’ll put inside him,” he said.

mr and mrs!!!

On May 22, 2021, our oldest son Jacob married Brittnee, & a dear and wonderful couple they make.

Jacob and his lovely bride Brittnee

The wedding was BEAUTIFUL. I have so much stored up in my heart but not enough energy to get it out and expressed here on the blog. So there the story of the day remains (tucked away in my heart), for now.

our seven; Seth, David, Grace, Jacob, Ethan, Caleb, and Sarah

dear friends, I love you all.

if you would like the link to the wedding photos, please email at goodtobehome76@gmail.com and I would be happy to provide it, if I know who you are. 🙂

it started with us

quiet day

I am quiet today.

I color the gray roots of my dark hair this morning in the bathroom, wearing one of my husband’s t-shirts and a pair of denim shorts, I feel young and healthy. I put on make up and go out to get my nails painted princess pink. I am alone and I am quiet. The sun is hot and I am walking among strangers. I am calm but little nostalgic tears are waiting behind my green eyes. Expressive and pure emotions are close to the surface. Two sides of the same woman; empty but full, sad but happy, proud yet down in the dust humble, tired but expectant, lonely yet full of love, strong yet wanting to hide, busy yet letting everything but the important things go for now, remembering everything yet wanting to push memory aside, I am thinking about Jacob’s baby face looking up at me in our first house while knowing he’s about to be married and he sends me a photo of himself in his tux because he went to pick it up today.

I find myself studying that photo with every blink of these mother eyes showing me the man and the baby, both.

mother of the groom dress

our baby ducklings

Hello!!!

Oh what a beautiful spring day it has been. The tender leaves and early growing grass is glowing in the 5:30pm sunshine. The view from the window is dazzling, with only enough breeze to make the leaves flutter. Rich is out walking, and the children are all off doing their own things, while I sit in the bedroom typing away………

I’ve gotten a bit of sun lately as we are spending a lot of time outside watching our baby ducklings. We drive them out of the coop in the morning and guide them to the pond, and they are mesmerizing to watch. The six of them stay on the edge in the water and busily dip their heads down underneath to find tasty grasses and moss and roots to eat. After so many years of chickens it’s fun to smile at the ducks’ bills and webbed feet, the funny but ideal shape of their bodies (boats!) and tiny wings (not feathered out yet). We think we have one male and five females, which Sarah agrees is something to thank God about, as we did not want more than one Mr. Donald Duck Drake. Sarah and I made a teepee tent over there, too, so we could get out of the sunshine now and then. There is a pair of barn swallows building a nest in the coop. David broke one of the small panes of glass up near the roof and we didn’t replace it so the swallows use that small opening to get in and out of the coop. Their nest is a marvel of engineering, what a wonderful thing, to build a perfect nest with just a tiny bird beak. There is a lot of bird activity down there, as the flock of hens also slowing moving around, enjoying the springtime worms and bugs.

Grace in the tent, this morning.

I have planted half of my vegetable garden to radishes, beets, onions, carrots, potatoes, strawberries, and sweet peas. It sounds like a lot, but it’s really just one package of seeds each, and two strawberry plants from Tractor Supply. I also transplanted four wild strawberry plants that I dug up from the side of the road because they looked so healthy. I found a bag of potatoes in the pantry that had each sprung out shoots and Mom said I could just plant them and so I did. They already grew up through the soil and have dark green leaves. This is the first time I’ve grown potatoes and I’m already excited for the fall when I can unearth them. I have planted sunflowers, zinnias, and cosmos seeds in the flower beds. I’m not buying any seeds because the last couple of years I’ve bought them and never planted them. I am determined to plant them all this year…………My beaver down at the stream moved away, leaving hundreds of his old chewed off sticks behind, each with pointed ends, just perfect to use for garden markers, and so I find myself collecting an armful and my garden charmingly looks like it’s grown sticks (because I mark the ends of the rows and the middles, too)…..along with the real inhabitants of the soil, the growing vegetables. I have a healthy rhubarb patch and have made a cake with some of it and plan on baking a pie soon.

A week ago Sarah and I went for a magical walk at the end of the day, during golden hour. While we walked on the trails, in the woods, in the field, and as we picked apple blossoms that we found and admired new spring flowers, I told her that I had been thinking about a swing. I wanted one that was made with a board for a seat, and long ropes to tie up on a high branch in a tree. I wanted a wooden board for the seat and not a rubber one, because those hurt my hips with the squeezing. I wanted to swing from a tree on our property. So, she and I decided to do it. I didn’t stop to think that God was listening to us talk………..

A day or two later, I picked up Sarah from school. She had gone in for a test and she had an hour of free time until she had her next class (at home, on the computer) so we went to Tractor Supply and would you believe it? She “spied with her little eyes” a boxed swing kit there, ready for us to buy. All we had to do was convince her Dad to hang it up as soon as possible. And, he did! She and I have had the most wonderful times swinging in the tree by the pond, feeling the breeze as we go back and forth, taking turns on our swing. Now we want a swing in every tree.

Since the wedding is coming up on Saturday, Mom and I were texting today about what we were planning on wearing for the special day. She asked me to put my dress on and send her a picture, so I did. Sarah took the photos and I thought it would be fun to show them to you here on the old blog. Mother of the groom, can you even?

VERY young at heart, though!

The second to the last one is the photo I sent to Mom and she said, “You look good!” I had been resting in bed when she inspired me to dress up like this, and it was a fun afternoon pick-me-up!

Happy Tuesday my friends!
you are loved. so much.

let us


Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate’er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

When I keep my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, the way home is less anxious and less painful. It’s not entirely pain free, but it’s different, more wholesome, even the pain is rich with meaning and purpose.

Being vulnerable and open is a good way to be, but it hurts with intensity sometimes. However, an open heart can receive so much love and beauty. I couldn’t live without being able to have the beauty come inside of me. Despite the pain.

I read a quote about how we are more apt to write our trials in marble and our blessings in sand. I can relate to this.

I want to write a book about the growing-up-into-wisdom-trial I am coming out of. But I also want to throw away every reminder of it.

I am being amazed on an almost daily basis by the ways God shows up for me. When I live with my eyes WIDE open (“I once was blind but now I see”) I see it all PLUS some, and my imagination soars as I contemplate the things I STILL can’t see (yet), but God is doing it. Sort of like the middle of deep woods in the winter, the enchanting beauty there in that secret place that no human will see because it’s too hard to get to it, and yet……..it is there. It is.

None of us are alone in our struggles and hardships. We have each other to get through them.

Although I have felt worthless at times, I do know who I am; a beautiful soul. A lover of people. A faithful wife and a good mama. A friend. I’ve worked hard at living well in these areas. Not to feel good about myself; but because of the joy it brings me to live my life like this. Enjoying.

Overthinking is a good way to become soul-weary.

Living childlike (yet wise) is precious, carefree, and sweet.

I am thankful for my husband, my children, and the children who are about to marry into our family.

I am thankful for the warmth of these spring days. The warmth of this day, and that my cold is almost gone and I have more energy.

I am thankful for the knowledge I can find online at the click of a few buttons. Knowledge is power.

I am thankful for my good health and the peace and contentment within me at this moment.

I am thankful to be blogging.

I love to write here and I have missed it. I haven’t been “myself” (I’ve been becoming more of myself) in several years now, (a stepping away from blogging as I work on other things) but I am starting to gain the energy and desire to do the things I love to do (again…..) so here I am. I love you all, my dear blog friends. So gentle and kind. Let us have fun. Let us enjoy life.

Grace graduated from college on May 1.
Mother’s Day 2021
Brittnee and Jacob had their wedding shower. The wedding is this Saturday, the 22nd.

“Blessed are we who shout: yes! do it! Turn things right side up again!”

you are loved.