Q1 at Remington Family House

Images from Second Family Thanksgiving. Start to finish, clockwise from top right.

It’s been now almost four months since moving into Remington Family House. And, last I checked, everyone was still alive and in one piece. With the exception of Manni, who’s lost millions upon millions of hairs and counting. Today I’m pretty sure I wore more of his hair than he did – my black blazer now doubles as my fur coat, depending on whether or not I remember my lint brush. But I digress.

Here are a few other things I’ve picked up on this month:

You are a better spouse when you live in community. Like when I want to say to Steven, “Fetch me some ice cream. Right now.” I have to think about how that comes across to the innocent roommates in the room who would probably think less of me and marriage in general and I inevitably end up saying something slightly less crazy like “Hey babe, you know what sounds good? Ice cream.” Steven is then less offended and more likely to bring me said ice cream and both my marriage and taste for Tahitian vanilla bean prospers.

You become more like the people you surround yourself by. This can be good and bad. I live with five of the best people, so this is a great thing. A few things that I’ve picked up from my roommates include:

  • The willingness to open our home more often than not to both friends and strangers, with the full expectation that the latter will become the former just by doing so.
  • A morning routine that would not be complete without the WSJ.
  • A giant, rotating wardrobe.
  • A tolerance for animals that borderlines on genuine acceptance.
  • Flexibility with the things that don’t matter. Not that I would call myself flexible quite yet, but it’s become more of an active effort. I still wouldn’t get that Presidential Fitness Award that they denied me in sixth grade (solely based on my slightly below-average performance on the “sit and reach” segment of the test. This is the world we live in, people. Injustices abound), but I’m inching closer most days.
  • Steadfastness in the things that do.

Love isn’t a verb. It is a promise. It is a vow that you make knowing that you don’t want your capricious feelings/emotions to dictate your trajectory in life. This is true in my marriage, this is true in my home, this is true in the place I worship. This is true.

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The secret of the easy yoke

Excerpt from A Year with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

It’s been a hard week.

For several reasons, most of which are not appropriate blog material, as I don’t prefer to use this as my diary. But that’s never stopped me before.

My younger sister left for discipleship training school with YWAM on Friday.  She will be gone until May and right now and that sounds like infinity.

My older sister and I are fighting. It’s not looking good.

Two of my sisters in the non-familial sense are going through very hard break ups. Their hurt is palpable.

I was reprimanded at work yesterday for something I do not feel I deserved to be reprimanded for. Which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is the worst kind of reprimanding. I cried in the bathroom, which didn’t feel very professional.

This morning, I woke up prepared for the worst, with the thought that life has been hard for the last week, why would the trend stop now? (How quickly I disregarded the previous 10 to 12 weeks, which had been good to excellent. My capacity to forget is astounding).

I showed up for my Wednesday shift at the Alpha Center, the pregnancy crisis center I volunteer at a couple times a week, prepared to keep my head low, answer the phones and then relocate to somewhere safe to wallow as soon as I could.

My plan was quickly foiled.  As I walked in, the staff greeted me with shouts of happy birthday and a huge pile of bagels. They proceeded to give me a card with well wishes, and then serenade me with a less-than-musically-sound version of Happy Birthday.

Despite the fact that it was not my birthday, and that I hate being sung to, nothing sounded sweeter.

My bagel was a C before I realized that something had changed. That backpack full of troubles (which, I admit, in reality are relatively trite) was no longer on my shoulders. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t gone. But I had found a warm place to put it down for a time, while I refueled and remembered who I was.

I knew, when I left, that I wasn’t the only one carrying it anyways.

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Remington Family House, a prologue

I haven’t written in almost a year. I’m sorry, but (insert whatever excuse will allow you to give me another chance here).  Truly.

I’ll cut to the chase: Steven and I moved in with four other people and a dog. We did not birth nor are we related (at least in the traditional sense of the word) to any of them.

This, as you can imagine, has been a cause of concern for most of my family and many of my friends, who still have lingering doubts that I did not join a cult in 2007 when I spent a year in missions. So I imagine their conversations look a lot like this:

“Did you hear about Maggie and Steven? They moved into a commune where they share their kitchen and bathroom and probably even their spouses. I think it’s their new religion or something.”

“Oh I heard. And they aren’t even allowed to watch T.V., probably cause the leaders are worried they’ll be influenced by the outside world or worse, democrats. I think we should start an email chain so that we all can share what we think we heard about it. You know, so that we know how to pray for her. ”

Which is why I feel compelled to clear up a few things, just to make sure we’re all on the same page. Or even in the same book (which, for the record, is not Daughters of Zion).

So here’s a brief overview about how we went from being two people in a basement to being six people in a home:

Last year, we met Shannon and Brian Quay at church. They moved to Fort Collins from Ohio for Brian to attend graduate school. Shannon is a teacher, and one of the sharpest women I have ever known.  She can make you laugh so hard you forget it’s not okay to pee in the kitchen.  Brian is a budding economist, brewmaster and outdoorsman extraordinaire. The two of them together will slay you. I mean, seriously, you are good as dead.

The Quays introduced us to their friend Hannah Pechan, who also moved here from Ohio for graduate school. There are very few things that Hannah is not good at. To name just a few areas in which she excels: loving people, being grateful, staying politically informed, changing the world one baby shower at a time. Also on the sharpest women I have ever known list. Right near the top.

Around the same time, I started getting to know my longtime friend-crush from church, Cassie Blair. She is a designer/artist/photographer/snorter/impeccable dresser. Also on the list of sharp women. You may have noticed a pattern.

The meeting of all these people was soon eclipsed by our introduction to the Quay’s beloved dog, Manii. (Which means a lot coming from me, as those who know me know that I was born without a tenderness for animals. There was nothing the doctors could do.) If you haven’t met him, do whatever you can to change that.

By December of last year, we were all quite nearly smitten with each other. We also were all in need of a new living situation, for various reasons. When the idea of renting a place together was raised, and then once we were certain that the idea was not raised in jest, we got serious.

Steven and I have talked about living in a commune for a long time. Back when we were only a couple in my diary, we talked about living in a big house with all our friends, sharing responsibilities, gardening, pooling resources and opening it up for community events, concerts, feasts, etc.

Although the two years we lived alone together were a necessary investment in ourselves as a unit, the idea that that longtime dream could become a reality, at least in part, was enough to fill us with something that felt a lot like giddiness.

The house hunt ended in April when three* of us signed a lease on a two-level, four-bed, two-bath house on Remington Street. It had everything we were looking for and more. Big windows, wooden floors, lots of kitchen shelves and a hidden storage area in the bathroom where we could hide a small person if the need should arise.

We moved in at the first of August.

Now to dispose of the rumors. Contrary to popular belief (which may or my not have been perpetuated by my own endless fascination with family-bed jokes), we do not share a bank account or a bed. It’s true, we don’t yet have a T.V., but we do have five MacBooks, a subscription to the WSJ and a projector in the works. There is no shortage of routes to the outside world and current, diverse political commentary (so you can stop worrying, Dad).

The only thing we do religiously as a house is drink coffee and listen to Stevie Nicks. Other than that, we’re all still trying to be more like Jesus, and hoping we can help each other in our lifelong pursuits of trying to figure out what that means.

Our adventure has really only just begun. It will not be without trial (what good adventure is?).  All that we know for certain is that we will end the year with four friends that are actually family and a dog that we did not have to potty train. And maybe even a few life lessons, if we’re lucky.

I hope you’ll come over sometime.

*The City of Fort Collins forbids cohabitation of more than three unrelated individuals. Which is why Steven, Hannah and I are actually just visiting. For a year or so.

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how the king comes

Not through your accomplishments in the closing year, nor your lofty goals for the one to come. Not in the good I’ve done nor in the rightful place I’ve created. And thank heaven for that.

Not in the packages, not in the perfection, as if we know what is.

He comes, in holding the person’s hand next to you until it’s comfortable. In the stolen moments of still. The time between order and delivery. The graciousness of the red light, the pause before responding. The holding of breath. The airport delay and resulting wait and the smile of the child across the row in the arms of her father, who doesn’t believe she’s waiting for anything at all because she’s already gotten to the only place she knows.

He comes as the child. He comes as the father. He comes when you most expect Him.

He comes when you least expect Him.

He comes.

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practicing an attitude of gratitude

Courtesy of twofordssearchin.

Now we never have to be apart again. (Courtesy of twofordssearchin.)

I recently found out that a dear friend of mine has heated toilet seats in her place of work.

The next day, when using the slightly more modest facilities at my own office, I suddenly realized how chilly my underside was. My poor, chilly, neglected bum, forced to undergo these inhumane working conditions.

It is so hard living in America.

Not long after exiting the restroom I realized something. The amount of water I just flushed would’ve taken a several mile walk and haul for millions in Africa. The soap I mindlessly scrub with has saved millions of lives by limiting the spread of disease. The bathroom itself is a comfortable 71 degrees—while just over a mile away, homeless huddle over vents in the below freezing and falling temperature outside.

Meanwhile, I’m brooding over my temporarily chilly cheeks. The human capacity to expect rather than appreciate is mind numbing.

And so has started my campaign to greaten my gratitude.

Everyday this month I am going to write down something new that I am thankful for. Not just paychecks and Christmas gifts but the in between things. The joy-making and sometimes even life-giving things that all too often slip through the grateful grate in my heart and land somewhere near my stomach.

Below are a few things I’ve added so far. Next time I put up a whiney post, kindly refer me to this one. I don’t want to wait until I’m drowning to be grateful for the air.

  • Holding hands.
  • Finding the perfect word.
  • Realizing that for some things, there isn’t one (see “holding hands”).
  • Metaphors.
  • When your cell phone breaks and at first it seems like your disconnected from the whole world and then after a few hours you feel the freedom and you realize you were never actually connected to the world. You were just carrying it around in your hand bag.
  • Technology that allows for underwater vision.
  • Squeezing too many people you love on to one couch and realizing that with this crowd, you don’t care for elbow room.
  • The hours between 7 and 9 in the morning.
  • Knowing people that make you want to be better.
  • Reading something true.
  • Reading something true out loud.
  • Learning something new.
  • Aprons.
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A desert island reader’s dilema

I’ve been putting off posting the last couple weeks because I didn’t want to waste my first post in over a month on something that wasn’t glamourous.

But as of now there have been no affairs, sabotage or money laundering to report on and the only red carpet I’ve seen in ages is the spot on the rug where I spilled red wine. So instead I’ll write about books (Us Weekly, you can stop reading now).

The other day a young woman asked me if I was stranded on a desert island with only one book, which book would I choose. I told her that was not a question. How could anyone pick just one with absolute surety? And if they could, why on earth would they continue to read others purposelessly, knowing they’ve already found the one? And were they ready to commit to this singular piece of work, knowing that kind of statement binds them to its pages for life and demands an intimate knowledge of what’s between them, both stated on their weathered faces and insinuated in their turning? The question’s very existence was disarming, and left me no choice but to address it immediately.

After a short period of deliberation, it became clear that while I had no problem committing the rest of my life to a man I had dated less time than I had been a junior in high school, picking a single book to define as my one and only seemed quite nearly impossible.

So I picked five. This is where the marriage metphor ceases to work, FYI.

I’ve listed them for you below, in no particular order, just in case you’d like an activity to pass those post thanksgiving meal hours that completely excludes your family.  Keep in mind I have read only the tiniest fraction of the books in this world and I’m sure many of you have much more learned lists. Feel free to share them in the comments below (I’d like a little holiday reading of my own).

On Writing by Stephen King

East of Eden, John Steinbeck

The History of Love, Nicole Kraus

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer

An American Childhood,  Annie Dillard

Note: I am halfway through The Architecture of Happiness and I am 85 percent sure it will make it on the list. You’ll be the first to know if it does.

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A toast.

Seth and Mackensie, October 2, 2011

A few weeks ago, a few friends of ours asked Steven and I to say a few words at their wedding.

Most good wedding speeches are spontaneous, catch the mood of the event and the lovers and ride it out in an eloquent diddy, complete with laughter and tears and heartfelt words of wisdom that fill everyone to the brim with love and champagne.

Mine was typed, printed, practiced roughly 20 times and even then read word for word on the page, only pausing to look up the one time when I was absolutely sure I wouldn’t lose my place (where I had typed parenthetically “Look up and raise your glass.” —Just in case I forgot what I was up there for in the first place, became disoriented and started crying).

But I still lost my place once and promptly got the hand shakes, made apparent to everyone by the now flapping paper I could no longer control.

I have never been much of a public speaker. Nor spontaneous, as much as I hate to admit it. But I love these two people, and so I meant what I said. However uncomfortable I made everyone.

From the top:

Good evening beloved ones of Seth and Mackensie Bravermen…

I may be a newer friend of Mackensie’s, but due to the relationship between our husbands, and being that Seth is one of my dearest and closest brothers, I can pretty much guarantee we’ll be friends and family for a long time to come, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

I first met Mackensie as the new Craigslist roommate joining me in a ramshackle house of women, known in some circles as the Myrtle Mansion.

She was sweet and shy and mysterious and much, much preferred over the 40-year-old man with a cat who—true story—also replied to the add.

The first time I saw her, her hammock, and her juicer, I knew she’d be trouble for Seth. I told him so.

“You better not meet my roommate. You’ll fall in love with her.”Seth and Mackensie

He, obviously, did not heed my warning.

Shortly after they met for the first time, Seth started hanging around my house much more regularly, casually wearing his guitar, often shirtless, and with a somewhat newfound passion for vegan cooking and fine wine.

They had begun.


It was all a blur of bike rides and porch sitting and bread breaking and fire circles and 
cigarettes and pretty soon you could see it on their faces before either of them were willing to admit it.

Actually long, long before either of them were willing to admit it.

They were in love. A sweet, summery love that makes you wish you had your camera.

Over the last year and a half I’ve had the joy and honor of walking with the two them as they stumble and skip through dating and then engagement, summer and winter and summer again. As they’ve planted and grown and watered their love for each other, their

awe of the Lord and their wonder for the world around them contagiously, leaving a warm trail of Instgrams for their captivated family, friends and fans.

And now here we are, at their wedding day, and the two of them have vowed to be one for a lifetime of bike riding and porch sitting and bread breaking and fire circles and quitting cigarettes.

And I have to say Seth, I was right.

Mackensie is your trouble. She’s your wife. She’s your best friend, your confidant. She’s your lover, your help, your home.

So here’s to the newest, Bravermen branch. (LOOK UP AND RAISE YOUR GLASS. PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER). May the two of you never lose your love of life and search for God. And please, please take some pictures for the rest of us.

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