Folly Beach 2014

Every fall, we spend a weekend at Folly Beach with my best friends from high school and their husbands. The company is wonderful, the mornings slow, and the beach beautiful. I slipped away a few minutes each morning to capture the beauty of the beach in the morning sun.

grey ceiling | folly beach, sc

grey ceiling | folly beach

grey ceiling | folly beach, sc

grey ceiling | folly beach, sc

Checking in…

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write. At first neglecting to post was unconscious. Then I realized I wasn’t writing anymore, and let that be okay. That went one step further and I essentially decided to “retire” grey ceiling – I shifted to a private site (I didn’t want to lose everything I’ve already written, but didn’t want it to be available anymore) and went on about my business.

But sometimes the thought that something is truly over drives us to realize we deeply cherish that thing and are not ready for it to be over – no matter how uncomfortable we are about it.

So here I am. The uncomfortableness of this media – sharing private life details, thoughts, opinions, experiences, etc with complete strangers – got to me, and led to my stepping away. But so many of you that read this are dear friends, and I want to keep you in the loop on life. So, again, here I am.

This past weekend, J and I attended a scholarship gala at our alma mater. The evening was delightful – full of smiles and hugs and laughter with many of our favorite people from our old town. At one point, I stepped back to the drink table, and ran into a man I’d worked with many years ago when I first started working at the college. We greeted one another, asked how life was going, and I then remembered seeing via social media that he had recently started a new job. I asked how his new job was going, and he looked surprised that I knew. I shrugged and said “I keep you with you!” and his face lit up. It was an “ah-ha” moment for me – something as simple as occasionally paying attention to someone else’s post and then asking when I have the rare chance to see them in real life means a lot to people. It means a lot to me when others do that for me. So in this media of social posting and sharing, I find value in the ability to keep up with others as life moves on and around and away. And so I will continue posting.

So, tonight, I just wanted to say HI. I hope you are well. And I hope you’ll occasionally share a snippet of your life where I can keep up with it as well :-).

Metal Desk Re-do

metal desk re-do - BEFORE (from
metal desk re-do - AFTER (from

When we moved this year, we did not move the massive desk Justin has had since college as it no longer stays in one piece when moved. Instead, I used a high top buffet-type table for a desk for the first few months we were here. Though pretty, it did not function well as a desk. I started looking online for a new desk, but couldn’t make up my mind – I really wanted something older (with character) but wasn’t finding much in my price range.

One day, as we were driving home from a trip to town, we passed an assortment of furniture by the side of the road with a “for sale” sign. I glimpsed an old metal desk among the items. We were in the car and had no room for roadside furniture, so we kept driving. I could not get that old metal desk out of my mind. It had perfect proportions and looked solid – with a little care and some spray paint, it would be perfect for my office. Home was not far away, so I batted my eyes at Justin and asked if he’d be willing to go get it with me once we could get home and get the truck. Wonderful man that he is, he agreed.

So the desk came home with us later that day, and I couldn’t wait to get started painting. First, though, it needed a good cleaning. I washed with dish detergent, water, and a rough brush. Most of the dirt and stains were surface, but some rust had set in as well.

metal desk re do | grey ceiling

For the rust, I made a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda, brushed it onto the metal, and then used crumpled aluminum foil to run the rust off. This method worked like a charm – the rust came off quickly and easily!

metal desk re do | grey ceiling

Above: Metal corner pieces with rust (before cleaning). Below: Metal corner pieces without rust (after cleaning).

metal desk re do | grey ceiling

After cleaning, I spray painted the entire desk (including the top) with Rust-oleum’s 2x Ultra Cover Paint + Primer spray in Satin Granite. I used four cans, and could have used one more (the paint on the back is a bit thin as I knew that side was going against the wall). I used painters tape to cover the metal corners and handles while painting, and it worked really well. I waited until the paint was dry (still tacky, though – impatience won!), and then moved right into the office.

metal desk re do | grey ceiling

I really love the result. This was my first time spray painting something as large as a desk, and I learned a lot of lessons (such as the importance of an even coat). The proportions of the desk are perfect, and it’s drawer space is way more than I need. It’s very sturdy. I’m hoping it will last many years!

Infertility: Our Story

This post is not my first, and very likely not my last, on infertility. I’ve written about the emotional struggle, about the lies, and about the frustration. Today, I am writing out of a new hope – a hope that, despite the grief and sense of loss that accompanies infertility, God will redeem our barrenness.

Lately, I’ve been searching for others’ stories on infertility. Given that one cannot look at a childless woman and know if that childlessness is by choice or by struggle, infertility so often feels lonely and isolating. I am grateful for others that bravely share their stories.

Two trends emerge in the stories shared: first, many stories are written after-the-fact and feature a happy ending of a beautiful bundle of joy; second, many stories chronicle extensive medical journeys. I’d like to share a third story - in-progress and unresolved - because this is the story we are living, and I want others living this approach to know they are not alone.

Our story involves no needles, no doctors’ offices, and no medical procedures. Instead, it involves a choice to try, quite likely for years, to conceive naturally in every sense of the word. I’d like to share this choice, and this in-progress story, because it’s where we’re living right now, and I have to believe it’s worth sharing.

J and I love each other deeply. We are committed to one another for life. We are each others’ favorite. We are partners, lovers, friends, confidants, and sources of endless support and encouragement to one another. As we’ve talked about starting a family, we’ve assumed that would be a naturally born family. When reality has differed from our assumptions, we’ve grieved, worked through our sense of loss, redefined our commitment to one anther, and learned to walk through this together. We will choose one another every day for the rest of our lives whether or not we ever have naturally born children.

Our deepest conviction around God’s work in our lives through infertility is that we are not to shortchange God, nor try to play God, by going the route of fertility treatments. While we have friends and family that have different convictions and have been blessed by God through the pursuit of medical options for infertility (and we celebrate with them!), our convictions do not lead us to that approach. Our decision to forego fertility treatments is deeply personal, and it is our decision. It’s not the right decision for everyone, and we do not expect everyone to understand our reasons. Nonetheless, the decision remains. Neither of us are remotely interested in being poked, prodded, and analyzed in an area so closely tied to our heart and soul – especially when we do not find the peace of Christ that passes all understanding in our hearts on this approach. I’ve known nothing else in life that has reached so deep into my being and wrecked havoc as the struggle to conceive. I believe the same to be true for J. To be measured and found wanting will do nothing to encourage emotional well-being. To be measured and found adequate will seem a waste of time, effort, and energy as the charge will be to continue doing as we are, and as we would do without any analysis.

And so we choose to continue along this path of loving one another, attempting to procreate, and living our life together. Practically, our approach involves ovulation tracking, standard health checkups, and learning to open our hearts to the possibility of adoption. Spiritually, we are learning to hope and dream and find joy despite an unknown future.

I share this to simply add to the collection of voices sharing the infertility discussion. My hope is others choosing this approach will find encouragement in knowing they are not the only ones choosing this path.

Where life has been lived lately

grey ceiling | NE GA mountains

Lately, life has been lived in these hills. The world, once seemingly enormous and full of jet bridges and new places, now seems tiny. It’s quiet, full of solitude, and restful. The green of the trees, the glimpse of mountains in the distance around an unsuspecting curve, evenings with J… and there’s this somewhat foreign feeling in my belly – in my heart and my belly – that feels a tiny bit like fire and gumption and excitement about the next minute.

I’m cautious to even speak of this feeling. It visited me in the grocery parking log as I thought about the hunk of cheddar cheeses and the crusty Italian bread coming home with me. And it visited me over the weekend as I was thinking about the upcoming work week. To have lived so many, many days in the shadows, and in the barrenness of the days… I almost can’t comprehend this feeling – of life! – again.

I say again because I remember this feeling as an old friend. It speaks of crisp fall days, long brown hair, and cheering on the sidelines every Friday night when all the world felt new. It speaks of driving five hours to a college to spread my wings so very wide. It speaks of wedding dresses and tuxedos and first glimpses. It speaks of hopes and dreams in the shape of twenty acres of hard woods in Jasper county. And now, apparently, it speaks of joy in small things, the reminder that God is in control, and the comfort of new rhythms of life.

So, as these days have passed, the quiet of each day, and the sense of peace this quiet brings to my soul, is so healing. I’m still not completely sure from what I am recovering, but the raw feeling of my heart and the jagged soul-edges are slowly but surely healing and becoming whole again. Perhaps it’s the gusts of clean mountain air that blow all the gunk out, or perhaps it’s the crispness of the Chestatee River as the cool water envelopes me and washes away all the dirt. Or perhaps it’s none of this and all of this as God works His gracious magic.

Whatever it may be, I am grateful. For many seasons past, this elusive alive feeling has not been a part of life. Today is its own day; and tomorrow will be new, too. For this, again, I am grateful.

grey ceiling | NE GA mountains grey ceiling | NE GA mountains

Infertility: today’s view.

Yesterday, the reddish toilet bowl water drove “f*ck” out of my mouth before I thought twice. Each month I’m a day or two late, which seems like every month, that persistent thread of hope starts growing into something bigger and broader… only to be dashed again.

Today, I’m on Facebook, notice a bulge around the middle of a normally tiny woman and realize she’s pregnant with her third child. Her third.

It’s all I can do to keep the rage at bay. Three kids, God, I think. Three kids in less time than I’ve even been married. I want to weep for days or, alternately, throw a temper tantrum at God… you know, just in case He’s forgotten about me, or forgotten how deeply I’d love to have kids, or somehow thinks this is okay with me.

Later this evening, J and I sat on the beach and watched the waves roll in. “Do you think it’s bad if we don’t have kids until we’re 35?” I asked. J laughed and said “No, not at all.” I did the math, and argued my point. “But we’ll be 55 when they’re 20.” J seemed unfazed.

Even later, as we walked through the waves in the last light of the day, I apologized for being impatient about having kids. These last few months have brought the first glimpses of healing in the raw parts of my heart touched by infertility. Hope has tread, cautious but stubborn, into the corners of my heart. I want to live in this hope – to touch it and hug it and roll all around in it. Most days, lately, have been that way, and I am grateful. Today was harder, and that’s okay. God, despite my momentary rage earlier today, is graciously teaching me how to love Him again, and how to trust Him with the way life is unfolding.

The Familiarity Requirement.

grey ceiling | tomatoes

I’ve noticed something new in myself over the last few months:  I am avoiding new experiences.

The world has become large, complicated, over-stimulating, and somewhat disenchanting in these last few years. Where the simulation of adventure and newness and exploration once spurred me to get out into the world, I now find minimal attraction to such experiences.

Instead, I find I am going deeper, so much deeper, into the moments of my day, and the spaces in which I inhabit, than ever before. Depth within self has always been a part of my life, and I am now finding breadth in the deepest depths of self. Perhaps this depth and breadth is a liberal arts study of the self – where one feeling, thought, experience, conviction, or notion ends, twenty more begin that are each connected with the original, each other, and twenty others. Politics intertwine with religion which intertwines with Christ which intertwines with justice and love and mercy and wrath and judgment which intertwines with society which intertwines with self and so on. Singular experiences, or convictions, of my past are no longer isolated events but rather roots of many trees with many branches in a very dense forest.

As I avoid new experiences, the act of living finds more focus in the home. I work from my home, sleep from my home, live from my home, learn from my home. Home is a common thread in the familiarity I am requiring in these days. I work from my computer screen until the work is finished, and then long to use my hands to accomplish something, anything, whatever. Most recently, I’ve learned to can and preserve fresh veggies from our small garden (and from the gardens of sweet friends). Just as I am going wider in the depths of my self, I find I am going wider in the depths of my home by seeking new experiences within its familiar perimeter.

And so, in this, I come to the conclusion that this season of life is defined by the familiarity requirement:  the idea that seeking new experiences within the perimeters of great familiarity allows for greater simplicity, space for sustainable growth and healing, and a life more focused on today.

I’m very curious… have you had a season of living with a familiarity requirement?

Visiting Maine [July 2014]

Our week in Maine was full of exploring. Fresh lobster in lobster rolls and chowder ruined us for lobster anywhere else forever. Views of craggy rocks, ocean, deciduous trees and big blue sky fill the corners of our memories. The opposite ends of the tides produced an subtly ever-changing terrain… no two view of the same finger of water looked the same.

grey ceiling | jordan pond, acadia national park

jordan pond, acadia national park

acadia national park

acadia national park

acadia national park

acadia national park

sand beach, acadia national park

view of cadillac mountain, acadia national park

view of cadillac mountain, acadia national park

bar harbor, maine

gouldsboro point, maine

gouldsboro point, maine

gouldsboro point, maine

gouldsboro point, maine

bar harbor, maine

bar harbor, maine

How we garden

how we garden | amy gaines

Justin and I started our first garden several years ago (we actually don’t remember which one!). We laid railroad ties in the side of our yard, tilled up a square of red clay, and hoped for the best.

We were not very successful. Our sunflowers grew wonderfully, but everything else was a bit lackluster. Red clay does not provide a good home for nutrient-needy plants.

We shifted our strategy a bit and used five gallon buckets, left over from a local painting business, filled with potting soil. We called it our pot garden.

After several years of learning what we like best, we’ve settled into a routine of tomatoes and peppers. Last year, I grew cherry tomatoes for the first time. Fresh on the heels of our Italy trip, my favorite summer meal was fresh cherry tomatoes with mozarella, fresh basil, and olive oil. Justin learned how to turn peppers into pepper powder. I had great intentions of packaging powdered golden cayenne pepper and including in Christmas gifts, but then life happened and we moved.

Last year, we put together the cutest little garden area in our back yard. We had a privacy fence at one end of our porch, and we wrapped fencing around the other three sides to create a garden enclosure. Stepping into this space was one of my favorite things to do when I was home on the weekends.

This year, we are renting a house and weren’t sure we’d be able to have a garden. Our rental has a back porch on the second floor level, and we realized this was a perfect place for a garden – no deer or squirrels would be vying for our fresh produce! So we purchased buckets and dirt and started a garden.

We bought gosh awful orange five gallon buckets from Home Depot, and I grew tomatoes and eggplant from seed this year. I’ve never started (successfully!) from seed before. I ordered four packs of seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (three tomatoes and one eggplant), and started them in containers bigger than seed starters but not too big. They sat by the window for a few weeks and started growing like weeds. I thinned the seeds down to one per bucket, let them grow more, and then transplanted them into the five gallon buckets. I prefer this method (using bigger containers than the starter pots) because I only have to transplant once, and I can keep the seedlings in the house until they’re well established.

When I transplanted the tomatoes, I buried 2/3s of the plant. This approach seems so counter intuitive, but it’s what tomatoes want. They grew very quickly after being planted in the pots. They now have first fruits, but nothing red yet. I can’t wait to have fresh tomatoes!

pots | amy gaines

Seedlings ready to move to bigger pots.

chair and buckets | amy gaines

Our chairs and bright orange buckets.

garden | amy gaines

Eggplant, Italian cherry tomatoes, a strawberry plant, and green tomato plants.

Dockery Lake

Dockery Lake is a local secret, and I’m not so sure I want to let it out. Nestled deep in a mountain top hollar, this small lake is stocked with trout, flanked by several campsites, and perfect for a picnic. A friend of our’s camped there over the weekend, and we joined him for a Saturday evening cookout. The fish weren’t biting, but the frogs played their one-string banjos deep into the evenings, and the lightning bugs magically lit up the dusk. Our dinner of steak, hamburgers, asparagus, chips, and delicious lemon bars was fit for a camping king.



dockery lake canoe | amy gaines