Tag Archives: family



Here are some fun facts about the wedding that won’t make it into the program:

  1. The paper flowers in the bouquets and boutonnieres are made from retired bound volumes of periodicals from the library where the bride worked for five years.
  2. The decorative netting used in some of the corsages are cut from the yards and yards of netting from the removed underskirt of the bride’s mother’s wedding dress.
  3. The ring the bride is wearing on her right hand belonged to her grandmother, who gave it to the bride’s mother mother on her 16th birthday.
  4. The pennant flags decorating the reception hall and the ceremony space are cut from old maps used in the classroom of the couple’s university for the last who-knows-how-many-decades. They were donated to the wedding by one of UU’s best beloved history teachers.
  5. Some of the decorations at the rehearsal dinner are music boxes that belonged to the bride’s maternal grandparents.
  6. The sun and moon pendants worn by the bride and groom were commissioned by the bridesmaids and were modeled after a drawing done by the bride as an illustration for her book.
  7. Muffins are being served at the reception for three reasons:
    1. The reception takes place early enough to be called a brunch.
    2. The bride and groom use “muffin” as a pet name. The groom goes by “blueberry muffin” and the bride is “chocolate muffin,” the two flavors available.
    3. The church’s youth group (taught by the bride and groom) call themselves “The Mighty Muffin-Eaters,” a tribute to their propensity to eat a ton of the muffins that one of our church members makes for Sunday School every week.
  8. All of the children playing a role in the wedding are members of the aforementioned youth group. The bride grew up with most of them and considers them to be her younger siblings.
  9. The groomsmen’s boutonnieres are paper airplanes placed as a subtle nod to the Disney animated short Paperman, a cartoon that the bride and groom particularly love.
  10. The bride and groom are getting married a year and two days after they told each other “I love you” for the first time.



1. Eat large amounts of food at annual gatherings.

2. Play made-up games together.

3. Make music together.

4. Discuss Obamacare.

5. Watch exciting movies together.

6. Easy messy food together (without judgment).

7. Have inside jokes.

8. Have their own special language.

9. Know their members at their worst, and still love them.

10. Know their members at their best, and love them all the more.

To Grandmother’s House


Grandparents’ houses are unique, yet somehow all the same.

They are all messy. Yet each household has a different kind of mess.

The older a person gets, the more she surrounds herself with memories. And the older she is, the more memories she has to hold on to. An older person’s home becomes a nest of memories.

My grandparents’ home was like this. It got progressively messier every year, mostly because my grandparents lost the energy they needed to really take care of the place. But they kept accumulating memories. Pictures. Bits if this and that from their many travels. Their home became their memories. Once we took away the memorabilia, it was no longer their home. Just four walls and a roof.

My step-grandmother has a fastidiously clean home. Everything but the grandkids’ play table is tidy. But there are family pictures everywhere. They crowd table tops and walls and bookshelves. It’s as if age has allowed her to realize that it is not possessions that are priceless, it’s people. Her people are her nest.

The same is true of any grandparent’s home. The walls and shelves and refrigerators are lined with faces. Friends and family and families of family. Everywhere you look, there’s another familiar smiling face. Take them down, and one gets the feeling the house would unravel, or melt the way a dream melts when the sunlight hits your eyes in the morning.

Post Christmas


But wait! There’s more!

The Rambler Family Christmas does not end on the day itself. No, sirree. We love the season too much to let it be over in a day.

We know how to drag out a Christmas. Drag it out in the best possible way. We drive deep down south where there’s nothing but swamps, sand, and pine trees (and some towns, too) to spend time with my dad’s half of the family. We all spend four days together under the roof of a rambling century-old haunted mansion. And it’s awesome.

This year, Adventure Buddy is coming with us, which is quite exciting. We haven’t been on an adventure in a while, so it will be nice to add this adventure to our list.

For a few days, we get to ease ourselves out of Christmas by extending the part of Christmas that is, after all, among the most important: reconnecting with those we love.

There’s also no internet out there, which means that this post was written in advance. As will be the next few posts. It’s my little blogging break for the year.

May your Christmases continue a few days more, if not the whole year long.



A friend of mine gave me a fantastic gift for my birthday. It’s a journal that asks a question for every day of the year. There’s a question per page, with space for you to answer the same question on the same day for the next five years. That way you can look over your answers for the previous years and note how much you’ve changed, or not changed at all.

The journal asks interesting questions. Questions like “What makes a good enemy?” or “How did you start your day?” or “What color socks are you wearing?” They range from the practical to the whimsical to the esoteric. Day by day, I am crafting a fascinatingly random self-portrait.

Yesterday’s question was “Who are you?”

That seemed like a very existential question to plop into the middle of the first week of August. I haven’t had much time to think about that one recently. I certainly haven’t thought enough about it to fit the full answer into a few short lines.

I thought about putting my name, and just my name. My full name. but that didn’t seem right. I am more than the sum of the syllables that fill the blanks on my birth certificate. Then again, maybe I’m less.

I thought about putting my occupation. But I don’t really have one. I’m sort of a library worker, though technically I’m just an “assistant,” stuck in an intriguing limbo between being a student worker and a staff person. I’m not even a student, at least not all the way. And I’m a writer, but I’m not paid for that. Yet. I am many things. I am a Jill of all trades.

Where is my identity? Where is yours?

There is no simple answer. I don’t care who you are, there is no one sentence that can hold a human being. A sentence might scratch the surface, but it could never delve deep into the heart of a man and reveal what rests at his core. That’s impossible.

What were the writers of this journal thinking?

Now as I think about it, I remember what my identity is as far as God is concerned. Even that is complicated and multifaceted, but the simplest way of putting it is the way He puts it. I am His adopted daughter. He looks at the bad things I’ve done and sees Christ’s holiness instead. He cherishes me more than my earthly father does—let me tell you, that’s a whole lot. I am a child of the King.

I am a princess.

So many conflicting positive and negative associations flit around that one little word, but I’ll stick with it. I am the daughter of the King. Because I am His daughter, I conduct myself with grace and discipline myself to strength. Because I am His daughter, I will be gracious and considerate of the needs of others. I will always act in the knowledge that I am not only representing myself, but more importantly, my Father. I am given the freedom to do as I choose, but I learn to use that freedom wisely.

A child of a King, then, is what I am. As is anyone who lets Him in.



Aaaaaaand my clothes still aren’t unpacked. I left my suitcase on my bed and everything. Open. So I wouldn’t forget. Yea, so I wouldn’t even be able to go to bed until my clothes were safely stowed away in my dresser. Nope. Nothing but my collection of pants got put away. 

But I built a shelf. 

Well, I put together a kit. And I didn’t do it alone, either–my most organized sister made sure the top of the shelf ended up on top. Hopefully the apartment has passed her inspection. It’s certainly a work in progress, what with all the bags and boxes lying around everywhere.

But I have my pillow now (thanks, Mom) and coffee. And all the important mugs. 

And I even got to host someone. A most important someone. My sister (spiritually adopted, of course) and I have been thick as thieves since sixth grade. In high school we’d hoped to get an apartment together after college, but God has chosen to place us in different geographical locations. Our hearts will always be together, even if the rest of us can’t be. 

She has an apartment by a river. Mine is by a pond. Have fun with that, Whovians. 

If there’s one thing that’s been made clear from this moving process, it’s that I can’t do anything alone. I’m so grateful for all the people who have helped me move furniture and boxes and bags and bags of books. I couldn’t have done it without any of them. Independence really isn’t that independent at all. it’s just shifting your dependence to include more people the older you get. It’s a wonderful thing, having a family as well as a family of friends. 

ALl that to say, I’m not settled yet. But I’m getting there. A day at a time. 

Flight of Fiction (23a)


Ameryn and the Troupe came at last to the foot of The Mountain. The title was a misnomer—The Mountain was in fact a range of mountains that stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions. Clouds concealed their peaks, but their flanks were jagged grey rock, lacking any kind of plant or life—not so much as a weed grew on the craggy rock face. Even the ground Ameryn and company stood upon was bare and dry. There was no sound of birdsong. Even the wind seemed to be holding its breath.

“We’re goin’ in there?” asked Enilor. As the troupe had advanced toward The Mountain, Enilor had fallen further and further towards the rear of the group, until at last she was nestled in Narina’s pack, only her shiny black nose and glittering brown eyes visible from under the flap.

“As I recall,”commented the stoic Sprite girl, “you were the one who convinced us that this was a good idea.”

“That was Zon’s doing,” the Otterling grunted. “And I’m only in here ‘cause it’s blinkin’ cold out.”

“Crossing The Mountain is the only way we’ll get there in time,” Ameryn murmured. It was wrote expression by now—a mantra she had repeated to herself over and over as her feet pounded the hard ground. By now it was a mission her mind could not deny.

“Get where?” asked Claritas, her brow furrowed. “And in time for what?”

Ameryn swallowed. She turned to face her friends. They were not glaring at her mutinously, though they had every right to do so. No—their expressions were puzzled, worried, anxious even.

“My friends, I don’t ask you to follow me. In all truth, I have no idea what Nayr wants with my princess. All I know is that if all he wanted was Berasia’s throne, he would’ve married Aileen and have been done with it. But no, he took her—he hypnotized her and took her. What for? I don’t know. But whatever he’s planning—I have get to Nanduvar and stop it. I’ll say it again—you need not follow me into whatever dangers The Mountain holds. You need not follow me anywhere.”

“Ameryn,” said Zon, “our mission as the Troupe is to set captives free. We are more than mere musicians—we are wanderers, we are warriors. You are one of us—you always have been, and no matter
how many years have separated us before this day, you are still a part of our family. We’re not leaving you to face The Rat alone. We’re here for you,” he said, a hand on her bruised shoulder. “We’ll follow you anywhere.”

The Troupe murmured assent. They seemed nervous in the face of The Mountain—but not as nervous as they were determined. Even Narina looked up into the swirling grey clouds at The Mountain’s
summit with grim resolve, as one who looks upon an old adversary for the last time.

“Right, then,” Ameryn said, slowly turning to face The Mountain. “Let’s go.”

Game Night


One of the most important elements of the annual family reunion is playing board games. Ever since I was very, very small, staying up late and playing board games with my aunt and cousins has been the highlight of the trip. I’ve always loved playing board games and card games—the larger the group, the better, which goes strongly against my deep-seated introvertism. But family makes it fun. We’re a smallish family, my parents and I, and there’s little opportunity to play board games since we’re always so busy. But Christmas gives us an excuse to do nothing but have fun together.

My cousin is the champion of Clue. She wins every year, multiple times. Because it’s a strategic puzzle game, I rarely win. But I enjoy the process.

Occasionally we brave a game of Monopoly. Normally we can play this game without threats of disinheritance. Normally.

Playing SORRY, on the other hand, encourages enough disunity that we try to only play it once during our stay. It’s a shame, because I like that one.

Of course, it’s only the women who play the board games. The men play bored games, like “Let’s See Who Can Land the Remote Control Helicopter on the Assigned Target,” or “Fix the Washing Machine.” Or our personal favorite, “Help the Women Play Their Board Game While Refusing to Actually Play the Game.”

Eh, it doesn’t matter. We’re all having fun in our own individual ways. The important thing is that we’re together, and that we’re enjoying each other’s company.



So far we’ve discussed health, real estate, Obamacare, farming, dogs, cats, hunting, children, food, and now we’ve gotten to writing. This is the extended Rambler family, doing what we all do best:


I only see my father’s side of the family once a year. The day after Christmas, we drive down six hours to spend four days in a rickety historical home, sitting around the fire and swapping stories.

There are twelve of us here, creating a merry chaos as we crowd into one room for warmth, talking about whatever occurs to us to talk about, playing board games and eating like it’s a holiday or something.

This is the first time we’ve been able to have internet while we’re down here. Now I don’t have to type all my posts in advance. That’s thanks to my cousin and her husband who paid for a hot spot so everyone could get connected.

But we are connected anyway. We’re connected to each other for the first time in a year. For four days, we’ll review each other’s lives, share laughs, and make memories.

And ramble.

It’s genetic.

Rejoice, Rejoice


The stockings are empty. The tree looks a little more barren now, but no less cheerful. All the surprises have been discovered, joy has been shared, food has been eaten, hugs have been given, and all are tired.

I know I am. It’s been a joyous Christmas. A peaceful Christmas.

That’s the way it should be. After all, we’re celebrating the arrival of a good and gracious King. We’ll have to wait a little longer for His eternal reign of peace to begin. But it will come. It will come when it’s supposed to.

In the meantime, here’s to a silent night. Here’s to all being calm and bright. For we only get each December the 25th once. We only get each day once. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come. He’s come to give us the greatest gift—the gift of eternal life and unending days.

Merry Christmas to you all.

With all my love,

Risabella Rambler

The Tree


The Rambler family Christmas tree never makes any sense.

We always get a real tree. We like the smell and the authenticity of it. My father goes through all the trouble of putting the tree in a stand and anchoring it to the walls with fishing line. We carefully string it with colored lights from top to bottom and plug it into the top socket of the wall outlet so that we can turn it off just by hitting the light switch.

After all of that forethought, we proceed to cover it a hundred nonsensical but sentimentally valuable ornaments.

I’ve seen some people who have beautiful trees decorated according to a theme. These trees have color schemes, artfully placed tinsel and ribbons, and thematically matched ornaments. Beach trees covered in sand dollars and crowned with a starfish. Rustic trees hung with straw animals and decked out in ribbons of burlap. Fifties trees covered in Coca Cola bottles and Elvis figurines. I’ve seen trees done beautifully, humorously, cleverly…

Then there’s our tree.

Our tree has every imaginable ornament. Fancy carved Santas from Russia. An official Manheim Steamroller ornament. A tiger. A bright pink dress on a mini clothes hanger. Handmade crescent-and-star ornaments from a Muslim nation somewhere. Handmade ornaments from my fifth grade Christmas party. A dozen resin apples. An open mussel shell decorated with a plaid ribbon and a sprig of lavender. A violin. Quilted cats. A bear holding a football.

Our tree is always illogical, unthematic, chaotic, disorganized….and absolutely beautiful.  

Every ornament is a memory. Every memory is relived when we hang that ornament on the tree. Every ornament, from the crocheted stocking on the bottom branch to the corn-husk angel on the top, is an important part of our family’s history.

I wouldn’t have our tree any other way. Ever. Every year I spend most of the Christmas season just staring at it, taking in every detail. How often to you get to relive every wonderful memory at once? 

Finally Christmas


Something about panicking nonstop since Thanksgiving really detracts from the Christmas spirit. Despite people around me singing Christmas carols, seeing all the displays in shops and decorations in the dorm hallways, and being in a Christmassy musical, I haven’t really woken up to the fact that Christmas is less than a week away.

School didn’t let out until yesterday. I’ve been frantically working on projects for a month, barely coming up for air between due dates and performances. Now I’m home, and I’m very aware that it is suddenly Christmas.

The sky outside is grey and hazy. The tree is covered in whimsical decorations. The house smells of pine needles and brown sugar. Karen Carpenter is wishing everyone from one to ninety-two a merry Christmas. I read Stave One of A Christmas Carol this morning. Mother and I braved the hoard of last-minute mall shoppers yesterday. We’ll be cooking for the rest of the day, preparing for tomorrow’s festivities.

Christmas is here. It’s been here for a month, but I haven’t been able to notice it. At last, I can put up my feet and reflect on why this time of year happens anyway.

Better late than never. 

Becoming Meg


If ever you have the chance to be in a musical, try it.

From September until now, I have had the privilege of becoming Meg March for the UU production of Little Women: the Broadway Musical. Tonight was our final night of performances. It was a bittersweet event, with many smiles and many tears. It was our best performance, in my opinion. In a way, all of them were.

When I auditioned for the play, I determined that I’d consider myself lucky to get any role. I’d be glad to have the role of a potted plant. Normally I land character parts, or villains, and occasionally unicorns—but significant roles have evaded me since high school. I didn’t think there was any way I could be one of the four sisters. How could I? The March girls are angelic romantic heroines. I’m—well, I’m Rizzy.

I had been told I couldn’t act. I had been told my singing voice was ugly. Even if those words only came from one person—which they did—and even if they were lies—which they were—they stung and they stuck. I didn’t think I was anywhere near good enough for my dream. I’ve dreamed of being in a musical since I was a little girl. Here was my chance.

You can imagine my excitement when I discovered I had been cast as Meg—the most romantic March sister. I was hugging total strangers and telling them I was in a musical.

Meg proved an interesting acting challenge. Before this play, she was my least favorite character. We are not at all alike—or so I thought at first. After all, her first line is “Jo, I hate being a governess. I should be out meeting eligible young men.” I wouldn’t mind being a governess, and marriage isn’t my chief goal in life. Meg is a hopeless romantic. I am a cynic. Meg is very concerned about what people think of her. I wear mismatched clothing for the fun of it. Meg is insecure. I am…

And there I found the common ground. While we’re insecure about different things, Meg and I both have our fair share of insecurities.

Meg’s greatest wish was to go to the St. Valentine’s Day ball at the Moffatts. My greatest wish was to be in a musical. Meg got an invitation. I got a role. When faced with the reality of attending the ball and playing a major role in a musical, Meg and I both cried:

“What will I do when someone asks me to dance?”

I had to learn to dance. I’m about as coordinated as a newborn giraffe with inner-ear problems. Rehearsal after rehearsal went by, and I began to wonder if I could do it. For the longest time, I couldn’t. But I had a supportive director and cast and friends and family who all told me they believed in me. It’s amazing how far that can get you.

I would say that the stars aligned in such a way as to make being a part of this cast an easy part of my life—but they didn’t. It was a challenge keeping all my juggling pins in the air. I didn’t do it alone. God made it clear from the beginning that He wanted me on the cast—another story for another day—and He gave me the grace to handle every project, every scene, every relationship, this blog, church programs, being society chaplain, every homework assignment, and every test. I could not have done this semester without Him.

Performances came and performances went. No member of the cast or crew had an agenda to push or tried to hog the spotlight. We shared it. We were and are a family. That can’t be said of every cast I’ve belonged to. God blessed us. We wanted nothing but His glory. And that’s what we got.

I will never forget being Meg. I have never been so stretched before. I am sure more challenges will come, but never has a challenge been so delightful and so satisfying. It was a Christmas gift for which I will always thank my God. Because of Meg, I am a stronger little woman. That alone is wonderful enough.