In Honor Of Spring Break

My kids hate each other.
They really, really do.

I wonder why hospitals don’t give out referee shirts to every New Mother of a Second Child.
“Congrats, Mama -here’s your complimentary ref shirt. Don’t lose it for the next 40 years.”

It’s Spring Break and my kids are at each other’s throats. It is ONLY WEDNESDAY.
“Mom, Lacy is taking the stickers and not sharing. SHE IS BEING HITLER!”
“I’ve been cleaning my butt off while Trent is SITTING ON HIS.”
And the baby? She’s just out to get us all. No mercy.

These times -these desperate times -call for funny distractions. The day after I miscarried my first pregnancy, my husband had double hernia surgery. As we lied in bed next to each other in our tiny studio apartment, we were overwhelmed with pain.
Danny had drugs.
I had oreos.

As necessary as the pain felt, we also felt like we needed a distraction for a few minutes to help put a little time between the hospital visits and the now. And that’s how we came to rent “Fun With Dick & Jane.”
We laughed so hard we had to shut it off. Something about Danny’s stitches…

After Trenton was born, and I was in a hospital bed with a painful infection and no new baby to comfort me (no babies allowed in infectious hospital wings, apparently) Danny and I watched “The Big Bang Theory.”

Sometimes I just need a distraction laugh. I think it produces some kind of anti-depressant chemical in my brain. That’s scientifically proven somewhere, right?
So I bring you a few things making me laugh right now -because I’ve been looking them up ALL MORNING:

That’s my best friend Tia and her daughter, Illa. Alice asks for this video at least once a day, and I’m happy to watch it again and again because it helps me less alone in the world.
I feel crawled on a lot.
Probably because I am.

I watched this a few times:

Boys…

Speaking of Boys:

May your day be Hitler-less.
May I make it through Spring Break without a straight jacket.

Go, Bring Them In

My anxiety has come in surges throughout my life.

Thanks to therapy,  12-step work and a greater understanding of God’s will and ways… I can at least see that my anxiety is ANXIETY and not truth.

I’m picking at my skin unconsciously.  My dreams are restless and filled with various versions of my worst fears: getting in a car accident and then going unseen by everyone and wondering IF I’M ALLOWED TO NEED MEDICAL ATTENTION.  I try to take a nap and my mind fills with worries… what if the baby goes outside? What if she gets into the cow trough?  She will die.  Where is the baby?  Is the baby dead?  What was that noise?  Did someone cough?  IS IT EBOLA?!?!

I focus on my dailies.

Pray, scriptures, self-care, healthy breakfast, lemon water

My anxiety goes through the roof if I lose focus which tends to happen.

Yesterday, I didn’t take care of myself at all.  I think I did one daily.  My day was really busy and full, and sometimes that happens.  I decided to make today a “make up” day.  I made sure to ALL of my dailies in the morning.  I spent time on my body today: bath, face scrub… I went for a picnic with my kids, bathed my baby.  I ate healthy food (and some not so healthy).

This morning on my walk, I listened to President Monson’s last conference talk -Ponder the Path of Thy Feet.

As I listened to him talk about the Savior’s example, I wondered at the phrasing used in the Parable of the Lost Sheep.

So often as members, we are called on to “Rescue.”

Rescue.

The Savior didn’t call on us to SAVE but to rescue, to find.

I listened to the last half of his talk twice and wondered some more.

What IS the difference between rescuing and saving?  I know there are very important differences, but I felt some urgency to define exactly what they are for me right now.

I thought of the Parable of the Lost Sheep, and I thought of Brigham Young’s urgent call to rescue the saints crossing the snowy plains.

I asked friends and family.

I came across this quote on the LDS Church’s Facebook Page:

“I think that being courageous for someone else would be standing up for
others who can’t stand up for themselves, protecting those who can’t
protect themselves, and truly putting it into heart and mind and action
of loving your neighbor. And I think doing that is as courageous as you
can get when you’re doing it for others.” —Kurt

As I thought about it, I realized that what Kurt was saying went in line with what I was pondering… rescuing someone else is doing for them what they can’t do for themselves.  Others agreed with this line of thinking, and it is true.  It is.

But it still felt murky.

I realized after some reading an old Ensign article that the difference between rescuing and saving has NOTHING to do with the external circumstances and EVERYTHING to do with internal motivation.

In short, to rescue someone is a charitable act on the Savior’s part while saving someone is a frantic, fear-based act on our own part.

I found this truth for myself -not because someone told me or I watched it play out in history or anything smart like that. I learned it Alicia Style, which is, as always, THE HARD WAY.
Being married to someone with an addiction has really unveiled my weaknesses in a harsh way. One of my greatest weaknesses was recognizing Christ but taking his role on myself.
I honestly believed I had the capabilities required to save someone else.

Saving:

When I tried to save Danny, I truly thought I was being charitable, but if I were ever questioned about WHY I was doing what I was doing (making suggestions, leaving articles out, snooping, FOREVER TRYING TO GET HIM TO SEE the truth), I guarantee the FIRST words out of my mouth would have been, “Because I’m afraid ____________________”

He’ll lose his soul.
Our marriage covenant will be for naught.
He’ll cheat.
He’ll mess up our children.
He’ll hurt me.
We will get divorced.

And so I tried to save Danny, save myself, save my kids, save the world!

This did NOTHING for my anxiety, by the way. When I try to save, I am -in very fact -attempting to do for others what they are capable of doing for themselves.

My Saving Prayers were so specific.  I asked God for SPECIFICS of what I WANTED.

“Please help Danny SEE what he’s doing.  Please help him to feel the Spirit.  Please make sure Danny comes with me to church because IT’S SO HARD GOING ALONE.”

When I save, we do things MY way.

Rescuing:

When I try to engage in the act of rescuing, I find myself wearing anti-porn garb.  I share educational articles WHEN PROMPTED and not when I’m in a panic over the fact that most church members are unaware of the devastating severity of pornography, the far-reaching effects of lust.  Rescuing is raising awareness, it’s speaking out.  Rescuing is taking meals to sick people, donating clothing where it’s needed.  Rescuing is done most effectively when I’ve taken care of myself properly… when I’m fed right and my mind is calm and my thoughts are clear.  Rescuing is having a mind clear enough to hear God whisper the name of a sister in my ear.  It’s being able to hear God prompt me in my Next Right Thing.  Sometimes the Next Right Thing is standing up for my child.  Sometimes The Next Right Thing is resting up.  Sometimes the next right thing is sending out a loving text.  Sometimes it’s opening my door in the middle of the night to someone who needs a sitter on their way to the ER.  Sometimes it’s flowers.  Sometimes -oftentimes -it’s an earnest, heartfelt prayer.

Rescuing is “first observe, then serve.”

Rescuing is the verb form of charity. Rescuing is doing for others what they cannot do for themselves -therefore God calls on those who CAN DO… TO DO.

Tears come to my eyes as I think of the bloody, cold pioneers trapped on the plains… what they must have felt when they saw their rescuers rushing toward them!  So often I’ve seen a figurative version of that scene play out in my own mind:

My family crumpled together, alone and shivering and ready to give up.

The prayers of our friends and loved ones mounted up on angel’s wings come billowing toward us and I’ll be dammed if our marriage isn’t saved on those prayers alone.

 
(bedard fine art)

So yes -rescuing is praying, “Take care of my loved one, Lord.  Help me accept Thy Will for Them, for Me.  Help me accept Their Free Will.”

When I rescue, I do things GOD’S WAY, and in so doing work as a tool in guiding His children back to Him -The Savior.

I do believe the work being done to combat lust and sex addiction on every hand is a pioneering work.  With every outstretched hand, a victim is given hope.

“Perhaps their suffering seems less dramatic because the handcart
pioneers bore it meekly, praising God, instead of fighting for life with
the ferocity of animals,” wrote historian Wallace Stegner of the
handcart pioneers and their rescue. “But if courage and endurance make a
story, if human kindness and helpfulness and brotherly love in the
midst of raw horror are worth recording, this half-forgotten episode of
Mormon migration is one of the great tales of the West and of America.

 

The road to God -to Zion -is smoother for some.  It’s sunnier and there’s more flowers.  Their trial is not the road.

But mine is.  Would that I had more humility that it might not be so, but my face is Zionward, and I will press on.

I will rescue as I am called on by God to do, and I relinquish to God my own ego-driven, fear-ridden, shame-soaked urgency to save any soul, including my own.

Revisiting Old Friends

A couple of years ago, I convinced my kids that very tiny people lived in trees without leaves… or, as Lacy had taken to calling them, “naked trees.”
I fabricated a story about these tiny -CLOTHED -people who live in the bare trees. Since then, we’ll call out to them during the winter season. We’ll drive by naked trees and call out, “Hi, naked tree people!”
March -the month of blossoms -marks the END of naked tree people season.

This year, my kids begged for another Naked Tree People Picnic, so yesterday we packed the big basket with a blanket and some snacks. Frosting and graham crackers are a must in Farewell to Tree People Ceremonies. 0319151325b
We walked down my Dad’s farm toward the place we’ve claimed as our clubhouse (for our Scientific Artist Club), spread out the blanket and began snacking.
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We examined the tree and found that it was beginning to get pretty green leaves, and we thanked our lucky stars we’d thought to come bid the Naked-Tree People farewell JUST IN TIME.

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(Lacy was seriously concerned.)
The kids looked, just like they do every year, so hard to catch a fleeting glimpse of a Naked-Tree Person, but no matter how hard they tried, they just couldn’t.
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It reminded me of them two years ago, searching, searching…
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“I just want to see ONE, Mom,” Lacy said.
“Then they will lose their magic,” I say, defaulting to the answer I give about Santa, the Easter Bunny and The Tooth Fairy.
“WHAT Magic?” Trenton asked.
Crap.
I hadn’t given the tree people any magic when I made them up… luckily kids don’t mind vague answers and get distracted easily.

“Time for the ceremony!” I told them.
We circled the trees and chanted gibberish, then gently broke a stick from the Naked Tree and blessed the tree people with protection.
Because they hibernate in the bark during the spring and summer seasons.
Naturally.

We ended our ceremony by leaving some of our food with them.

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Alice didn’t understand what the big deal was, so she kept busy charging up and down the farm road, looking for Grandpa’s cow -the one she’s named, “Honey,” because that’s what she calls cows when they run away from her.
“Honey! Honey! Come BACK!”
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I enjoyed the afternoon warmth and snapped pictures of Trent’s freckles:
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I also listened to Lacy talk about her plans for the Tree People… for about 5 minutes until Alice threw dirt in our eyes.
Saboteur!
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“We need to go home and bring back some fabric.”
“No, Lace. They already HAVE everything they need,” I said, smiling as Trent propped his Captain America shield up so the people could use it as a slide, “They SCAVENGE for what they need and gather it.”
“Wellllll they can GATHER the fabric I leave for them!”
“Lacy, no. We’re not doing that.”
“We did it LAST TIME.”
“Yeah, I know. Because you argued so much about it.”
“Well, I’ll argue again!” She said.

I finally convinced her to let the idea go. We were pretty far from the house and I wasn’t up for another trip.

As we walked home, Alice snuggled into my shoulder (nap time) and Lacy carried the cumbersome basket back home. I noticed her stopping along the way.
“What are you doing?” I asked, thinking she was picking weed-flowers.
“For them to gather,” she explained and showed me the crumbled up caramel rice cakes.
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I followed her home and noticed her quietly crumpling rice cakes in her hands and letting them fall behind her as she walked.
That girl.
She’s going to be the next Clara Barton.

And so goes another year, another Tree People Picnic.
As I walked slowly home, my back aching from inflammation and the toddler against my shoulder, I wondered how much longer I’d have their pure, childlike imaginations for… how much longer they’d beg for tree people picnics and how much longer Trent (who is now TRENT, by the way, because he’s decided it should be so. But I still call him Trenton) will walk a few yards ahead of his mom and sisters to fight the invisible ninjas I’ve convinced him only HE can see.
How many more sincere notes will I get to the Tooth Fairy (“Be careful. It’s a scary world out there. Love, Lacy.”)
How many?

What will I do with older kids?
Am I qualified to parent people who realize how crazy I am?

All I can do it soak up the moments, write them down, and remember to cover my tracks so they’ll keep believing my crap.
If I don’t get rid of those rice cakes before school gets out, THEY’LL KNOW…
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Trenton, after cutting down every last invisible ninja, said to me, “What about rock people? and leaf people?…” he began scheming about them, how they lived and fought and which team he was one (the tree people, of course. He’s a loyal purist).
I see hope in that one and his freckles and his insistence on his name shortening. He’ll do great things with his imagination.
He’s going to be the next, well… the next… Actually, I think he’s going to be the FIRST Trent Deets -and I can’t wait to see how it all pans out.
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Characters and Costumes

I’ve always loved getting dressed up in costumes and pretending to be someone else. I sometimes wonder if I should be concerned that I derive so much pleasure out of escaping from my own present and reality… but then I get distracted by tulle and funny shoes.
Check out this DOUBLE KNIT AMAZINGNESS.
Thrift stores are my very best friends.

Someday when I own a house, I’m going to reserve some space for
1) BOOKS and
2) DRESS UPS

I was asked to take part in our tri-ward Relief Society party by dressing up as Zina Diantha Huntington Young -her name just SOUNDS like a corset tightening. She lived during “The Gay 90’s” so I worked really hard to be authentic and true to that, and I think I REALLY came up with a pretty genius base costume.
0317151831~2So giddy and gay, my wrists almost popped out of their cuffs!

I just HAVE ALL THIS CRAP ON HAND, and I’m starting to believe that my meager closet filled with thrift shop cast-offs is actually a secret Gold Mine of Amazing… like a treasure map hidden in plain sight. I turned a black petticoat inside out, wore my pioneer blouse from the treks I went on as a teenager, tied tulle in the middle to hide the elastic band and added some ribbon with a cool little profile pendant.
And then I sabotaged my daughter’s headband, covering it with all kinds of lace.

But seriously.
I look like
1) Jane Eyre
2) Miss Minchin from “A Little Princess.”
3) Zina Diantha Huntington Young

The next day, I swapped out the inside-out petticoat for a plain green, full skirt… also leftover from my teenage pioneer trek years. I was

4) A pioneer.
I went into the Kindergarten class dressed thus and told the kids I was REALLY a pioneer and that I washed my clothes in the river. I taught them how to make butter in a jar, and they were so impressed with themselves. This morning, I had a text from the mother of one of the Kindergarten boys, “My son really believed you were a pioneer. He wants to make butter now.”
HE BELIEVES. That’s the BEST part about kids. They believe The Things I Tell Them.

“Coltran, here’s your butter. Don’t you feel AWESOME inside?!”
“How did you know my name?”
“I’m a pioneer. I know everything.”
The little girl next to him gasped, “Just like my dad…”

I realize I can also add some zombie make-up and be

5) Dead Jane Eyre
6) Dead Miss Minchin
7) A Dead Polygamist Wife (my brother’s suggestion)

Take away the skirts and add pants?

8) Calamity Jane
9) Annie Oakley

Add zombie make up to THAT?!?

10) Dead Calamity Jane

I think you get the idea. Which is:
my closet is an awesome place to be.

Yesterday, along with playing authentic pioneer and teaching butter making skills to gullible kids, I also went to parent teacher conferences and made meals for my family AND did MOST of the dishes. I was booked.
I didn’t take care of myself at all because apparently eating 2.5 Hershey bars while running around town doesn’t count as BRUNCH. Today I decided to get back on the Taking Care track.
I woke up and drank some Apple Cider Vinegar, diluted. It’s so nasty, but it carries with it a sort of WARRIOR STRONG TASTE. I throw it back in one shot and then pump my fist in the air.
It’s my way of telling the day that I HAVE ARRIVED.
I listened to soul food on my walk (did you see that?! TWO AWESOME THINGS AT ONCE) and then I came home and ate oatmeal with blueberries with oranges on the side.
I am TEARING UP this whole “Taking Care” thing.

Danny asked me, upon seeing the Apple Cider Vinegar on the counter, WHY I drink that NASTY stuff. I told him between deliberate morning-walk-induced huffs about it’s healing, miraculous powers, and he said he wanted a shot.
I went to shake it up because -like a true hard core Apple Cider Vinegaroholic -I buy the ORGANIC STUFF WITH THE DREADED MOTHER.

But in my hard coreness, I forgot that I am the living embodiment of an Anne Shirley/Amelia Bedilia Cocktail and hadn’t replaced the lid.
And in one graceless motion, my entire sink area was covered in stank.

It’s been weeks since Danny laughed that hard.
I went back into my room to change and get ready for work. For my walk, I wore the shirt I announced my pregnancy with Alice with.
Reminder:
babycollage

Before taking the shirt off, I joked with Danny about scribbling the word “weight” under the words. But the joke was on me because as I tried to take the shirt off, it got caught on my glasses.
(so. hot.)
I threw my hands up in surrender.
“I love you,” Danny said.

And he really meant it.
I guess he likes his cocktails a little on the chaotic and nerdy side. I also take this to mean he doesn’t mind a closet half full of The Thrift Shop version of Misfit Toys.

Something Painted

I have a sister, and the longer I have her the more convinced I become that every girl ought to have one sister. Two is too many (*cymbal crash* in honor of “two” v. “too”). One sister is the right amount of sister.

My sister is a lot of things right now. She’s a gorgeous red head with blue eyes.
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She’s a returned missionary with an associate degree, working toward her bachelor degree in education. On scholarship. She’s amazing like that.
She works in the food-ish area at work (like the cafeteria, but better?) and it was there she met another red head with blue eyes.
And now my sister is engaged.
Of ALL the things she is, she’s most excited about this one, I think…
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My brother and his wife (Brushfire Photography) took their pictures.

Julianne is here this week with her fiance. She’s been wedding planning like crazy, and our family has been kind of kicked to life over the whole thing. We are painting and pinning and planning.
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On Tuesday, we decided to get up early and go to the BIG city on Wednesday to wedding dress shop. I arranged a last-minute sitter and off we went just after 6 am!

Mom, Julianne and I spent 14 hours together yesterday. We spent a chunk of time in a very special bridal section at Goodwill and laughed A LOT.
“What’s with all the BOWS?” Julianne kept asking.
“1994” we said.

We met up with our sister in law, Brittany (Brushfire Brittany), and it was awesome. Aside from being a really great person all around, she’s a wedding CHAMP. She had insights and input and questions that we would never have thought of.
We watched Julianne come out in a few beautiful gowns, and then we watched Julianne come out in THE gown. I’m pretty sure my sister is the prettiest bride in the history of brides.
She told us she didn’t really want a veil, but she didn’t tell the dress shop owner, so the dress shop owner put one on her head and that’s when WE ALL LOST IT.

In my mind, Julianne is still 5 or 10 or 15. Seeing a veil draped softly over her pretty peach skin, covering the pretty red hair we all love so much… IT JUST GOT REAL.

Julianne is getting married.

My one sister is getting married for time and eternity.
It’s a good life.

Princess Lessons

I am a rough-edged woman without grace. I stumble over my long legs, oftentimes falling mouth-first upon my foot.

In college, I took a literature class that I adored. The teacher explained formula fiction like this: the books you read in the airport.
Westerns, romances, mysteries.
Formula fiction romances consist of a flawed heroine -her flaws endear her to readers because they relate to flawed human, being one themselves. There’s a one-flawed man who is a romantic combination of gentle and brawny: a violin-playing firefighter, a cowboy with an affinity for culinary arts, a sleek business man with a soft spot for underprivileged children. The heroine is usually formulated to be the perfect cure for the hero’s one flaw. Enter Nicholas Sparks and a troubled piano-playing soldier who bonds with neglected children.

There’s often a villian in the form of another woman, and this other woman is often buxom, sexy, and powerful. She is not perceived as weak…

As I listened to my teacher, I realized in one life-altering moment that in accordance with formula fiction -which I could easily reason is REAL LIFE (*sarcasm sign*) -I WAS A HEROINE.
My perpetual gracelessness is my signature MARK.

My favorite sub-genre in formula fiction is Fairy Tales. I’m such a sucker for imaginary worlds where goodness, with all it’s nobility of heart and glitter of dress, always trumps evil.
I believe, religiously, that I AM ROYALTY. As God is The Great I AM and I am His literal daughter, this makes me Noble. I believe it with all of my heart, and while it brings me immeasurable peace it also unnerves me because

I trip a lot.

I’m not saying that to use my heroine-ness to manipulate you (here’s lookin’ at you, Bella). I seriously trip A LOT. I am Jesus’ SISTER and I TRIP. I say stupid stuff. I burn bacon every time.

I long for a tutor with a feather in his cap to rap his knuckles on my front door and say, “It’s time for princess lessons.” And then we’d spend hours learning important things like manners and posture and how to stop tripping.

On Saturday, I went into the city with a friend and she turned me on to the app “Audiobooks.” I downloaded it, and Sunday afternoon I tucked my earbuds in and decided to take a chance on James Allen.
“The Heavenly Life.”
I walked toward the sunset and listened to his words -every sentence left like a sermon. He told me that I had answers within myself… ALL of the answers. Five minutes into my walk, I realized my posture was pretty darn-near perfect. I was walking taller and I listened to him talk of simplicity of God, my Father, and of love.
I fell quickly in love, realizing how formula fictionish it was that the student should be blushy-cheeked about her teacher. I watched a flock of black birds make their way over the nearby fields and my heart swelled as I listened to James Allen, Tutor, talk about The Open Road.
He told me no one can hurt me without my consent.
He told me what was in my heart.
I spent 30 minutes being instructed, inspired, chided and enraptured.

I came in my house, kicked my shoes up and exhaled.

I didn’t set out on my walk KNOWING I was walking into A Princess Lesson, but I came home feeling just like I had.

As the weariness of Monday begins to set in, I can hear James Allen telling me that I Have Answers Within, that This Life is Not a Beginning and an End but A Small Piece of a Greater Journey.

James Allen also reminded me that as I am, so are you… and I just wanted to log on and invite you to your own Lesson in Nobility.
Google James Allen today and you’ll find a few lessons.
You might also find out that he’s already married and that he died 100 years ago. It will come as a HUGE shock, but you’ll be able to tap into your true center and overcome the grief.
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Beauty Full

A friend recently challenged me to post three pictures that I feel beautiful in. Right now, my perception of beauty is so different than what it once was, and I decided to take her challenge, just to dive a little deeper into the perspective shift going on in my life right now.

I feel beautiful in this picture, taken when my son wasn’t quite one year old. The lawn in front of my tiny trailer was flooded with irrigation water. I was a stay-at-home mom full time, and I had two little kids in diapers. I took them out into the water and soaked up THAT MOMENT with them.
That moment wasn’t about my make-up or my hair or anything… it was about water and little children. It was about sun and gratitude. Every time I see this picture, I am in awe of my capabilities, my blessings. It is full of beauty to me.
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I used to work hard for what I thought beauty was. I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror, and my emotions spiraled on the spoke of what others thoughts of me. If they thought I was pretty, I was.
It hurts to write that. It hurts because I know more now. I guess the older I get, the more I tap into the natural self-worth I had when I was three, strutting around the house in plastic beads and a diaper… never more sure that I WAS AMAZING.
The last few years have stripped some pride away (though not all) and I can say that I took some time yesterday to reflect on my beauty. Here’s a little honesty:
I don’t remember the last time I bought bonafide foundation. I bought some tinted moisturizer for my birthday in 2013.
I don’t remember the last time I bought face wash. or moisturizer. or acne cream. or walked into the aisle in the store filled with stuff for my face.

I went to get my hair done the same time I bought tinted moisturizer… in 2013.
The last time I splurged on clothes was at a thrift store. I spent $80 and had a new wardrobe. I tend to buy clothes that look good on me but won’t go out of style. If something doesn’t fit in that category, I don’t have time to mess with it because trends and I don’t understand each other. Like, AT ALL.

There was a time in my life -a very dark and scary time -when I let trends take over. It wasn’t the trends that were scary (although they kinda are), it was deep emotional pain and confusion. I employed An Obsession with Appearances as my main battle tool. I worked on my face, my body, my hair, my house… I tried to force my ideals of what beauty was into the trash bin and exchange them for what I saw in catalogs.
It was stifling.

One thing that makes me and you awesome is our stubborn unwillingness to BE STIFLED. After a few years in that place, I broke free. I stopped numbing the scary, dark pain with trying to COME ACROSS AS PERFECT and started melting down instead. I stopped asking the world what was beautiful and starting asking MYSELF what was beautiful.
Like Elsa built her ice castle, so did Alicia kick everyone out of her soul until she learned to love again.

That’s what I see in this picture… I see strength in a woman who is running to God and offering herself to Him, offering her family and flatly refusing to be stifled, to let darkness claim her.
I see her wearing clothes she’s had for years. I see her dressing her kids in Wal-Mart clothes and not stressing about the photo shoot because at this point, she’s learned how beautiful NATURAL and SIMPLE is. I can see my worth in this picture.
And the lighting… I see so much beauty in the lighting, and I’ve felt for some time now that God made The Sun JUST for me, for my family: to warm us and nourish us and let us know that HE IS THERE.
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As I thought more about beauty and what it is to me, I realized that I found beauty in myself THAT DAY. So I flipped my phone’s camera around and snapped a picture in the moment.
Here’s my uneven skin that I LOVE. I find myself covering it less and less, proud in a way of the way it looks. The brown mask that popped up during my pregnancy with Alice and never quite left, the moles… my mom’s nose, my Dad’s mouth. My blue eyes that Alice wears around.
Everything on my face works well enough -my eyes are blind, but they work! My nose smells well. My ears selectively hear like CHAMPS. I can taste, talk! This incredible body does incredible things like BREATHE all by itself!

Sometimes I look in the mirror and sorta… fist pump over it all.
This is huge for me.

Part of my dark and scary pain was believing that I wasn’t quite enough in any area at all ever. Just a little MORE weight off. Just a little MORE eyeliner.
Just a little MORE healthy eating.

I would look at magazines and my head would register ALL AT ONCE that what I saw wasn’t real but that it was beautiful and I would never be able to access self-acceptance. I was a mess. I tried to earn my way out of it because when I earned, there was always MORE… and MORE was all I needed, right?
More praise, more money, more clothes, more.

I hated that I could see the lies in the magazines and ads but I still believed them. That was pain, right there.

Today I can honestly say that when I see photoshopped pictures, I’m turned off. I finally SEE the lies and believe them. The first time it happened, I cheered and smiled so big my face almost broke. So I bought chocolate and rolled my windows down. V-I-C-T-O-R-Y
When I finally came to know and understand I DIDN’T NEED MORE BECAUSE I WAS ENOUGH, the lies became clear.
I am enough, I have enough, what I have to offer is ENOUGH.

And yesterday I was sporting crazy hair -I’d gone to bed with wet hair from a hot bubble bath the night before. I braided it, woke up, unbraided it and BAM. Hair done. I put clothes on. I applied mascara and Bag Balm to my lips, and then I went out and LIVED without worrying about MYSELF AT ALL.
I played with my kids at the park. I talked with a good friend. I ate good food and soaked up good sun and ate the first corn dog I’ve had in YEARS (good job, Safeway, on your gluten free stock). I made root beer floats.
I held hands, took kisses. I washed dishes. I smiled at my house because I like my decorations which look nothing like anything you’d find in ANY catalog.

My husband came home and we shared some really amazing moments… moments I’ve come to treasure because they’re genuine -absolutely void of pretense.
I felt beautiful as he wrapped his tired arms around me, and he saw it. I see beauty in my every day, in the soul and body work I do.
After I’d spent a day working and mothering, I looked just like someone who had been working emotionally, physically and spiritually ALL DAY. He looked at me and said, “You are so, so beautiful.”

I believed it. Because I already knew it for myself.
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Beauty not as the world and society gives… but beauty as GOD gives. I am His Daughter.
I am enough.
I have enough.
What I have to offer? ENOUGH.

I don’t need more. Not today.

Gingham Checked

Two night ago, I went to bed near tears over a situation involving a woman I’ve been researching. I can find facts about her. I can read about the ship she traveled to the US on. I can look at her picture, know what wars raged during the years she lived… but I can not get my hands on her POETRY. I am on the cusp. The VERGE. I HAVE THE REFERENCE NUMBER TO HER BOOK OF POETRY as it sits in a library some 10 hours North of where I am now. At midnight, I finally tossed my phone aside and dug my head into my 8 year old 9-foot long body pillow that no longer retains it’s shape but adores me and appreciates me for who I am.
It understood my frustration. My big, fat pillow always understands.
“Are you okay?” my husband asked.
“I’m not. I can’t get my hands on her poetry. It’s RIGHT THERE. It’s teasing me,” I hunkered down into my brother’s old sweater, the one that reminds me of him every time I wear it.
“That must be frustrating,” he said.
“It is… I feel like it’s frustrating me more than it should… like, maybe I’m obsessing over it.” And that’s when it hit me.

I’M THE GINGHAM CHECKED LADY.

A few weeks ago as I mindlessly scrolled through my newsfeed, a picture stood out to me… it was of a woman dressed head to toe in red-check gingham, sitting on a red-check gingham chair, surrounded by house clad heavily in red-check gingham. And yes -she was holding red-check gingham wares.
She proudly admitted her obsession. She can’t live without red-check gingham. She needs it, she craves it, and it brings her intense amounts of joy and fulfillment.

I wanted to think she was crazy. I did. I wanted to say, “Whoa, overkill lady. My chi is off kilter just LOOKING at this picture.”
Do you know about chi?
I know about it. I watched a segment of a clip on television a few years ago about how clutter messes with your chi. This makes me a chi master.

I tried to force myself to be turned wholly and completely off by her crazed obsession with ONE THING, but I couldn’t. In fact, if we’re telling the truth, I was kind of proud of her… do your thang, Gingham Gal, and send the rest of the fabrics packing! Rouge your knees! Roll your stockings down!
Her devil-may-care attitude toward chi is, well, interesting. SO INTERESTING that I haven’t forgotten about her and have spent more time than I’d like to admit trying to track her picture down again.

The thing is: I have the same sort of issue with chi.
My house is overrun with stories, my closet full of them! And at the risk of putting my whole self out here, I will now admit that I HUMANIZE EVERYTHING IN MY HOUSE.

Alice has been sick (and mean, GOSH, she can be mean). I stayed home from work last Monday to take care of her feverish little body. As she rested (and screamed and demanded candy and chocolate) I poked my headphones in and streamed one of my favorite classical music stations on Pandora. I cleaned marker off the walls, the doors, and the toys. I fixed my wallpaper. I washed some windows. I used ammonia and bleach and paper towels and Beethoven. I found myself in a state of gratitude toward my furniture. Loyal servants of  The Shackish Realm! I decided to show my appreciation by oiling all of my wood furniture. I started with my piano, and I imagined my piano exhaling, sighing, closing it’s harp-eyes and soaking in the oil treatment. It’s gratitude was SO FREELY GIVEN and touched me so deeply, it gave me the energy to oil the table and chairs. Their gratitude exceeded that of the piano… why? Because they deal with spills, fights, and The Deets Family Rear Ends. They needed that oil more than anything else in the house. As I applied the oil to my 4th chair, I vividly recalled a day in 6th grade when my favorite teacher handed me back something I’d written in my school journal and said, “Alicia, you have such an active imagination. Never lose that.”
I was horrified. LOSE IT?
She spoke of my imagination as if it were some kind of background tool to be picked up, tossed aside, and lost at will.  She had no real grasp of just what my imagination WAS to me!  It was as real and vital to me as my beating heart!  And YES, I’m aware of how Anne of Green Gables that all is, and I will tell you that reading that book was uncanny.

It was like someone stole away into my soul, plucked a chunk out and wrote a book.  I don’t know whether I loved it or felt violated.

I pick up toys and remember where they came from, who gave them to whom, and sentimentality washes over me. The Shackish Realm is my haven and safe place where I know I’ll wake up filling totally and completely warm and at home, surrounded -not by gingham check -but by stories from my life. I have to find a balance, you know, between which stories matter and which can go, otherwise my little home becomes overrun… QUICKLY overrun.

Right now, we have 3 kids in one room. Walking into it is dreadful. It’s Chi Hell. I get so angry because we work so hard to get it clean and two days later it looks like every cliche every Mom has ever come up with all rolled into one: Pig Sty and Barnyard and Filth and Tornado and Hurricane! I declare it a Shackish State of Emergency on a regular basis.
“Get in here,” I say, “And clean this up! You have GOT to get rid of some TOYS! There are kids out there with no toys, so figure out what you want to donate. All broken toys must go. Line the boots up on the west wall. Toddlers, come with me. There is water in the kitchen to your left should you need it, but use it sparingly because there is no time set aside for bathroom breaks.”

I’m thinking of investing in an orange reflective vest for these moments.

I walk in to check on the their progress, and that’s always a mistake.
“Where’s the donation bag?” I ask.
“Right here,” Guys hold it up.
I crack it open and THAT’S WHEN IT HAPPENS. The stories leak from the bag and float up to my ears.
“Trent, are you SURE you want to get rid of Buzz Lightyear? You worked so hard to earn the money to buy him,” I hold him up, and somewhere in the distance, a solo violinist accompanies me.
“Mom, he’s broken,” Trent points to Buzz’s limp wing.
“I know,” I pause at this point to let the violinist really have his moment…
“You said broken toys need to be thrown away,” he said without emotion and I began to wonder if I was the only one hearing the violin.

And that’s when Guys tilt their little heads and are hit with the realization that THEIR OWN MOTHER IS CRAZY, and they can’t donate her because she won’t fit in their bag.

I have to hand the bag back. I have to close my eyes. I use my imagination and pretend I’m one of those birds who puts their head in the sand when things get scary.

I have gotten better. I have gotten MUCH better. I don’t think any amount of cleaning clothes and toys will make the kids’ room easier because it’s a small room and three kids is a lot. They don’t own crazy amounts of toys, and if they each had their own small room would definitely have room to spare because their toy collections have been substantially whittled down. I’ve gotten better at deciding which stories are important and which are not. I remember that I blog a lot and lots of stories are recorded forever here… so it’s all right if the one eyed stuffed puppy gets The Sack.

My chi is of the utmost in these cluttered times.

I’ve been spring cleaning since last Monday, and I truly hate my life. Cleaning is not only difficult for me but it’s downright robbing. I pulled everything out of my kitchen cupboards, wiped them down, threw three black trash bags full of crap out, and that was awesome. But THEN? I had to put everything away in an organized fashion.
Do you realize what this DOES to me? I was so frustrated. I KNOW there’s a better way than my way when it comes to organization, and I can’t seem to TAP INTO IT. My right brain sends all of it’s energy to my left, and I try, try, try. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can… and the ending result is? I CAN’T! I spent 7 hours in my kitchen, trying to make, “Name the Fridge Spill” into a game but IT ISN’T A GAME WHEN YOU’RE PRETTY SURE THE ANSWER IS COW’S BLOOD MIXED WITH SUPER GLUE. As I scrubbed that spill, I decided when I was done, I was going to kick my feet up and write a series of children’s books in order to make JUST ENOUGH to hire a housekeeper.
Because gosh.

I tried sitting down to write when I was done. I tried to lay back and let all of the wasted energy I’d sent to my left brain BACK to my right and the blinking cursor on my screen mocked me.
Nothing.
Here.
Nothing.
Here.
Nice.
Try.

It’s a trade off I hate. I hate so much.

I wonder if the Gingham Check lady ever tried trading in her Gingham for Chi and ended up feeling like she’d rather die than have Chi and so brought back her Gingham, nevermore to part.

I don’t know. I don’t know.
All I know is that Spring Cleaning is well underway, and my kids are afraid of me because, as Alice has learned to say, “She Cwanky.”
Cwankiest Ma in the West.

I have, at least, the hope of knowing that Spring Cleaning only comes about once every four years (don’t. don’t correct my right-brained math) and so I’m off the hook until Lacy is 12 and Trent is 11 and at the point, they will be doing it all.
Why? Because, I’ll tell them, four years ago you came to Mom on a Monday and told her you needed costumes on a Tuesday and MOM DELIVERED because SHE HOARDS.
“Oh, you want to be Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane? No problem! I happen to have coururoy and red denim and fringe and a sherriff’s bagde RIGHT HERE. Grab my glue gun, babies.”
I didn’t add, “and someday you’ll return the favor, my pretties.”

We’ve been watching a lot of “Once Upon a Time” (heaven help me, I just about took down the house when I watched Season 3 Finale… it was so smug. So SO smug. I don’t even want to see season 4. But I will. You know I will) and I’ve perfected a range of accents, my favorite being Mr. Gold.
“All magic comes with a price, dearie.”
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(Three cheers for finger guns!)
And seriously what I pulled off with those vests? THAT was MOM MAGIC… something we have in spades around here.
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“How did you know I didn’t clean behind the door?”
“Mom magic.”

Well, that and my Chi was off…

Leaning In

Last weekend -meaning 9 days ago -I was hurt. I had been vulnerable and afterward felt very unseen. It cut deep.

As I’ve delved into learning about myself -truly learning how I work and what makes me act and respond the way I do -I have found that I dull pain frequently. I dull pain before pain comes. I dull pain when it comes, and after it’s gone, I numb up for the inevitable next round.
It’s all very, “Life IS pain, Highness.”

I could feel the pain hitting hard -the emotional BANG that reverberates throughout my entire self… and I wanted to run. I wanted chocolate, a movie marathon, an escape nap. Tears began welling up in my eyes, and I wanted to STUFF them back down as far as I could.

But I know too much about myself now, so I cried instead of swallowing. I know from past experience that pain doesn’t stay, nor is emotion reality. I knew that it wasn’t the END of the world, and that knowledge gave me courage to let the pain in. If I let it in, let it course it’s way through and out, perhaps it wouldn’t rear it’s ugly head later on at some really, really, really inconvenient manner and/or time and/or place.
I prayed. I cried. I told my Father in Heaven that I was HURTING. I was feeling pain.

There’s something about our culture that makes FEELING PAIN AND HATING IT seem like something only weak chickens do. We look at the shame culture facilitated by Jillian Michaels, and we hate on ourselves.
In my case, I just numbed the pain to a do-able level and carried on, Sailor. But you know what that got me? That got me very sick. Very, very sick.
I became emotionally sick, spiritually sick, and even physically sick.

I can’t Numb and Stuff anymore. I have to lean in, FEEL it go through and out of me…
I woke up the next morning and took a pile of things that represented -to me -feeling unseen. I put them into a burn pile and one by one by one, I burned, burned, burned.

As the smoke rose and the fire grew, I felt a cleansing happening. Without actually SAYING the words, I was letting myself know that I was enough, that I deserved to be seen and my NOT being seen had nothing to do with my shortcomings.  I can’t EARN my way to being seen by others.
Each item I burned brought on a new wave of pain, stuffed resentments rose up through my soul and out through my eyes. I cried more.

There was pain. It was uncomfortable.
But there was also peace. Is it possible to feel peace when you’re uncomfortable? I’m learning that life is really just like that for me… an uncomfortable experience with a peaceable undercurrent.

I don’t always FEEL the peace, but I have the knowledge that it is always there should I choose to take my pain and pride and fears to God and say, “I’m afraid that my future will be a painful string of experiences in the which I feel walked on and unseen. Please take this fear. Please take it and YOU worry about it. There is no possible way my worrying will change anything about my future. Please take care of me, my future, and my pain.”

The prayers I said that day went up to God in a steady waft of smoke… my tear-filled smoke signals to heaven.

Later that morning, I went to church smelling like someone dumped perfume on a bonfire.  Church brought more tears, and when I felt them welling up, I let them fall.
After church, I fell into an exhausted sleep, and let my body REST. And in the days following, I wrote about my pain. I felt waves of it hit after the fact. Some days were exhausting. It was hard not to shame myself for feeling pain.

My house still hasn’t recovered from when I was sick the week before, and I had to let that go.
I talked honestly with my kids, hoping that in doing so I was giving them permission to be honest and open as well -to feel their own pain instead of hearing shame inside of their head telling them to STUFF and NUMB.

I didn’t handle each wave of pain perfectly. I numbed my second wave very well, lashed out at my kids, and spent the next day apologizing and trying to pull myself back into an un-numbed reality.

When I numb pain, I numb peace.
And -more than anything -I crave peace right now, even if I have to be uncomfortable.

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Puppy Love

I’m not a dog person. I’m not a cat person. I’m not really an animal person at all because I’m terrified of them. I even struggle to scoop tiny goldfish up with a net because THEY MIGHT JUMP.
That might make me sound like a wimp, but just remember how you are around stuff that scares YOU. I don’t know how my fear of animals came about, but it did and I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t petrified of them. I can’t trace my fear back to being bitten by an aggressive dog or snarled at by a big, fat cat.

I think I must have been born this way.

I once had a parakeet that I loved like crazy. I hauled him around with me in a shoe box. I finger trained him, and he spent a lot of time on my shoulder. When I was in 6th grade, I got sick. I stayed home from school and camped out on the couch. I pulled him out of his cage and he sat on my shoulder. I didn’t mind, but after awhile I thought he’d be hungry or something… I tried to put him back in his cage and he refused to go. It wasn’t like him. He usually did everything I wanted him to -poor thing. I tried again, but finally gave up and went back to the couch. He stayed right with me.
When I started feeling better, I tried to put him back in his cage and he went right in.

That bird was a special sort of champ.
And so I realize that while I’m no animal person, I tend to get attached to particular critters…

When we were offered our puppy, something just felt right. I don’t know what it is or why I felt like I’d probably die if I didn’t get to claim this pup… but I will say that I think my gut knew that this dog is one of those creatures that’s going to make it past my “NOT AN ANIMAL PERSON” wall.
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He’s so pretty.
That alone really boosts his case.

While I’ve been sick, he’s kept close to my sick bed.
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He’s kissed Alice all over her face and hands and feet and she squeals in delight, “He’s kissing us!”

And so I maintain that I am no dog person. But I am an Apollo person.
And he’s an Alicia dog, and together we will do great things.