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.

My New Diet

So last evening, I started this super cool new diet that’s totally free. I think I lost 7 pounds last night alone.

It’s called Food Poisoning or something like that.

I’m out sick today which means my house looks incredible and I’m using my down time to teach my baby her alphabet in Chinese, French, and German. Or not.
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I was taking a super hot bath last night to try and help ease my discomfort when Alice came in, bringing a waft of cold air with her.
“Hi, Mama!”
“Alice, hi… where’s Daddy?”
“He gone. He all gone.”
“He’s gone? Outside?”
“He all gone.”
“Where’s Lacy?” I asked her, hoping to get a little help getting the baby because she can only be around a bathtub filled with water for about 30 seconds before she gets INTO IT.
“Lacy play Leapster.”
“Okay… don’t touch the water, okay?”
Alice’s hands gripped the sides of the bathtub and she wiggled them forward, backward… testing, testing…
“No touch,” she echoed.
“Can you get Lacy?” I asked.
“Oops!” She smiled innocently at me, showing me her wet fingertips, “I touch.”
“Can you get Lacy?” I asked again, my nausea was getting the better of me and I needed help.
“You do it, Mama! Say… LACY! HI HEED YOU! PLEEEEEEASE! Say please, Mama.”
SUCH a problem solver.
If you want something done, Mom, do it your own capable self.

(Hi heed you is Alice-speak for “I need you.” And I must say it’s pretty much impossible to resist when she uses it and holds her little arms up to be held.)

That said, I’m leaving you with a list of what I’m grateful for today:

1) indoor plumbing
2) heavy blankets
3) wool socks
4) Gatorade
5) recliners
6) electronics to keep Alice out of the toilets
7) diffusers
8) indoor plumbing

Happy Hump Day, all.

Acro Batty

Yesterday, Chinese Acrobats came to my kids’ Elementary School (hey wait, MY Elementary School too!) and they were fantastic.
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I turned to each of my kids and spoke to them in their native tongue (they each speak a different dialect, this you understand).
“Lacy, look at their bodies! Look how far they came to show them to you… all that work and practice, and they are really strong. Don’t you see awesome God made their bodies and how well they work and how YOU have one JUST like it?” She looked down at her white arms and said, “Well, KINDa.”
“Trent, it’s AWESOME! Right? They look like Power Rangers, right?” His eyes lit up and he said, “Yeah! That’s CRAZY!”
“Alice, it’s PRETTYFUL!”
“Yeah! Preddyful!”

She created that little mash-up all on her own, and we’ve adopted it.
Later that day, I found Trenton and Alice putting on a routine all their own.
“PREDDYFUL” Alice said, her voice muffled in her own little chest.
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Trenton came down and with a voice I can only describe as tempting said, “And THAT’S NOT ALL.”

It really wasn’t.
I got TWO shows yesterday.

My kids are going to be famous. Prettyful and famous.

Thank you ALL for your book recommendations! I got some really amazing input, and I’m going to compile a list to post on my sidebar for you all to see. Hopefully later today, if the batty acrobats will keep their little limbs and my sanity intact.

Bookie

I used to read a lot.
I loved Library Day each week at school. I loved the possibilities lying in wait on the shelves. The characters, the stories, the adventures! The books all seemed to whisper at me all at once. I loved the smell of books, the collections upon collections of series!

The Babysitters Club
American Girls

I borrowed The Work and The Glory from my friend’s mom in 7th grade. I tried my hand at classic literature now and then, and when I was finally able to digest a page in less than a month AND understand what it was talking about, I began devouring F. Scott Fitzgerald and all manner of Janes: Jane Eyre, Jane Austen!

As I grew up, I found less and less time for reading. In college, I spent all of my time reading music instead of books. After my miscarriage, I floundered around my studio apartment, hungry for comfort but unwilling to ask God for it because I was angry with Him. So I bravely put on pants, bravely stepped into sunshine, and bravely went to the campus library. In the books, I was Home again. I could smell them, feel them -characters hiding away in yellowed pages, whispering their own narrations.
I made my way to the classic literature section -always and unfortunately the least crowded section in the library. I put a few Austens under my arm and checked them out.
Once I was home and out of the scary sun, I curled up on my creaky bed in my dirty studio apartment and I read. I read for hours, and I fell asleep when I fell asleep and I read when I woke up. Jane Austen’s plot lines have always fallen a little flat, but her characters are round enough to MORE than make up for it.
I limited my diet to Oreos and I literally blew through a box of tissues.
I found my comfort. Was it the best kind? The most filling kind? Well, no… not if we’re talking about my SOUL. When I turned the last page and ate the last Oreo and wadded up the last tissue, I still hurt. I was still very much empty.
I could have checked out more books, bought more Oreos… but I knew after a week’s time, it was time to go back to school. It was time to face the ugly music of a life without a life in my belly.

The blessed ending of this tale is that I ended up with life in my belly much sooner than later, and that life grew and grew and screamed her way into, around and through Mother Earth. I quit reading because I was busy keeping up. That is to say, I quit reading for soul food. I found myself reading all kinds of INFO books that told me What To Expect and gave me 1,001 Baby Names and taught me The Proper Care and Feeding.

All those “helpful” books burned me so bad I quit reading ALL TOGETHER.
Several years later, my husband gave me a walnut-stained bookcase for Christmas. I put it together myself which means a few of the shelves are upside down, but I like it. My husband has offered to fix it, but I insist on leaving it.
The bookcase reminds me of my ME ness, and I like seeing the hardware on the outside sometimes. As I pulled my books out of storage and lovingly put them on my shelves, I felt an old spark deep down in my gut.
It WANTED those books.

I leafed through pages. I smelled a few pages. I threw away a few books that were were cool when I was 17 and absolutely insipid at 27.

I could hear the whispers coming up through the yellowed pages, and I longed to listen to each one individually -to dedicate a week to each one! But by then I had two little kids, so I simply put the books UP and left them there. I was pacified with the books at least being seen instead of in storage bins.

I have three kids now.
I’ve given up on keeping up.
And the burns from the helpful books have healed.

I’ve found myself slowly awakening that vital part of me that NEEDS yellowed books that smell like attics. They have antiquated bodies and timeless souls, and THAT ALONE makes them something I can not live without!

I can’t stand much fiction written after 1960, but I know there’s goodness to be had. I finished a book last night and immediately picked up another one and as I did I could almost hear the fans in the stand standing up in unison and giving a shout, “She’s BACK! She’s BACK!”

In the last few months, I’ve re-read a book about a Holocaust survivor. It touches me so deeply I cry each time I read it.
I read Stephanie Nielsen’s book and hated it and loved it. I made myself finish it in two days because it was too agonizing to drag it on more than that. I couldn’t believe how jealous I was of her burns! Her hospital bed! I wanted to rage at the universe that so many of us (me) were suffering so quietly and unseenly and there were no hospital beds for people with fatal wounds on the INsides. I also loved how much I related to her healing. It took me 8 days to recover from her book.
I read a few books written about people who found God through their trials, and I laughed and cried with them.
I read FICTION WRITTEN AFTER 1950 and it didn’t send me into a pint of chocolate ice cream to assuage my despair at the decline of English intellect.
(I should probably pick up a book about humility after this?)

I’m reading a book about auras which is confusing and fascinating me all at the same wonderful time.

The more I read, the more I remember myself. The more I find I WANT TO READ. Reading begats more reading.
I’m finding that I’m drawn primarily to TRUE books -books about stories written by the people the stories happened to. I want more than anything to be this kind of writer: The Kind Who Tells the Stories That Others Can’t Tell For Themselves.

I go to the Internet and I research people and I find their stories and I wonder WHY EVERYONE DOESN’T KNOW THESE STORIES?!

My book list seems to be growing.
I’m happy about this, and I feel it’s time to reopen my library. And WHEN I DIE, my children will be forced to get rid of my crap and thereby will my posterity spend at least one solid week rifling through BOOKS.
That is my dying wish for my posterity.

My great-grandmother left her apple trees to nourish me. My books will likewise nourish the ones I spawn.

I plan on adding a bookcase next to my bookcase, and if all goes write (bah dum dum), I’ll have an entire WALL of books and it will be my soul’s happy place. When I listen to guided meditation and they ask me to find a place in my mind where I feel calm, I will GO TO THE WALL OF BOOKS and unwind the tension in my shoulders, unwind the tension in my mind and iron out the creases of myself.

God is by far the best at ironing me out.
I’m just realizing that books are a sort of second in command.

I hereby promise myself that on this day, February 2nd, 2015 (Happy Birthday, cousin Kimmi!), I will buy one new book each time I get paid. I also promise myself that the books I buy will be quality in every sense of the word. This means I will NOT be buying 1984 because it freaks me out. I will also not be buying Nicholas Sparks because his books freak me out.

My shelves at present are filled with church history, family history, all manner of Janes, The Help, Robert Frost, Nora Ephron, Dr. Seuss, Ben Franklin, and Dorothy Parker. I own an antique Eugene Field poetry book… I picked it up after finding out that my grandfather was named Eugene in honor of the poet. As soon as it came in the mail, I inhaled the attic smell and then laughed out loud because his poetry took me completely by surprise. Here:
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Grandpa would never eat a child, let’s just be clear. Eugene Field was infamous for his humor and wit, and I love linking his name to my family and adding his poems to my library. I just have to screen the passages I read to the littler ones at bed time…

ALL THAT SAID.
I’m going to write a list of the books I’m going to add to my library. I need a reference point in case I forget what I want. I also need might re-title this post “GIFT IDEAS” and hope Danny’s on board with unsubtly.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Night by Elie Wiesel
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Peter Pan (Xist Classics)
Cheaper By the Dozen and Belles on their Toes by a couple of Gilbreth children
The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A New Collection
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

And these should get us started well… a few paychecks’ worth of nourishing soul food.

What would you add to it? A biography? An adventure? A pack of poems? A book on humility?

Like Sands in the Hour Glass

January 31st, 2015

7:00 am -My alarm goes off. I only hit snooze twice and get out of bed by 7:15, in time to pick up the living room and start baking boxed gluten-free muffins.

7:30 am -My cousin, Rissy, knocks on the door and we quietly start watching the first episode of “Death Comes to Pemberley.” We don’t waste time with “howdeedos.” We know the children will wake up. I go into the kitchen to cut up fruit and pour juice into a fancy glass pitcher so we can drink it from fancy glass glasses. I dump half of my Nutella into a crystal sugar jar. I put down my wrinkled vintage tablecloth onto the piano bench. We pause the movie, bless the food, and we fancy feast.

8: 30 am -minutes before the first episode ends, Lacy wakes up. “Mom, I wet the bed, but only a little.”
“Thank you for telling me,” I say and hand her a strawberry slathered in Nutella.

8:31 am -Trenton wakes up. “I peed the bed, Mom,” he says. I laugh a little. I make a mental note that hot chocolate before bed isn’t the best idea I’ve ever had.

8:45 am -Fifteen minutes into the second episode, Alice wakes up. She runs full-force into the living room, sending out rays of energy through her wide open arms, “GOOD! MORNEEN! NEIGHBOR!” She watches a lot of Daniel Tiger these days…

9:00 am -I change Alice. The kids raid the Fancy Feast and there are no strawberries left. I am reminded once again of how grateful I am for closed captioning.

9: 15 am -Alice is only wearing a shirt and a smile. I think of diapering and putting pants on her again, but I’ve learned how stupid that can be, and I don’t like doing stupid things usually.

10: 15 am -I take Apollo out to use the bathroom and think of my new mantra, “Accept where I am” because instead of focusing on a dog’s read end, I’d rather be inside with the Nutella and Edwardian Murder Mystery.

10:45 am -The Who Done It is up, the Murder Mystery is over. Rissy goes home. Alice finds the crystal sugar jar with Nutella and has her way with it. I let her because she’s finally quiet. I’m also a little jealous because she’s still pantsless and hiding behind the couch where she doesn’t have to share the Nutella and no one needs her.
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11:15 am -Alice squats and pees on the carpet. Potty training continues to evade us despite our best efforts. I begin to wonder if I should take her out with Apollo…

12:20 am -While blogging, my phone rings. I answer it. I walk into the kitchen to find 6 packages of Swiss Miss and two crumbled gluten free muffins dumped onto the floor. I open my new broom as I talk on the phone and break it in well. I can’t seem to use a dust pan and talk on the phone at the same time, and my phone conversation is very important so I stop sweeping. Unbeknownst to me, Alice had been vulturing the situation and as soon as I looked away, she sat next to the pile of powdered cocoa and gave it a good tossing.

1:00 pm -Danny comes on the scene and sweeps the kitchen properly.

1:10 pm -Alice gets a bath.

1:20 pm -Mom is frantically trying to get everyone out the door to watch Holbrook High School’s 2 o’clock matinee performance of “Alice in Wonderland.”

2:01 pm -we pull out of the driveway to catch the 2’o clock showing. We will be late. But Alice is wearing pants.

2:20 pm -we walk into a darkened theater together. Lacy laughs at all the right jokes -even when they aren’t obvious, and this makes me very proud. Trent laughs at all of the obvious jokes and the crazy costumes and this makes me laugh as well. Alice says, “OH CWAP” over and over -she was only parroting one of the performers who went off stage and forgot to turn their mic off.

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4:00 ish pm -Lacy begs for a picture with the Cheshire Cat.
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4:10 pm -Lacy and Trenton beg to go to the park while Danny and I shield ourselves against the cold breeze outside. There is no sun out. We promise the kids that we are going somewhere WAY COOLER than the park. We are going to a place where it’s warm and cozy and pants-optional (apparently). We are going HOME. They hate us.

4:30 pm -I am struck with a genius plan to create a Pediatric 12-step program for electronics.
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5:00 pm -The breeze dies down and the sun comes out. I look up from my book and out the window and begin to soak in the splendor of the golden sun shining on the billowy rain-looking clouds when my toddler plants herself on my lap. “Want walk-walk wiff ‘Pollo.” My immediate reaction is to try and talk her out of it, but she’s already got her shoes and her jacket, and I begin to realize that instead of looking at the sun outside my window, I could actually soak some of it up with my favorite people. I spend five minutes arguing with Alice, just to hear her adorably insist on “WALK WALK” and “COME ON!”
“Can I go potty?”
“No! Walk walk wiff ‘pollo.”
So the kids and I venture out to Grandpa’s farm with our coats on. Well… MOST of us.

5:07 pm -Trenton runs from Grandpa’s farm back home to get his coat.

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5:15 pm -Trenton finds two small adjoining puddles on the road and begins using a stick to unite them. “I’m going to shovel out the mud so they can be one,” he says, and I immediately think of yoga and how I use it to shovel out mud so my body and spirit can be one. It helps me make better decisions throughout the day, and I take a picture to remind myself that children can be profound… especially mine. Then I flip my hair.
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5:25 pm -I am refreshed. The sun, the evening, the golden rays, the children, the accepting of where I am… the muddy road of Dad’s farm holds some kind of magic in it.

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5:30 pm -held hostage by the Evening Enchantment, I persuade Lacy to make some popcorn for us all to enjoy on the porch. She makes specialty popcorn with kernels and a lunch sack and melted butter and a microwave.

5:32 pm -I remember that I not only have a dog, but cats as well. And it looks something like:
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The Enchantment begins to weaken as I gaze upon Poor Kitty:
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5:35 pm -Lacy informs me that she’s very sorry, but she’s broken a bowl… it had melted butter in it, but now? The Enchantment weakens further.

5:37 pm -Alice steps in wet dog poo. The Enchantment dissipates as I pull Alice’s shoes off and dry heave.

6:00 pm -I make taco soup.

6:15 pm -Alice begins a rowdy game of “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” on the kitchen table:
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7:00 pm -We begin watching the original “Cheaper By the Dozen” as a family. The kids complain about taco soup.

7:15 pm -The kids lose interest in the movie.

7:30 pm -Alice falls asleep too early because her afternoon nap was cut short.

8:20 pm -Danny cries at the end of the movie and hugs me very tightly.

8:30 pm -Tampon and pad wrappings are found on the floor… how handy that Alice is peacefully slumbering *right* at the time her dirty work is discovered. That kid is all cheek.
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9:15 pm -PJ time, scripture time, prayer time.

9:20 pm -Alice wakes up. Of course she does.

9:30 pm -Lacy reminds me that she’s peed her bed and wonders where she will sleep since Mom forgot to wash her bedding?
“Didn’t you say it was just a little bit? I’d assumed you just went your pants a little…”
“It IS a little! The spot on my bed is like…” Lacy’s arms make a rather large circle and I drop my head.
“You can make a bed on the floor.”
Lacy is horrified.
“Trent you can sleep next to her since you wet your bed too.”
“Um, Mom?” He asks, cautiously.
“Yeah?”
“I slept in YOUR bed. ‘Member?”
I begin mentally singing Queen in my head, “Is this the real life?…”

10:00 pm -The kids are in bed. Their door is closed. I get into bed and just as I put my glasses on the nightstand, Lacy calls out to me. Once, twice, THREE TIMES THE LADY! I put my glasses back on, turn the light back on, go into her room.
“Alice is playing Trent’s Leapster,” she points to the toddler who is truly addicted to other people’s electronics.
I ask her to shut it off. She obeys (!!!! Hello, Bright Spot!) and I tuck her in. I close the door. I turn off the lights. I put the leapster in bed with me.

10:05 pm -Lacy is up, Lacy is slamming her door. Lacy is trying to help Alice get her bottle. Because their bedroom door doesn’t sit on the hinges right, Lacy can’t close it.
SLAM, SLAM, SLAM

10:06 pm -Glasses on, lights on, “Lacy, do not get up again. Alice, GOOD night.” Lights off, glasses off, “no escape from reality.”

2:45 am -Alice is up and crying. Her cries aren’t normal, and as a mother I instantly know she’s thrown up. It’s a gift… it serves it’s own grotesque purposes. I put her into the tub. I begin a rinse cycle on the clothes I left in the washer. I find she’s thrown up twice: once in the hall, once in bed. I strip bedding. I wash the baby. She hates me.

3:10 am -“I want Let it Go” and we are snuggled on the living room floor. Alice throws up again. THREE TIMES THE LADY! I rejoice that the wash cycle has *just* started and instantly throw in her shirt and the blanket she made her deposit on. She’s chipper and snuggly and when I put a new shirt on her, she gushes thanksgivings. She sings “Do You Want To Build a Snowman” with the most adorable voice and the most deplorable breath.

5: 38 am -I wake up on the living room floor to the sound of Frozen’s menu. Alice is sound asleep next to me. I start the movie over again and turn the volume down. Alice sleeps better with a little noise.

5:40 am -I go back to bed and pride myself on getting to the bottom of why I’m looking older than the 29 year olds I see on TV. I drift off to sleep to the theme song of “Days of Our Lives” and laugh a little remembering the day my Dad came home for lunch and found me watching the day time soap with my Mom. He wouldn’t let me watch it anymore, and I was pretty devastated. At least my own life holds it’s own little thrillings.

Although you can’t actually SEE it, I’m basically buried alive right now.

These. Are the days of my life.

Seattle Days and My Side of the Street

Yesterday was a Seattle Day in Northern Arizona -a steady drizzle that confused us all. In Northern Arizona, we are used to cracked, dry hands and lips and hair. We’re used to crashing, flashing monsoons that sweep in as fast as they sweep out.
Calm, steady rain isn’t something the desert is used to.

I fell asleep Thursday night to the sound of softly falling rain -it was right out of the pages of a novel. Providing, of course, that the heroine of said novel was in the habit of falling asleep the lying LONG WISE across the short side of the bed because there were boxes on the long end of the bed that she’s always too tired to move… I curled up in a endless nest of pillows and blankets and listened to the rain in peace for 3 whole minutes before having to get up and go to the bathroom. So maybe my life isn’t as novel outright as it is in my own head?

I woke up to rain falling, and tracked my package on Amazon, just as I’d done every 30 minutes the day before.
Friday morning finally delivered the good news: my package was in town.

I’m mildly suspicious that I buy stuff from Amazon solely because I want presents in the mail. And now Amazon has those precious “add-on” items that mimic the treasures in actual check-out lines.
OF COURSE I need chapstick and a lint roller and batteries and a package of 4″ plush monsters! Thank goodness I saw these or I would have forgotten!

But this package was different. It wasn’t full of anything I thought I needed in order to live. Instead, it was full of things I simply WANTED.

For the first half of my marriage, I could feel this brilliant sort of… I don’t know, potential. I could FEEL it. I couldn’t put my finger quite on what it was, and the most maddening thing about it was that I couldn’t GET TO IT. There was some kind of invisible, impenetrable barrier keeping me from accessing something I KNEW was there.
I could feel it was a good thing.
I could feel that I wanted it.

But for the life of me, I could not have it.

My husband and I complement each other really well. He adds numbers and I write words. He organizes my drawers and I make him laugh. If I were to commission a painting of us, it would depict us holding hands… him sunk just a few inches into the solid ground with his brow furrowed very Dannyishly and me floating a few feet into the hair, a helium balloon pulling me up up and away.
I keep him from dying of Serious Stress, and he keeps me from dying of recklessness.

The combination of our personalities, weaknesses and strengths is the stuff that makes Really Great Homes, and I could FEEL that, but getting my hands on it felt *just* out of my reach.

I am impatient, and I am a hard worker, so I decided to EARN my way through the invisible barrier. I decided to kick it down, scratch it down, beat it, break it and GET MY HANDS ON THE PRIZE. My Dad raised me with work, and I’m a capable gal. I read so many books about relationships. I read so many theories -each theory a thick weapon used to knock at the barrier, each weapon failing.

So many failures. I finally gave up and sat down beaten and sweaty next to the stubborn barrier and felt no amount of satisfaction that usually comes after years of honing my focus in on one project. Because I’m so impatient, spending YEARS on one thing is significant. Having my efforts fail? My devastation ran deep.

In third grade, I read Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” in one day. One SCHOOL day. I hid it under my desk during class and read. I sat on the ground during recess and read. I hid under my blanket with a flashlight and read. Once I begin a project, I HAVE TO FINISH IT. I’ve often felt this same drive when opening a bag of Swedish Fish.

But this project? This barrier project? This reading project? It was the most futile thing I’d ever done, and when I realized it, I felt very stupid. I put away all of my relationship books and turned away from my relationship to spend time focusing on WHY I’d spend so much time foolishly.

I took myself for a figurative walk -figurative because I wasn’t actually PHYSICALLY capable of walking around much when I realized the barrier was the boss of me -and I ended up finding MY SIDE OF THE STREET. I stood and admired it from the road, and I have to say: I was pretty impressed over all. There were colorful plants, cement stairs leading up to a beautiful little shop where I sold pieces of myself for much less than they were worth.
Great deals!
Pretty plants!
Sunshine!

I took a few steps closer to soak in my awesomeness and that’s when I noticed that the plants were fake.
Of course they’re fake.
I can’t grow stuff! I knew that! I kill all plants! My thumb is black with garden shame.
It didn’t long to see that the plants weren’t the only fake thing on the block… my entire store front was a prettily plastered FAKE FAKERSON. The store front was beautifully masking an old brick building that had fallen into disrepair from neglect. The store front suddenly looked like a gigantic band-aid -it’s beauty lost on me. The side of my store was cracked -deep cracks ran along the sides and bled into the ground.

I peered through the windows and found -instead of the insides of my shop -my own reflection. Each window was, in fact, a mirror. The mirrors were cloudy and dusty, so I huffed and puffed and blew my breath onto them and polished them with my sleeve.
My reflection became clearer and clearer, and I began to see that I was impatient. I was controlling. I was more powerful than I imagined -more opinionated than I thought.
I was sensitive and I felt everything that came my way. My life was an endless succession of absorption -I heard everything, felt everything, smelled everything, remembered everything… and I was tired from the rapid stream of stimuli. Did everyone feel like I did?
Did everyone have fake store fronts and fake plants and cracked walls?

I thought about looking around, but again: my Dad raised me to know about work and what work does. I didn’t have time to be wondering about other streets… my street needed some serious help.

As I opened the door to my shop, I found so. much. garbage. on top of a lot of greatness. It was dusty and dark, so much neglect!
Had I really spent so much time perfecting the appearance of the outside of my shop that the inside got THIS BAD?
I rolled up my sleeves and began the hard work of GUTTING OUT MY OWN STUFF. I threw away the fake plants and opted for more authenticity -big, stone lions that don’t bite or need any nourishing but still invite folks to stop on by for cookies.
I hacked down my fake store front and found that the original store front was REALLY WORTHWHILE though utterly lacking in trendiness… the longer I looked at it and the more time I spent with it, the more I came to LOVE THAT FACT. The lack of trendiness became it’s warmest feature.

The more I cleaned and swept my own shop, the wider my door swung open, the more visitors I had. More sunshine spilled into my once-darkened store.
I began raising my prices on my more worthy wares, realizing what I had to offer was seriously worth extra effort. At the same time, I began giving what I had to offer freely. It didn’t make any sense as far as appearances went, but my gut was so happy with the situation that I let my worries about appearances fall into the dump with my store front.

One thing hasn’t changed about my side of the street -the windows are still mirrors. I do my best to keep them clean so I will always have a clear view of what’s really going on with me. It seems the more I sweep my own street, the clearer and cleaner my mirrors become.
That’s what I like to call efficient housekeeping.

In my GUSTO of GUTTING, I threw out ALL of my relationship help books. I evicted Dr. Laura. I found that the barrier I’d been sacrificing myself to tear down wasn’t mine to tear at, so I could LET IT GO and let God deal with it all. It was time for me to turn away from the tension of tearing and controlling and face the beautiful music of acceptance.

And for a few years, I enjoyed the sunshine. I enjoyed the rain. My side of the street went from being false and unsafe to AUTHENTIC, STURDY… I worked hard to make it a safe place for my soul to stay. After all, I’m going to be here for the rest of my life. I stayed far away from self-help books and was very wary of any Internet advice… except when wax was spilled on carpet or red hots were stuck in nostrils -those were the days where tension and acceptance diverged in the woods and I took the lower road most traveled by.

I’m here to tell you that THIS FRIDAY, I barely made it through work. I couldn’t stand that it was SEATTLE RAINING and I wasn’t at home with a book, especially because I knew there were NEW BOOKS in my mailbox.
They weren’t digital books! Because I’m impatient, I love digital books. But I also love BOOK BOOKS, and I ORDERED SOME SELF-HELP BOOK BOOKS with crisp new pages and real covers and everything!
I looked in my mirror the other day and felt like I was ready. I’ve stripped my soul and polished my mirror enough to see that my biggest issues are
SHAME and
FEAR
and I knew there were some great books that might help me NOT LIVE MY LIFE from a scared and shameful place, even though shame and fear lurk EVERY STREET IN THE WORLD, no matter how clean the owners’ keep them.
And so I go in search of the proverbial lamb’s blood to keep the misty fog and shame and fear BACK AWAY FROM MY SIDE OF THE STREET. They may pass by, but they may not stay.

THIS FRIDAY, I raced home from work, to the Post Office, picked up the baby from the sitter and then DID NOT MOVE FROM MY RECLINER FOR HOURS.

Seriously.
I spent a rainy afternoon reading a book under a throw blanket. It’s the stuff dreams and true living are made up -the place where they meet.
When rain falls from heaven, it brings a bit of heaven to earth… and I ransacked it like a pig in mud.

Opening my package, I realized I’d accidentally marked my books as gifts. I laughed as my gift receipt fell into my lap. I think I’ll accidentally mark ALL of my Amazon orders as gifts from now on because what are goods and wares if not gifts? And really -these books are my gifts to myself.

I’m finally ready for another layer of Gutting with Gusto.

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My toddler climbed into my lap as I read and caught a glimpse of the back of my book.
“It’s Mama!” she said, and then I became the happiest mother in the world. She thinks I look like THIS.
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It’s Good Friday on My Side of the Street.

And if you want a visual of my street cleaning, listen to this… my street cleaning sounds like this song. This song is me. This song is me gutting. Sometimes peppy, sometimes dramatically, sometimes sweetly, sometimes profound:

When He Was Small

Trenton has always had a special place in my heart. He’s my only son, and his big, big brown eyes melt me. They always have.
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When we first moved into the house we’re in now, Trenton was only 2. One day, I heard a knock on the door. I went to answer it, only to find no one there. A few minutes later, I heard another knock. I went again to the door… nothing. I turned around and saw Trenton, toy hammer in hand, giggling. He was knocking on our barn wood moulding and laughing at his mom running back and forth, back and forth.
I couldn’t believe it.
He knew EXACTLY what he was doing.

His little giggle is extremely contagious -these days it’s almost exclusively reserved for potty words. Anytime I say, “but…” and pause for effect, he chuckles slow and low and it gradually builds, catches on, and then we all start laughing.
What am I going to do with this BOY?!

Today I uploaded a video I’ve treasured for years because it captures one of his classic laughs -The Evil Laugh.

Earlier in the day, I’d left him with a sitter at a basketball game for a few minutes. She let him sip on her Diet Coke -he’d never had caffeinated soda before. That night, he ran circles in the living room and then sat at the table to… cut paper, apparently.

This crazy boy. I hope you enjoy his laugh as much as we do.

“Guys”

When I was growing up, I had (well, have, but anyway) three older brothers. I began to objectify them, putting them in one big lump sum: The Brothers.
They were like a club -a band of some sort.
“Mom, The Brothers went outside.”
Most often, though, I viewed The Brothers as a mean Hate Gang and myself as their sole target, and I could almost swear that my mother lost half of her hair listening to my most common lament, “The Brothers are teasing me!”

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Someday I hope to be as darling as I once was. Maybe when I’m 93 and wearing a white crochet cardi in my nursing home recliner?

Anyway, the other day I loaded up Alice in the car without her older siblings, and she looked confused.
“Where Guys?” she asked.
“What?” I looked at her and furrowed my eyebrows, trying to decipher exactly what she was saying.
“Where Guys?” she repeated, “GUYS! GUYS! WHERE AH YOU?!”

Guys.
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They’re just as cute as The Brothers. Will they turn out to the new Hate Gang on the block? Time will tell…

Truth

Trenton: Mom, you were right about what you said. You used to be good at baking, but now? Crappy.
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It’s true. Going gluten free has it’s ugly moments. I’m so glad I have people around me to point them out MORE and LOUD. Feels good.