Religion is My Vehicle

This weekend, someone irritated me. Pretty straightforward sentence, amiright? We all irritate each other, this I know. This I know. I prolly bugged some people with my repetition of “this I know.” and prolly bugged some more by using the word, “prolly” and prolly bugged some more with my sudden devil-may-care attitude about punctuation.
You get my drift.

But really, this weekend, someone BUGGED me. I couldn’t get over it! And then I hated myself for being irritated at someone else, for not only being uncharitable but also? The fact that one person can get to me SO MUCH proves that I’m somehow emotionally immature.
I feel shame for feeling irritated. And shame always has PERFECTIONISM riding on it’s back, and there I was… chopping green onions in my kitchen in a warped emotional spin cycle of irritation, shame, perfection, irritation, shame, perfection….

Those poor green onions caught the brunt, I tell ya.

The next day, I was talking with my counselor over the phone. At the end of my session, I brought my Spin Cycle up… and then I said these revealing words, “It’s just that this woman reminds me SO MUCH of who I was 7 years ago and I just have absolutely no compassion for the way I used to be. I look back on the way I lived and the choices I made and all I can think is, ‘What a royal screw-up.’…. … … Oh my gosh.”
Right there.
Right there was the realization, the heavy moment where I understood just how much acceptance and compassion I DON’T HAVE for My Past Self.
And you know what she said in reply?
“Okay, Alicia. I’ve got another client right now, so let’s schedule our next session…”

It felt like a hug, guys. Ha!

I hung up the phone and blinked for awhile.

I accept myself now. I LOVE myself now. I feel good about the future before me. But you know where I keep getting stuck? In the past, and all I can hear is that wise line from The Lion King that goes, “You’ve got to put your past behind you” because right now, my jittery behind is just IN THE PAST. There’s so many resentments I hold that I don’t know how to let go of, and the truth is that MOST of the resentments I hold are toward myself, My Past Self.

My Past Self blogged a lot more, right? Because she needed it. She needed the validation. She did Jillian Michael’s shred stuff. She baked on Tuesdays and cleaned on Mondays and Wednesdays were for laundry and she wore her tiny pants and curled her hair and kneaded bread dough wearing homemade aprons and pulled freshly baked bread out of a clean oven using her homemade hot pads.
I freaking HATE that girl!

She was so caught up in it all -working to earn love, her own love and love from everyone else, including God.

In those days, I really thought I was living a life with God at the helm, but I wasn’t. I was at the helm, pretending to be God. I was like those 3 year old toddlers who slip on their mother’s high heels and slips and feel very much Matron of the Home about it all. The wise saying, “There is only one God, and it is not me” comes to mind.  I went to church every Sunday and I paid tithes and offerings. I signed up for service projects and prayed when I should.

Spirituality was my vehicle in my Religious world… Spirituality carted me around through My Religious Life.

Seven therapy-filled, tear-filled, and support-group filled years later, I just have to say:

I don’t wear my tiny pants anymore. I don’t bake like that anymore. My house looks like it is undergoing renovations, and it really isn’t. I promise. I don’t blog as much.

Something huge happened inside of me… a seed cracked open and grew -it sounds simple, but lemme tell you: simple things aren’t always EASY THINGS or PAIN-FREE things. The seed growing in me now is spiritual. In the last seven years, I have found God. The biggest thing I’ve learned about Him is that I know close to nothing about Him. I thought I did! I thought I did!! But I was incredibly wrong.
Religion isn’t where I live.
Spirituality isn’t my vehicle.

It is ENTIRELY THE OTHER WAY ‘ROUND.

Religion is my vehicle as I road-trip through this spiritual life. And guess what? I still pay my tithes and I still go to church, but I do it for different reasons now. I really thought I was doing it for the right reasons before, but I wasn’t.

Is God in the center of my life now? Ah, sometimes. I’ve learned now that God is in the center SOMETIMES. But each day, something takes over… something scoots God over and I find I’ve teetered off course.
That text.
That phone call.
That bill.
That person.

I find my center being taken up with something circumstantial, and I have to re-center and say, “Woah, God. My mind is spinning on this. I’m obsessing. Please, just… here.”
And I hand it over. God has this huge capacity for holding stuff. I don’t know where He puts it all.
Christ handles it, so I’m told.

In the past, I just thought because I DID ALL THE RELIGIOUS STUFF that God was naturally at the center of my life.  But now I see that putting God in the center is a daily exercise that requires grace.

In this state, I find I still exercise, but not with Jillian Michaels. She went the way of the burn pile. I couldn’t handle being yelled at. Seven years ago I could! Seven years ago, I hated my fat just as much as Jillian did! But now?
Gosh, stop the yelling.

I have found myself getting my heart rate up for the health of my brain, and I take a short walk every morning with my arthritic pup. We breathe in the morning together, and the farm road we walk on is currently housing horses which is lucky because it is monsoon season and really, NOTHING smells as satisfyingly earthy and wholesome as a freshly washed horse.
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Even if they want to eat your hair.
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In short: I exercise because I LOVE and ACCEPT myself now. I stretch out in yoga, drink freshly-juiced green juices, eat protein and fruit because it feels so incredible! The more I settle into this new, spiritually-based way of living, the more it feels like I’m coming home. It’s the craziest feeling! As the competition and hustle falls by the wayside, I feel exactly like I’m coming home. In the words of the irresistible Tom Hanks as he reads the lines written by the irresistible Nora Ephron in the irresistible classic Sleepless in Seattle, “It was like coming home, only to no home I’d ever known.”
Plato puts it:
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The era of self-punishment and earning my own love has ended. It’s through: fork-stuck DONE.

How do I bridge this? How do I send the acceptance and love I feel for myself and others NOW to the past?
It is my new mission, my new adventure.

I’m sure I’ll figure it out on my morning walks with Bronco and God.
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Here’s a few pictures I’ve snapped to remind me of the changes going on in my life right now:

My go-to lunch these days!  Salads made with lots of colors and some chicken and some EVOO and some of my latest favorite: coconut balsamic vinegar. I refuse to eat leaves without my coconut balsamic vinegar.  I found it in Utah and LUCKILY just found a store in Flagstaff, AZ that sells the exact same stuff.  Praises, folks.  So many praises.
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breakfastSundayGet a load of these babies!  Loving WHERE I am and practicing gratitude for it has been a big part of what I’m building here.  Reminds me of the quote, “The prize is the process.”  Loving where I am isn’t just an emotional practice where I practice acceptance for the fact that I’m not ready to forgive or apologize or whatever… it’s about just walking outside and loving it!  I live next to a Navajo Rez and this is me: loving it!  A friend gifted these to me and they don’t really leave my feet at all ever.

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This is the view on my morning walk.  I know we need a house.  We are growing out of this space.  Three kids in one room.  I KNOW.  But can I leave this space? I DON’T KNOW.
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Morning include meditation in the grass.  Sometimes guided, sometimes silent, sometimes both.  Usually both.

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Late-night snack cravings can usually be satisfied with my roasted dandelion root herbal tea.  I can’t get enough of it A

ND the bags keep saying smart stuff.

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After work, I make time for yoga.  I love going outside and guiding myself through a session while this goes on next to me.  I don’t love it when the sprinkler nails me… but Trent does.
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I’m finding that hiking is something I really LOVE!  I live in the high desert, and there isn’t too much hiking around here, but we just found a great almost 3-mile (kid friendly) hike in Flagstaff.  We’ve gone twice now, and I feel so at home in that forest dirt.  Lovely!

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Those of you who know me know that I’ve been struggling with health stuff like crazy.  For over two years, I’ve been battling stomach stuff.  I can’t believe it has been that long.  I’ve been in and out of docs, and nothings seems wrong.  So the ball is in my court, and I’m not very athletic… so I want to pass it.  But God says, “No.”

My routine is really important, and I have to be diligent.  God is teaching me something here.  Patience?  Acceptance?  I don’t know.

I drink clay in the morning and take glucosamine (am I spelling that right?) with my breakfast (for my inflammation).  I drink my milk kefir every morning. I make sure my breakfast is nourishing.  Each morning, I meditate.  I pray and I really try to read or listen to scriptures.  After work, I do my yoga.  I eat a nourishing lunch with greeeeeeeens.  I eat a good dinner.  I pray and repeat, repeat, repeat.

Probiotics are really important to what I’m doing here.  So I’m making my own sauerkraut.

 

Sometimes I sorta pinch myself.  When did this become my life?  Meditation, yoga, fermented food?  And how come it all feels like second nature?  It is surreal. homemadekraut

 

I’m looking to build my herbal tea collection and hiking destinations, so pass any suggestions along!

Marriage -Crystal Ball Style

I was online recently and noticed a significant lack of posts full of advice on marriage. Seriously, if you are getting married and google, “What can I expect when I get married?” Nothing comes up, not a million pages filled with what to do and what not to do and when to do it and how and stuff. Nothing like that at all!
{insert sarcasm emoticon}

So I thought I’d take one for the team.

On September 4th, 2016, Danny and I will celebrate 12 years of marriage. We are marriage babies, but I also feel like because I’m 12 years into it, I can provide a “crystal ball” for engaged couples.
Not ALL engaged couples. Because all engaged couples are different. But some. Some will read this and it will save their marriage
OR
break up their engagement.

When I was expecting my first baby, I read through, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” like it was THE BIBLE. Oh wait, actually lemme fix that… I SHOULD read my Bible the way I read that book because I wore that book out. I followed the advice and my belly followed the book and it was all gross and bliss and binkies. I just wish someone had written a “What To Expect When You’re Getting Married” book.
All marriages are different, but there are a few common threads that I wish someone would have revealed to me.
Such as!

1) Your spouse will, in fact, and does, in fact, poop.
Because Danny and I didn’t live together before we were married, this one shook our dynamic up a bit. Getting married to someone is essentially signing up to buy toilet paper with and for ONE person for as long as you both shall stand it (hopefully forever). It goes deeper than just poop, though (and I’m tactfully trying to step around puns, but even in saying “stepping around” I feel like I crossed a line). The bathroom is going to be a much bigger deal than you realize. You’re going to clean up stuff you aren’t considering right now, and you’re going to be totally okay with it. You find that more love is built “in sickness” than it is “in health.” While you’re running to the gas station for Gatorade and Sprite, you’ll feel a scary level of concern and connection that can only mean one thing: you’re really in love. In fact, you will find your love sinking deeper not so much when your spouse is spruced up and smelling amazing, but when they’re at their most vulnerable and smelling um, not-so-amazing. So while you may believe that love is built on date nights and late nights (*ahem*), I’m here to tell you: don’t discount the bathroom. Also, be willing to compromise on toilet paper styles, toothpaste squeezing methods, and soap scents.

2) Compliments change.
When we were dating and first married, Danny showered me with compliments about my hair and clothes and body. He loved the way I smelled. But that was 12 short years ago. Yesterday -and I’m not kidding -Danny came into the kitchen where I was trying to amp myself up to bleach the dishes that had mold growing in them, pulled me close… so close I could smell his sweat from the morning he’d spent chopping down rouge trees in the yard… and said, “Hey, good job on getting the nail polish out of the kids’ tub.”
And you know what? That felt good. Compliments change because we are ever-changing. I hope that in 30 years, he’ll still be lucid enough to compliment me on the way I peddle my stationary bike. Ten years from now, I hope he compliments me on my ability to stay calm amidst kids leaving home… but I don’t think that will be the case.

3) The person you marry will be the person you take supplements with.
There’s something comforting and wholesome about slamming back vitamins with a spouse. It’s a sort of silent pact where I say without saying, “I love me and am taking care of me” and he echoes, silently, the sentiment. Love grows stronger when I put my oxygen mask on first, and all that… but really. I can’t fully love Danny or anyone unless I love myself. A few nights ago, I was up late with Danny and we stood in the kitchen. He threw back something for his body and I mixed up my clay so it could sit overnight (for me to drink in the morning) and it was this incredible vulnerable moment… we were in our pajamas, our hair was wrecked, our skin looks like it’s been married for 12 years and we were both blinking really hard because our contacts had gone dry. I let him see me like that… undone (not in a sexy way, sorry), needing any shred of health-in-a-bottle I can get, and utterly exhausted after a day spent working, washing, cooking, and (honesty please) watching Netflix to regroup between snack times.

4) The kids thing will be difficult.
This means trying for them, not getting them, getting them, losing them (both mortally and temporarily), raising them, not raising them… it is all going to be hard. Comparing your kid stuff to the kid stuff other people deal with makes it A LOT harder.

5) You will argue about money.
Danny knows where every penny is. I trust The Good Lord to provide and sometimes don’t know what I bought for $100 at Wal-Mart because WE STILL DON’T HAVE FOOD BUT SOMEHOW HAVE 6 SKEINS OF YARD AND 3 PACKAGES OF SILLY PUTTY. Danny loves my free spirit, just not when it shops. I have no advice for you, I’m just giving you a fair warning: you’re going to fight about money. Probably a lot.

6) Your spouse has been hurt in life. At some point, it will get taken out on you.
In 11th grade, Suzy ditched your husband for someone named Blitz, and someday -when you forget a lunch date, or something similar -your husband will REACT, man. And as he reacts and you will feel the injustice. The lack of compassion on your spouse’s part will anger you, hurt you and put you immediately on the defensive. His, “HOW COULD YOU?” will become your, “How could YOU?!” and you’ll begin to play catch with this brilliant little ball I call “drama.” In these moments, fight, fight, fight YOURSELF to drop the damn ball and hug your spouse. Because, as much as they are trying to make the situation your fault, it is NOT about you. You can apologize and you can hug them and you can buy them ice cream just as easily as you can throw a ball back. Be advised that most of the time, you’ll probably end up throwing the ball back. But the times you don’t will be incredibly healing and awesome.

7) Sex isn’t as big of a deal as you thought.
If sex is the primary way to express love, things will get really tricky really fast. Sex doesn’t fix anything. It’s a bandage, a pretty strong one, but it isn’t a healer. Your sexuality will become less about the physical act of sex, and you will find a richer, deeper life that will include but not revolve around sex. You might even be surprised to find your marriage leaving what we call “copper sex” behind altogether. Copper sex is the stuff movies are sold on, wild and weird and hide-the-baby’s-eyes. Copper sex is fleeting and honestly? Kinda boring. But when you’re taking supplements and cleaning bathrooms of one other person and you SEE them, really see them -when you pay bills and hold hands through hospital bedding and share milkshakes and swap scriptures, when you walk with them and talk about your hopes and dreams and laugh with them at 4 am because not only do spouses poop BUT SO DO DOGS AND THEY POOP IN HALLWAYS, and you cook with them and feed them and buy thoughtful gifts and pick up socks even though you’d rather burn the socks… and then decide to make love, it is what a marriage counselor I love calls, “Gold sex.” And you know what? If one or the other of us were to be in an accident that would render us incapable of having sex, that would be okay. Because we have access to the kind of intimacy that matters. And it isn’t purely physical. Surprise!
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8) Your spouse will stop being the most important thing in the world to you, and that’s okay.

No one, sociopaths excluded, wants to be heralded as anyone’s God. No one wants that burden, that pedestal. In fact, what we really want is ROOM TO MESS UP because WE KNOW WE WILL and we need the space to lose our minds, to get mad, to curse, spend more than we meant to, clean less, take a sabbatical from flossing! Our marriage was never better than when Danny quit being the center of my universe and I quit being the center of his, and we both moved -independently but in a rough, parallel fashion toward putting GOD in the center of our individual lives.

9) Your argument about the right way to fold socks will cause panic, “Will this be the end of our hero?”
This kind of stuff calls for a TRANSLATOR. You can hire one, but in the Yellow Pages they call them, “Marriage Counselors.” They’re helpful because your spouse was raised one way and wounded by Suzy and cares about things you haven’t thought twice about, and in a lot of ways, they speak a dialect you don’t understand. I PROMISE. And guess what? They feel the same way about you. They hear you, but they don’t understand. They want to, and a marriage counselor sits on the other side and says, “Ah!” right before they repeat back to your spouse what you ACTUALLY said. It’s like there’s this invisible, annoying wall between you and your spouse. It pops up when you fight. And as you talk, your words go through that wall and come out the other side 100% garbled. A counselor will un-garble. Just be sure you find one that specializes in what you’re dealing with, “Laundry & Marriage Counselor!”

10) Your spouse will hurt you.
For the first few years after we were married, I would go to weddings and feel sad that our newlywed stage was over. I’d see the way the groom would beam at the bride and I wondered where Danny’s beaming eyes had gone? Was it my fault? Was it because I’d aged a little, had a couple kids? I would cry about that a lot. I wanted to not go to weddings at all. Now I go to weddings and give as much money as I’m capable of giving because I know -I KNOW -they are going to cross rough waters together and money -like sex and ice cream -doesn’t fix anything but can provide a bandage or cushion. Marriage is really a cool and amazing thing, but like most cool and amazing things, it requires work and sacrifice, honesty and compromise. Things are going to come up that you won’t expect AT ALL. You’ll be blind-sided by loss, health issues, financial travesty, addictions, mental health concerns -the list is endless! And it is all not just okay but incredibly good. You will make it through each day, and you’re lucky enough to have someone who is willing to sign up for the same thing you are! My advice here is short: Just clean your side of the street. Only yours. When you feel angry at them, hurt by them, turn around and find one of your own windows to clean. This is a hard way to live, but it is a better way to live. As you clean your own side of the street, you’ll have clarity and peace of mind to move forward. And guess what? There’s no Drama Ball Courts on clean streets.

That’s my TOP TEN IN TWELVE YEARS, and in 12 years I’m open to the possibility of it looking drastically different… and if I could add just one ironic little afterthought:

Marital advice is most often total bunk and ought to be taken carefully and very prayerfully. And the best news is that you will figure it all out -mostly likely the hard way.
“That’s the most effective way anyway!” she said, from experience.

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Flossing

Recently, someone I look up to told me that she flosses everyday, and that she loves flossing.
“Weird, I know,” she laughed.
The conversation was fleeting, but that flossing thing wouldn’t leave my mind.

I’m a creature of denial. I live under the guise of, “if you can’t see it, it isn’t there.” I’ll go days without reading the news when something bad happens (like Swine Flu) or I’ll keep working through sickness. You know what else I do? I don’t floss because CAVITIES AREN’T REAL IF YOU CAN’T SEE THEM, right? Right. I have really sensitive teeth, and I don’t even like getting them cleaned!
But something about my friend saying, “I love flossing” changed me. Maybe it’s all the therapy I’ve been in, maybe it’s that my friend cast a waxy spell, maybe my heart is changing and I’m pulling my head out of the sand, bit by bit!

But I bought floss!
This isn’t new. I buy floss a lot, but oftentimes it gets used up by Alice or Lacy for craft projects. Or I lose it. Or I bury it in my cosmetic bag and guess what? If I can’t see it, it isn’t there.

This time, though, was different. I used that bad boy. I flossed morning and night using a technique the dental hygienist had taken time to teach me while I nodded outwardly and inwardly cried… because knowing how to floss properly meant I’d be held accountable in heaven, and up to that point, I’d rationalized my rotten teeth away quite nicely.
At first it was easy. It’s always easy when you have a new toy to play with, and my floss was my new toy. Each morning, I’d get out of bed and oil pull. I’d take a few supplements and go for a morning stroll where I’d pray. I’d head home and make a green drink with kefir and then floss my teeth before going to work.
At night, I’d floss before bed.
Pretty soon, the magic of novelty wore off BUT by then something else had kicked in: conscious. If I ever slid into bed without flossing, I was uncomfortable.
I’d seen it, okay? I’d SEEN the bits of YUCK that came out when I flossed, and I KNOW I’d gone to bed with them.

You’re lying with filth and gunk.
Your mouth, your breath, your health.

I’d spin my tongue over my teeth to
1) try and convince myself that my teeth were clean enough and
2) try and use my tongue to do a sub-par cleaning job.

It just didn’t fly. I would finally just get the heck up and floss my gunk-y teeth. As I pulled bits of crud out of my mouth, I always felt better.

A few weeks in, and I did something I’ve never, no never done before.
I WENT THROUGH AN ENTIRE CONTAINER OF FLOSS ALL BY MYSELF.
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I sent it to my friend, too excited to be embarrassed. I thanked her for inspiring me, and then I went to the store and felt pretty grown up about buying more floss to replace the floss I’d used.
No one around me cared, but they probably should have. I should have said something, right?
“Oh, you’re here in the tooth-health aisle too? Yeah, I come here pretty often. Just replacing my floss today. I ran out yesterday, so here I am again…”
Maybe I should buy some suspenders to snap for effect?

The craziest part about being A Flosser now is that I keep looking at the nasty bits of chicken that looked SO GOOD going in and SO GROTESQUE popping back out, and I think, ‘I can’t believe I’ve denied the existence of rogue bits of food between my teeth for SO LONG.’

What damage has been done?
And because I can go from surface to deep in a split second, I thought about my life before… I remember when I was 20 and someone flippantly mentioned in passing how they were trying their best to live the gospel of Christ.
“I read, I pray, I repent everyday…” and on and on they went, but every word they said after that sounded like muffled blur.
Repent every. day?

I remembered working the repentance process maybe twice in my entire life up to that point? Surely, my sins weren’t wholly BAD. I mean, not counting those few times I had to go talk to the bishop… but did I sin daily?
This became a little nagging seed in my mind.
How does one SIN DAILY?

As time has gone on and I’ve gone through a lot of soul-searching and polished my proverbial Mirror or Morality, I’ve found that I sin repeatedly each day.
Pride, Fear, Judgement, Resentment, Repeat.
It’s my fun little Reality version of a Spin Cycle!

As my flossing habit has begun to struggle with summer being here (read: kids underfoot every minute), I found myself in a quiet minute in front of my ACTUAL mirror, plugging away at my teeth. As I looked at the food I’d pulled from my teeth, I thought, ‘I can’t believe I have been ignoring this for years’ and immediately thought about my Proverbial mirror -the one I’d never stopped to examine until only a few years ago.
Now each day I turn to God and floss out bits of pride and fear.
Do they come back? Like chicken, folks. Like clockwork and bits of chicken between molars. But I still floss.
I sleep better, I feel better. Each time I run a waxy bit of minty string between my teeth, I send a message to myself, ‘Hey, way to care for you. Good job.’
It’s the same sort of feeling I get when I really partake of the Sacrament each week, when I bow my head and run over the week and talk with God about the good, the bad, the ugly and the blessed. I get the same feeling when I work on repenting everyday.
It’s hard and I stink at it, but at least I’ve started and I’m trying.

Sometimes I believe that God doesn’t notice my trying, only my failing. But that isn’t true.
When I forget to floss in the morning, I don’t beat myself up. I don’t make a list of my hygienic failings. I just go about my day and stick a feather in my cap because
HEY, there’s FLOSS IN MY BATHROOM BEING USED MORE OFTEN THAN NOT!
Which is more than I could say three months ago.

So here’s to floss, and here’s to flossing out mean bits of waste intent on causing bodily and soul harm.
And if you see me buying floss, don’t hesitate to applaud.

Side Kicker

I have Alice with me always.  She goes to work with me, she takes over my yoga mat, she eats what I eat, she’s even started talking like me.

“Alice, can you sing for me?”

“Sure!  I will!  I will sing for you tomorrow…”

 

I take her with to visit our grandparents, and I had to snap this picture of her helping Grandpa check his oxygen levels.
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In fact, I have to share a lot of pictures of Alice with you because where I go, she goes.  And where I and she go, my camera goes.  Sad Kid Face is just irresistible.

Mud is the worst!

 

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20160501_184154To be fair, there’s one other person Alice latches onto -she’s a natural extension of Grandpa Hansen.  She keeps him in line and wears him out.
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The Dorothy Dress is her latest favorite.  She loves to cook with me, and this moment is precious.  Dress up clothes, an apron, mismatched boots (who needs ruby slippers?) and crazy hair!

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The only person who loves cooking with me more than Alice does is Lacy Lou.  For years, Lacy’s been on my counter.  I even have pictures of her on our kitchen counter in the very dress Alice is wearing.  We love us some Dorothy around here, though Lacy has graduated from being a helper to an assistant chef.  Sometimes she will cook an entire meal!  She loves it.20160509_181446

Todo grew a bit?
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Dorothy takes selfies!  If I ever want a picture of myself and the kids, I take it myself!  Alice has taken note:

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Color Until it Sticks

Danny is a spoiler. Not in the bad, “hey, I didn’t want to know how the movie ended” kind of way but in the, “you really didn’t have to do all this” kind of way. He gets a little bit of a high off it, I think.
I remember when Lacy turned 6 how thrilled she was to answer a knock at the door and find a delivery of flowers, just for her. Dad just loves to go the extra mile.

This Mother’s Day weekend, we went into Flagstaff to do our big shopping trip with all of the kids.
“Let’s go out to eat, your choice. Pick ANYwhere,” he said, “Red Lobster would be fine. Wendy’s would be fine. But I hope you don’t pick Wendy’s. You’re worth more than Wendy’s, but if that’s what you REALLY want, we can go there.”
Two hours later, we were seated at Pita Jungle. I love that place so much! Their kids’ meals are awesome, the kids love ordering from them. I can’t get enough of their mahi-mahi. I went all out and ordered an appetizer which, if you have kids and no money you know… is a sign that you’re really shooting the moon.
The best part? It took so long to get our appetizer that it was free! Fruit and cheese platter without the Mom-guilt of, ‘oh, I shouldn’t have ordered that… we could have spent that $10 on toilet paper or fruit leather.’
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After filling up on food, we walked over to the health food store. We bought some caramel, some goat milk soap and went a little nuts from Alice throwing every expensive thing in our cart. This kid talks to EVERYONE.
“What’s your name?” She asked a man who was trying to get through our family wall.
“Dodge,” he said, “What’s your name?”
“Alice.”
“Alice? Whoa!” And at that moment he ran straight into a cart, almost falling over. Trent at least waited until he was out of ear-shot to say it.
“His name was Dodge, but he didn’t…”

By the time we left the health food store, we were frazzled from wrangling kids and saying, “no” over and over. By then the kids were whining at the prospect of Sam’s Club.
“I haaaate it in there. SO BORING,” Lacy sighed.
“Nothing to do…” Trent shrugged.

Dad came up with a solution that made everyone’s day. It was the most peaceful shopping trip we’ve ever had.
“Get your coloring pages from the restaurant. Bring the crayons…” He said.
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We came home exhausted and slept really well. Saturday we had trouble getting moving. We tried, but we couldn’t stop streaming “Merlin” episodes.
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In the afternoon, there was a knock at the door.
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“Danny, you didn’t have to…”
“I know.”

Sunday morning, he gave me a few gifts. While we were in the city, he’d snuck off to Barnes and Noble. He knows me so well.
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“I saw that your journal is getting pretty full, and I knew you needed another one. When I saw the coloring journal, I knew you had to have it. Then I picked up a handmade, leather journal. I want you to fill those blank pages with your book.”

Danny’s been waiting for me to write a book for almost 12 years now.
If I’m ever published, I think he’s entitled to 60% of the royalties for encouraging me. That’s half the battle! Well, 60% of the battle.

Danny and the kids also worked together to make breakfast in bed. Just as soon as they plopped the bacon and eggs in my lap, the kids played vulture.
I broke off pieces of my bacon and passed them out, laughing.
“The children giveth and the children taketh away,” I said.

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“Kids,” Danny looked at the three wide-eyed kids hovering over the bacon and journals, “Those pencils are just for Mom. You have your own coloring things.”
“Danny, I can’t NOT let the kids play with NEW COLORED PENCILS.”
And there arose a great cheer.

We sat in our church pew all hunched over our own coloring pages. Alice took ownership of a page in my new journal.

I practiced the art of letting go, of seeing what happens when I quit trying to force something to be a certain way. This is hard for me. I’m used to taking a project and just going for it. BUT it isn’t always healthy for me emotionally, and it has wrecked me in terms of trying to get PEOPLE to respond to my expectations.
Sometimes I think I’m God. It’s one of my biggest defects of character.
I manage, I judge… myself and others and things and places and time zones. I frustrate myself.

I could see that the simple act of coloring with a 3-year old would be prime practice. Instead of negotiating with her, I let go of my idea of what I thought the page should look like. I didn’t mind when she snatched the pink pencil out of my hand. I let her take the LEAD reigns and I began filling in the places she’d scribbled over.
It was eye-opening. I began to see the picture take it’s own sort of artful flair, filled with pops of carefree, child-like color.

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I noticed my shoulders and chest weren’t tight! So often when things start veering off the path I think they should be on, I tense and tighten.
There’s hope for me yet! The practice is paying off!
After a few minutes, my 9-year old leaned over, “Mom, I like coloring but I AM GETTING TIRED.”

I looked down at her page. Her strokes were heavy and deliberate. She was trying SO HARD TO GET IT RIGHT and TO GET IT DONE.
“It’s taking too long,” she said.

I thought of a quote that had been on my mind… one from a book I’d given my Mom for Mother’s Day:
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I remembered that I’d tried coloring before and always, always given up for the reason my daughter had just given. It takes too long! I realized that while I color, I also tense up because I focus on the end.
I do the SAME THING to a bag of Swedish Fish. I tense up and eat the entire bag, like it’s some kind of challenge or something… one I’m always up for! Unfortunately.

“You are doing good and having fun,” I whispered, “Don’t worry too much about finishing your page or you’ll miss how fun it is just to be coloring.”
The stress from her face melted into a grin and she picked her pencil up with a new-found inspiration.

Letting Alice take the coloring page over was a cute little teaching experience for me, and it was really therapeutic to color! I could finally see why so many people like it!

That night, Danny and I sat in silence. Coloring.
The kids were all nestled all snug in their beds while Daddy and I colored pages until midnight. I guess no matter how old you are, you can’t resist a new set of colored pencils.
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Other Mother’s Day festivities included eating our annual Eggplant Parmesan with Grandma (forgot to snap pictures, dang it!), checking cows with Dad out in the pretty Arizona high desert and kids fighting while trying to Skype their Grammy:
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My favorite necklace to wear on Mother’s Day!  A Mama Bird and Three Nest Eggs:20160508_185241

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The day after Mother’s Day, I took a hold of the COOLEST flower holder -a gift from my aunt.  I filled it with a few flowers from the bouquet Danny had given me and a few flowers from the bouquet my parents had given me (awwwwww) and the pink carnation on the end was given to me at church.

 

I’m really going to cry when they wilt because this bouquet is just LOVE in flower form.  Every time I look at it, I remember love.

Mother’s Day reminds me of the sacred qualities of all women to nurture and create in their various forms.  I think of Mother Nature and Heavenly Mother and how fitting it is that when Mother’s Day rolls around, there’s flowers everywhere!

 

 

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The Confusion

Two days ago, I held my 9 year old’s hand and took a stroll down the dirt farm road behind our house. She bounced next to me, pointing at clouds and asking the kinds of questions kids always ask at some point, “What would it be like to ride on a cloud?… What if the cloud was shaped into a perfect seat, just for me?”

The afternoon was winding down into evening, and I was weary. I can’t tell you how many pictures I’ve taken, how many stories to write alongside them, only to find that I’m too weary to write. That’s a sad thing to have happen to me. My health is what it is, and I’m trying to find my new normal. Some days I feel like maybe I won’t have to, that I feel almost normal and I can ignore all the rest of the other days, but I inevitably wake up sick the next day and I quickly remember: denial is such a heartless tease.

Walking that road, my heart was weary. My bones were weary. I took in deep breaths of fresh air… and I listened to Lacy. Trenton rode his bike in front of us -no training wheels! And Alice jogged ahead, behind, around, wherever the wind took her. With the colors turning golden and warm around us, I was struck with the kind of confusing fear known so well to mothers.

I worry all at once that they will grow up… I worry that someday soon, no one will be holding my hand and chatting about clouds, no bike will ride in front of me, and no 3 year old will proudly present me with dandelion flowers as if they were the rarest blooms on Planet Earth.
And I worry that they never will grow up… That there will never be a day where my kitchen doesn’t look like a hurricane hit a hoarder’s house, that I won’t sleep lightly every night, popping up at every sound and wondering what it is (puke? coughing? seizure? death?), that I won’t spend 75% of my mind on cooking (what to cook? When to cook? and then? cooking and cleaning it up so I can move onto: what to cook? When to cook?…)

The days are so long.
The years are so short.

It makes no sense at all, and I make no sense to myself.
There’s only one thing to do in all of it: get present with where I actually am so I don’t miss a good moment or blow a bad one out of proportion, pass on the fear, confusion and any hurt or pain to God and then find gratitude.

Sometimes really allowing myself to feel the sheer joy that comes with parenting is just as scary as allowing myself to feel pain. Staying distracted and numbed out on business can be much easier.

At the end of the dirt farm road is a little ditch. Every few weeks, it fills and flows with irrigation water, and the sparkling wet water is always too great a temptation to pass up.
As a mother, there’s a lot of things I’m not. But as a mother, there’s a lot of things I am, and one of those things is spontaneous and free-spirited.

We kicked off our shoes.  It was a tame little thing to do, really.

 

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Things escalated pretty quickly, though.  Tame didn’t last long.  Shirts landed on top of shoes, mud landed on top of pants.  It was a mud bath, complete with squeals and teasing.20160413_173642

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The funny thing about cold evening swims is that it is SO EASY to forget about the end.  The shivering, the feeling of cracked on mud in every possible place it could be…  Its like planning a trip to Disneyland, vaguely remembering that feet sometimes hurt at the end of the day.  But by 5 pm on that first day, you’re near tears.  The joy of the day is a bit spoiled, and as you sit to ride the train around the park and munch on a churro, you remind yourself:

You won’t remember the pain, not really.  You’ll remember the memories, the laughs, the rides, the joy in the faces of the people riding the train next to you.  It’s all very true.  The kids won’t remember the cold shivers well enough to keep them out of a sparkling stream on a gorgeous springtime evening.  Be that as it may, I had to snap a picture of the YUCK anyway.

“Mom!  I COLD!”
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Also, Lacy somehow ended up with Trent’s shoes.  He really doesn’t pay her enough.

 

There’s nothing better than blankets and PJs after bathtime AFTER mud-bathing.  Is there?

Maybe having someone to share it with?

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We all curled up together to watch, “Singin’ in the Rain.”  The kids love to watch the video clips on youtube of, “Make ‘Em Laugh” and “Moses”, so I finally just bought the whole movie.  They loved it, and I loved curling up with them almost as much as I loved listening to Alice quote the movie.

“Caaaaaahn’t”

“CAYYYYYYN’T”

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Alice gets really into movies.  I CAYN’T think where she gets it.20160413_20055220160413_200619

If there’s anyone in our home who isn’t confused about how to feel joy or express sadness or live completely from the heart, whole-heartedly and without reserve, it is Alice Michelle.

Goodnight, little life.  Life of the party, life appreciate-er, life giver.  May you grow up slowly.  But quickly too.
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This is Marriage

Sometimes I go to blog and I stop myself. I think, ‘My blog is like The Written version of The Three Stooges. Same plot line, same jokes…’ but you know what? I can’t stop streaming those episodes on youtube. There’s something comforting in the consistency of corniness, the solidarity of slapstick! Also, Trent laughs so hard he snorts and that is worth ALL THEE REPLAY IN THEE WHOLE WORLD.

Yesterday went much like my days go lately. I have a three year old daughter who is going to grow up and argue America into whatever she wants it to be, so I have to be ON POINT at all times. If I falter, the entire neighborhood feels it.
But I did okay.  I kept it mostly together because I’m learning what to let go of.  which is everything.

Here’s a sample:

I cleaned up a styro-foam plate covered in layers: potting soil, balloons, water, orange juice.
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I also threw away a few layers of papers underneath that were soaked. That’s the kind of stuff that goes down while I do selfish things like wash some dishes.

I did my best with yesterday… I took a walk with the dog, watched some Dr. Quinn with Lacy, ate gluten free brownies right out of the pan.
I also bathed Alice which is no small feat because it entails being scratched and screamed at and yes -even threatened, “YOU NEED TO GO BACK TO LIVE WITH HEAVENLY FATHER!” I also held fast while she clocked me after waking up from her nap. Clocking me is her new favorite thing. She shocks even herself with her aggression and always manages to burst into tears and apologize.
We hold boundaries. There’s consequences. But like I said: I have to be on full and entire and top point. at. all. times.
Danny comes home and says the same thing everyday, “Hello, darlin. Nice to see ya. Has she been like this all day?

There was so much chaos between wake up to goodnight that about 30 minutes before goodnight, my thread snapped. Usually the kids aren’t awake 30 minutes before goodnight, but last night they were.
And while I sat on my couch like normal people do on Friday nights, Alice broke up a Little Debbie Brownie and handed me crumbs while quoting Despicable Me, “My caterpillar never turned into a butterfly…”
Before I could find a suitable place for the crumbs, Alice brought me the dish-drying towel from the kitchen. Wet…Soaked… In toilet water.

I had been asking Danny for help only to find that he had fallen asleep. I felt abandoned and desperate, so I skipped our nightly scriptures and prayer so I could hide under my bed covers. I yelled the kids into bed, apologizing as quickly as I could, only to find myself yelling again.
Kids,
I will pay for your first 10 years of therapy.
Love,
Mom

Under my covers, I took a deep breath. I reminded myself that falling apart is a normal part of living. I reminded myself that I could make amends in the morning. I reminded myself that stress literally kills and then I put my headphones in because I have this really great mediation app and it has several really great guided meditations that put me to sleep when my shoulders feel like granite and my mind resembles one of those streets mom told me not to go down alone at night.

Dear Lord, I prayed, I love you and I love my life.  I’ll try again tomorrow. Amen.

This is not the first or last time prayers have gone down under my covers.

I started my meditation, and the soft, soothing voice told me nothing else mattered but the present moment. She said it so many times that I decided it must be true. Danny came in the room and asked me something… I don’t remember what. I just snapped that I needed to go to sleep. I needed sleep.
That was all that mattered.
Sleeping in the present moment.

Before I knew it, I was out. Not for long.

Because minutes later -before my meditation even had to chance to end -I had diluted mint essential oil in my eye.
Danny was next to me, Mormon-cursing in the darkness. I was clutching my stinging eye. I ripped my headphones out and tried to figure out what fresh hell had descended.
“Sorry! Sorry!” Danny said, “I was trying to turn on your oil diffuser to help you sleep, I’m sorry.”
It was so sweet, but I couldn’t feel it… It is hard to feel complimented when your eye is burning. I rolled over onto my side, my head landing on a big cold, wet spot.
“Danny. It is wet.”
I wasn’t lucid. I wasn’t in my right mind. He tried to find out where it was wet, how wet… I finally muttered, “just feel…”
Danny hopped up and covered up the wet spot with a towel, and I finally turned the diffuser off because the blend Danny had to thoughtfully made was making me sick.

Boy was I glad to see that day end.

This morning, I woke up when Danny placed something in my arms.
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“You seem like you could use those,” he said. He walked out and went straight to the kitchen where I heard the blessed sound of eggs being beaten and bacon frying.

Did you know we live 30 minutes away from Wal-Mart? That meant he got up at 6 am.

Danny had been distant and disconnected on Saturday, and I’d felt alone… even when he was home. When he’d come home from work, I’d tried to grab a hug from him and I got it, but it was the kind of hug a needy girlfriend gives a disinterested boyfriend.
What is wrong? I thought.

By the end of the day, I was mixed up and exhausted and saying things like, “We don’t put towels in the toilet!”
And the end result was that I wasn’t nice when Danny was nice. Just like he wasn’t nice when I was nice.

What kind of wife snaps at a husband who is trying to be thoughtful?
What kind of husband resists a wife who is trying to be thoughtful?
Well, normal ones. Now and then, anyway.

A few minutes later, Danny brought me a plate of gluten free french toast with a pretty piece of bacon on the side and cup filled with my favorite kind of orange juice. This afternoon, we spent some time in the sunshine with our kids. He washed the dog and I raked up sticks.
The dog will need to be washed again in a few weeks.
There will be piles of sticks on the grass again in a few weeks.

But in that moment, the push and pull, the see-saw effect had slowed and the sun was shining. Trent was whittling, Lacy was riding her bike, and Alice tried to take her baby for a walk.
“Alice, come back!”
“Oh, I will. I will come back LATER.”

Life doesn’t get better than those moments, not really. They are the serene moments all other moments are measured against. When we work together for the good of the family, I feel peaceful and hopeful.

And now I’ve got to log off because Danny just spent 15 minutes looking for a remote that I was sitting on. And I owe him a glass of orange juice.
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Soul Harmony

The weekend of the 12th, our family went to Utah. I had a couple of conferences to attend for the non-profit I’m working with, and it was the beginning of the kids’ Spring Break. We stayed with my brother, Mike, and his wife, Brittany, and their two awesome pups. I think we were almost more excited to see the pups! We love Rari and Kaci.
Here’s a “painting” my brother, Steve, sent me. We look kinda rich, right? Like the kind of people who hold lap dogs and sit for paintings.
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As we rolled into Salt Lake on Friday evening, Mike and Brittany fed us bok choy and chicken and rice noodles and peanut sauce. We were in heaven, and we didn’t think it could get any better… but then they took us out for gelato. So good!

Saturday morning, Danny and I left for Conferences and the kids had a blast. My siblings and their families took my kids to the zoo!
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Meanwhile, Danny and I were scribbling notes down so fast our hands were cramping. My handwriting muscles are WAY out of shape! My typing muscles are in fine form though…
We atteneded Utah Coalition Against Pornography and as I tweeted and instagrammed through it, I absorbed the info like a sponge. Danny went with me to a class on teaching kids about “all this stuff” which is what we like to say when we talk about it.
All this stuff.
It just sounds better than all the other words.
But the lady teaching the class didn’t mind the other words. She used them ALL. Danny and I squirmed in our seats. It was really hard to sit through. I left the class feeling like maybe I should have taken it BEFORE I had kids so that I would have been wise enough to know that I SHOULDN’T HAVE KIDS IN THIS WORLD.

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Irrational, I know. Feelings aren’t reality, true. But feelings ARE REAL. Grey area for me sometimes -it was that day.

One thing stood out though -one common theme that went through the entire conference for me: we are drawn to things that aren’t always good for us, and that means we’re working just like we were built to.
Let me explain:

In another class, a man who had struggled with addiction since childhood and was now over 10 years into recovery said this, “I knew what I saw [pornography] was bad. I knew that in my mind. But I liked what I saw. So I decided that because I liked a bad thing, I must be bad.”

Huh.
That logic is so familiar to me!
“Gosh, I just ate that entire bag of Cadburry mini-eggs. That was a bad choice. But I liked it. I suck.”

I mulled over this thought and talked it over with my husband whenever we had a minute, which was rare.
Tuesday morning, Lacy went with me on my morning walk and I decided to chance the topic with her.

“Lacy, do you know what a soul is?”
“My spirit, right?”
“Partly right, yeah! We are taught in church that the soul is actually the combination of our BODY and OUR SPIRIT.” I brought my two fists together to illustrate.
I continued on, “Where did our body come from?”
“Here?” her pretty eyes squinted up at me.
“Yeah, our bodies came from the earth. From down here. And they LOVE everything that comes from down here… they love too much chocolate…”
“YES!” she cheered.
“… and they love too much TV, they love swearing… you like that, right?”
“Well… yeah, but it makes me feel bad.”
“Right! So what does that mean? You feel bad about it, so does that mean YOU are bad?”
“I don’t think so. But I FEEL bad… and I feel like I am bad for doing it.”
***Her swearing stories are just about the cutest in existence, by the way. One goes like, “I heard a Mom on TV say, “DAMMIT!” and I hid in your room and just said it like her and felt bad so I repented right away.”***
“Right, so if our bodies come from the earth, where do our Spirits come from?”
“Heaven.”
“And they love everything that feels like heaven: love, hugs, service, flowers, nature… and so our souls are made halfway of earth-things and halfway of heaven-things. Souls are usually in harmony. Do you know what harmony is?”
“Like in music when you play two different parts, but they go together even though they are different?” she asked.
“Yeah, just like that,” I nodded, “Sometimes things come up, like swearing, and our BODY likes it but our soul is offended… so there’s part of us that goes, ‘ooh, I like that’ and another part of us that goes, ‘I AM OFFENDED’. And our soul stops being in harmony and starts being at war.” I punched my fists together, “there’s lots of stuff that does this to us.”
“Like too much chocolate,” she smiled.
“Yeah, and seeing stuff in movies… pornography does that too. There’s a part of us that is wired to LIKE it. So when you see it and your body likes it, that doesn’t mean you’re bad. Actually it means your body is working right.”
“That makes sense,” she said.
“The other part of us kicks in too… it says, ‘this isn’t good for us!’ and that’s good too! It means your SPIRIT is working right. So then we want to get our body and spirit back in harmony instead of being at war. Any ideas about how to get the harmony back? It’s probably different for everyone…”
“Like good music and prayer? Does it always have to be spiritual?”

We talked about how for some people it might be a good run, some might camp or fish, some might clean, some might play piano or cook or paint or nap. The only common “harmony getter” I could think of was The Atonement.
The Atonement is The Great Equalizer -Christ died to redeem THE SOULS of man, to physically restore our bodies and spiritually restore our spirits. He suffered body and spirit, meaning his suffering was SOUL SUFFERING. He died for the rich, the poor, the educated, the illiterate, the tall, the small… for ALL.
I can’t understand the Atonement fully, but I appreciate the opportunity to talk it over with Lacy. I appreciate the way discussion opens my eyes, heart and mind for MORE insight.

It seems like each day is a battle ground, testing ground for my soul. Each decision I make seems to carry tactical weight.
This morning, I had a friend say that the word “sin” comes from an archery term meaning, “missing the mark.” I love that. When I eat the bag of chocolates and my spirit turns on my body, it feels just like that. My body’s appetite took over with little regard for my spirit. OF COURSE my spirit is kicking back. I missed the Harmony Mark. Does that mean I suck? No.
Though eating a bag of chocolates can be kind of a light-hearted example, I think it illustrates what I’m driving at. My appetite for chocolate isn’t what I thought it was. I thought it was THE THING keeping me from God, but as it turns out, it is the thing that BINDS me to God because I need Him!
Were it not for my weaknesses, I wouldn’t need God or Christ’s Atonement.

But I am weak, blessedly weak. I find myself walking a wobbly line, each day trying to find harmony in the present moment.

It is really hard, and you know what?  When I focus on THAT, it becomes impossible to find harmony.  When I focus on THE BIG PICTURE: the past and future, I lose my balance and fall into a paralyzing numbness characterized by Netflix binges and empty packets of processed food on my laundry-strewn carpet.  The Atonement covers Numb Days too.  But when I give my past to Christ, give others’ pasts to Christ, give the future to Christ, give others’ futures to Christ and then I hold my empty hands out to God and ask, “What do I fill this with?”  The answer is usually something right in front of me… sun, giggles, lunch, a batch of dishes.  The PRESENT is God’s present to me.  It is void of anxiety and filled to the brim with opportunities to discover gratitude.

A few weeks ago, I was blow drying Alice’s hair at her request and I was struck at how much she loved it.  The warm air next to her little body put her in a cute little euphoric standing coma.  When was the last time I stopped to enjoy the warmth of my blow dryer?  I spend my time frustrated with how long it takes, usually longing for my hair to be different: fuller, curlier, shorter, longer… But in that moment, Alice was relaxed and grateful and fulfilled.  She felt and exuded harmony.

After the Saturday conferences where other people were honest about their own struggles for harmonious balance, I felt something *click* and life has carried substantially less self-judgement since then which means there’s a lot less judgement toward others as well.

It’s a SOUL thing.  It’s the marriage of two beings inside of me who are different but have the same goal in mind -they need to be equally yoked.  The body without the spirit would cease to be living.  The spirit without the body wouldn’t have life either.  I’ve been absolutely hating my body, I think, in deeper ways than I realized.

I’m still scared to be raising kids right now. I feel inadequate, but I take courage in the open communication lines in our house, on our walks, and in our cars.
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Warmy Weather

Mother Nature does this funny this to Northern Arizona where she warms everything up to the point of blossom and bloom and then she FREEZES US OUT.
It is sad.

I’ve thought about how sad it is, and I remembered what my Mom told me when my three older brothers were trying to upset me.
“Don’t get upset. That’s what they WANT. Just ignore them.”

I think it was Mom’s way of saying, “Feign zen.”  So here we are.  Feigning zen.  Zennity.  And you know what?  Maybe this will turn into one of those, “fake it until you feel it” things.

 

So this is us NOT getting upset by Mother Nature. She can tease all she likes, we’re going to enjoy the warm AND THE COLD, even if it means our flowers die.
We will plant more!
Mother Nature has NO IDEA who she’s dealing with, and I’ll take a brief minute to remind her that my bloodlines are hearty, hearty, feisty and stubborn. In that order.

Here’s a picture of the roadrunner who keeps sneaking around my house.  I love him.  I’ve named him.  That’s vulnerable because if he quits coming around, I’ll go into mourning.  He’s just so cute!
20160211_135434_001When sisters won’t hold the ball for you, it isn’t the end of the world.  In fact, it’s the beginning of invention.  Creativity!  Genius!

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This is us being serious about being zen.

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Here’s the girls.  Or as Alice likes to say, “gwills.”

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“I’m Spider-Man, Mom.”

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We’ve been able to walk to the school to pick the kids up in the warm weather.  Lacy is learning about environmental issues, and the amount of trash on the side of the road bothered her.  So we picked some up.  We figured we could keep picking more up with every walk.  Why not, right?  Good turn daily, all that.  Also, I love that Lacy is moved by causes.  I want to support that because it feels like it’s an integral part of the WHO of Lacy.  Maybe someday she’ll head up a non-profit, or travel over-seas to lend aid to starving folks… either way, picking up trash because she thinks it needs to be done seems like a good idea.

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Taking us away from our theme briefly, here’s a picture of us actually MAKING ZEN instead of feigning it.

But who are we kidding?  The only thing getting made here is selfies.
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I’ve taken advantage of the warmer mornings and been able to sneak in a crisp walk.  I realized in that one walk that I have 5 abandoned buildings within two miles of my house.  It’s the cool and creepy part of living a stone’s throw from Old Route 66.

The creepy part is this fake man, keeping watch over the front of the old feed store:

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The cool part is the drawing of a cowboy watching over the back of the feed store.

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The other night, the skies looked delicious.  So peaceful.

 

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“I just want to GRAB those clouds!” I said.  Alice decided Mom was onto something, and after we went inside, she sat on my lap and hashed out every possibility to claim some clouds.
“We could get in a airplane!”
“But the windows don’t open in an airplane,” I shrugged.
“We could OPEN THEM!” She made an “opening” motion with her arms.
“They can’t open,” I said.
“We could get a ladder.”
“Do you think it would reach the clouds?” I asked.
“We could put the ladder on the roof!”
I was thoroughly impressed with her reasoning skills, but had to tell her that if we put a ladder on the roof, we would fall.”
“We could BRING THE CLOUDS TO US.”
Again, amazed at her tenacity. She was determined. So I brought her some clouds in the form of my shaving cream.
Because zen isn’t the only thing we feign around here, Mother Nature… we ALSO FEIGN YOU.

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Gratitudey Saturday

Lately, I’ve spent more time down than up.  Health issues are one of my trials right now, and I’m trying to practice (learn) acceptance.

Yesterday I woke up without a stomach ache for the first time in at least a week.  I’d been to visit my trusty Back Doc which meant my joint inflammation (which has been wicked this last week) had eased up. I got outside as quickly as I could -is there anything better than crisp morning air?  It was light outside, but the sun wasn’t officially “up.”  I had a hyper dog with me, and we kept a good pace.  I loved feeling the sun’s rays on my back as it peeked up in the east.
I came home and jumped on my yoga mat for a gentle session.  I didn’t want to over-do it.  I set my intention, “I am grateful.”  Danny joined me and let me guide him through a session with me.  I’m no yoga instructor, and it felt really vulnerable to invite someone into my session.  I listen to my gut and my poses follow a flow that my intuition dictates.  I let Danny in which was brave in it’s own yogi way.
Off my mat, I made breakfast. I sang out loud to Jerry Lee Lewis, and my family found out that Mom knows all the lyrics to “Great Balls of Fire” even if she doesn’t have the moves to go with them… just more bravery from Mom, right?  I did dishes and went outside.  I raked things and moved things.  I pulled some old leaves out of the flower bed, noticing that decomposition was taking place.  I loved that.

The cycle of life is amazing.  The leaves once gave shade and are now turning into compost -fertilizer.  They continue to serve and give, even after death.  It made me think of those who have passed away, how their service now is different but still felt, still making a difference. How death can be a door of sorts… while living, the leaves couldn’t do the job they’re doing while dead.  I think people must be the same way -doing jobs they just couldn’t do while living.

I came inside and cracked away at some online work.  I was able to clean up the house here and there… chucked out old food from the fridge and spent some time bleaching tupperware and mason jars.
I washed windows.
They are streaked, but I don’t even care.  I didn’t wash them so they’d be clean, if we’re being honest.  I washed them because it was nice outside and washing windows sounded like a nice thing to do.

As the day closed, I took a nice shower.  I skipped making dinner so Danny bought some.  I started some homemade broth in the crock pot.  Danny and I tried our hand at starting a batch of sauerkraut.

I stopped in at my grandma’s house that evening to watch Lawrence Welk with Grandpa -our weekly standing date I just hate to miss.

We wound down to a few episodes of “Rosemary & Thyme” -a show we aren’t even ashamed to say we love.  It’s like Scooby-Doo for grown-ups… and middle-aged ladies.
Then I lit a little lamp and we all snuggled up in my bed for scriptures.  I read from a children’s book and sent them off to bed.

As I stepped in an old cow trough -now filled with dirt, getting ready to be planted with all manner of cool stuff -to wash the outside of my bedroom window, I thought, ‘Today is amazing.  But if I were 16, today would be the worst.’

I remember hating days like that -days filled with dailies.  A day without something HAPPENING just felt so wasted.

But when life has hit, when sorrow and pain hit hard, when health takes a dive… days like yesterday feel completely miraculous.

Raking flower beds that will be filled with leaves again soon.  Washing windows that will be dusty again in days.  Washing dishes that will be dirty again tomorrow.  Cleaning a fridge that will be filled with filthy food again in a few months.

It doesn’t feel pointless anymore.
It feels blessed.

I crawled into bed with sun-kissed cheeks, and as I got ready for church this morning, I didn’t bother covering them up.  In earlier years, I’d put on extra foundation to cover up, to make my skin look more even-colored.  But this year, all I feel is proud… proud of the pink skin, proud of the streaky windows.

I used to feel like life was wasted if I did “meaningless” things.  I felt like in order for my life to matter, I had to be seen by people who matter.
But I’m finding for me that life serves a deeper, higher purpose in the thick of those seemingly meaningless tasks.

And that as I rake leaves, I’m seen by God.
And that the people who matter actually live with me.

On Monday, we sat together around our kitchen table and talked about faith.  We poked some seeds into some little peat pots and softly asked them to grow, grow, grow!

Yesterday morning, I woke up to the most beautiful green sprout I’ve ever seen.  One of my seeds decided to answer my call.  It feels so fragile, so weak.  But it is so precious to me.  Gardening is not something that comes natural, but I love everything about a seed growing into a fruitful plant.

It reminds me of faith and hope, service and stillness.

It reminds me of raking and compost.

It reminds me of growing up with a family who gardened together through gnat clouds and choke weed.

It reminds me of change… because if a seed can sprout under my guiding hand, surely change is real.  And surely, if I can find peace, purpose and a heck of a lot of gratitude while pushing dirt and washcloths around, change is really real.