Sick Day

In keeping with the tune of our season, my body has decided to come down with a cold. Again.
This cold is the kind of cold that makes staring out the living room window feel like hard, productive work. If the air around me moves at all, it causes pain.
Washing my hands is torture, but I endure it well because clean hands are very important when you have a job to do. And if I don’t stare out the window, who will?

Erma Bombeck is one of my heroes, and I love an essay she wrote when she was given a diagnosis that could mean (and eventually did mean) death. It is titled, “If I Had My Life To Live Over” and it is full of brilliant gems.
One of which reads:

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.

I have always wrestled with anxiety, and I’m pretty sure my very first mortal thoughts were riddled with anxiety.
It’s a logical notion, given that I was born stark nay-ked with a bunch of strangers staring at me, and I was 100% incapable of doing anything about it.

Sicknesses love my anxiety -they latch on to each other like old friends and sit back and have a sick laugh as I frantically bleach and monitor the little foreheads running around my knees.
“Why did you cough? What was that? Did it hurt? Do you hurt? Are you hungry? Why not? You look pale. Do you feel pale? Danny, is he pale?!”

My chest would tighten when I’d find out someone the kids played with was puking.
My heart rate would rise when I’d read a facebook status about one of the kids’ classmates checking in at Urgent Care.
I was always confused when Danny would kiss me while I was sick because I was always very careful to show lots and lots and lots of affection in OTHER ways when he was coughing.

Danny doesn’t have anxiety like I have anxiety.

Working the 12-steps, I’ve found the BEST medicine for my anxiety. I didn’t start working the steps for my anxiety, and I was thrilled when I started finding freedom from anxiety as a natural by-product of applying 12-step principles to my life.

With this new-found gusto, I have relaxed when it comes to sickness. I still give the kids lots of vitamins and good food, but my chest tightening has decreased dramatically.

I’ve been replacing ANXIETY with ACCEPTANCE.
I accept that my kids will puke sometimes. I accept that I will get sick. I accept that my immune system works well.
Bearing this in mind, I kiss my husband when he’s coughing and we swap cold sore stories.

Last night, I really felt this cold coming on. I made a huge batch of chicken soup -enough for dinner and then some. I spent the evening under a blanket.
Before climbing into the bed that Lacy had made (something she loves to do, bless her) I went into the kitchen and gargled Organic Apple Cider Vinegar WITH THE MOTHER.
As I threw it back, I could feel the burn. I practiced my off-the-mat yoga.
I observe the pain without reacting. I relax.
My tight shoulders loosened and I felt very brave.
So
I
Swallowed.

I chased it down with about a gallon of tap water… it was the closest thing.

“If I don’t wake up in the morning, it’s because the vinegar ate through my innards,” was my goodnight bidding to Danny.

I did wake up. Praises.

In the past, I would take note of a cold and sort of live in denial. I would work AS MUCH AND AS FAST AS POSSIBLE before the cold forced me to curl up in a desperate fetal position, surrounded by medicines and tissues and water bottles and devices to stream crappy romantic comedies to remind me that no matter how crappy I feel, there are always crappier movies.

But today, I leaned on acceptance. I feel well enough to push through. I could have probably cleaned my house today with some iron will, but my body needs to rest. I thought about Erma Bombeck and I thought about self-care.
I popped a vitamin, drank some water and repeated my vinegar gargle/swallow from the night before… why? Because I felt exactly like Annie Oakley when I woke up.
Tough, gritty. It’s all very satisfying.

I looked at the blood I hacked up and called into work.

I threw on a gentle yoga to get some good, healing juices moving in the right direction.

I curled up in a chair with a few good books, a cup of tea and a diffuser running in the background:
20160203_092349

Instead of fighting against it, I accept it today.
I accept that I am sick, that it is okay, and that I will do what it takes to allow my body to heal. And nothing is falling apart. Things are falling just as they should.

The last two years have taught me that it’s okay to release the constant tension in my shoulders and chest. It’s okay to get present with where I am, to be sick or well or happy or sad.

Today I am sick and happy.
20160203_093655

Healthy Foodie Fiasco

I love going into health food stores.
I love going into health food stores because just walking around in one makes me more healthy. That’s how it works, right? Inhaling the air and atmosphere of health food stores is bound to improve my overall health. I walk out a little taller, a little paler and delightfully crunchy.

Now that you know that I love going into health food stores, I need to be honest: I love going into health food stores ALONE.
On Saturday, we took the family into the city to bulk shop for toilet paper (and other essentials worth trading for valuables: chocolate, for instance) before the big storm hit. We like to make sure we’re prepared. Also, there’s a Pita Jungle in the city. I like to be full as much as I like to be prepared.
Pita Jungle is like a health food store in that all I have to do is INHALE and I’m healthier. Everyone who works there is healthy. Everyone who eats there is healthy. Danny and I spent about 15 minutes trying NOT to look at the tanned calves of a man wearing 5″ long shorts in 5 degree weather. We failed. Calf envy is no respecter of persons.
NOTE: “tanned calves” in Pita Jungle are WAY WAY different than the tanned calves I grew up around. Moo.

Whole Foods is conveniently located next door to Pita Jungle, and after we’d sort of filled our bellies and felt pretty healthy albeit ashamed of our white calves, we took a brave stroll into the health food store to look around.
With all of my health issues and chronic stomach pain and inflammation, I’ve been spending more time in health food stores and in the health food section on Amazon.
“Let’s go walk around and get a feel for the layout of the store,” I suggested. Danny went along with it because he’s my best mate.

The first thing you see when you walk in is SUPERIOR PRODUCE, and they put red produce next to green and yellow produce, and everything looks shiny and tempting.
Red carrots?! I felt a sudden need to own them, just because. There were tiny potatoes and leeks!

Behind all of the produce, we found milk. MILK IN BOTTLES. ORGANIC. There was kefir, all manner of kefir! And yogurt! My brain started racing at all of the options. I finally have to turn away and run straight into a kindly, pale woman offering samples of vegan tamales.
What is this world?
There is a gluten-free option for everything, and the kids I get lost in homemade soaps that smell like the woods and honey and lavender and also old ladies and musk. The kids almost knock the display over, but we recover just in time.
We finally have to turn away and run straight into a kindly, pale woman offering samples of green smoothies.
The kids inhale them and I take a sip.
That taste. I lick my lips. It’s familiar. What is it? I like it, what IS it?
Suddenly it hits me: The Feed Store. It tastes the way The Feed Store smells… The one where TANNED CALVES are of the MOO variety, the one where I’ve made many happy memories with my father, the one where I play with baby chicks and buy baby plants and admire the saddles and rakes and piles of alfalfa bales.
The children want to buy the mix to make the drinks, but I know I can just take them to The Feed Store and let them inhale the air… it’s cheaper and tastes better, more authentic.

My eyes run all over the supplements, and my mind can’t digest everything happening to me.
So many vitamins. So many minerals. So many supplements. So many powders and oils and pairs of sweat pants hanging next to them, begging me to work out with them.

Just before my brain explodes, I find them.
In a tiny, tucked away corner there’s probiotics. PROBIOTICS. Shouldn’t they be AT THE FRONT?! WITH A SIGN?!
Like, “Hey, we have store filled with treasures that will not stick to your system if your guts are screwed up which they probably are unless your mother is crunchy… so buy some of us, take us home and swallow us whole. After a month, come back with happy guts and let us fill your body with what you need.”

I look for a good probiotic, and my mind again begins to heat up. Seriously, one more spark and the whole thing will go BANG.
Probiotics for health! Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Kids’ Health, Calves’ Health. Danny picks up probiotics for prostates, and I remember that one month in 1994 when I read an article in the Reader’s Digest about Prostate Cancer and was racked with horror over the fact that I had FOUR OF THE FIVE SYMPTOMS. I had no idea how to tell my parents.
They’d be devastated, and I couldn’t handle the pain of being The Person Responsible for Causing My Parent’s Devastation.

Shouldn’t there be “Start Here” aisle in Health Food stores?
When I land on a new blog written by a stranger, there’s always a handy “START HERE” tab I can click on for direction. There’s directions in the furniture I buy.
And I will say that it is not a little bit disturbing that there’s maps to make my way around most cemeteries BUT NO MAP FOR THE HEALTH FOOD STORE.

We pick up two small bags of dehydrated fruit and make our way to the check out line where Alice tried to steal a healthy caramel.
We feel pretty holy, walking out of Whole Foods. After inhaling the air, our posture is decidedly better. We check our calves and decide there is marked improvement.

Two hours later, I’m standing in the check out line at Sam’s Club.
Two hours in a warehouse.
That means all of the healthy, holy air has circulated OUT of me and into The Building That I Swear Houses 3 Zip Codes.
My lungs are filled to capacity with consumerism at this point, and my calves are smaller. Paler.

The woman in front of me has at least $300 of food… and I long for it.
Pre-made dinners and corn dogs and packaged stuff to put in lunches. It all added up to about 4 hours more free time than I’d have with my gluten-less purchases.
I sneer at my carrots. Stupid, red-less carrots.
I sneer at my rotisserie chicken. Stupid, corn dog-less chicken.

I try practicing gratitude to pull my out of sneer mode.
“I’m grateful for the food we have, the family we have to eat it, the family who gets to learn about cooking because I *get* to prepare all of the meals instead of sticking them directly into the oven…”
My Gratitude Game is slipping, so I re-center.
“I’m grateful for Danny’s job that helps pay for the food and my job that helps fill the gaps and gives us enough to buy magic honey at the health food store.”
Suddenly the honey in my cart looks dumb.
Suddenly I feel like the milk in my cart is poison because it isn’t hanging out in a glass bottle and it has horrormones in it.
Suddenly, quite suddenly… I realize: I hate going into health food stores.

20160201_124021

Chocolate, Crap and Choosing

Alice has finally decided that she will potty train, so I’m going to need you to pray for me. I think childbirth is probably easier to bear than potty training because it is over after 2 hours at least and 90 hours at most. But potty training? Who knows?! And there’s no needle to numb the hazy pain that accompanies Mother’s pain while toddler potty trains. No nurses to hand you generous cups filled with cold water, no one cleaning the room that may or may not have peed on carpet because SOMEone moved the Minnie Mouse potty into the living room and removed the bowl because bitty toilet bowls apparently look better on the dog kennel and NOT in the bitty potty, no one asking every five minutes, “How ya doin’?”
All of this I must do for myself.
It is a duty I will not shirk.

In the check out line at the grocery store yesterday, the cashier grinned at Alice because Alice naturally invokes grinning from strangers, and she said, “She is just a miniature you. She has lighter hair, but that’s so cute. She’s just you.”
I laughed, nodded at the gobs of chocolate on the conveyor belt and said, “She has my attitude and my chocolate addiction.”
Alice snatched a bag up and tucked it like a football, “MY chocolate.”
Point proven.
We had to go for a chocolate run because chocolate is how we are potty training.
Because
(here’s where I get deep)
“Give a child a diaper and she’ll crap her pants. Give a child a chocolate for not crapping her pants, and she’ll spend 60% of her day on a training potty, trying to get more chocolate.”
Serious chocolate addiction going on here.

Speaking of crap, I woke up to some from my dog again. He has the weakest stomach of all of the dogs in the whole entire universe. Waking up to that sound reminded me of when I meditated on Thursday morning to the sound of another dog coughing up hair.
It is REALLY hard not to giggle through meditation when things like that happen.
I talk to myself and it goes something like:
“Get present, be present. Accept life as it IS, not as I would have it.”
*dog hacking*
pause
*dog hacking*
*Alicia biting her lip, trying to not to laugh out loud and almost failing*

This morning I decided that the dog hacking and crapping would not control my attitude, energy or day. I got up from cleaning up crap and I sat on my mat.
I meditated and then got up on my mat.
“I choose,” was my mantra.

But then I laughed when I hit downward dog because between my legs I could see a The Only Dog Who Doesn’t Hack or Crap Inside But Who I Nicknamed Dopey Because HE JUST IS SO. SO. INCREDIBLY DOPEY. like chase-the-flies-in-the-sunbeam-until-your-wet-nose-hits-the-window dopey.

I am the WORST at mindfulness because my mind is always talking to me in narrative form.
So many narratives go with seeing a dog while doing down dog while surrendering hacking and crapping dogs.
Just so many.

Namastay away, dog.
One Sun Salutation later, Dopey Dog’s tail whacked my face as I ascended into my second Downward Facing Dog.
You can’t imagine what this did to me, but I will say that laughter is the best medicine. I think it is a form of natural yoga: release, endorphin rise, all that.

After my twenty minute giggle rush mingled with twists (and, let’s face it: farts), I went into the kitchen to make my morning protein shake mingled with kefir (see “Farts” previously). I dumped in milk, frozen spinach leaves, vanilla protein shake mix, kefir and frozen bananas. The only thing missing was cocoa powder.
Which I suddenly remembered I used the LAST of yesterday.
I hate that feeling.

It is the panicked, rushed desperation that comes when you pour your favorite cold cereal and then remember that you used the last of the milk THE NIGHT BEFORE when you were up at 11 pm, eating your favorite cereal in bliss-filled solitude while the kids slept.
You start thinking of quick ways you can get milk without having to put a bra on.
“Is there any dry milk? Can I water down yogurt?” You rifle through the fridge…

I went to that place.
A vanilla protein shake on a day like this! On THIS DAY?! I won’t bore you with my cycle except to say that THIS DAY IS A CHOCOLATE DAY.
“No dry chocolate powder…. what? where?… I could MELT the toddler’s potty training chocolate…”
In desperation, I opened the pantry and began  The Panicked Rifling.
I decide The Panicked Rifling is an option for my band name if and should I start up a Rock/Folk Band.
My hands pass over the vinegar, the baking soda. They find the Nutmeg on her side, poor girl. But this is no time for heroics.  It’s every woman for herself.  Sorry, Nutmeg.

Then they land on it.
The Cocoa.
The Sam’s Club size Cocoa that I’d forgotten about.

In that moment, it was as if Alicia From the Past reached through the pantry cupboard with an understanding smile and said, “You got this. You got today. Take this and go forth.”
I smiled in gratitude and before fading into the pantry, Bing-Bong style, Past Alicia whispered today’s mantra, “You choose…”

It was powerful.

I’m happy to report that the dog crap has not set the tone for the day.
But in the course of honest accountability, I will say that IF there had been no chocolate, THAT WOULD HAVE SET THE TONE FOR THE DAY.

But we take progress in all it’s forms around here, and today we will raise a glass to it.
A glass filled with chocolate milk.
which is on sale at Safeway right now, justsoyaknow.
20160129_085110

Seeking

Last October, I started working as a Social Media Director for a SA Lifeline -a non-profit out of Utah dedicated to helping individuals, marriages and families heal from the effects of sexual addiction. This means I spend a few hours a week posting updates, reading articles to retweet and cruising the internet for inspirational and helpful tidbits to pin.
It is eye opening and uplifting for the most part, but I have to be careful with my time. I have to be VERY deliberate with my time online, especially when I’m researching healing from sexual addiction.

There are a lot of trolls out there. I’ve come across more accidental porn in the last few months than I have in my entire lifetime.

My personality is pretty peppy and puppy-like, so when I’m hit with a slew of cynicism, it feels like someone kicked me.
Kicked puppies are the mopiest.

Two nights ago, I sat on the edge of my bed. The kids were fighting in their room, and I was just so stretched. I felt pain. Where was it coming from? Social media. It is a tough place to be sometimes.
So get off? Right?

Sometimes that is the answer. But right now it isn’t. I can set more boundaries for myself in the form of time spent on and sites visited, but what was pulling at me was a few articles written and passed around social media -articles written about why the LDS church is at least false and at most a cult. This struck a hard chord, reverberating the pain aim directly at me in October when I was found by some really angry people who had left the church.
“When her husband leaves her and gets his children away from the cult, he will be so happy. I hope he finds this forum and freedom.”

I wonder if maybe I’m dumb. For staying, I mean. Is there something WRONG with me? Am I some kind of blind sheep just wandering with the flow of the crowd? Am I brain-washed like they say? Am I incapable of thinking for myself AND NOT EVEN AWARE OF IT because I’m so brainwashed?

It really hits a core issue in me: I’m doing it wrong.

When I began a 40-day yoga program after the online bullying, that was the message that came through and through and through.

You’re doing it wrong.
You’re standing wrong.
You’re breathing wrong.
You’re weight isn’t distributed properly.

I’d get off the mat, and the message traveled with me.

You’re cleaning wrong.
You’re dressing wrong.
You’re parenting wrong.
You’re eating wrong.

I realized -this was painful -that I’ve lived this way for a long time. Believing and fearing LIVING WRONG.

I want to get it right which is an okay desire, I think. But when perfection is driving that desire, it can get really defeating. I’ve been whittling away at this belief with God. We’re utilizing tools like counseling, affirmations, music, yoga, scriptures, prayer, church going. I’m learning how to dance with grace. Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that I’m DANCING GRACEFULLY. That isn’t going to be part of my earthly story. What I mean is that I’m learning how to make God’s Grace part of my life.

That means I’m progressing.
That does not mean that I’M THERE.
Truthfully, I won’t be THERE on this earth. This is a life-long journey, whatever that looks like.

The other night on the edge of my bed, I felt that old belief ringing in my ears with kids fighting in the background.
“You’re RELIGIONING wrong.”

I hate that.

I ran toward the pain, just like yoga teaches me to do, and started praying. I prayed myself to sleep, and my pillows and blankets felt more welcoming than normal.
Lately, prying myself out of bed has been really hard, but that next morning I woke up early. and easily.

I opened my scriptures on my phone, started reading one of the Sunday School lessons I’m going to teach in February. I landed on this:
Screenshot_2016-01-27-06-57-39

That word: receive. It kept popping up. I thought about a discussion I’d had with my Sunday School kids, about how receiving is a verb, an ACTION word. It is a beautiful act of gratitude, digesting, processing and acting upon, all wrapped up in one little word.

By then, the sun had started creeping up. I opened the curtains in my living room and sat on my mat, facing the light. I crossed my legs, closed my eyes and let my hands fall in my lap, fingertips touching.
I assume my meditation position naturally now.

I inhaled, imagining my breath wrapping around my spine, touching every tense part of my being.
I exhaled, imagining the old musty night escaping -evaporating in the radiant morning light.

In my stillness, I felt a communion with God. I felt as if I were simply sitting with Him. I didn’t say anything… but He did.
“He that seeketh shall find.”

I’ve heard it so many times before, and I have understood it. But in one sacred moment, God whispered it in such a way that I understood by the Spirit THE FLIP SIDE.

Whatsoever man seeketh, he shall find.

If we seek joy, we find joy.
If we seek peace, we find peace.
If we find happiness, we find happiness.

And all three are vastly different, this I know from experience.

It also follows that as we seek pain, we find pain.
If we seek negativity, we find negativity.

Most of the negative things I seek, I don’t conscientiously seek… but I find them nevertheless.

“He that seeketh shall find” has always felt empowering to me. But yesterday morning I felt the gravity of what God was telling me settle in my soul… it is as empowering as it is damming.
The mind is powerful, so powerful. It is capable of harnessing success, failure, health, sickness, peace, sorrow. The power of the mind has been a fascinating topic of research for ages.

I was listening to some Neville Goddard a few weeks ago, and I loved hearing the passion in his voice -he truly believes in the power of imagination.
I appreciated that I’d listened to that before I’d ended up on the edge of my bed a few nights ago -it helped me RECEIVE the message from God. I can seek out darkness or light, and it will be added unto me.

My mantra as I raised myself out of meditation and into Mountain Pose was simply, “I release.”
I spent 30 interrupted minutes (kids!) sending that mantra through my being, “I release.” I walked off my mat and tossed a question through my mind, “What am I seeking today?”
It brought so much self-awareness. I found myself skipping songs on Pandora that just didn’t VIBE with that I was seeking -not that they were awful songs, but their tempo wasn’t quite right or the voice or the general FEEL of the song. I moved some decorations around. I finally wiped the cobwebs off the light over the table.

I find those who stay in the LDS church are generally more quiet -not writing viral blog posts or trying to argue their points. They are content, peacefully striving to live what they believe. Messing up, picking up, and working on their personal progression.
There are so many loud voices that are against the LDS church -writing viral posts and arguing their points. I don’t find peace there. In the forum fully directed at me, there was no love, no allotment for imperfection, no peace.

Which sphere do I seek?
The one that allows for small, blessed mornings on my mat when God speaks to me while I sit at his feet. That is what I desire.
As I seek light, there is no room for the shame that whispers, “you’re doing it wrong.”
20160124_175114_resized

That’s what I want to leave my own kiddos -the knowledge that what they have inside is the RIGHT THING, and to SEEK after their own divinity and intuition. I want them to know they can trust themselves implicitly, and to leave off anyone (or anything) who plants doubt there.

If I left nothing but a legacy of SEEKING LIGHT, that would suffice.

Pretend Primary

When you’ve lived with someone infected with chicken pox, you don’t get to roam around much. Mom calls it, “precautionary” but I call it “bunk” because my house stinks. Sometimes literally. Sometimes literally as a direct result of me.
And when it keeps me from going to church, I bring church to me and my babies.

“Listen, babies. I do the lesson from my phone.”
20160124_145414_resized

January 22nd Went Like

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I have the makings of a decent mother and a wretched housekeeper. Lots of people who love me accept this, and I think I’m getting there.
But let me tell you about today.

I started to. Earlier. I started two posts. I tried to make some stuff funny that wasn’t really funny at all… like the toddler dumping Gatorade powder all over the carpet. Wait, that’s not exactly accurate. She was dumping Gatorade on dried up food that was on some crayons that were in the hole in the bottom of the sea on the carpet.
I also tried to joke about how much sleep I’m not getting, but that’s not very funny either. I erased everything because I was crying at that point, and I decided to try again. I started writing out life’s present mysteries, but… that sucked even more.
Because I don’t know lots of stuff about stuff, probably because I don’t remember what life with sleep looks like. And then I watched a commercial online, one of those heart-string tuggers, you know? and I cried again.

I felt failure packing up all around me.
I decided I was falling short in every possible area. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially. My parenting? Please. Don’t. Don’t talk about it, don’t bring it up. I’m the worst. I’m just sure of it. And my housekeeping?! I don’t think it is possible to be WORSE than I am at housekeeping.

It was a sad place to be. For like, an hour.
After that, I morphed into some kind of emotional gladiator. I felt proud of my messy house because it is just PART of me. I began sort of strutting around, like, ‘yeah. this is me. this is how I do. or don’t do. or something.’
I took the kids to the store for milk and while buying milk, Lacy.
(I have to pause here and mention that she is not contagious anymore. She is scabbed over. Scabbily Scabs. She said, “okay mom, I’ll go in the store and if ANYONE says ANYTHING I will just say, “it is zits, I have zits.” And I smiled big and told her she was funny. I remember lying to people about my zits though, “I fell…” so I guess she gets that from me?)
Lacy stopped me in the middle of pulling milk from the cooler and said, “I want to cook something FRENCH for dinner.”
Today is Friday, and we loosely follow a tradition called “Fancy Friday” where we eat dinner off of real plates and use a tablecloth and candles. Lacy decorates the table and we make dinner as a team.
Earlier this afternoon, while I was reveling in my messy -sitting next to but doing nothing about clean laundry on the couch -Lacy made French Toast for lunch. I guided her, but she did it all. It was delicious. SERIOUSLY.
20160122_143418
Lacy loves to bake and cook -she loves the kitchen. As I took huge bites of the two gluten free pieces she made me, I wondered if maybe something else I should strut around with -aside from my mess -is the cool stuff I pass to my kids, like cooking. I’ve spent hours in our kitchen with Lacy in the sink, on the counter, at my feet. I love it, and she saw me love it, and now she loves it.
“This,” she said, as she ripped up gooey pieces of syrupy bread and munched, “Is so good. I want to clean the kitchen and cook for THE REST OF THE DAY.”
She remembered this very ambitious vow right next to the milk at the grocery store.
“I want to make a FRENCH dinner,” she said, though her tone was mostly, “We are going to make a French dinner.”
I googled, “easy french dinners” and found a recipe I couldn’t pronounce but had about 1/2 of the ingredients at home. We bought what we didn’t have and hauled our loot to the park. I meant to go home, but it was warm outside and the park was there and…
20160122_162249
We finally made it home, cleaned up and made a french dinner. A Fancy French Dinner.
20160122_181052
I had to Google how to pronounce what that is.

Alice loves that video. She calls it, “Coco Blah.” I heard her watching it and saying, “What?” after the first pronunciation and then, “oh, Coco Blah.” after the second.
We loved the Coco Blah and started making plans to make it again as soon as possible. like tomorrow.
Lacy and Trent decorated the table, and Lacy said, “I hope you don’t mind. I didn’t ask, but I set out chips and salsa too.”
Because nothing goes better with Coco Blah than chips and salsa, don’tchaknow.

In the middle of the meal, Lacy pointed out that the sparkling cider looks just like pee. Trent giggled about that while Alice reflected on her own cider and affirmed that YES IT DOES. And then she went pee and came out without pants. or underpants.
She handed a diaper to Danny.
“No,” he said, “You’re a big girl.”
“But I want to be a baby,” she said.
“Life is hard,” I shrugged, “I mean, we took her away from nursery and now we are taking away her diapers.”
“I don’t like primary,” Alice said, “I’m a nursery gwil.”
Gwil = girl.
“But you’re a big girl, and you can use the potty,” Danny said.
“I want to be a baby and I want to be a nursery gwil.”
“You know why she hates Primary, right?” Danny looked at me.
“Why?”
“Structure.”
I won’t bother you with where she gets that, I will only say that two days ago Danny rearranged all of the clothes in my dresser drawer and now I can’t find anything in all the organization… so the clear offender is him, right? Because that’s just crazy making, right?

About 20 minutes later, Alice emerged triumphant from the bathroom and earned herself a trip to the convenience store for her own pack of gum. Is this prize outlandish? It MIGHT be viewed that way, but here’s the thing: Alice is TERRIFIED of the toilet. She faced the terror, and I’ve been promising her for weeks her own pack of gum if she’d go number 2 in the proper place (it IS Fancy Friday, after all).

And.
Well.
20160122_191434

The kids agreed on helping Mom clean up dinner when we got home from the store. And instead of helping, they fought and teased and got louder and louder. Pretty soon, they were throwing bits of food… and I was cleaning alone.
So I stopped.
“You guys said you would help and you aren’t. We had a nice dinner this Friday, but I’m cancelling Fancy Friday for next week because this behavior just isn’t okay. I’m sorry you’ve made this choice. You need to go to bed now.”

I was bummed. I like hanging out with those kids, especially on Friday nights.
A few minutes later, Lacy came out to cry and apologize and ask for some anti-itch meds. I told her pain is easier to handle when there is PURPOSE behind it.
I’m reading some Viktor Frankl right now, and he’s the man. The Finding Purpose in Pain man.
“Having chicken pox right now is hard, but when we think about how having them now means our body is getting STRONGER -SO STRONG IT WILL NEVER GET THEM AGAIN -then it feels better inside, even if our outside is still hurting a lot.”
“Right,” she nodded, we’d had this conversation last week.
“So you’re hurting right now. That’s normal and we usually DO hurt when we make a choice we didn’t really MEAN to make.”
“Right,” she sobbed a little harder.
“If we can find a reason for the pain, give the pain a job… won’t that help?”
“Like?”
“Like… what can you learn from tonight?”
“To never be distracted by TRENT!”
“Orrrrrrrr to walk away from people who try to keep you from your goals?”
“Okay, yeah.”
“Something to think about, right?”
I looked up to see Trent watching us from the hall.
“I’m feeling sorry too,” he said.
Lacy scooted out of the kitchen and off to bed.
“How are you feeling?” I asked, pulling him close.
“Like tomorrow will be JUST. LIKE. THIS.”
“Like what?”
“Us. Going to BED all EARLY.”
“Yeah,” I nodded, holding his skinny little arms -this kid just won’t EAT, “It will be like that.”
“WHAT?!”
“Did you know that when you think yucky thoughts, yucky things happen?”
He shook his head and looked up at me with those lovely, large brown eyes I just can’t get enough of -so expressive.
“I was doing yoga yesterday and listening to a very smart man say that the most powerful tool in our body is our imagination… that if we imagine bad stuff, it kind of starts happening. Like if we imagine that Mom will be sad and send us to bed early, then it is more likely to happen. BUT if we think about staying up LATE and imagining all the fun we will have, thinking of good and happy and cool things to do, THOSE kind of things are more likely to happen. Does that sound like an experiment you’re willing to try?”
“Just need a paper and pen to make a list,” he said, perking up.

And as they went to bed, I decided something.
1) I’m PMSing. Because so many emotions. It is other-worldly.
2) Dr. Pepper doesn’t get enough credit for its medicinal purposes. But today it got me to a park and through a fancy meal of Coco Blah and salsa when only a few hours before all I really wanted was to have Joy drag me around while I touched everything and turned it sad.
3) Something I said to Lacy hit home as it came out of my mouth.
“I’m glad you’re my mom. You’re a good one,” she said.
“I am!” I said, “I AM a GOOD MOM and a terrible housekeeper!” Lacy laughed.
“And I’d rather be a good mom and terrible housekeeper than a bad mom and a great housekeeper.”

So here’s to today! And being a woman! And being me! And potty training and French and trips to the store for milk that turn into fancy dinner plans because structure really IS the worst!

No.
Hormones are the worst. I think even Jane Austen would raise her quill to that.

Growing Up

The other day, Lacy listened to a Pandora Station that wasn’t a kid station.

She’s getting into boy bands. She’s sure she doesn’t want the Disney station anymore.
A few days later, I took her to Sonic and she ordered a NUMBER NINE. The kind of meal that DOESN’T come with a toy! What is happening?!

I know I keep saying this, but I signed up for having BABIES. I’m trying to be excited and while Lacy is incredible and getting to know the person she’s becoming is incredible, after throwing away the remnants of THE NUMBER NINE, I realize that she is halfway out of my house now.

Maybe she ordered a number 9 to remind me that she is 9 and in 9 years, that will be that.

Yesterday, I asked her if she’d like to go for a walk… she hasn’t been out of her PJs in 9 days. She jumped out of a TV induced trance and a few minutes later came out dressed in a cute outfit, covered in sweet-smelling lotion. She had even painted her nails bright orange.
It does so much good to just put jeans on when you’ve been sick! I held her hand as we walked outside, and she chatted on about school and how much she loves nature. We came inside to make dinner. She practiced learning to do dishes and gushed, “I just LOVE being in the kitchen, Mom.”

20160119_174611_resized

I remember when she used to sit in the sink… all bare-bummed and cute.
Why does growing up happen so fast?

While Sick

Since December, we’ve dealt with a lot of sickness. This sick season has been particularly rough at our house. This has been the first year in a few years that I’ve made a point of eating better and taking daily vitamins, and we’re sicker than ever. Is this a sign from The Sugar Gods? To eat more? Not less?

We’ve been trying to visit Danny’s family to exchange Christmas gifts since mid-December. But Alice puked while I was dealing with a bad cold that I shared with everyone in the family, and then I broke a tooth and went straight to the dentist on the same day that Danny broke out in full-body hives that lasted two days -a reaction to a medicine he’d been taking for something else he was dealing with. After the puking kid, we had a dog get sick at 4:30 am and the next morning, Trenton woke up with pink eye which he shared with the other two kids. Just as we were getting better from all that, Danny and I were hit with a stomach bug and in the middle of it, I had to drive Lacy to the Dr. for suspected chicken pox. She broke out in a few spots on her 9th birthday! The diagnosis was confirmed, and now she’s covered in a million pretty scabby spots. We’re waiting for Alice to break out (any day now!). Trenton is immunized. On top of Lacy’s chicken pox, she can’t stop coughing, no matter what we do. Poor kid.
12469640_1120968241271181_2670541611625193963_o
And so.

We have a few gifts that still haven’t been delivered to cousins. They may not get them until after Valentine’s Day!

But what we have done is watched A LOT of movies. So I figured I’d pop in and do some reviews.

First, we had never seen any of the Nanny McPhee movies. We loved them! All of us! The first movie was on Netflix, and we rented the second online.

After the really crazy, tiring day where I’d battled stomach issues while taking Lacy to the Dr, Danny came home to Alice glued to the iPad, the older two kids glued to the TV and me. headphones in. glued into pbs.org.
He went straight to Wal-Mart to pick up Lacy’s medicines and came home with 5 Doris Day movies and a bouquet of my favorite flowers. Last year, I made a goal to keep fresh flowers on my piano all year long… nothing expensive, just enough to brighten my day and let me know I’m worth it. Around October, I got really bad at it. Danny helped bring in The New Year right, and I fell gratefully into his arms.
“You look like you need it,” he said.
I have to fight self-hate in days like these… worrying that I’m not connecting enough or cleaning enough, but honestly -the best I can do right now is hunker down with my sick family until the storm passes. I just hope no one comes over.

The other night, we watched “The Thrill of it All” and loved it. The kids laughed and Danny and I laughed, sometimes at nothing more than at what used to be “normal” in the 60’s.

I’ve been watching Downton Abbey and Mercy Street on pbs, I’m looking forward to watching the latest Sherlock installment as well.

One movie we stumbled across and really, really liked was “Beyond the Mask.” There are a few scenes where the editing is just… funny. But the story line keeps you interested and everyone in our family enjoyed it. We’ll be buying it for sure!

Another our entire family enjoyed was, “Once I Was a Beehive.” We probably quoted it for two weeks…

Right now, the kids are streaming, “Just Add Magic.”

It is SO nice to have an influx of shows that we can all enjoy together.
We have enjoyed being sick together, and we’ve even been able to laugh about the crazy amounts of physical stuff that has flooded our way.
By Valentine’s Day, we should have amazing immune systems!

Valentine’s

I used to hate Valentine’s Day, but that was when I regarded it as a strictly romantic holiday. It always carried some ornery pressure with it -expectations aren’t always wonderful things, am I right? I hated the red and pink grocery aisles filled with commercialization, the overpriced flowers, the songs (ugh, the songs).

But a few years ago, I quit focusing on THAT.

I took a step back from The Calendar Year and began to see a pretty sort of flow through the holidays.

Halloween reminded me of darkness, death. It brought about in me a reminder of the hard times, the valleys of life.
Thanksgiving is all about gratitude, and it seems like I begin to pull out of the valleys by practicing gratitude while in the pits.
Christmas rolls around, and there we find HOPE. Hope always follows gratitude, doesn’t it? Hope for a better tomorrow.
New Year’s springs forth and I feel the darkness losing. I feel a fresh start. Fresh Starts often follow hope.
Valentine’s Day is all about LOVE. It isn’t about exclusive couple relationships, not really. It’s about my neighbor. It’s about the love I exhibit and exude as I cultivate love within. I often find love carries a trail behind it that goes something like: fresh start, hope, gratitude, trial.
Valentine’s is followed by Easter. Isn’t that great? Easter! Rebirth! Redemption! Surely, this follows love. When I love myself, I find rebirth in so many areas. Surely when we love ourselves and others, we lay down our lives. We find personal crucifixions within. Our trial taught us what we WANT to live without -pride, fear, hate, vicitimization, control -and we crucify that part of ourselves, offering it to God. Take it, for I had no need of it. What need have I of fear when I’m filled with love and hope and gratitude?
What follows Easter? Independence Day.
Freedom. Sweet freedom.

And so came I to believe in Valentine’s Day. It holds a very sacred place in my heart, and I celebrate it with everyone I love.

Our family carves that night out as “ours.” We eat a truly wonderful meal together -we decorate and use the fancy cups. I invest CASH into the food, and we let our family know that we are worth FANCY.

But in 2014…

I had spent more than I’d ever spent (and we all know what a low roller I am). I’d purchased new fancy cups (glass!) and matching napkins. There was sparkling cider and SALMON. It was a beautifully set table, candles and all. I put on a dress.
And then Alice screamed through the entire meal, the older two fought and Danny took a phone call for a long, long time.

I washed my hands of the feast.
“Next year,” I vowed, “There will be no feast.”
Danny laughed it off. He thought I’d get over it and make a feast in the end.
Well, I’m always up for a good challenge. And last year, Danny took us all out to Red Lobster and proclaimed it The Valentine’s Feast. I suggested we make a tradition of Mom and Dad trading years.

Because of health issues, I haven’t been able to do as much as I’d like. What I’d like is to cut hearts out of vintage sheet music and sew them together and drape my house with them. I’d love to hang crochet hearts everywhere and spruce up the place in reds and pinks and fresh lilacs. I’d love to have dishes of candy hearts set out for everyone to enjoy.
But mostly my days are spent in survival mode, both for health reasons and “mothering a toddler” reasons.
And it’s still good, it’s really good.

I signed up to do the Valentine’s Party for Lacy’s class, and it will be simple and enjoyable. I need to plan it since there’s exactly one month left. I’m excited about it, even though I’m no party-planner. I think Lacy and I will have fun putting it together.

Today I’m thinking a few things:
1) What should we eat at our feast? Turkey? Homemade crab legs and lobster tail?
2) What should the third grade party look like?
3) I can’t wait to design this year’s Valentine’s… which I’m much better about sending out than Christmas Cards.
4) I hope everyone celebrates love in their own way.
5) Someone called Valentine’s Day a stupid holiday today and it made me write.
6) On a completely unrelated note: our family has been battling various sicknesses since mid-December and there’s no end in sight, and I’m stuck between wanting to feel sorry for myself and wanting to celebrate because we are cut off from civilization, and there’s something incredibly adventurous about that.
7) I’m sad about Snape dying. I hate it when talent leaves us. There’s no replacement for him. It reminds me that there’s no replacement for me either and that I need to celebrate the talent in me.  Even if there’s no big screen for the world to see it, God sees it. And the same goes for my family and my friends and you.
12509354_1145962925436609_4687301698548461604_n
8) Today, I will take a nap.

From last year’s Valentine’s Feast:
IMG_20150214_162746

0214151443

0214151535

0214151617

0214151617c

Holiday Help

On Friday, I had a neighbor girl come and help me clean my house for 2.5 hours. This was the greatest decision in the history of holiday decisions.
Last year, our Christmas season far outdid any other Christmas season. It was tear-jerking and magical and sometimes I’d sit down and just soak up the peace and joy like a parched sponge on the beach. This year has been different.
I’m numb and also lost.
I am so busy that I don’t feel true joy, neither do I feel true pain or sorrow. I just am.
I am also so busy that I keep messing stuff up. The first batch of fruitcake didn’t get the spices at the right time, the second and last batch got baked at 365 for one hour instead of 265 for four hours. I once lost my phone, used my husband’s phone to call mine and heard it ringing behind me, behind me, behind me.
I did two full circles before I realized it was in my back pocket.

I’m working three part-time jobs, and while managing them all NOT in the holiday season is pretty easy, right now it isn’t. Next year I’ll make changes to simplify, but this is a learning year. And that’s okay. Sometimes I need weeks like this to learn from, to help me simplify and appreciate the present moment more.

We all know where my cleaning skills sit. I can’t hide them or fake them, especially in our little house. On top of working my jobs, I’ve also still been dealing with chronic stomach issues. I don’t remember what life was like NOT sick.
But for some reason, I still think I should have a clean house.

Last week, it hit me pretty hard: it’s not possible. With everything going on, including health issues, my house looks exactly as it should! In fact, I can’t possibly think of a way for it to look differently at all.
Except…
The glorious prospect of cleaning help.

There came an eye-opening moment of acceptance when my husband was rubbing my back. He’d said he felt prompted to run me a hot bath and give me a massage. It was really nice, and it was the first time I’d felt anything since before Thanksgiving. The self-care given to me (since I’d been too busy to TAKE some myself), had opened up a rare window for my emotions to be FELT.
I felt peace and warm and calm. I felt grateful.
But I also felt my body SCREAMING FOR ATTENTION.

I haven’t been feeding it right or listening to it.
As Danny ran his hands over my spine, it HURT. My inflammation is bad right now.

That’s when acceptance hit me.
I’ve spent YEARS trying to get rid of my inflammation, trying to discard it and go on my way. But you know what? I’ve never accepted it as part of my journey.
So I took a breath and I realized this:

I have to pay extra attention to my body… Yoga is a non-negotiable, as is meditation. I have to eat differently.
Instead of pouring time into figuring out where the inflammation comes from, I can pour time into taking better care of myself, knowing that inflammation is part of me now. This means more water, more walking. This means saying no to things I used to be able to say yes to.
My dirty house has been part of the result of my LACK of acceptance. I keep thinking it will get clean when I feel better, when my stomach stops hurting, when my joints feel normal.
But how about I just PAY someone to clean it instead? I feel better, the kids feel better, and it frees up my time to do things like yoga. I can hear myself better in a clean house.
I don’t expect it to stay clean, but I am okay hiring help once a month. That’s the upside to my three little jobs. I have just enough to pay for help, and it feels like God gave me that gift.
Paying someone is FREEING for me. When folks come and clean for free, I apologize and apologize and never ask for what I really need. But if I’m paying? Shoot. Give me two hours and I’ll have a ready list of what I need.

This morning, I woke up to a clean space. I can effectively work all three jobs from home -since on top of the usual health stuff I’ve also got a holiday head cold -and when I’m done easily clean up my space. Maintaining is easy. I imagine Christmas Day will bring all kinds of crazy house work back into the picture.
So I will set aside more cash.

And now I’m going to stretch out on my yoga mat, drink some water, take more vitamin C, gargle some apple cider vinegar, meditate and then get to work.
Do you think that taking care of myself counts as a 4th job? It feels like it.

I hope your holiday season is reminding you of what’s important, whether because you’re able to actually tap into it or because you’re so far from it, you can’t wait to find your way back.

1216152117d