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.

Movies. Plants. Midas.

It has been so warm.

Two weeks ago, I was curled up in the fetal position under three blankets, wondering if I’d ever survive the day. I did. And I’m so glad because the past week has been wonderfully warm. My anxiety keeps popping up and whispering super sweet things like, “It is too early to be this warm, watch out… something awful is coming.”
Today I decided that little voice is right -something awful is coming. Something awful is ALWAYS coming, so why not get out in the sun and shovel some dirt around, amIright?

I came home from work, polished off some leftover salmon and then went to work moving dirt around. It feels good to do that. There’s something therapeutic about dirt. There’s wonderful scientists out there who have proven the content of natural anti-depressants in the soil. Gorgeous little fact. And I think there’s something really character-building about doing something methodical that will never stay done. It builds good folks. It builds the kind of folks who are fun to do dishes with, anyway.

Tonight, we planted some seeds for Family Home Evening. Danny read some scriptures and talked with the kids about the importance of “watering” our faith. As the kids asked questions about the seeds they were planting, Danny said, “Not all the seeds will grow. Sometimes you get a seed that is perfectly fine, and it just won’t grow.”
A light went on for me.
Gardening is that seed for me.
It is a perfectly good seed, but things just don’t grow for me. Gardening works wonderfully for other people, and thank goodness because I like plants and food and the whole idea of the whole process.
For dust thou art, and all that.

But like the the cursed twin of Midas, every plant I touch withers and turns into ashes.
My flower bed houses jump ropes and sun-bleached squirt guns and dead leaves. Nothing grows in it. Maybe it’s because it is covered by my porch’s overhang, and flowers don’t like full shade. BUT MAYBE it’s because I TOUCH IT.

The past few years (gosh, has it been that long?) I’ve been dealing with health stuff… gall bladder stuff. I’m still dealing with it, and it is really messing with my ability to upkeep my garden. I’m not up for bottling and harvesting like I used to be.
But this year, I really want to try. I know I don’t feel well, but I’m hoping the combination of natural anti-depressants and beautiful green foods will help out.

Being sick also means I watch more movies. And while my addiction to movies is well known, I will say that movies have always made me come alive. They are magic, my friends. I love story lines and characters and dialogue.
I hate wasting time on a bad movie, and I love becoming a better person because I watched a truly inspiring movie.

The other day, I stumbled on “The Wedding Date” and I remembered having seen it… years ago, when I was newly married. I couldn’t remember the plot (beyond “the awkward girl ends up with the pretty boy” because that’s the plot OF ALL THE MOVIES), so I turned it on.
In the beginning of the movie, Debra Messing is running around her apartment, getting ready to fly out of the country for a wedding. They make a big deal out of her quirkiness, and while that’s all well and good, I just have to point out that she puts her house plants in her sink.
It’s a simple thing, really.
But it struck me.
Like, “Hey. I should get some houseplants so that when I fly to England to attend my sister’s wedding with a hired male escort, I can leave them in my cutesy apartment sink too!”
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To say I’m influenced by subtle advertising would be an understatement. But I make no apologies because God promises to make all things work together for good.
So even if I kill the plants, good will come of it.
Like maybe I’ll stop buying plants.
Or I’ll hire someone else to keep them alive and learn to accept myself AS I AM, not as I would have me.

Thanks to Debra Messing and a little “soul seed” that took root a few months ago, I finally bought a houseplant. Did you know they’re like $3 at Wal-Mart? Three dollars to change your lives, folks.
In the name of quirkiness, spend the cash!

I’ve missed greenery during the winter months, and I know a live plant will help clean the air in my home. Working in a mechanic shop means half the air I breathe is exactly the kind of air people are complaining about in Washington. I grew up around it, so to me it just smells like home.
It’s reminiscent of Judy Garland thrusting grease-paint into her uninterested fiance’s face during her final film, “Summer Stock.”
“Smell that…”
“What is it?”
“Grease paint!”
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Not everyone understands the draw of the grease paint, the same way no one understands the draw of PLAIN GREASE when you’ve grown up smelling it.
But sometimes I sit tapping my toes on concrete under bright florescent lights, inhaling grease and occasionally some exhaust… and I think, ‘it wouldn’t hurt to have a little plant in here…’
Not to stay, right? Because it would surely die, right? But I could carry it around. I could be an entirely new breed of woman! Gone are the days of tans and platform shoes and giant sunglasses and puppy toting! IN ARE THE DAYS OF JEANS AND WOOL SOCKS AND GIANT MESSY BUNS AND PLANT TOTING!
It could be a revolution.

That’s what got me to buy the plant, you know. The idea that my three bucks were changing the world.
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The kids named it Meeka.

Meeka is the name of the fictional Panda I made up. Why? Because when your niece asks you to play Pandas on a lazy Sunday evening, it becomes necessary to promote yourself to MOTHER PANDA and put all the little pandas down for a story and a nap.
It is easier to make up stories than crawl around on the floor, and so Meeka was born. Amen.

Now Meeka lives on in our little green plant. This green plant hails from the South Pacific which is perfect because South Pacific happens to be the name of another great musical. Here’s a song straight from my “Happy Tunes” playlist to your ears -compliments of South Pacific:

And since we’ve already had a little fling with “Summer Stock” let’s throw in this song -also on my “Happy Tunes” playlist. Cleaning the kitchen goes a lot quicker when you’ve got this beat:

Meeka doesn’t need much water and isn’t high maintenance about light either. It seems like it was planted with me in mind, that it sat on the shelf waiting for me to make the three dollar decision to change the world.

But the story doesn’t end there… for Valentine’s Day, Danny bought me a hanging plant. The good news is, I’m aware of it still. I have watered it once. I have moved it around so it gets lots of love and light. The good news also is that Danny buying a plant shows that he believes in change -that I can change, that I don’t have to stay black-thumbed. What better gift can you give on Valentine’s?
The bad news is I lost the little tab it came with and have no idea what kind of plant it is, where it came from or what it needs.

It’s the Midas Twin Curse.
Blackened Ashes.
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Maybe I’ll name this one Ash?

If you could tell me what it is, I’ll be really grateful. I’ll even show it by never, ever touching your plants.

I’m hoping my houseplants will increase my level of cuteness like they did for Debra Messing. I’m also hoping they will give me the confidence to really garden this year. Heaven knows my health needs it.
And by heaven, I mean Gene Kelly.

Valentines

Because I’ve been so sick and taking care of other sicklings, I haven’t ordered and written on Valentine postcards this year. I’m bummed about that. But I’m grateful for technology.
Because I get to share these babies with you anyway.  I love making these silly cards -I love giving my brain space to be creative when sometimes I can’t even remember if I’ve showered or not.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my loves!
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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:
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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.
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