Friday, January 13, 2017

cat puke, Friday the 13th, and the blasted inauguration

I have cleaned up eight bouts of cat vomit in less than 24 hours. It seems like an appropriate way to spend the Friday the 13th before an inauguration that I want nothing to do with. I literally have nothing nice to say, so I have not been on facebook for over 36 hours because I want to shout personally insulting things at people. Who knows how long I'll have to ban myself. I'm guessing LONG! Following the, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" rule has never, ever, ever been so hard. Not in 6th grade when a boy spread lies about me. Not in my freshman year of college when a friend from high school told me that people were only being nice to me because they saw me as a pet project to use, try to improve, and then dump. Not ever.

So, I shut down social media and head to an overnight girl scout camp with my daughter. We're going to swim and cross country ski, visit with friends and learn about snow forts. It sounds like just exactly what the doctor ordered. I finish painting trim as we work to finish a room remodel in the basement. I read lots of picture books about snow and blizzards to my 3 year old. We finish up a tricky puzzle for the boys' room.

I am trying to show more restraint than the PEOTUS by actually thinking before I speak, by treating people how I want to be treated, and by remembering that words matter.

I'm not a sore loser. I would take any of the Republican nominees, any Bush, starting with Barbara, if I had my choice, and Mitt Romney or John McCain. I'm not sorry the person I voted for lost. That's happened before and it'll happen again. I'm devastated and disgusted that this person kind of won. I say kind of  because it seems that the majority of people actively hate him, and the list is probably growing. I'm not calling for the end to the electoral college. I want him to do well. I want him to surprise me. I started out giving him the benefit of the doubt, but he has given no indication that he is going to be "so presidential we'll be bored."

I'm angry. I'm not beaten. I can still do my part in my corner of the world to make this world better.

Peace out,
Cranky, Angry, Disgusted (usually) Democrat

Monday, January 2, 2017

One word

In my last blog post, I talked about some overall goals for 2017 and how I plan on reaching them. Today I'm going to join the billions of other bloggers to tell you about my one word for 2017. I've chosen a word, or had a word choose me, for a few years and then fail miserably. I mean, it's a lot like a resolution, so why not be like most of the cool kids and fall off of the bandwagon, right? I've also come to the conclusion that the world can be divided into idea people and action people and I'm mostly an idea person. Follow through is not my strong suit. Well, in keeping with my smaller, attainable goals to reach my big overall goals, I have some small, daily or weekly plans to help me remember my one word.

OK. Enough chit chat. What's the word???

Present. What's that mean? Truthfully, I had no plans to choose a word this year because of past failures. Then this word popped into my brain and I couldn't shake it. Since it seemed to want to hang around, I explored what the word meant to me and how it could help me grow this year.

Present means being aware of, engaged, and attentive in the moment that I'm in. That can be tricky in our all technology all the time world. I think of the way I parented Isaac at 3 compared to the way I parent Asher at 3 and it is different because of the distractions. I think of the attention I give to my husband in the evenings and it's challenging because we both often have our own phones or computers and do our own thing. I want that to change.

Present also means gift, and I want to be a present to those I come in contact with, whether I know them or not. This can mean so many things. Maybe it's a smile or a hello, maybe it's a how are you note to a friend or relative, maybe it's bringing a meal to a sick friend. The options are endless, but if I'm present in my life, then I'm more likely to be a present or gift to those around me.

Will I remember I chose a word and stick with it? I sure hope so. Here are a few ways I want to break this goal down, and they are not easy! Well, the first one isn't easy.

1) I'm having my husband change my facebook password so that he has to log me in. This will cut down on my computer time, aka major distractions, throughout the day. Here's hoping he doesn't use it for evil and write rude things online in my name. :)

2) Write one random, just because note per week. I am a huge supporter of the U.S. Postal Service because I love writing notes. I know that puts me in the minority, and I never expect mail in return, but I still love it. A surprise note in the mailbox is a day brightener and an easy present to give to friends and family near and far.

3) Since we went on a family vacation in lieu of any Christmas gifts under the tree, I made each kid a certificate saying that they are "The Kid of the Month" three months of the year. With four kids, alone time with a parent is a hot commodity, so I thought this would be a great way to be present with one kid at a time. Being kid of the month means that the kid gets one fun activity with mom, one fun activity with dad, and gets to choose a book to do a small book club with me for that month. Elliot is first and he chose an arcade with me and a movie with his dad so we'll get those dates on the calendar. We're still looking for a book to share.

A few goals and a word and I'm as ready for 2017 as I'll ever be. Let's do this, people!

Do you have a goal, resolution, or word? Let's hear about it!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Because every blogger needs a New Year's Eve post

Many people have grand expectations for the new year. Self help book sales skyrocket, the gym is packed, and the grocery store might even sell out of kale and broccoli. It's that serious, people. We want to greet the new year with hopes and dreams for our best self.

I actually expect January 1, 2017 to start much like December 31, 2016, with a toddler sitting up in his bed at 5:43 am shouting, "I'm weally, weally, weally hungry for snack."

Because as much money as we spend on self help book, gym memberships, and kale, most of those hopes and dreams end by Valentine's Day. We are creatures of habit, and, yes, we can change, but it's usually a mostly uphill battle.

I'm not trying to be a buzzkill for your grand resolutions. I'm saying that if we have a resolution or a goal, we need an actual plan. The kids and I have been talking about our goals. One wants to make it down a certain black ski run without falling. Another just switched from skiing to snowboarding this year and wants to improve enough to go down a blue. I want to read my bible daily and PR on my marathon. I want to engage a group of women in my area to meet monthly to volunteer or raise money for organizations serving our world in impactful and empowering ways.

Those are all "noble pursuits," but wants can't become reality unless we break them down into smaller goals. To get down a black run without falling, that kid wants to add some core and quad exercises into his week. To improve enough to go down a blue, that kid wants to challenge himself to more difficult runs each time he hits the slopes. To read my bible daily, I am setting aside a certain time each day that is my uninterrupted bible time. To improve on my marathon time, I have my training plan written out and my goal taped to my fridge. To get together with a local group of women, I've been jotting down notes and researching organizations. Now I need to invite others into my idea so it can become action.

Will we meet our goals? Maybe. Maybe not. But by breaking it down into small, achievable goals, we increase our chances.

By all means, make your resolution, choose your word, and dream big. I know I will. What would the world be without dreamers and visionaries, movers and shakers? But then we must take action. We must make small plans to reach a bigger goal. The world needs our best self, so let's give it to her. Let's become kinder, stronger, healthier, more empathetic, more introspective, more loving, more committed to this beautiful and terrible world in which we live.

Let's do this, people. Expect toddlers to wake up too early, chocolate cake to taste delicious, falling off the exercise band wagon, dust bunnies to multiply, and someone to throw up during your sacred bible reading time. That's life. So let's be ready for it. Come on, movers and shakers. We need you!

Hit me with your best shot, friends. What are your goals, resolutions, or words for 2017? Let's support each other in putting our best self out there!

Friday, December 23, 2016

A girl stands beside the ocean

We walked up to the beach. Our two youngest had never before seen the vast grandeur of the ocean. The 8-year-old's mouth dropped open as he ran toward the water. The 3-year-old ran toward the water, ran back to me, ran back to the water, unable to even make sense of what he was seeing. I never tire of it, both the ocean's majesty and seeing my kids see the ocean.

They splashed and frolicked and played and marveled and I joined the fun at times, but I also stood back and watched them. Being with them in that setting, the smallness of little ol' us against the massive backdrop of the ocean, I felt a powerful nudge. Of all the people in all the places in all the years the world has been, I get to be here with them.

As a Christian, I believe that God created the world. I don't believe it as literally as many and I believe it more literally than a different many, but I believe it. So I sat there and I marveled what I saw before me and I marveled the joy and love it brought to my soul and I marveled the God that orchestrated it. The God who chose me to be their mama. The God who created this universe and created our family.

Sometimes we play a what if game. What if I hadn't gone to K College for a year? What if Jim hadn't just broken up with his girlfriend? What if we'd really never had kids like we thought? What if we walked away when marriage got stupidly difficult and the hurts piled up? What if? What if? A million what ifs make up a life and change a life.

Instead of a million alternate scenarios, all of our what ifs brought us to this beach with these people. I am theirs and they are mine, and, boy, am I forever grateful for these breaths I get to breathe with them and these days I get to share with them.

That doesn't mean all of the days are easy. Of course it doesn't mean that. We left our rental house in California to drive home and had a flat tire within 7 minutes and ran into a two hour traffic jam before we left the state. Two grown ups, four kids, and two dogs were in the car from 7:15 am to 11:20 pm and we were still 5 1/2 hours from home. The toddler finally fell asleep at about 12:30 am and woke us up at about 6:15 the next (actually, technically, the same) morning. That day didn't feel easy. We could have been really cranky about the whole thing. Instead we got the dogs out and ran a few laps around the block with the pooches and watched the trash truck collect trash from the alley while Jim and his ragamuffin team of fellows (our boys) changed the tire. Instead we listened to a few great books on CD, prayed for the people in the horrific crash that cause the two hour traffic jam, and felt so thankful that it wasn't us. New Kids on the Block's ultimate Christmas music cheesefest definitely helped the situation. As I belted out every word that I've known by heart since I was 12 years old, Asher looked at me as though he'd never seen me before and Jim looked at me as though he wished he'd never seen me before. It was AWESOME!

Now other days we'll say lots of swear words both loudly and under our breath about a flat tire and a gigantic traffic jam. I'm a busted up, flawed human trying my best. I'm married to a busted up, flawed human and we're raising four busted up, flawed humans. There's a lot of room for trouble in that equation.

But, gosh darnit, there are moments when I look at them and feel my heart could just leap out of my chest at the sight of these kids. There are moments my eyes blur with big, splashy tears at the goodness of it. There are moments I just keep repeating, "I am so thankful that we're here together. I am SO thankful that we're here together." These lovely, idyllic moments combined with those swear word, busted up moments teach me the life lessons I need so many reminders about. Lessons about gratitude and love, grace and patience, family and perseverance.

To get to those beautiful moments, we have to muck through the busted up moments. If we give up during the busted up moments, we never get the payoff of the idyllic moments. They are two sides of the same coin called family and love and life.

It's nearly Christmas and expectations are probably sky high. The perfect gift. The perfect posed picture in front of the perfect Christmas tree. The perfect meal with the perfectly behaved children and families. Please consider joining me in throwing those expectations right out of the front door. Christmas and family vacations are like weddings; something has to go wrong and there has to be at least one small hiccup, and those busted up moments, combined with the idyllic moments are what make up our lives.

Come to think of it, Christmas and family vacations and weddings are life. They are a few pieces in the great big puzzle of our beautiful, busted up life. Stand back. Enjoy the scenery. Throw out a few swear words when the plate of cookies gets dropped on the floor and thoroughly enjoyed by the naughty doggies. Cry when the diagnosis comes back positive or the pregnancy test comes back negative. Huddle in close to the people that are yours and you are theirs. Let them carry your pain when it's too heavy and carry theirs when your burden is lighter. Notice the beauty. Feel the pain. We really are in this together.

And standing next to the ocean with my people, I felt ridiculously fortunate for those that I get to be in it together with.

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Peace and love for the journey.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Enjoy every moment. (It's not what you think.)

On Sunday, I had to make a kid to sit down with the rest of our family (minus the dad who was toiling away on our molasses-slow basement remodel) to watch Home Alone for the first time instead of reading a book in a different room. Doesn't watching a movie sound torturous? Approximately 2 minutes later the kid was laughing with the rest of us, and we cracked up at the silly antics until the very end.

Earlier in the day, I had a kid who wanted to dress like a sheep for our church's Sunday School program/didn't want to dress like a sheep/did/didn't/did/didn't/did/didn't until finally it was show time and the final decision was didn't want to dress like a sheep.

But remember, it's the most wonderful time of the year.

We did 95% of our Christmas shopping on Small Business Saturday, so, armed with our list, a pen, and water bottles, we hit several of our town's little shops. At one shop, I spotted a towel with the advice "Enjoy every single moment" embroidered or stitched or ironed or whatever they do on to the towel. In another shop there was a sign that said something like Cherish every snowflake.

Come on. I like to embellish as much as the next person, but can we puh-lease stop feeding people the ridiculous line that every moment should be cherished, every snowflake is perfection, and the holiday season is all stuffed stockings and parties, new cars with ribbons on top and sublime Christmas meals where no one talks politics or the very noticeable absence of Joe's wife at the table or grandpa's DUI charge. Whether it's towels or signs or commercials or magazines, we get that message loud and clear, but it doesn't actually match up with reality.

I love Christmas. I love little traditions with our family and appreciate the chance to spend more time with family and let people know how much we love and appreciate them. I am an absolute sucker for Christmas music and agree with Buddy the Elf when he says, "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear." I'm not a bah-humbug kind of person.

I also realize that anytime we are told to appreciate EVERY moment or detail of something, we are bound to be disappointed. I love my kids. I also sometimes have to ask them to pick trash up off of their floor 18 times in one day, force them to watch a fun movie, or listen to a yes to sheep costume, no to sheep costume monologue for five minutes. I cherish my children. I don't cherish EVERY single moment with them or every single thing they do.

I love snow. I also get sick of shoveling four feet of it in early May or sliding around on the roads when my kids are in the backseat. I cherish snow and the changing of the seasons in this incredibly glorious and beautiful world we get to live in. I don't cherish EVERY single snowflake.

I love Christmas. I also get worried about spending too much money, neglect other parts of my life to allow more room for preparation, baking, and celebration, and miss my family in other parts of the country tremendously. I cherish the Advent and Christmas seasons. I don't cherish EVERY single moment from Black Friday to New Year's Day.

It's ridiculous when you really think about it, Life is a tragic love story comedy with a hearty dose of dark humor, a fair amount of villains, and, thankfully, plenty of heroes and heroines. Life is beautiful and hard, with moments that leave us gobsmacked and breathless at the goodness of it and others that leave us on our knees begging for the pain to end. To try to make our complex lives into a rosy little fairy tale robs us of all the people and experiences that allow us, encourage us, and force us to grow as humans.

So, go ahead. Cherish Christmas. Cherish your family and your friends. Cherish fresh powder on a stunning mountain. Cherish this life we have the grand pleasure of living. But don't buy into the garbage that every moment of our lives should be wonderful and that we should avoid pain or discomfort at all costs. There is not one single person living that reality. Maybe it looks like it from the outside, but that just means that person is better at hiding it than others. There is deep pain. There is redeeming love and light. There is hurt. There is joy and forgiveness, for us to give and to receive.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays. If you're in a miserably hard stage, please try to remember that this isn't the end of your story. (Also, please call me. You are not alone.Seriously. Call me. Text me. Email me.) If you're feeling fantastic, ride that vibe for as long as you possibly can and love the heck out of others who are struggling.


Friday, November 25, 2016

second and third and fourth and fifth chances

I'm about to get sappy about my spouse here, which doesn't happen often, but here goes. The reason it doesn't happen often is because for more time than either of us would like to admit, we have vaguely remembered loving each other, been constantly reminded of our deep commitment to our four, beloved children, yet treated each other more like enemies than friends, much less husband or wife.

It's the classic love story. It's the classic dissolution of love story. A mostly good woman married a mostly good man, and a mostly good man married a mostly good woman. Years passed, mostly good, happy years, but of course years with disagreements and arguments because we are humans. More years passed, and they had babies. The mama turned her focus to the babies, and the dada turned his focus to the job. They got into ruts.Communication faltered. Talk about money dwindled and led to arguments. Resentments grew and grew faster and bigger than Pinocchio's nose. She got bitter about all the travel, which he seemed to choose over her. He got bitter over her laser pointed focus on the babies, which she seemed to choose over him. Is it more complicated than that? Of course. Is it that simple? Actually, yes.

We all have our own story. Jim and I have been married over 19 years. It seems utterly impossible that it's been so long. It seems utterly impossible to remember a time that it wasn't "Jim and DeNae." A friend from church who has been married even longer than that recently told me that anyone married as long as we have who mostly likes their spouse have seen a counselor or gone on marriage retreats or done other things to help their marriage. Good marriages do not happen on their own. Even when mostly good men marry mostly good women, and mostly good women marry mostly good men. They need work. It's easy to get married and stay married because divorce is messy and expensive and who wants to enter the dating scene again, but that is no one's goal when they say I do. No one wants to wake up in 30 years sitting across the table from someone they vaguely remember loving, but have absolutely nothing to say to now.

Yesterday I sat around the Thanksgiving table with my husband, our four kiddos, my mom and her husband, and my friend from high school. When asked what I was thankful for, it was easy to choose. Through tears and lots of awkward pauses, I said something along the lines of, "I am thankful for second and third and fourth and fifth chances at getting relationships right. I am thankful that my husband and I didn't give up on each other. I am thankful for the four awesome kids we have as a result of that. I am thankful for family and friends that hurt for the world and then work for the world."

Jim and I have been clinging to the rocky ledge of a thing called marriage for a long time. There have been times it seemed that leaving would be easier than fighting for our marriage and staying, but we just kept clinging, fingers slipping, strength faltering. A few weekends ago we attended a weekend long marriage retreat that brought many things to light, reminded us of our commitment to each other, and reminded us that we are actually gifts to each other. Well, that felt like a newsflash to us! We decided maybe it was time to start acting like it. We also decided that we can't go back and fix 20 years of disagreements and hurt, but we can start here and move forward. So that's what we're doing. And it's really, really good. There are times it's also really, really hard.

I'm not going to run off and start my book on how to have a successful marriage. Not a chance. Instead, I'm going to write this, hopefully as an encouragement to those who are in the trenches of looking at their spouse with more venom than love, more anger than compassion. And I'm going to ask you to remind me, someday down the road when I've got more venom and anger than love and compassion, that I am his gift and he is mine.

I have always said that being a wife is the hardest thing in my life. I'm naturally selfish and I don't like to fold laundry and I don't care if it sits in random piles all over our bedroom and I get tired of having the same arguments over and over so I get sarcastic and use my words as caustic weapons. Trying to fight the natural tendencies of all of that to be a kind and loving wife just doesn't come easily to me. But I'm trying harder than ever before because I want to wake up in 20 years and love the man I'm sitting across the table from. I want to give my children the greatest gift I could ever, ever give them, which is the gift of seeing a loving and functional husband and wife relationship so they have a better chance at having one themselves.

Today I'm thankful for the second and third and four and fifth chance to do just that. I know I'll need many more chances in the future. Thankfully I married a guy who won't give up on me. I'll happily return the favor.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

moving forward

It's Thursday. Two days since I dropped off my ballot, well researched and varied among Democrats and Republicans, male and female. But the top was clearly marked for Hillary Rodham Clinton. I believed and still believe that she was the best candidate on the ballot. One day since I found out that our President-elect is a man named Donald Trump.

In that day, I have cried and screamed. I have taken my no-bra, smelly teeth, pajama wearing self and my pajama wearing toddler to the grocery store for doughnuts because I couldn't think about feeding the small humans breakfast and because deep-fried, sugary carbs seemed like as good an idea as anything. I have seen the first waves of racism, anti-Semitism, and hatred float across my computer screen like a horrifying dream. I have talked with my kids many, many times.

In that day, I gave myself time to be sad. I gave myself time to eat doughnuts and sit in my dirty pajamas and read books under warm blankets with my kiddos, cry and laugh and rant.

In that day, I spent too much time staring at a computer screen. I've read the article that says we're all going to hell in a handbasket, then another that says it won't be so bad, another that says we're royally screwed, another that says to pause, breathe, and give it time. I've tried to deliver thoughtful responses to ridiculously tricky situations and horribly racist statements, and sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I failed. When I realized that I really failed, I went back to delete my response and let the person know I had more time to reflect and realized it wasn't helpful or constructive. I'm still learning and growing. Aren't we all?

That day is over. Yesterday was the time to be sad; today is the time to rally. Today the kids and I bake bread for our church to sell at the Alternative Gift Fair benefiting many local non-profit organizations. We write thank you notes to a family friend who gave them candy for Halloween. We read books and build with magna-blocks and study Latin and trace maps.

I'm not sure what's ahead. There is uncertainty, and even more uncertainty than usual with a changing of the President considering our President-elect has no public service for us to base our best guesses on. In spite of national and international uncertainties, I am certain that when I look at this houseful of beautiful, intelligent, kind, flawed, loving kids, I have hope. How could I not? I am certain that the person residing in the White House doesn't change who we are and what we stand for and how we love.

I wake up clinging to the good of people and I go to sleep clinging to the same darn thing. Some days it leaves my knuckles white, all of that clinging. I wake up clinging to belief in the power of God and the love of Jesus and I go to sleep clinging to the same darn things. Some days the nails chip and break, what with all of that clinging.

I have to believe that most people want what is best for our country; we just believe there are different ways to get there. I have to believe that we have more commonalities than differences. I have to believe that more people will stand up, loudly, proudly, and vocally, when we see injustices against any of our brothers and sisters. I have to believe that love and light will win.

So where do we go from here? Where do I go from here? The kids and I have talked about the increased need to stand alongside those who are being mistreated. We've talked about volunteering our time. We've talked about being the peace and love that this world so badly needs. Then we argued about who had to clean up the Lego's in the family room, but we're not shooting for perfection here, people. Because we live in an unincorporated town, there is no traditional local government. That makes my quest to get more involved in local politics trickier, but not impossible by any stretch of the imagination. There are still refugees to support and hurting kids to love and struggling families to lift up. Meals to pack, hugs to share, money to donate, time to volunteer. More time to listen and seek understanding in our beautiful and terrible world. (quote by the brilliant Frederick Buechner.)

At this point it's just babbling. I just needed to put words on "paper." I just needed a reference point, a before, for what's to come for our family and country and world. I cling to hope. I do a lot of clinging these days. Whether you're cheering the outcome or lamenting the future or some in between hopeful hand wringing, we're all clinging to something. May we cling, celebrate, and lament together. May we all believe we are Stronger Together, even if we didn't vote for the woman behind the slogan.

Peace for the journey,