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.