At the Top of These Stairs

I have spent countless, late-night hours nursing babies at the top of these stairs. It’s quiet and peaceful, if not the most comfortable place to sit. When my sweet Sunshine (my first baby) was born, I set up a whole nursing station with a cozy chair, books I was reading, phone charger, snacks, water . . . but with the boys, we were so far behind before we even got started, nothing like that ever came together. I used to bring them into our bed to nurse, but once we moved them out of our room, it felt like more trouble than it was worth. More and more often, I found myself stopping just outside their door and sitting down on this top step.

Sometimes, I think about what I need to get done that week or words I’d like to write. Sometimes, I think about the kids’ antics that day and make plans for fun and interesting things we can do later. I make grocery lists, budget, and sometimes read . . .

But on nights like this one, and there have been many, I just stare at the top of their heads and think about them–their whole lives from the moment I met them to this one: noting how much their hair has grown and how long they’re getting, mapping the feel of their weight in my arms, measuring their feet with my palms, pressing kisses into their soft hands, and watching them slowly-slowly drift back to sleep against my chest.

Then I sit here, much longer than necessary, the words from a book I loved as a child but didn’t understand at all echoing through my mind:

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”

Pandemic Thoughts

I really don’t like conflict. I like for everyone to feel good and be comfortable. So much so that I’ve had my head in a hole for months to avoid the anxiety of sorting through the logistics of relationships in a particularly controversial time. Now, I’ve put on my big girl pants and I’m dusting off my copy of Difficult Conversations.

That said, I plan to continue keeping my social media mostly all about kids, dogs, horses, writing, and all that brings me peace or joy. That’s the best reflection of me and I prefer to scream into the actual void over the electronic one.

I am deeply skeptical of being on a team when it comes to politics and I’ve never been more confident in my choice to be a registered independent.

I will never choose politics over the people I care about.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions or that I’m unwilling to discuss them.

Whenever there are millions on both sides of a given issue, the term “sheep” doesn’t really fit, does it? Or perhaps it fits everyone, just with different shepherds?

I wish I still didn’t know how many people in my life and the world at large think I’m stupid, naive, content to be ruled by my government overlords, and happy to throw away my own and others’ freedom.

I imagine there are lots of other people wishing they didn’t know how many people in their lives and in the world at large think they’re stupid, racist, fascist, and happy to murder their countrymen.

I still believe that most of us are pretty much the same–just acting and speaking on differently prioritized fears. Which is not a reason to ignore issues or quit fighting for what you believe in, but might be a better place to start.

There’s always a way forward and you can’t legislate a person’s heart.

To Err is Human . . .

to forgive divine. ~Alexander Pope

When Tristan died, I lost my best and closest friend. I’ll never have all the right words together at once to describe how I feel about him, so I’m going to leave it at that. Besides, this post isn’t actually about Tristan. It’s about my other precious horses–Daisy and SoCo.

We were all devastated when he died. And when I should have been out there with them, grieving and showing them how much I love them, showing them we were all going to be okay, I was hiding in the house. For the first few months, I couldn’t even look at them, it hurt so much.

When I did finally make my way out to the barn, it was just to take care of chores–feeding, watering, mucking. A year after he passed, I finally went back into the tack room only to find that my tack was moldy. MOLDY. Even as I type this, I haven’t been back in his stall, I haven’t used my saddle (although I did thoroughly clean and condition it), and I haven’t thrown out the rest of the bag of beet pulp we were using to help him put on weight. I have a lot of work to do.

But what I have done over the past year, is reconnect to my loves who are still here. It hurt at first–going out there and not just taking care of business, but breathing them in and loving them, letting them love me back. And they do. Despite my pulling away in fear, knowing how much it hurts to lose those I love so much, they held back nothing. And how silly to pull away when I still loved them just the same all along. Pulling away doesn’t make it hurt less to lose who you love, it just leads to regret and wasted time.

To err is human, thankfully, horses are divine.

Where to Begin?

There’s so much of the past three years I want to write and I plan to write it all but where to begin?

It started with losing Tammy–a person who helped me become the woman I am, who always saw the best in me and let me know it. She was much too young, it was so unexpected, and before I could catch my breath, I was faced with the decision to put down my dog, Why?lee. Why?lee was seventeen at the time and we’d spent fifteen of those years together. It was brutal, but at his age, I knew it was coming. Three months later, my horse Tristan had to be put down suddenly. He was twenty eight and we’d spent eighteen of those years together. Despite his age, I was unprepared and completely wrecked.

Two months after that, I had a miscarriage, and in another two months I was pregnant with twins, our cars broke down at the same time, my pregnancy was a nightmare of violent illness every single day for seven months. I got so dehydrated from vomiting, I had to go to the ER for an IV.

Then we lost Kerry–one of the best humans I’ll ever meet. I wasn’t actually related to him, but he was soul-family to me and he will always be one of my highest role models. And then we lost Brent, a good man and a good friend, for devastating and unfathomable reasons I still can’t wrap my heart around.

The past three years I’ve felt like I’m always just one half-step away from a complete breakdown. It’s too much. Too much loss, too much sadness, too much worry. I am unimaginably grateful for my friends and my family, my amazing neighbors who just keep showing up even though I struggle to reciprocate, for this beautiful place where I get to watch my three, precious babies experience so much joy and wonder. Because it’s been some of the hardest living I’ve ever had to do.

Looking back, it’s easy to see that I was not, in fact, a half step away from a complete breakdown. I fell right over that edge and did have a breakdown. A breakdown doesn’t necessarily mean a complete inability to function. For me it looked like a lot of cancelled plans, a lot of not responding, not sleeping, not brushing my teeth, not taking enough showers. I stopped trying to process my grief. I stopped making plans and trying to connect. I stopped reading. I stopped riding. I stopped everything. I’d forget my thyroid medication, forget to eat, forget to respond to texts. My whole life became one minute to the next, one foot in front of the other, one absolutely necessary task at a time.

And now I’m here, having drifted so far only to come right back to the same realization that I had in the midst of my cancer treatment–this is my life and time presses on whether I’m truly living it or not. I have lost so many but there are so many who are still here. I am still here. And for what? . . . if all I do with my time is shuffle one minute to the next? I need to write out this dark chapter so I can finally close it.

So I’m straightening my shoulders and picking up the reins (and my pen ; ), even though I haven’t quite decided where I’m going yet. I know I’m ready to leave here. I’ve turned a corner and whatever comes next, I’m meeting it head on . . . in clean clothes . . . with my teeth brushed . . . and my lipstick on.

It’s Time, I Suppose

It’s time, I suppose, that I really looked at myself–my eyes, my body, my life.
“How have you been?” I might ask
but probably I won’t
because the answer is “I’ve been with the children.”
I already know.
Instead, perhaps, I could say
“What color of lipstick would you like to wear?” or
“Those shirts are so old and worn, let’s find something new.”

It’s time, I suppose, that I pulled out my notebooks
my scribbles, my art
and pored over them again
to remember where I was
when I quit writing.
My fingers have been drumming
on the dining room table
writing out a grocery list that goes
Broccoli
Avocados
Milk
the milk spilled
we must have more
Cream
my coffee needs
I need
a break from boring lists
to write about how I love
living near the wild things
where tall trees bang into each other
when the wind whips up
and dark clouds rush overhead
heavy with hail and snow and
it’s so cold
I can focus on one thing at a time
Butter
Flour
Eggs
Sigh.

It is time, I suppose
because I’m restless
and the children are napping
and I can’t remember who I was
I can’t remember what I was doing
what was important
before they came.
Not that I plan to try and go back
I don’t so much want to go back
as to figure out where to start
becoming who I am now.

It’s time, I suppose
after I finish this list
after I put together something for dinner
something with the jalapenos
which are about to go bad
a few diaper changes
some fresh pajamas
it’s almost time
bedtime is soon
I’ll tuck them in
and kiss their sweet heads
read a few stories
then it will be dark
and quiet
then I’ll start
maybe pour a glass of wine
then I’ll decide
where to begin
becoming who I am now.

Where I’ve Been

I’ve been wandering the woods
with messy hair
wearing babies
sipping cold coffee
thinking about what to make for dinner
and budgeting in my head
for car repairs,
the basement,
the leaky water heater . . .

I’ve been sharing everything about life that amazes me
with my children.
I want them to feel that amazement in their souls
and always know where to look for joy.

I’ve been awake a lot.
But not exactly awake.

I’ve been setting up the art table
and cleaning up the art table
folding and putting away the dress up clothes
switching out the six month clothes for the nine month,
the nine month clothes for the twelve month, the twelve
for the eighteen . . .
I’ve been making bread
making pie
making play dough
making memories
with my wild child and my sweet baby boys.

I’ve been walking into the wind
that is grief.
Wearing myself out wishing
for isn’t and can’t.

I’ve been waiting to shower until the next day
or the next
Waiting
until the boys are napping
to brush my teeth
to start prep for dinner
to get the laundry started or folded or sorted
or at least kicked into one corner of the bathroom.

I’ve been waiting
for everyone to fall asleep
so I can fall asleep.

I’ve been so very sad and so very tired.
Having lost and left more in the last four years
than the thirty-two prior to that combined.

And I don’t know what this next year holds
If it will be better or worse
a respite or another rip tide
But
I feel strong today
stronger than I’ve felt in a long time.

We. Ours. Us.

What has happened to we? To ours? To us?

Every day I look at Facebook–a medium that was not designed for in-depth discussion or debate, and I scroll through so many disrespectful, ugly, one-liners–cheap laughs at the expense of our ability to have community.

Every day I look on Instagram–a medium that was not designed for in-depth discussion or debate, and see complex, important issues reduced beyond their fundamental elements until they are unrecognizable, inaccurate, anger-bait.

No matter the medium, they’ve all become flooded with fingertips venting frustration with the world in the most unhelpful ways.  Preaching only for their respective choirs, but making sure the whole congregation can hear.

There’s so much we all agree on and could start changing for the better, but instead we expend our energy and time and resources bickering about trees while the forest burns to the ground around us.  You guys, WE are the forest.

We all want to talk but no one is listening.

We’re so busy cannibalizing each others impotent, online trash talk we don’t have any time or energy left for what matters.

And I’m not leaving.  I’m not pulling my Facebook profile or deleting people I disagree with.  I’m not ditching Instagram or taking a break.

I’m here.  And when I’m angry or frustrated or confused about the opinions of others, I’m going to ask them questions then I’m going to listen to their answers, respectfully, even if I disagree so hard it hurts.

I’m here.  If someone has questions for me about my viewpoint, I’ll do my best to respectfully explain my position, even if those questions are not respectfully asked.

No one’s mind or heart is changed by what we ban or what we destroy or break or pull down. (Though, these forms of protest have their rightful place for other reasons.)

No one’s mind or heart is changed by being humiliated, shamed, mocked, or otherwise belittled.

Listening is our most powerful tool for disarming anger, fear, and hatred.  Listening is our most powerful tool for understanding prejudices—none of which can be dismantled until they are understood.

Sharing fact-checked, non-partisan, intelligently worded, and kindly meant information is the best way to reach people who are willing to consider your viewpoint.

Listen, love, and offer grace when gifted with someone else’s truths, especially their difficult or ugly truths.

None of this is to say there’s no place for protest, contacting congressmen and women, sharing injustices to raise awareness, etc.  So many of our societal systems are so broken that sometimes exposure and protest are the only ways to force those systems to do what is just.

I’m writing this because I think we get so caught up in fighting the system, we forget that systems are created by and composed of individuals.  And those individuals do not usually have changes of heart due to protests.

If we want to actually change the system instead of periodically forcing the system to be fair, then we have to change hearts.

If we want to change hearts, we have to understand them.

If we want to understand them, we have to listen

even though we don’t want to,

even though we don’t think we should have to,

even though it’s hard.

Only Mostly Dead

IMG_0453This morning after the babies were fed and the horses and the dogs, I went outside to water my Mother’s Day plants from last year. It is no secret that I am the worst with plants. You’d think with how much I love my children and animals, I would be able to figure out how to to nurture a plant, but I’ve proven time and again over the years that I simply can’t. In fact, this is one of the first two plants that have remained in my care for a full year and survived. I use the term “survived” somewhat loosely here in the sense that mostly they both died. But as we all know from watching The Princess Bride, there’s a big difference between “all dead” and “mostly dead.”

In any case, they are still trying and so I am still trying and as I poured water over them this morning, it crossed my mind that these plants remind me of, well, me right now.

When they were given to me, they were absolutely lush. One was brimming over with beautiful, purple petunias and the other had the most beautiful hot pink and bright yellow flowers flowing over the sides. I remember when we first moved here, I felt just like that. Sad to have left my family and friends and a fantastic job in Idaho, but also full of hope for the future and joy at finally starting a life with my family in our own home.

But over the past two and some years, we lost our beautiful friend Tammy, I lost my dog of fifteen years–Why?lee and then my horse of seventeen years–Tristan.  Then I had a miscarriage, and almost immediately after, found myself pregnant with surprise twins.  And now we are losing Kerry–a man I love so much, who has had an immense influence on who I am and someone I can’t imagine the west without.

For any of you who have been in the ocean on a rough day, it’s like when a wave rips your feet out from under you, rolls you up like a burrito and smashes your face in the sand. I can hardly catch my breath before the next wave hits and I’m exhausted and I’m sad.

Yet, here I am trying, much like these plants. And what occurred to me this morning that inspired me to write, is that with just a bit of water and sun, a bit of care on stormy days, these plants will continue to hang on until I can get the formula right for them to thrive. I’ve been doing the same, just along with a bit of sun and water, I’ve been soaking up the love and care (and daiquiris) of a good man, my precious children, the humor and love of my friends, the unending support of my family, quiet cups of coffee when I can, our horses, dogs, and cat, the incredible generosity and kindness of our neighbors, and the stunningly beautiful land we call home.

All of these things have kept me fed while I grieve and start piecing together someone new out of what’s left of my life from before and all the beautiful pieces that have been falling into place along the way. I am not one to talk much when I’m in the middle of things. I prefer to write my way through the the good, bad, and ugly, but if you’re reading this, odds are high that you’ve been counted among my blessings these past few years and I thank you for your presence in my life.

And if you yourself are feeling mostly dead like my plants, or like you’re a burrito being rolled up by a rough sea, just one mouthful of sand away from more than you can take;

hang in there.

One breath at a time, one foot in front of the other, eyes peeled and heart open for the water and sun we need to keep going, before we know it, we’ll be on our way to thriving again.
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Some Days (3rd Trimester Edition)

Some days I feel like a goddess–powerful, strong, sustaining life with the miracle that is my body . . .

And some days I feel like an over-stretched sack of humans, fraying at the edges and straining at the seams.

Some days I feel accomplished–homemade, healthy dinner on the table, laundry done, toddler happy and tired from a day of outside adventure . . .

And some days I feel like putting on pants is more of a challenge than I have the will to take on.

Some days I feel happy knowing my babies are coming soon and I’ll have two sweet, tiny boys to snuggle and feed . . .

And some days all I can think about is the sheer volume of gross bodily fluids I will be cleaning up for the next two-three years.

Some days, I look at my handsome husband in awe of all that he is to me and to our growing family–how hard he works, how much of my slack he takes up as I get more and more ungainly, and how much love, time, and energy he gives to me and our daughter.

And some days, I want to punch him in the throat for telling me he understands how I feel or complaining that his back hurts or whining as he slowly and dramatically perishes of a “man-cold.”

Some days, I think to myself I am never having another child as long as I live after these two . . .

And some days . . . just kidding, that one is actually all of the days.  ; )

 

The Worst Pregnant Person I Know

It’s important to note before reading this blog that it is not about depression. If you are having scary or dangerously unhappy thoughts there’s absolutely no shame in that but please let someone know how you’re feeling.  Depression of all degrees is common during pregnancy, you are not alone, and help is never as far away as it seems. 

The worst pregnant person I know . . .

is me.

Pregnancy just isn’t my thing.  Yeah, yeah, I’m aware it’s miraculous, I am amazed at what our bodies can do, I feel blessed to be able to bring children into the world (While pregnancy isn’t my thing, I love children. ; ), I just . . . don’t enjoy it–any of it.

I’m not much for bump pictures.

I don’t love feeling them move, though it’s nice to be reminded they’re okay in there. (I mean, that is my bladder they’re doing headstands on . . .)

And I don’t get particularly excited about gender or ultrasound photos or nursery decorating or . . . any of it really.

We are now at 22 weeks into this twin pregnancy and I have lost any semblance of interest in “real” pants (yes, even the maternity ones).  To that end, I’ve purchased five pairs of fold-over yoga pants and four pairs of serious but quite stretchy leggings that I consider my “nice pants.”

Most days I eat what anyone would consider a full meal every three-four hours with snacks in between and still just manage to gain weight as I should for twins.  This is, thus far, the only true benefit to being pregnant I can discern (other than getting my sweet babies when it’s over, that is : ).

Because I am pregnant with twins, the medical community has honored my pregnancy earlier than most with the title, “Geriatric Pregnancy” and they like to refer often to my “Advanced Maternal Age” when explaining tests.  Jerks.

In short, I’m just not a glowing, excitable, example of prenatal joy.  When I was pregnant with my first baby, my lack of excitement and general grouchiness about the whole thing was upsetting and certainly guilt-inducing.

I was afraid I wouldn’t love my daughter like a mother should.  I felt guilty for not savoring each moment when I know there are so many who go through so much to be pregnant and for not wanting to participate in celebrating each new development along the way.  I didn’t like talking about it because everyone around me was so happy and excited and I just wasn’t.

Then she was born.
And, for me, in that instant, everything changed.

I knew without a single doubt that I loved her beyond anything I had ever known before and that has held true.  I have absolutely loved being a mama.  I have loved watching her grow and experience new things.  I have loved holding her and feeding her and taking her places and getting to know her unique personality.

So this time, I’m not surprised to feel frustrated, uncomfortable, and generally annoyed with the physical state of pregnancy, but unlike last time, I’ve let go of the anxiety and decided not to feel bad about it.

If you’re pregnant and you aren’t enjoying it either, that’s okay.  I think it’s perfectly normal to not feel like celebrating when you’re pregnant.  Lots of people don’t want to celebrate a three month long stomach flu, constant nausea, terrible lower back pain, peeing when you sneeze (or laugh or throw up, etc), suddenly having to overhaul your entire diet to suit the whims of the beasts within, not sleeping well for months at a time, and so many more “fun” side effects.

It doesn’t mean you won’t love your child.  It doesn’t mean you’re crazy.  It doesn’t make you a bad person.

And for all of  my friends and family who are so excited for me, that’s okay, too!  I couldn’t possibly be more grateful to know that my children are so loved and anticipated by such an incredible community before they’re even born.  Just bear with me, I’ll have a lot more fun with it all in a few months.  Promise.  ; )
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