The Lipstick Letters Revival

My husband bought me fifteen shades of lipstick for Christmas. FIFTEEN SHADES. Just opening the box gave me such a rush of happiness and inspiration!

Some of you may remember an old blog series I started and let languish almost ten years ago. It was about beauty and confidence and the things we think about ourselves that we come to realize aren’t true. It was based on how badly I wanted to be a woman who could wear red lipstick. I’d tried a few different shades but it always looked terrible and I was sure it was because my lips were too small or the wrong shape or that I just didn’t have the personality to carry it off.

Thankfully, I mentioned it to my best friend from high school who also happened to be a brilliant make-up artist for M.A.C. A few weeks later, I went to visit her and she surprised me with an amazing bagful of lipstick, gloss, and liner in every shade you can imagine! But, best of all, she took the time to teach me how to apply it. This is a photo I took on my birthday that same year:

Turns out, I was always a woman who could wear red lipstick. And I love this photo because you can literally see my newfound confidence shining in my expression.

Anyway, that was then and this is now and these fifteen shades of opportunity are calling me to do something fun. Over the past five years I’ve struggled with so much loss, grief, and depression on top of new babies and a pandemic, its been a challenge finding the time and energy to work through the losses and all the shifts in my identity. I initially intended to revive the Lipstick Letters as they were and write about body image as a mother of three, but nothing sounded right so I held off.

Then, I had an enlightening moment while scrolling through Instagram, where several of my incredibly talented friends were doing their thing and sharing the results. There were home-cooked meals with food they grew themselves, woven rugs, quilts in progress, redecorated rooms, you name it! And as I scrolled, a feeling of envy grew and grew until I realized it, set my phone down, and asked myself what that was all about. After a short moment of reflection, I had to laugh; I wasn’t jealous of WHAT these lovely humans were doing, I was jealous THAT they were doing at all! Successfully devoting a portion of their time and resources to things that are important to them.

My jealousy evaporated in an instant and, in it’s place, I found new curiosity and determination. Aside from being a mama and a wife, what am I doing? It’s been several dark and busy years since I felt it last, but I still recognize this particular kind of restlessness–it’s boredom. God love my beautiful, amazing children who are so fun and satisfying to raise; they absolutely do not challenge and fulfill every element of my being. Nor should they.

So I’m setting only one rule for this reboot: I can’t write about my kids here. This series is about me taking an intentional step outside my beloved role as mama to delve into other much-loved and missed parts of who I am. We’re going further than skin deep where it’s less about the lipstick on my lips (though there will still be plenty of that) and more about what puts lipstick on my soul. Many thanks to Scarlet for that perfect turn of phrase.

Going forward, each new post will feature a different shade, but for this first one, here I am in my messy living room with no make up at all. Just me, feeling hopeful about life, and excited to drag all of you along with me while I figure out what to do with myself.


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.”

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.

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.
IMG_0465

 

In the Garden (a mushy repost from 2013)

I have been aching to write and working on new things when I can, but while I do that, I’m going to go ahead and repost a few favorite oldies.  This one was written in the spring of 2013 when Carl and I had been married three years and were reviving his hop tower for its second season.  It feels like the perfect time to share it again.  Partly because this summer we’ll have been married ten years.  Partly because we’re almost ready to transplant our seed starts to the garden box outside.  And mostly because I still feel just this way about my man.  : )

Redneck Hop Farming

 

In the Garden

I am watching our hands in the garden
yours with the snips cutting away,
mine pulling last year’s dried vines
from the soft green shoots trying to come up

I am watching our hands in the garden
yours are big and calloused
but I find only gentleness and comfort in them.
While mine seem so small by comparison
but I don’t have to prove their strength
or worth to you.

I am watching our hands in the garden
and I love the way they work
together, yet apart
different tasks but a common goal . . .

Our wedding rings gleam in the fading sunlight
as our fingers dance in the dirt
we are building more than a hop garden–
we are tending our dreams.

Awkward Girl: My Favorite Untold Story

Hello friends.  I’ve been feeling anxious, exhausted, and generally overwhelmed by life lately and I know I’m not the only one.  So I’m setting down my worries for a moment to tell you all an Awkward Girl story I have never told before.

It was 2014, Awkward Girl had a pretty great job working for a hospital as a lead over the departments specializing in financial care for patients who couldn’t afford their bills.  It was work she was passionate about, but she had a few frustrations with the way things were going.

One night, she was looking up contact information for a particular county’s Director of Indigent Services only to find that the person who had been in that role a decade or so had recently retired and the position was OPEN.

Awkward Girl wrestled with this information for the rest of the evening.  She was only a lead and had never even held the title of supervisor so it seemed unlikely that anyone would consider her qualified to be a director of anything, much less the largest indigent services department in the state.  That said, she read the list of qualifications over and over again and there were only a couple things she wasn’t already familiar with, nothing she felt she couldn’t learn.

The next morning she mentioned it casually to her mom who immediately said, “You have to apply.  If you don’t get it, who cares, but if you DO get it . . . just think about that.”  Her cousin, already a director in the company she was working for, said much the same, “DO IT.” Her uncle, her husband, her dad, everyone was in agreement.  So Awkward Girl straightened her shoulders and got to work on her application.

She was stunned when she got the call to schedule an interview.  Stunned and suddenly terrified.  Whatever bold thoughts had lead her to click submit deserted her entirely and she felt very much like a small dog who thought she wanted to run with the big dogs but should have probably stayed on the porch.  She had no idea how to act or what to say in a director level interview and, most importantly to this tale, she had no idea what to wear.

With less than a week to prepare, she and her mother went out the next day to shop for something that said, “No, really, I know what my application says, but I can do this!”  The previous director had always worn suits so that’s where they started.

Two jackets, twenty button downs, and one pencil skirt later, they found “The One.”  It was light, it was summery, it was almost comfortable and they found an amazing, twist-front, white shirt with a crisp collar that made Awkward Girl feel like her awkward melted away as she tucked it in.

A few days later it was show time.  Awkward Girl had been practicing, rereading statutes, and generally driving herself crazy, but when she woke up that morning she was calm.  Her husband took her shirt and pants to iron them (yes, Awkward Girl’s husband does the ironing . . . she’s not just awkward, she’s also slightly lacking in most domestic skills!) and when he came back, there had been a terrible mistake.

The suit slacks were cotton, the shirt was not and where her once beautiful, crisp, white shirtsleeves had been, were two, brown, perfectly flat, melted together disasters.  There was no salvaging “The One,” so she put on the “The Other One” a blue button down she’d also grabbed hoping she’d need it one day soon . . .

But looking in the mirror, her confidence was shot.  The blue just didn’t have the same affect.  So . . . she went back to the white shirt . . . stared at it a moment . . . really, it was just the sleeves that were ruined . . . would they even show with her jacket on?

She carefully, gently, and with great precision, ripped the sleeves off, put the shirt back on, pulled her jacket on over it, and with a deep breath went to the mirror.  Perfection!  Well . . . at least it looked that way.

Instead of practicing interview questions on the way to her interview that day, she practiced what she would say if anyone offered to take her jacket, or if it was hot and someone recommended she remove it, which thankfully no one did.

She was all business on the outside (I mean, look at those eyes, they practically scream, “HIRE ME!  ALSO, I DID NOT RIP THE SLEEVES OFF OF MY FANCY SHIRT!”:
image0

But underneath, she looked more “Hey ya’ll, pick me! I’m real good at directing things!”
larry-cable-guy-main(Photo: Steve Snowden/Getty Images)

Two interviews later, Awkward Girl was offered and accepted that position!  Which turned into the best job she’d ever had.  The moral of the story?  You don’t need every single qualification in a job posting (Heck, you don’t necessarily even need a whole shirt!)! If you’re willing to work hard and learn, you should always throw your hat in the ring.

Until next time, embrace your awkward, my friends!  : )

 

What do you do . . .

when instead of the one baby you thought you were having, you find out you’re having two?

I can’t answer for you or anyone else, I’m sure the range of emotions is wide and deep on this one, but I can answer for myself because this is exactly what happened to my husband and I at our ultrasound appointment this past Thursday.

My first thought was that it explained a lot.  Like why I’ve been showing so much more than I did with my first and why I’ve been so much sicker this time around. Then I sort of floated in some strange space where nothing matters until we got to the car.  That’s when the tears started.  I hadn’t planned on having three children.  We were going to stop at two.  One for each hand has always been what I thought I could handle best.  How can I hold two newborns, feed two newborns, and still keep up with my sweet, wild Sunshine who will be about three when they arrive?

*A quick note for anyone who’s thinking I’m unhappy about twins; that simply isn’t true.  These babies are mine and I already love them fiercely.  This is not a story about wishing children away.  This is a story about changing expectations, shifting realities, and how life has a funny way of keeping us on our toes.*

While still sobbing and imagining a terrible six months where I never left my house and my poor toddler was stuck inside being miserable with me, I went to Google on my phone and typed “twin baby gear” in the search field.

Now, this might shock you as much as it shocked me, but apparently people have been having twins/multiples for literally thousands of years and ummmm, they’ve actually already come up with some pretty great ways to cope with the additional workload.  ; )

I mopped up  my eyes, blew my nose into a napkin from the glove box, and started telling Carl about everything I was finding.  Turns out, this is going to be really hard, but people do it all the time and we’re going to be just fine.  Not to mention, the minute we broke the news to our families, offers of help in all forms and fashions came pouring in which has done wonders for a good portion of my anxiety.

That was a few days ago and the news has continued to sink in slowly but steadily.  I can already feel them move and watching them move together on the ultrasound screen was absolutely surreal.  I’m going to be a mother to three beautiful children and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.  Part of which, means taking care of myself.

Like right now for instance, while the love of my life takes our sweet Sunshine to run errands at Lowe’s and the Co-op.  The minute the door closed behind them, I flipped on my new diffuser, cut the elastic waistband out of my pajama pants, and mixed up and applied my clay mask.  There’s going to be lots of time to plan, and worry, and read, and worry, for now I think I’ll go have a bath.  : )mask