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

Unburdening

Sometimes, no matter how hard you pray, no matter how many right steps you take, no matter how badly you want or need something to go a certain way . . . it doesn’t.

And the end result is this thing–dark and heavy, ugly and mean, that sits on your sternum, but can move in a blink to your throat.

It’s everything you wish you’d done differently.

Everything you want to be but aren’t.

Everything you so desperately hoped would happen that never will–

The path you can’t take.

And somehow it goes with you on the path you’re on

until you dig it out

set it down

and

walk away.

 

 

 

 

Of Course

Of course I am lucky.

Lucky to have had them,

lucky they lived so long

lucky to have loved them so deeply

and felt that love returned ten-fold.

Of course I understand.

I understand they live shorter lives than we do,

that it was always going to come to this and

that I did all I could with all I had

to keep them here and happy and healthy.

Of course it will get better.

Of course life will move forward and so will I.

One step will become twenty will become a thousand

and I’ll be in another time

where missing them is not white hot and searing

but a golden glow–

warm sweet memories I can sit beside . . .

1

And of course,

none of this helps at all.

Welcome to Grief,

where knowledge is not power

and there is no way out but through.

My Pleasure

It is my pleasure (if also my pain)
To turn and wait,
as you amble along
stopping to rest here and there
pretending to sniff
when we both know you’re quite tired.
I remember well how you used
to turn and wait
cocking your head
as I tried in vain to keep up
with your racing paws.

It is my pleasure (if also my pain)
to forgo the kibble you have eaten all your life (17 years!)
but do not eat anymore
with your old dog teeth.
You may have the
tastiest morsels of meat
from our table
you have earned them.

It is my pleasure (if also my pain)
to clean up without fussing
when outside is too far
for old hips and thin cartilage
between well-loved joints
that have carried you so many miles.
I wish we could do them all again.

It is my pleasure (if also my pain)
to curl up in your bed with you at night
to rub your ears and scratch all around and over
the tumor that grows and grows
on your fine neck.
And to wipe your crusting eyes
and to remember old stories
of wonderful things we have done.

My sweet Why?lee,
what wonderful things we have done!
The places we’ve gone,
the people and animals we’ve met and loved . . .
how lucky we are to have enjoyed so much together.

It is my honor (if also my near to unbearable pain)
to know that this must be our last adventure–
your growing old, and my trying (if failing)
to let you go.

Spring 2017: The Flurry

Spring came late that year.  It was still bitter cold and snowing in late March.  The family had been making regular visits after that first and every time she heard them coming up the walk, she hoped that maybe, just maybe, that day would be the day they stayed.  In the meantime, she treasured each moment they spent with her, mostly sitting in the kitchen together, talking quietly, and dreaming their dreams.

She began to file away the feeling and sounds of their lives–the slight weight of the baby (it was a girl!) when they laid her in her little bed to nap, the old dogs turning their circles to lay down after running around outside awhile, the woman’s soft voice murmuring about ocean colors, and the firm step of the man checking this or that.  She didn’t want to waste any opportunity to know them better, if they were going to be hers, and it would seem that they were . . . (She was still sometimes struck with terrible bouts of anxiety that they would not come back and she would be alone again, uncertain of her fate.).

One night, shortly after they arrived for an early evening visit, she felt a slight tug and heard a pinging sound.  It was coming from the window over the kitchen sink . . . with no further warning, she felt the last of the day’s sunlight flood in, pure and bright, pouring onto her counter tops, her walls, and her floor!  Oh, to be touched by the sun again!  It had been years since the plastic was stapled there, to keep the heat in through cold winters and to keep the heat out through hot summers.  She appreciated it, since there was no one inside to look after her, it offered some protection from the elements and changing seasons, but it was also terribly suffocating.

She had heard the phrase, the eyes are the windows to the soul many times in her life and had decided, in turn that her windows were the “eyes” to her soul.  A house could not see, of course that would be silly, but through her windows, she could feel the sunlight warming her everywhere it fell, no matter how cold it was outside; when they were opened she could feel fresh breezes and hear the birds and the people outside; and with the plastic gone, her body was filled with light–just as it was meant to be.

Windows were also a point of pride.  At her birth, she’d had only three, but after a few updates and additions somewhere in her first hundred or so years she was blessed with forty two!  And every last one of them had the shade pulled down and thick plastic stapled over it.  Well, every one but the one over the kitchen sink, that is . . . if she could have sighed, she would have, it felt so lovely.

That was how it began–The Flurry, as she would later think of it.  They peeled the plastic off that one window and watched the sun set, then began bringing in bags and setting them in the pantry.  They pulled up the old carpet in the living room, they scrubbed the sinks, counter tops, and the cupboards, and when they left late that night, she gleefully noted that they did not take any of the bags with them.

Over the following days, more and more boxes would come, they brought friends and proudly showed her off, they vacuumed and they bleached, they drug out the old kitchen shelves that the mice had ruined, and the man came one night by himself and stayed very late painting the living room floor.   The day after the floor-painting, they didn’t come in the morning or in the afternoon and as the day wore on, she found herself afraid again, even after all of their cleaning and care, even as she held boxes and boxes of their things.  It is hard for an old house, one that has held and loved so many over the years, to be alone.

That particular day was sometime early-spring, though she couldn’t have given an exact date for houses do not mark such things.  The last of the winter snow still lingered, but the sun had been staying longer and longer, and she was lost in her fretful thoughts when she felt the key wiggle in the deadbolt. She could tell by their shuffling steps that they were tired.  Moving quietly, they placed the baby in her little bed in the downstairs bedroom, brushed their teeth, made their way to their bed (which they’d set up in the living room of all places!) . . . and went to sleep.  It was the night she’d dreamed of for so long and she spent the whole of it listening to the sounds of their soft and steady breathing and dreaming dreams of her own.

That night would have been the highlight of her year if it weren’t for a few weeks later when she felt a small and strange thump, thump, thump, WUMP in the kitchen followed by the woman’s squeal of delight.  It had been so long since she felt such a thing, she didn’t recognize it for what it was until the woman spoke.  “Oh honey!  You did it! My sweet Sunshine, papa is going to be so excited!”

The baby had taken her very first steps: three of them!  Thump, thump, thump!  Before falling on her bottom with a WUMP!  A house cannot cry, and that is good, because she would have absolutely flooded herself so moved was she by the feeling of those tiny feet and the sweet sound of a mother’s joy.

The Flurry continued all through spring; furniture and appliances came, electrical and some plumbing were updated, old shelves were torn down and new ones put up in their place and it was glorious.  After spending years wondering if she would molder right back into the earth from whence she came, she delighted in all the activity . . . but it was just a touch more than delight.

That spring, the perfect season for such a change, her dread and loneliness were replaced with joy and the bright energy of a new beginning.  As they moved in, placing all of their possessions along with themselves in her care, she felt her sense of purpose swell, filling every dusty corner of her being.  And at the rate they were cleaning, soon there wouldn’t be any dusty corners at all!

Despite her age and current state of disrepair, she took great pride in the fact that even after hundreds of years, she still stood strong under and around them.  She may have lost much of her outer beauty to peeling wallpaper, chipping paint, worn out floors, and broken windows, but inside she was as sturdy as the day she was made–with wood hewn from the forest she stood beside, hand-forged and driven nails, and horsehair plaster.

After so long standing empty, she felt deeply the precious weight of their life–something only a house could truly grasp.  And knowing, as she did, how quickly lives came and went, it was a gift she meant to cherish.IMG_4195

Home

My sweet Sunshine started saying the word “home” this week.  It’s adorable and comes out sounding more like “ooohhm.”  Every time she’s done it, I’ve felt my heart squeeze in my chest.  Home.

I grew up living in lots of places: California, Idaho (four different times, two different towns), Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee every summer, Oregon (two different times, two different towns), and now Massachusetts.  Most of those houses were parsonages, meaning they belonged to the churches where my dad was preaching and we were just temporary inhabitants.  If there’s one thing moving so much has taught me, it’s that sometimes home must be a fluid concept.

I’ve met lots of people who feel a sense of ownership over the places where they grew up or have lived for a very long time: people who have a deep sense of pride in their roots and not just living somewhere, but being part of the fabric that makes the place a place at all.  For someone like me, though, without those particular roots, I have no sense of the places I’ve loved belonging to me, more I feel like a part of me belongs to them: little pieces of my heart, scattered across the country.  I can’t get them back (and wouldn’t if I could) but I can visit them and I feel whole in different ways each time I do.

I think that’s why her sweet, tiny voice saying “oooohhhm” squeezes my heart in that achingly, lovely way.  She is not quite two, but for her, this old, yellow farmhouse by the woods in a tiny town in Massachusetts is  warmth, safety, and fun.  She is surrounded by love here, she can be herself without reserve, and wherever else we go, whatever adventures we go on, this is the touchstone we return to-to rest and refuel.

This little farm already has a piece of her heart.  Maybe she’ll stay here her whole life through and be woven into the fabric of the town.  Or maybe one day her heart will break and she’ll leave a bit here as she moves on–learning to love another place . . . and another.  Only time will tell.

For now, I am filled with gratitude for this beautiful town, this incredible house, and the fairy tale landscape that altogether make my sweet Sunshine’s first ooohhm.

IMG_6376

 

 

 

Sunday Randoms

Every memory I have of feeling alone, when I look back, I can see I wasn’t.

I’ve learned to work on forgiving myself first.  If I can’t manage that, then there’s no path to forgive others and being forgiven doesn’t help.

As my sweet Sunshine gets older, so many long-forgotten memories of my own childhood are coming back to me.  My favorite from this morning is a memory of my mama playing hot lava with us in the living room when I couldn’t have been more than four.  She was jumping from the couch to a cushion on the floor and belly-laughing.

It takes so much more than love to make a long-term relationship work well.  But when hearts get broken, great love can sometimes hold you together while they mend.

If I could only choose one word to describe my twenties, it would be “big.”  I had big fun; I made big mistakes; I felt big hurt; and I found big love.

I can’t choose a word for my thirties yet because we aren’t even halfway through, but so far, “humbled” and “grateful” are neck and neck.

I am falling in love with Massachusetts.

Snowy days are my favorite–beautiful, sparkling, white.  My thoughts swirl like snowflakes in the wind while my fingers chase after them over the page like children with their tongues out.

I cannot get used to the sky here–each day a new shade of blue I’ve never seen and can’t describe and the clouds move so fast there’s no time to decide their shape.

And when the morning sun hits winter tree limbs after a freezing rain, it looks as if diamonds blossomed overnight.

We are rich, indeed.