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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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.

Home

IMG_8195This week, one year ago, the hardest year of my life began.  I have never lost so many I care about so deeply in such quick succession.  My ugliest nightmares just kept coming true one after the other and it isn’t like in the movies.  In real life, the sad parts are so much more than a three minute montage.

I’m soul weary.  My heart is sore and doesn’t want to be touched.  I have felt deep loss before and I know that grief comes when it comes, over and over as time passes.  I also know that so long as I don’t hold onto it too tightly; it will make its way away again.

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I remember two years ago when my husband and I were searching for a house while living in a ground floor apartment.  The first time he took me here the snow, silence, and bare branches of the trees made me feel like we’d gone through the wardrobe and come to Narnia.  He pulled in and turned off the car while I stared at the dark woods, the old, rock walls, and large fields imagining raising our children, riding our horses, playing with our dogs, and living out our dreams.

It felt like the perfect place to make those dreams reality.

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I’ve been wanting to write for months, but every time a new idea came to mind and I sat at my laptop, my fingertips could only tap out my grief.

Then, last week, I was out walking with my Sunshine and our dog and I looked up to see the above image.  In that moment, I realized that while grief and that particular loneliness brought on by irreplaceable loss are still here, so are joy and peace and contentment.  This beautiful place has been holding us close and giving me reasons to be happy even through the darkest and most difficult days of my life.

Everything I saw in my mind on that blank, snowy landscape two years ago is coming to pass.  We’re home.

And my fingertips finally have something to say other than “I miss you.”

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

The Gold Dress

I bought a gold, sequined dress and sky high heels for our anniversary three years ago.  We went to Vegas, had a fabulous time, and took one of my favorite photos of us–tipsy and happy in our beautiful hotel room after one of the best nights out we’d ever had.  Six months later and three months pregnant, I packed that dress away feeling fairly sure I would never wear it again, but still loving it too much to let it go.

Carl graduated, we sold my truck, I had a baby, and our next anniversary we spent apart while he started a new job in a new world.

We moved across the country, bought a house and an SUV, and spent our next anniversary together but pretty low-key as we were still learning the area and I was still afraid to try on most of my pre-baby clothes.

We built stalls and fencing and moved our horses. Our pipes to the barn froze and we spent a whole winter hauling buckets of water from the house, and when spring came, we started major renovations on our home. Then it was our anniversary again, and wouldn’t you know it?  That gold dress and those sky high heels fit like a dream.  : )

We didn’t go to Vegas, but fireflies and stars will always hold more glitter and shine for me than any city lights.  There was no expensive hotel room, but I sang my daughter to sleep while she ran her finger over my red lipstick and tried to put it on her own lips.  And when she was out, I turned on the monitor, slipped back outside, and danced by the fire, whiskey in hand, with my man thinking to myself that I’ve never had so much to celebrate.

I love you, Lew.  Thank you for everything.  : )

Gold dress

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.

Your Daddy

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He is a strong hand to hold when you’re nervous.

A flip in the air that makes mama nervous.

He is crooked diapers and all the best snacks,

adventures at the hardware store,

and getting to swing a real hammer instead of  just your plastic one.

He is books read in the funniest voices

and silly sounds whenever you touch his face.

He is your rescuer when you cry in the middle of the night

and tucks you back in when all is well again.

He is tall towers made of just about anything that will stack,

broad shoulders that never seem to tire,

and big bounces on your little trampoline.

He is safety, confidence, fun, and big love.

He is yours forever:

your daddy.

 

 

 

The Cancer Files: Who Are You if Not What You Can Do?

One of the more insidious effects of cancer in my life, was the slow degradation of my ability to be what I had firmly placed in the column “Things I Just Am.”  I thought those qualities were an integral and unchanging part of me, but from the moment I was told I likely had cancer, they began to slip away.

For instance, when they shuffled me from one room to the next after giving me the news, scheduled me for a surgery I knew nothing about with a surgeon I had never met, and then sent me out the door: the me I was so sure I was would have never smiled, signed paperwork I didn’t read, and then left.

The me I thought I was would have asked ten thousand questions and insisted on coming back later to discuss surgery with the actual surgeon before agreeing on a date and a plan to move forward.  The me I thought I was would have advocated for myself, refused to sign papers until I was sure I understood them fully, and made sure I had researched all of my options on my own before just accepting what I was told.  Not only did I not do any of that, I didn’t even notice or care that I wasn’t doing any of that.

When I got home and handed Carl the blue folder with my surgery information inside, he was furious.  If you know him at all, you know that fury is an uncommon emotion in his life and it certainly wasn’t what I expected.  I’m not sure I knew what to expect, but I remember being surprised when right before my eyes, my happy go lucky man, grew three feet taller, put on about fifty pounds of muscle, and developed the ability to fly.

Within a few hours, he knew everything the internet knew about thyroid cancer and the surgeon I was scheduled with, he had developed a list of 23 questions for said surgeon, and scheduled us for an appointment prior to my surgery date to ask them.   He was incredible and would maintain his role as my fierce and shameless advocate throughout my treatment and recovery and, well, our married life, as it would happen.  : )

When all was said and done, we cancelled that surgery, found another ear, nose, and throat specialist in the valley who we were much more comfortable with and I went forward with a biopsy (that the original office recommended we skip) to see if any of my thyroid could be saved.  And when I say “we,” I mean my superhero husband who swooped in and saved the day, while I wandered around bemused and generally useless to myself.  I don’t like talking about my time as a damsel in distress (so much so that I never even brought it up in my original Cancer Files).

I wouldn’t realize until much later, after years of wrestling with the question, “Who are you if not what you can do?” that those feelings of helplessness and uselessness and the knowledge that I could not take care of myself (much less be there in the lives of my family, friends, and animals as I was used to being) had devastated me more than the illness itself.

I Love my Husband Because . . .

this was the lower-level, back, right section of our barn two and a half months ago:

And this is that same section of our barn now:

That first set of pictures is not how the barn looked when we bought this place.  Back then it had a sloped cement floor, but Carl busted it all up with a jack hammer and piled it outside the barn so he could make the stalls big enough.  He has spent every spare moment since mid-September putting this together so my horses could safely ride out the harsh, New England winter.

Did Carl always dream of a farm life, you ask? . . . No.  Has Carl ever built anything bigger than a cabinet before? . . . No.  Did Carl always want to renovate a 1930’s dairy barn to safely and happily accommodate three horses? . . . shockingly . . . No.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s more than true love.  That is dedication, discipline, research, sleep deprivation, hours and hours of hard work in the freezing cold after already working a full day in the office . . . AND true love.

I’m a lucky girl and I know it.  : )