Saturday, May 16, 2015

Running and rock moving

For the last almost four years I've used running as my path to sanity. All those endorphins working out all the stress of two children under 13 months. And two children under two. And under three....

I go out with shoulders up to my ears, jaws clenching, and one million thoughts circling-not sure if there is room for any of them to land. Push push push through the first mile and then my legs are like robot legs. They just keep moving. And all those thoughts suddenly have found a way out of my head. The running jogs them from their spot and slowly sifts them down through my body and out my heels where I leave them on the sidewalk. Until only the important thoughts are left. Breathe, run, think. Then stop thinking. The thoughts, even the important ones have been sifted out and it's just me. Moving. Breathing. I feel rested in those moments. The moments where the thoughts have cleared out.

It's my favorite.

BUT. I live in Wyoming. Where the winter is snowy. And while not much colder than other places, still cold. And I just decided this winter I was not even going to pretend that I was going to run in the snow. I Not doing it. I'm not that hardcore runner. And I don't really want to be.

The winter was fine. I skied and sledded and swam and practiced yoga and watched for the return of running weather. And found a race I was super into running. A half in the Red Desert of WYO. 'It would be beautiful!' I thought. I was getting excited and scheduling out my training plan and then we bought a fixer upper. And I knew I needed to put my running practice off for another couple of months. And now. Now we are here in this space. And things are settling, however slowly, and I'm ready to lace up my shoes again.

But here's the thing. Today I carried 50? 75? 10-30lbs rocks 20? 30? yards and arranged them in a circle for an inaugural bonfire at fox valley tonight. Then I shoveled gravel out of a flower bed so we can plant flowers instead of rocks. And then I moved our wood pile. And then we biked up the road and back down a lot of times. And then we walked up the road to our mailbox...

...and after all that I felt pretty sane. Not quite the same, but it seems that living at fox valley is going to be exercise enough.

(But I'll still go for the first run of the season tomorrow)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

An Introduction to Fox Valley

I'm sitting on my bed. Which is in my dining room.
There is a pile of cardboard unbelievably high from all the unpacking.
There are only half the number of cabinets we ordered because, backorder! and also, wrong thing.
There is a dog who will not stay inside his fenced area.
There is construction dust and muddy paw prints all over the new floor.
There is dust and muddy paw prints on the stairs.
There is a skill saw on saw horses in my beautiful sacred space sun room.
There is also a kitchen sink and more flooring than we need to finish the house.
There are two mouse traps.
There is a pile of construction garbage outside the beautiful sacred space sun room which really hinders the view.
There are gigantic holes in the ceiling where you used to hit your head going up the stairs.
There is only ply wood covering the upstairs bathroom floor.
A hideous yellow bathroom sink.
There are weeds weeds weeds. I don't even know how to get rid of them all except to get a goat-I'm seriously considering this.
There is a mountain view out my dining room window that stops me every time I walk by. Makes me take a breath and feel alive.
There is a family of foxes living just beyond our property line that come out in the evening to run and play and we are the audience.
There are wildflowers of purple pink yellow white growing all over our 2 little acres.
There is a wood stove that warms things cozily in the still chilly evenings and in the early mornings.
There are new pet caterpillars and the happiest kids.
There are kids who are learning that the world-the backyard world-is their oyster.
There is so little traffic. So little noise.
There are friendly neighbors.
There is a sunroom! Facing south-sun all the time inside!
There are a lot of windows everywhere.
There are elk bugling from the pass not so far away that can be heard while pulling all those weeds weeds weeds.
There are friends who have helped in so many ways to help make this place a home.

It still needs so much love, but Fox Valley is home. More than home. We walk in and feel an exhale. Like we walked into vacation. A place to build love and family. A place to host friends and family and bring them into our vacation. This place where we get to watch foxes play out our dining room window.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

For the love of mom.

My mom is a beautiful soul. She wanted my brother and I to have long, deep, thick roots that would give us what we needed to reach the sky. And we have. 

She loves without reservation or invitation. Which grew in me a confidence to embrace the world and not fear it. It’s because of her that I said yes to living in a small West African country for a year, and moved to the isolated wild west, and take my babies backpacking, and go on as many more adventures in all the books we read. 

There aren’t so many words for her. When I think of her I feel at rest. And I feel contentment. And I feel understood. Those feelings all mingle around inside me into this delicious cocktail that is being loved.

I’m finally understanding the sacrifices that were made for my benefit. The financial ones (private schools aren’t cheap!), the emotional ones (I would lay on her bed, while she was clearly ready to sleep and parlé parlè parlè), the practical ones (she showed up at ALL the events in which I participated in school). 

And the endless teaching she did. Teaching me how to take care of myself, and how to cook, and how to love to be outside...We lived on our front porch and on our deck and in our pop-up camper from April-October.

I wasn’t grateful then. But I am now.

Isn’t that the thing about parenting? Delayed gratification? Most don’t enjoy parenting but very much enjoy having parented.

And now it’s my turn. I feel I’m paying her back in some small way by loving her grandchildren.

And as we were driving around in the warmth that feels like summer is on the way (the day before a Wyoming spring snow storm) I hear the sweet little voice of my three and a half year old, 
‘Momma you love me even when I’m cranky, right?’ 
I’m not sure why he asked it, his tone suggested confidence not inquiry. 
I said ‘Absolutely’. 
He said ‘And you love me even when I am not listening and really cranky.’ 

And my heart felt full and proud and maybe a little bit melty because this little soul 
knows regardless of what the circumstances are-I will be loving him.

And, for me at least, it feels like I’ve arrived. Or accomplished something. Or maybe just won the jack pot. Because isn’t that just IT? That’s the point. “No matter what, you will always have a place to feel a delicious cocktail of feelings called ‘Being Loved’”

Friday, February 20, 2015

The light is coming back.

We made it through the dark parts of winter and it always feels like their should some sort of huge celebration for that. The darkness is so hard. And we don't even live in a place where it is dark for the whole day. Every evening the artificial lights stay off for a few minutes longer because the natural light is still working just fine.  It is the best part of winter.

It's not just a physical thing.

We have been, by turns, patiently and not very patiently at all waiting for things to happen. For a house to show up that we loved and could afford. For a job that was more than just a paycheck.

And apparently I am not made of the stuff that is able to be at home all day every day without needing to be checked into an asylum. I thought I might be. But I'm not. It took four and a half years to realize that my love for academia did not die when I had babies.

And now.

Now I get to work with books. I have an unending, incalculable love for books and words and turning pages and stories and information. Even information I already know. I'll read it again. And the truth is I actually really do like children. And babies. Over the last three and a half years, since Bub was born I thought that part of me disappeared. I had exactly enough interest, patience, etc. for my two...and even sometimes that was hard. I was overwhelmed.
And now that I don't change 20 diapers every day  I can again see the beauty of all the little souls.
And I get to read them books. And teach them songs.  And help their mommas have something to do to get out the house in the winter.

And now their is a new job on the horizon that would be more than a paycheck.

And a house, after a lot of work, would be what we have dreamed of... Land, logs, sunrooms, windows, a place for chickens, garden, and mountains!

I feel stretched a little thin these days-there are so many things I want to do and places I want to go and people I really love and really want to see and spend time with.

But what a lovely problem to have. And continues to be such a lesson in choosing wisely and being intentional with my time.

And it's probably melodramatic to say that this is all the end of winter and darkness for our lives- but it seemed really appropriate as I was watching the sun come up while I was writing. And that's my prerogative as the author isn't it? To exaggerate things if it makes for a better story? If you a disagree don't answer that question.

Monday, October 20, 2014


We took a long trip home last week. It was hard. It was work. It was imperfect hearts learning to be selfless and giving and learning to love in action not just words. We almost got swallowed by the past. But we remembered the future. And then we came home. And we went to the mountains and we BREATHED. What is it about those mountains? They open up your lungs. They just let you be. They just let you enjoy them. And as I climbed that hill with a scared kitten trailing an adoring little girl and a pissed off possessive dog and a sucker eating sticky boy my heart slowed. And it whispered 'you are home. you have made it home'

I don't know why this place is home right now but it is.
Home used to be sub saharan africa with temperatures always in the 100s and bright bright sunshine and sweat rolling down my back. I breathed that dusty dry air that was mixed with all kinds of unpleasant smells and my heart slowed and it whispered 'you are home. you are home'.

During a particularly (the most of my life) rough year I would come to the house I grew up in. To the people who have stood behind me and loved me even when I was ugly. I would stand in that kitchen, hug my mom who smelled like my life and my heart would slow and it whispered 'you are home. you are safe'

During every single day of my life when I get frustrated with my posse. When I am frustrated with breaking three glass jars in two weeks. When I am frustrated with the dog digging holes in backyard this man who has promised to love me forever and always looks at me with knowing, touches my shoulder, or hugs me all the way around and my heart slows and it whispers 'you are home. you are loved'

People say that home is where the heart is. My heart has been in so many places-is in so many places. I have so many homes.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I hate thinking of titles.

Something strange is happening here.
I don't know what to do with it.
I don't know what to do with myself.
For 4 years I have been the mother to an intense (funny, curious, smart, strong) girl. (can I borrow the word spicy??)

When she was a baby it was the hardest.

When she was cranky-she was CRANKY. And that happened a lot. More than not. No one could hold her but me. I had to hold her all the time. She didn't want me to hold her. She didn't want me to put her down. No single activity would occupy her for more than five minutes. The only thing that soothed her was begin outside, talking a walk. And even that would only help for so long.

I spent most of my teenage years babysitting. I studied child development in school. I nannied. I worked at an orphanage. I spent a lot of time with a lot of kids.

In all that time I had never met anyone like her.

And in public, at family functions, at dinner parties, at play dates in the park, mostly people didn't understand. They tried to be kind and 'Why? Is she just hungry? Is she just tired'…but no. She just napped two hours. She just ate more than I did lunch. She is just this way. It's her way. I don't know why she refuses-screams bloody murder with a pouty lip and real tears refuses-to let ANYONE else hold her. Even her daddy somedays. Not grammy or pop-pop. Grandma and Grandpa. Not good friends she sees all the time.  Sometimes it was like she just didn't want anyone to LOOK at her.

I spent SO MUCH ENERGY playing, singing, talking, teaching, comforting, (even when she refused to be comforted) feeding… I started early teaching her to identify her emotions and teaching her how to deal with them. ('screaming is not allowed in the living room. If you are angry and need to scream, please go to your bedroom.' -this I have said on a daily basis for two years. 'If you are confused you need to use your words and ask questions.' 'If you are sad, let's talk about it-please do not scream')

For 3 years I have been the mother to a fun-loving, cuddly boy.

This boy is ONLY interested in doing something if it is fun. Riding a bike totally loses its shine after two days. Potty training is only fun when the treats are mixed up daily (Really, who wants to get M&M's two days in a row??) and never ever ever ever gummy bears. Stickers are for the birds after one use.

When he is in trouble, he laughs! When in time out he laughs! After hitting his sister, he laughs! After kicking Joki, he laughs!

He just wants to laugh ALL THE TIME.
He loves life.
He always wanted to be snuggled. Which is adorable.  And also, it made making dinner quite difficult for two and a half years. The first 2 years I could only make dinner with him strapped to my back. And when he got too big for that I put him on the counter and he cooked with me. (please read between the lines: 'cook with me' means MESSSSSSSSSSSSSSx100000)

But the point is: I have been NEEDED. In real physical, emotional, demanding way for four years. Four years of rarely having enough space or quiet to think my own thoughts. It's survival really. All of you mothers know that. And fathers too. Just get through today.

And dinnertime and bedtime…don't even…just..wwwhhhaatttt planet do we live on? Worst time of every single day. There are beautiful moments thrown in there sure- but some of you talk about LOVING bath time -its so sweet. And bed time is so peaceful and calm..and I  just want to move to your planet..because…wow. Its like a scene from a horror film over here. Screaming, running, lots of nakedness, wicked laughter (because, you know, Bub thinks me asking for him to get his pajamas 1600 times is hilarious), slamming doors, coming in and out and in and out of doors, yelling 'I NEED ANOTHER SNACK!!' and 'BUT MOOOOMMMMMMMMMM IM STILL THIRSSSSTTTYYYY' 'MOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY you forgot my song!' (even though we sang five.)

(Are you tired??)

Ok ok enough about what its been like for 4 years…here is what is happening now...

Peace is happening.




No one is helping me cook. No one is following me around the house demanding to be held for hours. No one …. is needing me.

I find myself sitting alone at the kitchen table after a meal, the posse already having put their dishes in the sink, staring at the wall. It's been so long since I've been left alone in this way that I have NO IDEA what to do.
Do I get up and clean? Do I read a book? Do I…I don't even know what my other options are. It's been THAT long.

And it's such a fragile magical thing…I'm almost afraid I'll break it if I start doing something-using my brain in some capacity. I'm sure that if they heard me thinking my own thoughts the posse would rush in with an abundance of needs.

So mostly I find myself staring at the wall or slowly mindlessly scrolling through news feeds and blogs and weird internet stories about the Irish trying American junk food and where the most affordable mountain towns are. All the while in secret parts of my soul I am in awe…eyebrows raised, stopped breathing, no words kind of awe.

I never thought this would happen. I've probably jinxed myself by writing about it.

BUT what I just really want to say is….'Its true!!! They grow up!!!'  And I feel a bit sad about it.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Je veux jouer.

I spent my teenage years sitting in friend's basements watching movies-my dad always chiding us that we should DO something.

DO something? Like what? 16 is much too old to PLAY. Serious adult matters concerned us-riding with a newly licensed driver in their new-parent-bought car, and detangling the latest drama.

My immature introvert self was not confident enough in herself to realize what she really enjoyed doing. I felt most alive and happy and confident and learned the most about myself when I was playing. Outside. Hiking a cliff. Biking a trail. Water fight with friends. Rock climbing and repelling. White water rafting. Float trips. But I didn't pursue those activities…being a teenager is weird. I didn't really know what I liked to do. I felt weird about the things I liked to do. I think.

I wrote off camping and hiking for most of my life because I was forced into going when all my friends would be in a basement watching a movie (I was missing out on so much!) and I HATE PACKING. (This strange turn of events where I love camping and took Sis on a girls only trip this summer makes my parents laugh and also wonder what happened to me. I don't think they should be too surprised though-I have always been adventurous.)

But now that I'm grown I don't care so much if people think I'm weird for reading as many books as I do, or that I just REALLY love to be outside…I'm learning to play!

Not that I didn't play before. It's just a new era of playing.

I could say 'having kids is teaching me to play again!' but that sounds cliche…and not exactly true.

Yesterday we met up with friends and played all day. We ran a 10k, the posse ran a mile, it was pouring rain, we ate lunch, we swam hard (floating around the lazy river and hiking all the stairs to the huge water slide take so much energy) There was no other agenda…we just played!

I hiked with two friends last week. Into the mountains with the aspens changing colors. We heard elk bugle-one of the most magical sounds, we saw elk, we hiked off trail to find a better view of said elk…there was no other agenda...we just played!

It feels like a lot of the pieces of who I am are coming together in this one place. And they come together the most when I am playing. That's how we learn right? Somewhere along the way we forget it, like when we are 16 probably. We forget that playing is how we learn.  It's how I'm learning myself. It's how I'm learning my posse and this other guy who I've promised to spend my life with (He's really fascinating! And amazing! He does hard things!). It's how I'm learning about the world. It's how I'm making friends….And not that I haven't learned these things in other places and's just that the mountains demand these things from you. Demand that you know yourself. Demand that you know your team. Demand that you know the mountains. But they demand that you do it while playing. Because why would you endure the harshness of the mountains if it wasn't fun?

Before moving here I thought there was nothing in Wyoming. Literally nothing. And while that's sort of true-it is also not at all. It would be easy to look at our little town and write us off saying  'nothing to do. two restaurants. one screen theatre with uncomfortable chairs. no night life.' But you would be missing the world class rock climbing. The mountain biking, the trail running, the hiking, the cross country skiing, the hunting, the camping, the boating, the snowshoeing, the fishing, the being outside watching a river rush past you with wildflowers all around…all within a 20 minute drive.

I'm learning to play. I'm learning I like to play. I'm learning playing is a lifelong skill. I'm learning playing is what bonds people together…the people I care about most are the ones I've played hardest with (which also means we have probably been through hard things together too)

And my kind of playing doesn't have to look like your kind playing and we don't need to feel guilty about playing.

And, adults listen, I think we should call it that-call it playing when it is in fact playing! We are allowed that. So much else of the adult life is hard...