Sunday, April 24, 2016

part iii

part iii
In those school, diaper, spit up, single-parent, car less days I was the point person for all things. And so I was the one applying for a lot of these jobs. My feet were firmly planted on the ‘not Wyoming. Anywhere but Wyoming’ side of things until we were a month away from graduation and still no prospects. Something in me decided to look--and whoa were there a lot of jobs available Lander. I closed the computer and thought and thought. And then I opened the computer and just did it. Ran through the application, attaching the resume as fast as I could so i wouldn’t regret it. And didn’t tell Darkknight.
How could I? No way. I couldn’t do it. After all the years of trying to convince me and me only agreeing to mountains, hiking, and camping but NOT Wyoming. I had been trying to compromise. And now I was giving in. Fully. Throwing the towel in. 
There was still the possibility of not getting a call back--I knew that and was banking on it. 

I have a scattered history with rash spur of the moment decisions, and almost every time I do these rash spur of the moment things I know its the right thing to do...even if not the thing I want to do. But I try to stay open and running though the process has been the only way for me to stay open to the newscarydifferent. 

But there was a call back and I was excited and frozen with fear at the same time. 

I think Darkknight was thrilled. I was on board. I wasn’t really. But I was.

My parents were shocked and horrified. They knew we were looking at the mountains--but I didn’t exactly tell them in the most graceful way. I think mostly because I wasn’t sure how badly I really wanted to do it even if I was getting tired of the concrete and the traffic and the people.

The interview was schedule for a month out. Enough time to finish school, wean the baby, arrange babysitting and be excited for a few days away that we hadn’t had in years.

Darkknight’s parents came up to watch the crew. and we happily flew off. Because of a mix up we flew into Jackson instead of Casper and that is enough to do anyone in. ‘This? In my backyard? It’s not real. I’m dreaming.’ 

Except not. Not dreaming at all. 

We rented a car and drove over the pass and past Dubois and the butterflies ate at me as the last 76 miles crawled to a snail’s pace. But then we started seeing houses and green fields after miles and miles and miles of the brown barren high desert that lays in between us and Dubois. And the mountains started get closer again. And I started to feel ok about this mysterious place. We entered the edge of town and there was a brand new grocery store and a brand new hotel that we were staying in! ok, ok ok. 

The next morning was the interview. I dropped him off and I went to find the library and explore the town. I found the library. It was new! But not open until mid-morning. My first experience of small town culture. So I piddled around walking and exploring. Up and down main street. The morning had started out cool compared the high humidity 100 degrees I just come from and my first thought was ‘its going to be too cold here. Can’t do it’ 
But then i felt the sun. The way it burns its way through you even when the air is 70 degrees and I was quickly hot.
The mountains were lovely. The sky was blue blue blue. The town was adorable. Small but thriving on Main Street--not the abandoned messes you see in some small towns. All the stores were local. No chains! (later learned there are a few--I just had never heard of them before)

The hospital sits on top of the highest hill in town. Amazing view. And I thought ‘We are going to be able to BREATHE up here!’ Have space to rest and recharge. 
We came home excited and ready for a new thing. 


Thursday, April 21, 2016

part ii

I might have started with wonder and imagination, but my imagination never brought me out West. My imagination dreamed of a life in the city and thats exactly where I found myself--and loving it. 

Wyoming wasn’t love at first sight as one might assume from my previous visits out West. I did suddenly feel like I could breathe, I did find myself in wonder, and I did go home frustrated with the concrete and traffic and amount of people everywhere. But I also was coming home--to the place I had wanted to land. I loved living two blocks away from a magnificent park, and a magnificent farmer’s market. I loved all the huge trees in front of century old houses. I was always pondering what their stories were--what all they had seen and heard, been a witness to, inside their walls and out. I loved the local food restaurant just down the street. I loved that all our friends were basically in the same neighborhood with a few exceptions. I loved being in the part of the city and only 15 minutes away from where my parents grew up. Regularly getting to go past the streets that they called home and that I frequented as a child.

That was the life I had dreamed and made real for myself. 

So every time Wyoming came up as a legitimate place we could live I dismissed the idea  out of hand. Yes, its beautiful and you can hike and camp there but we can do those things here! Yes, he would say but its different out there. I asked and asked for more details and never got much more than ‘its about the open spaces’. And I didn’t feel satisfied and so put the idea of moving to a remote open spaces with no big cities out of my mind. I didn’t even entertain it with a daydream.

As the years passed I slowly became frustrated with how complicated things seem in the city. So much congested driving and opportunities to buy things everywhere. More stuff will surely make more happiness is the motto on every strip mall, shopping mall, convenience store...which are on every corner. The Target we chose to frequent had an underground parking lot! There wasn’t enough space to have a regular parking lot, so they had to put one in underground. We eventually moved to suburbs and that was worse. Surrounded on two sides by major roads and on one side by a skinny-two-lane-with-no-shoulder road we were stuck inside our little triangle of a neighborhood. Stuck became an even more appropriate word when we were down to one car and the one car had to drive 25 minutes into the city everyday while I was at home with two babies all day long. I would take those two babies in the running stroller my mom graciously bought me and we would run up and then down every street in our three street neighborhood, if I ran for a bit on the major road which was terrifying I could make it home having run just about three miles. Enough to keep my sanity. And then we would walk up and down the streets over and over and over to practice walking. Not being able to get out is the definition of stuck! Friends no longer in the same hood, no longer two blocks away from the fantastic park... Out in the suburbs things are more spread out, less congestion, but also it feels like more somehow. More concrete, more strip malls, more consumerism--less culture. 



The mountains of a smaller community started to sound appealing. We could walk places, we could breathe a little. We could hike in the mountains just outside the door instead of driving 40 minutes through the concrete jungle to get to the true-er wilderness lying right outside the limits of the city. We started looking at those towns--the small ones nestled at the foot of mountains. There are quite a few. So we started making lists. Big poster board pros and cons for what each mountain town had to offer. We made a trip to the town I was rooting for. We took our six month old and our 18 month old, rented a car, checked into the cheapest hotels we could find and did our first family vacation. We visited a friend of a friend who has a farm out there. He lived 20 minutes from the town where things were quiet and spread out and lush and green. Hardly any concrete anywhere from the drive out of the city and onto his land. And the mountains! And he had pigs! We fed the pigs as we talked about life would be like out there. We had dinner in the local places, we walked around the town and the neighborhoods smelling it out. Does feel like home? We noticed how friendly or not friendly people were. Took note that there was ethnically true food around (quite delicious) and we drove out to the blue ridge parkway and hiked awhile a long a river. Found parks. And then we drove home and talked and talked and made lists and notes and had thoughts. In the end it was everything I wanted it to be and not quite everything Darkknight wanted it to be. But we thought we would go for it...with no luck. No jobs opened up. So we kept hoping but had to move on.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Wyoming

I am not a cowgirl. My husband is not a cowboy. It is a bit strange then that we landed in this rural, isolated spot with 2 acres to our name.
We both grew up within city limits and for the most part enjoyed our time there. My family tried to instill a love of the outdoors in me and it worked but not because of the all the camping they made us do. We would take these camping trips every spring and fall. Rarely in the summer, that was for the beach. We sometimes got to bring friends with us and I always felt amazed that friends would agree to go. One time my dad- by himself- packed my brother, two of our cousins who were also are most preferred playmates and myself into this tiny little black truck we had. This was in the days before extended cab was a comfortable standard for most trucks. The little Nissan was tiny and only people under the age of 10 could really fit in the ‘extended cab’. I have no idea where my mom was this weekend. My memory of the weekend is pretty hazy but I remember a couple of things. First, delight at being on such a crazy adventure and that my aunts and uncles had agreed to letting their offspring come along. Second, it was raining for the drive. And that’s it. Just this small snapshot from the drive and feeling like this was the greatest adventure I had ever been on.

But all the while on every trip we took, I was not stoked that this adventure was taking place in a 1970s recanvased pop-up camper trailer. It was humid, sticky, dirty outside! With no space of my own. I was with my brother all the time. Had to sleep next to him. I love my brother--he has turned into this unbelievable human being who is at the top of his field, he is pretty intelligent and kind. I also finally think he is funny. But when we were kids I didn’t understand him at all. He was curious in the lets-take-it-all-apart kind of way, impulsive, was always getting dirty, trying risky things, trying to accidentally kill me on a few occasions. And I was a reader, a quiet, clean imaginer. I didn’t need to get dirty if the people in my book were doing it for me. And I didn’t need to try risky things and I was definitely not impulsive. I didn’t understand why he and has friends ran around screaming, yelling, shooting at each other all the time. Couldn’t we just play doctor? or teacher? Where everything was in order?

I think most of all I did not enjoy camping because I was 10 when we started going out. And at that point no one that I spent a lot of time with was camping and I felt weird about it. You know ‘my family is starting this new weird thing that my best friend’s family doesn’t do and that makes me feel way to different’.

Even ten years later when I was thinking about spending a good chunk of time in West Africa, the thing that was hardest for me was the dirt. I didn’t want to be dirty. Eventually, I breathed in and out and surrendered to the dirt. It was going to be there, and if I wanted to be there as well the dirt and I were going to have to be friends. There was a lot of breathing during my days and at night, showers never felt so good. Although I was always a little horrified about the amount of dirt I saw swirling down the drain. I got over it. And just learned to relish the feeling of being clean on top of my sheets (you can’t get in them when it is still 90 degrees outside)

So when we decided to move to Wyoming so we could hike and camp and be outdoorsy my family was shocked. Three and a half years later and they are still shocked when I tell them about what adventures we are doing next.

I think what happened was that I came out here. I came out to visit for a short time while  Darkknight was working out here, I came out again for our friends wedding, and then again for the interview that moved us out here. And every time I came out I felt like I could breathe. The air feels clean and wonder/awe/beauty are not hard to find. It surrounds. Then we would go back home to concrete and traffic and masses of people everywhere and huge shopping malls and while that was the only life I had ever known I started to want something else. Something more and something less at the same time. 

Now I realize that while I never loved being dirty and in my preteen years doing things my friends were not doing, I have always loved being outside. I would sit on our porch for hours writing horrible poems about feeling like I didn’t fit in, or feeling judged for the shoes I wore to school. I remember climbing the tree in our front yard and just sitting there for long periods of time, trying to think of something really meaningful to carve into the tree. I remember loving when there were trails at our campground and we got hike around -- we mostly always had to turn back before I was ready too--this is still true even with all the hikes we do. I loved riding my bike down to the edge of our neighborhood with the breeze in my hair. I would pedal as hard as I could pretend I was totally getting away from those bad guys who wanted some important thing from me. When I got the end of the road, the bad guys disappeared as I walked off the pavement into the woods with the tall dense trees and the crunchy leaves and I was lost in a whole other world. I didn’t think about being dirty then and if I’m honest now I would have loved to have my brother with me on those adventures but I didn’t know how to ask him then. ‘He will probably just be crazy or hit me with a rock’ I thought. 

When we were twelve my best friend and I convinced my parents to let us walk from my house across the fields and ‘forest’ that lay in between us and the neighborhood a couple miles by road away where a lot of our friends lived. But we weren’t taking the road, we were taking the bushwack. We blazed our own trail that day. We got some scratches, had to cross a creek, stopped at a ‘grown up friend’s’ house that was in the middle for some tea before continuing on. It took us quite awhile I think, but we were bushed when we were done. We laid in the sun on our friends driveway like solar panels afterwards trying to recharge and feeling like it was taking too long for our parents to come pick us up (which is probably how they felt waiting for us to call to say we had made it). It was the greatest thing I had done up to that point. We drew a map and named all the geological features we had crossed and promised to do it again. No one had ever been that way and it was our secret. We never did do it again. But I don’t think we needed to--we proved to ourselves and to each other and to our parents that the world was our oyster. We were going to conquer it. And in our ways we have. She is conquering the concrete jungle, blazing her own trail again with her own high end business. And me out here in the wilderness, blazing my own trail through motherhood and life in a place with such a harsh beautiful landscape isolated from the rest of the country. Sometimes I am literally blazing my own trail again walking through the sage and through the willows and up and over the boulders, and across the creeks. Although this time I know I’m not the only one who has ever been there and the geological features have been named for hundreds of years (but that never stopped anybody from renaming a place).

This wild place has reminded me of who I am and where I started. I started with wonder. I started with imagination. I started with loving adventure. I started with loving the sunshine. I started with pushing myself beyond my perceived physical limits. And that has always brought me life. Made me feel alive in the most visceral way.

Here I am all these years after being ‘forced’ into camping with my family and I am grateful to have had those experiences. They have shaped me and brought me here into this life I am making for myself and my crew. One with no lack of imagination and adventure and perseverance. And maybe it isn't so strange after all that we landed in this rural isolated spot...


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Sweet and spicy girls

My daughter. My amazing, sensitive, caring, creative, problem solver, hard worker, big thinker, spicy daughter. She throws these fits.Throwing is not an exaggeration. She saves them for home...outsiders rarely get a glimpse. I’m sure they think I’m exaggerating or crazy or not a good mom, thinking ‘get your kid under control!’.

 Until I talk to another mom of a spicy girl like mine. She adds depth and color to our world that we wouldn’t have otherwise. She is going places! But when she is lying in the middle of the floor screaming, yelling, crying that its my fault she is upset because she doesn’t like tacos anyway (she loves tacos!) or she wouldn’t be so upset if she could just get what she wanted (‘Has that ever worked for you? Do you get what you want when you throw a fit?’ ‘NO!!!’ Ok...so why are you trying this? Again?) 

She desperately does not want me to be right. Daddy can be sometimes, grammy and pop pop always can be right (although it might at first make her a bit sad) but me? Nope. She is forever questioning ‘how do you know that?’ and if its not a legitmate ‘it happened to me’ answer she doesn’t buy it. or even if it is. Taking deep breathes to calm down--I’ve been able to convince her to try it maybe twice in 5.5. years. Drawing a picture of how she feels has worked approximately 5 times. All the other things I can ever think of to help her get to a calm-enough-place that we can TALK about what happened (talking goes well! When she’s calm she understands, she problem solves, she listens---says she loves chores!)


I love her. I love they way she thinks. She is going to--and probably already has been--making me a better person. Make me love bigger and deeper and wider. Make me think harder and smarter. Make me really search out why we do the things we do and whether or not we can change the way we do some things. Maybe I will be extraordinarly patient by the time she has flown the coop.



Sometimes I worry about new parents. My experience was working with kids, loving them, loving it, understanding them, ‘knowing’ all the behavior ‘tricks’. And then I got this girl who is so far out of my league that I felt helpless. Which is a terrible feeling when its your academic field! So I worry about new mommas and what it will be life for them. That they will feel in over their heads. I worry too much really. Because Brooklyn is unique. Yes, there are others who are similar to her, but no one has ever existed just like her before. She is a whole new thing to be tried out. And apparently I’m the perfect mom for her. And apparently having a brother come just after her first birthday was the best way for me to parent her (and him) and I drowned in that for awhile--but just because I did doesn’t mean everybody does--or should. 

And that’s hard. I see the moms who are so blissfully in love with their babies, and their babies are easy and I feel all the twinges. A lot of the twinges at their base come back to ‘you aren’t enough.’ not good enough, not smart enough, not in tune with your child enough. So much gratitude for the near (and far) and dear ones who remind me this isn't true.

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 just...no. 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’”