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...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

le saison change

The season is changing.

The sun is at a different angle. A 'summer is bowing out' angle.

We family camped. We 'girls only' camped. We ran. We hiked. We raced. We backpacked. We played with family. We played in the mountains.We jumped through sprinklers. We picked raspberries. We played with friends. We had birthday parties! We got sun burns and blonde hair. We rode bikes. We rode bikes in the mountains. We climbed rocks. We climbed rock faces and pinnacles. We got stronger. We got smarter. We grew. We spent long slow lovely evenings sipping wine with friends outside as the sun faded. We read books. We played 'I spy with my little eye'. We got frustrated with tourists. We saw a moose momma and a moose baby. We saw a herd of elk. We saw bison. We saw deer. We saw bunnies, and pikas, and marmots, and butterflies, and bees. We saw and picked and smelled and loved flowers of a rainbow of colors. We collected rocks and feathers and bones, and horseshoes.

There is still a bit more to come. A grown-ups only hike. One more race. One big wedding in the mountains. One more birthday (party!!). One more camping trip.

But summer is closing up shop-and I feel good. Content. Happy. Filled. Ready to take on the next adventure….

And when it comes- when that fluffy, cold, white color fills these big Wyoming skies you do not even have to rub your sunny warm fall weather in our virtual faces-because this is good. We sucked all the life out of the summer. We are ready to suck all the life out of the fall. Swimming lessons, and mountains in a fire of colors, and skiing, and pumpkins, and VESTS!!, and holidays (and a nephew!) on the horizon.

I am so frequently overwhelmed by the ocean of emotions flowing through here. I ride the waves and breath deep and try remembering to move with it instead of standing against it.

But the season is changing there too. There is a little more air at the top of those waves. Just a little bit. Just enough that I know we survived it. We aren't out of it yet, but we are going to make it out of the hard 'we have a little posse at home'. And we are going to make it out having lived. Having loved. Having worn holes in our jeans. Having worked. Having experienced and felt and grown. Having taught. Having fought and come back together over and over and over. Having discovered our strength. Having discovered our weakness.

And I feel good. Content. Happy. Filled. Ready for the next adventure...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Mountain Women 2014

How do you describe this?

It's been two weeks since the Mountain Women backpacked/adventured through 14ish miles in the Tetons. And I still don't know what to say.

Peace, beauty, amazingly fresh air..I mean, it feels like REAL air! Not recycled or controlled or filtered. Just air. Blue skies, flowers in varying shades of purple, pink, blue, orange, yellow, white… wild huckleberries we could just pick and eat!! WATERFALLS EVERYWHERE. Like in the picture…there is a waterfall if you look hard enough but we could see it for a LONG ways. We could HEAR it for a long ways. And it was a LONG waterfall. Bright vibrant 'its springtime!' green. Friends. New friends. Old friends. Family that is like friends. And the stars. SO MANY STARS.

These things sit in the soul like a puddle and are slowly slowly soaked into the soil.

It's seeping in slowly.

And mostly for now it's only these single words that seem adequate to describe it. Even though it's far from adequate. It's this big huge feeling.

We went in celebration of my cousin who just finished her Masters. It turned out to be perfect timing because she has had a lot of things going on her life besides school. She needed the break. The break to breath, to see, to feel, to experience life in this way. Disconnected-and more connected. She needed the space to push herself physically and mentally and know that she could do it and do it well.

When we got back I asked what her favorite part was and she said 'I don't know. There is so much. But having done it. Having finished it.' Accomplishing the thing we set out to do.

I am so proud of her. She took such great care of herself. Stopping to drink water and telling us when she was feeling the altitude and needed to rest (she was the only one not acclimated). Others (including myself) might have tried to push the limits and ended up sick-not her! She kept herself within her limits all the while pushing at those limits.

How else do you describe it?

There is this feeling out there in the wilderness. This feeling that comes when the climate controlled, machine run, technology driven world fades away. It's unreachable really. One of us was able to get one bar of reception on her phone and called to check in with her family. But the rest of us were untethered. And theres this feeling of letting go. This freedom to just be. This feeling of life-all the life that surrounds us…we humans are not the only ones breathing and eating and playing. The pikas and the marmots and the bumble bees. There is life everywhere pulsing through everything. And we are connected to all of it.

What else is there for me to do when I feel all these big feelings and see all these amazing things except to jump in the alpine, snow fed lake? And dry off on a boulder.

And close my eyes an smile at the wonder and beauty and amazing-ness of it all. That I am lucky enough to be here in this moment now experiencing life up here with these women…a life few people really get to see.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The first race

This girl:
had no idea what she was in for. But she was ready for it.

She watches me lace up my purple running shoes (I really believe in feeling pretty as much as possible), put on my running shorts (with my running tights most of the year), throw on a T-shirt (again, most of the year also my icebreaker and running jacket) and head out the door. She is worried when I tell her I'm going for a long run 'I'll miss you momma! I wish I could run with you!' and relieved when I'll be back before quiet time is over or before she is asleep.

But she doesn't run much. She is a mad hiker. She is becoming a mad biker. She has got some climbing skillzzz that I did not teach her. But as much as she says she would like to run with me, she doesn't last very long.

Until July 4, 2014.

The first annual Challenge for Charities 1 mile Mad Dash Kids Run.

She was excited about it from the beginning. Actually, it was more about the running shoes. But still. She was excited.

As the day drew near I could see the nervousness set it. She was not sure what she had signed up for but she didn't back down…she was going to get a Tshirt in her race packet!

We started the morning with some stretching and hydrating. We got dressed. We pinned her number on (714!!! I love my number momma!) We walked four blocks to the starting line. I carried her…there was going to be a lot of walking later and I wanted to save her legs. We talked about how the man would shoot a gun in the air and that would be our signal to go. We got in line. 50 kids under 9 and half as many parents. Cameras flashing everywhere, the parents staying behind reminding their kids to watch for the adults on the track who would tell them where to go and to follow the orange arrows spray painted on the ground. Sis was nervous. She was looking around and her body was tense. She was not letting go of my hand even though she had very sternly told me several weeks earlier that under no circumstance would she be holding my hand and she would be running in front of me. But she was ready. As soon as the gun went off we were off navigating around the kids who had been tripped accidentally by other kids and the one kid who was accidentally tripped by a parent. She moved fast and pretty quickly said she was getting tired but pressed on anyway. We slowed down a bit and then when she said she was ready we sped up. We passed a few people-all the parents saying the same things: 'We are pacing ourselves. Go slow now and then speed up' 'It's fine if you need to slow down' 'It's fine if you need to walk' 'You can do this!'.

Before we reached the halfway mark Sis realized that it was fun to pass people. She looked up at me and said 'Momma I want to pass that girl in braids!' who was 30 ft in front of us. She let go of my hand and sprinted up passed her and then slowed down and grabbed my hand again 'I passed her momma!!!' So then I realized that competition is what is going to drive this girl to finish the race…so we found another girl to pass and passed her. Then she sped up and passed us so we sped up and passed her. And found a boy to pass. She kept running! She got tired and we slowed down a bit. But then we reached the bridge! The final stretch! She kicked it into high gear running so fast that daddy barely got a picture of her. There were so many people cheering and some she even knew! And then we crossed the finish line and she was on top of the world. She got the watermelon they set out for the post-race refuel. Everyone was giving her high 5's and saying 'great job!' She smiled big and said 'thanks!' She said 'hi!' to everyone we passed. She was proud of herself and so were we. 

She ran the whole mile. In about 13 minutes-maybe less. We don't have the official time yet but that's not what matters anyway. She's learning how good it feels to work really hard to accomplish something…