That’s a Wrap – A Lesson in Mourning

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She wrapped her heart carefully with beautiful paper &

ribbon & her eyes sparkled with the thought of unwrapping

it together with me.

 – brian andreas

I love holidays!  Often, I wonder who looks forward to Christmas more, me or the boys.  I love all the hustle and bustle & all that we refer to as the “commercial” parts of the holiday – the trees, the lights, the presents, the countdown calendars, the letters to Santa…  ALL OF IT!!!  Best of all, I love wrapping presents.  I carefully pick out the papers; a mix of patterns, stripes & solids, with the intent of mixing.  I’m not a curly ribbon kid of gal.  Instead, I love building sculptures of sorts on top of each gift.  This year, I made frogs on lily pads, fire-breathing dragons & giant flowers under our tree.  My personal favorites were hand-holding aliens boarding their cardboard ship & a squirrel eating silver acorns.  I get it… This doesn’t really sound Christmas-like, but it makes the boys eyes grow large & the packages are super sparkly, so I love it anyway.

I get this love of gift-wrapping from my mother.  She had a job as a seasonal gift wrapper when she was in high school.  As an adult, she still created perfect right angles, invisible taped edges and silky smooth sides.  When I was little, I tore through my gifts, but after watching my mother wince a few birthdays in a row, I learned to open my gifts patiently & thoughtfully.  I never threw a scrap of paper away.  If the tape didn’t peel off easily, I could use my nails to slice it along the edge & keep the paper intact.  As the gift appeared, I’d smooth, then fold the paper and hand it to my smiling mother.  As the festivities ended, my mother would take her pile upstairs.  She kept these supplies under her bed, strategically placed in bins, rolls and boxes.  The stacks of wrapping were endless and came in all shapes and sizes.  The papers were sparkly, shiny and matte.  There were textures, felted patterns and glittery designs.  I could tell you what paper was used to wrap my first makeup kit, where most velvet bows originated from and what year the burgundy silk flower made its way into our lives.

It seemed tortuous to me, opening these prize-worthy packages she’d spent so much time on.  BUT, watching her face as the paper-seams split was magical.  Her lips turned upward and her beautiful turquoise eyes sparkled.  “How could she watch these masterpieces be destroyed?”, I wondered.  She was nearly bursting as she waited for us to see what was inside.

I lost my mother recently.  I search for her daily; in the Prius beside me on the highway, in the silver hair in front of me at the grocery, on the other side of the door when I go to visit my dad.  I long for her voice, her written word, her smell, her touch.  This business of losing my mother is seriously hard stuff.   I felt like I was just barely hanging on the other day, like my own seams were splitting.    I wondered what my mother would think, watching me unravel & unwrap. I wept on the corner of my own bed; tears flowing and life tearing me apart.

Instead of dwelling, I’m trying to find the meaning of times like these and I guess we are built to be torn apart on occasion.  We can enjoy the process of making ourselves super sparkly, but discovering what’s inside can be magical too.  Mom knew this secret the whole time and the real gifts were always right where we needed them; within reach.  The real gift was taking the walk upstairs to find the perfect wrapping.  The real gift was how my mother packaged up life.  So…  I decided to look under my own bed.  (Unfortunately, I’m not nearly as organized and only found wadded up clothing  and the many sock partners I’ve been nagging my boys about.)  But, there was also a great pair of black leggings that paired well with my mother’s long kimono, the one she picked out for my wedding.  I put them on with her simple gold earrings, the ones she wore with everything & bought multiple pairs of.  I put on the sapphire ring, the one which was her own mothers before and reminded her of Eleanor daily.  I threw on some blush and the lipstick I took from her makeup bag last year.  I guess I was ready.  My reflection showed some seriously swollen eyes, but mostly memories of my best friend.  My mother’s wrapping brought me back to life that morning and carried me through the day.

I’m learning be patient with life as I build back up.  There’s joy in learning to find my mother in myself.  What a gift.

Hugs and Beer – Seeing the Light

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Each Winter/Spring, I coach an Odyssey of the Mind team. I’m beyond grateful for my time with these kiddos. A huge part of our season is building structures from recycled materials. My basement is stocked with cardboard, cans, fabric, wheels, old house paint, art supplies, wire, rope, you name it! It’s chaotic, loud, crazy and I often wonder, “Will we ever get the project done?” To date, we have & the children always manage to blow me away in the process.

No less than 3,000 times each week, I hear, “Miss Liz, what should I use to make this?” “Miss Liz, we are out of glue.”  “Miss Liz, these boxes don’t fit together.” “Miss Liz, he won’t listen to my ideas.” My answer 9 out of 10 times is, “Use your resources.” This answer drives them crazy. They shoot laser-beams at me with their eyes. I annoy them further when I say, “Use anything here. Use the people. Ask someone else on the team. Use the materials. Anything here is a resource. You have to figure out how to finish. We have to finish.” Mostly they want to kill me, but they usually leave with a hug anyway!

When I still lived in Colorado, I did these ridiculous races, called 24-hour Relays. ( If you were on a team with me, it was likely to be more like 30 or 32 hours. . . ) The first one I ever did was the Wild West Relay. Our team of 12 covered 200 miles from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs. Each runner covered 3 legs of varying distances (around 17-22 miles total.) While one person ran, the others rested, cheered, attempted to clean up and ate. Usually there were at least a few hours between each leg. Eating was severely unhealthy; cleaning up was a joke & rather disgusting. Resting was hard, unless you were smart enough to bring a sleeping bag, tent & ear plugs.

Similar to Odyssey, I had to pull from all resources to complete this race. I was still breast-feeding during my first relay. I had to borrow medical tape to hold my pump in place while I “rested” & treated my horrendous blisters. I had to borrow soap-tabs from my more seasoned team members when I realized that they were kidding about shower stops. I begged other teams for real food when I could no longer stomach Gatorade & supplement-shakes. Rollers were passed when our leg cramps felt debilitating. Extra clothing was coveted & shared when possible. Hair bands, bagels, face wipes, ibuprofen, pillows and caffeine were traded like cigarettes in prison.

My greatest resource came in human form. I was on my last leg. It was only 6 or 7 miles, but I had already done more than 12. My shoes were soaked from a river-crossing in leg 2, my shins were black and blue after a few trail-run falls, my blisters were poorly treated and I hadn’t prepared well for the altitude and hills. My morale was way down at this point. To top it off, it was an overnight-run; so pitch black. Runners were spread out, the course was part windy-mountain-trail, part dirt-road & my map reading skills are awful. Shortly after my start, I lost sight of the other runners. I stopped every couple of minutes to evaluate my next turn. Panic set in quickly & the first few miles were nightmarish. Around mile 4, I saw a light & it was a bouncy one. Bouncy lights are the BEST, because that means they are attached to a runner’s headlamp. This light was bouncing much faster than mine, so I picked up my pace. I practically sprinted to find it. As I got closer and closer my excitement built. Then, out of nowhere, it disappeared! “What? NO! Did I imagine that?” I slowed down, spinning while I jogged, searching for the light. Mid-spin, I smacked into something, fell and heard someone yell. The good news; I had found the light. The bad news; it was turned off while another runner relieved himself in a bush.  I knocked him right into the bush.

At first I wanted to run away, but humility and desperation ruled (plus he would have caught up to me pretty quickly. . .) Instead, I said, “I’m so so so sorry. I didn’t see you.” He told me it was okay & waited for me to leave so he could continue. “Ummm, actually, I need to wait for you. I’m totally turned around & need to run with you for a bit. I’ll just wait over here.” A few minutes later, I heard a zip & my new running bestie was ready! He was super nice and chatty. When he realized that I was out of breath from chatting, he talked non-stop to give me a break. When I slowed his pace with a side stitch, he pretended that he wanted to take it easy for a while too. When our mountain trail ended & road run began; I realized I could figure out the rest of the path. We only had a mile or so left. As much as I desperately wanted to be done, my legs were barely functioning and I said I needed to walk for “just a minute” & would be okay alone on the road. He wouldn’t let me go. “C’mon. Not much longer. Walk for a minute & you’ll walk the rest. Your legs will get worse. We’ll just figure out how to finish. We have to finish.” He kept talking and circling back to get me. He continued to wrap his arm around my back to keep me upright. The pace was embarrassing that last mile. I’m pretty sure I nearly doubled his time by tagging along. He high-fived his team as we approached & passed the bracelet (baton) to the next runner. He gave me a bear hug as I collapsed weeping. I was in total pain & he just laughed and helped me stand back up. With his arm holding me up, we walked/hopped to the vans with our teams. He cracked open a beer, laughed loudly again when he looked at me lying motionless on the ground & said, “Good job kiddo. We did it.  You finished.”

This guy (never learned his name), didn’t care. He didn’t care about his course time. He didn’t care about me smashing his privates into a prickly plant. He didn’t care about his one-sided conversation and my poor-companionship during the run. My pastor Howard asked us once in a sermon, “How far would you go to help someone with their journey?” I think about this question often & when he asked, immediately thought of this guy. When I spun into him in the dark, his focus shifted. Instinctively, his focus turned to helping me with my journey. Oh how I want to be more like my running bud. I want to practice this instinct with my family, with my friends and mostly with my children. I hope that when my village struggles I can dig deep, fill their time with joy, keep them going and laugh loudly along the way. I hope I can tell when they’re breathless and help them rest. I hope I can always pick them up at the end, back-slap them and tell them how great they are. I hope I can help them celebrate when the work is done and life-baton passed.

I hope for lots of hugging and beer.

 

“It’s been everything and more man.” Kevin Durant

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I could spend hours watching Espy & Arthur Ashe Award speeches. After watching Jimmy V, Michael Sam, Stuart Scott & Robin Roberts, I understand a little more each time why they hold their status in life. My favorite speakers never waste an opportunity to recognize the who’s & what’s that helped them arrive at the podium.

My favorite is Kevin’s Durant’s MVP speech, I think it was in 2014. The moment he steps to the microphone, my heartbeat triples in speed, jumps into my throat & my tear ducts pour. First of all, he cries like a baby during most of the speech, which I llloooovvve. If anyone says they don’t love watching giant, grown-men crying, they’re lying. He thanks nearly everyone in the room. The speech is literally almost 30 minutes long. You’d think it would sound disingenuous at some point, but it never does. Kevin goes on and on. Actually, there comes a point when you kind of want him to stop thanking people. And then, IT comes and it’s worth the wait. I can’t include the whole segment because it’s about a million words long, but here are the ones that really get me:

(head down, eyes closed, heaving crying)

And last, but not least, you the real MVP Mom. . .

We weren’t supposed to be here. . .

Everyone told us we weren’t supposed to be here. . .

When something good happens to you, I tend to look back to what brought me here. . .

We weren’t supposed to be here. . .

But, you made us believe. . .

The crowd jumps up into a standing ovation while his mom bawls her face off. The players are all crying violently too (yesssss). They don’t stop clapping forever. What a moment & he grabbed it! My envy of his opportunity to thank his village is immeasurable.

My personal MVP’s come in a unit; my parents. Mom & Dad (Grump & Char), unless mediocre yoga becomes nationally recognized, I’m doubtful I’ll ever have the opportunity to do this at the ESPY’s, so here goes:

 

We weren’t supposed to be here. No one I love is supposed to get CANCER. When CANCER happened, it didn’t just happen to mom. We all got CANCER. I think other fighting families would agree. We never wanted to have CANCER be the hot topic; the most talked about subject of our days. . . I never wanted to know so many of the medical words I do now. I could seriously hold my own with the Oncology crowd at this point. I never planned on that. I never planned to scrub in and watch rabbit serum do its work.  I never planned on you not seeing the boys for months on end. I never planned on a face-time relationship. I never planned to cry in church when the choir sings because I miss Mom’s gorgeous eyeballs up there. I never planned on having to bump elbows instead of embracing Dad. We weren’t supposed to be here.

Even though we weren’t supposed to be here, we are. I never planned on a lot of things, but the grace is in what has become our reality, planning or not. Here are some other things I didn’t plan for:

I didn’t plan on Harriet being my absolute rock & loving all of us so unconditionally that it brings me to tears.

I didn’t plan on the masses of emails, calls and texts from friends asking about you guys, talking about you, praying for you.

I didn’t plan on Dad, learning how to cook anything & everything; making some of the most delicious food I’ve heard of, becoming one of the most gracious & humble caregivers alive.

I didn’t plan on Max including you in every event on the phone, so desperate to have you with us, even if just on face-time.

I also didn’t plan on understanding Mom’s true strength, beauty and grace. Growing up with you, I never knew it was possible that you could be any more amazing.

I never saw you guys fight growing up. I never planned on you fighting. I’ve come to learn that this is what you were saving it for. You built your fight up all 47 years for this; CANCER.

It’s nothing short of a blessing to be your child. I’ve never spent a day, hour, minute or millisecond wondering how you feel about me; how you feel about my children. I’ve never thought twice about telling you hard things and worrying that you’ll love me less. Do you have any idea how much that builds a person up? From the point of memory, I have known that there is nothing I can do in this life that would stop you from loving me. There is no greater gift.

We weren’t supposed to be here. But, I wouldn’t trade being here, with you and with CANCER, as your daughter, for anything.

In another favorite speech, Stuart Scott says this about his fight with cancer, “It’s why you live. It’s how you live.” So, I guess we’ve won already.

I’ve mentioned before that stem-cell transplant patients count their age by their transplant date. My mother is 100 days old on Sunday. My parents have been in isolation for 100 days. There will never be a Valentine’s day as special February 14th, 2016. My parents get to get out of their car, walk up the steps and walk through my front door. They get to sit at our table with my children. We get to eat a meal together. We get to look at my mother’s real-life gorgeous turquoise eyeballs. We get to serve a man who’s cooked about 300 meals over the last few months. Sounds pretty regular, but you have no idea. . . Regular sounds pretty amazing and I’ll never take it for granted.

M&D – xo (and a thousand elbows)

Like Riding a Bike – ‘ish

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It’s been a trying week. I’d like to think my track record for surviving hard things is pretty good, but the stars didn’t align or something and news this week felt a little plagued. People I simply live life for are having non-star-aligned times. For me, spectator sports are hard when you’d rather sub in for the players.

Recently, when searching for inspiration(I know it’s just supposed to just come, but I was feeling antsy…), I came upon this gem from Brian Andreas of Storypeople:

All I can tell you is there is a moment where you finally stop & refuse to pretend this life is not yours & suddenly being strong looks a lot like laughing & crying & dancing & listening deeply to the people you love & now & then, you’ll look back at that old way & wonder how you ever believed that Life was something to endure.

I was dwelling (I’m a pro) at a ridiculously-long red light this week. I was caught off guard when a super shrilly, but silly scream startled me out of my nega-thoughts. I looked out my window to the sidewalk & saw what I assume was a father & son duo. The handsome dad (mid 40’s; linebacker size) was pushing his equally-tall teenage son on a bike with training wheels. It was clear that the boy really had no idea how to ride. Unlike my memory of learning, they didn’t seem tense or scared. Really, they just seemed to think it was great fun. Their laughter was loud and hard and very, very real. The dad was sweat-soaked, working incredibly hard to keep the bike upright. It swerved violently every time the son clapped with delight. The son fell once, with the bike and father falling right on top of him. At a glance, it looked like a limb-breaker based on their size alone. Nope, he popped back up & hopped right back on. They could have cared less about the stoplight-audience. For them, they were alone in this moment; learning how to ride a bike. Whether they just never got around to it before, or there were some special circumstances, this dad didn’t care. For this man (intentionally bolded), there was nothing in this moment to be endured; only challenge and hope to celebrate out loud with his kiddo. I wanted nothing more than to jump out of my car & get in on the action. I wanted to grab the other side of the handlebars & run along scream-laughing with those guys.

The light turned green; both on the pole & in my brain. GO!! I’m pretty sure that’s what the honk + middle finger from the car behind me was saying too…

GO! MOVE! BE BREATHLESS! Laugh for crying out loud. Cry for crying out loud!! I realized something in my biker-envy moment. There’s a lot of work to do for myself & my people and I’m excited! I’ll find the humility, joy and hilarity in these challenges. I’ll remember that solutions are supposed to be discovered together in hard situations. I can release the pressure of needing to know all the answers in advance.

Thank you hot dad. There really is nothing to endure. If I ever feel that way, I’ll remember to pull out my training wheels.

A Little Alaska Envy – Weather Woes

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I started my day super grouchy. I didn’t sleep very well & the boys weren’t with us last night. Mornings aren’t nearly the same without them. Ryley, my chocolate lab, is showing her age & I’m sad to see my baby declining. After coffee, I stepped on the freshly recalibrated scale & my tight-jean suspicions were confirmed. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, I checked the weather forecast on my phone. NOOOOO! Sixty-five & sunny; seriously? You have got to be kidding me.

My Kansas friends, whom I adore, praise our state for its continued warmth & sunshine this winter. Bah Humbug. I’m a layerer (one who loves dressing in layers.) Beginning December 1st, I fully expect to have no less than seven garments on at all times. I need to be cozy & sixty-five degrees is NOT doing it for me. Today I had my ankles, forearms & neck exposed and quite frankly I’m mad as heck about it. I didn’t even need a jacket this morning… Frigid temps have so many benefits:

  • Tight jeans don’t matter because they’re often covered by puffers or cardigans.
  • If you don’t run outside, you’re sane, not lazy.
  • Hot beverages & couches just make more sense.
  • Snow can happen and snow makes everything better.
  • It’s a requirement to snuggle your people and stay warm.
  • Soup becomes a staple.
  • Dirty or messy hair solution = ski caps.

Winter is just better, so where is it already? Positivity had been a real stretch most of the day, so I decided to search for inspiration. All I had to do was peer up. There it was; my heart pinned to my map of the world, right in the center of the US. My LED computer lights were warming her yellow hue. Irony, gets to me every time. My dear friend pinned this origami heart (a gift from Maxwell), on my map around this very time last winter. He was very particular to stick the pin right into the heart of KC. Weather last year was a perfect freeze-fest, but life felt a lot harder than skinny jean concerns. Snow unfortunately didn’t trump fear and depression. Cocoa didn’t ease nor speed up transition and no matter how down-filled the protective puffer, life felt very fragile & exposed.  Wow, I guess my life is actually synchronized with the season this year, perhaps warmer and sunnier than I was recognizing today.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” I’ll head into my short-sleeved weekend holding this idea, knowing igloo-building weather will be here soon enough. What matters, is that my heart and family are exactly where we need to be. We are stuck right in the center, folding both paper and our lives into something new. I may have just felt a cool breeze.

Stand by Me – Or on Me

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I recently lost my cherished 5-year-old yoga mat.  She & I were quite the pair.  I drenched her with sweat, tugged at her every corner, cleaned her up and stowed her in the back of my van.  Every practice, she held my wobbly legs in place and practically gripped at my feet. After our first year together, we even started to resemble each other;  my silhouette deepening her turquoise color during Savasana.  I still search for her each time before practice.  Such a silly thing, but it makes me sad.  I really miss her.

Last weekend, I gave into the loss and purchased a new mat.  It’s a lovely tonal-blue tie-dye one, marketed to be non-slip.  The first day I unrolled it, I winced at the new-mat smell.  I struggled to find space on the narrower rectangle & nearly slipped a dozen times during practice.   Ugghh.  I don’t have the budget for another new mat right now, so I’m settling into this relationship daily.  This morning, I sat up on my mat to start our yoga “Ohm’s.”  My knees wished for my cushier old gal as I stood up.  My feet longed for the smoother surface.  In our first downward dog, I craved her larger width & longer length.  Stupid new mat.

The room heated up quickly today & the sweat came in buckets.  My new mat doesn’t hold me as well, so I had to really engage my calves, heels and quads to stay put in most poses.  My “tree” branches swayed, my “dancer” fell and my “crow” took a serious sweaty dive. After an hour of intense flexing through practice and a dozen bruises later, I collapsed for our final pose; Savasana.  My breath was heavier than normal & my body utterly exhausted.  I realized that my new mat challenged me today.  I flowed outside of my comfort zone for an hour, doing anything I could to stay grounded.  My body ached most of the day from new-muscle usage.  I crave this type of ache, as it means I’m doing something right; something I hadn’t achieved in a while with my old partner-in-crime.

Susan sometimes says in practice, “You’re no bigger than your mat.”  You’re darn right Susan. My new mat knew how to challenge me when I’ve been trying and failing. My mat knew enough to say, “I don’t care if I’m not what you’re used to. I’m here, so let’s get to work!” I guess we don’t get to choose how the people and objects in our life carry us. If they are present in our lives; with the purpose of grounding us, chances are we’re gonna come out better for it. Chances are if we have anything holding us in place, our hearts, bodies and minds will benefit. Chances are if we’re standing with or on something, we’ll be grateful.

Lesson of the day:  Go With the Flow (yoga pun fully intended…)

Glass Castles – A Good ol’ Stare Off

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So, I posted a photo tonight. It was of Max, standing in front of my parent’s front door. He was staring through the glass at my mom. They mirrored each other. Their arms were crossed, both with exemplary posture and smiling eyes. My father and I mirrored each other in our desire to capture the image.

Max wants to talk about my parents constantly. Each day, he hopes for a new answer to the questions, “When can we see Char Char & Grumpy?  Why can’t we see them?  Can I walk outside with them with a mask?  Can I see them for my birthday? Christmas?” Oy, the answers feel rehearsed and exhausting. “No Baby. I’m so sorry. Not yet.”

Earlier in the evening, Max and I started our daily 2 mile run. I told him Char Char was doing well & Grumpy could do more things outside of the house. I reported on the progress, but Max’s focus immediately went to what he thought was an opportunity to see his two super-heroes. Shoot…. The questions started. The answers disappointed. Max is a fighter. Not in a mean way, more a negotiator way. He asked me the same question a thousand different ways & I said “no” to every one; until he asked, “Mom, can’t we just go stare at them through the window?”

“YES!!!”

Most days I want to stop and weep and say, “Holy Cow Kiddo!”   Today was the same. I needed my boys to see my strong and stunning parents through the glass. That was it. We all needed to feel their energy and have them stare back.

So, after a short staring contest, we left. We loaded up in the car and Max said, “This was great. They are great. I feel better” Ummmm, yeah.. Agree.   What he said….

There is something about having an old-soul-child. Max understands his grandparent’s physical and emotional beauty. He craves nearness. Proximity, warmth, closeness and physicality are real needs for him. Our healing will begin again post-isolation with handshakes, kisses and hugs. These are moments we dream about.

My children teach me lessons every day. Today’s: Admit what we miss and make it better. Yes, we are so blessed. Char is strong. Char is healing w/ the #1 caretaker by her side. Char is 34 days old today & healthier every day. But it is okay to admit that we are still sad and missing their touch. They are really good at that!

I encourage you today to focus on proximity. Don’t hesitate to hug! Invade space & show your love. Please share with each other, what my family can’t for a few more months. Also, if you see us, wrap your arms around my children. Shower them with touch and closeness. It would help us tremendously.

Love yours. Love ours. Touch. Stay close. Celebrate every day, especially day 34.

xx & lot’s of o’s…

The “D” Word

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At first, I thought being so public with my life was a mistake. I wondered if sharing very personal things was a bad idea. It really started the day I hit “send” on an email to my closest friends and family; describing our plans to consciously-uncouple and transition to co-parenting. In other words, the “D” word…

Sending the email had felt like the right thing to do, in an effort to avoid surprise, especially for the other children in my community. As soon as it was sent, panic set in. I’m anxious by nature, kind of a panic-pro I guess. I worried about all of the fringe problems I would be dealing with soon, the friends who would stay, the ones who would go, those who would choose sides and those who would feel hurt. All of these things happened. Some of my worst nightmares came true overnight and that’s when the magic began. With nightmares, comes awakening.

I learned to say what I was thinking, how I was feeling and what I thought about things out loud. People really responded. Some were good, some mad and some surprising. What I hold onto & why I continue to write are for the connections that come from truth. Some of the most beautiful words I’ve heard are random notes in response to something I’ve written. Here are just a few:

  • Please know that our whole family stands behind yours.
  • That is where your strength is – keep it alive.
  • You are so loved….and appreciated by ALL your friends and family…. I can’t begin to explain how close this has brought me to you and your family, my dear one.
  • Your story is inspirational and something I wish all divorced parents could do for their children. Children carry that with them their entire lives. You’re breaking the cycle.
  • Reminds me of my dad’s advice from when I was about 8 about putting on a button up shirt: start with evening out the ends…button from the bottom up…if there’s still a problem, come see me.

Why don’t we speak to each other like this every day? I reference these messages often as a reminder to say things out loud more often. Genuine, gooey words to the people I love, or even just to the people who inspire me. Mine probably won’t be eloquent, but I’ll sleep better if my village knows how incredible it is.

Village, I flippin’ adore you! I’m really exhausted a lot of the time & often wonder how I would get through life without you. Thank you, for bringing the literal “Death, Divorce and Bunions” into my life. Without pain, without struggle; I’m sure life would be a little too boring. I welcome the daily panic & what joy lies on the other side. There is always joy on the other side. The joy will always find us. I believe that.

xx

 

Buying Hats – Michael Moments

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Michael and I stopped in Eureka Springs recently on our way back from a wedding. We did some window shopping, a lot of eating and occasionally stopped in a store. I had been eyeing a hat shop, but didn’t want to tell him how much I LOVE hats. He’s not a real accessories kind of man. I saw one sleek wool fedora through the glass, slate gray with a darker charcoal band; begging to sit on my head. I don’t normally buy them, but I could literally try on hats for hours on end. It’s a good way to play dress-up as an adult and call it “shopping.” I studied it longingly from the window, making sure he didn’t notice. We moved on, making our way up the hill of shops and sat at the top for a while.

My childhood guy friends have always called me by my middle name, Parmelee. It takes me back every time I hear it & reminds me how important these men are in my life. Michael has never stopped, but has since abbreviated to just “Parm.” He doesn’t know how much I love this and it’s one of many things he does that makes me adore him.

When we get dressy to go somewhere, he does this great thing when I walk into the room. He pauses, stands up a little straighter and really watches me for a second. He’ll say something nice like, “Wow, Parm. Gorgeous. That dress is fantastic on you.” Simple and sweet, but the words aren’t what mean the most. It’s the stop and the minute of thought; the breath before the words. He reminds me not to rush through moments. Actually, I am accustomed to mom-speed and don’t walk through doors; I rush through them. Michael’s teaching me to slow down and pause, so moments don’t just pass. I’m learning to sit in them for a bit.

After enjoying our moment on a bench at the top of the hill, we made our way back down. Michael held my hand firmly, helping me get down the cobblestone without falling (stupid shoe decision #5,289). I was only paying attention to my wobbly feet until he stopped suddenly in front of a window and excitedly said, “Parm, we need to go into this store. That hat would look amazing on you.”

That’s real.

I hope your day is filled with Michael-moments. They’re pretty fantastic.

Calendar Girls – The Difference a Day Makes

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Flipping calendar pages is one of my favorite things. Usually during the final week of a month, I’m dying to flip & start fresh. My most treasured calendar is from Caroline. It’s her photography of CO landscapes taken in each month. It’s familiar and reminds me what my second home looks like. Today, thanks to Caroline, my morning started with a Fall Aspen Grove. Golden leaves and sun. I could nearly smell it.

Know what’s so great about Aspens? They can survive forest fires because the root system is typically below the heat of the fire. Actually, I read that fire can sometimes benefit aspen groves, as saplings can flourish in direct sunlight on newly burned ground. I love this concept. Being leveled, getting back to the basics and starting fresh. I decided I was an October Aspen today; or at least I really want to be.

It’s so cliché, but what doesn’t kill us really does make us stronger. I feel stronger. When you don’t get to sleep in the same home as your children seven days a week, you crave them. It’s terrible, but something pretty amazing comes out of it too; enhanced appreciation. I despise the nights that I can’t smell them before bed, that I can’t hear their voices reading to each other at night, that I can’t squeeze their growing bodies. But then when I get them back, I love new things. I love how smelly they are after sports, how loud they are trying to talk over each other at dinner and how hard they squeeze back. I don’t yell anymore. Admittedly, I didn’t a ton before, but it’s easier not to now. I never want the last thing they hear from me, before a weekend at their dad’s, to be yelling or anger.

It’s so cliché, but time heals all wounds. My October last year felt weak and panicked and scared. My October today feels mostly proud. My Frambily has worked really freaking hard to figure out what we look like. Henry was “Star of the Week” at school this week. Want to know what family picture he chose to share? The recent photo from my mother’s birthday celebration. He got to tell his class, “My family is REALLY Big.” I have a mom and a dad. I have a Char Char & Grumpy. I have an Uncle Matthew and two cousins. I have a Michael (my boyfriend) and I have an Aunt Sabrena (my ex-sister in law.)” This was a tearfully proud moment for me. Henry has been confused on how to introduce people, but he has NOT been embarrassed. At school he beamed about the sheer number of people who adore him. He didn’t have to show two family pictures; just one.

FAM

My sapling family has an incredible root system, time on our side and we’ve learned to flourish with the flame. On Facebook today, my dear friend Janet posted the following. She really summed it up for me and so, I’ll end with this .

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80’s Trends – Turning our Heads Upside Down

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I ran into a friend at Starbucks recently. He’s the kind of man who’s presence is instantly seen & felt; a powerful human. Michael & I both turned and greeted him with joyful smiles and hugs.

Bobby (Sorry bud. Just can’t do the “Robert” thing yet…) You made our day!

I grew up surrounded by great male friends from the 3rd grade on. These guys are a big part of my village to date. Admittedly, Bobby wasn’t one of my closest, yet always a constant. I actually know the reason for this & love childhood for it.

Here goes: In the 4th grade, Bobby & I were selected to give speeches at the all-school assembly. I can’t remember what Bobby was speaking about that day, but I do remember having a huge crush on him.  I couldn’t wait to get up there & blow his mind with Mississippi River details. “Just wait Bobby,” I thought. Who wouldn’t fall in love with  my hairspray-hard bangs, oversized Guess sweatshirt & knowledge of the fourth longest river in the world?!

Bobby of course was fantastic; he has a newscaster-worthy voice & nailed it. When it was my turn; fear set in, I tripped up the stairs & fearfully faced my fellow-student population. I tried to remember what I was supposed to say & often when I am crazy-nervous, I get the hiccups. Awesome, right? Even cooler; sometimes they are followed by a little burp sound. Amplify this with the school’s sound system & my hopes for a relationship-status-change with Bobby were shattered. I muttered my way through and left the stage one sad little lady.  I didn’t speak to him much after that.

Maxwell is in the 3rd grade this year. Thankfully, I remembered this as the year when feelings are amplified, jealousy can set it and life can hurt a little more. I was prepared for it. Embarrassment & hurt feelings have happened and I’ve used this story twice already. I tell him that Bobby doesn’t remember my hiccup-burp. He remembers my children’s names and ages. Bobby doesn’t ask how large US rivers are. He asks how my mother is feeling. Bobby doesn’t ask about the latest hair and fashion trends. He asks how Michael and I are doing. Good people and good friends don’t remember the hiccups in life. They remember everything else. I said last week, “Remember the Bobby story Max?” He shook his head and smiled back and that was a parenting win.

Hiccups happen. Fortunately there are people like Bobby in the world to slap us on the back or bring a glass of water.

Lassoing the Moon – Yeah, What She Said…

Today, I ran home over lunch to let Ryley out.

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I had leftovers in the fridge & even though alone, fist-pumped Jersey-style when I remembered this.  The day before, we had Stroud’s KC cater our work lunch with their famous Fried Chicken & sides.  I don’t eat a ton of meat, but fried chicken is a real weakness for me.  I sat down at my dining table with Ryley, my choco lab, at my feet.  Who knew this trip home would be so awesome?!  It was raining, my house smelled good, I was with my dog and ready to feast on my Thanksgiving-of-a-lunch!  YESSSSS!

I like to feel emotionally overwhelmed (when it’s the good kind…)  I even search YouTube to induce tears on occasion.  My standard search is for Arthur Ashe Award speeches.  There is nothing quite like massively-athletic grown men crying their eyeballs out & thanking their mothers.  Today at lunch, I needed something a little more soothing.  I chose Pink’s Grammy Performance of her song, “Glitter In the Air.”  If you have not seen this, watch it (but finish reading first…)  She flies through the air with an ariel acrobatic team, drenched in wet gold & sings pitch perfect words while spinning through the air:

Have you ever fed a lover with just your hands?

Closed your eyes and trusted, just trusted?

Have you ever thrown a fistful of glitter in the air?

Have you ever looked fear in the face and said, “I just don’t care.”?

Yes Pink!  Yes, I have; fairly recently in fact!  These lyrics matched my emotional status perfectly.  I was channeling all of the GREAT & all the recent strength in my life while watching this video & stuffing my face.  Things are great; period.  I could focus on the lingering few annoyances, but they’re mostly drowned out by this latest rush of glittery waves & I just don’t care about them right now.  Pink clearly knows this feeling.

Once I started on the potatoes & gravy, I decided to talk to God a little (I’m getting better at this.) I’m a lister (a maker of lists, since technically this is not a word), so I mainly wanted to check in and remind him how grateful I am for a few things:

  • God, those boys of mine.  Wowzers.  For real, thank you for them.  Thank you for their faces and hairy legs, their giant feet and hearts.  Thank you for their health and laughter. bros
  • God, this has been a doozy of a living situation for the last several months.  Thank you for opportunity & the experience of finding a new home for my family.  Please help us get there with ease.
  • God, thanks for my parents and family.  Please keep this next year tolerable and as comfortable as possible.  Please be gentle. family
  • God, thanks for the new love you’ve surprised me with.  I know that my life doesn’t mirror your book, but I know you’re still guiding it.  I’ll just think of my path as a “special case.”
  • mdm
  • God, these friends you’ve given me remind me of that terrible video game, Mortal Combat.  They reach inside my chest daily with violent force & grab hold of my heart.  It’s theirs and I have no choice in the matter.
  • Thanks too for Ryley, high-calorie meals, candles and good voices.

I cleaned up my plate, belted a few tunes with Miss Pink, kissed my doggie & headed back into work.

Have you ever wished for an endless night?

Lassoed the moon and the stars and pulled that rope tight?

Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself, will it ever get better than tonight?

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Although I’m tickled Pink.  I hate the way glitter sticks to everything and never goes away, so maybe I’ll start with popcorn.

Cleaning Up – The Best Kind of Disaster Plan

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My dad is consistent when giving advice. I’m not a good photographer, so he tells me every time; the trick is to take thousands of pictures & at least one of them should be frame-worthy. He tells me to take life one day at a time; a lesson that has helped me tremendously in our problematic rental home. One of my favorites, which he has said no less than 10,000 times: “Sweetie, the trick to safe driving is to drive like everyone else on the road is out to kill you.” As a young teen, I remember being terrified the first time he said this. “Wait, WHAT? Who’s trying to kill me? Everyone?? That’s seriously not cool Dad. Now I’m nervous.” It took at least a few years to get the color back in my knuckles.

Today en route to my office, left lane traffic went from 70 mph to a dead halt in a matter of seconds. Fortunately, I still drive like my father taught me & noticed this while there was still time to react. Even then, my brakes screeched just the tiniest bit. There was that moment of panic staring into my rearview mirror. After this event, Siri helped me “make a note” of exactly what went through my brain. I surprised even myself with this internal-monologue:

  • What is the car behind me doing? Oh, thank God they’re breaking.
  • I can’t see the cars behind them. What if they are still going 70+?
  • How should I brace for impact? Sit up straight, stiff neck, loose neck? (note here, I actually started to roll my neck left and right to loosen up.)
  • I like the outfit I’m wearing, in case I get hit & the paramedics have to pull me out. (it’s raining in KC today & I broke out my favorite Sorel wellies & Lulu rain jacket. I’m layered & I LLLLOOOVVEEE layering. I had time to do my hair too.)
  • My dad will like to know that I was listening to the Beatles when I was hit from behind. (the boys are in love with the Beatles right now, so their dad loaned us a bunch of CD’s.)
  • Oh wait, what am I supposed to be doing with my body right now? Straight legs? Bent Legs? Should I put the car in park & sit cross-legged so my legs don’t break? Maybe if they do, I’ll just have them do my bunion surgery before they put on casts.

Yep. Scouts honor. This is how my brain works. Hopefully you’re still reading…

The good news is, while preparing to look great, protect my body from too much damage & solve my podiatry woes, the cars behind me followed my dad’s advice too. Phew!

I spent the rest of my morning wondering, “How should we brace for impact in life?” Is it kind of a morbid way to live our daily lives; constantly preparing for disaster? Actually, I don’t think so. I wonder if it doesn’t force us to clean up. Tomorrow morning, I’ll wake up & think, “If I am hit by a car today, am I comfortable with the basics?” Here’s my checklist:

  • Self   – Eehhh, I’m okay with myself. Need to keep working out.
  • Family    –  Be more like Jason. Call and visit your people.
  • Love        Remember to tell Michael how wonderful he is.
  • Parenting     It’s been over a week since our last dance off & sleepover.
  • Work      Remember how lucky you are. Remember how much you love your job. Keep striving for more.
  • Friendships   Pick up the phone. Pick up the phone. Pick up the phone. Don’t be that friend that just assumes they all know how you feel about them.
  • Balance   Slow down. Sleep more. Stop saying, “yes,” to everything. Get to YOGA & remember to pray!!!!

Ooooooh, I love my new Disaster Plan! If I can just focus on the basics, I’ll be less nervous about catastrophes. Really, it’s these very things that will help me survive any aftermath. Come on over & see my fridge soon. This fancy little list will be proudly displayed next to the Kindergarten calendar, Nutella fingerprints & love notes from my kiddos.

Do Life:

 

 

 

Artsy Fartsy – Discovering Tim

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My family & friends (even the closest) often introduce me as a fashion designer. Early on in my career, I would correct them and interject with my actual job description. Now, although I think my job is pretty great, I don’t bother to correct them. “Designer” sounds much more glamorous & it makes me sound super creative. I just proudly nod & hope they never see me draw a stick figure…

I’m afraid I didn’t get the artsy gene. My brother can play any tune, draw any picture & is much artsier than me overall. I’m pretty pragmatic and prioritize well, soooo I’ve got that going for me. Being in the fashion industry, people expect more art-knowledge from me. My solve? I’ve learned how to effectively fake it most days. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate art and go to see it as often as possible. I pop into museums and galleries & comment on pieces in friends’ homes.   I can get by in basic conversation about periods, mediums and techniques.

There is one big problem with my approach. I’m too self-conscious and always worry that I’m looking at things the wrong way. Instead of focusing on the collection or the pieces, I focus on crazy things:

  • How far are other patrons standing from the art when viewing?
  • Is 2’ or 10’ feet appropriate?
  • Should I stand cross-armed with a tilted head or am I allowed to sit on a nearby bench?
  • If there is a nearby bench, is it meant to sit on, or is it part of the installment? Do I stare at it from near or far???
  • Is it okay to say that I don’t like something or hate pastels?
  • What words do I use in this setting? “Nice, huh?” doesn’t feel like it would quite cut it, so I’m just quiet.

I move slowly, thoughtfully & kind of numbly through these spaces. I know these things are wonderful, but I’m too self-conscious to understand why.

Michael & I went to visit my cousin in Arkansas recently. We casually popped inside a Fayetteville gallery to kill time. I couldn’t figure out which way to go. Often I need the Ikea-approach to life & this gallery did not offer the luxury of glowing floor-arrows. I had to navigate & decide on the right flow for myself. I headed right, then toward the back and instantly confused; moved toward the gallery’s central room. This is a thing with me because I’m directionally impaired. I move toward any central location when confused. This helps me figure out which way I’m facing & start again.

Entering the gallery’s nucleus, my heart stopped. My breath quickened. I stopped and felt my head spin, which in turn, forced my body to do the same. I turned slowly around; attempting to take it in. It was dizzying and I had to leave the room. I went to the bathroom. I stared into the mirror wondering what was wrong with me. Was it the flu? SHOOT! Not now! I didn’t want the flu… I splashed some water on my face & went back out. I walked back to the central room & again stopped dead in my tracks. This time, all the same things happened & in addition, my eyes started leaking. I didn’t know where to start. I wanted to see every sketch, photograph and sculpture simultaneously. I needed to see every pen, sharpie and pencil stroke that instant. My body and brain pulled taut in every direction at once. The tears continued. I went piece by piece; around the room dozens of times. Michael’s body joined me at some point in a choreographed fashion and I knew he was trying to take this in too. I stood directly in front of my favorites; so close that I couldn’t see the overall picture or even images. I didn’t care. I needed to take in every last line and would figure out what they made later.

At 37 years old, I found my favorite artist & hadn’t even known I was searching. It was an experience so personal, private and overwhelming. So, in my typical fashion, I waited all of 5 seconds before texting one of my best-friends, Greg, to tell him all about it! In my defense, I did wait a few weeks for the blog.

As usual, I’m rambling & trying to draw a message from it. I’ve learned that I don’t get to predict, plan or prepare for “favorites” in my life. They’re God-like and it’s these moments that make me want to stand sideline-close and soak in every detail. It took a man named, Tim West, to teach me this life lesson of love. Don’t love something because you think you should. Love it because your brain, heart and body don’t allow you the choice. I certainly had no choice when I found Tim’s work.

Love things wholly. Figure them out later; or don’t figure them out at all. Love every wild and messy stroke. Love it closely and in time, I bet ya when you step back to that 2’ or 10’ – BOOM!

 

p.s. I do not say the word “fart”, nor do I allow the boys to  and they are allowed to read every single blog entry. Boys, this title is NOT permission to stop saying “pass gas.” Just to clarify, you’ll still get in trouble….

 

Taste & See – Words to Live By

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Our minister, Howard, inspires so many of these blog posts. He did so again today. To begin his sermon, he referenced his morning drive. All along the way, he thought, “What are all the things that allowed me to get here?” For him, this reference included many humans.

I have a lot to celebrate today; like a lot a lot. The joy and hope in my heart and brain feels burst-worthy. I think of all the people that helped me get here today. My village did this with me. I was lucky enough to have a couple enter my village a few months ago and because of them, life reacted perfectly this week. This is exactly how this village stuff works.

Larry & Cindy are game changers & my family’s circumstances changed for the better because of them (more details will come.) I did life with two of the most gracious and graceful people I’ve met to date and learned that when you grab onto the right hands and let them lead you, the places you can go together include breathtaking views.

After Howard’s sermon, the choir sang one of my favorite anthems, “Taste and See.” The song begs you to go out and try anything; more so to try everything.   My mom sings in the choir and I’ve mentioned before that I usually focus on her during these songs. After the first few verses, the choir shout-sang the “Taste and See” refrain. They demanded that we celebrate. It was overwhelming to watch my mother shouting at me to keep trying. The lyrics felt like her saying, “I’m so proud sweetie. You’re a little weird and your life path is a constant surprise, but I’m enjoying every step with you. Keep going. Keep tasting and keep your eyes open.”

Ahhh Life. You don’t always have to pick the destination. Sometimes being led there can be even more beautiful.

Cindy & Larry – Thank you friends. Your impact is quake-like in my village.

It takes a village. Thanks for being part of mine.

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