every night

Every night when we go to bed, we carry our kids to their beds from ours, where they always fall asleep just after reading books. We know they will fall back into our bed with us sometime between 10pm and 7am. But for those two to ten hours, we have that entire Queen all to ourselves. Well, and our dog and one or two cats curled among limbs.

I went to log into my blog over the weekend and couldn’t remember my password. It’s been a while since I’ve been here. But I certainly didn’t think it’d take me a good bit to remember how to login. I changed my password almost a year ago when wordpress told me I had to. I know it was almost a year ago because it was the day after Alice died. And on that gray, cold day I changed my password to include the date of her passing.

At night, after I carry Margot across the hall, I place her feet on the ladder to the top bunk. It has been six months since the last time I would ever carry her with one arm and climb the ladder to place her up there. It was literally one single, warm night when I just couldn’t muscle it any longer. Now, she, half-awake, ascends the ladder with me steadying her from below saying I got you baby. Night. Love you.

Ruby is easier, mostly because she’s on the bottom bunk but also because she has just a bit of baby left in her. No matter how awkward the carry position is, her frame sinks against mine like the stars find their place in a constellation.

We leave our door cracked all night because if we don’t, Sam leans his claws into the wood to voice his disapproval. Sam is our 17-year old cat whom we’ve had since he was a kitten. He chooses to sleep with us every night but likes to know he can get out if he wants to.

We went to a college football game last Saturday with my in-laws. At this game, I was one of 25,000 people who wanted a distraction, who wanted to have fun and focus on the things we love about this life. For me, this had absolutely nothing to do with football. For me, I was lifted by our collective ability to breathe and collective craving for contentment, purpose, fulfillment, love and health. I was thoughtful about our crowd of people. The trust and vulnerability, the blood pumping through our hearts. And, what if.

What if.

Several times I drew in a deep breath and pushed a prayer out to those hurting in Paris and Beirut and all over our planet. I drew in a breath and pushed love at my family and my present moment of frivolity. The contrasting feelings felt uncomfortable and human.

“The moment you replace a memory of love with a memory of terror is the moment you lose hope. Don’t become swallowed up by fear. Don’t let this act of terror redefine your past experiences or your hopes for the future.” I love these words by Rachel Brathen (@yoga_girl on instagram). Hope and love. I chose to contribute to this world’s population, the next generation. I sometimes feel concerned, holding my breath against certain realities.

I am hopeful. I am full of love.

Sometime around the football game’s halftime, as the wind howled out of Hellgate Canyon and we all leaned into each other for warmth, a ladybug landed on my chest. She told me to focus on living and loving and the that the beautiful little things are not petty. They are supremely important. She climbed up and down every finger on my hand, so out of place but perfectly placed. She told me to trust people. To believe in goodness, possibility and peace.

Ruby is always the first to rise and shuffle across the hall into our bedroom. She knows that three steps into our room, she can fall forward and our bed will catch her. Andy barely wakes. He lifts the thick down comforter and heavy wool blanket in one stretch and Ruby rolls in. Safe and snug, dedicated to loving and being loved.

She turns six next week. She’s missing two teeth and has two loose teeth. She can scream higher than Mariah, break any record for the wiggliest human, mince garlic as good as any chef and give hugs that melt the world’s hurt. She loves socks that don’t bunch up, books, her sister’s friendship, good bread, piggy backs, tiny containers and playing kittens.

She asked for a nature party. Specifically, she’s dreamed up a scavenger hunt at the river, dancing, spaghetti, salad bar, doggie cake and Santa in attendance.

We left for and returned from our big road trip. It was everything I had hoped: a good mix of planned and spontaneous, with all the real feelings and experiences that naturally surface with travel for a month. I am not yet sure what the sharing of our adventure will look like. I will share some bits and photos here but I have so much in me that I want to write out into many essays. I’d like to write a book about it. I think writing a book is really hard and believe every single author of a book to be so brave and a little bit superhuman. I am currently working on drawing inspiration and courage from them. I did scribble down thoughts in my journal quite often while we traveled. And it felt good. And I’m ok with announcing my idea here even if it takes years or turns into something else entirely. Now I’m rambling and considering deleting this entire paragraph but will leave it. xo

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hump day nuggets: ritual

Every night when we go to bed, we carry our kids to their beds from ours, where they always fall asleep just after reading books. We know they will fall back into our bed with us sometime between 10pm and 7am. … Continue reading

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give yourself three minutes

I stand in the kitchen, tired, noticing I forgot to brush my furry teeth the night before. “Girls! It’s time to start our day!” I shout down the short hall to their sleepy bunk beds. I pull two creamy shots of espresso. The aroma awakens my skin. Andy’s art exhibit is in a few days and we are nearing the end of a tightly booked schedule. For months, Andy has been painting between 4 and 6:30am, before his 10 hour work day. And painting again in the evenings and on the weekends. Naturally, I’ve been keeping (attempting to keep) the homestead stuff together, weaving my work around cooking, kids, garden, pets etc. We’ve been in a doable and good rhythm, one that feels doable and good because it is creatively fueling for my husband and because it is finite. I cannot wait to see Andy stand in a white gallery*, surrounded by his art and people who love his art. I look forward to someone else making dinner again. I look forward to breezy, cozy weekday evenings.

I steam coconut milk and accidentally pour the most beautiful heart-leaf design into my mug. I think about taking a photo but I stand and stare instead, noticing how one little beautiful thing can be such a gift.

Last week, during a meeting with Margot’s teacher, I felt a lump in my jeans on my calf. It was a big lump and I couldn’t believe nobody told me that it looked like a was concealing a small squirrel up my pant leg. I fished my hand up the blasted skinny jean to fetch the item and instead I pulled out a pair of my underwear. That I then had to hold in my lap for the rest of the meeting.

Our kitchen is deconstructed as we prepare for the last bits of our four-year remodel. I wipe drywall dust off the little stool so I can spread peanut butter on bread for breakfast. Margot has a spelling test today.

BREEZE I say, emphasizing the Z. She wants to spell it with an S like cheese and and EA like please. And really, I wonder how any of us learn to spell when every rule is broken 12 different ways.

Mama, can you please tie this string on my wrist so it’s not too tight but also not too loose? Ruby always has very specific requests regarding fit and tension of accessories and clothing.

One second, baby. I fill lunch containers with sliced tomatoes, cheese and applesauce on the kitchen floor.

Little Dragon plays. The sun cuts light across the dusty floor. Mabel is hungry. I take hold of the fragile string with six gold rings and one diamond in the middle that is held tight to Ruby’s wrist. Except I don’t have a good grip and the beads fall, hop away and vanish into the floor. She screams in horror. I take a gulp of coffee and pick her up. I tell her we’ll make another but immediately regret saying that because that isn’t the point. She grieves over that bracelet on this morning.

She presses her wet cheek into the space between my collarbone and chin. I hold her with my right arm. I wipe the stool with my left hand and say SKELETON to Margot.

Despite the sock crisis, the kids make it to school on time and this small victory feels like a big one. Continue reading

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Ten years ago today I married Andy in the pouring rain.

As a teenager I would imagine my adult self. She would dive into a series of passionate relationships, having her heart broken easily and often. It would be ok because she felt alive and ready for everything that feeling alive involved. She would feverishly make art and travel the world after college and maybe never settle into one place.

I didn’t imagine that, at 18, I would fall in love with the boy I’d had a crush on since I was 11. And that would be it. Just the one passionate relationship. No broken hearts. We were a meteoric collision where two things awaken and strengthen simply by being together. I was stunned to know love like this existed. Love that made me feel the most alive, the most certain, the most vulnerable.

We went to a concert last night. Our babysitter arrived at 6 when I was in the shower, Andy was vacuuming up tumbleweeds of pet hair and the kids were laying in the driveway with stuffed animals. We weren’t ready for her. Or, actually, we were so ready for her. We were tired. We drank espresso, kissed our kids and left.

I didn’t know Todd Snider’s music very well. But Andy knows me and booked tickets long ago. We paid a little extra to have seats at a table which we proudly noticed makes us in the “older” bracket of concert goers. I remember a time when the cheapest ticket was the ticket we always booked, when we happily stood for hours smushed in the front beer-splashing quadrant of show. Well, I guess we still do that at Pearl Jam but this show felt more like my favorite poetry reading in a friend’s living room.

Elizabeth Cook opened and the beauty of her voice and her words brought tears to my eyes three times in 45 minutes. She told stories that gripped the room and I thought about that power people have when they are doing their thing – the real thing they are meant to do – and the universe shivers with joy.

I leaned into Andy’s side, his two hands clamshelled around my right hand. He has held my hand that way for almost 19 years. I studied it last night. His hands have aged but they hold the same delicate shape, like a prayer around mine. Continue reading

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The last days of August were suffocated by wildfire smoke. Our valley an endless, disorienting, gray haze that hid the mountains and the sun. We woke in the mornings with sore throats and headaches. Ash rained from the sky, blanketing tomato leaves and picnic tables with gray layer of burned up tree. We stayed inside a lot, where the air was barely better.

the sun, 6pm

I found the greatest relief in water. The invigorating, cleansing purity. Jumping in electrified my skin with goosebumps, washed the smoke out of my hair and felt like a giant gulp of fresh air. Submerged, I occupied an unpolluted, hopeful suspension.

The day before school started, I felt desperate to be out of the haze, away from homestead duties, having fun with my daughters. We couldn’t escape the smoke so we drove into it, through it to one of our favorite little lakes.

Ruby and Margot were tucked into the back, eating cinnamon rolls the size of their head, Mabel between them.

Ruby: Margot! Smell my feet! I think they smell gross!
Margot: No way sister. Hey, mom do you think the earth is light or heavy?

The smoke grew thicker, visibility diminishing. We passed a fire crew camp and I thought maybe this was a bad idea. But kept driving thankful for my car’s air filtered air conditioning, thinking – at the very least – we would drive to the lake, jump in and head home.

Turning down the dusty, cracked dirt road toward the lake, Margot was the first to notice the air lighten a bit. Helicopters flew overhead fetching buckets of water from the valley lakes, hauling it into the mountains where the flames thrived.

At the lake, the wind blew just right and we landed in a tiny patch of clean(er) air, letting enough sunlight through to cast shadows. Shadows! We hadn’t seen shadows in over a week.

Oh mama! It’s perfrect!

I smiled at one of Ruby’s very last mispronunciations. Just last week she asked for breakfast and broke my heart. I will forever miss breakfrast. And I hope she forever says Lake Maroony Ann instead of Lake Mary Ronan. Continue reading

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