The Person Who Inspires Me Most

You guys, I’m kinda nailing this November blogging thing. I’m just saying.

OK. SO:

You know those people who don’t get impressed by anything? Well that’s not me. Life can be hard and people are amazing. There are so many people who leave me breathless with their resilience, brilliance, bravery, dedication, creativity, strength, willpower, patience, capacity to love.  Over time, particularly in the last couple of years my inner circle has become extremely small and tight and there is not a single person inside of it who doesn’t completely blow me away in some regard on a daily basis.  I feel like that’s a good rule of thumb for who you want in your inner circle. You want your inner circle to make you smile from the inside out, to light up your soul in some way. You want your chosen people to be the type of people who make you drift away for a moment when you are interacting with them because you are marveling over how incredibly lucky you are to have them in your life.

Sometimes I will mention to a friend how I have replayed something they have said or done in my mind when the going gets tough and I need inspiration.  Usually they have completely forgotten the incident they had a part in which was so inspiring to me (that’s good to remember, you never know who you are inspiring and how).

I am inspired by people I know and love also by people I don’t know. Today, I watched the NYC marathon and got teary eyed along with everyone else as the female winner pumped her fist in triumph when she realised she had won. The first American woman in 40 years to do so.

Ripped from the pages of my facebook feed:
Her “FUCK YES ✊🏻!!!!” as she sprinted at the line…gave me a total lump in my throat. So I pretty much always root for the African but it was so apparent that she was having that one in a million perfect dream come true when every oz of everything you have sacrificed and suffered comes through for you at just the right moment experience and that kind of magic…it’s just an absolute privilege to watch. 

Clearly, I can never relate to the thrill of being an elite major marathon winner, but I can most certainly relate to what it feels like when all the work pays off and you are also blessed with a good running day. Running is so unpredictable and in the course of 26.2 miles alongside thousands of other people, anything can happen to derail your dreams but today, it all fell into place for Shalane Flanagan and that was magical and so inspiring. Just the shot in the arm I needed as I have been struggling with a fearful and pessimistic mindset in my own marathon training. I want to feel some of that joy again. It’s absolutely intoxicating. She was every little girl who had a dream’s hero today.

But if you were to ask me which person I think of the most often when I am really at rock bottom, when the tank is empty, when I can’t get out of bed, when I feel like the worst, most useless or ridiculous human being in the world and I really need to get over that and get on with it. The person who comes to mind is…..

Me.

Why? Because there is nobody I know more intimately.  There is no one whose struggles I am more closely acquainted with.  There is no struggle I can relate to better than my own. I know exactly what I have overcome, and how often I have triumphed in tiny and big ways. Sometimes it’s as small as getting out of bed, and forcing myself to do some household chores before I collapse back into bed to sleep off the grips of a PTSD episode, sometimes it is taking my tired self out into the freezing cold to complete a difficult run, other times it’ humbling myself on the mat as I get tossed around like a rag doll at jiu jitsu or being content to look completely inept at boxing, sometimes it’s as big as giving birth or completing a 1/2 marathon or naming and facing my biggest demons, standing up to my abusers, walking away from things which are breaking me.  But every time something hard comes along, and I fear I will not be able to handle it, the most powerful and effective thing I know to do is remembering all the times I did.

Reminding myself that I have survived 100% of my worst most difficult days, and I will survive this too.  Allowing myself permission to start over, to ask for forgiveness from others, to accept forgiveness from myself.  Reminding myself that this too shall pass, like all the times it did before.  Conjuring up memories of all the times I thought I was done for, when in fact I wasn’t.

Let me be very clear. I don’t believe I’m any better than anyone else. But I know that my victories are hard won and I know they are legit.

Which is why, as I get older and wiser, the days when I’m feeling ok or maybe even better than ok, I try to make hay while the sun shines. I try to do as much as I can. I try to stretch myself, move out of my comfort zone, face a fear, do something new, express my love and appreciation fearlessly. I try to deposit as much as I can into  the Bank of Mama Said There Would Be Days Like This.

So that when those rainy impossible days do come, I can make those withdrawals from my archives of badassery, and I can remind myself of how awesome I am and how brave and tough and strong and fierce I can be when I need to be.

Here’s my advice. Surround yourself with your heroes, always be looking for new ones, but most importantly, be your own.
xoxo








On the road less traveled, 13 year old FBI agents and other stuff I’m happy about..

In past Novembers I made a habit of posting 5 things I was grateful for every day of the month. This always made November my favourite blogging month because it’s just so much fun to reflect on everything that is awesome about your life.  
Lately, I’ve  tried to make a habit of doing that when I wake up. I have an active and often difficult, troubling and disturbing dream life which means that I’m not always feeling swell when I first wake up. When I remember the dreams it’s easy to start ruminating and getting lost in sadness or trauma and it’s an awful way to start the day. I’ve actively started replacing negative thoughts with thoughts of people I love, funny interactions I have had, sweet little moments between my kids, whatever comes to mind when I direct my head in that direction. The more I do it, the more natural it becomes. But it’s still so nice to have it on record and to share these things from time to time.
I”m not sure if I will do the 5 things on the blog every day of this month because I have so many other things I want to post about this month. We will see. But here are 5 things I’m grateful for today:
People who love me at my worst. This has been a tough week for me and I have had some truly monstrous moments. When I am experiencing a PTSD setback and I am triggered and act awful, nobody could hate me more than I hate myself. It’s a terrible feeling and could easily spiral into a cycle of self loathing and hopelessness. But I am so incredibly lucky to have true blue, ride or die people in my life who are gracious enough to ride out the storm with me even when it’s blowing straight into their faces. To be loved when you are being completely crazy and unlovable is the most healing thing I know of and is something I do not take for granted.

Every time I take the road less traveled 
I saw this scene in the woods when I went running yesterday. My run finally took place after an endless internal struggle  followed by a comedy of errors, stomping around the house in trying to find all the gear I needed (it turned out I was wearing it all along) and the line from Robert Frost’s poem immediately came to mind.
You guys, its so much easier not to do the hard things, not to stick with the program, to give up on on dreams because of the daily grind required to accomplish them. And every time time we do the harder thing we are taking the road less traveled and it really does make all the difference.  I’m so grateful to be in a place where my choices are once again my own. That I have the power and strength to push through the resistance is such a huge gift, so hard won through such a hard fight by so many people on my behalf.
Magical little moments when Ella brings me a book that she has written and put together regarding the joys of it being November 1st. There is just so much to love about this and it’s hard to remember anything else not being completely perfect when I am present to this type of goodness.

A 13 year old son who took on a mammoth sink load of dirty dishes completely on his own initiative while I lay in bed sleeping off my body’s attempt to get sick this afternoon. (I will not get sick because my 13 year old let me sleep and did the dishes and getting sick after that would be the epitome of ingratitude.  Also, he had the best Halloween costume ever as an FBI agent making the type of arrest dreams are made of.
Ongoing traditions and people to share them with. As the kids get older, the traditions evolve slightly but it’s a credit to the organizers of these events and the friendships we have formed that the seniors in high school show up to hang out and hand out candy just as predictably as they did when we were pulling them door to door in wagons.  This is a beautiful thing and I am so grateful and moved that my kids have had the safe happy childhood that they have enjoyed thanks to this village.

Adventures in Float (Sensory Deprivation) Therapy.

It’s November you guys and I’m totally back. I know that’s my line but…hey..

No seriously. This time it’s going to stick. I have missed my blogging so terribly much. So. Terribly. Much.  I have such a backlog of posts in drafts. I have been typing away like a fiend but for some reason I have had such a mental block about getting back in the blogging saddle. But here I am. I am  here.

Several years ago somewhere on this blog (in a post far away which I cannot find) I waxed wishful and wistful about how desperately I would like to have the experience of floating in a sensory deprivation tank. And then.dreams came true and ..this marvelous place opened not very far from my home right in time for my super intense adventures in PTSD. I had read quite a bit about the benefits of floating for PTSD and since I am all about getting that episode of my life dealt with as quickly and properly as possibly, I made an appointment with alacrity. True REST is the acronym representing Reduced Environment Stimulus Therapy which is somewhat different from the idea of total sensory deprivation. The pods offer lights, music and even iphone hook ups so you can listen to whatever you want. They are also equipped with a two way intercom so you are never without access to someone who can answer questions or help you out should you need them.

Just the aesthetics of the True REST float spa are enough to attract anyone looking for some calm and serenity. This glowing orb filled with warm water is nothing short of mesmerizing. MESMERIZING I SAY.  But let’s start at the beginning because the whole thing is An Experience.

When you check in, you trade in  your shoes for flip flops, then you are escorted to the Oasis room where there is all manner of soothing stuff going on. Adult colouring books, soothing instrumentals, herbal tea, fireplace.  It’s the stuff overstimulated mom’s dreams are made of.  At the appointed time you are escorted back to your very own “suite”. It’s all very zen and minimalist.  You shower with the provided shampoo, conditioner and soap, and then you slip into this womb like environment. The photos obviously show people wearing swimsuits but you are encouraged to float naked and since your room is completely private there is no reason not to.

I am horribly claustrophobic to the extent that I have made all of my loved ones promise that I will be buried attached to all sorts of bells and cell phones and shovels and such should it turn out that I was just in a deep coma so I was pretty skeptical as to how well I would cope with getting into a pod and closing the lid. Turns out it really isn’t claustrophobic at all. If you want you can leave the lid open as much as you like (I didn’t like because I didn’t want to get chilly) You are free to push it open at any time. You can also control the lighting from blues, greens, reds or plunge yourself into total darkness, which I only managed to deal with for a few moments at a time. It’s just SO dark.  The pod itself is not small or confining you can float around in there very freely.

My first experience really surprised me because I relaxed and almost fell asleep almost immediately and I am the type of person who can only sleep in my own bed under optimal conditions, when thoroughly exhausted. Ugh so high maintenance.  I felt incredibly relaxed after and the sensation lasted for days after but it wasn’t a very intentional experience and by the time my hour was up that day I was more than ready to get out. I was just so unused to lying still without stimuli.

The next time I went I had the intention of dealing with an injury prior to a race. The extremely high salt content is recommended for athletes and I have had a lot of luck preventing injuries by taking regular Epsom salt baths. And this is way, way next level to that.  I found that the nagging pain in my calf was markedly improved after the first float and so I made an appointment for one more the day before my race.

That’s when the real magic happened. The float started out just as the others, I felt relaxed and delightfully weightless but this time I was able to truly meditate in preparation for my race. For a full hour I was able to really check in with each body part. I spent time visualizing each organ and limb functioning smoothly and healthily. I pictured my heart beating steadily and strong, my lungs expanding fully, I focused on each muscle, tendon, bone. I imagined them, strong and healthy, completing each mile effortlessly.  Then I focused on my mind. I pictured myself feeling the great joy of having overcome so much in the last few years and over the course of my life. Going from completely broken and hopeless to going back to being able to complete goals that that required mental toughness, commitment and consistency. I pictured myself filled with joy and gratitude. At the end of my float I had some playful moments, doing the yoga poses of my dreams in the weightless environment. I felt so completely relaxed and rejuvenated and lo and behold. The pain I had been dealing with for weeks was gone. Entirely gone just in time for my race.  I carried this sense of peaceful, calm confidence in my body and serenity and joy in my mind throughout next 24 hours and my race was truly the stuff that running dreams are made of.  I felt so totally in synch with my body and completely joyful and pain free throughout. I had no anxiety, paced myself perfectly and felt truly triumphant and at peace from beginning to end.

I honestly cannot speak highly enough of the benefits of the float tank. The whole experience is so serene, nurturing, healing and uplifting.  If you are dealing with excess stress physically, mentally, emotionally. If you are dealing with PTSD (the Perrysburg location offers special pricing packages for veterans), if you are an athlete trying to avoid or heal from injury, if you have a chronic condition or illness, this is for  you.  If you like time to yourself, would be interested in taking your meditation to the next level or are just curious as to what this otherworldly womb like state could do for your mind and body, this is for you. Did I mention that they have an oxygen  bar that you can hook up to after your float session? And a beautiful, well appointed dressing room where you can dry your hair, reapply make up and gradually re-enter the real world? It has FLAVOURED oxygen. It’s so incredibly Hollywood!  For more pictures, locations close to you reviews and videos as well as to take advantage of the packages being offered this month be sure to check out their facebook page. 

**I was so impressed with my experience that I felt moved to reach out to True Rest to see if they would be interested in a collaboration to get the word out.  While I have been compensated for this post, all of  the opinions expressed are unsolicited and genuine. 

On Being Fiercely 40 (now that I’m 41)

Darlings. Look at this! A blog post! I had to do it. For posterity. By the time I finish and publish this post I will be celebrating my non-official birthday and will have completed my 40th year on this mortal coil.

And what a year it was, yo.

Honestly? I have lost track of time and space this year. So much has happened it feels like at least 10. Which isn’t a bad way to go when you are 40 and 40 happens to have been your favourite year so far.

I have always heard women proclaiming that their lives began at 40 and everything fell into place and it was the literal best and I was like..the lady doth protest too much, methinks. BUT I AM HERE TO TELL YOU IT IS ALL TRUE.

Which is not to say for a single second that 40 has been one big joyful skip in the meadow of serenity. Not so much. Not at all. I mean when I think back on the year I feel really happy and good about it but apparently lots of shit went down (which I know cognitively and I can even identify to be all too true for several moments like earlier today around 2pm as I sat in my empty bath, fully clothed texting  “FML” messages to a friend).

HOWEVER. HOW.EVER my general sense is that this year has been awesome and that isn’t because it has been easy because it hasn’t all been easy.  It’s just that I feel like me.  And I’m (finally) cool with who I am. All messy and twisty and volatile and angry and peaceful and kind and bitchy and hurt and healed and wise and ridiculous and immature and disciplined and driven and lazy and cool and sexy and dorky and insecure and confident and self loathing and confused and clear thinking. All of me. I’m down with it. I finally am who I am and I love this crazy broad I call Myself.  Yes I do. And I make no apologies for whatever it is I am on any given day because…I am who I am. And that’s what 40 looks like. That’s the gift it’s brought me. Accepting that I am who I am and working within that acceptance to be the best version of me that I can muster on any given day. And some days that looks like just getting out of bed (or getting into bed and staying away from the defenseless public).

Other stuff I love about being 40/41? I’m fortunate enough to be healthy and active and old enough to know how lucky I am to be healthy and active and experienced enough to be good to my body and treat it with the respect it deserves instead of doing crazy things to make it look a certain way I listen to it so that it can feel and function a certain way.  I’m not even going to pretend that I don’t care about how it looks. I want it to look as good as it feels, and when it doesn’t I get frustrated and I’m not sorry about that either. I think enjoying the way we look and feeling confident in our skin is nothing to be ashamed of and certainly something to strive for.  

I’m just not willing to do weird stupid things in the pursuit of appearance at the expense of being able to enjoy life.  I have never enjoyed being inside of my body more than I have this year.  And I know these are jinxing words and I know that this might sound braggy or insensitive to those who are struggling with health issues but please do know that I cherish every moment when I am challenging myself physically or just feeling relaxation or the good type of tired or pleasure in its many forms. I don’t take it for granted. I have had long periods where I have struggled with considerable physical pain with illness and crushing fatigue, I know how soul destroying it is.  Having a healthy, vital body to live inside of as I have continued the hard work of healing from PTSD has been a beautiful gift which I appreciate with a great sense of joy and wonder.  This year I have done some sort of yoga almost every day,  I have kept up with running and I feel like I’m the best runner I have ever been since I started running at age 17. 

I finally figured out good form. Seriously, how did I not know how to run properly all these years and miles later?  A few months ago I started going to a mixed martial arts gym. A couple of years ago I would have laughed at the concept. It was so not me. But do you know what? I left my comfort zone and have discovered that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and boxing have been the most fun, healing things I have done in a long time. But more on that later.

And as ever, the  PTSD thing. Man alive that’s a beast! Am I right? However, it’s a beast that can be conquered. With patience and determination and education and support. It can absolutely be conquered. I still struggle mightily some days. Life has a way of just pulling the freaking rug out whenever you think you are nailing it. Life is a total bitch that way.  But here’s what’s hopeful. I still get triggered from time to time and then I hate everything and it’s the worst and I take a moment to do whatever just to stay alive and then…it passes. It. Passes.  There have not been any major spirals into despair. There haven’t been any more weeks/months lost to torturous pain or perhaps worse..total catatonic numbness. There have been excruciatingly painful, confusing, isolating horrible moments, hours, maybe a day or two and one month in particular this year was grueling, but the reprieves have come quickly and regularly. This is profound progress.  Darlings, please listen to me. If you are in the catatonic numbness or the greyness of the days when you wish you could just cease to exist…please know that this too shall pass and with the right help, you are going to experience those times less and less and even when you are in them the edge will not be quite as sharp and the despair will not be as enveloping and terrifying. It honestly does get better.   And none of this is for naught. I have been so honoured to walk beside others on this journey. In places similar to where I am now, or further down or forward on the path of healing.  As an ex-Mormon, a religion which finds meaning in everything and nothing, it was weird to suddenly find myself at a loose end. Having to define my own belief system. Weird is the wrong word. It was devastating and horrifying and terrifying but also liberating AF and ultimately it has brought me so much peace.  My pain means something if I’m willing to use it to hold space for others who are experiencing their own.  And that’s enough for me. I need nothing else to find meaning in my life. I’m here to help with what I’ve learned through suffering. There’s enough struggle and grief in the world to keep me occupied with that for the rest of my days. And they will be days well spent if I do.

Being 40 has given me focus. I have streamlined my life considerably in recent months. My circle is small and tight, my commitments are few and focused, my goals are reasonable and I am patiently tenacious about achieving them. “Patiently tenacious” means that I am learning to adapt when necessary but that I’m not just rambling around in the dark hoping to get shit down. That’s another thing about being 40, there’s definitely a sense of actually actively figuring out how to get shit down rather than just dreaming and hoping about that “one day” when it will all magically fall into place.  I have checked a lot off the old bucket list this year. And once you get into that zone you find that it becomes easier and easier to do.

In summary this year I have loved my life (even when I’ve been cursing it) and I love my people. I am grateful to have lived another year of this brilliantly brutiful life. I have been incredibly fortunate in my circumstances and my relationships.  I so hope that I can live many more just as eventful, exciting, growth filled, humbling, confusing and fully alive as this one.  Thanks for being along for this ride, and for letting me be a part of yours.

And since I drink now (which by the way is really most enjoyable in moderation in case you were wondering), cheers and L’Chaim and bottoms up and all that!

Kisses,
k

Soft earth. On Being Alive.

You guys, I’m alive. I mean you knew that. But here’s the thing. I’m ALIVE.  This is wonderful, this is exciting, this is painful, this is frightening, this is overwhelming, this is hard.

Being comfortably numb (with apologies to Pink Floyd) has its benefits. It is by its very definition, comfortable.  One only has to have dental work without full anesthesia to know that numbness can be a very desirable thing. It has its place.  But it is no way to live.

Life is really intense lately, it’s been truly uncomfortable. Sometimes barely tolerable. But there have been some freaking excellent highs sprinkled in there on a consistent basis too.  Having experienced comfortably numb, uncomfortably numb and flat despair. I feel privileged to feel the burn of being alive.

Last night I was at a birthday party for an awesome friend. I was surrounded by wonderful friends. Life was good.  There was laughing and dancing and happiness. This morning the demons woke me up.  Problems seemed insurmountable and all consuming.  I felt trapped and overwhelmed. I felt the numbness creeping in. I pictured soft earth, burrowing myself into it, curling up fetal, shutting it all out. No decisions to make, no dilemmas to solve, no painful conversations to have, no uncertainty, no anger, no insecurity, no more questions, no more feelings. Appealing. Bury it. Shut it all down.

A run was in order. I knew it. The weather is impeccable. Had to happen. But I weighed 10,000 lbs and the weakness in my limbs was profound .  Extreme emotional exhaustion was my self diagnosis. It’s more draining than the longest run I’ve ever done.  I sat at the entrance to the woods willing myself to get out of the car and run.  But I just felt heavier and heavier and more and more tired, the soft earth fantasy was more and more appealing.  I pictured myself going home, going up to my room. pulling the blankets over my head and falling asleep. But sleep is never really a great escape for me. I dream constantly and vividly.  So that kind of sucks.  I feel myself detaching watching myself slipping back into the place I have clawed my way out of.

Defeated, I put my car into reverse and started backing out.  I saw another car waiting to get out, so pulled forward again.  I caught sight of the driver.  It was a young guy, he smiled and gave me a friendly wave.  He looked alive and happy,  he had just been in the woods, in the fresh air and sunshine. I wanted to feel like that. I didn’t want the soft earth to cover me.  I pulled back into my parking spot.  I made a playlist. I named it Kirsty Kicks Ass.

I dragged my 10,000 lb body out of the car, my weak limbs trailed along behind me. I cranked up my music. I told my legs to run.  I thought about the conversations I have had this weekend. I thought about the friends I have.

I thought of my beautiful brave friend who has endured more shit than anyone deserves to, who encourages me even as she struggles.  I thought of her echoing my question emphatically,  “why is it so hard to LIVE?”. How validated I felt at that moment.   I thought of my friend who always reminds me that I’m in charge of my own life, who says, “I get it” and 100% does.  I thought of my friend who is going through the hardest time of her life and continues to be a rock. I thought of the friends who freely express confidence in me and love for me. I thought of my son who told me
“mom you are so awesome” as I left the house.   My pace increases. The limbs stop feeling weak. I think about how hard life is for every single person I know, how we are all connected in suffering. Health problems, money problems, kid problems, lonely marriages, unrequited love, insecurities, feelings we are not at liberty to express,  I think about how good it feels to laugh, I think about how lucky I am to have people in my life who make me laugh every day. As I run I feel the soft earth under my feet. It is springy, it launches me forward. It is good to be alive,

It’s the final count down…Goodbye Ohio

T-1.5 days ‘til the first batch of us depart on our grand South African adventure m’peeps. It’s actually, finally happening.

So many thoughts and feelings abound! I am most grateful for my daily runs through the woods that have enabled me to connect with myself and my thoughts every day during this unsettled and emotional time. The more I do that the more I realise how imperative it is…to have some time with  yourself, your thoughts, your higher power and nature every day to stay in balance, I can’t believe how many days I have existed on this earth without doing that.

Warning: plethora of rubbish quality randomly selected iphone photos ahead. Also, not sure why but Blogger has gone back to the old way of doing things where it compresses everything to tininess so that makes it even worse. Let’s give this blog post an E for Effort under duress, even if it doesn’t earn an A for Artistry shall we? Bygones…

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Here are some of the thoughts I’ve been having during my meetings with my mind in the woods. (The rest of the time I am packing and unpacking suitcases in my mind and occasionally in real life too..) 

After 38 years (or close to it) of using worry as form of insurance against calamity I’m finally ready to abandon that ridiculous notion. In the immortal words of Jason Mraz, I won’t worry (any more) of my life away.  Of course when you have been doing just that for 38 odd years its a pretty ingrained habit, one which I am apt to return several times a day, but the emotional attachment to doing so has been broken and I’m ready to cut it loose so when I remind myself that I’m not going to do this anymore, my self listens and that is so awesome.  I don’t have control over anything really and that’s ok.

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I gauge Fall’s progress by this tree. I have no control over it, but I enjoy watching it.

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  The future for us is a big unknown. We don’t know how long we’ll be in South Africa, Aaron still doesn’t have a job and we are unwilling to be separated indefinitely so it may just be a few months.  As I’ve mentioned before, this is making the leaving part a whole lot less traumatic and dramatic than if we were certain of permanency.  I have determined that I will take each day in South Africa for what it is and enjoy it as much as possible, live in the moment rather than dissolving it by obsessing about the future and needing to know with a surety what that will look like.  This is a huge shift in mindset for me. Like…pretty much the antithesis of the way I generally function.

We’ve had various farewell gatherings and ceremonies over the last few weeks and the recognition of how good we have it here, in terms of a supportive and loving community and a generally idyllic white picket lifestyle has really been reinforced.  Our kids lead pretty charmed lives here, and whenever I start spiraling into a panic about taking them away from the familiar and comfortable, Aaron reminds me of what a blessing it can be to get out of one’s comfort zone, of how lucky they are to be able to experience another culture, how their frame of reference and point of view will forever be broadened and most importantly how they will finally be able to experience having extended family in a day to day setting.   Not to mention skipping at least one brutal Ohioan winter.  That Aaron is a rock and a gem, I tell you. Wait a gem is a rock isn’t it? Moving along..

And yet it’s still so hard.  We have some beautiful friendships and we are leaving at my most favourite time of year. All the kids are happy and successful in all of their current endeavours. Nobody is dealing with any major issues right now.  Ohio has pulled all the stops this Fall and it has been spectacularly beautiful and gorgeously temperate for the most part.  Last weekend was particularly glorious as friends from near and far gathered to wish us well on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday night we walked across the alley and the park as we have so many other times… laden with bowls to share an evening at the beautiful Blacks house. My children’s literal home away from home.  Site of endless “late overs,” sleep overs and frantic mini-van pick ups and drop offs.  So many hours spent standing watching kids playing in the park, listening to kids playing various instruments, laughing, eating, solving problems of the world..

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Boyz of the hood…and some girls. Sigh me and my big mouth….

On Sunday my friend Sandy put on an epic spread of South African and Ohioan cuisine for 7o people, hung South African flags and even created South African jeopardy. Friends contributed photos for a slide show and we laughed and got verklempt as captured moments from the last decade reminded us of how lucky we have been.

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It was so amazing to see so many of my favourite people in one place. If I could gather all the wisdom, grace, generosity, talent and kindness of the people in that house on that day, I think I could power the world on sheer positive energy for at least a week. And that was just from those who could make it.  There are so many more people I love and appreciate, who have altered my life forever in a positive way,  who sadly could not attend..but that’s ok because I have them in my heart.

Monday night we stayed out in the weirdly wonderful balmy weather until long after dark in shirt sleeves on the soccer field as Finny’s team played one last scrimmage and presented him with not one but two MAN U jerseys (one of them personalized with “FINNY” on the back)  and various rowdy tributes and pep talks. 

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Tuesday was  Gracie’s last game with a team that has been a sisterhood to her for many years before she had a sister by blood.

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Benj and Gabe’s soccer team reached the district finals this year and both of them had the season of their lives and have developed heartwarming friendships with their teammates and a coach who came to the farewell (pictured with his daughter who has been Finny’s friend for all the years) bearing a beautiful bound copy of The Odyssey. 

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I found the above pic of Benj on google looking for something else entirely. Isn’t that cool? He’s famous! That’s him with his decade long bro Keller. They call themselves the “Stormin Mormons”.

This week Ella went to the pumpkin patch with her preschool, just as Gabe, Gracie and Finny before her did.  Tomorrow she will say goodbye to “Muss Cindi”  and empty out her little cubby and happy school routine to which she is already so attached and that is unfathomable.  Do you see why the impermanence of this scheme is a huge key to my coping strategy?!

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Last night we had Trunk or Treating at our church where 2 of our babies were blessed and four were baptised.  I watched as my kids danced with friends, primary teachers and bishops and said goodbye to people who have brought casseroles and planted gardens, who have laughed and cried with us and watched our children grow from babies into young adults.

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Tomorrow night will gather at the Richardsons for our traditional pre-Trick or Treating pizza party, the glittering event which kicks off the Holiday Season At the Richardsons series which I love so much.  We will traipse with cold noses and freezing hands through crunchy leaves around the Norman Rockwell-esque neighbourhood with our cute little girl reminding her to say “thank you”, smiling at other exhausted and proud parents, waving at Finny’s posse occasionally as they streak by shrieking at each other to “wait for me” . 

And on Saturday we will drive away from Bowling Green….for a few months or possibly forever. But I just can’t go there in my mind. It won’t compute right now.  Maybe if I was leaving with the whole family it would be easier to imagine but even then. We have created a family here and we have lived here for longer than we have lived anywhere.  This house has been the longest home base I’ve ever had.

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Our house…in the middle of our street.

When we moved to Bowling Green on November 1st 2003, I swore to Aaron that I would be out before the next Winter. On November 1st, 2014, I will make good on that promise and but it won’t be with the “so long suckers” glee I imagined 11 years ago.  When we moved in here from beautiful Napa Valley 11 years ago, I remember waving goodbye to my children from the ice encrusted front door, my soul shrinking in despair. My neighbour at the time yelled over to me in cheerful commiseration “isn’t this awful? Why do we live here?!” I smiled grimly but I remember thinking, “Well some of us didn’t know better and will be out of here VERY SOON unlike you, clearly crazy person”.

And then 11 years of memories and friendships and kindness and support and traditions and glorious Autumns and pretty Springs, and long firefly studded Summer evenings and chaotic hot chocolate laced snow days happened and I understood. 

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Thank you for having us, Bowling Green Ohio.  You suck at Winter but you are home to some of the world’s best people and a big piece of our hearts.

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Today (or last week but who is keeping track?)

Today I started out in a good hopeful mommy mood.  My first words were kind and loving. I took time to play with Ella, fully engaged.
I made a good plan for the day. I drank my water, I took my vitamins. I used my oils. All was well.
But today Ella was not “on”. Ella was off. Very off.
Ella has spent much of the day:
Lying on the floor
Peeing on the floor
Screaming from the floor
Eating bites of things and then spitting them back out. On my clean shirt. #rageinducing
Screaming some more
Peeing some more.
In between we have had very, very loud construction at the house.
4 other children whining/negotiating regarding their chores and paid jobs
4 other children fighting with each other regarding their chores
1 other child becoming hysterical upon discovering that everyone else had their middle school packet but she did not on account of the fact that we had not provided the school with proof of immunization on account of the fact that we WERE NOT PLANNING TO BE HERE WHEN SCHOOL STARTED
While I am on the phone to the Dr. asking them to fax proof of said immunization child is wailing to me about how she cannot go on with living if she has to wait a few more hours to discover which team she will be for her brief time at school.
I hang up and yell at wailing kid in front of people working on the house.  Classy stuff.
Ella is on the floor screaming.
A saw is shrieking intermittently.
A guy is at the door to tell me he is going to shut off my gas. WHAT??! (Frantic call to Aaron ensues, it was a mistake on the gas co’s part…but still….)
OK all of the above is where I abandoned my post the other shall we say Seriously out of Synch day where I considered it a literal miracle that we all saw bedtime physically unscathed and not incarcerated.
The day went on in that vein hence the fact that the above post was never published…. I’m not sure what day it was….several days have intervened between then and now. Some good some bad.  PMS has probably been a large contributor to the bad days but whatevs. I guess I wanted to show why sometimes I really do have good intentions but the post does not get posted.
Other stuff that has gone down this week includes…hang on..consulting my iphone pics.
Ah yes… 5 Things to Tell You About From Last Week
1. fresh commitment to improving my cooking skills and habits.
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The farmer’s market was gloriously inspiring this week.  I know this is going to sound so corny, but I looked at the vendors, at their hands all rough and grubby and felt so envious of their literal connection with the earth, with something so real, and genuine and pure as good, organic produce.  There is something about being outside that feeds my soul in a way that nothing else can simulate. No medication or food, music, therapy or meditation can ground me in the same way.   My attempts to garden have been met with mediocre results at best in the past and this is not the season (haha) of the year or my life to revisit that endeavor but I realized that I could do better about connecting with that good food by cooking. When I do cook in an intentional (rather than throwing it together as quickly as possible) I find it very rewarding and meditative. Chopping up vegetables is my favourite part…
Then we saw the one hundred foot journey over the weekend..and that spurred me on even more. 
And now..with all these good intentions, what should I make?
2. We did a lot of entertaining over the weekend. I had book club on the deck (by the way The Rosie Project is a great read). Gabe had some friends over for s’mores in the firepit and a sleepover
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and then we had a farewell get together to say goodbye to our dear friends Janelle and Madi who are leaving us for Washington state.  It was our first major goodbye. And I was not a fan.
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An exhausting yet fun weekend.
3. I’ve managed my stress not murdered anyone this week, solely thanks to keeping up with my running commitment.  I’ve been running mostly in the forest near my house this week. It’s an absolutely beautiful place no matter what time of day, and what season.  Here are a few pics I took the other evening.  Seeing that little deer was so life affirming. She was not afraid of me at all, even when I gasped loudly as I almost ran into her.  I had decided to stop and turn around just before I saw her. Something made me decide, very deliberately to continue for a couple more steps before I did, had I not, I would have missed her. I’m not sure why, but this made the experience feel all the more special.  She just observed me and kept on eating. I took several photos and talked to her for a few minutes until the mosquitoes feasting on me spurred me to continue moving.   My evening ran was so soothing after my terrible day (described at the beginning of this post). I came back a new woman. I felt calm, grounded, grateful and peaceful.
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A couple of days later I went at high noon. I left feeling energized, exhilarated and grateful. I remember thinking, “I have such a good life, I am so blessed” throughout that run. There are thousands of things I could and do complain about in my non-perfect life but while I was running on that day I realized how few of them really matter.  I felt so grateful to move my mostly pain-free body to beat of the music. To feel my feet falling on the soft and cushiony natural surface beneath, to see the incredible beauty all around me. To have a home to return to with people who make me crazy a good deal of the time but only because I am crazy about them.  I am so grateful to have people to really really care about. And who really, really care about me. Why do I ever drift away from running? Running or whatever my version is….shuffling, wuffling…it’s so important to my happiness, to making me feel like me.
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Today I noticed that running up and down the stairs did not feel like a slog anymore. I am still not running for speed or distance. I am running because I can, because it’s fun. I run when the music gets me going and stop when my body says to.  I am loving this approach.  Speaking of which, I am loving this article so.very.much
4. This week Ella started using the potty.  Pause for applause. I have photos but have resolved, for once,  to not be that mother. Apart from the above mentioned day from hades, we have had no accidents. I am very proud of her.  And yes, yes I know Ella is rather old for this venture but she has always been very very  consistent and  clear on her disdain for the idea of pottying, and I have never pushed my kids regarding this issue. Not because I’m a great mom but because I’m really lazy and I feel like if you can’t allow someone control of decisions regarding their own bladder and bowels then you are pretty much asking for trouble.  And I have enough trouble. Life is Trouble. Ella’s rationale was this:  Using potty meant that she was “Bigger”.  And  naturally being the smart girl she is, she wanted to remain Smaller due to the obvious perks it allows her in a family of 6 Biggers doting on her.  I’m not sure where her watershed  (haha punny?) moment was but with less than a month ‘til preschool starts (rollontheday) I was feeling particularly motivated to change her views on the matter one day last week. So.. upon taking off her morning diaper I said, ok, here we go, no more diaper or pull-up just tell me when you want to sit on potty. And she did.  And that was that. (Apart from the unfortunate incident on Out of Synch Day the next day). So far.  Knock wood, make sign of cross, spit on ground etc… (have just broken the number 1 Cardinal Rule of Parenting which is NEVER to mention when things are going well so I’m sure it’s all going to fall about momentarily.)
That same day Aaron took her to watch the boys high-school soccer   game. I suggested he take the potty with for use in the van so we could keep the momentum going. I received a text from  him that she was keen to set up her throne right behind the players bench. He felt that although everyone would probably have a very good laugh “many many years from now” he had decided against it. I applauded him on that decision.
She doesn’t even piddle in the bathtub.  She asks to get out and then does her business in the appropriate receptacle. This is why waiting ‘til kids are practically high school graduates works for me.
5. Speaking of high-school. Awkward segue yes, but really just coming full circle to the beginning of the post.  The kids will indeed be going to American school in 9 days. That was Not The Plan. But we are still waiting for a million visas/passports to come through.  Oh my good hell people. This stuff is such a pain. In our conservative estimation we will be here until early October.  Apart from my OMIGOODHELL moments here and there, I am mostly zen about this because..well it’s completely out of my control and also there is a lot to love about being here at this time of year. But I’m also frustrated that I can’t get my mitts on that new baby (BTW: warning: do NOT brag about getting to hold my sister’s baby in my presence unless you are in fact my sister or her husband or I will get angry, bitter and jealous and one never knows what might happen next…..)
Baby huffing aside,  I’m anxious to start the next phase of our lives.   I never do well in limbo. On the other hand, MY passport is supposedly in transit which has suddenly made things feel…very real. And I am unexpectedly terrified by that.  I have never wished more for a crystal ball than I do now.  Since I do not have a crystal ball I am trying to press forward with faith and view it all as a win-win. 
But why not let me take you on a little jaunt through my obsessions for a moment?
If we go and Aaron does not get a great job and cannot join us and we have to return, the kids will have had that experience of being up close and personal with family for a few months and exploring a new culture. Right?  Right.  But in reality life is so much more complex. What if they love it so much but we have to come back and they can’t stand it here?  They are perfectly happy here now in their blissful ignorance. On the other hand, what if they hate every second of it there and we spent all that money (ack) and then we have to return and now they are behind in school out of their social/sporting loops and and and and..they resent us forever for messing with their neat little world…eh that doesn’t worry me too much…they’ll survive. Kids resent their parents regardless, right?
Mostly I’m just worried about the money. Haha. As always. But really it is a lot of money. I also worry a lot about safety which is a harsh reality over there,  and I am absolutely dreading leaving my husband. I don’t do well without him. He’s the yin to my yang (or whatever the zen side to the crazy side is) and I really like him.  On the other hand once again,  I’m actually really excited for that poor guy to get a break and get in touch with himself for a change. He really needs it. I think it will be very good for him.
For the most part?  I am excited. Nervous and excited and terrified and resolved and unsure and calm and freaking out and and and….
I’m sure there is more about this last week to share but it’s getting late and I have to channel my inner farmer/chef now and make an incredible omelet with beautiful free range eggs and gorgeous farm fresh produce now….and then I need to go for a run.  SO I am going to hit publish on this one.
I started the day writing a whole other post by the way. But that one is going to take some time and work. It’s kind of a life changing one about some stuff I have been mentally, spiritually and emotionally wrestling with for a long time. But I want to do it right. I don’t say that to dangle a teaser in front of anyone I just put it there for posterity that There Is A Lot Going On Right Now in my head and heart and spirit apart from in my life.  I found it interesting how life sort of works in seasons. Seasons of stagnation/hibernation, seasons of rebirth/change.  Ok really hitting publish now..see if I don’t.
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(Ella last night watching a balloon floating away.  I love this girl…and you know what? I think this is the right reaction to watching a balloon floating away..I could learn something.)

5 Wonders This Wednesday

Oh dear, it’s been a week…and I’m quickly spiraling down that “I haven’t written so long and there’s too much to write about so I just won’t” rabbit hole which is ironic because I haven’t written only because I was not stirred to do so, nothing struck me as “blog-worthy”.
But because I need to stay in the habit here’s a bit of what’s wonderful here this week. There are daffodils in my turquoise pottery cups (50c at Goodwill) on my window silldafs2
1. I’ve been/am particularly cranky lately but my family have been kind and understanding. And a couple of tulips have bloomed along with the daffodils.
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2. I’m running again. Well…I’m shuffling…wuffling. I do sometimes think I walk faster than I run. In fact I’m fairly confident that this is true right now.  But it feels so great!  My friend Cindi and I did a run for Sexual Assault Awareness on Saturday and a run for Boston on Monday with the kids. They did so well!
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3. We’ve been watching Gabe running track meets. He’s been running the 1600m (1 mile) and 800 m (1/2 mile).  He asked me what my time was for the 5K on Saturday and when I told him he said, “oh wow mom! That’s really good! Only 12 minutes slower than my time!”. And he was being genuine. Sweet boy.  He is always so delighted to see Ella (and her baby) and any of his events. It’s the cutest thing.
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4.We finally got the dead tree cut down. See the guy up there in the bucket?  It took two full days and now our backyard is buried in logs but it’s a relief that we’re not the ones buried. Y’know? The guy said the top of the tree was a lot weaker than he thought it was so we feel blessed.
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5. We’ve seen glimpses of the sun a day here and there. It was special.  I love that Ella is so enamored of the outdoors.  Her delight in the sun and “pitty fowers” and blades of grass and tiny rocks and “puppies” and ‘buddies” (bunnies) is infectious.
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I also had to restrain myself from laughing out loud as she would go down the slide, get up move away from it and then carefully arrange herself until she felt she was in a tragic enough looking position. Whereupon she would check to see whether I was looking and then say wanly in a quavery little voice, “I okay”.
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What was wonderful in your world this week?

Weekend Update…late on Tuesday.

Because I’m a stickler for punctuality.
Three (or was it four..eh.. round it up to five just to be safe…) soccer games…the first of the season for Gracie’s team…and THEY WON. (This is a big deal. Trust me.)
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Finny doing his thang. (They won so much that they pulled a player and their goalie before half time…)
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Benj’s game not pictured-as it in some faraway land where only the school bus goes…)
One cross country meet (poor Gabe got a bad cramp in the first 1/4 mile and it stayed for the rest of the race…bummer Sad smile ) He never stopped though and finished strong. He’s a trooper that one.  It was a gorgeous day and a pretty course. Lovely for spectating..Winking smile
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And the annual downtown arts festival.  I love it mostly because the kids just find their friends and spend the evening, dancing, playing and being slightly crazy with minimal supervision. Everyone looks out for everyone else’s kids and it is at times like these that I think living in a small town with some great cultural events is pretty darn awesome.
Benj and Ella dancing (he looks so serious about it)
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This picture was taken after 10pm. Snowcones=baby speed.  She does this cheesy grin whenever she sees the camera flash. It is endlessly entertaining.
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These two pictures reminded me of this post. I can’t BELIEVE how much my baby boy has grown. Fortunately I have another to take his spot on my hip Winking smile
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This picture cracks me up. Benj started some sort of congo line which attracted children from far and wide…but it looks like he is the zombie king….crazy eyes for everyone!
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Great music..
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Even  better company..
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And the next day… stake conference.  Yes I took a photo.We weren’t in the chapel so……Hey! Good to see that Benj appears to be getting a lot out of it.   Can you guess what Ella is doing here?  And actually it was really pretty good as far as stake conferences go. I heard at least two or three inspiring anecdotes which must be some sort of record. (Can you tell I have a pretty bad attitude about stake conference? I’m sure it must be better sans little kids..)
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And then a long long nap.  Can’t really fault a weekend like that. When my kids are grown up and think of their weekends, I hope they will have memories of ones like these. They strike me as memory making weekends. The ones that sort of set the tone of what their childhood was about. I think they have a pretty idyllic childhood for the most part. I do hope they see it the same way…

Week in review…

Ok, this is how my kids differ from me. Gabe came home very tired and very discouraged when we got home late from his soccer game on Friday night. He was sad and truly upset and exhausted. Like fetal position on the couch sad and exhausted. But before going to bed he remembered that there was a 5k Saturday morning (which he hadn’t signed up for, mind you). Now when I am upset and exhausted pretty much the last thing on my mind at 10:30pm on a Friday night is the thought of getting up early on a dreary Saturday morning after a strenuous week of daily soccer/cross country practice, a cross country meet and a soccer game…in order to run a 5K for which I have not signed up for. Yeah. I can confidently say that it at that time of night, in that state of mind, running an early morning race would be approximately 2 places higher on my list as signing up for a non-mandatory root canal or deciding to clean out my garage. But he did it and he did it so well. Gabe is awesome.  It’s a known fact.gabe5k
And check out his finish time. I can only dream.  Not too darn shabby for his tired little legs.
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Benj went through traditional shearing of the head ..required of the high  school soccer team…
Before (Sniff)                      During                                  After
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(Poor Benj has a pretty grueling schedule, since he is now getting up for early morning seminary and playing soccer every day.  On Tuesday he left the house at 6:15 for seminary and got home around 10:30pm after an away game.  That’s a long day with a lot of living packed in between. Which explains the car catnaps.  I love that he even sleeps in his crouched bushman pose). Benj never whines about everything he has to do and he never slows down or blows anything off because he is too tired. Another child who does not mimic me in any way.
Ella showed Finny some new tricks on the computer. (Sitting on the couch in front of a computer..ah yes, at last- there are my genes!)
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Gabe at his cross country meet (he’s the one NOT in focus here..unlike the bus..which is crisply in focus-thank goodness!)
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Gabe’s soccer game (where mom took more really terrible  token pictures).  This week wasn’t my finest hour, photography wise. Or really life-wise…but more on that in the next post.
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Finny had a game at which I took moderately better photos (I seriously cannot get enough of the intensity on his little baby face when he plays. I imagine it will soon go from really cute to really intimidating. That kid means business.)

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Gracie started playing the cello….she is so excited! We now have a string triplet  Winking smile I just remembered while looking at these pictures that when Aaron and  were first married we saw some beautiful blonde little girls playing the Christmas carols at a department store while we were Christmas shopping in Salt Lake City.  I thought that they looked so impossibly ethereal and lovely. And now I have my own beautiful blonde little girl playing the cello. Life can be incredibly cool.
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Ella mastered the coy royal wave from afar..don’t you want to eat her? Too bad! I already did. She was DE-licious.
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And confirmed her status as Daddy’s Girl.
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She also had a terrible cold..(yep I really jinxed us all by talking so happily about the 15 months of perfect health) and so she spent a lot of time in our bed or on the couch instead of her cribs for naps. (I would be lying if I didn’t say I kind of loved it..not the being sick part of course..it was just so sweet to watch her sleep again..)
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In between all of this, everyone had school, piano lessons, church (Benj gave a really good talk last Sunday on the importance of education. I was so impressed!) and you know…chores…tail gating, eating and occasionally sleeping.  There is a lot of action coming out of this little hub of a house once the school year starts. We’re starting to hit our stride but I’m already ready for Thanksgiving break…or you know… TWO WEEKS IN SOUTH AFRICA…because check out what else happened this week…
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YES!!! Whohoooo! Now I can focus all my energy on freaking out about leaving my family particularly my BABY for 2 weeks.  AAAAACK….That and flying for 18 hours…always my favourite activity.  The excitement is still far outweighing the nerves though. I haven’t been home in over 5 years! So excited to see my lovely country, my family, friends, meet my sweet nephews and see my baby sister get married. AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!! AWESOME OVERLOAD.  Oh! And EAT! I get to eat again on the day that I leave…in TWO .WEEKS. We have been on the hateful diet for 3 weeks now and I must say..it hasn’t really been that bad at all this week. I still miss the normalcy of eating..well, normally but it’s not a big dramatic deal anymore. I’m not at all hungry, and it is extremely effective.  Aaron in particular looks so different! He is down about 30lbs in total. I am wearing clothes 3-4 sizes smaller than I was. I still have some to lose but I’m starting to feel more like myself and that is a great feeling. I don’t have great confidence in maintaining any loss that I  leave the country in a couple of weeks because.. South Africa? They have good food man. And I plan to eat every single thing they have to offer.
Anyway..I must say…my kids really have to stop doing stuff for a while so that I can turn this blog back over to some serious navel gazing.  Folks, I am feeling as it is long long overdue time for a character overhaul. I have come to the uncomfortable realization that I am not moving in the right direction as an individual..things need to change.  But change is so hard! Especially when you are inherently lazy, and impatient and judgmental and short tempered and hormonal and moderately insane but change must come. It simply must. I do not like who I am lately and I have a feeling that getting my soul back in shape is going to be a lot harder and more painful than even the HCG diet. But I’m also certain it will be a lot more rewarding.
Enough! More later! You have been forewarned.