All of our days, 2013

I’ve never been into New Year’s resolutions. If you want to make a change, go ahead and do it, whatever time of year.

I did, however, this early January make a slideshow of our last year.

The quality would not win any awards, and even Kyle looked at me after he watched it this morning, smiled and gave me that look that usually means, “Wow,” in some form or another. (In this case, it clearly meant he never would have made such a slideshow).

But I love it. And he likes it.

And we’re happy.

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Gratitude that grows on branches

The library held a parenting workshop last week about gratitude.

“What does that mean?” both kids asked me when I said I thought we’d go.

“It means being thankful,” I said, “being happy for something, appreciating the things and the people you love the best.”

They nodded and moved on, back to whatever they’d been doing before I spoke.

As it turned out, we didn’t make it to the workshop. But if we’d gone, the kids would have made gratitude trees.

I’ve been wondering what they would have placed on their branches.

Mom. Kyle. Dad. Grammy and Papa. Grandma. Grandpa. Dana and Gary. The dog. The cats. Their toys. Disney Channel. Pizza. Brownies. Juice. School. Friends.

Those are my guesses, and maybe (yes, definitely) I should have them do the exercise anyway. It is Thanksgiving after all, and it is important to remind ourselves of all the good in our little worlds.

It will just be Kyle and me tomorrow, and the insides of me spent a little time being sad about that. But it is what it is – distance and time and the cost of gas and the kids being unavailable for our side of the family anyway – and I’m happy to have the grown-up time with my love.

I’ve requested soup.

And, in honor of the holiday, here’s what grows on the branches of my gratitude tree: 

1. A husband like no other. One who makes me soup on Thanksgiving, even though he thinks it’s weird.

2. Healthy, happy, smart, beautiful children. I couldn’t ask for any better.

3. My mom. I love you.

4. The other parents in my life. Thank you. I love you, too.

5. A job that (usually almost always) pays the bills and keeps me challenged and fulfilled. And gives me an office with a window.

6. Books. You are my favorite.

7. Music. You are my favorite favorite.

8. My friends. You save me.

9. Wine bars and cheese trays. Cowboy boots and acoustic guitars. Coffee. Yoga. Fall. Yellow. Orange. Felines. Writing that takes my breath away.

10. The ability to make our own choices, pave our own paths, decide our own tomorrows.

I cheated on number 9, but those all deserved a spot on my list.

Oh, and this:

What’s on your gratitude tree?

 

Older than we ever thought we’d be

Today is my little sister’s birthday.

She is not so little anymore, which makes me really not so little.

Today, she is 29, and I’m old. Older than I’ve ever been. A mom of a 7-1/2-year-old and a 3-1/2-year-old, a newlywed again, a rookie at my company again, a newbie in this western town we now call home, a new homeowner again

Life is funny like that. The new beginnings that just keep coming. Even when we’re old. Older than we ever thought we’d be back when we were kids and contemplated things like adulthood in terms of how many kids we’d have and what kind of car we’d drive. Possibly what we’d be when we grew up. My daughter plans to make ice cream, by the way. And be a mom. She’s going to have 10 kids.

Yes, I encouraged her to reconsider.

My daughter also answers simply, sweetly, “I know,” when someone, anyone, tells her she’s beautiful, or that she’s pretty, or cute or funny or awesome or any of those adjectives we use to describe precious little girls like her.

And I want to know every time, how do we keep that confidence alive? How do we protect her from the world’s bullies, the models and the cheerleaders and the everyday wear and tear that molds us into grown-ups with office jobs and routines and mortgages and meal plans? If we’re lucky.

Anyway, I’m old and my daughter is perfect and my little sis today turned one year away from 30 years on this planet.

It seems not that long ago I braided her hair the morning our parents spent too long fighting. Long after breakfast and my little-girl little sister hadn’t had her hair brushed. So second-grade me decided to be responsible.

I hear that trait can be irritating. Boring. We’re called serious and rule-followers and no fun. We do things like go to college as expected. We don’t just go. We get straight A’s. We graduate in 4 years. We say no to drugs (Zimas didn’t count), we apply to be an RA even though that’s the last thing any of us actually want to do for the free room and board and because it looks good on a resume, we study abroad and we get newspaper internships that require us to wear ties and skirts and heels and cover awful stories no one else wants. Really. We called parents of dead people. Often. Once, I was sent out to the middle of a tornado to deliver a digital camera to a real reporter. But we did those things because we were supposed to.

And maybe it was all worth it.

Maybe not.

Either way, we’re here now, in this life, one way or the other. And it’s better than it ever was before. Sometimes, I wonder if the paths all lead to the same ending regardless. Sometimes, I think we really do write our own stories.

In this story, my story, the world is warm. We’re old, yeah. But not really. We still have a long ways to go, thank God. I want on this ride for as long as I get.

The horizon now is long, and somehow I see it more clearly than ever.

This is the path, the road to real-life Oz, the rock star in his hot air balloon away from Omaha.

The rainbow is as big as I ever imagined.

Turning our faces toward the sun

Photo by Deanna Swauger (deannaswauger.blogspot.com)

Yesterday was my last at the new job in the desert.

So today felt like a weekend, though it was actually the exact middle. I remembered to remember how much I love time.

I slept in. I woke and made the kids breakfast. I folded the basket of laundry that’s been sitting untouched for several days. I put the clothes away.

I drank coffee, at my kitchen table, while I did nothing at all productive at my computer.

I led the kids in an art project that involved massive globs of finger paint and really long sheets of easel paper taped across that same kitchen table.

I finished the book I was reading. At 1 in the afternoon. On the couch with my husband. While the kids napped and played on their own. This sort of tranquil moment will never be overrated.

I cleaned out the kitchen cabinets and the refrigerator.

We went to the pool. I played with my kids in the water. I stretched out and turned my face toward the sun.

I pushed my daughter on the big-girl swing at the park, as long as she wanted. She seemed to soar.

I thought about where we are, where I’ve been, how we got here, what comes next. I thought about life and how crazy it is, how difficult some choices, how scary some leaps, how important our instincts really are. How too short it all is. Don’t sweat the small stuff, someone said once. Don’t sweat the big stuff, I sometimes believe. I’ve even said recently, “It’s just money.”

Despite some difficulties, the job at the paper out here in the desert was a leap worth taking. If not for the opportunity, we would never have met this beautiful land, my husband would never have made the spiritual connection to this place. He would have never written this amazing column.

Or maybe he would have. Maybe life is designed to give us all the experiences we are supposed to have, one way or the other. Maybe this desert would have found him, us, either way.

Whatever the case, this move and this job and this first home together were essential to our story, part of the “from now on” we began late last summer. Part of the new beginning.

So here we are.

I have a few weeks off before beginning my new job. I plan to spend that time being, more than anything else, present. If I’m productive at the same time, great, but it’s not a priority.

The new job means our family will move, one more time.

As exhausted as I am from change, I am looking forward to this new place. Finally, I feel like we just might have it figured out.

We’re headed east but only slightly. We’ll still be in the desert, but we’ll be in Colorado where a friend back home once told me she knows my heart lies.

The new job is perfect.

I’ll work from home, and I’ll work with online, that place of html and blogs and social media I never dug my heart fully out of last fall. I’ll be back. Not as editor of a website for moms, but as an editor of several newspaper websites in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how amazing it will be to not have to leave my family every morning, to not have to pack a lunch, to be able to work from anywhere, at least most of the time.

I’m really feeling lucky. I’m remembering to remember to be thankful, to keep perspective, to hold my truth at hand. Always. To not give in or give up.

To continue to build a life that is beautiful, a life we all deserve.

It is possible. We’re on our way.

***

(It will change your life.)

“New Slang” – The Shins

Sitting on a thrift store couch

I’ve run this route out our front door down Spanish Valley Road about six times.

I’ve been waking with the day, around 5:45, to pull on my shorts and my shoes and head out. I sleepily slide the iPod on and earbuds in and step out onto the peeling wooden porch. This morning, I tried listening to something different, something old, something I used to love. But Ben Kweller sounded like nothing but noise today, an irritation more than a distraction. I turned it off and went back to the playlist I’ve listened to on every solo morning run since I’ve been here.

There’s something to be said for familiarity.

We are here in this desert, and it’s beautiful. The sunshine is brighter, the air is crisper and more than anything else the landscape is spectacular. I run toward the Manti La Sals to the south. I have this idea that if I could just keep going, I’d reach them. Someday, of course, I would, but I’m training for a half, not a full, and today isn’t the day.

To the west is what I think is called the Moab Rim, which reminds me of the Bookcliffs back in Grand Junction, those searing, ridged rocks that dare you to tackle their steep rise. I climbed them once, one foot in front of the other up that steep, narrow spine. I was 23 and had no idea who I was or what I wanted. My son, my grown-up, sensitive little boy, wants to climb Moab’s version. I looked at them as we drove past, on our way to school, and had no idea where we’d even begin, if there was a trail or if we’d have to make our own or if we’d be foolish to even try that hike.

“Sure, we can, babe,” I said.

And somehow, because he wants to, we’ll figure out how to try.

To the east along the road I run is a Navajo sandstone wall, bubbly with texture. I pass horses and cows and a hodgepodge of modular homes and “ranchettes” with pickup trucks and dogs tied up in front yards.

And those La Sals loom in the background.

One of my favorite things here is the time of day when the light changes, the way the light illuminates only the tops of all these geographic wonders, in the early morning as the sun rises and in the evening, as the sun sets.

We sure don’t have views like this back home.

As I ran today, I thought about that word. Both my husband and I have referred to Omaha as home. I wonder how long we’ll say that.

I’ve been wondering when home starts to feel like where you are, instead of where you were.

How does that transition happen and can we speed it along?

What is the trick to adjusting to a new space with people you don’t know, streets you don’t recognize, routines you don’t have?

I like Moab – for the unparalleled beauty, for the desert heat, for the dry air, for the blonde horse at the house next door, for how much my husband feels connected to this land.

But it doesn’t, yet, feel like home. In the quiet space of my mind, where my truth teller sings, I miss so much about “home.” Not so much the place but the people and the routine.

My son’s former teacher e-mailed a few days ago. Many of the kids have been saying how much they miss Rye, she wrote. I had to turn my attention to something else – to stop from crying right there at my desk in my big, lonely office.

Yet, when I dropped him off at school two days ago, his new school, I smiled as I drove away because he was walking in with a friend. They were talking, and my little boy was smiling.

Change has never been easy. I can be the bravest woman in the world, game face permanently on, and still not be comfortable with everything that’s new. Even if I’m comfortable, I can still be skeptical.

Even if I’m happy (I am), even if I finally have the love I’ve always wanted (I do), even if my beautiful family is always there at the end of every day (they are), I still have that space in my heart that misses home. I miss my friends and my family.

And I long for the day – hopefully not too far off – when I feel peace here. When I feel like I’m home, not just the sense of home I already feel with my husband, but the bigger sense of the word – the all-encompassing, this-is-where-you-belong peace.

Have a great weekend, friends. Check out Ben Gibbard:

“You Remind Me of Home” 

With the rainbow at the end

I dreamed about my wedding last night.

It wasn’t anything like what we have planned.

We stood holding hands, waiting for the ceremony to begin, on the steps of a church, our backs to the entrance. It was chilly outside and I stood as close as I could to the man I was about to marry. There were people all around us and we were waiting for when we were to walk ahead to whatever outdoor space we’d picked.

Despite all those people – many of whom I didn’t seem to know – I remember feeling completely focused on Kyle, and he on me. We were happy, smiling. We kissed while we waited.

Out of the crowd, my ex-mother-in-law emerged. She was dressed up and holding an umbrella. She offered a quick congratulations, handed me a gift and then disappeared. The gift was unlike anything I’ve ever seen: a beige handkerchief tied to a twig. It resembled a tiny flag. I wasn’t sure what to do with it.

That’s when I noticed my clothes.

“I’m not wearing my dress!” I said and laughed. Kyle smiled and said he didn’t care.

Still, we went inside, up the church steps and into a hotel room (I didn’t say this dream made logical sense). There, I tried on a pink chiffon dress I can still picture. It wasn’t unlike the dress Rachel McAdams wears in “The Vow.” It was beautiful, but I didn’t like it.

There were other people in this room with us, too, including my high school boyfriend. It seemed everyone was focused on us, but all I could see was Kyle. It was as if we were in the center of a kaleidoscope, all the pieces around us moving, spinning, but we were still, completely grounded, in the middle of it all.

I remembered finally that I had a dress for the wedding – the one I actually do have – and I put that on.

And we kissed again and we were married.

Just like that. Happily ever after, without any worries at all.

It was such a good dream.

Today is Feb. 28. Our wedding date is April 7 (though if I get this far-away job I’m still waiting to hear about, we’ll get married sooner). Either way, five weeks from this Saturday, we’ll be on our way to the next chapter.

I can’t wait.

There was a time during and following my divorce when I couldn’t understand why anyone would get married. My parents are divorced, and so many people I knew then didn’t seem happy with their lives.

But then something changed.

I met this man.

And when I did, it was like the clouds just cleared. The path was straight ahead. I could instantly see what marriage could be, what true love meant, what a family could be like, the value in taking care of someone because you want to, because you love him so much.

This is the path with the rainbow at the end, the trail with the hope just around the bend.

This road is the one I get to travel with him, hand in hand.

Forever never felt this happy, this full of hope.

***

One night, early on, Kyle asked if I liked Ryan Adams.

I hadn’t ever really listened to him, I admitted.

“What?” he said. “Oh, babe, you’re gonna love him.”

And I did. I do.

This song is one of the first we listened to, on my computer, thanks to YouTube. It will always remind me of the simple beauty of those early days, and of the promise of everything ahead.

“In My Time of Need” – Ryan Adams

Hope and beauty and the rest of our lives

I woke up with the little girl earlier than I ever want to be awake.

It was still dark and she had to go potty. So we stumbled into the hallway and to the bathroom where I helped her slip her arms out of her feet jammies. My eyes were half open.

She finished, we pulled her jammies back on and headed back into the hallway.

I opened my eyes.

The sun was rising, see, and it was the prettiest orange glow of day beginning I’ve seen in a very long time.

Out the big windows in the family room, the sky shone an intense, rich hue of orange, out on the horizon. The forest-like backyard and the bluffs further back were dark against the bright color, silhouettes waking up in the shadow of the day to come.

It was beautiful.

And I thought to myself: I almost missed this.

And I wondered: How many other moments of beauty do we miss all the time? Because we’re asleep, or because we’re rushing to meet the demands of the day (kids fed, dressed, cleaned and to school on time, our own selves ready for work or other commitments, our houses cleaned, our yards cared for, our pets played with, our friends and family paid attention to, dinner made, dishes done, laundry folded … new blog posts written …). Or because we just don’t pay attention.

The fiance and I were running yesterday and we saw deer – a whole family of deer, running, galloping across a small field of snow. The way they bounded, so graceful, right there in basically the middle of town, well, I felt lucky to see it. Even though they were just deer and even though they were doing nothing but running, to me, at least on that day, it was beautiful.

And right now, the little girl is eating oranges and dancing. I call it dancing, though sometimes it’s more like jumping, sometimes it’s more galloping, her long blonde hair flying up behind her, her eyes big and smiling.

She is so carefree. So precocious. So beautiful.

***

I’m reluctant to write about job prospects here because it seems when I do, I somehow jinx myself. That said, I have a second interview today for a job I really want.

It’s far away.

But we want it to happen.

If it happens, we’d pack up our stuff and go, next month. We’d get in our cars and drive and we’d start a new life, the first chapter of the rest of our lives together, as a family.

The thought of this sort of new beginning almost makes me cry.

All that opportunity, all that potential, all that power to make this life whatever we want it to be … whew. It’s wonderful and scary and plain old real and exciting all at the same time.

Here’s hoping.

***

Finally, this came out a couple weeks ago, and I realized today I haven’t posted it here yet.

The fiance in a hot air balloon, singing a new song he wrote (video thanks to Love Drunk):

“When to Let Go” – Kyle Harvey