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

It’s true

Being homeless isn’t so bad.

We’re not really homeless, of course. We’re living with family. We have our own space. We have really nice people surrounding us.

It sort of feels like home.

It’s been a week since we moved out of the pretty yellow house in Dundee. Leaving was hard. I haven’t cried as hard as I did pulling out of the driveway for the last time in quite a while.

But you know what? Now? I don’t really miss it.

Life is funny like that.

It feels good being done with that chapter actually. It feels good not having to worry about the monthly mortgage payment or the utilities or how to make the grass look green again come summer or what to do if the furnace goes out or shoveling that long driveway or changing the battery in the fire alarm so it will shut up or … any of those things that come with being a homeowner.

I do hope we have a home again someday, though. One we pick out together. One where maybe we can stay a while, maybe a long time. I like that idea.

One of the last things I packed up was a small framed picture that hung in my bathroom. It’s an abstract drawing of two people in bright colors. Beneath them, it says: “They came to sit and dangle their feet off the edge of the world. And after awhile, they forgot everything but the good and true things they would do someday.”

I’ve loved this for a long time.

To me, this message is hope of a better tomorrow, of the power of dreams, of the beauty of being together. It’s a message of simplicity. It reminds me to slow down and remember what’s important, what’s possible. What’s true.

It’s in our new, borrowed bathroom now. And it fits just fine here, too. In our new, borrowed home.


On Christmas Eve, right after he proposed, my fiance gave me a couple records (“There’s more?!” I said). One was Ray LaMontagne. If you haven’t heard him, go and listen.

Start with this song:

“Trouble” by Ray LaMontagne

Maybe it just will

Have you ever wanted something so bad that after you ask for it you feel like you’re holding your breath?

Like that easy art of breathing is suddenly threatened, like you realize 20 minutes later that you’re still not really inhaling, that those lungs aren’t working as they should, that you feel light-headed?

Because we’re all waiting for something that may not ever come. We all have something (right?) that we desperately want but have no control over whether we’ll ever get it.

For an overachiever like me, subjective decisions and wait-and-see and no-rhyme-or-reason outcomes are hard to take. I like being able to make my own destiny. What is that quote? Be the change you want to see in the world? Just Do It? Live today like you are dying tomorrow? Run a race to see who has the most guts? Carpe Diem?

Yeah. You get it.

I wonder if this is partly why people believe in God and Heaven and all those other things. Because the notion of some higher power being in control of everything is comforting. Does giving up your control, your idea of manifest destiny, to a deity make it easier to get through all the times when the outcome is out of your control?

I suppose it probably does. “I’m praying for you,” gives someone something to say, some small act of feeling useful in times when there isn’t much else to be done.

Despite my own beliefs, I’ve always appreciated someone caring about me enough to offer their prayers.

Anyway, I never realized when I had one how hard well-paying, career-track, professional jobs are to come by.

Now, I do.

Four hours after I applied for quasi-Dream-Job-number-two, I realized I was still holding my breath.

Because, as I told one dear friend, “This just may be the answer, you know?”

So I’m crossing my fingers and staying positive. I believe in the power of believing in something. Believe fully that something will happen and maybe it just will.

I don’t know. It’s all I got.

But maybe, just maybe, I’m right.

And I hope all those people with problems much bigger than unemployment — the unspeakable tragedies of our world (sick babies, cancer in anyone, loss of a loved one, unexplainable infertility, violence, homelessness, bullying, hate … my list could go on) — have something to hang on to, as well.

Prayer. The power of positive thinking. Meditation. Long runs. Music. Love as solid as a rock. Whatever.

Just something to keep breathing.

Something to see, baby

My yoga teacher likes to share quotes with the class.

Yesterday, hers was about friendship, about choosing wisely who you let in as a friend. Be careful, the quote said. But once you decide to friend someone, open up. Tell them things you would only tell yourself. Be real about it all. Be genuine. Be true.

I’ve been thinking about that. About the notion of friends and acquaintances and Facebook “friends.” About all the people we know and how many of them we actually know.

Not very many.

And I think that’s OK. A friend of mine a few months ago over lunch told me that she’d read somewhere we could only ever have two true friends.


I might argue the number could fit on one hand because I do feel I’m lucky enough to have at least five good, true friends, if not a few more. But I definitely agree with the notion.

People are afraid of opening up. That’s why the social circle of friends at the bar or the gym or work or our kid’s school is big – and safe. Usually, you’re not expected to talk about your insecurities or your failures or your bad skin or bad relationships or any of that. You just show up and make small talk and drink and laugh or sweat or watch the girls chase your son around.

And I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have a close friend who’s known you since you were someone else (a kid, literally or figuratively) or a friend who’s known you a much shorter time but gets you just the same. A friend you trust and love.

I know I’m lucky to have a few of those. Definitely on my list of things I’m thankful for.

I’m meeting one of those friends this afternoon. Another of those friends just booked a flight to Omaha for my wedding in April. Yet another one is planning to make the 11-hour drive from Western Colorado. I’m hopeful another one will be able to fly in from the East Coast. The few others live here already and will be there, too. I hope they know how much that means.

I can’t talk about friendship without thinking of my best friend growing up. We had countless sleepovers, camp experiences, Ouija board freakouts, first kisses (with boys!) … and so much more. I can’t do the relationship justice in words.

The time since I’ve seen her last is far too long, and I’m fairly sure I’m long overdue returning an e-mail. But I think about her everyday.

And last night, while driving back from dropping my babies off with their grandparents for the weekend, this song came on the radio. I turned it up.

“Pink Houses” – John Mellencamp

This one always makes me think of my childhood true friend and all the others I’m lucky to have now.

New beginnings

In 24 days, my pretty yellow house will belong to someone else.

It sold.

On the market for 32 days – over the holidays – my two-bedroom Dundee house sold last week. We close on Feb. 1.

I’m excited and relieved and happy … and sad and melancholy and overwhelmed.

I haven’t packed a single thing. The Christmas tree is still up. The toys and gifts we all got are seemingly everywhere.

And, once again, I feel like I own way too much stuff. The urge to purge is running strong. (But can I really get rid of those boxes of childhood school papers? And high school cross country medals? And college newspaper articles? And what about my diplomas; what in the world does anybody do with those?)

Anyway, to storage it all goes (anyone have a good storage place to recommend?), while the kids and I stay with family for a few months.

Let the packing begin.


What I really want to be doing is thinking about the wedding.

I bought a Martha Stewart Weddings magazine the other day, though nothing in there is what I want. Seriously: Every dress pictured was huge and over-the-top and at least $4,000.

Same goes for most of the decorations and other ideas.

Our celebration will be simple. And beautiful. And perfect.

I can hardly wait.

It’s set for the evening of April 7. That’s only three months from tomorrow.

But it seems like forever. 

I’m excited about the small, intimate, backyard ceremony we’re planning. And, most importantly, about the real-life happily ever after we’ll all finally get to live, every day after that.


A song for today. It’s about a relationship ending, but it’s pretty anyway. And it somehow ties in with new beginnings.

“Country Clutter” by Delorean

Maybe this year will be better than the last

We were talking last night, my boyfriend and I, about long-ago music.

About how songs can mean whatever you want, even if the songwriter didn’t intend them that way. About what songs we remembered from movies, about cover songs and cover bands and how most of the time one well-placed, well-done cover song can be amazing but cover bands we can do without.

About singing harmony and about lyrics and about vocal quality. About why I don’t like Elliott Smith.

About other stuff, too.

I can’t remember who brought them up, but one of us did (probably me): Counting Crows.

I was a huge fan from about 1995 to 2003. Yet, I lost all of my music back when I lost my husband and Counting Crows has fallen from grace so much for me since then that I haven’t replaced them.

So today, I googled. And I listened.

And, oh, Adam Duritz, how I loved you and your lyrics.

I loved your music so much for a while that I’ve decided — today at least — to forgive you for the Coke commercial and for “Shrek.” I’ve decided today to listen to you again, like I did before you sold out.

Man, you are good.

I’m forgiving you for the cover of “Big Yellow Taxi” with Vanessa Carlton and I’m forgiving you for “This Desert Life.” (And for “Hard Candy,” for that matter.) I’m even going to forgive you for this bit of news I just read on countingcrows.com – that you’re putting out a COVER album in March. Oy.

No, instead, today at least, I’m remembering you for “August and Everything After” and (thank you) for “Recovering the Satellites.”

I’m even forgiving you the orange shirt in this video:

“A Long December,” live, 2002

How great is this song?