Laughter as often as it comes

The babies are back and the new one is growing and, whew, where does all this life go so fast?

Six weeks until my due date with this little creature inside of my belly. The way she turns or pokes or prods or whatever it is exactly she’s doing sometimes startles me. Like last night, curled in bed next to the rock star, little pieces of feet or something¬†began protruding just underneath the thin skin of what was once the inside of my bellybutton.

I could feel the body parts, someone else’s body parts, under my skin. It’s unsettling. And amazing. Sort of at the same time.

This hasn’t been the pregnancy I envisioned, and it’s been difficult for me to not compare this experience with my last go-round at growing a baby. Then, my life basically on the brink of imploding, the pregnancy was second string to the emotional mess I’d made of so much else. I ate very little, I cried all the time, I exercised a lot … consequently, I gained only 25 pounds and was back in my pre-pregnancy clothes within two weeks.

That part – the appearance part – was lovely. So was the labor and delivery, which was fairly quick and easy and uncomplicated. And, of course, the sweet, sweet baby girl, who along with her brother, continues to make my world go round.

That was all good, despite the mess of the rest of my life (those dark days, of course, would eventually lead to where my life was supposed to be all along, and for that, I am thankful). But at the time, I wasn’t sure where we would all land.

So this time around, happily married to a supportive, gentle, trusting man, I gave up exercising months ago and I’ve pretty much been eating whatever I want. I’ve already gained 33 pounds.

(Which, yes, does freak me out, and if anyone follows me on Pinterest explains the numerous workout pins of late).

But the baby is growing as she should, and I’m rolling myself out of bed each morning as I should and ignoring the swollen stumps my legs and feet have turned into as best I can and getting on with it all, enduring, moving forward, with anticipation and hope and laughter as often as it comes.

Isn’t that, at the end of the day, the best we can do anyway?

Looking forward with laughter and love and hope that tastes like sun just might be the answer to it all.

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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.

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?

 

I wonder if it’s a wanting all the time

The world of wanting is cruel, that feeling of never quite having everything you’ve ever wanted, that even if you do, you don’t.

How did we get that way?

Is the grass only greener in America? What about Europe? Asia? I hear Chinese couples may get to start having multiple babies one of these days. I imagine that’s happy news to so many ears, and, to me, that feels right. That feels like it’s about time. That feels like such a stupid horrible rule to begin with. I’d be lying, though, if I said I didn’t think about all those girls sold off into an underworld I don’t want details on, those girls who could have stayed, those new moms who could have cried a little less, if China had never had something so ridiculous as population control.

I bet those Chinese mothers want just as much as I do, as we do. I wonder if it’s a wanting all the time.

I am thinking about things and needs and wants and excess and greed and happiness and fulfillment and why it – life – all feels so hard some of the time. Because Christmas is coming, that holiday we celebrate secularly like so many others across the world, Christians included.

I saw a plastic Santa at a thrift store today. It was one of those retro-looking light-up ones that stands in your yard. Plastic Santa was probably about 4 feet tall. I wanted him.

He was $25, though, and $25 on a Christmas decoration sounds like a purchase I shouldn’t make. And I didn’t.

But the kids, those sweet babies of ours, will expect presents on Christmas. Of course they will. They are kids and we live in America and Christmas, at least as far as I’m concerned, should be as magical and innocent and beautiful as it can for as long as we can make it last. Gifts in paper in excess in living rooms under a sparkly lit-up tree are part of that magic.

I do not want to go to Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving. (I want to go there never, but even less so on Thanksgiving.)

I also do not want to participate in Black Friday. The thought of all those people and all those cars and all those clothes that no one will wear two years from now and all that plastic that will break or be swept up by Mom’s broom or forgotten in the closet and all that chaos and energy and need … no. I’m good. I’ll pass. No thank you.

But.

We need presents for our kids, and money doesn’t grow on that tree out back yet and I’m still figuring out how to inherit a rich relative who falls instantly in love with me and leaves us her life’s savings or how to write my own version of “eleanor & park” that I can dedicate to my own loves.

So I’m contemplating going to Wal-Mart.

On Thanksgiving.

And I hate this. About me, about life, about society, about the fact that we’re never satisfied. Why isn’t great good enough? When will it be? And how?

I’m in love with my life. That is not hyperbole.

I am so full in love with my husband that that right there should be enough forever and always and to the moon and back.

And those babies? Those babies who are now 8 and 4 and who sometimes I ask for advice because they just seem that grown up? Oh my world spins because of them.

And everything else – just about – that makes a life: friends, family, a house to call our own, a very good job, music, laughter, streets to run on, cats to cuddle and coffee to warm our souls.

Yeah, I have that. All of that. My color is yellow.

Yet, I still yearn for things we do not have. An upstairs. Sunday dinners with family. More money. More time. More fill in the blank.

So it goes, I guess. Courage and cowboy boots and bottomless red wine maybe can’t change that sort of human nature.

But we can try and cheers to that.

The beginning of it anyway

We had breakfast parfaits at work this morning. Yogurt, granola, berries. I forgot to bring the box of granola I’d set on the counter because I was too worried about the little girl missing me and the boy who seemed so tired he could barely stand. I was worried about their second day of school, whether the dog had been out, where the cat (cats?) would pee in the house today … if I’d be late for work.

So I forgot the granola.

Which was alright because I’d decided I’d stop for Starbucks today anyway, for the cup as much as the coffee, which, really, I can make at home.

The little things, though, can change your day. A cup of coffee can matter. The treat of it all … well, so what? What’s $2.50 once a week and a Treat Receipt I’ll never use?

Today is a co-worker’s birthday. She sits in the office next to mine, and today over yogurt parfaits she passed around a framed photo of her dog on a tricycle.

Yes.

That happened.

She is 29.

“One of my favorite years,” I told her after peeking my head next door before yogurt parfaits. “I hope you have a great day.”

What makes a great day? A great year? Why is 29 one of my favorites? What will make her 29th birthday more special than any other day in this long cycle of life’s days?

I have no idea.

On the radio this morning, after I passed my friend eating what may have been yogurt on her way to work, the Yale or Harvard or Stanford or someplace smart like that expert said 99 percent of our DNA is bacteria. That gut bacteria has more impact on who we are – our behaviors, our personalities, our choices – than anything else.

I’m not sure what to do with that sort of information.

I was 28 when my body began to grow my second baby. I was 29 when I got to meet her, hold her, begin this marathon of helping her be.

I was 29 when I decided to call it quits from that first chapter of grown-up-dom, when I decided to leap with my arms spread wide, hoping just maybe I’d catch a breeze just right to cushion the fall.

I was 29 when I told my first husband I did not love him. I was 29 when I began to somehow survive that.

I was 29 when I decided I deserved to be me, on my own, of my own volition.

I was 29 when I met the people who saved me, the girlfriends who listened like no one else I remembered, the ones who brought me frou-frou drinks from Scooter’s the morning of a garage sale designed to help clear out the past, the ones who smashed a backyard shed and painted a backyard deck so I could sell the house I no longer wanted – for so many reasons – despite the fact I left Little Kitty behind.

The friends who took me out, held my hands, picked me up from the airport, gifted me with my first (and only) facial, moved into the house I no longer wanted so I could pay the mortgage and not feel so alone …

That all happened, the beginning if it anyway, the year I was 29.

It is strange to think back to that time now, on the other side of the bend, with a husband who loves me and my babies like I could have never imagined, with a career that – finally – feels as fulfilling as the one I lost, with a home and a family and friends and laughter and music and love, with a life that really, truly in so many ways is so very lovely.

But today, on my co-worker’s 29th birthday, I am nostalgic. Even the nearly empty Starbucks cup on my desk reminds me of so much. So much that’s so big I can’t write it. And if I let the so big simmer too long it starts to feel heavy, that weight that earlier this year spilled out on the kitchen table and that I’ve somehow managed to neatly pack away thank-you-very-much since then.

Memory might just be the force that makes us who we are, the force not to be reckoned with, the energy that makes our tiny little worlds go round.

On the night before the first day of school, my kids got to see the moon in a telescope. A telescope so big, so powerful that the crater’s mountains were visible.

“It’s a crescent moon,” Paige said.

“Wow,” Rye said. “My class should take a field trip here.”

And I’m reminded right now, right this second on this shifty, spinning planet we live on, that letting your kids see the moon up close might be the most important thing you do all week.

All the time, just the same

Sometimes, the hardest part is just beginning.

Just deciding to start and deal with the hurdles as you go. Because you may not even know what they are if you never start.

But being brave all the time is exhausting and sometimes I just can’t do it. Or I think I can’t so I don’t and then I hold all that anxiety inside for too long where it simmers and boils around and then spills out on my husband’s poor unexpecting soul and then.

Then we just have a mess to wipe up off the linoleum.

And then we’re just back where we were anyway, if I would have just kept on being brave all the time, every day, even when it felt like too much work.

Laziness never got anyone anywhere.

I had influenza a week and a half ago and it kicked my psyche into some corner of some room of this new house that I didn’t know existed. I was the only one there (thank God), but, man, was it intoxicating. In that dangerous, crack-heroin sort of way.

For a few hours on a few days, I thought to myself, “I’m never going to get better.”

And I was so feverish sick and my head was so full of crap and the bubble I was existing in so thick, I believed it.

And that didn’t help my mood or my temperament or the way my family felt about me at all.

Or so the crazy thoughts told me in my head.

It was a few days after the bubble burst and I climbed out of that dank corner that the mess spilled out onto the kitchen floor and across the K-Mart table where we dine and the husband reminded me he loves me all the time, just the same, whether I’m living in a corner of self pity and doubt and anxiety or not.

But he has more fun when I’m just me.

So, shit, man, what now?

Well, right now, today, yesterday, too, and even the day before that, I’m trying to chill the fuck out. What’s wrong with my life anyway?

Not one thing.

What’s so great about Omaha anyway?

I don’t know. For the first at least half of my time there, I wanted to leave. To come back here.

Oh, goddess of irony, I will name you Daffodil and Scotch-tape a picture of you in your vintage crew-cut cardigan onto the wall above my dresser. So there you can mock me.

And I can be reminded.

That maybe I don’t need that as-of-yet unopened bottle of Celexa in my medicine cabinet. That there’s no reason I should feel sad about a website for moms that, yes, played a huge role in my life. Back then. Not now.

That my friends who are my friends will always be my friends. That my friends who aren’t my friends won’t.

And I can miss them, or maybe more specifically, I can miss the way my life with them as part of it was back then. But now?

Big deal.

I’m the secular version of blessed in every sense of the word. I have an amazing man who loves not only me but also my kids who are varying degrees of nice to him, depending on the minute. I have a home that we own in a just-as-nice-as-anyplace-else town. We are not poor or sick or hungry or ugly or mean.

Our babies are beautiful as they come.

We have friends and family and cats and pasta and swimsuits and words and coffee and beer and wine and acoustic guitars and sun on our faces and hikes just waiting.

And beauty. In so many things.

We have people who love us. We have people to love.

What else, really, does anyone need?

Not Omaha. Not momaha. Not women who I still care about but who maybe never liked me that much anyway.

Not even the yellow house in Dundee.

Today and yesterday and so many days before that … and tomorrow … and next month … I need what I have.

Drink the sweet syrup of the simplicity of that.

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.