Here in this desert

Photo by Kyle Harvey

We live in the desert and it’s beautiful.

Last night, the moon shone through our bedroom window and I imagined it made us safe, that the man in the moon of our childhoods existed and watched down on us as we slept, dreaming dreams of islands and babies and loves and futures together.

It was bright and I pretended it made our skin look creamier, milky with innocence and passion and dreams, as I curled myself into the curve of my husband, his back my shield from the anxiety that sometimes comes.

We slept and tossed and rested and woke with the sun, my son, who got up when the day did.

The routine isn’t the same yet, for anyone. My babies are happy. I see it in their smiles, hear it in their laughs, know it when they skip down the hall or curl up in the reading chair with a DVD.  Yesterday was different than before. They are connected to their stepfather, who cares for them during the day, who plays with them and makes them swings and sings them songs on his guitar, who has a way with them now that I don’t.

I am grateful for this connection. I am happy they are loved and safe and content and silly and full of the life we should all feel.

I am adjusting to not being as integral a part of that web of family we have. I am getting to know my role as newspaper editor, working mom in the true sense, not the privileged sense I had for the past two years where I worked full-time but picked up my kids from school every day at 3:30. I am getting over myself, my maternal longing to always be there, to take care of everything not just for my babies but for my husband, who doesn’t need me to do those things like make the bed or cover him up because he’s not cold or take the trash out the morning before it has to be set out anyway just because he mentioned it.

I am adjusting to this new me.

We are adjusting to this new life that is miraculously beautiful, full of experiences and moments and just getting by and holy-cow-this-is-my-life and anticipation for what’s to come, the show three weeks from now, the Easter Egg hunt this Saturday, the swim lessons that start Monday, the newspaper that publishes on the 18th, the everything else.

Here in this desert where love blossoms freely.

The bends of this life

“Just around the bend there is a life like you could never imagine.”

I think I’m here, brave girls.

Around the bend.

In this life I didn’t know existed.

I married the love of my life on Sunday, March 11. It rained and we had to change some plans, but it was perfect. Lovely. Couldn’t-have-asked-for-anything-more-magical wonderful. Nicole Ferguson took amazing photos. We laughed and cried and hugged and felt happy.

And then, five days later, we loaded up all our stuff and moved.

Far away. Out of the Midwest and into a new timezone, new area code. New town. New house.

New life.

It is beautiful. Everywhere we look. At our fingertips are outdoor adventures that will probably never end. Outside our front door (and our back) are amazing natural landscapes we never could have imagined back home. Our neighbors even have horses.

Kyle and I went for a hike the other night and found ourselves in backcountry that felt reserved just for us. In the two hours we spent walking, we saw one other person, a lone mountain bike rider. We crossed streams. We looked up and ahead in a feeble attempt to somehow try to take it all in. We said, “We live here.”

It’s awesome. It’s spectacular, in many ways.

It really is.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all, to let my heart adjust to this new space, this new routine, this new way of doing things. The kids came back today – they’d spent the week with their dad. Now, finally, I feel like I can fully set about giving this new life 100 percent.

Thank goodness we get to keep the things that matter most close to us, as we navigate the bends of this life. My husband, my kids … if all is right with our little family unit, I know we can do anything.

I know now more than ever that the rock star is right: We will always be OK.

***

Thanks to an amazingly thoughtful, spot-on wedding gift, I’ve been listening to this on vinyl (and when I’m not listening to it, it’s in my head):

“Holocene” by Bon Iver

Thank you, everyone, who’s asked about us on Facebook or elsewhere. I’ve been trying to get my feet under me before offering an update. The new job starts Monday.

Onward.

Where the happily ever after begins

So sometimes that dark cloud just disappears.

You know the one? That low-lying thunder cloud that for so long just seemed to hang around, out there on your horizon, dirtying up the view?

That one that even when it gave way to the sun every now and then always came back. Same spot. Just sort of there, in the way of all that sun, all those rainbows, all that everything else.

Well. It’s gone.

Maybe I just had to wait long enough. Maybe I had to try hard enough. Maybe I simply had to let my life unfold as it should.

Either way.

That cloud’s been replaced.

I got a job.

A really exciting job in a really amazing place doing what I want to be doing: Writing, editing, managing. I start in two weeks.

Much more important than that, though: I’m getting married. This weekend. To the most wonderful man I’ve ever met.

To my best friend, my best time, my true love, my rock, my world.

I am so happy. As my sister said online today, life is good.

Finally!

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

Giving it all a go

My back is burning and I’m eating graham crackers, the snack that always makes me feel like a kid.

The rockstar is asleep on the couch, fighting a cold or a fever or allergies or exhaustion or some combination of all of the above.

The little boy is playing Legos and the little girl is out and about.

I’m sitting here, by the fire, cat purring by my leg, trying to think of something to say.

Wondering if I want to have anything to say.

I do, of course, have things to say and like it that way. But what I’ve been trying to figure out for the past few weeks is whether I want to continue to share everything. Here or on Facebook or in any other virtual space.

I’ve been feeling like maybe not being quite so … open. Maybe not being quite so quick to write about the bad stuff that happens to good people, or the good stuff that happens to good people.

Or any of it.

I’ve been realizing maybe it’s not anyone else’s business.

But I don’t want to give this up (though I’ve considered it). I have such appreciation for those of you who support me and my family and my choices and check in every now and then at this little blog.

I love writing, the power of words and stories and the difference sharing our lives can make.

It’s incredible. Really.

I don’t want to lose the connection I have with so many of you.

But I don’t want to feel judged. I don’t want to be judged. I just wanted to do this little thing and live and laugh and learn and grow and let this just be what it was: a blog.

So the past couple weeks I’ve been up in my head, exploring my heart. Just trying to figure this all out.

(Yes, I know, universe, that will be a constant in this life.)

I’m writing now, my back to the fire, the cat purring, the rest of the house quiet. I’m giving it a go. I’m seeing where this post takes me.

I’m thinking once we move out of here, if I’m fortunate enough to get a job some place nice, I’ll keep our new locale to myself. I’ll set about making a home for my family, making sure my husband is happy, my kids are healthy, that my home feels like home.

Our home.

The thought alone makes me smile.

There, we’ll finally start the next chapter, with love.

This love story

The first time I fell in love I was 4 years old and obsessed.

The object of my affection had curly red hair, a voice that could win over even a stodgy bald rich guy and the awesomest, spunkiest, don’t-ever-give-up attitude ever.

She had the sweetest friend, Molly, a locket I coveted and a story that tugged at my little-girl heartstrings.

Her name was Annie and she taught us all, way back then, that even on the worst days, the sun comes out tomorrow.

My love affairs moved on, over the years, to include such characters as the Scarecrow from the “Wizard of Oz,” Charles Ingalls from “Little House on the Prairie” and Kevin Arnold from “The Wonder Years.”

And then there was that boy band in the late 80s/early 90s. I might have had a little thing for them.

Real-life love stories are a lot different than celebrity crushes, of course. We all learn this (the hard way?) growing up. Middle-school, anyone?

My real-life love story, has several chapters.

Though my book is far from finished, I’m on the last chapter. It’s going to be a long one, so settle in.

Being with the man I know I was always supposed to find is the perfect ending to my love story that’s just beginning.

Our love story that’s just beginning. (!!!)

So the final time I fell in love I was 30-something years old and head over heels.

There is a sense of peace about our lives now that I’m not sure I ever remember feeling.

I like it.

And I’m grateful. So thankful.

How lucky we are.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my love, my babies and everyone else. Here’s to new beginnings and final chapters!

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

Being enough

Last November, I had a message in my Facebook inbox from a name I didn’t recognize.

Christina Olcott Mundell had lost her job the previous week, too, and she wanted to let me know I wasn’t alone. She wanted to let me know there was another person out there trying to hold it together, too. She wanted to let me know she’d loved the work I did.

I appreciated her note and told her so.

A couple months later, she messaged me again. This time, she wanted to tell me I’d inspired her. She’d started her own blog.

I checked it out.

It’s really good.

Honest and real and just the way I like it. Christina, who lives in Cozad with her husband and kids, writes about her life at Good at Beginnings.

Today, she wrote a guest post for Single Mom with Love. I hope there will be more where this came from, in the months ahead.

Christina Mundell, Good at Beginnings 

Counseling. A pill regime that would rival that of any senior citizen. Blogging for therapy. Reading assignments for counseling, along with homework. Taking time for me. Riding my bike. Going for walks. Reaching out to others when I need help.

It’s got to come together eventually.

I struggle daily to juggle all my roles. I feel like I always have too many balls in the air, and I realize part of that is that I overextend myself. I try to take on the world, by myself, and I think things are my responsibility alone. I’m working on that.

But I hate asking for help.

The days I feel like I’ve been an awesome mom, I’ll later realize I was a below-par wife. Or a less-than-enough friend. Then on the days I feel like I’m rockin’ the friend thing, I realize I’ve dropped the ball in the mommyhood department.

It is exhausting to feel like I’m doing any of these roles justice.

Even when I have a great day and feel like I’ve done the very best I can, doubt creeps in and the positivity of that entire day is gone. In a flash. Snap. It’s gone. I’m back to doubting my abilities and myself, being anxious about the next day before it’s even here and wondering how I’m going to do it all again tomorrow.

My days begin with that anxious feeling. I pop a pill when I wake up and think, “Why can’t I just be happy and not depend on a pill to make it through the day?” Fast forward to that evening, and I’m popping two more pills thinking, “Seriously? Pills to sleep at night? How hard is it to just sleep? I’m not trying hard enough!”

Some days, the anxiety and depression are overwhelming. And when those days run into each other, I struggle even more. I don’t ask for help. I distance myself from my friends and family. I feel the quicksand pouring over me and don’t know how to stop it.

I found myself in that quicksand this winter. I was suffocating. I couldn’t catch my breath, and I couldn’t even whisper for help, let alone scream for it.

I put my beautiful boys to bed and decided I’d check out. I took my time going through the medicine cabinet, wondering what would be the quickest and most likely to work. I poured myself a glass of water and swallowed them. Three handfuls of pills. I laid down on the couch, pulled the covers over my head and waited.

I fell asleep crying.

I woke up the next morning.

I heard the kids getting ready for school, and for a minute, I laid there wondering what was going on. I moved the covers. I was still here. I pulled the covers back over my head and cried. I had never been more disappointed to wake up in my life.

I spent the next couple days in a haze. I felt even worse about myself. Who screws up their suicide attempt? Who could I even talk to about it?

No one is going to understand. No one gets what it’s like to feel this way.

Why can’t I just be enough?

It’s a daily battle to be enough. Some days my voice is strong and I convince myself I am. Other days, it’s all I can do to make it through the day.

But now, on those days, I promise myself I will try again tomorrow.

I know I have to learn to be louder than that voice in my head. That voice that some days screams at me.

I’m trying to learn to scream back: I am enough.

Christina Olcott Mundell blogs at http://goodatbeginnings.blogspot.com.

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

Mom Saves Money: Giveaway parties

I went to a clothing swap once.

The host let us bring our old stuff, plop it down in her dining room and then spend the morning there sorting through everyone else’s old stuff – to see what we wanted to make our new stuff.

Today, Nicole McDonald gives us some tips on pulling off a successful giveaway party. (Any of you ever done one?)

Nicole McDonald, momsavesmoney.net

Want to refresh your wardrobe, find new toys for your kids, get new reading material without spending any money or just get rid of items you aren’t using?

Host a giveaway party!

How does it work? Invite friends to bring their gently used items to your house and let the shopping begin! Everyone will be able to get rid of items they aren’t using and take home ‘new’ items they can use. Pick a theme, so you aren’t overwhelmed with items in your home and make it easier for guests to go through those items.

Some theme ideas:

  1. Kid clothing – Those of us with children know how fast they grow out of clothes and how expensive they are. A clothing swap is a great idea to refresh their wardrobes on a budget.
  2. Kid toys and games – Kid toys seem to multiply in my house and there are so many they don’t even play with anymore. Why not give those toys to someone else and pick some new ones for your kids to enjoy?
  3. Books, magazines and DVDS – I did this party a few weeks ago and it was fabulous! We had a huge assortment of DVDs, kid and adult books and everyone went home with at least one large bag of new reading material and DVDs. After the party, I donated the remaining books (three huge boxes) to the local library.
  4. Kitchen gadgets – Remember that rice cooker you got for your wedding that’s still sitting unopened three years later? This is a perfect theme party for foodies. A gadget that is useless to you may be the perfect addition to someone else’s kitchen.
  5. Adult clothing and accessories– Let’s face it: Most of us have a huge chunk of clothes in our closet that never see the sunlight. Swap with other people to refresh your wardrobe. Add purses, shoes, jewelry and scarves to the party to get more variety.

Tips to a Successful Party

  1. Invite everyone. The more people, the better.
  2. Co-host with a friend or two. They will invite their guest list of attendees, so you will double or triple the turnout.
  3. Ask guests to bring friends. Encourage your friends to invite their friends and family to the party.
  4. Send a reminder. A few days before your party, email or call. People are busy and sometimes forget. A reminder is always appreciated, plus it gives you a good idea of how many people to expect.
  5. Keep refreshments light. It’s a giveaway party, not an eating party. Serve a few beverages and if you want, a few small snacks. Don’t go overboard with the food. (This is hard for me because I really like to feed people.)

After the party, you will probably have many items that still need a home. Instead of asking your guests to take their stuff back home, offer to donate it to a local shelter, thrift store, library or kids’ organization. Your guests will appreciate that you take care of the leftovers and they don’t have to lug their stuff back home. You can simply call one of the thrift stores that does pick up, so it won’t take much effort for you to donate the items.

Giveaway parties are fun and the ultimate in frugality and recycling.

Nicole McDonald writes about freebies, coupons, deals and product reviews and hosts giveaways at www.momsavesmoney.net.