1-800-DENALI

I got this wonderful compliment from someone who reads my blog who said something like, “I love the way your mind works.” Which was so very nice, but made me realize that my blog posts have all been kind of deep and about the big things in life. And that IS me. But not always. So I thought I’d share another part of me today.

I was at the pharmacy the other day waiting for them to figure out how to fill a freaking prescription. Since I was stuck at the store for 30 minutes, I finally remembered to get my husband the deodorant that I have forgotten like 3 separate times. Normally, we make our own deodorant. We’ve used it for the past year or so, and it’s always worked great. But maybe it’s just too hot this summer or who knows, because he wanted some store bought stuff. So after 10 minutes of sniffing varieties, I finally settled on one named “Denali.” I chose it because it smells nice but not very strong. I’m kind of picky about that sort of thing.

So now I lay my head on my husband on the couch, and I keep thinking “Denali” every time I smell his new deodorant. Can’t get the thought out of my head, or the story that it inevitably provokes.

I’ve never been to Alaska or Denali National Park, although I’d love to go. But the name brings back this guy that I used to work with at a ski resort in Colorado when I lived out there. It was the ski season after Georgia was born and I was working in a tiny little room in the back of the children’s center answering phones and making reservations for ski school. I took the job because it was flexible and allowed me to go over to the employee day care and nurse Georgia every few hours. Plus, my friend Susanne worked there with me too and she was always a hoot. She had a baby just 2 months older than Georgia so we sort of referred to our office as the nursing/pumping room. Well, until this guy came along and got hired to answer phones with us. Let’s call him Bob. Truthfully, I don’t remember his name. I remember that he was fresh off a stay taking care of some cabins up in Denali National Park. I remember this whole bleeping story but not the guy’s name.

So Bob came to work in our tiny little office with the two breastfeeding mothers. Susanne has a very dry German sense of humor. She would often pretend to squirt breast milk into the envelopes of the crabby customers who had called to make reservations. And I’ve always prided myself on having a fairly well developed sense of humor. And poor Bob just doesn’t fit in. I would say that even if Bob had been a breastfeeding mother, he wouldn’t have fit in. He rarely showered, was overweight, loved junk food and television and didn’t ski. What he was doing at a ski resort full of fitness and outdoor freaks is beyond me. The only thing he did like, and ever wanted to talk about, was Denali National Park. All day long.

He also wasn’t the sharpest crayon in the box. The phone job was simple and clear cut. It was almost impossible to screw up but he did just that all the time. We overheard him on the phone one day telling a potential customer that the resort took a deposit for ski school so that, “If you don’t show and screw us over, we get to keep your 50 bucks.” This guy belonged back up in Alaska as far as I was concerned. But Susanne and I would fix his errors and cuss him out behind his back on his days off. It was annoying but manageable. Then he got kinda snarky when we’d try to help him do his job better. He complained to our boss that we were “picking on him.” She told us to try to be nicer to him. Which I swear, we were! We had the patience of saints with that guy!

So we fixed his mistakes and tried to smile through all his boring Denali stories and didn’t correct him since it bothered his delicate sensibilities so very much. And we just tried to make it through the days that he worked with us.

One day, Bob just didn’t show up in the morning. He didn’t call in or anything until way later in the day, but Susanne and I kind of assumed that he’d quit. First off, ski towns are transient places full of people finding themselves or leaving themselves behind. People and employees come and go and there isn’t always a big reason. But Bob was no surprise being that he didn’t fit in there anyway.

We finally got a call from our boss later in the day that Bob had called and quit. Said he was moving on farther west to Utah in hopes of a better working environment. We were thrilled and changed our computer’s screensavers to read “For further information, dial 1-800-DENALI.” We were in a great mood.

Our boss showed up later in our office to drop some papers off and saw our computer screens. She was one of our closest friends but still didn’t quite share in our joy or sense of humor.

You DROVE him away!” she sort of yelled.

But we didn’t. He would’ve disliked anyone and she knew it. He wasn’t very smart and caused more problems than he was worth and she knew that too. She just had to be all exasperated at us because one of her employees quit and blamed us. She wasn’t really mad, but she did tell us to stop feeling so much joy over the whole thing.

That was nearly 18 years ago now. And a stick of deodorant brought it all back. So I wrote it all out to share and show you that it’s not just deep stuff going on in here. Sometimes its just random silly things like really hoping that guy went back to Denali.

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16 and Somewhere In Between

My daughter Holly turned 16 today. This particular age strikes a chord in me and feels bittersweet. Sixteen is the age that I was when I first fell in love. It was the age when I started to awaken to what this world is all about and my own part in it.  I’m remembering this as I look at my daughter today, and think about how she’s just starting her own amazing journey. But I also think of the day she was born, a little 6 pound peanut who came rushing into the world in 2 hours and 5 minutes. My only baby born with a head full of hair. The doctor caught her like a football after only 3 pushes. And then she nursed for an hour straight. Apparently she was born so fast because she was just really hungry.Image

It seems like different lifetimes, the hot 104 degree day in Denver when she was born, and today, where she hasn’t quite found herself yet. And it got me thinking about how she isn’t my oldest, or my youngest. In many ways, she is somewhere in between with all of it. Trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs.

Holly is only 22 months younger than her very loud, theatrical older sister. Her big sister who has always been center stage no matter what activity she was doing, who was nicknamed “instant party,” by her kindergarten teacher. But since siblings tend to be so different, Holly was never like that. Holly was the kid who didn’t walk till she was 19 months and didn’t talk till she was 3. She was my youngest child for 12 years, and for a lot of that time she was quiet and serious. At age 6, she found gymnastics and tumbling, and back flipped and cartwheeled her way through her childhood. But as time went on, she found other interests. Friends, water ski, volleyball, pole vaulting. But so far, she hasn’t found that thing that makes her heart really sing. She’s still looking for whatever it is what will help show her who she is. And since two little brothers came along in the past few years and knocked her out of the “youngest” spot, she really is stuck somewhere in between in this family. Not that we don’t love her and cheer her on at her track meets or chorus concerts every chance we get. But still, she’s searching for her identity everywhere. In every part of her life.

ImageHolly is a lovely girl, and it’s easy for lovely girls to get caught up in thinking that their beauty is their identity. I do all I can to discourage this, as it won’t serve her to cling to her looks like a security blanket or protection. But the way pretty girls get treated in our society doesn’t help my cause. From what I’ve seen, it’s harder to find your voice when you have a very pretty face because everyone is always watching you.

As a mother, I want so much to help my children find their way. But as someone who still remembers being 16, I know that this is something we must all do for ourselves. This will be her life for a little while yet. Because she can’t quite drive yet. Because she still has a couple years before she goes to college. Because she is still in the process of growing up. This is, by definition, an “in between” time of life.

But I also know that Holly will find her way to many great things in this life. And I can’t wait to be there to cheer her on through them all, and to see what she chooses to do in this world.

These Are The Days You’ll Remember

“These are the days.
These are days you’ll remember. 
Never before and never since, I promise, will the whole world be warm as this. 
And as you feel it, you’ll know it’s true that you are blessed and lucky. 
It’s true that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you…” 

 

You know that song? It’s by the 10,000 Maniacs, who I’ve heard of but never given much thought about. But I’ve had that song in my head this week. Actually, not the whole song cause I don’t know it well enough. Just one line:

 

These are the days you’ll remember….

 

The words have been following me around, refusing to be ignored. As if they are trying to tell me something.

 

It’s been busy around here. It always is, but the past month has been busier than normal. We welcomed our son Lincoln into the family. My daughter Georgia graduated high school. She sang a solo at Overture Hall that night in front of over 2000 people. Lincoln smiled for the first time. We figured out the financials to send Georgia to the college of her dreams. I picked up a stomach bug, then Brice got it two weeks later and threw up on our front lawn. I twisted my ankle on the basement steps. Steve was home for two weeks after the baby was born. Family and friends coming from all over to meet Lincoln. I turned 40.

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These are the days you’ll remember…

 

It feels like a whirlwind, so much life all at once. I never really put the baby down but somehow he’s gained 3 pounds and has outgrown his newborn clothes already. The clothing just sits in sad piles around the house waiting for me to tuck them away as the keepsakes they will inevitably turn into. I’m not ready yet. Just like all the toiletries that I needed just after his birth for dealing with the trauma that childbirth wrecks on the body. I no longer need any of them but they sit in my bathrooms anyway. I can’t let go of them. Lincoln’s birth already feels impossibly far away. The details blurring and the rough edges getting sanded off until it’s more of a story and less of a feeling.

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This last month has been so full. These events, so many of them so very long awaited, reduced to mere memories already. Fractions of feelings that come back in slices then get lost in the shuffle of diaper changes and dinner needing to be made. I wish I could press pause.

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These days. The good and the bad. The little moments that add up to being our lives.

 

So I try to stay present. To allow each moments it’s time. To not rush out of one and go searching for the next, whether I label the moment as good or bad. Because they go by quick. So quick. The kids will grow and leave. I see this now.

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 These are the days you’ll remember…

 

 

 

On turning 40

ImageApparently I turned 40 today.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, but it kind of was. I mean, I knew my birthday was coming up, mostly because I love birthdays. They are the one day when everyone is polite enough to be nice to you. But mostly, it’s about celebrating our lives and I’m a firm believer that we should just flat out do more of that.

But with a brand new baby (and recovering from that cause I’m obviously not 22 anymore), and my oldest graduating high school and having a bunch of concerts and events, plus family coming to town and about a million other things in the past month, I was distracted. So I kind of figured we wouldn’t really do much for my birthday this year, which was fine since a nice dinner out with a nursing newborn seemed less than fun. But then I woke up one night to feed Lincoln and it just hit me. I’m turning 40! I honestly hadn’t thought about it in many months.

If I’m going to follow the norms of this society, then here is where I’m supposed to be writing all about how traumatic it is to turn 40. I’m supposed to talk about how I can’t run anymore because of a degenerative hip problem, or how I have wrinkles, and soft parts that don’t get firm no matter what exercises I do. Or how I’m so much closer to death and this is the end of my youth, or something like that.

But I’m not going to do that, because really, turning 40 is not a bad thing to me.

We live in this world that values perfection. Smooth flawless skin. Thinness. Attractiveness. Energy and ability. And we equate these qualities with youth. These are all nice things, and certainly I understand the desire to look and feel our best. But I think we take this to such an extreme and get so concerned with our own aging process and mortality that we forget that we are still alive. If your heart is beating and you are breathing and aware enough to have such concerns, then you are still alive. And you can stress yourself out about how you look or feel, or what number represents you this year, or you can be thankful for your life. It’s that simple.

And 40 or 22 or 108… they are just numbers. They may signify something or be special in some way, but really, they are just a representation. They have no more meaning than what we give them. Like all things, we can use them in good ways or bad.

So yes, I’m not as young as I was. Childbirth has taken me longer to recover from. I have wrinkles and grey hairs that weren’t there before….

But you know what? I’m also wiser. Wise enough to know that life is not a race anyway. And the wrinkles and grey hairs and the number 40? I guarantee that I’ve earned them, so they can stay.

What No Longer Serves You

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I think we are all evolving. Changing bit by bit, some faster and more proactively than others. Some for the better, some not. But we are all works in progress, part of the evolutionary process of life. We are all on a journey in a constant state of flux. Our choice is what we do with it. How we evolve.

But the truth is that we don’t change and shift and grow the same way as the other people in our lives. Sometimes, we really do grow apart. Or outgrow each other. And we can lay blame and get mad or say it’s for the best or whatever we want to label it as. We always have a choice of whether we call something good or bad. But in many ways, it just is what it is. The sidewalk isn’t angry at the tree for taking its roots and cracking the edges before looking for an easier way out. A tornado has no more malice than a thunderstorm or a rainbow or a honey bee. We are all just looking for our own place, trying to find our way.

I used to have all these people in my life, even in my daily life. People that I talked to a lot on the phone or spent time with regularly. People that I loved and depended on in a variety of ways. And piece by piece, bit by bit, they started to disappear. At first, it was heartbreaking and scary and hard. And I was angry and didn’t understand and wanted things to go back to how they were. But that isn’t life. Life evolves. There is no going back.

Slowly, I came to see that part of this change occurred because I was changing. I was different. I had thought it was the other way around, but really, if anyone moved positions on the playing board, it was me. I had become someone different and the puzzle pieces no longer fit. I could mourn this or fight against it all I wanted, but I was never going to be that shape again. I could pretend to be, but part of how I had changed was coming to notice that I had been pretending. And that just wasn’t going to happen anymore. I no longer had the stomach for pretending to be someone I wasn’t.

I wish I could say that right away the empty spaces of my life got filled with wonderful people, but that isn’t true. There were some lonely times where I felt like I had almost no one. But I found out in that time who I am, who I really am if no one is there to influence me at all. I found my own truth about religion and spirituality. I read more books than I ever had in my life. I found out how strong I could be when it was just me to live my life and care for my children. I found out exactly what I could do if the bottom dropped out completely with no one to catch me. It was the scariest, hardest time. And I grew from it.  

If I hadn’t have gone through this transition of self, and hadn’t lost my support network, I wouldn’t have written my book. I wouldn’t have taught myself photography. And I wouldn’t have met my husband, or have been ready for him like I am now. I needed all these things to fall into place exactly the way they did for me to end up here. And it’s worth it, because I love it here and I truly believe that this is where I’m meant to be. Even if I’m still a work in progress. Even if I still have a long journey ahead.  Because I know now that I have the right people beside me, who believe in me and support me for me.  

It is often after the fact that I see the lessons life has been trying to teach me. I rarely notice them when I am in transition. But what I think that the last five years of my life have been trying to make me understand is this… When the nonfunctional and unnecessary people and parts of your life try to leave, you should let them go. Holding on to them just drags the drama around in the dirt beside you, marking up your whole life. And you won’t find who and where you belong until you are able to drop what no longer serves you.

Beginnings and Endings

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My daughter Georgia, my oldest child, is graduating high school this Sunday. Today was her last day of high school. And my  youngest child, Lincoln, was born 3 weeks ago this morning. His little 8 pound floppy body is asleep across my chest as I type this.

I keep trying to come to terms with this, how one of my children can be about to leave this house to go off on her own just as another baby has arrived. And what a circle life is, constantly twisting and turning and coming back around.

I’ve been watching my daughter for the past month, singing at her last high school chorus concert, walking across the stage to receive awards and scholarships for college, trying on her cap and gown. All of this I’ve witnessed with a new baby in my arms. And it keeps striking me how it really doesn’t seem so long ago that she was this little. It was… It was almost 18 years ago. But still, I remember so clearly her itty little fingers and red peach fuzz covered head. Her baby noises. How she slept and fussed and ate. How scary labor felt and how new and fresh and exciting she seemed. And now, after the blink of an eye, or 18 long years (I’m not sure which), she’s going to college. She’s grown up. Whatever that means.

So it’s an interesting junction in life to find myself here now, with one child leaving and one just born. Of course it makes me think back to when Georgia was tiny, only it’s different this time. It’s not the same place and I’m not the same mother I was then.

I read once somewhere that first babies are your best foot forward. Even as a young mother with lots of hands-on baby experience, becoming a mother was daunting and scary to me the first time around. I wasn’t prepared for the rigors of 24-7 with a newborn who fed off my anxious overtired vibe. I didn’t expect to love her so very much. Her father disappeared, never to be heard from again, so I was literally on my own and scared how I’d make it all work. It was just hard.

With this baby, I have help. I have my teenage daughters to pitch in when they aren’t at school or activities. And my husband didn’t really let me lift a finger the first two weeks after Lincoln was born.  He did all the laundry and dishes and picking up and dropping off and took the baby when I needed a shower. I’m no longer at the point in my life where I’m counting pennies and losing sleep over how to make it all work. We are all just fine. More than fine. It’s a miraculous feeling after so many years of struggle.

So it isn’t the same. Georgia is Georgia and Lincoln is Lincoln. Different people who will grow up having different lives. They won’t even grow up in the same house since Georgia is going to college before Lincoln can even sit up on his own. But what is the same is that they are both my babies. Any child grown in your belly will always be your baby. Every mother knows that.

But the truth is, I wouldn’t be the mother that I am today if I hadn’t been Georgia’s mother first. Exactly as it all was, that is what made me who I am now. We are all works in progress, and I needed the path I took to progress to where I am now.  Every mother needs to be a first time mom and learn how to put our best foot forward and figure it all out.

So on Sunday my first baby is going to walk across a stage and get a diploma that says she’s graduated from this part of her life and is certified to move onto the next part. I will be sitting there watching with her newborn brother in my arms, thinking of when she was that tiny. Thinking of every moment in-between that got her where she is now. So very proud of her for all she’s done. And so thankful for the lessons she taught me along the way that have made me the woman and mother I am. And so grateful for the reminder to treasure the moments as they come, since they obviously slip by fast.