Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Hot Family Summer

Photo by the unmatched Justin Hackworth

Here it is, the last day of summer break. We're definitely going out with a whimper. In a minute we'll hit up the pool for the last time. Then we'll clean up and go to back-to-school night so our kids can meet their new teachers, see where they'll sit tomorrow morning, high-five their friends they haven't seen in two and half months.

It was a good summer.

I think I prefer summer to school schedules. I like spending time intuitively rather than instructively. I like slow days for my kids. I like to see what they do when they get to spend their own minutes in a day. Yesterday they built a town out of Duplos and asked for help. When I sat down to aid in the construction I got an idea to build a church. It had a huge cross on the top. Then Erin knocked down the spires and turned into a queen's castle, with a huge statue of Snow White standing guard over the gates.

I mean, ok. Appropriate for the house she's living in, I suppose.

We didn't do much this summer, just as I hoped a few months ago. We went to Bear Lake twice as guests of friends and family. We did a lot of kayaking on lakes and rivers. Ate a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches (or as Iris calls them, "burnt cheese"). Swam daily at the local swimming centers. I taught Erin how to use my credit card and so when we go to the pool she promptly fetches us two churros and a cinnamon pretzel for Iris and I don't have to move from my beach chair. Best part about that is that Erin and I are so damn proud of ourselves for this development.

This was the most social summer of my adult life I think--CK and I were lucky to spend a lot of time enjoying friends these past few months. What a difference having in-house babysitters make! And our kids inexplicably like it when we leave. Which yes makes me suspicious, but on the other hand FREE DATE NIGHT!!!

Anson's hair has grown out this summer to the point where he has dreamy boy band hair in the front, but in the back, it looks like a desperate octopus is trying to escape out of his head. That's just a detail about Summer 2019 I never, ever want to forget.

I took Iris to jazz class where she shook her hips and strutted her clever confidence. She learned to connect her device to her siblings and enjoyed playing online with each other. (I now call screen time STEM Discovery Family Time!).

Christopher and I were sitting on the old couch in the Green Room the other night when he looked over at me, put his hands on my knees (like we're 90?) and said very sincerely, "This is it. This is life. And it's f*&^ing great." Not without pain, for sure. But great. Solid. With a slice of f word.

Last night we went to visit Grandpa Clark's garden to relieve him of some very fertile produce he's been tending to all summer. The kids picked carrots, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini. We had a huge bag full of vitamins in vegetable form and finished just as the sun was setting.

Ever walked home with me. "Mom," she said as we rounded the corner for home, "I want us always to have a relationship like we do right now."

"Me too," I told her, "I think the secret is for me to accept you as you are and for you to be patient with me."

"I promise I'll try." She said.

"Me too," I responded.

Thank you for these moments, summer.

Until next year....over and out.



Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Unlived


Occasionally I get a tiny email dropped in my inbox from none other than Ann Cannon, the saint of Utah's newspaper columns (also a successful author in her own right).

They're always just one liners, maybe two.

She calls me Doll or Sweetie.

Tells me she's read my latest blog post, offers the kindest regards, a short deep compliment I always need to hear.

Then ends with "Ann xox".

And, then I always respond with, "I am finding no time to write with all these kids I had, tell me it gets easier. Maybe when they're all in school?"

I have sent this S.O.S. a dozen times.

And she always replies, "Wish I could tell you it's get easier, but it doesn't. So carve the time out now."

Dear God, please let my children have an Ann Cannon in their lives, first of all. Let them have an intelligent, beautiful, creative and clever mentor like I have. I am so lucky. I feel that every single time I see her name in my inbox. It's a perk of humanity.

Second, here I am. I have nothing on but my sports bra and gray leggings. I am sweating in this corner office in the basement. My kids are playing a video game together shouting about lightening balls, stun rays and coins. The laundry is just about to "ding!" me for a change of machinery.

But I am here, carving out time because I want to be like Ann Cannon.

I want to be like Toni Morrison.

I want to be like Mary Oliver, Frida Kahlo, even Kurt Vonnegut.

And I want to recognize that we use the word "carve" because it means that we have to take a knife to our lives and reshape it so that writing can fit in. It's a blunt act. It means something will have to disappear, cut out of my life, so I can do this. This.

And perhaps to say nothing at all.

Except two things: the Carl Jung quote that is presently making the rounds goes like this, "Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”

This, this is why I cannot give up writing all together. And this is the core struggle of my life--to not let parenting these four gorgeous beings, or widowhood to a good man be all there is to me. I have to let them see me separately. I have to leave behind a record of who I am. Because I am convinced that someday in their lives they will recognize that they're missing pieces of who they are, and want more context. Maybe they'll see that the mystery of their lives is the part they didn't know about who their parents are, what they believed, wrestled with, went through, and what they thought about--and how all of those things shaped who they are as differentiated adults.

My fully lived life starts with writing. Retreating to this room, sweaty and shirtless, is part of showing them that I am not them. I am me. And perhaps more importantly, that they don't have to be me.

And secondly, with the passing of beloved Toni Morrison last week I found this shattering quote, "We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives."

I am measuring my life, line-by-line. Writing is a power that will endure past me. And even if it didn't, it is the point of my life to witness time. I will die, so I must write.

Thank you Ann.
xox


Monday, July 29, 2019

Frenzy

Midsummer mid life accounting:

I ran out of dreams.

I came down the stairs the other day with a laundry basket in my hand and stopped to see my kids--all four of them--splayed out on den floor like a photo straight out of a pamphlet on How To Combat Kid's Summer Break Boredom ("Are your kids watching tv all summer long? Sign them up for Kountry Kids Kamp!"). It was a most insignificant moment, but there I was having a significant moment.

I have all I ever dream of.

I don't have much left to dream about.

All the visions I had for myself--of being a community leader, of having a job where I felt important, of having babies, and a husband I adore, and house I love have come to fruition. Being paid to write? Yes. That's all my second grade me and my seventh grad me could ever want. Travel? Sure I've seen some beautiful places. I feel full of friends who I adore so very much. I wake up every day feeling free.

And I don't dream much for my kids, because I want them to have their own. Same for my husband.

But for me, I don't have any more grand visions of life. I am pretty grateful I got as much as I did. So I would like like focus on three things I haven't yet experienced:

1. An ability to feel feelings. Not eat them. Not sideline them to social media or Netflix. Not even walk them off. I mean just sit down on the floor crossed legged and feel them when they are asking to be felt. I've never ever mastered that feat.

2. See life. I want to spend what time I have left on this planet to observe what my eyes see, my ears hear, my body touches. I want to watch and observe. Listen. Listen. Listen.

3. Be a witness. I was taught growing up to be a witness at all times and all places. And I do want to witness for the good, the bad, the sad, the triumphant. I want to add my voice to others in strength and unity. I want to be a witness for those who need one. Especially to those who feel invisible.

I feel like this post is very self-important but I don't mean it to be. I just mean that life has given me a lot in its first act and I'd like to enjoy being grateful for what I have for awhile. I mean, I guess I am done asking for the universe to give me things. But except I would like nice hair. Consistently, not just nice hair days every few months, or after I've been to the salon, or to the lake and it's wind-whipped into a post-sex-hair-like frenzy.




Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Apple Pie and American Politics

I think this article is right, for some of the 2020 candidates the catch phrase response for hard ball questions are "Well, I want to have a conversation" which in reality means, "I got nothing." From McKay Coppins,

"The truth is that when politicians are pleading for a national conversation, it is usually because they are trying to avoid one."

Perhaps in contrast (I don't know really) today I was listening to the Bernie Sanders interview on the NPR Politics podcast and heard him frankly say that when it comes to gun control and mass shootings he doesn't know what the solution is outside of banning assault rifles. I want to believe that when leaders admit they don't have a solution, but they are completely invested in finding one (and as a bonus have legislative history that shows their commitment) it can invite voices to the table. More voices means more ideas which means better ideas which means solutions. I really believe this is the very best chance we have at sustaining a working democracy.

Speaking of conversations, yesterday I went to meet with my Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie. Ivie, recently came out as Utah's first gay Republican government leader. This gave a lot of us progressives here a moment of pause. I didn't expect Ivie to start voting like a wanton lib (snowflake lib?) but I did think his particular situation (being raised in this homophobic county in the closet his entire life) could be a conduit to having our voices heard. Last week he voted for a non-binding anti-abortion "resolution" which was more about dog whistling and circus tricks for fellow commissioner Bill Lee than it was about a serious debate on women's health care choices.

I called him out on social media. His office contacted me for a meeting. Yesterday, after passing an entire hallway display of photographs after photographs of past white, male, conservative, straight (for all we know) commissioners I entered into Ivie's office for a solid chat about why I believe women should have full autonomy over their own health care choices. We disagreed on some things, but we did agree on two things: Utah County needs to do more about comprehensive sex ed, access to birth control and better options at our county health department AND the non-binding anti-abortion "resolution" was a asshole move (my word, not his!) (also I didn't say that word in the meeting, I am a lady)(ladies can say asshole anytime they want, of course)(I choose to curse strategically, like at my children when I need to) in attempt to rally the base over women's bodies.

Which makes me really, really sick. And take serious pause about living here--like I do every single day of my Provo-living life.

But he was willing to accept data on the rates of internalized misogyny here in Utah County which makes things tricky when you see and hear women on the daily support policies and positions that continue to oppress and hurt them and other marginalized groups. It makes no sense, until you see the data and are forced to ask yourself--"Yeah, why is it so many women are ok with the gender inferiority in almost all areas of their lives?" I know because I used to be one of those women. I mean, I am still in many ways trying to pick apart my own penchant for oppressing everyone but the faces of men in those photographs lining the hallway.

I think that's all I wanted to say on that today. I mean, besides, Lord, let us beat Trump I pray with all the vigor of my social-justice-warrior passionate heart.

In Michelle Obama's name, amen.



Monday, July 1, 2019

45 Minutes

Photo of me in CK in Tree Pose by our loving and patient personal trainer Sara Madsen

I have forty five...forty four minutes for writing today and I would like to write about 120 things. I'd like to write about middle age and how it comes at you like a train wreck--fast and relentless. It feels like someone is giving you your adolescence to do over, except this time you're an adult and you have better tools and more confidence to combat the blows to your self-worth. Isn't that sort of beautiful when you think about it? If you failed yourself when you were a young adult (which we all did, really), you get another chance to become a hero when you're a middle aged adult.

I mean, if you've learned anything at all.

And it's really not that we failed ourselves as young adults, it's that we didn't have the brain structure to see that we were doing JUST FINE. That when we faced ourselves--the person we were becoming--we were scared, and a lot of us ran away from what was forming in the mirror. But here in middle age we are returning back to that mirror, which is gift, and we're saying, what we were so afraid of? This person I am is fine. This body I have is good. My thoughts about life are beautiful. My intuition is right. I have value in being unabashedly me. I am complete. 

Or we look in the mirror and keep running. And now get why people do that. Makes total sense.

Because it also seems that in middle age you have to come to terms with your baggage. Do you want to carry that stuff for the next phase of your existence? If not, what will you leave behind? I think those brutally heavy middle age crises are the kindest thing we do for ourselves. We give ourselves a second chance at making the life we need for ourselves. Somewhere in our past we decided that right around middle age our brains were going to need to slough off some brain power to boost on to the next phase. Isn't that cool?

I had a morning chat with a therapist today about what I am going to try and leave behind on my journey up the age ladder. Or what I will refashion into something that doesn't feel so heavy. I know I have been holding on to a suitcase labeled VALIDATION OBSESSION that probably needs to go. Or least I need to take a whole hell of a lot of contents out of it so that it shrinks and becomes something manageable. I mean, we all want validation. RIGHT?!

(Did you catch what I did there?)

I have just spilled a lot of brain guts here and it's only been 9 minutes.

But seriously, if you are reading this right now and you are in your early thirties or younger, just know your second adolescence awaits you and you should probably line up a therapist and a bunch of really great friends and a stockpile of whatever you need to get you through to the next phase (be it Prozac or a Yoga Trainer or Tarot Cards or Vodka I am not judging)(or, in other words, basically all the things you didn't have the first time you went through this) and live up the last few drops of your remaining pre-mid-life crisis life.

And if you are reading this right now and you've navigated your way through a mid-life crisis, FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING HOLY drop me a line and tell me what is next. You owe this to me, you do. Because you didn't warn me about this weird spot in our human evolution. You didn't tell me about looking at the stars and freaking out about death. You didn't tell me about the second wave of sexuality that storms in all hungry and thirsty and judging you for abandoning parts of yourself that you didn't even know existed. You should have sat me down and said, you will do things you never saw coming for validation you never knew you craved so badly.

You should've warned me, at the very least, that life is one hell of a surprise.

And now my 45 minutes are up.