Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Before the Longest Night of the Year

I woke up yesterday to my son touching my arm.

"Will you come and lay down by me?" he asked. The sky was dark and I checked my clock. Early.

Sometimes the earliest mornings are the greatest gifts to an anxious soul. So I took advantage.

"Yes, let me grab my journal and I'll write."

It had been nine months since I had written last. I tried to write everything down I find significant in my life right now. And then I thumbed through the last few years of my life.

2013: I feel a strange loneliness

A strange loneliness indeed. I was born with it and it followed me around like a childhood dog. And here I am, still well-acquainted with this feeling. Comes and goes. I take note of its presence and absence. I'm sure this blog is full of posts about this sentiment, this friend (I guess?) I've carried with me forever.

There is no cure for this--it is what it is. It is me. I think maybe, some of us thinkers think through tunnels so deep that there are few who can understand (at least that's what we think)(I suspect we're just not advanced enough in language to communicate this experience). It's strange to be in those places, and it's lonely. Strange and lonely.

And the loss of light on the earth doesn't help.

But because Anson gave me the gift of an early morning, and after he was settled back down, I took it outside to a still, ashy pre-dawn. I slipped into the hot tub and kept my eye on the white mountains just east of me. In a few moments the top of Cascade Mountain flashed a pinky-orange and clouds moved in trails towards the Wasatch Back. Light from the top of Slate Canyon appeared and the sky turned into a melted pastel Popsicle-yellows, pinks, blues. The pines on Y Mountain appeared like black statues standing watch over the the sunrise. The fir tree to the south filtered in a warm light, past the steel grass and into the hot water where I sat.


It is a reprieve for the strange loneliness.

And I was grateful for it.

Monday, December 12, 2016

To Erin on Turning Five

Your face when we surprised you on your fifth birthday party will remain in my mental storage for a very long time. You asked for a party with all your friends but we told you because you have that fate (as some humans do) of being born on a rotating holiday (Thanksgiving) we weren't able to do a party this year. "Thanksgiving will be your party this year Squish." It was too easy. Except the part where your face would go long and sad. It was only bearable because secretly dad was scouring pinterest for party games and making TOP SECRET birthday invitations.

I may have been the parent, dressed in pink for your honor, dancing with ten little girls to Katy Perry remixes during Freeze Dance but you should know Dad did a lot of the work. I arranged for Emily, Olivia and Maggie to come and help. They did the nail salon and the candy necklaces. (Grandma woke up super early to stealthily collect a heap of candy with holes at the store!) And of course we had to have the face painter come--you live for a great spray of art on your face. This one was remarkable, transformed you into a blue fairy with jewels and flowers. It could've stayed on your face for days except, well, Thanksgiving dinner the next day required a decorum of sorts.

Your birth and its anniversaries have a curious effect on me, Erin. With every year added to your personal resume, I become more aware of life. By that I mean I feel a sense of awakening--deeper as you grow. It can be both freeing and painful. Freeing because I can peel off layers of shame and expectation that I have heaped upon me in my life. Painful because it can also feel remarkably exposing, raw and lonely. I wish I could explain this better, but maybe you'll read this one day and not need any further explanation, you'll just know how I felt.

And if not, that's ok.

I do want to say something absolute. It's this: you came to earth for a reason...because we wanted you. Your Dad and I wanted to love you. I remember feeling so ornery and tired and I took a pregnancy test in the blueish green bathroom upstairs and when it confirmed that I was pregnant I was so thrilled, I felt buzzy. I took the stick downstairs and tossed at Dad who was sitting crossed legged on the floor with Ever and Anson. He said something like, "Well, there it is."

You'll probably find thousands of reasons why you are alive. Hundreds and thousands of reasons. And they can all be true if you want them to be. If they make you feel strong and purposeful, please gather them up. Have a huge, colorful collection of reasons why you are here, but please don't for get the very first reason: because we wanted you.

Maybe someday you'll also be 39 and you'll be awaking up and fumbling and looking around for clues and searching in science and consciousness and faith to tell you why you are here. And maybe you'll read this and realize the answer is far more simple than you thought.

And the truth is: you're even better than I could've imagined. I am so glad you came.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Just Before I Vote

It would be really weird if, in twenty years or so, my posterity reads my blog and wonders why in the world I didn't write one post about this election.

So here it is.

In about an hour Chup and I are going to take our Erin and Iris to the Rec Center so we can vote early. Voting early is on my list of life hacks.

This is the first time Utah is considered a "swing state" although it's not really. It will go GOP whether that's Trump or Evan McMullin. Even still, we've had flirting from the DNC and that feels good. And weird. And exciting.

Because of this election I got to chat with Scott Simon on NPR and talk to NYC Mag's The Cut about being a Mormon feminist and being a Hillary supporter.

Oh yes, that's right, I'm with her.

Being with her in a state that has an unwritten pledge to hate all things Hillary Clinton means that you are in jeopardy of losing your social status in certain circles. I have sort of approached everything with a "burn in all to the ground" attitude. Sexism does that to me. Maybe it's my approaching 40th birthday and lifelong frustration with patriarchy, but this election has made me pretty bold.

I know she's a flawed candidate. I can see how people don't trust her. I get that she's not likeable (in the way you want women to be likeable). But her fight feels so personal to me. She's had to fight like hell and she's still standing--and that's important to me because I've never seen it done before. And I need to see it done. What will we gain from a nation full of women who fight and stay strong and don't give up until their voices are heard from the very, very top? We don't know. But I am willing to bet it's going to be radical, transformative and ultimately healing.

She understands women's health (in all its complications and strata) and children's justice, and cares about taking care of the earth. Those are my three things-women's bodies (all women, all consent, all bodily autonomy, all mental wellness, all body acceptance, but especially women who are marginalized, silenced, unseen and unprotected), children's access to resources (but especially children who don't have resources), and the earth.

Of course there are more, but everything pretty much boils down to those three things.

It's been lonely. I have a few dear friends, and a few family members here in Utah who I have been able to reach out to when things have gotten rough. Many times Mormonism has mingled with the political and that brings on a tidal wave of frustration for me. The sexism has been awful. The sexual assault stories have been hard to read (but important) because they reach for memories I've tried to leave behind.

It's time to look at our sexism, America. Time to stop defending patriarchal practices. Time to usher in the season of equality. Time to examine the racism and ableism we were all baptized in from generations before us.

I am going to vote for Hillary today,  but I am not ignorant of what that means. It means it's about to get messy in America. On top of the racial tensions burning already, we're about to add gallons of misogyny. And if we don't come out better and on top of all this, then maybe we really aren't the special country we always believed we were.

But I am a believer. I believe. And I am going to vote like a believer today.

And then I am going to get to work.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

School Lunch

In my determination to write more (and subsequently stay sane) I have joined author Ann Dee Ellis in a memoir writing group. 3 days a week she gives prompts and then for 8 minutes we write. Please feel free to join in! Here's my eight minute attempt today:
Christopher and I have this deal for the mornings: I make the breakfast, he makes the kid's school lunches. I guess you could say that's the MO of our marriage--trades and negotiations. For instance, last night I wanted a back rub so I traded one-for-one. I got a ten minute back rub and gave Christopher a ten minute back rub. You might think this paragraph gets saucy at this point, but instead I'll disappoint you by saying it was not a fair deal. In a marriage where one partner consistently does things far better than the other, I have found sadly, that my few winning strengths includes a good back rub.

I give a better back rub.

This does not benefit me much.

At first when we struck this breakfast/school lunch deal I was a bit disappointed in myself for not campaigning harder for the school lunch duty. I can cook, in fact, I am not a bad cook, but hot griddles and gooey messes are not always kind. For instance, I have never made an egg I was proud of. But I have found a bit of creative pursuit in my morning breakfast adventure. Yesterday I made cheese and herb biscuits with a side of scrambled eggs (like yellow lumps of coddled dairy, but still edible) and it was a big hit with the second grader.

Are these essays the reasons why people keep unsubscribing to my blog?

(Just 4 people have unsubscribed since I started writing again, but I'm sensitive that way.)

In the afternoons when the kids come home I always make a first responder's effort to dig into their backpacks for traces of their day. An art project, a wadded flier about a pumpkin maze, a trinket or rock usually, homework, books and their lunch box. I spill the contents of their lunch box out on the kitchen counter every day and examine the evidence. Sandwiches are sometimes intact, untouched. Grapes are missing one or two off their vines. The treats bags are always vacant except that one time CK proudly admitted his homemade brownie. And then I feel a wave of frustration. Why aren't these kids eating their lunches? What kind of trade deals are going down on the floor of the school's kitchen cafeteria? Are my children, (oh please say no) asking other kids if they can have their lunch stuffs?

We let them dictate what they want in their lunches. We ask for details. So the uneaten portions of their meals are perhaps more of a mental mystery than a one of sensitive palate.

After I comb through the evidence I report my findings to CK. And then I don't worry about it after that because I have breakfast to make the next morning.

I was never really great at solving mysteries. Or making eggs.

But you should feel the way my can thumbs penetrate the base of the neck in circular motions.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Your Most Important Hair Moment

In my determination to write more (and subsequently stay sane) I have joined author Ann Dee Ellis in a memoir writing group. 3 days a week she gives prompts and then for 8 minutes we write. Please feel free to join in! Here's my eight minute attempt today:

Perhaps this very day was my most important hair moment. I don't know. Time will tell.

I was cleaning up the den, throwing away bygone masterpieces from the art table and stacking books which will be unstacked by sunset. In the middle this work Erin came to me with a comb and scissors in her hands.

"Cut my bangs right now please," she demanded as her brown wispy bangs blew and tickled her eyelids.

I knew it was time for a trim, but I was going to get to that...when I could...

"I can't stand them anymore. And make them super short."

Erin and I have gone the rounds with her bangs for most of her hairful life. There was a couple years when she was hairless--a Kendrick baby trait I came to know intimately through the years. She has a long forehead--the perfect size and shape for a display of bangs. (I spend a lot of time wishing I had what I gave my children.)

But here we were.

"Could you give me a second? I'm just..." I tried to divert.

"No. Now." She had actually gotten so tired of her bangs that she interrupted a playdate and came home from a friends house while they were pretending princesses. Now here she stood in a puffy pink dress, a tiara and some bedazzled flip flops making a royal demand.

And yes, I am so grateful she knows to ask and not do the cutting herself. But that's because she's picky and likes to have things done correctly.

So I picked up the comb and the scissors and I started cutting those bangs. The bangs I've cut for years. Like gardener to his dahlias I have cared and grown those bangs, pruning and shaping year-after-year. Only today she insisted they go short. Short. Short!

Parenthood is nothing but walking the tiny line between having the final say and letting them decide for themselves.

So I cut them short. Short. Short. Partly because I want her to feel she has ownership when it comes to making choices for her body. But also because I don't want looks to be a battle between us. Ever.

When we were done she ran to the mirror and declared victory. I was happy for her. But also, anxious because will she now be the kid with weird bangs? I mean, I've given up on trying to dress her, she's very into a certain Herdman Child chic and I have played it up like it was her vibe is cool with me. But these bangs? Man, I don't know.

And then when it was time to go to preschool a few hours later, I remembered it was picture day. Right? Picture day! On this very day! So we dressed her in a cute little flowered dress, and matching shoes and I took her hair into the loving embrace of my straightener. And those short bangs did all the talking.

But she was so happy. When we dropped her off at preschool she strutted inside like she wasn't pretending to be a princess anymore, she was a princess. A princess who was about to sit for a portrait...that will likely hang in our house for awhile...that she will fondly look at for the rest of her life. And out of my head came images of school pictures-- those awful perms, awkward ponytails, bangs gone bad, and a lifetime of blaming my mother for clearly not caring for me at some of my most important hair moments in history. (Editors note: she tried, I honestly have impossible hair and no genetic skills for hair craft. As this blog has documented.)

I drove away with this letter in my head.

Dear Erin,

I sincerely love everything about you. In many ways I wish I were more like you. You're smart and funny. You have energy I envy. I love your style and particular-ness about all areas of your life. I wish I were as particular as you. Today you asked me to cut your bangs super short. So we took off the blue tiara you were wearing and a shiny sticker you had put on your luscious forehead, and we cut those bangs as short as you requested. And then you went to preschool picture day and had your picture taken with your class. In case you are reading this sometime in the future, please know you were super happy with those bangs. And I was happy for you.

I'll always be happy for you.