Friday, February 5, 2016

Special Collection

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Last week Christopher and I were invited to the BYU library Special Collections department for a tour with our friend Trevor Alvord and his fellow archivist Dainan Skeem (and three dutiful BYU student security guards). We took inventory of Jimmy Stewart's personal film collection. We combed through the original hand-written score of Gone With the Wind. We saw first editions of Jane Austen's Emma, Origin of the Species and the Book of Mormon. We went from vault to vault hunting for manuscripts and movie props and even got to see a real Oscar up close and personal (first time!). Trevor was so gracious, granting us some really cool Japanese monster posters and Dainan answered all of my entry-level archivist questions.

At the end of the tour they sat us down and posed a very interesting question to me, "How would you feel about donating your manuscripts, journals, first drafts, emails, correspondences to our 21 century collection?"



"We could come to your house and walk you through the process. We could help you determine what would be worth admitting."


I just never saw it coming. You know?

And of course the question is, "Who would ever be interested in all that junk?

"Just imagine, 200 years from now, a researcher wanting to know who you were, what you thought. What is was like to be you. Wanting to know what you experienced."

Yeah, that's entirely unimaginable.

We shook hands with a promise I'd think about it.

Daily I think about the merits of going to the grave with secrets versus living a wide-open life. The present life is easier for the private, but history rewards those who reveal. Do I want to live in shame now-the disapproval, the dislike, the discomfort I cause others--but leave an honest genuine legacy? Or do I quietly go about keeping my composure and die with my truth?

I don't want my kids to go to that library one day after I have passed on, ask to see the vault that contains my loot and figure out that they never even knew their mother. That is utterly cruel.  It reminds me of the sunny afternoon a relative came over to my house, and while looking at the window, whispered to me a troubling family secret passed on for multiple generations begging me to freeze the information to stop its melting spread.

But I imagine this secret won't have much relevance for my kids--first, the span between them and the contributing ancestor makes the guilty more of a character in a story than a flesh and blood human being. Second, scandal has a way of perpetually cooling down. Secrets are the container for shame and time has a way of making the contents of that container somewhat aged. Teenage pregnancy is not what it used to be, for example.

Certainly I will die with some secrets, and that is my privilege. Partly they are secrets because I don't have words to describe them. No one would understand. So maybe I shouldn't call them secrets, but collateral for living at a time when language was insufficient. Not secrets, insufficient words.

When I started this blog I wrote about infertility. Ten years ago I could hardly find anyone willing to talk about it with me. It was hard to write about because I felt alone in it. I was embarrassed to have this problem. I remember running into a friend at the store and having her say to me, "All the most awful things happen to you." And I remember how angry I felt because infertility had somehow swallowed up all the most wonderful things about me. I felt like a failure.

Before we left, I asked one more question of my friends at the library, "How do you know what is valuable?"

"We don't measure what is valuable. We only collect. What is valuable is up to the researcher."

Writing got me through infertility. Writing got me through transition. Writing needs to help me get through this faith whirlwind I now sit in. It's often very scary to produce these types of posts, but I want to believe there is value in the attempt.

Now I ask myself: do I have the courage to write about it now, and gift it forever?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Spa Ha Moment: Moderation or Things I Don't Get

My friend and trainer Sara Madsen just left my house. She has been training me for three weeks and I can say unequivocally (I definitely didn't not spell that word without help from spellcheck) I feel stronger. I feel buffer. When I have to remove sleeping children from my bed in the middle of the night I do it with muscled confidence and balance control. This is a far cry from woozy attempts that proceeded my starting a solid work out regimen.

But this week I hit a seemingly insurmountable roadblock in which I could not will my body to move or, eat anything that contained vitamins, minerals or general health. My body threw an internal protest--picketing my head with colorful signs that read: HELL NO WE WON'T GO.

This depressed me. I was getting my cardio and my strength training and all my salads in. I was regularly checking in with my dietitian and checking off all the boxes on my legs, chest, abs and arms sets. I was even doing yoga with my kids in the mornings.

But Wednesday my body was done. Thanks for trying. This actually isn't for us. It was good while it lasted.

"I was doing so well," I bemoaned to Sara.

"How well?" She asked me, mid-leg lift. "Like too well?"

Too well? Too well? Is there such a thing?

"Well, I am sore all the time...and I'm exhausted a lot. And I hate eating salads now. I can't even look at them."

"Yeah. It sounds to me like maybe you're doing too much."

Christopher was behind us on the couch doing squats. He was looking at me with that look that says, "Just tell her the truth."

"Ok, well the truth is, I don't speak moderation."

"Oh yeah?" Sara said to me in a voice that intimated surprise.

"Yeah, I either do it all or I do nothing."

"She's binary." Christopher said.

"It's not like I want to be that way, except it does have it's perks. When I am on, I am really on. When I am off, I am really off. And I can enjoy both at times. But some times it's really aggravating."

The great quest of my life is finding the treasure chest containing moderation. I am doing it without a map. I have a break through now and then. But mostly I say to myself, "This is who you are. It's not a defect. I can be successful with this personality trait."

But the thing Sara taught me this morning is that I can decide what is all the way. I decide what on looks like and what off looks like.

"Tell yourself success is being active every day. Taking a walk or doing stretches. Tell yourself that the healthiest life-long diet is eating things you like to eat and avoiding things that make you feel terrible."

Such a breakthrough for me.

After she left I lied down on the ground and contemplated what I learned today. And then I decided if I could decide what going all the way looked like, I could also decide what doing nothing looked like. I imagined myself in my spa, looking at the stars charming us from overhead and I realized I knew exactly what off looks like.

It's very nice.

This post is sponsored by Bullfrog Spas. I love you BS. Unfortunate initials, but very fortunate company with amazing spas. I couldn't get through my life without you. This is not hyperbole.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Checking In

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It's January. 3/4 of my kids are sick. I walked Ever to school in nothing but Ck's sweatshirt (it goes to my knees) and a pair of sneakers. I couldn't tell if I was more frozen by cold or by shame. It was one of those things where I said I'll just walk you to the sidewalk and then it was the corner and then I was walking her to the cross walk where all the school traffic accumulates and there I was: no pants. No coat. Sneakers. And when I said good bye she cried even louder and so then I was the bad mom with no pants and tons of a shame and a load of guilt to carry my chilled legs home.

Yesterday my best friend told me she's moving to Central America for two years. It's not ok. I don't usually miss people very often, but this is not good. She's been my everything for the past 8 years of my life and now what am I suppose to do without her? I mean, by all means, I champion her going. I totally think she should go. But I am sad for me and my family. This is true love.

We spent a weekend in red-tinted Kanab, Utah last week. It was amazing. My true obsession with Southern Utah is strong. I came back with a huge list of things I want to explore this year. Thanks to Erin for getting me a new map book for Christmas. Now I have my kids pouring over maps. We'll be in the car with each of us holding a map as our tires transverse the miles to our next adventure.  It sounds romantic sure, but it's a load of work, it can eat up resources (like money) and the kids aren't always cheerfully game. But it's a battle I choose. When we're eating breakfast and someone starts to talk about the glowing minerals we saw in the mammoth cave in Idaho, I think to myself: WORTH IT.

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Horseshoe Bend outside of Page Arizona--one of our day trips last weekend

Also worth it: seeing Bryce Canyon under heavy snow on a bright, blue-sky day in January. I cried at the beauty. Sat there on a log meant for a tourist like me and sobbed at the sight. I don't know. We walked a long the rim one by one stepping in each other's snowy footsteps and it was heaven. I experienced heaven in that moment.

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After walking in the snow on the rim we were all hot, sweaty and needing a break at Sunset Point

I like my job. I feel really lucky to do what I do with the people I work with in the space we do it in. It's close to my home and downtown and I get to have pho once a week and oh my heavens pho is a gift to the world (thanks Vietnam and France!)

My baby Iris Eve is also a gift.  She's pretty dang cute. She reminds me of the Cabbage Patch doll we used to have--big curly yellow hair and blue eyes. She's currently courting all the halloween videos on the kids youtube channel. This has been going on for a month now, ever since her intense love affair with Peppa ended after seeing every episode twenty times I am sure. Please don't judge me about screen time. I don't judge you.

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We call ourselves the blue-eyes club

Also, Iris likes "moothies" in the Blendtech but boy, she HATES the sound it makes when it pummels up all her favorite frozen fruits.

I could keep going but I didn't set out to write a Christmas card here, you know?

Things are good. Not perfect. Sometimes sad. But like Christopher and I always say to each other as we close out our day, "We're doing ok."

And it's enough.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Discoveries & Recoveries

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Goddess necklace made by local artist Katie Payne at Writ & Vision.

In 2016 I decided to face the spiritual feminist undertaking of reading The Chalice and the Blade (by Riane Eisler). It's a book built on the premise that historically, warfare and domination depended on one sex being subjected to the other, while peaceful societies were/are built on gender equality in life and in divinity. Sounds like a thriller right?

Well it is for me. I do actually worry I might be growing increasingly deficient in intelligence and I have dedicated myself to exercising my brain with thoughts and feeding my soul nutrients with words. If by the end of 2016 I can read a paragraph without checking my phone once I will call my mental strength training a success!

One of the things I have thought about while reading on early civilization's apparent worship of the female life-giving body is how much we still do worship the female body today. Of course today we have it all wrong, we worship the body for it's ability to transform into almost-impossible parameters and beauty ideals--a gaping wound in our society for sure. And although we seem to be making great strides at healing this wound, I think what we all ache for is the mother-body once worshiped by our ancestors. Where is she? Where is her body?

Then one afternoon as I was reading this book it dawned on me that my body is a goddess body--we ALL are the goddess body. The body I routinely reject for being too round or too full is the one that was modeled with clay and kept throughout the centuries as proof--bodies are divine. Our mothers are the divine goddesses, our sisters, our friends, our daughters. We've endured centuries of a imbalance of the sexes and it has been incredibly hurtful and confusing. But perhaps what we've lacked is less about religious knowledge and more about self-ownership. We are the goddesses we seek.

But also, this body is the actual origin of my children. I am their literal home. How I respect and love their home will reflect in how they think about themselves, their origins and their life. I know this because I have seen it in the patterns of mother-child body acceptance for as long as I have been around. Our children's homes are sacred. How do I respect their home?

And I've thought about my infertile period and how that body was a home to so many big ideas, so many essays and so many emotions. It was still a full, bustling, lively home. It was in fact very fertile.

This time of year I always prepare for the battle that ensues between me and my determination to honor my body as I swim around in declarations of body-based resolutions. I have to remind myself, I know how to care for my body better than anyone else. I know how I like to move. I know what to eat. I know how to sleep. I know how to practice self-care. And for the internal mysteries I often run into, I know they will be resolved as I work on their discoveries and recoveries.

I want to be able to say to my children, my ideas, my emotions: I know your origin, I know your home, and I honor it, and I honor you for coming from it.

And always end with: and thank you for coming from it.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Couldn't Escape If I Wanted To

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It's the first day of 2016 and I was shuttled out of my house by incessant husband to "go and write." I left the tree partially undecorated, Ever in breakfast distress, the baby covered in the pink and blue powder from the girls butterfly make-up kits they gave one another for Christmas.

I have resolutions on the brain, even though I don't fully encourage them.

It has been a good holiday break. We ventured out a lot with the children, we had some really quality date nights, celebrated with dear friends and spent a few days in Idaho and slept in while grandma played with and fed our kids. There were a couple nights tinged by anxiety for me about spending too much, eating too much, drifting away from the schedule that keeps us sane and healthy. Turns out 38 year old me is sort of a stickler.

But case in point, the other night, after working all day I decided to let go and sit on the couch and do nothing. The kids were beyond hyper, with enough energy to shuttle us all to the outer reaches of space, and Christopher and I were depleted. As we perused Netflix for a family movie we stumbled on Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and for old time's sake we started watching it. And then we started laughing. And then we were ignoring our kids and their shenanigans all together.

Until the baby emerged from guest bedroom covered in blood, screaming, with an entourage of siblings behind her. There was a large gash above her eyebrow which was dripping all over her face. My adrenaline went into overkill and I picked her up and handed her to Christopher.

"I can't do it," I said to him.

I knew it was emergency room worthy from the look of it. Christopher--our family medic--took a look at it and knew as well. Seconds later we were putting her boots and coat on and giving her kisses. Christopher took her to the hospital while I stayed home with the other kids. Much to their chagrin too-I sent them all straight to bed without much empathy for their excuses. A million times a day around here we say "be soft with the baby" but her excitement to be with the big kids, mixed with their boundless energy often mingle into over-reaching wrestling. To their credit, no one has ever been hurt more than a few tears and usually they go right back into the fray as soon as they get their wits about them.

(This was an actual case of monkeys jumping on the bed, one falling off and breaking her head. This was only funny the day after. Thanks Anson.)

That night after Christopher and Iris came home--her face newly minted with nine stitches and somewhat lethargic from the sedatives, but completely sweet and happy, I went over in my mind what went wrong that evening. And you know, maybe nothing went wrong, maybe this is the casualty of having kids. But it walks that sober line of wondering how much to control and how much to let go.

When I have control, things go well for everyone else, but I feel anxious. When I let go, I feel relaxed but everyone else feels out of control. I would call this the core problem of my parenthood. I do feel that as my children grow they're able to join in the problem solving side of things, but for now I feel mostly like a cruise director, keeping everyone blissfully occupied while constantly on the look-out for icebergs.

Also I thought a lot about that moment of seeing Iris bloody and without breath from screaming so hard and how I couldn't handle it. It's like my mother's fear won't let me register their pain because I so badly don't want them to feel it. I am grateful for a partner who is clear-headed and calm, and I am grateful I know I can count on him to help us. But for the health of the family, there should be two parents who are clear-headed and calm in that situation and so I've got some work to do.

I never did get to finish Bill and Ted's. I was really looking forward to the part about Napoleon going down the waterslides at Waterloo. (So funny.)

Maybe I just found my new year's resolution for 2016...