Monday, December 22, 2014

A Walk Down Memory Lane

We haven't been back to my husband's hometown in years.

It's a function of the fact that he grew up approximately 1500 miles from where we make our home and our three kiddos are little and well, 2.5 days of driving or 5 flight tickets are expensive anyway you slice it.

So, we've been lucky.  His parents have come to us for visits or we've found ways to meet in the middle.

But this Christmas, we were blessed to fly back to his home for a good long visit.

And, it's been fun. 

He grew up in the Reno/Tahoe part of the country and well, it's just downright beautiful.

Today, we drove our oldest back to the house he grew up in, down the streets of his neighborhood schools and to his university and old fraternity house, only to lament that the Beer Barrel is well, a Jimmy Johns.

We talked to Sam about growing up in the desert, learning to ski and snowboard when you're little, wildlife out on a acreage where his grandma lives and spent time comparing life in Omaha to life in Reno...and it's different.  Neither good nor bad, just different.

For me, I'm not used to sage brush or horse ranches or archery or shooting or going up to Mount Rose and skiing/boarding or explaining to my kids why there are slot machines in the grocery stores, the airport, the gas stations and casinos on every corner (okay, that's an exaggeration). 

But my husband is in love with it brings back the glory of his childhood, all of the outdoor fun of skiing and mountain biking and life guarding and wake boarding pre-mortgage payments and kids. It makes him proud to show the kids how much fun you can have outside in the wintertime when you're not freezing your arse off in the midwest.  And I love that our kids get to experience his world and the place he came from before he came to us.

This part of the country is stunning and if you haven't made the trek, you should.  I foresee many fun summer visits for our kiddos helping to shape pieces of who they are via their roots.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cascabeles Christmas

This is very much par for the course.

Right around the holidays, everyone gets bit by some form of the flu bug.  This year, it happens to be a yucky fever that lasts a couple of days...Kate had it last week, Sam had it over the weekend and now Claire.

I don't mind taking her temperature, administering ibuprofen or placing cool wash cloths on her forehead...the part that makes me sad is that she's been preparing for weeks to sing in her first Christmas program tomorrow, that may or may not happen.

So, if it doesn't, I promised to get her voice heard on a larger platform than just her preschool.

Here she is singing, "Cascabeles"...the Spanish version of "Jingle Bells" and a bit of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

Mind you, she has hot cocoa on her face, her hair is in a bit of a rat's nest, she's still wearing her pajamas, trying not to show her underwear, but she's happy.  And she knows exactly which red dress and white polka dot tights that she wants to adorn during the celebration.

Listening to her sing reminded me just how much that I love the season of Christmas, the anticipation of Santa and the hope of both giving and receiving during this magical, sacred time.

To that end, here is a picture of Kate writing her special letter to Santa with all of her hopes for packages and reasons why she's deserving.

If only Christmas and Cascabeles lasted all year.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ode to Claire on Her 4th Birthday

"Geronimo!" you screamed as you jumped off the bed. "I'm four today!"

Praise God!

You've been asking for days when your birthday will be...counting down the moments until we will sing to you, eat the perfect pink cake and unwrap pretty packages.

But before we launch into being four...we are mindful that this has been a big year for began preschool and ballet, started going on your own friend play dates, met your favorite princesses at Disneyland and joined your big brother and big sister for a coveted "Dads and Kids" camping trip this summer.

You're writing your name, singing songs, telling jokes, playing board games, riding a bike, asking for braids in your hair and sleeping in a really big Big Girl bed without a pull-up on at night. 

You're feisty and sassy and know exactly what you want all of the time...and it's usually to drink chocolate milk out of a "Frozen" cup or to glitter paint or both in the nude.

You're fearless and scrappy.  There's no question that you can hold your own.  And you're trying and exhausting and loving and beautiful and frustrating all in the same breath.

And as I watch you grow and enter into this new year, I feel happy and sad because you are my last child, really my not-so-little baby.  There will be no more diapers, breast feeding, naps, Kindermusic groups or board books.  Nope, you've traded all of that for playing with American girl dolls, dancing in a tutu, singing Spanish Christmas carols and learning to read Dr. Seuss.

I am grateful that I get to come along on your journey.  I pray that this new year brings you more opportunities to try on empathy, compassion, grace and the special brand of  unbridled craziness that is a blond haired, blue-eyed, fair skinned, big smiled little girl that we're blessed to call Claire Bear.

Happy Fourth Birthday, Claire!  We love you to the moon and back!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Three Generations of Love

"Mama, did you know that people were born in the 1900's?," exclaimed Kate while she was clearing the table and I was washing the dishes.

That's just crazy talk.  People like papa and Grandma Kathy and me were born in the 1900's.  We're as old as the dinosaurs, right?

"That's why you're so good at washing the pots because you used to have to wash the dishes when you were a little girl.  They didn't have dishwashers back then, right?"

Um, well.  We did...

"And iPhones and iPads and Skylanders...they didn't have those either, did they?"

It was definitely a different...

"Oh my goodness and American Girl dolls, you never had one, did you?"

No, we had Cabbage Patch...

"Waaaiiiitttt a minute, hold the phone, you didn't have mint chocolate chip ice cream, did you?"

They were hard times.  Really, really tough.  We only had one telephone and it had a long cord like the hair dryer and came out of the wall and we had to share it with everyone else in the house.  Grandma Kathy made me wash the dishes until my hands bled and then, I had to scrub the floors and use a wash cloth, there were no Clorox wet wipes back then, AND...I never had a computer in my house until college and even then, there was no email or wait for it, wait for it...Facetime.  We couldn't Skype with anyone.  It was a deeply trying time.  I'm really unsure how I survived it.  And, there was no Gogurt.  But here's the cool thing..we did have My Little Ponies, praise God, otherwise, I just don't know.

When I shared this story with my mom, she couldn't stop laughing.  There's nothing worse than when your kids make you feel old, she said.  It takes you back to a time when according to the remember-er everything was so much simpler and sweeter.  Unless you're the new generation and then, well, you can't even possibly imagine...all of it, archaic and boring.

So, it was with delight that we took this snap shot of my mother, my two daughters and me.

Because someday, I want Kate and Claire to know that they were in the presence of two women who actually lived in the 1900's....three generations of love.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Grateful Heart

One of my favorite times of year is the season of Advent.

It's the perfect mix of excitement putting up the Christmas tree, stringing the lights, guessing what's wrapped inside the packages, opening cards from friends and family, drinking copious amounts of cocoa and anticipating Santa's arrival on Christmas morning. 

In the same breath, particularly when everyone is in bed and I have a cup of tea in hand, it's a beautiful, solemn time to look at the white lights of the tree and to be grateful.

Grateful for so, so much.

My middle daughter, Kate (7) came bounding home from school the other day and proclaimed, "Just remember, mama, a grateful heart is a full heart and there's so much to be thankful for."

To which I responded, "You're so right, what are you thankful for today?"

"No question, pickles.  I am over the moon for pickles.  Perfect food."  And then, she was off.

I think that's how it goes for kids. 

Most of the time, they are in the moment experiencing the now letting it come into their purview and out as all seasons of life do.  They rarely hold grudges or live in the land of fear or fret about this or that.  They just live and in the moment, they're grateful for pickles.

And so instead of worrying about the big mountains, most of which I have little control of, I started thinking about the parts of my life that I feel infinite amounts of gratitude for.

I love my legs and my lungs.  When my courage and discipline show up, they are right there to take my body miles and miles into parks, neighborhoods, race routes and undiscovered territory.

I love my heart.  It's big and heavy and never afraid to be shared literally right on my sleeve for the world to see.  I pray that part of me never goes away. 

Thank the Lord for my mind.  It never stops.  I live in it a good chunk of the time.  It's big and vast and imaginative and on good days, it meets my fingers and taps out thoughts and ideas that I'm lucky enough to share with others who help me to know that I am not alone.

And it goes without saying that I'm blessed beyond measure to have a partner who gets me and encourages my growth and crazy exploration.  Simultaneously, I stare out at the parts of my heart living in my three children and tears well because I know that they are my greatest gift.  A legacy of gratitude in the deepest respect. 

Whether you find gratitude in a moment that is all yours not beholden to your employer, your to-do list or your wandering thoughts....or in the perfect burger or bottle of wine...or the breaths your child takes when they're sleeping and you're quietly watching from the side of the doorway or your own breaths as your feet stomp the ground in a good, long, hard run...or from the perfect juicy pickle...a full heart, a joyous heart is a grateful one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Do Hard Things

The other day I had a coveted phone conversation with a really good friend.

I just adore her.

We'd been trying to catch up for some time and so to hear her voice was glorious.

As we traded war stories about the rough, vulnerable and uncertain parts of our journeys, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes by author/Momastery blogger Glennon Doyle Melton...

"We can do hard things." She has the phrase framed in her kitchen.

And for the first time in a while, the gravity of the words sunk in.

There are many times, probably more than I want to admit, when I'm faced with situations that don't add up or at the very least that I don't want to contend with.  An unexpected plumbing problem the day before Thanksgiving, a job loss during the month of Christmas, sick kids getting picked up from school, a family argument that makes no sense, a visit from Aunt Flo in the midst.

And while it's happening, I'm mindful that for the most part, these circumstances are temporary and that even though I may not have been here before, I can do hard things.  I can do that which is tedious and monotonous like making the kids' lunches for the umpteenth time or washing the girls' hair or flying through the aisles of the grocery store with a screaming the unpredictable ones like losing a job and worrying about where to turn the mentally and physically laborious ones that stretch me far outside of my comfort zone.

The point is...I can do hard things and I need to.  I need to be stretched when I least expect it...out on a limb, anxious, scrambling, worried, hopeful, fearful...all in the same breath.

Because when I do, the really good Kelly steps up to the plate...the 11th hour Kelly...the one who kicks ass and cleans house.  The girl who I've seen rise up before and who I trust will take care of business when the time comes.

The problem is, she doesn't get called on enough because she gets lazy and comfortable and auto-piloty.

As my sweet friend told me this morning, the only thing that is inevitable is change and the only thing that is permanent is love....and when you choose love in the midst of fear, love always wins.

Here's to doing the hard things.  The things we don't want to do.  The things we think we can't do.  The things we think we shouldn't have to do.  Here's to catapulting ourselves into the throws of the hard, the difficult, the mundane, the unknown trusting that our best selves will rise to the occasion.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Watch Me

Last week, I lost my job.

Not the one as wife or mother or friend or daughter or sister or neighbor or community member...

No, the job that paid me both money and a connection to amazing women.

When my second child, Kate was born, my husband and I made a decision that I would try staying at home.  A one-year "give-it-a-go" has turned into seven and a half of crazy blessings in the making.  Two months into our decision, I had an opportunity to join a direct sales company and sell jewelry.  It got me out of the house a few nights a month, put a little jingle in my pocket, earned me some trips and gave me time without my children to engage with other women over wine and sparkles.  I loved every minute of it.

And then, we got notice that our company was closing in 30 days.

It was a shock.

And since that time, I've been praying and researching.  Looking for the next step.

I have some constraints.  My youngest daughter, Claire still has a year and half before she starts kindergarten and I'm resolute that I'll be home with her until she goes.

Mostly, I've been praying for a gentle really, more of a swift kick in the pants as to which direction I should go.  The problem is that often I have a hard time choosing my path unless a million and one family members and friends point me toward that fork in the road.

It's the part of me that I wish I could change.  The insecure component that wants to choose the route that the majority of people are vying for.  I guess...the path of least resistance.  And sometimes in life, that's for the best.  It makes sense to take the main stream approach recognizing that it's a short-term decision made in the interim for the benefit of the situation at hand.

But in spite of that, I've been praying that God would gift me with a deep, passionate desire to move in a specific direction that wouldn't be the easiest, most convenient or popular compelling me to move forward regardless of what the world thinks.

So when I found this quote, I latched on...

For the first time in a long time, I want to find something, even if its temporary, that works for me even if the world thinks its ridiculous.

I'm dabbling with the idea of pole dancer, circus performer, avante garde Swedish meatball maker, who knows...the possibilities are endless.

Wherever I land, I know it will be good.  And in a way, I'm very glad that I'm starting a new year on the precipice of change.  It makes it all the more exciting.

Here's to jumping...even if everyone thinks I'm crazy.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Choosing Me

I've had a rough couple of weeks.

You know, the ones that blindside you.

Where you're living life with the plans in your head, the to-do's on your list wielding the control that comes from doing your deal and then, says, take this and that and because we can, have a little more.

I won't bore you with all of the details...because really, on any given day, we all have our own unexpected series of shit storms to deal with.

But what I'd like to explore is how I cope.  I feel like I've learned a lot about who I am by watching myself operate from the 30,000 foot balcony view.

And here's how it goes down.

Shitty thing happens.

I freeze.  I freeze for a while longer.  I think, no.  Didn't just happen.  It settles.  It did happen.

I stay seated on the couch with my winter coat on staring at the wall unable to be practical, I'm just paralyzed.

Depending upon said shitty thing, I cry or my eyes well up.

I take off coat and knowing that it will take too long for the kettle to get hot, I search for a cookie or a leftover piece of pie or both or the whole pie.

I eat and recount various components of said shitty thing and its aftermath.

I feel sad.  I feel angry.  I feel hopeful.  I feel pissed.  I feel raw.  I feel vulnerable.  I feel alone.  I feel, I feel.

Share shitty news with a few select confidants who remind me that I more than said shitty event and all will be well and that despite my overactive imagination, I'm not alone.

Take hot shower.  Breathe.  Trust.

But despite what I know about who I am, I don't run.  I sleep in every morning for 10 days.  I continue to eat yummy holiday foods and feel badly.

And then, this morning, I wake up and say enough.  The pity party is done.  It's time for healing to begin.  And it must begin by putting one foot in front of the other. 

In anything in my life, I've recovered through activity, not through extensive contemplation.  The answers always emerge in the doing, not in the repetitive re-hashing of it all.

And so, this is what I know about me.  When the shit hits the fan, I become paralyzed.  I don't take care of me.  I stop running, writing, smiling and I start eating, sleeping, and freezing. 

The choice is to choose me, to take care of the me that is resilient, that gets back onto the battle field and that takes the blind leap of faith back into her life.

Here's to the end of 2014, but even better, here's to all that's in store in the new foot step at a time.