Monday, June 20, 2016

Part of This World

*To the tune of “Part of Your World” from the Little Mermaid* Pretend the meter is right on. ;)

Look at this fam,
Isn’t it sweet?
Wouldn’t you think
My collection’s complete?
Wouldn’t you think I’m the mom -
The mom who has everything?

Look at these girls,
So cute in curls -
Look at them dancing
And see how they twirl?
Lookin’ around here, you’d think:
Sure.  She’s got everything.

I’ve got Ellie who can get
Into anything.
I’ve got Addie who’s sweet
To the core.
You wanna man who does the dishes?
I’ve got one of those too - and he sings.
But who cares?
No big deal.
I want more....

I want to be
Where the nurses are.
I want to get -
Get that ep-i-dur-al.
I wanna hear ‘em saying --
What’s that word again?
Oh yeah.  ‘Push.’

When you’re in someone’s womb,
you can’t get too far.
Birth is required for jumpin’, dancin’,
Not to mention, you’ll get to --  
What’s that word again?  Eat!

Out here you can breathe,
Out here you can play,
And no one’s bladder gets in the way!
Wigglin’ free,
Don’tcha want to be
Part of this world?

What would I give
If I could break
My water?
What would I pay
To spend today
In L&D?

It seems to me,
When I’ve got three,
I’ll have less
Energy than daughters.
But right this minute,
I’m just in it
To end pregnancy.

And I’m ready to breathe
Like a normal person.
Ready for ankles
Around which nothing orbits.
Eat my dinner and not have it--
What’s the word?  Burn!

When’s it my turn?
Wouldn’t I love -
Love a few contractions to speak of?
Come out of me,
It’s time to be
Part of this world!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Peace of Thy Children

I'm a chronic worrier.  What's worse, I'm a chronic worrier with an imagination.  Now, in the middle trimester of my third pregnancy, those fanciful worries creep ever more deeply into my dreams.  I find myself wakened from sleep with unsettling dreams and notions.  I sometimes drift into a doze only to be startled from it by some worry, however unlikely, and while I'm aware that nothing bad is actually happening, I'm also aware that I'm not awake enough and not capable enough to stop it from happening.  Strangely enough, the latter realization unsettles me more than the former calms me.  And of course, at the center of each of these not-quite-nightmares, are my children.

I shake myself from these half-awake-mares, usually to the early light of the morning, or sometimes to the late evening darkness and the realization that I have fallen asleep on the couch again.  I rouse myself just enough to ramble a perhaps nonsensical prayer, either from my knees or as I stumble to the kitchen to make breakfast.  What does one say when taking these sorts of things to God?  'Please don't let my toddler escape into the street at any point today'?  'Please keep my kids from falling into the river that we never go near'?  Not all of my worries are quite that irrational, but the point is that there are plenty of them, some ridiculously specific and others impossibly vague.  Usually, my entreaty ends up being something along the lines of 'protect them, please, because I know I cannot.  Not on my own.'  And with that, I push most of those worries to the back of my mind and move on with my day.  Other, more mundane worries quickly replace them, and I spend the next twelve hours mostly forgetting to be grateful that the heaviest thing on my mind is how on earth to get potty training behind us once and for all.

A couple weeks ago, I started a day that way, with the heavy realization of our mortality, a plea for protection, and then transitioned to what to have for breakfast.  The hours passed and I mostly forgot the haunted dreams that had welcomed me to my morning.  After the girls were in bed and Ben and I were ready to settle in for the night, an alarm began to sound in our back hallway, where the girls slept.

A week earlier, I had detected a funny smell in the back bedroom after bathing and dressing my girls - like nail polish, but accompanied by a vague scent of burning.  I'd called the fire department but by the time they arrived to scan for gas and carbon monoxide, the smell had diminished and the air was free of  any worrisome particles.  "Do you have a carbon monoxide monitor?" the fireman had asked me.  I said I did, indicating the one mounted in the hallway.  "No, no," he said, "that's just a smoke detector."  So, feeling like a complete idiot, I had added one to my grocery cart the next day.

When I heard the high pitched alarm, days later, I assumed it was just Ben installing the new one.  I came out of the bedroom, to find it still in its packaging, though, untouched.  The back door was open and Ben, perplexed, reported the same smell I'd noticed the previous week.  It was stronger this time, but there wasn't any smoke and the alarm sounded differently than it did when something on the stove top or in the oven went badly awry.

With the back door open, the alarms grew farther and farther between, but we decided to call the fire department just the same.  They showed up and began to scan again.  Two to three parts per million in the hallway - noteworthy, but not quite dangerous yet.  The fireman opened the door behind which our girls were sleeping and leaned in, only to back out again a moment later.  "About fifty in there," he reported, and asked us to bring the kids out.

In our living room, two lady firefighters examined our girls with a pulse-oximeter, specially designed to pick up carbon monoxide levels in the blood.  Addie's read 12%, hanging at the low end of dangerous, and Ellie's was up to 17%.

After a trip to the local emergency room for further examination and monitoring, and the challenge of settling two now-rambunctious children into a hotel room, hours later, my buzzing mind slowed into sleepy reflection, just before drifting off altogether.  My kids had been in danger that night.  They had been threatened by something I could not see, hear, or smell.  The only sign had been an accompanying scent that I had, days before, been given reason to disregard as harmless, if not imagined.  The only alert to its presence had come from an alarm which I had been told by a professional was not designed to detect it.

And I had woken that morning with a rambling prayer that my children would not fall victim to some danger from which I was powerless to save them.

I have little doubt that God has a sense of humor.  Without the bawdiness or coarse irony that we often use to induce laughter, I felt that I could sense a bit of a heavenly chuckle in the whole event.  A patient whisper of  'Yes, calm down, silly girl.  These are my babies too, and I forget not my own.'

Since then, a verse of scripture that I used to love has reappeared in my mind and though I don't completely understand it in the context of this experience, I haven't been able to shake the feeling that the two are profoundly connected.  "And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord," it reads, "and great shall be the peace of thy children."  Yes, life is uncertain.  The world is dangerous - but it is not spinning out of control, simply because it is out of my control.

My mother-in-law asked me, a few days ago, whether I have had moments of panic since this incident.  I ran over the last couple of weeks in my mind, probably with a perplexed frown across my face, and to my surprise, answered, "No."  But it's true.  Even with all the day-to-day stresses, the mom-fail moments and endless tiredness that seems to plague all of us, I feel like I've regained a quiet peace that I had once and lost along the way - lost about that time I began to have people in my life, under my care, whom I could neither perfectly protect, nor stand to lose.

Reawakened is my sense that a Heavenly Father sent these children to me knowing that I might, from time to time, fasten the car seats improperly or cut the hot dogs into dangerously large pieces, or even, while taking an evening shower, cause the water heater to spew poison gas into their bedroom.  He sent them to me knowing that the world is bigger, cleverer, and more powerful than I am.  I am neither condemned by these human weaknesses and neither are my children abandoned to my care.  They are His still.  He watches over them still.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Where Happy Comes From

Hi guys, I know it's been awhile.  I always feel a sense of hesitancy to post when I've been absent for so long, like I can't write about what's on my mind at this moment without first recapping where I've been and what I've been about for the last few months.  But I feel such a warm glow this evening.  I feel such a serene happiness that it would seem a shame and a loss to keep it to myself - because these things pass.

There are a small multitude of perfect-seeming things around me just now, and it's my habit to stop, when this little flutter of light, of peace, of...something sublime for which our language has no name - and analyze my surroundings.  Somehow, it will be all the better and what's more, more tenacious, if I can pin it to its source.

But as I rattled off to myself things that I certainly am happy about - and there were many - none of them quite resonated with the buoyancy I feel.  Each was a contributor, but none was at the core.  The bubbling, vibrant, almost-walking baby wandering the house at shin-height; the little girl who clung to my shirt at bedtime and said, "I wan' to cuddle wis you.  Mother, I wan' to cuddle wis you"; the blue-gray cloud cover and dappled tawny foliage, at long last acknowledging autumn; hope breathed into a long-cherished dream; the sigh of a Friday after a particularly hectic week and the impending arrival of my husband, after a week-long absense --

And the thing upon which I finally settled, the thing which, when my mind caught hold of it, brought the unmistakable feeling of yes was the soft, measured voice of Truman G. Madsen, as he delivered lectures on the life of Joseph Smith.  The CD recording carried me down the canyon and back today, through my errands and home again.  One cannot, I believe, learn about a devoted servant of God, one who taught the Gospel so vigorously and so joyfully, and who exemplified the things which he taught, without feeling nearer to God Himself.  It made me want to pray more fervently, to serve my neighbors more cheerfully, and to search the scriptures with greater energy and curiosity.  In short, I took the opportunity to saturate my thoughts, today, in the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and every aspect of my day was improved.

The Gospel adds vibrancy to our lives.  It liberates us to take joy in those things that we know to be most important, but in which we sometimes struggle to rejoice.  Every bright thing becomes brighter under its influence, and all true happiness is amplified.

All good things come from Jesus Christ, and He has not left us alone, to stumble in this world.  We have prophets - living prophets - to whom the Savior speaks and they speak His will.  Tomorrow and on Sunday, they will speak and we can listen.  Our lives can be saturated with this buoyant light, this abundant happiness.  This is real.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Burying Dreams

The grave digger carries a shovel.  In my mind, she walks with hunched shoulders against a grey sky.  In my mind, she has a heavy heart, so much so, perhaps, that her burdens have worn through its apex and fallen to the grave digger’s feet.  That grey-blue heart is perforated and ragged, with gaping holes.  I hear her heartbeats like gusts of defeat – weak, loud, empty, and really only suggesting a course to the air that wanders over graves, rather than compelling blood.  It’s a November sort of scene that I see when I visualize one who routinely buries stiffened and mottled flesh, pushing aside ghostly, withered leaves, and making a place to lay to rest long-loved dreams.

But another figure carries a shovel, too.  Another person, less weary, but with just as much reason to be, also  carries a dry and shriveled promise to be placed in the cold ground.  She prepares a place as the grave digger has done, presses and coaxes the earth to yield a resting place for it.  The placement is quick and the burial site marked, too, but she afterward looks up.  The sun is an April thing and leaves at her feet have been so long dead that they’ve forgotten to look forlorn.  Like the other earth-mover, she turns away and leaves the receptacle of her hopes in the cold and the dark of the ground, but she will return.  She will guard this place.  She will wait.  She will not forget, because she is a gardener.

I’m learning this about adulthood: the dreams that I cherished through my childhood, the vibrant ones to which I clung, and the visions to which I promised my heart, have, of necessity, began to gather dust.  As I change diapers, scrape dinners out of messy pantry shelves, and hurry between activities and obligations, those hopes have begun to wither.  Last October, I stole away a time or two, seizing a sunny hour at nap-time to harvest the beans that we had left out to dry for this year’s seed.  The pods crackled delicately and the beans had become white and hard.  My hands feel that way now, when I take up a pencil to sketch or open a blank word document to write.  My imagination and creativity stiffen with disuse and sometimes it makes me feel a little disillusioned, deadened. 

I wonder, but speculate that I would feel much the same way, even if these two precious girls hadn’t yet come into my life.  This disillusionment, this period of wandering is, I think, something most of us go through as we shed our childhoods.  If I wasn’t a mother, I might be realizing that the career I had chosen was not as fulfilling as I had hoped, that neither friends nor spouse nor busyness could completely stave off loneliness all of the time – that time could not be stretched or compressed enough to cradle my needs.  It’s a period when we all begin, probably never to cease, to realize that choosing the best things often means choosing the hard things and sacrificing other desires along the way.  And we do it.

When people ask me how I’m liking life, I usually answer wholeheartedly that I love it, that I’m working my dream job.  It’s true.  I am probably one of the luckiest people I know, to have all of every day to devote to two beautiful, healthy children who have more than enough energy to drain me of mine.  But there are moments, now and then, when I feel the weight of where I am and of those unanswered devotions to my teenaged ambitions.  There are times when, in spite of the work I do and the happiness it generates, I feel like a shell, and I miss the pleasures that I knowingly traded in for this hard-earned and mercifully granted joy.  I miss the exercise – the physical, mental, social stimuli and sculpting that I once thought comprised the path to becoming who I’m meant to be.  Sometimes, I feel lonely.  Sometimes I feel empty.  

The despondency rested a little heavily over me this week.  That’s a part of life, I know, so I pressed myself to move proactively through my routine.  It’s planting season and my neighbor and I have spent hours every morning in our garden plot, furiously digging trenches, tilling in fertilizer, and laying down drip lines.  Kneeling beside the row we’d designated for corn, I pressed holes into the soil with my middle finger, dropped two gnarled kernels into each, and pinched the loose dirt back over them.  Burying dreams, I thought. 

It wasn’t exactly an epiphany for me, really.  I’ve long thought of my extra-parental aspirations as gathering dust.  Atrophied, maybe, dormant, but not dead.  Still, as I thought about those buried corns, in the damp, cold darkness, it added a new color to my hope.  Yes, I will take up those dreams again someday.  I will have another chance to develop the God-given talents in my hands and body and mind, and when I pick them up again, they will be slightly wasted and wan, but perhaps they too will be changed from the last time I held them.  Maybe something will have sprouted, developed, that was not there before.  Something will be waiting to spring out of them that could not have come from my inexperienced, youthful vigor.

Right now, motherhood, and the effort to do things right and responsibly, has all but consumed me, like a hole in the earth; but I am not a shell.  I am a seed.  The life and light inside of me and the dark dampness around me, together, will do what pure sunshine and unbroken ease could not have done.  Even now, I am germinating. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Christmas Thought

In this, the season of giving, I’ve thought a lot about the concept of selflessness.  We give our time, our means, our energy.  We give to our children, our families, our friends and neighbors, and to complete strangers.  Sometimes, we give knowing that we’ll never see the faces of, or hear the gratitude of the recipients.  Yet, the critics will say that there is no thing as true ’selflessness.’  You give, because there is always, on some level, some personal gain.

And I must admit that I agree with them.

Giving is always receiving.  Though the primary purpose of the action may not be to receive the consequent personal benefit, it always follows.  I do not, however think that this diminishes the worth of the gift or the value of the giving.

The universe is governed by natural laws.  Some of those laws are physical, and we are likely more familiar with those.  The spiritual or moral laws operate much the same way: actions is followed by reaction.  There is always a consequence.

It is only natural that an act of love or of kindness will be followed by a sense of accomplishment, of meaning, of happiness.  There have likely been times in our lives when we have failed to find this satisfaction, because we have been too busy or distracted or self-conscious to recognize it, but it has been there nonetheless.

And there is nothing wrong with seeking the joy that accompanies service.  It’s not the same thing as seeking recognition.  I would argue that selflessness, far from being the opposite of selfishness, is overrated.  No, I’ll go even further than that.  Selflessness is impossible.  The fact is that each one of us has a self.  Each of us is an individual and is aware of the world only through our own experiences and understanding.  We cannot cut ourselves out of the equation.

In fact, what more selfish thing could we do, than to withhold our service from others and to deny ourselves of happiness because we are too concerned that we are giving only for our own benefit?  Yes, I serve my daughters and my husband because I love them, but also because it makes me happy.  When I give to neighbors, friends, and strangers, it’s because I know it’s the right thing to do, but also because I enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that I did the right thing, that by my actions, the ocean is one drop more.

We best maintain ourselves by maintaining others.  I am not ashamed to be seeking my own happiness.  If wrapping presents or working at a soup kitchen gives me a rush, that effect is only enhanced by the fact that I am afterward better able to care for myself and for others.

So this is the gift that I will give myself this Christmas.  I will allow myself to be motivated to do what is right by the hope of a deep and abiding gladness.  I will seek to give and to serve, and will strive to be awake to the resulting happiness that will find me. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Thoughts from My Rocking Chair

We were out late the other night, which almost invariably means that a tantrum will follow in the wee hours of the morning.  As I sat in the rocking chair, cuddling my girl, finally calmed, it struck me just how big she has grown.  Her feet hung over the side of my lap and through the arm of the chair.  Her head rested on my chest and her little eyes blinked slowly and quietly in the darkness.

A year ago, she was a baby.  I nursed her and rocked her to sleep many a time in that chair.  Now she is, in every sense, a toddler.  A little girl.  It made me ache to realize how swiftly and surely time is already taking my babies from my arms.  This girl who scarcely sits still, who can climb almost anything, and who repeats everything I say, is becoming every day less mine and more her own.  It's such a sweet little ache.

When silence had reigned for a several minutes, I found myself hesitating, not only because the transition from Mom's arms to bed is always a delicate one, but because my desire to hold on to that quiet moment, that peaceful embrace, rivaled the desire to return to bed at 2:30 AM.

It was just another one of those moments that convinced me all the more, that there must be more to what we are and why we are here, than the life that ends when we stop breathing.  Too many mothers have snuggled their little ones only to see them grow up and walk away, too many of these perfect moments have happened and ended - not to mention myriad worse things - to have this earth, this life be anything but a tragedy, were it not so.

This moment need never be reduced to only a memory.  This child is and will always be more than a complex structure of molecules, forming cells and tissues and organs, governed by external stimuli and external chemical reactions.  This life extends beyond the confines of time.

And it is no tragedy.

Monday, October 13, 2014


A few months ago, this eight-legged guy appeared beside my front porch.  I don't have a photo, but picture this: black, white and yellow stripes, each leg at least an inch long, angular body - majestic in a terrifying sort of way...

Despite my strong aversion to spiders, I decided to let him stay with an unspoken understanding that, so long as he kept his distance, he wouldn't see the bottom side of my tennis shoes.

I decided to call him Dex.

Yes, I even gave him a name, maybe because it made me feel like I had a little control over him or something.  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right?  Metaphorically speaking, of course.  If he had built his web in China, I would have felt much more comfortable with the situation.

About a month ago, he moved right up behind the front door.  OK, Dex, I thought, but come no closer.  You're on thin ice.  I don't think I've passed once through that doorway without glancing his way.  And shuddering.

I mentioned him in a conversation with my spider-loving friend the other day, along with the mysterious disappearance of mini-Dex.  Her response (it was over text, but I just know she was elated): "Then it's a she and she'll have babies soon :)"


She has plumped up in the last few days, huh?

Eew.  It makes my skin crawl, and not in a good way.  I don't think that phrase has ever been used with a positive connotation, but just in case it has, I want to clarify - in a bad way.  I hate spiders.

My conscience: Are you sure?  Hate is a strong word.

Yes.  I hate spiders.  And one big one living in plain sight and close proximity is more than enough.  How did Charlotte's Web make an arachnid invasion seem so not-creepy?

Be afraid, Dex.  Be very afraid.