Monday, January 31, 2011

Confessions! The green-eyed monster

(I wish this pumpkin were green to match this post better, but it does capture the emotion well, don't you think?)

The question for today is:

What is one emotion that you could do without?

My first instinct is to quickly shout "Anger!"
Anger is that scream vibrating at the bottom of my throat when no one listens to me. Anger is the fire burning in the pit of my stomach in the middle of a fight. It is frustration and forehead smacking and growling and slamming and stomping.
But anger isn't totally useless.
Anger makes me strong when I am terrified. (I once charged the Artist with a laundry basket when he did a great impersonation of an intruder sneaking into our house at midnight through the sliding glass door.)
Anger makes me fight. This is both blessing and curse. I shouldn't fight my loved ones, but I do want to fight injustice and evil.
Anger is horrible, but anger is strong. I can take that potent emotion and subdue it and master it and let it motivate me to stand up for myself and the people I love.
But there is one emotion that is flat-out useless. Completely and absolutely without merit.


Jealousy doesn't motivate or embolden. Jealousy makes me small and weak and miserable. Jealousy is downright embarrassing. No wonder it made God's top ten list of commandments. Coveting is ugly.
I felt envious of a woman (a friend) yesterday and it felt like swallowing spiritual sour milk. Just gross. So to cure myself of this toxic feeling I said inwardly, "just think of all the blessings you have." Actually, that is a half truth. (What a judicious way of saying big, fat lie!) What I really said is, "just think of all the blessings you have that she doesn't." I made a mental score sheet. I assumed that if God gave her gifts, somewhere, embedded in my soul, were different, but equal, gifts.
I was completely wrong. Lack of jealousy cannot come from a lack of ... lacking. I can't keep jealousy at bay by telling myself that I have more or I have better.
I think a lack of jealousy must come from a deep well of gratitude and a love of life. Not gratitude that I was given more than someone. Gratitude that I am a child of God, with the opportunity to feel and exist and try. Gratitude that I am still in the game, still learning and growing. Gratitude that even if I have the least skills, talents, beauty, wealth or possessions of all the people I know, the Savior still loved me enough, just as I am, to carry my sins and troubles on his precious shoulders.
I know that envy is an unattractive thing to admit. But I take hope in the fact that it bothers me so much- that I know better. I don't accept it from myself. I fight it.
Which brings me back to anger.
Good grief! I have got some work to do...

Hunker Down!

It's coming. Lots and lots of snow. I am not trying to depress anyone, but this is what the world looks like from my window today. As a result, I made two emergency preparation trips today. The first was to Walmart at 8 o'clock this morning. Grocery shopping acts as a balance in my life. It balances out all the wonderful things that happen to me to make sure life isn't too mind-numbingly blissful.

After that little jaunt, the Dancer and I made an emergency trip to the library. I grabbed a couple biographies on Joan of Arc (why not?) for myself and a mother load of stories for the Cowgirl and the Dancer. I refuse to face cabin fever without the printed word. We are now hunkering down, waiting to be buried in the blizzard and hoping we can tunnel our way out with our sanity in tact in a couple of days. Good luck, fellow Midwesterners!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Confessions! Something nice.

I've been thinking about today's question in between crises (Just the usual; The Dancer once again made the mistake of trying to keep up with the Cowgirl, and the Cowgirl once again forgot that she has twice the body mass as her sister. Somehow that resulted in a huge crash on the staircase, frozen peas on the face, a bountiful amount of tears from both culprits and a ticked off Tapper. All while the Artist was making a pleasant visit for church. Grrr....) Wait, what was I supposed to writing about?

Right. The confession. So the question I've been pondering is:

What is something kind that you do just for yourself?

And then the answer was staring me in the face. Right on my kitchen table. So I snatched a picture to show you.
My weekly shopping trip is obscenely expensive no matter how many coupons and sales I hit, but I still manage to plunk down an extra five dollars for fresh flowers at Walmart. It's a horrible investment. They don't last. They don't feed or entertain or teach. They are just for me and I have no justification other than I like them. I actually love them. This week it was tulips, but I'll take anything. Except roses. I've never liked roses.
Every time I pass my table it feels like they are smiling at me. I can forgive myself for the laundry on the couch and the graham crackers in the carpet because that little spot- my kitchen table- looks like something out of a magazine. My eyes follow them across the room like sunflowers follow the light in the sky. I steal glimpses, continually, every day, to make sure they are still there. And maybe, just for a moment, I feel like a girl who deserves fresh flowers every day.

I'm so not ready for my close up!

It was just the Cowgirl and the Dancer and me at home this evening. I got a sudden burst of courage and opened a child's make-up set that I had stashed away in a closet for... (what? A preschool make-up emergency? ) a day when we needed something to do, I guess.
I don't need to say anything. I am going to let the pictures speak for themselves. And yes, against all odds, the doorbell did ring when I looked like that. And so it will always go...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Explore or Bore!

Every now and then- not too often - but enough to recognize it when it happens, I get a surprise Saturday. Sort of like a surprise birthday party, but no one has to get older or wrinklier. It is just a day where everything goes right. Today everyone in the family woke up on the right side of the bed and we just sort of managed to hang out on that side of the room all day!

As all good things do- the day started with hard work. I insisted on 30 minutes from everyone. And when the timer chimed we dropped our rags and spray bottles and laundry baskets and declared the day "officially started."

The artist had to pick up a craigslist item for his motorcycle all the way across the city in Liberty, Missouri. (Oh, yes, the Artist has a shiny red motorcycle now. He is threatening me with actually riding it once he gets licensed. That is a whole other post...) After grabbing said part we took the girls to visit the Liberty Jail, where the prophet Joseph Smith was held captive with four other men for four months. It is a terrible, beautiful place. Terrible in its memory of human suffering and beautiful in its testament to Heavenly help in our worst trials.

What an amazing thing to go from a site where people once tried to destroy the Mormon faith to the spot where they are now building a Mormon temple- less than ten miles away. It means so much to share these little miracles and stories with the Cowgirl and the Dancer. They have to know that in this crazy (getting crazier by the minute!) world, they are a part of something monumental and daring and exceptional.

Since we had history on the brain we took the girls to downtown Kansas City to the jazz district known as 18th and Vine. We have never set foot there before, despite growing up in this city, but we don't want to stagnate. Explore or Bore is the motto of the day! We ate sandwiches at a bakery where we were the only white folks in sight and loved it. The Dancer declared that it was the "best dinner ever."

Apparently we were still in the explorin' mood because we hustled over to Crown Center to do a few masterpieces as the Crayola store and stock up on candy at the candy store. When we finally got home I marinated in a hot bath for 20 minutes until the Artist's parents came over to play with the girls.

The Artist took me out to a gourmet hamburger restaurant where we ordered the $100 burger (luckily it was 85% off!) and chatted like we were as trendy as all of the richly coifed couples around us. It is nice to know that after 13 years of being in love he still makes me laugh over a plate of sweet potato fries and I still like glancing at him over a cream soda.

What a day! What a gift. Who would have thought that an Artist and a Writer and a Cowgirl and a Dancer could have so much fun getting locked up in jail together, jamming together, driving together, eating together, shopping together, loving together. Happy Surprise Saturday!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Confessions! Bad habit

So the big question that I must answer honestly today is....

What is a bad habit that you need to break?

Why hasn't someone invented a laugh track for blogs? I really need one. I mean I need the one where it sounds like the old man is about to guffaw his way to a cardiac arrest while the asthmatic wheezes out her last gleeful sounds.
Bad habit? As in singular?
I've broken each and every bad habit I've ever had - they just have a nasty way of gluing themselves back together and reuniting with me!
I will spare you the list.
Well, I'll give you a little taste of the list, just so you know that I really am being honest.
I need to stop washing my jeans with one leg all bunched up so it never gets dry.
I need to leave scabs where God intended - on my skin. (Sorry. That is so gross! I can't believe I said that out-cyberloud.)
I must stop leaving piles of stuff on my kitchen counter.
I have to stop skipping my morning workout which should be renamed my monthly workout.

But if I had to pick one to really tackle and get on top of then I think I need to strike a phrase from my vocabulary and my brain and my life. I must never again say "when I have time."

What a pointless thing to say. What a silly excuse. There is always time. There is never time. What we really have is choices. About a year and a half ago I decided to sew a button back on a shirt "when I had time." I just put that poor shirt in my give-away pile. I knew if I hadn't done it yet, I wasn't going to. So what I need to say is "do I choose to do this?" If the answer is yes, then I must do it right away.
If the answer is no, then I shouldn't tease and lie to myself that I will get around to it. Every time we do that we lose trust in the person who we depend on the most - ourselves.
I realize that we can't do everything at once. There are a few things I really do hope to get to in a different season of my life. Things like organizing our 17,000 photos or doing genealogy or earning a Master's Degree. But I don't say I'll do it when I have time.
I say I am looking forward to those adventures as soon as I get this adventure under control.
But right now I need to go attend to the Dancer. She disappeared for a few minutes and ended up in a pair of footie pajamas and wearing a life preserver. (Don't ask why we own a life preserver). I'm sure there's an explanation. I'm sure looking forward to hearing it.
I will write more.
When I have time.
Cyber wink

At the Barn

I tried to get some pictures of the Cowgirl riding last night but it is dark outside and the lighting of the indoor arena just doesn't do a camera any favors. I am including a photo from September of the Cowgirl on her lesson horse, Gidget.
The Cowgirl has been riding for one year now. She started with a private instructor on a western saddle, just learning to tack (that's clean and saddle the horse), post (that is standing and sitting in rhythm with a horse's trot) and do courses (that means changing directions and following instructions- sort of like a choreographed dance). But she noticed that things got a little monotonous after a while. So what's a seven year old girl to do? She decided she needed to jump.
We switched barns and got an instructor who specializes in jumping. The Cowgirl can now canter, gallop occassionally and jump a foot and a half.
On a horse she is in heaven. We call it her weekly therapy. You see all of her little girl stresses fall behind in her slipstream and her only thoughts are written on her face:
Keep your hands low.
Keep your head up.
Back straight.
Tight knees.
Don't fall.
Once a week I sit in a dirty, little room and stroke the ever-present barn cats while I cross my fingers that she won't fall, or if she does, she's able to get right back up.
And I smile while I watch my little girl fly.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Confessions! Day 2

Since you don't want to hear how I spent the morning cleaning bathrooms, I will just jump straight to the heart of the matter. The question that I must answer in absolute honesty today is:

What makes you feel better when you're upset?

I do a lot of things when I'm upset, but I know that only one thing helps - words.
Because I am a stubborn, imperfect human I go through a lot of stages of whining before I get to the words.
First I process in silence. Then I stew in silence. If it's a really bad day I stew while closing drawers too hard and if you listen closely you will hear the low hiss of my whispered diatribes.
Then I try to distract myself. I read a book (I can't see the words when I'm mad or sad) or go shopping (I hate everything when I'm in a bad mood so I mostly just wander through a store aimlessly), or I try to talk myself out of it (this always seems like it's about to work, but it typically falls through at the last minute- sort of like a chocolate torte). When all else fails I go in search of an ear. My husband. My sisters. My friends. I will take the customer service man at my cable company if necessary.
I think the truth is that a big part of my brain somehow got located in my tongue and I cannot process or organize or sooth my feelings until I have spoken them out loud. I think with words. I feel with words. I help with words. I live through words.
After I let the words pour out, usually accompanied with a generous flood of tears, then I feel a new courage and strength and enthusiasm. Maybe I just feel less lonely knowing that someone knows how I feel. And maybe, for me, the problems I face are never as difficult as the loneliness of facing them solo.
So if I ever put my heavy head on your shoulder and start talking, just know that in a few minutes I will feel so much better.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Confessions! Question a Day.

As a mother I am coming to learn that a lot of my life is lived inside my head. When people ask "What's new?" I mentally review my last several days. Make beds, cook meals, homework, wipe the tears, try not to yell, run to Walmart again, volunteer at school... It all looks the same. One day blends into the next and the next. The only place where things really change is between my ears.
I have my little epiphanies, discoveries, resolutions, closures and battles in that invisible land of the mind and the soul. So if you ask "What's new?" I probably won't have anything interesting to tell you. But if you ask, "What have you been thinking about?" I might fill up an hour or two answering you! Some days I won't have anything to say about what I do, but I will always have something to say about who I am or what I think. So I am challenging myself to expose that private world of my thoughts and answer a question every day.

So the question I am forcing myself to answer in complete honesty is....
(this is kind of exciting. Wish there was music...)

What is something you believed you
could do that you now admit you cannot do?

Wow. I am mean to myself. What a hard one to start with. But absolute honesty is my pledge.
And the honest answer is that this list is so much longer than I like to admit.
I thought I could have a house full of children and dogs and cats.
I thought I could handle mess and chaos with a laugh.
I honestly thought that someday I would be some grandiose writer who changed people's lives.
I thought I could run for congress. (If you are laughing right now, don't feel guilty. I am laughing with you!)
I thought I could raise children without yelling at them.
I thought I could work out every day and look like they do in the magazines.
I thought I could live in the country and commune with nature.

After 31 years of life and giving birth twice and being a wife for a decade, I am ready to admit defeat in a lot of areas.
I barely keep my sanity with two children and the idea of a dog makes me want to vomit. I am pouring my life so fully into humans that I have nothing left for other mammals.
When the house is messy (as it usually is) I have symptoms akin to medical shock. Disoriented thinking, panic, blurred vision, head pain- you get the jist. I can't just laugh it off and say "Oh, well, it's gonna happen." I know I will never be at peace with chaos, noise and mess, but I am hoping I can learn to fake it better in the future.
I really did try the writer thing with all my heart. I wrote a book. An entire novel with a plot and everything. And after I recovered from the euphoria of accomplishment I started noticing something- it wasn't grandiose. It often wasn't even good. But it was a good shot. I am content with that. I now have lesser writing ambitions. I try to write thank-you letters and words of encouragement to people around me. It's not the glitz of a published novel, but it still feels so nice.
Congress? I'm just going to skip an explanation here and figure that you don't need one.
No yelling at my kids? Okay, I needed some comic relief in this post. Accomplished.
A movie star body? Still laughing. I can let that one go and just hope for a healthy body.
And as for living in the country - I am now a bonafide suburbanite. I am terrified of the country. No streetlights. No sidewalks. No one to hear you scream. And the last time I tried to commune with nature I got sidetracked by mosquitos and bees. I truly love to be outside and look at beautiful things.. right before I go into my air-conditioned, suburban home and watch a movie.

Ahh, honesty.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We found a hill in Kansas!

We took the Cowgirl and the Dancer sledding this weekend.
I could feel that little spot in my brain where expectation crushes up against reality quivering in anticipation. It was the Dancer's first time on a sled. Ever. So many images flooded my brain of what a magical afternoon sledding should look like. So many more images flooded my brain of what it very well might look like. Especially when mom is overtired and a tad irritable.
The Artist and I were exhausted from a busy weekend schedule but it was now or never. The sun comes out. The snow melts. So we did it. We bundled them each in three layers, including waterproof snow pants (thanks to my sister in law, the Crafter), loaded the car with borrowed sleds (yes, I am that mother; the one who just can't bring herself to put down the money for her own sled) and headed for the hills. Literally. They can be hard to find in Kansas.
And I waited. I waited for that crust of painful snow that always seems to find it's way inside the wrist of a child's glove. I waited for the faceplant that would leave a red cheek chafing under streaming tears. I waited for the whines when they found out how much harder it is to go up than down. I waited for my temper that makes a special appearance on the most over-scheduled, exhausting occasions.
And it never came.
All that came was that fresh, crisp feeling of crunching through the snow and hearing how thin and clear squeals sound in the cold air. The Dancer went down one time with me and then insisted that I send her alone. My tiny three year old. Poised at the top of an icy, 30 foot incline.
She sailed. She toppled. She faceplanted. She laughed. She pulled her own sled back up. She slipped. She got snow in her hair. All the things that I was dreading happened. And none of them were dreadful. They were hilarious and wonderful.
When we were too tired to trudge back up the hills we made a snowman taller than me. The Cowgirl rolled such a huge snowball for the middle section that the Artist and I couldn't lift it and had to karate chop it in half and reconstruct it after placement. We gave it hair from feathery weeds that stuck up from the white forest floor and all sat back, a little impressed with ourselves.
The only whines that came were the ones that followed our announcement that it was time to go home. (Oh, and the whines the Dancer gave me when I told her to stop eating the snow. She went for it doggy style- Open mouth, insert face into cold white stuff and swallow)

But I found those easy to ignore because the Artist was looking like a sexy ski instructor and we had a babysitter coming in two hours.
The sun comes out. The snow melts. We lose our chances. Except for when we don't.


I went to the dentist today. (Cue the funeral drums)
There are few things I hate more.
Is it just me or does it feel like a test that is impossible to pass?

Q: Do you brush? A: My toothbrush frays in one month
Q: Do you floss? A: Like I lost a hundred dollar bill between my teeth.
Q: Do you drink soda? Chew gum? Drink coffee? A: Nope, nope and nope.
Dentist: Great. You do a wonderful job. Oh, and you have three cavities.


I have heavy suspicions that dentists were picked on as kids and are now getting back at the world.
Can I just get my dentures now and be done with it???

Monday, January 24, 2011

Who is Tapper?

There once lived a girl that we will call Tapper. That is the sound that she made as she went through life. Early in the morning it was the tap of her spoon as she stirred oatmeal and huffed and puffed until it was cold enough for her little ones to eat. There was the tap of her high heels that she only donned on Sunday mornings for church and the tap of her palm against her children's hands when they played patty cake. And in the quiet, magical time known as "naptime", wherever she sat you could hear the tap of her words in the relentless click of her keyboard. Little words. Common words. Forgotten words. Clumsy words. All coming to life as she tapped, tapped them out of silence.

She loved and married The Artist and they made a home in the golden plains of Kansas. They gave birth to The Cowgirl, who is now almost eight years old and jumps horses at a smelly, dirty, wonderful stable and then to her little sister, The Dancer, who came into the world as small as as minuet, as light as a leap and as happy as an ovation.
So Tapper, (I will admit- it's me) decided to try and catch the thoughts and words that scattered as erratically as a herd of butterflies in her brain and put them somewhere. Neat. Orderly. Sensible. Or not at all. And so here they fall.