Friday, August 28, 2015

Storm Chasers Got Nothing on Us

It was just an average drive home from Target. Hyrum and Eve begged to buy everything in sight, and Mom insisted on sticking to the list. In the back seat, one child teary-eyed and the other sulking against the window. Micah sat shotgun, playing the favorite child role.* The sky darkened a little and the trees bent from right to left--wind from the east almost always means a storm around here. The sky in the direction of our house looked promising.

"Think it's raining at our house, guys?"

My Arizona kids love a good rainstorm, and the word rain perked the ears of even the grumpiest among them.

Our five-minute drive home ended with no rain overhead, and all of us were disappointed. Suddenly, I thought something fantastic.

"Hey. Should we chase the storm down? Find the rain? Doesn't look like it's too far from here."

My stroke of genius generated an unexpectedly weak response, but I was undeterred. Turning right and left and right again--always keeping the giant dark clouds in sight--I tried to maneuver us into the storm's path. With the complicating factor that I had five guests coming to dinner in an hour, I knew I couldn't take long on this chase.

After turning one way and hitting impassable road construction, I decided it was best to head home. I flipped a U-turn, and just as I was about to enter the freeway, I thought, "Just one more chance. Let's head north and see what happens."

It happened.

If you have never experienced a legit Arizona monsoon storm, you haven't lived. An all-too-common blistering sunlit day suddenly darkens with clouds of moisture and desert dust. The wind whips bark off palm trees and topples trash cans. Headlights turn on and power goes out.

And then the clouds open, and it rains. Driving, pelting sheets of rain that last unpredictable lengths of time--a minute to an hour or more.
This particular storm cell was intense--so intense that sheets of rain blew across the windshield faster than my wipers could remove it.

"Should I pull over?"

The boys whooped. "Can we get out and play in it if you do?"

Arizona monsoons were made for rain-starved Arizona kids. How can a mom say no?

In five violent minutes, the fields had turned to mud and I didn't want to shampoo my Suburban's carpets just for a frolic in the rain. Quickly scanning the unfamiliar neighborhood, I saw a concrete circular driveway that I'm sure had been installed for the express purpose of rainstorm enjoyment.

The boys were so excited that doors of the Suburban opened before I could park. Rain whipped in as the boys scampered out, but the wind was so strong that Micah could barely close the door. This was a good one.
Eve elected to stay dry with me. Smart girl.
 Notice the sideways garbage cans?
"Mom, aren't you so glad I stayed in here with you? Mom, aren't you glad we can watch the rain from in here? Mom, can you see the brothers? Mom, isn't this the best?"
Yes to all, my girl.
The boys alternated between hovering next to the Suburban's headlights and racing to the oleander hedge and back.
They also threw in a few good dance moves and sifted through the rocks on the driveway. Hyrum even found a teeny piece of turquoise, "our state gem, Mom!"
I looked at the clock and knew that my storm chasing needed to end. Who would feed our company? Just as I was about to honk the horn (which I knew would scare the crap out of the boys but how else would I get their attention? I wasn't going out there!), the boys crawled back into the car. They couldn't have been wetter if they'd jumped fully clothed into the pool
Shivering with cold and shaking with the thrill of the storm, they both exclaimed, "THAT WAS AWESOME!"

I turned onto the road and drove to the nearest intersection. The street was a name I recognized, and I knew I could meander along it towards home. The closer we drew to home, the softer and fewer the raindrops fell. By the time we reached our house, the sidewalks only bore a few drop marks and the trees stood straight and almost dry.

Boys ran upstairs for warm pajamas (no matter it was 5 pm), Eve found her baby doll, and I popped the pasta into the oven.

With time to spare.

The next time I ask the kids if they want to chase the rain, I expect their responses to be a little more enthusiastic.

*Do your kids do that? When one of them is in trouble, the other decides to be on their best behavior?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

My Favorite Job in the World

6 am to 9 pm seven days a week for over two decades. Some days it's much earlier and most days it's much later.

Three meals a day--plus shopping for those meals, prepping those meals, and cleaning up from those meals.
Hairdos, baths, teeth, laundry, ironing, mending, fixing, folding, cleaning. Tying shoes. Zipping backpacks. Signing slips and sending money.
I've been trying to put my finger on what is up with me lately. Why I feel lost and discomfited and out of place.

Last school year, when my house was empty for the first time during school hours, I had my master's degree to keep me occupied. This year I'm finally feeling it.
This may sound strange. I've tried to explain how I'm feeling to Brad, but I could never find the words until two nights ago.

I am slowly but surely working myself out of my favorite job in the world.

They read for themselves. They brush their own teeth. They make their own beds. Most of them do their own laundry.

I've gone from mothering 15+ hours a day to 7.5-11 hours a day, depending on the day. I've had my mothering hours cut in half. Have you ever been cut from full-time to part-time shifts? It's jolting, that simultaneous loss of responsibility and gain of free time.

When I was a young mother, all I wanted was a day to myself. I remember asking Brad for these free days as birthday gifts, and I would treasure the moments and the minutes. While I still love my alone time, I don't quite know how to fill it. Admittedly, I haven't been the most productive or comfortable with this newfound freedom. The house stays clean from 7:30 until 2:30. Don't need to do that. There's only so much shopping and Facebook and internet surfing and TV and organizing and yoga that can be done. . . .

I find myself a little lost most days, not knowing what to do with myself. Myself--most of my years being myself have been busy being "the Mom." The Chauffeur. The Shopper. The Cleaning Lady. The Laundress. The Negotiator. The Teacher. The Comforter. The Cook.

When they hand you that sweet-smelling, squalling, soft bundle of blankets in the hospital, no one tells you (with a touch of melancholy and a sad smile) that one day they won't need you to hold their hand on the way to school or to cut their spaghetti into small bites. Rude, isn't it--suckering you into loving and caring and giving up every drop of yourself to being the mom, only to have those precious babies grow up to be independent. Then they grow up and leave the house and stuff. . . .


What am I going to do with myself all day today? Let me see.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

He Saw, She Saw--On My Birthday

Thanks for all of the birthday wishes--cards, emails, Facebook, calls. It was a great day.

I haven't been to a rodeo for years (grew up attending the TF County Fair and Rodeo, and I've really missed it). When I heard that the Payson rodeo was on my birthday, I knew exactly what I was going to ask for.

Mmmm. Cheesesteak. Mmmmm. Lemonade. Mmmmm. Funnel cake. Mmmmmm.
And I got to wear my favorite boots. If you can't wear your boots to a rodeo, what good are they, anyway?

These pictures tell both sides of the story--what I saw through my lens, and what I looked like as I took the photos, thanks to Brad.

What he saw
What I saw
It must get boring waiting at the rodeo. It also must be cool as a kid to sit on the chute fence.

What he saw
What I saw
It was the most perfect night ever. Clear and not hot. A light breeze. No bugs and gorgeous light.

What he saw
What I saw
I always love it when they ride the flags around the arena.

And this one's my favorite. What he saw
What I saw

My next goal as a photographer is to learn how to capture better moving pictures when the light is low. Here are a few from the saddle bronc riding.

 All four feet off the ground at once, and that cowboy stays put. Love it.
 If you've never been on a horse when it's bucking, you have no idea how hard it is to stay in your saddle. They make it look so easy.

And the finale--the bulls.
 The cowboys in the arena act all cool in their Wranglers and Stetsons, but when that bull gets close, they climb fast.
We spent the night at the cabin, took a hike Saturday morning, gorged ourselves on these . . .
. . . and headed home. It was the most perfect birthday ever.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Musing on the Duggar Revelation

Josh Duggar. Ashley Madison. Not an issue I usually address here on my blog, but I feel the need to write about it.

No matter what your opinion of the adultery website or Josh Duggar, this revelation in the press speaks volumes about our society and what we value.

This may not go where you think.

Have you ever been in Anna Duggar's shoes? Maybe not an affair, but have you discovered some hidden atrocity about someone you love and trust? How did it feel? How did you weather the pain of betrayal? Did you feel like it was somehow your fault? Did you question your place or your importance or your value? Did you cycle through the stages of grief, finally arriving at some sort of acceptance--after days or weeks or months or even years of struggle?

Have you ever been in Josh Duggar's shoes? Maybe not an affair, but have you ever been exposed to be a liar? A hypocrite? How did you face your accusers? Your loved ones? The people you had wronged? Did you feel small? How did you feel, knowing you were causing those close to you so much pain--through no fault of their own? Did you question your value, because you had done something so wrong that you felt like you could never recover from it? Did you, too, cycle through the stages of grief, finally arriving at some sort of acceptance--after days or weeks or months or even years of struggle?

The final question, no matter whose shoes you filled:

Were you allowed to weather your struggles in private?

It is not my place to judge the Duggars and their choice to be public personalities. It is not my place to judge Josh's hypocritical public persona and its clash with his private behavior. It is not my place to judge Anna's religious beliefs and whether or not she stays with the father of her children. It is not my place to drag their dirty laundry into the public arena and bash them in their misery.

My place is pity. Not only are they in the worst place ever in their marriage--the world sees and the world thinks they know and the world judges. It's not just the two of them, either. Their kids. Those four innocent children are victims, too. And what about the people who supported his causes--they are victims as well. And his family? No matter your opinion of Michelle Duggar, she is still his mother. How would you feel if this were your son and his family? My heart aches for all of them.

My place is education. Pornography is the black-hole drug of our generation. Seemingly harmless and intriguing and exciting from a distance, it sucks viewers in and forces them imperceptibly down a road that their mind knows is wrong and from which their soul recoils. Yet, the addiction overpowers the will. How can I protect my children from such misery?*

My place is kindness. Isn't that what we would beg for if in their places? What we begged for when we were in their places? Isn't there enough pain as it is?

My place is gratitude--thankful that I have been allowed grace and forgiveness and repentance to take hold in my heart in private. I wouldn't wish this revelation and its aftermath on anyone, and I hope those involved can find the peace they deserve.

Because we all deserve peace and forgiveness and grace.

*I love Fight The New Drug, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to fighting the war against pornography. You can find them at their website or follow them on Facebook.

Friday, August 21, 2015

46--What's Ahead?

Aside from the other maladies of age not mentioned yesterday--more leg veins, thinner and grayer hair on my head, more trips into a room where I forget what I needed, less bladder control, more fabric required in my pants, less stretch in my ligaments--my body treats me very well. I'm grateful and happy, and trying to be content with what my life gives me.

Birthday and New Year's Day are big goal days for me. Many eating/journaling/exercising/cooking/cleaning changes have been implemented on 1/1 and 8/21.

Summer seems to get me off track every year, and I realized, as I reread my birthday post from last year, that I was in a very similar frame of mind 365 days ago. Did much change for me this year? Got my degree. That was huge. And now, I feel a little lost and a little empty and a little purposeless. I'm trying to find my footing in this "no kids at home all day" stage of life, and it's strange and unfamiliar. 

I'm trying to decide if I want to continue my studies--my mind often drifts to a study I would like to complete, but it would involve hours and hours and years and years of work and statistics and interviews and dedication. Is that where I want to go? Right now, I think so. The biggest hurdle in my way is passing the math section of the GRE. I haven't taken math since 1986 (that is not a typo, people), and I had to hire a tutor to remind me about x/y functions and geometry theorems. If I can get an acceptable grade on that test. If I can get the letters of recommendation. And can I get MPS to partner with me in a study?

Lots of ifs. One and.
But no buts.

It will be six months or so until I know if this is the right path for me to take. In the meantime, I actually enjoy relearning math. I actually enjoy adding words to my vocabulary. I actually enjoy the prospect of writing an application essay.

Maybe 46 is the year I begin my doctorate in education. Maybe 46 is the year I learn to crochet or become a yoga instructor of skydive for the first time. 

So many possibilities ahead at the beginning of a year. My 47th year on the planet. Wow. Time to make a mark around here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

45--A Retrospective

Tomorrow is my birthday, and for the past few weeks I've reflected on my forty-fifth year here. I wanted to mark some of the changes I've noticed.

  • I'm not as strong as I used to be. It used to be that whenever I wanted to move the furniture around, I didn't need anyone to take an end of the couch. Not now. I need help, and guess who's strong enough to lift it now? Micah.
  • I can't keep going as hard as I used to. When I do hard physical work all day, I'm hammered at night and am grateful to rest. I never understood that before.
  • My sleep is getting a little more fitful. When my kids were really little, I was an extremely light sleeper and would awaken to the smallest sounds. Then I went through a period where I slept much more soundly. And now, I've found that I waken a few times a night and can't go back to sleep as easily. I've heard this is a symptom of aging, but I hate to admit the truth. 
  • My eyes are changing. I had read that eyes start changing around the age of 40 (when many adults start using reading glasses), but those who are nearsighted often prolong the need for reading lenses. Over the past few weeks, I find myself removing my glasses so that I can read. Strange . . . but I'm sure this is only the next step.
  • Along with my eyes, my body is getting a little softer, a little more sensitive to food, and a little stiffer and achier. A new lingering pain has lodged in my left ring finger that I can't quite pinpoint, and I wonder if it's the beginnings of arthritis. Now that I type it out, that sounds like I'm so OLD!
  • While I still love design and shaking things up around here, my motivation is dwindling. I now see how the term "Grandma's house" developed. When you get to be a grandma, you just don't care as much that your rooms are painted the latest colors or that you redid your bookshelves.
  • Nothing in life means more to me than my family. All I care about is FaceTime chats to Idaho and Provo with my little grandkids and their parents, hugs and game time with my own kids, and letters from Peru. 
  • Brad and I have always had a good relationship, I think--one of mutual understanding and security in being who we are. Lately, though, I've found my heart turning to him in a way that I can't explain well. It's comforting to know we have years ahead together.

Wow. I sound like an old lady--not sleeping well, eye issues, hand issues, and rolls and rolls of pictures of my family to show anyone who'll listen. I think I'm beginning to accept that I'll never be what I was when I was younger, and I'm hoping to find that stable spot on the teeter totter that is middle age. I want to enjoy it as long as possible.

Ew. I cringed as I entered that term, middle age. Then reality hit me a little. If you live to 92, that's plenty of years on this earth. That also means that you have 46 years of life left to enjoy, appreciate, learn, grow, and be. Sounds pretty good to me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Journey of 2,919 Miles, Give or Take--Epilogue

To my dear, dear children (who may or may not fall into this sign's category),

Thank you for three weeks of summer memories. I watched you sleep, listened to your snores, shared your dreams. I fed you new food and showed you beautiful places. I disciplined you and hugged you. How is it that I think I learned more than you did?
Thank you for showing me how incredible our world is and how important it is to stop and smell and run and climb and walk and ride and taste and listen. You already know, but I'm still learning that it's not a race to the destination--the journey itself is fantastic. Thanks for making me stop for a quick hike to pick flowers and see snow. Thanks for pointing out beautiful bluebirds and breathtaking views. Thanks for laughing at musicals and offending smells (wherever and whenever they happened). Thanks for quick park visits and time to be.
Thank you for hours and hours in the Suburban. The time I was dreading the most while traveling became some of my favorite. I loved looking back at the three of you in various states of consciousness and messiness, staring out the window or reading or playing. I loved laughing with you and listening to endless hours of Harry Potter and the . . . So many inside jokes we now share about the wizarding world. Quidditch needs to be real, I agree.
Thank you for reminding me how much I like you. As your mom, I hope you know that I will always love you and be in your corner, cheering you on and fighting for you. I never forget that part, but sometimes in the day-to-day routines of life, I forget how much I really like you--your jokes and your quirks and your awesome personalities. I would choose you to be my friends, and I am thankful we are more than friends: I am grateful we are family.
Thanks for the spirit of adventure and excitement you kept around you from the first day until we pulled into the driveway on the last. Everything we did was joyful. Not everything we did was perfect, nor was everything we did always positive or argument-free, but you always kept the excitement of the adventure with you. From elevators in hotels to lizards toasting in the sun to the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, you were happy to just be there and experience it all.
Thank you for slowing me down by holding my hand, or hugging my neck, or asking me, "Do you see this beautiful view?" I did, and often the beauty of the view wasn't in the deer by the side of the road or the waterfall spilling down the mountain--it was you sliding down a banister or your smiling face across from me.
Finally, thank you for your patience with me. Across nine states and over 2,900 miles. In caves in South Dakota and bear exhibits in Idaho. At restaurants and movie theaters. On horses and trains and roller coasters and endless hours in the Suburban.  With extended family and alone just the four of us. It was glorious. It was exhausting. It reawakened my joy. It taught me patience. It was incredible, and we were together every single step of the way.

Now this long journey we took is part of our family's history--wedged firmly in the middle of Ben's mission, between Heidi's babies, and concurrent with Dad's and Lily's big adventure. We will always have this special time together, just me and the three of you.
I love you. Thanks for the memories. I will cherish them (and you) forever.