I recently had a lot of people writing me asking how my husband and I make marriage awesome amidst multiple pregnancies and all the children.
I have been pregnant and/or nursing for almost 18 years. So, I can say I have a lot of experience with babies and pregnancy and teens and tweens and toddlers and everything else plus trying to have an awesome marriage.
I used to think I could find someone to help me with this, but really, there isn’t a lot of realistic advice out there for people who have decided to spend over a decade in the trenches of pregnancy and children.
Most of the advice is given with the idea that the pregnancy and/or terrible twos or little children or teens will be over relatively soon.
Most of the advice from large family mothering blogs (or parenting blogs) seems extremely idealistic and a little too hard to achieve.
For example, most large family bloggers tend to exude the idea that they don’t have much trouble with their children who are 12-18–they are just a joy and help out around the house and love to take care of their siblings really, really frequently.
Which is great, but that’s not how we roll here. Yes, my children ages 12-18 are an absolute joy most of the time, but wow. There are times when they are a mess. And I am a mess. And there are times that they do not want to take care of littles, even thought they love them.
And most of the large family bloggers I read about are determined to really testify of their happiness to be serving their husbands in all kinds of capacities that I think are really too much for me, personally (I love my husband, and I love to serve him, but I also like to be spoiled, too. I am a weenie.).
I am not there yet. I may never be.
Maybe I’m not a great large family mother or something. I am not trying to emulate Michelle Duggar and I don’t have a sweet, kindly disposition a lot of the time.
I don’t really want my older children “helping out” a lot.
By the time they are sixteen, I want them out and about, doing their own thing, working or college or something more independent and certainly not helping me aside from some basic chores and learning independent living skills.
So this advice I am giving is from the point of view of a family that has altercations, tears, laughter, obnoxious behavior and struggles sometimes.
I am not giving advice to have an argument free, my-sweet-wife, my-darling-husband kind of marriage. Although that would be really great, I am not there yet,
I consider our marriage awesome, though.
Of course, my definition of awesome might look a little different than what you might expect. I am not expecting absolute happiness and flowers and fireworks.
I am expecting survival with a smile. And some smooching.
That’s it. That is my definition of an awesome marriage with kids.
So, here are my tips for those of you who might be considering a large family and a decade or so of pregnancy:
You Will Both Be So Tired.
Recognize and accept that it is not a contest.
So, you know when you have children, everyone in the world warns you that you will never get great rest again.
It’s so funny when you’ve heard it over a million times, right? Oh, that never gets old!
But, really, it’s true. You won’t sleep. Ever. Again. And you probably kind of know that, and that’s okay with both of you. You both think it’s worth it.
Most couples tend to get into this contest of who is the most tired (most of the time it is a pregnant mom), but I decided a long time ago that we wouldn’t go there, because my husband actually believes he is more tired sometimes.
And it could be possible that sometimes he is.
I know he sometimes is.
But, we have saved ourselves a lot of grief by deciding before our first child was born that we would never do that contest thing, and we would try very hard to agree that we are both the same amount of exhausted, just in different ways.
And we both have a different level of tolerance for exhaustion.
That’s just the way it is. Don’t fight about it. You are both tired. It will be worth it.
Lots of pregnancy means lots of sacrifice.
Both of you should agree that all of these pregnancies are going to mean a lot of sacrifice.
Most women are a little discouraged when things start sagging and nothing is as it was before. It’s also discouraging to give up wearing pants with zippers for fifteen years. It’s also exhausting and draining to make human beings.
But it’s worth it.
And it’s important for both of you to sincerely see deep beauty in each other, not the kind that is only youthful skin deep kind of beauty.
Most men will find that learning to cook for your nauseated wife, the kids, and yourself is going to be more of a priority than sports or hobbies or…well, almost everything else.
Taking a portion of the household responsibilities (or making sure your other children are completing them), is going to take a lot of time and effort. Even when you are tired and exhausted.
Listening to your wife cry about random things and being comforting will be time consuming and emotionally consuming.
It’s worth it. But, realizing this ahead of time will save a lot of grief and make for a more awesome marriage.
Make dating and sex a priority. And flirt.
Dating is really, really important during these years. It’s probably the only time you will be able to have a conversation without being interrupted three hundred times.
Make it a priority. Take the time to make a reservation every once in a while. Dates don’t have to be extravagant, but they do need to be without children. Go places that are child-free.
We like to take walks when I am not too miserable from the pregnancy, or just talk on a swing at the park. When I am too sick, we go for a short drive and park somewhere and talk. Or we lock the door to our room and have takeout while the kids stay downstairs without interrupting us for two hours.
We also try to flirt every once in a while. It’s sometimes funny because we are so pathetically tired, but sometimes it can really create sparks.
Sex should also be a priority. It doesn’t have to be epic, but both of you really do need it.
When I am pregnant, it is hard for me to remember this because, well, I am pregnant.
But, it’s important and really, most of the time, I just need time to wind down and let my husband get me in the mood. This is sometimes problematic because really, if we are not careful we can both end up asleep before anything else happens.
Husbands should be aware that sex and pregnancy are sometimes difficult. Wives don’t feel particularly gorgeous and often during pregnancy, sex is really not on the radar. But, if you are patient and go out of the way to think of how to help your wife relax (hint: it may take more than 2 1/2 minutes), it pays off.
And it could even end up being epic.
Remember you are just a conduit.
I remember once when my husband was so worried about providing for our family with money, I reminded him that everything we have comes from God. He is just the conduit for those provisions that really come from God.
Likewise, I am just the conduit for God’s nurturing love to reach my children.
But, in the end, it is God’s mercy and grace that keep us going day to day. Remembering that took almost all the stress out of the “how are we going to pay for…” struggles.
Get a sense of humor.
It’s inevitable that things are going to sometimes be really stressful and chaotic and the opposite of what you dreamed it would be. This is where a great sense of humor comes in.
When, for example, our children are working at dividing us and I see that it is effective, I like to remind my husband that it should never be me against him, but rather, us against them. It’s an old joke, but it helps us to remember that we need to stay unified.
One of the nicest things my husband did was to laugh when I wrecked the side door of our van. It made me feel so loved and it made me remember that most things are not a big deal…it’s just life.
Pregnancy and raising children gives us multiple opportunities to laugh or cry. Choose laughter as often as you can.
Not Real For Most Of Us
Remember that the ideal is a dream.
When I read about people who never argue, wives who can their own fruit from trees they have grown themselves from organic seedlings and sweep every day and work out and make their own furniture and never gain weight and have painless childbirth, husbands who have never been angry with their spouse, bring home flowers every week, prepare gourmet meals and know how to dress the children for church in matching outfits and braid their hair, parents whose children listen and behave, and all of that, I try to remind myself that this is the ideal–a dream–but not my reality at this time.
Instead, I’ve tried to focus on what we do have going for us, and how we can take our problems and turn them into strengths.
Also, the ideal where couples are forever gorgeous and going on vacations to Fiji or whatever aren’t really going to happen when you decide to be pregnant for a decade.
Also, men who have lived with pregnant women for a decade are running a little ragged, so it’s hard to expect them to really be like all sweeping you off your feet and talking with a gorgeous accent and making vegan food that tastes fantastic.
Instead of pining away wishing my husband were more romantic or soft spoken or whatever it may be, I try to think of how I can love him the way he needs to be loved and how cute he is when he does laundry.
I know it probably sounds silly, but love really is the answer to almost every problem. Even though we have had some really hard times, I have always been very confident that my husband will never leave.
Even when I have felt like bagging it and just going to an island and living in a cave, I have always known deep down that I will never leave him.
Love really can conquer all. And love suffers long. Sometimes a really, really long time. Love sticks with us through depressing and discouraging circumstances, when we don’t look or act nice, through thick and thin and through sickness and health. It doesn’t waver.
And, sometimes we just need to remember that love is the greatest power of all when we are on no sleep, the kids are bickering, the 16 year old wrecked the car, the job isn’t going well and the pregnancy is difficult.
We just need to remember that these moments are what make love real and tangible.
When I am irritated with my husband, I often look at him and remind myself that this was the person who helped me go to the bathroom when I was sick, the person who got up with barfing kids so I could sleep, the person who held my hand when I was scared and told me it would be alright, even though he was just as terrified as I was.
The most important thing is that we keep going. No matter what. We just keep going and hoping that eventually we’ll reach the top of the mountain together and have enough energy to get down–or that maybe Heaven can send a chopper and airlift us off. And that’s how we keep our marriage awesome.
On Friday, I enter my last trimester of pregnancy, more than likely for the last time.
It has gone by really fast, but that’s mostly probably because I am old, and 9 months is not very long when I think that something that happened 5 years ago happend “just the other day.”
So, I am entering in the last little bit where things get so bad that you really don’t mind if you have to go through labor because you think, “Anything is better than this.”
Which really isn’t technically all the way true, because then the baby is born and it’s kind of even worse in the fourth trimester, which is when you just feel fat and hormonal and so very, very tired and leaky and icky.
I wonder some days if I really am “done” with having babies. I think I am, but I’ve thought that before. Most people today would probably think, “Well, you know you can stop that, right?”
But, John and I have this weird way of family planning which involves a lot of intuition and spirituality, which usually leads us to having another baby.
Still Missing Someone
After all, we don’t want to miss anyone.
Sometimes, when people tell me that I need to “get on with my life,” or they say “you need to take care of you,” or whatever, I think that maybe they are right.
Maybe I’m not taking care of me…maybe I need to get on with my life, a life that wouldn’t involve diapers and saying no to trips and opportunities because we have babies at home.
Maybe I’m almost at that part, where I will no longer be looking for deals on bulk diapers, or running out of baby wipes, or potty training or…whatever.
Of course, today is not that day.
Also, can I just say that having lots of children and raising them and being a mother and trying to have a great, awesome marriage with all of this going on and everything else is actually quite terrifying?
I think that’s probably part of the reason I know it’s right.
I love doing the impossible. And what we’re doing shouldn’t really be possible–but it is.
Anything less would, at this point in my life, be…boring. Flat. Empty.
I wish I could explain to people that this–these babies, the weight gain, the swollen ankles, the constant middle of the night diaper changes and all of that other stuff–this is my Everest.
It’s my super ultimate marathon.
It’s my dream.
Yoga Is Not My Dream, But I Love The Quote.
And, you know, the world is all about people following their dreams. Just take a look at Facebook or Pinterest. They are 95% full of quotes about chasing your dreams, following your bliss, having the courage to face your fears and overcoming obstacles….
It just so happens that my biggest dream was this.
This is my entire bucket list.
And it is more exhilarating than jumping out of an airplane or zip lining across a volcano.
You’ve never seen true terror until you’ve tried to balance the checkbook and you realize your monthly grocery bill could purchase a used car…every month.
Facing fear? Try spending time in the PICU at Primary Children’s Hospital. That brings depth, let me tell you. Climbing the Grand Teton pales in comparison.
And there is no zen like having a sleeping baby in your arms and they wrap their little fingers around your thumb…it’s nirvana.
It’s when I am in my darkest moments of despair that it is most clear that I wanted this. I wanted this like I want to breathe.
The pain and agony of mothering–and it is really painful and agonizing–makes me want it more, because I know that in the very moments of most intense, excruciating pain are when this world melts away and I see the real world…and everything is beautifully perfect.
And I know somewhere deep in my soul that even if I never gave birth to one child, I would have found a way to be a mother. It is who I am and I can’t be anything else and be true to myself.
So, I am looking forward to this last trimester, where I can go further than I thought I could, be stronger than I thought I was, and endure more than I thought I would be able to endure.
I think, in the end, whatever it is that leads us to trust in a greater power (for me, that’s God), is what we were meant to do. There is nothing that brings me closer to letting go of myself and flinging myself out in the universe and freeing myself of everything holding me back than what I am doing.
I have always believed that heaven gives us our dreams, our greatest dreams, and that when we work to make them happen, we are doing the will of heaven.
It just took me a while to realize that my real and greatest dream, I was already in it.
When I was going to move into my brand new home, I thought I would dare to dream a little.
I have always, always wanted to have cozy, white couches. The kind that you can just curl up in and read a book and it feels like you are in a magazine.
I have always wanted a matching set of something I actually liked.
I have always been unerringly practical regarding furniture with children. I have never bought a couch at full price, and never new. No, I always went to thrift stores or the classifieds for the perfectly nice used couches.
There was the one we simply called “RC Willey” because the people who previously owned it bought it from that furniture store, and they took a lot of pride in the fact that they bought it from there.
It was green and had pillows with elephants and tigers and stuff. It had really big arms, so the children could sit on top and pretend like they were actually riding an elephant or a zebra.
It came with a matching rug. And a chaise lounge.
It wasn’t really my style, but then, I really never had a style to speak of because I thought it was more important to have large arms on a couch so the kids could play pretend safari.
He Is Wonderful.
I decided I could live with it because the whole set was only $500. Also, it made me think of India, because of the elephants, and India made me think of Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility when he says,
The air is full of spices.
And that just makes me swoon, so…I decided to like the couch.
Then there was the Lazy Boy couch with recliners upholstered in a nice late 70’s floral print. I always meant to get it reupholstered, but that never happened. It weighed about 3 tons and John finally sold it for $100 to whomever was willing to move it out of the house.
We Owned This Very Print In A Whole Couch!
There was the black ratty fake leather couch we picked up at a thrift store in Houston for $75 that Joy smeared Desitin all over. By the time we had loved that thing to death, the Salvation Army wouldn’t even take it.
There were some really awful brown microfiber couches and the sectional that was really nice and all leather, except for the part where the previous owner’s children had tried cleaning it with some sort of solvent and eaten part of the leather off.
(We still have that in the basement. John mentioned the other day that we could sell it and I laughed. I told him we’d probably have to pay someone to move it out of the basement.)
Then there were the $25 thrift store couches in the condo that went from the third floor to the dumpster.
So, I was kind of excited to buy a set brand spanking new and something I actually chose.
My cheap self got the best of me and I found myself in Ikea, looking at the Ektorp white sofa.
This Blogger Claims Clean Up is A Breeze. Isn’t It Gorgeous???!!!? And She Has Kids.
Yes, this sofa is the legendary sofa of all the cool moms who are really great at decorating and blogging and stuff on the internet. One of my bloggy friends has a set, and she lives on a farm with seven or eight children and I went over to look at them and they looked amazing.
Everyone on the internet said they would be easy to clean, because they have slipcovers that are totally washable.
All these women on the internet said it was like no problem to clean them.
They have posts about these couches called, “Having a White Couch With Kids Is Totally Possible,” and “I Have Pets and Kids and My Ikea Ektorp White Slipcovers Look AWESOME,” and then they write about how easy it is to take them off and wash them and put them in the laundry and then when they put them back on the whole house smells like clean, fresh loveliness and everything is perfect.
So, I thought I could do it.
I really did.
I thought I could finally do something that I wanted to do and it would be a breeze.
And it would always smell like fresh linen in my living room.
What My LIving Room Was Going To Smell Like.
Most ladies said they washed the covers once every few months. One lady with a two children said she washed hers twice a month. I thought I could do that. Twice a month we would have a fresh smelling couch.
I bought the couches. They look beautiful. For the first month after we moved in, EVERY SINGLE CONTRACTOR who came in to finish up things or work on something in the house said,
White couches with kids, that’s brave.
Until I wanted to cry. Because, really, I didn’t want it to be brave. I wanted them to have read all those blog posts about how EASY it is and I wanted them to say,
White couches from Ikea? Oh, that’s brilliant! I heard they were really easy to take care of!
But no one said that.
We moved in the day after Thanksgiving, and we didn’t have a backyard. We just had a bunch of clay soil and sage brush. And the landscaping people said that they’d “probably” be able to get the sod in before it got too cold…well, this winter in Utah, it was cold for two weeks right before Christmas. It snowed. It was lovely.
And then, it melted.
And turned into mud and now it is 66 degrees in FEBRUARY and we don’t have a yard, because no one has sod in February in Utah.
But our trampoline is installed, so the children tromp out there half the time in bare feet and half dressed…and then they come in and JUMP ON THE COUCH.
For the first few weeks after we moved in, I would get on to them for climbing on the couch with their dirty little selves. I would sit there with a upholstery cleaner in one hand and stain remover in the other.
You Can See That My White Slipcover Looks A Little Dingy. And Note The Baby Blanket Covering The Ottoman, As It Is No Longer White Underneath.
A few days ago, when my nearly two year old was goofing around on the couch with her brother, she banged her lip into his gargantuan, extremely hard head and busted her lip.
The first words out of my mouth were not “Are you okay?” No. They were:
No! NO! Noooooo!!!! Please don’t get blood on the couch!!!
I felt like I was turning into a monster. Also, because I am pregnant, I believe I actually am a monster at this point.
So, today I finally decided to wash the slipcover to the sofa + chaise Ektorp. Unfortunately, the last time we washed it, I think we let it dry a little too long or something and putting it back on last time was a little, er…tricky.
Also, I made the fatal mistake of asking my husband to help me with the sofa cover.
He is a practical, logical man. For those of you who watch Star Trek, or ever did, he is somewhat like a mix between a Vulcan and a Borg, with a smidge of Klingon passion thrown in to make things exciting.
White Couch Slipcovers Are Inefficient. They Will Be Assimilated. Resistance is Futile.
He does not have any interest in anything that isn’t efficient.
To him, the color of the sofa is irrelevant. Unless, of course, he doesn’t like the color, then it is relevant.
But he is a practical man, a man who thinks there is no room in the world for slipcovers or washing them.
So, today, the sofa slipcover simply would not go back on. He was literally fighting for his life, as I gave him some “helpful hints,” like
Maybe if you put the top on first? Or maybe the bottom? Is there any way you could squish the arm stuffing into kind of fit over it?
But, sadly, it was like me trying to fit into the size 2 jeans I wore 17 years ago…now.
It just wasn’t going to happen.
So, there he was, sweating, gripping on to the white slipcover, flexing his very good looking arm muscles, and not swearing, which I think was admirable…
And then he just yanked and the whole thing ripped.
And I just decided that the white couch thing wasn’t going to happen.
I got in the car and drove to Ikea and sat down and stared at the white couch and realized that I was going to concede yet another thing to the barrel of mediocrity that seems to define my motherhood.
I had told myself that I was free, free of brown couches….FOREVER. So, as I sat in the showroom, sniffling, watching extremely thin pregnant ladies walk by in fashionable clothing (which made me feel even worse), I thought about replacing the ripped slipcover with another white one.
I reached up and touched the white slipcover sample longingly…and then I let it drop and dejectedly turned to the darker colors, and I saw the gray one.
Because I wasn’t going to do blue or brown. NEVER AGAIN.
And I walked over to the gray display corner sofa and I looked at it and thought, “It’s not a total surrender. Gray is classy. Gray is modern. Gray is…fabulous.”
And then I noticed that the gray was $100 more per slipcover than the brown.
I didn’t care. I was not going to let mud and clay and my husband’s fondness for efficiency turn me into someone with a brown couch.
And then I stood in Aisle 20 looking at Bin 19. I pulled the gray one down, and then the brown. I just stood there leaning over both of them, and I started crying.
Because I knew that no matter how long I stood there, I was going to pick the brown one. Because, I didn’t just have one couch, I had two, and I had an ottoman, and I couldn’t reasonably spend $270 more dollars just for the gray.
And I seriously thought that maybe those blog ladies were lying to me.
Maybe it wasn’t “a breeze” in real life to clean their couches. Maybe it wasn’t as lovely as they made it sound in their amazing reviews of the Ektorp couches.
Maybe their children didn’t have magnetic powers over clay and mud and snot and cereal and organic, non-fake-colored fruit snacks that only release in the presence of white slipcovers.
I don’t know.
I was hoping they were lying, because if they were honest and it WAS easy, why was it so hard for me? What was wrong with me?
I just stood there in Aisle 20 feeling like a complete and utter failure.
I felt like I was surrendering, giving up on excellence….after all, not only can I not keep those white couches white for more than 125 seconds after they are back on the couches, we don’t seem to do anything excellently.
Our scripture studies are less than stellar. I don’t even know if anyone can hear the actual verses we read.
We play the piano, kind of. But, we don’t perform…as a public service.
We sing…off key.
We eat kind of organic.
I was standing in Aisle 20 wondering what in the world I actually have accomplished to the point of excellence, and I couldn’t think of anything.
I don’t think anyone is ever going to call me up and say my child is a pillar of the community.
I am never, ever going to be nominated as “Mother of the Year.”
I can’t even stick to a menu plan.
But, I left Ikea with my brown slipcovers and I thought, “Well, you know, Misty, not everyone can be excellent. Some people are just average.”
And then I really prayed, because I really wanted to know if we were just destined to be excellent at being average.
And I think our family does do something well…we love each other. And we love each other fiercely.
We love books and good things and quiet nights and stars and the moon and the outside.
We love excellently.
Can that be a thing? I want it to count….
We have conflict, oh, yes. A lot of it. We are all passionate people. But we love–unabashedly and honestly and without any pretense.
I don’t even know if that counts for a lot in the world, but I am hanging onto it as I take off the white slipcovers and put on the brown ones…and I know I won’t care as much about the mud and the pencil markings and all of that, and I, for a moment, feel guilty at the relief I feel.
I was trying so hard to maintain excellence in that one thing, and I gave up, but as I sit here tonight, I wonder if it’s not the good kind of surrender…the kind of surrender that says,
I can wait for white couches. And while some people can handle it and are good at it, I can accept that I am not one of them.
And I wonder if in that surrender, I can accept it and ask God to show me where I can be more excellent, because I don’t think He is too concerned about me being excellent at having white couches. I think He wants me to work on other things.
I think maybe He wants our family to work on being excellent at being like Sam…
“Sam: I wonder if we’ll ever be put into songs or tales.
Sam: I wonder if people will ever say, ‘Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring.’ And they’ll say ‘Yes, that’s one of my favorite stories. Frodo was really courageous, wasn’t he, Dad?’ ‘Yes, my boy, the most famousest of hobbits. And that’s saying a lot.’
Frodo: You’ve left out one of the chief characters – Samwise the Brave. I want to hear more about Sam. Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam.
Sam: Now Mr. Frodo, you shouldn’t make fun; I was being serious.
Frodo: So was I.
Not my Jayne. My Jayne would crawl into the pantry and eat goldfish crackers straight out of the box and get them all over the floor.
And then she would look up at me with those cute pig tails and get away with it.
No. The Jane.
Ms. Austen, to be more exact.
I was at my sister’s home the other day and I saw a book on her bookshelf titled, “What Would Jane Do?” and knew that I must have one of my own.
I Simply Had To Have It.
I ordered it from Amazon and as soon as I had opened it, my daughters snatched it from me. I had to fight them to get it back.
Ms. Austen has gotten me through long winters and hard times, and I love her for it.
I have seen a lot of people posting on my facebook wall lately this little hashtag thingy:
Referring to essential oils, but I have to say I think that sometimes I think a better one would be:
Seriously. When I am having a bad day, there is nothing quite as soothing as a hot bath, chocolate and Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne:
“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight and a half years ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which over powers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating in”
“I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”
It transports me and I feel better.
Or what about if I am mad at John?
Several items come to mind:
What are men to rocks and mountains?
Angry people are not always wise.
I have not the pleasure of understanding you.
I also take comfort in this piece of wisdom:
Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.
It doesn’t end with Ms. Austen, of course. The first page of The Belgariad is an old friend:
The first thing the boy Garion remembered was the kitchen at Faldor’s farm. For all the rest of his life he had a special warm feeling for kitchens and those peculiar sounds and smells that seemed somehow to combine into a bustling seriousness that had to do with love and food and comfort and security and, above all, home. No matter how high Garion rose in life, he never forgot that all his memories began in that kitchen.
It’s almost as if part of me was raised in that kitchen. And no matter what is going on in my life, when I read those words, I am in a place and time that never existed in reality, but is more real to me than some of my own memories.
Josephine March is as real to me as my own sisters, and I have read and reread her adventures and been inspired by her, and commiserated with her:
A quick temper, sharp tongue, and restless spirit were always getting her into scrapes, and her life was a series of ups and downs, which were both comic and pathetic.
Yes, Jo and I are kindred spirits.
Narnia is just as any place on earth, and, in fact, sometimes moreso.
(We even have a room called “Spare Oom” in our house right now. It does not, however, contain a wardrobe.)
Growing up, I imagined I was a queen of Narnia, and that no matter what happened, I should act like one, because “once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.”
One of my biggest teenage crushes was Sherlock Holmes, the literary character.
I still love being able to read Beatrice and Benedick whenever I get upset with my husband:
Benedick: “What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?
Beatrice: Is it possible disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick?”
I sometimes wonder if I have been through a lot over the last few years, because it doesn’t feel like that much compared to other people.
But my friends say….and John says that I have.
And when my friends also tell me my “adrenals are shot” (Is that a thing now? Because everyone tells me that…and from what they say causes adrenals to be “shot” mine are long dead these many years…) and my neurologist gives me unpleasant news, and when I am really lonely for Joy, sometimes it’s not an oil or medication or a trip to Fiji or whatever that I need.
Some Of My Favorites
Sometimes I just need a good printed paper book and some quiet in a nice comfy chair and a snack.
I don’t know if there are any studies on what that can do for your adrenals, or your endorphins, and I am not sure it helps with someone’s “poor gait,” but it may.
Maybe it’s because most of my problems are in my head (literally! 🙂 ), that I feel like distracting and inspiring my mind actually changes my emotions and feelings and somehow actually physically helps….
For me, it’s some of the best therapy in the world.
It’s the beginning of a new chapter in the adventure called my life.
Actually, I am starting a completely new novel, I think.
After much consideration, I realize that I am just wrapping up book two in the series, which is the one where it seems like everyone is waiting and nothing really happens and it ends kind of with a “What? That’s not an ending!” because book three is coming and that’s where all the stuff starts happening again.
The last few months have been the end of book two, where things don’t seem to be going right, and victory is not eminent.
In book two, people start arguing, no one is really sure that they are going to eventually win. Is the sacrifice worth it? It seems like it might not be.
Most people think the heroes are crazy for even trying, and some of the good guys even get betrayed…and the bad guys, well, the bad guys are living it up, thinking,
We are so winning! They are so going to lose! And then we will rule the world!
So, yeah, that’s been my life the past few months.
There are victories in book two, but they don’t feel like victories and they don’t look like victories. They look for all the world like failures.
My victories look like whining children who don’t want to do their homework or their chores and me crying in my room because I can’t stand it anymore but I am sticking to my guns, because I am not going to be taken down by 4 1/2 hours of whining.
That’s a victory that doesn’t feel like a victory because at the end of the day I end up watching Netflix to lull my mind into oblivion. But, I keep trying.
And, in an amazing plot twist, at the end of book two, I cancelled Netflix.
Way to go me, for being brave and all.
But is it really a victory? Will it work?
Will I be able to maintain my discipline and not be sucked into three seasons of ____________ in two nights because my kids won’t stop complaining about who has to sweep and mop?
My victory looks like me in yoga pants and a ratty t-shirt walking on the treadmill at 1.9 to 2.1 miles per hour as I try to maintain my composure when the SMeE headache slams me like a freight train and I keep walking.
This Is Not What It Looks Like
And my hair isn’t done, and I don’t have any make up on and I don’t look good in yoga pants.
Especially when I am also five months pregnant.
And seriously, I am sweating at 1.9 miles per hour. Mostly because of the headache, but still.
I do have some dang cute Altras, though.
This Is More Like It… Only With Hot Pink Altras.
My victory looks like having friends who love me anyway–even after they’ve seen me “work out.”
My victory looks like dinner on the table even though it isn’t all organic and it may or may not be completely balanced and/or visually appealing.
That’s okay. We’re not known to be completely balanced, either.
My victory looks like, “Well, I know I really messed this up so completely that I don’t even know if I can ever fix it, but I will try again tomorrow.”
My victory looks like me explaining to my husband that I am merely having an emotional reaction rather than telling him a) I think he’s a total jerk, and b) I despise and loathe him.
(Which is totally and patently not how I really feel, but that’s what is going on in my head when he tries to tell me solutions to the problems I am venting about…Also, it’s usually how I feel when I am the one being a jerk and when I loathe and despise myself.)
My victory looks like pajamas on the couch and a really ugly low ponytail. Because, hey, I made it to the couch today!
My victories look so bad that they wouldn’t make it to Facebook. They would be flagged as inappropriate.
Today Is Not That Day.
I know I will have the kind of victories that look great again someday. But the amazing, stand-up-with-the-crowd-and-cheer victories can’t come without the messy, ugly, lonely, failing type of victories that come along a lot more frequently…
So, here’s to the victories that look like failures.
Here’s to the times when you can’t stand on top of the mountain, surrounded by positive energy and sparkles and rainbows, but you are still standing at the end of the day.
Yeah, That’s Not Happening Right Now, Either.
Here’s to the times when you don’t make it across the finish line, but you survived.
Here’s to the times when you couldn’t meditate and feel the mystic energies of the Mother Universe and live off of light and goodness and dehydrated kale….but at least you are not washing down Ben and Jerry’s with a six pack of Diet Coke.
So Not Happening…Probably Ever.
These are the “book two” victories and no matter how small, they count. They count so much more than we realize.
But here is to the beginning of book three and the wonderful, magical possibilities that await the vast expanse of this undiscovered country that is my adventure called life….starting now. And I am so happy you are here to be part of it!
Lately, I have been feeling like I am in front of one of those magnifying mirrors under flourescent lighting. Only instead of it being one for my face, it’s a full length mirror.
Scary Magnifying Mirror
It’s not pretty.
I feel like I am not only seeing imperfections I was very well aware I had, but I am also seeing blemishes and ugliness that I didn’t even know existed as part of me.
The other day, for example, I freely admitted out loud to my friend that I don’t like M_____, I just said, “You know, I really don’t like her. I’ve tried to, and I just can’t. What is wrong with me?”
And I have thought about it for two weeks. How can I just not like someone?
I tried to blame it on the blood moon and Mercury retrograde, but to be honest, this has been going on for some time.
I finally realized that it’s not that I don’t like M____, I just don’t trust her.
There is a difference. I don’t trust her with my heart because my intuition, or my little spark, or maybe even the spiritual part of me, has warned me not to trust her. I am sure there are plenty of other people who can trust her.
And it doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong with either one of us, it just means we probably aren’t compatible. Or something.
I don’t know why it bugged me so much. I think it’s because I naturally just want to trust everyone, but that’s really not something we can do. And sometimes I forget that I can love someone without trusting someone.
But, how come it took me like four years to figure this out? Seriously, I’ve been feeling guilty about not liking her for that long, and now I realize that I like her just fine.
I’m so dysfunctional sometimes.
And I just have this problem of being cranky when things don’t go my way. I have been cranky all October and it has been ELEVEN DAYS.
October is my favorite month, but it’s not my favorite this year and I am trying to convince myself that it is, but it isn’t.
And the weather is perfect and the leaves are beautiful and I live in the best place for October (outside of Tetonia, Idaho, that is), and I am just being so ridiculously whiney.
And then people write me to ask me to write about homeschooling, and I’m like,
“Seriously? I am kind of making this up as I go along. I mean, there is a general ‘plan’ but it’s pretty general….we’re just kind of flying by the seat of our homeschool pants.”
And then I panic because to me, it’s not really that complicated, so then I start thinking,
“What if my homeschool is not complicated enough to be successful? What if I am doing it wrong because I am not worried about it all the time? I don’t even want to go to a seminar or a conference or a curriculum fair. Obviously, maybe something isn’t right. It can’t be this easy! Everyone else is freaking out about it, and what if I should be, too?!?!?!?!?”
What I Need
I am not being very grateful that our house is never going to be finished. I am going to be homeless for the holidays. Waaaaaah. Poor me. Why don’t I get a waaambulance?
Seriously. I am being a gigantic baby.
And I finally did a real walk. A real live for real exercising walk.
It was four days ago and I still feel like I am dying.
It was exhilarating, though. There was one point where I seriously thought they might have to call a helicopter to get me off the mountain.
Next Time It Will Be Me, Not Bessie.
My friend wasn’t even breathing abnormally. I sounded like I needed oxygen.
My legs still hurt. And I am seriously thinking about getting those old people walking cane/sticks. I don’t even feel embarrassed about that. Shouldn’t I feel embarrassed?
I am tired of trying to make salad.
I ordered Pizza Hut for my kids twice this week. I now know my belief system in organic healthy food can be compromised by living in a three bedroom condo for four months.
Am I that unsteady? Where is my integrity?
I don’t want to hear about more things I need to do so I can be happy. I just want to be happy without having to do anything today.
My children asked a question about Halley’s Comet today and I told them I had seen it when I was younger.
And then I realized that maybe I won’t be around to see it a second time.
It’s supposed to be here again in 2061. I thought how my kids will see it, but maybe I won’t. And I definitely won’t see it when it comes around after that.
It made me feel incredibly small and insignificant and kind of melancholy for a moment. I really had this brief thought that I wanted to rebel against death and mortality and not being here for Halley’s Comet. And why does the universe have to be so immense? Why does it have to make me feel so inconsequential?
And then, I remembered that I am not really going to be gone in the way that it felt like for that moment. I will still exist and I will see Halley’s Comet. Just from a different vantage point. But, really, it made me feel homesick somehow.
One of my dear, old friends knows how I feel and says it better than I could:
O ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me; 5
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
And as Mr. Whitman whispers to me, I feel a stirring in the part of myself that I believe is made of stardust, and I feel part of myself yearning toward the heavens and wanting to shake off the foolishness of my worries and all of the silly minutiae that have been distracting my mind from really living.
And I realize that it’s okay to have a bad day–or even a bad eleven days–as long as I remember that I am part of this amazing play!
Maybe this act is the one where I am going to be cranky and then shake it off in time for intermission.
Most importantly, I think I just need to be patient with myself and take a deep breath and look up.
Because I just found out that, even though Halley won’t return until 2061, this month, part of what used to be the comet will be showering the night sky.
It’s almost like Heaven was giving me some encouragement, don’t you think?
Whenever I was “on property” (that’s insider talk for being somewhere at the Walt DisneyWorld Resorts…), I would always get a thrill when people would say,
Are you a cast member?
Sometimes people wouldn’t even ask that. They would just ask me where in the park I worked. And when I would tell them that I didn’t work there, nine times out of ten they would try to convince me to apply for a job there.
You just have that look. You just seem like a cast member.
They would say to me. Of course, I would just be beside myself–it would make my day.
As time went by, I could generally count on it happening about once each time I was on property.
Maybe I Have The Look…
I loved it.
I think the “magic” of Disney–the kindness, the listening-to-inspiration-to-help-people habit, the smiling, the genuine interest in other people’s having a good time–the “pixie dust” if you will–I think part of it was already in me, but being there, I just soaked in all of it that was around me.
Pixie dust is in my veins.
I realize now, that I have been infected and it’s incurable.
And I have been thinking about this question for a long time–
Are you a cast member?
Antonio, in The Merchant of Venice says,
I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
A stage where every man must play a part…
And I have been thinking of my life and thinking about how it really is like a stage–the world–this mortal experience–and how there have been times in my life that I really wanted to watch from the sidelines, and there have even been times when I have found myself offstage, in the shadows.
I have thought about how often in my life, I have forgotten my lines or said them wrong. I have thought about how much I did not commit to the play.
And then, after the spinal meningitis, everything changed.
I embraced the story, and I agreed to be cast in whatever part Heaven chose to put me in, and I decided I was going to devote all of my soul to it.
I agreed to be a cast member.
I signed on the greatest, longest running show on earth–the play of humanity. The play of love and life.
And the audience is everyone I meet–and I want them to be moved, touched, happier, inspired…
And the other cast members with whom I am closest–my family–I want them to really feel that the backstage me is even better. Which is hard. I am working on it.
I don’t know what parts I will play in the future, but I do know that I will play them well. I know that for the many things I have suffered, there will be more suffering at some point–and I know that there will be more joy.
There is always that stage fright–that few seconds where I panic and think, “What am I doing here?” but I know also that as soon as I take that first step into the lights, it goes away and there is a kind of strange calm that washes over me as I say my lines and become one with the scene and the characters.
At Disney, cast members like Nadine say things like this:
“I love mostly that it’s family to family interaction. Their families are coming to visit our family and they’re leaving their worries at the door kind of like we leave our worries in our cars and we come into work. We’re there to create magic…
“Come to this job knowing it’s more than just a job, it’s an experience. It is like you’re on a nonstop show. You are on stage you are personifying everything that Walt Disney is supposed to be. You’re not coming to work just for yourself, you are the company.”
I’ve thought a lot about that.
I love that as a cast member of Heaven’s play, it’s family to family. We are all in this together. We are all one, big family of brothers and sisters.
What I didn’t realize was how much of a difference it has made to leave my worries behind and truly get to work, because I, I am here to create magic.
The kind of magic that isn’t just an illusion–but deeper magic, “from before the dawn of time,” the magic that comes when I act as Christ and work for Him and I become as He is, even for the briefest moments…
It is really a nonstop, fantastic, incredible show.
And when I am personifying everything Heaven is supposed to be, I become part of it. Not just when the sun is shining, but even in the rain, during the hurricanes, and in the midst of earthquakes.
I love being a cast member.
I love this part of the play.
And I have found, as I have been playing my part, my heart is so much…bigger and lighter.
As Tico, another cast member said:
“It’s kind of funny – sometimes when you make magic, the magic comes back to you.”
I am happily settled into my condo with all of my many loves so very close to me that I can almost hear all of them breathing at night from my room. Actually, most nights, they stay up far longer than I do, talking and giggling and goofing around until long after I am coherent.
At first I thought it was ironic that we were in “Building Y” as in “Why did I think this was a good idea?” But, I have come to appreciate it.
I am thankful that we are on the third floor because it is great physical therapy for me. Sure, there are no fireworks at the end of the day, but there is something absolutely spectacular about a full moon rising over mountains. It’s ethereal and full of a kind of mystery that makes my heart beat faster and makes me feel like I am part of it–the moon, the mountains, the rocks….the earth.
Moonrise Over Timp
Whenever I have to make a 27 point turn to get my 15 passenger van into the little covered parking space in the very compact parking lot of buildings W, X, Y , and Z, I wonder if it isn’t preparing me for a future in parking 747s at the airport or something. Who knows?
I miss my special things. All of our belongings are in storage until September.
I wonder if Moses or Miriam ever missed their special things they left behind.
Not because they were materialistic, but because there is a comfort in using your favorite knife to chop vegetables every day, in seeing the same pictures on the wall…in knowing that if you ever need a friend or an adventure, your books are right around the corner, tucked quietly into their snug little bookshelves, just waiting for you.
I am glad I am here because I think it’s time for me to settle. I am feeling grown up–like it’s time for me to quit going on adventures and be the one that is home.
Maybe I am feeling old.
I have always been the one to jump at the chance to go sailing on some uncharted course–to walk forward in the dark, excited at the prospect of undiscovered country. I have always had it in me–some inexplicable urge to journey on….
I feel like I am making the transition from trying to be the hero to being the round, kindly woman who has a warm bed and a hot meal for the wayfaring travelers who are going to save the world.
I am such a romantic idealist. My husband is, too. We got married and wanted to do Something Amazing.
Now, we just want to be Home.
I am coming to realize that perhaps I never really was meant to be a hero. Perhaps I was always meant to be what I am becoming….
What I Thought I Was. Home Sweet Home, Samantha Shirley
It’s hard to realize that I am not the heroine I thought I was. I really thought I was going to be forever young and forever impetuous, forever wanting to be close to the center of, well, everything.
But, the years and the children and the living and the dying and…well, the realness of everything–it has burned off the pride and the self-deception and left me with nothing but my core. And my core is not what I had daydreamed, and my goals and wishes and hopes were silly when I take into account who I really am.
I am sitting in Y9.
It’s not very heroic, is it?
I’m not climbing Everest, or making quilts, or advocating for….anything. I am not even politically active right now. I have not posted even one status on Facebook about the president or education or even evil Monsanto.
I am concentrating on clean sheets and warm beds. Hot meals and kind words. On prayers and hugs and figuring out why this little person is sad today and why that bigger person isn’t talking much at dinner.
I am trying to purge our family of our whining and pride.
Mostly, I am trying to purge it in me, because when it’s gone in me, it has a tendency to be gone in my children. It hurts me to admit that, but it is the truth.
Climbing Mother, Brian Kershisnik
I want to move into our new home with nothing left but my core. I want to walk through the door and be completely comfortable in my role as Mother–and not the mom who is battling dragons and wandering the world.
I want to walk through the door and leave behind the little girl who thought she was the main character, and be the Woman who knows she is best suited as the comic relief, the best friend, the keeper of secrets and keeper of the castle.
Home, Katie Berggren
The Woman who knows she will never be the center of attention but will always be the center of comfort and healing…the Woman who can be brave enough to look herself in the eye and admit she doesn’t need to be what she once wanted, but what she is destined to be.
I am sitting in Y9, wondering if I will be ready.
I am sitting here wondering if I can somehow conquer the many days when I sneak off to the laundry room to have a good cry.
Wondering if I can become settled with my core. Wondering if I can accept me for who I really am.
We can do no great things–only small things with great love.
I used to think I knew what that meant. I am only beginning to realize and understand what it means to do small things with great love.
Mother and Child
The clean sheets, the warm beds…the sleepless nights when I am drawn by necessity to the throne of God, completely bare in my weakness, crying in faith that He will give me what I need to be true to what I really am….
I am an armour bearer. Every time I notice a lonely look, a trembling lip and respond with a listening heart and warmth and kindness and good, every time I say no to something that will distract me, I am giving my loves the greatest protection they could ever have to go out and face the evil that threatens them–love and a sense of Home.
She Will Find What Is Lost, Brian Kershisnik
There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives – the pain, the loneliness.
We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family.
Find them. Love them. –Mother Teresa
What if that is all I am supposed to do? What if it terrifies me that it is so simple, yet seems so unfathomable and impossible–to simply love them? To have the courage to see the loneliness in my family and simply be Home–to comfort and cheer and heal?
But then, there is God in the night after the wakeful prayers and the long wrestling, and He tells me that this is my destiny.
To find them and love them. Even if I have to find them over and over again.
I hope I am brave enough to be who I really am.
Maybe in a way, that is the most heroic thing of all to do–to be what God wants instead of what you thought you wanted. To bow and to bend and not be ashamed…
To Bow and To Bend…
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when you find yourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
‘Til by turning, turning we come ’round right.
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be true,
‘Tis the gift to labor ’til the day is through.
And when you find yourself in the place so fine,
‘Twill be in the cool of the birch and the pine.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
‘Til by turning, turning we come ’round right.
‘Tis the gift to be joyful, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift, ’tis the gift, ’tis the simple gift to be!
And when you find yourself filled with pure delight,
The gift to be simple has led you aright.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
‘Til by turning, turning we come ’round right.
I am back in Utah.
Back to the beginning of when I started to really write.
It feels strange.
I think it’s funny how I kept feeling like everything was different–but it’s not Utah that’s different–it’s me who has changed.
Going back to the ocean was good for me.
I grew up on the coast, and it was good to go to my roots–the sea is in my blood–and the sun and the salt and the water healed my body and spirit in ways the mountains could not. As I sat on the beach and looked out at forever one night, watching the moon and the stars and all eternity seemed within my grasp, I felt connected to them in a way that is inexplicable.
I felt my whole being melting into all of it and for a moment the veil between time and no time was thin and I felt Heaven.
I miss that.
I realize, coming back, that Florida taught me to play again. I miss my fireworks, let me tell you.
I used to cry during Wishes. And Illuminations–especially at Christmas. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by “Let There Be Peace On Earth” accompanied by literally breath taking pyrotechnics.
I never was very moved by Fantasmic.
Pocahontas? I don’t get it. Why not Peter Pan and Neverland?
But, oh, how I look back and think how very lucky I was to learn to walk in a place where everyone treated even me like a beautiful princess.
I miss that, too.
But, I have it with me. All those experiences are now part of my Misty-ness. And I walk around with a slightly befuddled smile on my face because the love and the happiness and the, well, magic–it’s inside of me, and I can’t help myself.
Not even complaining about the SMeE. (Well, not yet, anyway.)
No, it hasn’t shaken the pixie dust off yet.
Maybe I just found Joy and I can handle her being with me without crying when I feel her near.
I don’t know.
Back To The Beginning–Our Old and New Home
I had some news the other day. We took Noah to see his old pediatrician who managed all the testing and everything before. I think before he was just trusting that I felt something was off, even though he couldn’t see it.
But, this time, it was different. This time, he said,
Yes, something is wrong.
And it was hard for me. I felt that same familiar shortness of breath. The feeling that the room was closing in. My mouth got dry and I don’t know why it bothered me so much. I have known for awhile that something was off.
But, I could always say it was just me. Just me being an overworried mom.
But, when he said it, it seemed more real.
And I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.
But, even with all of that, I feel peace and calm and joy.
Because I know I am in the hands of the living God and so is Noah. And so are you. And it is a gloriously terrifying thing to be in His hands, because it will always, always be an adventure.
Future Home of J&M Ranch.
So I am back to the beginning, and the adventure has begun.
We are building a home, we are helping Noah, and we are stumbling along trying to be a beautiful family, although I believe having only two bathrooms may strain sibling relations until they work something out–which may take legal arbitration.
I am back to the beginning but I am older and maybe wiser.
Maybe just more tired.
Maybe just more aware of pain and suffering and it makes me feel beauty more deeply and I look at the sun and it smiles at me, and the stars laugh and I know that even through pain, there is a reason to brim with overflowing gratitude at the miracle that is life.
The messy, messy miracle. The miracle that leaves tear stains down my cheeks sometimes. The miracle that brings me back to the beginning and makes everything different and new and exciting and scary and amazing.
We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full.
Maybe it is different because I am seeing my life, not through my eyes alone, but through the eyes of others–through the eyes of so many others I have met because I could not walk and could not do what I used to do.
Sitting in waiting rooms looking at other people waiting–I began to ask God to let me see through their eyes. To never forget what it feels like to struggle to stand or step or move or speak or hear or see or breathe.
The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is. –Marcel Proust
Maybe it is different because the ocean got back into me and the sound of the waves echoes in my heart and turns my thoughts constantly to He who rules the stormy seas and then calms them. I can’t help but think of Him, hearing the roar of the water beating against the sand in an eternal symphony of beautiful, simple majesty.
I am finally home.
And it’s not a place. It is me. I am home.
It is in me. All the things that make me feel like I can breathe deep and wear my pajamas and not put on make up and I will be loved anyway.
All along, it was in me–I was always home, I just didn’t know it.