eight years

eight years

It’s been eight years since Joy died.

Most of the time it feels like it happened last week, or a few days ago…and sometimes it seems like it was another life, a watercolor in abstract.

So, this year I have been trying to get it together again. Every year I think this is the year that I am going to get it together and then I don’t quite make it. And then I realize that this is probably one of those things I need to learn: that life is all about trying to get it together and not quite making it but forging ahead anyway.

Joy's Flowers

Joy’s Flowers

I had so many plans, ladies. And I often have thought this year that if she hadn’t died, well, then everything really would have been just the way I planned. Well, maybe not JUST the way I planned it, but pretty close and pretty near perfect. Of course, what-might-have-beens are so very much easier to imagine that what actually happened, I guess.

I realize now that there is no such thing as the perfect plan. I don’t think God or Heaven or the Universe is designed so that our plans, no matter how well thought out, well executed, or inspired will work out just perfectly. No, there has to be the conflict and the sometimes miraculous resolution…there has to be character development and an interesting plot. It can’t just work out without any excitement.

I guess it can if you decide to never act, to sit and stare at a wall all day or something. That could never work for me because I have the attention span of a squirrel. So, yeah. I have to be doing things and chasing things and…living. And if we decide to live, well, then the plans have to be sacrificed and changed and amended and thrown out and sometimes they almost work, or they work out of order or something. It’s kind of a mystery to me how it all works, but it does.

So, although I know there is no perfect plan, I still make plans. They are just strange, open ended, seemingly nonsensical plans. I now understand a little why I read and re-read Alice in Wonderland so many times growing up. There was something so familiar about the whole madness of Wonderland. Something so comforting about it.

Mary-Blair_Alice-colors-980x749

I just got this comforting feeling of familiarity and this feeling that the world in which I live is truly as mad as the Hatter, and as ridiculous as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and as insane as the Caucus Race. Sometimes I feel big, sometimes insignificant. And, I am really glad that Alice made it out okay.

So my plans are more like “Wonderland” plans. I always felt awkward when people would tell me to plan out what I was going to do for the next 20 years, or if they said to focus on what life I wanted and then I would have it. I guess that’s true to a point, but eventually the Universe will throw you a curveball, because if there is one thing that is a constant in this existence, it’s curveballs.

Anomalies.

Random, inexplicable things that aren’t random because they are planned in specificity by an overarching Power, but that feel incredibly strange as we experience them in our limited understanding.

You know, I used all of my energy and chakra power and zen oneness with the universe to attempt to make a perfect life, and it doesn’t work that way. I realize now that all of that stuff is powerful, but none of it is all-powerful.

c.s.-lewis-quote---practice-hospitality.---blog.---god-sharp39-s-best.

We can change so many things about our lives and what the outcome is, but there are some things we just can’t change or avoid. They are there and they are immovable, regardless of how good we are, or how positive we are or how many times we meditate a day. Some things are just there for our own development and to create a conflict so we can find the resolution and become stronger.

I know that we can sometimes change the nature of the immovable things. But sometimes, the best we can do is just get through it. Sometimes that is all we can do.

So this year, instead of making hard and fast plans to “get it together” I have just decided to let that all go.

mary-blair-alice-in-wonderland-3

I now have vague, nonsensical, sometimes even preposterous plans for my year that I know can change or metamorphosize or disintegrate into nothingness at any moment. And I think I am finally almost all the way okay with that. Maybe. I am definitely not going to be getting it together this year. I am probably not going to reach some state of nirvana with my kids and homeschool and writing and my marriage and everything. And that is okay.

It’s really okay.

I often don’t realize that due to the nature of this absurd world in which we live, it is amazing that we have the peace and tranquility that we do. In the midst of celebrating unbirthdays, wondering why a raven is like a writing desk, and looking for a competent lizard with a ladder, we are mostly content. It’s a miracle, really. It’s hard to see it, but it is.

It’s a beautiful life. It really is. It’s a messy, unpredictable, who-knows-what’s-going-happen, brilliant and blinding and beautiful life.

copyright-2

i forgot how big

i forgot how big

So, I have a confession to make. My sisters and I love the movie “Joe Versus the Volcano.”

It’s like we are in this little club of extreme geeks who are the only ones who will get it when we say blankly to each other,

I have no response to that.

Or

I know he can get the job but can he DO the job? I’m NOT arguing that with you. I’m not arguing that with YOU.

Or

Well, I don’t know what to say. You tell me you’re dying. You tell me you’re jumping into a volcano. My mind is a blank.

Joe-Volcano_1200_746_81_s

Or that we all know the answer to “Where should we go?” is “Away from the things of man.”

And that we should never really go anywhere without a waterproof steamer trunk. Or four. (A sure way to live to be a thousand years old.)

There is language, so for my fellow LDS friends, please don’t judge my eternal salvation on the fact that I have a ssoft spot for this film.

I also wonder if I may lose a friendship over this confession. I mean, it might be the final straw for some of my readers. (As if I haven’t been more offensive on an almost daily basis on Facebook. ūüôā )

I am willing to risk it. I am just a girl writing a blog, sharing her deepest secrets on the internet…

But, here I am thinking about Joe. He was diagnosed with a brain cloud, which apparently is terminal. So he quits his job and sets out for a grand adventure which is supposed to culminate with him jumping into a volcano.

JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO, Tom Hanks, Abe Vigoda, 1990

JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO, Tom Hanks, Abe Vigoda, 1990

And just today I thought it would be nice to remember what Joe remembered during his journey.

Because the people residing on this old planet earth–well, a lot of us¬†seem to have forgotten that there is a Bigger Something watching out for us, and that we are kind of all in this together. All in this together, floating on a fragile, blue beautiful sphere in the immensity of forever.

We need to wake up and remember that there is also something bigger than us that moves in glory and beauty all around us and that turns all bad things to good for us if we let It. We need to remember that there is balm at the end of bitterness, because it is Truth. And it is Bigger than anything that can happen here on this little blue sphere we call home.

Patricia told Joe something her father taught her:

My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.

So, here is an idea for all of you who are feeling discouraged and disheartened and scared.

Look up.

Quit reading my blog for a second, and go outside and if it’s night, look up. Find the moon. Find the stars. Find the Milky Way.

Look up and wake up.

And remember.

Remember how big.

Remember that in the vastness of the universe, that Universe loves us. Loves us infinitely and perfectly and that there is truly, in spite of our limited understanding, a Greater Power that conquers all evil and vanquishes all sorrow. And that while we may feel like we are being beaten in a battle that is impossible to win, there are powers that we cannot see that will always turn the tide and that good and love truly can conquer all.

That’s what Joe did.

He was in the middle of the ocean, starving and thirsty, and then, the moon started to rise.

Have you ever seen the moon rise over the ocean? I am not one for “bucket lists”, but I think we should all get to see the moon rise over the ocean at least once. Or maybe over a mountain, or a sea of tall grass…

When Joe saw the moon, he remembered.

He remembered how big the Creator or whatever Higher Power you refer to…he remembered how big.¬†

Dear God, whose name I do not know – thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG… thank you. Thank you for my life.

 

visionary

visionary

I watched a short film today about what appeared at first to be an insane person who was riding a bike on the ridge of this cliff and he climbed up a pinnacle with his bike–literally into the clouds. It was seriously insane.

Don’t get me wrong. There were some parts that looked like, “Wow. That would be fun.” But mostly, it looked like he might be crazy.

And then I kept watching, and I realized he wasn’t crazy.

He just saw a path where others saw none.

It was as clear to him as the path outside my front door.

And no one else can see it.

And I thought about myself, because sometimes I think maybe I am crazy.

And sometimes other people tell me that they think I may be crazy.

And it’s not insanity. It’s just seeing a path that no one else can see.

I have seen that path lit up before me for as long as I can remember being on this planet earth, and I have followed it, even though sometimes no one else could see.

Sometimes, I think the path looks pleasant and everyone approves. And sometimes the path is a little harder to see, and other people may not understand because they don’t see it. That’s where I get to use the light of faith to make it brighter, and I can do just fine.

Even when it looks like I am crazy.

I think all the dreamers and the people who try to really, truly live have paths only they can see. I think it’s part of what can make us great–the following it even when it seems insanely difficult or impossible.

And somehow, we do make it.

So, here’s to all of you who are on the cliff and are going faster than you think may be safe and you are climbing up the face of the rock carrying your burdens and your joys–here’s to you for staying on the path that no one else can see, even if they think you’re crazy.

Try not to worry too much when it gets a little scary. If it is your True Path, then Heaven will not let you fall.

Danny Macaskill, Inaccessible Pinnacle

Danny Macaskill, Inaccessible Pinnacle

And in the midst of the crazy, don’t forget to stand up on that pinnacle and take in the amazing view. It is something only those who follow the unseen-to-others paths can see.

In the end, we will all end up Home, somewhere just as beautiful as the Island of Skye. And we will look back and everyone will see all the paths and how they crisscrossed and meandered in and around and through each other and how it was all meant to be and how none of us were crazy, we were just…visionary. And faithful. And true.

And hopefully, in the end, we can also all have Scottish accents.

drawing misty

drawing misty

The other day I watched a time lapse video of someone using pastels to draw a portrait.

At first, it looked stupid. And it definitely didn’t look like a person.

And if it hadn’t been in time lapse, I would have quit watching, because I don’t have a very high tolerance for random YouTube videos.

But all of a sudden, it seemed like there was a person.

And then It seemed like she was nearly jumping off the page.

And then, I thought, “Wow. That’s a portrait!”

And I thought it was over.

But, no. The video went on. I was only about halfway through it.

For the rest of the video, the artist added little tiny additions of depth here and there, and minute details that improved the portrait until it was a living creation.

And I thought about my life and how I have been so frustrated lately with, well–everything.

I had surgery six months ago. I had a baby ten months ago. I had another baby almost three years ago. Three years ago I almost died. And four years ago I had another baby. And another one five years ago, and another one seven years ago. And eight years ago, Joy went back to heaven.

I have had quite the decade.

So, I forget about that. I forget that I have had stuff. And maybe that stuff might have interfered with having the life I thought I wanted to live and all the Great Amazing Things I was going to accomplish with my family.

And six and a half months ago, I thought that BY NOW I would be totally recovered from EVERYTHING and back into the swing of things and on my way to getting my life back…to getting my family back to where I was before, on a¬†fire breathing unicorn exuding nothing but pure awesomeness.

dfc3fd463453b5b63485f5bc57b2ba3c

Today, it felt like I was so not that.

When I first started this journey of rebuilding my life, I thought everything I did looked stupid.

Nothing resembled what I wanted to have happen.

And when it started resembling something not totally horrible, I thought, “Okay, I will give it some more time.”

And here I am not even nearly half way through and there are days that I catch glimpses of the portrait of my life and think, “Okay, well, it looks like a portrait!” And I¬†excitedly exclaim to Heaven:

“Hey, it’s looking good! I think we are done here!”

But, no.

Heaven sees where the bits of color and depth and detail need to be added and it isn’t even close to done.

So¬†I stomp my foot and demand that somehow Heaven make this part speed up. My problem is I want these hard parts with the “finish” work to be done in time lapse.

I want the hard parts to be a quick two minute montage in the movie of my life, so I can get to the happy endings.

What I need to do is look back and remember that there have been many happy endings already, after the trial of the painstaking detail work that seems to take far too long.

I know there will be many more happy endings and each portrait in the series that is my life will get better and more beautiful until in the end, it is a masterpiece.

I don’t think I will ever quite give up the fantasy that somehow we could just make the hard parts that¬†quick montage with an upbeat, hopeful song that reassures the viewer (and myself!) that all will be well in approximately two and a half minutes.

I still want that.

But what I want more is the creation of something so beautiful that it will be a masterpiece. So, I will be patient and trust Heaven and not give up on myself halfway through.

You know, I think we are all¬†going to be amazing and gorgeous and wonderful and absolutely breathtaking…and we will get through the hard parts. And in the end, it really will be time lapse¬†and all the hard parts will seem like only a moment and we will¬†see¬†the finished product and be awestruck at what we have become.

tumblr_nb0qcdOeRC1qfdwsio1_500

You really are.

 

the first day of spring

the first day of spring

It’s the first day of spring here and I have thought a lot today about my perspective.

You see, I think spring is a time to shake everything up.

I don’t believe in spring cleaning.

I believe in spring purging.

I believe in a grand and glorious and messy and sometimes intense rebirth. Every spring.

Mackenzie.

Mackenzie.

I am thinking about my friend Mackenzie, who has¬†an extremely rare form of pulmonary hypertension. She is young and beautiful and vibrant and she rocks this disease like no one else. She knows how to be reborn, even if it’s a new life that isn’t at all what she expected. (If you haven’t read her blog, Brave Little Lungs, you really need to. And after that, read her husband, Henry’s¬†blog,¬†Dear Mackenzie.)

I am thinking about this guy Beau Heyen, who runs a community kitchen in Kansas. They were doing some remodeling and he thought,

“How about make this like a restaurant instead of the same old soup kitchen?”

It didn’t cost any more money than doing the same old boring way, they just needed a few more volunteers. Now, when homeless people eat there, they are greeted by a hostess who seats them and a wait staff who takes their order and brings them their food. Food prepared by culinary art students.

homelessdiner

Kansas City Community Kitchen

It was the same price as doing it the ugly way.

Beau decided to see the soup kitchen with different eyes, and what a beautiful difference it has made in the lives of so many.

I think about Mackenzie¬†and Henry, her husband, and I just feel like she has decided that this is no different from the rest of her life–that it doesn’t cost more to live in an intentionally beautiful way and to continually see life with new eyes.

Henry and Mackenzie, photography by Samantha Broderick

Henry and Mackenzie, photography by Samantha Broderick

And I think about my life and I think that maybe there is a lesson here. Maybe it wouldn’t cost me more, either.

I can see where I could tear down a wall or two in my heart and maybe move things around a bit….Maybe I might need a few more volunteers. I know there are angels, and maybe they could help.

Are there more beautiful ways for me to live my life right now? I can think of five or six ways off the top of my head that are boring and sometimes even ugly.

How do I make them beautiful? How do I add color and depth and loveliness to the mundane, the difficult, and the soul stretching moments of my life?

All it takes is a change of perspective, a seeing with new eyes.

”¬†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

Whose eyes do I need to look through to understand how to create beauty? My children? My husband? Mackenzie? My neighbor? The homeless?

I wonder if that isn’t probably the point of being here? To see things through the eyes of others in order to realize¬†beauty and then, compassion and love, in every aspect of human existence?

So here’s to spring, and to the hope in rebirth, new life and endless beauty all around and in and through us.

 

i heart organizing

i heart organizing

Just kidding.

I used to heart organizing. In my mind palace (which currently resembles a WalMart at 11:55 pm on Christmas Eve), I still heart organizing. It’s just that what I envision in the mind palace cannot exist in the temporal state of my home.

I mean, I love all things organizing. The Container Store? Yes. IKEA? Yes. (My son calls it IKEA: THE EXPERIENCE and says he does not have enough insanity to go on that ride). Mason Jars? You betcha. Label makers? Drool. Pantries featured on Pinterest? Butterflies in my stomach.

I have everything it takes to be an organizing queen, folks. There is only one small problem: I have a family and we live here.

I have come to terms with the fact that I will probably never get to spend hours and hours organizing a pantry to perfection. And, even if I did, it would stay that way for .008 seconds. Or less. Because my people eat. They love to eat. They eat all the time. They are little hobbits.

I still have days where I leave the house to wander the aisles of IKEA, daydreaming. But, I have found that there are ways to cope. Here are some of my strategies for coping with my humans and their inability to appreciate my love of organized matter:

Use A Stairs Basket

We have what we call a “Stairs Basket” which is supposed to be a receptacle for things that belong downstairs that have somehow found their way upstairs. It saves us from having to walk up and down the stairs three thousand times in one day, which, even though the children seem to have the energy of supernovas, this energy somehow drains completely at the mention of taking something downstairs.

Here is where you have to cope. You have to realize that the Stairs Basket will become the “I Don’t Know Where This Goes Or I Don’t Want To Walk Another Five Feet To Put This Away So I Will Casually Dump It Here” Basket. And you have to kind of just accept that. Well, I guess you don’t HAVE to accept that, but accepting it is part of my coping strategy.

IMG_8745

Our Stairs Basket. Also please ignore the crumbs on the floor.

It also can be mistaken as a laundry basket by my very little children. You may be wondering why they disrobe and run around partially naked upstairs. I wonder that, too. But that is a post for another day.

I think they are trying to make me believe that it actually is a laundry basket by putting laundry in there.

Maybe they think they will eventually convince me, or maybe they think that because I have brain damage from the spinal meningitis, that one day I might wake up, see the laundry in there, and just somehow believe that all is right in the world.

Here is more horrific view. Yes, they tried making the basket with the brachiosaurus and the baseball cap. Clearly, we don’t see anyone being drafted by the NBA.

That will never happen.

But, be that as it may, it is more preferable to have things in a “Stairs Basket” then all over my upstairs floor.

Use A White Board To Organize Your Home/Thoughts/To Do Lists

We use a white board to write down extra chores, things we need to get done, etcetera.

Here is where I have to cope.

One of my children believes that if she erases her name and/or the chore listed next to her name, then it no longer exists in time or space. It simply never was and never will be. She also seems to believe that artistic doodles accentuate that supposed fact.

IMG_8748

See? Nowhere does it say “sweep dining room floor.” It never existed, because of the swirly “Wishes.”

When asked if she has done said chore, she looks at the questioner with a blank stare which turns into compassionate concern for the mental stability of the person asking, as if they must be in an altered, confused state for ever even thinking of asking her the question of whether or not she has swept the dining room floor,

“What? What do you mean? What? I don’t understand. [Insert dramatic pause] Are you feeling alright? Are you okay? Do you need to lie down?”

All the while this genuine look of fearful concern…it’s almost convincing.

Almost.

I also have to cope with the fact that luckily, it’s dry erase, because if I label it “Tuesday Things To Do” I inevitably have to continue erasing the day of the week, because it never really seems to get done. But, when people come over, it looks impressive.

Use Canvas Bins, Yes, But Please, Don’t Really Even Bother With Labeling

So I recently looked at one of my favorite stress-inducing blogs, “I Heart Organizing” and there she was, a really awesome and gorgeous blogger¬†who writes the blog and takes amazing photos and is totally organized…and she had a tutorial on four different ways to label canvas bins.

And, I used to be the kind of girl who would be over the moon excited about finding a crafty friend who would make labels for my canvas bins IN FOUR DIFFERENT WAYS!!!, but I just laughed out loud a little and sighed.

I have canvas bins. I love my canvas bins. Truly.

No proof of the mess except for the poor T-Rex who didn't quite fit. His feet are probably freezing.

No visible proof of the mess except for the poor T-Rex who didn’t quite fit. His feet are probably freezing.

But labeling them? What on earth for? I have learned to be content that the children have put things inside of the bins. It seems to be humanly impossible to put things in any semblance of order. A trains bin will inevitably have a train, a My Little Pony, three half chewed Nerf darts, a light saber and a rotten apple core in it.

Who am I to understand the workings of child geniuses who obviously see some sort of pattern that someone as less imbued as I cannot understand?

?!?!?!!????

?!?!?!!????

And how does one make a label that would identify that pattern?

So, I would rather not go there. It’s not worth the mental effort.

It Is Possible To Organize Silverware!

Yes, indeed, it is possible.

Where Is The Missing Silverware? Wait...let me go to my mind palace...

Where Is The Missing Silverware? Wait…let me go to my mind palace…

I cope because the only time it has been possible is when I am missing over half of my silverware, which is somewhere in the backyard.

I have come to terms with the fact that my home is a living, breathing entity. It never stays still and it is always shifting and moving and everything in it shifts and moves, especially when it comes to food.

I will never be able to have an organized refrigerator because people keep opening the door and moving things around and getting things out of it! How dare they?

Also, they often don’t understand the difference between things that are shelf stable in the pantry, things that are refrigerated, and things that go in the freezer.

That could be because many of them are not even old enough for first grade yet, but still.

I have found ice cream in all three places in my home before. And something to point out here is that ice cream is delicious and lovely when it is frozen, but in all other states, not so much.

81359d14b7a65e86816f9c11a5d9c3c6

Calm. Assertive. Coping.

I must cope. I must remain calm and assertive, like Cleopatra. Or Morgan Freeman.

Calm. Assertive. Also, I Really Think He Would Make A Better Real Life President Than Most Of The Candidates This Year....

Calm. Assertive. Also, I Really Think He Would Make A Better Real Life President Than Most Of The Candidates This Year….

He is the perfect example of calm and assertive. I mean when he gives me directions on Waze, I never get lost and I feel patriotic (“Exit Right for Freedom,” he tells me.)

I don’t know. It’s hard. But I know I can continue to soldier on. And you can, too. I hope these little things I have shared can help.