Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Friday, October 4, 2019

Please don’t ask



Commissions. I have accepted lots of them over the years. Paintings, pottery, jewelry, toys, baby slings...so many commissions.

I no longer take commissions. 

This distresses people. They get a look on their face like I’m being unreasonable. Sometimes they look hurt, crushed even. Sometimes they try to talk me into it; they simplify their request, they insist that this will be very special, or that their cause is worthy.  But I have a really good reason, several in fact.

My first real art commission was a huge compliment. I was so excited. It was to illustrate a poetry book. I was young, and the person who commissioned me was clueless. There were no contracts, just a friendly handshake between myself and this enthusiastic churchgoing fellow. I did the work on time, hoping to impress - 15 lovely little sketches- and dropped them off at his office. Weeks went by, but the promised payment never came. I pursued payment over the course of months and then several years. I was even accused of trying to “steal the food” out of the mouths of this man’s children.  All for $150. 

“Then just give me my drawings back,” I compromised. 

“But I love them!” he fervently insisted. He made more promises, but of course, never paid. I finally let it go, painful lesson learned; always have a contract and get paid on delivery. 

Another time, I stood at a door with a beautiful sketch of the Native American grandparents of a client, a friend’s coworker, drawn in full tribal garb. It had taken me dozens of hours to get all the tiny beads and seashells right, and to replicate those beautiful, dark faces and braids. I had underpriced myself, as usual. The client opened the door, handed me $65, took the picture, glanced at it and without a word, shut the door, literally, in my face. I stood in shock, staring my shadow on the dusty, white door. My heart sank. I had pictured, during the many long hours of working on the piece, how excited this woman would be to see her grandparents faces come to life in such a beautiful way. It was one of my best works, the accuracy very well achieved. It really looked like the people I was drawing. But that hadn’t seemed to matter to her. Lesson number two: value your work and the time that goes into it by charging enough. And maybe know my clients better before agreements are made.

There was the painting that had been rejected, because, as the client had said, “I don’t hate it, I just expected more. I  imagined little birdie foot prints, or flowers in the grass, or something.” Birdie foot prints? Flowers in the grass!? We had a contract! She had approved my thumbnail images! She had provided the actual photos I was painting from. How could she expect me to read her mind and add more then was even spoken of, pictured or agreed upon?  I returned to our tiny apartment in tears with the painting still under my arm, to try and find a way to add “birdie foot prints and little flowers“ to an already completed watercolor painting. Guy wanted to punch her. I never figured out the lesson on that one. 

There was the painting that took four years to accomplish due to the miscarriages and Jonah’s birth, then required me to pursue payment even though a solid agreement had been made.  More confusing still was when, years later, the painting was returned to me, appearing never to have been framed, perhaps never even hung. 

Each time I accept a commission, the thing that I love doing more than anything in the world becomes a drudgery. There is frustration, grief, stress. 

But it hasn’t always been the other person causing the problem. So many times I have accepted a commission, and allowed six children and all the trials that come with them, health problems, moves and church responsibilities, to keep me from my studio. Months turn into years, with a half done painting sitting on the easel, glaring at me, accusing me of being lazy and inefficient.  Finally, I pull a few all nighters to get it over with, convinced in my rush that I could’ve, should’ve, done a better job.  

It took me another four years at least to finish Ellen’s book. Two years to paint the young soldier who died in Iraq. Four years on the temple painting. And there is the commission that hangs over my head now, my latest albatross (if you don’t know the reference, look it up), over two years old, from someone who did a trade with me. I’m struggling because I agreed to something before thinking through the logistics; a piece of pottery that may be beyond my capacity to achieve. I guilt over it constantly. 

So. Much. Stress. 

That word.  The word that every doctor I’ve talked to for the past five years has been telling me I need to reduce, eliminate.  I picture those waiting clients thinking that I am letting them down or am being dishonest. That they’re a little disgusted with me, the way I was with the man who didn’t pay me. And when I do finally finish, finally, there’s no joy in it for me.  I just want to get the piece into their hands so I can slink away to my car and cry from shame and embarrassment. Even if they really love the piece, which seems to happen less often with a commission, I can’t feel any relief over my embarrassment at having taken so long.

See, when I’m doing a commission, it is 100%  for the other person. From beginning to end, I have that person in my head, standing beside me, scrutinizing the work. Raising an eyebrow, questioning if that’s the color I really meant to use there. Seeing me make a mistake and hoping that I don’t plan to leave it like that. The time period I spend with that piece of work is often fraught with discomfort and stress for me, robbing me of much of the joy or enjoyment I could get from the process.  

Now let me tell you a different kind of story...

I am at a midwifery conference. An artist friend of mine has invited me to join her at her table to sell pregnancy related artwork. Midwives caress our items, chat with us about birth, and occasionally buying something. This is their favorite topic, their life‘s work, and they love seeing it represented in an art form. A young man approaches the booth. He can’t be more than 22. He’s alone, a hippie of sorts, with short-ish dreadlocks and tired out clothes.  I notice him, but don’t pay much attention as he fingers the pieces I have set out on the table. Suddenly, he speaks, “This is exactly how it was! Oh my gosh! This is how it was!”

He’s holding a painting of a mother, cradling a newborn in the moments just after birth. It’s washy and shadowy, not detailed at all, but I had painted it from the memory of the sweet moments after Adam had been born. The exquisite joy of holding that new little person in my hands, of exploring his precious little self for the first time.

“How much!?” he asked with the conviction of someone who knows exactly what they want. 

It was $20. The same amount of money a teenager can make working for two hours at McDonald’s. And I felt like I was overcharging him, because, well, I always feel that way. He pulled the $20 out of his shabby wallet and said, “I don’t know where we’re sleeping tonight, but I know I have to have this.” 

I’ll never forget the sweet look on his face as he hugged the painting to his chest and fumbled with his wallet. It was the single most rewarding sale of a painting I have ever made.

There have been similar moments, though maybe none that stand out so vividly in my mind. Back when I hosted my Christmas boutique, sitting in my studio on the steps as people perused a year’s worth of work, sometimes someone would find a little precious pot, and clutch it to their chest like a newborn. Yes, like a newborn. When I offered to let them set it down so that they could shop with their hands free, they would usually sweetly decline. No no, they wanted to hold it. It was theirs now, and they couldn’t run the risk of letting it out of their sight for a moment.  On more than one occasion, someone has smiled the words, “You probably didn’t know this, but you made this just for me.”

When I’m sitting commission-less in my studio, just me in the warm lights, surrounded by my tools and materials, I feel ripe with the promising hope that something amazing is about to happen. There’s a thrill! What should I make? How will it turn out? What will I learn this time? I won’t say there’s no stress. Certainly, if I work really hard on something and accidentally drop it to the ground smashing it to bits (like I did last week), I am bummed. But it’s my loss. It wasn’t late art, already promised to someone who will now be frustrated at the longer wait because I have to start over again. No, it’s just a little flicker of disappointment, and then I smile and say, “that’s okay, I can make a new one!” 

Making my own artwork allows me to build my skills and narrative from one piece to the next. I grow and develop on a trajectory that is all my own. It’s the difference between being a master chef and a short order cook.  Commissions are a constant string of interruptions that are keeping me from growing and developing as an artist.  They smother my joy and suffocate my time.  They’re stifling.  Commissions are the dry rot, the stuffy room, the messy garage of my soul!

So if you love me, never ask me to do a commission. But please know that if you do, I still love you.

And I’m going to say...

NO.



(Note: The opinions in this post do not reflect the attitudes of all artists. Some love doing commissions. You can go find one of them!)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Another Day of Rest




Some days
are working days.
Some days are playing days.
And some days are resting days.

Today was a resting day.  Sometimes my body just... won't.  Last night, I woke a dozen times or so in pain.  Who knows why.  By morning, I knew I wouldn't be able to drive, so Guy shuttled Ellie to seminary and back, and took care of Grandpa before leaving for work.  Bless him.

Resting days are hard when you have things to do, and don't want to rest.  The mind gets busy running on hamster wheels; loops of thought with no resolution, that of course never get you anywhere.  To-Do lists nag.  Children seem lazier as you notice each time they stop their tasks (since you have none of your own).  Dust bunnies dance, dirty dishes taunt, and laundry lingers.

Tomorrow will not be a resting day...

7:30 am - Seminary pickup in Jackson
8:30 am - home to fix Grandpa's Breakfast, pack everyone's food for the day
11:00 am - shopping back in Jackson
12:00 pm - drop off handmade jewelry at gallery in Sutter Creek (yay!)
1:00 pm - meet with our homeschool charter supervisor in Plymouth
3:00 pm - back to Jackson for piano lessons
3:30 pm - head to Fiddletown (back out past Plymouth) for Jonah's reading lesson
5:30 pm - back to Jackson for a presidency meeting
7:00 pm - Young Women's activity
9:00 pm - clean the church

'Prob'ly a good thing today was a resting day.
Looks like Thursday may end up being one, too.



(The view from my favorite resting spot)


Monday, August 19, 2019

The Distance Between Trees



Nano invited me on an evening walk with her tonight, and Daddy joined us.  We wandered the long way down to "The Creek", not to be confused with "the creek" to get to Old Spring Road.  The Creek, as the kids call it, importantly, is where the water of the creek that darkly skirts our property line spreads out over a larger collection of flat boulders in the sunshine, joined by a few hidden springs, creating pools and cascades that are a little more fun to play in and far more showy than the sometimes trickle of water that dutifully borders our lot, with its occasional pomp and circumstance of a stormy day or spring snow melt.

As we picked across the closest thing to a bridge the stones have to offer, Natalie urged us forward, worrying, I think, that we might stop and turn back here as we often do when we reach this point.  But our pauses were not reluctance; we were getting the first looks at what is left of the woods below our property where the forestry service had recently been manicuring (today, boys and girls, the role of the forestry service will be played by low level criminals in orange jumpsuits with chainsaws and 1-2 years left till parole.  Oh, yes, a few DID escape on foot, thank you for asking.  Nothing like getting a recorded call from the Sheriff's department while you are 500 miles away on vacation, that, by the way, if you see three 6-footers with tats on their faces, please kindly call 911.  Not a huge problem, right?  They might simply do a Goldilocks impression and use our house for two weeks.  But oh, wait.  Number Two Son and Grandpa are still home.  We call Grandpa, and he jokes that he might just invite them in for a poker game.  Oh, my... he was kidding, right?).

Guy and I were disoriented by the massive changes.  Our once thick, lushly packed woods (because once you live near woods for a while,  ownership is simply a mater of sentimental opinion), now gave the distinct feel of a state campground, minus the fire pits and tired picnic benches with dented, green, metal trashcans chained to them.



My heart was two parts broken and one part thankful.  When you live in a forest, the first year you see the trees.  The second year, you can't see the forest for the kindling.  Every dead tree with low, dry branches (literally called a "fire ladder", by the way), seems as menacing as a dark figure in a seedy alley once had, back when we had to be careful taking the trash out at night, not because of bears, but car-thieves.  By year two, you WANT the forest to be tidied up.  The wild fires of the last two summers still smolder warmly in memory.  And what most folks don't know is, if the forest around your house has been tended to, and if a fire does come, you make the fire department’s short list for attempts at saving all of your earthly possessions.  There is the grateful part.



I tried not to look too long at the massive piles of dismembered tree limbs along open slopes in neatly spaced intervals, or to notice that I could see too far, and too much sky.  Instead, I talked Sunday-evening shop with Guy, and answered the constant bubble of six-year-old inquires, all the while using a stalk of horsefly weed to shoo the gnats from my ears and nose.  



We followed ant trails into large circles of chaff littered about their nests in perfect symmetry, the castoffs of late-summer grass-seed collecting.  Nano gathered and then abandoned many heavy rocks as we walked, always favoring the pink ones.  We walked further than we ever had on the ancient road, wondering at pioneers that may have walked it too, until the pines gave way to mesquite scrub, and we heard backyard chickens in the distance, signalling we were headed to civilization and should go back to our woods, such as they now were.



As we walked toward home, I looked up the lengths of the mammoth pines around us and stopped, smiling.  There they were, hearts, high up where branches had once broken off, leaving heart shaped scars in the mother tree.  I would not have seen them had the forest still been crowded in around them like before.


Earlier in the day, Ethan had come for a visit.  Two parts joy, one part sorrow.  He never stays long due to crack-of-dawn work alarms, but I relished seeing him.  As I hugged him, I felt through his shirt that he is skinny, but not too skinny this time, and his smile twinkled in his eyes.  Long black curls tumbled out from under his cap.  His work clothes showed the long, industrious days they have endured.  He laughed, and hugged the Littles.

He has a belated birthday gift for Jonah Boy; a small but surprisingly strong crossbow.  He passes it my way for parental pre-approval, and we both know I won't say no with Jonah just in the other room, waiting anxiously.  The funny thing is, that at that same age, I wouldn't have given in to a crossbow for Ethan, my risk-taker, my wild one.  But Jonah, his hair neatly combed to the side and set with hairspray seven days a week, needs something a little more adventuresome than playing Nerf darts with his little sister.

Jonah's reaction fills Ethan, you can hear it in his chuckle, and he sets in right away on safety (thank you!) and how-to's.  We pull a few castoffs out of the dump pile that waits in the driveway, and before he knows it, Jonah has his own shooting range, target and all.





We watch them shoot for a while, Jonah forever careful and reserved, and then visit and eat watermelon.  Ethan even tolerates a few pictures.  It had been 5 years since we have had a family picture together.  I love it, pixels, blur and all.


(Maybe there were a few more pictures than he knew about...)



But the sun hung low and it was time.  It was just so good to see him, and so hard to see him go.  He is learning so much, having a whole life I don't really know much about.  But as he talks of electrical panels and conduit and what he will do to get my kiln set up for me next time he is around, I am beaming.  It's so strange when your children break away completely from the mother tree.

But I guess the space between us lets me somehow see him better.








Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Finding Love



I don’t know what it is, but I keep seeing hearts lately - heart shaped puddles, wood grain, leaves - little love notes everywhere. Maybe they’ve always been there. Maybe I’m just finally noticing. 
*****
Since Hashimoto’s moved in with me in the fall, I’ve been learning to let a lot go -the house, my schedule, my expectations- and for the first time I have begun to focus less on my character flaws, feel a little less guilt, and appreciate more what I am able to do while focusing less on what I’m not.  Finding a lil' self love.

But I’ve also had to face my failures and faults in a new way. At my church, I serve in the Young Woman’s organization. It’s a busy job, and I truly love it, but it has also provided me with the challenging opportunity to see my weaknesses through the eyes of others.  Just when I have been working to forgive myself for my many failings, to be patient with this disease and all it is taking from me, I’m often being handed a mirror at my least lovely moments. It’s been humbling. 

But the other day a woman on the autoimmune page I follow posted about her life.  She was just barely diagnosed, and feeling so sad and guilty about not being enough for her children, not being able to tend to her life as before.  I wrote a note of encouragement to her. After I read it back to myself, I realized I needed these words as well...

“Sweet, sweet, darling mama. You’re going to be okay. This is hard, no doubt about it. But you can do it.  Don’t  feel guilty for putting yourself first, and taking care of yourself. Try not to use the words like “failure”, or “terrible mom” when describing yourself, because your heart is listening. 

If your sweetest, dearest friend was going through this right now, how would you talk to her? What words would you use? Would you give her permission to be sad? Would you tell her she just got this diagnosis, and it will take time to adjust? Would you tell her that she has to give the medicine time to work, the information time to sink in?  Would you tell her that she is strong, and good, and capable, and that she will get through this?

I promise you will have better days. You will have bad ones too, but not all of them will be bad. One of the things that Hashimoto’s has given me that is really a gift, is to tell me to slow down, bring my babies up onto my lap and snuggle with them.  On days when I feel bad, we read. If I don’t feel up to reading, we watch a nature show together and talk about it. We play little games, sometimes with me laying down and the game resting on my tummy. My daughter has officially labeled me, “the best pony mom in the world” because I play ponies. A world title... not so shabby for a sick lady.

Here are my new rules:

If I’m tired I sit down.

If I am sleepy, I cancel plans and take a nap.

I don’t schedule more than one "outside" activity a day if I can help it.

As far as housework goes, if I get ONE thing done a day, I am a rockstar! And if I don’t, I praise myself for taking the day to rest.

Three months ago, I spent every waking minute on the couch or in bed. Unless I was absolutely forced to go get groceries or to take a child somewhere, I was on the couch laying down.  I now take two naps a week, instead of two a day. I’m getting my house tidied up little by little. I’m doing more things with my kids outside of the house. I’m starting to work on projects again. I am more cheerful and my anxiety is decreasing. My Hashimoto’s symptoms are less intense, and I’m feeling more hopeful. 

You’re going to be okay.  It’s going to be hard, 
but you’re good at doing hard things!"

*****
I can't think of anyone to whom this simple note does not apply.  We all need to take better care of ourselves.  This world we live in, with it's schedules and expectations, is so hard on us.  We are all suffering from being overbooked, undernourished, sleep-deprived, toxicified and spiritually drained.  If we don't care for ourselves, who will?

My heart has started listening. As I have begun to feel more patience with myself, I’m feeling more for others as well. Including the mirror-holders in my life. 

I replaced a GFI outlet the other day.  I know that's not a big deal for most.  It wouldn't really be for me either (except for a slight fear of death by electrocution), but it was my ONE THING for that day, and I did it.

That makes me a Rockstar, baby.




Wednesday, May 15, 2019

(Temporary Backup) Jonah’s baptism


It’s been 10 months, and probably two inches since Jonah was baptized. I put the photos into this post about 3 months later, and here they’ve sat,  gathering dust. 

So here I sit, tapping this out on my phone while listening to Ellie’s cello lesson, then I need to drop her off at a WiFi hotspot in town for her online class before taking Tessa to have a reluctant and painful baby tooth pulled. Thankfully, she is anticipating not feeling well enough to go to piano lesson so we can skip that (no, not thankfully. Of course, I’m not glad for her pain). Then to pick up Ellie and hurry home to feed dad and get dinner started, and finally off to presidency meeting followed by youth activity,  my third trip into town today. Yeah, I guess there’s a reason I don’t get a lot of time to write.  I don’t get important things like recording our lives, because we are too busy living. 

Sadly, I don’t remember much about the day of Jonah’s baptism. We had new friends from Jackson, old friends from Rancho, and some of our family. I do remember taking Jonah out for a prayer in the woods, and how sweet he was. I remember him asking me why Jesus cares so much about us getting baptized. We talked for a long time, and he pretty much gave me the answer to his own question. 

I know many people wouldn’t understand the reason behind people in our faith being baptized beginning at the age of eight. We believe as children age and mature they are able to understand the roll of Christ in their lives and begin to be accountable for their choices at around the age of 8 years. That testimony will of course grow over time in small steps. The choice to be baptized, though encouraged by family, is the individual’s first step of devotion on a lifelong path of decipleship. 

On our walk that morning, I asked Jonah if he really wanted to be baptized. He said, “Well, I have to now because everyone is already coming.”

“No, you don’t.” I told him. “This is between you and your Heavenly Father, and if you don’t feel ready, we don’t have to do this today. I want you to always remember that this is your choice.”  He thought about it for a few moments rather seriously, then said he would like to continue.  

I do remember how serious he was that day. He was very focused. He listened to every word spoken. It was sweet. 

The rest of the day was busy the way family days are busy. Food and laughter and joking around. But my favorite part of the day, besides witnessing his baptism, was my morning in the woods with Jonah. 






Besties!




Are we having fun yet?


Guy and his choir


My cute man-boy




 

I’m so grateful for pictures. They do so much to fill in the blanks in my memory. It’s like they wake up and come out of hiding. But, by waiting so long to write, these darn pictures also make me see how much they’ve grown!

Monday, April 15, 2019

As Fun as a Needle in Yer' Neck!


So autoimmune disease
is like this:

Your body is a house.

Your immune system is a bodyguard 
set outside the door to keep you and your house safe.

One day the bodyguard opens the door, steps in with a baseball bat, and starts
 bashing the crap out of your tchotchkes and thingamabobbles. 
  Then he bonks you on the head for good measure. 

Sadly, Western Medicine's approach is:

Get a broom and dustpan and sweep up behind the bodyguard, 
replace the Ming vase with a coke bottle, 
and slap a bandage on your head.

They do not, however, try to kick out the bodyguard.

The cycle is expected to continue until the house is destroyed and you have hamburger for brains. 
Then you get moved to a cheap apartment.

All that is to say that the basic approach is to treat the symptoms, replace the hormones that the damaged organ is not able to make, and wait
 for more damage and eventual destruction. 

It's not how I do things.
I study. I research. I experiment. 
My goal is to find a way
 to reform the bodyguard. 
Maybe even get him back on my side. 

*****
This is how it’s been:
GP, Rheumatology, Head and Neck, Dermatology, Allergy, Optomology and Opthomology have all sent me on to the next guy. It’s autoimmune hot-potato
(and, by the way, each one have said “There is no research to support diet changes, but if it makes you "feel better", go ahead.” And by feel better, they don’t mean physically). 

I had been told by other autoimmune folks not to hope for much from an endocrinology appointment. 
 I kept my expectations low. 

After the usual “where does it hurt?” chit-chat, Dr. P did an ultrasound of my thyroid. The growths were only slightly suspicious to her, though she admitted that cancer tended to have vague borders, which my growth (she said there was only one) had. She told me a biopsy was up to me, or we could wait and see. 

Hmmmm... wait 6 months and see if it’s cancer, or find out now.... 
what to chooooose....

Now, please!

Oh, wait, she meant NOW now. 
No appointment for a month from today. 
Now. 

I hoped up on the table, she sprayed my neck with utterly useless numbing spray, 
and then sunk a needle into my throat (the answer is 
YES.IT.HURT.LIKE.BLUE.BLAZES!  Thanks for asking).   
And if one stick in the neck was good, four was even better.

Guy said he could see the needle on the ultrasound as she dug all around in my neck with it each time. Apparently it is a little unpleasant to watch.
Of course, I was sorry to have been such a nuisance to him. 
On my end, it felt like my throat had mice with ice cleats on running around inside it.

She bandaged up my neck. 
I was miffed that after all that, 
she gave me a Barbie doll bandaid. 
It was kinda’ insulting, frankly.

She then gave me a prescription. Traditionally I avoid meds when possible, but new research has indicated that even if my thyroid levels are in the safe zone, they might be too low for me personally. So if a small amount of  medication could help my symptoms, I was willing). 

But my favorite part of the appointment was when she encouraged me to modify my diet. 

WHAT?! A doctor that believes you can influence your health by improving your diet? I pretty much almost hugged her!

She made a few suggestions. I smiled at Guy. I told her what I have been doing the past 2 months (more on that later). She was surprised and the strictness of my food protocol, but was all in favor. 

We chatted about a medical industry that is driven by pharmaceutical companies who finance studies intended to promote dependence on the drugs they manufacture. Of course, there aren’t many studies on diet!  No drug company wants you to see food as medicine.  Grocery stores don't require prescriptions.

*****
So that was last week. 
And lucky you, you don’t even have to wait as long as I did for the results. 

Negative. 
Yay for no cancer! That’s twice in two months.

I guess, for that, I will forgive them their puny bandaid. 


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Lesson in Daffodils




I have always loved daffodils.  In fact, I planted them in the tiny yard of our little apartment back in Santa Rosa, and dozens more in both the front and back of the Rancho house.  I wanted to bring them with me when we moved, but it seemed silly to dig up the yard.   But I knew how much the love I had given to my yard would be appreciated by the next owners of our little house.  So I left behind my daffodils, irises, crocus, lilacs, wisteria, callas, African daisies, and roses to be loved in their new life by their new people.

About three months after we moved from Rancho, we were invited back to neighbor Betty's house to go swimming.  When we got to her back yard, I couldn't help but glance through the chain link fence between her yard and that of my old house, only to see that all of it, every flower, every plant, was either dead or dying.  Even my hearty lavender was nearly gone.

.......Yes!  Of course I was devastated!!!  I should have rescued every last bulb and branch!

But we live here now.  Here, where the deer will eat anything.  Anything, that is, but daffodils.  I don't know why, but they won't touch them.  And there are, kindly left behind by the previous owner, several patches of daffodils throughout our new property.  Soon after we moved in I decided I would add to them, but missed the planting season last year.  So this fall I bought a big bag of bulbs, and marked my calendar for the perfect day to plant them; October 5th.  There was no special reason except that the almanac showed it to be ideal.  Funny, though, now that I think of it, it is both the day Guy and I got engaged and the day we lost one of the babies.  Isn't it strange how after so many years -a day of such joy, and later a day of such pain- it would become just a day; a nice day for planting flowers.

But buying those bulbs in the middle of September might have been the last thing I did before the shingles hit.  I postponed the bulb planting, thinking, soon... soon... But when the shingles morphed and Hashimoto's showed up, the bulbs were set aside.

Aside, but I could feel them begging to be planted.  I know bulbs need to be cold all winter to bloom well, so that wasn't a problem.  They were certainly cold enough in their resting spot by the stairs.  But they wouldn't last forever out there.

I have been, in the interim,  going to doctors about once a week and getting lots of tests run.  The GP sent me to the rheumatologist and the allergist.  The allergist sent me to the dermatologist.  The optometrist sent me to the ophthalmologist who is sending me to the oculoplastic surgeon.  Everyone is giving me creams and drops and ointments, which is just a barrel of monkeys.  The big, superdy-duper important appointment, the one with the endocrinologist, is finally just days away.  That is the one where (we hope, though we have been told we shouldn't bother hoping) there may be some answers and treatments for the Hashimoto's.  My thyroid ultrasound showed two large growths, so that is what I am most interested in resolving (read between the lines... checking for cancer).  And all the while the damage to my thyroid has played out in the typical symptoms... the exhaustion, sleepiness, pain, dry eyes and hair loss, for me, are dominant out of the dozens of symptoms of the disease.

So there they sit... the daffodil bulbs, with all of their potential for life and beauty, packed in tight behind a mesh net bag.  They have become a symbol for what is going on for me.  All that I want to do but can't, all that I desire to create and accomplish, bound up and restrained.

I went outside a few days ago to help Adam find a part to the leaf blower.  We searched the usual spots (put away. why would it be put away?) and then I went for the less obvious spots (the ones where lazy children dump things.  I know, why didn't I check there first?).

Well, I didn't find the part, but I did find the bulbs. And the instant I saw them I burst with a joyous laugh...



They didn't care that they weren't planted... no soil, no pot!  They didn't even mind the tight mesh bag pressing them from all sides.  There, peaking  -no, reaching!- out of the blue mesh, were two dozen green stalks.  They had found their way out of the bulbs, out of the bag, and into the light, reaching skyward.

I can't tell you what those amazing little bulbs have done for me.

I'm still very tired and often in pain.  I sleep a lot, and when I am not sleeping, I'm counting the hours and minutes till my next nap.  I'm not painting or making pots or much else.  I do school with the kids, and drive here and there, and then collapse on the couch in the sunny window, trying to warm up.  But ever since seeing those daffodils reaching out of their bindings, I have felt a little freer, a little more cheerful, and a little less weighted down.  I know that this is going to be a long process and maybe get much worse before it gets better, but I think the lesson in the daffodils, for me, is to take my rest but not give up.  It might be hard, and it won't be like it was before, but I will still be able to make, and do, and be something beautiful.


The other day I asked my husband for a blessing, a special prayer for health and comfort.  After it was done, a friend who was there suggested that maybe someone out there who is going through a similar struggle would benefit from my sharing my journey here.  

I hope you all won't mind.



Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Insta-Date



Natalie has been extra snugly lately.  I don't know exactly what has triggered it.  I certainly don't mind.  I love it that this tiny peanut still wants to read together, sing together, sit on my lap; the whole thing.  What makes it even more fun is that she is still so tiny she fits like a little toddler in my arms.


The other day we found ourselves alone together, a rare event in the lives of a homeschooling family.  I usually have the whole gypsy circus in tow.  


Nano realized it only a few minutes after I did. 
 "Mom!  It's just us!  What if we had a date?!"


Back in Sac, Guy and I used to take turns taking the kids on dates. 
 But with our new life in the woods, we haven't been able to make it work.  
The kids have missed it.  

I gotta be honest, I had thought about the fact that we were alone, and that it might be an opportunity to go on a date, but I hadn't said it out loud because I had things to do.  Errands and crap.  Looking back, I don't even remember what was so important that it would have kept me from her.

 Nano was right.  It was time for a date.  I had been carrying her gift card in my wallet for a couple of months, a present long overdue to be used.  It was just enough for a kid's meal and a cone for the cutie pie, and she boasted loudly to the other customers that this was her first time at this particular burger joint, her first kid's meal, and wow, look at that, a toy!!!

It was fun to listen to her babble along.  That little pip has a lot to say!  We giggled and talked about ponies and her new favorite color (light blue and purple next to each other).  And she reminded me what a delight it is to be with her alone.

I am glad that she tells me what she needs.  
I can be forgetful, and I don't want to miss this.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Sisters ~ Lost Post #1


These two girls are 

black and white
sweet and salty
cool turquoise and warm lavender

They fought over what color they would paint their room for weeks.  
Finally, I took the decision away

"Grey.  End of story."

Maybe I can help them find the neutral ground in their relationship.

*****
 Whenever they fight, 
I tell my girls they need to understand something...
(here is my lecture, in case you need to use it sometime):

"Your sister is the best friend you will ever have.  You will have a million friends in your life, but most will disappear in 5 years.  If you are lucky, you will still have one or two of those friends when you are an adult*see note. But your sister is the friend that God hand picked for you.  She will be at your wedding, and your births, and she will be there for every important event in your life, for the REST of your life.  You need to cherish your relationship with her.  Protect it and take care of it.  
(blah blah blah, ten more minutes of similar content)"

I worry, though.  I really believe what I am saying.  And I know that some sibling relationships develop deep wounds in childhood and teen years that leave scars.  Big ones.  But then there are some siblings that have sweet and amazing relationships, and I can only assume those seeds sprouted in childhood, as well.

I want that for my kids (the seed thing, not the scar thing).

The grey space where they both can Be.
Together, but unique
Supportive, with boundaries
Helpful, but not codependent
Individuals, but never alone.



 



*Remember in the lecture when I said that bit about only having one or two lifetime friends?
That might have been a fib, but only because I have been soooo blessed in my life with many dear and amazing life-long friendships.  True soul sisters.  But I don't think that is how it is for most people, and I never take that blessing for granted.

*****
This post, and perhaps a dozen others, were begun and never finished since I have been sick and overwhelmingly busy in the past year.  I was going to let them go, but then I realized that since this blog is really for my family, it doesn't matter when I post them, only that I do.  So this is the first of many Lost Posts that I will publish.   

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Here Comes the Bride


When I met Melissa, little Jessica was just a toddler.  She was the smartest little child I had ever met.  She was a chubby-cheeked, whispy haired, toe-head with deep brown eyes and an ever deeper voice, who started learning to talk at just nine months old.  Serious and funny, she was always wiser than her years. 

Melissa was at two of my kids births in person (and two by phone... yes, she listened as I bellowed my babies out).  And I was at two of hers. We cooked, cleaned, walked, and nursed babies together. We spent some part of every day together for years. When I look back at many of my favorite memories, Melissa is quietly there, bringing joy. 

Sixteen years ago, after years of being neighbors with Melissa’s family in the same apartment complex, we moved.  Not just our family, but Melissa's too.  We moved away the same week, planned that way so that we didn't have to be “the ones left behind”. 

Over the years we have kept in touch.  It took us a while to negotiate our relationship via phone.  Up until that time, our phone calls went like this:

"Hey."
"Hey."
"Can you com'mere?"
"Be right there."

But we figured it out.  Now, 16 years later, we don't get to talk as often as we'd like, but when it came to Jessie getting married, it was simple.  Guy said it best...

"It's Melissa. You have to go."


I got to Salt Lake on a Thursday afternoon.  What a joy to see my sweet Melissa, and Jess surprised me by joining her at the airport.  We got our nails done (a first for me, and probably last if all manicurists are that masochistic!), and the next day we made food!  Lots of food!!!


A few hundred little caprese skewers, bazillion sandwich pinwheels, a million fruit cubes and cake squares later, and we were somewhat ready for the nuptials. 



The next morning I got the privilege of escorting the lovely bride-to-be to the temple with her proud mama.



Melissa looked so lovely. Again, Guy said it best... “She never ages!”



Jessie’s only sign of nerves hit in the car, but were short lived. My favorite mental picture from the day was seeing her and her sweetie walking hand in hand up to the temple. 



The ceremony was lovely, of course, but I missed sitting in the Temple with my own sweetie.  Temple weddings are a very simple affair.  There are only a couple of dozen family and close friends in the small sealing room, so it feels very tender and intimate.  I love seeing the bride and groom walk in holding hands.  The sealer who performs the marriage usually gives a short bit of council to the young couple, and it always brings home the beauty and purpose of marriage.  After the exchange of promises while kneeling across the altar from each other, the couple then shares a sweet kiss over the altar, and are pronounced husband and wife for time and all eternity. 

The ceremony only lasts about 20 minutes, but it is sweet and reverent.  At the end, well wishers pass by the new husband and wife in turn,  whispering their quiet congratulations.  I had managed to hold back my tears until that moment, but couldn't help it once I looked into that sweet girl's gorgeous brown eyes.  The years folded in on themselves, and I could see how short a lifetime must be in God’s eyes. She whispered how glad she was that I had come.  I felt so grateful.



From that point on, the day was the flurry that most wedding days are.  There were a million pictures in subzero temperatures (it feels that way when you are out there long enough. It was Utah, after all). 



And suddenly I saw the scene, not from the generation getting married, but from the parent generation. When did we get so old? 








I loved that I got to be THAT person for my sweet Melissa.  The one who watches from the side and makes sure her bra strap isn't showing, no lipstick on the teeth, that her hair is blowing the right way... the one that will remember how beautiful she looks to tell her about later,  when we are two old ladies, a million years (or five minutes) from now.



An amazing thing happened for me that day.  I had been so worried about my health getting in the way of what we needed to accomplish for the reception.  After all that Melissa has meant to me in my life, I wanted to be everything she needed me to be on her special day.  Before the trip I had changed my diet to follow the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), and had done great until the day prior.  The diet is a lot of work (more on that next time), so I decided not to worry about my food that day, and just eat what was available, praying that I would still be okay.

The amazing thing was that for the first time in months, I felt awesome.  So awesome.  I was quick on my feet and had tons of energy.  I lasted all day, and right into the night.  I spent the reception chasing Melissa back out of the kitchen, chatting with long-missed friends (the McKays, also old friends from the apartments, and my Soul Buddy Ellen from Sac, who now lives in Utah), and cutting watermelon and such.  I seriously felt better than I had since before the shingles hit back in September.



It didn't last, I will admit, but it gave me hope for better days ahead.  The next day my flu symptoms hit again, and I spent the day in Melissa's recliner nibbling leftover wedding food and visiting with my dear friend until it was time to go to the airport.  By a sweet coincidence, Jessica and hubby Brayden's flight to the Bahamas was leaving just ten minutes after mine, so we got to take her to the airport with us.  It was the perfect ending to my stay (I mean, for me.  I think she was focused on other things).

God answers prayers, even silly ones for a little extra energy. 

Isn’t that wonderful of him?