a couple of thoughts on the world today.

Today I sent these goofballs off to third and first grade, respectively. These two don't get enough credit for all they do around the house, and having them in school will be a difficult transition for all of us--especially the babies--because they just add so much light, imagination, laughter and craziness to our daily routine. Without them, I swear my babies just look at me like I'm chopped liver, which I sort of am some days.

As I watched them hop out of the van and walk confidently into their elementary school, a piece of my heart sank--as it always does--at the beginning of each school year, knowing that not only will I miss the added joy they bring to our home but also that I cannot be with them everyday to protect them from any danger. As much as I love public school, I do not find it a safe place anymore.

In fact, I don't find many places safe anymore. I find myself shying away from big events such as concerts, parades, sporting events because you just never know what could happen. Obviously if the special event is something I've been dreaming of seeing/doing, then I can be persuaded out of of my fear, but for the most part, I don't like being in uncertain places.

I sound paranoid. I'm not. I promise. But I realize I sound like I am. Oh well.

On my walk with Blue tonight I thought of a phrase in The Book of Mormon that always remains in the back of my mind. I remember I was in Argentina when I felt the words first jump out at me. As a quick background of The Book of Mormon, it is a book of scripture, written anciently by prophets in the Americas. Tandem with the Bible, which I read almost daily, it helps me come to know Jesus Christ better.

But back to that particular phrase. In addition to spiritual guidance, the Book of Mormon also details the history of two different civilizations--their ups and downs, their strengths and weaknesses, and their wars against each other. Near the end of the book, the final prophet, Moroni, writes of the destruction of his people. He is alone and hiding from the people of the other civilization so as to stay alive. Describing his people (who were supposed to be the good guys), Moroni writes that they were a people "without civilization."

I had read this phrase a number of times before it stood out to me in Argentina, but I happened to read it the day after I heard of rioting in a well-known town below Buenos Aires. George W. Bush was visiting the country, and the Argentines of the area were not happy with his visit, so they burned most of the main drag by throwing torches through store windows and lighting fire to cars and buildings all over the place. The damage was tremendous. I saw the pictures in a newspaper that our neighbor had on his kitchen table. I was appalled. I couldn't believe something like this could happen, and then I remembered that phrase: a people "without civilization." And it hit me, they were no longer acting like humans, they were acting like animals, without regard for anyone or anything.

I remember saying a prayer that night, thanking God that riots weren't usual in the United States.

But now they are. Riots are normal now. People aren't considerate of others. Kindness is waning, especially where the roots of racism run deep. Not only are we fighting racism in our own communities, but we also have to be aware of imminent threats of terrorism, which has become so imbedded in the society that it's hard to be sure who is good and who is bad. It feels crazy. It really does.

I try to teach my kids kindness and respect. Believe me--we have had our fair share of difficult discussions; my kids do not live in a bubble. But I do not want them to live in fear, so I put on a brave front and do my best to smile as I let them walk away from me and into a school where I cannot be to protect them. I also don't want them to grow up thinking certain people act a certain way or are a certain way. I did not grow up that way, and I am doing my best to instill in them a way of seeing everyone in the best light possible. Whether someone else is a different race, religion, gender, etc., I try to help them find common ground. And we talk about the uncommon ground too because I would rather them be open about their questions with me than forming an incorrect opinion without all the facts.

We talk a lot about facts, but we also talk a lot about feelings. I think this is perhaps what is missing in society today. Everyone wants all the facts, and they aren't really concerned about the feeling aspect. You see it with religion. You see it in politics. You see it in the news. You see it everywhere. But what if we go back to feeling love for one another, and what if we go back to hoping that God is real and is actually watching all the craziness happen, and what if we go back to desiring the best for our neighbor. Wouldn't the world be a better place? Wouldn't our homes?

I guess my biggest fear these days is that people will lose themselves and become as the people of The Book of Mormon--without civilization. I am doing my part to fight this. Are you?

(On a side note: In an effort to be more neighborly, we invited our entire street over to our house for dinner this weekend. We were overwhelmed by the turnout. Every single family we invited came. Tim snapped this picture of our neighbors mingling and getting to know each other. I truly believe people want to and can be kind--sometimes they just need a little nudge in the right direction.)

Saying goodbye to summer

I have at least three thousand pictures saved on my phone or computer from this summer. Most the pictures are candid, with the kids swinging high into the sky, playing broom ball in the street outside our house, drawing chalk people up and down our driveway, chasing ducks across the lawn and back into the lake, fishing with a few pieces of bread and a net, kayaking to and from the beach to our dock, lying in the sun and finding pictures in the clouds, and make-believing the heck out of this summer.

It has been a wonderful summer. My kids have rarely asked for screen time; in fact, I often have to coax them inside to wind down from their busy outdoor lifestyle. I feel like I've been mostly absent from friends and texting (sorry friends!), but I also feel like I have really lived in the moment this summer.

Today as I rested on my neighbor's lawn and listened to the giggles of Genevieve and Elle as they worked together to make the swings twist around and around, I looked up to the sky and wondered how is this my life?!! My life is so rich and full of love--love that I offer to others and love that I receive from them in return (especially from my children). I sat there and wondered if I felt like I was lacking anything in my life and couldn't think of anything. Sure, we don't have furniture to fill certain rooms of our house and we aren't up to date on the latest technology trends, but I have all that I need (well, I guess I could use an extra hand or two because I almost always have three kids begging for my attention).

My life is not without heartache or pain. Believe me...I feel it. I have strained relationships with a few people, and those relationships tug at my very core (just ask Tim). Sometimes my kids yell at me. Today, one spit at me (she was quickly sent to time out). Sometimes my kids tell me I'm mean, and I feel sad because I don't really want to be mean, but I have to be firm. But no matter how many times my kids tell me I'm mean or I'm hurting their feelings, they have never uttered the words that I fear the most, "I hate you." I think those words would crush me.

This summer has brought us together in so many ways. We've really discovered the area in which we live, and we've tried so many new things together. It's also been hard from time to time because we're really all we have so we have had to learn to work through our differences quickly because there aren't any neighbors to run to; we have had to learn to run to each other.

I wish I could tell you about all the plays/recitals I watched over the summer months--each one with a new theme and a new song/story. I wish I show you all of the towers my kids created with those awful, tiny Legos. I wish I describe all the happy memories we've created all over the map--Texas, California, Illinois, Indiana and Maryland. It has been a good summer, and I'm sad to see it go.

34 + 1 day.

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 34. I love my thirties, but I can't believe I'm 34. Life feels like a dream. So often I'll be out with my kids--no doubt looking ragged and tired--and someone will whisper to me, "Enjoy it all. Enjoy all the fingerprints. Enjoy the tiny, squeaky voices. Enjoy the noise. It will be gone before you know it. And it will be too quiet. And you'll wish for all the craziness again." I used to shrug and say, "I'm sure, but what I wouldn't give for a quiet moment now," but now I try to do as I'm told an appreciate all the chaos because my oldest baby is almost 9, and my youngest baby is basically off to college. Haha. But seriously. He's got such an old man face and demeanor that I see his life before my very eyes.

34. I am not who I thought I'd be at 34. I'm not sure who I thought I'd really be, but I'm sure I didn't see this vagabond life in my future. I thought back to when I turned 17--half my life ago--and I remember I could sense freedom in my veins. I turned 17 just before my senior year and felt like everything good was in front of me; I'd already dealt with my fair share of crap and figured it couldn't get much worse. I started researching colleges, buying color block dishware and stretching my curfew to new limits. I thought I knew what I wanted out of life, but the only problem was that I didn't know who I was. I was a mix of the people I hung around with. I was whoever my then-boyfriend wanted me to be. I was what my parents wanted me to be. I wasn't me.

I remember the first time I realized I didn't know who the hell I was. My roommate was out, and I was alone, lying on the cot-style bed the university provided for us in the dorms. I looked at all the pictures I'd tacked to my wall, and I didn't recognize the girl in any of them. I was too many people, and I knew it was time to strip away all the layers and find me.

Because I knew that if I didn't know who I was, then I most certainly didn't know where I was going.

Now 17 years later, I know who I am, and I like who I am. I like my strengths and appreciate my weaknesses. When I see pictures of myself, I feel proud of everything I've become. I see hard work in my muscles. I see long hours in my wrinkles. And I see love in my smiles. I've learned to be flexible with my future plans--nothing I've ever planned has really panned out, so I'm learning to trust in a greater plan. It's worked out okay this far.

At 34, I am happy. I am incredibly in love and connected to my husband, perhaps more so than in any previous year. I feel comfortable in my skin 40%-50% of the time. I feel sexy when I'm on a date. I feel strong when I'm doing pushups. I laugh at my kids more than I ever have. I catch myself smiling at the little things so often through out the day.

Thirty three wasn't perfect; I doubt 34 will be either, but if I stay true to God and myself, I know I will continue to find happiness, even if I don't know where I'm going.

Horseback riding

When I was little, I used to pray to go horseback riding at Convict Lake. It was a privilege--one we did not get every year--but when we did, I felt so special. I always felt larger than life sitting on one of those gentle giants. This year, when I told the kids we were going to the lake again, the first question they asked was if they were going to be able to go horseback riding. Not knowing if it would work out, I didn't promise anything, but I was so happy we could fit it into the schedule.

My children have a natural affection for animals. We joke that they are animal fairies--especially Genevieve. She can calm even the most anxious animal in a barn; it's pretty spectacular. I worried Birdie would get nervous because even though she loves most animals, she gets scared of the really big ones. But with a little coaxing from me, Genevieve and my dad, she mounted the horse without a tear. I was so proud! All the kids did great, and I can't wait to go again!

a note about family

Two weeks ago we flew to California to spend some time with my family at Mammoth Lakes--specifically Convict Lake (which isn't actually a part of Mammoth Lakes but is very close). The moment we drove up the hill, the familiar smell of pine permeated my senses. It brought back instant memories of childhood, and it felt like coming home. 

The week was a whirlwind, as most family vacations are, but I loved it. There were ups and downs, mostly ups, but I feel that the vacation was a success. My kids do too--they didn't shower for nearly a week so that's always a plus for them. ;) I think my favorite thing about the trip was watching Timmy interact with my parents and siblings and watching him discover nature. He stopped at every big rock, bush, stream, bridge, etc. to study it, and watching him stick his chubby little pointer out and flash me a big smile each time was so fun. It is amazing how much more I am enjoying this phase of childhood because I'm not pregnant. I'm usually couch bound at this point. 

It isn't easy for my family--small as it may seem--to get together. We are scattered throughout the country, we have different family situations, and many of us have crazy work schedules that we can't always connect. And when we do connect or get together, I'm afraid we don't always get along. We have such different personalities and life experiences that we often fumble situations up as we try to help each other. I keep thinking time will make things better, and in a lot of ways it has, but it is still difficult. I really just thought that becoming adults would help us see more clearly, but perhaps it's made a few things foggier. I don't know. 

I'm making this little reunion sound terrible, which it wasn't, but I don't want to pretend that everything was/is perfect in my family, especially since there is still so much growing that has to happen between every relationship. This reunion showed me areas where I can improve with my parents and siblings, and I hope to strengthen the loose ties I have now before we meet again. 

And no matter how I felt on the trip, my kids didn't notice a thing, which makes the whole vacation a success. They felt loved from everyone. My mom taught Mya to cast, and it made Mya's whole world because she felt so independent on the lake. V spent a special morning fishing with my dad, and I wish you could've seen her face when she spilled the secret that "grandpa bought me my own candy bar, and I didn't have to share." She lit up like the fourth of July. These are the things that matter most. I want my kids to love my family for all that they have to give, which happens to be a lot, and I know they do. 

It really is a temple

A month and half ago I ran in the Chicago Ragnar, which means I, along with 11 other tough women, ran from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago, Illinois in leg increments. The race itself was grueling; it was hot, my legs barely had time to recover between increments, and we got little to no sleep; however, it was one of the most exhilarating things I have ever done in my life. I had so much fun with the women in my van, and I was able to push my body to new limits. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity, and I am still so proud of myself and the other women on my team.

I came home from the race determined to sign up for a couple half marathons before the end of the year, but after a few days of light running post-race, I realized something was wrong with my hip. It hurt to walk, stand up straight, sit, and run. I couldn't do it without wincing. I gave myself a few weeks to rest, hoping time would heal it, but it didn't. I tried stretching, but that didn't really help either. Two days before I left for a family vacation to California, I called a nearby chiropractor (after some serious convincing from my mom), and I have started doing to some therapy on my hip and leg. It is slowly starting to feel better, and I am adding miles daily.

What this experience has taught me--as with other experiences in my life--is that the body is an amazing gift. I have always felt incredibly blessed to have such a healthy body that allows me to run, hike, walk, and exercise whenever I choose because I realize this is not the case for everyone. Whenever I have pain or cannot exercise for a time, I am reminded how fragile the body is and the responsibility we have to care for it.

Yesterday while cleaning the house, I listened to a podcast about trauma from Michael Stone, who recently passed away. In the podcast, Stone said something that really resonated with my healing body. He talked about how the body is a temple, which I absolutely believe, and he said that if a person doesn't actually believe their body is a temple, then of course it wouldn't matter to them what type of food they put into it, and it wouldn't matter if they exercised, and it would matter if they let themselves heal. I've thought about this a lot in the last 24 hours. I thought about all the healing that happens within the walls of temples, and I realized I really need to do all I can to heal the broken parts of my body--physically, emotionally and spiritually. And that's what I plan to do.

Thinking about the idea that our bodies are temples, I've also been pondering something else. So many people comment about my "thinness." I get comments like this: "You're just skinny." "You've never had to worry about your weight." And so on and so on. The truth of the matter is I work really hard on my body. I may have been thin in high school and college because of luck, genes and good metabolism, but that is not the case now. I have had 5 babies. My body has shifted in ways I never anticipated. It is weak in areas and strong in other areas. I have diastasis recti. My stomach will never look the way it did before kids no matter how many ab workouts I do. But more than having abs and muscles, I really believe my body is a temple, and I choose to treat it as such. I am careful about the substances I put into it, and I am mindful of when and how to push it to new limits. The definition of a temple is "a building devoted to worship, or regarded as the dwelling place of god or gods or other objects of religious reverence." So no matter the religion, if one believes the body can be a dwelling place for God, then perhaps how we treat our bodies should reflect this thought.

on being disconnected and yet...very connected

I spent last week mostly disconnected from the world. Most places we fished had no cell service, and for a moment I remembered what it was like twenty years ago when people were more comfortable with silence. No one reached for a telephone to swipe up or down or side to side and no one reached for an iPad to check the latest news or scores, and no one played games on any device. We just sat and were still (unless of course we were wrangling the six little monkeys we brought along), and in the stillness, I felt very connected--connected to myself, to my family, and to God.

I took several walks alone through the mountain passes and just thought and prayed and thought some more. I wondered how I'd gotten so damn mixed up and confused. I wondered when I let myself believe it was okay to feel skeptical of everything. I wondered when I stopped feeling joy. It is impossible to pinpoint a day, an experience or a conversation. I suppose it just happened because I let it happen. I slowly started wandering "in strange roads" to quote a favorite scripture of mine.

As I pondered these things, I talked openly with God and was as direct as one can be with deity. I asked for forgiveness, but it felt shallow; it felt empty. I knew that I could not only ask for forgiveness, but that I had to start doing something about it. I kept walking and talking. I kept thinking. And at the end of the week, I knew what I needed to do.

I can't tell you how necessary it is to forget the world, its teaching, its whisperings, its incentives, its lies, its fake reality/news. My body and mind required the stillness. I think it always will. I am grateful to God and this magnificent world we live in that reminds us daily all we have to be grateful for. I am so grateful. I see God everywhere I look. He is in the smallest details. And he is with me.