Friday, July 25, 2014

Life in Pictures

July has got away from me in more ways than one, so I figured I better get my pictures on before they just got lost in the rest of the shuffle and never posted at all.

Nothing special, not exactly a "Kodak moment," but for some reason when I walked into my room and found these two quietly playing with Kenex on our bed it just made me happy.  They are forever together and always get along, except for when they don't and then stand back, and they amaze me  They are far more constant motion and noise than not, so maybe it was the simple quiet and stillness in their play, their comfort with each other and their constant attraction to where I lay, but when I saw them there like that...I wanted to remember it forever.  G Team, you're beautiful boys.  Strong, curious, fearless, smart, and you laugh easily...don't ever lose that.

Some of the first zucchini and squash from this years garden...breaded, fried, and smothered in ranch.

The Wonder Twins have been busy on the Oregon Coast.  Fishing, clamming, crabbing and berry picking.  It has been a two month long summer camp program with their Papa.  I'm happy that they got to go and learn, see, do and just get away for a bit.  They will remember this summer with my Dad for the rest of their lives, I'm sure of it.


An entire BUCKET of jealous!!!

This week they made their back to my brother's house in Reno and did a little arrowhead hunting.  Sugar King found these two and sounds rather impressed with the clear one.  They will stay with my brother and his family until the end of August, which seems like forever away at this point.  They left on May 29th, so they've been gone for a good bit already, but I'm glad to finally have a date to look forward to for their return.  

So, Coal, the stray dog we brought home, yeah, I think that he is recovered from most all of his past trauma.  He seems pretty darn happy here on the mountaintop with us and is often found napping on the couch...he doesnt care that he is a big ole black lab, he thinks he is a lap dog and I'm tired of arguing with him about it, so on the couch he sleeps.  He also likes to ride in the car and if we don't take him he trows a fit, seriously, the dog tries to talk...he just sounds like Chewy from Star Wars when he does it, it's hilarious!! I got a picture of him in the car, but he was sprawled on his back sleeping and, I don't know, his boy junk was the main focal point of the picture, so I spared you and didn't post it, but he was pretty content looking laying there!!

Fourth of July fun...

Mia wasn't so into the fireworks, so she hung out on our my spot, again!

We stayed home and actually...we hosted a small neighborhood barbecue at out house....I KNOW, right!!!  There are stories, but I make it a rule to not talk about neighbors here on the blog, but I will say that just because you move out to the middle of nowhere doesn't mean you escape drama and gossip.

One neighbor made a bottle rocket was a massive hit with the males in my family.  As a mom I just close my eyes and look away.  If I had my way I would wrap them all in bubble wrap until they turned 18 and I turned them out on their own, but it doesn't really work that way.

Of course a campfire and s'mores are the only proper way to end the fourth.

A sparkler in one hand and an inside out s'more, minus the marshmallow and double the chocolate, in the other...he knows how to live life!!

An early morning view of the mountain on the way to town.

Every afternoon when I start dinner he comes in and asks "what can I do for you?" and if I don't have a job for him, I better think of one, because he is going to help!!

She turned eight...

I made her the cake she picked out, talk about sugar overload, and a neighbor brought her an ice cream cake.

And she begged, again, to have her hair cut short, and so I finally cut it for her.  She is a practical girl, always has been, and long hair is extra work that she doesn't have time for...she's too busy off exploring life in the woods with the boys.  She traded in her Barbie dolls for Nerf guns and ammo, and isn't afriad of much of anything other than missing out.                                    

And Cleo turned 17.  Sigh.  It goes so quick, it's a lame cliche, but it's true.  If her cake wasn't ablaze with fire you could see that she asked for an apple cake to go with her barbecued rib dinner.  If she can make up some math she is on target to graduate high school at the end of this coming school year.  She is still considering what she wants to do after high school, but continuing education is pretty much mandatory in our family, so community college will probably be her next stop.  In the meantime she reads constantly, and when she's not doing that she is exploring the woods and studying plant life.  I got her a book on medicinal plants and she has been combing the area identifying plants and learning about some of their uses.
And as a follow up to her Aspergers evaluation - She was found to have Aspergers traits, but not enough of them, or certain ones, to be diagnosed with Aspergers according to the DSM5.  Counseling for learning social skills was recommended.

The bathroom redo continues.  We've had so much rain that it wasn't really possible to be cutting wood and working on it, and then, again thanks to the rain, Columbus slipped on the steps to the mobile and fell, hitting the sharp corner of the steps with his back.  He was down for several days and is just now starting to be mobile again.  He was in so much pain we took him to the doctor, and we're not the type to run to the doctor over every little thing.  She said it was just a deep bruise and sent him on his way.  But the bathroom is coming along and we're very happy with how it is turning out.

The new ceiling. so much better than the rotting, yucky mess that was up there!

He has even made molding for the trim and a little shelf for above the shower.

I bought this book for the little kids over a year ago, and they have both patiently and impatiently waited to start on it.

We traced their bodies onto cardboard and now we are learning about organs, bones and muscles as we color, cut and glue them onto the full sized bodies.  It's pretty fun stuff and part of my new(ish) home schooling approach...make learning as fun and enjoyable as possible.  I have been dumping the boring, mind numbing, textbooks and replacing them with more interesting, hands on, activity based projects.  This process started last year, but since then I've more fully embraced a life should feel good and make us happy attitude, and why not apply that to education, too!?

You might live with a little boy if you find a tow truck and a half eaten pork chop on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator...

This came in the mail today...exciting and intimidating all at the same time...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

In the Silence

July has been a long month.  Frustrations, long seeded, sprout into discontent.  That may sound like a bad thing, but it is not.  It's an uncomfortable thing.  And often it is the uncomfortable things in life that push us to evaluate new crops for our grounds.  

I'm talking about money here.  I'm talking about the back breaking work of farming pennies, nickles and dimes day-in-and-day-out until your very core begs for mercy.            

You can leave a comment about how my family makes me rich, about how love is wealth, and I wouldn't argue with you.  It counts.  It does.  They've seen me through.  

I'm not talking about spiritual currency.  I'm talking about the reality of this money based world that we live in.  I'm talking about the relentless task of sweating out three squares and a cot 24/7.

We lost it all and we survived that.  We've been surviving that.  I've been making water into soup, learning the lessons that come with it, searching for strength and understanding in raw land and two trailers far removed from the outside world.  We made a nest in the woods out of so little, grew in it, loved in it, fought in it, and discovered that life never stops and that no matter how much you think you've lost - there is always more.  More to be gained.  More to be taken.  You're never done tithing life.     

I came here to heal.  To take a deep breath and then curl into the fetal position long enough to collect myself and then get back up.  

And I don't know what I thought came next?  I think that I thought I had paid enough, that I was done tithing and that if I survived it all long enough I would find nirvana here in the simple nothingness.  That I would plant a garden, raise some farm animals and grow some children. David and I would fall into some happy place, master the ebb and flow of marriage, see the kids off and wait for grandchildren.  

Finn took more than his breath with him when he left.  He took some of my inhabition and fear with him.  He took some of my self consciousness with him.  He didn't leave me nude; he left me bare.  

When he was born a friend told me something a NICU doctor had told her when her son was born:

There are worse things than death.

It made no sense to me at the time.  Nothing was worse than death.  Death was my greatest fear.  

It took three and a half months in the NICU to understand the meaning and truth in that statement.

There are worse things than death.

I never begged God for his life.  I never made promises or deals.  I would start to.  I would catch myself desperately pleading...I'd give anything...and then I would stop myself, because would I, really?  Would I give anything?  

I feel guilty because of it.  Dirty.  Less than.  Stained.  Like any mother worth anything would have, she would have made those promises and deals, and I am not her.

Finn's life was not some ficticious event, it wasn't a movie that played out one step removed on the screen in front of me.  I didn't have to imagine what it would feel like to be that character - I was her.  And her choices were real.                                     

Would I leave eleven children motherless?

Would I trade one child for another?

If I wasn't really willing to do anything, what business did I have promising it?

It shouldn't even matter to me because life doesn't really work that way anyway.  We don't get to barter our way out of tragedy.  We're not really offered a choice between the lesser of the two evils.

When I got on my knees I begged for the strength to endure.....whatever came next, any of it, all of it...the next minute, the next hour, the next day...the rest of his life, the rest of my life.  

There are worse things than death.

My discontent grows by the day.  
A man I've never met before sends an email.  His words echo comments and other emails.  Tender, touching, and when I read between the lines he reminds me that I've shared something of value here.  That I've done more then just retold a story; I retold it bare.  And that matters.  And I glow a little bit as that soaks in.

The next day my brother calls me out of the blue and without knowing of my discontent he uncharastically offers up these words to me: you've already proven that you're willing to take risks and fearing risk is what holds most people back in life, you're resourceful - more resourceful than most people, you've spent the last twenty years changing diapers and there's more to you than that, the average person who starts a business doesn't start it until they are 43 years old and you're not even there yet - so there's still time, you can be successful.   

And David has been telling me these things forever and I keep not believing.  And the Saint told me.  And other people.  And why is it so damn hard to believe the nice, good, encouraging, supportive things people say about us?

And do you ever just feel like the universe is trying to tell you something?

I think that maybe I settled someplace along the way.  That I decided that surviving it all was enough.  That I had paid enough, done enough, suffered enough and there was nothing left to do but ride the rest out.  I lost sight of the fact that there could be a next step, a next goal, that it didn't have to end at saying I lived through it.  

Maybe when life demanded that we start over it didn't mean just right here on the mountaintop.  Maybe it didn't mean struggle for water and space and just enough to get by for the rest of your life.  Maybe it meant there is something even greater in your future, but you have to stop here first; this life, these experiences, they will make you better than before and be your jumping off place to...the life you've only been dreaming of.  The one that you didn't think was for you.  The one you didn't think you deserved.  The one you didn't think you had earned.  But it is, and you do, and you have.  

And those words, the message in a bottle, they harvested the uncomfortable feelings that had grown from my discontent and I did something: I ordered a book on writing and another on self publishing.  

Because why not?  Why not try to write my way out?  

Because there is more to life than just enduring it. 

Because there is no reason to fear this.

Because there are worse things than death.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Be Good to Yourself

Generally speaking I write when I want to, when I feel like it, when I'm moved to, rarely do I force it.  I write for two reasons; to chronicle our lives and to articulate thoughts, feelings and ideas that need some outside place to go, some other world than my own internal one, some other place to rest.  I've therapeutically expunged my heart here more than a few times, stood bare in the room, without regret, even if the room goes silent afterwards. Lately though, I've been wondering why? What does it even matter? Is it even smart to do it?  These things; this internet, and the "friendships" that come with it, the voluntary personal oversharing, of late they ring so very shallow with me.  People come and go, some more peacefully than others, but always there is a sense of either loss or good riddance.  

The thing is, something else has changed.  I've come to this place that I realize what I want, what life is about, and it's so simple it's freaking stupid.  I spent some 40ish years thinking that there was some magic answer to it all.  Why are we here?  What is the point?  What am I supposed to learn or get out of it, if anything?  Does any of it even matter?

And then Finn came and ripped out my heart and left it in little tiny pieces on the floor.  Babies are like that, they're messy and not mindful, but we love them anyway.  And there I stood with a bloody mess on my hands and whole lot of choices I didn't want to make.  A whole lot of choices I didn't think I would ever have to make.  Those things; the death of a child of mine, my infant, after a long battle in the NICU - they had never crossed my mind before him.  That scenario had never occured to me. Never.  

Sure, before Finn I had feared something bad happening.  But not that.  Just some general thing.  And I imagined pain.  Imagined pain is nothing like real pain.  I can't describe it to you, because it's one of those things that just can't be described.  You have to experience it.  Live with it until you want to die in it.  Let it wash over you and seep into you and then wait for whatever happenes next to know anything about it.  Because you don't know what comes next until you get there.  Life surprises you and you surprise even yourself.  People think that they know, but that's just egotistical of them, if they understood the reality of it all they would understand how much they don't know.  How, much of what comes next isn't expected, how life changing it can be, how it really is true that when one door closes - another opens.

I can tell you what I didn't expect: I didn't expect that kind of pain, pain worse than I had imagined, to evolve into something more.  I didn't expect any next door to open, and even if I had it wouldn't have been the one that did.  I didn't expect that in some strange way that that pain would actually make life better, more worth living...sweeter.

I consider myself in recovery.  Healing is hard work and it takes conscience effort. I have choices to make about how I will handle my pain, because I am confronted with it.  And in the course of the last six months I started thinking something new and different: be gentle...with myself and the others around me.  I started to let some old ideas go: ideas about what really matters, what my priorities are, who I wanted to be and how I wanted to be thought of.  Don't get me wrong - it didn't happen overnight and things got worse, way worse, before they started to get better, but in time - softness did start to take over.  

And then something else started to happen.  I started forgiving myself.  Generally I am a good person who tries very hard to make good choices.  Don't we all?  Don't we all have some idea about who we want to be and then fall short in some areas?  I do.  I have my ideal self that I never measure up to, and I used beat myself up for it.  I used to hold it against myself.  I would minimize the good because it wasn't good enough or weigh it out against the not so good...and that meant I always lost.  But you know what else I realized?  It.doesn't.freaking.matter.  Most of it doesn't.  Most of what we worry about doesn't.even.matter.  

Somewhere along this road of grief I decided a few things.  I decided that I want love, and lots of it.  And not the superficial kind.  Not fly by night love.  Not a one night stand.  But genuine, honest-to-goodness-soul-love, and I wanted it from me.  And that meant I had to change how I looked at things.  I had to find love, because it hadn't found me so far, not this kind of love.  I wanted to be happy from within in this very steadfast knowing sort of way.  I wanted it to encompass the very core of who I am.  

And I wanted peace.  At first, I mostly wanted peace from Finn.  I wanted to be able to function without the darkness of grief hovering over me.  I knew that I had to find a way to lay him rest, but there was a problem - I wasn't done with him, I wasn't ready to let him go.  I had a hard time accepting that he was gone forever.  It was so unfair, because all I wanted to do was to hold him and love him.  I felt so cheated, so robbed, for what felt like forever.  It wasn't good for me and I knew it, but I didn't know how to get past it.  I didn't know how to lay him to rest because I didn't know how to let him go.  And so I thought about death, a lot, and I thought about the meaning of life, and afterlife, and I kept coming back to love.  That love is what matters.  But I always thought about love in terms of how I loved other people - it took a long time to include myself in it, that how I loved myself mattered just as much, if not more.  

These things, forgivness and love of self, peace, have accumulated into a single thought: Be good to yourself.  And that's what I started doing.  I stopped being my own harshest critic and started loving myself and talking to myself the same way I would you.  We are taught the Goldren Rule; to treat others the way we would want to be treated, but sadly most of us are never taught to treat ourselves as good as we treat others.  We are taught that it is a virtue to be good to other people and selfish to be good to ourselves - and that simply is not true.  In fact, it is the exact opposite of how we should live our lives and is the secret to happiness.  Be good to yourself.  It's okay - the world will not fall apart if you love yourself, nor will it stop turning if you forgive yourself.  I promise it.

Like all change it is two steps forward, three steps back.  But more often than not I find contentment in days filled with practicing more love.  And along the way I realized that I didn't have to put Finn in some dark and forgotton corner of my life to have peace.  He and our shared experience always deserved more than that anyway.  Who decided that there is a finite line between life and death?  I didn't.  I was taught that.  And now, now that I've been forced to face that line, I've challenged it.  And what I found is a son who is a great teacher and has an active part of my daily life.  

Today, I did force myself to write, because it had been so long and I thought: what will I think happened in this blank time of our life?  What will I remember of it with no prompts?  Anything?  Or will I just know that it was more of the same - the garden, cooking, school...blah, blah, blah.  But there is more in the silence.  There is this time of figuring out these things and living the moments that may well be forgotton, but that will live on in the creation of this new thing I've discovered.

I had no idea what I would write, what would come out, and I suppose it doesn't matter if it was this or something else - it was something.  I'll hesitate before I hit publish in another minute or two, but I already know that I will - because I've come this far, and every once in a while I get an email from someone who tells me that they feel exactly like I do, or that they relate, or I helped them.  Cleo calls these posts thoughtful or poetic, David looks forward to some deeper more intimate view into me, which I never understand after we've already spent some twenty-plus odd years together.  Me, I've laid bare one.more.time, and again - I don't know why.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Life in Pictures & Other Things

This is going to be quick, because I have a million and one things to do.  My "to-do" list seems to grow easier than it shrinks, and I've really been trying to get caught up around here.  With Columbus close to being done with enrolling in school (he took the placement test last week and we are almost done applying for financial aid) and Cleo only one appointment away from being done with her Aspergers evaulation (she did her testing last week in Nashville), I can now focus more on all the other stuff that has been on the back burner all of this time, like nine months of quartely taxes (so bad), reporting grades and attendance for last school year, setting up our new school year, and a billion other little things.  My main motivation at this point is that I'm just so tired of it all hanging over my head like a dark cloud.  So, I threw the kids a bag of cookies and some Koolaid and locked myself in my room with strict instructions to let me get some things done.  So far, it's not working so great....imagine  

I'll be back to blogging soon, I hope.  In the meantime here is some of life in pictures...

Fried ice cream for Father's Day dessert.  So good, we really should have this more often!!  

The Father's Day Mexican Feast.  Sunday was Father's Day and Monday was Columbus' Birthday, so I pretty much spent two days cooking.

We got David some solar lights for Father's Day.  He modified the tops to fit canning jars and then put wire on them to be able to hange cute, and he gave me one, too :)

Double Boston Cream Pies for Columbus.  He loves these things and often requests them for his birthday.  Did you know that this was Columbus' FIRST birthday on the mountaintop!?!? It was! He has been in Oregon the last two years for his birthday.  

Finally enough basil to make pesto.  We've waited all year for frsh pesto!!

A little helper man picking basil leaves.

The start of a fence.  We really, really want a fence across the front of our property.  We've talked about it since we moved up here, and we finally decided to just start on it.

The fence hole digger handles broke...Coumbus to the rescue...he just whipped up some new handles.  I swear, every household should have a Columbus!!

Fence boards going on, except these obviously aren't real fence boards.  These are free end cuts from our local sawmill, and they are what will make a fence affordable.  David saw them down at the saw mill and figured for free there had to be a way to make them work, because we want a fence that bad.  I think that it is going to look pretty cool, like Robin Hood and his band of Merry Thieves live behind it!!

We got some rough cut lumber for the bathroom ceiling and walls, but it was still pretty wet, so it got stashed in the wood stove room to dry a bit.

Later, Columbus started on the's looking SO much better.  It's going to be nice to have two full bathrooms!!

My homemade screen door alternative...a simple wood dowl hung with closet rod hangers and a sheer.  The flies were driving me nuts, but I still wanted the cross breeze, and kids never actually close doors when you want them to anyway...sooo...this seemed like the best soluation.  So far it's helping a ton with keeping the flies and bugs out.

Arrowheads that Sugar King and Sassy found while in Reno at my brothers house.

Sugar King taking his little cousins for a ride.

A night out with my brother and his family.  Sassy and Sugar King had a good time in Reno and are now in Oregon on the coast.  They caught some trout, but mostly they've been getting unpacked and resting from all of their travels.  I keep telling them to send pictures of their trip and they keep ignoring me.  Maybe when they see this post they will feel a little guilty and start listening to their mother?  Just in case they don't listen to me I think that you, the reader, should leave some comments for them telling them to always listen to their mother and to send pictures!!!!

That's all for now....back to work