Friday, December 25, 2015

Because of Him

As I reflect on the wonder and awe that Christmas can bring, my heart is heavy as I think of those close to me who have recently lost someone dear to them. Those I love who are spending this special day, of all days, without someone they love. Perhaps for the first time.

Husband. Father. Mother. Son. Sister. Brother. Daughter. Grandparent.

I ache as I imagine how difficult it must be to face this day with that deep and abiding loss. I search for meaning. And for answers: What does it all mean? Why?

It seems so wholly and intrinsically unfair. 

What cheer can Christmas bring to those who are suffering so profoundly? Is it not just another glaring reminder of the one(s) they are without?

I have struggled with feelings of how undeserved and unjust it all is. That this day, of all days, should be faced with such deprivation. 

Is there any cause for happiness and celebration?

Is there any contentment to be found for those who are filled not with delight on Christmas, but with tender sorrow?

It is my prayer and longing that there is. 

That those who have lost someone precious and adored can find joy on this day. 

That the knowledge of the events that transpired thousands of years ago, that we now celebrate, will bring peace to their hearts.

That the uncomplicated essence and meaning of Christmas will bring comfort.

That a quiet benevolence will fill their spirit.

As I think of the babe, laying in the manger, in a cold and squalid stable whose birth we commemorate this day, I think of the hope. Of the unconditional and profound love that this simple birth represents for us all.

Because He came, there is meaning to our mortal existence.

Because He came to earth, we have a perfect example to follow.

Because He came, we know how to reach out to those in trouble or distress, wherever they may be.

Because He came, we gather to worship Him.

Because He came, death has lost its sting, the grave its victory.

We will live again. Because He came.

-Thomas S. Monson

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas Blessings

Truth: I feel like a failure. A lot. 
My kids need more time. My husband needs more time. All of them need me to be nicer. My house...oh, my poor filthy house.  It needs love. Some serious love. 

Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace & love & goodwill & all that jazz. For me, Christmas the last couple years has been like a giant magnifying glass for all my failures. A neon billboard screaming: You're the worst!

I have finals at Christmas time. So when I should be making treats and decorating and snuggling with my kids watching Elf and Home Alone, I am studying. And when I am not studying, I am so exhausted that instead of doing all of the things I should be doing I am laying prostrate in bed, useless and depleted, binge-watching The Office. 

Not only do I not have the time or energy that my family needs from me, I can't even make it up to them by spoiling them with gifts. Because I also have no money. Which is no fun the rest of the year. But is even less fun come Christmas time. 

And I know. It's not about money. My kids have everything they need. (Except cell phones, which they're not getting. Even if they are the last kids on earth without them. Which they are totally convinced they are.) But I'm obviously not making them anything. Or spending any time with them. Or taking them anywhere. So it would be nice to be able to buy them something

And we have always loved being able to do Angel Tree gifts. My kids surprise me every year with their thoughtfulness & generosity in choosing gifts for others their age. (Yes, I said surprise. I love them, but they're not always the nicest.) But we just can't do it this year. Which makes me feel sad. And failure-ish.

These were the feelings rolling around in my head this past Sunday afternoon. Like marsh-wallows in my thought chocolate. As neighbor after neighbor delivered kind & thoughtful gifts. Which is one more thing we've had to forgo this year. (Because I still haven't come up with a clever enough rhyme to make packages of ramen a suitable gift. Common? Lawmen? Bombin'??)  

And then at about 10 o'clock at night there was a pounding at the door. Like some seriously scary knocking. I thought for sure it was the police or some crazy serial killer (who murders people but is polite enough to knock first.)
So I made my husband answer it, because if it is a homicidal maniac...well, age before beauty, right? Only it isn't the police. And it isn't a well-mannered home invader. It is bag after box after bag of gifts for my children and food and other household items. 

And I'm not going to lie and say that it is easy to be that family. The one who needs. Because it is not. Holy crap it's hard. Really really hard. And I thought we were doing okay keeping it on the down low. I just kept asking over and over again, Who knows we needed this? Who knew how broke we are? (After which my 5-year old started exclaiming, Who knew we needed a box of oranges??) And my first thought was to be crazy embarassed. And to think of the many people who need it more than we do.
But the looks on my kids faces as they looked through bags for gifts with their names? (Which probably was similar to the look on mine when I saw that case of toilet paper. Case. I wanted to spread it all out and just lay in it.) 
It was priceless. And it was enough to make me swallow my pride and just be super duper grateful. 

Extremely. Magnificently. Grateful. From the bottom of my bursting, happy heart. 

And it has brought a little joy. A little peace. A little hope back into my life this season.

They say that it is better to give than to receive. And that may very well be.

But receiving? It's not easy. But it's pretty freaking awesome, too.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

In Case You Were Wondering: Things I Say to My Children

I promised you a series of blog posts designed to make you feel better about yourself. But like Ed McMahon with my giant Publisher's Clearing House check, I have not yet delivered. 
(Ed McMahon might actually be dead, though. Which gives him, at least, a valid excuse.)

I have been feeling a little down about recent events going on across the world. And when I feel down, I like to publicly shame myself in hopes of making other people laugh. And letting them know that no matter how bad of a parent/partner/person they think they are...I can top them. I'm fairly confident in this assertation.
(Plus I have a ton of studying to do. And I don't want to.)

Sometimes I say things to my children that should not be said out loud. They should probably not even be thought in the first place. But, oh, I think them. And worse than that? Yeah, I actually say them. 
And then I jot them down somewhere for above mentioned purposes. 

On that list:

* I'll give you a dollar if you go away. No? How about 5?

* Mommy DOESN'T like to be TALKED TO AFTER 10:00!!!
 (In this instance it was PM. But I'm not gonna lie and say this doesn't also apply to AM most days.)

* I'll roll your head up in the window if you don't stop singing that song.

* You look like a hobo. I hope you don't think you're going anywhere with me.

* If you pee on my toilet seat one more time, I will chop off the thing with which you pee.

* Did you not brush your hair at all this morning or did you just get attacked  by a flock of mad pigeons on your way home?

* I will buy you anything you want if you don't make me take you to the store with me.

* Oh. You don't like dinner? That's ok. I don't like you.

* You smell a like an entire Olympic wrestling team. From Russia.

 (I know. There is nothing wrong with Russians.They probably smell the same as any other wrestling team. But I grew up during the Cold War, so...)

* I find it hard to believe that something so stupid could come out of the mouth of someone who came out of my body. 

* Do your friends not make fun of you? They probably should.

* If you wipe one more booger on my wall, I will cut off BOTH of your hands. And then keep them. And use them to pick MY nose with.

And that's just a sampling. Yeah. I'm a monster. I know. I also consistently call them names they don't get like Dweebil Zappa and Alexander Dumas (cuz, ya know, Dumas.) In addition to the dork, the shrimp, the loud one, and the annoying one when I can't think of their names fast enough.

They will either grow up to be strong and have a wonderful sense of humor. Or  they will need therapy for the rest of their lives.

Let's just say if one of them becomes famous, there will definitely be a memoir. I doubt it will flatter me.

At least I don't beat them with wire hangers.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sometimes: The Married Christmas Version

Sometimes you remember fondly the years of Christmas dating.

When you had a bank account separate from your boyfriend. And he would sometimes spoil you rotten using his very own money.

Sometimes those years are long, long gone.

Sometimes you miss them. Just a little.

Because sometimes, with married Christmas, when it's all said and done. And the kids are taken care of...there is no money left for the two of you.

And sometimes that's just fine. 

Because the kids being happy?  That's what really matters, right?

So sometimes, in the hard years (which...aren't they all?) the conversation goes like this:

Him: What do you want for Christmas this year?

Me: Nothing. We can't afford it. And I don't really need anything. How about you?

Him: I'm good too.

But sometimes you get each other things anyway. Small things.

And sometimes big things. But after you open it all you can think is...Crap. I hope we don't actually need car insurance this month.

So it's really good that sometimes...most times...small things are enough.

Because the kids being happy? That's what really matters, right??

But sometimes as Christmas is once again approaching, you think about perfume. And headphones. And this perfectly fabulous pair of of black suede ankle boots with ruffled trim. And a jacket you'd like to get for him.

And so sometimes the conversation goes like this:

Me: Won't it be nice when we have lots of money and we can get each other everything we want for Christmas?

Him: The longer we're married and the more Christmases we have together, the more I realize I really just want to be with you for Christmas.

Me: Oh good. Then we can use all the money to buy presents for me.

Sometimes aren't you glad you're not married to me?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sometimes: The Pillow Talk Version

Sometimes, in that magical & miraculous hour when all the house is still, you want to talk with your husband while you are laying in bed. 

Sometimes, after 15 years, you realize there is nothing in the world that you can talk about that will engage him. (Or keep him awake.)


Then sometimes you decide to talk about something he likes to talk about.

Sometimes that thing is football. University of Utah football to be exact.

Sometimes you start out by asking about their season.

Sometimes you are foolish. And you say something like: I've watched a million football games and had a million different people try to explain it to me. And I still just don't really get it.

Sometimes you have never seen your typically reserved husband talk so much in your entire married life together.


Sometimes the conversation that follows includes things about trick plays. And running the punt.

Him: Like this guy, Tom Hackett. He took it and actually ran it 30 yards. He won the Ray Guy award!

Me: What? Who? Who is this "Ray" guy? Like his name is actually Ray and he's a guy? Or his name is Ray Guy? Did Ray actually give him the award? I'm so confused. Tom Hackett is from Utah?

Him: He plays for Utah. But he's actually from Australia. He's pretty if you ever see an interview with him.

Me: Um, I don't think I'll be seeing any interviews with him.

Sometimes you are wrong about that. And the next 10 minutes is spent watching an interview with Tom Hackett. Who is not really that funny. 
(But he IS really from Australia. So there's that.)

Sometimes you get more information about football than you ever bargained for. 

And sometimes it is not as easy as you think it will be to end the conversation.

Me: OK. I think I'm done with this. I'm tired. And you're just confusing me even more.

Him: What?? Really?!? You can't get me all excited like that! And then just expect me to stop talking about football! Come on babe!

Sometimes the conversation continues. And includes things about pinning down in the five. Defensive coordinators. And training camp for snappers.

Me: There's no logic to it. Exactly how many things can you describe with the word down? It's not even a noun. It's a stupid game.

Him: It's the best game ever. 

Sometimes you think you've hit on a fantastic job prospect.

Me: I've got it! I know what you should do! Maybe you can get a job talking about football to people who actually give a crap.
(It's possible I used a word other than "crap.")

Him: Believe it or not I don't actually know enough crap about football.

Me: I don't believe it.

Sometimes you don't get to sleep until about 2 a.m.

But now you know what kind of pillow talk your husband enjoys.

Although think it might be a while before you go there again.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Running Away From Home Part I: The Drive

Road Trip Diet Rules:
She who eats bean burritos & Sour Patch Kids on the way to her destination,
must eat grapefuit and string cheese on the way home. 

Have you ever been a car...for almost 8 hours? 

Two weeks ago my answer would have been a resounding NO. Probably followed by something that sounded a lot like laughing. Or was it crying? 

Yes. Probably both. 

When I was living in California about 12 years ago I met up with a couple of friends from Utah for a birthday trip in Vegas. I think that is the last time I have gone anywhere alone. Besides work. [And, I was 6 months pregnant at the time. So technically still not really alone.] 

A couple weeks ago I decided to run away from home to visit my sister and her family in Phoenix. The stars tried to align against me to make the trip impossible, but I stuck it out. I muddled through schedules, and babysitting, and dislocated patellas, and copious amounts of mom-guilt and, like Nike says, just did it.  

I won't get into all of the facets of the trip, just yet. But I will tell you what it is like to be in a car...alone...for almost 8 hours. 

In a word? Bliss.

Some things my drive DID consist of:
  • Spending a mere $3.81 at the Taco Bell in Kingman.
  • Stopping two times. ONLY TWO TIMES!!!! [And not having to try to find anyone's shoes when I did.]
  • Listening to a customized playlist 3 weeks in the making including sing-along favorites from artists such as Aerosmith, The Jackson 5, Metallica, The Fugees, Social Distortion, Jewel and Goldfinger to name a few. [I know just what you're thinking: That Cyndie. She must have been one EPIC mixed-tape creator back in the day. And you would be correct. Oh, that's not what you were thinking. Whatever.]
  • Peace
  • Quiet
Some things my drive DID NOT consist of:
  • Spending $30+ on fast food
  • Sharing my snacks. Only to reach for some later and find the bag empty
  • Whining
  • Yelling
  • Arguing
  • Taylor Swift CDs
  • Endless questions
  • Hearing, "I have to go to the bathroom" right after passing through the last vestiges of civilization for 120 miles.
And that's just on trips with my husband. 

I haven't even mentioned what happens on trips with my kids.

(Ha ha! Just kidding, babe. Please don't move away again.)

I did miss my littles while I was there. Just enough to make me want to come back home. 

But not enough to make me want to take road trips with them anytime soon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

In Case You Were Wondering: The Notes Version

The first in my series of Posts to Make You Feel Better About Yourself.
(What can I say? I'm a giver.)

I make a lot of notes. In notebooks. On envelopes. On Post-Its. Sometimes even on a gum wrapper if it's handy. I also use the Notes app on my phone fairly frequently.

Every now and then I come across one of these old notes. They are typically pretty easy to decipher. Grocery list. To-Dos. Things to look up later. Appointments. Birthday and Christmas lists. Funny quotes from movies or TV shows. Homework assignments. 

Sometimes they even serve as a kind of time-capsule: Remember that time I was out of mascara? Or that day that I thought I could plant ground cover AND paint a bedroom? Or that one time on NYPD Blue when that suspect said, "Shut your pretty girl hole up?" Ah, good times. Good times.

But every now and then I come across a note that makes no sense at all. None. 

Like this:

What the what?!?

I don't know. But if you figure it out, give me a call.

In Case You Were Wondering

I am thinking of starting a new series of posts designed to make everyone else feel just a little bit better about themselves.

Some short but sweet posts that let you inside the crazy confines of my brain (even more than usual.) Some confessions about how I clean these days (not well) things I actually say out loud to my children (you will be horrified) and other such deep, dark secrets.

The purpose is two-fold:

First, I get little satisfaction from being slightly and legitimately insane (some, but little.) BUT, if I can use that madness to both entertain and comfort you (at least I'm not as crazy she is!) Well, then my life of lunacy will be a life well lived. 

Second, short but sweet. Emphasis on the short. I tend to write kind of a lot on my posts. Blogging is super cathatric for me and makes me feel a little less alone in the world. HOWEVER, when I write a lot...I get less homework done. It is difficult to put into words how completely time and energy and life consuming finishing my degree has been for me. This past year of school has felt like less like an adventure and more like a horrific ordeal. I used to think I was excited to learn new things. I was wrong.

I would like to compare it to being buried under 700 tons of ice cream:

Ice cream? Gooooood! 
Being entombed in ice cream? Cold. And sticky. And asphyxiating.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Sometimes: The Marriage and Texting Version

Sometimes your husband goes to live far away for 3-6 months.

Sometimes that 3-6 months turns into 6-9 months.

Sometimes that 6-9 months turns into almost a year.

Sometimes you are drowning in life, kids, school, work and you don't have a lot of time to talk.

Sometimes texting is nice.

Sometimes you can send quick messages back & forth when you don't have time for phone calls.

Sometimes you want him to hurry home for a weekend visit. (And you want cookies):

Sometimes he lets you know he's made it back safe:

Sometimes your university is playing his university and you pretend like you are remotely interested in the outcome of the game:

Sometimes you just send a quick message of affection:

And sometimes he watches too much YouTube while he's away. And you have to change your wireless plan:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Poor Fall

Oh Autumn. You of the fiery orange vistas and shivery breezes that hint of frost. You of the early sunsets and cornucopias bursting with harvest. You of the ghouls and goblins, the pilgrims and Mayflowers.

People love them some fall. Love. It. My social media feed is filled with pictures of pumpkin-everything recipes, bright yellow and red leaves, scarves, hats...and essentially all things fall.

Can I tell you a secret? I do not love fall. In fact, I kind of hate it.

But it's not really fall's fault. Fall just has the un-enviable position in the lineup of seasons of coming right before winter. And if you think I have strong negative feelings for fall? Well, you should just see how I feel about winter. Hate is not strong enough a word. 
"But what about Christmas??" you ask. Yeah, I don't much like that either. But that's a Grinchy blogpost for another day.

It's like some kind of Pavlovian response, I think. Only instead of being conditioned to the ringing of the bell that signals food, I am conditioned to the season that signals the coming of winter. I cringe, I shudder, I...unsalivate, if you will.

I blame the sunny Southern-Californianess of my upbringing. There the seasons went something like: Winter-ish, Pre-summer, Summer and Post-Summer. Here, it’s something a little more like Deathly-Cold, Slightly Less Deathly But No Less Cold, Smr and Just About To Be Deathly Cold. Nope, not a typo. That’s how short summer feels to me. And, oh, I know. I know that there are many much places that are WAY colder than here. But I am also convinced that if I had to live there, I would die. Simply die. 

But, lest you think me a spoiled Cali brat who is both cruel and unusual to poor, innocent autumn, I have decided to grant fall a reprieve. That’s right. I have seen the error of my ways and have determined this year to stop hating fall. Or at least stop hating it as much. Ya know, so I can save all my energy for hating winter. Who TOTALLY deserves it. 

And how do you stop hating something? Well, you have to remember the good times. Reflect on the positives. I don't know if it works, but I'm totally willing to give it a try. 

So what is it that I enjoy about fall? Not a ton, but a few things. And they may just be the same things that other people enjoy about winter. But to recap, I enjoy nothing about winter. Nothing. So while fall gets the brunt of my winter-hate, I will also give it the benefit of my cold-weather love. Ok, cold-weather like. Love might be taking it a little too far.

#1. Boots
Alright, I do love boots. As more than just a friend. Brown. Black. Gray. Red. Flat. Heeled. Wedged. Leather. Suede. Vinyl. Pull-on. Zippered. Lace Up. All of the above. AND having actual cold temperatures makes the wearing of such footwear practical as well as fashionable. (And pretty. So very pretty.) I saw a stage production of Bram Stoker's Dracula last week, and the only thing that distracted me from the wickedly delicious giddiness I feel about vampires was the heady lust I felt over those fabulous Victorian boots.
Mmmmmm. Boots.

#2. Soup
I am one of those people that has to eat things seasonally. I don't really like pumpkin. I don't care for squash. Apple pie I can do without. But I do love some delicious homemade soup. Potato. Broccoli. Chicken noodle. Clam chowder. Tomato. Salad is for summer. Soup is for fall. Preferably in a bread bowl. With a side of bread. Which explains why my pants rarely fit from October-February.

#3. Sweaters
Admittedly, I liked sweaters more in California. They were more of a this-would-look-great-with-my-boots kind of thing. Here they are more of a if-I-don't-wear-something-warm-and-bulky-I'll-simply-freeze-to-death kind of thing. But that's ok. Because I do like sweaters. They are snuggly. And soft. And warm.
And did I mention, they look great with my boots?

#4. Fires
The crackling comfort of something aflame? Love it. Sure, I only have a gas fireplace and it doesn't really crackle. But it's pretty. And it's warm. And I do like warm.
Do I prefer a campfire at the beach in the summer? Um, duh! But if it is going to be cold outside, a fire will suit me just fine, thanks.

#5. Cold Nights
No, not the kind I have to be outside in. The kind where I am snuggled up in bed with 73 blankets piled on top of me in. As much as I love the heat, I can't sleep when it's hot. I actually turn the AC down lower at night than I do during the day in the summer. And have a fan. And sometimes a window open, too. 
So there is something lovely about finishing a bowl of soup, taking off my sweater & boots, and curling up shivering in bed with 73 blankets to ward off the cold.

See, I'm feeling better about fall already. Five whole things! That's not too shabby. 

And maybe somewhere in there is a life lesson. Or a metaphor for embracing the things I cannot change. Something about serenity or courage or wisdom.


Monday, September 28, 2015

On Gardening and Parenting.

(Is this produce from my actual garden? Yeah right.)

Confession: I am not the mom I thought I would be. 

I remember watching my mother in absolute awe as she sliced an apple. Perfectly cutting away JUST the stem and seeds and leaving all of the crunchy deliciousness of the fruit still intact. I was maybe 10 at that time. And I thought, discouragingly: I will never be able to do that. I'm not going to be a very good mom. 

Let's just say, I still cannot cut an apple the way my mom did. My children are luckily spared from being exposed to this mortifying ineptitude by the Pampered Chef Apple Wedger. Unfortunately, they are very much aware of all my other motherly failings. And, oh they are abundant. 

I have not the patience, the sympathy, the dedication to breakfast-making, the nurturing, the bread baking, the Lego building, or the early-morning-rising capabilities that I hoped I would magically be endowed with when I became a mother. (And that's just off the top of my head.)

This has been the story of my entire career in mothering. I have always wished I could do more. Be more. Be closer to the mom my kids should have. When my oldest went to college a year ago, I was overcome with horrible guilt and disappointment that I never got to be the stay-at-home mom that I had wanted so desperately to be. The mom that was there when my kids got home from school every day. To greet them with a smile. And maybe some cookies. I felt like she hadn't gotten the best of me. And she deserved it. They all do.

I am no longer in the battle-worn trenches of young motherhood. Knee deep in potty training and child-proofing and diapering. But my kids need me no less now than they did then. They may even need me a little more. They need my help with homework, my attention, my comfort, my guidance. At no time is this more obvious than when we sit down for dinner (if we sit down for dinner) and they are talking over themselves, interrupting each other, fighting with each other just trying to tell me about something-that-happened-at-school-today. It is at this point in the day that I realize how woefully inadequate the few hours I have left to give them are. 

This has been the source of much misery for me lately. Knowing that they need more from me than I am physically able to give. Knowing that they should be eating homemade meals with rolls and salad and I am instead feeding them mac 'n cheese or ramen noodles. Figuratively. And literally.

With these thoughts circling my mind and weighing on my heart, I went out to water the garden again this morning. Typically by this time of the year it has gotten cold enough that the garden has stopped producing. This year, not so much. (Note: This is not a complaint about the fabulous September temperatures we've had this year. Cyndie loves the warm.) Looking over my sad little plot, I realized that I have not given my garden much love this year. Sure, I weeded a little. I generally remembered to water it. But all in all, it looks pretty bedraggled. The rows are uneven and slightly (totally) diagonal. The tomato cages are skewed haphazardly all over the place. The plants are covered in dead leaves and branches that should've been pruned off. There are peppers and tomatoes that have rotted on the vines because I didn't pick them soon enough. It's really a pretty pathetic sight. I am embarassed when anyone asks to see it. 

But. BUT, despite my neglect. Despite my inadequacy. Despite my lack of quality just..keeps...producing. AND, the tomatoes and peppers that it produces (when I get to them in time) are good. Really good, in fact. 

And it dawned on me, looking at my semi-neglected garden, that somehow the little care I have managed to find time to give it has been enough. Not wonderful, not exceptional, not entirely sufficient. But enough. Enough that it has somehow managed to thrive anyway. 

Maybe that's the blessing of hardy plants. And maybe, just maybe, it's the blessing of resilient children. 

The care and attention I give them is not what I wish it was. It's not even close to what they deserve. Instead of storytime, they get Netflix. In place of homemade cookies, they get granola bars, frozen burritos, and string cheese (if they're lucky.) Rather than quality time, they get the-couple-hours-left-in-the-day-when-I'm-not-working-or-doing-homework. It's not pretty. But in spite of it, they somehow manage to thrive anyway. They are witty. They are smart. They are beautiful. 

They are good. Really good, in fact.

And I may just have to find comfort in this fact. The fact that what I am doing for them is by no means phenomenal. It's not even substantial. 

But somehow. And in some way. It's enough. 

And the harvest they produce is simply amazing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hot August Nights

Alternate blog titles: Shine Bright Like a Diamond...or...I Squeal for Neil. But it's August. And the evening temperatures are high. So why the heck not?

A friend once told me, "There are two kinds of people in the world, Neil Diamond fans and closet Neil Diamond fans." I believe this to be true. I know there are people who would try to deny it. But they're just not looking deep enough inside their closets. Of this, I am convinced.

If you can't tell, I am the former kind of person. I first fell in love with Neil when I was about 13. Sweet Caroline. Shilo. Forever in Blue Jeans. Cracklin' Rosie (although for years I thought she was a stalwart woman, not a store bought one.) I heard the songs on the radio. Loved them. Loved him. It may not have been cool to be obsessed with Neil Diamond in the days of Bon Jovi and Depeche Mode. But I was anyway. At least I thought I was. And then, when I was about 17 years old, my parents got me his In My Lifetime CD box set. Sigh.

That was when I really knew. I mean, before that, our relationship was in the early stages. He made me giggle. And gave me butterflies. But I would never have dared let him see me without my aqua eyeliner on. (Cut me some slack. It was the early 90's.)

But once I listened (with insane frequency) to all 3 discs of the box set? Well, something changed. Our love grew deeper. The comfortable, he-really-gets-me kind of love. We laughed together. We cried together. We skipped over America together. (I don't hold it against him, but let's just say: not a favorite.) At that point, I knew it was really love. The kind where we could share secrets and sequin shirts. The kind where he would hold my hair and bring me ginger ale when I threw up. (He might. You don't know!)

The man is a lyrical genius. With a voice as powerful as the low rumble of thunder; as soft and piercing as a lover's whisper. The showmanship of Barnum+Bailey×Mick Jagger. The bare-chested awesomeness of Al Pacino à la Scarface. And the eyebrows of a Muppet. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

His songs spoke to me then. They speak to me now. And as a tribute to my first love (except for maybe jelly bracelets and Jake Ryan) I give you 3 of My Very Favorite Neil Diamond Songs.

1. I Am...I Said.
It first touched me as an awkward teenage girl trying to find her place in the world. Feeling the emptiness deep inside that only an adolescent thinks they can truly feel. "Like, nobody gets me, okay!"

Then when I moved in my early 20's to Southern Utah from Southern California (which is 400 miles apart geographically and 4,000,000 miles apart in almost every other way.) Then I really knew what it was like to be lost between two shores. Even if they were just the shores of the Pacific on one side and Cedar City's own Coal Creek on the other.

Now the song speaks to me because I am a mother. And no one ever hears what I say. Not even the chair.

2. Play Me.
Again with the adolescent longings. The dreams of someday finding someone (hopefully John Cusack) who is the moon to your sun, the words to your tune. Could there BE anything more romantic? No, no there could not.

Then you date a little. And live a little. And start to wonder if this person actually exists. (And come to terms with the fact that it will not be John Cusack.) And if you're lucky, you do find someone who is totally willing to not just put up with you, but maybe even love your crazy, neurotic self in the process. (And tolerate your borderline-unhealthy obsession with Neil Diamond.) And you decide that maybe that's better than a moon.

And then you have kids. And you would sell your soul if they would just go to bed. And you spend hours in negotiation talks with the tiny hoarders until you agree to let them keep their garbage for "just 3 days" and put the stickers from their new clothes on your bedroom mirror. And bribe them with everything that is in your power to give, just to get them out of the car when they suddenly decide they "don't wanna go to school."

Then, and only then, do you find out what it really is to be played.

3. Hell Yeah.
This one is more recent. No angst-y teenage stories for you here. It's no Soolaimon. Not a super catchy tune or a great one to sing along with. But awesome and empowering in it's own right.

Neil is an old friend. And one I trust implicitly. For advice. For comfort. For karaoke. So when he says,

I hear you wondering out loud
Are you ever gonna make it?
Will you ever work it out?
Will you ever take a chance
And just believe you can?

Hell yeah you will
You're gonna be okay
And you might get lost
But then you'll find a way

Well, I believe him. 

And I sing this one to myself a lot lately. Because every tiny feat I accomplish these days feels like a major miracle. Turned my homework in on time? Made dinner? Remembered where we keep the vaccuum cleaner? Sent the kids to school wearing both socks AND shoes? Hell yeah, I did.

Are there only 3 Neil Diamond songs that I love? No way. And though there are a couple I could live without (Oh Heartlight. Why? Just why?) For the most part, they are all my favorite. At different times and for different reasons.  

A Solitary Man? Not if I have anything to say about it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Little Good-Byes

You think I'm going to re-write the lyrics to a She-Daisy song, don't you? Well, I'm not. Mostly because that last re-write took a lot of doing. Re-writing a 12 minute song is no joke. It's a good thing I didn't have to actually play any guitar solos. {Although I rocked some air-guitar lip sync performances for like a week straight. Just ask my traumatized kids.} Let's just say I'm resting the lyrical part of my brain for now.

Fourteen years ago today, give or take a couple days, I took my oldest to her very first day of kindergarten. It was one of the most bittersweet goodbyes I had ever said. 

She was so excited to start. She had yet to have any younger siblings and was the social-est (not the Karl Marx kind) of social butterflies. She couldn't wait to learn new things and make new friends.

I felt like I had spent her whole life preparing her for this day and I was excited for her too. 

She was also a little nervous. School was a new thing. She worried about her teacher, the other kids in her class, and whether or not someone would be there right after school to pick her up. 

I was more than a little nervous. I was a first-class mess. She had been my tiny best friend from the moment she was born. I didn't know what on earth I was going to do without her every day. Add to that the fact that I worked swing shifts at the time and I didn't know if I would ever even see her after I dropped her off in the mornings. {What? I never said I wasn't melodramatic.}

Walking away after getting her settled in her class? It was one of the hardest goodbyes I had ever said.

Two more daughters have had their first day of kindergarten since then. You would think that having done it before would have made me a pro. It didn't. They were both a little more shy and more nervous than my oldest had been. That made things even harder. Cue the goodbyes. The quivering chin. The wringing of hands. The tears. And that was just me. 

This morning, I dropped my youngest off at his first day of kindergarten. My last, first day of kindergarten. {No really. My last. If I somehow became pregnant again, I would give that baby away. Mark my words.}

To him, it's the start of something new and fun. To me, it's the beginning of the end. 

I am convinced that somehow time passes infinitely more quickly as soon as they set foot in school. It's some kind of special learning-institution-space-time continuum. {I'm pretty sure there's some hefty scientific research to back me up.} 

As he both high-fived and kissed me goodbye. As I watched his monster backpack disappear slowly down the hall. As I struggled to keep the tears from streaming down my face. I thought about all the little goodbyes we say as parents. No, not the goodbyes to sanity and a full-nights sleep and a flat stomach. The other kind. The kind we say to our kids:

* The first time we leave them with a sitter. And feel guilty and relieved and terrified all at the same time.

* The first night they sleep in their own room. And that lovely night's sleep we dreamed of ends up being just an illusion. Because we get up a million times. Every time we hear them sigh on the baby monitor. And sometimes when we hear nothing. Because,"WHY AREN'T THEY SIGHING??"

* The first time we drop them off for a play date. When we swear we're going to go straight home and finally get-something-done. But mostly we just worry if they are safe and having fun. (Plus, all we really want is a nap. And a shower.)

* The first day of school. When, suddenly, we don't know who they're playing with. Or what they're eating for lunch. Or whether or not they're behaving. Or if they are happy. Or sad.

* Their first friend party. And all we can do is hope the other kids are nice. (And that they aren't playing half the games we used to play at parties.)

* The first time they eat dinner at a friend's house. And we're a little sad to see that empty spot at the table. (And we hope to heck they aren't complaining about the food like they do at home.)

* The first time they sleepover somewhere without us. And we hope they are sleeping better than we are. And missing us less than we miss them.

* The first time after they get their driver's license and they drive the car. Alone. Without us in it. And we wonder how anyone ever survives this.

* Their first date. With someone of the opposite sex. Without adult supervision. And we wonder how anyone ever survives this. (And pray that adolescent hormones have somehow magically changed since the time we were teenagers.)

* The first time we leave them standing on the porch of their own apartment/dorm room. And we smile and wave. And then sob the whole way home. 

* The times when they come home for a visit. And then leave again. Because they don't live with us anymore.

Every parent experiences different goodbyes. Dropping them off with an ex. Day care. Plane rides. Hospital stays. Missions. School trips. 

But every parent experiences goodbyes. Some painful. Some tender. Some a mixture of the two.

And practice doesn't make perfect. Each goodbye is difficult in its own way. And saying one goodbye does not make the next one any easier. Because the hardest part of holding on is letting go. 

But the goodbyes we say as parents are always temporary. Because our children are ours. No matter where they go. Or what they do. Or how much they grow up. They will always be ours.

And maybe that...that is the "good" part of goodbye.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

But I Won't Do That

Recently a {young, fit} friend sent me an article titled,  5 Reasons Why You Can't See Your Abs. My first instinct was to take offense, but I know his intentions were pure. He's just trying to help a girl out. Whatever. I can actually think of 4 reasons off the top of my head right now why you can't see my abs, and they are 19, 13,11, and 5 years old. Do I love all 4 of those reasons to death? Yes. But the truth of it is that they have caused my abs to be buried so far under depths of skin that has been stretched beyond its limits, that they exist now as only a thing of faith. I cannot see them, but I believe that somewhere...they are there.

The article was not about exercise, but all about diet. Of course it was. Because what good is running miles every week or doing 500 sit-ups a day if you are still eating like crap? Apparently, no good at all. And don't get me wrong, I can count calories with the best of them. I can drink green smoothies, and eat nothing but carrots for dinner and egg white omelets for breakfast. What I am unwilling to do? Give up regular soda. And carbs. 

My reasoning? There are few things in life I enjoy. Most of my days are laden with obligations, and stress, and exhaustion. Something I do enjoy? Washing down a loaf of French bread with a giant Vanilla Coke. This is no doubt the reason why despite going to the gym every week for the last 3 weeks, I still can't lose the 7 pounds I gained in 5 days of vacation. Whatever. That's why stretchy jeans were invented.

Well, do you know what goes really good with empty calories and obstinacy? Meatloaf. Nope, not the gross hamburger kind. I could give that crap up in a heartbeat. I'm talking about the Ultimate Prince of Rock Ballads kind. The capital M capital L kind. And while he would do anything for love, I would do anything for abs. 

Do I know that soda is poison and simple carbs are the devil? Yes.

Do I know that eliminating them from my diet may just give me unbelievable results? Yep. 

Will I give them up? No. I won't do that. 

And I would do anything for abs
I'd run a mile around the track
I would do anything for abs
I'd do a million crunches on the mat
But I'll never forget how good it tastes right now
Oh no. No way
And I would do anything for abs, but I won't do that
No I won't do that

Some days the bread is cheesy

Some days the bread is hard
Some days you crave jalapeño kettle cooked chips, they're the best
But they'll make your breath like fire
You'll need a big Coke with ice 
Some nights a big box of donuts can help you out when you get stressed

Maybe I'm crazy, oh it's crazy and it's true

I could go a few days of eating nothing but cabbage soup

But as much as I love starvation

As long as there's carbonation
As long I still have teeth to chew
You'd better believe it, that I would do

Anything for abs

I'll cut back on unhealthy snacks
I would do anything for abs, I'll give up Captain Crunch and Apple Jacks
But I'll never forgive myself if I really had to brown rice
I would do anything for abs
Oh, I would do anything for abs
Oh, I would do anything for abs, but I won't do that
No, I won't do that

Some days I bake a pizza

And some days it's homemade rolls
Some days I just make clam chowder and eat it in a warm bread bowl
Some nights I toast a bagel
(There's no calories in the hole)
Some nights I think for a piece of key lime pie I'd sell my soul

Maybe I'm stubborn, but I'll eat dressing that's fat free

And that's not the only, not the only diet tip I'll keep

And I can do moderation

But not complete deprivation
So I'll just drink Coke, not Mountain Dew
You'd better believe it

That I would do anything for abs
I will work out daily, that's a fact
I would do anything for abs, I wouldn't mind having a sweet six-pack
But the only kind of six-pack that I will ever have is of Coke. Of Coke.
I would do anything for abs
Oh, I would do anything for abs
Oh, I would do anything for abs, but I won't do that
No, no, no I won't do that

And I'll never stop drinking Cherry Coke with crushed ice. There's no way. No way.
I would do anything for abs
Oh, I would do anything for abs
I would do anything for abs, but I won't do that
No, I won't do that

Will you raise your heart rate? Will you strengthen your core?
Will you try to hold a plank pose for five minutes or more?
Will you try to lift a little more weight?

I can do that
Oh I can do that

Will you give up brownies? Will you give up cake?
Every morning will you try to choke down a protein shake?
Even though I know it doesn't taste great

I can do that
Oh no, I can do that

Will you grill a turkey burger with your own two hands?
Will you eat it on a wheat bun even though it tastes bland?
Can you try to cook more healthy at home?

I can do that
I can do that

Will you not eat from the Happy Meals your kids got?
Will you let them eat their own french fries, even though they're hot?
Will you leave their chicken nuggets alone?

I can do that
Oh no, I can do that

After a while of this exercising thing
You still won't see your abs and it'll be coming up on spring
You will make the switch to drinking diet soda

I won't do that
I won't do that

Maybe you will start by adding BodyShred
But before you know it, you'll be giving up bread

Soon you'll start wrapping things in lettuce

I won't do that
No, I won't do that

Anything for abs
Oh, I would do anything for abs
I would do anything for abs, but I won't do that
No, I won't do that

They say to never say never. So I guess there is always the possibility that I could change my bad habits. That maybe...just MAYBE...there will come a day when I give up soda. Or carbs. 

But it is not this day.