Then Rang the Bells More Loud and Deep

Posted on 12/24/2016 07:47:00 PM In:

About five years ago, I purchased a string of these Jonathan Adler ornament/lights to put in a bowl as a Christmas decoration because they each slowly fade and turn colors, but in no particular order so it doesn't look like most "twinkling" tree lights that flash on and off like a great big neon Eat at Joe's sign. They are hella expensive and hard to find, but each year, I've caught a new sale on Amazon and added one or two strings (each string has just six bulbs on it) to my collection until this year when I finally had enough to to our entire giant tree in them.  They are one of my favorite Christmas decorations.

I love the way they look and they mesmerize me.  Sometimes I just catch myself staring at them for blocks of time that are entirely too embarrassing to mention here.  


One of my other favorite decorations is this little Christmas village, which I'm sure has been featured on this blog before, but The KingofHearts bought these little vintage-ish bubble lights this year and we paired them together.


My mother purchased these, I think, in 19mumblesomething and I've always loved them.  As a kid, I spent hours arranging the village and moving around the little pine cone people. Now my kids do the same.  I was just saying to someone how I'd never seen anything like them before, and then last weekend we were in an antique shop and I looked in a basket to find this:



I called The KoH over to take a look at them and the antique store lady tried to tell me what they were.  "Oh, I know," I said and whipped the picture above that was still on my phone out to show her.  I thought briefly about buying them all and maybe I should have, but mine were all in much better condition.

The girls' ornaments this year continue to reflect what's going on in their lives.  This year, the theme of our lives was leaves.  We were inundated with leaves from our little forest and spent most of the year, mowing, raking, and otherwise removing piles of them.  We even had a group of people from church come by and remove leaves one weekend.  They spent a half a day raking up and carrying bags and bags of them off and just as they were heading off, the wind picked up and dropped every last leaf that was left on a tree over the beautiful clean lawn they had left us. They each drove away from our house with a single tear in their eye, watching a new batch of leaves falling to the ground like snow.  By the next morning, the leaves were shin-deep again.  

But not to worry, because we then had two days of crazy strong winds and I walked outside the morning after to find the wind had arranged our leaves carefully and thoughtfully:



And then I followed the yellow brick road until I found a wizard and asked him to give me a heart.

Anyhoo... 

The girls' ornaments this year are actually leaves. Oak leaves, gilded, made by someone I found on the internet.  They're gorgeous.  The internet still holds few positives for me - but only a few.

This is the Caterpillar's:



And the Dormouse's:


My favorite story of the month is how much fun it has been watching my girls prepare for Christmas presents for each other this year. The shorter of the Shortlings especially, is taking this gift-giving process very seriously and has been working for weeks to hand make presents for The KoH and me.  It's a good thing it's an incredibly sweet gesture or we'd all have become sick of the mechanizations that go on order for these presents to be made and would have lost patience with them long before we did.  We have been banned from entire levels of the house. We have each had to go to at least six different stores for special crafting supplies. We have listened to her argue with fabric and thread.  We have picked up scissors left on the floor after we stepped on them.  And I don't know about my gift, but The KoH's gift was as much a chore for me as it was a project for her.  That's another story for another day.

For her sister, however, the perfect gift had to be purchased in a store.  And that perfect gift consists of preferred and desired art supplies, which are markers that cost $8+ a piece.  I took her shopping for them and patiently explained that for the amount of money these cost, versus the amount of money she had, she should probably just buy less expensive supplies so she could get her sister something more than two markers at best.  She selected a paint and colored pencil set and we headed home.  Then she immediately regretted it because it wasn't what she had wanted at first.  (A good portion of our lives these days is spent dealing with the aftermath when something challenges the world view of The Caterpillar.  It's exhausting.)  We both assured her that she had made the right decision and The Dormouse would be happy with her gifts, but she still wanted to go back and buy the crazy expensive colored markers with whatever money she had left which was about $3 - not even enough to buy one marker.  

Finally, she appealed to the nerd in both of us and presented us with this equation:



Oil pastels + paints = 50% chance for Sister to hug me
Oil pastels + paints + fancy markers = 70% chance for Sister to hug me

With that kind of logic, who can argue? I took her to the store and paid the ungodly amount of $60 for a set of six fancy markers. I AM NOT MADE OF STONE, PEOPLE!

At the store, she told me she didn't have enough money to pay for all the markers (actually she didn't have enough to pay for one - I'd known that at the outset).  I told her that I'd cover her but she had to make me a deal, she had to pay it forward and do something nice for someone else. She offered to take over some of my chores around the house, but I told her I didn't want it to be for me; I wanted her to look for nice things to do for other people (I was going for "sister" people, actually, hoping to improve that relationship these days) and to keep doing them until she felt like her debt was paid off. It was up to her to decide when she'd done enough.

As we were walking out of the store on a cold, rainy night, we went down the steps next to a man who was sitting outside on one of the stairs. I greeted him. He said "Merry Christmas" and we both responded in kind.  He hesitated and then said, "I'm sorry to ask this, but my ride didn't come and I'm trying to get home, do you happen to have a couple of dollars for the bus?"  

I apologized and explained that I had no cash, but I wished him luck and he thanked me anyway.  We started to walk away but The Caterpillar yanked on my coat sleeve and turned to go back.  She ran back to him and pulled the $3 she had planned on using for... I don't know, half a marker?... and handed it over to him.  Then she told him Merry Christmas and ran back and grabbed my hand.

"That's a start," she said.

I don't know about you, but it's been really hard to believe in humanity lately and I needed this.  It was one of the sweetest moments I've ever experienced with my children and I nearly burst into tears.  But I held it together because I never did get that heart from the wizard.

Then the next night, I took The Dormouse out to shop for a gift for The KoH.  She found something appropriate after a long while of looking, but again didn't have enough money to cover it all.  I made the same deal with her that I'd made with The Caterpillar the night before; I'd give her the money, but she needed to do something nice for someone else.  Something big enough to cover the value of this gift and she had to decide when she'd done enough.

She thought for a moment and sighed heavily.  

"Can I just GIVE you the money?"

Well, we're batting .500 at least.


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Christmas 2016

Posted on 12/22/2016 10:14:00 AM In:
Good gravy, will this year never end?

*sigh*

I suppose I should document our Christmas cards this year.

Outside: 
Inside:

We had the most fun staging this photo, because it's not often that you get to drop a giant tree on your children and then tell them to move this way and that because they don't look dead enough.


Last year, we bought a tree and argued about the height of it because we always end up getting a tree that's too big for the room once you put it in the tree stand. Now we have "fourteen-foot ceilings," as he keeps putting it, so we got a much bigger tree than prior years, but I still kept saying certain trees were too tall and we should pick a shorter one because The KingofHearts keeps forgetting that the fourteen-foot point of our ceiling has a wall attached to it and the rest slopes downward, so it's not actually fourteen feet.  We took the tree home and put it up and I made the mistake of saying out loud that we actually could have gone a little bit bigger with the tree.  That was the living end for The KoH and he told that story about the next eleven months about how I was Wrongy Wrongerson from Wrongsville, Wrongington and I said we had to have a shorter tree, but the second we put it up, I totally agreed with him and he was right and he'll never listen to me again.

So this year, I said nothing about height of the tree. No. Thing. 

I let them pick the tree they wanted and thought would fit.

Here it is in all its glory:


This was after he cut like three feet off the bottom.  If it seems like it's bending to the will of the ceiling, you're right, it is.  We cut the tip off [insert circumcision joke here] shortly after the photo was taken.

Because as it turns out, see that sloped ceiling?  There's only about ten feet from the ceiling to the floor if you want to actually put the tree in a place where you might actually be able to walk around it or where it's not spreading its branches into the fireplace... which... I'm no fireman, but seems like a bad idea to me.

But either way, it's gorgeous and I love it.  Even if the star has to be attached six inches lower than the top of the tree.



We are having a lovely holiday season, despite the fact that 2016 has treated us like a horse that was rode hard and put away wet.

I might have shared this gif sometime last year, because there is no more appropriate image I have yet seen that describes how awful 2015 was for me. If I were to make a gif for 2016, it'd just be me continuing to bounce around at the bottom of the slide some more, and maybe a six year old wanders up and kicks me in the ribs a couple of times. 

I'm looking forward to a much better 2017.  It has to get better, right?

Please?

Bonus beautiful kids picture that we couldn't quite make work for a Christmas card.




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Am I Angry?

Posted on 11/12/2016 11:05:00 AM
Tuesday's election in the U.S. has devastated me like few other things have. 

Am I angry? Yeah, I'm angry.

The night before the election was also the night before I was getting on a plane to go to a week long conference.  I participated in early voting so I wouldn't miss my chance.  This has been a long and horrible process and we're all ready for it to be over. We have clear and strong opinions about the candidates and issues in our house but just the same, we have tried... very hard... to keep to civil discourse in discussing even those strong opinions in front of our children. We don't keep from talking about our thoughts about the political discourse within their earshot, but we also don't bad mouth opponents of candidates we like. I try to refer to them all by their full names or titles rather than just throwing around last names like they are curse words.  But as I was putting my youngest to bed the night before the election, she looked up and said to me, "Mom?"

"Yes?"

"If Mr. Trump wins, are we going to have to move to Cuba?"

I made some joke about trading one fascist dictator for another and assured her that Mr. Trump would not be the President.  I reminded her that this is the same country that elected Barack Obama twice.  I had faith in us.

I was wrong.

Basically, we have an unqualified, racist, misogynist, homophobe who was endorsed by the Klu Klux Klan getting ready to take White House now.  And all because the other candidate, an extremely qualified and competent woman whom we've been brainwashed to hate for the last 30 years, who, despite the fact that large groups of people have spent decades and millions attempting to prove she did something illegal and failing to do so, simply rubs many people the wrong way.  Because where was the outrage when the Bush administration "lost" 20 million emails?  Were people chanting to lock him up? Why is this only a problem now?  Where was the outrage during Iran-Contra, one of the biggest presidential scandals ever? Or in this very election, what about when "he" refused to release the tax records for taxes that he most likely didn't pay for the last 20 years? But you're worried about "her" transparency? What about when "he" encouraged and downright asked for Russian hackers to commit espionage toward the United States in a public forum? What about the bankruptcies, the 3500 lawsuits, the hundreds of defaults on payments for services that he agreed to pay to hardworking service providers? Where was your outrage then? Was that somehow better? You say you don't trust her? Well of the two, whom do you think is more trustworthy? Do you really think that of the two, "she" is the crooked one?  No, this is far exceeding that. This is because it's "her."  This is because you don't like her pantsuits.  This is brainwashed misogyny, pure and simple.  Because even if you didn't feel comfortable voting for "him," when you voted against "her" or you didn't vote at all, you basically cast your vote for "him" and for what he stands for.

I had to explain to my youngest daughter what a "pussy" was this month.  Hint: not the cat kind.  And what it means to grab a woman by hers.  Because despite the fact that we watch literally zero news channel television in our house, that horrible tape of the man who will now be the President and will swear to protect the constitution of the United States that my daughters are growing up in was on TV 24 hours a day -- even on channels that have kids' programming.

They heard him say it.

They know what he meant.

They know that "all men" don't talk like that.  

No one they know talks like that.  

The first time they heard disgusting talk like that -- and I'm not talking just the words, I'm talking about the attitudes that women are objects to be fondled and used -- the first person in their lives that they heard express those sentiments?  He was an accepted candidate for the Presidency of the United States they live in.

*sigh*

I was sexually assaulted when I was about the age my older daughter is now.  A man literally did "grab me by the pussy."

My friends and I were at a wave pool, boogie boarding. It was crowded.  When the wave came, I - along with about a hundred others - flopped onto my board to surf to the beach side and in the commotion, someone I could not see behind me, stuck his hand between my legs and grabbed my genitals.  Hard.  He (I assume a he because the assumption is probable, but I admit that it could have been anyone) tried to put his finger where he had no right.  I kicked and wriggled and managed to get out of the grasp and when the commotion ended and we surfed to the beach and the wave was gone, he was lost in the crowd.  I had no idea who it was.  I never saw. 

I was humiliated. Mortified. I thought it was somehow my fault for prancing around in my modest, one piece bathing suit in public.  For even daring to be there in the first place. For not simply staying home and inside. I didn't know what to do about it.  I didn't have any tools for doing ANYthing.  So I went back to my beach towel on the sand I never. told. anyone.

The truth is I was not raped. I was not seriously hurt.  For that I am grateful.  But I was changed that day. 

I'd almost stopped thinking about that incident.  I pushed it down and put it behind me. Or so I thought... until I heard the man who would eventually become the Republican nominee for President of the United States, along with a cousin of two presidents, egging him on and then doing a little men's elbow-you-in-the-ribs inside joke later, encouraging an innocent bystander woman to give that same man who had denigrated and objectified her not five minutes prior, a hug... and laughing about it like little boys who got away with looking at a naked lady in a National Geographic magazine. It all came rushing back like a bad dream. And it sickened me. 

And that sickening feeling was added to the sickening feeling provided by a hundred other things he had said before that and the hundred other things he would continue to say after it.

That man/boy/child/person at the wave pool?  The person who did that to me was probably not a monster.  He was a regular person, enjoying a day at the fake beach just like me and my friends. It was probably some kid who got a feeling of titillation out of trying something and getting away with it.  A regular person who had been sent the message over and over that women and girls are objects to do with as you please. A kid, who wasn't told not to do that shit by his parents, his community... or his President.

And now, maybe that manchild is going to be the President of the United States some day too.  Maybe that manchild is the one who will be in January.  It could be; I never saw him.  

I'm angry because what we all said when we voted for "him" and even those who didn't vote for "him" but chose to vote against "her" because "she" rubs us the wrong way is that we know what "he" said.  We know what "he" did. To Jews, to Muslims, to gays, to Mexicans, to women...  We know what he thinks because he's told us... over and over.  For YEARS.  I am waaaay less bothered by the fact that this one man won an election than by the fact that 47.5% of the voters heard these things from that man's own mouth and said, "You know what? I'm okay with that."

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

And the worst part about it is this man, whom you elected, has no intention of representing you either.  He will use this position to line his own pockets and feed his own ego - the only two things that truly matter to him.  You think he'll find you a job? Doubtful.  You think he'll keep your access to healthcare? It's probably already gone.  You think he'll work to fix what's wrong in your community?  He couldn't care less about your community.  Do you think your children will be safer? He has already indicated his intention to remove gun-free school zones.  Even if he's not as bad as we all think, do you think he'll work to make the country a better place for your daughters and sons to grow up in and learn to be kind, equitable people in a functioning Democracy next to other people who are kind and equitable?  He has proven he has no intention of doing that.  

I already am hearing from my fellow therapists - some who provided services to kids after Newtown, after Orlando, after Columbine, and Sandy Hook, - that their clients are afraid because this has emboldened people who think that violence is an acceptable way to solve problems and they are not just afraid for their ease of living in this country; they are afraid for their lives.

This is not the country I want to live in.  And that's the most devastating part of an already really devastating year: we are not the people I believed we are.

I called my kids from my conference Wednesday morning, despite the fact that I could barely keep it together enough to keep from crying on the phone.   And I am not a cryer over presidential elections.

They are scared.

Let that sink in.  My kids are scared of the person who will be President.

Maybe I could have done a better job as a parent shielding my children from the things this man who will be President says, but to be honest, I don't think I should have to.

They are worried their friends at school will be deported.  They are worried that their gay friends' marriages will be dissolved and they will be forced into conversion therapy.  They are worried that as Mormons, they will somehow also be identified as "other" someday down the road and have to sign into the same registry that he said he would create for Muslims.  They are worried that we'll hate each other even more than we already do.

It was very hard not to agree with every one of those fears. I am worried too.

When I called them, I told them that I knew they were disappointed. I was disappointed too.  All because a little less than half the country and a whole lot of political gerrymandering decided to grab at all the power and good people couldn't vote against that because, "I don't like her.  I can't explain why. I just don't like her." 

I also told them that just like in Orlando, and Newtown, and on September 11, and so many other events we've witnessed together, that there are as many people running toward the flames as away. That people will still be there to keep us safe and work toward equality for everyone. That fortunately our governmental system has other checks and balances and while this man may have a lot of power, he doesn't have all the power.  And that people, as we spoke, were donating money in record numbers to organizations that work to protect the vulnerable and at risk from the statements and policies that he supports and that I was doing the same.  I told them that we would still stand up for people who are bullied, who are afraid, who are not treated fairly, and that we would work doubly hard to make sure this never happened again.  I told them that now more than ever, it's incumbent upon all of us to demonstrate kindness and equity for all... and I expect no less than that of them, of myself, of us all.  

I almost believe it.

What I learned from this, is that this country is way more sexist than it is racist... as Patton Oswald said, "...and it's pretty f***ing racist."

So am I angry?

Damn right I am.

I am livid.


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To Gillian on Her 16th Birthday

Posted on 10/20/2016 12:03:00 PM


I've been taking a break from this blog for a number of reasons.  I'm not saying I'm not writing anymore; I'm not promising more regular posts from here on out because both of those things seem cliche to me.  It's just that these days, I feel torn in a hundred different ways constantly, and when I do have a moment with my thoughts (which is not often), I honestly don't feel like I have anything new to say. Which might either mean writers' block, or depression, or maybe that I just don't have anything new to say.  Anyway, I refuse to force myself to post when I'm not feeling it and I also refuse to admit that this blog has run its course.  When I need it, it's there and that's good enough for me for now.  

Fall is my favorite season of the year, it's cool and beautiful and welcome respite from the heat of summer.  I didn't get to experience fall much because during so much of my childhood I lived in a desert.  I always longed for the leaves changing colors and all the other things that come with it.  When I was in second grade, my teacher held a drawing contest each month and I drew an old timey red school house with a bell tower and trees around it full of leaves of all different colors which were falling to the ground in mounds.  I was contest winner for the month of October.  We'd just moved from Colorado, where you see such things, to Arizona where you don't, and many of my peers couldn't wrap their heads around my picture but instead thought it was some sort of fantasy drawing.  They simply didn't have a frame of reference for such things.  It wasn't very many years there before I was just like them.  It's one of the reasons I don't really have a desire to live in a desert again. Seasons are just too amazing.

But Fall also happens to contain maybe the worst of the year for me as well and I often don't really realize it or know why until it blindsides me that there's an anniversary that I dread both remembering (and dread not remembering).  September comes and school starts and holidays get closer together and we hit the whirlwind of all our family's birthdays in a four-month period and work gets really busy for me..... and I just begin bouncing down that road of milestones until the end of the year, with no recourse but to simply submit to gravity and let everything shake out where it happens to land - I just have some vague hope that I'll be able to stand without broken bones when it's all over.  

There's a new network television show this season and I happened to catch the pilot a couple of weeks back.  It's lovely and excellently done so far and I'm a fan. Not the least of the reasons is this scene toward the end of the pilot where a young couple is expecting triplets and one of the three babies dies during delivery.  I didn't know this was coming; hadn't heard anything about this show before watching it and I don't really even know how it ended up on my DVR.  But there it was.  I sat in my basement in the dark at five in the morning - because that's the only time I can watch television and not be interrupted - and this scene happened and I dissolved into great, blubbering tears, shaken with the raw honesty and relevance for me of this scene.
 
Doctor: "Rebecca's vitals are good.  She's going to be asleep for a little while but she's doing fine. We're monitoring her closely. We lost the third baby, Jack. I'm very sorry. The second baby is a girl - very strong.  The third baby was a little boy but the umbilical cord was cutting off his oxygen and he was stillborn.  Nothing anybody could have done."

Jack: "I'm sorry. I'm not processing anything. My wife...?"

Doctor: "Is fine. And she'll be awake pretty soon. You have two beautiful healthy children, Jack - a boy and a girl... but we did lose the third child. "

Jack: "I need to be with my wife."

Doctor: "You will be. She needs to sleep now but... just... sit down. But soon. Just sit down. Sit. ... Okay if I keep you company a second?"

Jack: "Yeah."

Doctor: "Okay if I try and say something meaningful?"

Jack: "Yeah."

Doctor: "I lost my wife last year to cancer. That's the reason I still work so much at my age... just...  trying to pass the time.  We were married 53 years.  5 children. 11 grandkids. But we lost our very first child during the delivery. That's the reason I went into this field, truth be told. I have spent five decades delivering babies - more babies than I can count... but there is not a single day that goes by that I don't think of the child I lost. And I'm an old man now. I like to think that because of the child that I lost, because of the path that he sent me on, that I have saved countless other babies. I like to think that maybe one day you'll be an old man like me talking a younger man's ear off, explaining to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade. If you can do that, then you will still be taking 3 babies home from this hospital... just... maybe not the way you planned. I don't know if that was meaningful or senile but I thought it oughta be said. Your wife will still be asleep for a little while. Go see your babies... they're excited to meet their Father. I think maybe they got a good one."
- Milo Ventimiglia and Gerald McRaney, This Is Us

It's been sixteen years.   

I hope I can say that there's been something resembling lemonade to come from this sour lemon for me.  I have two other beautiful girls who are amazing in so many ways, I can't list them all here. I have a perspective and an appreciation for the sanctity and preciousness of life that only comes from understanding loss in a very personal way.  I have been able to counsel others through some of their dark times with an empathy that I wouldn't have gained through any other experience. Somehow, her father and I have managed to use this to grow closer rather than farther apart, which is so often the case.  There are a myriad of wonderful things in my life now because she came to us and changed us before she left.  I wouldn't change any of that if I could, I don't think.

But I'd be tempted.  



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Washington, D.C. Metro, United States
Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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