Friday, February 28, 2014

holy snow

The word came in last night about this time.  We finally had enough snow to actually call it a snow day.  The community was hunkering.  I breathed in a bit more deeply, I stayed up a bit later, I let go of the lists that run in my head during school days.  I surrendered to the focus of my girl, Becca, and whether or not her plane would arrive from Seattle.  After midnight, I finally turned off my phone, left the front door open and the lights in her bedroom on and headed to sleep.

This morning I was greeted with a text.  She was asleep downstairs!  The cab was unable to drive down our road due to snow so she walked (cross country ski gear and all) herself up Lincoln Hills Drive and found our three in the morning.  My sweet, badass, word-loving, wilderness inhaling, bread baking, full celebration friend was coming to celebrate our snow day! 

The day had that sort of glow of perfection.  Of potential and in-the-moment unknown.  There is this weird anxiety that I feel with my kiddos when they are spending time with someone new that I really want to love and appreciate them.  I want them to be their most vibrant, creative, weird selves.  I don't want them whining or fighting, clingy or high-maintenance.  I want them fabulous and impressive, all custom-made perfection. 

And, goshum's golly, they kinda pulled through today.  We stayed in jammies and moved slowly.  We drank lots of tea and got crafty (thanks Nici!).  Becca put on her cross-country skis and Elie donned her downhills.  Soli and I bundled and we hauled and pushed and skied ourselves silly in the backyard. Later as the four of us soaked in the hot tub, I could sense how connected my babies felt to their new friend.  Solomon could not stop asking Becca questions.   Do you like mountain lions better or pumbas?  What would you rather be, a grizzly bear or a wolverine?  Eliana was all long, wet curls and deep thoughts.  Every fifteen or so minutes, the three of them would hurl their bodies from the tub and race into the snow.  Face plants.  Belly plants.  Booty plants.  I sat back and smiled, took it all in, felt so proud of my little crew, my lovely and honest friend, our conversations spilling into hours and hours of lost details and uncovered bits of story. 

And then I came upstairs and checked my phone.  Jeff had texted something about avalanches.  Joellen left a sad sounding message again, referencing avalanches.  And I had that sinking feeling.  Something bad had happened out there.  And while the biggest woe of my day was shoveling the deck, was finding Solomon a second set of dry gloves or doing the breakfast dishes, an avalanche, a real, godforsaken avalanche, had demolished a home a block from my old house.  A block from where I work.  Debris spilling on to my street, the street where my baby was born. 

Why does life do this constant shake up?  Why is it that -- always -- light must come with dark.  As Bobby pieced the details together for me on the phone, as I read the article in the Missoulian, I felt a little part of me exit the present.  I went into fix-it mode with dinner preparations and bath wrangling.  I moved into a new speed, a frantic, manic speed that I hadn't moved in all day.  In lieu of deeply feeling the sadness that is a little boy being buried for forty-five minutes--buried in snow for forty-five minutes -- in the neighborhood that you call your own, that holds your heart, the neighborhood that represents all things safe and lovely and pastoral and -- crash -- they hear a loud rumbling and  -- bang -- a home is destroyed. 

So now I'm up here alone, the quiet cold settling in around me.  I check on my babies one more time, hold them extra close.  I feel so thankful that my girl is asleep downstairs, a beautiful friend, another strong and capable grown-up to help assuage the anxiety of being home alone when the weather turns wild and out-of-control.  My closest reference is my fear of earthquakes, how at any moment, the whole world can shift, can be shaken down to the ground, obliterated by one of nature's whims. 

I write, "whim" and it feels so passive, so blase, so random and vacuous.  What is happening outside my window is not whimsical.  It's cold and wild and real.  My mountain, the mountain that I hiked just a few days ago, that blue sky, that lone tree, that's a living and breathing universe with her own pressures and realities.  A release has to happen after the sudden ascendance of pressure.  A release into the unknown.  

So tonight, I release into the unknown.  To the joys and unknowns.  To the wild and unabashed, honest and true.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


My train rides a silent meditation, quiet moments in which I reflect about it all, the kids, the work, the home, our partnership.  All of it changing rapidly but not seeming to in the difficult moments.  It's in the hardest times, kids pushing limits, or getting sick, the grown ups having unmet needs and negotiating it all, that it's hard to remember how fleeting it is.  That tomorrow things will be different.  That good or bad doesn't really matter. That it's wonderful to soak in the tub with my baby kicking his legs wildly, my daughter screeching with laughter.

These words are from my girl, Melissa. I read the passage three times as I took deep breaths of appreciation, giving her solid fist pumps of so-right-there-with-ya from my quiet room in a frozen state to her urban lair with three sweet babies.  I'm struggling this week.  Jeffy's at a conference.  The snow is insane.  Work is full.  Solomon is pushing my limits like a wild man.  Every transition is a battle.  I feel myself folding and caving with him at every turn, then rapidly regretting it later.  For every time I give in to him, I seemingly get some sort of break. 

So I say yes so that I can do what I need to do for me.  And then after that little battle is laid to rest, it's time for another transition. And there's another freak-out.

Kelli came for a brief stint which was lovely.  She is so good at playing with my kids, getting on the floor with them, loving them up.  I feel about 100 years old when I watch her with them.  I don't feel like I do that enough -- wrestle on the carpet, chase them in circles.  I just feel so spent most evenings.  So depleted.  I have answered so many damn questions.  I have tried for so long to keep things creative and motivational and new.  Subsequently when I'm home, I feel kind of like a stale raisin.

That said, I know my kiddos love me.  I know that I am doing the best I can right now.  And that best involves Solomon's obsession with Wild Kratts.  And I guess that's gotta be okay. That best involves Eliana saying things like, "Every night there has got to be a fight with you and Solomon or Solomon and Daddy.  I'm just so tired of all the fighting."  Knife to my heart.  Suck from my gut.  Why are things so hard right now?  Why does he have to call me a Stupid Butt when I don't let him have what he wants?  Why do I care so much?

It's hard for me to deeply internalize the notion that good or bad doesn't matter.  I have a little guilt monger who has sat heavily on my shoulder for most of my life.  She keeps me in line and beats me down.  She makes me both lovely and insane.  We are working on our relationship.  I'm ready to let her go.  We've been together for two weeks shy of forty years.  I'm kinda over her.

So here's to my best as I welcome a new decade.  Here's to the love that I know my children feel when all is said and done, after the battles and the elephant tears.  After my intense frustrations and elevated exasperation.  

I often think about my own childhood and how insane it was.  Lots of chaos and siblings, working parents, my fair share of television and a lot of fighting.  But at the end of the day, holy toledo, did my parents love the heck out of me.  I never questioned their devotion, their adoration.  I never judged my mom for hiring a babysitter.  I knew nothing but her days in the office, my dad at the hospital before the sun was up.  I knew my reality and it was all I had.  I was loved. 
In my fourth decade, I'm ready to really embrace (as opposed to just writing about it again and again...) who I am as a mama.  Just as I embraced the cold yesterday with a lunch-break walk on Jumbo, my mountain white in a way I've never experienced her.  At one point I was knee deep in soft snow just laughing.  Laughing that I ever found myself in this wild place.  Laughing as I thought of my family and how foreign this whole weather thing is to all of them.  Laughing at my wet boots and the sting in my ears as the cold wind hit my hearing aids.  Laughing at my frustrations and exhaustions, my little victories and litany of ridiculous internal grievances.  Laughing as I stared into the absurd and perfect sun, the blue of the sky, the white crystal of snow and said, breathtaking.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Thursday, February 20, 2014

team ski

Winter continues to slog along at her relentless, icy pace.  Our weeks are full, our nights early.  My repetoire of soup recipes continues to expand and improve.  I have immense gratitude for our hot tub.

The weekends are dominated by skiing.  Watching Eliana's joy and confidence grow for this wild sport continues to fill me with pride.  We took the opportunity this weekend to head east beyond our local ski hill so that we could head to an area where Soli and I might find a bit of success.  While Eliana complained that the runs were too easy and became frustrated with me because I would make her wait for me at the bottom of each hill, I finally had the chance to experience the pure of joy of watching my daughter on the snow.  She would fly in front of me, taking funny little detours that totally freak me out, heading off jumps, arms outstretched like she's flying.  At one point, she went so far in front of me, I could no longer see her.  Like I said, this isn't the mountain that she's familiar with and I didn't want her to feel panicked or lost without me.  Indeed, I think I was the one panicking.  I continued to move slowly down the hill, annoyed with my wide, cautious turns, annoyed with my child's wild abandon, her fearless speed.  I told myself to speed up, that this was my daughter, lost perhaps on this cold, unknown mountain.  Couldn't I go fast just this once?  What the hell is my problem?

And there she was, skiing through a patch of trees, pink snowpants and white, retro jacket.  Come on, Mom!  I've been waiting for like hours! So we established some ground rules about waiting.  I tossed around some big words like respect, like patience.  I worked through my issues and she worked through hers. All the while, Soli and his dad were having their own breakthroughs.  My little prince is now a prince of skiing.  No more leash, mo more double power snowplow between our legs, Soli has found his groove.  So I guess it's official.  They are skiers.  And I'm sort of their ski groupie.


Hair is a big theme in our lives, probably because collectively, we have quite a lot of it.  People love to comment on my kiddos's unruly locks, matted ringlets, halos of golden friz.   I was planning on holding out on Soli's first haircut for as long as I could.  Then one day after school, it felt absolutely imperative.  He was looking, as my mom would say, quite raggedy.  So we headed out to Jeffy's, all-male, Cutting Crew. 

He was super quiet and sort of solemn while we waited.  He wouldn't say a word to the kind lady taking care of him.  He just stared, stone-faced, straight ahead, silent, resolute.  He quickly transformed from 70's wild child...

To Flock of Seagulls, early 80's, New Waver....

 to 50's greaser tough guy...

and then back, to a more mature, way more kempt, version of my baby, asking for candy, making weird faces, and back to his old (almost) sweet self.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Off the Rack 2014

I danced in front of an audience this weekend.  A big audience, a packed house, in fact.  And to think I almost retired.

Let me back up.  The only physical activity I've been really confident about for most of my life has been dancing.  I've been a serious child student, a flirty high-schooler holding the spotlight on the school stage, a college girl lost in minimalist, Contemporary interpretations of wild texts and an adult teacher, leading others weekly through my full-celebration of hip swings and rib isolation's, sharp shoulders and soulful walks.

But a year ago, I just couldn't swing like I used to.  I was back to teaching a full-load of academics  and suddenly had two school age children.  My day was a wild race of lesson plans and reading circles, meal preparations and homework folders.  I couldn't leave the intensity of my life, the full and resonate energy, to find my own groove in a studio a few nights a week.  So after twenty-years of teaching dance, I quit.  Sometimes you just have to let something go.  It felt right for me to be home with my babies in the evenings.  We'd bust our moves to Disney Pandora, all Hakuna Matata's and fast, chubby feet.

A month or so ago, I realized that the eve of my favorite local performance was upon me.  Actually, I may not have even realized if a song that I danced to years ago hadn't come on while I was driving home from work.  I pulled over and grabbed my phone, leaving a nostalgic, rambling message on my old dance partners voice mail.  I asked her if we were too late to secure a spot, wondered aloud if I'd be able to choreograph something in time, asked who may be interested in performing with us.  I was way out of the loop and needed her affirmation from the other end -- yes we could pull it together, no I wasn't too old or too out of practice to bring it.

Flash-forward a few weeks; I have a rockin' little crew of ladies, the piece is solid, we're ready for our big night.  But there I found myself.  Backstage, surrounded by performers half my age, wondering if I could pull off the high kicks and double pirouettes like I used to.  Wondering if it was okay to expose my never-to-return-to-her-pre-baby-self belly in front of a packed house.  Wondering exactly how I could just jump back in the game after a whole year away from my art.

But before I could let my self-doubt percolate too deeply, our song started.  I burst forth from the wings, moved up and down the runway, nailed the turns and, before I could even catch my breath, the piece was over.  The familiar rush of applause felt fabulous, my breath heaving with deep work, big smiles and I walked off, replete with humble pride.   And before I could really take the time to take it all in, I'd peeled off my eyelashes, changed back into my hoodie, and made my way out into the cold night, back into my real life of babysitters and laundry, of papers to grade and meals to plan.

This afternoon a mom found me at school.  She'd been at the show over the weekend.  She asked me if I had a minute and then began to tell me about my performance.  Instead of telling me that she loved the dance, of the kind compliments that come when people see me out of context, she surprised me.  She instead told me how my dancing had changed.  She told me how she loved watching me dance since I've had my children.  She talked about how moved she was by the strength of my body and the resonant depth of my movements.  She talked about how much my movement-style has changed since she took my dance class years ago and how watching me inspired her to take more time for her own art.  Wow.  Thanks.

As I walked down the hallway crowded with children, walked past my colleagues, walked back to my desk piled with notebooks to read-through and emails to return, I found there was a little spring in my step. A secret strut, if you will.  Because this mama was right.  I do move differently.  My body has shifted, my whole center of gravity has found her happy base in my gut.  My belly button went from "in-e" to "out-e" and my strong stomach stands like a stubborn wall, a battlefield of expansion and contraction.  My movements are closer to the ground, deep, rooted in the earth, primal.

I walked past chatting children and open backpacks and remembered how I danced my way through two pregnancies, how it was the slow and steady sway of hips that moved me through contractions, the rhythm of music that helped bring down my blood-pressure.  I remembered all the songs on my, "Birth or Bust" playlist, the yoga mat I rolled out on my living room floor, the scent of the candles that were lit, amber and musk.  I see my belly as she was then, all almost two-hundred pounds of me, muscle and blood, bone and tiny ears, fingers, the two of us, living as one, finding our groove, ready to re-configure the way we see the world.

Thank you for the photos, Tom Whalen:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


There are some things that I seem to need daily.  I need to stretch my body.  I need to kiss my children. I need to drink lots of water.  I need to spend at least a few minutes listening to beautiful music.  And I need to spend time outside.

 I don't think this last one is something I've been very conscious of until lately.  Up until last week, we had an almost unsettling-ly warm January.  Last week after school I hiked the "L", the mountain in my old hood.  The exposed trail was dry, ice-less, almost crowded with shiny, happy, sun-kissed January Montanans.  I dropped my gloves on the trail and they were promptly picked up by a fellow, friendly dog-walker and we both got a big yuck-yuck out of symbolism of dropped mittens.  Who needs 'em?

And then last weeks massive snowstorm hit.  And this weeks bone chilling temperatures.

The pictures on my phone -- all brown earth and sunshine, all clear nights and January shine -- a wild, winter mirage, a dream from another lifetime.

 Jeff, the kiddos and I came home late today after an extra-long, zombie killing marathon.  The schoolkids weren't allowed outside because it was too cold.  I didn't take myself on a lunch walk for two days because it was hard to breathe out.  Instead I work through lunch at my little hovel of a desk, wrapped in sweaters because my hallway cubicle is freezing.  By the time I came home, I felt like I was jumping out of my skin.

I sucked in as much air as I could manage from the car to the front door.  I took in the pink of the sky, the subtle wood smoke scent, the firm echo of frozen snow beneath my feet.  My exhausted children requested a show, Lucy requested a walk, Jeff obliged.  I put water on for couscous, threw some frozen chicken into a bowl of water to defrost, and rolled out my yoga mat with a vengeance.  I turned my tunes loud, lit a candle for some semblance of ceremony and moved through sun salutations like they were the last thing on earth.  Just twenty minutes to reset.  Just twenty sacred minutes.

So where am I going with this?  I guess I'm going back to gratitude.  Something about my morning practice has really revolutionized the past few months for me.  There is really no way that I can get the exercise/art/asana that I want/crave/need with my work and family schedule.  My early mornings are a refuge.  On a day like today, the afternoon sneak in can provide a similar boost.  So feeling big gulps of thanks for my home sanctuary, for fresh air, for ceremony and refuge, for pink winter sunsets and the subtle return of light.