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1. I have an artist’s book, limited edition, that was bought and exhibited in the University of Washington’s library – special collections. I also know how to set type and run a printing press!

2. I have a 16 year age difference between my oldest and youngest children – and I have the oldest and youngest of the 14 grandkids on my side of the family. And I have only three kids!!

3. I definitely have a wild side – something not many people know about , something I keep mostly hidden.  Ask me and I’ll tell you more – maybe.

4. When I was a kid, I “mummified” one of my Barbie dolls – I wanted to be an archaeologist and decided that Barbie would make a great mummy. I wrapped Barbie in torn up strips of old cotton diapers, and put little “treasures” (Barbie’s jewelry) into the wrappings. I built her a “tomb” out of a shoebox and lined it with aluminum foil. Yes, I WAS a weird kid! (It was a 6th grade research project – I got the highest grade in the class.)

5. I still dance in my living room to music when no one is looking or can see, except my little kids. I sing to the radio too, when my Aidan lets me (“Don’t sing, Mommy! My ears hurt!” <sigh> ). Someday, I want to dance and sing with them on the beach! I also like the very sappy, slow love songs and am a total mush and romantic.

6. Although I am pretty shy and quiet in real life, online I’m a chatterbox and am very outgoing. This is sometimes weird for me, because I still see myself as being the wallflower that no one wants to talk to, and I’m always surprised when someone tells me how outgoing I am.

So…in spite of my attempt to not show my face to my friends on SL, I did take that risk and showed myself. Most of my pictures are not very good, as I’m not very photogenic, but there are a few – mainly when I make a concerted effort to look good. I struggle with body image a lot, especially lately, because I know that in real life, a pretty face and body get you pretty far. Conversely, not looking like the ideal has consequences, both personal and professonal, as I’ve discussed before.

Psychological research has shown that both women and men who are overweight are judged more harshly and more negatively than their thin competitors. Those without attractive faces fare even worse. So, generally I get a double whammy. One of my most embarrassing moments occurred when I was in my undergraduate research methods class. We all had to get into teams and replicate a psychological study, and one group decided to test the attractiveness theory. They asked me to model, and I found out later that they used me as the “unattractive” model. I had a hard time showing my face in class after that – but I got revenge – I earned the top grade in the class. It felt like a very small, pyrrhic victory.

This week, I showed my face to two of my friends on SL for the first time. I found out that one had already viewed a picture of me, one that was less than flattering, but I knew this was a possibility as I had given him the ability to find me. The thing is, I learned a lesson from this incident – personality does count for something. Not only was I not rejected, but felt even more valued for myself as a person. That was surprising to me. I was pleased to see that there are people out there who really don’t judge a book by its cover, but the contents inside.

Ironically enough, both of these friends I found through SL, where everybody wears a mask of one sort or another. I’m as guilty as the next person, but over time I’ve found myself peeling away the mask and revealing who I am. When I do, I feel as if I’m risking rejection – even though my friends have assured me otherwise. I think that revealing your inner self, whether or not you have a pretty face, makes you vulnerable. I’m losing the mask I use to hide myself, my insecurities, and my vulnerability. And it’s scary.

In fact, sometimes I think that having a pretty face may make it even harder – you might never know if people really like you for who you are and not what you look like. I’m lucky: I’ve made good friends, who value a person for who he/she is, not only for what s/he looks like. Not everyone can say that. I’m lucky enough to have some good “real life” friends like that, too. However, as sassy as I can be, I feel insecure at times. I fight it, and I’m reminded of the Crhistina Aguilera song, “Beautiful”:”

“Don’t look at me
Every day is so wonderful
And suddenly, i saw debris
Now and then, I get insecure
From all the pain, I’m so ashamed

I am beautiful no matter what they say
Words can’t bring me down
I am beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can’t bring me down
So don’t you bring me down today ”

I’m also reminded that the way I see myself is not necessarily the way others see me. The other day I commented to my husband how beautiful our daughter, Rebecca, is. He replied, “Of course -she looks like her mother” to which I said, “wow…I feel sorry for her.” He looked at me and said, “You know, when you say that, you’re saying that she is ugly, too. That hurts me, because I love both of you and think you’re both beautiful.”

This was a lesson to me: A) keep my mouth shut, and even more importantly, B) beauty is more than one ideal, and truly is in the eye of the beholder. Lastly, C) maybe I am too hard on myself.

So, my point here is, no matter what masks we wear (whether in real life or not), there is a part of our real selves that shines through. Anonymity may hide the physical aspects of who we are, but the truth of who we are always manages to break through, somehow. Over time, it’s hard to hide our personalities and our selves, try though we may. And I’m very, VERY lucky to have people in my life, both real life and second life, who realize this and value people – including me – for who we are and not necessarily what we look like. So…when I started this blog, I decided to bare my face and be who I am – warts and all.  That said, I did want to find a picture that looks attractive.

Okay – I know I’m fat. I weigh 200 pounds, and wear anywhere from a size 16 to a size 20, depending on the item of clothing and whether it’s for my top or bottom. AND, I’m a good, interesting, worthwhile person. I wasn’t always fat, and it’s interesting that I like and respect myself MORE now than I did when I wore a size 7 and weighed 110 pounds. For all of my life until I had children, I was thin – and I hated myself.  Physically, I probably looked the best I ever looked, but inside I was a mess. After a disastrous first marriage, I was still relatively thin – 135 pounds, after having one child. My metabolism was never the same after giving birth, and after each child, it’s continued to slow.

(For those of you who think that you have the “cure” – please don’t bother – I have been and am continuing to work with my medical doctor on the best way for me to exercise, eat well, and be healthy. I walk, I watch my portion sizes and type of food, and like everybody, goof up *occasionally*. Please don’t say that I couldn’t be doing these things, because I wouldn’t be fat if I were. It’s simply not true. I’m also on medications that are known – scientifically – to cause weight gain. I try to counteract that effect every way I can.)

The point to this rant? It’s taken me a long time to accept that I am the way I was intended to be. In our society, you can’t go anywhere without seeing, hearing the message that you’re no good if you’re not thin. I still struggle with accepting my myself, but overall, I like myself a lot more as I am, except when I have to shop for clothes. I hear women say sometimes that they’d rather die than be fat…and I feel sorry for them. They truly have NO idea that life isn’t about being thin. Life is about living, loving and being – no matter WHAT you look like.

For those of you who aren’t plus-size, have you ever stopped and really looked at the clothes that are offered to large women? Many of them are flat-out UGLY. And please don’t say that it’s incentive to lose weight – everybody should be able to find stylish, well-made and comfortable clothes at ANY size. When I go shopping, there are times when I feel as if the designers, manufacturers and buyers of stores think, “Well, these are fat clothes, so it doesn’t matter if they look good or not.” I mean, who decided that huge, fluorescent polyester floral prints look good (on ANYBODY)?? Who in their right mind would want to buy clothes that are cut like tents? Just because I’m fat does not mean that I don’t have a figure – I do, and it’s hourglass shaped, thank-you very much. I have beautiful curves that I WANT to show off – just because the way I look doesn’t fit society’s ideal of what a woman should be does not mean that I or any other large person should be delegated to the “crap” section.

Frankly, it is *absolutely* possible to make the same styles and shape of clothes look good in larger sizes. Shopko does it (Please, PLEASE, **PLEASE** come back to Colorado!!) Coldwater Creek does it (and if they’d add some more of their dresses to that line, I would buy them). Talbots Women does it. Kudos to these places that make larger women feel pretty, good, and desired, just as they are. There are a number of places that prove it’s possible. Frankly, I don’t even mind paying a *little* more; I understand that more fabric is required. I’m reasonable. There are also many, many places that offer one stylish line for “regular” sizes and one fugly line for plus-size – I won’t mention names, but those of you who have had to shop for decent plus-size clothes know exactly who I’m talking about.

And forget trying to find a decent bathing suit, or lingerie. Blech! Land’s End has beautiful bathing suits in a large variety of sizes (thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!) Cacique specializes in lingerie for plus-sizes. The rest of you – GET WITH IT!! You don’t really think that all plus-size women are celibate, do you? Hello?? Don’t even get me started on trying to find plus-size maternity clothes – Motherhood Maternity has a few, JC Penney’s has some and that’s pretty much it. And nursing wear is literally nonexistent, except for a few sets of pajamas. Folks, fat women have sex, and fat women have babies – yes, we enjoy life as much as anyone else. Do you know why most large women work out in baggy sweats? Because it’s next to impossible to find good quality, comfortable, workout clothes in our sizes!

To all retailers: PLEASE!! The average size of women in the US is a 14 – do you REALLY want to lose that much business? Yes, most of us would love to be thinner – some of us even die trying. And yet, some of us, believe it or not, work to be healthy and can actually accept ourselves and (GASP!) love ourselves as we are.

We are tired of being told we’re not good enough, that we’re lazy, that we’re ugly, that we stink, and that we’re not worthy. We’re tired of having very little choice in finding nice clothes, bathing suits, and lingerie. We’re tired of hearing “You’d be so pretty if only…” (We’re pretty just as we are, thank-you very much.) We’re tired of being around thin friends who complain about how fat they are…trust me, you’re not fat, and I’m not here to make you feel better about yourself. We’re tired of being forced to justify our very presence in a world that despises and hates us. (How do you think we feel when we hear people say, “I’d rather die than be fat!” Then again, the people saying these things probably don’t care what we feel, because to them, we’re worth less than than the caca they flush away.)

Guess what world? We’re here, we always will be here, and we aren’t going away. And you know what? I like who I am, and I’m learning to “love the skin I’m in.”

Saga of the energy vampire…AKA, the H-bomb in a kid suit
Current mood: Beyond pooped

Have you ever noticed that, when you are at your most exhausted, your kids are at their most hyper-active? Honestly…

Let me preface this by saying that I love my kids with all my heart and would give my life for them in a heartbeat. That said, *ay carumba*!!! Aidan was a small H-bomb in a kid suit today! He likes to start his day by waking up his little sister, usually by bouncing on her bed (and her, if he can get away with it) until she wakes up – today was no exception.

The difference today was that Becky-buns seems to be coming down with the crud that’s going around and was sleeping with Mama. So, I became the trampoline. Now, if you have trouble waking up in the morning (like I do), there is nothing like having 40 lbs. of jumping preschooler land right on your soft belly to wake you up out a peaceful dream. And I was dreaming that I had won a shopping spree! Sigh…

His next adventure was to climb over the baby gate blocking the main floor bathroom – I’m feeding the baby (who is busily spitting carrots on her hands and then running them through her hair in an attempt to look like a miniature Lucille Ball) when I hear a suspicious splash-flush-splash… “Aidan, get your cup out of the toilet – NOW!” (Followed by more splash-flush-splashes)…Sigh…Fish screaming preschooler out of bathroom, clean him up and cover his hands with sanitizing gel, put on gloves and fish floating sippy cup out of toilet, immerse sippy in pot of boiling water before deciding to throw it away, haul wailing and now VERY WET preschooler out of the bathroom AGAIN, put gate 6 inches higher, and turn off water in sink.  Return to find more carrots ON baby than IN baby, note that baby managed to untie bib and cover clothes. Bathtime…

Okay, so I wipe off as much of the carrots off as possible, strip the baby and cover the NEW dress in Shout, Clorox-2, and detergent…  I turn around to hear a mysterious banging…”Aidan, don’t climb in the dryer – you could get hurt and that would make Mama really sad…” (Long pause as impatient and wiggly baby kicks Mama in stomach – put baby in crib to check on preschooler – yell to be heard over baby’s LOUD protests) “Aidan – out of the dryer NOW!”  

So now I’m getting the bath started…get the baby in, wash out the carrots, start soaping…” What the HE**?!? Aidan, turn off that shower now! That water’s cold!!”  Aidan has just discovered that he can pull down the showerhead (a Waterpik with a nice long bendable cord), turn on the water and spray his unsuspecting mother…with ice cold water, of course. 

Next up – find clean changes of clothes for everyone and hope there is something clean for me outside of Laundry Mountain (which is beginning to resemble a whole mountain range…Sigh…) 

Other quotes of the day: “Aidan, get off of the oven!” (climbing on the opened oven door trying reach the cabinet above the stove where the treats are stored –  is this kid half monkey?? Sigh…run out to store, find and intall oven lock – on oven AND refrigerator). I’ve TRIED to kid-proof the house – honestly. We’ve got cabinet locks, outlet plugs, baby gates, door-knob covers, you name it, we’ve got it. And it looks like we’ll have to get more. This kid is ingenious when it comes to climbing – he’s tried things I’ve never even thought of. Now if he can just channel that ingenuity and energy…”

Becca, you need a bath again?” (after a diaper blowout of truly epic proportions), “Aidan, we do NOT hit sister on the head with toys.” “Aidan, sister is NOT target practice.” And so on and on and on…

The most important moments were not like these, though. They went more like, “Aidan, I love you so much. I’m so glad you come to cuddle with me. Big hug!” (during sister’s nap – we both sit and cuddle on the recliner and watch a Sesame Street video). “Aidan, thank you for getting Becca’s binky. You are such a good helper!”

There are times when I look at him, and just want to squeeze the stuffing out of that kid – he can be so darn cute!! And Becca – watching her learn walking, talking, everything about her world: “Wow – you went across the room all by yourself! What a strong girl!! I’m so proud of you!” followed by Aidan’s “Sister good job? Aidan good job!” and a big hug with both of them. And now, he’s next to me in bed, snoring away and looking for all the world like a little angel (of course, as I type this, he lets loose with a sound from his nether regions that would rival a Harley “Hog” in heat…) Man, I love this little kid…

And the big kid has his own dramas, too – Captain Obvious has a date for prom! (Am I really old enough to have a kid old enough for prom? YIKES!  Where did the time go – I remember changing HIS diapers.) I remember him as a toddler – the classic moment being in the grocery store. He loved to have me blow raspberries on his belly – so we’re in line at the grocery store, he lifts his shirt and yells at the top of his little lungs, “Blow me, Mommy!” Every head around me turns and stares at me – I wanted to sink through the floor, but tried to explain – “Raspberries on his tummy – see? (Picture me in line, demonstrating blowing raspberries on his tummy and managing to look like a COMPLETE idiot…) Ah, those were the days…

Will I look back on these days with Aidan and Becca with as much, uh…”mirth”? Actually, I know I will. I’ll smile and miss their little smiles, hugs, and boundless energy.

Yikes…ever notice how busy-ness can creep up on you? I’ve just finished two weeks of having *something* going on every night, and I’m exhausted. I mean, tired to the bone, walking-and-waking-dead pooped. And the fatigue is not just physical – it’s emotional and cognitive. Busy-ness, although marginally productive in the traditional sense, sucks the life out of me. I’ve figured out that I’m the kind of person who needs “me time” – alone, with no kids, no husband, no friends. It’s not that I don’t want to be around these people – they are the most important people in my life, and I love and care for them. However, after data collection/research, peer counseling training, nursery work, meetings, running kids everywhere, there’s just not much left to give. So…

Tonight I’m on strike. I’ve been invited to a scrapbooking event, which I’d normally enjoy for the social contact and the creativity boost, even though I don’t “scrapbook” in a traditional sense – too cutesy for me. I said “no.” It was hard for me to do, as I’m not the most assertive person in the world, especially when it comes to taking care of me. In our last peer counseling class, we covered assertiveness, and I kept thinking, “I need to do more of this – with everyone.” So, I told my friends that I appreciated the invite, but that I was very tired and would not be able to make it. I feel kind of bad, because I missed the last one, too – my in-laws came into town that night – but I need to care for me.

So, why is it that I feel bad/selfish for doing so? Well…”selfish” was the label of choice my mother slung at me whenver I insisted on caring for myself. If I didn’t do what she wanted when she wanted and how she wanted it, I was “selfish” and “bad.” Unfortunately, I’ve internalized that and now think it every time I insist on caring for myself. I figure that I at least recognize it now and can counter the message with some positive thinking. (Thank you, cognitive-behavioral therapy!) So now, I tell myself, “You are human, too. You have needs and desires, just like any other human being, and it’s NOT wrong to consider yourself. It’s not wrong to value yourself, or think that you’re worthy of care.”

Women in general seem to suffer from the burden of busy-ness in our society. If we’re not huge successes in business, we feel pressured to be the perfect stay-at-home mother, with immaculate houses, perfectly clean and dressed children, with several clever crafts on hand to keep them busy while we make dinner, bake bread, sew their adorable, fashionable, little clothes, and plan the PTA bake sale. All this while managing the local girl/boy scout troop, carpooling the little darlings to soccer/baseball/gymnastics/cheerleading, and reading up on developmental milestones and how to help your children be better than anyone else’s. BLECH!  All this emphasis on being the perfect professional woman, perfect employee, perfect mother, perfect wife/partner…it’s busy-ness in another form and is life-draining, not life-sustaining. Sustainable living should take into account, in my not-so-humble-opinion, emotional and mental elements as well as physical.

I confess – my house is a mess. In fact, I’m lucky it hasn’t been condemned. Laundry Mountain continues to grow, even while I excavate small loads. I’ll have to strip-mine it soon. Iron? That’s a vitamin, right? (Oh yeah…there is that appliance-thingy gathering dust in the closet.) Dinners come from the microwave (except when the in-laws visit – that’s when I really feel the pressure to be perfect and actually cook.) My kids sometimes wear the same clothes two days in a row…and yeah, they come from Wal-mart. (No, not Children’s Place, Baby Gap, or Macy’s.) So do mine – I don’t make money staying with the little kidlets. There is no homemade baked bread (at least not on a regular basis – I make it when I have time, feel like it and want it.) Developmentally-geared and cutesy crafts? Forget it…more like a coloring book and crayons (at least those that haven’t  been eaten or stomped to smithereens…) 

But you know what? Perfection is no longer any of my “busy-ness.” I’m not perfect, and I never will be. Yet, somehow my children are happy – and they are generally clean (at least as clean as a toddler and pre-schooler can be.) Aidan and I played “Balloon Catch” today – he was all smiles and giggles. Rebecca got in on it, and we played “Monkey in the Middle.” They are growing, they get fed (even if it isn’t homemade,organic, and fresh-grown/picked/juiced) and they seem happy. They come up to cuddle with me, they ask for Mama and they give me hugs and kisses. And, I’m happy – generally. When I let busy-ness take over, that’s when I’m not happy. And including “me-time” is not just respectful to myself, it’s necessary for my to function.

So, what’s the point of yet another rant? Ladies, we don’t have to be perfect. In the business world…we do our best, but we can’t do our best if we’re killing ourselves in the process. At home…we do our best, and somehow our families survive. I’d much rather have a happy, well-adjusted me and a happy, well-adjusted family than a perfect house, etc.  Taking time for ourselves is not only good, it’s necessary. Even if we veg out watching “Desperate Housewives” or “Lost” while eating Ben & Jerry’s (or, my favorite: a bowl of ice-cold melon, mandarin oranges and grapes – YUM), taking time to decompress is necessary to maintain our sanity. We are so good at helping others, at succeeding, at living up to everyone else’s expectations – isn’t time we develop our own?

For what it’s worth, I’m not talking about the hundreds of self-help/self-improvement “programs” or books – read/use them if they nurture and help you. But if you find yourself feeling a load of shoulds descending on you, ask yourself, “Is this really helping me? Is this really going to help me BE me?”  (Think of Albert Ellis’s comment, “Don’t ‘should’ on yourself.” ) Someone else’s idea of what is good may or may not fit – use your sense of what you need to help you out here. In therapy with my clients, I tell them to listen to their inner therapists – the part of you inside that wants you to be happy, fulfilled, and has your best interests at heart. Even that part of you has been called bad, selfish, unworthy, or anything else negative – it’s part of who you are. Now if I can just take my own advice…

Some of my favorite website resources: (These may or may not inspire you; I don’t leave these sites feeling like I’ve got a case of the “shoulds.”)

Jennifer Louden’s “Comfort Queen” material (http://www.comfortqueen.com/),

SARK’s material (http://www.planetsark.com/) – she has an excellent piece this month on treasuring girls

Small Steps to Health – the source of those commercials where people find “lost” body parts, such as double chins, “love handles,” “spare tires,” etc: (http://www.smallstep.gov/index.html)

The Foundation for a Better Life – inspiring source of billboards, posters, and other public messages that are life-affirming: (http://www.forbetterlife.org/)

For the Little Ones Inside – an affirming site: (http://www.forthelittleonesinside.com/)

The Spiral Muse – for women’s well-being: (http://www.spiralmuse.org/)

Creativity for Life – to help get you inspired, fired-up, and ready to live life: (http://www.creativityforlife.com/index.php)

Another Girl At Play – Women artists’ biographies and links: (http://another.girlatplay.com/)

So…play, enjoy, let go of perfection, just be. It’s okay – it really is. (or so I keep telling myself. )

A friend and I were talking recently about trust and relationships. As we were talking, I remembered some incidents that taught me a lot about life, and about trust. I’ve had many things happen in my life that have led me to be a generally mistrustful individual, but these incidents have shaped my life, and who I have become to a much further extent than I had imagined.

The first began in high school, and continued on until my wedding in 2001. He and I always had an attraction, but were always attached to someone else, except for a brief period in the two years following high school. We went on exactly one date, and it still remains burned in my memory as one of the most romantic experiences of my life.

Let me explain…we had always flirted, even when we had significant others, and we both knew that nothing would come of it. When he moved away after he graduated, we exchanged letters for about a year, and then made plans to go out when he visited Ohio. It was an incredibly beautiful summer day – warm and sunny, and we went to dinner and then for a walk in the woods near home. Akron had a series of parks with trails, and we walked along the trails and talked, until we came to a small clearing. I remember we both stood there, and became awkward for a moment, and then he kissed me…it still remains one of the most passionate, longing kisses I’ve ever experienced, and that was over 20 years ago. And…then we went our separate ways, and continued to write.

Over the period of time that we wrote, he offered to fly me out to where he lived to spend the holidays, but I had met and was seriously dating the man who would become my first husband. After the marriage, we lost track of each other until 1995, when I looked him up on the internet and began corresponding again. It turns out that he had married, and often had business in the Denver region, so again we made plans to meet – this time with my son and the man who became my second husband. He came to our wedding with his wife – I met her and she seems like a wonderful woman.

And yet, I still wonder about where he is, what he’s doing, and if he’s happy…he is probably my strongest “what might have been.” We recently got in contact again, and it’s nice to hear from him. Nothing will happen, of course…but we do seem to weave in and out of each other’s lives like a key thread in a tapestry.

Ironically enough, my other “if only” also dates from the same relative time period. I met this person through a church, where he was doing missionary work – he was not allowed to date or be alone with a woman, so every time I saw him, we were with other people. I fell, and I fell hard for this man, and I thought it was returned…every one I knew seemed to see the attraction, and noticed the flirting. However, I found out after about 6 months that there was another woman, also a missionary…and my heart broke.

So, like any sane person, I let it go…until he contacted me again via letters and asked me to come visit his home and meet his family. I spent a week there, and again, it seemed the attraction was there, and then suddenly wasn’t. The week ended with him telling me that I was “too smart and intimidated” him. Again, my heart broke…and again, I went on. Later that year, I moved to Utah, and met the man who became my first hubby…and again, he contacted me and wanted to spend time with me. This time, I was not so gullible – I went, but my guard was up. I had learned not to trust him, and was not going to get hurt again. Even so, I kept thinking that if only I were not as smart, maybe things could have worked out…

In retrospect, I don’t think he knew what he wanted, only that he wanted someone. I think he tried to like me, but the chemistry wasn’t there for him. However, at the time, all I knew was that I was tired of being hurt.
As you might tell from the timeline here, this period in my life was busy and somewhat confused. I met the man who became my first husband during this time, and married him for all the wrong reasons. Partly to escape my abusive home (I was away at college and could see for the first time how truly bad it was), partly out of loneliness, and partly on the rebound…although at the time, I had convinced myself that I loved the man. Again, though, an “if only”…if only I’d been more self-aware and self- confident…I think, if I could do it all again, I would go back and see where things with Mr. What Might Have Been would have led. But, the past is what it is, and I’ll never know.

So how does all this relate to trust? Well, the “if onlys” are obvious…I trusted when I should not have, and ended up hurt badly in the process. I learned that it was easier to build up a wall, and not let anyone in, than it was to let go, take a leap of faith, and trust. With the “what might have been”…I should have let go and taken that leap of faith. I often wonder where I would be, who I would be, and what I’d be like if I’d reversed my trust…if I’d kept myself safe with the “if onlys” and taken that jump with the “what might have been.”
Coming back to the present, I still find myself struggling with these lessons…Trust is a hard thing for me, because of these and other experiences. I’ve learned that trust is fragile, and broken easily…it’s difficult to let go and take that leap, especially when so much is at stake. I find myself wondering who is safe to trust, and who is not, and if I am to be totally honest, I don’t think I trust any one person 100%. I try, but there is always a piece reserved, some area fenced off…just to be safe.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to let go and be able to completely trust anyone…my current husband is the closest I’ve ever come, and the trust there has been broken. I’m trying to heal and forgive, and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve always run, before, and not looked back; I’m learning here too. I’m learning to trust my friends, though, and although scary, I’m finding it very helpful. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in some things, and that others struggle with similar things. Maybe together we can learn to feel safe and let go…

What is it about certain places that make them feel like “home”? I’ve lived all over the country in my 44 years…everywhere from Ohio to Washington to California to Colorado…and yet none of them, even the place where I was raised and lived over half my life, felt like “home.” There is one place, though, that always did – Indian Cove, in Guilford, CT.

I recently had the opportunity to have a short visit there again, and went back to this magical place for the first time in over 24 years. The last time I’d been there, my grandfather was alive and I was 18 – I’d just graduated high school and was full of the bravado and grand plans that most young adults have. I’d gone to visit my grandparents, and we spent time at their home in Stafford Springs, and went to their cottage in Indian Cove – a small association of summer cottages with a private beach. I remember going to the beach, and trying to soak in the smell of the air, and the feel of the ground-shell sand on my toes…the taste of the salt water and the incredible colors of this place…I didn’t know when I’d be back again. As it turned out, it was nearly a quarter of a century – a time that spanned two marriages, many multi-state moves, a few college degrees and the birth of three children.

People say that when you leave a place and try to return, nothing is ever the same. My sisters and my mother and I went to Connecticut for my mother’s 50th high school reunion, and the chance to revisit the places and people we’d known since we were all children. I met men and women who had known my mother since grade school, and one of them had harbored a secret crush on her throughout their years together. Seeing him look at her, I could see that, in his eyes, time hadn’t erased her beauty or his love for her. Likewise, time had not changed my heart toward this small bit of God’s country…my heart ached to see how much things had changed, and how much things had stayed the same.

As I sat on the beach at Indian Cove on a Friday morning, I had the beach entirely to myself…and again found myself trying to soak in all the smells, sights, sounds, tastes and textures of the cove. Again, I found myself unable to stuff in nearly as much as I wanted – I’m greedy for the salty air and water, and feel like a fish out of water when I’m away. To say I’m in love with the ocean is an understatement – it’s as much a part of me as are my blood and bones. That I live 2000 miles away, is a daily sliver in my heart that seems to bleed and ache whenever I think about it. I thought that being close might ease this pain – after all, I’ve felt it for over 24 years, and have learned to live with it – but found that instead of soothing the pain, the ache has become much, much worse. I dream of being on the Sound again, and of hearing the waves – I walk the beach in my dreams, and explore the rocks again and again.

As I beachcombed that Friday morning, and later on Sunday, there were moments when my tears blended with the salt of the ocean water…Sunday afternoon, I watched families sit and children play in shallows, and could see the ghosts of my childhood self playing right along with them. I remembered the adventure and daring of actually climbing the rocks out to the diving board, and how deep the water seemed to me as a child – even at low tide. Wading out to the raft, I was surprised that the water only came to my waist or so…and remember how scared I was of the possibility of sharks swimming alongside my vulnerable little legs. Once more, I braved the rocks to get to the diving board, and once more I sought the solitude of the back beach – no one went there, but that was where the best shells were found. Once more I walked along the paths to my grandfather’s cottage – now brown and tan instead of blue and white and home to a new family. Once more I felt the breeze in my hair, and heard the sound of the water gently lapping and licking the roughness of the rocks. One last time, I walked away, and felt the itchiness of the drying sand on my skin, and tasted the residue of the salt water on my fingers…

Will I get back? God knows I hope to…the dryness of the Colorado air has nearly scorched my lungs and I’ve developed asthma since living in the West. While the mountains of the Rockies are breathtakingly beautiful, Colorado – the subject of so many wistful and nostalgic songs – will never feel like home. Neither has Idaho, Utah or California…although they are each beautiful in their own ways, there is a foreigness to them that doesn’t quite ever touch or enter the place in my heart labeled “home.” I need the Atlantic, the humidity and the sea…without them I feel like a dessicated, empty shell -quite literally a fish out of water, gasping and frantically trying to get back to its natural home.

There are other considerations, however…my children were all born in the West – one in Idaho and two in Colorado – and have never known the pleasures of letting the salt water envelop and cradle you…have never heard their hearts beat in time with the waves. My husband was born in Texas and raised in Idaho – and until recently, had never been east of the Mississippi. None of them can even imagine living so far from home. There is a part of me that thinks, “If I can just get them out there, then they can see for themselves – they’ll have to go.” But the more realistic part of me knows that uprooting a tree from its native soil and transplanting it to another climate zone can be life-threatening.

So…I’m caught between fulfilling my heart’s dream and sacrificing my dreams for my loved ones – as women throughout the centuries have always done. Where will this end? I don’t know, but I do know this: The call of sea is strong, and the tide runs in my veins. I will be back, even if only for a visit. And it won’t take 24 years this time. If home is where your heart is, right now, home is 2000 miles away. And even if you never can go back, I do know you can always visit.

Letters from the “Desperate Tubbywives”…

Does anyone know how little kids seem to KNOW when their parents are the most exhausted? They pick THAT time to stay up late, get hyperactive and into everything… What I would give for a good, long, restful night’s sleep. And a day without those frakkin’ Teletubbies! I think I need a vacation; I’m imagining all sorts of weird/naughty Teletubby movies/shows: Teletubbies do Dallas, or Nightmare on Tubby Street, or even Law & Order: Tubbyland. How about Tubbystar Galactica? Or Cops: Live in Tubbyland? I wish…And honestly…how may times can one person watch “Tinkerbell” and NOT explode??? At least with the Baby Einstein DVDs the music is good.

Early summer has come to Colorado. We are officially out of the drought now, and we’ve had temperatures in the 60’s for the last week, and the air smells fresh, new, and full of sunshine. (At least when it’s not raining and thundering and smelling of the dairy farm down the road!) It’s so nice to see grass, new green leaves, and even some brave lilies birthing their way through the heavy, wet soil and blossoming in the sun. The sun is hot already, foreshadowing a broiling summer, but for now, it feels wonderful. The little people have been itching to get outside and play, and I think they feel the change in their blood and bones. Aidan in particular seems to know that spring is here. “Mama, I want to go outside NOW!” He lives for being in the sunshine, and loves the world outside our walls. Becca sees how excited her brother gets – and, in her mind, if he wants it or has it, she should too. And she wants to be out in the sunshine playing too.

I was looking back over old pictures and found some from when Becca took her first steps; it’s funny how quickly you forget how tenuous and shaky those first steps into the unknown are. May your steps always be sure, and the ground firm under your feet, little princess. She runs and climbs now, and has such a look of triumph and pride on her little face, as well as sheer joy every time she tries and does something new. I feel so privileged to share in these moments.

Matthew (Capt. Obvious) is done with school for the summer…boy, is he in for a shock coming up. He thinks that he and his girlfriend and another couple they know are all going to move out to Greeley and live together. Problem is, he has no job, no car, no driver’s license, no money, etc. He says he going to transfer from CSU to UNC, but has not done anything to start that process. He sits and watches TV shows and movies on his computer all day…I think he’s in for a pretty big surprise when his friends expect him to pay rent, contribute to the housekeeping, and pay his way in other areas. As much as I hate to say this, I think (given his attitude and level of stubborness on this) that this is a time when I have to exercise “tough love” and let him sink or swim. And, of course, be able to come back to dry land (home) if it doesn’t work.

I’m itching to be outside and moving, too…I want to take my sketchbook and watercolors and try to catch a little of the world as it explodes into and Becca, and I love to see them express themselves creatively. They both are such incredible inspirations – full of life and love, likes and dislikes, piss and vinegar, too…I want to go play with them! I want to swing and slide and run and jump like I used to when I was a little girl. I want that little girl inside to finally feel safe and protected enough to let loose and just…well, play.

On that note, is there anything more fun that brand-new art supplies? I’m sure there are lots of things that are, but opening and using new watercolors, brushes, pastels, etc. is one of the most enjoyable things I can do. A while ago, while Aidan and Becca played in our small courtyard, I sat on the porch and drew/painted one of my neighbor’s townhouses. I’m still figuring out the color mixes in this new set of watercolors, but that was one of the most satisfying afternoons I’ve spent in a while. My drawing isn’t wonderful, but I was happy. If I can get my scanner working with the new computer, I may upload it to my page…we’ll see if my ego can take it.

Last spring and summer, I spent some time going around our neighborhood photographing the flowers and parks. I’m hoping to draw and paint from my photos and get some time in the sun, sketching and painting from life as well. At some time, I’d like to take some art classes too…just for the fun of it. It’s kinda like being a kid again, with a little more freedom. I’d love to take Aidan and Becca out with their crayons and paper too, and see if they’d spend some time drawing with me. (Matthew’s “too cool” to do this kind of stuff anymore with his mom…)

Another thing I’d to get into is digital art, especially combined with collage and book art. I spent a year and a half in book arts class while at my undergrad college, and I really miss it. Space is a consideration, as are materials, though these are obstacles that can be overcome. I dream of having real studio space…

My big dream would be to open a wellness center that includes massage therapy, traditional psychotherapy, art classes (especially but not necessarily tied in with art therapy), dance and music. I’d love to have an emphasis on growth and enjoying life and relationships. I’d love to have meditation groups, women’s groups, spirituality groups, as well as more traditional therapy groups such as DBT skills training, process groups, and stress management/coping. In this era of managed care, though, it’s hard to get funding for these type of endeavors, and there aren’t too many people willing to pay out of pocket for services like these. Still, it’s fun to dream…

I honestly don’t remember being able to simply play freely all that often when I was kid. The best times I remember were when I could escape my family and go off on my own…I would sit under this huge old oak tree in our back yard, and pretend that there were elves that lived in the tree…there was a door in the trunk with a spiral staircase that led up to the top and down to the underground home below, and if I looked hard enough, I would find it. I never did, but I also never stopped trying. There was also a willow tree further back, that had a perfect spread of branches for sitting, hiding, and reading. It was one of my favorite, most peaceful spots in the world.

When my sisters and I went back to Ohio when my father was dying, we went by our old house, and asked the current owners if we could look around. They had cut down the oak, saying that it was waving in the heavy winds (which it did) and they were afraid it would fall on the house. I think I grieved the loss of that tree almost as much as the loss of my father…it was 200 years old, and at least 150 feet high. I remember listening to the branches creaking and swaying in the wind, and though it was a comforting sound. I guess we each interpret our worlds in different ways, based on our experiences and lives to that point. I wish I could find a spot/tree/place like that out here. Colorado is beautiful, but has never felt like home. Walla Walla, WA did, but I doubt I’ll ever get back there.

It’s funny…of all the places I’ve lived, very few have felt like “home,” and none of them were places where I could stay permanently. The places where I’ve ended up settling (Boise, ID and Loveland, CO) don’t feel like home to me. I think that probably says more about me, than it does about the places I’ve lived. If I could live anywhere, it would be near the ocean. Barring that, someplace with history, and trees. Places where you can lose yourself in the beauty, wildness, and growth. Maybe someday…

Amazing how true this still is…still working in the nursery, Laundry Mountain has been repeatedly torn down and rebuilt – but is still there, and I’m still wanting more adventure in my life. The more things change, the more they stay the same 🙂

Feelin’ out o’ sorts…
Category: Goals, Plans, Hopes

Wow…what a day. I work in our church nursery, where I am a temporary “cuddle mama” to all the kids whose parents drop them off. It was nuts today, and I was exhausted and cranky by the end of the day. There are some days where I look at my life and think, “is this all there is?” Don’t get me wrong – I love my kids, with all my heart, and I wouldn’t want to be with anyone other than my husband. There are days, though, where the sheer ordinariness and predictability of my life gets to me.

I want to have adventure – I want to hop on a plane and fly to some place exotic and new…Marrakesh, Bombay, London, Cairo, Rio…anywhere so long as it’s not ordinary-somewhere-in-Colorado. I want to sit on the beach and sip Mai-Tais, go beachcombing and drawing/painting…explore little-known alleys of far-off bazaars…sail on a glass-bottom boat or learn to snorkel or scuba dive (do they even let large women do that?)

I’ve been reading Danny Gregory’s “Everyday Matters,” and I feel somewhat guilty about feeling this way. After all, my world could be turned upside down so easily, as was his. Reading this, though, did get me starting to notice all the little things that make my life unique – Laundry Mountain, The Kitchen Slough, and the Dirt-eating Carpet Monster…Aidan running around the house yelling, “Red Balls, Red Balls!” (something for another entry…:), Rebecca calling, “Mam! MAMMAM!”…There ARE many things to be grateful for.

Still…I wish I had more time for my art, and for my knitting. My UFO, the evil cardigan, weighs more mentally than it ever will physically, and I have so many projects I WANT to do…like make up my collage “Thank you” notes, work on David’s project (my FIL), etc., etc. And they all seem to weigh more heavily each day, as does the uncleaned house, the unwashed clothes, and unwritten notes. (And so what am I doing? Blogging…;P ) I guess I need to reconcile that the choices I make don’t always line up with what I think I want…sometimes life just takes over and I go on autopilot. And, at the rate I’m going, I’ll be lucky if Laundry Mountain doesn’t petrify soon…Move over Petrified Forest, make room for the petrified Socks of Doom…

I hope y’all are thinking about what inspires you…I’ve been doing some searching on the web, and I’ve found a WONDERFUL site that’s inspiring and on the same wavelength as what I was thinking. It’s called “HelpOthers.org” (three guesses what the URL is? http://www.helpothers.org/index.php ). They have some fantastic essays, the “SMILE” cards you may have seen floating around for a while, and some great ideas. Check it out!

Reflections of Reflections…

Other Facets of the Mirror