Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold

The boys are on the floor playing legos.

Olivia has her earbuds in, celebrating her Christmas with Taylor Swift and the boys from One Direction.

Savannah is making electronic cupcakes and David is programming his new running heart rate monitor.

We are snug and happy in the lap of a huge mountain.

A mountain we were nearly lost on forever just yesterday.

We took the kids skiing and after getting everyone's ski boots and skis on (surely the hardest part) we were making remarkably good progress.  The girls were independently skiing and taking the lifts by themselves.  Caleb was competent, if timid, and Ethan was wildly careening and crashing, but happiest when tearing as fast as he could down the icy slopes.

It was snowing lightly all morning, but after lunch, conditions deteriorated quickly.  The flakes got bigger and faster and the wind started blowing.  I could no longer see the girls skiing down the mountain from the lift.  We decided to head for home.

We were on an unfamiliar mountain, but eventually figured out there were two ways home:  the gondola or the "short cut."  The gondola was a gentle enclosed ride to the bottom.  But since the short cut involved skiing to the bottom, and the kids were doing so well, and we had already paid the lift fees, we decided to get our money's worth and ski down.  How hard could it be?  We'd just follow the green trails all the way to the bottom. 

Trouble was, pretty soon we were lost.  There was so much snow and wind we couldn't read the trail signs or the map and even the green trails became treacherous with all that new powder.

There was crying.  (The kids.)

There was screaming.  (Me.)

There was gnashing of teeth.  (David.)

There was fervent prayer from all of us: Get us off this mountain.  

At one point Savannah lost control and ended up in a huge snow drift with so much powder that she lost one ski and both poles.  Only her head was sticking out.  I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe while she screamed.  She saw me laughing and started laughing herself, until she had to dig four feet down to find her ski.  We never did find one of her poles.

Olivia went somersaulting down a particularly steep section of mountain (who knows where we were at that point--green or blue or black diamond, all we could see was white) and lost both skis and had to try putting them back on in the powder at a 65 degree angle.

The ski patrol came by several times to ask us if we needed help, but apparently they only send rescue snowmobiles to help the bleeding and broken and since we were only desperate and in over our heads we were on our own.

Unfortunately, when you are in this situation, on a foreign mountain, in blizzard-like conditions, with four panicked and inexperienced skiers with you, there is only one way home:


A long way down.

At the lowest point (emotionally but not vertically) we were huddled together on the mountain. I was sitting in the snow.  Too tired from digging for skis, and trying to get them back on the kids' feet, and pulling kids out of snow drifts, and dumping out boots and gloves, and trying to bully children down the mountain, to stand any longer.

The youngest two were crying.

Caleb was trying to put a positive spin on things, "Well, we'll never forget this Christmas Eve."

The ski patrol came by one last time. "Are you in trouble?"

David just stared at him.  Because, um, yes. 

Olivia asked, "How much farther to the bottom?"

"Only a mile or two.  You're almost there."

Olivia started weeping.

David gave everyone a pep talk.  There were protests.  I put things more starkly.  "Unless you want to die on this mountain, there is only one way off it.  Get up and put your skis on.  Now!"   I could be a motivational speaker. 

Needless to say, eventually we found the bottom.

All of us in one piece, er...six pieces.

We only lost one ski pole and believe that to be a supreme triumph, considering.

Funny enough, the kids were so delighted to be down that they are only looking back on the whole thing with fond reminiscing, as if fear of imminent death and blinding snow with all that screaming and crying only added to the fun.  By dinner, everything was hilarious. 

Merry Christmas, from us, alive and well, far over the misty mountains cold.

Surfer Girl

There is a Sunday night dance party happening in the other room. It's a natural outgrowth of cousins in close quarters.

Olivia just came up with a new dance move, named appropriately "The Olivia." She says it could be a trend.

My mom texted us today asking how Newport is.

It's hard to complain.

Sun, surf, sand, and some of the finest boogie boarding you've ever seen. Done by yours truly. I'm seriously considering adding it to my resume: "Enjoys reading, writing, quilting, and is a world class boogie boarder." I like the sound of that.

Do you want to know the best part?

I've never been hotter.

Today I caught the biggest wave I've ever ridden and David kissed me so hard it made us both dizzy, which caused him to sway and lose his balance, and consequently caused me to end up unceremoniously on my butt in the sand. I told you, hot.

My brother, who had the good fortune of witnessing the whole thing, said sarcastically, "Wow, that was almost like the movies."

Whatever. It was hot in my head. (Then again, it's always hot in my head. It's a gift.)

Yesterday David asked Olivia to keep an eye on her younger cousin. She looked over at him running in and out of the waves. She smiled and said, "He's fine, Dad. He's living the dream."

We all are.

As for me, what could be better than looking across the waves to find my lovelies paddling their boards along beside me, their bodies turned silver in the light bouncing off the waves. We watch as a wave builds and crests toward us, we flip our boards and kick off. David grins over at me and I am undone.

It is no surprise to me that life began in the oceans. I am reborn every time I get in one.

I Might Have a Problem

Our parade of Target shopping carts a few weeks ago.  I love parades.

This is the last time I'm going to talk about this.

I promise.

(Let's be honest, I am probably not going to keep that promise.  Ask me if I care.)

Today I got a notice from paypal that said I didn't have enough money in my account to pay for those new drapes I just ordered.  (I thought you were my pal, paypal.  What gives?)  And that is when it hit me that I may have a problem.

I am so good at spending money.  (That is not the problem.)  Over the last month I have been trying to get this place to feel like home.  And houses need all kinds of things like towels and wastebaskets and floral arrangements and ceramic pots that remind me of Jacob's well.  Houses need pictures and mattress pads and shelves and tablecloths and baskets to store the tablecloths in.  They need paint and pillows and fans and about four thousand 3M command strips.  They need chairs and rugs and curtains and refrigerator doors full of soy sauce and ketchup and salad dressing.  In the last month I have done what I could to generously provide.  (I am good at spending money, remember?)

David, for his part, has generously tried to look the other way.  Except when I am showing him paint samples, and then he tries to look supportive rather than alarmed.  (No one said marriage was easy.)

But today when I read that paypal was more interested in the pay part than the pal part, I realized that my problem may be trying to fill a hole that cannot be filled with all this decorating and organizing and beautifying.  A hole that cannot be filled because the hole is not in the house, but in me.

Because today it occurred to me that I am homesick.

Home Making

Did anybody else think today was Friday?

After months of unemployment, the five-day work week seems interminably long.  (There were perks, see?  If only it paid better.)

Things are moving along here at home.  The only boxes left are in the garage and I'm half tempted to donate them somewhere...unopened and unpacked.  What could be in them, I wonder.  Clearly nothing vital.  I'm trying to hang the last of the pictures...a sure sign we're staying for a while, even though I keep expecting someone to show up and ask us what were doing in their house.  I still wake up and wonder where I am. 

Every morning David kisses me goodbye and goes to secure our place on the rock.  (Lindbergh's oyster bed has been heavily on my mind this week.)  I sense his giddiness as he leaves.  He is happy to be providing.  Deliriously so. 

My job is more complicated.  Because the light in my new bedroom is golden rather than blue.  The sun is coming in at a different angle, and I don't yet recognize the patterns it makes as it rises and crosses the south wall.  To calm my fears, I rise and do what I know best.  Home making.  And perhaps my brilliant skills were never more needed.  To take the uncertain and make it familiar.  To take the unknown and make it recognizable.  To take the difficult and make it a little easier with the simple rituals of daily life...food on the table, the same stone dishes being revealed by each successive bite, the smell of heat and starch as I line David's dress shirts along the end of my ironing board, the sheets and blankets whispering their old secrets as my darlings climb in bed, the circle we form on our knees at the end of day. 

To take a house and make it home.  (Good thing I'm amazing and stuff.)

In an effort to make it feel more like home, this week I did get the quilts hung.

The walls are telling me this is where I belong.

I wonder when I will believe them. 

Scouring the Country for Bacon

On Sunday morning I packed David's bag.

He was headed across the country to bring home the bacon.

I got a tutorial from my dad (the expert) on how to pack a business suitcase and arrive without a single wrinkle.  I was pretty brilliant at it.

I picked David up late last night.  He was exhausted and smiling and wrinkle-free.

As we lay in bed Saturday night I asked him if he was nervous.  He said no.  But when I picked him up last night he had a cold sore.  (A sure sign of stress, a dead give-away...but I didn't let on.)

He also had a mind full of things to say and process, a carry-on bag full of laundry and dry-cleaning, and a camera full of pictures of a quaint downtown, rolling hills, houses with trees out front, and even a barn or two for me.

I expect this will be our new kind of normal for a while.  Me packing and praying and picking up.  Him exploring the country's various airports while sporting new cold sores on his handsome, not-nervous face.

I cried a little when I dropped him off on Sunday.  Overwhelmed a bit, I guess, that he would do all this for us.

Even if he wasn't nervous.

Not one little bit.

[This morning when I served cold cereal for breakfast Savannah said, "I thought Dad was bringing home bacon."  Ha!  I'm still smiling about it.]

Evening Grace

somewhere in the middle of yesterday

At the end of yesterday, at the very end, after I had fed, and read, and testified, and prayed, and coaxed, and washed, and combed, and consoled, and sandwiched, and packed, and taught, and coached, and hurried, and kissed, and reminded, and wiped, and bused, and fieldtripped, and Costcoed, and Targeted, and unloaded, and restocked, and put away, and perspired, and tracked down, and dropped off, and encouraged, and picked up, and tutored, and picked up again, and talked, and listened, and bolstered, and picked up again, and nurtured, and cajoled, and cooked, and fed, and curriculum-nighted, and helped, and edited, and re-edited, and kissed, and prayed, and kissed, and goodnighted, at the very end of all that...Olivia showed up in my dark sewing room and asked me if I had any "cardboard" so she could make a pyramid for her game project that was due tomorrow.

I didn't handle it well.  I was all out of nurture.  And it was only by the grace of God that she made it out of the room alive.  Well, that, and David showed up just in time.

Yesterday was so exhausting--mentally, physically, emotionally--that by the end I could only make animal noises.

David said, "Do you want to talk about it?"

I said yes and did my best.  I started with, "I am a wonder!" at the top of my lungs, but then the rest of it dissolved into gibberish followed by primal hoots and grunts and whoops and deep bellows of frustration.  I finished by saying, "Ay, carumba!"

At which we both dissolved into laughter.

He rubbed my back for a while, and it is not too much to say that it was the best twenty minutes of the whole day.

Have you heard?  Even if you are a wonder, it is still the hardest job in the whole world.  I mean, I was playing a gold medal game yesterday.  You should have seen it:  mothering and homemaking and serving and giving and blessing and nurturing and all with patience and compassion and perseverance and inspiration all day long, but then I lost it in the final minutes of competition.

Ay, carumba.

You can’t possibly do this alone, but you have help. The Master of Heaven and Earth is there to bless you—Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be.

Remember, remember all the days of your motherhood: “Ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

-Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Henry James Was Right

Because some of you asked about it...here's where we are:

I could not be more delighted.

The very best time of year is just days away. 

Last night we got a headstart.  I took the kids swimming and then they read books while I made a simple dinner.  It was nearly eight when we sat down to eat.  I was so happy standing there in my kitchen looking at my wet-haired, rosy children. 

I am very good at summertime mothering.

Even my children can tell.  Last night Savannah must have kissed me ten times before she went to bed.  She couldn't help herself.  I think I have been away far too long.

"Summer afternoon, summer afternoon...the two most beautiful words in the English language." 

--Henry James 

For Money

It has been five days since the Garden of Hope Spring Tea (my big fundraising event of the year) and I am out of excuses.  It is time to post.

I cleaned my house.  Long neglected.

I paid the bills.  Long overdue.

I went to the store and the library.  Long out of anything to eat or read.  (There is a running debate around here about which is worse.)

Today I intend to go to my final class and iron David's shirts.  The man has been ironing his own since February.  And after that I have a list of things I've been meaning to get to: wash the girls' bedding, organize the swim cupboard, prepare the file boxes for the end-of-the-year school treasures, breathe, sleep, nap, smile.  All good things and all about time.

Last night I had a dream that David no longer loved me.  Too hard to live with, plus the house was a mess, he said.  I woke up and had to be reassured several times before he left for work this morning.

When I think back over the last three months, I want to dance (it's over!) and cry (it was hard!).  David has been calmly coaxing me through the ensuing maelstrom of ups and downs.  You can imagine.

Anyway, did you know I was a philanthropist?  (Honestly, there is almost no end to my amazingness.)

Well, I am.

I made this quilt and raised a whole lot of money for the cancer program at David's hospital.  (He should be so lucky, I tell my horrid dream.)

And even better, I looked gorgeous doing it.  (Hello.)

David and I have a standing joke that since he didn't marry me for my money he must have married me for my looks.  This post is evidence that it seems I'm good for both. 

Tomorrow, a real post. 

P.S.  A generous and heartfelt thank you to all of you who sent cards and help and good wishes my way during the madness.  They meant more than I can say. 

My Not-So Hidden Talents


This post might be completely different written at the other end of the day.

RIM thinks that if I just get a good head of steam going and make some serious inroads into the jungle that is my laundry room and get something to eat and maybe take a walk and read a couple of chapters in my new book that the day could turn out alright after all.

We'll see.

CIM feels more like wallowing.

Because next to hibernating I am best at wallowing.

Scratch that.  Next to hard-heartedness I am best at hibernating and then wallowing.

(None of these are very good in talent shows.  It occurs to me that this would have been my only weakness on the pageant circuit, by the way.)

Sometimes when I'm in the shower and all that's facing me is a laundry room posing as a jungle I imagine the alternate paths my life could have taken.  Beauty Queen is one I hadn't thought of until just now.

Suddenly I like laundry masquerading as the Amazon.

RIM just interrupted me to ask what it is I'm writing about and to nudge me toward breakfast.  My blood sugar is clearly too low to be out in public.

But I know it's too late.  I'm to the point where I can't even think what to eat.  It's a lost cause.

If David were here he could make me a sandwich and then make me eat it.

But he's not.

Did I say that already?

No, I didn't.  But he is.  Gone, I mean.  And so is everyone else.

Which means that the hibernation is over and this only leaves me with hard-heartedness and wallowing.

Which is a real shame.