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.

2248 Miles, Give or Take

I died a small death last night.

And I'm still sore.

Rachel and I gave our body image fireside last night in my home stake.  Except the audio/visual portion of the presentation would not work.  It worked fine before the fireside started.  But somehow between the opening song and my getting up in front of a congregation full of people, it stopped working.  I've had this nightmare before, but usually I wake up.

There we were.  Working without a net.

I flapped my arms a bit, but it was still pretty close to a crash landing.

This morning I thought of a joke I should have told as I stood there with the blood rushing through my ears.  Rushing so loud, I couldn't hear or think or breathe.  Dying a small death is louder than you might imagine.  At least from the inside.

David was in Pennsylvania slaying the dragon, and so I cried myself to sleep.

I talked to him tonight after his very full day of exhaustive interviewing.

We cried a little together.

Cause we were both feeling for the other.  Him with his dragons, me with my spectacular failure.  Both of us doing our best to be a comfort from opposite ends of the country. 

And tonight, the only consolation is that at the end of the day, at the end of the worst day at the end of the worst month at the end of the worst season of our life, we still have each other.

Tonight I cannot adequately say how glad I am to have married so well.

P.S.  Yes, we are still in limbo.  We've had lots of discussions about birds in the hands and birds in the bushes and gift horses and dead horses and fishes of all sizes in ponds of all sizes too.  We move forward, in the dark...for now.

Stress Makes Me Cheeky


Just like that, it's the beginning of December.

Seems like I just published this photo, and here we are again. 

For the record (because you know I like keeping score, especially if I am winning) I got my tree up early this year.  A first for me.

Because this weekend we are hosting the entire neighborhood for Christmas dinner, a hayride, and a holiday concert.

Ha!  Pork tenderloin for four hundred.  Good thing I'm amazing.

My mom called me yesterday and said, "What can I do to help?"  And I thought, "Oh, I guess I'm supposed to get out of the fetal position and do something."

Be brave, I tell myself.

Did I tell you the whole event is outside?  Which is probably the reason for our current "cold snap."  We even had to light our first fire of the season on Monday night.  And we didn't have to turn on the air conditioner to do it!  Plus right now I am wearing socks.  See?  Cold.

My Christmas cards arrived late yesterday afternoon.  (David and I had a debate about what picture to use this year.  I won.  Which is a shame.  I told him I wanted one where we didn't look "perfect," one that "reflected our real life."  He said, "But it looks like we just rolled out of bed."  "Exactly," I said.  At which point he gave up.  Which, again, is a real shame.  I think it's pretty clear that this whole thing is his fault.)  Plus I'm seriously considering not writing a letter this year.  David says our friends would protest.  I'm thinking they would be relieved.  What can I say that I have not already said a thousand times?  Entropy.  The fall.  You can fill in the rest.  But then all there will be to do when people open the card is to stare at our very real picture and wonder how bad things really are over here. 

The best part of my week was singing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" with my lovelies, all of us around the piano on Monday night.    

And, yes, I am at least as tired as I look.

What's Left

(Sunday shoes abandoned Sunday night, still there on Monday morning)

This morning I went to pick up some quilts that my lovely and talented Aunt Tori had finished quilting.

I got a flat tire on the way.

Which made me cry for a bit.  Because I am worn out.

On Thursday my sister had warned me that it looked low.

On Friday Caleb's scoutmaster told me I needed to put air in my tire.

But I was busy, see?

So this morning I was stuck in the parking lot of a JB's restaurant (there is no sadder place) for nearly an hour with a flat tire.

An old man with a walker asked me if I needed help.  Which made me cry a bit harder.

The lady (oh the shame!) from AAA who came to help me saw where the tire had worn through and said, "You must have driven on that too low for some time."


But I was busy, see?

And this morning, after a week spent at break-neck speeds and a weekend of ward parties and Sunday school lessons and firesides, all given by yours truly, I feel just like my tire.


Popped.  Pooped.

Gone as far as I can go.

I have been going on too low for too long.  

And now I'm going to sit here for a while.

Woe is me.

For The Record

This is the only picture in my camera from the last two weeks.  I can't remember what I was going to post with it, but it was probably something like:



This morning I rolled over to David's side of the bed and asked, "Do you love me?"

He murmured, "Uh huh."

I asked, "In spite of my problems?"


Then I asked, "Because of my problems?"

He laughed.

"You wouldn't go that far?"

He laughed again and grabbed my boob and told me I was crazy. 

So, for the record:

1.  I'm still married.

2.  My children are still alive.

3.  I'm hard-pressed to remember a time I've been this miserable due to my own actions (or inability to say "no.")

4.  I am dreaming of summer every waking and sleeping moment.

5.  In nearly every conversation I have with David I use one of the following phrases:

I quit.

Can't we just run away somewhere?

Isn't there a free bed somewhere in that hospital where I could just disappear for a couple of weeks.

I'm not kidding, I totally quit.

I mean it.

6.  I've developed a new "inside voice" as well.  CIM and RIM have been joined by FPM, "fetal-position-me," and nearly every day RIM is yelling at her that "It's not so bad!"  and "Just do something already!" which only makes things worse.

(I wonder if it is a bad sign that my inside voices are multiplying.  Whatever it takes to get one of those free hospital beds, I say.)

Do you want the good news?

Someone wonderful (I've no idea who) (or is it "whom" FPM asks from her sad little pile at the bottom of my mind) sent me this little book in the mail.

I read it in a day and half and it is helping my writing immensely.  Bless you, whoever you are.   

Well.  I suppose that's all.

Wait, you say.  I waited two and half weeks for that?

And now more bad news:

It's the best I've got.

The Post Script to Two Weeks of Insanity

I know I am prone to exaggeration. 

I know I am prone to melodrama.

(I keep telling David that it adds to my charm.)

But it is not too much to say that I have been drowning.  To busy trying to stay afloat to even write a distressed SOS.  The waters are just now finally starting to recede, leaving me exhausted and mildewed.

It all started when I thought it was a good idea to take a class on writing and force a few deadlines on myself.

Which would have been fine, if it weren't that I forgot that the last time I took a class I did not have four children and two church callings and one large, full-time job feeding, clothing, and cleaning a family. 

Which still might have been fine, if I hadn't forgotten that I also do volunteer work on a committee to raise funds for cancer services and our big event is just a couple of months away, and my sister and I also spend much of our free time travelling and teaching a class on body image.

Which still had a microscopic chance of being fine, it I hadn't also said "yes" to various other people and commitments, which didn't seem hard at the time they asked, but impossible by the time it was time to deliver.

And so it has not been so fine.

(At one point amid the hosting of a dinner/dance for a hundred people to celebrate the latest minor-holiday and helping Caleb sift through 80 pictures of growing petri dishes for his science project and trying to finish my round robin late again, I told David that I was having fantasies about getting cancer so that the only thing on my to-do list was "go to chemo."  He made me take that back.)

Yesterday my family ate cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and I took a two-hour nap in the afternoon. 

I had gone as far as I could go.

This morning Caleb asked in a hopeless voice if we were having cereal again for breakfast. 

I said yes. 

And then I turned to David and whispered that I am failing.  He just smiled at me and nodded.  He loves me anyway, I suppose.

Now for a story.  About the best part of the last two weeks.

A couple of weeks ago I had to turn in a manuscript, either a short story or a chapter, for my writing class to review.  We workshop the piece, which means you make a copy for everyone in the class and they go home and read it over the weekend and make all kinds of marks and suggestions and comments on it and then on the following Tuesday we talk about the piece.

After I turned it in, David said that if I could let eighteen strangers read it, I could surely let him.

So I did.

When he got done with it he only made one comment.  And it was, apparently, not the right one.

David took me to In and Out where I cried into my milkshake and asked him hundred times what I was thinking and what I was doing with my life and what was I going to do now and what was the worst part, the writing or the story or both. 

Because, let's be honest, if there's one thing I really excel at, it is self-doubt.

(I keep telling David that it adds to my charm.)

When my blood sugar and my emotions were more stable he drove me home.

By Tuesday morning I had given up the dream.  Determined to be content reading and enjoying the writing of other people, to drop the class and get back to my laundry.  I decided to let it die or kill it off myself, and then I considered the funeral arrangements.  (Adele would sing, I would say a few words, the kids could do a reading of Steinbeck or Tolstoy to put everything in perspective and remind us that we weren't losing much, bagpipes at the end, etc.)

But my professor resurrected it with three little words and one punctuation choice written at the bottom of my manuscript:  "April, absolutely brilliant!"

Note the exclamation point.  You can bet I did. 

I could not be unhappy the entire day.

When David got home from work I still had the smile on my face.  We did a little celebratory dance in the kitchen.  And David told me how frustrating it is to be my husband but smiled at me the whole time he was saying it and I did nothing but grin back at him. 

Because of course I know that.  I live with me too. 


David met me for lunch after class yesterday and took my "first day of school" picture.

Just before dark last night Savannah and I went to the store to buy a chicken for dinner.

Our world was uncharacteristically wet and dripping and Savannah said that it looked like London with all the car and street lights reflected in the puddles.

About six o'clock I put that chicken in a pie and put it in the oven, and my own Elizabeth Bennett walked in the door after a long stroll in the rain, her hem six inches deep in mud, her cheeks flushed, and her face alight.

I cleaned up the dinner prep and laid down for a minute as the pie baked, and thought about my day.

It was the first day of school for me in a very long time.

I sat in a small, undecorated classroom, with seventeen other students.  The boy on my left had a mouth so full of retainers he could hardly talk.  When he tried to he gently sprayed our table with spit which, rather than disgusting me, charmed me completely and made me want to bring him some of the pie I had just made in case he was living on ramen and popcorn.  The boy on my right had both ears so full of piercings he could hardly hear.  I wondered if he took them out every night and if his head felt ten pounds lighter when he did, and if he lined them all up on the dresser for the next day's battle, or if he wore his armor to bed.

There was a girl in the front row of the class who raised her hand high when the professor asked who in the room was writing a novel.  A few others raised their hands half-way, like they were ashamed to admit it.  I kept my hand down but it kind of jumped a bit in my lap like it had been startled, but I tamped it down tight and held onto my pride and my fear at the same time.

The professor explained that our class will be a workshop class and that means I will not only read the work of the boy in retainers next to me, but I will tell him what I think of it.  And he will do the same for me.  I hope he thinks my writing is as charming as I think his spit is.

So last night with dinner in the oven, my husband on his way, half of my children nursing colds and the other half nursing healthy love affairs with rarely-seen rain, I lay on my bed and thought about the other people in my class:  the boy in the tweed jacket who thinks he can smell academic snobbery even when it isn't there; the girl with wheat colored hair who went up afterwards and asked quietly, with her eyes on the floor what a workshop is; and the rail-thin girl who sat behind me and took notes fast and furiously while the professor read fiction to us.  Everyone around her kept glancing over at her nervously wondering if they should be taking notes too. 

And how in not too many weeks, all of these people will see me naked.

And how while I love being naked as much as the next person, (okay maybe more than the next person), I'm not sure I can strip to my heart and soul in front of these eighteen people.

It is not Creative Writing 170.

It is Exhibitionism 101.

And then I could only think that it is a very good thing I look so great naked.

Allusions and Punctuation and Plot Gone Awry

First allusions, and an apology for yesterday.

When David read the post he said, "Who's Valdez?"

I said, "Just keep reading."

A bit later he said, "Who's Reuben Lands?"

"Reuben Land, in the plural.  Just keep reading."

And then, "You think you're a Swede?  You are definitely not a Swede."

"Not a Swede.  Just Swede."

He read a couple more sentences.  "Wait, who is the she that bangs on the wall?"

"She is Swede."

He got to the end.  "So wait.  Now who's Valdez again?"

I could only sigh and mutter, "Never mind."

I can only say that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Secondly, punctuation. 

Yesterday my sister and I had to write a few emails for our body image class.  One of them was to someone that we both have great admiration and love for, a person we would normally never have the opportunity to write to.  At the end of the email we made a little joke and added a smiley face with punctuation.  You know the kind:  :).  Yes, really.  I have no idea what got into me.  Nerves, I think.  I mean not only do I have a personal moral objection against using punctuation in such a literal way, it seems embarrassingly childish especially given the respect I have for the person we were writing, like I am some immature texter with no real grasp of the English language. 

After I sent the email I stared at that smiley face, aghast at what I had done.  I always say that if the person can't tell that you meant it to be funny it needs to be rewritten, that you just haven't used the right words.  I rewrote that sentence about a hundred times last night and regretted (oh how I regretted) the use of that punctuation.  Sheer madness. 

I can hardly believe that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Lastly, plot.  

Olivia's lungs are making their way out of the soup and into a light, gentle wheezing now and then.  She even managed to read her verses of scripture this morning without sounding like she'd run a half-marathon.  We were in the brief Book of Omni, which always needs a roadmap, I think.  The kids looked at me cross-eyed, with lots of "Wait, what?"s as I tried to explain the plot, the comings and goings of entire civilizations that happen over the course of about six verses, the introduction of new characters and new settings that pop up without warning.  Even Mormon had to add a brief word of explanation after it was all over.  It required a more extensive explanation than we had time for and so I gave it up as a bad job and a discussion for another day, and administered antibiotics and albuterol instead. 

I can only think that Amaleki (who, like me, was working without an editor) thought it was a good idea at the time.  

And after yesterday, I have all kinds of empathy for him.

The Great Divorce

I was going to title this post "A Trial Separation."  But it's more than that.

(I hope.)

So I stole the title from C.S. Lewis (the mark of any good writer...plagiarism) as it was a more accurate description.

(I hope.)

Towards the end of summer, I allowed myself during brief moments to think about the long, yawning hours of quietude and solitude that were coming.  I thought about going back to school.  (Nursing, I thought.  After all, motherhood has prepared me in the arts of blood and vomit and, especially, poo.)  I thought about going back to work.  (Teaching, I surmised.  But only part-time, as I still have a full-time gig here, only the hours have changed.)  I thought about volunteering.  (But then I remembered my whole life has been volunteer work.  I needed a change.)

And then I thought about the one thing that I haven't allowed myself to think about.

The little dream on hold. 

The writing dream.

The little dream I thought I'd never really get to.  (Perhaps even hoped I'd never really get to.  Excused out of failure, see?)  

And in an act of supreme courage and wild daring, I bought a writing table.

And this week I separated Berni and O'Dell.

In order to make my intentions loud and clear.  (Mostly to myself.)

Now there's nothing for it but to try, and Berni and O'Dell have resorted to yelling across the room.  Right now they're both hoarse and more than a little ticked off at me, but I told them to give it some time.  It's only the first week after all.  It's new for all of us.

I also told them on the plus side now they can roll their eyes at each other when I start losing it.  I can already hear the "I told you so's",  but, for now, I am firmly ignoring them.

For his part, David is trying to restrain his curiosity.  (Which he has never been good at.)  He keeps walking by the room, wondering what's happening between these two and hiding his mild interest at their apparent separation, but also being wise enough not to ask too many questions.

As for me, I am trying to remain hopeful.  (See the first four lines.)  However, I don't really think too much of a writer who uses this many parentheses in one post.

(11, including this one.)

(By the way, if you ever bring this post up in real life I'm going to pretend I don't know what you're talking about.)

(13.  Damn.)

Q is for Quilt and Queen and Quit

My house looks like a large quilt exploded all over it.

A large quilt that was unpicked several times first.  Quilt warfare.

My mother said, "Don't worry about it."

But that is because (ha!) her house has never looked like that.  It's like a law or something. 

Yesterday I ventured out of my sewing room for an hour or so (had to get more fabric), and happened to look down and noticed bits of thread all over my breasts, which is only a turn-on to a very select group of people.  Unfortunately, my husband isn't one of them.  I asked.

So instead of ravishing me, David played secretary to me last night, sending out emails and editing the hospital benefit program.  Whenever I would say, "Could you send an email to this really important person and make it sound like I am serious and need action right away?"  he would do it, just like that.  Or if I said, "Reply to that lovely person and make it sound like I am totally excited and super grateful" he would do that too.  Let me tell you how powerful I felt.

Meanwhile, I was working on my quilt.  Adding more borders for good measure.  Because, good heavens, that is all I do, and that is all you have to do if you keep unpicking.  Which I am going to stop doing.  Soon. 

Occasionally, when I'm quilting, I stop and look at what I am doing and if you happen to walk by at one of these moments you really should say how marvelous you think it looks and how hot I look with thread all over my chest, because I really need the praise and I'm seriously this close to cracking.

David looked up from his secretarial duties and said, "Don't you think you could have stopped at that brown part.  It's getting really big."  And for the record, his eyebrows said that "really big" was actually a bad thing.

Which might have been okay if he was married to a sane, well-rested woman with no time or effort invested in said quilt. 

But he is not.

He is happily married (thank you very much) to a woman who has a nearly intimate relationship with her seam ripper these days.

Doubt reared his ugly head.  And was quickly followed by despair, angst, and freaking out.

I looked around briefly for my towel and my white flag, but they were both buried under discarded and unpicked remnants of other versions of this quilt. 

So I headed for bed.

I know when I'm beat.

This quilt has finally gotten the best of me.