Ansel Adams liked New Mexico
Yesterday, a good portion of my family piled into my parent’s excursion and drove the fourteen hours from Utah to Las Cruces, New Mexico. By “good portion” you may think I may mean a couple of grandkids and an adult or two. In this instance, that phrase really means one great grandparent, two grandparents, Riley, me, two grandkids and one 12 year old tea cup poodle. The inside of the car looked like an ad for a bad family comedy…but it actually worked. The girls watched movies. Riley and I read. My grandpa talked when he could hear us and sometimes when he couldn’t. My parents teased and bantered and bought hamburgers for everyone. It was nice.
If you’ve never been to New Mexico, I encourage you to make the trip someday. The light is different down here. I must not be the only one that feels that way as this little state has played host to so many big artists. A different moon is waiting for me here. It stands apart from the inked out sky in a way that my moon in Utah can’t seem to understand. Tonight as we motored along two lane highways I looked out the window and felt reassured by that soft bright curve in the sky. At one point, I turned to Viola to show her its shine, but she was already asleep. I wanted to cup the luminescence in my hands and give it to her when she woke up. Instead, I had to settle for the little bit that played across her cheek through the window.
When the car was so quiet and there was only an hour left to drive, the radio started playing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”. I whispered the words in between my sleeping girls, Riley hummed along and my parents sang together in the front seats. The lyrics floated across the inside of our car and I wondered if Ms. Cline knew her voice would live on so much longer than the body made it ring. That voice and the moon and the people around me I would not lose for even an instant, not if I could find a way.
It was a little moment, small enough to fit in my pocket. But I fell into it and blessed the stars for allowing me the pleasure. And one more verse to sing all together.
The Listen to Your Mother Show went so perfectly. We laughed, we cried, I got to wear my mom’s vintage Chanel dress…and take it home with me for keeps. Also? The show sold out. Hip hip hooray!
The show was about mothers and I have the kind of mom that inspires essays and childhoods and moments in the kitchen. She was my first friend and I spent my childhood, pre-adolescence and teenage years talking to her in the car, through bathroom doors and in her bedroom. One marriage and two kids later and I still call her most days – sometimes to chat, sometimes to cry – always to be heard.
My mom is also crazy talented and she created a lovely, otherworldly flower arrangement to sit on stage with us as we read about our journeys through motherhood. Most people would have created something beautiful for the occasion and the good lady surely did. But she also created something meaningful. My mom always has had a way of doing that – showing me where meaning and beauty meet and create something important and lasting. The piece is full of my great grandmother’s and grandma’s costume jewelry and pieces of my dear mom’s own frosting – pearls and clips and crystals that shine. The porcelain flowers nestled into the dried flowers came from a store I watched her dream up and allow me to be a part of for a while. It was an insight filled journey, working every day in a world of my mom’s making. We learned a lot about each other and most of it was even good. No one knew that the pretty collection of flowers and twigs on stage was really a pretty little collection of my past. When I got up to speak, I didn’t feel alone. My mother and grandmother were right beside me.
That afternoon I went to my parent’s house to pick up the arrangement. It was sitting in the front room with a card addressed to me. That lovely note now sits in a box of keepsakes, but I wanted to share it with you here.
(The event took place in a dinosaur museum and the room was surrounded by their bones and depictions of their natural habitat.)
May 9, 2013
As I watch you realize your dreams, I am a proud mama. I am grateful you allowed me to participate, in a small way, with you tonight.
As we shopped together for this arrangement to set on stage with you and the wonderful women who will participate in “Listen to Your Mother”, I was thinking like a designer. I wanted to match the feel of the room, the dinosaurs peering in as you each read your parts. I wanted it disappear, but you know me…I started thinking.
I thought about those dinosaurs and realized we are still learning from them after they have been many a millennia gone from us, and I realized the same is true about our mothers. Many of the things a mother teaches, she doesn’t even know she is teaching. The dinosaurs certainly didn’t set out to teach us anything. However, they continue to unwittingly help scientists unlock, and learn of, many of the mysteries and miracles that are a part of our home.
So…instead of matching the museum’s aesthetics, I thought I would create the arrangement as a parallel. Perhaps the arrangement is not the perfect design for the room. It may be too sentimental for some; but, it includes pieces from a mother who is still here and mothers who have been gone from you for a while. Some beyond your memory and some not. Women, who like the dinosaurs, without their realization, you will continue to learn from far into the future.
I love you with all my heart.
Man, I am some kind of lucky.
Me in my mom’s Chanel and pearls (right) alongside the fabulous Amy Hackworth, a lovely writer that also read for LTYM.
A few things I learned this week.
Stand up for childhood.
So many of the things we take for granted are the fondest hopes of mothers in other parts of the world. For my children, vaccinations are a ten minute drive and a co-pay away. For so many other children, vaccinations are the life saving intervention they never received. Today is Shot@Life’s first birthday. Shot at Life is an organization that works to “protect children worldwide by providing life-saving vaccines where they are most needed”. If you live in Utah go to any one of these Sweet Tooth Fairy locations to discuss what is being done locally to promote global health and you will get a free cupcake. I know. Saving babies AND cupcakes? Your cup(cake) runneth over.
This little pneumonia face is beginning to feel better. Barely.
The promise of a date night is the only way to get through a long, hard, sick ridden week. That date night is happening today or tomorrow. And there will be a mediocre movie featuring Tom Cruise along with a big cheeseburger from Five Guys. (update: Zuzu walked into the room with a raging fever just moments after I wrote this. So date night will be a carton of coffee ice cream and the last episode of BBC’s Sherlock. It could be worse.)
I am proud of her dragon hunting skills. But then I would be.
There are some achievements in my children’s lives that will never, ever make me proud. Zuzu came up to me with my phone yesterday,
“Hey mom! Oh my goodness. I totally forgot! Yesterday, I took a video of myself cleaning my face with my tongue! Isn’t that hilarious. You have to watch it! It’s so funny and amazing!”
I watched and laughed at her, not with her. Because I am a good parent like that. Also, how much must she have loved that blue lollipop?
That’s my girl.
Have an amazing, so good you lick it clean, weekend.
A few things I learned this week.
Sometimes you only need to tackle life one little corner at a time. I am trying to apply this philosophy to re-organizing my house. Some days I am able to pull a whole room apart and put it back together again. (Well, one day I was able to…) But for the most part, a complete overhaul of any aspect of my life, let alone the entire kitchen, sounds too overwhelming. The fact that I am spending most of my time raising those two kids I have might be to blame. It is also entirely possible I just have a bad character. Whatever the reason, I made a promise to myself this week that I would just organize one tiny piece of the house each day. Yesterday it was the desk in our room. Yes, the only goal I had yesterday was to organize a space that is four square feet big. Aim high, meg. But here is the thing. I organized the hell out of that four square feet. That four sq ft is now my little b word and it feels so good.
I woke up this morning to the sound of my little girls giggling together in their bedroom. I was tired and unready for the day. But then my eyes found that perfectly arranged desk and I thought, “Girl please, you can do this. Let’s just approach it 4 sq ft at a time.” (Find anyone as inspired by mediocrity as I and you will have me a new best friend.)
Oftentimes, the sweetest sentiments are also the truest. This week Caravan Shoppe released a special free download of one of my favorite quotes from A. A. Milne. Let’s get real here, I basically take anything Winnie the Pooh says as gospel, but these few lines in particular get me every darn time. We need to be better about allowing ourselves to see who we really are, rather than all the things we are afraid we might be.
Sleeping Beauty Zuzu
And finally. In a week full of explosions, hurt and death, I have been reminded once more of the special sanctuary childhood is supposed to be. On the day of the Boston bombings, Zuzu played Sleeping Beauty while I tried to keep my tears behind a book. She asked once or twice why I was crying and each time I said it was just because I love her so much. The answer made sense and she would kiss my cheek and go back to playing princess. I watched her lay on that couch with such peace and certainty. She still lives in a world where the prince always comes and evil is thwarted before too much damage is done. She believes in fairies and goodhearted woodland creatures. And she feels quite certain that death is something cured by a kiss.
On that day when so many people’s world ended, I promised myself once again that I will keep hers intact as long as I can.
Fairies and all.
Have a good weekend.
All of these pictures are from my instagram account. Find me @meg_in_progress. There are other gems like this one, my 19 month old, that dressed herself, running at me like we are on a battlefield in Braveheart.
Yeah. Art at it’s finest.
These guys. They’re worth a change or two.
Yesterday at church, our Stake President spoke about love as a motivator and sustainer of change. He said that to love truly is not for the weak and that to change for and with love is a true act of courage. There are four key things one must have to institute a lasting change.
1. Understand the need for change
2. The facts that motivate the change must be authentic – the who, what, why of change must be true
3. There must be a systematic approach to the desired change – everything should be deliberate, planned and orderly
4. The individual must be truly committed to her plan for change.
One of my favorite things he shared was a Chinese proverb (I love any opportunity to stick one of those into my back pocket), Great souls have plans, feeble souls have wishes.
It was a lovely talk and exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. In our little four walls, our lives are delightful. We are blessed by loving hearts, good health and an ability to laugh. But life is about progression and most nights I go to sleep wondering what I should do differently for my little family when we all wake up the next day. As the choir sang I sat in the pew and wrote in my little notebook.
First, a question,
What do I want/need to change in our lives?
And then three lists with answers to that question,
What would I like to be more consistent in providing my little girls?
- The little darlings need more routine. If we repeat activities and tasks they will learn to excel at them. Through repetition they will also learn the blessing of happy, productive habits.
- Creativity! We need to be better about filling our days with cut paper and spilled paint. I want them to know the importance of a beautiful mess.
- We need to be better about incorporating spirituality into the everyday. I need my little girls to know that the gospel is the reason they are here, not some hobby to be played at when nothing else interferes.
- We need to take more field trips into the big, wide world. I want them to feel the awe of stars in a darkened canyon and art that stretches their minds to thoughts they did not know they could have.
- A healthy meal and listening ears at the dinner table. This is a sacred time of day for our family. The only time when we are all together and without distraction. I need to treat it like the all important hour it is.
- And finally, I need to immerse them in truth seeking. I want them to know that all truth is ready to be found and they are the ones that can find it. Right now, I think the best way to do this is to focus on a new subject every month. Starting next Monday we are going to start talking about dinosaurs. Every day will have a dino activity. Fossil hunts! Coloring pages! Books! Dino museums! We will explore the subjects of the world together one toddler approved activity at a time.
What would I like to be more consistent in providing Riley?
- That boy needs a grand gesture once in a while. He grew up in a house where birthday parties were planned years in advance and pancakes were shaped like happy faces. He would never ask me to dole out a bit of that extra thoughtfulness, but I know he would appreciate it. Even if it is just a serving of happy face pancakes.
- A clean and functional house. More often than not, when Riley gets home our bed is full of pretzels (blame the girls) and our kitchen drawers hold anything from wrapping paper to that debit card I just can’t find anywhere (blame me). Riley thrives in an environment that makes sense. Surely, as a sentient human being I am capable of providing that to him. I think.
- Physical affection. On second thought, I think we can all agree I have this one down pat. (Okay, I just wanted to be able to check ONE THING OFF THE LIST. So sue me.)
- Me as an optimistic fixture in our house. Someone that can see his hopes and dreams for the big, earth moving ideas they are and someone that can shrug off the unexpected bills or unwanted extra pounds.
- Spiritual discussion. We are spiritual beings having a human experience and I need to be better about incorporating our true nature into our everyday lives.
- A healthy meal and good day talk around the dinner table. A lovely time for him to transition from the work of his day to the work of our life.
- More routine. Because we want to do big things together and that can be difficult to do when I am distracted by every object, idea and outing that sparkles. Reign it in, Meggie.
And finally, (perhaps the most important list of all…not really. But kind of.)
What would I like to be more consistent in providing myself?
- Healthy food. I can’t get through my days running on sludge and empty calories. I need to fill my body with light and nutrients. There is a direct correlation between what I eat and how I feel mentally. I want to feel bright and ready. Sadly, french fries and milk shakes don’t get the job done.
-Date night once a week. I need to look forward to time alone with Riley. It helps me remember how much I really like that guy.
- Routine. I mean, yeah. See lists one and two.
- A happy, functional, clean environment. I am not fantastic at creating this, but I thrive when living in it. We’re working on it.
- Learning and playtime with the girls. I love them and myself the most thoroughly when I remember the beauty of disappearing into our homemade worlds together.
- Spiritual enlightenment. I need to feed my soul just as surely as I do my body.
- Riley as an optimistic fixture in our house. Because when he looks at me like I am worth something, like I can achieve all the things I hope to, I almost believe him.
- A moment each day when it is just my family and the things we can teach each other. Perhaps best accomplished around the dinner table?
- Time to write. I am happiest when I am the most authentically me and I am my most authentic self on days that I am able to write.
I think it is instructive that across age and gender most of our lists are very much the same. We need routine, space and time to create, good food, spirituality, time together, an orderly environment and support of one another. And I think I have enough love to provide us with each need at least most of the time.
Over the next few months I will be working on these lists and reporting back. Some days will be better than others. Riley will still come home to pretzel bed once in awhile and the girls will still have days that are made of junk food and TV. But we are working to be better. And for now that is enough.
Great souls have plans, feeble souls have wishes. We were each born with a great soul just waiting for us to live up to its potential. (Remember this post?)
Let’s not make it wait any longer.