The, Uh… Not Quite Year in Pictures

You know, I thought it would be fun to do a “Year in Pictures” post. But then, OH yeah- my computer crapped out and my photos were all lost to the ether. They exist somewhere- I think a few are on Flickr, but it’s beyond my technical ability to gather them, plus, I think Flickr wants money from me. So this will have to suffice- look at Beanie in every. single. picture. Happy New Year, and a hearty welcome to 2010. Please be kinder to us than 2009 was…

2009: The Year in Review

Ah, yes, it’s that time again. Oddly, I don’t have the trepidation I had last year. Last year I was still hoping things would get better. This year? I have no expectation of anything. At this point, things could utterly blow apart, or they could make a sharp turn and I might find myself in a sunlit glade for the first time in two-plus years. I’m not holding my breath either way. I’m living with the consequences of the actions of others, and myself.  There is no doubt the agency of others can bring agonizing pain and hollowing sorrow- but like glaciers, (and sometimes just as slowly, depending on our hearts), that carving pain creates a collection place; an internal cache and reservoir for understanding, compassion, reverence and love. That’s what I’m choosing to focus on. So, without further ado:

January- We made our way back home from California after spending Christmas with my family, amid one of the hugest snowstorms to hit the northwest in dozens of years. Abby learned to knit, and I showed you my sewing room for the first time. We made crayons in cupcake tins, and Jeffrey and I took a surprise trip to Seattle- where he kept confusing the Space Needle for the Eiffel Tower. My ward split, and I yelled at the first person to call me from my new ward. Aces.

February- Our car got t-boned at Walgreens, and I spent most of the month dealing with that nightmare, and writers-block visiting for the first time. Auntie Heather came to visit and I fessed up to loving pickle brine. I know, gross. Due to carpool snafus, I lost Jeffrey and my heart on the same day, and wept with joy when I found my little boy.

March- I took a leap of faith, and sent off my packet to register for Houston, and held my breath. The Hertz guy and I got into a big fight, and I won- and I got to drive Detroit’s finest- and could have foretold the auto-industry collapse. Winter malaise sets in, and fight personal and interpersonal demons, many of which I cannot yet write about. A second bird joined our family.

April- spring break eats me alive, and Easter comes early this year. My camera broke, along with most of the rest of my life. I dropped my basket and threw a couple of lamps, and spent the rest of the month going through the shards of my life and seeing what was worth saving. Garage sales started again, and the kids and I had that tiny island of solace amid my sea of broken things. Tiny little bright spots illuminated the dark pockets. Abby turned three. I fight the coming hell of my life blowing apart.

May- Yard and rummage sales are my refuge, and I seek out vintage goodies each weekend with the pocket-money my mother-in-law gives me. Mother’s Day comes and goes, and I make the boys some flaming jam shorts. Julia Child give me a lesson in following her recipes exactly, and I found out I was accepted into the International Quilt and Textile show in Houston. There was a surprise solo trip to Nauvoo, in there too, as well as a concussion from falling down Emma’s stairs.

June- Started out the month by fainting in church, probably from my concussion. Abby starts talking and hasn’t stopped yet, and school starts to wind down. We get the tummy bugs, and my boys discover film cameras and look with disdain on the olden days when you couldn’t see the pictures in your camera. Again, there are bright spots of happiness, sprinkled in like silver dragees on a dark cupcake.

July- The bounty of July peaks, and while I skip the jam making this year, we do make some cheese. We hit the eighteen month mark in our unemployment journey, and my tenuous grasp on hope grows weaker. I fess up to my picky eating habits, and some will never forgive me for hating on the watermelon. Beanie gets a bugle, and the neighbors lament. The heat and pressure continue to grow.

August- I share the priceless pickle recipe handed down by my grandpa, and I sew what I hope is the last bridesmaid dress ever. We discuss curries, and I show you with photos how to make Indian cheese. Em got a yard sale care-package, and I waxed poetic about growing in another’s shade. Jeffrey turned eight, and I showed you my favorite childhood memory- The Swing.The blog turned four.

September- Beanie began kindergarten, and Jeffrey third grade. Things at home get harder. Houston is fast approaching and I find out I have a wheat allergy- ick. My entires get cryptic, but y’all know all is not well. Some of my best writing has come this year. You get my guacamole tutorial- and you’re welcome.We have a dusty and hot trip to the county fair, and pass the ten-year milestone to being married. Barely. In a flurry of getting ready for Houston, I flip out and make Abby a to-scale Snow White costume. It’s worth it.

October- My brother and his wife come to visit, and I enjoy having family around for the first time in many months. Within a six-day period, I send my kids to my mom’s in California, have a birthday, file for divorce, and leave for Houston. The month is rife with emotion, depths and triumphs. Most of which I still cannot write about. But that won’t always be the case. I promise. Houston goes well, and I arrive home with the kids and begin to sort out the wreckage of what’s left. The Leaf Ninjas surprise me.

November- Playing Shove the Mattress, the boys hurt Abby’s arm and we spend days at the ER. I venture onto ETSY, and begin to look for ways to support me and the kids. Beanie delights in the chicken butts, and I suffer through Disney on Ice for the love of my children. There are little bright spots that keep pulling us forward.

December- Countless people pull together to hold my children and me up for the holidays. We are abundantly blessed by the kindness of others. Jeffrey makes up awesome songs in the bathroom about geology, and Beanie makes gingerbread houses at school. Abby makes me happy. We wrap up and wind down another year. And more than anything, we have hope for 2010.

Happy New Year.

The Aftermath

My children will never know how little I was able to provide this Christmas. Due to the kindness of many people, they were blessed with an abundance of gifts, treats and love. Jeffrey had been questioning me on Santa lately, expressing he thought it was me, and I had kind of shrugged it off, telling him that Santa was about the spirit of giving and loving other people. But on Christmas morning, after all the wrapping was torn through and the chaos settled to a dull roar, he came and sat on my lap.

“Mom?” he said, slinging his arm over my shoulder, “I think I was wrong about Santa. No way could you have done all this. I think maybe Santa is real.” The lump in my throat kept me from answering…

With that he got up and went back to work on another Lego project.

In a way, he is right. No way could I have done all that was done- it was only through the grace, kindness and generosity of others that my children were given such a lovely Christmas. Some I know, and can thank in person or with letters. Others, I will never know- and cannot even thank if I wanted to. Goodwill and kindness are alive and well in the world. People are so very good, if they are only given a chance to be so.

So Thank You. Even if I wasn’t on your Christmas list, I thank you. I thank you for the small acts of kindness you may have carried out for someone else. I thank you for the soft words, the card, the plate of cookies, the grocery gift-card, the movie tickets, the check, the thoughtfulness of your heart. Because your hands might not have served me, but all hands are the same when serving one another- and when we serve each other, we are serving God.

For Reals… Merry Christmas

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care. The cookies have been made and delivered- or rather, the baklava. The shopping, shipping, wrapping, decking, baking, rushing, fretting, and fighting are all done. Now, there is nothing but pregnant peace.

December 24th is my favorite day. Not Christmas itself- that’s full of hustle and hubbub and excitement and glee- all good things, but oh, the night before… When all things are wide open, and the preparations are all done. When the hurrying stops and the sitting quietly and contemplating the deep winter silence can begin.

I love the night before Christmas. I love the rosy cheeks of my children, nestled into their beds, giddy with anticipation. I love the soft glow of the lights, as I shut down the house for sleep and get ready to turn in. I love the still quiet night, and the empty roads.

This is the Silent Night. Merry Christmas to all of you- family, friends, loved ones near and far, and those of you who care about me and my children, and come here to offer your love. Thank you. Merry Christmas. Blessed be this night above all others.

Merry Christmas!

Did you believe me for a second? Did you imagine exhuberance? Psyche. I’m so tired. (and oh boy, can you ever notice my lazy eye when I’m tired!) Three days ’till Christmas. Am I ready? Suuuuure. If you were to just look at my house, you might think so. The tree is sparkly, the halls are decked, the stocking have been hung by my eager, oh so eager, children. I tried to make toffee to give to some of the people I want to thank. It didn’t go so well- and it’s my own foolproof recipe. Goes to show who’s the fool. One batch I burned, one batch I never let get to the hard-ball stage and was insipid. I fed it to Oscar the Garbage Disposal. And cried.

So much for pretending things are normal. Don’t get me wrong- we have been richly blessed. I am blown away each day by the incredible and kind things my friends and family have done for me and my children. Hence the attempt at toffee. Alas.

Boxes have arrived from grandma and grandpa, and aunties and uncles, cards from grandparents, and friends, packages I can’t open yet because they are clearly marked as such. My kids will have no idea what our situation is come Christmas morning. And while I am not so blessed, I refuse to think about any of it until the holiday is over and I am faced with a day where I can actually DO something, rather than just think and torture myself.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow… Tomorrow I will have something happy to say. Tomorrow I will not be so tired, and not be weary and not be sad. Tomrrow… Tomorrow is another day. It’s Christmas Eve.

Under a Winter Sun

I never have to make myself write. Writing is such an unabashed pleasure and joy- it gives me clarity and solace and peace and clears my head of all the cobwebs. But today, I am stuck. It’s nothing new in the examined life. There is nothing new under the sun; it’s all the same story- we all sing the same earthbound song.

Right now, I am in one particular place. It a place many have stood, and many still may someday stand. Someday I will hopefully get to stand somewhere else. The challenge is to hold onto faith. Faith that something can be made of this song. Faith that the beauty of the song may be its whole purpose. Faith that the wheel turns and the tune changes, because it does, even as bones grow; infinitesimally, yet over the long count, an infant metamorphoses into a woman.

I want things to hurry up. I want answers I cannot see. I want weeks like this one to not happen. And yet it’s all part of the process. Someday maybe I can write about it more than in vague references and sideways glances. For now though, I may not know much, but I know enough to realize I lack the hindsight to have sorted this mess out and gathered the pearls from the waste.

The bones will grow. The wheel will turn. In time. In time, the sap will run, the bulbs will pop, the sun will shine, and hearts do mend. In time, my child. Only in time.

Overflowing with Tears

Sorry. Today is rolling over me like cold, icy waves on a winter beach. The sand is pulling and sucking from under my feet, and I’m losing my balance, as the undertow siphons out the water beneath the rocky sand, threatening to pull me under. I don’t know how I will keep breathing, I only know I will.

WHHOoooshhhhhhh….

The last sound you want to hear as you nestle into your soft bed on a snowy winter night?  Rushing water. Why, what is that I hear? Flying out of my warm bed, I run to the bathroom- yes, the roar of water, just like when the sprinklers come on at 4 a.m. in July… and yet it’s December and the sprinklers were blown out two months ago, and I’ve got six inches of snow in my yard. Panic.

Run to the kids bathroom- no water there. Run to the kitchen, laundry, garage, basement- the roar is loud, but no water to be seen. Oh holy hell, is it in a wall? I realize I don’t even know where the main shut-off valve is. Flinging open the basement utility room, there are a myriad of valves, and I have no idea which one does what. Taking the stairs two-at-a-time back upstairs, I grab the phone and call my friends up the street. Help!

Her husband is gone, but she calls another family, and within five minutes, two brothers and their father are on my porch, followed shortly by my friend’s oldest son. The brothers come equipped with headlamps and the father is carrying a bucket of tools, and they slog out into my snowy backyard to find the main.

Within five minutes, the water is shut off, and all is well. An outside vacuum valve (there was a fancy word for it, but I can’t remember what he called it) had popped from the freezing, and just had to be shut off. My yard is full slushy water and snow, but there was no damage to my home. And my water in the house is fine. *huuuuuuge sigh*

And, they showed me in my basement where the main-line shut-off is, should I ever need it. It’s going to take me a while to calm down enough to sleep now… Man. Whew. Holy cow. Grateful. Again.

Gratitude

Every once in a while, I look up from where my shoulder meets the wheel and think, “Holy hell, who’s life is this? And why am I not utterly, terrifyingly, panicked?” Part of me- the part that remembers my life before I had Faith- knows I should be curled up in a shaking ball, peeking from between quivering fingers. And yet… I’m not. It’s odd. Is it shock? Is it faith? Is it foolishness? Perhaps yes to all of them.

I remember life before prayers were familiar and comfortable. I remember when I had never cracked a bible, and thought of Jesus of Nazareth as a mildly cool guy that had some good ideas. I remember not knowing the safety and comfort of the Gospel. I find it curious- all around me is chaos and dismay; I can’t even watch the news these days- and yet, I feel insulated, loved, and even protected. It feels like nothing so much as a life raft. Instead of being in the icy rapids of the raging river, I’m on a raft. I get wet, yes, and I can see the crazy whitewater- yet I am floated over the hardest dips and jagged edges in my flexible and strong boat.

This is prayer. I know, with all my heart, prayers are the life raft. Prayers of loved ones, friends, and many people I’ve never, and will never, meet. Prayers from the rolls of Temples all across the country- these are what carry me over the hard rocks, and sustains me and my children.

Can I prove it? No. That doesn’t make it less true. To quote the letter to Virginia from so long ago- Some of the most real things in the world are the things you can’t see.

Through all these trials this year, I have been blessed. I have been loved, and the wagons have circled around me and my children, giving us sustenance, protection and hope. Virtual strangers email me almost daily, sharing stories from their lives, thanking me for sharing my stories. I struggle with feeling my offering is paltry, and yet the love and support continue to pour in. The list of my blessings and gratitude is longer than I could possibly name.

It is an embarrassment of riches, were I to try to catalog it.

My heart is humbled by what is being done for me and my children. Of one thing I am certain; there is no earthly way for me to ever repay the people who have circled around me, who have given me shelter in the storm, who have loved me and preformed miracles. Indeed, no repayment is humanly possible.

Miracles happen. They happen as normal, everyday people reach out to others in their hour of need. Hands that wipe the brow, sop the tears, hold the weeping and grieving, and hands that guide the traces of the wagons into that tight, loving, safe circle. Those hands are working miracles. Those hands are the hands of Christ.