Saturday, July 27, 2013

"love's the finest thing around..."

right now, i'm sitting on a couch in topsail island, north carolina, listening to the waves of the ocean with james taylor singing on the speakers about this very place.  it's no wonder he wrote a song as a tribute--there really is something about this beautiful state, with layers of green so thick you can't find your way out of it.  and the beach here is healing, especially in the moonlight.

we planned this trip so many months ago--saving and working and over-working for more paid time off--that it feels a little surreal to actually be here.  i wonder when it's over if i'll have the same feeling i did as a kid when christmas day was coming to an end, or i was going on my last ride at disneyland, or tasting the final vanilla-y crunch of my ice cream cone before it vanished.

it's interesting, what my mind can do when it has quiet and freedom to think.  i've been so thoughtful these past two and a half days, traveling with only myself and ben.  this is the first time in over 8 years that we've spent more than one night together without our kids.  we miss them terribly of course, but i'm remembering again what it feels like to fall in love.  we're connecting on a level that is built with hours of conversation without interruption, sitting next to each other without a little human bursting into tears, devastated that one or the other of us didn't sit by them, laughing our heads off over something that no one else is a part of except for the two of us, dancing together in the middle of a crowd of strangers who are also dancing to celebrate love, not caring if anyone else is even glancing at our incredibly lame moves.

i'm realizing how deprived our relationship has been of emotional intimacy.

i looked at his hand intertwined with mine as we sat on the airplane side by side and wondered when i had last noticed them with intent, concentrating on what it felt like to live in the details of a moment with him again the way i did so long ago, when he was the only person inside my world.

there is warmth here, with him.  he is my home.

during a long drive toward one of our destinations this weekend, he asked me my perception of him--the good and the bad, saying he was open to hearing whatever i had to say, answering any question i wanted to ask.  i thought for a moment, focusing on what was beneath the outside shell of him, under the hard-working grad student, the dedicated husband and father and the many other roles he plays.

i knew, through all of these years together, and changes and trials, my perception of him is still the same.

"you are sunshine to me,"  i said, and apologized for the corniness of the statement.

he smiled, and i explained that he is what has kept my head above water during a time when i thought the dark and twisty of the world might take me under.  i wanted to surrender to it for a while, feeling it must be what i deserved.  he kept holding on, and i worked one day at a time until i could feel my worth from the inside-out while he patiently waited.  now it is his turn, and the last year and a half has taken its toll as one wave after another has threatened to pull him under.  i have learned from his example, following his lead to be a gentle, quiet and patient support as he works on his inside-out self worth.

we talked about how scary this feels--digging your way out of a hole you didn't even realize you were in until life wouldn't let you not look at it anymore, and how it could be so much easier to give up and succumb to the ugly that is desperate to pull you under.  we are recognizing that relationships can't truly reach the deepest level of trust and intimacy unless both people are willing to work on themselves individually, owning their issues and trying to extract their unhealthy pieces and then coming back together to rebuild a newer, better foundation.

as i told him how proud i am of him, of his ability to face the hard and painful issues of his childhood, i couldn't help but cry.  the words caught in my throat and the tears streamed down my cheeks.  he reached across the car and took my hand, and i repeated the words i have been saying to him for so long, only now i was feeling a new depth and sacredness in them.

"i love you."

tonight we walked hand-in-hand along the beach as the waves crashed over our bare feet, picking up seashells along the way, saying hello to strangers as we passed.  the sun was setting, and we knew we needed to walk to the small grocery store before it closed, so we started the way back toward our beach condo.  suddenly, i turned and kissed him.  it was a kiss reminiscent of our dating years, starting from my toes and working its way up, and the spontaneity of it took us both by surprise.  for me, it was my way of acknowledging a new level in our relationship.  he kissed me back and i again made a conscious memory of this moment, living in the details of it.

we have two more days here, and then it's back to durham for our flight out on tuesday.  i don't know if it's possible, but i'm going to do my best to prioritize time like this with him every year.  not just for a few hours at a movie or dinner, but a weekend where we can reconnect in ways we're unable to otherwise.

i had no idea how much we needed it until now.

There ain't no doubt in no ones mind 
that loves the finest thing around,

whisper something soft and kind.

And hey, babe, the sky's on fire, 

I'm dying, ain't I? I'm going to Carolina in my mind.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


as a kid, i loved my birthday.  the gifts, the parties, the cake, the ice cream...i remember not being able to sleep the night before, wondering what amazing-ness was held in store for the following morning.

somewhere along the way, i changed.  my birthday started causing internal anxiety as soon as the month of july began.  i didn't like being the center of attention, didn't want parties, a big cake, or loud mariachi bands singing with the restaurant crowd as i peeked sheepishly out from underneath the enormous birthday sombrero, my cheeks turning a brighter shade of red with each bold note.

i knew feeling this way kind of ruined the celebrating for those around me, and i get it--i really do, because i love celebrating birthdays of the people i'm close with.  so, i've been making a concerted effort to find the balance and have ended up with this:  low-key, spending time with people i love, doing something out of the ordinary of the "everyday," and not searching for the closest box to climb into anytime someone bursts into the happy birthday song.

last year, i did something different, reading about another's idea of the birthday kindness project and knowing immediately it was something i would love to do.  we came up with a list, splitting our random acts of kindness over 2 days, completing over 50 of them during the weekend.  i thought that what i would love most about doing this would be spending my birthday with the focus off of me, and shift it on to someone else.

instead, i realized that my perspective could change yet again.  i read each of the face book comments, blog comments, texts, listened to the voicemails...and as i neared the end of the two days of the birthday project, each new message made me cry.  my family and friends all working together to do kind things for others--regardless of what day it was--

at the end of the first day of my 32nd year, i was overwhelmed with the feeling of just how beautiful life really is.

that was an amazing way to celebrate living.

tomorrow is my 33rd birthday, and we're out of town so i didn't repeat the same project as last year, but i'm still going to do random acts of kindness for others.  it's the best way for me to lose myself--the insecurity and discomfort--altering my thoughts,  shifting my focus instead to appreciate the beauty of the details of the day,

so i can more fully celebrate this life i have been given.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


why didn't someone try to stop me from moving in the middle of arizona summer, right before a 3 week long vacation?  no one thought to bring me to my senses?  give me a good smack across the face and shake of the shoulder to get me to snap out of it?  this was a move of choice, remember.  not a mold-induced, career-induced or school-induced move.  i take responsibility for it, most of the time.  the rest of the time i blame the lack of common sense on two things:

1)  the heatstroke--it always sinks in on or around june 17.  this year was no exception.

2)  the desperation for space.  and, oh!  the space here is so nice. 

the space is what allows me to somehow find a way to move around open boxes and half-emptied tubs of our belongings without constantly banging my shins and elbows.  a piece of me questioned the move in the name of space--am i just getting greedy?  whining about first world problems? or am i actually just desperate, and possibly extremely intelligent?  desperate to park our van in our garage instead of using it as storage because there is no other space for storage...desperate to fit an actual dresser in a child's room instead of the plastic bins inside of a closet that last about 5 months before frustrated little hands break them while trying to remove a set of pj's...desperate to have my 4 year old back with her in her own room for her apnea-induced awake periods routinely every night between 3am-5am... 

the extremely intelligent part comes from only increasing our rent around $100 a month for this space.

so, i'm going to stick with those two reasons.


this is a lot.  we're leaving bright and early in the morning for our 12 + hour drive up to utah, and once we are on the road i will release a huge sigh and try to forget about the fact that my eyes twitch over the naked windows without curtains hung.  yes, i said naked.  those windows look so vulnerable and stark to me and the inner non-professional decorator just wants to grab the drill and go to town!  but so many other things are tugging me that for the first time in all of our moves, i have not hung up pictures and rearranged books first.  i have unpacked the boring before anything else--kitchen utensils and underwear, sheets and towels.  that last sentence was so boring it made me yawn while typing it.  i need color!  beauty!  a room that makes me want to hum a song just by walking into it!


it's okay.  i'm getting a little purposely over-the-top even though deep down, it is really how i feel about the order of setting up a home.  i can't help it.

so,  i will try to forget about those un-hung curtains.  i will try to forget that my skin has broken out so badly that i look in the mirror and try to recall a time when i didn't have pimples--has there been a time?  possibly not.

i will try to forget that when we arrive back home it will be august, and in a few days caleb will start school, and we need to prepare for leah's tonsillectomy and ben's likely impending job quittage so he can get this dissertation DONE.

right now, as i finish packing suitcases among unpacked boxes, i will focus on the sound of the ocean--the fake one, coming from the white noise machine next to my side of the bed.  i will close my eyes as i roll up clothing into tight balls and stuff one shoe here and the other other there, filling up travel-size shampoo bottles and wrapping up computer cords, and i will hear that sound and focus on the fact that in just a little over one week, the sound of those crashing waves will be


Saturday, July 13, 2013

the weekend in pictures.

so, allegiant airlines was actually on time for my first flight.  smooth sailing!  a nice change. 

i'll be flying out of provo tomorrow morning, and can't believe it's already over--how did the time go so quickly?  ben and i will be coming back next week, {long story} driving to utah with the kids and then he & i will fly out of utah to north carolina for another wedding of a lovely friend, while the kiddos stay with family.  we're planning on spending a few days at the beach to celebrate our 10th anniversary back in december.  can't wait! 

i spent a lot of time with my niece and nephews, i just adore those kids.  then lauren, brett & i went to my college roommate tara's wedding and boy oh boy, i shed a few tears.  tara and i have become really close in the past couple of years and she has worked so hard to find true happiness.  she is a beautiful person, and one i am absolutely blessed to call my friend. 

anyway--here's the weekend in grainy {some worse than others} phone pictures: 

finding peace from the inside out.

“Pain is a pesky part of being human, I've learned it feels like a stab wound to the heart, something I wish we could all do without, in our lives here. Pain is a sudden hurt that can't be escaped. But then I have also learned that because of pain, I can feel the beauty, tenderness, and freedom of healing. Pain feels like a fast stab wound to the heart. But then healing feels like the wind against your face when you are spreading your wings and flying through the air! We may not have wings growing out of our backs, but healing is the closest thing that will give us that wind against our faces.” 

today, for the first time in 6 years, my brother, sister and i had lunch with my mom.

i write many personal things on here, but this is one that i have grieved privately, and will continue to remain guarded when i write about it.  not because i'm embarrassed or ashamed or angry, because i feel none of those.  i have achieved a peace i never thought possible.  honestly, my quiet has been for several reasons; fear of damaging or hurting what fragile thread we still had between us, concern because there are delicate details of this story that are not mine to share, and also because i have continued to feel fiercely protective of all who have been involved in this painful, but miraculous process.  i love my mom--much more than i can even comprehend at times, and regardless of where she and i are in our relationship.  the protectiveness and quiet has also served a purpose, giving me room to heal inside of it, working through emotions within the walls of the bubble of silence and vagueness.

i have been stuck on the series i was writing, "swinging and bending," because this is where the story becomes tricky.  i want to write honestly, owning and expressing only my piece, but it's interwoven so thickly with hers that i haven't been able to figure out a way to extract only what is mine.  she used to read this blog, and regardless of whether she still does, i feel a need to continue down the journey of my healing and no one else's.  so, i stay stuck for the time being, but i can sense it coming--working its way out, untangling the details so my side becomes that.  just mine.

what i will say is this:  the title of this series was chosen because during the time i have worked through our rocky relationship, i felt these things happening inside of me.  the swinging pendulum began on one side, back when i was unaware i was the very definition of "codependence."  it was what had been created from a childhood bursting with the belief that love for me was only conditional.  once i saw myself as i had become, i was so terrified that i swung all the way over to the other side of codependence, shutting the doors of unhealthy relationships with a loud slam, without even glancing back.  i convinced myself i was choosing a better way, a higher path, a thicker skin.  but as the door slammed, my heart ached.

i was not built for absolutes--i think we try to convince ourselves we are, but i don't know if anyone is, really.

the pendulum had swung to the extreme opposite side, slammed with the intent to regain some sort of control, the control springing from fear, the fear creeping up from the depths of an inability to truly love myself, regardless of whether anyone else loved me.  even my own mother.

the rejection i faced was so brutal and painful that it knocked the breath from me, yet i was the one who had caused it.  i felt it in my chest--a confused chaos--and had to continually convince myself i was doing the right thing for the right reason.  i used words like "toxic" and "unsafe" as justifications of my swinging pendulum.

i look back and see now how i needed this shut door in order to separate myself and heal from the damage that had been done.  i also needed it in order to see my own unhealthy patterns, and change them.  i didn't have the ability or emotional maturity at the time to change while still inside of this dynamic, so the shut door provided the room for that growth.

but, now that i have changed and am healing, i see that the pendulum does not have to be swung in extremes.  instead of breaking under the weight of the pain someone else is carrying, i have learned how to bend, because i have found how to only carry my own.  i have found the ability to fill up my own cup, without the need for outside resources aside from God.  this is how my internal pendulum has found its balance to rest in the middle instead of drastically perched on one side or the other.

my belief is this:  there are not really "safe" and "unsafe" people in this world.  there is only our individual ability to take care of our own selves and spirits, regardless of where anyone else is at in life.  it takes work, humility, grieving, and a lot of painful stretching, but it can be done.

this is just a piece of what i have found as Truth:  love without fear, boundaries without breaking under another's pain or slamming doors to gain control, extending oneself to try again, forgiveness without grudges or resentment, and a peace that only comes from the inside out.

for me today, while sitting across a table and looking into the beautiful blue eyes of my mom, that peace presented itself within me again.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

we made it.

we survived, we're getting settled, and i am {still} loving the floor plan of this home.  {it's the same one as the moldy house so we're all set up as far as curtains/trash cans/shower curtains go}  the bedrooms all upstairs, every kid in their own room, big master bedroom with enormous walk-in closet.  and bonus!  there's already grass in the backyard, AND it's mold-free.  so aside from the strange color they decided to paint the outside, it's a win, win, win.

of course, leah has informed us that they painted it this color just for her....and i won't let her believe any different.

we've had so much help the past couple of weeks, and i literally do not know how we could have pulled it off without the support of our friends here, babysitting, and packing, and loading up their trucks & cars to make this happen.  we're so grateful.

i'm on my way first thing in the morning to fly to utah for the weekend for a friend's wedding---boarding the ever-trusty Allegiant Airlines {sarcasm} to see what new adventures can ensue.  will the engine need to be manually started again?  how long will my flight be delayed?  i'm setting my expectations low so that if all goes well, i can start the weekend off on the right foot.

anyway, there's so much to write about--getting sentimental about the last home we lived in for 2 years, the results of leah's two sleep studies, what the next step is, and how i've learned yet again to trust my gut and fight for it--even if sometimes i look like an idiot initially.  or maybe not just initially.  :)

i'm hoping to have a little time to write this weekend, because the days at home have been so full of distractions and unpacking and trying to give my kids the attention they need.  i'll be busy but responsibility-free.

more to come!