Hello, Summer…

It has been ages since I’ve sat down and really focussed on an intentional post within this space, so I’m just going to pretend we’re in the middle of an exchange, okay?

Sure, summer is technically 20+ days away, but we who live within the confines of an Americanized calendar operate under the summer system of Memorial Day to Labor Day, and truthfully I’m a fan of this practice. The bright blue sky outside hardly screams SPRING, and with my freshly summer pedicured toes red and ready for sandy beaches and flip flops- I am more than happy to stand up and say what we’re all thinking: Helloooo, Summer!

For the 4000 Jurassic years that I have existed within adulthood, (for the Ross Gellar’s out there pointing out the flaws in my wording, I’m pretty sure you caught my drift so, as far as I’m concerned, mission accomplished! XO) I  have had specific practices that summertime has held:

Fresh squeezed lemonaide, BBQs with friends/family, swimming, my grandma’s cobbler, warm jars of sun tea, red toenails, fireflies, long summer evenings the highest SPF of sunscreen allowed (I’m irish, after all), drive in movies and dreaming of real beach time- these made up the bulk of said summer lists…

As summer draws near, in between adulthood stresses of work and life, I have been plotting my summer reading plans. We have gotten our sunroom all ready and have been enjoying early morning cups of coffee, fresh fruit snacks and conversation in its breezes. The smell of fresh cut grass wafts through my window screens and there are cubes of cold watermelon in my fridge. Our summer plans are casual, yet carved out. (these may or may not read like this: grilled tacos, beach, grilled fajitas, beach, margaritas on the patio, hiking, beach, farmers market, beach, drive in movies, tacos, tacos, tacos…)

The really fun thing about our new home, and this being our first summer here, is that it is a SUMMER DESTINATION. Life amps up and, from what we can tell, the party gets started right about now, and wraps up around snowfall. Friends have told us all about all of the “musts”, and we are ready!

The not-so-fun, but still kinda-fun thing about our new home is that while we live at a truly beautiful beach, it isn’t the ocean. I know my heart will still long for a true sea coast, but also, I’m feeling really blessed to have this beach too.

in ALL of my adult summers, I have spent weekends at the Farmer’s Market and kept beautiful, fresh flowers in my home. Whatever we may, or may not have taken on that summer, these two things were SOLID. This is where the truly odd thing about our new home comes in-

NO FARMER’S MARKETS

NO FRESH CUT FLOWERS

Sure, re: the later, grocery stores have some. Honestly though, it’s the worst selection I’ve ever seen and they are 3-4 times the normal price. Re: the first absense- what the actual heck? Truthfully, I cannot wrap my brain around it. We are surrounded by farms. SURROUNDED. Word on the street (iow: the World Wide Web) is that there is a decent market about 90 minutes away. NINETY MINUTES. (While my heart wants to take a moment to whine about my grandma’s cobbler recipe, our summer-staple homemade ice creams, and my end of summer (most delicious ever) jam, the reality is our grocery stores do an amazing job of stocking local, organic produce. While it’s a bit spendier than the average Farmer’s Market, I am still really grateful for this so I simply can’t actually complain about it.) I just really love the experience of the market, with the community, farmers and artisans coming together… (plus then our local taco truck could set up somewhere other than a pub or brewery…)

For all the terribleness of these two things, I’ve still mustered up excitement at summer in our new city. There are a few road trips planned, lots of adventure and exploring, and both my patio & sunroom are prepared to be well lived/loved… Probably (tragically) my house is going to stay fairly flowerless, with my treasured Kate Spade vase feeling alone- but my toes plan on being sandy and my taco-loving-tummy happy, so it feels like a win for me.

What do you love about summer? Where are your favorite places to summer?

Too…

 

As January rolled around, I had the very best intentions of writing in this space more regularly. I won’t apologize for what appears like neglect because the truth us that I am present in my life and the reality is, certain seasons of life are far more heavy and consuming than others.

When my mother was far younger than I am, she buried her brother Ben, who died in Vietnam. From that point on, she avoided all things funeral, military and war. A devout lover of classic movies, she reacted to anything dealing with those mentioned topics with complete shock and re-immersion into that dark season of grief. Some of us make the conscious decision to house our hearts in the places of deep loss and grief forever. I have tried, in my forty-three-year-long journey NOT to be one of those people. This isn’t because I feel I am better than them as much as I personally believe the sunshine exists beyond such sadness, and my fair-skinned-heart longs to live in the sun, even if it burns sometimes.

In February I sat underneath the New Mexico sky, beside family, at my beloved uncle Phil’s graveside service. As I sat, dressed in black, heart full of tears, I admitted that military services could possibly be all of those things my mother avoided, in one. Though a beautiful tribute, they are also all-at-once devastating… I made a mental note, deliberately ignoring the reality that my son is a soldier, to not attend another veteran service for a long, long time. (I apparently have strong beliefs in my power, I am also a fool.)

Last Thursday I sat underneath the rainy Kentucky sky, beside family, at my father’s graveside service. Also dressed in black, I found myself deeply swirled in awe, sadness, gratitude and loss as the military shot rifles and meticulously folded his flag.

Too soon…

Too much…

As uncomfortable as the shotgun sounds, the sadness and the hard may be- I am so grateful to have been there to honor each man, I am so grateful that I knew and loved both men. I am blessed to have been loved by each of them, and so proud and filled with gratitude that our country belonged to them too.

This year has been equally as uncomfortable regarding sitting through the hard things and clinging to the grateful… In so many ways, for so many, it feels like too much, too soon. Too… These months are feeling too in all of the bad and sad ways. Here in the season of too though, there is growth, or at least there can be. We can choose to be among the ones who sit in the big dark sad and hide from the sun, but we don’t have to be. This too shall pass, things will be ok- this is not cliche’, this truth. It is important that we remember though, that though the sunshine will come again, so will another dark season. It is what we learn to face this time, that equips us for that one. It is also that brave, unconventionally beautiful growth which helps us love the sunshine so much more.

Take my hand, forward we go…

 

the leap…

I wrote a big piece about the loss of Luke Perry and the more I read it, I just didn’t feel it was sharable… I’ll just say that it is a really sad loss.

I am wrapping up my New Mexico adventure. It has been one of those full circle things that will leave me deeply affected. When I was a small girl my grandfather had put a concrete patio on the front of their home. I took such pride in being able to jump off of it and land without falling. It was so big, and the soles of my feet would throb on impact but I knew my achievement was an amazing one. I was amazing.

I have seen the patio over the years, whenever I’d visit my New Mexico home. It was many, many years ago when I realized the patio is actually not very tall at all, and maybe I oversold that particular athletic ability. No matter how many years have passed though, the site of that patio always manages to resurrect those girlhood feelings. (I’m not kidding, Every. Single. Time.)

This small, dying town holds a variety of memories. Some happy, many not. This concrete patio was always a platform of safety for me. Swinging evening conversations with my grandmother, beneath a stunning desert sky; jars of golden tea warming in the sun; embraces and laughter when greeting visiting relatives, countless hours of adventure, imagination and childhood lay imprinted in the memory of this giant slab… Feet bare on the cold grey make me realize that this may be the only place I have ever stood that held only beautiful moments, and never dark ones.

I left the residence of this Burg when I was twelve. I fled the darkness of an unnatural childhood for solace and family in the Pacific Northwest. There is a deeply rooted grief over the loss of home, culture, people, friends, experiences, etc… (Grief can be a tricky thing because while it feels terrible, it is normal and unavoidable.) My grandmother’s Chrysler delivered me into the arms of complete strangers whom I would one day know as my parents. Those parents had two amazing little girls,(Joy and Jennie) answering the prayer I had prayed a hundred times a day for as long as I could remember, for sisters. Initially these girls were sisters in that foster family/generic/group-home way, but today, thirty years later, they are sisters. Period.

For a long time, in the beginning, I fell asleep longing for the blanket of the desert sky, for the warmth of familiarity, for my grandmother to call me sugar and for another moment on that patio. I clung to what it represented within my spirit, as the launch pad for my very first flirtation with confidence. I wanted to believe in myself, in my journey, in my future, the way that my grandfather’s concrete patio had enabled me to with jumping…

A few years ago my sister Joy, moved to New Mexico. On Saturday that beautiful sister of mine, and I, stood on that very patio, together. Life is funny sometimes. Many things have happened that I never thought I would see, but the full circle moment of that (which I only realized the amazingness of, as we were both standing there) was maybe the most profound and unexpected.

We never know what will happen. I doubt I jumped from the patio’s great height the very first time I stood atop its gleaming surface. Standing there, with Joy, atop my childhood mountain, wasn’t the last time my feet would find themselves grounded there. The patio may be symbolic of something safe and empowering for me, but the courage to toss fear aside and leap had nothing to do with the platform my feet had left. The love of the man who poured it, the consistency of the woman in the attached house, the provision of sisters and the hodge-podge, non-conventional family I have- those are the things that give me the courage to leap, then and now.

At 42 I still take risks, and one day they may feel as small as that jump does now. May this bit of my journey remind me to leap in confidence, with a smile spread wide upon my face…

(Don’t forget to get this month’s wallpaper, listen to this month’s playlist, catch up on the Love Series of the Collective Podcast and subscribe to my monthly newsletter so you get first access to those things and exclusive things I may not share here! ALSO- have you entered to win my Birthday giveaway!?!?!?!)

Showing up…

 

A trip home, to New Mexico, was long over due. I moved to Idaho, and away from my family in 1988, when I was twelve. Even so, between then and 2003, a year never passed without me making a trip down. Then, life just happened. I don’t know how else to say it. Motherhood, work, living in the northern midwest, money… I managed a visit in 2006, because my grandmother passed away. I will be the first one to say that funerals being the reason, when you couldn’t manage when that person was alive is kind of the worst. I loved my grandmother dearly and truly had wanted to see her, logistically I didn’t know how to make it work.

Growing up, the family who lived next door really were my surrogate family. They had kids of their own, but I could have easily lived there. I talk quite a bit about it, in my book, but they were my soft, light-filled place to fall when my actual home was so dark. After I had moved into the visiting stage of my New Mexico residency, there was a lot of pressure put on me. My mom hated when I would spend time with anyone other than her, and my grandma was kind of the same. Any friendships I’d had from childhood were lost because life goes on, things happen, and my time in this little desert town was so controlled.

After ’06, I managed to make it down two more times- 2007 and 2010. The visits were costly to pull off, in all of the ways. The guilt and pressure that was always heaped on my shoulders, along with the actual travel expenses, made it an overwhelming endeavor. For the past eight years I have known I needed to make a trip down. First was to see my family but also, to see my next door “family”. With each visit, I would sneak over to their house by faking a nap or something. It was ridiculous how difficult it was. Once my youngest little bird had left the nest, I knew a trip down needed to be a priority. By then my mom was already up in Michigan, in a memory care facility. Though the point came when I had more family buried in the ground than alive, in the state, the desert still called to me. It came down to logistics every single time, and I hate it. As December wrapped up, I told my husband that 2019 WOULD hold a trip to New Mexico. It just had to…

What I hadn’t ever expected was that 6 weeks later I would be booking a flight because of a funeral. Another loved one in the ground… Here I am again, showing up for a funeral while it seemed too difficult to show up in life. I really do hate that.

This is the first time ever, in this dying southwest town, that I have felt the call to stay here. Not to leave my husband, but to be here more. To appreciate these mountain ranges, the abandoned buildings and all of the under the surface things that she has to offer. More than once I have questioned how possible it would be to be here more. (which, if I went almost nine years, I guess more could be anything less)

Time connecting with family has been all of the things one would expect- sad, emotional, heavy, bucket-filling, comical, grief filled (for all of the reasons you’d expect and a bunch you wouldn’t) but it has also reaffirmed my belief in the vitality of showing up. I spent a precious chunk of time with my next door “family”, and am already dreaming up my next desert trip.

I imagine we all have our own New Mexico Story– That thing we should do, and maybe even want to do, but it has carried so much heaviness in the path that it’s sometimes easier to just look the other way and let eight years pass… This month I’ve had to face a lot of things I hadn’t before- things about my own perceptions, childhood, darkness, etc… This month I am learning to show up, when it is needed. When my soul longs for it, it is my responsibility to pave the way. (with the exception of when I am literally not wanted, of course. Then they can just deal with it, and one day maybe they will show up at my funeral and question their own choices.) What is it that you need to pave the way for, making yourself more present and intentional?

Sunday mornings…

As a young girl I would spend Saturday nights with my grandmother. She would microwave the Orville Redenbacher cheese popcorn for us to share, (My developed pallet preferred to pair the treat with a lovely Grape Crush soda) while we watched our shows on television. Saturday nights on NBC had a revolving lineup, but the two that stick out fairly consistently in my memory are Golden Girls and 227. We would laugh, but mostly I didn’t really get what was going on, while she found both programs quite comical. When nine o’clock chimed on her dining room clock, I would do one of two things- I would either stay with her and we would watch Hunter, (my grandmother LOVED Hunter!) or I would go into her bedroom and listen to the requests on the local radio station. I have always had a deep love of music, and this is why, when Hunter was over, my grandmother would change the channel to whichever one aired the 30 minute “recap” of the top music videos from the week. We would watch that, together, and then go to bed at ten thirty, like sensible folk because we had church the next morning.

That room was a significant location for my childhood, though I still don’t really understand why. There were days I played in there, dancing to the radio while admiring my “smooth moves and style” in her mirrored sliding closet doors. Sometimes I would sneak away to sit in front of her vanity mirror and pretend to smooth my hair with the gold antique brush decorating its surface, while staring at a photo of my mother from the time when I thought that she looked just like Elizabeth Montgomery, from Bewitched. Then there were moments, or days, (and some Saturday nights, even) when I was terrified to go into her room, afraid of whatever invisible monster awaited me. (Lastly, her bedroom was the setting for the only recurring nightmare I have ever had, and when I say recurring, I mean that the curse of this dream lasted years…)

I never knew when she woke in the morning, despite me sleeping in the twin bed opposite hers. She was always quick to drift to sleep, lulling me with the sound of her breathing. There were nights though, when I’d lay there and tell her random things which seemed only relevant in the dark. She was always patient, in those times, to answer questions and respond. She would never chide me, even though looking back I see that she was obviously tired. Once the room settled into quiet, I would pretend to make a phone call in my mind. I would ring God, up in heaven, and chat with him for a minute before asking that He put my grandfather on the line. Though it was in my imagination, my grandfather never said hello but I would talk to him anyway because I just knew that he was there. I needed to believe he could hear me. This was where all of my secrets went.

A few times, in my childhood years, my grandmother awoke from a nightmare of her own, around three in the morning. She would gasp and sit straight up, and this always startled me awake. She would encourage me to return to sleep after telling me that she’d dreamed she was falling off a cliff and woke herself up so she did not die. (Though a devout Christian, she was also a superstitious woman and this was a big one, though I wondered even then how we knew for sure that we would die if we landed, because obviously no one ever had.) Most Sunday mornings she was awake long before I would crawl out of the bed that once belonged to my grandfather, before cancer took him to the other end of that imaginary phone line. Usually I found her reading her Bible and praying. Once I was awake enough, she would butter hot Jiffy muffins and make me a hot cocoa with her Hot Shot machine. (which, if you didn’t know, was pretty much the Kuerig of the 80’s)

Between the time she’d spend with Jesus, quietly, at her dining room table, until we were filing into our small town church pew- everything was peaceful and routine. I loved those Saturday nights and Sunday mornings so deeply, though I wasn’t able to realize their immense value until they were a thing of the past.

Every once in a while I’ll see episodes of the Golden Girls on tv and I get it now, those countless things that were so funny. Honestly, I also cringe a little at the age I was when I watched it with my grandmother, while she painted my nails. The latter is my exact response when recalling some of the music videos we had seen as well… Samantha Fox, early Madonna… What must have been going through my Jesus loving grandmother’s mind as she quietly sat there, letting me love them?

On those Saturday nights, before it was time for our programs, I would blast the local radio station and imagine my own music videos in her drive way. I imagine that I was either a great source of entertainment for her neighbors, or they were sure I was severely special needs. At any rate, I was in my twenties before the reality that the entire street could have seen my hours of terrible dancing, smacked me like a dump truck. As embarrassing as that is, I am grateful that there, in her driveway, I was secure enough in my own skin, to just be me. Even more, I am grateful that she accepted it. She never teased me, she simply gave me that space to be free. I was too young to really grasp those things then, I didn’t even comprehend the darkness that was my childhood. Her patience for my odd-duck antics is amazing, plus I think she was probably grateful for the company. She had lived enough to know to cherish those fleeting moments, embarrassing dancing and all. (Also, during the week, other than her daily viewing of All My Children, she watched all of the Wheel of FortuneHee Haw, Gaither specials and Christian programming she could to arm her for the sinful Saturday Night scandals, or at least I imagine that is the reason because it makes sense, and it’s funny.)

Today I am traveling home, to the beautiful deserts of New Mexico. A beloved family member has passed away and I am going to be near family. Not only do I want to be there, but I need to. Though my grandmother’s home now belongs to my aunt, I need to sit in that kitchen on Sunday morning. I need to surround myself with the familiarity of family whose blood I share, but where I kinda-sorta don’t really belong. Even so, there, within the walls of what was once her house, something fits, and I need that. I need to drink in some desert sunsets and rememorize the mountain landscape which set the backdrop to my silly driveway escapades. I need to set flowers at each of my grandparents graves and be present in a world that will always be my home, though I have no lived there in a lifetime…