Thursday, November 2, 2017

Makin it Rain Cheese and Grace

Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash

My sweet, generally calm and quiet husband HATES it when things get broken. He sighs and huffs and scolds all of the children. He stomps around, searching for tools in a foul mood
because something is broken. I got news for you, sweetheart, we have 3 boys who basically don’t even have a frontal lobe yet. Shit’s gettin broken.  Like erythang.


I’m not criticizing. I’m the same way when the house gets messy. I clean the kitchen. 5 seconds later, someone’s in there getting a snack, makin it rain crumbs and mozzarella cheese like a boss, putting dirty dishes in the sink… I sigh and huff and scold all of the children. I stomp around pointing and listing off their mess-making infractions in a foul mood because things are messy. I got news for you, sweetheart, we have 3 boys who basically don’t even have a frontal lobe yet. Shit’s gettin messy.  Like erythang.


The problem here is not the broken thing or the mess. The problem is the way we see the broken thing and the mess. Because Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble.” The way I said it is, “Shit’s gettin broken and messy.”


The problem is what I THINK the mess says about me. The problem is what I BELIEVE the children are saying to me by making the mess. Because it FEELS like the mess says, “You are a crappy mom who shouldn’t be allowed to stay home with your kids because you never accomplish anything and you have nothing to show for any of your days because the house is always a disaster.” It FEELS like the kids say, “You are invisible and worthless and we don’t care that you just cleaned that kitchen, I am entitled to throw cheese everywhere because you will just clean it up.”


But the mess is just saying, “I’m a mess.” The kids are saying, “I’m still learning fine motor control, and I hate myself when you sigh and scold and stomp around here because of something I screwed up.”  


Because, you see, when something gets messy, my old wounds get split open.


When something gets broken, my husband’s baggage shows up.


The solution, partially, is to clean up the mess and fix the broken thing, but the difficult part of the solution is to tell myself the truth that the mess doesn’t say a thing about who I am. The mess does not give me a measurement of how well I am doing as a person. The other difficult part is to shut my mouth when the mess is made, come alongside the mess-maker, and make it rain grace. Because that might help them to see the mess differently. Because if they grow up to see the mess the same way I do, they will hear the same lies I heard, and their stomping and scolding will deceive their  children. They will be telling my grandbabies lies because I taught them to.

So Ima go figure out how to turn cleaning up cheese into a parable of grace-- like Jesus did. He’s way better at this stuff than I am.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Just a Mountain...




Last weekend, I summited a 12,324 ft. mountain. It was Heaven. I mean, I was hiking at elevation, and I felt like I was dying, so... Also, it was amazing. Also, it was beautiful. Also, it was so much fun, such a challenge, and included hours of giggling and soul-feeding conversation with two dear friends.

The night before, I couldn’t sleep because I was too excited. I went to bed late because i was packing my bag and making preparations for the hike. Gotta have the 10 Essentials, Em. (What ARE the 10 Essentials again?) You should make some of those protein balls you saw on Pinterest. They’ll give you the energy and nutrition you’ll need to get through that hike!

All of a sudden, it was 11:30. I wasn’t in bed yet, and I had to be awake by 5am.

Get to bed, Em. If you go to sleep right now, you’ll be able to get 5 ½ hours of sleep.

Okay. Going to sleep now. Good night, world!  See you on a beautiful, amazing, gorgeous mountain top in the morning! I’m so glad Jen and Tara can come with me tomorrow. They’re the best. Oh. I’ve missed hiking so much. This is just going to be the best day.  I love Rocky Mountain National Park. It is just so stinkin beautiful there!  Hiking is so awesome. I can’t believe God made all of that beauty for us.

Hiking is also very taxing, and you need to have a good night’s sleep before you hike a big mountain like that.

Right. Good point. Will stop being so excited about hiking and will go to sleep right now and get 5 hours of solid sleep. I know I packed everything, so I could wake up a half hour later and still get 5 ½ hours of sleep.  I will reset the alarm… Wait… Maybe I didn’t pack everything. Better give myself 15 minutes to double check. 5 ¼ hours. That’s enough.  Think calm, soothing thoughts.

I am not going to be well-rested enough. Ugh. I’m going to wake up tired, and this is going to be a tough hike. It’s fine. I’m going to get 5 hours of sleep.  Oh no. I can’t sleep.

It’s okay. Calm, Soothing thoughts.  Gosh, my kids were funny today. I’m so glad my hubby is cool with me hiking. Figuring out when I could make this happen was tough enough. He is such a good dad. I wish he would be the Stay At Home Parent. He’s so much better at all of the Stay At Home Stuff. I am the worst Stay At Home Mom ever. I am horrible at cleaning, decorating, shopping…. I am so much less patient with the kids than he is… Why do I yell like that?  I’ve probably scarred the children for life. Yes. I’m sure of it. I am a horrible, horrible person and parent. I am the worst, and my children are messed up beyond all repair because I am such a terrible screaming, yelling monster.

Well, that escalated quickly. I went from excited to be on a mountaintop to the worst person in the world.

Good thing I’m going on this hike tomorrow. That will be soothing. I’ll be a better person after tomorrow. Crap. Not if I don’t get any sleep, I won’t. Ugh. It’s only going to be 4 hours of sleep now...

You see, summiting a mountain is just like accomplishing any other goal in life.

  1. You put it on the calendar and don’t let anyone deter you from your plans. It’s on the calendar. It’s a priority.
  2. You prepare yourself by gathering the supplies, knowledge, and skills you’ll need.
  3. You wake up early.
  4. You take a step.
  5. You take more steps.
  6. It gets hard. Like really hard. So you rest.
  7. You take more steps.
  8. It gets too hard to continue again, so you rest again.
  9. You take more steps.
  10. You repeat this until you reach your goal.

Basically, make it a priority, prepare, wake up early, and start walking. Keep walking until you’re finished.

It’s not complicated, but it is most certainly difficult, and in everyday life, I struggle during each part of this process.

But my point is…
It’s just a mountain.

It’s just a goal. It's doable. Whatever it is that you are striving for, it’s just a mountain. And you're doing it because you want to. You love this dream. You want to spend time dong this thang. Even if you need friends to give you a push...Make it a priority, prepare, wake up early, and start walking. Keep walking until you’re finished.  The hardest part is getting out of my own way with my worries and fears.
The hardest part is keeping it what it is, because I'm really great at turning it into something it's not.
I just schedule it, plan, wake up, and start taking steps. It gets hard when I tell myself how hard it is. It gets hard when I worry and beat myself up.

But when I do the work and look around, I think, God did this for me? What an amazing world we live in. There is so much beauty and joy in this place. I am so small. I am so brave. I am so powerful. I am so capable. I am so glad I live in Colorado. (I guess you could think something like, “I’m so grateful for what I have” if you don’t live in the same amazing place I do…)

I guess I just need to live my life being able to sleep at night, because if I can do that, I can certainly wake up and climb mountains.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Point I Missed... An Addendum

 Photo by Mayur Gala on Unsplash

I missed the point. I thought I knew what the point was, but it turns out I was a bit off. I mean, maybe a little right, but mostly mistaken.

I published a blog yesterday about overcoming setbacks, diligent sacrifice and hard work being the route to success in growing, even if it’s slowly. It was a blog about discipline and failure being holy. It was about a friend who recently ran the Boston Marathon. You can read it here (http://flatironswomen.blogspot.com/2017/06/my-life-didnt-turn-out-way-i-thought-it.html).

I thought the point was “we become better when we fail and keep trying” because every time I thought about my marathoner-friend’s story (working tirelessly to qualify for 6 years and 14,000 miles), I thought about it from my perspective: as someone who is terrified of failing, who hates running, and easily sees only the work and the goal, but has a hard time seeing the joy of the middle. I saw his story as a Rudy-type of story. A story like BraveHeart, riddled with pain and injury. Every run a beating. Every run wrenching his gut. His motivation the idea of being on the big stage he saw growing up… But after he read the blog, he said something, and I realized that his story is maybe a little bit of a Rudy story, but apparently, he’s more like Forest Gump; he just feels like running.

He said, “What you left out, and it’s probably quite important, is that I love running. If I had spent all of those runs in misery and not made the marathon, the time spent doing all of it would’ve been a complete waste. But instead I love the process. I love the feeling I get during and after running. I love the people with whom I run. I love the places it takes me and the animals I see along the way. I love how it clears my head and swaps cortisol for adrenaline. I love the simplicity of running, the quiet time… all of it. And while you’re spot on about perseverance and commitment and not letting setbacks stop me, you have to remember that it was a labor of love more than anything else, and I’ve enjoyed nearly every step.”

Well, shoot. I saw it differently. Because historically, when I fail, I quit. When it’s hard, I give up. When I realize it’s going to take me six-dedicated-every-day-years to accomplish something, I say, “peace out.”

But when you look at it like Forest Gump, you just run. You just do it because you love it.

When I think about all of the struggles, all of the ways my life has turned out differently than I thought it would, just yesterday, I thought I needed more discipline. I thought I needed more persistence. I thought I just needed to stop giving up. I thought I just needed to be selfless and sacrifice. And it’s true. I do, need to do those things but the way to get there isn’t to “just have more discipline.” The answer isn’t “just be less selfish.” The answer isn’t “just persist.”

The answer is more love. Extravagant, lavishing, heaping scoops of love for my children, my husband, my writing process, my people. Enormous, gigantic, over the moon love for these endeavors I am pursuing… raising my children well, looking at their mistakes and shortcomings and lack of motivation with love, giant all-consuming, never-ending, unconditional love, love, love. Because…

Love transcends failure. Love transcends injury. Love transcends setbacks and interruptions and not being able to do what you want to do. Love pushes us to move forward, press on, forgive. Love means we catch handfuls of bodily fluids coming out of our children without batting an eyelash. Love convinces us to volunteer for sacrifice over and over again. Just like Jesus.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Summer of Nature! June Edition

This summer, I am a woman on a mission. I’m not sure if it is a selfish ambition or if it is out of the purest love and hope of well-being for my children. But we are going back to nature this summer. My kids and I are learning about nature. Camping in nature, hiking in nature, kayaking in nature, planting seeds, observing wildlife, biking, identifying trees… We are doing this nature thang.

Why? Why nature? Why has this become “The Summer of Nature”?

Because nature is glorious, A. But B, because ipad/video games and children. Because it’s so good for our bodies and minds. Because I LOVE LOVE LOVE being outside in nature, and my kids hate it. They whine and complain and they HATE it. But I want them to LOVE it, and my husband has a theory about getting your kids to love something you love: Have the best time ever when you're doing that thing you love in front of your kids. Even if they're making it miserable. Eventually they'll either learn to love it, or tolerate it because they love you, and they can't have any negative emotions tied to it since you only gave them happy ones! This man skies with all of our kids by himself. They all love skiing. He might be onto something.

So, when a friend of mine asked me to tutor her precious little girl, and I agreed, it inspired a whole process of planning educational and outdoor activities to fill the time and teach the things. Because strangely, when someone is paying me for a job, I take it more seriously than when it’s just the well-being of my own children...whatevs, man, I’m trying.

So here’s the run-down on my Broomfield Area Summer of Nature Field Trips and Plans for the month of June.  Our June focus is on Plants.

We have already visited:


  • McKay Lake. (This is perfect for a quick trip. Huge, gorgeous trees, beautiful lake, and a fun spot to look for wildlife!) http://www.ci.westminster.co.us/ExploreWestminster/OpenSpace/OpenSpaceAreas/McKayLake
  • Horsetooth Reservoir. (Holy Cow is that place HUGE!  I had no idea it was that big or gorgeous!) http://www.co.larimer.co.us/parks/horsetooth.cfm
  • Big Dry Creek Park (This is a fan favorite with the kids. It has a big playground, and hiking/biking trails with a few big Cottonwood trees and a running creek-- at least right now.)  http://www.ci.westminster.co.us/ParksRec/Parks/ParkLocations/BigDryCreekPark
  • LaVerne M. Johnson Park in Lyons, CO. (Seriously, this is what childhood dreams are made of. Take your children to this park. Then stop at the Lyons Dairy Bar for a $2 Kids Ice Cream Cone on the way home. It’s the perfect day. )  http://www.townoflyons.com/349/LaVern-M-Johnson-Park
  • Plaster Resevoir (We went on a Nature Walk through the Broomfield Nature Programs. This is great for preschoolers!  My older kids weren’t as interested in the craft/walk, but it’s perfect for 5 and under! Here are some other Nature Programs in Broomfield as well! https://www.broomfield.org/531/Nature-Programs
  • Our Backyard We had a campfire, and roasted marshmallows with friends. The kids played flashlight tag. It was a whole old-fashioned family fun night.

Some of the cool things I have planned for the rest of June are:



In Rocky Mountain National Park, these Night Sky Programs look particularly cool. https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/astronomy_programs.htm


Happy Trails, friends!  Hope these are helpful!  See you outside!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I Should've Said...

International Women’s Day was 8 days ago, but I am notoriously bad at planning ahead, so here we are… A little late. The next few posts will be dedicated to a few of the bravest women I know. They have incredible stories, and I would love to share them with you. We will start with Margaret “Jean” Grinnell. My beautiful grandmother.  Here she is:

Isn't she beautiful? This picture was taken the last time I saw my Grandma Jean. It was Christmas time. My kids did not want to go visit her. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to as a 7 or 8 year-old. There’s a weird smell in nursing homes. And it’s awkward. They repeat themselves. They forget who you are. You don’t know what to talk to them about or ask them about…


So to prepare them, I said, “Think about things you might want to know about life when she was a kid, because she’s 92, and she was a little girl a long time ago.”


I said, “If you want to bring a game to play while we are there, you could ask Grandma Jean if she wants to play.”


I said, “Sometimes nursing homes have yucky smells, but it is very rude to comment about them. If there is a yucky smell, just tolerate it.  And sometimes it can be boring to visit older people because they just sit there, but that’s just because they’re very tired. If you are bored, make conversation, but you will not whine and complain that you are bored. Do you understand me? Grandma Jean loves us and wants to see us. She is probably lonely and tired and when you are lonely and tired, you need your family, so we will go, we will talk to her, and then we will drive to see your cousins.”


We went. She called them stinky boys. We laughed. I told the boys about her lemon pie, and she complained that she hadn’t had one in years. (My mom had just brought one the week prior.)  She told stories about their Grammie Mel, which they loved. We hugged and chatted. My boys played MadLibs and matchbox cars in the corner. Then we left.


A couple of weeks ago, Grandma Jean had the flu and died in her sleep.


And I can’t stop thinking about what I should’ve said to my kids. I had made a big deal about how they were to behave while we were there. They should tolerate the inconvenience… But what I should’ve said was, “Boys, take a good look at this woman’s face. Because this is what strength looks like. This is what tough looks like. This is what brave looks like. This is what it looks like to have a good sense of humor. This is what not giving up looks like.”


Because if Grandma Jean was anything, she was strong. She was tough. She was brave. She had a good sense of humor, and she didn’t give up.


She raised 7 kids alone. SEVEN. The youngest was 2 when my grandpa died. SEVEN kids for years and years and years. All by herself.
Sure, she probably watched more John Wayne movies than is good for a person. Sure, she threatened to make you a “flat talkin grease spot” if you misbehaved or feed you a “knuckle sandwich” if you whined about being hungry, but she loved fiercely. She lived bravely, and she laughed heartily. And she was tough. Boy was she tough.

She was so tough that when my kids are older and stressed about school, sports, music competitions and the like… When they are overwhelmed and want to give up, I will pull out this picture, and say all of the things I should’ve said that day. I’ll say, “Take a good look, kids. This woman is a part of your heritage. She is your Great Grandma. She never gave up. She was poor and alone and raised 7 kids that way. And you know what she’d say if she saw you sitting here whining about what you’re whining about? She’d say, “If you don’t get your ass out the door in 5 minutes and do what you said you’d do, I’m gonna make you a flat talkin grease spot and then drop you off at the Salvation Army. Now quit your belly achin and get.” I love you. Have a nice day.”  

She didn't have much sympathy, but then again, I don't think we need sympathy. We need true grit, and that, she had in spades.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Housework and Activism

I am not a political person.  You won’t find me adamantly supporting candidates I don’t know personally or posting constantly about whatever popular thing there is to be worked up about. I won’t go on and on about abortion or same sex marriage or whatever inflammatory subject happens to be in the spotlight. With most political issues, I feel like there are two sides to every story, and too many circumstances to talk in absolutes. But this month, I’m wearing dresses to stand up against Human Trafficking, and posting State Representatives’ phone numbers, asking you to call them to stop the insane number of fracking wells (numbers the oil and gas company lied about) that have been proposed to go into residential areas of our town.


Emily, it looks as though you’ve become an activist.

What gives?

It’s because of housework.

Yep.

You see, my kids have to do certain chores before they can watch TV or play their iPads or video games. And their efforts as of late have been lackluster. They miss huge piles of clothes that need to be put away. They leave their backpacks on the floor. They leave their books, dishes, clothes, toys wherever they land with no thought that those particular items are included on the “pick up and put away anything that belongs to you” part of our “Daily Chore Chart.”

And for the past few weeks, instead of giving them step by step instructions, I have been saying, “Look around. Find what needs to be done and do it.” Over and over and over again.

My four year-old is included in these chores, and when he asks if he can watch Dinosaur Train, our conversation usually goes like this:

Child: Can I please watch Dinosaur Train?
Mommy: You can watch Dinosaur Train as soon as you pick up your toys.
Child: But that will be sooooo haaaard to do. It’s too hard to do.
Mommy: You can do hard things, buddy.

I say these things to my children because I want them to grow into contributing members of society. I say these things to my children because I want to empower them. I want them to look around, find what needs to be done and do it. I want them to do hard things so that they know that they can do harder things when they have to. I say these things because I want them to be able “to adult.”

But the only way that they know I mean it is if I do it myself. So I am looking around. I am finding out what needs to be done, and I am doing something. They aren’t big things, but they are hard things: Speaking out for someone who doesn’t have a voice. Asking for State help to fight against Oil and Gas Companies who were given more power than the communities they enter.

I could bury my head in a book or in Gilmore Girls episodes to escape my anxiety about these situations (It wouldn’t be the first or the last time for me to do this), but that would send a different message to my children.

Plus, when I meet God someday, and I get to ask him, “Why ticks? Why sickness? Why childhood cancer? Why sex slaves? Why didn’t You do anything about all of that?”


I don’t want Him to be able to say, “Why didn’t you?”



To donate to the Dressember Campaign, go here:
https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraiser/858692

To oppose fracking under homes and schools, and that is dangerously close to the water supply in Broomfield, please call Vicky Marble at 303-866-4876 to tell her you don't want to be a guinea pig in this Residential Fracking Experiment.

Learn more at www.anthemcleanairandwater.org

Monday, November 7, 2016

Let's Saniflush Perfection Down the Toilet

When I was in the 5th grade, my “best friend” started talking about me behind my back. She gave me the code name of Saniflush so that she could talk about me to my other friends in front of me, and I wouldn’t know. She was so clever. Because I had no idea she was talking about me. Not.

This girl and I were attached at the hip and then very suddenly, one day, she was ignoring me and talking to our mutual friend, and they only talked about Saniflush then looked at me and laughed.  It was stupid, petty 5th grade mean girl stuff. Saniflush smelled funny. She was fat. She said the dumbest things. She liked the grossest boy.

I died a million 5th grade deaths of embarrassment, humiliation, and shame. And I started believing that I smelled funny, was fat, said dumb things, and that the boy I liked was, in fact, gross. Most of all, I believed that no one would like me anymore if I stopped being friends with this name-calling mean girl. As a 36 year-old, I can tell you that none of that was true. I was a thin, brilliant young woman who smelled perfectly normal and liked a very cute boy, thankyouverymuch. And people liked me. Also, my name has absolutely no toilet connotations whatsoever.

But that experience. That experience that most of us had, planted doubts and lies in my head, and even though I’m pretty sure I confronted her and said something like, “I know you’re talking about me and that’s bogue,” it shaped my friendships. It shaped all of our friendships, didn’t it?

Because I grew up believing that when I left the room, the other girls talked about how fat and stupid and gross I was. So I put on layers to protect myself. I did my best to have the perfect clothes (IOU sweatshirts and guess jeans), the perfect 90s hair… I used the right words. “Totally rad.” I tried my best to become the girl that no one could make fun of, no one could talk badly about behind her back. I tried. I tried so hard.

We all did. You remember it. Thing is, trying so hard to be perfect comes at a price. And someone else was always perfecter than me, and that made me jealous and hateful.
She’s so skinny.
She’s so pretty.
She’s so much smarter, taller, better than I am.
She’s so much more creative, organized, _________ than I am. Ugh. I hate her.

Fast-forward to our mid-thirties, and we are still doing it. Have you seen her house?! It’s like that all the time! She always looks perfect! I hate her. We are still protecting ourselves from being the Saniflushes of the world, covering up our imperfections, hiding the truth of our flaws from each other. Posting only our best moments on Facebook. Bragging about our kids’ accomplishments on Twitter. I do it too. I’m not pointing fingers.

But if we are going to hate each other, we might as well hate each other for an actual reason, not because she has a cuter house, haircut, butt, husband than I do. Because how could we hate an illusion? Isn’t that what all those layers of perfect are? The clothes, the hair, the makeup, the house, the whatever. They are all an illusion that says, “I have my stuff together.”

Let’s be real. Even the people we really think have their stuff together don’t. So, maybe instead of out-perfecting each other, maybe we could try to out-real each other. Right? Let it all hang out. What if we tell the truth with our clothes and our hair and our homes and our friends and our words? What if we just tell the truth?

The days of pretending are over. They oppressed our mothers and our mothers’ mothers, but they will not oppress us.

We will be real and honest. We will wear our imperfections like badges of honor in the sisterhood of struggle because life is hard and humans are stupid and showing your weakness is brave.

We are a generation of women who value connection over power. Strength over control. Truth over illusion. Courage and compassion over appearance.

There is no place for you anymore, perfection.  You can take your finely pressed pantsuit and go home. Unless.

Unless you want to borrow a pair of yoga pants, help me fold this crazy huge pile of laundry and tell me about how you also want to punch your husband in the face sometimes while we watch Gilmore Girls and drink Cabernet… Then you can stay, and we’ll work on your ability to not do your hair. Like ever.