Monday, June 30, 2014

Goldie Runs . . . and so does Abe

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays she’s up while most of the house still sleeps. We meet in the kitchen and, half awake, swallow down a bowl of cereal or piece of toast. “Drink lots of water,” I remind her. “You don’t want to be thirsty.” -- and she fills her cup.

While breakfast settles, I get my contacts in and set my GPS watch to searching for satellites. Goldie goes upstairs and puts on her green/gray reversible, running shorts. The ones that I gifted her when I realized she was serious about sticking with this. We meet back in the living room, tie running shoes, and head out the door.

“Which way today?” I ask her. “Over towards the school? Up the steep hill to the canal? Or . . .”

Most days she’ll say, “I don’t know,” and, deferring to me, “you choose.” But some days she’ll ask hopefully, “Can we drive up and run on the dirt road?” and we will.

Her original ten-minute pace for one mile is now a nine-minute pace for three. Her once slightly unpredictable gait – now smooth and fluid. I still remind her occasionally to “take it easy – we still have a long way to go”;  but not so much anymore. I can trust her now to find her own pace – one she can keep. When we get to a downhill, I remind her to relax her arms and let the hill carry her. When we get to a climb, she leans into it and lifts her knees the slightest bit higher – just like a good runner should. She doesn’t like to let hills slow or discourage her. She digs in and powers up at a slightly harder pace than what we’d been running. “Goldie!” I call out. “You’re amazing! I think hills are one of your strengths.” And, as usual, my mind starts intertwining running with some larger metaphor for life. Only now, the metaphor includes my nine year old daughter.

This almost didn’t happen.

Initially I answered “no” more often than “yes” to her requests to come running with me. I only had so much time; I’d find other times to train my little girl; I had a loop in mind, and it didn’t lend itself to circling a little person around for a smaller run and dropping her back home; etc.

But as I ran one day (without her) I began asking myself the questions most mothers would have thought to ask much sooner: “Why wouldn’t you want to encourage your daughter to do something good for her that she really wants to do? Why wouldn’t you want the gift of a few moments of time to spend with just her? Why wouldn’t you want her to develop a love for something you love?” And, of course, I knew I absolutely did want all of those things, so . . . we began our little training routine.

I figured it would be helpful for her to have an exciting goal in mind, and this past Saturday she completed that goal by running her first official 5K.

And, while this post was primarily about Goldie, it wouldn’t be fair for me to neglect adding a bit about Abe. Somewhat out-of-the-blue (and fairly last minute) Abe decided he wanted to run the 5K with us. He didn’t seem to feel any strong need to train – only running with Goldie and I a handful of times beforehand, but, despite my worries over his lack of preparation, he held his own just fine! And . . . look at that kick he had left at the end!

Bravo, kids! (And 8 months pregnant mom.)

I don’t particularly care if any of my kids interests or talents ever match my own. I love seeing them develop into their own little selves – little selves who are far more than simply something I have made them; still, I will admit that having them take an interest in something I love so much – and getting to do that with them – has been very happy! (And, it was also very happy that Mike showed up –- with one or two other messy-headed, just-out-of-bed children in tow – to make sure Abe and Goldie were met with plenty of cheers as they finished their first race.)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Finish Line . . .

Yesterday I washed one more new, little pack of onesies. These ones – soft yellow stripes, gentle gray polka dots, and one with a simple-shaped little elephant.

They were carefully folded then added, in almost reverent anticipation, to the tupperware of items waiting for Summer’s arrival – the quilt from Jill, the boppy, the moccasins from Blaire, the other recently washed and folded items (delicate, small sundresses worn, in turn, by Summer’s older sisters; the tiny, striped bunny jammies Goldie picked out for Summer to wear home from the hospital; the pink and yellow bee onesies; the new little outfits from near-life-long friend Jessica; the four, perfect, light-weight, large swaddling blankets I recently discovered).

Being at this point – where birth is “expected” a mere four and a half weeks from now, where it seems not only reasonable to be washing, folding, and readying; but pretty near time to be serious about checking the car seat’s condition, preregistering at the hospital, bringing out the cradle, and buying newborn diapers – being here is . . . well, I don’t know what it is exactly. It’s a wild, intense and conflicting place to go about existing; pretending to be a normal person; pretending not to be a jumble of excitement and fear and hope and worry; pretending I’m not on the verge of something that will turn life wholly new. Again.

I’ve nearly done my part in getting this little mortal body ready for Summer. I’ve turned the corner and now, off in the distance – not quite close enough to sprint yet, but close – I see the finish line. It’s there. Just ahead. Finally. Only . . . as I get closer and closer, I suddenly remember something. Something I’d forgotten for that brief spell when getting Summer here was all there was: that the finish line . . . is really another starting line. Soon, I’ll cross it – to cheers and congratulations. Then, the gun will sound, and the race will be on again.

When people question my decision to add another child to our family, it’s easy to pass it off with a light and joking, “Eh, what’s one more at this point?” And there is some truth to that. One more little body to dress each day? One more set of hands to wash? One more person to tuck in bed? Seven bowls instead of six? That’s all fine. We can do that.

But what’s one more really? Ohhhh. I almost feel like crying. I am so excited . . . and so scared . . . because I’ll tell you the real answer to that question: one more is everything. And adding an entire new everything  is a tremendously beautiful and terrifying; big and overwhelming thing to do.

Not much longer now my little Summer. We’re on the straightaway of the last lap. We’ll see each other at the finish line. And . . . we’ll set off running again.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Minus Two

There’s an old Yiddish folktale that tells the story of a man who is at his wits end because his small house is too crowded. He, his wife, and children can hardly move without bumping into one another or getting in one another’s way. He goes to discuss the matter with his rabbi who instructs him, over time, to keep adding his various farm animals to the house. Chickens, then goats, then the cow, etc. Each time, he returns to the rabbi to wail over the horrible advice and report that things are much worse. Eventually, the rabbi tells him to move all the animals back out of the house. And, wouldn’t you know it, the crowded house problem is solved. The man can hardly believe the peace and quiet his family enjoys in their little home.

My house certainly isn’t small, and, while it is true that there aren’t many places for any of us to escape one another, I’ve never felt crowded. Still, this tale has come to mind several times the past two days. The older two kids (along with Mike) are off at youth conference. They certainly aren’t the loudest or messiest of the people living in this home, but, after four weeks of everybody home all day, the house has felt so quiet with only four children -- the mess and laundry a thousand times more manageable. Life certainly wasn’t easier when I actually had four children. It’s just filling the house . . . then sending some back to the barnyard.

Also, to make up for them not getting the fun of youth conference, Goldie created a treasure hunt for her younger siblings. She purchased little treats and gifts all with her own money, created a map with obstacles that had to be surmounted, items that had to be found, etc. until, at last, they found the X – where she’d actually buried their treasure.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Body of Flesh and Blood

**This was originally a post I wrote for Mormon Mommy Blogs a year and a half ago. I am putting it here so I can have it permanently printed up with my own posts in my own blog books. I haven’t read much of Stephanie Nielsen’s story in regards to her experience when she was burned so horribly in a plane crash, but I recently read a post of hers where she talked about, during her brief visit to the other side, how desperately she missed her body – how much she wanted it back even in the injured state it now was. That reminded me that I wanted to put this post here where I could find it more easily.

NanCy'S_MaRathoN_014[1]I ran past our local cemetery a few months ago just as a funeral was taking place. A large group gathered around a flower-covered casket. Women folded their arms or held solemn babies on their hips; men stood, straight backed, arms extended downwards — forming Vs in front of them.

My labored breathing and steady footfalls felt loud and intrusive – out of place and inappropriate – at such a somber event.

I tried to go by quickly. Tried not to distract. Tried not to seem disrespectful. . . . Tried not to stare.

But I couldn’t pull my eyes fully from the scene. I didn’t know the age of the one whose passing the mourners were marking. I didn’t know if he or she had lived out a full life or died prematurely. I only knew that the living done by that mortal body had come to an end. . . .

And there I was: feeling the full weight of breathing, moving, and living. I was running: my lungs filling forcefully with air, my legs burning form the strain of a hill, the neuroma on my left foot sending up stabs of needle-like pain, my skin feeling the warmth of one of the first spring-like days in months, my eyes watering as they always do when assaulted by even a bit of wind.

I couldn’t ignore the contrast of being so aware of my physical body just as another’s was being laid carefully into the ground.

For a minute, I completely understood why we humans do all of the crazy things we do with our bodies – why we are sometimes wild, careless, extreme, and even reckless in what we willfully choose to experience. I understood why anyone would ever choose to climb Mt. Everest or bungee jump off the Verzasca Dam.

I understood why we test the limits of our self control through fasting and diet; why we overindulge. I understood why I had ever wanted to run a marathon or experience the rather terrifying pain of natural childbirth.

I even understood why some might do foolish and toxic things simply to feel the aliveness – the rush and exhilaration that these bodies can feel.

But mostly, I understood that it is a tremendous gift (as well as a tremendous responsibility) to have a physical body – to feel what it can feel; to experience what it can experience.

It certainly doesn’t always feel like a gift. Our bodies are subject to sickness and injury, and in what sometimes feels worse, to imbalances that cause us severe depression or anxiety. “Blessed” is the last thing I feel when I’m awake with a head cold and sore throat for the fifth night in a row, and sometimes the sheer number of things that can go wrong with these bodies of ours is enough to make one feel like accepting them was a bit like accepting the gift of the Trojan horse.

But it was not. The things we are experiencing with these mortal bodies of ours? They are amazing. They are experiences that an entire THIRD of our brothers and sisters in heaven will never know or understand. They are tremendous enough that a slew of spirits once begged Christ to cast them into the bodies of swine rather than force them back to their bodiless state.

We get to smell lilacs in the spring, and feel the warm winds of summer on our skin. We get to run, feel a baby grow and thrive inside us; nurse that baby and smell its downy head close to us. At the risk of sounding too bold – we get to experience the incomparable connection of sex with our spouse. We get to enjoy flavor and eating. We get to know what the hug of a parent feels like and what tears of joy taste like.

We don’t all experience the same things with these physical bodies, and some of us experience far more pain than others, but I think when we look back on this mortal journey – when we rejoice that we were brave enough to choose this path; when we see the end from the beginning and are all filled up with all we learned through our joys and sorrows, the physical things we experienced and learned with these bodies of ours will not be the least of our most treasured and precious moments.

A Foot Infection and Something Like Remembering

**This was originally a post I wrote for Mormon Mommy Blogs during a family history celebration last year. I am putting it here so I can have it permanently printed up with my own posts in my own blog books.

Recently, I developed a bad staph infection following some minor foot surgery. The infection was surprisingly horrific. My foot swelled to something unrecognizable. It reminded me of nothing so much as the awful pictures I’d seen in high school and college of people suffering from elephantiasis. Touching it was excruciating, walking unthinkable. Now, some 18 days and two rounds of major antibiotics later, it is still red and painful.

During the course of this infection, my dad reminded me of my great-grandpa Oberhansly who died of sepsis stemming from an infected thumb. The story sounded vaguely familiar, so I nodded an uncertain, “Oh yes. I’d forgotten about him” and returned to bemoaning my own plight.

20130916_141159 My Oberhansly great-grandparents with 11 of their 12 children (one child had passed away before this picture was taken).

Over the next few days, however, thoughts of this great-grandpa kept returning to me. And this time, I found myself feeling, strangely, like he was aware of me. Likewise, I felt strangely aware of him. I felt my mumbled words of “I’d forgotten about him” tumble about in my head and come back out in a gasp of, “I can’t believe I forgot you!” As I said those words into the silence, I seemed to sense a charming half smile and a reply of, “It’s about time, you silly girl.”

Only, how could I have forgotten him? I never knew him. My dad never even knew him. He was only 56 when he hit his thumb with that darn hammer (while doing some of the carpentry work he was so skilled at and so well-known for). He’d died when my grandma (his 12th and last child) was only eight, but I felt a sudden longing – almost a homesickness – to know his story; to gather any information I possibly could — as if maybe it would help me fill an empty spot in my soul that I could only describe as “missing someone”. It was almost as if something about our shared experience of infection had created a slight thinness in the veil – just enough for me to remember – if not the person, then, at least, a connection and a bond.

I have felt such loss as I’ve searched only to find so little. He’s only my great-grandpa. My dad’s grandfather. That shouldn’t be so far removed that all I have been able to discover is a paragraph’s worth of information – a little about him having come from a German speaking region of Switzerland, a bit about his skills as a carpenter, a sentence about his love of music and dancing, one short story about the tongue lashing he gave to a doctor whose misdiagnosis left one of his daughters blind in one eye (long before malpractice suits were ever a possibility). But that is all.

Still, it hasn’t been a loss. I’ve found something else rather great – something I hadn’t known was possible for me. I’ve found myself part of the fulfilling of a prophecy made thousands of years ago: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers . . .” (Malachi 4:5-6)

I love that it is not only that our hearts will turn to our fathers, but that their hearts will turn to us as well.

I don’t know why it is so important – why it matters so much that our hearts turn to our ancestors. This particular grandpa was already a member of the church. He has long since been sealed to his wife and children. Why would there be any other reason for my heart to turn to him if not to do his work? I don’t know. But I’ve certainly wondered, and I’ve certainly had many thoughts come to mind. Not doctrine. No. But thoughts and “what ifs”.

In his book Finding Peace, Happiness, and Joy Elder Richard G. Scott warns us that we should not talk about spiritual experiences when we’ve had a negative experience from an evil source. He says: “I do not understand exactly why, but I know it is a spiritual law that when there is conversation about negative things, they seem to spread and grow in influence.”

If merely talking about evil influences – the influences we know come from Satan as well as the third of the host of heaven that was cast out – allows them greater connection and sway in our lives, is it possible that the opposite could be true? Is it possible that being more aware of our ancestors gives them the ability to somehow be more involved in our lives?

We know the veil is thin. I’ve had my own sacred experiences that have led me to know departed loved ones are very close. Before that, I’d always assumed our ancestors were far too busy up there in heaven to bother with us. But what if we are why they are so busy? What if they are very much involved with us? And what if knowing them, knowing their stories and who they are, connects our spirits? What if it allows them more influence in our lives? What if it allows them to serve better as guardian angels for us and our families?

Remember the story of Elisha when the Syrians had come to battle with Israel? The whole city was surrounded by chariots and horses from the enemy. Upon seeing this, Elisha’s young servant, I’m sure in absolute terror, asks, “Alas, my master! How shall we do?”

Do you remember the rest? Elisha tells him one of my favorite lines in all of scripture, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” He then prays for the boys eyes to be “opened,” and the boy sees throngs of angels surrounding and protecting them. (2 Kings 6:15-17)

Like I said. I’m only speculating, but I do know the Lord doesn’t tell us to do things just for kicks. He tells us to do things because it will bless us. Always. If we believe what we believe, then, of course we need to do work for our ancestors, but that isn’t all we are told to do. We are told to search them out, to learn their stories and read their histories. And if, by any chance, knowing them can draw throngs of them – or even just a few loved ones like my great-grandpa Oberhansly – around to watch out for me and my family? Well, you can count me in.

Let the getting-to-know, or, possibly, re-getting-to-know begin!

**End note: Since writing this article, I have come across this quote from George Q. Cannon that I absolutely love and think would have been quite fitting with the above post.

“. . . There is not one of us but what God’s love has been expended upon. . . . There is not one of us that He has not given his angels charge concerning. We might be insignificant and contemptible in our own eyes, and in the eyes of others, but the truth remains that we are the children of God, and that He has actually given his angels – invisible beings of power and might – charge concerning us, and they watch over us and have us in their keeping.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Finding our Rhythm

“Mom, it’s not weird to me that tractors are on farms and other places; but it does not make sense to me that seagulls are here and not just at the beach.” – Jesse

After fixing our broken lawn mower the other night, Mike came in seeming less thrilled with his success than I might have guessed and sighed, “I wish I wasn’t so good at fixing everything. I really wanted to get a new lawn mower.”

Several friends on facebook suggested I might, out of sheer love, go and damage the lawn mower further, or, even, leave it in a conspicuous spot where it might possibly get stolen. And I would . . . because, heaven knows, that would be love, but . . . if we had the spare money sitting around . . . there are sooo many things I’d like more than a lawn mower.

Poor Mike and his cursed abilities.

We are finding our sea legs with this whole summer-time business.

We jumped in immediately with Bear Lake and Grandpa’s Farm, etc. We celebrated summer’s arrival with sheer adventure (and, as I type that, I realize more and more how, from here on out, the presence or absence of a capital letter s in that word – summer – will always require closely paid attention).

But then . . . we came home to the business of normal living and, for all their eagerness to have time to simply be, the older kids seemed a bit at a loss for what to do with themselves. Whole days of freedom? How did one manage that (particularly when one’s mother still thought 30 minutes of computer time was sufficient for one day)?

Luckily, their minds seem to be opening up to the possibilities more readily now. The past few days we seem to be discovering a rhythm that doesn’t have me worried about how to keep them productive all summer long. Guinea pig birthday parties, creation of stop-motion movies, games on the trampoline, library reading programs -- all starting to fill in spots where school time and homework used to sit.

July and August will bring more high intensity adventure again -- what with birthdays, family reunions, out-of-state family arrivals on both sides, girls’ and boys’ camps and, you know, new babies (baby); so I am enjoying this spell of smooth and relaxed summer time while we have it.

Also, a few days before summer officially started here, Penny celebrated her seventh birthday.

Daisy made the birthday cupcakes and so, needed a picture taken with them as well. Mostly though . . . I like whatever is happening in the background here.

And, from the old cell phone . . .

Recorder concert, Blaire visit, Great Aunt Sarah turning a normal farm visit into a carnival with her cotton candy machine, a note from Penny, Jumpy’s birthday, Jesse perusing Consumer Reports with breakfast, 32 weeks pregnant, etc . . .

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