2019

I’m a list maker. An inventory taker. But as I look back on 2019, I can’t think of much to tally. In fact, the whole thing is a biiiiiig blur. (Maybe because my eyesight took more of a plunge this year. I really do need glasses.) Maybe because nothing “major” happened. We didn’t have any serious crisis! I didn’t travel, write a book, give birth, run a marathon or cure cancer.

But in my ripe old age of 37 I’ve discovered that the VALUE of my time is not determined by the PRODUCTIVITY of my time. And most of what we “accomplish” is immeasurable. Yet… I still crave some satisfaction by making a list. So lets see what we can drum up.

2019:

  • Read 38 books for myself, and hundreds of books to the girls
  • Took one family vacation (2 nights down to Cedar Breaks Nat’l Park/Brian Head)
  • Wiped bums thousands of times
  • Dragged children on dozens of hikes, a few of which were trails we hadn’t done before
  • Shopped for, prepared, and cleaned up at least 1000 meals
  • Replaced the refrigerator, outdoor freezer, fireplace, tires, TV, couch and console
  • Cheered on RJ in callings, work and the backyard landscaping
  • Accepted things about myself and the world:
    • I don’t enjoy playing make-believe
    • I don’t like arugula
    • At odds with my love for the planet, I love ziplocks
    • I need validation and its okay to ask RJ for it
    • Its okay that my artistic hobbies are all just phases (2019 was the year that weaving and watercolor fizzled out)
    • Its worth the quiet  – let the kids watch TV for an hour
    • Barbies are not totally evil
    • The kids will usually outgrow whatever thing I’m freaking out about (and replace it with something new to freak out about)
  • Let go of several traditions to make room for new ones
  • Reconnected with dear friends from years ago
  • Published 3 articles online (and had one poem rejected)
  • Lost one dear friend to age (Christel Mueller). But another friend who really didn’t want to, survived the entire year!
  • Was B&B to 21 people from 2 nights to 2 months
  • Baked dozens of cakes
  • Sent Georgia to Kindergarten
  • Yelled at the kids less than the year before
  • Got a lot more sleep than the 5 years before
  • Kept the gym M/W/F and Trail T/TH exercise schedule
  • Learned about intuitive eating
  • Stopped spending energy on friendships that weren’t mutually beneficial
  • Did 6 months of amazing budgeting and 6 months of… mindful spending
  • Cut bangs, began considering coloring my white hairs

Flora just woke up, so its time to skedaddle. I doubt that was as satisfying for you as it was for me. But GOSH it feels good to make lists. And even an ‘uneventful’ year can look significant if you tally it up!

Really, though, the biggest takeaways from this year are not on this list. The biggest thing this year was learning, just a little, how to see people more fully, and to stop seeing MYSELF so much. I’ve got a long ways to go yet. But it has felt really good to be just a little less self-centered, and take things less personally. It has felt really good to see others, warts and all, and love them all the more for it. MUDITA!!!

 

A revelation: She’s Two

“I think Flora may be coming down with a bug. She’s been really cranky today.”

“Oh, sweetie… you must not have had a good nap today!”

“Do you think Flora may be getting in her molars or something?”

For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to figure out why precious little Flora has been so  irritable. She arches her back and screams when you buckle her into the carseat. She growls when she can’t have a “moot mayack” (fruit snack). She WILL NOT NAP unless we turn her toddler bed into a tent. She goes boneless when its time to get dressed. My once polite toddler now screams her demands instead of saying please. (She and RJ had a 20 minute standoff this week because she wouldn’t ask nicely. His determination beats mine by about 19.5 minutes.)

This morning, though, I had a revelation. A lightbulb flashed so brightly above my head that it could have been mistaken for a lightning bolt.

You guys.

SHE IS TWO!

How on earth did I forget what its like to be two?? With Georgia, I don’t think I took a deep breath the entire year she was two. I got all of my oxygen in tiny gasps of air. With Millie, my sleep, self-confidence, and parenting skills reached record-breaking lows. But mom-nesia is real. I had forgotten about how hard it is to have ALL OF THOSE BIG FEELINGS in such a tiny body.

Amazingly, my revelation this morning has transformed her behavior from aggravating to adorable. She’s not sick, tired, or teething. She’s just TWO! Without realizing that, I might have missed how cute it is when she tries to stomp her feet in anger. She has yet to master the skill, so it’s a bit clumsy. She picks up her knee and then tries to slam down her foot, but rather than the heel, she uses her tip toe. This causes her to wobble a bit and she has to re-steady herself before she tries again.

With each of her heartbreaks today (I think we are up to about 20), I’ve swept her into my arms and tried to sooth her, saying “Oh, it’s so hard to be two!” Sometimes she arches her back, clenches her little bum and tries to kick me. When I’m expecting rage, she has melted into my arms, hands around my neck, face on my shoulder.

There is a real perk to being the 3rd and last child. My patience and appreciation is much higher than it was with her sisters because I know this is the last time I’ll ever have the magic or the rage of a two year old.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully expect to lose my cool with her many times. But this year will rocket past me. Her baby squish will be gone. Her whispy hair will thicken up, and she will no longer look like Cindy Loo Hoo. Her enunciation will progress to where I don’t have to translate for strangers. Soon, her pudgy feet won’t dangle so high from the toilet. Soon, she won’t ask me to take her outside to listen to the “kickits chipping” (crickets chirping) during her bedtime milk. She won’t be so excited about hand washing and flushing toilets. She may not lay in bed yelling for me, fully capable of getting out by herself, but wanting me to lift her into my arms for a book. The off-beat cadence of her trot may steady into a rhythm. She won’t demand to wear her “Mickey Mouse simming-suit” under her clothing EVERY SINGLE DAY. When you tell her she’s cute she won’t smile back “No YOU coot!” She won’t end every argument with “No evvow again!” Tutus won’t likely be an essential part of every outfit, including pajamas. Mommy kisses won’t be able to magically heal every pain. Cuddles might be harder to come by! 😭

The things that will replace TWO will be magical and rage-inducing as well. But they won’t be so little. And TWO will be gone forever.

So for now, at least while the revelation is fresh, bring on the tantrums. Oh, precious TWO! The memories we will make!

2019: The Year of Mudita, in review

For decades I was irked when I would encounter what I called The Concept of Limited Good; the notion that there is only so much GOOD STUFF to go around, and if one person got it, there was less for me.  Of course there are levels to this false belief. There are the harmless expressions like “You’re so pretty. I hate you!” And there are the grimy resentments because so-and-so got the job you applied for. And then there are the bitter tears because THAT girl got married, and you are still alone.

When God opens a door for one, He closes a window for another.

When we consciously or subconsciously believe there isn’t enough good to go around, tragically, it becomes true. Less good comes our way (or at least we notice it less). Now perhaps we don’t delight in the misfortune of others, but we may feel like victims of their good fortune.

ALL OF THIS IS A LIE! The more we can celebrate the good (in ours or other’s lives), the more we receive. This may, in part, be because the more we see, the more we SEE. But I also believe gratitude and MUDITA make us magnets for blessings. God rewards a grateful heart.

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I ran across this Sanskrit word a few years ago and it resonated with me. Last year while reading The Book of Joy it seemed to glow on the page and therefore became “My Word” for 2019. I think it hits me so hard because it’s the opposite of the Concept of Limited Good.

This year, I’ve been seeking Mudita.

I don’t have an abundance of spiritual gifts, but I have been blessed with the lack of an envious heart. I don’t catch myself resenting others for their blessings, or wishing I had what they had, so I thought it would be an easy attribute to acquire. But Mudita goes a step further. It CELEBRATES the blessings of others. As I’ve tried to consciously apply that, it felt a little awkward. I mean, there are the obvious things to celebrate with/for someone (basically all things new: Job, marriage, baby, etc.) But on a daily basis, I wanted to cheer for others and celebrate them, without piously counting their blessings for them.

So I looked around for examples. I didn’t have to look far. My friend Jan embodies Mudita. I felt it in the way she listened with genuine interest, even if what I was talking about wasn’t interesting. I felt it in the way she gave me unique compliments that said “I really see you.” I saw it on social media. Within our shared network of friends and associates, I noticed that she was generous with her ‘likes’ and often accompanied them with heartfelt comments of support. Jan made Mudita uncomplicated for me. Being around Jan is like being in a warm hug. She’s not an  exaggerated character who seems to adore every stranger, lavishes you with praise, or plasters on a fake smile for everyone she sees. She’s genuine. But she showed me that Mudita is simply living with your eyes wide open to God’s blessings, and being grateful for them wherever they land.

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Mom Guilt

Sometimes on Saturdays, when the tots jump on our sleeping faces, RJ will hurriedly scuttle them out the door and take them downstairs to make breakfast, leaving me to sleep for another (much needed) hour.

He deserves major kudos for this. Because he’s awesome and kind and wonderful. But that’s not what this is about.

I frequently do this same thing for RJ on the weekends, taking the kids and making breakfast to let him sleep. I believe relationships should be generally balanced in the giving/receiving thing, but I don’t believe scorekeeping is healthy. That’s also not what this is about.

RJ is their father. He is equally responsible for them as me. SO WHY IS IT THAT I FEEL THIS STUPID GUILT when I get to luxuriate in bed for an hour and maybe even take a shower without little ones squawking at me?!

MOM GUILT.

We feel it when we read them only 7 books but turn them down when they beg for an 8th.

We feel it when we only grudgingly share that piece of chocolate we hoarded away to enjoy during quiet time, only to be caught by their supersonic ears that can hear a wrapper opening behind closed doors on a separate floor of the house.

We feel it when we send them outside after dinner to play with dad so we can clean the kitchen ALONE instead of playing as a family or teaching them to work.

We feel it when we realize how few vegetables they’ve eaten this week… or what percentage of their diet consists of things you aren’t sure qualify as food (I’m looking at you, fruit snacks).

We feel it when we let them watch “too much” tv.

We feel it over… well… everything.

Now lets back up a bit. Before having children. In my pre-married life I woke up at 5am to go to the gym Monday through Friday. I’ve never been one to sleep in, but on Saturdays I loooooooved a good “lay in”. Sometimes this lasted until 7am when I was ready to tackle a project or go for a run up the canyon. Sometimes it lasted half the day where I lounged about in bed, reading, writing, dozing, whatever. How much guilt did I feel about this? EXACTLY ZERO. Come to think of it, I felt zero guilt about, well, most anything leisure related. It was rejuvenating and necessary to make the GRIND part of life worth living.

But a dramatic, plate-tectonic mind-altering  shift happens when you become parents and suddenly ANNNNNNYYYYYYYTHING can cause you to feel guilt.

You don’t maintain relationships well because you’re tied up with kids. Guilt. You DO maintain relationships and that takes away from family time. Guilt.

Your kids don’t get your full attention when you (exercise/work/whatever). Guilt. You don’t exercise/work/whatever and you are worried you aren’t a good example to your kids. Guilt.

You are too hard on your kids. Guilt. You don’t demand enough from them. Guilt.

I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY THIS IS. I just know that its real. And honestly, for most of these areas, thats fine. I’ll take the guilt. It keeps me paying attention as a mom. But LEISURE???? Someone please tell me how to make that a guiltless venture again. Someone. PLEASE. Teach me how to actually enjoy a breather again and not taint it with guilt. Or maybe teach my children how to just lay in bed quietly with me on a saturday morning and not have any needs?

Ooooh. Maybe thats what the teenage years are for.

In the Kitchen

Regardless of one’s aptitude or interest in cooking, most people agree that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Who isn’t comforted by the smell of freshly baked bread? Who doesn’t have a memory of sitting around a table, losing track of time in the conviviality of friends and family?

I love love love love the kitchen. Buuuuuuutt I don’t much like to cook. I would like to like it. But you know what I do like? Eating. And since eating is required to sustain life, and restaurants get pricy and/or inconvenient, I’ve had to force  my inner foodie and my resistant chef to work things out. These two have a sibling rivalry that’s as volatile as Georgia and Millie’s was a year ago when there were moments of happy play and hours of attempted murder.

Before Georgia was born, my time in the kitchen was utilitarian. I prepared the simplest of foods with as little cost and effort as possible. Cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, omelets and sandwiches for dinner. The concept of investing time or money into cooking was not only impractical, but sounded like drudgery. Between my frequent work trips which would cause groceries to rot in the fridge, and my social calendar, which often allowed me meals at wonderful restaurants, I didn’t see the point of putting effort into culinary skills. But 6 years into this homemaker gig, I have picked up a trick or two. I would not dare call myself a good cook, but I’ve gotten to the point where I often prefer home cooked meals over dining out.

The thing is, I’m… well… “creative” in the kitchen. I’m fairly rigid in following the rules of baking, but for everything else I consider a recipe a “starting off” point, or just an inspiration. I’ve created a few of my own standard recipes which we use often, but at least half of our meals are, uh, completely made up on the spot.

This practice started not because I’m a kitchen artist, but because I’m lazy. I’d look at recipes and be overwhelmed by all of the steps, or all of the things I didn’t have on-hand, but I’d be committed to the concept of the recipe, so I’d improvise!

The good thing about this is that if you don’t like it, don’t worry! I can’t replicate it! The bad thing is, if you DO like it, I probably can’t replicate it!

 

Designed for Change

Sometimes when I see myself, I’m shocked at my reflection. I don’t recognize that woman. Maybe its because I’ll always see myself as a 20-something and I’m very much not. Maybe its a metaphysical dichotomy between my spirit and body.

This morning as I was drying off, I had a strange physical sensation. The way my flesh hung off my body felt like I was wearing an oversized sweater. The saying ‘comfortable in her own skin’ came to mind because I *wasn’t* in that moment. I’m not ashamed of my body. It just physically didn’t feel right.

It made me think about how many times my body has transformed. We are designed to change. Our cells turn over so rapidly that we are not the same person we were six months ago. Its a bit baffling how our cells are constantly regenerating, yet they have memory.  I still have that weird mole, those achy feet, and wrinkles that get deeper each week.

After having babies, celebrity women talk about “getting their body back”. Sure, I’d like to fit into those pants again, but I know that there is no going “back”. Not only have all of my organs and bones rearranged, expanded and contracted, but I have entirely transformed. Sure I’m recognizable. But I’m not the same person I was before Flora. Before Millie. Before Georgia. Before the lost ones. Motherhood has transformed me at a cellular, spiritual, and mental level. I’m sure I was being changed before then, too, but it wasn’t quite so… drastic.

Sometimes I want to freeze life as it is NOW. The future has so many big challenges and unknowns. But something inside tells me that freedom is found by embracing that we were designed for change.

Sometimes I get so anxious worrying about my family members – Most of it stems from knowing how much I have to lose. Change can feel a lot like loss. Change is rarely comfortable. But change is also the only route toward progress.

I guess I can find comfort in the fact that our cells do have memory. Through all of the regenerations, my cells remember to make me look like Christy. Even when my memory struggles to recall the details of what happened last year (or last night), my cells have somehow recorded all of the wonders I’ve experienced – from the sound of laughter downstairs, the sensation of a baby hiccuping inside of me, to the smell of the great pyramids of Egypt. My body is an ever changing universe that carefully catalogues every experience, but moves me involuntarily toward progress. And yes, I’m calling white hair and wrinkles progress; especially because they come with empathy derived from experience, and joy that doesn’t require perfection.

Big, Middle, Little

Big Sister

Lately I’ve noticed you getting lost in your own world. A few weeks ago at breakfast you stared over my shoulder while I made silly faces and waved my hands. I’m not sure where your mind was, but your eyes were fixed on something outside the window – probably the skeleton trees swaying in the winter wind.

You get lost in drawings.

You get enraptured by books.

You act out complex scenarios with your toys.

You bring Teddy to life and give him endless love.

Your soul runs on an energy that has a high frequency. Your feet are running the very instant that your eyes open, perhaps even before. Your mind is constantly buzzing with ideas and they pour out of your mouth in such rapid succession that most of us only absorb half of it. Whispering is a challenge because you were not made to be quiet. you were made to SING. Music wafts off of your body as naturally as oxygen off trees.

I fear that sometimes I make you feel like you’re “too much”. I feel like I’m too often trying to reign you in. I am sometimes overwhelmed by your intensity. But darling, please know that everything about you is a virtue. You are my source of creativity and productivity. I draw from your energy and it makes me better. Be patient with me. Everything that happens with you is a first for me. I’m only starting to learn that my job isn’t to let you be yourself, its to help you be yourself.

Watching you create, and manipulate the world into something more of your liking, is enchanting. Watching you develop into a disciplined being with strong moral views and deeply held beliefs is inspiring. Giving you a longer leash, day by day, and watching you flourish, is painfully beautiful.

Your sisters look to you as the ultimate authority, often trusting you more than me because you are one of them. You are their leader. They crave your attention and approval. To them you are wise and experienced. They will follow you anywhere.

Middle Sister

It’s no secret that I’m not your first choice for company. But you’ll accept me in a pinch. If big sister is busy or at school, and little sister is sleeping, you snuggle your warm body against mine. Sometimes you are full of wiggles and remnants of Big Sister’s energy, but more often you settle into your own peaceful frequency. You are my favorite person to be quiet with.

You are quick to love. As soon as you meet Big Sister’s schoolmate, you’ve immediately adopted them as your own friend. You are generous with your warmth and acceptance.

You are strong willed, yet adaptable. Once your mind is set, it is permanently fixed and neither heaven or hell could change you. But you don’t start with your mind set, so if we play our cards right, you are actually quite easy to please.

Cliches indicate that you are the overlooked child, but that is hard to believe. Rather, you are the child that is never alone. You can adapt your energy to match those around you – singing if they’re singing, screaming if they’re screaming. But you aren’t a follower, you’re a friend. You are a companion. You are loyal. This may cause you to be underestimated sometimes, but it is actually your secret weapon.

In this house you are the bridge between big and little, between baby and child. But you’re also a bridge between mom and dad. Your nature and appearance are foreign to me, but familiar to daddy. Coming to know you helps me understand him better. There is both fire and sparkle in your eyes, softness and fierceness in your soul. Coming to know you helps me understand him better.

Little Sister

There’s not much ‘baby’ left in you. Each day you are closer in size and abilities to catching up with your sisters. If it were up to you, you’d outgrow them by tomorrow. Accustomed to attention and getting your way, you ooze with charm and determination.  You catch a stranger’s eyes to flash your “stink face” then break into a smile to show them it was a game. You retrieve a snack cup and the goldfish box and demand what you want, several times a day. You hum and sing as you play – force feeding everyone your imaginary food. You let the world know you’re in charge. But then you lay your head on my chest and pull my shoulders with your soft little hands. Your hair tickles my nose and your body feels small against mine. Your need to be held constantly belies your independent spirit.

Your ability to understand nuance and anticipate next steps tells me you are perceptive. Your constant parroting tells me nothing gets past you. The way you sing to yourself tells me you are naturally happy.

Little one, you may always be compared to your sisters, but something tells me that you will make a name for yourself. You can stand alone. But you will never have to. Your sisters and your parents will always have your back. You are the last piece to the puzzle of our family, and you complete us with absolute perfection.

The Uninvited Houseguest

She arrives, usually uninvited, and dumps out a suitcase in your living room. Trying not to let others see the awkwardness of it, you start to unpack what she brought; tears and laughter, nostalgia and despair, and even peace and gratitude.

Grief never tells you how long she is staying, and you’re not sure how long you want her there, either. Sometimes you want to kick her out. But deep inside you worry that with her departure, she might pack up some of your precious memories and strongest feelings.

Grief may be demanding and paradoxical. Sometimes she needs you to spend the evening looking at pictures and sobbing and then the next morning she may need a happy hike on a new trail, or to take on an ambitious new project. Sometimes she goes quietly into her room for long periods and then wakes you up in the night like an armed intruder. 

Grief and toddlers have a lot in common. You don’t get to choose their moods or outfits or how they behave in public. But also, they both mature so quickly that from month to month and year to year, you hardly recognize them. And although you don’t miss the outbursts, you do miss the poignancy of that stage – the raw honesty of it – the singularness, even the sacredness of it. 

Grief is something of a shape shifter. She generally transforms from pain back into her true form: love. But the surprising part isn’t her transformation, but yours. 

The Cost of Joy

More often than I want to admit, I’m counting down the hours, the minutes, and the seconds until the kids go to bed. I love them. But I’m tired. Why do kids so emphatically resist basic life functions like eating, sleeping and pooping? Why do toys explode into every corner of the house? Why is repetition and volume the most powerful tool children have?

Finally, they’re in bed. Their breathing slows and their muscles slacken. Their mischief and squabbling evaporates into thin air. Their round cheeks push against their pillows and their fringe of eyelashes point down to their tiny noses and flower bud lips. Suddenly, shimmering over their tousled hair is a golden halo of innocence that erases the exhaustion caused by their incessant needs. Knowing they are safely nestled and asleep and that there will (most likely) be a couple of hours where no one says my name, suddenly my heart wakes up – hungry for love. So I feed it. My heart feasts on picture after picture and video after video. It nibbles on that photo of Flora wearing a swimsuit at the table with her pudgy feet resting on either side of her cereal bowl. It indulges on the video of Millie who passionately sings her made up songs with charming tune (or lack of). It finishes with a quick scroll back a few years to see what over-achiever Georgia was doing at her sisters’ ages.

Why is it that I was so ready for them to be asleep, but now I can’t get enough of them? During the day, there isn’t a lot of time or energy to relish in a beautiful moment. And those moments are tucked between bills, brawling, bum-wiping, endless chores and requests for snacks. But at night, those beautiful moments are frozen in time, and magnified because there are no more distractions or demands on my energy. I can savor them. Roll them around in my mind. They aren’t tucked between other less joyful moments – they’re the summary of the day.

It takes a lot of schlepping to get out the door. There’s the million trips up and down the stairs to make sure everyone has what they need. There’s the “Get your shoes on. Now. NO. NOW. Go get your shoes on. No, you can’t wear that. Fine, wear whatever you want. Wait, why are YOU naked? I just got you dressed! No. Just get in the car. Okay buckle. The bathroom? I asked you to go and your said you didn’t need to go! Hurry!”

There’s also the mental energy spent in making the plans – It’ll take this long to get there and we have this much time to do the thing and still get home for naptime/bedtime/mealtime. Mental inventory of everyone’s sleep the night before (emotional disposition), most recent meal and bathroom trip, and location of their precious items. Then there’s the complaining and the fighting. Its all just… a lot.

No matter how prepared you are, its still a gamble whether an outing will go well. You could not have anticipated that her eye would swell shut out of nowhere while camping. Neither could you have planned for that beautiful bluebird that we stopped to watch build a nest. You could not have prepared for that spectacular tantrum. Neither could you have foreseen that moment when tiny hands pulled your face close for an eskimo kiss.

All of the joy. All of the really good stuff comes at a price. And a lot of it is really easy to miss.

The cost of joy is work. So so so much work. The cost of joy is vulnerability, willingness, consistency, sacrifice, forgiveness, gratitude… all of that on top of the physical reality of life; jobs, chores, illness, finances, etc.

And yet… joy itself is so accessible, so very simple.

Disneyland is awesome. But so is sharing a bowl of ice cream on the porch. A day free of worry is phenomenal. But so is a day of sticky floors and lost tempers and getting the pink race-car grocery cart and drawing her first family portrait and naming the squirrel that lives in the backyard.

Joy is the sound of the smoke detector going off every Saturday morning- indicating that dad is making breakfast – and the 1 year old trying to fan the alarm with a towel, just like she’s seen her sisters and parents do since she was born. Joy is a worn out mom tickling a pile of kids to distract them from their fight over whose identical toy is the one that is broken. Joy is the empathy of a toddler when you stub your toe.

Really, the cost of joy is just the effort it takes to sift out the good stuff and remember it at the end of the day. Because its always there. Every day. No matter what.

 

At Least You’re Not in High School

Ya’ll know about my superstition of how you should never say things are going well out loud because it invites trouble. Ya’ll know my code words for LIFE IS SO GOOD RIGHT NOW are “Things could always be better”.  Well, for a few beautiful weeks, things could always have been better. I knew it couldn’t last forever. But in my bliss I chose to tempt fate and say how good things were out loud.  (Life being good doesn’t mean perfect or easy, because life is never that. But you know,  when there is nothing catastrophic happening and your routine/schedule seems manageable and you actually enjoy the weather.)

The pro to having a smooth patch is that I regain my strength, I see the beauty all around me, I have capacity to reach out to others, and I can simply breathe easier. Seriously, breathing is easier. (There were a few weeks this summer where I would try to meditate but it was like I was exhaling and inhaling at the same time.)  The cons to having those smooth patches are that I have no creativity. I try to write or paint or something and I just stare at it with nothing to get out. Also, and this is a big one, when things are going smoothly, you think “YES!  This is what life is supposed to be like. This is normal.”

Ha.

People say “When things calm down I’m going to ___.” or “When life gets back to normal…” I’m realizing that “normal” is actually quite rare. “Calm” is fleeting at best. “Normal” is what we tend to call the ideal. REAL normal is actually pretty hard.

A while back, I was moaning to Harmony about normal, and her genius son Colin said “At least you’re not in high school.”

I laughed. She laughed. Colin didn’t laugh.

It doesn’t matter if you’re on the top or the bottom of the social totem pole in high school. Its a rough few years for everybody. No one comes out unscathed. Colin’s lack of laughter gave me some instant humility and gratitude for where I am in life.

Sure, this stage of life is like running a marathon but never knowing what mile you’re on.  But this stage of life has also given me blessings beyond what I ever dared to imagine.

So I’m going to attempt to define “normal” and “ideal” in my life the way they should accurately be defined. I’m going to stop expecting things to be ideal all of the time. I’m going to embrace that normal is full of unexpected expenses and illnesses, but also unexpected laughter and companionship and self-acceptance.

So many of us are on this quest for happiness, and yet forget that happiness doesn’t always feel happy. Sometimes happiness is trusting things will be okay. Sometimes happiness is a belly laugh after a really heavy day. Sometimes happiness is the satisfaction of knowing you did your best, even if it didn’t work out. Sometimes happiness is pausing amid a mundane task to notice how the light dances on the wall, or how the trees gently sway, or how the warm dishwater feels on your hands. Maybe happiness is the curve of a child’s cheek, or the smell of your clean laundry pile.

Happiness is tucked into every pocket of normal life, not just ideal life. And maaaaybe its even tucked into high school. (But I’m still glad I’m done with that crap.)