Lovin’ It

9.15.2014

I remember my friend Scott once telling me about his sister-in-law’s first Sunday attending church in a ward of married students. The speakers, like most of the congregation, were wide-eyed newlyweds. They introduced themselves in the following manner:

We just got married. We’re LOVIN’ it!

And we started a new semester. We’re LOVIN’ it!

And we just moved into a new apartment. We’re LOVIN’ it!

And so on and so forth. Trent and I have spent years mocking this, until a few weeks ago when we found ourselves making similar introductions in all sincerity. Life is getting into a groove in Charlottesville and guys, we’re lovin’ it. We really, truly, annoyingly are.

Our apartment, even sans dishwasher, is lovely. It’s got warm wood floors and lots of charm and our furniture filled in nicely. It’s in a good location, close to grounds (UVA lingo for “campus”) and a Trader Joe’s so I can splurge on $3.99 bunches of fresh flowers at maximum convenience. We still have a washer and dryer sitting in the middle of the kitchen waiting for us to figure out how to hook them up. We hung curtains that are either slightly too long or too short in every room on every window. And the view from my bedroom is a perfectly framed dumpster, but hey—at least we don’t have to walk far to take out the trash. I’m a woman whose emotional state is highly affected by the state of her living quarters and I’m sitting pretty at the moment, all things considered.

Trent is also loving school. Like, he’s on cloud nine. (I just Googled the phrase “cloud nine” to make sure I was using it correctly. Fruitless search. Where does that come from? Anybody?) I think he appreciates how good a fit this MBA program is because he has things to compare it to, things that were a bad fit. I know I do. The difference in his level of enthusiasm and overall happiness is striking here at Darden. I do not mourn medical school one bit. Trent and business are like peas and carrots.

And I’m lovin’ the days that are passing like woah. My baby is nearing six months. How did that happen? For the love of every cliche in the book, where does the time go? I fall asleep surprised and I wake up surprised—this time is so simple. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s strangely simple. So few things in the world are. I find myself clinging to this phase already. Don’t go, sweet simple days. Who knew I’d feel so content in this? Scout and I go to the library, explore walking trails, cuss the DMV. We make meal plans and grocery shop and then watch our fresh produce and good intentions go bad until Trent pulls something processed and sodium-rich out of the freezer and saves us all from starvation. We lay on the floor and play with toys. We splash in the bath. I read books. Scout slaps books. I freestyle lyrics to children’s songs I didn’t realize I’d forgotten. Scout laughs. Oh, she laughs. And on my honor, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to hear that sound every day.

I’ve pared down my journalistic gigs these past few months so I can devote some serious time to creative writing, because I feel like I’ve been a sufficiently tortured soul for a sufficient number of years. And because I feel like I have something to say. Because why not me? And why not now? And why not love the life you’ve chosen?

Listening to: Buck Owens, “Act Naturally”

Thin Things, Thick Things and Other Things

9.05.2014

I’ve been lost in the thick of thin things.

At the beginning of the summer, I was worried about up and leaving in the middle of a big change. I was worried that my thoughts would be stuck in my East Coast storage unit while my body was out west with family. Things like that happen when I’m in transition. But I surprised myself—living in the present came pretty easily to me this summer. I quickly forgot about what was unfinished in Georgia and what was ahead in Virginia and I just lived where I was—in relatives basements. Out of suitcases. With nothing on the calendar but lunch dates with old friends. With nothing on the to-do list but staring at my baby. And watching other people stare at her. There were so many people to stare. It was a lovely summer.

But since I’ve been back, I’ve been so bogged down. It’s my own fault really. I want too much. I want to become a decent cook and delve into floral design. I want to speak French and play the guitar. I want to be on committees and in clubs and out on the town every weekend. I want to start a travel blog and know CSS and how to shoot instinctively in manual. I want to take post-bac classes. I want them to be more than a means to an end. I want to groom myself daily. I want to want to groom myself daily. I want to be organized, to have a house that’s organized, to be a minimalist without throwing things away. I want to exercise. I want to like it. I want to read religiously and write prolifically and I want to be the best dang mother this side of the Mississippi.

But I can’t be all that. I can’t do all that. I can’t even say all that in one breath. I’ve been paralyzed for several weeks in the face of my ambitions. It’s too much, friends. I don’t know where to start. So I’ll start by picking two things. I only get two things. Everything else will just have to float away. I’ll seek after the rest, all that’s lovely and praiseworthy, in a different time and season.

1. I will stare at my baby.

2. I will write like the wind.

Listening to: Taylor Swift, “Shake It Off” (The day this music video came out, I got the following text from my brother: “Sam, if you were ever to release a music video, I’d imagine it’d be something like that.” Oh, how right he is. #tswiftbandwagon)

Family Pics

8.10.2014

Untitled-1I’m kind of a photography snob, but I’m not too snobby to refuse a free family portrait session. We’re all about free stuff over here on our back-to-school budget. We didn’t really get a good one of all three of us, but these two of Scout and her Dad are pretty stinkin’ wonderful, don’t you think?

 

Also, I love her. I do. I do.

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Radio Silence

8.01.2014

Hey.

I’m here.

Trent’s here. Scout’s here. We’re all here. And there. And everywhere.

And the next two weeks are really going to be a doozie. We’re flying from Spokane to Atlanta then driving our crap to Virginia. Then we’re heading to Pennsylvania for a few days. Then to Maryland. We’re hopping on a flight from Baltimore to Salt Lake for a quick weekend wedding and taking a red-eye back to Maryland three days later. Then we’re driving back to Virginia in the wee hours of the morning, praying we make it in time for Trent to shower before orientation.

We’re crazy. But we’re here. And when my life has some semblance of a routine, I’ll blog.

Over and out.

Summery Sweet

6.22.2014

Man, it’s been busy. We’ve been buzzing all over Utah catching up with friends and family and today, Sunday, we’re resting. Finally resting.

Scout has been a dream baby. Truly. She’s still a good eater and a good sleeper. She’s captivated by the TV, particularly World Cup soccer. She’s constantly playing with her tongue and letting out little barks in her sleep like a puppy. She’s always cocking her head back to yawn so big you can finally see her neck beneath her chins. She’s growing. Oh, she’s growing up and out of six-month clothes like it’s her job. She loves her car seat, stroller and carrier and Lord knows we need her to love them cause we’re always on the move. Routine is something of a foreign concept to her, but she doesn’t seem to mind. And honestly, routine isn’t really our style.

I was sitting in Liberty Park in Salt Lake last week, nursing her in the shade with my back up against the trunk of a beautiful tree with luscious leaves. My mom and brothers were playing chess at a picnic table nearby and Trent was sprawled out in the grass reading. I tickled Scout’s toes and breathed in deep and it felt so summery, deliriously summery, so peaceful and sweet I wanted to cry. It happened again in my sister-in-law’s backyard playing baseball with my niece and nephews. Cooper hit one over the fruit trees, over the fence, and his gleeful squeals made the same summery sweetness wash over me. And again it hit driving alone to the grocery store in my brother’s car, the same car I drove in college. Windows down, music up. Jimmy Eat World and country air and gratitude swirled around me.

Listening to: Van Morrison, “Brown Eyed Girl”

Vulnerability is the Missing Piece

6.17.2014

I’ve been thinking about vulnerability again. I think about this topic a lot. And most days, I want to shout about it from the rooftops of Mormondom. Because in Mormondom, people have been socialized against being vulnerable. In Mormondom, people are immersed in a culture of perfectionism, a culture that tells us that “letting your light so shine” means hiding your shadows from view, a culture that sometimes misunderstands the gospel of vulnerability it’s built on. Christ asks us to come to Him with our whole selves, with our weaknesses, our mistakes and our questions all open wide. Only then can He help us and only then can we be useful to Him. We fail again and again to see how that philosophy translates to other things, like church history, like missionary work, like our own daily lives.

It causes problems, guys. Big problems. Like shame and addiction and terrible, horrible, no good, very bad loneliness. Because when you make a mistake or feel depressed or see a problem or think, feel, do or see anything that you’re not supposed to, you start to believe that you’re somehow inferior at your core. And as much as our parents and leaders don’t want this for us, this is the water we’re swimming in.

It also causes problems for the church as a whole. It’s bigger than we’d like to admit. I’ve seen an article circulating lately, a blog post that essentially says that by speaking openly about the imperfections of our Mormon world, we alienate the world at large. It says that by talking about the flaws on the inside, we’re discouraging outsiders from partaking of Mormonism’s goodness. And oh, there is so much goodness. But when I take that idea in and swish it around a little, my urge is to spit it out like a mouthful of spoiled milk I just chugged from the carton without thinking. Because no. Like NO. That’s not how light and truth work. That explanation is missing the one thing that really, truly connects us—to God and to each other—and that is, you guessed it, vulnerability.

I believe that bearing a powerful testimony of what you believe can and does prick hearts and open minds and draw people to the gospel. But I also believe that acknowledging imperfections—in ourselves, in our communities, in our histories, in our institutions—makes people want to listen. I’ve had more positive conversations with non-member friends about the church because I’ve been willing to acknowledge its weaknesses. Many more positive conversations. Like so many more that I’ve begun to believe that it’s resisting openness that’s making people turn away, so many more that I’ve begun to wonder if people saying otherwise are conversing with outsiders at all. I believe, oh with all of my heart I believe, that honesty and humility and vulnerability will attract people to us more, oh so much more, than putting up a front of perfection. Because the truth begets truth. And light begets light. And openness begets openness.

I realize the author of that blog post was mostly talking about how she thinks Ordain Women specifically has done more harm than good. And to be honest, I’ve been disappointed by the tone of that movement. I personally know people who are a part of Ordain Women. I admire and love them. I think they really, truly wanted to champion vulnerability in their efforts, but somehow in the process as a whole, I felt humble seeking get lost. I can’t say no good has come from their efforts, nor do I want to. I sat through a Relief Society lesson last Sunday in which it was clear to me that the women in that room had been pondering, studying and praying about the priesthood with new depth and enthusiasm. If it weren’t for Ordain Women, that wouldn’t have come to pass. But I’m not sure no harm has come from them either.

I guess what I’m saying is please, please, please don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Seeing how quickly that blog post circulated makes me afraid that’s exactly what’s happening. Don’t let the pendulum swing from Ordain Women to a reactionary state of Mormonism that ignores the power of transparency and vulnerability to knit hearts and change minds.

Thoughts and Feelings, Mostly Feelings

6.14.2014

When big things happen in the world of Mormon feminism, people always ask me to write about them. I guess that’s what speaking up about things does—it breeds more speaking up. Kate Kelly, founder of the group Ordain Women, is facing a church disciplinary council and possible excommunication. I don’t align myself with Ordain Women, but I’m grateful for the discussions it’s prompted. What’s happening to its leader definitely qualifies as a big thing in the MoFem world. And for days I’ve been wracking my brain over it, trying to decide what I think about it all. But the truth is, this time around, I’m not thinking. I’m just feeling, feeling, feeling. So that’s all I can really write about, I’m afraid.

I took my two-month-old daughter to a checkup at the pediatrician last week. She needed to get a few shots. As the nurse came toward Scarlett with the syringe, I fought the urge to knock it out of her hand with a swift karate chop and shove the poor woman against the wall. It was a primal feeling, visceral and deep—PROTECT YOUR BABY. It’s something I’m still getting used to feeling, something I’m learning to harness with rational thinking. But it’s there in my gut, there where instincts lay waiting.

When I heard the news about Kate Kelly’s possible excommunication, I felt a similar upheaval—a fight response lurching out of my stomach and lodging in my throat. But I didn’t have the energy to think through it rationally, weighing all the factors and looking at all the sides, so I just gave in to the feeling. I let the fear and frustration pulse through me for a few seconds and I let it give way to sadness. And sadness is where I’m swimming still.

I’m sad, guys. Just sad. Now the urge I’m fighting is to crawl up in a ball, to retreat into a prehistoric cave with my primordial sadness and protect my baby, to stay off the internet and out of the fray, to hold precious things precious and sacred things sacred and not think, think, think about why I’m sad and who I’m sad for.

I don’t know much about Kate Kelly. I don’t know what’s in her heart right now. All I know is that the fury of news articles being written about her are all being published with the same picture—a picture of her holding a beautiful baby girl like mine. I look at that picture and can’t help but wonder if she’s feeling the same protective instinct, the same unmeditated fight response, the same potent impulse to protect that sweet baby from sadness. So much sadness. My gut says she does.

Goodbye, Atlanta.

5.29.2014

Atlanta isn’t my soulmate. But it was an incredible rebound. It isn’t the place, if there is such a place, where I want to spend the rest of my life, but it helped me heal and it helped me move on and I’ll always love it for that.

When I came here three years ago, I was a shell of a person. I know I have a tendency to be dramatic, but that’s the ugly truth. When I set foot on Georgia soil, my legs could barely carry me. I was in a daze, fresh out of a war, weighed down with what seemed like the world. I had to slowly rebuild everything here—my relationships, my confidence, my sense of self. I had to learn how to be happy again, something I’d never realized people have to learn at all.

We’re flying out tomorrow, leaving Atlanta, closing this chapter, and I get weepy even thinking about it. And it’s not because I’m not ready to walk away. I am. Rebounds aren’t meant to last forever. It’s because this place has made me better and I can’t help but mourn the loss of anything that yields such progress. Progress feels so good. I will miss the buttery food and bluesy music, the diversity, the soul of this place, but mostly I will miss the people I’ve come to know. I have a friend here who brought me sushi and listened to me yak about myself while her brother was quietly dying of cancer. I have a friend here who has shown me how to love being a parent. She does it with such genuine pleasure it makes the whole thing look like a grand adventure. I have a friend here who has taught me how to bake a perfect loaf of wheat bread and a friend who has taught me how to enjoy reading science fiction and a friend who has taught me how to wait when waiting shakes your faith. I have a friend here who makes me want to write books and create masterpieces and go after my dreams, because I see her writing music and singing songs and going after her’s. I have friends here, many friends here, who have helped me embrace parts of myself I was ashamed of, friends who have shown me by example that integrity means being whole.

This may sound silly, but I wasn’t expecting to love these people this much. When I got here, I wasn’t capable of connection. But here I am in an empty apartment, sitting on an air mattress with a suitcase at my feet and a baby at my side and I’m weepy again, so weepy again, all over saying goodbye.

Listening to: Jose Gonzalez, “Step Out”

Voice

5.16.2014

Sometimes when I read good writing. like really good writing, I remember that I’m young. People often pay me the same compliment—that I’m a old soul, that I have wisdom beyond my years—and I let it go to my head. Because of all the compliments in the world, that one is my favorite. And most of the time, I go through life thinking it’s true of me. Like a schmuck. But then I read good writing.

When I read good writing, I remember how little I know about the world. I’ve met so few people, so few kinds of people, and I’ve experienced such a small sliver of things. I always get sad for a minute thinking about how silly I must be to soak up that compliment without question. I get self-conscious thinking about how naive I must sound at times, how forced, how unseasoned. I beat myself up for a bit until I land on some platitude like, “Art is a process,” or “You just haven’t peaked yet.”

And then I come around and keep reading.

P.S. Good writing …

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Summatime

5.14.2014

Trent turned down a full-ride scholarship to BYU’s MBA program. I say this partially to shamelessly brag about my husband and partially to illustrate how deeply we felt that for us, for now, moving to Utah for the next two years wasn’t right. For whatever reason, it felt like moving backward.

But moving back to Utah for the next two months? Well that’s a horse of a different color. Spending the summer with family sounded pretty fantastic. So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re flying there at the beginning of June and spending six weeks working and playing and living in my parents’ basement. And you know what? Living in my parents’ basement never looked so good. All my brothers will be home for the summer and my sister and her husband will be close by. It’ll be a giant summer camp of family fun before we all part ways in the fall—a last hurrah, if you will. At least that’s how it goes in my mind.

My summer bucket list:

  • Two-a-days. Twice-daily walks with Scout around Midway.
  • Take guitar lessons from Cale. (Which reminds me: Cale, wanna teach me to play the guitar?)
  • Go on dates with Trent. Weekly? Daily? We’ll need to take advantage of our accessible (and eager) babysitters.
  • Go on outings with cousins. Scout may never live this close to her cousins again. I’m lookin’ at you, Hogle Zoo.
  • Introduce Scout to her great-grandparents. We’ll do something great-grandparenty with them, like going to Cracker Barrel or feeding the ducks.
  • Host daily dance parties. I’m thinking we go hard for 15 minutes right before bed. I could draw up a rotating song selection schedule. My family is totally going to be on board here. Am I right or am I right?
  • What about daily devotionals instead? Strong clan, when I said summer camp, I meant it.
  • Reconnect with friends. (Scott, Danielle, Tawnee, Abby … the list goes on.)
  • Finish all the books on my Kindle … probably while I nurse the babe …
  • Get family pictures taken. Say cheese, lil’ Scout! The camera loves you.
  • Throw another karaoke party. Yes? No? I’m getting the vibe that people are getting sick of these, although how that’s possible is beyond me.
  • Tutor Zach for the ACT. Hey 34, we’ve got your number!
  • See a show or two at the Shakespeare Festival. This season’s lineup looks tempting.
  • Eat as many snow cones as possible. 

Listening to: Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth”

Chubby Cheeks and a New Chapter

5.13.2014

For a short period, it was my sole responsibility to find housing for us in Virginia.

Have I mentioned Virginia? It seems I have not. Let me start from the beginning.

First the plan was medical school. Trent applied, was accepted, and paid a few deposits before he found clarity—he didn’t want to become a doctor. He decided that an MBA was a better fit, so he applied to programs, was accepted again, and paid a deposit at Duke before he found clarity—studying somewhere else felt right.

And thankfully, it felt right to me too. Unmistakably right. We knew it when we felt it, because it felt so different from all the decisions before. Sometimes, that’s the only way you can be sure about things.

So here’s the new plan, although we’ve finally accepted that our plan will always be up for revision: Trent’s going to storm the castle as a kick-A consultant and social entrepreneur and I’m going to chip away at post-bac classes for Speech Language Pathology. And finish (er, start) that novel. And paint the town red with that baby of ours.

And what town is this exactly? Charlottesville, Virginia—everyone who knows anything about it rants and raves. It’s a cute little college town surrounded by vineyards. It has a thriving creative writing community and a well-known foodie scene. Dave Matthews lives there and so does John Grisham. The entire UVA campus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for crying out loud. It’s heaven on Earth as far as I can tell. And we’re going to be happy there. I can feel it. I can feel it in my bones.

Which brings me back to the housing search. It’s still ongoing. And no, it’s not my sole responsibility anymore. We worked out our budget and Trent said, “Why don’t you handle the housing?” And I thought, “Is this a test? Cause if it is, I’m going to fail it. I’m going to fail it in style.” And true to form, I fell in love with a townhouse, a mid-century modern beauty far out of our price range, and I couldn’t let her go. I asked for an intervention and now we’re on the hunt together. So if you know of any leads on apartments in Charlottesville, please let us know. We’re in the market for someplace sensible with hardwood floors and lots of light, someplace suitable for a family of three ready to take on the world.

Listening to: A few tracks from the dreamy album of lullabies Trent got me for Mother’s Day. You can pre-order it here.

Also, this. You’re welcome.

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Mother’s Day

5.11.2014

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People always talk about sacrifice on Mother’s Day. It’s a holiday buzzword that leaves me on edge, because talking about sacrifice forces mothers into boxes.

On Mother’s Day, people always praise the incredible acts of self-sacrifice mothers submit to, and as a mother, you have a choice to make. You can accept the praise, basking in the nobility of all you give up for your children. Or you can reject it, claiming that you love motherhood so much that nothing feels like a sacrifice. You can hop in the box that says “Dutiful Soldier” or the box that says “Angelic Motives” and sorry to mix my metaphors here, but it’s really one hat or the other.

I didn’t become a mother to embark on a noble journey of sacrifice. I haven’t experienced it as something I owe mankind to pay things forward. No sense of duty propelled me into this.

I didn’t become a mother to dive into a rosy life of wonder. It was never that I couldn’t imagine anything more enjoyable and fulfilling than spending my days with little ones. I could imagine quite a lot.

And if those are my options—be worthy through sacrifice or worthy through motive—I might just never be worthy. If that’s what Mother’s Day asks of me, I’ll opt out of this holiday now.

The truth is I became a mother because I want to know as much of human experience as I possibly can and this seemed like a big fat part of understanding humanity. I became a mother because there’s something about bearing and raising this crazy girl of mine that I’m sure will help me know God and love mankind in new and powerful ways. I became a mother because relationally and biologically, the chips fell that way. I’m not a selfless soldier. Sometimes I wish I was. And I’m not a natural nurturer either. But I’m sure that I can learn to be. I want something out of this. I want everything out of this. I want squeeze every drop of growth out of motherhood, and sorry to mix my metaphors here, but I’m doing this thing full-throttle.

The truth is, it’s a process. It’s a trying process, a joyous process, a learning process. On Mother’s Day, and every day really, people should talk about that.

 Listening to: Edie Carey & Sarah Sample, “Lullaby”

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