Hello Again, Welcome and Here’s a Three-Legged Stool…

I’ve taken the month of September off to focus on our family’s relocation.  Right now we are living in a temporary home as we make some decisions about our current and potential trajectories.

Leaving Orem has been a little rough.  We love it there.  The people, the community, all of it.  In the meantime, we live closer to the mountains with a direct view of some of the most incredible sunrises and sunsets we’ve seen in a long time.  It all reminds me why we love this place.

This morning, I rested with our baby after one of those dreadfully long nights…compliments of a three year old who hid every single one bottle in the house.

I awoke from one of those bleary it’s-awfully-early-to-be-napping naps with messages that this blog’s stats were skyrocketing.  I was a little confused since I haven’t posted in a month.  That is when I received notification that Orem City posted my most recent piece.  Wow!  What an honor!

Thank you for stopping by and reading.  I’m touched by your comments and encouragement.  There is so much good in the world and as we help each other see it, it’s easier to spread.

There’s more where that came from.

Inspired by recent events in our family, several dear friends are helping me with a special project dear to my heart.  For the first bit of October, I will be sharing a surprise we’ve been working on for my daughter.

One of the participants gave me some great advice about how to approach a rather sensitive subject in order for it to be a gift to all involved.  “Think of this project like it’s a stool.  You need at least three legs otherwise it’s flimsy.  Find three strong, sturdy legs and you’ve got yourself something worth writing’.

Great advice.

And I think I’ve finally gotten it together.

So if you like what you see here, stick around for a bit.  We’ve put a few brilliant heads together and we’re eager to share…

 

 

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Our Own Little ‘Ode to Orem’…

Years ago, spray painted onto the Berlin Wall were the words, ‘Many small people in many small places, who do many small steps, can change the face of the world’.  This was no more obvious than the day that very wall was torn down.  That statement has always touched me.  Each one of us, doing what we do every day, has the power to change the world for the better.  Living in Orem, Utah has reaffirmed this to me.

Two years ago, I read an article listing the Top Ten Happiest Cities in the United States.  The best part?  There I was, sitting at my kitchen table, inside my home, nestled smack-dab in the middle of the city that got first place:  Orem, Utah.  It made me wonder.  What is so unique about this community that earned us this title?  It didn’t take me long to answer this question.  Our community is full of people who don’t just do their own thing.  They pay attention to each other.  They care for one another and actively strive to help others.  They are kind and good and generous.  What is so special is that this little city of ours is full of people who do what we do, in ever small corner and take care of each other while we do it.  I see it every day.  I’ll bet you do too.

Our family recently realized we will be moving from Orem in the coming days.  We are tremendously sad to leave.  How do we say ‘Thank You’ to this community which has so richly blessed our family?  We came up with a challenge.  We decided to take a phone photo journal of people who’ve impacted our lives for the better throughout the time we’ve lived here.

Suddenly, the efforts people make here on a daily basis became even more obvious.  So I guess, this is our ‘Thank You!’ to the community that has helped us raise our family.  We moved here as two nearly 18 years ago.  We leave here as eight, better people because of you.  Here’s our little ‘Ode to Orem’ celebrating some of the people who’ve come to mean so much to us.  These wonderful individuals have given me permission to post their pictures and a story here on this blog.  If you happen to run into these people, smile and say ‘hello’ but knowing the people in this community, I don’t really have to tell you to do that…

Gena B.

This is Gena B.  She’s wonderful.  She works with senior citizens at the Friendship Center.  If you’ve ever walked into that place, you’ve probably met her.  She’s also incredibly kind and generous to everyone.  She does a lot of behind-the-scenes work for people in our community.  You may not know it, but probably she’s helped your family somehow.  She has ours.

 

 

 

CassideeLet’s face it.  The everyday juggle is real.  Sometimes two year-olds are irrational, toilet floods and you cannot, for the life of you, figure out where that smell is coming from.  Sometimes you pull a 10 hour day and burn dinner and everyone else forgets to take the dog out or empty the garbage or change the hamster cage which probably has something to do with that smell.  Sometimes all you can do is cry ‘RETREAT’ on the war-torn day.  I’ve done this more times than I can count.  Running is my retreat.  The sweet girls at the Orem Fitness Center have cared for my little rascals during my sweat-off-the-therapy-chocolate workouts.  Several of them have become personal friends of mine.  This is Cassidee.  She’s wonderful.  She and the rest of the crew take such good care of us.  I’m so grateful and I’m going to miss them.  And since chocolate is my favorite sort of therapy, I also suspect I’m 20 lbs. lighter because of them.

 

Dixie, Tammy, Roger, Ben, Mark, Sue and Melanie.

These sweet faces are precious to me.  This is Dixie, Tammy, Roger, Ben, Sue and Melanie.  This team of workers cleans public buildings in our city almost every weekday.  Some have been doing it for 20 years.  They are a family.  They are part of our Orem family.  They painstakingly wash windows, clean workout equipment, scrub bathrooms and vacuum floors.  They high-five patrons at the OFC, fist-bump and offer hugs.  We owe them so much appreciation for the efforts they make to keep us our public buildings pleasant and welcoming.

 

Sterling

 

This is Sterling.  He’s a farmer.  This summer he has taken time off his career and family farm to prepare, cultivate and harvest several plots in a community garden by our home. He hasn’t done this for himself or anyone he personally knows.  He’s done it for underprivileged families who are interested in learning how to grow food for themselves.  All the food he grows he offers to those willing to work the land.  We have a garden plot near his and have seen, first hand, his commitment to the families he quietly serves in this community.

 

 

Dave owns Dave Hur Jeweler’s right across the street from University Place.  We’ve driven past his shop a thousand times.  We met him nearly 18 years ago when my husband and I were engaged.  He made my wedding ring.  It’s beautiful.  It’s a champagne pink stone set in two little gold bands.  I love it.  It’s small but a perfect representation of how our family started out.  Over the years I’ve taken my ring in to be cleaned and he’s always done it happily.  He’s so kind to our family but our most recent interaction was the most meaningful.  I had gone in to have a favorite piece of jewelry repaired.  To be honest, I don’t have enough jewelry to actually get to claim a jeweler but if I did, he’d be it.  He didn’t scoff at the fact that my favorite earrings weren’t actually made of precious metal and he didn’t make some snide comment about fixing the broken one, he carefully noted the piece that it needed and tried to fix it.  As he worked I gave him an update on our family and my husband’s recent purchase of a small business.  It was at that moment he gave me tender, meaningful advice.  They were just a few words but they meant a great deal to me.  His encouragement made me walk two inches taller that day and someday, when we have the money to spend on sparkly jewelry made with precious metal, he will be our jeweler.

 

LindaI have a favorite cashier.  Her name is Linda.  She works at Smith’s Food and Drug on State and Center Street.  For as long as I remember shopping there, she’s been there.  She has always been kind, warm and cheerful to the patrons.  I’ve watched her as she has taken an interest in the people she serves.  Recently, I was having a bad day.  A really bad day.  I was able to put myself together just enough to get out of my car and grab the things I needed.  My nose and eyes were red and I’m sure I was a mess.  Once I reached the checkout line, I was barely choking down the tears.  I really tried to hide it but I’m fairly certain Linda knew.  There was something different about her efforts that day.  She spoke a little softer, was little kinder and I felt her compassion.  Nothing needed to be said.  I just knew she cared and that made all the difference that day.

 

Ken and KristyThis is Ken and Kristy.  Not only are they friends and neighbors, he happens to be the leader of our church congregation.  One of my favorite memories of them is from one Sunday evening.  My husband had been away on an assignment.  I was alone and was asked to give an address during our church services.  While at the pulpit, I noticed our four year old got up and left the room, followed quickly by our six year old.  They were gone for quite a while.  It wasn’t until after church that I was informed they were having a glorious time making a gigantic mess of soap bubbles in the girl’s bathroom.  I was mortified.  I wasn’t sure what to do since a few good friends helped them clean it up already.  After discussing with my husband Chris, we decided the best thing to do would be to send them over to Ken and Kristy’s to apologize.  Their little faces were met by our loving friends as he encouraged them to be honest and forthcoming.  He listened intently, a gentle look on his face.  (What they didn’t see was their parents’ and Kristy’s faces trying not to crack smiles during this oh-so-serious discussion).  After giving them the perfect amount of redirection, he accepted their apology and sent them on their merry way.  The girls were off like rockets toward home as we said our goodbyes.  What the girls didn’t hear as the door closed that night were hearty laughs coming from Ken and Kristy’s hallway just inside the door.  After listening to the girls apologize for the terrible things they did with wet toilet paper wads, it was great to know they were having just as much difficulty keeping it together as we were because Ken and Kristy find them just as delightful.

 

IMG_7416Yvonne has become a dear friend of mine and one of my heroes.  She and her husband are from Rwanda.  They’ve overcome so much, finding themselves in precarious situations more times than you could believe.  I first listened to Yvonne’s address one evening as she told of escaping her war-torn country after experiencing incredible loss and then being displaced by Hurricane Katrina.  After all of this, she still finds goodness and hope in the world around her.  She is an amazing mother of three children, has just finished school and is now teaching in the classroom.  Yvonne is one of those people who changes you for the better.  I’m so glad we know her and will miss seeing her at the community garden where we have neighboring plots.

 

IMG_7244The emergency response team for this community is extraordinary.  Whether it’s high-fiving little ones completely enamored by their emergency vehicles or assisting in a potentially life-threatening response of a wasp sting, they have been there to help.  They’re friendly, helpful and do much within the city to cultivate a relationship with families to ensure they feel safe in their care.  Our three year old is particularly delighted by them.  Whenever he hears their sirens, he stops what he’s doing, listens and then proclaim with fist pumping the air, ‘Go Heroes’…and he’s not the only one in the family who does that.

 

14112065_751445398328138_939635581_nWe were destined to be linked to Maudy and Besser.  I first met their daughter when I was her aide at Orem Elementary School.  An aggressive brain tumor had robbed her of her sight.  I was tasked with helping her during lunch and guiding her around the icy playground during the winter months.  We ended up having a marvelous time every day we were together.  One of the first things I knew about her was how much she loved her family.  It wasn’t until about two years later when they moved into our neighborhood that we were able to meet them all.  It was easy to see why Iholany loved them so much.  They are the very best kind of people.  After a valiant years-long fight, Iholany passed away in the Spring of 2011.  What’s so amazing is what her family did after her death.  Maudy and Besser have spent countless hours organizing and preparing quilts for sick children in her home country of El Salvador.  She’s given free haircuts for children who would like to donate their hair for non-profit organizations.  They work hard together to provide for their family while continuing to serve the community in the years since Iholany died.  I can think of no better way to tribute their amazing little girl.

 

IMG_7415Have you ever met someone and the instant you meet them you know they are incredibly special?  That is how we feel about Greg and Lorraine and our 12 year-old daughter insisted we include them in our list.  These two have a beautiful orchard.  Every summer they sell their peaches at their local fruit stand.  They always give you a little more than you pay for and what they charge is much less than they could, maybe even should.  Even more amazing, year after year, their peaches are the best we’ve ever tasted…and we even lived near the border of the Peach State!  Their walkway smells like perfectly ripe concord grapes and there are often children working and playing along with them.  It pretty much seems like heaven.  On their faces you can see a lifetime of happiness together and hard work giving others the gift of fresh fruit right off the tree…which is one of the best things on earth in my humble opinion.

 

IMG_7303Lastly, we couldn’t leave the community without giving a hearty shout-out to our physician and his excellent staff.  Dr. Randall Pace, Whitney and Meagan have been part of our healthcare team for several years.  We’ve appreciated their compassionate, knowledgeable care.  They are gifted medical professionals who’ve taken the time to care for our entire family.  Dr. Pace and Whitney were part of the birthing crew when our sixth baby was born.  Dr. Pace even took the time to pose with my husband and I in a goofy post-partum picture for my sister-in-law’s web blog ‘The Well Worn Bride’:  wellwornbride.com…and no, I didn’t wear my wedding dress while delivering my baby.

 

To all of you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  You’ve made these years joyful and you’ve set the bar high.  We’re going to do everything we can to take some of Orem’s Happy with us to adventures unknown…Here’s to YOU!

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The Swimsuit That’s Good For the Goose…

Is good for the gander.

I was still dripping as I returned from the pool party I’d been chaperoning.  My hungry little six year old was also making wet footprints across the kitchen floor as she munched on an apple and peeled the layers from her body.  Hearing we were back, I heard the familiar steps of our 15 year old.  I’d recently marveled at the revelation that I could actually hear, in the footsteps, which child was coming up the stairs.  Must be a mom thing.  (Now I know how she did it all those years…well, not necessarily ‘how’ but that she could actually know.)

I could tell by the look on her face she was agitated.  My sweet Type A firstborn, whom I’m almost certain will try to graduate from high school early so she can just get it over with, needed my advice.  We walked into my room and she shut the door.

“Mom.  I can’t go.”  She told me.  “I just can’t.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“I don’t have a swimsuit.” She replied.

The one she was wearing horrified her and she’d already tried on two of mine.  Next came the soaking wet one now resting in my bathroom sink.  They were all a bit..too…vavavoomy.  I gave up long ago on even pretending people didn’t notice that I am what my parents called ‘well endowed’.  After nursing six kids and the inflating/deflating that comes with it, my swimsuits can tell stories.  Stories the poor fifteen year old who was desperate enough to try on an oversized, cold and wet one has no inkling of yet.  Needless to say, that too, was a ‘No-Go’.

She was practically in despair.  I asked her ‘why’.  Her response, ‘I don’t know.’

‘Honey.’ I told her.  ‘You are so so lovely.  What is it about you that makes you so nervous?’

It took some pauses and some thinking but she finally admitted a couple of her physical insecurities and there is no way I’m revealing those for the blogging world to see.  Suffice it to say, they just made me sad.

This amazing little girl of mine, who always seems to have it together, who loves people and socializing, who loves her friends and the adults she would be spending the evening with was about to make the mistake of staying home.  Not because she had other priorities.  Not because there was some sort of assignment keeping her here.  But because somehow, someway, those nasty little voices have crept in somehow and crushed the confidence I’ve come to greatly admire in her.

Our conversation ended with the usual reassurances and in my haste to meet the needs of the others, figured we were done.  She would be insecure but she’d find some sort of golden nugget in my lazy wisdom and head over to the party.

Except, not really.  No.  It didn’t help.  The next time I found her, she was curled up in a ball, under a blanket reading a book.  This was not the comfy sort of ball my girl gets into while sinking her teeth into a new book.  This was the sort of ball that comes from debilitating hurt.  The kind where she is shutting out the world.

It was a little frightening.  This sort of retreat has been happening more and more in the last few weeks since we told the kids we’re moving.  In the chaos of it all, I hadn’t noticed until now.  She didn’t need the ‘Don’t worry, you’re so lovely’ lecture.  She needed something more reaffirming.  Something real.

Within a few minutes, a secret friend was at my back door, armed with about a dozen swimsuits, responding to a desperate phone call.  She handed them to me quietly then slipped away.  I don’t know how, but somehow I knew, this would be a temporary fix.  I returned to Sunshine’s bedroom and the blanketed lump on her bed, playfully launching the swimsuits upon her.  She instantly perked up as I left.  It was kind of an opposite-evil-stepmother moment and it was very satisfying.

A few moments later, she emerged from her room triumphantly dressed in a red swimsuit that made her waist look tiny.  She still wore shorts that clashed a little but at least I got her in a suit.  And with that, she was ready to go out and have some fun.  Just like that, I stifled those nasty little voices screaming vulgarities at my daughter.  If I could’ve, I’d take an invisible machete and hack them all to pieces.  But I couldn’t.  I knew they’d be back.  And they’ll come back with a vengeance.  They always do.

Tonight, I’ve been sitting on my couch reflecting upon this.  Wondering how I’m going to neutralize those voices the next time they sneak in.  Everyone is asleep and my head is clear.  It’s at this moment I see the events of today with even more frightening clarity.

Sunshine and I both went to pool parties today.  I had encouraged her not to be ashamed of her body.  I assured her there was absolutely no reason for her to be self-conscious.  I reminded her she’d be among friends who love her and would never scrutinize her for her clothing.

Then there was me.   At the party I went to, I wore a short summer dress the entire time…even when I was in the water.  My friends encouraged me to take the dress off but I refused.  I was scared.  But I don’t know of what.  It’s not like the people I was with had any interest in critiquing how I look in a bathing suit after squeezing six human beings from my body.

It’s in the darkness of my living room, listening to the distant sound of someone sawing some serious logs, that I realize what a hypocritical chicken I really am.  My 15 year old is much braver than I’ve ever been.  At least she had the courage to face her fears and get in that blasted swimsuit.  My lousy excuse was that I didn’t want to run the risk of traumatizing small children.  That’s so dumb really.

If I want to stop those ugly voices, I’ve got to block the gaping hole their coming in through.  I try to eat right and exercise every day.  When did that stop being enough?  If I’m perfectly honest with myself, it never was enough.  How am I ever going to convince my daughters their sincere efforts are enough if I’m not sure they are myself?

I’m running out of time.  Sunshine’s going to be on her own in a few very short years.  While yes, this is somewhat about me, this is no longer about me.  It’s about her.  It’s about them.  I have some changes to make to help them avoid some of the pitfalls I fell into.  In other words, it’s time to wear the swimsuit.

 

 

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I’m Not Okay But It’s Okay…

 

When He-Man and I were first married, I remember freaking out anytime we were expecting company.  Everything down to the throw pillows on our couch had to be perfectly placed.  Heaven forbid anyone think I wasn’t perfect at my chosen role of homemaker.  I’m sad to say, that thinking, the desire to create the perception of the perfect life, has followed me for much longer than I care to admit.

The past few months have pretty much beaten this particular tendency out of me.  Sometimes growth is difficult.  Sometimes it seems nearly impossible.  And then there are moments when it becomes clear you’re making progress.  Tonight, armed with a bowl of ice cream topped with Snickers bar pieces, I’m showing how far I’ve come because I’m about to say it…

It has been a very unperfect, extremely difficult, intense summer.

Like, a crying-curled-up-in-your-bed-covered-with-blankets sort of hard summer.  I’ve learned that sometimes those worries you hope will be resolved after a ‘good cry’ don’t actually resolve and hoping for a quick fix only makes you ever more devastated because it doesn’t come.

A week into summer, we received pretty devastating financial news both on a personal and professional level.  I wracked my brain for days wondering what we could have done differently to protect ourselves.  We were warned about this in the last semester of grad-school.  They told us, “Don’t plan for your business to be in the black within two years of starting out”.  You’d just be setting yourself up for crushing disappointment.  I’m a dreamer though so naturally I dreamed we’d be different somehow.  We’re not.

While it doesn’t change anything, there is a peace that comes from knowing you’ve behaved with integrity and don’t need to question your own conduct.  It still hurts to know there are entities out there that are evil.  Perhaps the people employed by these are not but they are set up to intentionally screw over individuals they perceive as a threat to their bottom line.  They can be especially destructive to small business owners.  And those businesses in the medical field often times are faced with multiple factions dealing what could potentially be death-blows to their businesses.  Unfortunately, we’ve had to deal with several in the past few months.

In the middle of this, He-Man has been offered the proverbial carrot-on-a-stick.  He is one of the final candidates for two different career prospects he’s spent his life working for.  But progess is slow and we’d be fools to plan for something that hasn’t been promised to us.  The evening after he received news of this, our landlord sent us an email informing us of his decision to sell our home.  It’s time.  The market is right and this could be one of the best financial moves he’s ever made.  He very generously gave us the option of ‘first refusal’.

After a year of yanking weeds, trimming neglected rose bushes, clearing out and creating a spice garden, home improvement projects and various little upgrades our budget could support, we were given the option to purchase the home we were already planning to make permanent.

And then, that plan fell through.  Not because anyone did anything wrong.  It just turned out not to be the right choice.  For this reason, I’m writing surrounded by dozens of cardboard boxes.

Life is SO not perfect right now and I’ve lost the energy to pretend that it is.

But here is the amazing thing I’ve just learned.  Things feel like they’re falling apart and it is okay that I’m not okay.  No one is expecting me to be.  (And the universe didn’t just implode.)

While I will continue to stand by the idea that life doesn’t suck…Okay, so maybe it sucks a little right now… THIS.  IS.  HARD.  I’m tired both mentally and physically.  So is He-Man.  I’m heartbroken that we’re this far into our adult lives and dealing with this situation.

Ug.

There’ve been moments, almost every day this summer, when I’ve either wanted to scream, cry or curl up in a corner and disappear.

But then comes the ‘But’.

For any optimist fighting for the ability to look on the bright side, there comes a moment.  After the mascara is smeared and dried, the tissues have all been used up and there’s no more tears or snot left, the clarity comes.

This summer has not been all bad…download_20160725_204255

We just became lifelong friends with a lovely girl from France and her amazing family.  The entire month of July was an adventure.  In fact, it saved the summer and gave us something, someone else to focus our energy on.

 

We planted a garden.  We have tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini coming out of our ears.  We even grew potatoes.  And peppers.  And a cabbage.  Plus some freaky looking melon that may or may not give our kids worms.

IMG_7181

We have family and friends who love us.

Case in point:  I have this best friend.  She also happens to be my sister-in-law.  We joined the family within 3 months of each other and have been each other’s favorite ever since.  She’s awesome.  She has this amazing super power of telling me exactly what I need to hear at the same time making me feel ridiculously loved and adored.  She celebrates all of our victories and will hold me while I cry.  She also loves He-Man.  She knows us both better than just about anyone other than our mommas.  She knows both of our M.O.s when we get stressed out.  She knows He-Man turns on auto-pilot and becomes a machine.  She also knows I cry.  A lot.  And get really, really mad at my adoring husband who, in his autobot state, is not very snuggly.

P1080717 (1)

Hubba, hubba

Once this summer I was particularly miffed at him.  After it all, I can’t even remember why and He-Man is smart enough not to bring up the possibility that hormones could have been even remotely involved.  But whatever the reason, the fact that he could sleep peacefully while I was SO MAD made me want to tie him down and pluck every single stupid hair from his eyebrows just to see his eyes water.  I slept on the couch for two days.

Then comes the amazing part…my best friend, Wonder Woman, who’s known about everything from the ‘Summer of Suck’ appeared out of nowhere.  She came baring the best gifts a girl could ask for:  cheese and flowers.

Yes, my bff knows me so well she knows that next to chocolate, Havarti Dill is the best way to bring cheer to my heart.  And the flowers?  They were from He-Man.  FOR REAL…Even after I was secretly plotting to temporarily disfigure his face.  Apparently, he had performed a physician’s exam for one of her children trying out for sports earlier in the year.  Instead of receiving payment, he requested she randomly bring me flowers sometime.IMG_7214

And so she did.  They came with the admonition, “When your husband is doing his very best Mr. Spock impression and you want to punch him in the throat, just remember, he’s always thinking of you.  Everything he does is for you because he loves you that much”

This kind of revelation turns things around.  I could have had a bff who’d let me complain about my very most favorite person in the whole wide world.  Instead, she helps me remember why he’s earned that title.

Life can’t suck that badly when you have that kind of person in your life…and when Havarti Dill is sitting in your refrigerator.

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I was also reminded of something else.  I had a private IMG_7254
conversation with a dear friend.  He’s battled debilitating depression several times in his life.  I had just posted a mission statement of sorts on Facebook.  It said, “Be so happy that when others look at you, they become happy too”.  He quietly reminded me that sometimes, it’s okay not to be happy.  Sometimes, you’re not okay and it’s okay.  Sometimes, ‘white knuckling it’ through has to be good enough.

The thing about it is, we perpetually happy people always find a way to be chipper and cheerful again.  We will vomit our rays of sunshine and sing along with the early morning birds.  People will want to trip us as we skip down the street and draw moustaches on our perma-smiles.  But with the challenges our family has faced this summer, I’ve been reminded of important lessons about compassion and being sensitive to those who hurt, who feel pain every single day.  This kind of summer has reminded me that for some, life, as a rule, generally sucks.  Crying under the covers is a regular occurrence, always.  And those bouts of extreme sadness and disappointment don’t just go away.  To have a glimmer of that daily struggle means we might be able to find a way to sincerely and meaningfully help somehow.

Pretending everything is perfect, especially when it’s not, just makes some wonder what is so wrong with them that this sort of eternal sunshine eludes them.  I’m not saying it’s inappropriate to be happy and to share that happy with others.  It absolutely is the right thing to do.  Just be real and honest and admit it when you’re having a hard time.

So, yes, I’m having a hard time BUT come to think of it, this summer hasn’t been a complete wash.  It hasn’t been perfect, not even remotely, and I’m finding myself desperately seeking a reprieve from all of it.  But there’s been so much good too.  Looking back on it I bet I’ll be grateful for all of it…eventually.  I guess, ‘2016: The Summer of Suck’ may actually go down as ‘The Summer of Learning It’s Okay For Your Throw Pillows to Be Covered with Peanut Butter, Your Floor Smeared with Baby Poop and Someone Packed a Moldy Sandwich in a Moving Box…But Mr. Spock Still Loves You’.

That’s a long title and I want to sleep for two months until we figure out what we’re going to do.  Rolling stones gather no moss but the packing paper starts getting expensive.  I’m not okay yet but I will be and that’s really, really okay.  I promise.

PS…Mom, I’m sorry for using the word ‘suck’. I know, I know…you raised me better.  Also, He-Man’s eyebrows aren’t really stupid.

Posted in Happy Little Accidents | 4 Comments

Finding My Pen Name in the Hair Care Aisle…

As I prepare to publish ‘The Continuing Story of the Princess and the Pea’, I’ve been asked several times what the name on the cover will be.  Weird (cool.  But still weird).  I’ve been dreaming of this all my life.  And, for the longest time, I could not come up with a pen name that felt right.  I considered a grandmother’s first name, my middle name, my first name deconstructed into the two names it was created from.  But none of those seemed right.

Around the same time I began, yet again, the look-out for a hair product that would make my coarse, brillo-pad hair not so frizzy.  It’s always been untamed and now, pushing 40, I was beginning to think there wasn’t anything out there so I was considering chopping it all off.  I took my 438,286th trip down the haircare aisle in the grocery store to see if there was something new I could try…

***Back Story***

For many, many years, I was very self-conscious about my hair.  I always felt awkward next to my beautiful friends who could go to school with their hair wet and within an hour, it would be dry, sleek and perfectly straight.

It wasn’t until I fell in love with a boy who really liked my curly hair that I began to stop feeling so insecure about it.  Nearly 25 years later, when we get separated in a crowd he still looks for my enormous curly hair that on some days nearly doubles the appearance of my head.

***

So there I was, transfixed by the dozens of hair care products in front of me, when an epiphany struck me in the head like a frying pan.  (Luckily, my enormous hair absorbed the brunt of the impact.)  I have never stopped to consider WHY my hair is the way it is. 

I always knew it came from my momma.  I got her prominent nose too.  I knew she grew up in SoCal and has an affinity for the beach.  Her mother and father divorced when she was very young so she didn’t have a relationship with her dad until she was an adult.  I knew he was Portuguese and I grew up hearing the stories of his parents emigrating from the Azores to the United States.  But I’m ashamed to say I never, ever let it sink in until that moment in the grocery store.  My hair is the way it is because I’m my mother’s daughter.  My mother, my grandfather of Portuguese descent.

All this time I’ve been oblivious.

Oblivious to a very large portion of my heritage.  Yes, part of that is because good relationships go bad sometimes.  People make mistakes.  Sometimes we completely blow it.  But I should have been asking questions about these ancestors a long time ago.

My mom and dad occasionally told me about my immigrant grandparents.  They settled in California.  He was a shepherd.  The only thing I really remembered about their story was he used to castrate boy sheep.  WITH HIS TEETH.  That’s pretty hardcore.  And a little too much for a prepubescent girl to process.  My parents thought this was hysterical and I never thought to ask for any more details.

With this new understanding, the impact of who they were has become pretty profound to me.  There he was, my great-grandfather running through the fields of Northern California chasing sheep who were probably running for their lives.  I imagine my grandmother was home making food for him when he came home.  She probably kissed him.  On. The. Mouth. to welcome him home.

But more than that, these people lived. They loved each other and they worked hard for their family in a new country.  I wonder if people were kind to them and welcomed them into their new community.  It is no longer lost on me that they came here for a better life, for improvement and to give their children greater opportunity.  Their children, meaning my grandpa.  My mother.  Me.

Suddenly the echoes left by their influence are very relatable.  My life, the way I’ve blended in so easily it took almost 40 years to register, is a gift given to me by people who toiled for where their posterity is today.  I’ve had an overwhelming desire to discover more of their story and to find a way to honor them.

And then, it came together.  My beautiful Portuguese grandfather gave the perfect suggestion.  I could honor them by using my great-grandmother’s maiden name as my pen name.  And so, after much consideration, the name on my book will be T.D. Sequeira.  It will be there as a way to say ‘I love you too’ and ‘thank you’.

Our children love to hear us tell them stories.  They laugh at their daddy’s tales of the shenanigans he and his brothers pulled.  They love to hear the memories I tell them of my childhood too.  And now, they will also learn about their great-great grandparents and how grandpa was a shepherd and did his best to keep the sheep population from overrunning their natural habitat.  It will be great.  We’ll all laugh and He-Man will unconsciously cross his legs.  Because that’s part of who our children are too.

All this from a trip down the cosmetics aisle where I did actually find a new product I love, love, LOVE….and because I can’t seriously take my self seriously when taking selfies…

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Day 31 and Conversations Miss Bee was Probably Never Expecting…

Day 31:  Write a letter. Slap some postage on it and actually send it in the mail.

There’s a half an hour left in the month and I’m determined to complete my ’31 Days’ mission.  Miss Bee, Florence, keep your eyes peeled.  These are coming your way!

 

IMG_7223It’s been a good run.  I’m so glad we did this because we’ve made many wonderful memories this month.   We’re still missing our friends.  In fact, the first thing three of our children said Saturday morning was something about missing Bee.  And today, Bunny mentioned it again.  It did my heart good to see the text she sent Sunshine though…searching for Pokemon…in PARIS.  True story.

He-Man and I often marveled at how Miss Bee and Hobbes seemed to instantly connect.  They are obviously kindred spirits.  They just got each other.  I think we figured out why:  We’re a bunch of Crazies.  Spend enough time with us and you’ll embrace it like it’s normal.  I’m pretty sure Bee and Hobbes are new enough to the family to still be wondering how the heck they landed where they did.  download_20160725_204255

That got me thinking, she probably wasn’t expecting many of the conversations that went on in our zoo.  While she handle it with grace and impeccable dignity, she may or may not have witness the following situations…

Like when we had to explain to Calvin, more than once a week, why being completely naked in front of guests is not polite.

Or that yes, it is possible to do six loads of laundry in a single day and STILL have more to do.

A freshly cleaned and vacuumed car can actually be completely destroyed in one outing and when mom says, ‘The kids are NEVER eating in the car AGAIN’, she really doesn’t mean it.

Our dinner time rules were often reviewed.  Especially the one warning our eaters that if they chose to burp, fart or pick their noses at the table, they would not get to sit beside our guest.

The kids also needed to be reminded that a gigantic man-eating spider the size of my pinkie fingernail hanging out in the corner DOES NOT exempt you from cleaning your bathroom ESPECIALLY after the epic bloody nose that left it looking like a crime scene.  (I’m still mortified by that one)

Toilet water is never, EVER used to wet your sister’s toothbrush.

And NO, toothpaste is not your afternoon snack.

We always go to the bathroom WITH THE DOOR CLOSED.

And peeing off the deck is not appropriate.

And last but certainly not least, six people can literally be talking to one person at the same time and that person can actually follow every single one of the conversations.

Yes, it’s crazy but it’s my crazy and I love it and I’m so glad we got to share it.  Happy July, Miss Bee.  We miss you already.  Here’s to being together in Paris during Springtime.  

Love, The Funny Farm

 

 

 

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Day 30…The Hardest One Yet.

Day 30:  Acquire a unique souvenir to commemorate this month’s adventures.

‘Goodbyes’ are much harder than ‘hellos’.  Living in several places means our kids are getting pretty good at it.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t hard.

Today was the day to bid Miss Bee farewell.  But before, we wanted to show her one more special place.  We took her to Gardner Village.  We tasted homemade caramel, sat and ate by a pond filled with koi, then gave Miss Bee a unique souvenir: a fairy kiss.  This is a tradition for our family.  Every time we go to GV, we get ourselves kissed by a fairy.  The sparkle brings out our eyes.

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Then is was off to the airport for tough part.  We were all doing fine until one person started to cry.  Then it was all over.  The kids were heartbroken to say ‘goodbye’ to someone we’ve decided will be a forever friend.

As I was buckling Calvin in, he scowled and said, “I don’t not want Miss Bee to go away”.

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As we drove away Bunny, who is the one who takes these moments the hardest, decided she would rather have to say goodbye to a loved one rather than to have never known them in the first place.  That’s a big step for her.  When we moved away from Neverland and her best friend who lived next door, she hadn’t come to that conclusion.

Saying ‘farewell’ is for the birds and is totally lame.

 

 

 

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