Family Photo

Family Photo
Growing Up

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Whirlwind of Compulsion

I ate three consecutive meals in my car last week: Frosty for dinner on Thursday night, RX bar and Starbucks for breakfast on Friday, Jamba Juice kale smoothie for lunch. Major milestones came and went with minimal fanfare as Aden committed to CU and applied for housing, the girls' HS swim season ended, and Rob flew from Denver to Chicago to Seattle, barely outrunning several snowstorms and pulling an all-nighter to install twenty-one Cooler Screens in Belleview, WA. I should stop to acknowledge Aden's decision, should reckon with my own emotions at some point in the near future, but it seems there's no time.

The blur of activities, headlines and household chores consumes all of us - friends in the 'hood, family around the country, kids' classmates. The busier I get, the more frantic, the more compelled to scan my phone for more events that I should attend. It's a whirlwind of compulsion. Each Sunday I say, "This week I am going to stop, unplug as much as possible, refrain from eating meals in the car, and trust in the present moment." Despite this, I can feel my blood pressure rise as I plan on Google calendar, seeing potential conflicts, where I need to cancel, and where I need to go without sleep.

And yet I'm so lucky. Food, shelter, health (and healthcare), community. Focus on the positive, I tell myself, enjoy the journey, trust that God will watch over us and help us to meet any challenge that comes. Appreciate what I have, the growing hours of daylight, the budget to buy food when I need it, the open ears and hearts of friends.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


I crossed an item off my bucket list on Saturday - I saw a moose in the wild. From a distance of ten meters, the old guy looked cranky and potentially dangerous, with a full rack on his head, heavy body swinging from side to side and big hooves splayed around the pine tree he dined on. My girlfriends dived behind the two pine trees closest to us while I fumbled for my camera, apparently less intelligent and less afraid. I fumbled to capture the magical moment while they hissed, "Laura, get back! Please get behind the tree...".

I did shuffle backward in my snowshoes posthaste when Mr Moose sauntered a few steps closer. We monitored his movements and mood for a few minutes until someone noticed his wife and teenager moose on the frozen lake behind us. Forget danger level orange or red, we suburban ladies hit a new level of alarm, which we called "Code Moose."

"We're between the family members!" someone exclaimed in a harsh whisper.

"Get your hiking poles ready," exclaimed another.

At this juncture I felt the need to point out that the trail was quite popular - we had seen ten people in half an hour - and the moose must be fairly accustomed to homo sapiens.  My comments fell on deaf ears. The panic in two of my companions spurred them off-trail in a vector headed away from the moose, which only landed them in two and a half feet of powder, against which the snowshoes were no help.  I beckoned them back, issuing repeated assurances that the moose "wasn't looking."

In the end, we went down the same trail that had brought us to the old guy and his rack. I volunteered to go last, since I had a green coat and looked most like a tree, but also because I really didn't think the moose was worked up about our presence on his trail.   In the end, the quadruped gave us a few moments of tears and several hours' worth of laughing until we cried, at the image of four suburbanites huddled in fear, watching a munching moose and preparing to fight to the death with flimsy plastic hiking sticks.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

I was a bride married to amazement

The poet Mary Oliver has died. My heart hurts because I cannot stand to lose - we cannot stand to lose - anyone who brings such insight and joy to a suffering world. When events weigh so heavy on the individual and collective psyche, we need poets to see clearly the beauty and blessings in the everyday. They tell us what to look for, how much we have to appreciate.

In the NPR article on Oliver's death (Mary Oliver), a line from her poem "When Death Comes," ends the piece. She wrote "When it's over, I want to say all my life / I was a bride married to amazement."
Oliver's poetry reveals her perpetual leaning toward amazement, toward the miraculous.  I have been leaning in to current events, to troubling issues and worries about my children...I need to lean the other way, into seeing everything as miracle.

How many lives have been uplifted by this line, from "The Summer Day,"

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?"
It's been on our refrigerator for years, but we forget to celebrate its meaning. Tonight we'll talk about a "wild and precious life" with the kids, and try to revive the hope and passion first evoked by her words.

Oliver's life may have ended but her words and vision will inspire us always. She was a bride married to amazement, an artist with heart and humility, and she will be missed.

Sunday, January 13, 2019


"You're the proud owner of a case of walking pneumonia," said Dr B to William on Friday afternoon.

My jaw dropped into my puffy coat. When William burst through the door with a swirl of bitter cold air and snow, coughing as if his lungs were twerking in his chest, I knew something was off. Two of his good friends have had walking pneumonia in the past six months, so it's on our radar, but I didn't think his situation was so serious. He even swam and did dry land exercises twice last week, leading his lane on Thursday.

The doctor said the infection was localized to his lower left lung and that he would need to sit out of the pool until at least mid-week next week, a relatively short rest period. I chuckled as William typed an email to his coach explaining the situation (which sounded dire) and then finished with this, "but I'll be back on Wednesday."  We'll see.

We were so lucky to get right into the pediatrician, grateful to have health care for the visit and the antibiotics. On Saturday I took William to the acupuncturist for needles and cupping.  Our insurance doesn't cover that, but we can use our HSA money to pay. I wish everyone had the same opportunities, because it's hard to see your kids suffer, hard to admit that you can't fix it, such a relief to ask for help and get it.

Monday, January 7, 2019


Just try to maintain a schedule, a clean house, or a focused mind over winter vacation with three teenagers in the house. It's like nailing jello to a tree.  The kids have one last day off school before we re-enter the normal, calendared routine, and though I've enjoyed having them home, unstressed and mentally stable, I am ready to get back to periods of quiet when I can accomplish something more than brushing my teeth.

True confessions - I did enjoy three days of unfettered quiet and relaxation when I visited my parents and sister in Northern California. Wise and witty Karen helped with cooking and organizing the days, including time spent with our youngest brother James, his lovely wife, Molly, and there three young boys (aged four and under). I swept the floor and tried to stay out of everyone's way.  Rob had the kids in Ohio with his parents, brother Ron and Ron's family, so their rest and relaxation mirrored mine from 2000 miles away. 

But this morning we were back to early wake-up's. Rob went to DIA for his flight to Burbank and I hit the pool to coach and swim at the 6am workout. My tinted goggles didn't work well with the pitch black sky, and though the water was perfect I struggled to find the turns.  (An apt metaphor.)  We have appointments and errands to run and backpacks to prepare for second semester. My juice fast juice bottles sit in the fridge, just waiting for me to take advantage of a fresh start .... but they will have to wait a few more days.  Coffee and the remnants of holiday sweets might be necessary to get back in the swing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

My Favorite Hymn

Christmas came and went like the scent of pine on our drying tree. This morning holds a return to chores (clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere!) and a bit of work for all.  The holiday spirit lingers in the list of thank you notes we have to write - so grateful for family and friends who thought of us - and in the beautiful memories of our candle-lit Christmas Eve service and the hugs exchanged by the children after meaningful gifts. When William and Daniel embraced in the hallway to celebrate William's passing-down of all childhood Legos to Daniel, and they promised to share the collection between their children, my throat swelled and eyes filled with tears of thankfulness for the rare bonding moment.

Candlelight singing in unison, gratitude and love, feeling as one with all those celebrating - not only Christmas but every light-filled and reverent holiday - that buoys my spirit and encourages hope to grow that our country can still overcome what divides us. If my boys can share a blissful morning then surely it's possibly for just about any two sides to pack in their differences and work on coming together.

My favorite Christmas hymn, "O Holy Night," expresses my deepest wish for unity in beautiful, poetic lyrics written by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure in 1847. A wine merchant by trade, de Roquemaure was asked by his parish priest to write something for Christmas, and the spirit must have been with Placide, for his words have inspired for 180 years. Here are a few lines that always hit me hard:

"Long lay the world in in and error pining,
Till He appeared and the Soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn."

A weary world indeed. Our souls craving to know their worth in a social media, picture-perfect society.  Dare we to hope that a new and glorious morning awaits us?

And then verse three, which never fails to make me cry. If we sing this in church I'm a soggy mess:

"Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease."

It should be our national anthem. 

My New Year' resolution for 2019 is to live out the words of this hymn. To hear the stories of those I meet with respect for our differences and an honest desire to understand. To share what I believe with honest courage and to carry the unity of Christmas into the next few months despite headlines and headaches that are sure to come. His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Grasping at Peace

This past week has been a mixed bag: I stretched my hamstrings and low back overenthusiastically and woke up the next morning unable to move. Getting out of bed was an Olympian feat and entering the car a nearly impossible one. I had to resort to sliding in with my derriere on the steering wheel, the slowly rotating to the left so I could sit in a more appropriate driving position. After two visits to acupuncture, one to massage and one to the chiropractor, my back judged that I'd spent enough money on it and relaxed enough for me to resume most normal activities.

We (meaning "me") also decided to have tile and paint work done this week, so our washer and dryer currently rest in the front entryway, while our downstairs toilet and much of the wood trim lie outside the mudroom door in a state of tipsy abandon. We're just like Clark Griswold's cousin's family, keepin' it really real at Christmas. Aden threw a string of white lights over the laundry combo to make it more festive and help it to blend with the tree.

But thankfully the weather holds steady at 50 and sunny, so the toilet can rest outside and not in the living room. And when the work is done it will be a nice Christmas present - assuming we can safely  return the washer and dryer to their normal location.  Rob is working from home this week, helping to keep the cats away from the contractor (and open doors) and coming with me to Daniel's choir concert and other kid activities.  I was able to connect with old friends early in the week on two lovely walks which provided the dual blessings of companionship and the only exercise my back would tolerate.

The older kids are lumbering to the end of finals on Thursday and I'm praying to be mobile enough to put the house back together when the work is done, and then it's time to rest for a few days and grasp at the peace that comes with Christmas.