Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

As Time Goes By

To our great surprise and delight, Rob and I find ourselves off work this week. Without schedules and lengthy to-do lists our days blur into one another and we lose track of the date, the grocery shopping and the laundry. The kids sleep in and I set the alarm later, we eat when we are hungry and not when the daily calendar indicates a space for lunch or dinner, and if not for the fact that every family member received a watch for Christmas and all the devices (Ipod, Ipad, Chromebook, smart phones) tell time, we could almost lose track of the hours. In a romantic moment I fantasized that we could live like prairie settlers or indigenous folk, who were more in tune with nature and free of the clock's tyranny. Perhaps, without calendars and without mirrors, we could even live in blissful ignorance of the aging process.

I mention aging because Rob is using his free time to put all of our old photos and videos on the Dravenstott website. Watching videos from our engagement and wedding was surprisingly painful when I barely recognize the two people in the center of the lens. I can hardly appreciate the joy of the moment in all my musings: "look at all the hair I / we had then!" or "where did all of that collagen go?" Even while poring over videos of the children as babies I get distracted by my wrinkle-less face and my glowing skin. Part  of the damage may have been moving from moisture-laden San Francisco to the high-desert Denver, but let's not kid ourselves. Fifteen years of living, particularly a few years of living through extreme stress, will alter a person's exterior landscape.

Rob has been working for days on this project so I have had a lot of time to process my own thoughts. My conclusions are hardly revolutionary:  first, the only alternative to aging is to not be here at all, so I'm grateful for the gift of participation in this life and in the growing of my children. Second, I do treasure the bonds that have grown and developed between my  husband and I since we stepped out on this journey together. We don't wear our blessings on our faces, as we did in our early videos, but we carry countless more in our hearts. I like to think that even if we're not wise, we're a few steps farther on the path, and we're certainly wise enough to treasure the amazing gifts that we have in one another and in our family, which is lucky enough to still be on the journey together.


I wish you all a New Year replete with loving relationships, strength to overcome challenges, and gratitude for the good things in life.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Fourth Day of Christmas

The presents are put away, the boxes recycled and the children are fighting again after a blissful two-day detente. We've switched from The Holly channel to The Pulse on Sirius XM and our elf-on-the-shelf has returned to the North Pole. It's a bit sad when the Christmas bliss fades and we start eyeing the tree as prey to be taken down, but also a relief to return to normal life and to escape the pressure to have a Hallmark card experience.  

It's a particular relief to me because Christmas and New Year's two years ago were the lowest points of my illness. My mom and my friends did all of the shopping and wrapping and my husband and children did all of the decorating. It was a miracle that I made it to church in 2012 and a second miracle that we avoided the emergency room on New Year's Eve. Though I try not to remember those events, my body holds the memory of that time and as we approached the holidays I felt a bit like Bilbo approaching the dragon - hidden dangers lurking around every turn.

Fortunately, we made it through the day in high spirits, and my mood was mostly uplifted by texts, photos, videos and phone calls with family members. My heart did sink when I learned that a loved one of one of my loved ones received a terrible diagnosis three weeks ago, and how they struggled through the holiday season, though they had a beautiful time together on Christmas.

The holidays can be cruel timing for those who hurt or mourn or ache with longing. The messiness of normal human lives seems a contradiction to the light and love and laughter of the holidays, but our pastor reminded us on Christmas eve that Jesus was born in a messy situation. He came to an unwed teenage mother and her dirt-poor fiance in a time of war and strife and uncertainty. His birth brought light and hope in a dark time - - and that's the message that we can hold on to no matter what our situation. As we take down decorations and eat the last cookies we can keep that sweet light of hope alive, that time will pass and things will change and in time that light will shine bright for us.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Denver Drav Christmas, 2014

Christmas season 2014 has been delightfully disorganized for the Denver Dravenstotts. Daniel crawled underneath the Christmas tree to retrieve a toy and knocked the grandfather clock into that fine pine, which promptly swooned onto the floor, spilling lights, ornaments and baubles everywhere.We thought the cat would be the culprit, but Rex was merely confused by the melee. I burned two pounds of almonds over the weekend and set off the fire alarm, requiring use of the ceiling fan and open windows on a chilly December day. The following Christmas letter was drafted early in the month, but somehow escaped printing and inclusion with the family card, so with my apologies, I offer you a belated Christmas letter:

We traveled far and wide this summer, doing our best to beat up Rob's new car. From Jules and Ann’s 45th anniversary celebration in Montana to baptisms in Boston, roller coasters in Ohio and water polo tournaments in Albuquerque we roamed, zoomed and feted. We trekked from Little Bighorn to the Grand Canyon, and Rob’s reconstructed knee led us up mountain and down dale until the kids groaned “not another hike!”  We don’t know how many more years we have before they flatly refuse to drive 18+ hours with us in the car . . . .

Our hall closet spills forth swim towels, water polo and basket balls, baseball bats and track shoes. The whirlwind of kid activity pushes us to the brink of sanity while supposedly keeping us young.  (Or we’re just too busy to stop and think about our age!) We thrive on games, tournaments and practices with neighbors and teammates, though an extra hand / driver / personal jet would be appreciated.

To our surprise and delight, Aden and William both enjoy middle school, where William powers through 6th grade and Aden, who is in 8th grade, will register for high school in a few short months. The shock of her pending freshmanhood gives me grey hairs – which I can’t pull out because I need all the follicles I can get.  Aden also enjoys  her youth group, and her leader, Kallie, has taken up temporary residence in our basement. We adore Kallie, and hope that proximity to our craziness doesn’t permanently deter her from family life. Daniel loves third grade, reading (especially Harry Potter), piano and art projects, baking  and playdates with friends. 

Rob enjoys his job with Dish and will work through the holidays on a government – sponsored auction. He’s also busy maintaining our website and learning about the latest technologies. I work part-time at SwimLabs swim school and started a Masters in Grocery Shopping --- oops, I meant Writing, from Regis. I spend more time in the grocery store than in the library and I hear that only gets worse . . . but I’m perfecting a sprint writing technique that will hopefully get me through the teen years.

We send love and gratitude for your presence in our lives, and wish you all the light of the holiday season.

Laura    Rob                  Aden         William                   Daniel

Sunday, December 21, 2014

We are Also God-bearers

We read about the Annunciation in church today, picturing again a startled and fearful young Mary responding to the angel of God, who tells her that she will bear the son of God. Reverend Mark told us that in the Greek Orthodox Church Mary is revered, and called "Theotokos," or God-bearer.  Then he read these amazing words from Meister Eckhart regarding theotokos:

"We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I also do not give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time. When the Son of God is begotten in us."

-Meister Eckhart, 14th century German Dominican monk (birthing-god-the-feast-of-the-annunciation, Michael K. Marsh)

 When I found the Eckhart quote on Marsh's website, I also found his commentary: "Eckhart’s questions invite us to see humanity, and not Bethlehem, as the true birthplace of God," and my eyes were opened yet again to the miracle of Christmas. Christ is born in us this day and every day, and we must reveal him in this year of 2014, in our 21st century culture. God chose us, lowly and scarred, faulty and frail, to bring forth and celebrate his essence, to choose joy and hope and love. Blessed was Mary, and blessed are we.   

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

As Promised, the Gift Card Rant

As I ponder those “olden days, happy golden days of yore,” I seem to remember Christmas lists that weren’t name brand specific, that did not include dollar amounts or gift cards.  We hunted for particular objects that might excite our loved ones, didn’t settle for dollars at their favorite store.  Gift cards seem like the lazy person’s guide to Christmas, and they erase the element of mystery and surprise that I used to feel around the holidays.  I admit to loving them for their ease and swift satisfaction, especially when I’m shopping for fifteen teachers, four coaches, and all of the garbage/recycling/paper delivery gentlemen. Didn’t our parents have all of the same craziness? And yet they managed without resorting to plastic cash.

I know that many of yester-year’s gifts were misses that had us searching for the gift receipt so we could make a return or exchange. Some were hideous and receipt-less, which led us to the donation bin or the storage area, in hopes that next year’s white elephant party would claim them.  Yet, some risky gifts are the best ever; no risk, no reward, right? My mom once scoured all of southern Michigan looking for Cabbage Patch dolls for her five children, and I still remember that present thirty-five years later.

These elements of thoughtfulness and surprise are missing from the gift card exchange. My son thinks he wants the money, but I know he wants a few surprises under the tree – things that I choose for him that he didn’t even know he wanted. It’s risky, potentially disappointing or even painful (when the whining starts), but the upside makes a little risk bearable. Those golden days of yore had a little something more, at least when it came to gift giving. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ghosts of Christmas Past

We "wrap" Christmas gifts in cloth bags that my mom constructed out of holiday fabric and drawstrings. They make wrapping simple, don't waste paper, and tend to retain tags from Christmas past. I just grabbed two bags to cover presents for the boys and both had leftover tags from Nana. I had to sit on the bed for a minute, hit by a flash of nostalgia for the Christmases past.  Memories of previous years danced on a pedestal in my mind, replete with family gatherings, perfect turkeys (the birds, not the relatives) and houses full of simple, low-tech toys that came in big, well-wrapped boxes.

Do you remember wildly artistic and flashy Christmas cards that included no personal photo? Folks used to vie for the most original and lovely card, and any notes were handwritten or typed and carefully signed before inclusion in the foil-lined envelope.  Nowadays we send  cards displaying our own beaming faces, or at least the faces of our kids and pets. That one family shot tells the world that the kids are alive and growing and there was at least one instance in the previous year when everyone pretended to get along. (You'll get our card this week).

 I love to receive these cards, especially from old friends I don't see anymore. Amy from 7th grade swimming and Tonia from high school both have gorgeous girls and it's so fun to see the kids take on the features of their moms as they grow. But it's strange that we send such cards to neighbors down the street who just saw us yesterday, and probably don't want our faces on their mantle. There's a niche here for someone to create a holiday greeting for those neighbors who want to be included but don't want to look at your cheerful vacation shots one more time.

Next subject for Christmas present vs. Christmas past:  the ubiquitous gift card. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hanging with the Home Team

Yep, that's Broncos' defensive star Von Miller you see hanging with the Dravenstott family. Rob had the opportunity to purchase a ticket through the C10 organization to meet 13 Broncos players and get footballs signed for friends and family. All proceeds of the evening went to benefit the Warrior Employment Project on behalf of veterans, so I gave the OK when Rob asked if he should get the ticket. (And I wanted to meet the Broncos players, too . . . .)

So the three kids and I raced through homework and a microwave dinner to be ready for Rob to drive us to the Performing Arts Center, the boys thoroughly hyped up in their Broncos jerseys. Their excitement level escalated as the evening went on and we met Von Miller, commiserated with Emmanuel Sanders on the crushing tackles he received last Sunday, and watched CJ Anderson beam when Daniel said he was his "favorite player." Louis Vasquez and Malik Jackson towered over us while the wide receivers and running backs seemed  much smaller without the cleats and pads.

I felt motherly toward some of them when I draped my arm over their leather jackets for a photo. When we told CJ Anderson to stay healthy and take care of himself he said, "that's the plan, but sometimes those big guys come down on top of you and there's not a lot you can do about it!" They were all gentlemanly and kind and we feel much more bonded to our home-town team.  When Rob's name was pulled for a door prize at the end of the night William said he thought his "heart would beat out of his chest!" Even our 13-year-old non-football fan was beaming by then, and it was worth five times the price of admission to see the kids bond over their mutual excitement and gratitude for a special evening.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Live in the Day

Aden and William have both taken creative writing this year. They've had the pleasure of learning under Mrs. Amy Bainbridge, a gifted and creative teacher. Today she provided Aden's class with a wonderful video prompt for the class' writing warm-up: 250,000 bouncy balls making their way down the streets of San Francisco. See the link here: Bouncy Balls in SF . In response to the prompt Aden wrote a poem and she has generously given me permission to reprint it here. Enjoy.

Live in the Day

Life is a blur
Colors bounce past
Live in the moment,
For this will not last.

Look out the window,
And up to the skies
See the blue and the gray
Bounced back in your eyes.

Touch the green grass,
The cool slimy water
Live in the day,
For it’s like no other.

Think of the colors
Surrounding your life
Think of the days
Of sadness and strife

But be optimistic,
Not happy, not sad
Just have the knowledge
That you’re thinking glad.

Look out the window,
As colors bounce past
Live in the day,
For this life will not last.

- Aden Dravenstott, grade 8

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Purple Streak

I emerged from my haircut this morning with a “natural” plum purple swath through my bangs. When I left my workout this morning to head to the salon I wasn’t planning for purple, but a rebellion erupted when I saw my hairstylist’s funky new space and glowing blond highlights.  I love it, though I can’t anticipate the response of my husband and kids.

If I’m being honest with myself I can identify the birthplace(s) of my rebellion.  I saw my nutritionist and biomeridian practitioner last week and she gently informed me that I should be on the Paleo diet again, really watching my sugar intake. Warnings about my sugar intake always get my back up!  And then we had a few recent mornings when I had cleaned cat throw-up from multiple places, done laundry and made three breakfasts by 7:30 am.  Though I love the cat, I do not enjoy cleaning both the litter box and the vomit prior to my first cup of coffee.

The cat has also made watering the Christmas tree nearly impossible. We wrapped the trunk in a plastic tablecloth and duct taped it together so that Rex couldn’t bathe in the water in the tree stand. Rob also poured a small bag of orange rind into the water on the off chance that the citrus smell would deter the cat. Nope – now we just have a pine-and-citrus-scented Christmas tree.  I wouldn’t mind these efforts except that I have to go through contortions and re-tape the tree each time I need to add more water.

Rex also tipped over a vase and broke a special set of coasters from India yesterday; his stock was way down by the evening. Despite his transgressions, I think he’ll make the Christmas card, and possibly even the holiday letter. His Dr. Hyde moments more than make up for his Jekyll moments; I just hope the family feels the same way about me after they catch my new purple streak.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Gifts We Have

"We would give anything for what we have."
- Tony Hoagland

A friend forwarded this quote last Thursday, and it became an anchor during the frantic busy-ness of our holiday weekend. When we scrambled to finish yard work in the record-setting warmth of Saturday afternoon, I thought how much I would give for the yard if I didn't have it.  When the cat gnawed through the Christmas lights and pulled the ribbon off the Christmas tree on Sunday afternoon, I thought how much I would give for a cat that made me laugh and a tree that made me smile if I didn't have them. When the kids fought over the Advent wreath and we had tears over whose gingerbread house was the best . . . well, you get the picture. 

The December holiday season contains some of the most peaceful and most stressful moments of the year. In trying to appreciate the gifts that we have instead of focusing on the gifts to give and get, and in trying to laugh at the crazy, imperfect pageant of a family holiday, I hope to get through it unscathed.  We didn't do a great job of cultivating the peace over this past weekend, when I had to write down "REST" on my sticky note schedule for Sunday to ensure some degree of readiness for the coming week. Yet I can appreciate the decorated house, cat-damaged tree, and clean basement now that the work is done, and perhaps our early efforts will allow for moments of rest and peace when we need them more.