kayak adventure

 

On Monday my friend Hannah and I checked off an item that has been sitting patiently on my wish list for years. (It was my birthday gift from Hannah — more on birthday later.)

 

 

Go kayaking at Lake Jocassee.

At first we had to wait out a storm on the lake.

 

 

(We passed the time nicely with good conversation, salt and vinegar chips and dried mango. Nope – I’d never tried dried mango before either.)

 

 

The storm cost us some floating time, but it was a solid and satisfying experience despite the delay.

And Lake Jocassee is just fantastic.  Unbelievably clear lake water.  Mountain view all around.  Coves to drift in.  Trees and solitude in every direction.

 

 

Now I have decided that I officially “need” a kayak or three.

(Anyone want to trade a TV for a kayak?)

 

 

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lacking direction. or motivation. or energy. yes – all of the above.

 

Whenever a few days pile up on me and I have had no time to write, I suffer from a stage fright of sorts.  The opposite of writer’s block.  What would you call that?

It’s an overload.  Too many ideas.  Too many thoughts.  I don’t know where to start.

I feel the same way when my home gets out of control messy from a couple of busy days and a little neglect on the home front.  Where do I begin?

This week I have felt like a commuter bus, a taxi cab, an Uber ride.  I’ve used most of a tank of gas in two days just going back and forth and around on the same circuit.  The kids are in two different camps this week in two different directions.   I’m tired.  And I know this is the lot for a about a billion parents out there every day of the school year.  I tell you what, it is not fun.  I do not want to drive people everywhere for a living.  I’d resign.

So much to write about.  There’s crazy – a little lopsided stack of insane.  There’s good – loads of wonderful.  There’s mundane – the normal variety of mediocre.  There’s painful – the sliver and slips of hurt.  But tonight there aren’t the words all lining up.  The lists are too long to sort through. I am tired.  

I want to raise my little virtual hand and say “hi”.  

I also want my kids to go to sleep when I send them to bed and I want this cute new kitten to stop treating the kitchen table like a runway and I want the budget crunching for purchasing the next year’s round of homeschool supplies to match the money coming in and I want to kayak all day long with a mountain view.  I want last week’s to-do list to stop bleeding into this week’s to-do list and I want to eat chicken tikka masala for every meal.  I want two showers in our home and I want my twelve year old son to recognize the value of using shampoo.

Is that too much to ask for?

It is, isn’t it?

Well, here’s hoping a decent night’s rest and a little planned quiet time tomorrow will set me right and I’ll be back with new words after sorting through all the good and the regular and the heavy that I feel like writing about.

 

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Five Finds Friday (tzatziki sauce. big feet. tats.)

 

I don’t think I conquered a Five Finds Friday post last week – maybe it was Farm Week?  (It’s too hard to keep up.)

This week has been oppressively hot.  We’ve had theatre rehearsals and auditions and I am so glad for an organization like our local Logos Theatre where I feel good about my kids receiving both quality and safe instruction on stage.

 

 

I’ve started staring at the lists of plans and books and ideas to begin to homeschool a FRESHMAN this fall and I feel both excited and horrified, capable and out of my league.  I only have TWO children left in elementary school and what on earth has happened to all of my years?

 

 

What a gift it has been this week also to have generous friends who share their refreshingly cool pool waters with our family on these sticky and humid South Carolina summer afternoons.

In other random news, I want to go to this Camp Well Summit.  Should I try?  It’s gobs and heaps of money though.  But – did you see it’s at Lost Valley?  For the love.  I just want it to help me get my act together and kick me into some high functioning gear to spin all the plates I’ve got stacked up over here.

Anyway, it’s Friday —-

Welcome to the week’s end, friends, and to the weekend’s beginning.

 

 

funny

 

When friends allow you the privilege of watching and hanging out with their kids and you give their children angel wing temporary back tattoos.

 

 

 

fashionable

 

Last week Target had all kinds of cute summer dresses on sale – some even had pockets!

Also, Bergen’s Keens literally broke in two last week. (Why are twelve year old boys SO hard on shoes and why is that child’s foot SO ginormous?)  Piper Finn needs a new pair of tennis shoes.  London would love to join the Chaco parade.

Tell me y’all, where do you find deals on kids’ shoes?  That seems to be the one clothing type article of kids that I can never find on sale or acquire a good deal.

Point me in a direction, I’ll follow.

 

flavorful

 

Tzatziki Sauce.

 

 

I’m infatuated with it.

I made it myself for the first time a few weeks ago.

We had it at the farm.

I had it at dinner tonight.

It’s so marvelous.

Why has it taken me so long to jump on board the tzatziki sauce train?

And what else can I serve it up alongside?

 

faithful

 

After reading in Paul Tripp’s book New Morning Merices I have been stuck on this idea he presented.  It was the idea that we all carry around these desires.  And that’s not bad or wrong.  At some point, however, our desires can morph into perceived needs.  Take, for example, my desire to find a house to purchase.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  And, at some level, I do “need” a new home.  Again, not a problem.  But then that “need” can shape shift again into a frustration with God when he doesn’t follow through on my timeline with my now “need”.  So I had this desire to provide a home for my family – not a bad desire – that turned into a need that became a demand that then turns into an anger at God for letting me down.  “Where’s my house, God – you know I need this.”  When I am promised that I actually have all that I need.  I currently am actually residing in a house and I feel reasonably confident that I will later be residing in a different house and those details will get taken care of in some form or fashion.

I do, in fact, have all that I need.

And I loved being reminded of that knowledge, loved being reassured that some of my thoughts are only desires, and not needs.

 

feels

 

They’ve been buddies since birth and that’s always been special, but it’s been sweet and heart satisfying to watch Bergen and Colton develop a bond during their times together.  Ah, Dallas – why you gotta be so far away?

 

 

 

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farm, framily, feelings, photos

 

At the farm I didn’t write very much.

I brought a couple of books to read, but I didn’t open them.

 

 

I stayed up late every night, talking in the quiet hours with Emma and Sarah and Sally, with whomever stayed awake and was chatty.  I didn’t rise exceptionally early because my kids are late sleepers and those of them who were not were capable of having a bowl of cereal downstairs with the other early risers.

 

 

We saw rainbows more than once at the farm.  Once, as the rain begin to chase us, we chased the rainbow’s end.  It seemed so perfectly catchable.  It was right there – over the hill, landing by the pond, in the trees.  Bergen Hawkeye and Uncle Nate raced together and most of us followed after them and we never reached the rainbow but we might as well have.

 

 

It’s hard to explain the farm in words entirely, if you’ve never driven down the long wooded driveway.

 

 

If you’ve never seen the moon’s full glow and the stars bold shining from the Virginia front yard.  If you’ve never dipped into the muddy cold waters of the Pigg River or seen the sun sinking low from the meadow’s perfect vantage point.

This particular farm is about six miles from the dairy farm where my three brothers and I grew up.  Country neighbors.

(That’s the willow tree in our front yard after which Piper earned one of her many middle names.  A gift to my mother from me, twenty-six years ago in August, as I was leaving home for college, freshman year.)

 

 

The other farm, the one we visit every summer (and times in between), is the farm of my framily.  There are two houses at this farm.  And they’re both all kinds of special to me for a myriad of reasons.

This family (who would become my framily) I met through babysitting.  Met them before there were even five children.   I was in high school.  I started babysitting at their farm before I could even legally drive from one farm to the other.  (Unless I was in the farm truck and I called it “farm business” because back then (and maybe now, who knows) you could drive unlicensed vehicles and unlicensed people on farm business.  Or so my dad told us kids.)  On one such drive from farm to farm, I slid my vehicle right into a giant ditch.  Before cell phones I was stuck walking to an acquaintance’s house and using their rotary phone to call my dad.  Who offered minimal sympathy and said something like, “You’ll have to wait until I finish plowing this field/milking this cow/planting this corn because I’m not stopping to get you right now.”

Eventually I would live in both of the farm houses at some point in my story.  And before actually residing in either, I might as well have lived in both for the long number of hours I logged babysitting at one time or the other every summer from tenth grade until I graduated from college.

 

 

 

 

For the first nine months or so of marriage, we lived in one farm house, until we saved enough money and headed south to finish school.  After a handful of years in North Carolina we trekked it back to the farm to settle down deep for a decade of bringing home babies and kids to the other farm house.

 

 

Every single Keigley kid except Otto was first brought home to Gray Mountain Farm.  We raised goats – one summer we had about twenty!  I started my teaching career there.  And left it too.  It was a beautiful space to raise babies and make friends and be framily and spread our wings and run wide and walk quiet.  It was a good decade in so many ways.  (And a hard one too.  Jumping from zero children to four children in three years through adoption and birth is a whirlwind of a choice.)

 

 

 

There were concerns for me, that first trip back to the farm after everything shifted.  The After in my story’s timeline.  Would it be all bitter and no sweet?  Would driving down that driveway, driving right into history itself, be too much to bear?  Would the wounds sting more in the presence of our tender and unburdened beginnings?  What if the ghosts of all that had come before mocked me at every bend in the road?

What a gift, what a breath of lovely and grace and kindness and hope, to discover that the pain wasn’t pain at all.  That the ghosts, in fact, did not even exist.  The farm has some other life to it, some other sense of rising above and transcending, and even if that sounds too corny to be real, too greeting card, that doesn’t matter to me.  Because it’s true.  The driveway still makes me feel relief, makes my lungs capacity increase, makes my life feel enough.  The good memories dominate.  The mountains care for you.  Your thoughts and your worries both are safe in the green grass and the blue skies and the big clouds.  All the breathing comes slower and steadier.

The farm serves as a metaphor for all sorts of things in my own life, in the lives of my children, in the history of me and my family.  Mostly, though, it serves its best purpose of being a safe space.  A before and during and after.  A throughout.

 

 

 

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The July Grove Collaborative Giveaway

 

It’s been more than a year now since I first heard about Grove Collaborative.  (It even had a different name back then actually.)

And it’s been pretty much that long exactly too since I have purchased hand soap or dish soap or dishwasher tablets in an actual store.

Keep me out of the stores, for goodness sake.

I love that my products come directly to my front door in a timely manner with little to no effort any longer on my part.

 

 

Guess what my life is full of?  Complications!  Schedules.  Deadlines.  Surprises.  Unexpected everythings.

And so if there is anything that can streamline some of the regular and predictable needs of this household, I am all about that.  My friend Sara adds toilet paper to her monthly Grove order.  I have no idea why I have never thought of adding that one myself.  Seems like we are always running low in that department.

Grove Collaborative is an online store that carries primarily household and health & beauty items.  They have their own brand as well as carrying popular brands like Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyers and Method.  (Mrs. Meyers is my personal favorite.)  Once you set up a routine ordering system you can simply have your order shipped monthly to you if that’s how you prefer to manage it.  Grove will send you an email alerting you that it is almost time to ship your order.  All you have to do is click on the link in the email and you can decide if you still need dish soap this month or if you want to toss in body wash or toothpaste.  (You do – try Tom’s.  It’s our family’s favorite.)  If you are on vacation or had zero dirty dishes all month then you can just push your order back to have it delivered later.

For the month of July Grove is offering a swell incentive to join for the first time.

Once you sign up at Grove and order $20 worth of products you will receive FOR FREE the following items:

  • Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap
  • Mrs. Meyer’s Dish Soap
  • Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Lotion
  • Grove Collaborative Sink Tray

 

 

That little sink tray is new and it’s so cute – it’ll keep your Mrs. Meyer’s products all tidy and attractive by your sink.

If you are unsure what items to buy to fill your $20 order, may I suggest the walnut scrubber sponges?  (Not the thin ones but the scrubbers with two tone colors – white and brown.  They are THE best.  They never stink and they last so long and if I wanted to say that I loved a sponge I would say that I love those sponges.  But loving a sponge feels wrong somehow.  Whatever.  I love that sponge.)  I also place these items routinely in my cart: Mrs. Meyer’s Body Wash, Method smarty dish soap, Method bathroom cleaner, Grove lip balm – the minty one! and toilet bowl cleaner.

If you want to take advantage of all of the free items and try Grove for the first time – click this link!   (Or, you know, click any of the highlighted Grove words throughout the entire post.  I know we all know how this works these days.)

If you are already a Grove member and you like the looks of that cute little white tray, you can buy it in your next order for 25% off by clicking this link.

I’d love for you to share this offer with your friends too – if you feel so inclined.

Oh – and Grove has new boxes now, which is entirely not that big of a deal, except – even the boxes are cuter so when your goods arrive, it feels a little more like Christmas instead of so utilitarian.

 

 

There’s an incentive this month from Grove for me to also try my hand at Facebook Live – is that crazy?  I don’t even know what Facebook Live means or is.  I mean, I assume it’s live – obviously.  But – what?  It’s just me talking to my computer and hoping anyone watches?  Is that what it is?  Should I try it?  You tell me!

If you are already a Grove member – what’s your cart usually filled with?

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a rearranging addiction: or a story of two trunks & a TV

 

I love the house where we currently live.

It’s old fashioned and charming and quirky.  The door frames are wide and the porch is cozy.  But it’s more than one hundred years old.  When you leave it locked up tight for a week while you spend time in Virginia, a couple of things happen to a house this aged.  And when you’ve just returned from a dreamy time at The Farm, the last thing you feel like being greeted at the door with is the smell of Old.  Musty.  Moldy.  Just Old.

When the kids and I arrived home we unloaded the car and let Ryder run free.  (He did such a great job on this journey – no car sickness at all. That’s a first for the furry fella.  He’s a little notorious for vomiting six minutes into any car ride.  This trip Mosely came prepared – for it seems the backseat clean up often falls to her.  No one can explain why this is true.  Anyway, she brought peppermint oil with her.  And whenever she felt like Ryder looked like he wanted to give in to the heaving temptation, Mosely just put the oil near his nose or dripped some of it on the towel in front of him.  Voila!  Terrible scene avoided.)

 

 

We entered the house and settled in, relaxed for a little bit, lit candles everywhere and started up three diffusers in three different rooms.  (I don’t care if we sound crazy, old houses smell weird.)

Because I couldn’t entirely fix the situation and because I was a little dissatisfied with returning home from Virginia and because I am who I am, I decided that right then would be a good time to rearrange the furniture.  (I didn’t unpack my suitcase or rest my fractured toe, I had other plans.)

If you live in my regular face to face life with me, you know that I have a rearranging problem.  I rearrange All. The. Time.  That’s alright I think.  What’s worse is the fact that I seem to always begin rearranging projects when the time is not right.  Directly before having guests.  In the living room in the middle of a movie.  At two o’clock in the night.  Right when I should be packing or unpacking from a trip.  It’s a coping mechanism for me.  It’s a way to force myself to clean up a place I don’t feel like cleaning, to create a new affection for an area where my affection has waned, to generate contentedness with what I actually already own and where I actually already am.  It’s not crazy, ya’ll; it’s self care – alright?

So about a year ago, maybe more, I thought we would be moving shortly.  I’ve always disliked the stand our TV was attached to.  It’s shiny and glass and it just didn’t fit the look of everything else we own.  So, again – thinking we would be moving and I would be able to mount the TV on a wall – I spontaneously sold the TV stand.  Remember, that sale took place last year.  Maybe longer.  As in – 2016.  After I sold the stand, I just leaned the TV against the wall on top of a trunk.  A year ago.  

 

 

The day we returned home from Virginia, house smelling of both Old and a various number of essential oils – like tangerine and white gardenia and tea tree, suitcases still packed and lying upstairs, I decided that the TV was really too low sitting on that trunk leaned against the wall.  (Mind you, I had already also decided that the tall table and stools in the kitchen would look better in the dining room and that the small table holding the computer would improve the look in the kitchen and those items had already been switched and arranged.  Also, maybe the dining room table would look fun in the opposite direction and the bright red bench should find a new home in the hall, which would require the turquoise trunk to be carried upstairs for a while.)

Anyway, my idea for the TV was too much for me to handle on my own so I enlisted the reluctant help of my oldest children, girls who often brag about the fact that they are as tall or taller than me now.  Come on kids, it’s time to do something with that new height and adult-like build.  Once upon a time my sister-in-law, the one with the eye and the experience in design, stacked up several trunks in her home.  I thought it looked cool.  And I thought it looked tall.  And I figured that maybe I could do just that – stack up a trunk or two – and lean my TV against that tower.

Even as I started I knew it was probably going to look ridiculous.  But what if it didn’t?  What if it looked awesome and bought me some more time to wait it out before we move to a home where I actually can mount the TV on the wall?

Of course the kids all protested that it was dangerous and unsafe, that the TV might fall, that the trunks were too high, that it would look like a a stack of trunks with a TV balanced on top of them.

Whatever kids.  Let me do what I want.  It’s nearly bedtime and I want to stack trunks on top of one another and then hoist a ridiculously heavy television set up on top of all of that.  And I want to just precariously lean that TV against the wall way up there and I think it’s going to be great so just let me do it already.  And help me boost this trunk that’s loaded with all of our winter snowsuits and stuff up here too, for the love.  “What about the snow clothing in the trunk, Mom?  How will we get to it with the TV on top of it?”  Oh kids.  It’s summer now.  Who can think about winter clothing?  And besides, we all know this room will have been through a dozen or more reincarnations before we ever need to pull out those ill-fitting outdated snow suits again anyway.

Everyone complained and you wouldn’t believe how heavy that trunk is to just dead lift up off the ground and on to another trunk.  It’s also alarming how heavy our TV is, which lets me know it’s probably kind of old because aren’t TVs light now and did you know that the cords that come from a TV really don’t stretch all the way to the ground and some kids get really squirrelly when you ask them to gather all those cords and just hold the DVD player and the Nintendo in their arms until you can readjust the giant cumbersome TV in your arms while also relying on a twelve year old’s strength to maintain the other wobbly side?

 

 

After all that drama, guess who was right?

Yeah.  The TV looked like an ad for What Not To Do all teetering in our living room.  The stack of trunks looked outrageously silly and I suggested that I just sell the TV right then instead of ever thinking of mounting it on a wall at any home.  My other suggestion was to just let it fall and then be done with the whole drama because I don’t even really like movies all that much anyway.

Neither suggestion was met with much acceptance.

In the end I said that we should just wait until tomorrow – maybe we would think it looked better then.  Amid much protest, maybe I said something about how I was going to go read a book in my bedroom and maybe the kids said they thought they could handle the entire situation themselves.

I read a few chapters and in my absence a sense of order was restored in our living room.  I can’t say it looks all that much better to have a TV balanced on one trunk instead of two trunks, but it does look slightly less precarious.

Also, TV for sale.

 

 

 

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Farm Time. a list of what it is and what it is not.

 

We’ve crossed right into Farm Time.  (Actually, we crossed over last week but that just goes to show you how Farm Time works.)

No algebraic formula exists that will equate into understanding the comparison between Real Life Time and Farm Time.

And no one in Farm Time even cares.

In Farm Time these things happen:

We tell stories at the kitchen table and then we laugh until we cry but sometimes no one, not even the person laughing, knows what started the hilarity.

 

 

Movies take place on the lawn.  Not as in – here’s a projector and a sheet hanging on the side of the house, but more like – hey, Maggie left her TV upstairs for a while and I bet we could drag it out on the front porch and watch a movie out there.

Kids learn to drive cars and gators, learn to shoot guns and to run races.

 

 

Someone is always and forever asking for food, eating food, crying about food, making food, prepping food, dropping food, wasting food.  It’s always and forever All About The Food.

 

 

The volume inside the house varies widely and dramatically from bursting-the-walls loud to pleasantly quiet and there’s no real predictability for when you’ll be subjected to either.

Trips to Homestead Creamery are made and ice cream is consumed.

 

 

The internet connection is sketchy and the phone calls sometimes work and sometimes do not and you can just forget it if you want to look up something or ask Siri anything.  Siri knows nothing about Farm Time.

Everyone pseudo parents everyone else’s kids and that’s kind of great and kind of funny and kind of exactly how you would think it would be.

Ryder jumps boldly right across the front porch railing and returns from mystery excursions covered in mud and grime like nobody’s business.

 

 

Conversations stop and start and circle back around days later and that’s the pace and we all keep up swimmingly but I don’t envy anyone trying to jump in and figure it all out for the first time.

The stars come out in abundance and standing outside in the dark alone once night has fallen feels just holy.

Things get broken.  Usually by “nobody knows”.  Things like laundry room doors.  Tether ball poles.  Flower pots.  And sometimes by grown ups who should know better but are trying to prove that they are strong enough to do planks and push ups on the porch railing.  Which proved that yes, they might be strong enough (kind of) but the porch railing might not be.

 

 

Stuff gets peed on – like toilet seats because SO many little boys running around and even the backside of a human because that new dog thinks he needs to mark his territory constantly.  (Even if his territory looks like Emma trying to take a photograph.  For the love.)

People get wet.  Rain showers.  Tubing on the Pigg River.  The shower head facing the wrong direction – and being turned on – when you want to give a toddler a bath.  400 water balloons hand tied by Mosely because even though we know they’ve created cool gadgets to fill up a hundred balloons at a time we didn’t have said gadget and a plethora of kids wanted water balloons.

 

 

This list is not exhaustive, although it could fit the exhausting category.

It is also a list that falls dramatically short of describing the real reason that Farm Time is so highly prized each summer.  It’s a list lacking the depth and breadth of what we all love about Virginia and July Fourth and framily.

But for now, whilst basking in both the glow and the poor internet connection of Farm Time, it’s a list that will have to suffice.

 

 

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this train of thought ….

 

You guys, if procrastination was a job – I would win.

Wait – that does not even make sense.

So many days I feel as if I am ramping up for take off.  I’ve got lists and stacks and piles.  I feel as if I work all day on something (I don’t know what) and then, at the end of the day, I’m still standing here, sort of empty-handed, maybe two things checked off the list, sixteen more things added, one pile shoved under the table and another stack carried outside and nothing really feels accomplished or completed.

Pretty much like I’m already defeated.  Like maybe I can’t win.  (Except at procrastinating – if that were a job.  Which it isn’t.)

Pre-Colorado trip I felt the same way – right?  Like I was gearing up.  Like I was fast driving, fast sledding, fast biking, fast running, fast some sort of movement that is just the other side of safe, just the far side of control.  I knew it seemed as if I was gearing up to veer off course, to explode, to implode, to wind up covered in sand in a sand sledding explosion.  (Well, I did do that.  But in a fun way.  Not in the metaphorical way in which I speak right now.)

And so I was grateful for what I thought would be the off ramp of Colorado.  The reset of the ranch.  The exit sign.  The forced seclusion and stepping off the plate.

While I was there, it was glorious.  Putting down all the lists didn’t hurt at all.  I wasn’t missing them or longing for them or out of control without them.  I didn’t need them or desire them or want them.  I told a friend that I felt like my best self in Colorado – my favorite version of me.  Funny.  Light-hearted.  Quick to laugh.  Easy-going.  The best me.

I told myself, “I’ll hold onto this when I re-enter the world as I know it.  When my lists take legs and walk themselves over to me.  I’ll hold on to this light longer.  I’ll use this reset button to propel me to calmer days, slower moments, less screen.”  All the things I want to be true.

And here I am.  Maybe three weeks out.  All revved up.  All amped up.  Again.

I haven’t redeemed my days or found that happy medium to balance work and writing and home and parenting.  I haven’t eased into anything or eased out of anything.  My lists need Cliff Notes.  I’m already 80 mph, oblivious to life and regular sleeping hours and managing time wisely.

It’s frantic again.  The pace at which I move.  Like I’ve embraced the whirlwind.  Like I’ve taken up residence within the whirlwind actually.

I wake up and I think – I’ll try that block schedule idea – one hour for each task and then move along.  I’ll try setting a timer.  I’ll do the next thing.  I’ll try one task at a time.  I think all the thoughts and I say all the words.

And then, as I lie in bed at far too late of an hour, I sigh and I think – maybe tomorrow?

 

 

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state of the union – or an official sounding title for an unofficial style post

 

Writing something can take me all of five minutes some days.  And then, other days, I can labor over a piece for days, let it sit a month or more, add to it in bits and parts.

Today I finished up working on a post for Travelers Rest Here about a local farming family.  I thoroughly enjoyed my interview time spent with this family – three grown children and their parents.  I loved hearing about their farm (where I buy corn and strawberries and all other kinds of produce as well) and about their dad’s parenting ways and their family traditions.

I remember when I left the interview I faced the struggle that has become familiar to me since the destruction of my own marriage.  The heavy sting of regret and mourning for What Should Have Been.  The deep desire to have given my own children what I felt I was a part of until my own mother passed away – a family with legacy, a family with history.  And, of course, in many ways we still are a family with a legacy, a history.  All families are, naturally.  But I wanted that one kind of legacy, that one kind of history.  The one that involved two parents staying married to one another for the length of their lives, til death do them part, front porch sitting and grand kid watching.  That sort of legacy.

The legacy my kids have abruptly inherited now looks shockingly different than any I had tenderly stored in my heart.  (And I’m trusting that the future legacy might also look different than any that I play on repeat in my worst imaginings.)

Ultimately though, despite the dark places my mind and heart try to leap to, I am grateful to sit at a table with families like the one in my story. For the exact same reason that I wrote about why the success of your marriage matters to my kids.  Because I want my family to see those families that endure, that persevere, even if they do not have the beautiful privilege of growing up in a family that looks just like that.  I want them to see a wide world and a variety of ways that a family can save one another.  You can read the Ledford family’s story here on the TRH website if you’d like.  I think their family’s story is a good one.

In other news, the kids figured out how to hook up the old school Nintendo some friends gave us a while back.  Tonight was Piper Finn’s night to stay up a little later with me and we played Tetris until my eyes hurt.  Also, I think my eyes might hurt because I am getting old.  Do I need reading glasses y’all?  Whatever.  I’m not doing that yet.  I refuse.

Sometimes I forget parts of my reality and I say things like “my side of the bed.”  I guess it’s all my side of the bed these days.  Actually, more accurately, none of it is my side of the bed.  I don’t even think I’ve had a bed for the last two and half years.  The bed feels quite communal – with at least two kids joining in on any given night still.

I started reading my first ever Francine Rivers book this week.  It’s about eighty bazillion pages long.  It’s a 14 day loan from the library, which means I’ll pay some hefty fines for returning this late – an inevitable outcome, I’m confident.  It’s been a good read so far, not at all my normal type of reading, but I am enjoying it.

I cut Ryder’s hair today.  When I asked the kids how it looked London sighed and said, “Ryder now looks like a dog whose owner cut his hair.”

Target is having a sale on dresses – many are less than $20.

It grieves me deeply to see that June is sweeping past us like a torrent.  I love school.  But I’m not ready to hit the books again just yet.

July Fourth – my favorite holiday of the year (that’s true) is almost here.  I can’t wait to celebrate in all our favorite ways.  I need some new recipe ideas though for our framily gathering – any ideas out there?

 

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Beyond Wildwood: The Ranch — Yes, I can.

 

Wednesday.  Mid-week at the ranch.

This was THE day, my favorite day.  (I think.)  So exploding with perfect moments.

It started early.  Again, because of the gift of my father being along for the ride, I had the freedom to take advantage of an early morning guided hike while the kids slept in.

 

 

6:45 am.  You know I don’t like early morning wake up calls.  So obviously I really wanted to do this hike.  At the lodge it was just me and Amy and our guide Campbell.  (Another fine LVL employee from our side of the states – a Georgia boy.)  I had literally wrangled Amy into joining me on this steep adventure – it is only .9 miles to the top of Sheep’s Rock, but it is the highest point at the ranch.  A hike described as steep and rigorous.  Sounded perfect to me.  I had actually put climbing this little mountain on my bucket list for 2017 because I was unable to do it on our last ranch visit.

It was a beautiful morning.  The day before I had asked Campbell if he thought sheep would be up at the mountain’s top – and he said he had never seen any there since he had been working, but he’d see what he could do for me.  (That’s guest service done right.)

 

 

We hiked on a trail for a little while.  And then we climbed.  Up.  And up.  Up and up.  Then we crossed over one rock face.  Then we faced a choice.  In order to get to the next rock we had to either A. Crawl up a crevice in the rock or B. Climb up a dead tree with pokey branches as a ladder.  Amy quickly picked crevice and I stood at the base of the tree, which won’t look all that remarkable in this picture, but which felt like a personal challenge for a person who actually is rather afraid of ledges and cliffs and such.  It looked tricky.  Scary.  Hard.  And awesome.

As we caught our breath I shared a short version of my story and of how there was a time that I decided that I would approach more of life with a “yes, you can” attitude.  How so many circumstances in my life left me feeling like “no, you can’t”.  Left me thinking “can I?”.  And how I started to respond instead with “yes, I can”.  That was the year I ran a half marathon and figured out I could homeschool my children and be a single parent and run a business.  Yes, I can.

I guess I had already made my choice.

I chose the tree.

 

 

As I climbed my friend Amy offered me such lovely encouraging words that I wrote them down when I returned from our hike.

“I didn’t know the other you,” she said.  “But I like this version of you – the ‘yes, I can’ version.”

(This week has been full of that, uplifting words, encouraging conversations, kind gestures.  It fills a person up in all the right places.)

We climbed higher, the three of us, comfortable conversation and stories and although I’m sure Campbell could have reached the summit and hiked back down twice in the amount of time it took the two of us forty-somethings to get to the top, he was a gracious and capable guide.  We scrambled across rocks, bouldering, which I remember fondly as my favorite from my own Colorado summer life once upon a time.

Then we passed through a “window” in the rocks and I stared at my beautiful mountain, Pike’s Peak.  I know she’s my mountain.  We’ve come to agree that’s true.

 

 

And – guess what was right on the mountain top?  Three big horn sheep.  Waiting for me.  My requested sheep.  Campbell delivered on his promise.

 

 

I don’t know what forty-three is supposed to feel or look like – and I don’t have any idea what people actually see when they look at me – but I don’t feel middle-aged.  Whatever that means.

It was a glorious morning hike.  I loved every minute of it.

 

 

We picked up our pace on the way down.  Amy was eager for breakfast and it did not disappoint – for me it was egg in a hole, hash browns, a single strip of bacon and orange juice.

Wednesday morning is the Family Ride and the seven of us gathered at the corrals, the kids and I and Dad, along with two wranglers.

It was a breezy warm morning, so lovely and sweet I could cry – just watching my children ride horses under a Colorado sky with dad and all the trail before us and all the trail behind us.  We loped and we trotted and who would have ever known that a ranch in the Rocky Mountains was going to become our family’s place?

 

 

After our family ride, Zach, one of the wranglers working with Otto’s age group this week and our family ride wrangler, pulled me aside.  He told me, “I love your family.  All of you.  Your kids are just great – creative, respectful, kind, inventive, not whiny – just very good kids.  I really do love them all.”  And I’m sure he sees a lot of kids and a lot of families in his summers and I’m confident he loves lots of them.  He’s one of the kid-magnet kind of wranglers – funny, light-hearted, quick with the jokes, calm under pressure, capable and engaging with all of the kids.  They love him too.  But oh – to my momma’s heart, how kind it was of him to take the time to tell me those thoughts.  How glad I was to hear them.

 

 

At lunch we were regaled with stories from some former wranglers who worked at Lost Valley when the fire broke out.  It was a privilege to hear the stories of that first hand experience.

When the afternoon ride came along I had to make another decision.  The rides are categorized by the ability of rider you feel you are.  Last year I only made it as far as intermediate, but this summer I was determined to give advanced the old college try.

I’d already climbed across a tree today, so it seemed as good a day as any.  When Anthony asked for all the advanced riders to head to the corral, I thought, “Yes, I can.”

It was everything I wanted it to be.  And more.

Longer.  Faster.  Trickier.  Tiny trail on the side of a mountain.  Water flowing below.  Marmot.  Mule deer.

Kansas, my horse, was a controlled tornado – she jumped a log, leapt across a stream and loped with the best of them.  She was steady and sure-footed and I couldn’t stop grinning.  (Also, one time I guess I squealed.  It was during the jumping across the stream – or maybe the log.  It wasn’t a scream of fear, it was all delight, but I guess maybe both of those sound the same on the back of a horse.)

We rode to places with cool names.  Helen’s Rock.  Government Bridge.  I watched Pike’s Peak appear and disappear.

Uphill.  Following cowboy hats and fast horses.  Loping so fast, my smile so wide, pebbles flying up, smacking my sunglasses and my grin has left me open-mouthed and I’m tasting rocks and eating dirt and I could NOT be happier.

Later that evening, after a night of fun and entertainment and an outdoor meal down at the jail, we all rode wagons back to the ranch.  Halfway along the route, I couldn’t help myself.  I hopped off the slow moving wagon.  Just to walk the quiet road back to the ranch.  Just to help the night linger because the sky was just beginning to turn pink over Sawtooth Mountain and I needed to try to Slow It All Down.

As I walked, I thought about the week.  About random bits, letting the ideas float and drift like the clouds across the pink.

I miss hearing my name.

Does that sound funny?  Silly?

My children call me Mom/Momma/Mommy.  Do my friends say my name?  I guess.  It’s not feeling familiar somehow.  I like hearing my own name said out loud.  This week I’ve heard it.  It sounds nice.

It reminds me that I’m real.
That I exist.

I should remember this for other people.  People who may feel lonely, unnoticed, left behind, out of place, discarded, looked over.

People who only hear one version of their names.
One version of themselves.
People who may be in danger of forgetting that there are alternate versions of themselves.

It’s wild what a walk in the night can make you think.  What a week unhindered by Phone can produce and create and stir up.

It is wild, actually.  And beautiful and rare and worth all the work to get there in the first place.

 

 

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