And the sparkle of childhood followed us home…

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The light of childhood reminds us to embrace life
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It’s no secret there are things in this life that are ruined by adulthood.

I remember thinking this as a kid when I was jumping into the cold water of Lake Sakakawea on a hot summer day. The water couldn’t be too cold. The sky too gray. The wind too wild. None of those elements existed to me at 7 or 8 because there was the water and I needed to swim. And so I did. And when I emerged and looked over at my parents visiting with friends on dry land, I wondered how anyone could be so close to a lake and keep their hair dry.

When does it shift in us? When does that water become too cold? The sky too gray? The wind too wild? When do we decide that in order to have fun, the sun must be shining in the most optimal way?

I wondered this again as I watched my 3-year-old daughter put her nose down to the freshly fallen snow, stick her tongue out and lick it up. I laughed as her little sister mimicked her, sitting up to look at me with pink cheeks and a kiss of frosting on her lips, and I remembered then how fresh snow tasted, although it hadn’t hit my lips for years.

And neither had an icicle, even though every time I see one hanging sharp and crystal clear off the eaves of a house, I think about pulling it down and having a taste. But I never do it.

At least I hadn’t for years, until I became a mother, and then slowly, the magic of the world that seemed to have faded out to dull tones of beiges and grays started to glimmer and pop and shine again in the little fluffs of light and sparkle that follow in my daughters’ wakes.

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Last weekend, I wrestled my girls into their snowsuits and loaded them up in the pickup for a drive out into the pastures of our place, determined to get our Christmas tree cut, in the house, thawed out and decorated before the weekend was over. I was on a deadline. My husband was on a deadline.

But that morning, we stepped out into the bright sunshine after days of fog to find our whole world sparkling. We couldn’t make out a cedar tree from an oak tree in the hills because of the glare, so we got out and walked into the hills to take a closer look, to lift Edie on her daddy’s shoulders, to let Rosie eat snow. To come up for air.

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And when we were trying to find a way to get us all back to the pickup with a tree just a little too big for the space, looking down at a steep icy slope of a hill, I think it was the 8-year-old version of me that whispered, “Let Edie ride on its branches, like a sled! Her daddy will pull her down!”

And so that’s what we did. We stepped off the shore and let the fluffy, glimmering light of childhood follow us home.

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If I’m Being Honest: A Christmas Letter

Coming Home: An honest Christmas letter from my family to yours
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It’s Christmas card season. And while the World Wide Web might make the whole concept a little obsolete these days, I’m still camp Christmas card.

All my friends and family are getting the photo, because we can fake it in the photo.

A Christmas letter? Well, I’m afraid it would read something like this:

Warm winter greetings from the Scofields,

And when I say warm, I don’t mean like the stream of pee that baby Rosie just showered me in right before I plopped her in the tub next to the threenager who didn’t appreciate the “scatter-style poop” Rosie surprised us all with. Not familiar with the term? Come over tomorrow night at bath time because there’s a 90 percent chance it will happen again tomorrow, and so on and so forth, because this is our life now.

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But really, it’s been such a blessing watching our daughters reach and conquer new milestones this year. I think Rosie’s now surpassed some sort of child record of how much Play-Doh a small child can consume and how many stairs she can climb before her parents notice. Her sister Edie changes her outfit 37 to 50 times a day, and survives solely on buttered toast, so we’re thinking that has to be some sort of record, too. We’re so over-the-moon excited to be sharing a home with baby geniuses.

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In other news, one of our family members taught baby Rosie to wink at Thanksgiving, and it’s so cute it’s all my husband and I talk about over late night cereal supper after we get the 3,000 bath toys sanitized and the threenager negotiated out of wearing her mermaid costume to bed.

It’s romantic work, the business of raising small children. So romantic, the two of us are headed to Vegas together in a few weeks so that we might relearn how to talk about something other than bathtub poop. Don’t get too jealous: It’s also a work trip.

But all in all, friends, we have it together at the ranch, really. Just this morning, I walked down the stairs to find my 3-year-old sleeping facedown on the hardwood floor after sneaking out of her room last night, proving she’s stubborn enough to never give in to the fight, but smart enough to know to be quiet. So we’re doing something right.

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Wasn’t the first time…won’t be the last.

Anyway, thank you for your friendship and support this year, and we’re sorry we didn’t make it to more church services/social gatherings/fundraisers/concerts/birthday parties and the grocery store all those times we ran clean out of milk and toilet paper. Also, we’re sorry we’re always late now. Or, erhm, later than we were before kids.

Please don’t give up on us. We’d love to have you over for a visit. But unless you don’t mind a counter full of Goldfish crackers, crusty grapes and craft supplies, maybe call first? If you really don’t mind, then skip the knocking (because naps) and come right on in!

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Peace, Love and I’m eating Edie’s leftover Halloween candy as I write this,

The Scofield Family

Jessie (getting older), Chad (even older), Edie (3 going on 23) & Rosie (1 and holding forever because I’m not sure I’m ready for another baby just yet).

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The promise of spring

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I wrote a version of this week’s column for a presentation I gave to a congregation and community celebrating Harvest Fest. I wrote it after roundup and shipping and selling our calves, a special time of year for us and one we were so grateful to do alongside my dad this year.

On Saturday we celebrated my oldest daughter’s third birthday and on Sunday we celebrated my baby, who turns one this Saturday. We were surrounded by friends and family in a life as parents. A life that just four years ago, I wasn’t convinced we would have.

And while I won’t deny that there are hard and sad and hopeless things in life that will not and can not be changed, but simply endured, sometimes there is light. And we have seen it.

Read the full version of my talk below or click on the link for the newspaper version. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend filled with gratefulness.

I am grateful for you.

Coming Home: The promise of spring

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When I was a kid, on the first warm day of spring, my dad would take us to the top of the nearest hill to find a dry spot where snow gave way to grass. We would sit down then on that piece of ground, maybe without our snowpants for the first time in months, and lean back, letting the warm sun shine on our faces and my dad would say something like, “Such a beautiful day. Isn’t this marvelous.”

Dad is the only person I know who regularly uses the words “marvelous.”

But it makes sense for a man who’s been accused of being optimistic, sometimes to a fault. On his way to roundup cattle or to fix a fence, my dad never passed a raspberry bush, a chokecherry tree or a plum patch without taking a detour for a taste. He’s never driven by a deer in the draw or an eagle in the sky without stopping or slowing down to recognize it. And when he sees a feather from a turkey or a hawk on a ride through the hills, he stops along the trail, gets off his horse, and picks it up to put in his hat. Or when we were younger girls, to give it to one of us.

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This is the way I grew up. The fourth generation born to a ranch that has now been in the family over 100 years.

As a kid it was hard not to fall in love with a world, with life, when someone was walking in front of you pointing out all of the things there was to love about it. And that bluebird that followed my father while I was following him, well, it was hard to live a life without her following me too.

As a ranch kid, though, you don’t get the benefit of being sheltered from some of the tough lessons of life. The unexplainable stuff. The things you can’t control. I remember saying silent little prayers to myself when my dad would bring a calf in from the cold, feed it and warm it in the basement, only to delay the inevitable.

I saw how his eyes dropped, how he shook his head and paused for a moment before sucking in breath, exhaling and moving on.

I remember my heart breaking and somehow knowing, that he could only do what he could.

The rest wasn’t up to him.

Winter

Last week I sat on the top of my horse and rode next to my father as a grown woman. We were chasing the cattle we own together on the place where my dad was raised, where I was raised and where I’m raising two daughters of my own.

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Last year at this time my father lay in a hospital bed at the beginning of a five-month battle with pancreatitis that had him fighting for his life. And while my mom sat by his side in a hospital hundreds of miles away, my husband, young daughter and I were home, taking care of the cows, shoveling snow, carrying out holiday traditions, waiting for our new baby to arrive and feeling powerless to change the trajectory of my dad’s circumstances.

His prognosis was dire and our hands could not do anything to fix it.

Losing my dad so soon was not in our plan.

And while all I wanted was a big, extraordinary miracle to save my father’s life, I have never lived in my faith that way. When I lost my grandmother when I was only eleven years old, I remember looking at her casket at the front of the church and wishing she would just sit up and tell us it was all a bad dream.

But I did not pray for that, because I didn’t believe those were the sort of miracles God sends.

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I find my faith in the small miracles, the way the setting sun illuminates our world in glowing pink and orange on it’s way to the other side of the earth. The way it rises every day, regardless of our joy or our pain. I see my faith come to life in a newborn calf, just born minutes before, standing steady on his own four legs as his mother licks him clean. I see it in the snowflakes piling up on my doorstep, knowing, when I look closer, each one is perfect, unique, and so, so fleeting.

I see God in the red on the tomatoes I planted with my daughters our garden, each one round and perfect and ready for picking with nothing but dirt, water and that trusty sun.

And I see it in the chubby fingers of my daughters, the ones that came to us just as I was losing faith in miracles of any size.

As I grow up I come to understand that I was right when I was a child, that faith and God aren’t wishes granted or one big miracle that answers your prayers, but a million tiny, beautiful moments that pile up like those snowflakes on the top of the hill outside our window in the winter only to melt with the spring sunshine and remind us that, as my husband would say, “There’s more here than us.”

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My dad’s recovery was proof of those small miracles. The kind hands of a caring nurse, my mother’s relentless devotion to her husband, the capabilities and training of the doctor,that moved him to take a risk. My dad’s strong heart that refused to quit beating. His lungs that continued to suck in air.

I looked over at him as he sat on his horse in his wool cap and leather chaps, the cattle in front of us moving their way across the creek and toward the gate. My husband, uncle and neighbor stretched out on horseback in the hills surrounding us, and my dad stopped. He put his gloved hands together, the leather of the reigns between them, and he looked up at the sky. Then he looked over at me and he hollered,

“This is me. Thanking God.”

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And it’s cold today. The snow is blowing sideways outside our windows. Winter is coming to test us. To freeze us. To make us sad or lonely or desperate. To make us question.

But faith? Faith is the promise of sunshine on that hilltop to melt that snow

Faith is remembering the marvelous promise of spring.

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A song for a new season

A song for a new season
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If I could fill my page with words to make up an ending to each season that has given us her all — glorious orange sunsets and wildflower purple and the deep, dark blue of the rain — I would give the wind a voice.

And his voice would be deep and coarse as he reminisced about the way the grass bent beneath him as he worked to push the storms through the buttes and over the prairies. He would tell us how he worried it might dry up, or maybe how he thought the big banks of snow might never disappear and he would cry about the flames he can’t keep from rising, and he would declare, “It has to be, it has to be, just like I must take the leaves from your trees.”

And then he would laugh a big laugh at the way our hair stands on end when he comes around and how we lean into him out here. If I wrote the book, I’d make the wind tell us.

If I could paint the most beautiful cooldown, I would splash the canvas with gold and rich pinks and burgundy hues. I would use my soft brush to give the sky more clouds, thousands of clouds, for the sun to reflect her light and choreograph her show. And I would paint her glow on horses’ backs and splash her down between the shadows of the trees where the deer go to water.

And next to the barn, the cats would bask in the light — the light I would make live forever if I could, or at least to live on that canvas in the space between day and night, sun and storm, warm and cold…

If I could paint the cooldown, I would use all of my brushes. And if I were to sing an encore for the season’s end, I would put the chorus on the wings of the geese so as they catch the wind and touch those clouds, it would ring familiar and in harmony with the croak of the frogs taking a breath in the creek bed to “ooh” and “aah” along..

And then, the wild elk bedded down in the tall yellow grass would throw their heads back and bugle a sad song of goodbye, the crickets would hush and the coyotes would take to the hilltops. The kittens would purr softly, the mice would hold still already and the cattle would stop their chewing to hear as the verses moved from the crocus to long days and onto cool rain and the smell of snow coming…

And then, the song would swell and blend with the howling dogs in the yard and the last screech of the red-tailed hawk as the bridge pushed through to the sound of the geese fading out, heading south.

And in their place would be only the sounds of winter.

And a palette of blues and grays, a familiar wind to remind us and a new quiet chorus repeating

The making of me

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Last weekend I had thirteen hours in the car alone to trick myself into thinking that I might have time to resurrect and revisit parts of my old life. It happens every time I’m in the car alone with my guitar in the back and whatever I want loud on the radio. Snacking without having to send a handful to the back seat. I feel like I did three years ago, ten years ago, fifteen years ago, on the road to a different town with time to think and plan and scheme for my life. A little free. A little nervous. Sometimes a little later than I want to be.  A lot myself.

Then I returned home and was reminded that while in the quiet moments there are parts of me that are who I’ve always been, my life will never be what it was yesterday…or two minutes ago.

Because I have children.

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And we have calves to sell this week.

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And a dog that went missing only to be found 60 miles away three days, which meant I spent my Sunday driving (thankfully) 120 miles with a toddler in the back to get her.

And a job that I can’t quite get done because I discovered last night that those children I now have, well they now have hand, foot and mouth…or something that looks and acts a lot like it.

And I want to say that I miss it, the alone time. The time to think, to create, to just be me. If I’m being honest, I will admit it. Being a mother to two young kids is not just physically draining, you can get lost in it. I miss the freedom I used to have to just walk out my door and up to the hills without calling in reinforcements, coordinating schedules or negotiating time. I didn’t know that would become so far out of reach when I became a mother.

I didn’t know I would feel so guilty and ungrateful saying that out loud, but I’m certain I’m not the only one.

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As I type this in the quite of my room, my almost-three-year-old found her way out of her bed and to the bottom of the steps, a last ditch effort to avoid bedtime. My husband is driving home from the big town with a load of sheet rock. I probably won’t see him much this week as we get ready to roundup and ship.

But that’s life and the reality of all these little dreams coming true…no one ever said all these little dreams would be easy to get or hold on to…but I think I might have heard someone somewhere say it’s worth it.

We’re the lucky ones.

Maybe that’s me, whispering to myself as I lay my daughters down at night.

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So I get up a lot earlier these days so I can have the morning for my thoughts. And one day, when I’m an older woman and I have regained the freedom to walk out my door on a whim and up to the top of my favorite hill,  I will tell a younger woman to take it all in, to not be so hard on herself, to love every minute because it all goes so fast. I will say that, because it’s true. But I hope I also remember to tell her to do what she can to keep her passions ignited in the middle of the Legos and Fruit Loops on the floor, even if she can only manage a flicker. Because we need that little fire in us, for the moments we get to breathe, but especially when the wind blows hard…

This week’s column…

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Coming Home: The Making of Me

I made a trip down to South Dakota last weekend to perform. In the early morning, before the sun burned off the cold fog, I sneaked quietly out of the house to make sure my family stayed sleeping while I took on the miles of road.

In a different time in my life, a six-hour trip alone was just another workday. These days it’s empty car seats, my guitar in the back of my SUV and the strange feeling I get when no one’s demanding I hand them pretzels. I turn up my music and let my mind wander, something it used to do so much of before my children stole half of it.

In my other life, I might have taken my time and stopped to see friends along the way. These days, it’s there and back quickly because the babies are at home, and the last time I called, my husband thought Rosie might have eaten a Band-Aid.

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“What am I doing?” That was the question that came up in the 13-plus hours I spent alone behind the wheel. “Is it worth it to go this far? Am I doing it for the money? Is this selfish? Maybe I should act more like a normal mother. Are the kids OK?”

After my concert on Saturday evening, a man came up to me to talk about the value of recognizing the sacrifices and struggles of our ancestors. My great-grandma Gudrun, an immigrant from Norway, comes up in my stories and songs, and he wanted to relate.

“When I was a kid, I found a little welder at a garage sale,” he said, remembering how he worked on lighting it over and over again before, frustrated, he declared it a rip-off.

“Then, my mother came over and grabbed it out of my hands,” he recalled. “And just like that, she had it lit up and running. She wrote my name on a piece of metal, straight and perfect, and I just stood there, sort of baffled.”

It turns out in his mother’s other life, she had been a welder who worked on ships during the war. And at 10 years old, watching his mom who wore nothing but dresses expertly handle his garage-sale purchase made the boy wonder how he had missed it. He didn’t want to miss it.

“It was like she had a secret life!” he declared.

I’ve never met this woman, but I can’t stop thinking about her. Because her story carried with it a little lift on the weight of my doubts.

I was a woman before I was a mother. And I am a mother and a woman still. A mother to daughters who will want to do things, see things. Be things. Travel. Maybe sing songs. Or write books. Invent. Or advocate. Haul horses. Plow up fields. Sit at a desk in a high-rise in New York. Maybe weld ships.

And the only way I can show them that they can be who they want to be is to show them who I was.

And who I am.

And, every day, how they’ve been the making of me.

The best times are now

The Best Times are Now
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Apparently love is in the air this fall. In the past two months, I’ve attended four weddings, sang the couples love songs and watched the brides walk toward their grooms wearing big, beautiful dresses and holding big, beautiful dreams.

I like weddings for the reasons most people like weddings — a good excuse to get together in the name of celebrating a happy occasion and a fun reason to dress up and dance. But I’ve noticed as I’ve grown up in years and in my marriage, the rest of the reasons have shifted on me a bit.

Like now, instead of getting my own groove on, it’s more fun to watch my little girls spin, clap and twirl to the music, outlasting most of the adults in the room. I could watch that all night.

But more than that lately, I’ve appreciated weddings for the little reminder they spark in me. Those big beautiful dreams these couples are holding, that was us, with the world just waiting on us to make plans or make it up as we went along.

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We’ve been married over 12 years now, so that familiar feeling of being 23 and carefree is fading as we wade through the muddy waters of what it actually means to be married. Like full-in, full-on married.

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I was contemplating this a bit last night as I coaxed my husband up to the bedroom after finally getting our two young daughters to sleep and the dishes cleaned up from supper. He just kicked his feet up in his chair and I remembered that I just washed our bedding and, well, I could really use some help with the dang fitted sheet. Romantic.

He sighed and trudged up the stairs after me and as we stood in our room discussing our pillow preference and laundry situation, I was struck by the partnership of it all. In those big, beautiful dreams we held at our own wedding, I doubt we thought of moments like this.

Like, isn’t it just really nice to have someone in the house to help us sort out the annoying parts of the everyday grind? I mean, I can do the sheets and the dishes, the baby bath and bedtimes alone, but it’s all just better with him.

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And when it comes to the tough stuff, the sad things, the grieving, the uncomfortable decisions, the worries and wondering, if I could give advice to any young person looking for love, I would shout, “Pick someone you want next to you in the trenches of life!”

Because there will be trenches. And then be prepared to be your soldier’s soldier as well.

On our way home from a wedding last weekend, I was thinking about time and how it can wear on us. I commented on when I thought I might have been in my prime, less stressed, more hopeful maybe. Younger. More beautiful.

“I think it was around 23,” I said to my husband.

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“No, I think it’s right now,” he said back to me.

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And I believed him. Because love is in the air, and the best times? What can we do but believe that they’re right now.

The “good days” are a mess

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Happy Halloween.

Whew. October 31st, I think I’m happy to see you. Not just because I’m looking forward to dressing up as a mermaid with the toddler and trying to convince my baby to keep the fishy bonnet on her head as we traipse around town this afternoon, but also because this is the last day of what has been a month that’s been chaos.

Chaos with a month-long chest cold on top.

Chaos as in working nights and every weekend.

Chaos as in a house addition project that’s not going swimmingly.

Chaos as in I thought I filed my column last week but got distracted by something (Lord can only guess) and I forgot to hit send, which marks the first time since I started this gig that I missed a plan for the column.

Oh well. We’ll try again next week.

Next month.

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And we’re getting by on coffee and granola bars and trying to go with the flow even when the flow looks like dragging my meltdown-mode toddler out of gymnastics and negotiating every holiday and birthday and gymnastics class in her little life to get good behavior out of her for the pumpkin painting event at the Nursing Home we were headed to. It was likely the fact that the kid likes grammas and would do anything to paint and not my threats that made that experience more lovely than stripping her out her leotard while she swung at me and I pretended to be one of those calm moms who wasn’t going to get to the car and threaten to take away all her birthdays.

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And right now it’s 8:45 am and she’s asking for candy…soooo…we’ll see if we survive today.

We will survive today. Because, as dad reminded me in one of my long “trying to figure out my life” discussions: “These are the good days.”

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And the good days are messy. Perpetually messy, like my toddler’s hair and our bedroom.

Messy like the bed and the floor under Rosie’s highchair.

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Messy like the best laid plans and the never finished dishes and the bathroom floor with every drawer emptied by the baby in the name of keeping her occupied so I can finish my makeup.

Messy like the seats and the dashboard and the cubbies of my car.

Messy like the desktop of my computer. And my desk for that matter, because I have projects going on and little people who don’t take very long naps.

Messy like my closet full of things I wear too much and things I used to wear in a life that looked different. Less complicated.

Not as sticky.

I feel like I’m never going to get caught up. Does anyone ever feel like they’re caught up?

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Last weekend I spent the entire Sunday morning cleaning the main floor of my house, sweeping, scrubbing and vacuuming while my toddler followed me around telling me that it hurt her ears, only to watch it all unravel as almost every member of my extended family made their way through the door to play with the kids and encourage them to walk around eating crackers.

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I looked around at the crumbs and the toys and the laughing people and realized what my problem was. I can’t seem to get caught up on things like the landscaping or the window washing, not necessarily because I can’t find the time, but because I am using that time for other things.

Like trips to the playground outside with the kids.

Trying to do a good job and my work. Driving to town to go to the doctor to get the girls’ flu shots and make sure I don’t have pneumonia. Daily phone calls to my little sister. Constructing my baby’s Halloween costume out of felt and hot glue.

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Cookie decorating with Edie while my baby unloads the Tupperwear cabinet.

Staying up too late catching up with my husband while we ignore putting away the laundry. Visits to the pool and to the horses and to the nursing home and to gymnastics and Sunday family visits and crafting projects and pumpkin painting and all the things that make messes…

So I guess I will get to the mess when I get to the mess. Because the absence of crumbs must not be that important to me. If it were, I would spend more time on exterminating them. Because in my life there has never been enough time available to fit in all of the things I think would be fun or important to do.

And I guess fun or important to me doesn’t always include getting to the dishes first.

Oh, sometimes it does. Like when I know company is coming.

But mostly, I’m just a little embarrassed by the sticky spot on my floor when someone unexpectedly drops by, but I always let them in.

Of course I always let them in.

Because one day these girls will be old enough to help me dust the shelves and unload the dishwasher and make their beds and I fully intend on teaching them the importance of taking care of our things and our house and our ranch, but maybe sometimes not at the expense of a good ride or a trip to the pool on a hot sunny day.

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Because I like to do stuff. To keep busy and engaged and sometimes that makes us all crazy, our kitchen countertops cluttery, and my toddler collapse in a pile in the middle of the parking lot while I try to make her hold my hand and walk with me so she doesn’t get hit by a car. So then sometimes I need to learn to step back and chill it out and give us all a minute so that we can continue on with the “good days.”

Happy Wednesday Halloween. Here’s to candy and chaos and surviving the rest of the week!

Mermaid Edie

In those boxes under the stairs…

Coming Home: Some things are worth saving
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OK, please tell me everyone has it — that space under the stairs or in the attic or the corner of your bedroom piled up to the ceiling where you put all the things.

All the things you want to save but don’t know what to do with, like the junk drawer every Midwesterner tries and fails to clean out every three years.

Please tell me you know what I mean so I don’t feel alone in the stacks of boxes I’m wading through here to make room for a plumbing project under those stairs.

Because I usually blame my husband for all the clutter, but four hours and 10 tubs full of less-practical things later, I’m admitting I’m guilty of the sentimental version of his shortcoming. And apparently it comes with baggage.

Because does the 35-year-old version of me need the graphic design projects I completed my junior year of college? Or a psychology textbook? Or a stack of blurry and misfired shots from my high school camera or this keychain that probably meant something to me but now I can’t remember what?

At some point in my life I must have thought so. But last weekend, in the name of time and an attempt to declutter my life to make room for the two new little lives that exist in our house now, I tossed them. I tossed them because, while it all served as a reminder of the things I used to do, it was no longer what I needed to remind me of who I used to be.

Some things aren’t worth saving, I decided. But it didn’t take much more digging to find the things that were. A box of random photos I hadn’t seen in years, photos that spanned decades, randomly tossed in a box and buried under things to deal with another day.

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Evidence of Sisterly Love and overly festive jammies

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A reminder of my fashion forward-ness

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That time we puffy painted everything…and babysat the neighbor’s goat over Christmas break

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A picture of me that could be a picture of Rosie (with brown eyes)

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Halloween with the little sister a million years ago

A photo of a 1-year-old me tucked under my grandma’s arm on her old brown couch, both of us worn out and sleeping in her little farmhouse that I can still smell if I close my eyes.

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An image of my little sister, 6 years old, standing outside with a Band-Aid and a tear on her face. She always had a Band-Aid and a little tear.

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A rare photo of my mom and all of her young daughters in our kitchen. Dad sleeping against the piano while we opened presents at Christmas.

Me, 16 with bad hair and a bad sweater, sitting next to my boyfriend in a wrestling T-shirt.

And then piles of carefully folded letters and notes we wrote to each other while we were falling in love with no real grasp on the future or that it might look like a house on the ranch with our babies and a space under the stairs stacked with books and DVDs, paint cans, a witch hat, yearbooks, sports buttons, trophies, a salamander and memories worth digging out sometimes to remind us where it began.

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Which, it turns out, helps in the whole moving forward thing. These things are worth saving.

Distracting things.

If you need me, I’ll be under the steps, trying again.

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Oh, love can come a long way…

Yes to Apple Day

Coming Home: Say “Yes” to Apple Day

Last weekend, my friend up the hill invited us — and the entire contents of my little sister’s apple tree — over to her house for what she refers to as “Apple Day.”

Apple Day sounds like what it is — an entire day dedicated to transforming the fruit of an over-productive tree into delicious treats we will store away for the long winter so that we can pull them out and reminisce about the three minutes of summer and one minute of fall we once had — and that time we all got together and canned 700 quarts of applesauce, assembled 3,000 apple crisps and made 500 from-scratch pies.

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“Mmm, tastes like a perfect autumn day,” we’ll say as we serve it up over ice cream, likely to the very same friends who we made it with, so I won’t be able to take much credit because it’s my friend who’s the brains of the operation.

And my sister and I? Well, we spent most of the day saving our babies’ lives from the big chunks of choking hazards we kept dropping on the floor.

And stirring.

And eating.

Because when my friend does Apple Day, she makes sure she has banana bars, three different soups, bread and a sample of our newly created crisp in the oven. And ice cream. Always the ice cream.

It was a lovely day. Because yes, we got to take home enough treats to fill a freezer, but mostly because it’s always been like this with her, my oldest childhood friend, and it was nice to stir up the memories.

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My mom likes to tell the story of her as the tiny 3-year-old she used to babysit who gave my mother a tutorial on how to properly crack an egg while standing on her tippy toes on a stool in her kitchen.

And when we were growing up, my friend would lead the charge of recipe creations made out of ingredients like Hot Tamales, angel hair pasta and marshmallow cream. If it sounds disgusting, it was.

But so was the green garden pepper smeared with peanut butter she convinced me to eat when I was 10. Turns out that’s actually a thing her family eats.

So now, whenever I taste an out-of-the-garden-pepper, I think of her freckled, sunburned face laughing as I spit it out cartoon-style.

It’s the same way I think of her and I standing in the road ditch north of my place every time I taste a Juneberry pie that is never as good as the one she made from the berries we plopped in that bucket tucked into the sling where my casted arm rested, a result of a summer horse injury that didn’t really stop us.

Nothing really stopped us back then. And now look at us, all grown up with a thousand excuses to say no to the things we think we don’t have time for, like standing side by side rolling out dough and laughing.

And so today, for so many reasons, I thank God for a friend who says yes. Yes to pie and a house full of kids who get to grow up with sweet memories tucked away, too.

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Listen

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Listen, Because it’s important
Forum Communications

I’m sitting in the airport in Minneapolis waiting for a flight to take me up and out of this city, back home to resume life as normal.

I came for a conference meant to connect people from all walks of life and give us the tools to start a conversation about acceptance, inclusion and understanding as we work to build our communities together — all of those things that start with a story and hover around an open mind.

It’s interesting to reflect on this in an airport where all of these lives in bodies converge, touch, talk, brush by one another, hold on to the same railing and sit side by side, knees nearly touching, everyone carrying the weight of their own world on their way to the sky.

So close, but we’re strangers.

I like to sit in places like these because I can be anonymous and sort of invisible if I want to be. My life in a small town doesn’t offer me that very often, even though last week I wished I were as I was sitting in road construction traffic for nearly an hour with a screaming baby in the back, giving into my urge to scream too and bang my fists on the steering wheel, as if that were going to change anything about my situation.

Yesterday, as part of one of our workshops, we were tasked to stand in front of a stranger and talk for one minute while the other person just listened under the assumption that we are an amazing person.

It was one of those exercises that make even the most confident person sort of squirm. It was uncomfortable. I was self-conscious. A 60-second pointless ramble to a person I will likely never see again. I just wasn’t convinced.

But something shifted when it was my turn to listen and her turn to speak. I fought my urge to ask questions, to relate, to say “me too,” or “tell me more about that” or ask her how she’s doing now.

We did the exercise three or four more times, sharing different parts of our stories with different strangers, and I left there exhausted but a bit enlightened. When’s the last time I gave someone, a friend or a stranger, the good grace of simply listening, without remark or request?

We want to know about community and how to build it. We want to know peace and how to find it. We want friendship and love and hope and healing. We buy the books and the movies and podcasts and take a plane to a big, unfamiliar city where we can disappear from our real lives for a moment.

But we weren’t meant to hide our stories. Hard or unnerving, collected or entertaining, we can only help ourselves if we spill those stories out into the world like baby Rosie’s wails in my car that day, filling up the space with the certainty of her existence, willing me not to wail back and pound my fists the way I did, but to hear her.

And then scoop her up in my arms.

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