What I don’t want to forget…

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Greetings from Minnesota. We spent the Labor Day weekend here with my grandparents and aunt at the lake cabin and in true family vacation fashion, we get to stay a bit longer because my car crapped out on us.

So send a little prayer up for my radiator so we can get on the road and head back west with the babies at a decent hour today.

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But we’ve had a nice time. Edie and Ada have the relatives wrapped around their tiny little fingers and it’s so wonderful to see Edie at this fun age developing relationships with our family.

It seems like there’s so much turmoil and unease in the news and in our world right now, some days it’s hard for me to stay grounded and optimistic about it all. But spending a stretch of days focused on extended family, creating memories, keeping it close to home, teaching and showing love and affection and feeling it in return reminds me that it begins here…

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It begins with our children.

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Coming Home: What I don’t want to forget

Yesterday I asked Edie if she pooped.

“Pew Eee,” I said, waving my hand in front of my nose, scrunching up my face.

“Pew Eee Hondo,” she replied, mimicking my actions and successfully blaming the dog for the first time.

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I guess it doesn’t take long for them to start figuring out how this world works. Like, I thought I had more time before she started declaring opinions about my wardrobe, but I was wrong. She demands I take my shoes off when they’re on in the house and when I have my hair up, she makes it clear that she prefers it down until I oblige and she can move on with her little life.

And she’s got even stronger ideas about what she should be wearing. Like absolutely nothing when she’s outside in the backyard, bending over to moon the world while drinking out of the kiddie pool like her BFF Hondo. And when she’s inside? Well, she must be in a dress.

A dress and a winter beanie — I’m sure she’s right in style and I’m just her old pregnant mom walking behind her making sure she doesn’t make poor decisions, like running wide open down the scoria road toward the bulls screaming “MOOOO!”

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These are the types of things I report to her dad at the end of the day when he walks through the door. Because not only do I never want to forget, it feels a little unfair that her only audience is a hormonal woman three months away from giving birth to another one of these mysterious, messy and magical tiny humans.

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Last week my family hit up the local farmer’s market to buy some peaches and listen to my dad and his band play. I stepped up behind the microphone to sing a few songs and Edie cried the cry of heartbreak until I plopped her on my hip to sing with me. It took a couple rounds of the chorus, but before long she leaned in and sang the words to “You Are My Sunshine,” as clear and as confident as a 1-year-old can be, right into that mic. And then she grabbed it out of my hand for another round.

I’ve spent the past few days hearing from my friends who have been sending their kids off to another year of school. So many talks of firsts and nerves and “where does the time go?” and big hopes and worries about tenderness, toughness and compassion as they navigate the time out from under their parents’ wings. It’s exciting and heart-wrenching to know it won’t be long before the little world Edie’s so intent on figuring out gets bigger and more complicated.

I mean, one stage performance has already secured her a bigger audience…

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And there are a thousand things to reflect upon and have opinions on in the tumultuous times we’re living in, but today I just want to tell you how on Saturday, when we came inside from looking at the stars, Edie waved, blew a kiss and said goodbye to the moon.

And it was everything.

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Unexpected Sacred Spaces

There’s a long hallway in a hospital in the big town that stretches above and across an intersection, connecting two parts of the building with plain beige carpet and tall windows that let the light in from the street.

All day, every day, nurses, doctors and employees rolling carts of covered chicken and Jello to be delivered to patients who may not want to eat but have to eat, walk these hallways as part of their minute by minute routine, wearing their shoes and the carpet a little thinner with each step. To those employees, the hallways of their hospital become a part of the fabric of their day, a relationship that may or may not be complicated. I don’t know for sure. I’ve never worked in a field where my job is to physically care for a person or to use my training to open up a body and save a life, so I can’t speak for them. I don’t know what goes on in the hallways of a hospital from their perspective.

But I do know from the perspective of a daughter who watched her dad come back slowly from the brink of death after an emergency flight and an open chest bypass surgery for a condition with devastating odds three years ago in that hallway that stretches across and above the street of the big town

And I don’t think about it often anymore, because when it turns out the way you want it to turn out, you get that luxury, but I’m thinking about it today because last week we found ourselves there again, the whole family, sitting in the very same waiting room where we would sit with dad for a change of scenery during that weeklong hospital stay.

Only this time he was the healthy one, visiting a family member who hit a little rough patch, offering to get food and magazines and trying to help me wrangle a wiggly one-year-old who found it hilarious to take off running and giggling toward patients’ rooms.

“Let me take her on a walk Jess,” he said as he grabbed her hand and headed for the hallway with the windows….

In those late nights sitting with dad I remember making plans for the barnyard and the corrals, the cows we would buy and what we would do that summer to move us forward. And a few times during our stay in the big town, I walked down the block in the freezing cold wind to talk to my doctor about infertility treatments, to do tests and try to figure out if we were ever going to have a baby.

I got up from the waiting room chair to check on the squeals coming from that long hallway where we would take turns strolling with dad as his surgery wounds healed and my breath sort of caught at the sight of it—a man we weren’t sure was going to live walking hand in hand with a baby we never thought would be born.

And, just like that, a hallway in a hospital in the big town with plain beige carpet and tall windows turned sacred.

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Seasons.

Red road coming cutting through the ranch.

It’s been over five years since Husband and I unpacked our things to live forever on this ranch and over five years since I’ve been writing about what it means to come home here in this space.

With each passing year the story of the seasons has become familiar, repeating its chorus of changing leaves,

Fall in the Horse Pasture

September 21, 2010. Horse Pasture.

falling snow,

Barnyard Fall snow

frozen earth,

October 29, 2010. Late October Snow Drift

October 29, 2010. Late October Snow Drift

warmer sky,

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lush new grass, buds on the trees

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and heat on my skin.

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And as the earth goes about its regularly scheduled changes, life happens to us humans and changes us as well. Only we’re not like the seasons. We don’t come back around to start over again each year. No. When a leaf falls off, we don’t grow a new one next year.

When our grass turns brown, we don’t get another chance to water and green up in the spring.

Our whole lives are measured in one spring, one summer, one autumn and one winter.

And then we go back to the earth.

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I’m looking out the window now at leaves partially blown off of the oak trees. Gold and brown. Those are the colors left now. We’ve had a long autumn. It is supposed to be 80 degrees tomorrow.

We haven’t seen a fleck of snow yet.

It hasn’t truly cooled down.

I guess each year is different. Like each life is different.

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And I can’t help but notice now, with this theory in play, that I’m on the cusp of entering a new season of this life of mine.

I’ve had a long spring. A long sort of youth unattached to the responsibilities of fully caring for another human being. Responsible only for my own vision, my own love, my own outlook on life, my own plans and my own story. I’ve been in much of this season with my husband, together, in spring, cleaning up, building space, making plans, basking in the promise of warmer days ahead, being torn down by the set back of the big, unpredictable rains that made us change directions.

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This baby kicks my side and reminds me that spring is running its course.

It’s coming to a rapid end.

And that the summer we’ve looked forward to, the warmth, the calmer weather that makes way for everyday adventure, is within view.

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Five years ago I had no idea what I was going to do with my life out here. I knew that I would love it and appreciate it for all the reasons I loved and appreciated it in my youth.

But what would I do for work? What would our forever home look like? How would I ever figure out how to keep my pantry stocked perfectly living as an adult 30 miles from the grocery store the way my mom always did?

Now that we decided to settle down out here, who would I ultimately become?

And I suppose that’s why I started writing it all down. Because after asking a question like that the only logical next step is to try to find the answer.

Except for that “ultimately” part.

I don’t think we find that in the spring or the summer of our lives. I think those are the last chapters waiting to be written in the fall when we harvest what we’ve set out to produce and in the winter when we rest to reflect.

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I look back now on the things I’ve written down along the way and I know it’s helped me discover that I’m a little stronger than I thought I was, with a hint of brave, but not too much that my knees don’t shake at the thought of a big idea. And I think I figured out what it means to me to have fun along the way.

But discovering my ideas, cultivating them, that’s what the safe haven of this home always gave me growing up and I’m so glad I let my guard down enough so that it could continue to work its magic in that way even after the freedom of childhood wore off.

I think the 8 year old version of me would be pleased to know that we’re still writing and singing and riding horses in the home we love so much.

I take a lot of stock in imagining what that little girl would think of us now.

So I can’t help but wonder what she would say to me now that I’m about to become a mother…

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Lately I’ve found myself reflecting on this question, trying to tap into the memory of what it was like to be so young, trying to remember and understand what was done by my parents to help cultivate my imagination, to give me protection and freedom at the same time.

Now that I finally feel I have a grip on what kind of woman I am, I have an entirely new uncharted landscape of motherhood ahead of me, and I can only imagine, a whole new set of stories to write and reasons to be inspired to see what I’m made of.

And I’m thrilled for the chance to add “Motherhood” to the list of categories.

And a little bit scared.

And a little bit brave.

On the cusp of a new season…

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