The October 1, 2013 United States Government Shut Down is Freaking Me Out.


Maybe it is because I am just old enough to remember the Energy Crisis of 1979, and the heart-pounding-sweaty-palms anxiety I, even as a young girl, felt each day that we might run out. I remember the crazy-long gas lines, counting our pennies, and the stress of watching my parents try to figure out how they were going to pay for all that gasoline.

And yes, I was completely freaked out with our world.  Each time someone left the light on, for instance, I felt that end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-crazy-zombies-are-going-get-me fear as my dad yelled, “Turn off the lights! We are paying for that,” then mumbling something about the exact cost we paid to turn the lights on and then off again. “Be careful. Turn the light off when you leave the room. Don’t keep flipping the switches. We pay for that!”  (If my boys are reading this they will now know why I lose my mind every time we leave the house with lights left on.) We always turned off all the lights, left only necessary lights on, turned down the heat, and like the wrath we incurred for a light left on, if someone forgot to turn the when-you-are-asleep-heat to what felt like frost-producing 32 degrees Fahrenheit, there was hell to pay.  Our thermostat was marked with little dots to remind us where the temperature should be set, and each time I bumped it too high, because I was so cold, I wondered if I was using up the heat of my future.  Scary is correct.

By 1979 I believe my parents were scared too. They lived through the 1973 Energy Crisis, and remembered what it was like to restrict and go without. I, myself, sensed we were entering a more Bladerunner-Mad-Max (not the one with Tina Turner)-Post-Apocalyptic-Dystopian world.  In 1979 I also felt completely blessed that we were one of those “weird” religious families; you know the ones. We had our seventy-two hour kits, knew how to garden, sew, wear dresses (homemade Gunnie Sax, to be exact) that looked like we were from “Little House on the Prairie,” look like we could live in a little house on the prairie, and had plenty of food stored up: a two year supply, in fact. Folks now, like Doomsday Preppers, are simply the modern-day heirs to our empire. We knew how to save, and we knew how to be ready for the end of the world. When the wealthy lady at church referred to my family as the family who would survive the Apocalypse, I mean, The Second Coming, I took it as a complement, even though now I am sure she was drawing attention to the fact that our clothes were not from Laura Ashley, but sewn with my mom’s loving hands.

Her words: “You guys would be totally okay during the end of the world. You know how to sew, and you could to teach the rest of us how to take care of ourselves.” Except for her sewing comment, (my mom and my sisters are the ones who really know how to sew), like I mentioned, I was flattered. In my mind I imagined us as a scrappy, adept, badass family, because we actually were. When the world came to an end, we could use the bumps and bruises life threw our way and we would be Mad Max and Laura Ingalls, all wrapped in one.  To paint a clear picture, because I already illuminated the Lauara Ingalls side, we were also the gypsy family, a family who traveled around in our camper, singing our hearts out to the overly played cassette tapes of  Elton John,  Simon and Garfunkel, and Roberta Flack, we did not own a gun, were saving our money to buy a personal computer when owning a calculator was cool, watched MTV on our TV, and knew that Led Zeppelin was not a person, but a band. Better, in today’s world, in my duct-taped together, family, I would hope to be Katniss, an expert with a crossbow, and alongside my attractive-outlier companion we would save the world, Hunger Games style.

Alas, I am not Katniss. I am a stay at home mom; a mom who is filled to the brim with pre-existing conditions, and have a husband who has chosen a career path which often leads us down the path of the self-insured.  Guess what? In the pre-Obamacare world it has not been easy for us to get health insurance, at any price. It has always been costly, chock full of high deductibles, high premiums, exclusions, and surcharges. Today, my hands feel tied, and because they do, maybe the fear I feel now is that I can clearly remember what it felt like to live in a country — a country that is supposed to be the greatest country on the planet — that wasn’t living up to its own expectations.

Now that I am thinking about 1979, of course I think about the Iran Hostage Crisis of that same year.  I still believe that whole thing could have been avoided if not for political posturing and grandstanding on both sides, don’t you? Ironically, because I am trying to draw a parallel to this time in history and today, the western media called it, “an entanglement of vengeance and mutual incomprehension.”  Sound familiar?

As a young girl I remember those long and sad days vividly. It is not hard to do.  We were cold. Remember? We kept the heat down low. The lights were off, of course. It was barely pre-MTV, we did not have fifty billion television stations, and an assortment of electronic devices to distract us. We had a television set, a phone with a very stretched out cord attached to the wall (obviously because we had to stretch the chord all the way down the stairs behind a closed door so we could privately talk to our friends), and most of us did not have a T.V. remote.  When we wanted to change the channel we had to get up off our ass, walk over to the television, grab that little knob and turn it. For 444 days we turned our television sets on, and heard about those fifty-two American hostages. In my overly-simplified version of world history and politics, it was my understanding back in 1979 that the United States did not need to be where it was. It is my understanding that the Oil Crisis of 1973, which was caused when members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries proclaimed an oil embargo forcing prices of oil to skyrocket, should have taught us something.  So by 1979, when another Gas Crisis, prompted by the Iranian Revolution, happened, the United States should have known better, right? My guess is that they did, and my guess is that because one political decision led to another, we ended up in crisis anyway. Kind of like how the fifty-two American Hostages were not freed until the moment Ronald Reagan finished his inaugural speech on January 20, 1981. True story.

Earlier this evening, while at the grocery store, I discussed with my friend, (we were standing by the yummy smelling grapefruits, our hands cupped around our mouths as we spoke in whispers), “It is not the same now as it was then (referring to the 1979 Energy Crisis). I know I can buy gasoline, there are no long lines, I have all these great LED lights, and of course I do not feel like the world is going to end this very second. I am still completely freaked out. I feel like we our government is completely falling apart, we just get to sit back and watch. The scariest part for me is that I believe that once again they know better, but their pride, greed, righteousness, and grandstanding, making this government shutdown happen.  We are the collateral damage.”

I grabbed two grapefruits, set them in my basket, and was on my way.

Today I am afraid.  I am no longer a little girl.  I see my friends on furlough, others out of work, and I want to show my sons something better. My sons go to schools; schools where they hear about the evil devil president. They go to schools where they hear about the Free Market and how Obama is taking our freedom away. They also go to schools where they hear about the arrogant Tea Party painting themselves into a corner. These kids are the unfiltered voices of their parents, including my and Dave’s, by the way.

I wonder if any of us parents remember anything? Do any of these politicians?  Have we forgotten the long gas lines, cold winter houses with heat turned down low, fifty-two American Hostages, or any of our nation’s past less-than-ideals. I wonder if we, when we are debating Obamacare, if we remember that Medicare was supposed to be a nation-destroying Socialist encroachment back when it was passed? I wonder if we know that most of the Affordable Care Act was actually hatched in Republican think tanks back in the 90s? Sure, if the Republicans had passed their healthcare reform, it would most likely NOT include free birth control, but it would have more similarities than differences to Obamacare. It’s a mess, and we got ourselves here.  I wonder how this will stop. I wonder in this land of the free home of the brave if we can ever figure out a way to get along, listen and instead of being self-serving our self interested, that our government can actually just work it out.

On the way to school this morning the boys were mad, and yes, it was the other one’s fault. I asked them to stop talking. “You are tired, I am tired, we are not being nice, so let’s shut up. Seriously, shut your mouths.” After a few minutes, when we were all thinking of other things, I turned on the radio. Of course the people on the air were talking about the government shut down.  The boys and I talked and then I said, “Boys, listen. This is a big deal. Just like I experienced both the Iran Hostage Crisis and the oil crisis way back when, this political showdown will be a moment for you. Remember it. Learn from it. Think about how we can make it better.”


The End.

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It was my boys who finally broke through. They were terrified. I could see it in their eyes, and as they clung to my legs somewhere inside of me I knew that we all had had enough.”

Us August 2006

That is how my post begins and I know I promised to share that post with you, and here is where my internal struggle lies: Recently I wrote something that I found hurt a family member. The second I knew I caused my family pain, I took that particular post down. I haven’t really blogged since. I thought my words were safe and warm, yet that is not how they were received. I always take responsibility for my words. That has never been the issue, and maybe that is actually the problem. I do not hide. I own what I say, yet hate causing pain, even the slightest bit of pain. I know. I can’t have both.  I must have some deeply locked in Pavlovian-nightmare that makes my insides crush every time someone tells me how sad my words make them. 

Consequently, my personal struggle has always been my inability to reconcile the fact that my words will hurt.  My words are not convenient.  My story is not filled with rainbows and happy endings, my skies can get really cloudy, and from the inside my life does not look like a Martha Stewart magazine cover photo. Whose really does?

Most of our stories seem to be purposeful and filled with hope. My  story  is also a dark, awesomely fantastic, crazy, Running-With-Scissors, Lovely-Bones kind of tale. And because my story is not pretty, inside the lines, or Celestial, time and feedback have taught me that I have to keep my story far from those characters, the characters who play the most important roles. Since walking away from actively blogging (August 2006), I have often wondered if, like Augusten Burroughs, (the man who wrote Running With Scissors), I will also have to wait until those loved ones and others I will hurt die, or not tell my story at all.  

As I think about it, I have always told stories, and I have always been open. It is just how I am wired, and I am confident my wiring comes directly off of the Double Helix strands of my Grandma Koener (my mom’s mom). Veronica (that was her name and I can hear my grandpa yelling it as I type), well, Veronica was strong, short (4’11”), bold, outspoken, direct, salty, often misunderstood, and was fiercely devoted to those she loved. The only thing I didn’t get from her were her big boobs. Seriously, I could have used a little help there, Grandma!  My mom always said I was most like her, and because my grandma could be less filtered, I know some were also hurt by her words. And because I knew this, I was not always pleased with the comparison. Maybe it was that soft moment, sitting with her in a parked car outside of Wendy’s, because she was too old and frail to go inside. She wanted to hear about my boyfriends, and she wanted to make sure that before she died (because she knew it would be soon and it was) that I married a good man. “And if he is not good to you, Beth, I will come right over and box his ears.”  And maybe it was snuggled up on the pull-out sofa, watching movies together on our VCR (which she called an RCA),  laughing when she had no idea what was going on. Really. No idea. And it did not matter! And maybe it was her fearless, and open nature.  She, as the oldest daughter of twelve kids (not Mormons, farmers), left a tiny, rural Midwestern farm to go to the big city as a young girl. She left the farm, because she needed something bigger, and she left the farm because her family needed her help. She got it, and I finally got that being compared to my Grandma Koener is about the highest complement one could receive. Being compared to her open and fearless natures is something I want to get right. I miss her, and I know, wherever she is she would be ok with whatever I said, even the ugly parts. I also know she would feel the same sorrow I do if I were to hurt her loved ones.

 And as open and interested as I was, asking my mom and dad about sex at the dinner table as a nine-year-old with my dad, two brothers and three sisters sitting by my side, only made sense (I am the youngest, by the way). Telling my friends less than a week ago that I not only came home from my Mormon Mission early, but that it is was one of the greatest choices I ever made, felt empowering, and does not feel like a story I needed to hide or reconstruct. My eleventh grade Creative Writing teacher, Roman Borgerding, grabbed out of me, and gave me the courage to see that truth really is beauty (thank you Ares Poetica).  I will be forever grateful. Mr. Borgerding showed me how to write stories I already loved to tell.  He is the one who taught me the most important writing technique of all. Standing on a wobbly high school chair he would shout to the class, “Write out the garbage.” Pacing the class, he continued, like a metronome, repeating word for word, “write and write, write out the trash, and as you write, you will, you will find your truth.” He was right, and he was a gift.   I think about him a lot and I think I must find a way. Yesterday I was talking to a friend, who said, “Beth, I could never put it out there for the world to see.”  Before blogs, before the internet, before cellphones, before all of it, I loved to ask, I loved to share, I loved to tell my story.  I do not see my dark spots as shameful and embarrassing, and maybe that is why when I share the dark moments of others, I feel love and forgiveness, or better, I feel truth. I told my friend, “Friend (because that is really what I call him), you are a gifted doctor. When people are suffering they come to you.  The gift I have is my narrative. The healing I can hopefully share is through what I have to say.”  Unfortunately it is also what I see as my gift that always causes the most pain. And like an overly edited script, if I keep adjusted my words to make everyone look, smell and feel good, then what’s the point? I continued, “You know how I can go on and on and on when we talk, that is how writing is. The words always come, and they keep coming.”

 A couple of weeks ago when talking about writing and what I could actually do with a career I had pursued, loved, and studied in college, another family member suggested I should only write when I have the complete permission of anyone that I want to write about. Those words haunt me. I know that is not what my family intended.  Really, what is the point? Where is the joy? I love my family, and respect what they say. I hear them, and their words carry way to much weight. I started this post, a post about blogging, thinking that I could avoid hurting my family altogether, only to be reminded that whatever I write, I will always cause someone else pain or discomfort. My hands are tied, my stomach is in knots, and I do not know how to move forward, make peace, and tell the stories about blogging, my family and all the stories I love to tell. I know.  I sound like a pussy. You want to tell me to forgive myself, don’t be so afraid, and to maybe attend a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Group, right? My Fourth Grade Teacher suggested the same things [wink wink]. Really, you should see the only comment she wrote on my report card? “Beth, next year do not be so afraid of your teacher.”  

Regarding the post I promised you, at last count I was up to 4311 words. Holy Cow, Batman! My gut doesn’t lie.  I am having a difficult time putting those 4311 words out there. Maybe it is because of what my family said. A lot of it is.  Maybe it is because writing about my former life as a blogger forced me to open a door that I had locked, shut and moved away from long ago.  As I go back and forth trying to decide what is best for all involved, and like I have articulated every which way here, I see that it will be impossible to make everyone involved feel good. Actually, that was kind of the point of writing the post.  As cheesy or perhaps self-serving as it sounds, I was searching for healing, and thought maybe if everyone knew my side, that things would change.  

It is true. I said I would let you know the “whole” story of what “really” happened that one time, the year was 2006, the month was August, when I abruptly stopped blogging. For days I’ve worked on this post. I’ve read it over and over again. I am grateful for Dave’s support. I love that Dave, with his badass editing skills, read and edited my post. I love that after reading he said, “Beth, this is some of your very best writing. The tone is perfect.” His words mean the world, and even with his most positive critique, I did not feel resolved. I only hoped that I would.

 All week long I continued to write.  I called an editor friend seeking advice, and ran my thoughts past her. I kept writing, working those words through. While I continued to knead and adjust my words, pounding out every angle and explanation, it was pretty easy to see that I can’t.  I tried to write it differently. I tried to lessen the sting, and then my post started to morph into something I did not recognize. That wasn’t right either. I had a decision to make, and no, I do not think the outcome is necessarily fair. And because I know better, and because I know what it is like to be on the other end of someone’s hurt-filled words and actions, I am not sure I am ok with that.  I am no saint.  I also know that the pain I could cause would most definitely make me feel terrible, only distracting me from the actual pain I have worked to heal.

 I continued to write, hoping I would write out enough hurt, shame, anger, love, and sorrow that I would eventually find a way.  Rationalizations weren’t cutting it, and saying it was for the greater good only made me think, “whose greater good?” It came down to this: Even though I know my intent is hopeful and right, I cannot take away the truth that my words will most likely sting. I am not a complete idiot (remind me to tell you the story about two-year-old Eli’s favorite word, “eighty-eight” sometime). I also see the opportunity. It is the stories that sting that are often the most compelling, and it is an added bonus when one of the characters is very well known. And because I realize upfront that drama sells, I have to question my intent. Do I make any sense?

Finally, I am afraid. To honestly write about what I experienced back then makes me want to puke. To write, I must slice open that beautifully healed scar, and relive those very same horrific, embarrassing, very painful feelings I felt back then. This week that is exactly what I did. I do not like that part. I hate it.  The words bled through my fingers, and flew onto the keyboard as I felt the fear and PTSD I felt back then. No fun! Each day I was grateful when it is time to pick up the boys. I arrived at their school, they hopped in the car where I saw their faces, asked them about their day, we laughed, talked about girls, homework, and tomorrow’s Math. Each day as we sat in the car together I would breathe, and as I did, I saw my life now. I felt strong. I would sit and think, “why would I want to bring that horror back into my world?”  We are happy. As we drove home, I knew that past trauma is something I can let go. I already have.

Us Today

 To tell my story is important. It has a place, I just do not know where. I also think I most definitely picked the short straw in all of this. For now I have put my post on pause. I’ve saved it, and maybe someday posting it will be right.  Selfishly I am grateful that this past week I walked through a long-ago horror. I wrote down word for word what happened, what was said to me, and ouch!  I can tell that long ago I walked through a nightmare, and for now, that’s about all I can say. I can also tell you that I am grateful I wrote out the exact words, because maybe now I won’t be so afraid of monsters. I hope not.       

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Oxygen Masks, Mormon Crafty Blogs and the Apocalypse

A small, yet wordy, preface: I have a lot to say. I always have a lot to say, and usually Dave or a few phenomenal friends get that earful. With Dave working far, far away, and because I believe one friend needs to attend to her dog (hi, Opie) and the other, for instance, well, I’ve already spoken with her at least seventeen times just today, I think I need to dust off my old blog, and find another way to let these words escape. Oh yes, I used to blog.

These days, I try to keep silent. I stop my thinking, and simply freeze the overly-analyzed thoughts, only letting them escape when letting them free is better than keeping them in, like now. I have such an icy mouthful accumulating. It is like I am stuck in that space right after, say, one shoves a giant spoonful of Mint Oreo Cookie ice cream in one’s mouth, and currently that yummy, very cold spoonful is stuck, frozen right in that spot, the spot the ice cream moves to as one begins to swallow; uncomfortable at best. As my throat throbs, my mind is confusing my frozen brain chaos for an epic ice cream headache. Words need to get out! My eyes water while I reflexively place my warm tongue to the roof of my mouth. Seriously, if I am not careful, as my frozen words begin to thaw, some poor, unsuspecting Whole Foods employee, or worse, a terrified mom (because she will be terrified once she hears what I have to say) well, that unsuspecting soul will get an earful of my now warming words. I can’t hold the frozen forever. I cannot cover the enormous mouthful or the enormity of this issue in one post either. Scratching the surface, kind of like nails on a chalkboard, is what I promise.

The Story: Remember what the airlines say, “Put your mask on first, and then help.” I think that sometimes we are so mired in our own stuff that we forget the, “And then help,” part (myself included).

It could have been anywhere. I could have been with any group of women, yet a Mormon Church Relief Society Meeting is where it happened to be. In case you do not know, Relief Society is the women’s auxiliary arm of the Mormon Church. On Sundays, Relief Society fills one of the three church hours. I debated whether I should include where I was, because I did not want to distract from the story, yet including it will, in my opinion, paint a clearer picture. So yes, I found my way to a Mormon Church Meeting, (long story, don’t read into it either way, by the way, don’t judge, ok, judge, but do not assume).

As I sat in this Mormon Church Relief Society Meeting, my head was pounding, and not from ice cream. I did not want to be there, but there is where I was. For a quick escape, I sat close to the door, next to my sweet, and very talkative neighbor. I listened as the women teaching the lesson shared her message. She asked for comments, and in the one place I thought I was free from the Internet, there it was. After a woman shared her dislike and disgust of Facebook, 500 gazillion members and counting, “I may be the only person in the world under 80 years old who does not have a Facebook Account blah, blah, blah…” Another woman sheepishly raised her hand, “I just joined Facebook and I have connected with family I never knew…” Like erupting popcorn, all over the room the hands flew. Church is a place where no one really knows me, and thank God, no one there knew I used to blog. Pop. Pop. Pop. The hands popping high, and I thinking, “How can I be at church and people be having this discussion?” yet there I was. And the there was the hand, and like my first spoonful of ice cream, once the hand went down, her words began to churn, “I am a young mother. I love my children. I am crafty. I would like to make money for my family. I am also busy raising my children. There are all of those CRAFTY MORMON WOMEN BLOGS. There are the Mormon Women Blogs that tell you how to make your house just like theirs and there are the Mormon Women Blogs that talk about their happy, happy family. [insert frustrated pause here] I cannot be them. I want to. I can’t. Their kids are perfect. Their lives are perfect. They make money from showing the rest of us their perfect worlds. I am too busy wiping noses and changing diapers.” I could feel the I-am-less-than bleeding out of her.

And as I listened, I literally threw up in my mouth while my heart sank. It wasn’t the place, and maybe this isn’t the place, but COME ON PEOPLE, something needs to be said. As my story moves, I will tell you WHY. At that moment, while I sat in church, I did know better. I was simply afraid to speak. I should have opened my mouth, yet I remained silent. Shame on me!

The young woman continued, “If only I could be like them. If only I could be them.” I wanted to scream, but I didn’t want to look foolish, or better, more foolish than I was already feeling. I wanted to stand up in this room, a room of mostly strangers and shout, “YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!” I know. In my head, I see myself as so Free-to-Be-You-And-Me. Hey, Rosie Greer (most of you are too young. Google it), well, Rosie Greer had a point when he sang those sweet words, “It’s all right to cry,” and all the other things you do by simply being you.

As she talked, she sparked a conversation. I am so glad she did. The other women persisted, and the hands continued to pop. I wanted to assure her, I wanted to assure them. I wanted to say, “It’s a bunch of smoke and mirrors.” I wanted to tell them, “Sure, some of those women totally have it together, or at least mostly together, and are super cool, but behind those Arty Salt-Flats-Family-Photos (a Utah thing), behind those lovely Instagram shots, the “Facebook happy” posts, the “Martha Stewart” look (something she mentioned), the white-stitched-jeans, the dessert bars, and impeccably sewn Etsy dresses, I promise you they all struggle. They doubt. They compete. They take Prozac. They weep silently. They overeat. They starve themselves, they exercise too much, their husbands are depressed, and while they work on their blog, their houses are a mess.” Desperately, I wanted to say, “WOMEN, you are all good! You deserve a space on this planet. You DO NOT have to be perfect!” (Yes, I know I am being dramatic, but it breaks my soul to see and feel so much pain. And damn it, dramatic is what I feel.) And finally, I wanted to tell this woman. Hey, I don’t know you, but you are here. You seem like an awesome mom, and guess what, it just doesn’t matter. Did you know that scientifically getting “likes” on Facebook or Instagram are one of the simplest forms of a Dopamine response? It’s crack for the non-drug user. Facebook “likes” or sponsorships on your Crafty Mormon Blog do not mean that you are better, or more perfect. You are good!

Unfortunately, this is just a sampling of the bigger issue. I really wish they did, but Mormon Women Bloggers and Mormon Women have not cornered the market on competition, the freakish strive for perfection, the need to keep up, or at all costs, and I really mean, at all costs, the need to be number one. I think we all know that.

We seem to be living in a world where so much energy is spent on the outward, on the appearance of looking like we have it together, that our kids are perfect, damn it, and that our marriages are painless; all the while people are disintegrating on the inside. We aren’t taking time to be the smart pig, of The Three Little Pigs, that is, and we are building are very attractive houses with straw, you know what I mean? We are so concerned with keeping up that we are forgetting to build together. We live in a world where it is easier to look away, wait, I mean, pull out our cellphone and videotape the tragedy, then putting our cellphone in our pocket, offering to help, especially when helping is not the popular thing to do, and Epic Fail YouTube video gets us way more friends, right? This issue of striving is so big. I know I am at fault. Like I said and for starters, I tend to keep my mouth shut instead of sticking my words out there. Women we are hard on ourselves and we are hard on each other. Please, it has to change. Why the hell do we stand on top, crushing each other, instead of standing together? Why can’t we be more brave? Why don’t we take sides, or go the road less traveled? Seriously, why?

Didn’t all of those as-I-have-loved-you-love-one-another church lessons, or those after school specials, or that Three Cups of Tea book (wait, he was a fraud), well and nevertheless, didn’t they teach us anything? Leave “Facebook Happy” to some far away land, a land Brandon Mull can create; a world with wizards, thinking zombies, and a world with amazing people, people who can remove a seed from their neck, plant it and be reborn. And if I am making no sense, let me tell you why we need to reach out, be honest, accept ourselves warts and all, throw away the smoke machines, and break the mirrors.

Earlier this week I heard about a woman. This amazing Mormon woman, a woman with a high level of education, had been student body president, an athlete, an active church attender, and also served an LDS Mission, was a friend, a daughter, a sister a wife and a mother, well, earlier this week, this lovely and amazing woman, alone, drove to a park and ended her life.

I did not know her. I knew her brother. I have no idea the unbearable pain and soul-crushing heartache she was in. I cannot judge her. I can only be sad, sad needed to go. Did she feel less than? Was she struggling to keep up? We can make excuses and say she was depressed. Of course she was sad.

She was also our sister, our wife, our mother, our friend, and for some reason it was better for her to leave this world alone then to hang on. I only wish I knew her. Her sudden death has hit me quietly, and has broken my heart. As a sister, daughter, wife, mother and a friend, myself, I think of the spaces those titles fill. She was someone’s daughter. She was someone’s mother, and now she is gone.

As I think of her, I think of the moments when I judge or simply look away. Sure, I know we need to fix ourselves, and that no one can make us happy. We all know that. I would like to think, however, I could be there to hold someone’s hand, especially when their own world seems so dark, and bottom-of-the-ocean like. I hope I could at least hold their hand long enough so they can resurface, and catch their breath. In those dark, scary, and uncomfortable moments, I hope I can remind someone that they are good enough, and completely worth it. I do not know enough about suicide except to say that suicide crosses all socioeconomic ranges, all ages, races and religions. Statistically, there seems to be way too many people who have completely lost hope. According to national statistics, 105 people end their life each day in the United States alone.

Blogs and Facebook be damned, because when the Apocalypse comes (wink wink) the internet will die, including crafty Mormon Women blogs, and with all the surviving cock roaches, and 10 million pounds of unground wheat (remember Mormons have a lot of food storage), I will also take the following, because what we have centered or stuffed inside is what we will always have. I will be grateful. I will be grateful for those moments, especially the moments when I am feeling completely less than. I will be (because I already am) grateful for those breathless, paralyzing moments, when a complete stranger, a Whole Foods cashier, a woman at church, an empathetic park mom, or a dear friend sees me, reaches their hand out, and their heart forward long enough to lift me to safety. Instead of trampling me to get out of the burning plane, or more apt, letting me suffocate, they stop and they help.  How cool is that?  My guess is that they already had their oxygen mask on, or are very good at holding their breath. Breathe and then lift. And as they wait for me to put my mask on, I am grateful they always stay long enough to hear me breathe. Thank God!

The Soundtrack of My Memory

My brothers, sisters and me. And yes, the girls were rocking some most amazing Go Go Boots

Music, like a certain smell, always transports me to the spot where a song’s melody means the most. Mumford and Sons is playing overhead and instantly I feel like I am standing in Whole Foods in the lovely Kensington neighborhood of London.  Dave and I would live there if we could. I feel the autumn warmth, sunshine is peeking through the doorway, where I see a ginormous cornucopia display surrounded by colorful autumn leaves and Whole Foods treats. Davy holds my hand as we stand there trying to figure out what part of the store we should go to first. There are three levels of awesomeness. I am missing my boys something fierce, and decide to distract my longings by venturing in and look for some yummy dark chocolate. That is what this song does for me.  It feels like a big, giant hug, a hug filled with so much love I may just explode.

The Beatles’ Blackbird is playing in my mind and as many times as I have looked up the simple lyrics I cannot keep them in my brain. Every night as we put Kyle to sleep, or each time baby Kyle (that is what we called him) took a nap I sang to him and most days it was, The Beatles, “Blackbird.” His birth was a tough one, and in those first few months he was so tender and new. We thought he might break.  Each time I sang to him the memory of his crazy, terrible, and long birth eased, I stopped fearing things like those solid five minutes when his heart did not beat. I began to let go of the horror that day was.  Instead, I began to breathe, I began to see that our little Kyle would be ok, at least for now.

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Black bird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
all your life
you were only waiting for this moment to be free.”

We would play the song often, and those lyrics gave me hope and then Dave and I would sing,

“Kyle bug sleeping in the sweet dark night,
Please sleep and rest your heart tonight.
We love you!
Sweet little Kyle Bug.  We love you.”

I know. How sappy. It was and yes, it totally helped.

Music has always been a big part of me, a love given to me by mom that I wanted to pass onto him. I did because eventually as we played Blackbird, baby Kyle began howling along. It was pure delight.

Further back my mind takes me to Yellowstone National Park. Riding along in our Camper, the six of us sat in the back, driving ourselves crazy. My mom made a valiant effort, quizzing us with her name-all-the-presidents and-name-all-of-the-states flash cards. I could name them then. I am sure I cannot name them now.  Without the use of electronics we were forced to entertain ourselves! It is crazy we even survived [wink, wink].  We had a few cassette tapes.  Roberta Flack’s, “Killing Me Softly;” Simon and Garfunkel’s, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and Elton’s John’s, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Wait, and looking back, my parents weren’t so musically lame after all.  We listened to those songs over and over again, often fastforwarding to Simon and Garfunkel’s, “Ceceila,” as we belted those words  at the top of our lungs:

“Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart,
You’re shaking my confidence daily.
Oh Cecilia, I’m down on my knees,
I’m begging you please to come home.
Come on home.”

We played that Simon and Garfunkel tape so often I think it broke. Yes, the tape wore so thin it literally snapped and broke in half. We prided ourselves at harmonizing to “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and after we were bored with that we made our up own songs.

Growing up in a true Brady-Bunch-Styled family was no picnic.  Out of respect (and because it hurts her feelings every time I do) for my mom I try not to mention my childhood. My parents have since divorced, and in my youngest-child-point-of-view, our family is more Humpty-Dumpty-after-he-fell-off-the-wall then Humpty Dumpty before-he-was-put-back-together-again. Honestly, some days, like this one, it feels like I do not have many good memories of the six of us getting along and enjoying each other.  Then I push further, and I find those happy spaces. Because in that rickety old camper somewhere between Yellowstone National Park and the Needles Highway, we, the six kids, came together, united and made up our own lyrics for Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Those crazy lyrics still make me smile.

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
There is a toad in the road.
It is red.
Because it is dead.”

And thank God our song is part of my soundtrack too.

PS And if you think of it, maybe it is these happy memories that took place on the road that instilled in me my always-and-forever Travel LOVE!



Biking for President’s Day

President’s Day


Honoring Washington and Lincoln through bike riding is not what I think we were trying to do, yet in honor of this very President’s Day, I will try to pull a rabbit out of hat, and will most certainly convince you that indeed our family’s are-you-crazy-it-is-still-winter-snow-ice-slush-filled-and-freezing-wind-bike ride was in honor of two of our greatest presidents.  Happy President’s-the-kids-are-bored-because-they-are-out-of-school Day!   Somewhere between the wind piercing through my helmet so insanely I thought my head was going to explode and swearing out loud, because it is possible that one of my children did not use their best crossing-the-street-into-oncoming-traffic skills, The President’s Day spirit was ignited when my friend called, and yes, I did stop riding, unzip my jacket pocket, pull my phone out and answer it. “What if someone really needed to talk?”

As she asked what was up, I shared with her our crazy idea, “yes, we are on a bike ride. Dave is still sick, it is very cold, and the boys just took off.”  I rattled on, and instead of telling me I was indeed crazy, she immediately caught the President’s Day fervor or should I say, fever, or simply wanted to get her stir-crazy son out of the house, and before we were even off the phone, she did just that. She insisted he grab his bike helmet and hit the road. Her son, with the strength of an army and the wisdom of a Founding Father persevered, and like Lincoln and Washington did before him, this young man [insert a quiet crescendo of patriotic music in the background]  held strong, biking those icy Park City roads whilst dealing with the perils of his broken-back-brakes.  Oh say can you see!

I am not aware that either president, who are both celebrated today, were bikers. Were there even bikes back then? Yes, between George Washington’s presidency, 1789 – 1797, and Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, 1861 – 1865, is the first known and “verifiable” bicycle record.  With the knowledge that bicycles came to being after Washington and before Lincoln, I knew my only hope was Abraham Lincoln. Did Lincoln ride a bike?  I searched the internet high and lo and could not a single record or photograph of Abraham Lincoln on a bike, not even a picture of him standing next to a Penny Farthing.  I did, however, find a picture of cats riding Penny Farthings, of course I did.

Cats riding Penny Farthings

I hung up the phone, nestled it back into my jacket pocket, Dave and I made our way off of the treacherous, ice-rutted bike path and onto the road. I could tell he was loosing steam. We saw the boys ahead, biked over to them, and to my utter dismay, they wanted to continue.  “Aren’t you cold?” I implored?  “No Mom. We are great! This is awesome.”  Kyle said followed by Eli. “We are having such a good time.”  The grey skies were pounding on my soul and all I could imagine is being back in our warm car.  It was time for politicking. I borrowed the suggestively spun words Eli has so often used before, and said, “Hey, I have an idea. (Eli’s words) Why don’t you both bike the paths, Dad and I will bike back to the car, and then we will meet you for snacks.” Isn’t our country based on compromise, didn’t our Founding Fathers try to find a way for all men to get their way (and women)?  I only waited seconds for a response.

CrazyUS President’s Day Bike Ride

“Mom, that sounds great.” They both said, and again followed by Kyle assuring me, “Mom, I have my cellphone. I will call you if there is a problem.”

“Thank you guys!  Stay together.”

“We will.”

CrazyUS President’s Day Bike Ride

At that, they were on their way and thank God so were we.  Dave and I talked about both Washington and Lincoln on our bike ride back to the car (no we didn’t), we talked about our great country (not really we were mostly quiet). Oh yes, we took quiet pause to reflect on this great nation of ours. Yes, that is what we did. Back at the car, which was parked at a park, I urged Dave to walk a lap with me. We discussed why the Lacrosse/Soccer field is so green with all of the snow around. “Of course they plow.” Dave said, and then we made our way back to the car.

I would like to think we were thinking about our Presidents and at the very least I think at some point I thought about Sally Field playing Mary Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s recent Lincoln movie. It’s true. I did think of Sally Field and consequently thought of Abraham Lincoln. See, Friday night, Dave and Kyle were nerding out at a board game convention.  Eli and I had not seen the latest Spider Man movie so we decided to RedBox it. While Spider Man was talking to his aunt, who is played by Sally Field, Eli said, “Mom, I think I have seen her in something before.” That is when I stated, “Eli, she plays Mary Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s wife.”  (President’s Day on the brain. Check.)

Back at our meeting spot, the boys wanted to keep riding. Ok, Kyle wanted to continue, and I encouraged Eli to go on with a bribe. I bought both boys an Orange Juice.  They had a few sips, and again were on their way.  Dave and I drove to our final meeting spot and waited. That is where I picked up the conversation with my friend. Dave was on a business call, the boys were still biking, and I had a minute.  Instead of talking Washington or Lincoln I insisted my friend watch one of my current favorite You Tube Videos, Sweet Brown in “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That!” I hope she watches it, and I hope we all know that even if we aren’t really thinking about Abraham Lincoln or George Washington today we actually are. In all seriousness, without Abraham Lincoln, ladies like Sweet Brown may never have had the opportunity to live in their own apartment let alone tell the world about going out to get a pop. And all of you who hated George Bush and those of you who detest Barack Obama, well remember, because of George Washington, they can only serve two terms.The people wanted him to serve three terms and he put the kibosh on that, establishing a customary policy for presidents to serve no more than two terms.

Crazy US President’s Day Bike Ride

Without a bike rack, because Dave recently sold it, we made do and shoved our bikes into the truck, and then shoved the boys in between the bikes. We made our way home, and were grateful we dis a little bike riding. Next year remember you can always bike for President’s Day or at least tell your kids that in honor of the presidents they need to get out of the house.





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Instead of Living Strong, How about Liiving United?

“The intense need to get to the top and then stay on the top seems very lonely.”

Graffiti Wall in Bisbee Arizona

Blue is not blue, black is not black, yellow no longer lives strong, and Fifty Shades of Grey is a crass and poorly-written novel that somehow found its way at the tippy top of the NY Times Best Seller list. And books like The Secret, well, they have twisted our minds so perversely that now we believe that our secrets will not make us sick, instead the truths we hide away will somehow give us super powers. Shazam! Our well-crafted guise, our posturing, or our little white-rationalized lies, otherwise known as our deceptive convictions, will take us to that very special place, a place where if we click our heels together and say three times out loud, “there is no place like home, there is no place like home, there is no place like home,” or better, if we say three times out loud, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky, I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky, I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky,” our buried secrets, our self-deceptions, our bald-faced lies, small town or big world, will ensure that our kids get straight As, medal in their sport [come on, I had to list this one. I live in an Olympian-Ski town], will always be the other kids’ fault, not get us kicked out of our church, get us invited to the right party, get us invited into the best book club, damn it, and if we dream big, our giant exaggerations will get us on, say, Oprah, land us our very own Reality Television Show, or at the very least, get us on Babbles Top 100 Blog list! Hollah! People, we can win the Tour De France or be President, the President of the United States! We are not liars. We are rephrasers of the truth.

Seriously, shame on anyone who calls us out. If someone ever exposes our truth we will not stop until they disappear. When questioned about an exposed truth, we will bully, deny, scream, and kick very, very hard. We will call the truth exposer crazy, but not fat, never fat. We will tell their friends and our friends they are crazy. We will get all of our friends to call them crazy. We will shame them, make a giant pariah out them, and we will pour a little gasoline all over them. Then we will walk right up to them, look them straight in the eye, because that’s what people who tell the truth do, match lit then tossed, and watch them burn. As they burn we will scream, “See. See how they hurt me! See!” As they burn, we will stand strong, stand high and stand proclaiming our truth! We will do anything to stay on top!

Is this really our world?

When you think about it, this false life our world begs us to play in is actually propelling us back into a creepy and backward-thinking parallel universe, a heavily-draped-and-veneered-1950’s-June-Cleaver-lovely-dinner-on-the-table-at-5-he-does-not-beat-me-if-the-bruises-do-not-show-and-the-photo-I-display-online-is-really-how-I-look fantasy world where things like competitive Facebook status updates, cleverly crafted Instagram shots, and all your Twitter followers only serve to perpetuate. You want us to know that in spite of your low blood sugar (severe clinical depression or bipolar disorder), your three-week-work-related-I-will-not-be-able-to-respond-to-any-calls-texts-or-emails training sessions [nudge nudge wink wink, your secret is safe here (REHAB)], your healthy eating habits, hey, you are even a RAW Foodie (Obsessive exercise, calorie counting & starvation), your Irritable Bowl Syndrome (Cocaine or Bulimia), your super awesome wardrobe (overwhelming debt or maybe a simple shopping addiction), your happy marriage (then why do you always take separate vacations, always), your kids who never do anything wrong (because you are always too drunk to notice), well, that you are much happier, richer, more successful, Christ loves you more, your teeth are whiter, your kids are smarter, and you are just happier than the rest of us, damn it! I do not blame you. It is this crazy world we live in. You are simply attached to the Matrix via that big giant plug shoved into the back of your skull like the rest of us.

Because Oprah talked to Lance the other day, I keep asking, what happened to the Oprah of yesterday, a time where she interviewed us common folk and interviewed us common folk with reckless abandon while we shared our truths; identical twins openly and proudly sleeping with fraternal twins while one was a cross dresser, the other gay, all the while fighting over paternity? And then I ask, “what happened to yesterday altogether, a day where things did not seem so damn competitive, litigation-based or fearful; a time where people were good enough simply because they lived the truth?” Ok, maybe that was an imaginary time, because when I think about my past, I technically know that before now I was young and if you think about it, young people tend to be honest, not jaded and open. My past was not daisy-filled. I just thought it was, and I am glad I did. Then I started to grow up and quickly learned that my what-you-see-is-what-you-get perspective had no place in this world. “You are too honest and too direct,” is what I was told. “Keep your mouth shut!” I always thought it was me.

From where I sit now and it is really from where I lie, because I am tucked away here in my bed, it seems that even Oprah has been affected. James Frey may or may not have been the beginning with his Million Little Pieces SNAFU, and who cares if he lied. James is living the dream, writing bestsellers, making movies, making lots of cash, and in truth, his big lie has been a small price to pay. James Frey, Oprah and up until now, Lance Armstrong, were the types of people we have been taught we should aspire to be.

Call me crazy. Wait. You already have [wink wink], but I want to aspire to the truth. I want to be ok saying how I feel. I want my boys to feel good, even though they are not on the ski team. It is so weird because I know I have been blessed. I know I live in a lovely house, which is located in a lovely town, yet even my boys feel the tug of being less than? “Mom, why isn’t our house as big as so and so’s?” What the what? Why can’t we just be ok? Why can’t being a good cyclist be good enough…starters, just for starters?

Somehow I fear that slowly, but surely our Little-Engine-that-Could-you-can-have-it-all world with all of its lies, cruelty and competition is turning into a Post Apocalyptic Dystopian World I have read about and fear, a more, every-man-for-himself-literally-to-the-death Cormac-McCarthy’s-The-Road kind of world then a Stephanie-Meyers-(The Twilight Lady’s)-latest-incarnation-The-Host world, which really with its sparkles and paranormal teen romance wouldn’t be all bad, would it? I mean, come on, what’s a little sparkly-alien-body-possession really going to do to you…Oh wait! It already has done something to us and that is the point, isn’t it?

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