Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Expectation of Perfection

I was watching Oprah (again). It was an episode on resilience.

One woman was talking about believing that life would be perfect because she lived it the way she was supposed to live it. She followed the rules. Then one day she lost her 2-year-old son and husband in a plane crash. She mentions that in healing she allowed herself to have and experience the emotions that came up rather than denying them because others believed she should be feeling differently. She also talks about asking why such things happened to her and then asking why not. Why would others be more 'deserving' of that suffering?

I have pondered many of these same things in the last four months. Why us? Well, why not us? I believe many of us (particularly when we are young) believe that we are invincible. Bad things won't happen. We won't suffer. We will be healthy. But that isn't always the case. And I don't believe that we get to choose those events (sorry if you subscribe to the Secret- but I don't believe that my thoughts brought on the fire any more than others' thoughts kept their homes safe).

The events of the fire have increased my anxiety at least a hundred fold. I am working extremely hard on those feelings because I don't think that I can live my life afraid of tomorrow. Every time I hear a fire engine does not mean that it is my house. Every time I feel a twitch in my face doesn't mean that I'm relapsing. I hope that I can learn... and I hope you can too and share with me your successes... how to be more present, to live in this moment. Because it is the only one that we are guaranteed.

2009

It has to be better than 2008. I am affirming that 2009 will be the best year of our lives.

We will be moving into our new home in February (the date has been pushed back to the 13th... and I will try to complain as little as possible). I can't wait to start getting things organized and feeling grounded once again. We all feel like we are stuck, unable to move (on) until we get back home. 2009 will be the proverbial rebuilding year.

2009 will also be a year of great health. The Bell's Palsy has taught me a lot about trying to find balance and live stress-free. I am making my health a priority, and that is something I expect to continue. It's easy to say that you will make a commitment to your health when you are sick. It's another to follow-through when you are healthy. I hope to be able to remember how much I dislike illness.

2009 will be the year of family. I am committed to building a family that we are proud of. We are so excited to teach Kellen and watch him grow. It's a year to reestablish traditions and to make new ones with this new life and new normal.

Finally, it is a year to start making my dreams a reality. Too often we push our dreams aside out of a sense of obligation to other things or fear of failure. We don't know what tomorrow holds, and we do ourselves and the world no justice by putting off that which we want to accomplish now.

Here is to a healthy, prosperous, and joyous 2009. May you and yours find the same throughout the coming year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008

This is the time of year where I pull out my journals. I have a yearly tradition of writing about the previous year and reflecting on years past. There are some years where I don't write much more than that final year-end entry. The loss of my journals, the loss of those stories hits hard as I reflect on my year. However, I've also been thinking a lot about how much we focus on our past to define us and our future. That belief is so limiting. We are not an accumulation of our past. We can choose to change at any time (though the work to make those changes is hard!). Perhaps the loss of my past frees me from those limiting experiences and opens up my life for a new and wondrous future!

Regardless, the year in review!

January brought change. I started the year changing positions from a special ed advocate to a teacher. I worked in a classroom with junior high students who had emotional or behavioral disabilities. It was an incredibly challenging yet rewarding position. January 30th was the first snow day of the year. It was a Wednesday. We had been trying to get pregnant for a year, and we found out that day that we were expecting. It was quite a surprise!

In March, Dan and I visited New York during Spring Break. I hadn't been back since leaving in 2005, and I was anxious to see my friends and return to some of the places I had called home. We brought back several mementos from that trip, a few of which were replaced by a friend this past week (thanks Z!).

In May we found out we were having a boy. My family has all boys in the next generation, so I was hoping for a girl, but we were thrilled to have a boy. We decided on a rock star theme for his nursery, and I started making preparations to clean out the junk room to turn it into habitable space! At the end of the month, my family joined us in a surprise party to announce the gender.

In June we picked Kellen's name on a drive up to our family's cabin in the Sawtooths. We also spent a weekend in Sun Valley with our dog. We managed a short hike up part of Baldy (though at 6 months pregnant, it was a bit tiring!).

July brought a trip to Bend, OR, to see my mom. We celebrated our birthdays (mom, step-dad, and I all have birthdays in the same week!). We had gone into an organic baby boutique in Bend to pick out some unique things for Kellen. I was pretty tired, but looking back on the trip, I felt very contented. We celebrated Dan's birthday later that month. My friends and family through us a co-ed baby shower BBQ. It was a great end to the month.

August brought about work. I started going into school regularly to set up my classroom and prepare for maternity leave in October. Little did I know that this preparation would be needed sooner rather than later. August 25 was the first day of school. It is hard to believe that it has already been four months since that day.

The past four months have been a blur. From the immediate aftermath of the fire to celebrating Christmas in a(n almost completed) home, I could never have imagined that 2008 would have turned out this way. I never imagined that I would end the year building a home to grow into. It would have been hard to imagine that we would be picturing raising our children in Boise, in our neighborhood, when we spent much of the former half of the year talking about places we might eventually move. It's hard to believe that my baby is already trying to sit up. After spending so much of my life wanting children of my own, I can't believe I now have one. He amazes me everyday, and we can't wait to see what 2009 has in store for him.

I believe very much in speaking our intentions. I believe in attracting in our life that which we seek. Tomorrow a post about my hopes and dreams for 2009, a year that I believe will bring us great fortune.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Packing

I've done a lot of packing in my life. When I was young, my sister and I would pull out our duffel bags before the end of the school year. The day after the last day of school we would be on a plane to Boise to our dad's. I had a pretty good strategy for packing. When I left for college, we had two carloads full of my stuff. What I thought I was going to do with all that stuff is beyond me! I wanted my dorm to be like home. Having a roommate ruined that delusion.

At the end of my sophomore year of college, I packed up all my things and moved to D.C. My appendix ruptured that summer, so my mom had to pack my things up. I am pretty organized about my packing (except for the last two boxes, which are always junk boxes), so unpacking that year was a little tough.

After college, I packed my things and had them shipped to Boise. I thought I was going to move to San Francisco. Instead I moved to New York. We shipped everything back east to NYC. The shipping place unpacked EVERYTHING I had worked so hard to pack to ensure it wouldn't break!

A year later, my stuff was again in boxes and back in Boise. Since then I've moved three times.

I always used moving as an opportunity to de-clutter. I save everything, so it is a great time to take stock of my possessions and decide what I really want to keep. I wasn't the best at getting rid of things, but at least it was a start. We had been in the house for 2.5 years, and I still hadn't unpacked all of the boxes in the garage. I joked that I could probably just throw the boxes away because I obviously didn't need whatever was in them. By that point I didn't even really know what was in them. Oh how the universe has a sense of humor! A fire has a way of de-cluttering your life and possessions for you.

I am preparing to pack again. I am usually excited about moves, but none top the excitement of this move. I've always been "home" before, just moving to a new home. We haven't been home in 4 months. Even though we don't know where everything will go, I am trying to be systematic about how I pack. Kellen's stuff will likely be half of our possessions. People were so generous with baby things. We are looking forward to having room for all of his things. Before, I would have boxes of which I was uncertain what was inside. The items were sentimental and not quite as functional so sat a lot longer. Now we have boxes of things of which we are uncertain... but only because we still don't know what all we own. I am (for once) looking forward to unpacking to uncover those items.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

We spent the day up at the house surrounded by friends and family. I decorated the staircase railing with red garland and set up a table with food in the to-be kitchen.

Merry Christmas!



































Saturday, December 20, 2008

Current Address

"Do you still live at 3417 Sweetwater?"

It takes me by surprise EVERY TIME!

My responses are varied.

"Sort of."

"We are rebuilding there."

"Mail can be sent there."

"Ummm."

I was told today that move-in will be the first week of February at the latest. That is less than 7 weeks. I'm going to put a counter up for February 1 in the sidebar so you can count down the days with us. Paint starts Monday. We have parts of the stair railings up. Stucco should be finished soon, and as soon as it is painted, I will update with a picture of the front of the house. We've started ordering furniture. Kellen is getting a sleigh crib (and raised panels). Our coffee table is the coolest thing ever (but I'm keeping that a secret until move-in). It seems like everyday we are overrun with boxes. And we start packing after Christmas. If you are interested in helping us sort boxes and accumulated stuff, we can definitely use the help (have you tried packing with a 3 month old?!).

Speaking of three-month olds... I have to share today's picture because he is just the cutest darn baby ever!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Family Photos

We want to thank Bonnie with Once Remembered for doing a free photo session for us. We were able to take pictures at the house during the foundation stage.

We also want to thank One Stone, a group of kids at Riverstone International School, who coordinated a family photo shoot for us. We are grateful to photographer Bill Burns and HP, who allowed the group to do the printing.

From Once Remembered:





















































From Riverstone:















Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ornaments

I have always loved ornaments. I had many that had been made by my grandmother and great-grandmother. Growing up, we would pick out an ornament each year that represented that year. As an adult, I had taken great pride in finding unique and interesting ornaments. Last year we got a cat ornament because our kitten suddenly died right before Christmas. Decorating the tree this year wasn't quite the same without those memories.

But, we have new ones. My mom sent me a few of her collection from my grandmother and great-grandmother. My sister sent me a few that she collected. My mom's book club collected ornaments from Virginia Beach so I would have some memories of the beach. We bought some Hallmark ornaments. One will start Kellen's ornament collection. Here are some of my favorites.











Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rebirth

I was going to blog about something really light today, but then I saw a couple of minutes of Oprah.

Will Smith was promoting his new movie and was talking about how we often perceive life as linear. Birth. Life. Death. But no, he says. Instead it is circular with birth and death next to each other. Birth. Life. Death. Rebirth. Most religions embrace this idea in some way or another. It is an idea that speaks to me.

But Will Smith wasn't just talking about the birth and death of our physical bodies. He was talking about it in a greater sense. We go through so many births and deaths in this life. Our house had a birth, one I wasn't even aware of (in fact, I was 7 when the house was built). It had a life, a life that harbored many other lives and had many stories. Our presence in that house was only a small fraction of that house's life. And it had a traumatic death. All of our things went through similar births and deaths. They all had a story.

Now is the rebirth. And in the rebirth of our house, we too are going through a rebirth. And birth isn't always easy (ask Kellen). We are presented with our new lessons. But we are also surrounded by love, incredible love in birth. And if we trust the process, our needs are also always met.

Tomorrow- ornaments.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Tree

So we finally got a Christmas Tree. The fact that this is an afterthought and almost mundane is just one more reminder that this year is not like the others. Normally I would be anxiously awaiting the first weekend in December to buy a tree, hoping that it would last through Christmas. I would have already looked through my ornaments and carefully thought out which should be displayed in the front and which could have less prominent, but equally important, placement in the back of the tree. Each night leading up to Christmas would be celebrated with white tree lights lighting up the room. The tree would be filled with gifts, those for family and for friends. I spend a lot of time wrapping presents. In fact, it is one of my favorite things of the season.

But not this year.

We have a tree, and there are presents sent from my mom and sister in the back room. I've even bought some presents. I had great plans to make things. But I'm just not feeling well. I haven't wrapped anything yet. I suppose I will.

But we have a tree.

We actually got the tree from Grandma's Trees on Eagle Rd. We got an email from Patti that they were having a hard time selling trees and were going to have to shred the trees. Instead of shredding them, they were offering them to families in need. We bought ours, but we went to them because they were willing to do that for families. So if you still need a tree, they have them, and they are really nice.

I'll post pictures once the tree is actually up. We are going to put it in the rental and then move it to the new house on Christmas Eve for our Christmas day party.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Kellen

It's hard to believe it's been 2 and a half months. And it's absolutely amazing how much he's changed in such a short amount of time. His personality is also coming out now. Here is what we know:

Kellen likes the mornings.

He smiles and chuckles when we stick out our tongues at him.

He laughed, really laughed, when Dan tickled him in his armpits. I think it was the cutest sound ever.

He is tall. He was in his newborn clothes for 6 weeks, and then in his 0-3 month clothes for 4 weeks. Yikes!

He has long fingers, which is not something he got from either Dan or myself.

His toes are just like my mom's and grandfather's.

He loves music. He watches intently when Dan plays the guitar for him. We listen to music before bed. He calms when I sing to him.

He is super strong. He has been holding his neck up since birth for the most part. He sits upright in his bumbo.

He snores!

We cannot wait to bring Kellen into the new home, his home.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Awareness

I've been doing some reading on healing of the soul and letting go. Letting go is something I have always had a very hard time with. I like the illusion of control, and the idea that I have none is deeply unsettling. My anxiety right now is such that I spend a lot of mental energy trying to combat those thoughts, imagining that somehow this battle gives me some amount of control. I was reading some interesting points by Guy Finley, and he writes that the very idea of acknowledging those thoughts to try to retrain your thinking gives those thoughts power. I find this so interesting. I was talking to someone else earlier this week who told me to stop thinking so much. How does one quiet the mind? I don't have good answers to that question yet, but I am working on finding some. It takes too much energy to think all the time (and to think about thinking!).

I have also been thinking a lot about happiness. I am having a hard time finding joy even though I know there is much to be happy about. I have been known for laughing at most anything. I don't find myself laughing at much recently. I have been thinking about how we know we are truly happy and what that feels like. But maybe it is the absence of happiness that makes the promise of it so much more alluring. It is ok to recognize that this is my winter (in the words of Finley). Our lives all have seasons, and we want to believe that it will always be spring and summer, happiness and glory. And I suppose for some, their lives are mostly that way. But for most of us, there are times of sadness, of suffering. The magnitude of the events are not as relevant as the ways in which we are affected by them. But the promise of another spring is not forgotten even in those moments.

Dan and I were talking tonight about the laws of the universe and the idea that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If so, I have to believe that tremendous good is coming our way to balance out the bad of this year. It is that promise, that hope, that carries us this winter.

The lost year

I feel like I've lost a year.

Halloween wasn't the same. We didn't even carve pumpkins, which is something that Dan and I have done since we started dating. We did make it to the pumpkin patch, but it still wasn't the same.

Thanksgiving wasn't the same. I didn't get to cook Thanksgiving dinner. We spent the last two years at home starting our own traditions. I was looking forward to Kellen's first Thanksgiving in our home as a continuation of those traditions.

Christmas isn't the same. It is still the plan to spend Christmas in the new house... even though we won't have carpet or hardwood yet. But had we been in our house, we would have a Christmas tree up by now. We have no Christmas tree (and nowhere to put it in the rental even if we did). The ornaments I have managed to collect (or have been given) sit in a box in the garage. The usual joy I find in buying Christmas presents and wrapping them (I LOVE wrapping gifts) isn't there. It just feels like an obligation.

This is usually my favorite time of year, from September to December. We should be in the house by the end of January, and we will start to reclaim our lives. Even so, I feel like it won't be the same until next year, when we are able to celebrate the holidays... in our home.

Thanks to all who have sent recipes and emailed me in the last week or so. I really enjoy getting those emails... from people I've met and from those I haven't. The best part of this whole situation has been the community of support and all the people we have met because of it. We hope that all those people (and all of you) will stay in touch with us as time passes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Backyard

When we bought our house, it was marketed as a "landscaper's dream." This is code for be-prepared-to-put-$10,000-into-the-yard. The yard was dead. There were no sprinklers. There was barely anything living. And what was living was Russian Sage (and weeds). The backyard had railroad ties (and not very good ones at that). The backyard felt like you were living in a hole.




































The first year we lived at the house, we pulled out the sage and built a raised flower bed in the front yard. I planted Hydrangeas... and they were gorgeous! I also had Hostas and daisies.












The next summer (a year and a few months ago) we put in a sprinkler system, yards upon yards of topsoil, 2000+ square feet of sod, and built a 650 square foot deck... ALL BY OURSELVES (with the occasional help from our neighbor and some friends). We started building the deck in early July, about 2 days before a 17 day 100+ heat wave. We stained and screwed in nails at 11 p.m. We used spotlights to extend daylight. The ground was so hard that we had to use a jackhammer to dig the posts.






















Earlier this year, I started landscaping the tiers. I had put in rhododendrons, periwinkle, hydrangeas, and bushes. I wasn't done, but I had a good start. The railroad ties were still ugly.

With the fire, our backyard can finally live up to its possibilities. And it is beautiful. We have trees (TREES!) and a waterfall. We have retaining walls. And I'll have a garden to start growing my own vegetables. I am just so in love with my backyard. I can't wait until Spring to really spend time out there enjoying our yard.




















Monday, December 8, 2008

Brighter Days

The sun is shining today. The sun in my soul also feels lighter. I know that the bad days are not yet over, but I will take a good day! My eye is closing a little better, so keep those good vibes headed my way.

We are headed back to Boise tomorrow. I have spent the last 12 days processing. I have a lot of questions and very few answers. What I find most interesting is the lessons that keep cycling through my life. I know I have written before about how I feel like I have been presented with these lessons at such a young age and not being certain why. Regardless, they are here. The fire alone is not why I struggle. The palsy alone is not why I struggle. And the two together are not why I struggle. Rather, these challenges have brought much to the surface for me, things I have struggled with before and naively thought I had resolved.

I am amazed by the perfection of my son. He knows only good. He has experienced only love. He struggles (mostly when he needs to poop), but he is comforted. When in our lives does this stop? When do we start learning that life is challenging, that there are struggles? When does the perfection of a little baby turn into anxiety of adulthood?

I am reading a book called You Can Heal Your Life. Interestingly I had the workbook in the old house. My mom bought me the book without knowing I had that book. I don't believe in accidents, so I guess I should take to heart what is being written. She writes about people being ready for change and not being able to confront their issues until they are ready. "We all begin to make our changes in the right time, space, and sequence for us." I am ready to make those changes... but I didn't choose to be ready, life thrust itself upon me. I suppose I could have failed to learn from this experience, chosen not to grow. But I don't really know if that is an option when life is so blatant.

I return to Boise, in the process of healing both physically and mentally. I know this path is not easy, but it is my path. And I will walk it in the sunshine and out of the fog (as best I can).

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thorns

We are putting together our Thank You cards, and I've been looking for quotes about gratitude. I came across this quote, and I thought I would share:

Some people are always grumbling
because roses have thorns;
I am thankful
that thorns have roses.

Alphonse Karr

What an interesting perspective. I think we spend a lot of time worried about how bad things ruin beauty (or joy). I wonder how differently we would view the world if we focused more on the beauty that comes out of all situations. I don't think that anyone is very happy when they get stuck with the thorns. But at least if we can recognize that the thorns have some goodness, some beauty, the world literally has much more potential and possibility.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Myth

I would like to dispel the myth that you cannot sneeze with your eyes open. I have learned that this is, in fact, a myth. For Christmas, I would really really like my ability to blink back. If you could all remember to ask Santa for my blinking back I would greatly appreciate it!

I am in Palm Desert with my mom right now. It is sunny here. And it is really nice to have the extra hands.

I have yet to get any recipes. And I know that people are reading. I will be very sad if I don't get any recipes!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Recipes

I love to cook. I can't wait to move into the new house so that I finally have room to cook (and room for all of my fun appliances). One of the things we bought for the new house was a pink KitchenAid mixer. I had been lusting after it for years, and I am so excited to have it. We have replaced most of the appliances I used to have. I still have to replace the bread machine that we got for our wedding.

I was reading a friend's blog about trying new recipes in January, and it made me think about all of the recipes that I lost. My grandmother has been working on putting together a recipe book for me. I would love to add to that book.

If you have a recipe or two that you would be willing to share, you can email it to me at life_after_the_fire@yahoo.com or post it as a comment here (you don't have to register to post). I would love some holiday cookie recipes, holiday meal recipes, and soups. We eat mostly fish and poultry. I am also trying to eat more vegetarian meals, so those would be great!!

And in the spirit of giving, I will share my favorite recipe: chicken pesto penne!

I cook with whole wheat pasta. I usually just pour in the whole box because I'll eat the leftovers!
I use chicken tenders. I cook the tenders in the cut strips and then as they start to cook, I use the spatula to cut the chicken into chunks. I cook the chicken in a couple tablespoons of olive oil (I am not very precise in my cooking!) which makes it really moist.
I make my own pesto sauce. It is really good on Brie as well! I don't have the precise recipe because it was in a cookbook in the house. So this is my best guess of the actual numbers!
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (toast in the oven until they are light brown). Let the pine nuts cool.
In a food processor, blend the pine nuts with a bag of basil (I use the bags from Fred Meyer but will be able to use my own once our garden gets in this spring!), lemon juice (I use a quarter of a lemon), a garlic clove, kosher salt (the amount is a personal preference. Personally I think that it is pretty bland if you aren't generous with the salt here. I use about a dime size in my palm and then salt to taste if it needs more), and a dash of white pepper (told you I wasn't precise!!). Blend in the processor.
Add a quarter cup of EV olive oil. Make sure you add slowly and use a spatula to push the basil mixture down off the sides if needed.
Add in a quarter cup or so of Parmesan cheese (I use the grated kind not the flakes). Pulse until just mixed in. Add salt as needed.
You will probably have more pesto than you need, so I just save that for other things (like Caprese sandwiches!!).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Things I know

I know that I am strong.

I am learning it's ok to be weak.

I know that I have (literally) a community of support.

I am learning it's ok to ask for help.

I know that our house will be beautiful.

I am learning that it often takes patience and time before we can see the beauty.

I know that I will come out at the other end of this a better person. I know. I wish that I didn't have to go through this. I wish that I could hand this burden off to someone else. But I also believe that this is not a mistake. That I was meant to walk this path. I know that I will learn the lessons I was meant to learn. I am learning.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fog

I picked San Diego as opposed to the Oregon Coast so that we could get some sun. Of course while we are here, it has been foggy. Oh how I am learning a lesson about life's plans.

As we were walking down the beach yesterday morning, I was reflecting about feeling like I am in a fog. Fog clouds your perception of the future. You look ahead and cannot see what's in front of you, and so you are forced to make decisions based purely on what you can see. And in the fog, what lies ahead looks dark and often a little menacing. When the sun is out, you can see a path, and it is bright. Because you can see what is ahead, you can prepare for your next move. If driving in the fog, you can change lanes based on brake lights or slow down when traffic is backed up. In the fog, you do not have the benefit of long-term planning and judgment.

But fog eventually lifts. Sun burns off the low clouds, and then there is light again. So too will there be light for us. Like the morning fog, the light will take time to break through, but once it is there, the path will be visible again. The fog is just an obstacle. And we will get through it.