Monday, January 26, 2015

A List

Today I list the things I can’t possibly know (because I’m too young), the hurts I can’t possibly understand (because my heart’s too  smooth and unwrinkled), the fear I can’t possibly remember (because my brain has never been pricked by the static of lightning in the dark). I am terrified of the meaning beneath the still surface of the lake that is my words. How often do I bobble up above like a rubber-ducky in the afternoon sunlight, a lazy breeze tickling my skin as the water droplets evaporate from my face? But down beneath, an eel lurks and settles into the murky sand. A flashing pair of eyes recedes into some hidden hole beneath a rock. The sun is forgotten. No thesaurus is tucked away neatly on a library shelf. Not now. Not here. Truth can be a dark, sinister old hermit. I feel I know it too well.

                I asked myself yesterday if I’d be joining myself today—up top, in that sparkly, golden light. And I hesitated, if only for a moment. You see, I knew that I could easily persuade myself to believe in that fair and breezy rendezvous of bobbing rubber-duckies, but the truth was bubbling up for oxygen at that very moment, and I hesitated because I knew that if I opened my mouth too quickly it would make an unwanted sound. But all was well, as it quickly sank down again.

                I once felt pained when a woman spoke of the elderly who live in “homes.” My heart seized up sharply, filling my thoughts with the claustrophobia of a lunchroom clamored with noisy school-children and one child sitting all alone in the midst of them, an undisturbed spoon resting beside her pale green lunch tray.

                Who teaches a child to hate? I brandish a scar beneath my clothing of a lash-mark to my unshaken security in a home where children slumbered or whispered happy secrets when they should have been sleeping. But some nights they shivered and turned their faces into their pillows, slashing the happiness from their secrets.

                I loved a boy, once, so desperately that it severed my heartstrings from reality, and I woke up empty. He never said goodbye.

                There is a box of letters high up on a shelf in my closet. Though I haven’t checked lately, I’m sure it is still covered with chalky dust. On some forgotten, lonely night a time ago, I sat on the floor with the contents of the box spread out all around me, and I wept, smoothing the wrinkles of the yellowed letters with my shaking hands.

                I learned the rhythm, as a child, of two hearts pulsing in time, one young and vulnerable, one almost-not-as-young and vulnerable—a rhythm not of fantasies and shivering fingertips, but of two spirits embracing like mother and child, though both infants. When he stepped back from me for the last time, the reservoir in my chambered heart broke through and spilled over the wall. That bird lifted off and flew away. And I knew I’d never recover.

                But fortunately, I am safe from the danger in these things. I realize that I could not possibly know any of them: I’m much too simple—and young. And so I’ll go back to my happy nothings, straightening and polishing the pretty figures on the shelf beneath my contented portraits. You’re welcome to come and pay me a visit. Just make sure to knock first. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Letter to my younger self

Dear Annie,

                When I say “Dear” Annie, I mean Dearest Annie. I miss you. I adore you. Where do you get such passion for life, such fire for the beautiful things that only you believe in? Where do you stow the tiny trinket box that contains your shiniest, most fragile secrets? How do you maintain such a pure and lovely outlook of the world in such a vast and unknown universe? And how, friend, do you go on trying and believing, no matter how dark the night? I am inspired by your hope and your goodness. Your hope gives me hope.

                I saw you the other day as I passed by a mirror. I stopped and watched you for a moment, fascinated by your pure and simple beauty. And then you vanished. I wondered why you were afraid of me, but then I realized—it was my fear that drove you away, and not your own. When I am afraid, I force you into the darkness. This is my fear of all fears, that you will be shut in a lightless, lifeless closet where even your own illumination won’t survive.

                Please try to forgive me. I don’t mean to doubt or to push you away. And really, it’s not you that I doubt. It’s the world. It’s the heaviness. It’s the sorrow. I’ve seen great people fall to it. I’ve seen myself fall. I’ve seen myself forget and hide from the sun. Please don’t ever do that. Please always let your beautiful, auburn curls know the glint of sunlight and open air. You belong to that openness. You complete it.

                Do you remember the times when you watered your pillow with tears for the fallen ones—friends who no longer called themselves your friends? Do you remember how it was their pain, and not your own, that you wished to remove? And do you remember the sweetness of the prayers you offered in their behalf? I think of this sometimes, and I long for those prayers in my behalf. I wish for your compassion and wisdom. I wish for your company.

                I once heard someone say that you were different—special, somehow. And though I couldn’t find a word for it, either, I knew what this person meant. Your heart is so real and able to feel. It is a gift. It is a blessing. People will tell you to shut your heart and to numb it. They will criticize and belittle your gift. Don’t listen to them. Don’t believe them. They are cruel, hurting, broken people—and they’ll break you, too, if you let them.

                I must go now. There are things in my world that call to me, and I feel myself slipping away to silence them. Remember that I know who you are. I think of you often. I pray for you. But I don’t pray for you because I worry about you—I pray for you because I desire very much for you to be always with me, and I know that this is something only you can decide. And so I pray for your decision process to be swift and sure. Don’t stay away too long. I’ll be waiting for you.

With deepest affection,



Annie

Friday, May 17, 2013

It has been awhile

So it's been awhile...a very long while, as in, over a year. Since I've posted on this blog, that is. And it's very possible than anyone who ever cared to read this blog has long since moved on and quit caring or waiting for me to say anything else. I know I did.  But I'm back from my long trip, or detour, whether or not anyone cares to read what I say. I need to unpack my bags. I have things to say. And I'm not making big, beautiful promises that I can't keep. I may be very sporadic in my posting. I may get excited and be very consistent in blogging and then suddenly skip it for months...or years. But oh well.

Life has happened to me. And it's still happening. Recently, a big blow came my way that really threatened to knock me off my feet. It was a good try, but ironically enough, I'd been dealt enough 'big blows' in recent months that it only shook me. I've still got the jitters; I'm not totally over it. However, it's done enough good shaking that the wheels in my head are rattling and turning again. It's caused me to pause and question what I'm doing.

So what am I doing with my self-chosen "career"? I'm a stay at home wife. What exactly does that mean? I really am asking myself these questions right this moment. This is all improv. So here it goes:

   -I'm writing a novel. Didn't think I'd ever get to it, but I woke up with a light bulb one morning and I've been going ever since.
 
   -I recently discovered Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products, and I've fallen hopelessly in love. Cleaning feels like a country garden picnic these days (at least for my nose). I'm particularly taken by lavender and basil.
 
   -I have an obsession with my Burpee's gardening catalog. We go on dates together--secret little getaways. And then I dream. I've become very good friends with the multi-colored carrots and the hydrangeas.

   -My nose has become my new favorite body part. If something smells good, my nose takes over the driving and I go along for the ride. I'm infamous for getting stuck in Bath and Body Works for longer than is healthy. I've been flirting with the idea of selling Salt City Candles. Not sure if I will yet.

   -I have a new vacuum. For a woman without children, this is big. It's like getting a dog for people who love  dogs. It makes me happy. It looks like a contraption from a Star Trek show. Sounds like one too. It has a separate canister for the attachments. Kind of a new phenomenon for me. A phenomenal phenomenon. It works really well.

   -We've been eating a lot of yogurt lately. Yogurt for breakfast, yogurt based salad dressing, yogurt dip, yogurt sauce for fish tacos...Yogurt. It's what's for dinner.

   -My husband and I have a fairly new budgeting system that we don't follow perfectly the T, but as Ren always says, "That's the gist of it." I follow the rules of it pretty carefully, and I love it. It makes me feel in control of my wallet and gives me the freedom to plan ahead. It's based on the system from the book Rich on Any Income. You can find it on Amazon if you're interested. Or I might post about it if I'm in the mood so you can get the "gist" of it.

   -I've been house hunting pretty solidly for the past year and a half. If it's for sale in the San Luis Valley, I've looked into it. I've got my eye on one right now. We'll see what happens.

   -I am a new frequenter of writersdigest.com. On rare days, I even go to the library and pick up a Writer's Digest magazine to sift through. It's becoming a habit.

   -I am an unofficial teacher's aid...for my husband. I get to do lots of sorting, filing, grading and just plain old assisting with high school Spanish "stuff". I actually really enjoy it most of the time, especially when I get to do it with Ren instead of without. I'm happy that I can lighten his burden a little, especially in his first year of teaching.

   -Sherwin Williams doesn't see me quite as often lately as they did for awhile, but I still go in now and again to collect color chips. I think I was an interior decorator in a past life;)

I think that's enough for now. I need to go take a shower and make my bed. No. Of course it's not almost 10:00. I never wait that long to get going!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Believing in Good Things to Come

I keep telling myself that I'm going to start posting more "practical" things, like recipes and cleaning tricks...and I will...but I've learned to not shrug off my "emotional" phases or ignore promptings to share my thoughts, even if I feel like I've been talking too much. I just couldn't help myself today. I had to share this video, and I'll tell you why in a minute.


About a year and a half ago, Ren and I set out for a new adventure in our life together. We had a moving truck full of stuff, which Ren drove, and a little car--also full of 'stuff', which I drove behind the truck. I will readily admit that I was terrified. I was raised a country girl (and taught to drive on quiet, dirt roads) and the thought of moving to a "city", no matter how small in terms of citydom, left me petrified. There were elements of moving that excited me, but I didn't know how I was going to manage driving in a new place, being away from all family (except Ren) for the first time ever, and I couldn't picture what my life was going to be like. It was a big, looming question mark in my mind.

Well, we survived the drive from Colorado to Utah, and we also survived unloading the truck. But I really wondered if we'd ever survive the record heat of August 2010, the close quarters of married student housing, and the confusing maze of traffic and more stores than I cared to count. As soon as we dropped off the U-haul and accepted that Utah was now home, I found myself extremely depressed and overwhelmed. My question mark was melting into a puddle of mud surrounded by boxes and clutter. So this was my life.

I toyed with the idea of getting a nanny job, and even had an interview. I felt like I needed to "do" something--I couldn't possibly stay home and not make money with finances so tight, could I? I also thought about going back to school, but money didn't allow for both Ren and I to do it just then. Getting a job didn't happen (until later--another story), and so I decided that for a time, at least, I had an excuse to stay home.

 It's really quite impossible to write a short summary of the events of the months that followed. It seems more effective to just describe what condition I was in, what I felt, and where it led me. To begin with, I was tired. I think I've pretty much always been tired before now (and even now, I'm no stranger to fatigue). I became familiar with the term "insomnia" much too early in life. I was also sick--emotionally, physically, spiritually. I had exhausted all my reserves of patience and strength and vitality, and I was slipping into a dark place of confusion. I was suffering from anxiety and depression, which I can see clearly now, but at that time I was in denial. I didn't believe it was "valid"--I just thought I was being a wimp. And on top of this, I was afraid of the word "NO". If someone, anyone, asked me to do something, I felt a moral obligation to say yes, regardless of what I could handle. The combination of all of the above was awful. It wreaked havoc on my already worn out self, and even more so on my marriage. I know my husband loves me, because he didn't run away screaming. 

I did not like myself. I felt fat. I felt stupid. I felt lazy and worthless. I felt negative and non-social and like a black hole that sucked joy from everyone around me, especially my husband. I felt like I had to apologize for everything I did and thought--for everything I was. Is this bad enough for you yet? Well it wasn't for me. I decided that my life wouldn't be complete til I had volunteered myself to babysit for everyone I knew and teach their children piano lessons, hoping that then, maybe then I would have some shard of worth as a person.

Too many times, I found myself curled up in a ball crying like a helpless child--and that's exactly what I was. I'm so grateful for the angels in my life, seen and unseen, who brought me strength when I had none. Without them pulling for me, I just might have given up. And I am so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father. I've always prayed. My parents taught me to pray before they taught me to dress myself. But I haven't always prayed fervently. In the beginning of these hard times, I don't believe I was praying fervently. But trials have a way of really bringing you to your knees, over and over again. Through this, I found my God once again. He had not left me. I had just stopped looking to Him.  

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. Ren and I have been married for 3 beautiful, heart-wrenching, heart-warming years. My growth as a person has been more pronounced and powerful in these past years than in any other phase of my life. I feel like I have just stepped out of a chrysalis, and I am now enjoying my life as a butterfly. I'm not used to it yet. I've spent so much time seeing the world from the ground, and flying is a little scary. It's definitely a new feeling for me. Forgive me for my metaphors, but a girl is allowed to be slightly cliché and romantic on the anniversary of her wedding (or the day after) to her sweetheart.

So back to the video--you'll just have to see it for yourself. You'll know why I picked it. I can't ever get through it without crying, because I know now what it means. You have to keep going. You have to keep believing things will get better and keep praying for answers. They'll come, along with so many other good things. I promise.

What good things have you found in your life? What did it take you to get there?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Being Content in the Seasons of Life

"Snow Flowers" by Dan
The other night as I was lying in bed, I was overcome by a sudden longing to have children. It hurt. I found myself pleading in my mind with my Heavenly Father to bless me with this good desire. And then a very sweet, quiet thought came to me. It was this: How many women would postpone having children to be able to have better relationships with their husbands? You have that. Be happy.
It stunned me. And it took away the sting of my unfulfilled want. 

As I've thought about this over the past week, it has merged with another theme that has consumed my thoughts lately, and that is the seasons. I've noticed that at this time of the year, when winter is gently (and sometimes not so gently) melting away into spring, I find myself getting very restless. I get a glimpse of the glory and splendor of spring, and I feel suddenly very entitled to it. I want it, and I want it now. When a beautiful day becomes gray again, and the winds and snow return, I get angry. I don't want it to snow anymore! I demand. Winter should be done by now. Can't the weather just make up its mind?! The sad irony of these thoughts is that I'm not really asking the weather to make up its mind, I'm demanding that God make up His mind to match mine. I'm insisting that I know what's best.

An equally sad irony of all of this is that when I feel this way, I inevitably miss the beauty of the season that I am currently in. I wish it away and label it as unnecessary. I decide that the transition from winter to spring is not important because it isn't what I want.

But as my eyes are opened, I find myself thinking about what I can do to take advantage of this unique season in my life. My husband and I are no longer newlyweds, by our standards (on March 13th we'll have been married 3 years). But in many ways we can still enjoy life like newlyweds. We have ample time to talk to each other, read books together, go on walks, and even go shopping at the grocery store together if we want to. We have flexibility in our schedules and, though we don't wish for it, freedom from the burdens of caring for children. We've been granted a beautiful season to enjoy life together, just the two of us, and what a pity it would be if we were to cast it aside and say it isn't important!

Everyone has a different life story. For some, that place between winter and spring might actually be having children, and feeling overwhelmed. Or maybe it's the stresses of adjusting to married life. Or perhaps it's financial difficulty. Whatever it is, there is bound to be some striking beauty hiding beneath a layer of ice. And my guess it that it's a kind of beauty you'll never experience in the full heat of a sunny day when everything is green. Don't miss it. 

How do you enjoy the different seasons of life?


Friday, February 17, 2012

Accomplishing Your Goals "Little and Often"

There is something very charming about a British accent. It can turn an ordinary statement into a very sophisticated one (at least to a Westerner from the U.S. who is easily amused). Perhaps that's why I'm so taken by the Autofocus System. I first learned about it through a desperate online search for "housewife help," or something along those lines. I was looking for any solution I could find to the dreaded "overwhelm" that comes with juggling all of the tasks of homemaker. I stumbled onto a youtube video, that I have since lost track of, of a woman with ADD or ADHD (can't remember which) who used the Autofocus System to get herself out of chaotic messes that periodically built up in her life. Something about this woman's cheerful confidence amidst the clutter and chaos she was surrounded with really spoke to me. She was a real woman with a real solution.

There are several versions of the Autofocus System, and it seems to be continually evolving into something new and improved, but I'm still particular to the version I first came across. It goes something like this (this is the "Quick Start" directly from the website):

1. The system consists of one long list of everything that you have to do, written in a ruled notebook (Note from Annie: each item is written on an individual line)  (25-35 lines to a page ideal). As you think of new items, add them to the end of the list. You work through the list one page at a time in the following manner:
  1. Read quickly through all the items on the page without taking action on any of them.
  2. Go through the page more slowly looking at the items in order until one stands out for you.
  3. Work on that item for as long as you feel like doing so
  4. Cross the item off the list, and re-enter it at the end of the list if you haven’t finished it
  5. Continue going round the same page in the same way. Don’t move onto the next page until you complete a pass of the page without any item standing out
  6. Move onto the next page and repeat the process
  7. If you go to a page and no item stands out for you on your first pass through it, then all the outstanding items on that page are dismissed without re-entering them. (N.B. This does not apply to the final page, on which you are still writing items). Use a highlighter to mark dismissed items.
  8. Once you’ve finished with the final page, re-start at the first page that is still active.
Mark Forster, the creator of the system, suggests (as do I) that you start with these steps then read the rest of the directions on his site when you're ready. I also suggest that you watch this video to explain it as well.  Just to Recap (in my own words):

Make a list of things to do, clearing everything and anything from your brain that's floating around and causing confusion and indecision. Run your finger over the items on the list without focusing too much on any of them. When one stands and and seems "ready to be done", make a dot by it with your pencil (that means you're committing to it) and do it...but only as much as you want. If you get tired of it or decide it's not time, write it at the end of the list (or cross it off if you don't want it). It's so simple, and yet so effective, for me anyway.

The reason I love this system is because it allows me to play Bingo Brain and still accomplish important tasks in an orderly fashion. And it removes the guilt that often comes when I make a plan and don't stick to it. It's a plan that allows freedom and spontaneity. It's like an unplanned plan.

I hope it works for you, or at least gives you some ideas.

How do you cope with indecisiveness and being overwhelmed?


Living the Adventure


When Ren and I were dating, I asked him if he ever woke up in the morning just bursting with excitement for the new day ahead of him--if he ever looked at each day as an adventure. He said he hadn't ever experienced waking up in quite that way, but he was inspired that I did. He shortly thereafter name me "Adventure Annie" (only one of the many titles he's given me). I woke up this morning feeling just this way. In fact, one of the many things I was looking forward to experiencing in today's adventure was writing this post, because I want to share my joy with you.

I really do see life as an adventure. Being a homemaker has rekindled that flame for me. Yes, I did lose hold of it for awhile. After we got married, the stresses and challenges of my new life refocused my vision and I had to rediscover "Adventure Annie." Working outside of our home made it especially hard for me to hold onto my beautiful vision of life. I've come to the realization that I have a personal need for my own well-being. That need is to be at home. But more on that later.

What makes me so excited about each new day? I've asked myself that many times, and I can't say I completely know. But I do know that at least part of it is that I'm excited to choose what I do with my time (it's sort of like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book). I realize that this is unique in many ways to the occupation of "homemaker." Not everyone can design their day around anything they want. This is just one reason I love what I do. But as much as I love choosing the course of my day, I must admit this has often been my least favorite part of homemaking. Why? Because it's so hard. It's hard to be your own boss, your own motivator, your own time-keeper. It's so hard, in fact, that at times I've even questioned if I want to be a homemaker at all, because I didn't know if I could keep "choosing" my own day every day. It takes a lot of discipline and self confidence to go forward with a plan designed by yourself and not doubt whether or not it was the best use of your time. But, once again, through trial and error and a lot of prayerful searching I've discovered some ways to counter the intimidation of being my own boss. I want to share one of them with you today. I'm actually going to post it separately because it's somewhat extensive, and I think it needs its own space. Bon voyage!

If you have any experiences to add to my "adventure log," please leave a comment. Comments are encouraging!