Confession: I can be a little bit stubborn.
My mom tells me when I was just 9-months old I figured out a way to climb out of my crib. I wasn’t about to stay put when I could hear a party going on out in the family room. So, I climbed, then crawled, then surprised my mom when I made it to my destination using sheer determination.
Speaking of parties. I decided to stay home alone on Christmas Eve (despite many wonderful invitations from friends to join in their family parties, sometimes being alone recharges me.) I had plans to watch a movie, have some Mormon bubbly, and wrap myself in a blanket.
Also on my list: Make my friend Gina’s famous baked beans — my contribution for the Christmas celebration at my parents the next day.
I set the music to Christmas tunes, got out all the ingredients, and watched out the window as snow began to fall. As I snapped the can opener on the first of four cans of beans, and felt beneath my thumb…the gears bust apart. Noooooo…..
I tried, and tried, and TRIED, to get the can opener to work. No luck. I sent my son Hayden a text, “Do you have a can opener with any of your camp stuff?” He said to check his room for a leatherman. It seemed like a good option. I opened up a blade and used it as I stabbed the can, over and over again. It was the WORST OPTION! Have you ever tried to open a can without a can opener?? By stabbing it?? I started to get so mad at that stupid can! Why was it being so difficult?? How was I going to open FOUR CANS?? I sent Hayden a picture of my first attempt. He responded laughing. I wasn’t laughing. I was so mad! These cans were ruining my night!
I could have knocked on a neighbors door.
I could have called a friend.
I could have gone to the store.
I could have not made the beans.
But equal to my stubborn-ness, is my determination.
“I will open these cans by myself! I will make these beans! And my family WILL talk about them ALL CHRISTMAS DAY!!
Then I got out a hammer.
That didn’t work.
Then I tried prying and stabbing, a combined effort that gave me a tiny bit of hope, as I tried to get the beans to come out.
I was so mad.
My party-for-one was falling apart.
The harder I tried, the more frustrated I became.
With no options left, I googled survival methods for opening a can without said can opener.
Then went outside, turned the can upside down, and like a homeless woman, I ferociously dragged the can on the rough concrete over and over again in an effort to break the seal. **Silently praying none of my neighbors were watching me!** Snow that seemed so peaceful just an hour earlier, was covering me –head to wooly-sock-toe.
After several attempts, the lid just sort of came off. “YES!Yes! YES! Take that CAN!”
Two hours later…I finished making the beans.
I poured myself a glass of sparking cider…and cheers’d myself.
My stubborn, determined, self.
There was an easier way, this I know.
A better way, this too, I know.
But I learned 2 great lessons on Christmas Eve:
1- I need a new can opener. And a back-up one. Just in case.
2- Change is a choice. I’m not done changing. I can be less stubborn when it serves only to fuel frustration. I can do that. I can change.
To quote John Mayer and his song, Changing:
I am not done changing
Out on the run, changing
I may be old and I may be young
But I am not done changing
And yes, my family loved the beans, especially 8-year old Jessie. You will too, because they are delicious.
With or without a pound of stubborn.
GINA’S FAMOUS BAKED BEANS
2 green peppers, diced
2 onions, diced
1 lb. of bacon, fried very crisp and crumbled
1 cup ketchup
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
4 (16 ounce) cans of pork and beans with a little of the juice drained off and the piece of pork fat removed
Fry the bacon until it is very crisp, drain and set aside. Pour off most of the bacon grease from the frying pan and saute the peppers and onions in the pan with a little of the bacon grease for 7 minutes. In a roaster or other large pan with a lid, mix the sauteed veggies, the crumbled bacon, the ketchup, the brown sugar, the Worcestershire sauce and the pork and beans. Stir well. Bake, covered, for at least 2 1/2 hours at 325 degrees, stirring occasionally.
1) They look kind of gross when you first mix everything together but once they are baked, they will look yummy!
2) I often make them the night before and keep them in the fridge. If you do that, you will need to cook them for a little longer because the 2 1/2 hours is from room temperature
3) They transport and warm up well in a crock pot, but it’s best to initially bake them in the oven.
I made a promise. I promised these legs I would run the race, these legs that carry me where my mind wants to go. But I didn’t want to run 13.1 miles in the rain again. Not like last year, where it came down so hard in the last three miles that I was soaked to the bone and shaking as I crossed the finish line, my hat and pony-tail creating a waterfall that ran down my back chilling my skin to numbness.
The rain was my “out.” If it looked like bad weather, I would stay in bed. That’s what I told my legs.
Two days before the race my brother, Justin, who along with his wife Abbie, and my brother Todd, ran this Spring race with me last year said, “Amy. We know we can do rain.”
He was right. But I didn’t want to run in the rain. I wanted to run in the sun. Where families, Ogdenites, volunteers and out-of-towners line the streets in masses ringing cow-bells and waving flags their energy spilling into the streets, shouting, “You can do it!” “Go! Go! Go!” and “Just a few more miles!”
That’s what I wanted.
There is this independent sound. Of rain. And pace. And a mantra to keep time. Of positive self-talk. That’s the sound that took me up the hill and down the canyon last Saturday. In the never ending deluge. In places the rain was coming down so hard that the street turned into a river, my shoes soaked with every step. The wind pushed me sideways, the cold stung my legs.
And I wondered if any of this really was worth it.
There is this new sound, when you feel drained of motivation. This sound far out-weights the tempo of the rain. It’s the sound of your name, called out by those who love you, those who cheer for you. From the sidelines shouting encouragement. My people. At mile 10. Holding a sign and cheering for ME! I just knew they would be there! High fiving me, shouting affirmation! This family that has been next to me through my rain, and blue skies, too. They showed up!… and waited, 45 minutes in the freezing rain, to cheer. When I saw them, my smile melted into my stride. I ran passed them and jutted up the small incline, my tears mixed with rain, which mixed with love, and fueled my legs and pumped my heart.
My dad said after the race, “I wanted to stay there at mile 10 and cheer for all those who needed it!” My sister Toots who made a sign for us said, “We were all just cheering our hearts out! We felt so bad leaving knowing that so many needed a boost!” Kacey Harmon, a first time half-marathon runner said after the race,”One of the things that was motivating was the random old ladies standing on the side of the road between miles 10-13.1 that were holding an umbrella in one hand and a cowbell in the other cheering us on.”
Those who come out to cheer in the rain. They are a special crowd. The salt of the earth, the best of the best.
When I reached mile 13, I saw them. My three. Emma running next to me. Hayden and Maggie on the side. Cheering me on. I didn’t hear the rain. I didn’t feel any pain. I only heard them calling my name.
And yes, it was so worth it.
These last few months, leading up to these last few days, to her last few breaths, have become an all too familiar echo of the same months, days, and minutes of my dear Katie. My mood has absorbed this. Some days, its all I think about–the day that Joey will meet Katie.
I met Joey Feek four years ago, after watching her perform simple songs on-stage in Heber City at a buckaroo festival alongside her “overall” wearing husband. There was something about her, this girl named Joey. She was confident, without arrogance. She was funny, but not sarcastic. She was strong, and equally, graceful. A true lady. So much like my best friend from childhood, Katie. I wanted to meet her, shake her hand! Tell her, in a few words, that my first impression of her made a mark in my heart, one that would last a lifetime. We tracked Joey down, after going to a second concert, and waiting in line, and finally I got to speak to her for just a minute. She felt like an old friend.
A month after I met Joey, my Katie was diagnosed with breast cancer. Many of the songs on Joey + Rory’s album became anthems as I tried to understand the trial and the power of faith. I prayed for healing against the disease that loved Katie as much as we all did, and months later I cried with her as she braced herself for death.
And living again.
I continued to followed Joey + Rory, their music, her pregancy, the gift of new life, the joys of true love, I became addicted to all they represented — reading every blog post Rory wrote. When Baby Indiana was born I felt like she was the sweetest special girl in all the world. Her almond shaped eyes felt the complete love of her mamma; we could all see it. So, when Joey was diagnosed with cervical cancer, in May of 2014, the music I heard running through my mind was a long track of hope mixed with sadness. She fought with faith and complete love. When she said, enough, we all sighed. I knew what was ahead, and have carried it, alongside her, along with all of her fans. Still. Her example has shined on. For the last many weeks she has raised her daughter from the hospital style bed she was confined to, teaching her sign language, and singing her the song, “In the Garden.” Her gestures became a beautiful tribute to the ability to rise up to the calling of motherhood, even when all else is shutting down.
When Joey meets Katie, their smiles of 40 years young will sing the same melody. Optimism from deep within a trial that brought them together. Katie will take her hand and tell her not to fear, that she will be her new dear friend and guide– and somehow, Joey will recognize her, this sister of another realm. Two women who’s faith in God increased because they closed their eyes and prayed for the light to stay close when their bodies hurt from trying, and minds burned from wanting.
Katie will teach Joey how to spread her guardian angel wings to watch over her daughter Indiana, just like she has protected her own daughter, Annie. She will teach her that you can fly faster in a storm, because the wind pushes you higher. That Spring’s sunshine let’s you stay longer, that rain is their queue to whisper encouragement to open ears, and flying through soft falling snow will be a window to the next life for those with bright eyes.
But most of all, Katie will teach Joey that she is only as far away as those left on earth believe she is.
And that is close enough. Today. Tomorrow. Forever.
Gratitude for those unlikely and familiar weight-lifters who come into my life, daily, and take weight off my back. Weight that requires a keen balance. Too little, and I won’t get stronger; too much, and I will break. So, I surround myself with a network of weight-lifters, who may not know it, but eliminate what I can’t bear.
Props to my girls who text me daily. Check in on me. Bring me cookies. Give me advice on parenting, career, dating, and cleaning. All the while, keeping me on the flight path I’ve chosen to be on, especially on those days I wanna crash. True girlfriends lead with love, carry kindness, and keep up with the stories of my life; 1,000 texts at a time. Rare and true, are these girls of mine.
I’ve been lucky enough to have guy friends over the last several months that offer me radical honesty and advice. It can get very uncomfortable. Hearing what you don’t want to hear. I learn so much more when I am placed in a position that requires me to think and ask the hard questions of myself. They teach with a different approach to dealing with emotional baggage; a check-list of things to do to pull out of a tailspin. Some have been where I am, divorced and single, on the Mars side. And, their perspective gently guides me. Others teach me the practical lessons that I gotta know to survive, like how to change a burned out headlight. Teaching me, not just telling me, so I can do it on my own.
Family is the magnet of love. The core of this life revolves around this unit of creation. Its the truest of attachment. Empathy is unending. The understanding they each offer comes with wisdom; and because they know me, the advice is a game-changer. They remind me, by acts of service, calls, and gifts, that I am surrounded by a support system who believe in me.
I spend more time with my co-workers than any other group listed. The energy they give off sets the atmosphere for the 8-hours we are together. Here’s the cool thing about my co-workers though. They know me. And, when I am not on my game, they build me up. Buy me a Twix, toss me a compliment, pat my shoulder on the walk-by. It all adds up, and takes away, at the same time, the weight of my doing so much all the time.
When I wrote my book I had no idea one of the benefits would be a global reach of new friends, who truly CARE! Out of the blue they will message me. Tell me that they have just read my book, and every blog post I have written. Then expressing to me that with my gift of writing, I can help so many. Who says that? Strangers that weight-lift, that’s who.
My back is getting stronger, maybe one day my arms will, too, but for now, I am taking on all I can, and the rest; is lifted off me.
Ten years ago I saw a spectacular movie about Greece, a sun drenched ancient paradise telling stories of the past in a simple palate. I could feel myself vacationing there, breathing the air, writing the words that atmosphere inspires when it is changed and unpredictable. The stone walls, white villages, blue water, all sunk deep into my wish list of places I wanted to experience. I stopped thinking about visiting Greece about a year ago, and started making plans to live there. Not forever. Just 55 days. Or maybe eleven months. Long enough to feel the equality of salt in my veins and the ocean water.
But for now, I am right here.
Here where little hands “fingerprint” a new cube of butter, just because. Here where I am helping with science fair homework, and watching her young mind put together an experiment alongside frustration. Here, mediating teenage kid arguments and praying they one day get along. Here, dancing to music with my girls, pretending we are rock-stars. Here, holding my sick little one when she has a fever, and won’t let go of my hand. Here, teaching my son to drive, and how to be a gentleman. Here, taking care to create a home with baking, laughing, late movies, and lots of laundry folding. Here, focusing on my health, faith, career, friends, and family. Here, watching the sun rise each morning, and set each night; a sky full of stars when the moon is dark, a path lunar lit when the moon is full. I’m here. Right where I should be.
One day I will be right there. Eating a ridiculously delicious galaktoboureko at Kosmikon & Galifianakis, looking out at the rhythm of the waves….. chatting with friends old and new. So inspired and alive. And, I will reflect on the days of right here. I will look into the past and nod, grateful that I did all that I could, was all that I needed to be, swam as fast as I dared, hiked as high as the earth let me, shouted my dreams till they echoed, whispered truths as quiet as a touch, and loved as deep as the ocean could sink my brimming heart.
I was, right here.
Every dirt trail I walk I look for the shape that celebrates life, a heart. No just any heart, but one made of stone. I have found them high in the Uinta’s, low in the rivers, on the paths I run, and the paths that run me. They are tokens created by time and trial, yet become a marker of love. I see them everywhere, my heart rocks.
Love is felt in acute layers when you are in the middle of trial. Its true. Favored is the person experiencing the pressure of a trial. They feel love: love of service, love of understanding, love of being. And out of that love comes gratitude for friendship, for kindness, for blessings. Rocks are formed with gradual pressure, time, and melting of elements. Love is formed the same way.
On Wednesday I had one of those days, nothing went right, and I felt my skills as a mother, co-worker, friend, …all of the roles I love to play…were failing. My confidence was shot. My energy, gone. I attended a funeral mid-day for my dear Great Aunt, then afterward when my sisters and mom asked how I was doing I gave them an honest play-by-play of my morning and the night before. And, because the last 24-hours had not gone well, the reality was laced in, well, reality. The pressure of trials of daily life. When I was done with my 7-minute rant, of course, they all hugged me.
That is reward of trial. Love is the element that warms the cold rock, that blends with the motion of life, giving us purpose. Trials don’t last forever, and even rocks change over time, but love. Love. Love of this kind is unchanged, it is kept in your own heart as a reminder of those that walked with you when you needed them most.
I push into the pack of runners, looking, searching, for my start-line crew. My brothers, Todd and Justin, and my sister-in-law (turned top friend), Abbie, were just with me. How did I lose them? Where did they go? The announcer is counting down the seconds to fire the gun. I look ahead, then behind me. It’s as if they have disappeared, and I am left all alone to run this race. In my gut I know that it is supposed to be this way. Instead of pushing forward to middle of the crowd, I weave back and forth till I am near the most average of runners, the back-half. The announcer sounds, “10, 9, 8..” I’m praying it doesn’t rain. I didn’t train for wet conditions. I trained in perfect weather. Miles and miles of running in the sun. “Please don’t rain. Please don’t rain,” I chant in my head. The clouds are heavy, the runners packed-in tight, and I am consumed with what this race means. Not mile after mile of endurance, but step after step of being, trying, fighting, hoping, believing, and surviving.
The first runner takes a stride, the clouds open up; the rain starts to fall. I plug in my music, zip my jacket up to my chin, and prepare for what I haven’t prepared for. Rain. Lots of rain. The first song on my playlist, is a song that Justin sent me, 11 months ago, as I went from a married woman of 17 years to a single woman of 1 day. This middle brother of mine told me in a text that he loved me, that he supported me, and would be here for me. At This Point In My Life, by Tracy Chapman carries me up the start of the 4 mile incline.
I’m running against the rain, dark clouds overhead, praying it will stop. The rain is saturating my jacket, my gloves are wet. I’m miserable and it’s just 1 mile in. Almost immediately I am rocked by the length of this race, 13.1 miles, in conditions that aren’t fair. Tracy starts singing to me, as if she’s reading my thoughts.
See its been a hard road, the road I’m traveling on.
I reflect and feel the pain of the months of last June…July…August…September. Of leaving my marriage. Moving in with my parents. The kids slamming doors, crying, sleeping on the floor, on cots in the basement, questioning the path of their mom. All the while, living above us, my two biggest champions, my Mom and Dad, working hard to create a soft place for us to land. I am thinking of days at work where I couldn’t fake my drowning sadness, crying in the bathroom, at my desk, slouched in the hallway with tears streaming down my face, falling apart in meetings, lunches with co-workers, and alone in my car each night before I left work.
I’ve had a hard life I’m just saying it so you’ll understand
That right now, right now, I’m doing the best I can
At this point in my life
My legs are so tired, my emotions weak, this race is too much. I didn’t train for this kind of run. I cry tears of living an apprenticeship as I ascent. Not of failing, but of trying so hard for 6,200 days that there was nothing left to try. My very heart slowed to an unheard beat. Not blaming anyone, just acknowledging that it wasn’t what I had expected. That it didn’t fit. It didn’t work.
Right now. Right now. I’m doing the best I can.
The uphill road is wet with rain, runners are stopping on the side of the road, stretching out leg cramps. I’m looking straight ahead.
You see I’ve been climbing stairs but mostly stumbling down
I’ve been reaching high always losing ground
You see I’ve been reaching high but always losing ground
You see I’ve conquered hills but I still have mountains to climb
And right now right now I’m doing the best I can
At this point in my life
I’m hearing in my head the untruths that are evident when something so significant dissolves. The rumors are just rumors; mimicking false reality. I look at my hands, my glove soaked hands, they are in front of me punching the air. I am the same girl. The same woman. The same.
At this point in my life
I’d like to live as if only love mattered
As if redemption was in sight
As if the search to live honestly
Is all that anyone needs
Running against the rain. It is trying to pull me down, trying to take me down, telling me I can’t. I won’t. That I’m a failure. But I am stronger than the rain, even so weak, I am stronger.
You see when I’ve touched the sky
The earth’s gravity has pulled me down
But now I’ve reconciled that in this world
Birds and angels get the wings to fly
There are so few cheering the racers this year, one woman is under a huge umbrella, sitting on her car, ringing a cow bell for each and every one of us as if WE mattered to her. ME! As if I mattered to her! I smile at her, she is encouraging me! I can do this, I can run in the rain, I can do it. I still have power in me.
Rachel Platten’s song, Fight Song starts to run through my head. I am alone in the ocean. The rain is coming steady, she’s not letting up. I pass a couple who has stopped to walk. She tells him she wants to give up, he tells her…”Keep going. You can do it.” I nod, and pump my legs past them. Rachel’s words sing to me.
Like a small boat
In the ocean
Sending big waves
I’m thinking of October….November…December…January. Of the days crushing me, but not killing me. Of finding my core friends, of finding my strength during morning CrossFit, of finding my laugh, of finding adventure in late night drives chasing storms with the kids just because they wanted to see how hard the sky water comes down when you dance in the middle of it. I am running with the rain. Not being beat. Not going down.
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
I adjust my hat, and zip my phone into a second waterproof bag. I am feeling determined to find a bright path in my life, of pulling people along with me who are good for me, who I will be good for. Of creating family love in our condo, a condo that feels like home. My wet legs are cold, strong, running. I am hoping my sisters and my Mom and Dad will be around the next corner. They believe in me, they see me, they know me. They feel my voice! They know the dynamite I had to use to blow up the wrong and put the right back together. Every inch of me is soaked, down through to my skin. The rain has become the race.
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
I run through the tunnel, and when I emerge I see a neon green sign. My sign! My family. Cheering so loud, louder than the rain I run with, they are yelling my name and boosting my soul. This same family who has stood by me, cried with me, supported me with dinners, a clean condo, daily texts, love for my children, hope for my future. I run past them and the tears come heavy down my face, mixing with earths water. And a giant smile opens up on my face.
I run to the mile 11 marker, kiss my hand, and press it on the sign. My lucky 11. I am almost there. The rain is drenching me. The brim of my hat can’t keep up. I see rain all around me. Runners are sloshing through the street ponds, soaked, cold, and trudging along, all 3,831 of us have a story — and the rain is pulling it out of us. The lady who has stopped, doubled over, the boy who’s dad pushes him in a wheelchair, the sisters who are three across in their rain ponchos. All of us.
My ear buds have long been put away, but there is a song in my heart. A song my dear Abbie gave to me last June. Abbie, who has already crossed the finish line with her fast legs. Erin McCarley, There’s No Holding You Down encourages me. I no longer fear the rain, I am the rain.
Face whatever you fear.
I’m smiling at my story, its not perfect, its so flawed, but I am living it. I’m running through the rain. Running through the rain, the best I can!
We can write the story
You don’t have to worry
February…March…April…May…the sunniest spring in years. I have felt so much happiness, light, and peace. I’m ready to face the days ahead. I’m letting go of the regret. Filing it up with love. Seeing those in my life differently, with a deeper respect for living.
Press, let optimism
Find you, need you
In that crowded mind
That dangerous mind
The rain is hard and fast! My legs are strong. One mile to go.
There’s no holding you down
There’s no holding you down
And then I turn onto Grant street. My favorite. I repeat to myself between dodging runners, “I Grant myself happiness. I Grant myself peace. I Grant myself love. I Grant myself hope, friendship, failure, success, kindness. I Grant myself more. I Grant myself light!” This street, this mile, is the hardest, but I am facing it, with the rain I hate, the rain I love.
There’s no holding you down
No one holding you down
I see the finish line, it is there, so close. “I Grant myself ability. I Grant myself strong legs. I Grant myself compassion. I Grant myself time. I Grant myself small flights, and big flights, too.”
I’m sprinting, running as fast as I can, the rain skimming off the top of my hat. My wet feet numb and achy. My family is to the west of me cheering in the triumphant orchestra of love, I look over to them and pump my fists in the air. I did it! The finish line is steps away. My legs are writing a story, they are carrying my heart, they are pushing my limits, and they are not concerned if it is raining or sunny. They came to run a race, and run a race they did, taking me over the threshold.
From a distance I hear my name, with a medal around my neck I spin to see my two most amazing friends, Jessica and Jodi. My face! It can’t hold back! I love them! And when they hug me the crying can’t be stopped, cause they are tears of true friendship, for these two that have sandwiched my trial with their kindness. And they witnessed what may very well be the most symbolic day of my new life.
The rain, the miles, the training, the cold, was all worth it. For this. This moment of seeing-my-soul clarity – a light marching forward.
The finish line; my starting line.
Somewhere in heaven there are 99 horses, one for each of his years, following the lead of a great man who left this life on a Wednesday, three days from Sunday, three till Saturday, tethered to his one. He was married to her for 67 years, his one. The love of his life that he spent his days next to, walking side by side, resting in the wake of mother nature – finding life in the cyclical pattern of family.
I’ve thought much about the longevity of love in the past 11 months, why it works, when it works, and how it works. There must be a formula, a gift of giving one to another with no price or expectation, consciously giving with power of love. Because I am drawn to the number 5, here are a few thoughts I have been pondering:
1 – Respect the small moments.
God gives us an opportunity each night to share 6 minutes of sky painting together. Step outside, warm your hands together on a mug of tea, wrap up in a blanket and watch the sun hide until morning while the sky simultaneously fills with wonder. There is no need to have a conversation, just occupying the same atmosphere of time is enough.
I saw a couple last week, late into their years, holding hands as they waited to order their lunch. The simple dearness balanced the mundane of life with a soft whisper of hands touching saying, “I love you.” Out in public it is a bold statement declaring love and togetherness. In private, coping with life is easier when you are holding the hand of someone you are connected to.
3-Mark your path.
Give to her often in objects rich in sentiments, creating a bread crumb trail etched with your name. She will find you often, by the path you created with the gifts she can see, pick up, and wear against her skin.
4-Swim in her heart.
To give someone your heart is not necessary. Sharing your heart, now, therein is the real treasure. Sharing your dreams, your despair, your light, your gray. Sharing by swimming in the ocean together. And how do we learn to swim? With the life vest of kindness. Kindness rules truth in serving the one you love. The smallest acts trump all the words of promises.
Written words of love are the bible to a relationship, to be referred to often and with reverence. They easily dispel the hesitancy of the spoken word in a poetic and thoughtful fashion. Hand written, heart felt, soul driven words — mend bridges and remind us that we are part of a special journey together.
When Raymond’s 99 horses stop and rest tonight in heaven, they will sit under a large apple tree, one that is carved with a R + E. There he will wait for his one to pass to the other side of this realm. And when she soon joins him, he will leap to his feet, run to her and crush any loneliness that loss leaves in the race of mortality. They will share a moment of swimming hearts beneath a beautiful tree, holding hands, tracing the gift of wedding rings between fingers, speaking in a language of love that belongs in a new sphere of time.
Faith is not blind, faith is hope, and hope is love, and love that is long with giving…. lasts.
The fish feels alive pushing through the water, yet, she does not have a conscious awareness of pain. She does not feel the sting of a hook, only the strain to get back to the salty water.
The lion feels alive resting in the grass, his mane blowing — knowing his sexual dimorphism is a crown of his mighty gender. But he does feel pain. A lion will limp when injured. Aware. His degree of suffering cannot be measured. But he is alive.
And so is she.
Swimming. Resting. Walking. Waiting. Protecting. Seeking. Living.
A lion is not a fish, yet both are alive.
I remember the day, 11 years ago, when I saw the sketch of the 15 stairs that would go in our house on the Six-Acres. A simple set of two flights, with a middle landing. The day Norman, our builder, got the stairs done Hayden and I climbed to the top and looked out to the setting sun atop a second floor that had yet to have walls or a roof placed. The view from there was fit for royalty, and I wished for a glass house so I could have that same perspective each night.
The top of the stairs holds so much emotion; a crossroads of highs and lows. Its the place in the house I think I will miss the most when the keys are passed to the new owners next week.
The top of the stairs is where the painting of Jesse dog hangs. A painting I created with bright and bold oils… and my fingertips, Jesse’s colored coat spinning with motion, just like the day I met her. Long after she had gone on to the other side I would stand at the top of the stairs and study that painting, at times I could almost feel her brush up next to me.
The top of the stairs is where the kids would wait each Christmas morning for the Santa Clause reveal. Lined up by age, their legs tucked up close to their chest to keep them warm, their eyes hopeful for good things. Bright cheeks, anticipation.
At the top of the stairs Maggie would dress into her princess costumes, then parade downstairs, telling me to pretend it is her wedding day. “Do I look beautiful, mamma?” Yes. I would say. Yes. And she would run back up the stairs and do it all over again.
The stairs carried the feet of my son, Hayden, who would run so fast down that his legs would trip out from under him, yet somehow he always managed to find a way to stay upright. And, many times, Emma galloping like a pony, her fresh freckled face and hair in a pony-tail as accessories to her cowgirl outfit, would chase after him.
The top of the stairs is where the kids made a sleeping bag slide, complete with landing protection comprised of every pillow in the house. Its where Maggie napped until she was too big to fit, its where my dear old Gramp cussed me for not having a handrail to hold onto when he came to see the house in its new glory. Its where each piggy-back ride started, each load of laundry passed, and days of tired faces on my shoulder rested as I ascended the path.
And…the top of the stairs is where I would sit and think, and sometimes cry, carrying a burden of the weight of being a woman with days that didn’t match the dream. The stairs bearing both the junction of deep emotion and the responsibly to support my weak legs. The stairs go down. The stairs go up. But either way, the stairs have taken us where we needed to go.
We are saying goodnight to the house, to her stairs.
Tonight, away from the Six-Acres, I am writing next to a new set of stairs. I pause. And listen. And almost hear one last time Hayden and Emma in chorus calling out to me in their young voices just after I have tucked them in, “Night Mom! You’re the best mom in the whole entire wide big universe!”
I hear it in my heart. And tonight, that is enough.
Goodnight, stairs. Goodnight.