Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Life is good. . .

I've been having trouble getting myself back on track recently (likely because I haven't been trying in the right ways), but three things helped me do that today: its Doug's birthday, so we're going on a date; I got an email from a very old friend; and I gave one of my kiddos a candy cane for the first time this year.

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading a friend's blog where she wrote about the challenge of staying upbeat and focused on the positive in what has felt like a very "heavy" fall.

I knew instantly that she had found the perfect word. Heavy.

In addition to all the trouble in our little neck of the woods, with public lies, personal threats, private hurts, broken trusts, big shakeups, etc, etc, there have been other challenges for us and for people we love: lost jobs (or still no job, despite constant hunting), unexpected illnesses/medical problems, and on top of it all a lingering uncertainty about much of the future. My grandpa (or rather, my grandma's husband--they've only been married 10 years, but they're sealed, so he's grandpa, no?) passed away the day after my grandma's birthday. Because of the ridiculous cost of flying to Montana (especially last minute), I didn't make it home and I felt rather discombobulated to not be with my family as they grieved/celebrated Clark's life and comforted and helped to care for Grandma. A couple weeks later, a woman who was a big part of my childhood passed away--the mother of a girl who was one of my closest friends from first grade all the way to high school graduation. Gaye was only a couple years older than my parents (and actually shares a birthday with my dad), and not having been around the last several years, the news that she was in the hospital was quite a shock to me. At the funeral, my mom approached Dennis, her husband, and expressed how grateful she was for what a great "second mom" Gaye had been to me as I was growing up. He replied, "Oh yeah, I always thought of her as my barefoot daughter." I was comforted by that expression of affection from him, and I was very sad not to be there to express for myself my gratitude for the generosity they had both always shown to me, and to offer to buy him a banana milkshake.

Its just all been a whole lot to process, mentally, emotionally, and in the practical "Now what?" of daily realities. Add to that the general busyness of jobs, callings, three little kids and a tiring (but, thankfully, healthy and uneventful) pregnancy, and the last few months have indeed felt pretty heavy.

But today Doug turns 34, and we decided to go to dinner and a movie tonight (have I mentioned that I LOVE my sister-in-law, who lives a few minutes away and babysits pretty much any time I ask?). That's two months in a row we've managed to make it out on a date. And I love going on dates with my husband, because when we don't have our hands full of children, diaper bags, toys, books and various sticky and/or greasy foodstuffs, I am very much his date: he opens my door for me, he holds my hand, he charms me. I happily and contentedly define myself primarily as a mother, but it is refreshing to be reminded from time to time that there is someone in my life who appreciates all of me--everything I do with and for the kids, and everything else, too. Someone who sees the whole me, and loves me (sometimes, admittedly, in spite of myself). As with most married couples, we probably get more of the worst of each other than anyone else does, but we most certainly get more of the best of each other. And that's why I love him so much--in the long run, we always make each other better. Our marriage is much greater than the sum of its parts.

Hayley, who is the one who lost her mom almost two months ago, sent me a message today in which she apologized to me for not being in better touch. Why would I ever fault her for that? But as I read her brief message, I thought about how every time I see a really great Halloween costume, or eat a bit of Nutella, or see a troop of Girl Scouts, I think of her mom. Nearly every time my little girl wants "the pink one", whatever the "one" is, I think of Hayley. I am grateful for the many memories I have of their family, because years later (and it has been literally years since I spent time with any of them now) they still make me smile. Their kindness still regularly gives my life joy, even though they aren't themselves a regular part of my life anymore.

Last night Doug bought a package of candy canes and I opened it today to give one to Kylie. The first candy cane of the year always makes me think of my dad. Right around this time of the year, he'd come home from Missoula one evening after being at the University or doing some shopping and tell Michael and I (and Eldon, when we were a bit younger), that while he was in town, he'd happened to run into Santa Clause. Santa had asked how we were doing, and Dad always reported that we'd been pretty good kids, and so Santa would send a few candy canes for us and make sure Dad reminded us to get him our Christmas lists. That "Santa candy cane" was usually the first one I got each year. Every time I pull out the first candy cane of the Christmas season, I think of my dad and feel happy all over, because now at 26 I can still picture in my mind, nearly as clearly as I saw it at 5, my dad's young, unwrinkled, mustachioed face, lit up happily as he delighted his children with his story of casual conversation with Santa and a little sugary treat. That has always been one of my favorite memories, but its one that actually means more to me now as an adult, because now I get it--now as a parent, I understand the joy you feel yourself when you can, in such a small and simple way, delight your children and bring a little magic into their lives. There's no feeling quite like that.

So I made a plan today. Some of the activities and treats that I know my kiddos love best, and some new ones I'm hoping they'll love, and where they'll fall in the now-til-Christmas schedule. Because life is full of twists and turns, hard losses, long trials and heavy burdens. But its also full of all kinds of little, wonderful moments: moments that can give us a little smile, a little joy, and consequently a little relief, even if just for a minute, from those trials and burdens. And now as I move a little further down the road of life and finally start to get enough distance to look back a little bit, I understand a better that those little moments are so important, not only for the joy that they give us at the time, but because they still have the power to bring us joy years after they happen. They make us smile, remembering how life has been good, and help us to refocus on the ways in which it still is.

Because it really is. For all its troubles, life is good.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My people

So, since most of the people I see on a daily/weekly basis don't know my family, I get asked a lot of questions about them, or am asked to describe them. I think maybe I'll just start whipping out pictures like this:
"Yeah, they're pretty cool folk. Hardy. They like war games in the woods. In the snow. With their scraggly facial hair and fatigues."

This is actually a shot my sister got her son's 13th (13th?!) birthday party--they all went paintballin'. And, let's face it, in Montana there's just a whole lot of woods and snow to be had, right out the front door. Some days it makes me sad that my kids are missing out on all that great militia training and cold-weather hardiness.

(And click on the link and read my sister's blog about her son. I love that kid. And its nice to know [since I've been gone for more than half his life now] that he's still essentially the same kid he was at 5. Because that kid is awesome).

Friday, November 26, 2010

My thankfuls

Parents: I learned so very much from mine and have been fortunate to be well-loved by them. The older I get, the more I realize I got from my dad: the love of solitude, a notebook and pen, a love for growing things (this arguably came from both sides, but Dad's the true hobbit), the subversive sense of humor. My mom has spent a lot of time and money traveling to visit us wherever we have lived so that my kids really know and adore their Yaya, despite the distance. I know I can depend on them and even as an adult that knowledge and stability lends a great deal of comfort to my life. And Doug's mom and step-dad have been wonderful surrogate parents and friends to me--I genuinely love spending time with them, and I'm well aware that that isn't how a lot of people feel about their in-laws. They are both wonderful grandparents to my kids, and spoil them rotten, as grandparents should. I'm tremendously grateful for the parents in my life.

EVERYBODY ELSE: I have a large and wonderful family, and so does my husband. This makes for quite the circle of love and support. In a world where it is increasingly difficult for people to find one or two individuals in their lives who really love them and can be depended on, Doug and I (and our children) have literally dozens. There are so many brothers, sisters, in-laws, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins, grandparents that give so much joy and friendship to our lives and we love the fun and interesting individuals that each of them is.

Health: Being pregnant always makes me appreciate this one more. My normally awesome immune system goes on vacation while I incubate, and I catch every little bug that goes around. On top of that, everything starts to ache and not work right. It makes me very appreciative of my youth and general good health, which do make the rest of life so much easier to do. With three kids, we have only been to the the ER once, with a resulting few-day stay in the hospital. That's it. Other than that, its only been colds and the occasional flu and then, every once in a great while, an ear infection. That's pretty amazing.

Priesthood Blessings: On the rare occasion that one of the kids is miserable sick, Doug can always give them a blessing, and we have lots of wonderful Priesthood leaders in our lives who are unselfish with their time and happy to help him do so. A few weeks ago, Keilana was at the horrible-fever-rattling-breath-barking cough point and could not sit comfortably, much less sleep. She was given a blessing and, though she still had a miserable night, within an hour her breathing has eased enough that she was able to get some sleep. Similar circumstances have played out many times in our home (or in homes where Doug has been asked to assist) and I'm grateful that that power is a regular part of my life.

For my kids: I'm so grateful for Keilana's sunny temperament and helpful attitude, for the way her zealous excitement makes everything more fun (I'm pretty sure that she is the main reason I like Disneyland). I'm grateful for Dylan's alternative view of the world and his off-beat sense of. . . .everything, constantly making me see things in a way I never would've myself, and usually making me laugh. I'm grateful for Kylie's calm good-naturedness, her natural proclivity for affection and sharing, so that, her tremendous bossiness notwithstanding, she helps to add some calm to our busy home. I'm excited to see who our next daughter will be and how she'll fit with the others. Watching children grow and discover the world is definitely about the most fun and amazing thing I have in my life.

For my husband, and the relationship I have with him: I'm grateful for the way he provides for us, in every sense. Without me having to take a job outside our home, he provides us with a warm home and a good car and lots of good food and plenty of clothes and fun. He listens to the kids, and plays with them and cuddles with them and does everything a good dad should. He serves faithfully as the Priesthood leader in our home and is good at teaching the kids. I'm grateful that he and I are a team, that we're best friends, that we rarely ever miscommunicate, fail to communicate, or disagree on anything of true substance. And he's really, really funny.

There are way too many other things to list--and maybe that's the greatest blessing of all. I have so many things for which to be grateful, that its difficult to even begin to scratch the surface

Monday, November 15, 2010

Alright, California

Its the middle of November.
I understand I live in a more moderate climate these days.
But I'm not asking for snow.
Snow would be nice,
but I know that's hard for you
and I'm a reasonable person.
All I'm asking
is that a week from Thanksgiving
I can wear a sweater comfortably.
I mean, for Pete's sake, highs in the 70s?
What is that?!
If it can't be winter,
can it at least be fall?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I love good a cappella (probably because I love music and I love to sing--but my own voice and ear are quite weak). This is one of my favorite hymns, performed by BYU a cappella group "Vocal Point". Give it a listen if you have a few minutes.

Things that made me smile today:

Seeing hubs snuggled up on the couch
with our little girl
Seeing little girl finally smile again
(she's pretty sick)

Realizing just how happy
a Gatorade
and a box of Mike and Ikes
can make my son.

Watching how much said boy
likes any song with a strong bass beat.
He's gonna be a drummer
or a bass player
or both.

When Dylan said,
"Do old people die sometimes?"
and I responded,
"Yes, like Clark died recently"
and he said,
"Yeah, and President Lincoln died"

Having Kylie and Doug
play tug-o-war,
with me.
He had my arms and torso,
she had a foot and an ankle.

Noticing that the flowers
Doug bought me
a week an a half ago
are still looking quite pretty.

Finding a good deal
on good shoes
that I really needed.

Feeling my baby kick
and remembering I am,
in fact,
Not just fat and miserable.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I'm so glad that he's mine
and I'm his
and that we're in this together.
I feel a bit discombobulated tonight--
that is to say
I don't really know how I feel.
It doesn't feel like much has changed yet
but I know that a whole lot will change,
must change,
relatively soon.
But whatever else changes,
this stays.
This never goes away,
never becomes unreliable
and never gets boring.
(and, no,
I really don't
have any recent pictures
of the two of us.
Either he's taking pictures,
or I'm taking pictures,
so we're never in the picture at the same time.
I'll try to remedy that).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Tonight is the ending of an era. It may seem important only to a few, but important nonetheless. Scot, Doug's wonderful boss, officially announced his resignation on Friday, and at this evening's city council meeting an interim city manager will be named, to fill the post until the city council finds a permanent replacement.

Its been a privilege to be a little part of a vision that, though now much bigger than Scot alone, began and was realized largely because of his passion, faith and intense drive. He is one of those rare leaders whose passion and commitment is truly contagious, who has nearly as much concern for the lives and careers of those around him as he does for his own. He is a unique individual who chose a somewhat rocky and often lonely path, out of a desire to serve others, because he was able to see what could be. He has a generous heart, and many people have benefitted from his near tireless giving of himself. He will be sorely missed.

In the last few weeks, he has been publicly attacked and personally threatened, and even his children have had to deal with some harassment at school and in the community. It is unfortunate that sometimes people sink to the lesser aspects of human nature. It is especially unfortunate when children are involved. But the fact remains that those who have engaged in such behavior can't destroy anything of true value--the Townsends are good people, and so no matter what they decide to do or where they decide to go from here, they will be blessed. Those who have treated them unkindly will likely go on living mostly unhappy lives (people who behave in such a manner almost always do so because they are themselves unhappy).

When we moved to Lindsay 4 1/2 years ago, it seemed quite a bit different than it does now. I've seen many miracles, large and small, in that time. Many of those miracles came as a result of a humble, dedicated young bishop who said, "Let's open those doors; we'll fill this place up," and a visionary city manager who said, "Let's build it; let's find a way." I am more grateful than I can say that I am blessed to call both these men--and many, many of the other people who were absolutely instrumental in helping so many miracles happen here--my friends.

I wish I could express in any clear and meaningful way everything that has happened in our lives and around us since we came here. But there is too much, and my talents are inadequate to such a task. There has been so much opposition, in the forms of medical problems, antagonistic individuals, financial difficulties, family misunderstandings, and all kinds of other trials, and I have seen person after person and family after family rise to the occasion and make themselves and their little corner of the world a better place. I have seen unity in places it would seem most unlikely, and services large and small that were given and received in love and humility.

What this change in leadership will mean for us in particular is not quite clear yet. I'm sure it will be over time. But I have learned much in the last half-decade and I have tremendous faith in the Lord's ability and willingness to bless his children. Whatever happens, it has been amply proven to me that the Lord takes care of those who trust in him. Trials will come, sacrifices will sometimes have to be made, but the rewards reaped in the end seem always to me to be disproportionately large to what is asked. I am grateful to know that there is a plan--for myself, for my family and for all those that I love, even if I don't always know exactly what it is at any given moment.

Dream big, work hard, be patient and the possibilities are nearly endless.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Awesome Day

I have had a nasty cold all week. No, not nasty. Exhausting. I've only been a little cloudy and stuffy, but I've been totally wiped-out tired. Its been hard to find motivation to do basic chores, let alone everything else. Yesterday, I went back to bed after I dropped Keilana at school and fell asleep by about 8:30 and then slept until 10. After I dropped Dylan off at preschool and put Kylie down for a nap, I slept again for nearly an hour and a half. I felt like such a bum.

I'm so glad I did it.

This morning, as soon as I had dropped off Keilana, Kylie and I got to work. We cleaned up the dog mess out on the front patio and backyard, raked and cleaned up all the leaves, threw out our Halloween pumpkins, cleaned up strangers' trash (the one thing I hate about living here is that for some reason people seem to believe that, since its located at a major intersection, my front patio is a public trash can. . .grrrrrrr!), scrubbed the car and cleaned the kitchen. Then we got ourselves cleaned and dressed, and folded a couple loads of laundry. Then I cleaned up the living room and bedrooms and folded a couple more loads of laundry. After I dropped Dylan at preschool, I had to take a break because my back was telling me it was time to do that, so I sat down and had a snack with Kylie.

But meanwhile, Doug got all the old carpet/padding that we ripped out of our garage (the friends we bought it from had had it carpeted in order to use as a playroom--nice, in theory) loaded up and hauled away. Then, he put together the garden wall on the patio. It still needs gravel and glue and capstones, and then fill dirt and top soil, but we're a big step closer to finally, finally growing things.

I love days that are productive. Visible progress makes me sssooo happy.

Which is good. Because the last few weeks have been so supremely weird (and what the last few weeks mean for the next few months/years) that I just don't know what to do with it, emotionally.

So clean patios and houses make me happy.

Now off to make breakfast for dinner and watch Toy Story 3. And then after the kids go to bed, hubby gets home from work and I will sit down and watch The Good Guys and eat Halloween-discount fun size Snickers with him. And I shall feel satisfied and relaxed.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


So I haven't written in two whole weeks. And for a few months before that, let's face it, most of my writing hasn't been terribly interesting or exciting.

Some of this is due to the mental and physical fatigue that's bound to occur when you're raising three busy kids while incubating a fourth. But a lot of it is just keeping my thoughts to myself.

Its not that there hasn't been plenty going on. Its not that I haven't had quite a few interesting insights, conversations and revelations. I just don't know how to share most of them, or if I even can. I just feel like keeping them to myself for now. There is a tendency in today's world for over-sharing. There are thoughts I've tried very hard to communicate because I think they can serve a purpose beyond myself, but there's always that wariness about giving too much away. Too many people do that, and often I think its done with little thought to the consequences that may follow--not only for themselves, but for others.

October was a very, very good month for us. I got out more in October than in the previous six months combined. We went on two all-evening child-free dates in one month! That's more dates than we often have in 10 months. But it was also a very stressful, tense month for us and for many of the people we care most about. Lindsay has been a contentious place the last several weeks, and so we needed all the fun, I think, to help maintain some sanity in the midst of the opposition and tension. There had to be some balance.

I wasn't sure I wanted to live in Lindsay when I first got here. Now I am so in love with my friends, my ward, the life we have most of the time, that it's hard to imagine having made any other choice. I know there were many good reasons we came here, not all of which we could've possibly known when we made the decision. I'm grateful that this is where our life has brought us. In the midst of the vitriol and opposition, I looked around at those who were there to say "thank you" to many others for the hard work they've done; I saw how many people were willing to face an ugly confrontation in order to stand by their friends; I realized that, though we sometimes lose sight of it when climbing a hard hill, most people are still basically good and decent and courageous.

I start my month of Thanksgiving with a fervent prayer of gratitude for the friends that the Lord has placed in my life, and how they have shown me how to be the person I want to be simply by being the people that they are. I am truly blessed.