I Can't Help it

We re-did our girls' room for Christmas. It has so exceeded my expectations. It's not done, and I will write an "official" post about their room when it is, but I love it so much already that I can't help but share. Walking into their room makes me happy. I love thinking about the little details. I loved the planning stage, but seeing how it's all coming together is great. I think you'll enjoy it, too. (The "official" post will contain all of the information about the furniture pieces, colors, linens, etc.)

The big frame was a dreamy find. Its final touch will be individually framed couple pictures of Jake and me, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. A sort of family tree. I loved the idea at Lay Baby Lay and knew I wanted those loving faces in the room. Vaughn refinished their dresser. I am in-love with how it came out.

Magnolia found this Frenchie on the same trip we found the frame. When we first got it, I thought about painting it, but the more I looked at it, the more I thought the orange-y brown was perfect. 

 The girls now have matching desks, each in-front of a window. Cora was using the abacus (one of Magnolia's Christmas presents) while I was putting their dresser together. She said, "Look, Mom! It makes two triangles." She'd been counting the beads from 1-10. I can't wait to see what fun shapes we can make with different counting patterns.

 This wall is in-between their desks. I was thinking about what should go on it when I went passed their art wall(s) in our hall that has become completely overrun. This will be a great place for the things Cora brings home from school, and we can easily rotate it.

Curtains, beds, layered fabric pennants, name signs. I'd planned on taking the French alphabet flashcards down, but I really like them with everything else. I may move them to a different wall and put a Regina Murphy painting we got from the Paseo Arts Festival there instead. The painting is going somewhere in their room, I just haven't picked the perfect spot yet (it's a fabulous colorful streetscape of row houses in Holland).

 The heart of it all. They were playing blocks while I made lunch. I'm glad they still have so much room to play. Cora discovered that she fits nicely under her bed. She has taken several books under there to read. I think I'll figure out a way to decorate it to make it a sort of magical secret world, as if it wasn't already. (Seriously, could those beds be any more perfect? No. They could not.)

They're adjusting well to their new beds. Tonight is their second night in them. We had to go in a few times last night before they fell asleep. After they'd been in bed for a while, we heard Magnolia whimpering softly. I went in and couldn't find her! We'd put lots of pillows and stuffed animals on the floor in case she rolled off (we ordered side rails, but they're not here yet). I was feeling my way through them and then I swooped under Cora's bed and felt Magnolia's leg. She was way under there, and on the part where the wood floor is exposed rather than the rug. She was still pretty much asleep, just cold. We changed her diaper and I held her for less than a minute before she pointed to her bed. I laid her down, covered her up, and she was still snug when we went in this morning after they woke up. 

Joy to the World

Jake and I just finished up with an ambitious choral and orchestral undertaking. We started rehearsals in September, and rehearsed once a week since then. The event was called Joy to the World. The choir in its entirety had nearly 300 members. We worked in smaller groups, four total, to rehearse and learn our parts with a local director for each of the four choirs. The 60 member orchestra rehearsed independently. We met combined twice before our guest conductor arrived on Thursday. We were blessed to be "fine tuned" and led by Dr. Craig Jessop, former director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

It was amazing to see how he could mold all of the notes we'd learned into an incredible musical experience. I initially decided to join the choir for a few reasons, the number one being that Jake was going to be the rehearsal accompanist and the pianist/organist for the actual concert. I hardly ever get to see him, so if we could be in the same room for any given amount of time sharing a common experience, I was in. The other things that swayed my decision: I love to sing, Craig Jessop would be conducting, and the concert was going to be at the Civic Center (Oklahoma City's premier performance space).

The experience was transformed for me after the notes were learned and when the meaning of what was happening set in. We were coming together as a collective to tell the story of Christ's birth through music. The concert was free and open to the community. 1. I love Jesus. 2. I love communal experiences. 3. I love when I hear Jake play the organ, which had been once ever before the rehearsals and concerts we had. This experience will be treasured for the way it helped bring Christ to the forefront of this season. I came to understand more about my relationship with him as I was consumed by the spirit of the music. I was making personal declarations with each note I sang. And even in the three notes I didn't sing during the Hallelujah Chorus in our evening performance because my voice was on its way out. ;) The event was recorded and will be broadcast two more times this holiday season on KSBI 52 (KSBI-TV can be viewed on Cox Cable Channel 7 - HD 707, AT&T U-verse 52 – HD 1052, DirecTV 52 and Dish 52). The remaining show times are as follows:

Monday December 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm
Tuesday December 25, 2012 at 1:00 pm

With all of the final rehearsals and performances and a few other out of the ordinary life events I haven't seen my girls as much as usual since Thursday. I have been missing them! SO MUCH! They went home with Vaughn and Tracey after the matinee performance. When we got to Jake's parents this afternoon, I was happy, elated, ecstatic to see them. Goo was napping. I took advantage of some time to be next to Cora on the couch for a little while. We had the Johnson Family Sing Along tonight. In between food and music, I snuggled and loved and kissed them extra. I laid with Cora until she fell asleep. I love them. Taller than the moon and further than the sun. I'm pretty sure Cora is magical.

When I came downstairs to check my email after Cora was asleep, I saw that my friend Ryan's blog had been updated. Her daughter, Ellie Kate (7), was released from the hospital into home hospice care four days ago. They made a little "Life List" as a family of things to do to make some extra special memories in the time Ellie Kate had left. When I saw the new update, I knew what it would say. "Elizabeth Kathleen McLaughlin was welcomed by the arms of Jesus at 11am today." In knowing/anticipating what would come, I have felt so many emotions. I have cried and cried in the last few days, but when I read those words, I was filled with peace. I've been praying for peace at this time, not only for the family, but for all who knew them. Thousands have been touched by Ellie Kate and her family. I knew everyone would be sad to hear of her passing. So sad. My heart is breaking for the empty arms of a mother. Her family has called this her Ultimate Healing, and I love the spirit that evokes, despite the void that comes without her physical presence. I think it is a source of much of the peace I know I'm not alone in feeling. Someone put it perfectly, "We are grieving and rejoicing." Her services will be on Friday. I shared a bit about Ellie Kate and her family earlier this year: http://jakeandbrieann.blogspot.com/2012/02/dream-little-dream_22.html?m=0

This week has been one full of miracles for me. Each one has had life and love at the core. The miracle of God the Father sending his only begotten son. The miracle of friends welcoming a new baby. The miracle of Ellie Kate's life and the cyclical feeling that could only come this time of year of God calling her back into his presence. I am grateful to be aware of these and many more occurrences in such a short amount of time. I cannot deny God's presence in my life after seeing how he moves in me and in the lives of those around me. He is Good.

To read more about Ellie Kate's family: http://www.carepages.com/carepages/EllieKate

To help the McLaughlin Family financially:
The Ellie Kate Project
Helping Hands Ministry
C/O Susie Tietz
135 Main Street
PO Box 337
Tallulah Falls, GA

On Pants and Purple

I don't know how far reaching "Wear Pants to Church Day" was outside of the LDS [Mormon] world. I probably wouldn't have known about it if a friend hadn't sent me a link to a post on Feminist Mormon Housewives. The summons was for women to wear pants to church on Sunday, December 16th as a way of making a stand against gender inequality in the church. (It's important to note that Mormon women traditionally wear dresses or skirts to worship services on Sunday.) I am a casual reader of this blog. I am interested in many of the issues discussed there as well as other circles of Mormon feminists. I've worn pants to a few church functions. There is something very practical about them. Especially when it's cold and/or windy, or when I haven't shaved my legs, or when I'm all over the place with my small children, and for many other reasons.

BUT! Something about this whole "Wear Pants to Church Day" really rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it's because I don't really have a problem with myself or others wearing pants (or dresses or skirts). Or because no one ever said I couldn't wear pants, so I don't know why I needed a day to tell me I could. And I understand that it's not really about "pants." But I know many a woman who doesn't have to wear something on the outside to express what she is quietly working towards in her heart and mind. Her words and hands end up doing the work more than her clothes. These quiet feminists, some are no longer in the church, are heroes to me. I love seeing the little things they do to chip away at the traditions that get in the way of becoming a complete disciple of Christ. These examples empower me.

Another problem I had was feeling like I would have been going along with the crowd, even if I really wanted to wear pants. And I probably will on poor weather condition days as winter progresses, but now I'll have to wonder what people will think. Am I doing it because a group said so? In a way it took away the freedom of doing something just because. Not as a statement. And in some ways, I feel like it's a very Mormon thing that most of the followers of FMH sound their voices against, or at least I thought they did, and that's waiting for an outside voice of permission to do something, say something feel something, act in a certain way. We have General Conference twice a year where leaders of the church address all of the members over the course of a weekend, and we have many more mesasges throughout the year via firesides, local conferences, church magazines, etc. I enjoy listening to/reading the messages that are shared, but I'm always amazed at how even some of the most basic tenants of Christ's gospel become revolutionary when coming from a voice of authority. Things like how we should be loving and kind and charitable to ALL [wo]men despite the issues at hand. I don't want my clothes to mean something now because someone else said they should mean something. My pants are not a statement.

With that being said, I went to FMH this afternoon to see what experiences men and women had with Wear Pants to Church Day. There were many photos of women in their pants before/during/after church. I didn't read about anyone having a negative reaction from another member for their pants-wearing.  But something I read a lot of was about the color purple. Men wore purple shirts and ties, women wore purple tops. "Purple," I thought, "Did I miss something?" Apparently there had been a charge in some other forum, maybe in the closed FB group called All Enlisted (the group that said women should wear pants on Sunday) that said women (and men) should wear purple to show support. Why purple? Perhaps because it was the color that represented dignity in the women's suffrage movement. Anyway, guess who wore her most decadent purple shawl to church yesterday? That's right. Me. Total coincidence. I guess I'm just so connected to the cause (gender equality) that it was bound to happen, even if I wasn't onboard with this particular pants-wearin' movement.


I hopped in the shower while Jake took the girls to drop Cora off at school. My mind was wandering to a million different places when it got hung up on a thought. I know it happens to every parent - the what-ifs. This what-if was, "What if something happened to Cora?" The funeral scene played out in my mind, and I was overcome with emotion. I went to wipe the tears away, an automatic reaction, but no need really since my face was already wet. I was caught by how different tears feel from water as my fingers brushed across my cheeks. When these thoughts were starting to get the best of me, I did the only thing I know how to do to keep from getting completely overwhelmed. I knelt and said a prayer of gratitude for my beautiful daughters, and for the gift of motherhood.

We had a fun day with one another. This was Jake's official start to Winter Break. When we got home from school, Cora was feeling sad at the thought of all-day kindergarten next year because she "didn't want to leave Mama." I'd been randomly thinking about homeschooling all morning, and talked to Jake a bit about it over lunch (these are random thoughts, not decisions). We went to the Science Museum after lunch and spent hours there. I found that I am obsessed with the balance machine - it times how long you can keep your balance, and I'm not talking stand on one foot balance, it's like perfect balance. 5.7 seconds was my record. When we got home, I started making matzo ball soup for a little Hanukkah gathering with Ashleigh and Andrew. I was looking at the ingredients I'd assembled on the counter when Jake came in and said there had been a shooting. "20 children between 5 and 10." It's horrifying.

During difficult times, I say I need a wailing wall. I felt I'd found a kindred spirit when I read Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, and came across May who would stuff notes in a wailing wall she made in the backyard. Sometimes it's just too much, and her being able to write down all that made her ache inside  and put it somewhere else made it better for a time. Being a mother is terrifying. It's wonderful and amazing and all of that, but no one could have prepared me for how much worry would come along with it. It's the same sort of thing that makes me fall a part at the slightest thought of something happening to my babies. There are no words for the kind of love that exists for the lives I am responsible for. And one of the most tender parts of that love is the way it's reciprocated. The way they love me is a blessing - the way I am their comforter, and adventure guide, and nutritionist, and everything - the center of their world. When tragedies like the one today happen, I go back and forth between what is protecting and what is smothering. An example: do I want to homeschool because it will give me a greater sense of security - because I want my girls to be stuck to me like glue? Absolutely! I want to live in a little cottage in the country and shut the world out so I can make my own little world with them. Is that smothering? Maybe a little. But it seems so dreamy.

This day began with deep hurt at the thought of something happening to Cora, and it's ending with her warm and snug in her bed. Both led to prayers of gratitude, and with what happened today, a deeper appreciation for what I value most.

PS: It rained tonight on our way home. It was heavy and blowing, and something about it felt so good. It reminded me of Patty Griffin's song Rain. 
It's hard to listen to a hard hard heart
beating close to mine
Pounding up against the stone and steel
walls that I won't climb
Sometimes a hurt is so deep deep deep
you think that you're gonna drown
Sometimes all I can do is weep weep weep
with all this rain falling down...

A Day and A Dream

Today had a lovely cyclic quality to it. I don't know what it is about things feeling like they've made a complete cycle to me. I guess it's something like music resolving, it just feels good. A small example of the importance of this in my life is that I want to die on my birthday. When I'm one-hundred-something years old. 

I was jolted out of a dream around 6:45 by Cora who was calling for us from her room, and while that might technically be considered the start of my day, the dream I was having was so beautiful and vivid, and that is where I chose to begin. Josephine [my bike] and I were on a fantastic journey through a city comprised of all the places I've lived, and I ran into many friends and family members along the way. The journey began with a friend pointing out a church we were passing. On a designated day, this church (along with many others) tried to fill the world with God's light. This was done at night with the congregation standing on the large lawn of the church, and shining lights up into the night sky. As I toward the end of their collective light's reach, a sort of shimmer shot across the sky and faded within seconds. I'm not entirely sure what the adventure that followed was all about, but I'm certain that a quest for God's light was at the root of it.

After Cora's speech therapy, we ran a few errands and ended up at our neighborhood park. There was a group of three high school girls. One of them was absolutely darling. She was smitten with Cora. She went on the monkey bars and swings with her, and after one of Cora's friends from school showed up, I ended up swinging next to her for a while. She and the other two girls were involved with the production of a play at Classen School of Advanced Studies (a nearby middle/high school). One of the girls is working on her Girl Scout Gold Award (like and Eagle Scout award in Boy Scouts), and directing this play is her big final project. I was invited to this evening's performance, and was happily able to attend. The play was called Eat, and its purpose is to bring awareness to eating disorders, specifically in young people. It was performed by middle schoolers, and I was impressed.

Interacting with those girls today, and being in the school made me feel a rush of sentimentality toward my life as a teacher. I was a high school teacher because I love interacting with people that age. At church I work with girls 12-18, more specifically the 14-15 year olds. I adore them. It's just a tender time in life. I love the magic, and the energy, and the possibility, and the jumble of emotion that comes with trying to figure "it" out. When I saw the girls at the show, they were so glad I came. I am also invited to and plan on attending Urinetown, which runs February 20-22, I believe. Eat runs through Saturday. It was a well-spent hour of my life.  

After the show, I went to Whole Foods per Jake's request for a cookie. When I was on my way to get my favorite gigantor vegan chocolate chip cookie, I spotted a woman I went to college with. I haven't seen her since she came to Northwest Classen when I was still a teacher there. It was right after I had Cora, and she was getting her oldest son's records straightened out because her family was moving to Austin. I'd assumed she was still there. We were in several writing classes together, and from her writing, I learned that our lives shared a few important features. I loved that she was working on her masters, had three sons, and wore a simple gold wedding band. She wrote a poem that I still think about. It compared life to a leaf falling from a tree and swirling along the sidewalk, and in the end it gets caught under the foot of someone passing by and blown away in the wind. I wish I could remember word for word because my description falls short of the essence of what I've remembered it for. Anyway, she lives a few miles away from us, and is now the mother or four sons, her youngest is two months younger than Magnolia. I hope we'll be able to meet up in the future.

And somehow at the end of this day full of chance encounters, everything comes back around to the journey I was on in my dream. It might make more sense if I explained more of what happened in my dream, I wrote five pages about it after I woke up while everyone else was eating breakfast, but I think I'll keep that to myself for now. The rest of the details are like those of most dreams - they really only make sense to the dreamer. While I know it's unlikely, I hope to pick up where I left off tonight. I was entering the lobby of a church where colorful plastic milk crates were stacked in a pyramid on a table. As I walked towards them, they began to topple, but before any of them could make a thud, they were magically gathered together into one crate at the center of the table. And then I woke up.

Sweet Baby

A few days ago, Magnolia handed me something and said, "Here, Pretty Baby." And today while we were eating lunch, she handed me some chips and said, "Here, Sweet Baby."

This just makes me go all kind of gushy. Not only does it make me feel happy to be called these sweet things, but I love that she says it to me because I say it to her. It means something to her. It's easy to get hung up on the negative interactions I have with my girls (like when I'm not as kind as I should be), but this was a good reminder that the positive outweighs the negative, and that positive interactions come in moments that just happen. They happen because of the love we have for one another.

I took them to the doctor this morning. Magnolia has croup and was given a steroid shot. Cora was a little more complex. She had an initial virus - her throwing up/fever from the weekend. Then she developed a secondary infection later in the week. Does anyone care to guess where? Her right ear. Surprise? Not at all. We've let her get over numerous ear infections on her own because she came with such frequency when she was younger, but with how sick she was this week, I decided that antibiotics were a good route this time. I discussed antibiotic options with her doctor because she throws up when she takes liquid meds. We settled on a capsule form of amoxicillin. I open one up and put it in a drink or on some food twice a day. She wanted chips and salsa for lunch. She ate it with her medicine mixed into the salsa, no problem. I was relieved.

I love my sweet little babes, and I hope they feel super spectacular soon.

Cabin Fever, sort of.

This week has been a little crazy. A little crazy with long days. And a little lonely. My girls have been sick. Sick and then better and then even sicker last night and all today. I am hoping to get them into the doctor tomorrow. When I called to let Cora's school know she wouldn't be there [again], the secretary said that 11 other children in Cora's grade had already called in for the day. I'm quite certain Magnolia has croup. She's had a mild fever, been in good spirits, but she has that signature scary sounding cough. Cora had a short-lived tummy bug, then a fever for a day and a half and started getting better, then BAM, last night, it all changed (last night is also when Goo's cough started, though it turned croup-y sounding today). Some important information in this is that about 2 years ago, Cora started refusing to take medicine in liquid form. She starts gagging when we talk about it, and as soon as it gets in her mouth, there is throw up. It makes it difficult to take antibiotics. Luckily, she's only had one ear infection in the last two years. Apparently they used to make amoxicillin in chewable tablets, but after calling several pharmacies, I was unsuccessful at tracking them down. 

I think the lonely comes in after a weekend that was so very full of old friends and family in Arizona. There was hardly enough time for sleep with all of the comings and goings. It was short and lovely, and I look forward to writing more about it soon. We've been taking it easy in Dot, and that's been good for us and the rest of the world. I actually really enjoyed the first few days of just me and my girls. No school. No errands. Coloring, play dough, snuggle time, stories. It was pretty dreamy (Cora was also on the mend then). The fourth day, however, is when it hit. But I can't believe it's Thursday. So even though the days have been long, the week seems to be going by quickly enough. Jake has a busy weekend ahead, and the weekend really has no relevance to my schedule and the duties I perform seven days a week, but it's a nice focal point when trying to keep my days straight. My little stint in Arizona has well timed. It filled my reservoirs, and made me pleased with the kind of mom I've been to my girls this week, even if human contact besides my little peeps has been sparse and stark.

Even with all of the cuddling and cough syrup-ing, I've managed to be productive in a few creative endeavors this week. All are for the girls' re-made space. First, I made a banner from some old marquee letters that my mother-in-law gave to me. They were making cute holiday signs to decorate Floorplan with, and when I saw them, I knew that if they had all of the right letters, they'd be perfect in place of a monogramed valance I'd been trying to figure out in my head. I love that they can see their whole name, and the character of the letters really match the aesthetics of the space.       

In our only trip out this week [me + girls] (I went to see with a friend on Monday night [Life of Pi]), I went to JoAnn's Fabric store. All of their rotary cutters and mats were 50% off, plus I had a $5 off coupon. I've been wanting one for a long while now, and with the impending curtain making, I wanted to get really crisp, even pieces of fabric. Well, folks, it was love at first cut. If I would have known how amazing cutting fabric could be, I would have purchased one years ago. I used it to cut out the fabric for the pennant banner, and it saved so much time, and all of my fabric looks perfect. And here's the really big deal: my sewing machine didn't act up once. It did make a big clunky sound once or twice, but it didn't pull the fabric down into the bobbin hole, nor did it get crazy messed up stitches on back. I only had to seam rip once because I changed my mind about something. If every sewing session was like this, I'd sew every day. 

I saw this cute fabric at JoAnn's last night. I love the colors, they're much brighter in "real life."

I made a small tag blanket out of the state material when Cora was a baby. It's been one of my favorite fabrics since I first saw it. I think it's clever, and it makes me smile. Arizona just happened to make it right in the middle of one of my cuts. 

 I also ordered afghans for the foots of their beds yesterday. I have looked at hundreds of quilts/blankets/throws in the last several weeks. I'd had my heart set on a Granny Square pattern, but after I missed out on one on ebay, I turned to Etsy. I don't know why I didn't think of it before. I had a Granny Square one in my cart when I saw this gem. Holy smokes. It's okay if you're a little jealous.

Then I saw this one. It was between this one and the Granny Square one in my cart, and Cora said she liked the "spots" best. They'll be perfect. I got some white duvet covers with a bit of red embroidery while in Arizona. These afghans along with the their colorful throw pillows and simple duvet covers will be great along with their light turquoise beds (if mint green and turquoise had a baby, the color of their beds would be it). 

And last but not least, today while Magnolia was napping and Cora was resting, I put up our Christmas lights. Only a day later than they day I said I would put them up. A bit of irony: I was completely sure-footed on the roof, but when I was taking my last step down to the deck from the ladder, I totally missed a rung and almost stumbled off. Luckily I was still holding onto the ladder, so I saved myself.

PS: I've had The Art Teacher by Rufus Wainwright stuck in my head this evening.


After my recent visit to Arizona for Sarah Keller's wedding [my dear friend from high school], I have a lot to say. I'm going to do it in installments. This is one of them.

My grandparents unknowingly did me a great service while I was growing up: they moved into a 55+ mobile home park when I was 5.

Grandpa could no longer handle the high altitude of their mountain home, and Grammy had just spent a month in the hospital recovering from a horrible infection, so they needed something in the valley, and the sooner the better. My grandpa's sister and her husband had a mobile home in this park that they were looking to sell, so my grandpa traded them a piece of land for it, and they moved in.

Their community was called Mesa Village, and despite the lack of children, with the exception of when my cousins came to visit, it was a dreamland. White and grey (unless they used artificial color) haired people rode around the palm lined streets in golf carts and on three-wheeled bicycles. There was a heated pool and a car wash, shuffleboard courts, a clubhouse, weekly bingo, pool tables, and one of those toning machines with a strap you wrap around whatever part of your body you're looking to work and it wiggles and jiggles you into perfect form. And there was so much artificial turf.

I made friends with a few of the residents. I would make my way down to their mobile homes for conversation and treats, mind not to splash their hair in the pool, get rides in their golf carts (and when I got older, they let me get behind the wheel), and waved as I would pass by on the macaroni and cheese colored three-wheeled bicycle my grandparents eventually got. It's the same trike my cousin Megan and I had a major wreck on while riding around the park. She was pedaling, and I was in the back basket sitting on top of old Reader's Digests. It was a little wobbly, and we were going a little fast around a corner. We tipped over around space 188. Some of the residents came out to two crying girls, and one walked down to space 11 to get our Grandma and parents.

I practiced driving on the straight and winding roads with the 10 MPH speed limit, and I'm sure I left many a burned skin cells on the asphalt in the summer when I would forget to wear shoes to the pool. Oh that pool. It's where I learned to swim. And I was certain a boa constrictor lived in one of the corners of the deep end.

My grandpa died in his sleep in their home in 2001, so on my way home from the rehearsal dinner, I decided to revisit Mesa Village. As soon as I turned in, I was overwhelmed. I passed the row of houses until I got to space 11, taking note that the Peaches [Kent and Karen] still lived next door in space 9. They always went all out with Christmas lights, and this year is no different. I sat for a while in front of my grandparents'. I thought of all of the family visits, the sleep overs, the pancake breakfasts and chicken seasoned with Mrs. Dash dinners. There were two large bushes growing in the yard that hadn't always been there. One spring, a tomato plant came up, and delivered hundreds of cherry tomatoes for the season. It was way too many for my grandparents to eat, so it was open to neighbors. Grammy would fill used Country Crock tubs full, and we'd eat them on everything.  Another year, in the back yard, a century plant bloomed, and they had another plant that was the talk of the park.

When I got back to my Aunt Brenda's house, I mentioned that I went by, and Grammy said that her brother took her by last year, and she knocked on the Peaches door, but nobody answered. I told her I'd take her the next day, and after a bit of help with the wedding the following morning, I picked her up and away we went. The Peaches were home this time, and we spent about 15 minutes visiting with them. Kent offered to send a small stool home for my girls. After our visit, we drove around the park. The car wash has been gone for a long time, but they've added a putting green. There's something so super rad about streets filled with perfectly angled, metal sided homes with awnings and a screened-in porch or carport on either side. I feel like a soundtrack by John Swihart should constantly be playing because it sets the perfect tone.

When we left, we searched in vain for a Bahama Bucks, but ended up at Sonic for a "cold drink." We talked about things I'll write about in another installment, like sweet moments she had with her in-laws. While chomping on a fry, I asked her, "If you could be anywhere in the whole wide world right now, where would it be?" She thought for a moment, and gave me an unexpected answer.

"Right here with you, Breezy. I loved our little adventure." And I sat and thought for a moment, and knew she'd so simply summed up exactly what was in my heart.

Things I Think About...[random]

Jake is at work. It's 10:04 PM. He left at 7:30 this morning. A perk: he came home a little after 6, and we were able to put up the Christmas tree and do a little decorating together. It was fun watching the girls. Yesterday, he left for his church job at 8:30 AM and got home at 5:15, 15 minutes before we left for choir rehearsal. It was a totally normal workday, except that it was one of seven days of the week. That's right, seven days a week. This schedule is so crazy. And crazier still that it's so normal to us. Nothing to do but own it.

[He's home! He's home, and I'm blogging...and I didn't do the dishes. Pause.] Okay, after a quick conversation, he's off to email his students the info they need to write a reflection paper. In addition to being all musician-y, he teaches three sections of a course called Music and the Human Experience. For a "professor," that's border-line full load by itself. And that's just the first three hours of his MWF. I thought I was done talking about his schedule in the first paragraph...

Moving on...

My foot has been hurting all day. I finally looked at it this evening, and the makings of a large bruise are becoming visible on the top. I love mystery bruises. My shins almost always have a bruise or two or three on them. A few years ago, I discovered I used them to catch the dishwasher door when opening it. Mystery solved. But I don't have a dishwasher anymore, and haven't since we moved into Dot. I now attribute my bruised shins to climbing on counters (and the washer and dryer). I'm short. I still climb on counters to reach things. I'll do it until I'm physically unable to, and I'll have bruised shins until then, too.

A few grocery trips ago, I made the mistake of going to Whole Foods first, and buying everything on my list there. It was so convenient. So I did it again and again. My grocery budget has exploded. On one hand: convenience. On the other hand: my budget. It's a tough one. Tougher still because I used to be able to get everything I wanted while satisfying my budget between Sunflower and Walmart. Then Sprouts took over Sunflower, and the produce I used to buy from there became just about as expensive as Whole Foods. If I had all the time in the world, and could go shopping without children, budget would win, no question. It's a thorn in my side. After today's grocery trip, I feel like my budget is getting ready to punch convenience in the face. And Whole Foods was out of vegan chocolate chip cookies (again), and Kosher salt. As I was leaving with my cart full of stuff to satisfy this week's menu, I decided that WFs is basically the dreads capital of OKC.

I'm trying to figure out how to cut sentimental attachment with stuff. Is it okay to be attached to some things? Where do I draw the line? I love my great-grandmother's old desk, but it serves no purpose in my home, and because of her size, everything in Dot should be serving a purpose. Does that purpose need to be more than providing a [very likely false] sense of attachment to a person through a thing? Do I need anything more than my toothbrush, SPF 30 moisturizer (Melasma, Peeps, it's the real deal), a few changes of clothes, some shelter, and a place to sit? Most things in my life are completely luxurious when compared to the task of living a life. I can imagine what my daily life would look like with hardly a material possession to my name, and it feels so peaceful, but I will probably not be doing away with everything, so how do I find the right balance? I'm glad I live in Dot. 1138 sf is a nice size to have this struggle in.

I've been reading through The Happiness Project again (Gretchen Rubin). It's one that I started and never finished. I was reading through the chapter on marriage today, and the quote that stood out (I've heard it before) was one by Jean Cocteau:
There's no such thing as love; only proof of love.
Because I am the way I am, my normal tendency would be to pick a part his words to prove that it isn't absolute, but instead it made me think of a resolution I made for 2011. The resolution was a little line that came to mind and got stuck in my head: "People don't know you're thinking about them unless you let them know." (Coincidentally, one of the other resolutions I made for that year was to "Live with Less.") Reading Cocteau's words was a timely reminder of something that has been and remains important to me. I can always do better at sharing the love I feel.

My Cup Runneth Over

I enjoyed this day with my girls. It started out earlier than usual for me. Around five, Magnolia let out a little cry that woke me up. She didn't make another peep, but I never fell back to sleep. I didn't mind. They slept until just before 7. We got ready for school and went on our way. When we got home from dropping Cora off, Magnolia wanted her second breakfast (she eats two or three breakfasts a day). She didn't want to eat at the table, so I laid out the picnic blanket on the living room floor, and she ate a bagel with peanut butter and honey while I put some laundry away.

Cora's two and a half hours at school flew by. We picked her up, and ran by the bank where the teller sent a lollipop for each of them with our receipt. Then it was off to the carwash. Let it be known that car washes are still just as magical as when I was a kid. It was the most exciting thing ever when a new car would come down the line. Magnolia would giggle and very loudly proclaim another car was coming. When it got close enough, she would announce the color of the car. Cora was mesmerized by the three colors in the rain-guard solution. When Olive (our car) was sprayed with the pink, yellow, and blue, she said, "Our car in the most beautiful car in the world." We rolled out after putting the vanilla air freshener under the seat. Cora thinks we "should better get one of those every day."

We went to the Science Museum, and I loved watching how they played together, how Cora was telling Magnolia about everything she saw. We only had one little incident where Magnolia slipped and bit her tongue while we were eating lunch. It still looks bad, but she got over it quickly. They loved playing in the water area. Cora built and reconfigured dam after dam. Magnolia was into rescuing the ducks and the boats. Cora climbed on a climbing exhibit, and I think she could have stayed there for another hour, but Magnolia had a diaper that needed to be dealt with. On that note, Magnolia told a knock-knock joke with "poop" as the punchline. It made me laugh and laugh. After the climbing, Cora said she loved to climb. It is noted.

We came home after a little over three hours at the museum. Magnolia took a nap. Cora and I had a chips and salsa snack and some quiet time on the couch together watching Word Girl and Wild Kratts. I made one of my new favorite recipes. I was broiling tofu in the oven, and I haven't figured out a way to do it without making the smoke alarm go off (the smoke is from the sauce burning off). Cora gets very concerned each time it happens, but today, I ran out with my oven mitt the second it started blaring, jumped up on a chair and crazily fanned the smoke away. I think I did that four times this evening. Her smile got bigger each time I had to do it, even though she did tell me after the third alarm that she wasn't going to tell me again that it was going off. We ate out dinner, I ate a lot more than them. My favorite point of conversation came when Cora randomly let me know that I shouldn't drive through more than "this much" water [she showed me with her hands] because even that little amount of water can carry a big car away. I thanked her for her helpful advice and asked her where she learned it: "The guy on TV said it." Zing.

After dinner, it was time for the shower-bath. My girls always take a bath that is filled up using the shower head. They love it. We washed off the face paint from the museum, and I'm pretty sure Magnolia is allergic to it. She had red puffy patches underneath. I hope it looks better in the morning. We put on our jammies, packed their bags for Thanksgiving break in Holdenville. They're leaving a day ahead of us with Vaughn and Tracey after "Grandparents and Friends Day" at school tomorrow morning. Jake got home on the third page of our night night story, so I let him take over. 

Today was so good. I'm thankful for it. There weren't enough hugs and kisses at bedtime. Tomorrow I'll get a little just me time, and I'm looking forward to it (I'm feeling some time in the temple, a nap(!), and perhaps an evening listening to the OKC Jazz Orchestra). I love when I get to just be without being directly responsible for every little part of little lives, but something about me feels like I might trade a few of those very rare moments of alone time for more days like this one. I love my girls. For so many reasons, but today it was especially for their curiosity, wonderment, and sense of adventure.     
Sliding down The Picasso in Daley Plaza last fall.

Things I Know

1. My voice went away on Tuesday. It's finally staring to come back. A little more each day.
2. I wanted to catch a session at the temple last night, but started getting this hacking cough in the middle of story time at the library with Magnolia. It comes and goes - the cough - it comes more when I talk. Hmm.
3. Cora had her first little social heartbreak yesterday. I think it broke my heart more than hers. She got better quickly after she talked to me about it. I hope I can always be so helpful to her.
4. I felt yucky after dinner. Nauseous. I ended up barfing. While heaving I tried to calculate where I was in my cycle because for real, barfing is the surest sign of pregnancy for me. I don't really keep track of days and whatnot because I'm not trying to make a baby. And we use two forms of birth control, so I'm pretty sure my womb is vacant, but wow. In the moment, I was all kinds of calculatin'. I'm still nauseous. I hate being nauseous.
5. I regretted putting jalapeños on my pizza because they burn more coming up than going down.
6. I'm grateful for people who are aware.
7. I like feeling part of humanity and contributing to its goodness.
8. I need to work in the flower beds out front. And look into seeing if we can still plant winter rye.
9. I want a gigantic pink lady apple. Or some fresh squeezed orange juice.
10. Sometimes being nice isn't the only thing you need to be.
11. Sometimes doing the super hardest thing is the best thing to do in the long run. And figuring out how to get started can be the very hardest part.
13. I'm tired.
14. Making piles of leaves and falling into them never gets old.
15. My knuckles have started the great crack and bleed that comes with colder weather.

This Machine

During he week leading up to the election I'd been listening to Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl Ballads in the car. The girls are almost always with me, so they were listening too. I love this album. What Woody Guthrie was singing about is just as relevant today as when it was recorded. Today Cora started singing part of "Blowin' Down this Road."
Your two dollar shoe hurts my feet.
Your two dollar shoe hurts my feet.
Your two dollar shoe hurts my feet
(Lord, Lord)
And I ain't gon' be treated this-a way. 
I love the track, "Pretty Boy Floyd." The story builds and builds until the conclusion pulls it all together.
[...] as through this world I've wandered
And as through your life you travel,
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen [...]
And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.
Something stirred inside when I heard Cora sing songs that tell the story of people just like you and me who were uprooted from everything they knew, kicked out of their homes and driven from their land. They wanted what I want for my children for their children. They wanted full bellies and cozy homes. They were trying to make it happen, but nearly every circumstance was against them. And here my little four-year-old is telling stories of strong-will and heartache and love and loss through the songs so many were never able to sing.

Woody Guthrie has an awesome children's album. I'll leave you with two of my favorites from it. The first was the inspiration for Magnolia's first Halloween costume (she was a lil' sack of sugar), and the second was one of the first Woody Guthrie songs I've heard.

PS: Tonight we ate at Taj to celebrate Diwali. And now my voice is gone. The voice thing and Taj are unrelated, but both relevant to this day.

Girls' Room [Before]

I had a single mission when I got out of bed this morning: purge my girls' room of excess toys. After going through their toys, I ended up doing less purging and more organizing. It still took two hours. I don't know if I'm more amazed at the amount of stuff that ends up under beds, or the amount of round objects we have because those are the bulk of what I retrieve. 

We're in the middle of gathering all of the pieces to make their room over for Christmas. When trying to think of what to do for Christmas without accumulating more stuff, their room instantly came to mind. Jake's dad is restyling old beds, as well as repurposing an old table into two cute little desks, and he's going to refinish their dresser. There is a major perk to having a father-in-law who can do just about anything I want as far as furniture is concerned. And a lot of times, I'll hint in the direction of what I want, and then he pulls the random vision together into something beautiful. I'm really excited. And I really appreciate all the work he's putting in because I know his time is limited. 

After organizing today, I took some pictures to count as the official before pictures so there will be something to compare. I love before and after photos. ;) I haven't decorated their room because I knew it was in a temporary state. It lacks a uniform aesthetic. 

This is their closet door, kitchen (also made by Vaughn for Cora's second Christmas), and their toy area. We're going to start with their beds on this wall, centered between the window with a small space for a nightstand (I'd love an old projector cart). I'm going to paint the toy shelf white, and I thought it might be fun to paint the bins silver. I painted some of our pumpkins silver this fall, and there was something kind of magical about it.

This is Cora's bed, their dollhouse, easel, and cute french alphabet flashcards (on the wall). I don't know if the flashcards will make the cut just yet. Their room has four windows, all of which are six feet tall, maybe six-and-a-half feet tall, I can't remember. Our ceilings are nine feet. The two new desks are going to go under the windows with their toy shelf between them on the wall. I have a few ideas for a neat vertical installation to make this wall more interesting.

 Magnolia's bed. Cora was in a toddler bed when she was 25 months and in her big girl bed when she was 27 months. Goo is 29 months and still going strong in her crib. I hope, though am not quite sure, she'll be read for a big girl bed by Christmas, but we're going to try it anyway. The bicycles used to have a framed 'M' between them, but the command strips holding it up failed. There was actually a framed 'C' above Cora's bed as well, but it met the same crashing to the ground fate. This wall is going to be home to their dresser. We bought a HUGE gold frame at a garage sale in Gore, OK a few months ago, and it's going to go on this wall with individually framed pictures of wedding/couple photos of us, our parents, grandparents, g.grandparents, etc. I can't wait to see how many I can dig up.

 This dresser was love at first sight. I saw it in the "Pickin' Place" in Holdenville. I have a thing for Midcentury pieces right now, so finding this was a prize. I've had second thoughts a few times, not about my love for the dresser, but about the look I wanted in their room. A French Provincial might have been more appropriate, but I'm hoping to balance the strong lines of the dresser with softer lines on the beds. The kitchen will go on this wall, and I'm still thinking of what should go on the wall.

Their room is a nice size (14x14). One of the challenges in thinking of what to do has been giving them each their own little spaces without making the room feel small. If their room was smaller, I'd be more limited and probably go with bunk beds, a small table instead of two desks, etc, but after measuring and remeasuring, I think everything will fit nicely with several options for rearranging while still giving them ample floor space to play. Their curtains will be white. We bought several pairs from IKEA when we moved back to Oklahoma from Chicago, and we've never used them. The panels are 8 feet long, which is a foot too short, but I think it would be cute to sew on a fun foot-long strip at the bottom to spice things up a bit. I think I'm also going to add a monogram valance to the two windows above their desks with a 'C' on one and an 'M' on the other. I'm also following vintage quilts on ebay (mostly feed sack). They don't have to match, just have a common element. A beauty showed up today. It also comes with a pretty hefty price tag. I have this awful ability to know exactly what I want when I see it, but it's almost always the most expensive option. Here's a picture anyway: 

About Friends

We have been busy, and the busy isn't over just yet. I've called this the week of the babysitter.

Jake is always busy. I'm amazed he is able to accomplish so many things with so many people throughout his day. It has been this way for our entire marriage. Sometimes there haven't been enough hours in the day. One semester, while we were still in our undergrad studies, our Mondays began with him having class at 8 AM, and that day was booked solid until his last rehearsal was over at midnight. We had one car, so I would run home and eat and do homework, then come back and wait for him to be through. I was skilled at being Jake's personal driver during those years. His life now is much the same. He's teaching three classes this semester, which requires a lot of grading. He also accompanies many vocal students for their voice lessons. Many of the many students he accompanies have recitals throughout the year that he plays for, and each recital requires a dress rehearsal. All of these things must be scheduled outside of this normal workday, which is longer than the typical workday. And then there are the instrumental recitals and the extra gigs, and his church job. It builds and builds and builds, and by the time the school year is over, the few weeks break is much needed.

Having kids has made this type of schedule a bit more difficult, but because I'm able to stay home and have a wide open schedule, we're still able to maintain it. But then weeks like this happen, and I have obligations that require me to be just me, and that's when things get a little complicated. Last night, there was a special evening at church for the young women (12-18 years old) in our congregation. I arranged for a sitter, and what would normally be a 25-30 minute drive max to their house ended up being almost an hour with the crazy traffic I ran into. By the time I got to the church, I'd been in my car for almost an hour and a half.

Today, Cora had her second speech therapy appointment. My friend Jana watched Magnolia for me last week, which was great because I was able to sit in with Cora and her new speech pathologist. When I got back to pick her up, Magnolia was still sleeping, so Jana said she would just call me when she woke up (they live really close). It was so fun to go spend a little bit of alone time with Cora. That doesn't happen very often anymore. Anyway, I took Magnolia with me today, and we spent the session in the waiting  room with one another. Then we hurried back home because Cora's PT conference was this afternoon. Another friend was available to watch the girls during the conference. I was supposed to go visit a lady from church tonight, but the husband of the woman I was going with ended up having to work late. I was looking forward to the visit, but also relieved that I was able to spend the evening at home.

I spent part of my evening at home getting a babysitter for Saturday morning because I have some meetings at church. The first friend I asked (Ashleigh) was able to do it. When I mentioned that I was looking for another babysitter for tomorrow night, she said she could do that too. But it's more than that.  Rather than them being at our house until 11:30 PM and then having the girls show up at their house at 9:15 the next morning, the girls are going to have a little sleepover with Ashleigh and Andrew. This is such a huge relief.

I'm happy to be the glue that holds my family's schedule together and allows Jake the time to do all that he needs to do. I often daydream about what it would be like to live closer to family. The convenient kind of close, where they're right down the road, and you just call or show up at their house with your kids and they take them and you go do what you need to do. I'm sure that we would be able to do that with either one of our families, but that isn't our reality. This week has been atypical for us. Usually the only place I need to be at a specific time of day is in carpool for school, and that obviously requires that at least one of my children are with me (it's always both). I like how simple our normal schedule is.

When Sunday rolls around, Cora and Magnolia will have spent time with someone other than me for five days in a row. On Sundays we have choir rehearsal in the evening. There was childcare at rehearsals, but it was spotty for a few weeks, and the girls ended up going to bed at least an hour late by the time we got home and did our bedtime routine. The same darling friend who came to my rescue today has volunteered to spend any available Sunday evening watching the girls until the concert is over just before Christmas.

I am grateful for friends and how they help me by taking care of my girls. There are so many times I wish that rather than me leaving my girls with friends, I could stay and sit on my couch or theirs and just talk for hours and hours. I am growing appreciate the dynamics of friendship at various times in life. I know my friends love me not because we always get to spend lots of time with one another, but because they're helping me in times when I can't do everything on my own. They're watching my girls, and loving them, and when people care for my babies, I can't help but love them more. Grateful, grateful, truly grateful I am.

PS: Friday evening is the luxury night in all of this. Dialogues of the Carmelites is being performed at OCU, and I have been looking forward to seeing this opera since Jake told me about it. Earlier this week, I saw the director leaving the convent that is near our house, and I told Jake he had to get tickets. I'm sure it will be a thought-provoking evening.

Election Day and the Morning After

A rug was delivered to our house tonight before the election results began rolling in. It was exciting. We're re-doing our girls' room for Christmas, and I finally decided that we would move our living room rug into their room and get a new one (that I loved and was on sale for 65% off) for the living room. While watching the election coverage, I was biting my nails and eating Whole Foods vegan chocolate chip cookies. I kept looking down across the new rug and forgetting about the jitters I felt. I love the pattern and the blue-grey, and how it picks up the subtle colors in our fireplace.

I'm listening to Romney's concession speech right now. I had a thing for Mitt as a potential president way back when he came on the potential future presidential radar when Bush was wrapping up his second campaign for the 2004 election. His ideas were much more moderate back then. It was a time when I was solidifying my world views, and his stances on a social issue or two made me feel okay with vocalizing beliefs I'd not been brave enough to. Something about it is bittersweet. 

I'm now waiting for Obama. I joyfully voted for him four years ago, and I did the same today. I would have jumped up and down and danced and laughed when it was projected that he was the winner, but my girls are asleep, so I did a quiet celebration. I'm sorry for the people who are upset, even if I've been disappointed by many reactions I've come across. Ultimately, I'm feeling grateful for many things:

When I wake up in the morning, Barack Obama will still be president. I will walk out to a new rug in a warm home. I will get a drink of clean water brought right to my kitchen sink. I will wonder what to eat for breakfast because I have food. I will take a shower and get out to put some spf 30 moisturizer on my face. I will decide what clothes to put on because I have some (too many). I will pull my car out of my garage and drive my daughter to school. I may or may not go to the gym. I might spend some time pondering what I'm going to do with my life in terms of a career. Perhaps I'll have a moment or two to read from one of the many books I've started. I'll throw away two of the pumpkins on my front porch that have seen better days. I'll make meals and change diapers and put on mascara. I will do all of these things because I have the luxury to do so. I will know the same thing I knew when I decided to give Obama a chance four years ago. It's not up to him, it's up to me. And up to you, and up to us. And I appreciate him for opening my eyes to that. 

I was happy to vote today, even before I knew what the outcome might be. I love being in my community, surrounded by my neighbors, and sharing a common experience. When I was at my polling center, I didn't care one single bit who anyone in that line was voting for. I was glad we were showing up.


Yesterday I had the realization that Magnolia is the same age Cora was when Magnolia was born. Twenty-eight months. She's actually about two-and-a-half weeks older than Cora was. But who's counting? ;)

I can't imagine what it would be like to have a newborn right now. I really can't imagine how having been pregnant for the last 7-8 months (depending on how long that pregnancy would have lasted) would have rocked our world. Barfing my guts up, weekly shots, daily Zofran, trips to labor and delivery. Whoa.

Magnolia is still such a baby to me. It may be her size, but she's also so very clingy. I don't think this is a bad thing, just if you see me, you will almost always see her attached to me - wrapped around my legs, in my arms, buried in my chest...up my skirt. And she still pterodactyl screeches. My nerves are shot a lot, especially in the car. It's not just loud, it's like multi-tonal. Like a scratchy train whistle/horn. I hate to say it, but she's as high maintenance as she is cute and sweet and cuddly. Luckily the latter stuff makes up for the former thing. Most of the time. ;)

I think the hard part (though not remorseful - not very much anyway) is thinking about whether or not Cora still needed me the way Magnolia needs me at this age. Cora was super easy, but I also started letting Sesame Street help out a little. I guess that started during my pregnancy when I was concentrating on breathing because it meant I was still alive. Anyway, it's making me appreciate Cora and all of her awesomeness a little more. Rather than feeling like I missed out on her during that stage, I'm paying more attention to all the little things that make her tick. I find myself just staring at her for several minutes at a time. Every reaction, every little movement, the way she concentrates, how her hair falls around her face, the way she scrunches her nose and purses her lips when she thinks I'm being silly. I really love who she is. She has moments, especially when she's tired where I have a hard time recognizing my sweet girl, but most of the time, I take the blame for that. I am, after all, the keeper of her bedtime.

With that being said, and no babies on the horizon, one of my [38] cousins asked for baby name advice today. I LOVE names. On Sunday, we had a little class on indexing (a part of genealogy, sort of - digitizing old records to enhance genealogy searches), and we were asked what our favorite part of doing family history is. Mine is always the names. I mean, Sofia Josephine, come on. That is awesome. Goldie Mae Lois. Get out of town. Denzel, Irl, Gail, Cloyd. I love how those names get attached to stories. The names become the stories and the stories become the names (the stories I uncover/have heard for my whole life are a close second). Anyway, my cousin is having a girl. I gave her some names that I thought went well with the middle name they have picked out as well as her last name. And it got me thinking in hypotheticals... Just like I sometimes plan what my wedding would look like if I was getting married now, I think about what I would name my babies, you know, if I needed a name today.

If ever I have another child, I'm just sure she would be a girl. Her name would be Apple. I always thought it would be Apple Eleanor Bliss. But I've since been thinking of other first-middle names. Names like Sylvia, Isabel (this has always been in the running, but Jake isn't too fond of it having such a similar ending to Apple), and Vivienne.

Apple Vivienne Bliss
Apple Sylvia Bliss
Apple Isabel Bliss
Apple Eleanor Bliss

 I also really like to say Virginia, but it doesn't work as well as a first-middle name between the first and second-middle names I love the most. I've also tried to combine our mothers' names. The best I've done is Linleigh (the first half of my mom's name, Jake's mom's middle name. Jake vetoed it. I think that if fewer baby girls we know would have been named names that have a name followed by any version of "Lee," he would be more convincible.)

And if my womb ever produces a boy, Henry tops the list. I also love Leo, Phineas,  and James. And Atticus is still there for sentimental reasons.

Someday I'll do a whole post about that hypothetical wedding.

PS: I pretended like Air Force One flew over Dot today. It was the loudest plane I've ever heard fly over, and there was another plane close behind it. There were clouds, so I couldn't see anything, but I've never heard/seen planes flying that close together, and lots of planes fly by on their way to the OKC airport. I'll see what I can find out.
PPS: According to the White House Schedule, President Obama was flying somewhere when the planes flew over us, but it was between Virginia and Chicago. Air Force One fly by = highly unlikely. But it was really fun for Cora and me to make stuff up. Being in a super polar state means not much excitement on the campaign trail.


I applied to a local university in hopes of taking a few classes. Their correspondence with me has been to "BrieAnn Lund." It looks so short without the Johnson. The first letter I got from them said they needed 2 transcripts. Whenever I see the name of one of the colleges on the list, my heart starts beating faster. Let's go back about a decade in the life of BrieAnn Lund Johnson, back when I was BrieAnn Lund without the Johnson. 

I was all set to go to the University of Arizona and in the process of switching my major from English to Creative Writing (yes, I was changing my declared major before school even started), but there were two minor* things standing in my way.
1. My car, Lou (the most amazing lovely, super rad first car ever, a light blue 1988 Buick LeSabre with plush navy velvet seats), whom I had grown to love very much, was on blocks in my driveway, and she wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.  AKA: I was car-less.
 2. I was broke. Super broke. And jobless. 
The jobless/car-less thing was a vicious cycle. I needed a car, but I didn't have a job. I needed a job, but I didn't have a car to get there. So, right before school was going to start, I called UA and let them know I was out (I'd already met my dorm mate and everything). I had a super free ride to Central Arizona College, which happened to be right down the road from my parent's house. And I had some community scholarships to pay for books.

And then I decided to move to California with my aunt and uncle. I quickly transferred everything to on-line courses and that was that. Except that on-line courses ended up being a nightmare with lots of random technical difficulties.

Somewhere along the way, I moved back to AZ, got a job at Walgreen's (a mile from my house - walkable!), became officially engaged, and was fired from Walgreen's (I took too much time off, except that I didn't really take it off, Jake called in, unbeknownst to me, and took a long weekend off for me because he was secretly flying out over fall break to propose. When I got called into the manager's office and he started out with "We're going to need someone a little more dependable." I was like, "What? I had bronchitis." Fact: I had just taken two days off because I had bronchitis. And then the manager reminded me of the weekend "I'd" taken off right after I started working there. I was trying to remember taking time off. Oh but wait, I didn't take time off, and if my name wasn't on the schedule, then how would I ever know I was supposed to be there before my then-boyfriend called me off. It was weird, and I didn't find out Jake had done that until I was telling him how I got fired. Pish-posh. There were tears. And not to Jake, but during the actual firing. I tried to keep them in, but they would not stay. I could not believe that I, BrieAnn Lund, was getting fired. Especially from Walgreen's. Especially by a guy who was about to pop the buttons off of his uniform vest.). 

Back to school: I was withdrawn from 2 of the 4 courses, and thought that "incomplete(s)" would follow for the other 2, but that was not the case. At the end of the semester, right before I got married, I got a letter in the mail from CAC. It was a transcript. Can you guess my GPA? You'll never guess, I didn't think it was possible, and I think it might be a record.


You read that right. Point-Five-Seven. I wish I had a copy to prove it to you. I didn't know enough about anything college-y then to go in and request that they be changed to incomplete(s). And after a little tear-fest, I don't know that I cared too much either. I was getting married, and that was enough to keep my mind off of it. But I started caring when I got serious about applying to schools in Oklahoma, and the only thing I had from an institution of higher learning had my name with 0.57 next to it. One of the universities I applied to was the one I am now wanting to take some courses at. My name should have changed with my most recent application, but alas, it did not. So I am BrieAnn Lund, and they needed my transcript from CAC, which they now have, and I called today because they still need my transcript from OCU, which I sent 2 weeks ago (the call was also about the whole name thing).

I ended up going to a community college my first semester in Oklahoma. Out-of-state tuition was cheaper there than at a university. It ended up being really a good thing. I was able to take my 4.0 from there and get the full academic transfer scholarship from OCU, even if the academic transfer scholarship was a pittance compared to the first-time freshman academic scholarship. It was something like 4,000/year for transfers and 10,000/year for first-time freshman. The difference would have been 3/4 of my student loans. But seeing an academic scholarship with my name on it was redeeming, even if I was on academic probation for the first semester to make sure I wasn't really a 0.57 GPA kind of gal. I don't know how many times I had to explain that number to people: professors, financial aid, admissions counselors. Ha. It will follow me for the rest of my academic life. It's okay [now]. I've grown to appreciate the irony that exists in being able to say I have a college transcript that says 0.57 and another one that says I graduated with honor. Magna even. I'm glad the latter is the most conclusive, even if it doesn't say summa.

One more secret, since I'm in a divulging mood:
I never sent in Thank You notes for the community scholarships I got in High School. It has been pressing on my mind. I appreciated them, and I didn't even ask for the other half of them because I didn't want them to be disappointed they picked me. I still remember what they were. I'm sure I could contact my high school and get the addresses. Yes, I think I'll do that. AND...

I wish it was a one-time thing: We never sent out Thank You notes from our wedding. But we wrote all of them. Every single one. But after a while, it was like, do we go ahead and send these? I think we held onto them for 4 years before tossing them. Let it be known that I am still thankful for every dish and dollar and card and towel and kind word and pot and utensil and glass and crock pot and iron and basket and picture frame and every big and little thing. I'm sorry I never let you know. AND...

I didn't send out a few of the Thank You cards after Magnolia was born. I wrote them! But they live in my top drawer. They are in the picture above. We moved when Magnolia was 7 weeks old, and I didn't have addresses for a few of them in Chicago. The cards moved to two different houses now, and Jake thinks it's crazy that I still have them. But I do. So:

Mardee Clive (orange envelope)
Monica Crews [who is now Monica Phillips] (orange envelope)
Amber Dowdle (pink and green envelope)
Carina Bischoff (pink and green envelope)

Thank you for watching Cora while I was on bed rest and for the meals and for the cute dresses and for the kind words. I'm still grateful from the bottom of my heart for you helping me take care of my darling daughter and family during a difficult pregnancy.

And George and Celeste Jones (pink and green envelope): Thank you for the cute clothes for the girls. I loved that you got something for both of them. And I loved that they were both yellow.

And Carl and Margaret Edgerton (yours is the big white one): I wrote you a card after a service over a year ago. I'm still going to send it someday, and I still mean every word I said. 

And maybe I'll send all of these cards someday. It's not like I'm going to toss them now after I've had them for so long.

I'm happy to report I'm doing much better. As you can tell, writing a thank you note has never been a problem. It's the sending it - and that might be just as important as the feelings of gratitude - but my collection hasn't grown in a couple of years, so hopefully this lack of sending ability is a thing of the past.

Redemption, True Colors, Being Better, and Hair.

I spent this evening with earbuds and my favorite tunes. This period of checking out was brought on by the debate. I've been trying not to obsessively check the election polls. (I always check Real Clear Politics because they take an average of all the major polls. The debate season has made the polls look like a roller coaster.) Bob Marley's Redemption song put me in a better place. It always does. How could it not?
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; None but ourselves can free our mind. 
Easy Silence is playing now.
Anger plays on every station
Answers only make more questions...
I come to find a refuge in the easy silence that you make for me
It's okay when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me. 
I just wrote a paragraph and deleted it. Then I started another and deleted it. And now all I can think about it a quote by Gordon B. Hinckley.
Each of us can do a little better than we have been doing. We can be a little more kind. We can be a little more merciful. We can be a little more forgiving. We can live with respect and appreciation for those not of our faith. We can improve the world about us, in our homes and in our social activities. We can do it...
Yes, we can do it because I see your true colors shining through. I see your true colors and that's why I love you. And don't be afraid to let them show. Your true colors are beautiful...

You know, like a rainbow.

And onto the really important matters of life. I want to cut my hair. Off. Shorter than ever. The timing is odd because I usually average a haircut about once a year. It's only been 3 months since I got it cut last. I think. I really don't remember. These are my photo inspiration. All from The Glamourai. [I don't know how I just found out about this blog.] I'm really sort of obsessed with her hair.
The photo that started the obsession and began the photo tracking hunt that led to the Glamourai

Front and back-ish

Everything Else - the heart of the matter, really.

We stayed with some dear friends while in Chicago. Since we stayed with them for fall break last year, I'm gonna go ahead and call it a tradition. I haven't come up with something I don't love about them yet. And since we were only in Chicago together for one year, I feel like we're still getting to know one another, even if I sometimes feel like I've known them forever.

Matt is working on getting a new business going. I hope it takes off and soars. And not just because I want this success for him - it's a really good idea. On our last day, we stopped by his office which is located in Merchandise Mart and part of an AMAZING space called 1871. Within 1871 there are hundreds of people working on different startups. It was started by a few people who wanted to give small businesses a place to grow. Each member of the business (Matt's has 2) pays a small "rental" fee to use the space. As one can imagine, there are wonderful networking opportunities in a place like that. We heard just a few ideas from some of the other individuals working on businesses, and I am still caught up in the creativity that happens in so many ways, but especially in making intangible information useful on a large scale.

Lisa graduated from law school earlier this year, and is currently working on a masters in policy. When we got there, she was just about to send off her resume and cover letter for a fellowship. We proofread before she hit send, and I was glad to do so. I love what she wants her life to be about. In a super teeny tiny speck of a nutshell: finding ways to lessen the impact and scope of poverty especially where women and children are concerned. I enjoy our conversations, and I especially value her insights and honesty about questions of faith and doubt.

They recently moved into a new building that once had a theatre with 3,000+ seats. The theatre was torn down several years ago to make way for a parking lot, but the lobby of theatre is still intact, just closed off from the rest of the building. The idea of velvet curtains and chandeliers hanging for no one to see makes me sad. On a very adventurous night, Matt hoisted himself up on a fire escape to access a door with a mystery on the other side. The reality ended up being more fire escapes, but it was thrilling thinking that we might be able to make our way into the lobby. I must see it someday. There is also a ballroom on the top floor of their building that is locked up (with a super boring and very frustrating padlock). I could easily develop a tic brought on by amazing spaces that aren't being used. I get really sort of obsessed with things.

Jake and I went to the Art Institute. It was at the top of my list as I've never been able to go without a child. The Art Institute is one of my favorite places in the world. I always say if I had it to do over, my undergrad would have been in Art History. It was one of two textbooks I loved to read. The other was psychology. I also really loved my human rights texts. After being in Chicago, I decided that my career path should have included something like a PhD in the History of Art and Architecture. My very favorite part of my gigantic Art History text was the little snippet on Green Architecture - a movement that takes old structures and transforms them into useful spaces in the 'modern' world (see above obsession with old theatre lobby and ballroom). Aside from all of the pieces I enjoy seeing at the Art Institute, I was especially overcome when viewing three pieces/installations. All were in the contemporary wing. The first was an overwhelming collection of items with a singular thread of music running throughout. It's called No Time to Start Again by Allen Ruppersberg, and it was really one of the most complex exhibits I've ever seen, and I would need to spend much more time with it to write anything adequate, but I was touched by the faces in the images, all living their lives in a time, all connected to one another by collective experiences human beings can't avoid. It was when I read the line Everything is collected, nothing is saved that I felt the power of the collection and its relevance in my life and being. It was powerful. [Click on the picture to read more about it.]

When I came across Hinoki by Charles Ray, I was first caught by the scale of the sculpture. The picture doesn't do it justice. It's so big, and something that I've seen before, a fallen, decaying tree. But because this was a model of a fallen tree, it was naked. Every little mark was exposed, and the middle of the trunk was hollow. I could have spent an hour or so just staring through it. I felt transported, like all of the answers to life's mysteries were waiting on the other side. 

The last piece was Sanctuary by Martin Puryear. I loved its story, so I'll just share what I read at the Art Institute.
In 1977 a fire destroyed a vast body of Martin Puryear’s sculpture, as well as many of the artist’s wordly possessions. Resulting in what he called “a period of grieving followed by an incredible lightness and freedom,” the event proved pivotal in directing the artist’s subsequent work. One year later, Puryear began a series of sculptures around the themes of movement and shelter. Sanctuary embodies what he described as “mobility with a kind of escapism, of survival through flight.” The sculpture appears to be in a state of arrested motion. This whimsical and sophisticated work reconciles a longing for stability with a need for change. By pairing the wild tree saplings with a carefully fashioned shelter, Puryear celebrated the beauty of wood in both its natural and refined states.
"A longing for stability with a need for change." Yes, that's exactly right.

Lastly, I've got to give a shout out to The Chicago Diner and public transportation. Before going to Chicago, a friend asked what I was most looking forward to. While I forgot to mention it, public transportation is always at the top of my list. I love the ease of trains and busses and arriving where I need to be in collaboration with good old-fashioned walking. It makes me feel all kinds of free. I love seeing all of the people, and sharing a cramped space, and rubbing shoulders with strangers. There were two random points of excitement. One was on a very crowded bus on our way home from downtown. A woman got on at the stop after we did, and I didn't catch how it started, but she started fighting with the driver. One stop later, he was honking for some police officers on bikes, and she was escorted off. The second was waiting for a train in the loop. A man passed by Jake and I and just started talking to us. His size was intimidating, but when he spoke, he was like a child. He explained that the [very clearly marked] on-coming train was the brown line, he said a few more things I didn't quite catch, and then he started saying I was pretty and going over points of my physical appearance. "You have blonde hair. And blue eyes. And a nice coat. And..." And then the train came, and I was glad. He got onto the same car we did, but went through a different door. I slouched next to Jake so if he turned around he couldn't see me. Even though Jake was next to me, and even though I'm almost certain he was harmless, situations like those start a sort of panic inside of me. We got off at Merchandise Mart, visited with Matt, and then made our way to The Chicago Diner.

The Chicago Diner is all vegan. And all good. We had the Gyoza salad, and then I ordered a BBQ bacon cheezeburger with macaroni and cheeze and a cookie dough shake. Ummm, WOW! I am still blown away. I was telling Jake, it's not just that it's a good burger or that it's vegan, it's like the best BBQ bacon cheeseburger I've ever had. The same with the shake. The mac and cheese was not the best mac and cheese I've ever had, but it was by far the best vegan mac and cheese. Jake got a Ruben. I was almost sure we were being duped. We don't normally eat things that imitate meat, nor food that is so "heavy," but having something so old timey in our dietary evolution was fun. If you live in Chicago and you haven't been there yet, or if you go to Chicago and want some awesome food that will surprise and amaze you, go to The Chicago Diner.


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