Wild + Precious Life

I am laying in bed with my youngest, watching him sleep. Well, not really sleep. I’m watching him do a pose that mimics a turtle struggling to get off its shell and back on its feet, as he whispers to me that he’s “yoga-ing” and that he would “also like a cookie, please.” These are the moments.

Grant

Throwback to the days of baby tree pose.

A few months ago, our boys began sharing a bedroom. This was part of Operation: Take Back the House, in which one of the boys’ bedrooms became a playroom, now housing every block, puzzle, toy, and LEGO ever created. Probably some the kids invented, as well. In my efforts to minimize and organize, I’ve noticed LEGOs multiply like rabbits when you aren’t watching. I digress.

When the boys first shared a room, we’d read their bedtime stories, tuck them in, and say goodnight, leaving the room just as we would before they were sharing a space. This led to a week-long adventure that lasted until at least 10pm most nights, and ended with an American Ninja Warrior style furniture moving contest (did you know a three-year-old can move a bed?!) And so, we began staying a bit longer after lights out, to encourage peaceful, restful sleep. Also, to prevent injuries. And nudity. Because that’s also a thing with boys, I’ve learned.

Tonight, I’m watching as Grant slowly relaxes and begins to enter the sleep zone. I notice his soft, blond hair. I marvel at his still-chubby cheeks. I try very, very hard not to laugh when he asks for a cookie (third time). And I cannot help but think how blessed we are.

You think that a lot as a parent…how blessed we are. When you see these children, these lives you’ve been trusted with, and you feel the weight of that responsibility combined with an atom-splitting nuclear love. An unimaginable and indescribable love.

When I stop to consider the science behind creation, it’s really something. The odds of our existence – of those cells combining out of the tens or even hundreds of millions of possible combinations, and they made a person. They made my children. They made you. Isn’t that incredible? You are here for a reason; a purpose. God has a plan for you.

It’s so very easy to feel small at times, isn’t it? With seven billion of us sharing this earth, how could we not feel small? That maybe our voice, our thoughts, our ideas don’t matter as much as those of another. Or that maybe it’s not really important that we follow through with that plan, that idea, those actions, because surely one of the other 6,999,999,999 folks sharing this planet has thought of it as well, so they’ll probably take care of it. Right?

But you matter. Because when you do consider the science behind your divine creation, you should realize how important you truly are. God could have made anyone – ANYONE – but he made you. Your existence was timed and intentional, regardless of what our brains may tell us at times. Your life is very, very big.

We are perfectly imperfect, placed here for a reason, called to a higher calling, to use what we have, whatever that may be, to do good in this world. To make it easier for the other 6,999,999,999 hearts sharing this space with us.

I look at my sweet, now-sleeping boys, and I see their wild and precious lives. I see the tiny humans they are today; I imagine the amazing humans they will grow to become. I realize that we are perfect in our imperfections and that they serve a purpose. I know that we were put here to do big things, no matter where or who we are, because big doesn’t always mean sending a rocket to Mars. It takes just a single raindrop to nourish a blade of grass, but imagine how lost those fields would be without those little drops of rain. Big, right?

One of my very favorite poets wrote:

Who made the world?
The swan and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

— Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”

I do find myself pausing, absorbing the world around us, taking in every small thing – the way the flowers burst into being after rain; how the cicadas sing in the warm, humid night; the tiniest of stars, twinkling in the night sky. These things are so wild and so precious, so beautiful and important…and how are we any different? Aren’t we just as wild, our lives just as precious? When did we forget our value, ourselves, our meaning?

I’m watching my boys, and finding I am reminded of the amazing love we were given. The love we should share. It’s bigger than we can comprehend; that’s why we are called to share it. Isn’t that what we should do with our one wild and precious life?

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FACT: You can have children AND be the crazy cat lady.

I love cats, a lot.  I love them more than cheese fries and brownies and fried pickles and all the other things I secretly eat then feel guilty about later.  I love cats so much that as a young child I not only subscribed to “Cat Fancy” magazine, but I also had one of those t-shirts with a chorus line of cats coming and going (you know, whiskers on the front and poopers on the back). 
You wish you had one.

You wish you had one.

With total disregard for my lameness (not lame, totally cool, no one else got it) I proudly displayed my feline affection.  Oh cats, how I love thee…let me count the enormous stuffed animal (all cats) collection in my childhood bedroom to number the ways.  CATS ARE THE BEST.
 
We always had a small herd of cats growing up, and all of them were rescues.  When you’re raised in a small farming town, and a pet passes on to Pet Heaven, they get buried in the backyard (this is not weird, stop looking at me that way).  So when I tell you we had a multitude of cats through my childhood and teen years, realize that also equates to your furry best friends growing old and passing on to that great cat tree in the sky.  I have always imagined that if the current owners of my childhood home ever decided to put in a pool, and they dug up a certain corner of our backyard, they would be deeply concerned and/or horrified at the number of cat skeletons.  Maybe they’ve read Pet Sematary by the great and powerful Stephen King.  And maybe they moved out instead of putting in a pool.  That would make for a great novella one day, right?  Poltergeist meets Pet Sematary meets Cat Fancy.
 
Anyway.  Rescuing cats.  It’s a genetic trait for some of my family members, me especially.  I want to save all the cats.  In May of 2003, I moved into my first apartment.  Less than a month later, and with total disregard for my then-roommate’s cat allergy, I adopted a fat tabby cat.  His name, proudly displayed on the tag of his kennel, was Binky.  In my 19-year-old brain, I decided that Mai Tai was a much more suitable name.  He is most often called Pookie, because I’m one of those really awesome people who gives a pet a name, only to call them exclusively by a series of nicknames.  Pookie will be fourteen years old in May.  He has guaranteed he will live to be at least 30 years old, though.
MY FIRST LOVE.

MY FIRST LOVE.

 I am in the 90th percentile for Crazy Cat Lady potential.  People will tell you that this can be avoided by getting married.  WRONG.  People will also tell you this can be avoided by having children.  DOUBLE WRONG.  If you have the potential, it never leaves you.  Maybe that tiny, crazy voice is quieter at certain times (or being drowned out by the sound of your toddler sliding the dining room chairs all over the house) but the voice is there, lying in wait.
 
Three years ago, a sad looking  tortoiseshell cat started hanging out on our front porch.  Pookie was not amused, as he sat near the living room window, peering out at this ragamuffin.  I was intrigued.  We began feeding her (did you know all tri-color cats are female?  THANK YOU, CAT FANCY MAGAZINE).  A few days later, a gray and white ragamuffin showed up.  A week later, a black and white super sketch ragamuffin showed up.  I recall texting my husband after work one day with, “WE ARE SURROUNDED GET HOME NOW BEFORE THEY EAT MY FACE.”
 
After months of feeding them, getting them to accept my overwhelming love and then giving them names, we knew we had reached a crucial point: they needed to be spayed and neutered, and they need to be adopted.  Watching them out the front door window, all three snuggled up together on the giant dog bed we’d given them, I realized that these three siblings couldn’t be separated…and in my heart of hearts, I just knew that no one would adopt three cats (which we had affectionately dubbed “The Wild Bunch”).  And so, the decision was made for us by the furballs on the front porch.  We crated them (that is an awesomely insane story for another day) and took them to our local PAWS to have them all snipped, clipped, chipped and vaccinated.  WELCOME HOME, KITTIES.
Three fatties.

Three fatties: Blueberry, Patches and Frankie.

 Pookie adapted pretty well for an old dude.  We agreed that four cats was plenty, and we would adopt no more.  I avoid adoption days at PetsMart like the plague.  I will cry for the kitties waiting to find forever homes.  When those stupid ASPCA commercial with Sara McLaughlin singing come on, the channel cannot be changed fast enough.  I love the ASPCA and all they do, but my fragile emotional state and internal Crazy Cat Lady cannot handle the sads.
 
AND NOW…For the past week, two cats have been hanging out in the preserve across the street from our house.  Like the Wild Bunch we adopted three years ago, these two new cats have been sleeping in the culvert.  They are beautiful, obviously cared for, and clearly abandoned based on the length of time they’ve been here.  I cannot fathom abandoning a pet (okay, maybe my husband’s parrot, but Kiwi is the Winged Apocalypse) and I cannot believe that a person would leave two pretty babies to fend for themselves.  Heaven forbid I find the person who left them.  I hope they died peacefully in their sleep, and the cats escaped the house in search of food.  If they did not die peacefully in their sleep, the will die unpeacefully in their awakeness.  TRUTH.
 
I contacted a local no-kill shelter, only to find they only accept owner surrenders.  This breaks my heart, even though I understand situations arise in which pets cannot go with you.  And I am thankful a shelter exists that will take the pets.  And I am filled with rage that the owner of these two cats did not do a little research and take the cats to this shelter; now these babies aren’t eligible.  I then contacted our county’s animal services division, and was told that their hold time for abandoned pets has been reduced to one day.  This means that in 24 hours, if the owners haven’t claimed the pet, they are evaluated to either be euthanized or put up for adoption.  That’s not a lot of time; I would pray that the cats are put up for adoption, but the reality is that they’re cats, not kittens, and the likelihood of them being adopted is reduced, with the likelihood of them being euthanized is increased.  My head and heart cannot handle the guilt of that possibility.
 
Now what?  We have four cats.  Did I think having Miles would reduce or eliminate my affinity for saving the world?  Absolutely not.  Do I think six cats would be too much for our tiny home?  Well, for our tiny home, yes…but for our enormous hearts, there is plenty of room.
 
I have posted on Craigslist, hoping to find the owners.  But for now, we’re sneaking plates of turkey and cat food across the street (my kind and lovely neighbors, who take care of our own herd of cats when we’re out of town, have assured me we do not need more cats) in the cover of darkness to avoid any backlash.  They are friendly.  I will provide a photo as this relationship progresses.
 
Place your bets now on whether I enter the 95th percentile of Crazy Cat Lady potential.
If you buy me this shirt, I will wear it.

If you buy me this shirt, I will wear it.

Home delivery available.

Home delivery available.

WANT.

WANT.

We can google image search all night long,

K

It’s Christmas…don’t be a jerk.

Do you remember what Christmas was like as a child? If you have kids, or are around kids during the season, then you probably know exactly what I mean. Christmas is full of magic; tinsel, lights, pretty packages, time with family and friends, hot cocoa and Christmas cookies, lots of fun things happening at church, and tons of arts and crafts. The month of December guaranteed a smile from ear to ear.

Then, we grew up. And you know what I’ve found as an adult? Adults have the capability of making the Christmas season kind of sucky.

When we were young, we were naïve. We were protected from some of the unpleasant things that happen around this time of year. But as an adult, the innocence is lost, and you become fully aware of just what this season does to some people.

1. Commercialism and materialism is just overwhelming.  

Occupy Black Friday.

Occupy Black Friday.

The ads, commercials, sales, super sales, super huge sales, stores open 24 hours…STAHP IT. All this does is create a nervous, panicky feeling of, “I MUST BY ALL THE THINGS FOR ALL THE PEOPLE!” in most of us, and I hate it. I don’t want to purchase a gift with little to no meaning out of the simple feeling of obligation, because that’s not fun (also, you don’t need new mixing bowls, slippers or a neck pillow). I want to find something special and meaningful, with an enormous emotional value, and not necessarily an enormous monetary value. Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean that it’s the perfect gift, people.

2. People can be jerks.

Prepare to go postal.

That lady in the coat knows what’s up.

On the road, at the grocery store, in the mall, at the post office, everyone is in a hurry, and so many people are focused only on themselves and what they need to accomplish. Nevermind the gal (ME) with a kiddo (MILES) in a stroller, trying to wrangle four priority envelopes and two packages at the automated postage machine. Because if you really super hurry, you can cut in front of me in line. Yes, Season’s Greetings to you, too, jerkface.

3. You think people can be jerks? Well, guess what family can be…

Left alone? Guess what...

Probably has some jerky family members.

You guessed it. When we’re young, we have the joy of being completely oblivious to the fact that the holidays can exacerbate the existing stress/drama/malarky that families tend to carry around throughout the year. Not speaking to a sibling? Can’t stand your great aunt? Avoiding in-laws like the plague? That everyday behavior becomes even jerkier around Christmas. And do you know who suffers as a result? Not only you, but the rest of your family. You might not be in the mood to see Uncle Joe, but guess what? Your cousin might be. Is it fair to them that the holiday is spent broken into segments of family members who get along? Probably not. So next year, build a bridge and get over it. Christmas is not about you.

4. Loneliness. 

Not even cake can conquer loneliness.

Not even cake can conquer loneliness.

It happens whether you’d like to admit it or not. This time of year can be a total bummer sometimes, especially when you think about the family and friends who are no longer in your life; whether they’ve gone to Heaven, have moved across the country, or they’re just jerks who have disappeared. Regardless of the reason, there are times now that you’ll feel a twinge of sadness (most likely when a Publix commercial comes on…) and that’s okay. Not every minute of every day is going to be a holiday explosion of joy and glitter in your face. Sometimes, you want to cry. Guess what? Lots of people do. Have you listened to the lyrics for “Auld Lang Syne” lately? Grab a Kleenex and let go.

In our home, we do our very best to keep this time of year special and sacred. I want to keep that magical Christmas feeling forever; not just a few weeks a year, but every single day. And I don’t want the aggravation that can come with this time of year to slowly find its way into my mind.

This is immensely important to us now that we have Miles. That same joy and love and peace and fellowship should fill our home and lives constantly. The importance of Christmas and true reason for the season – that our Savior came to earth for us – should be remembered each and every day. Kindness, generosity, the gift of giving, time with the ones you love…365 days a year. The magic of Christmas.

No stress, no drama, no bleeding ulcers, no 24 hour shop-a-thons and no arguments. Just love for everyone…even the jerk at the post office.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” – John 13:34

CHRISTMAS MAGIC.

CHRISTMAS MAGIC.

Love love love,
Kristin

Slow. Down.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays, and not just for the endless array of casseroles, gravy, cranberry sauce, wine, dessert (and dessert wine).  It’s a time that we get to enjoy at a slower pace, surrounded by friends and family, wearing stretchy yoga pants, watching football and just enjoying each other’s company.  Right?  RIGHT?!


I have never been a Black Friday shopper.  I hate the mall, I hate the crowds, and I really don’t enjoy shopping (my nineteen year old self just rolled her eyes at me…) Some people love Black Friday; the thrill of the hunt, getting up at 3am, standing in line, fighting over Tickle Me Elmo dolls and arguing with the barista when she forgets the triple shot of espresso. 
And each year, stores open earlier, stay open longer, offer more insanely unreasonable sales to drive the hoards of crazies through their doors.  Thanksgiving is no longer a holiday to be celebrated; it’s become a minor preamble that we rush through just to get to the 100 MILE PER HOUR GIVE ME ALL THE STUFF CHRISTMAS SHOPPING EXPLOSION IN YOUR FACE.  NOW WITH MORE STUFF!!!
The commercialism of the holiday season is overwhelming.  There are too many screaming TV commercials with blinking lights, bells, dancing elves, annoying music and size 72 font prices for me to handle.  This time of year is not about getting a Hamilton Beach crockpot for 83% off retail price, just because you can.
People, you don’t need this stuff.  You have enough stuff.  You don’t even have room for the new stuff.  You can’t even name all of the stuff you already have.  Do you know what you really need to do?  Slow. The. Hell. Down.
We wait until after Thanksgiving to put up our Christmas tree.  We wait until after Thanksgiving to do any Christmas shopping.  We want to enjoy each moment, day, holiday, gathering, activity, as it comes.  If you’re constantly racing to the next event, can you truly enjoy and appreciate where you are right now?  Stop.  Sit with each other.  Talk.  Laugh.  Drink more wine.  Eat more pumpkin roll.  Enjoy your time.  And be thankful.
We have instilled a “Get One, Give One” mantra in our household.  If you get a new toy, you must give an old toy to Goodwill.  It’s important to us that our children understand that receiving gifts can be fun, but giving is so much better.  Because if you feel a thousand rays of sunshine happy when you get something, don’t you want someone else to experience that same feeling?

We are also making an effort to spend less because, again, stop it with the stuff.  I have a decent list of DIY Christmas gifts I have put together over the past few months (friends and family, be prepared…)  If spending money on a gift, we are considering things that are practical, enjoyable and most importantly, meaningful.  And if I actually go through with any of this DIY business, rest assured there will be a post about it, wink wink.
We will focus on our time together, more than ever.  Ignore Pinterest, Etsy, Facebook, Instagram and television.  You have enough sugar cookie recipes; you will never get around to making those votive holders (unless it’s a gift, then have at it…), and there’s no need in making yourself feel holiday guilt by comparing your tree, house, gifts, etc., to those of your 1,872 “friends” on Facebook.  Look at each other.  Spend time with each other.  Put down the smartphone, close the laptop, and connect to something other than your wi-fi for a change. 

This really is a time of thanks; if you stop for a moment and take inventory of your life, you will find you are immensely, tremendously, incredibly blessed.  And it’s not just the stuff you have; it’s the people, the relationships, the memories, the time together, the experiences, the laughter, the love. 
Ferris Bueller said it pretty well back in 1986:
“Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”



Happy Thanksgiving.

Taking it easy,
Kristin