A Full House

I am up early this morning. Not to get the bird on. That’s Grant’s job. Though the way I wrote that it sounds like his job is to flip the world off. Close, considering the turkey is a whopping 27 pounds, requiring a custom made piece for the Weber so that the lid closes. 

My job is the pies

Which I can do with closed eyes. 

Plus a bunch of sides

A Thanksgiving Haiku. Sort of. 

No, I’m up early not to peel potatoes, but to write this blog post while my heart is full. Not that it won’t be full later. It just won’t be a peaceful full. More like pandemonium full. 

Yesterday, I was happy to have the task of making the eleven pies (Siwinski Dozen) because it kept me partially distracted from being anxious. Maria was traveling home from Portland with Jackson and Grant took Dave to go get Daniel from Pullman and there were warnings of fifty-five mile an hour winds plus some snow. We have had many a thing go wonky from wind in our lives so I was having visions of cars being blown off the road. 

But everyone is safe and sound and last night the house had volume again, only a reving up for today’s full decibel level. It’s interesting, I just did the math and it won’t be until the year 2021 that I will have been living with children as long as I lived without them, assuming I don’t kick the bucket by then. Or run away. So technically I have not had enough time to get used to the noise yet. 

BUT this will more than likely be the last year we have us all here for Thanksgiving. We didn’t expect Dan to be here this year because of his football equipment manager job at WSU. We have two kids who have found their person: Maria and Dillin and with that comes obligations for them to be at other family celebrations. It’s inevitable. One by one they will build their own lives and their own traditions and Grant and I will have a smaller and smaller crew for holidays until it’s just us and the dogs. 

OMG. I’m crying. 

Fucking full heart.

The dogs will be so sad!

So today, I’m going to capture the noise level and keep it inside me, like fireflies in a jar. 

Only the fireflies really need to be set free at some point in time so the rest of the world can enjoy their light. 

Bone Yard Art

I have been working on this new sculpture. What do you think? 

Does it speak to you at all? 

Well it does to me, you sillies, in the form of barking and tail wagging by Bella and Cooper who seem to somehow KNOW that when I come home with fourteen bags of groceries, that there are two brand new bones in one of the bags. Cooper has a nose for them and Bella believes everything he says except the thing about strange people coming into the house being friends. She is our real watchdog. Cooper can be bought with sweet toned words. Bella requires three forms of indentification and a letter of reference. Labs are so different than Chessies.

They both seem to know every bone by heart and when one is missing. We keep all their ‘old bones’ in milk crate in the living room and Grant and I like to make bets on how fast they will get them ALL back out after we make the human kids put them away. I know I should throw at least a few of these away but it’s so funny to watch them fight over the favorite ONE of the moment from by now about fifty options.

Grant rolls his eyes every time I come home with new bones, but it’s kind of an addiction, seeing them get all worked up and serious when they each get a brand new one: they go to it as though the world depended on them getting every bit of meat and marrow taken care of like a DOG BOSS. Then they have this weird agreement to switch half way through the process, and then change their minds and switch again after a little barter snarling. Each bone costs $3.99 meaning that the ‘sculpture’ you thought was some kind of Heather Crazy Art cost $103.74, which is more money than I will probably ever get for any of my REAL crazy art so it’s possible I could be onto something new and cool: recycled dog bone art.

Don’t copy me, it’s my idea. 

My Seven Daily Sanes

I’m so different than I was ten years ago. I am reminded of this daily when I look at the top shelf in my office where the shadow box sits that Grant made me for Christmas ten years ago. It contains  pictures of me finishing my first marathon complete with my hard earned and nearly died trying to acquire necklace medal. Honestly it was all I could do not to put that thing around my neck and saunter around every day ALL day for people to see. I’m not a jewelry person but THAT bling? It has stories to tell! Like when I thought my friend Bill was a medic on a bicycle at the top of the hill nearing mile 13. There he was practically shimmering like an angel and I thought “Thank GOD because things are not going how I planned.” It turned out he was Bill instead, which was even better, offering flat Coca-Cola and inspiration. “Meet you at the next mile marker and you can have another drink of this.” My friend, without a doubt is responsible for helping me cross the finish line, one mile at a time with sugar nectar and pep talks for incentive, so that I could experience Grant and our cheering kids waving and clapping  at the end like I was some kind of princess warrior. My eyes still water over that feeling. 

I think it would be funny for Grant to make me another shadow box at the end of this year to show how hard I have worked to reshape my marathon mentality and physicality. There would for sure be a picture of me first thing in the morning showing off my Fitbitch that says I already burned 636 calories and I HAVEN’T EVEN GOTTEN OUT OF BED YET! I mean, how great is THAT? I’m awesome without even trying!

I’m currently not running due to a very long battle with bad ankles. Right now I have frozen peas strapped to both sides of my ‘good’ ankle that I sprained when I fell down the bleachers when I was trying to take a picture of my son David at the end of his last home JV Football game. It was below 30 degrees that night and I forgot I had a blanket wrapped around me. I went down with a very large and painful crash. I’m pretty sure Grant was trying to pretend like he didn’t know me because he just kept walking. Two lovely older-than-me people tried to help me up but I was literally frozen solid and would have taken them down with me. “No. I’m good. I’m pretty sure I sprained my ankle but my husband will eventually notice I have fallen and literally can not get up, and come back for me. He promised until death parts us.”

Some days it’s easier said than done to not comparison shame myself to the me of ten years ago. Sometimes I dream about it, the running.  Long distance running is a powerful thing and the experiences of my marathons have taught me so much about myself and continue to give me insights and new perspectives in my daily life. The other day I had an ‘aha’ moment that I will share before I get to the point of this post, which I’m pretty sure is not about marathons. 

I was reading this beautiful novel that was just…mmmm…so yummy….see? I was deeply absorbed in the words and the story and the magic it takes to write a novel when I felt my left brain say to my right brain something really nasty “You will never write a novel. Blogs are easier. Short.  Simple. Not a lot of effort. You’re just not smart enough or disciplined enough to write a whole book, especially a novel. You should give up on that idea.”

WTF left brain? First of all, you are an overly analytical naysayer. Second, I  can remember when blog posts were super hard to write. Mainly because it was YESTERDAY that I was struggling to get one finished before the WSU Cougar Football game started. But here’s the thing:  I can also remember how hard it was the first time I ran three miles without stopping: huge accomplishment! A marathon is simply a series of short runs, that when gradually and methodically put together, becomes a marathon. Perhaps novels are of similar nature. So fuck you left brain.  

Which brings me to the point of this post, though without much logic (because I just pissed off the non-dominant side of my brain):  my seven daily sanes. 

At the beginning of the year I made a pact with myself to try and adhere to seven simple daily actions to at least keep me PAR with my current state of being a content and mostly at peace, inappropriately tight size fourteen, moderately energetic, non-running,  successful business owner, hippy chick goddess. I call them ‘My Seven Daily Sanes’.   

  1. Pages
  2. Grats
  3. Yoga
  4. Medication (whoops I mean MEDITATION)
  5. Veggies
  6. Water
  7. Walks

Now I’m not gonna lie, this list has been much harder to check off each day than last year’s list: 

  1. Grow my hair

I have been doing number one of the seven pretty regularly for over 14 years. Julia Cameron taught me in “The Artist’s Way” how important it is to check in with myself with morning pages (or what I sometimes refer to as morning vomit). Three pages of handwritten words unedited (especially by the asshole left brain) and unfiltered. I notice, on the rare days I skip this ritual, that I feel like I do when have two different colored socks on or a black bra with white panties: off kilter. The first two pages are almost always whining yucky stuff, but usually by page three I have some kind of weird little break through, like “maybe I should stop eating cookies at midnight” or “you really need to quit this job and form your own business and here is the first step toward that”. 

Grats is a newer thing that has helped center my thoughts on positive things in my life (especially after the nasty brain vomit). Every day: ten things I am grateful for. Then I write thank you ten times at the bottom of this list. I think these journals will be a good thing for my kids to read when I’m dead. Unlike the morning pages which really need to be burned. My grats contain things like: “I’m thankful I didn’t kill Grant yesterday because today he is so much nicer.”

Everything feels better when I practice yoga: my brain, my bones, my skin, my muscles, my joints, my soul. That’s all that needs to be said about that, except that it is my running from ten years ago: life saving. 

I have written a few posts about meditation as holistic medication. Some days I have time for a nice long guided mediation. Most days I just try and remind myself to breath in and out: 4 counts in, 6 counts out. Repeat until calm again. As a catholic, I have found the rosary to be a good form of prayerful medication. Keeps a person off the ledge.

OH VEGGIES. I know I need to eat more of you gross fuckers. It’s a quest I’m still working on. When I feel shitty I consult the last few weeks’ checklist and say to myself: “dummy, cheez-its are not veggies. This is why you feel bad.”

Water is often on my daily grats list but it’s usually in the form of being grateful I can wash my hair or take a hot bath/shower whenever I feel like it, something so many people don’t get to do. Those very people would willingly hydrate every day if they could. So this needs to be something I never take for granted. I have rarely known real thirst. But when I don’t drink water my face looks like a dried up old hag. So.

I added walking to the list because my Fitbitch is a total nag. She says I need to move more. Plus I have this new puppy Bella who needs to move or she gets grumpy. Right now I’m a gimp but the walking thing is wonderful. She and I have these amazing conversations about the best places to poop when you are a dog (she prefers the middle of the street with cars coming for a nice adrenaline rush), the scary house that she refuses to walk past (we now go around), and how some day soon she and I will maybe do some running but for now we will just piece the short walks gradually into longer ones. 

See?

Maybe My “WHY” is Just to Breathe In AND Out

Below is an excerpt from this month’s eNewsletter that I put out from my company to friend/clients (some of whom follow my blog site). I feel the need to elaborate on it a bit in today’s blog post: 

There is so much talk on social media and elsewhere about knowing what your WHY is. I don’t know about you but I sometimes feel like I have more WHYs than I do time or answers. I spent my thirties just trying to remember to breathe and keep both my kids and career alive, so during my highly energetic forties, when I came up for air, my list of “what ifs” was so extensive it was exhausting! I like to call that the sorting out decade. It turns out that there are more things that are NOT my why than are. So that’s good news. 

Now that I’m in my 50’s there has been a SUBSTANTIAL amount of paring down in terms of who I want to be when I grow up. That’s really what this whole WHY thing is right? Not so much what your trade is (which can change at will, if you’re willing)  but how you DO whatever it is you chose to do. The person, substance and cause behind the actual doing of things. 

I do think there is a lot of pressure to find out what our WHY is when maybe we SHOULD all just relax a little and breathe (in AND out). I mean it’s hard enough having the human curse of reason.. If dogs could read our minds on the whole “I think, therefore I am” deal they would be like: “Dudes. Chill out and see if someone will toss you a ball a few hundred times. You’ll feel so much happier after!”

But, also I think that it’s really important that we all do a regular self check as we breathe through our lives. With the burden of reason comes some responsibility to be our best selves in this world. I mean why not? There is more to a good life than Netflix and Cheez-It binges. At least on the weekdays. 

So here is a short little checklist of questions that I ask myself regularly to touch base with where I’m at  in my journey that may help you feel a little less pressure in your own quest to discover your ever elusive WHY: 

  1. Would my dogs be proud of how I treat people and other animals? (If not regroup and change some shit.)
  2. If I died today, what would be the ONE thing I wish I had done? (If I am not doing this one thing, I’d best get off my ass and do it or I will be walking the earth as a very unhappy ghost, making other people miserable)
  3. What will people say about me at my funeral? (Those bitches better be careful. See #2. I’m probably going to haunt them)

Any how. I think it’s super important to do a little self recon from time to time. But it’s also important to breathe in and out, enjoy the journey and maybe not worry all that much what your WHY is. It will come to you when you are relaxed and open minded. Just ask your dog. Or your neighbor’s dog if you don’t have one of your own to talk to. 

But I have to say: you should get a dog. That’s the real advise of this blog post.  

Are My Dogs Having More Sex Than I Am?

No amount of natural family planning education could have prepared me for the conversations about sex that I have had with and about our dogs Cooper, a big, beautiful un-neutered 2 year-old yellow lab and Bella our 1 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, who started her first period five days ago. Even if we HAD been paying attention and not giggling during most of the six week long NFP course we enrolled ourselves in over 20 years ago when I decided to throw away the pill after the two oldest boys were born and be free spirited and open to whatever and whoever came our way. Grant willingly went along for the ride which resulted in four more kids. 

The instructor was LOVELY and very knowledgeable but everyone in the class was so dang serious, taking notes and nodding their heads. Meanwhile in the back of the class Grant and I were giggling and drawing pictures of penises and making gagging noises every time the instructor talked about the consistency of the deposits left on the woman’s undies when she was ripe for the picking. Who KNEW that was a thing? And though I will admit that by number five pregnancy I did say to myself a few times that perhaps we should have paid attention a bit more, David was my most mellow and happy baby, so I was rewarded more than I was harmed by my inattention. And we DID learn enough to only get six instead of twelve kids. So I’m happy we took the classes but also glad we were not super rigid on the “rules” or we’d not have had near as much fun during the chaos. Nor would we have these six amazing people in our lives.  The truth is I never felt like my people where all here until our youngest arrived fourteen years ago. And then I just knew that was that. And it was. Even though we continued with our free spirited approach. 

BUT I am really struggling with the dogs and the subject of sex and teenage dog pregnancy. 

Now mind you, I have had many conversations with my kids about sex. I think we’ve been relatively open about the subject without being over the top. It’s my and Grant’s job to try and steer them to live their best lives by making good choices for themselves and for others. My standard line is “Sex always complicates things, so you’d best be certain your relationship is strong before you go down that path.” That is really the only true advice I can offer my kids about sex, to be sure you are in a good relationship before complicating things. And I feel like my kids are going to do their best to be mindful about a very personal subject. 

But the dogs? I’m not completely certain they are listening to any advice I’m giving them.  

Now. Before you judge you need to know that we have ALWAYS spayed and neutered our pets in the past which I GUESS it’s the right thing to do. Though sometimes I wonder what the animals think about us controlling their lives so much. If someone forced ME to get spayed, how would I feel? I’d rebel of course. It would be Planet of the Apes all over again. Only super different. 

But with Cooper and Bella things kind of just snuck up on us. Cooper is technically our oldest son’s dog (which is a whole different story). But we all agreed that we would wait until he was full size before we discussed taking his balls from him because of the research we did about neutering dogs too soon. But now, here he is two years old, with GIANT balls that seem wrong to take. And the boy/men in the household, who love Cooper almost as much as I do, adamantly believe with deep, full body shudders, that he should keep his balls. 

When Bella came into our lives at about 12 weeks old, I was in this place where I felt like I could take on anything, including Chesador puppies. We had agreed to wait until after her first cycle to get her spayed (that full growth thing again) but I had that deep down longing to just let nature take over. My life has gone quite well with that approach (save for the whole bank account thing). Besides, why should it be the girl dog who has to be the one to go through the pain of getting spayed? Girl dogs are people too!  

I felt great about this idea until Bella got her period. And then holy hell. She is currently a moody messy pile of stinky insecurity. It didn’t help her self esteem a whole lot when we put her in these flowery Velcro dog panties with a hole for her tail. “CuteBone Dog Diapers”.  She doesn’t know this, but she is soon going to be the spokes-dog for these diapers. I submitted a 5 star review complete with pictures of her to Amazon Prime, so I’m sure we’ll be getting the six figure contract any day now. Or at least some free dog food.

Cooper and I have talked a lot about how sex complicates things and that Bella is much too young to be a mother and he just looks at me with those beautiful, serious brown eyes and wags his tail in agreement, so I mostly feel like everything will be fine. He’s a good dog, with morals and convictions. And he has professed his deep love for Bella so I feel certain he will wait until they are both sure it’s the right time. It’s clear how much he loves her. 

He also told me that he LOVES puppies and would be a stay at home dad if Bella wanted to be a working dog mom. Do you see how great he is? Just look at that innocent face (he is sitting on our dining room table in this picture): 

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But Bella? I’m pretty sure she’s a total slut. The boy dogs ALWAYS seem to get blamed, but seeing the way she is starting to act as she gets closer and closer to prime puppy making time I feel like the boy dogs might be getting an unfair tail shake. Consequently, when we leave the house, she is the one who gets locked in the bathroom for safe keeping. I know it’s terrible to talk about her this way. She’s normally so cute and funny and smart. But right now, she’s completely lost her mind. Here she is looking like a circus monkey, sulking about her diaper on the couch:

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Yesterday, when I was doing yoga in my daughter’s old room (now dubbed the yoga room) I forgot that no one else was home when I shut the door. The dogs always want to be on my matt and interfere with my awkward chubby girl stretching so it was habit to close them out. Five minutes later, a loud banging started up against the yoga room door and I pulled out of my downward facing dog pose super fast, hobbling to the door with a now tweaked back and yanked the door open only to find both dogs right outside the door looking very guilty. Bella’s diaper was pretty much in tact and  it turns out that they were fighting over a tennis ball but I still yelled at them, my chillaxed attitude about sex and mother nature and making good choices pretty much out the window: “YOU MAY NOT HAVE MORE SEX THAN I DO! THIS IS MY HOUSE TO HAVE SEX IN NOT YOURS.” I swear Cooper nodded his head in serious agreement, but Bella? She just smiled her stinker face dog smile and said “Why don’t you just close that door again woman and get back to your chubby yoga and we’ll just see about your silly human rules.” 

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Mom-Goddess: She’s the Chick to Be

I am driving my 14 year old son Daniel to his weights and conditioning class. He is still sleepy. I can tell because his forehead is wrinkled from trying to keep his eyes open. I am pretty sure he has anxiety over starting high school this fall. And also worries about freshman football: “will I be good…will I get hurt…am I going to get bigger…” All that stuff. But Daniel is one of my more reserved boys and isn’t going to say much about his worries to me.

Unlike his older sister whose every thought pretty much comes out her mouth.

She gets that from me. I don’t think all females are like this. God help us if that were true.

Which explains why words spill out my lips before I consider who my passenger is when I see these two fine looking smiling men holding political signs representing some person trying to get elected. I do not even register the position or the name of the candidate because I am busy waving and smiling at these model material males and saying in my sexiest voice “Oh I’m SO gonna vote for YOU and OH MY…YOU as well”.

I myself am now VERY wide awake on this morning and turn to my passenger expecting a high five and an ‘OH HELLS YEAH’ but then I remember that this is not my daughter but one of my five sons. Dan’s lips are flat lined and there is now an extra wrinkle in his forehead. One of his eyebrows is pointedly raised like it always is when he is mildly annoyed at how ridiculous something is.

Wow. Whoops.

Now. A good mother would have probably just stopped talking right then and there.

And so I say “Gosh. I wish I could just go into some kind of magical place for two weeks and have them take off a few layers of fat and transplant it to starving baby orphan whales and then at the same time slough off all my unbecoming rough skin and moles and marks and then maybe get a nice subtle spray tan. They’d probably first have to clip off some extra skin on account of the fat layers being gone. It takes a LOT of skin to cover all of THIS and saggy skin is NOT cool. I wonder if all of that would hurt? Maybe they could just knock me out for the whole two weeks. That way I could get some rest too. It would also be cool to get my eyelashes dyed and eyeliner tattoos. Because makeup just bites and I am finally realizing that I actually need to put it ON to look ok. Sucks. And maybe perhaps a little teeth whitening. Oh and my FEET: gawd my feet need help. And I’m while not really pro-cosmetic surgery (save for having layers of fat removed because I just don’t feel like exercising these days) it would be cool to know I had cheekbones under these robust cheeks. It just seems like a person should be able to get all of that done in two weeks. Really I can’t spare two weeks but if I could guarantee they would do ALL of that, well, I’d make time.”

Daniel turns and looks at me and I realize he was actually listening because I was using my outside voice.

Shit and whoops again.

“But then you would not look like you” he says to me.

And I suddenly wish I could just crawl inside this boy’s head and view what I look like from his perspective. This handsome young man of mine needs me to look like me and no one else.

Hmm.

I remember looking at my own mother as a young girl (before teen magazines, M-TV, commercials and other forms of media that destroy the “I am enough” mentality) and thinking she was so beautiful. And she was! I did not compare her to anyone else in terms of size, shape, hair/skin/eye color. She was just my mom: perfectly beautiful and designed to love me.

Is this the magic of being a mother? That when you are you from top to bottom you are pretty much perfect from every angle in the eyes of your child, simply because you look, feel, sound and smell like “my mom who loves me”?

How is it that I am just now realizing how f’ing fabulous this is?

Since the birth of my sixth born and last child, I have often found myself fighting the label of “mother of six”. I’m not sure why because it’s a pretty awesome thing to be a mother of six children. Being the mother of one to seventeen kids is awesome, but after that, well…you’re kinda stupid. I mean where the hell are you going to PUT eighteen or more kids?

It’s just that when I am introduced to people: “this is Heather, she has SIX KIDS (insert dramatic pause here)” as though I have some kind of crazy super power, I find myself being a little irked and often end up mentally elaborating about all my other attributes and accomplishments, mostly show-offy stuff, like: “Oh and also I finally got my dog to swim: I’m pretty much a dog whisperer” or “You should hear me sing in the bathtub: I totally rock the house down” or “Yes, and I look totally HOT in my bathing suit cover up.”  I mean if I am going to be labeled as a crazy super power chick, I feel like I should at least add more reasons why to the resume.

Because, seriously? Giving birth to six babies wasn’t exactly all my doing. I had support from my husband, nurses, doctors and in one instance about twenty medical students filling the room all examining and tisking (I’m sure in total AWE) at my child bearing nether regions, as though there wasn’t an actual person attached. Oh and there were drugs. Wonderful drugs. So for heaven’s sake. Hello. No gold medal for this gal.

Same goes for growing them up. There is even more help once they are in the world. If I forget to feed them, usually SOMEONE in the village will. Thank goodness. And in terms of guidance, yes I am part of their moral cabinet, but so are their teachers, friends, and siblings (and other less ruthless family members). So I really can’t take much credit for a whole lot of their good stuff (or their bad stuff).

So I think “Well surely I need to do, be and look like MORE for the world. To make my mark, to build my world resume, to achieve greatness outside being a mother.” Which is what often gets me to musing out loud about transplanting my jiggly fat to baby orphan whales. And while it’s a loving and environmentally friendly thought to help the baby orphan whales, it’s just not very practical.

And here’s the thing: as I grow older and maybe moderately more mentally mature (note awesome alliteration) I am slowly starting to realize that all this striving for excellence outside of who I am and who I love kind of falls flat and unnecessary.

My kids just want me to be me. And they mostly think I’m awesome, which is a hell of a lot better than the rest of the world’s opinion. They don’t want me to be some other mother, or sexy movie star, or triathlete, or high paying upper level executive. (Other moms: if you happen to BE any or all of those things, I mean no insult, you are knocking it out of the park! Bravo!  But damn girl: slow down and eat some CAKE!)

I don’t know what a mom-goddess LOOKS like but she is FOR SURE the chick to be. Because it feels wicked good to BE one: like a soft, squooshie, warm ball of beautifully loved-love.

I bet I smell like cookies too. Though probably only because I just ate one.

For the record Daniel didn’t actually SAY I am a mom-goddess. But I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant. So that basically means I AM one.  I just am helping him fine-tune his outside words.

You’re welcome Daniel. And thank you.