Endings and Beginings

Hello all! I can't believe it's already this time of year.

Typically, this is when I'd be posting our latest Family Christmas Video. I love those videos. They're a place where my ideas and visual creativity are allowed to be unbridled. They're little time-capsules, preserving our children's ever-changing personalities. They're joyfull and celabratory despite any of the real, unphotogenic, everyday events and struggles that we go through during the course of the year. In that way, they capture my philosophy that life can be beautiful and smile-worthy, despite {and often because of} the melancholy. Genuine happiness is not the absense of pain. They coexist, like sweet and salty, enhancing the differences.

Last week, I filed for divorce.

Those words sound so dreadful. They imply worlds of hurt, bitterness, and betrayal, which would not be a wrong assumption. But I have been startled, once again, to find that joy is abundantly present.

I know that Heavenly Father has prepared me for this season of my life. I've spent years documenting the ups and downs that have compelled me, over and over again, to turn to Him as my only sure source of comfort and direction; and while my faith has not  become perfect, it is strong. I feel calm and full of gratitude for how clear my path is and the help that is embracing me along the way.

Winking through the calm glow of peace is the thrill that life stretches before me with limitless possibility. After all, I have spent a very, very long time grappling with one hard thing in my life. I'm ready for a new hard thing. I'm ready for new lessons learned and new joys experienced. And thanks to the last 15 years, I know those things are in store for me. The best is yet to come.

Merry Christmas, gentle readers!

{image 1, image 2, image 3}

PS- I'm still writing on my anonymous blog, though some of the drafts may not be posted until after the divorce is finalized. If you'd like the link, you can send me an email at melancholy {dot} smile {at} yahoo {dot} com.


Happiest City on Earth

This year, J has been traveling all over the world for work. {I was especially jealous when he flew to Hawaii and Australia!} Months ago, he and his film team decided that they wanted to take their spouses on the last big trip of the year, so we all booked tickets and made hotel arrangements in London.

And then J and I separated.

I agonized for a long time over what to do about the trip. There was a substantial rebooking fee if I cancelled, and part of the allure of the trip was that so much would be paid for by J's company. Still, the thought of all that time together sounded uncomfortable at best and murderously painful at worst. After thought and prayer, I found a compromise:

I'll spend a few days in London while J works. We'll see each other at the hotel, and that's it. Ships that pass in the night. Then, for the same cost it would have taken to rebook tickets, I'll fly to Malmo, Sweden for 2 days and cross the bridge to Copenhagen, Denmark for 3 more.

I can't tell you how excited I am!

I leave in 2 weeks and have already purchased flights, hostels, and made a list of design museums, Nordic Noir sights, and have a goal to swim in the ocean and heat up in a suana, but would love to hear any suggestions!

Have you been? Where would you eat? What would you do? Any tips for traveling solo? And how do you dress to stay warm and dry while only packing a carry-on bag?

And while I've been to London before, the same applies there. I know I want to see Baker Street, Tate Modern, and Oxford, but what else is a must-do?

Thanks in advance!



Life is Beautifully Brutal

I had a long, lovely summer with my parents. I'm so happy that my kids get to experience this every year-- life slowing down, biking to the pool every day, and fishing with Boppa. It's a part of my life that seems covered in a golden glow, as if it's laden with nostalgia even as I'm living it. I treasure it as the beautiful gift that it is.

Coming home was brutal.

Remember my burning building analogy? It's as if for the last two years, I thought we were re-building the house, but in reality, he's been holding matches behind his back this whole time. He burned down the house again. Then lied about it. Then blamed me.

We're separated. Again.

I don't know if we'll make it back together after this one, and it kills me.

The hardest part is choosing love and happiness every day. I've lived with enough darkness that I don't want to poison myself or my kids with any more, so I let go of the anger. I breathe. I pray. I do yoga. I take it a day at a time. But some days, it feels like I'm Guido on Life is Beautiful, marching around and putting a positive spin on a situation that is genuinly ugly and frightening.

I'm starting an anonymous blog to talk about this more freely. If you would like the link, email me. I'll give it out as long as you're not J's boss or my father-in-law.

In the meantime, prepare for vacation photos as I focus on the bliss that was my summer. :)

{"Cloud Fragment" by Ken Elliot "Storm in May" by James Lahey}


Stay Cool in the Stupid Heat

This is our last week in AZ before we leave to spend the rest of the summer with my parents. Not a moment too soon, because it is STUPID HOT this week-- so much so that I forget the hot part and go around saying, "It's just stupid out here!" ;)

We lost a chicken to heat exhaustion yesterday. We tried electrolytes, a cooling bath and plenty of watermelon, but it wasn't enough for one of the older hens. Poor Miss C was devastated. With temps pushing 112 today, we're putting ice in their water and setting up a water mister. Hopefully, that keeps the rest of ladies comfortable.

We humans, however, are huddling in the air conditioning, eating popsicles, and trying not to go crazy with cabin fever. This song is helping-- I love its mix of R&B with 50's danceability, and the message of body acceptance is awesome. Just what I need now that swimsuit season is staring me down!

Stay cool, everybody!!

{image by Evan Robarts}


Time for a Change

A few months ago, this picture was my inspiration for cutting bangs. Of course, I love everything about that picture. The hair, the clothes, the makeup, the bone structure, the scooter-- if I could, I'd just BE her.


Since the fog of depression has started lifting {and thus, the urge to make myself invisible}, I'm taking a tiny bit more interest in style. I have a ways to go before I can fit some of my most fashion-forward clothes, but I can totally rock the hair for now. I'm thinking of going ombre {I know, so 2012}. It seems like a good way to get some of my blonde back {which I miss} while staying low{er} maintenance:

Is that the same model? I think I'm obsessed with her.

Where do you find yourself dipping your toes into fashion? Shoes? Jewelry? {Stuff that always fits!} I wish I was better about dressing the body I'm in, but part of me cringes at the cost-- it seems like a 'waste' if I'm planning on changing sizes soon. But perhaps that's just an excuse. After all, I'm skilled at taking clothes in, and the boost to morale when I dress my body lovingly and proudly can't be given a price.

Yep, pretty sure I'm fixin' to go shopping. :)

Happy weekend, all!

{image 1, image 2}


A Bathroom Makeover...

 ... in iphone photos. Because I'm lazy like that. :)

This happened ages ago, back when I was in my never-ending-depression-of-doom. At the time, projects were the only thing that got me out of bed. That and chocolate.

Now, ideally, if we were going to put money into remodeling a bathroom, it would be MY bathroom, not the kids'. Unfortunately, theirs took precedence once they'd flooded it one time too many and we ended up with water dripping thru the ceiling into the living room. Like so:

{I know it's odd to have an outlet in the ceiling, but we had the room wired for a projector. Then we bought a flatscreen and the projector never happened.}

Anyhow, this is where the kids' bathroom started:

I know. Breathtaking. I remember thinking that this particular green color {Martha Stewart's Hellebore} was so fresh. ha! Instead, it has always made me feel a bit seasick in there. Hindsight.

The fan is there to dry out what we thought was the subfloor. {It wasn't.}We ended up ripping that layer of particle board out, much to my relief. It looked too damaged to save.

I was determined to make the place more waterproof, which meant tile, tile, tile! We went to a local discount tile warehouse and picked out this baby:

J really wanted a classic black and white checkerboard, but the basket weave felt more interesting to me. Also, it was a mosaic tile on a mesh background, which meant 1} they would be less likely to crack in an upstairs location, and 2) that tile-cutting would be much easier than it would be with large tiles.

After ripping out the particle board, we laid cement board {waterproof!} and then started putting in tile. Since the entire room was going to be a big mess, I also took the opportunity to paint the bathroom cabinets white, using the same BM Advance Paint that I used on my kitchen cabinets:

This is where I ran out of tile. {Math has never been my strong suite.} Back to the store!

After spending hours tiling, my eyes were at risk of developing permanent damage if forced to look at that green for one more second. I mixed every left-over can of blue paint I had and rolled over the kermit color.

So much better:

After all that came grouting! E was dying to help out, and I wasn't about to stop him. :) It turned out to be quite fun on the subway tile. For the floor, we used black grout and it was SOOOO messy. I think I was a bit over-vigourous in wiping it clean. I like the grout to feel flush with the tile-- not to divot in at all-- and I didn't quite achieve that with the floor. Still, it's a vast improvement over the laminate that was there before, and it feels good on the feet.

Just when J thought this project couldn't possibly cost another cent, I also went out and bought a new shower curtain, some shelves, hooks, and frames. You know, necessities.

I have to say, I loooooove it. Especially having hooks instead of a towel rod. Chances of having a towel actually make it off the floor increased from 0% to at least 10%.

This all happened back in November, which is really when I should have been doing outdoor stuff. Now it's 108 degrees outside and I'm stuck indoors when what I really want to do is build my shed. :( Brilliant planning on my part, I know.

Anyone have awesome projects in the works? Do tell.


Would I?

"I would never do that," J said the other day in reference to a friend's recent life choices. "And as a parent, I would never enable it."

He was looking to me to agree with him. Yes, he needed to hear, our lives would never, ever look like that. We are more responsible. We are more spiritually in tune. We follow God's guidance and thus would never be put in that kind of situation.

But I didn't reassure him. I couldn't.


Too often in my life, I've felt I was on the receiving end of the "I would never..." statement.

"I would never live in a tent!" said to imply that my father-- the hardest working, most faithful man I know-- was selfishly pursuing a dream at the expense of providing for his family. 

"I would never give birth at home!" said to imply that I, as a homebirther, was a glutton for pain, hated doctors, and would foolishly disregard the safety of my child in the pursuit of some hippy ideal.

"I would never stay in that kind of marriage!" said to imply that if I did, I somehow lacked self-respect.

"I would never let myself go like that!" said to imply that gaining weight would be tantamount to failing as a woman.

"I would never have so many/so few children."

"I would never spend my money that way."

"I would never raise my kid like that."

"I would never say that, think that, do that, believe that, eat that, endure that, trust that, hope that, live that, suffer that, decide that, deny myself that, etc, etc, etc."

The truth is, none of us can say, "I would never" with any certainty. 


There is a story that should be familiar to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, of the Martin Handcart Company. The Mormon pioneers that made up the company were converts who had emigrated from Europe and were too poor to buy oxen or horses and a wagon. They were forced by their poverty to pull handcarts containing all of their belongings across the plains by their own brute strength. They left late in the season. Many died of exposure and starvation. 

Years later, a teacher, conducting a sunday school class, said it was unwise to attempt, even to permit, the handcart company to come across the plains under such conditions. This comment sparked sharp criticism of the Church and its leaders among the class participants. 

An old man in the corner listened for as long as he could stand it, then stood and said, in essence, "You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. I and my wife were in that company. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism?

"I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and said, I can only go that far and then I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.

"I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.

"Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then, nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company."


I think the essence of the "I would never" statement is fear. What it really means is, "Please say that that would never be asked of me." It means, "Please say that if I make all the right decisions, my life won't be painful in that way." It means, "Please tell me that I actually have control of my life."

I don't think that life is an equation. That if I take righteous desires and add hard work and good intentions, it equals success as I envision it. Yes, God wants people to provide for their families, but that doesn't mean that good people never starve or go homeless. Yes, God wants children to be raised by loving parents, but that doesn't mean that loving couples never suffer infertility. We've all heard it: bad things happen to good people. 


"But what about agency?" J asks, "Don't you believe that some bad things happen because people make really bad choices?" 

Yes, I do. And yes, I've gotten all judg-y about some choices that people have made. I tend to see things very black and white, right or wrong, and it's hard to keep my heart open when I feel like someone is flushing their life down the toilet and hurting others in the process. 

But haven't I flushed my own life a few times? Haven't I made bad choices? Haven't I scarred people along the way? 

I'm not going to make it through this life without making mistakes, both inadvertent and intentional. But all those failures and bull-headed blunders and depressive bouts and holy-schnikes-I-didn't-ask-for-this-in-my-life pains have drawn me closer to God. 

I've learned. I've grown. I wouldn't change things {even though I don't want to live them over again either.}


Our discussion was becoming heated. J kept saying, "How can you think that what so-and-so is doing is okay?" and I kept saying, "How can you think it's our place to judge?" 

It wasn't until later that we realized that what he meant was, "I'm afraid that you would make the same choice if we were in the same circumstance," and what I meant was, "I'm afraid that your version of a righteous and successful life might not match our eventual reality."

Once it boiled down to fear, we were able to finally let it go. 

This person's life is not our life. Their journey doesn't have to make sense to us in order for us to love them. I'm sure our journey doesn't make sense to others from the outside looking in. We all have a price to pay to become acquainted with God. All I can hope is that I can find compassion for others on their way, and recognize that mine is a privilege to pay. 

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