Monthly Archives: December 2013

Highs & Lows ~2013 In A List Of Ten Things

We spent some time together in InsomniaLand. They were so there for me.

Last night, in a marathon adventure of the worst insomnia of my life, I thought of you. If I didn’t receive a delightful Christmas card from you (please, feel no pressure, the joy of sending cards was snuffed out when Mr Dreamboat went to jail and has not yet been resurrected) regaling me with tails of your family wins, and adorable pictures, I wondered how 2013 shook out for you.

As I lay on the couch with not a speck of dust from the sandman in my eyes, I hoped your year was one of peace and that the lessons of the past months were of the gentle sort.  My wish is that the ringing in of the New Year brings as many fond memories of the year past as it does aspirations for that to come.

With that, I give you the second annual Michelle At Play list of Highs & Lows for the year:

  1. Costa Rica and the adventures we had and the people we spent time with ~ major high.
  2. Running my second 1/2 marathon, without having trained for it, with this gem of a picture to commemorate the stupid, stupid thing that I had done, that was a low. Of my own creation. 
    That’s Jodi in the picture. She doesn’t run, she skims over the surface of the road on hidden dragonfly wings. I slog. I’m a slogger.
  3. Painting. Anywhere. Everywhere. Also drawing. Also thinking about painting. I love it. This was a major high for my year. Nothing grand, no amazing moment, just painting. It made me happy. Still does.
  4. My father passed away this year. It did not surprise me. I wouldn’t even call it a painful loss. The real loss had been like a badly damaged, leaking tire I kept trying to fill up over the years and it just couldn’t hold air no matter how much I wanted it to. The real pain of my father’s passing was in the memories of trying to patch it up and in the memories that were never there.
  5. Quite sincerely, my interactions with you provided a delightful string of highs. Each comment on these posts, the references, shares and “likes”, every time it seemed I touched a nerve within you, it made me smile. Made me want to get up the next day and write well. 
  6. Baby Boy Pierson Danger Young arrived in the world this year. Changed my life, that one did. He is smart and cute and funny and I could just play with him all day long! Definitely he is the highest of my highs this year.
    These two melt my heart into a drippy, gooey mess.
  7. A low would absolutely be the never ending reach for a body of, what I deem, acceptable size. It seems to be an ancient disappointment for me and I share it with you in the spirit of transparency. It will be mine someday, through diet, or more likely through therapy. It will be mine.
  8. My amazing friend Deb Evans hosted an event for friends from all different times in her life. I was lucky enough to be counted among them. It was an amazing, long weekend at the beach with delicious food, delightful women and a surprise, early morning hot air balloon ride over Yamhill County. It was an inspiring and filling thing of beauty.
  9. Dr Kevin Ross Emery called me in August of this last year and asked if I would be interested in hosting a radio show. It has been such a delight and I’ve learned so much and I’m having so much fun. I could say the radio show is the high, as it certainly is, but to a finer point, Dr Kevin seeing something in me, asking me to be on his team and gifting me with his belief in me, that is the high. Thanks, Dr K.
  10. (This is a cheater one. I’m sorry, but I make the rules so I get to break them.) Adam & Ashley moving home and Carrie & Dakota as well, and their marriage and working with Andrea Reindl and going to Canada for a weekend and working with her and Michael Drew and going to Wizard Academy and CEO Space and holidays with family and friends and meeting new friends and learning new things and letting go of old hurts and working in the kitchen with my kids and seeing Chase opening up and flourishing and Max graduating from high school and stepping up and Zoë taking a big leap and moving across the country and making lemonade out of lemons and that every morning I get to wake up by the man of my dreams. Since I made it into one run-on sentence, it gets to count as one.

Now, if you would do me a kindness and share a few of your highs and lows, that would be the icing on the cake of my life.

Regardless of your active participation or your silent-sing-along, I hope your highs far outnumber your lows and as the New Year springs into existence, I hope you greet it with joy and expectation.


Good Enough ~ A Family Motto

If there is one fly in the ointment of my life, one thing that irks me and I can’t seem to figure out how to scratch the itch, it is that there are simply too many things I want to do. There are too many adventures to be had, too many hobbies to master, opportunities to take, countries to travel, arts to perfect, foods to taste and mountains to climb. You get the drift.

There are SO many things I want to do and experience. And because life gives us a certain and unknown allotment of days, and destiny limits energy, and conscience reminds us of chosen obligations that we truly should fill… It cannot all be done.

That said, I have a secret weapon. And it is this:

ImageZoë and I were jokingly discussing our family motto. If we’re being realistic, our creed is lifted from a comedy, encompassing the way we live our lives with, “Head down, power through.” It is fittingly from the sitcom “Arrested Development”, a show about a family whose paterfamilias goes to the hoosegow. 

But in a not so distant second place, Zoë and I have unofficially chosen as our family motto, “GOOD ENOUGH.”

Good enough fills my heart with joy. Good enough is a free pass, an opportunity, it’s a pat on the shoulder and an “atta girl” every time we want to try something new.

In a world that can showcase the infinitesimally gifted via the world wide web and portrays beauty in all it’s airbrushed glory, I honestly believe Good Enough should be a universal motto.

The truth is that most children, even your straight A student who is the track star, even they, will grow up to be… Don’t hate me… just Imagepeople. Sure, there will be the occasional virtuoso, the odd brain surgeon. But most of us will just turn out to be people. And there is nothing wrong with that. It is a statistically rare and beautiful gift to get to be a person.

Moreover, if we are all destined to simply be God’s children, and nothing more, shouldn’t we do the things we want to do, even if we never make it to the cover of a magazine? Shouldn’t we take the painting class, learn to play the piano, write the poem, start the business, build the birdhouse and workout? Even if we never sell a painting? Even if the only person who loves to hear us play is ourselves? Even if we’ll never be a swimsuit model? Still work out? 




Instead of the taunting, tattling, terrorizing measuring stick by which we’ve chosen to evaluate our work (we shall call it ~ Excellence Or Nothing At ALL), let us use the Universally Acclaimed Motto: Good Enough!

With Good Enough as my wingman, that pesky problem of not being able to do everything I want to do is diminished. If perfection isn’t my constant companion, there will be more time to try. More opportunities and less anxiety. And maybe, just maybe, every once in a while good enough, will usher in a taste of perfection.

At the end of this auspicious year, my vote is that we look back with awe and wonder at the bravery we displayed, the risks we took and the mountains we climbed ~ both literally and metaphorically speaking. And as we venture into the coming year, let’s adopt this new motto and let it be our battle cry. We are God’s children. We are adventurers and when we try, when we give it our best, we are…


At The Beach Collecting Pearls

Every year for the last 19 years, on Christmas day, my family and I have loaded up the cars with all the detritus of the holiday in boxes, Imagebags and suitcases, and headed out to the beach. The tradition started in an attempt to carve out some holiday traditions uniquely ours, no longer solely relying on those our parents provided us.

It is because of this tradition that we have a home here, the property found when we rented a little yellow house that sits just two doors down from ours today. Big things come from small acts.

While the house is a big thing, the bigger thing, the intended outcome, is that we have strong traditions our children rely upon every year. If I’m being honest, I rely upon them as well. They’re like road signs reminding me where I am, where I belong and they mark the path to home.

The first two years we rented a house in Oceanside, Oregon. It was small and not really close to any services. The view was spectacular and the two children we had at the time didn’t care that they couldn’t go to the mall.

ImageOne year we rented a house just a mile or two from here. It sits up on a bluff and is beautifully remodeled now. Then it was not. We walked in to a flood around the refrigerator, the basement flooded, there was a huge storm and we lost power that year. The owners offered to let us come stay again as compensation, but why would we?

Perhaps one of the most poignant years was when the money we’d saved for the trip was unexpectedly needed elsewhere, and the owners of the condo we had planned to rent in Newport, Oregon let us stay in their timeshare for free. Still makes me tear up sometimes.

This year three of our 5 children were with us. Chase, the youngest remains as the older ones head back to Tennessee and their grown up obligations. The house is very quiet now. But not sad, just different.

As I reflect over the 19 years of this particular tradition, I am struck by the fact that while the tradition remains the same, it looks different every time. We may do some of the same things, but our numbers wax and wain, the mood of the activity changes with the ages of the children and their desires and obligations elsewhere.

ImageIndeed, if I were looking for true continuity beyond the stay at the coast, I think I would be sorely disappointed. But when I look at the string of 19 pearls we’ve created over the years and I appreciate each one as a creation of our family, they string together in a unique and beautiful way. They are not perfect, they are not identical, but they are ours. Our memories to keep, our quirky traditions and personalities infused in each one.

We are who we are. Each of us as individuals, our families and relationships, our vacations and traditions and interactions. We are beautiful pearls not created to resemble anyone or anything else.

We are each quite lovely that way.

Take Some Time ~ Let It All Sink In

Since the beginning of my time as a blogger, I have never gone more than a day without writing. On days when I did not feel like Imagewriting, I wrote anyway. On days when I thought “I have nothing to say,” I took my time and I looked around and found a thought or two to share with you. I like doing it. Writing makes me happy and it’s cheaper than therapy.

I have never gone more than a day without writing, or posting, until now. And I’m not sorry.

They make it look easier than it is.

Ravaged by the demands and responsibilities of family traditions, I awoke the day after Christmas at the beach, and I knew it was time to be quiet. I arose the next morning and the decision was easier still. Not worried at all that this might be the beginning of the end of my blogging sojourn, you are not so easily shed of me, I knew I would patiently wait until it was time. No sooner than that. No later than necessary.

As we nosh through the few remaining days of the year 2013, and the holiday fervor recedes and we realize we’ve completed yet another turn on the all inclusive spaceship called earth, it seems right to slow down. It feels good to contemplate.

Yoga is an interesting practice. It involves body, mind and spirit and can be quite challenging, beginning to end. It’s an exercise in discomfort. Considered the most challenging pose, or asana, of all is “shavasana” or corpse pose. In corpse pose one lies on the back, legs approximately hip distance apart, feet lolling to the sides, hands at one’s sides, palms up, and here’s the difficult part, you relax your entire body, thinking of nothing and allowing yourself to melt completely into the pose, absorbing everything.

And so I didn’t write anything these last few days. Obvious connection.

This chair in this place equals shavasana.

Another revolution around the sun. Another year of triumphs and challenges. A new go round to see if we can reach our higher ideals and dreams just around the corner.

The days between the Christmas celebration and the ringing in of the new year are a sacred time. We need to allow ourselves to revel in family and friends, remember the year past, letting it sink in, and relax completely. It’s a time to allow everything we’ve learned in the past 365 days of “practice” to sink in and take their place in our hearts and lives. It’s time to simply breathe.

I suspect I am back from my hiatus. I’m certainly not done with shavasana time, but I’m wiggling my fingers and toes and reveling in the opportunity to give this old game another go.

It’s our honor to be here, such a rich blessing to live and that in and of itself is reason to take note, take a few breaths, relax, letting it all sink in, and feel gratitude for all that has been and for the splendor of what’s to come.


“Maybe Christmas,” He Thought, “Means A Little Bit More”

This morning I arise to a dark and quiet house. Everyone is still in bed, but, “I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.”

While much of the Christmas preparation is complete, there is still quite a lot to do. Not to

I'm interviewing "The Hobby Hoarder" today. Come listen!
I’m interviewing “The Hobby Hoarder” today. Come listen!

mention a good workout to be had as well as today’s radio show (On Dr Kevin Radio Network at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern). I have an appointment in the late morning hours as well as quite a lot of wrapping to do and, I am perplexed at this fact, we still need to decorate the tree. I have no idea how this tradition has evaded me until this late date.

Despite the full schedule and the alarm clock that rings when it is still pitch black outside, I feel a remarkable peace to which I wish to hold. Peace is often an elusive flower in the garden of life, is it not?

It is always this busy as we approach the Christmas holiday. To me it seems there are so many bits of glitter to be gathered before the happy day. It is sparkly and fun, but there’s just so much of it and the task can be quite distracting.

Last evening our family piled into the truck and, with a couple of Yule Log Cakes and a zoe and the yule logwillingness to sing carols in the car, we headed off to our friends’ house for a holiday dinner together.

We have known the Kelly’s for something like a million years. I think I speak for all of us when I say we hope to know them for a million and one more. It is a uniquely comfortable relationship. Our children having grown up together, more like cousins than many cousins. Melissa and I were roommates for a short time at college. Mr Dreamboat and Bill have been best friends since they were 14 year old boys.

It’s not the long history so much that makes us all good friends, it’s the years of support and trust that have been built. It’s the hand holding through the hard times and the raucous laughter through the rest that brings a sense of history and, to use an old fashioned word, fidelity.

Bill & MelissaLast night we sat at the Kelly family dining table for hours. We ate delicious food, sang carols and we laughed at ourselves and at one another. And while it was only one evening of many during the holiday season, there was something so easy and peaceful about it, the feeling will last for a good, long time.

I don’t think it’s a peaceful life that brings peace. I believe it is finding the occasional safe port in which to regain strength. It isn’t a path without stones that makes life grand, it is a friend who walks the path with you when all others have gone home.

I hope each of us finds safe harbor during this holiday season. I hope you find yourself, between the many tasks of Christmas, with a moment to close your eyes and listen to the music and find yourself in the company of friends who make you laugh. And even if it’s only for a moment, I hope you take that moment with you throughout the coming year.

Christmas Letter Envy ~ Don’t

The holiday season is in full swing and it seems like everything has something to do with the festivities. While there’s still much to be done, I find the home stretch is my favorite part of the preparations. Much of the work is complete and I’ve had opportunities to take a deep breath and simply enjoy hearth and home.

all together now
Carrie is missing from this pic.

Yesterday morning the entire family could be found under our roof.  The previous night, arriving in shifts, each of my little ducklings returned to the nest… or the Zombie Apocalypse Ranch, but that doesn’t sound as festive. So for the holidays it’s The Nest. Just go with it.

We arose early and enjoyed  “Christmas Morning” together as my married children are trundling off to their spouses family’s homes this year.

Pierson at Christmas
I can’t imagine how overwhelming Christmas morning will be.

It was a complete and utter pleasure. Everyone was in a good mood. The kids exchanged gifts and we laughed and shared the traditions that are a distinct part of our family culture. Perhaps best of all was having Pierson Danger here.

Though he wasn’t quite sure what to do with all the wrapping paper, he was happy and giggly and it melted my heart to watch his aunts and uncles please and pamper the little man.

“It’ll nearly be like a picture print by Currier & Ives…”

By the time our Christmas magic had begun I was over the Christmas anxiety in which I’d been indulging.

Not this kind of Christmas Letter.
Not this kind of Christmas Letter.

Recently I succumbed to “Christmas Letter Envy.” It was a rookie mistake. I know better. But I did it anyway and allowed it to rob me of the joys that are mine. If, that is, I can stop the madness.

I really love getting Christmas cards and letters. I love reading about your families, enjoying the silly stories shared and seeing how the children have grown. But I do this thing where I compare my insides to others’ outsides and it doesn’t serve me well. If I let it go on for too long, it actually tortures me.

For some very human reason, I imagine your lives in perfect, tidy order. Your joys are nonstop, your successes never ending. You don’t struggle, as I do, with self doubt, disappointment and a scale that never seems to budge no matter how diligent you are with you health. It’s a magazine cover life you live. Congratulations!

You are perfect, in my overactive imagination, and I am flawed. Bah!

So I’m standing in the kitchen, right by the broom closet, and I am punishing myself with visions of my all too human shortcomings and imperfections when, of a sudden, I start grinning from ear to ear. I practically giggle to myself I am so delighted.

All I had to do was remember. It’s all any of us has to do.

We have to remember our blessings. We have to remember them every single minute of our lives. In order to feel whole and happy, we have to look to what we have, what we are and more importantly, what we can become. That’s where the grin starts. Caution; this may cause unexplained, public giggling.

Send me your Christmas letters! Regale me with stories of incredible, family perfection and achievements. Revel in them as you place the stamps on them and imagine my face as I read about your beautiful family. I am delighted for you and yours.  And I am thrilled for me and mine.

It shouldn’t just be at Christmas that we get to enjoy our blessings and share them with others. We need to focus on them throughout the year, and always always always delight in the successes of others.

Celebration trumps Envy every time. Merry Christmas.

Pierson Christmas photo

The Storm That Is Life ~ Adjusting Your Sails

This morning I watched a video of people walking against the wind in a storm in Norway.

It reminded me of walking home from the school bus as a very little girl in a very small town called Newdale, Idaho. I remember it because the wind was at my back, unlike the video I watched, and I fantasized that it had come to carry me home if only I dared lift my feet up off the ground and give in.

As I watched the video I was thinking about fighting against the wind, swimming up stream and generally just breathefeeling like we’re working against the flow of life. I’ve just come out of one of those phases. In my case, my subconscious was trying to tell me to slow down and take a minute to breathe.

There are many times I feel I’m fighting against the wind when I’m doing things I think I’m supposed to do, or I’m expected to do, but in my heart they’re not right for me. I’m simply going through the motions.

Fortunately, I took a look at what was happening for me, not to me, but for me, and I relaxed a little bit. I realized that I’m running too fast not because I have too many things to do, but because there are too many things that I want to do. Not a bad problem if you can figure out how to get it all balanced out.

Truly, many of us feel like we’re fighting against a wind storm. It’s the holidays, there are certainly obligations and demands on our time and sometimes life just seems heavy and hard and not at all manageable. I totally get that. And while the winds will certainly rage about us for most of our lives, it doesn’t have to be a fight.

adjust your sailsI was a little kid with a big imagination and the wind at my back. And even though I didn’t have much in the way of life experience or wisdom, I was on to something when I fantasized about a strong wind sent to carry me where I wanted to go.

For each of us and the winds that come into our lives, it’s just a matter of adjusting our sails as we lift up our feet and let the wind take us where we’ve always wanted to go.

At least that’s the story that makes me happy this morning. So I’m just going with it.

Sowing Seeds Of Greatness ~ Everyone’s Love Story

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships. Perhaps it’s because I had such an abrupt comeuppance when I was trying to “correct” my teenager and found, instead, a great need to correct myself. Perhaps it’s because I know a fabulous variety of couples and when you get to glimpse into their relationships you see nothing short of beauty and devotion. Well, if you’re looking in the right relationships. I try to look into those that make me smile rather than weep.

image0Mr Dreamboat and I married when we were very young. I don’t think anyone but the two of us were really convinced it was a good idea. At this late date no one can argue the point. We are genuinely happy together. But as we’ve told our children, this sort of relationship doesn’t happen until you’ve been together a very long time. There are not shortcuts. It just takes time and dedication.

The part of relationships that’s been on my mind is the part where we see something in someone that is grand and noble. We see it and are drawn to it like a beacon on a dark night. But the part that is so fascinating is that not everyone can see the beacon. It takes someone special.

I’ve always wondered if Mr D and I have a delightful marriage because of US or because of HIM. He is uniquely good. I’m pretty sure it takes two to tango so I’m just going with that. But when Mr D speaks of me, which he does quite often, he says that from the day he met me he saw in me greatness.

I think that’s the special sauce right there. I was just barely 19 years old when we met, and I special saucecan assure you there was quite a lot of angst. I had my fair share of regret, for someone so young, and a defensive cynicism that made me not awesome. And if there was greatness, well, I had buried it way down deep so no one could find it.

Yet he was convinced of it.

I see it in other people’s relationships as well. I see devotion and awe in the way they treat one another and I know for sure that while I might like someone’s spouse or partner, there is something amazing and special about that person and my eyes are simply blind to it.

And so I know this; I know that each of us has greatness in us. But more importantly, I know that when we treat the people we know with kindness, respect and the perfect amount of awe in who they are, the seeds of greatness within them begin to grow.

Through almost 27 years together, I have been treated as someone special. And because I have been treated as such, I have tried my hardest to become someone worth knowing. Someone worth loving. Someone to spend eternity with. I cannot say if there was anyone worth knowing when my Mr Dreamboat met me, but I can say that he believed it and so I have tried my hardest to make it so.

It is a gift I wish to bestow on every person I know. But the truth is, I think it will take all of us to make it work.

A flourishing relationship.
A flourishing relationship.

Christmas Memories ~ A List Of Ten

I awoke this morning with a desire to discuss “Balance during the Christmas Season.” I wanted to write about it because I’m trying to do it. Then I realized I’m not doing a good job of this at all. I’m fumbling and, to some degree, going through the motions.

When I really think about the brilliant moments of Seasons past, I remember they often come in small, homely packages. The things that are magical and burrow deep into our hearts are usually unplanned, unadorned and provide little, glowing lights for us through the years that follow.

Rather than try to force the square peg of my obligations into the round hole of a joyful heart, today I resurrect for you a few of the glowing memories that bring me a peace that cannot be contrived:

  1. First, the memory of my sister and I playing Monopoly late into the night on Christmas Eve because we could not sleep for the excitement of the rich and glowing day before us. It is an intimate memory and one that comes unbidden to me each year.
  2. Though it sounds quite materialistic, my mother created one heck of a Christmas for my sister and I. Our entire living room would be filled with gift upon gift. I swear the pile was three feet high and kept us from having to vacuum the room it was so wide. It was sheer delight each year.
  3. Oddly, many of my favorite Christmas memories are from the year Mr Dreamboat was
    He looked about like this, sooo long ago.
    He looked about like this, sooo long ago.

    in jail. One of those is of my middle son, Max and I putting up the Christmas lights. Max is a traditionalist and he wanted, he needed those Christmas lights hung that year. Not my area of expertise, I nonetheless put on my winter wear and the two of us tried our very best to brighten up the neighborhood with our lighted offering. It was especially cold that year and our culminating act was to drink hot cocoa together, still clad in our coats as we tried to warm back up.

  4. My first Christmas with Mr D wasn’t really on Christmas. I’d gone home to Idaho and came back for New Year’s Eve. He picked me up from the train station and took me to the little basement apartment we would eventually share, there, in my darkened bedroom was a lighted Christmas tree and a gift. I still remember what he gave me.
  5. Like these, only broken. And only one each.
    Like these, only broken. And only one each.

    That awful year of jail was fraught with obligations and work. I felt nothing most of the time, so feeling Christmas cheer was nearly impossible. Because of challenging schedules it was difficult to find a time to get a tree. I was determined to do it with each child present as our traditions were propping me up. Traditions and duct tape. That night we met impossible difficulties simply finding a Christmas tree. I forced the kids to sing. I pretended to be merry and when we finally found a tree lot that was open, they generously sold us a tree for $80 and gave the kids some broken mini candy canes. Pure magic. As awful as it was, when we talk about that night, each of us laughs and remembers being together. That’s how the magic works, in an elusive sort of beautiful woven fabric. Flaws required.

  6. When Mr Dreamboat returned from Prisonyland, that first Christmas we gulped white christmasdown, unable to slake a thirst to be together. It was so good to be home, so good to be together, and that Christmas morning we had a rare dusting of snow. It was a white Christmas. It was all complete.
  7. My father passed away this year, and honestly, I don’t have any memories of him at Christmas. With one exception. The year he and his new wife and step daughters moved to Arizona, my sister and I went out to visit right after. I remember we had a second go at the holiday with presents to unwrap and delicious foods. I specifically remember my step mother and her kindness.
  8. Last year I was feeling a sort of homesickness I wasn’t quite familiar with. It was the Sunday before Christmas and I just wanted to hang out with our best friends, the Kelly’s. A quick call and some last minute plans created what will probably become a tradition. We had dinner together, we sat around the table with as many of our combined group of kids as could attend, and a truer sense of family cannot be had. Family is something you make. I know that for sure. And the Kelly’s are my family.
  9. I have separate yet related visions of all my children as toddlers at Christmas. I can see them in my mind’s eye, sitting atop a new rolling toy, under the Christmas tree or with new Christmas pajamas. Toddlers are too small to know what Christmas is, but toddlers and babies and children, they are love, they ARE what Christmas is supposed to be.
  10. My most cherished memory of Christmas is dipped in pain. I think the most poignant memories often are. Mr Dreamboat, I and all our children were seated in the visiting room in the Federal Prison Camp. We would have to leave soon and it was truly, such sweet sorrow to go. You do nothing to draw the attention of the guards in prison, but we are a singing family and it didn’t feel right not to sing. Each of us huddled over the table and as inconspicuously as we could, we held hands and sang Angels We Have Heard On High as only the most unified of choirs ever could. It was the sweetest and most delicious carole I have ever sung, and perhaps will ever sing. It was tinged with pain and disappointment and will forever be at the very center of my heart.

Merry Christmas, dear friends.