Here Comes the Shift

October House, June '17


Life, man.

Life.

Isn't it interesting how the borders of the phases of our lives become clear only as we approach the overlap? And how we don't often see the full shape of the thing until the living of it is over and done?

I'm approaching the border. I can feel it like the charged hum of a force field. The closer I get, the more tingle in my bones. The deeper the ache in my heart, and the more insistent the leaping in my brain!

This last phase—the one we are almost leaving—was a heavy one. Now, seeing more clearly the shape of it, I can name it: Waiting. During Waiting, I went down into myself. Dormant. Hibernating. Alive, but mostly digesting. Dreaming. Making ready. I only recognized this when I felt myself start to wake up a couple of weeks back. Not fully awake and stretching, not yet. More like the flutter of eyelids - that cozy half-dreaming state where reality starts to crash in at the borders of the dreams, and things feel very surreal and slippery, but still safe. That deep gut anticipation, that subconscious knowing that Awake is near, but not yet. You're not fully here, yet.

And the next phase also has a name: October House. October House is one of the big ones - I feel it stone strong. October House is a core event in our lives. Like when Bill proposed, and the landscape of my soul settled into place. Like when those two blue lines appeared, and I half-noticed my trembling hands as I hit my knees to empty out my grateful soul to my Father who gave us this forever thing that we now were: Parents. Mother. Forever. Like the permanent change to our little dynamic when 3 became 4...then 5...then 6.

It seems strange to put a house on par with these events in my life. But it's not the house itself. It's what the house *is*. And I feel the same kind of permanent shift. This is a new beginning for our family that ultimately changes everything.

October House.

As big as New York was for us.

I don't know if it's the house itself. I don't know if it's who we'll know there. Neighbors, our ward family. I don't know if it's an opportunity that will come as a result that makes this change such a big one. I don't know. Doesn't matter. Because even though I don't know, I KNOW. You know?

Less than two weeks.

In less than two weeks, our lives change again.

October House.

Half of my Heart (Pt. 1)


Bill's cousin's high school graduation announcement arrived in the mail. We ooh'd and ahh'd at how gorgeous she looked, how smart. How strange it felt that the smiling little girl who always tirelessly played with my babies at the annual family reunion was now this tall, womanly thing! She can't possibly be 10 years older when we obviously haven't aged a day, right? We stared at her picture and I felt the rush of the train thunder in my chest as time laid track after merciless track. 

I have wanted to show off my beautiful Seattle to my children for years. Wyatt had been when he was a toddler, but now we had these four beautiful, adventure loving and AWARE humans who hadn't seen the splendor of the emerald city. They knew their mother's heart was constantly being pulled between Seattle and Manhattan. It was a part of me. It's where their father grew up. It was a part of our family culture. 

"What if we went? Wouldn't it be fun and unexpected to just...show up?"

Bill smiled and gave a little laugh. He looked up from the picture at me. We were both grinning like joking fools, but our eyes said more. What if? and then Why not?

We would be in the Seattle, Washington area for a day and a half. Two days to get there, two days to get back, and only a long weekend to spare. But oh, we would FILL those 36 hours with GREEN and PACIFIC NORTHWEST AIR and SPACE NEEDLE! Bill made a list of our must-do's. We'd rank them in order of importance, and we'd work down the list as best we could, and anything we didn't get to...well, there would just have to be a next time. A longer next time. And soon.

The very non-negotiable top spot on our list was: visit with family. After that, at the top of the list I placed: Pike Place Market (oh, how I loved that magical place as a girl!), taking the kids to Grandpa Mac and Grandma Martha's graves. Bill's list contributions included a visit to the old house in Sammamish and a Wibleys Burger.

We would pass through Sammamish on our way in, so we decided to show the kids where dad grew up first thing.

"I can't believe how small everything feels," Bill said as we navigated the up-downs of hilly Sammamish.

I didn't know what he was talking about, though I did like the way he looked as he leaned into the dashboard to get the fullest view from the windshield. That little boy look. Bill is a rugged, hard working and capable man. Have you seen his beard and his arms? Swoon! But he's never afraid to let his inner child take the wheel now and again. It makes his eyes spark. I leaned into the dash, trying to match his angle. I peered out the window. Small differences, maybe. This was a green and growing place. But mostly it all looked the same to me.

"It's like...like everything feels condensed," Bill said. 

"It doesn't look different to me," I said, and felt apology in my words. We turned up the steep hill leading to his old house, and I remembered him telling me what an epic hill that had been in his youth. Walking down it to go to school, and then having to truck back up again afterward. Navigating it as a new driver. I remembered what a beast it had been during the icy months of our courtship. I tried to see it again as little tussle-haired Bill would at Wyatt's age. Wyatt would be oblivious to the struggle of the nearby cars trying to navigate up or down that scary steep angle. He'd only have eyes for the adventure it meant. 

"You are looking at it with your man eyes!" I said. Bill looked at me. "That's why it doesn't look different to me. I was already grown up and boring when I came here for the first time. You were a kid, here. Your kid eyes remember."

There was a familiar prick in my chest. I once again found myself heartbroken and desperately wanting to care for and protect that little boy inside this man that I love. To be there for him somehow during all he would go through far too young. 

We stopped for a time at the old house. Bill insisted that it, too, looked smaller. I actually thought it might look a little bit bigger than I remembered. I had been so impressed that Bill's family of six...and then five...had beenin that three bedroom rambler together and had never moved. One house for his entire childhood! Imagine!

I pulled out my phone and took some creepy stalker pictures of the place, trying to look non-threatening to the neighbors who were gathered in a clump across the street, visiting. I wanted pictures of this man standing in front of this too-small house where he had been a boy. I wanted to make permanent a little piece of what was going on right now on our little world. Our children, being introduced to the place where their father had been their ages. All of their ages. And my husband. That man I am crazy about. Looking at this place of so much and too much and sometimes not enough. The man and the boy. Looking.

(...more from our trip, to be continued!)


Throwaway Hill

Bill once suggested to me that there was no such thing as a wasted year.

That when you looked back with grime and fog free eyes, you could see growth. You could see where the seams slid together and where the bulges and fractures fit to make the pattern more—not less—complete.

I took comfort in the idea. What if there really was no standing still? What if that breathless feeling after the sudden loss of momentum was just an illusion; like a theme park ride. What if the changing—the real changing—could be taking place at a cellular level and was safely away from the naked eye?

What if the last twelve months of my life were not a throwaway year? And the idea that I would throw it away offended the cosmos on a very personal level, because HELLO! Major shift happening down in your atoms, thank you very much!

This is something I've learned but apparently will keep on learning: Hindsight has a very powerful focus lense.

(I picture my team in the heavens shaking their heads in affectionate exasperation at me, already prepping the next lesson in Hindsight. Ah, our Stepper! She's so cute when she doesn't realise she's being dense!)

Even so.

Even so, this last year has felt very much like that feeling I get in dreams, sometimes, where I know I can fly but I can't seem to take off. I can feel it so deeply in my bones—I can fly!—and my desire to push myself away from the earth and shake off gravity's hold on me is so deliciously intense I am CERTAIN if I could just get up enough speed, if I could just jump at the exact right time and at the right angle I would feel the air push beneath me like a wing and I would soar! So high, so fast tears would stream sideways along my cheeks and into my ears. My teeth would feel cold from laughing in the high air. I've FELT this before. I KNOW this part of me.

But in too many of my dreams, I run with abandon down the grassy hill only to crash into the trees in frustration and bewilderment. The sky is mine. I know I belong above these tangled trees, moving with the beating breaths of the wind, but I beat myself against the ground trying. Why can't I JUST. TAKE. OFF?!

And then the world shifts and suddenly I realize that all along, I was just standing at the top of the wrong hill. For a whole year - just on the wrong hill.

MY hill is over here. And on this hill...I can fly!

NOV 08, 2016 - History Has its Eyes on You

I suppose today is historic, though to me today and everything leading up to today has been nothing but surreal.

I felt overwhelmed as soon as I left my car and began picking my way through groups of High School students to the front door of the high school I graduated from all those years ago. It felt weird to be back. It felt weird to be an "adult" among all of these perfect, hopeful teenagers - and it felt weird to see how invisible that made me to them. It felt weird to be walking toward this decision - having only a rough idea of how this was going to go down for me.

I took comfort in the anonymity of the crowd. I could stand in a line and think.

It both helped and made things infinitely worse to have Hamilton running through my head on repeat. Jefferson or Burr? Here comes the general! Rise up! I AM NOT THROWING AWAY MY SHOT!

But as the fuzzy edges of my surroundings grew sharper and the line moved forward, I realized that I was being an idiot. There was no anonymity in this crowd. These were my neighbors. My community. I was STANDING IN LINE NEXT TO my neighbor, and another neighbor jumped in line right behind me. Ahead, I could see another cluster of my people - my old YW advisor, my kid's primary teacher, etc. etc. We all started chatting - the nervous chatter of people who felt a bit startled by the familiarity and the complete unpredictability of what we were doing.

I start thinking about George Washington. That guy was something else. And I'm thinking - was he one of a kind? An impossible standard? Or are we just not looking hard enough?

Then SHE came and stood in line with us. I don't want to use names because this whole experience to me felt abrasively personal - and I don't feel I have the right.

But SHE is 18. Absolutely stunning. I love both of her parents (her whole family!) so much - and I've watched her on Sundays -- how she is with the Young Women. This girl is gold. And here she was, her very first election. This political situation is what she's had to wade through for her very first election.

I have never been a very political person. I care - but I don't rant or rally or attempt to reason. I vote my conscience and that's that. I never tell anyone who I vote for. I don't even tell my cute husband who I vote for. But considering HER and how she was following me into the fray as she mused about the ticker tape and the electronic ballot boxes...I was swept away again by such a strong tide of emotion.

This keeps happening this election.

I was swept into a feeling of complete desperation. I wanted to protect her - protect all of these high schoolers who surrounded our somber line in the hall of their school. We were on their turf, making decisions that affected them, and here she was...girl of gold I was desperate to prevent from tarnishing.

It's a mess, I wanted to say. It's a mess and I'm sorry! It's not supposed to be like this - candidates for presidency are supposed to stand for something. They're supposed to be unselfish and serving. Sacrificing and sincere. Human and flawed, yes, but better than this. 

They're supposed to love this nation - in its own kind of young-adulthood - and want so desperately so many things for it. Not just things for themselves. There is supposed to be hope.

Today doesn't feel hopeful so much as it feels like we're all roping ourselves down, hoping the storm passes without causing too much permanent damage.

I know not everyone feels this way - for some today is thrilling and feels like the culmination of important work. For some today contains the hope of something bright.

But me?

I look at my awesome kids, and I think...we are on their turf. And I am woefully unable to keep the gold from tarnishing.





Once More With Feeling!



Hi, My name is Stepper!

Yes, Stepper.

It is unusual, thank you curious person.

Thank you, I like it, too complimentary person!

Oh, you think it's weird, grimacing person? Well, that's allowed; though I think it's no weirder than many of them names you hear on them streets nowdays!

Stepper. Like the song. Like the exercise equipment. Like the mechanical doohickey.

Not Steffer (ugh!).

Not Deborah (???).

If you knew me when I was Stephanie, call me that! If you knew me when I was Sunni, call me that! I seriously love it! I love hearing my names from people who knew me during different times in my life. It makes me feel closer to you.

My parents and my siblings (and certain other family members and close friends) get to call me whatever they want! They've earned that right because they know all the me's.

It doesn't feel weird for them to call me any of my names.

But if we've just met? And you do a double take because my name is WHAT now? I'm happy to repeat it for you, and pleased when you repeat it back to me to get it right - but please don't decide that you don't want to call me Stepper because it feels weird to you, so you're going to call me some cute variation on the theme because obviously I don't care if I'm going around being called random things.

It's not random.

It's my name.

And I do care.

Thank you and high five! (Where did my nickname come from? I'm glad you asked! learn about it HERE.)

A Working List of the ABSOLUTE WORST Ways to be Woken Up


IN THE MORNING

  • Your bony 8 year old launching himself (complete with sound effects) onto your bed and, consequently, your ankles.
  • ANYONE uttering the phrase: "Mom, can I play on your iPad?"
  • The sounds of the garbage truck...when I forgot to take out the garbage.
  • The sounds of something crash-breaking in the kitchen.
  • The sounds of kids arguing/fighting.
  • a fly/bee/mosquito buzzing near your head.
  • The realization that you are very late for the important thing you were going to wake up early for needling its way into your subconscious and slamming a book down in your brain.
  • ANYTHING when you were just getting to the good part of the dream. 


ANY TIME

  • Your neighbor's pool party that carried into the wee hours, and the screams of delight are turned by your twisted sleeping brain into the horrified screams of your children.
  • The phone ringing
  • The apocalypse.

My Pregnant Climb into the McDonalds Play Structure

A true story.

Once upon a time, I was expecting our Hattie with enormity. By that, I both mean that I was hugely excited, and also that I was huge.

I give you: exhibit A.

Bill had a work meeting in a far off land (Ogden), so the kids and I got up very early in the AM to drop him off at the train. So I decided as a fun impromptu treat to take the kids to McDonalds for breakfast and to let them play for a while.

We got there so early that there were no other children—but more than a few senior citizens—and so after their breakfast, the kids got to play alone on the play structure (what Bill calls the "big toy") for a good 20 minutes before more kids came. It was such a treat for me! A quiet play experience at McDonalds? Nirvana!

Finally, other kids did show up. But the kids that come in the morning are MUCH calmer and nicer than the lunch crowd, I've decided.

Henry decided in an impressive burst of courage that he wanted to go on The Big One. The large "two story" twisty slide that began at the top, bypassed the middle, and ended all the way back at ground level next to the shoe time-out. Wyatt kindly offered to show his brother how to make the climb. Henry followed him all the way to the top where he promptly dropped to his stomach, clung to the plastic, porous floor and was stuck.

Henry is afraid of heights. Like me.

When he got to the top, and he could look down and see how high up he was (Was that Mom way down there, peering up at him, the size of an ant?) and the big dark gaping O mouth of the slide, Henry got wise. There was no. Freaking. Way.

He hugged himself to the platform, his little fingers clinging through the little holes, and cried.

I was, if you recall, NOT the size of an ant. I was the size of a whale.

I tried sending both Wyatta nd Daphne up to help him, but Henry is nothing if not stubborn, and only shrieked louder for all their attempts.

There was even a nice older boy who saw our situation and offered to carry him down, but Henry screamed at him when he tried to approach. If you are a boy who is older, but still pretty young and you are met with a terrified and SCREAMING Henry, nobody blames you for backing slowly away. Henry's screams pack a mean punch.

The thing that made me screw up my face the most, however, were the other moms. There were a few of them, grouped together on the other side of the seating area. They watched me and sniggered. It wasn't the gentle laugh of understanding that often passes between mother to mother strangers when one of the children is causing the kind of trouble that is all to familiar to all mothers. The hang in there Mama, you've got this and we've all been there! laugh.

No, this was the self-righteous no kid of mine would ever create that gawd-awful sound, glad I'm not you type of laugh. No comaraderie. No apologetic glance. And, more to the point, NO HELP.

Finally, faced with no other option, I hauled my adult-sized pregnant-bellied self up the winding play structure, doing my best to ignore the now fully audible sniggering below me (in full view, I feared, of my currently unforgiving backside), and saved my son.

His little fingers only released their power grip on the platform when they darted toward me to cling around my neck. His wails turned to sobs. His face was red and his eyes were wild. His hair sweaty. Descending the play structure with my boy wrapped around my unyielding frame was no easy feat. By the time I made it back to my booth, I was exhausted, red faced and sweaty myself.

We sat there together for a time, holding each other. I spoke soft and low in his year, I've got you. Your'e okay. I get it, I don't like heights either. And his softening sobs unknowingly whispered to my heart, I've got you, too, Mom. Those moms over there might have thought you were ridiculous, but not me. Thank you for coming for me.

And it came to me then, one of those unsuspecting life lessons. I knew in that moment that no matter who was watching or laughing, and no matter what impossible obstacle; I would always be there for my kids if ever they found themselves a little bit stuck.




Just a Comma, Not a Full Stop

I haven't quit.

100 days of blog posts. But, okay - perhaps not exactly consecutive days. Because here's what I've realized:

Sometimes, you gotta take your family to Zion National park and wander around the weird feather-brushed bubble rocks and marvel at the Three Patriarchs and throw rocks into the river while mom does her very very best to STOP imagining flash floods.

Sometimes you have to unplug.

Sometimes you decide to take a week for yourself after said unplugged time to just...mentally breathe. School is out. The kids are now officially ALL MINE for the summer.

I've been indulgent.

And when it came time for my evening posting...that little voice in my mind would say "not just yet" and I'd happily comply because it felt good. It felt right to just...hit the pause button.

But not the power.

So.

100 posts is the promise. And NEARLY every day, I think, is a do-able time-frame.

And away we go!

Tales from the Crib



My Secret Minecraft Crush



I've got a weird, inexplicable obsession with Minecraft.

Okay - I am late to the party or whatever. But Wy started to learn about it when he began going to public school CLEAR BACK (two years) in Kindergarten.

I'd heard about it before. My cousin's son dressed up as Steve for halloween one time. I was like, Oh, yeah, Minecraft. With the square people that carry around pickaxes, right?

But I wasn't interested.

In my defense, I also knew that ZOMBIES were somehow involved. And these green explody guys that always looked just really really MAD at you.

That sounded stressful. No thanks.

But - Wy started showing interest, and—ever the dutiful mother—I allowed him to choose a minecraft how-to type of book for his one pick during the book fair that year.

And I mentioned to the husband that we maybe oughta look into what this minecraft game thingy is because Wyatt was into it. What gaming platform is it on, anyway? Because I don't think I can handle my kindergartner playing on my super awesome MAC.

Enter iPad versions.

I sorta watched from the sidelines. Peeking over his shoulder as he and his siblings poured over the endless expanse of the Minecraft terrain. They were finding things and building things and...

and...

AND...

I realized like a 2x4 to the face that THIS MINECRAFT GAME WAS BASICALLY LEGOS MEETS OREGON TRAIL!

I could not GET on board with that fast enough.

Enter: Stepper purchases the bona fide version for her Mac.

And oh, I love it! It's so relaxing!!! And weirdly validating...I build these really cool estates for my adventurer with stables and gardens and...

...I've mentioned I really want a house of my own, right?

Anyway. I may or may not play Minecraft more than the kids.

And the suggestion of "lets have a minecraft party and all play in our worlds at the same time!" each Sunday may or may not always be made by me.

The kids might have had a minecraft themed birthday party last year wherein we made perler bead pickaxes and swords and creeper heads. I may have made a bunch more for the heck of it after the party was over.

I might actually get really annoyed when I'm deep into my world finding DIAMONDS among the lava pools and whatnot and I have to stop and ADULT because it's bedtime.

Stupid bedtime.

If you're shaking your head at me right now, may I remind you: I AM A NERD and have never professed to be otherwise, so really none of this should shock you. It's like you don't know me at all.

(Come over! We'll get to know each other, better. Maybe play a little Minecraft! You know. If it comes up.)