Things About Getting In Trouble

Of all of the things in my life that I am good at, Getting In Trouble is hands down my specialty.

It started when I was a nice little girl and all of the things that seemed like Really Good Ideas at the time ended up being exactly what my mother was not hoping for in a nice little girl. Like being mean to my even nicer little sister. Or cutting my bald-until-four-years-old cousin's hair off when she was five. Or sending fan mail to Christian Bale after I saw Newsies. Or running away on a black and hot pink ten speed bicycle to the payphone at Ronnie D's where I called my aunt and she sent me packing right back home on that hot mess of a bike.

It continued into my adult(ish) years in a religious community where my shirts were too tight, my house was too messy, my music was too sensual and I was an unsubmitted nightmare of a wife and mother and churchmember. It continued when I got the ambulance stuck in 2 feet of snow out meadow creek road, and when I qualified for a payment plan on a computer so I could start going to college against The Will Of The Lord. It went on when I got a divorce, then a boyfriend, then another divorce, and it hasn't showed any signs of slowing down.

Anyway, if somebody could make a living out of getting in trouble I feel like I could NAIL the interview for that job. Recently I have curbed my trouble-garnishing habits to less socially irresponsible things than boyfriends and bad credit. I have learned to invest my mischievous energy into Saying All Of the Wrong Things and probably soliciting certain death at the hand of either a terrorist, a republican, or my mother (they might have to leg wrestle for the privilege).

I recently wrote a blog post about Fear, and being the attention seeker that I have ALWAYS been, I used a bunch of tags like "terror, terrorist.." etc. The next day I had 900 hits on my blog from Israel. The country. I should be more concerned, especially after the  Boxcutter Incident, but knowing I have a brother who works for the NSA makes me feel reasonably safe that I would have a few mintues of warning if an attack was imminent, to make my way across the border into Canada and the polite safety of our Northern Neighbors.

As if beckoning international attention wasn't enough, with all of this political bruhaha smothering the food and beer posts right off of my Facebook feed, I might have inadvertently posted something not conservative enough, or much too conservative, which inevitably leads to a comment fight between my dad and my Most Liberal Friend, a smattering of  snarky comments from an assortment of cousins, and makes me want to delete my entire online life which would spell the end of my attempt at fame. You can take your pick of gun rights, #coplivesmatter, #idiocracy ala Donald Trump, Kim Davis, Syrian Refugees or Planned Parenthood, but there's a 102% chance that I will be on the exact wrong side of the fence from everyone. Not that I mind really, because it is a maddening world.

To top it all off, my friend Beth Woolsey, of Five Kids Is A Lot Of Kids fame, generously ran one of my old blog posts about Wetting The Bed, because if you're going to be exposed to a whole new audience of readers, it might as well be about one of the most shameful experiences of your life, right? Anyway, my poor Mom, God Love Her, can't understand why bed wetting needs to be mentioned ever at all. Here I go reverting back to doing All The Wrong Things Again. I have to say that she's come a long way in that she's able to love me unconditionally through my Poor Life Choices these days (really Mom, I appreciate your tolerance for reals). Plus I imagine she doesn't want to leg wrestle an Israeli or a Republican for the privilege of attacking me. (Now I will probably be in trouble for saying I was in trouble when I wasn't really in trouble at all. Story of my life.)

I would say that I am making a resolution to quit getting into trouble so often, but we would all know how grossly shallow that promise would be. And it's not like I ever run into mischief INTENTIONALLY. Well, not usually. But for the time being I will try to keep my misbehavior limited to using my cell phone in class, liking inappropriate memes on Facebook, and eating too much cheesy bread (don't tell my challenge group).

Things About Fear

Last week the world blew all to heck. Literally. I have heard reports from the towns south of me, I have seen the pictures on social media to support the claims. In the dark, cold hours of the night, I could heard the angry roar of the wind, like a bear unleashed from a long captivity, wreaking vengeance on his captors. I imagined the giant dying tree above my bedroom crashing down through the roof. I imagined what many people faced in reality that night.

I was afraid. I was afraid for the daughter who lives in Spokane, where she listened to perpetual sirens as the giant trees fell like blades of grass around the neighborhoods. I was afraid for my youngest daughter and the entire bus full of middle school basketball players trekking back from a match across a mountain pass in the violent storm. I was afraid for all of my friends and family who were at the mercy of the wrath of nature.

The word afraid means "to be filled with fear or apprehension." I believe that fear itself is a gift, but to be filled with it is death.

Fear is an unavoidable human reality. It is easy to demonize fear and make it the enemy, but fear is often the one thing that keeps us safe. Fear is the only reason we don't leap unprotected from skyscrapers or dive unguided into the darkest depths. Fear keeps us alive, but it can also keep us from living. Fear, left to spiral out of control, can dominate our existence and paralyze us from movement. When fear fills us up, and we are afraid, it can monopolize our time with useless worry and wasted days of what-ifs and but-maybes. It can be the still small voice that tells us which side of the street to walk on, or it can be the screaming howl of senseless paranoia. Fear is a gift, but like any gift without moderation, can cause death.

My two oldest daughters are heading off in a couple of weeks to a country in a different hemisphere from me. They will be "alone". Traveling teenagers with no supervision during The Holidays in South America, away from me, out of reach of any futile protection I imagine I can offer them. It brings me back to the place I was in 2009, when I lay on a bed under a mosquito net full of holes and I realized that from my location in Northern Uganda, it would take me no less than two days to reach my kids back home if something went wrong. In that moment I began to panic, to regret my decision to travel, to hate myself for abandoning my post as sworn protector. But in that moment I also had to find peace, and the only way I could do that was by reminding myself that they are in The Hands of Someone who has loved them much more and much longer than I have. That even sitting next to me at the dinner table, they are no more under "my protection" than they are 10,000 miles away. They do not belong to me, they belong to themselves and they world they were created for. They have a reason to be here, and their purpose as human beings is certainly not to sit "safely" by my side.

I have to remember this when Halle is working all night on an uncontrolled fireline. I have to remember this when MacKenzie rides the bus alone in Spokane. I have to remember it when Aspen is at the top of Sherman Pass with her classmates in a windstorm, and when Natalee doesn't come home from a sleepover on time. I have to remember this when there are kids being murdered on college campuses almost daily, our Protectors in Blue are being killed on the streets, and there are terrorist threats close to home.

My delusion of control and protection over the ones I love I owe entirely to the safety that they have been granted thus far by a Power far greater than me. I have not kept them safe. I have not prevented their harm. The One who made them has sheltered them, and will continue to do so until their purpose is served. There is no other way to live life with healthy fear and respect for the dangers of this world, than to believe that Someone Bigger is in charge. All I can offer is wisdom and prayer.

In this ugly world of terror, surrounded by human beings intent on destruction, our wisdom has to be grounded in healthy fear and our fear has to be driven by wisdom. I carry a gun not because I am afraid of the bad people, but because I know they exist and I am not afraid to counter them if I must. I wear a seatbelt not because I plan to be in a wreck, but because I know that no accident is planned and I have seen the consequences of not using that protection.

One of my best friends is a police officer - I do not fear the real danger he faces every day but I do pray for his protection every shift. One of my best friends is facing health challenges that could be terrifying, but I trust in her strength to overcome anything. The things that we fear the most: death, pain, suffering... are the things that none of us can avoid. Bad things happen every day, to good people. Our only choice is to embrace the purpose behind the things we suffer, before the things that kill us and make every step count along the way.

Which is why I am not harping (very much) on the girls' trip to Brazil. I am trying very hard to remind them to be wise, but to not nag them to quit living. This world is so vastly different from the one I knew as a teenager. More connected, more open, in some ways better, in other ways, immensely more dangerous. But again, they fly under the Wing of a Bigger Bird than me, and I am thankful.

I am not afraid anymore. I am not filled with fear. There are fearful things, to be sure, but they do not own me. Like that night in Uganda, there are moments when I have to make the conscious decision to put aside my fear for my faith. I have done it a thousand times before, facing the suffering and the struggle to find the joy on the other side of fear. I did it when I  left a destructive marriage and a damaging community, I did it when I pushed through the nightmare of getting a college education, of single motherhood, of starting over in a new town. I do it every time the pager goes off in the middle of the night or I see the burning forest ahead of me. Fear is always there, but I am not afraid, and because I am not afraid, I have oodles of stories to tell. I can only hope the same joy for the ones I love.

READ: The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, and Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. Both of these books have been game changers for me.

Things That Qualify As a Workout

I was the special education teacher today. (Chris Hoops, this means I am no longer your inferior. I am now your professional equal.) In case that doesn't mean much to you - which it should, because there isn't one person I know that hasn't been personally touched by the world of special needs, learning disorders, or other disabilities - it's basically 6.5 hours of explaining, affirming, re-explaining, affirming, patiently enduring  accidental insults and vague threats, affirming, explaining again, affirming, directing, affirming, redirecting, affirming, and on and on and on. The REAL SPED teachers that do this every day (like Chris, and Bethany [just kidding, I will NEVER be your equal]), are absolute educational heroes, along with the barely-over-minimum wage paraprofessionals that do all of this and more every. single. day. I see you. But seriously. It's a work out. I had to remember how to both add AND divide fractions, not to mention explaining why a cited source quote has to be verbatim and should somehow connect to the rest of the annotated bibliography. I mean seriously. I couldn't even do that in college!!! But dang it all, I NAILED it. And I even checked the answer book to make sure. I can teach math, you guys, and even some English. I can. Badly, and with questionable communication skills (I didn't swear any actual swear words), but I did it. I have the LCD and the GCF and the MLA guidelines DOWN. PAT. LIKE A BOSS. Because, obviously, I am.

Then I came home, and because all of that brain exercise wasn't enough, I decided to take on every single flea in my infested house in hand-to-hand combat. What this actually looks like is bathing 2 dogs and 1 cat. Anyone who has bathed a cat really doesn't need to read any further, because THEY KNOW. I look like a botched suicide attempt after Crookshanks tried to pull both radial arteries outside of the skin of my wrists. I'm not sure if you've ever seen anything other than a rainforest frog climb a window, or one of those sticky hands out of the vending machines, but Crookshanks succesfully climbed the window. And not the screen, as is traditional feline behavior. No, he made his way nimbly up the glass while Aspen was helping me apply direct pressure to my right wrist. Believe it or not, the cat got his bath AFTER I bathed the 85 pound aptly named Truck, who hasn't had a bath since last summer when a sun-warmed garden hose met its  doom at his perpetually extended claws. Ok, to be fair, it was a reclaimed toy hose from a fire somewhere that already had 37 leaks, but he contributed his share. Tonight he also ran away from the bathtub twice. Which was a 170 pound rebellion that my bad shoulder and Aspen (who weighs slighly less than Truck) were clearly surprised by. The good news is that all of the animals, myself, Aspen, and the entire kitchen were bathed in a mostly non-toxic dishsoap and vinegar solution that won't harm any of us if it didn't get ENTIRELY rinsed out.

Anyway, I was supposed to do a PiYo or PLYO or FYALL video tonight, except I can't help but agree with my shoulder that we have done enough. My brain has been stretched, my body has been contorted in every imaginable defensive position, as one will when cats are climbing windows. Truck says he's sorry, but Crookshanks still isn't speaking to me. The surviving fleas, however, are throwing a party on the carpet that I just vaccuumed with Borax in yet another Pinterested solution to the crisis at hand. All in all, it's a #winning day. I've earned this mason jar of wine, you guys.

Things About Being Crabby

Do you ever open your eyes in the morning just knowing that it's the Worst Morning Ever? I mean, it could be because you slept like crap, tossing and turning until 2:30 AM with aching joints and twitching muscles, which are alternately punishing you for working out hard all weekend and then not working out at all on the Longest Monday of Your Life. It could also be the constant, relentless gray frozen drizzle outside - the water sogged leaves on the ground and slippery mud underfoot.

I had to work hard to not snap at a certain 11 year old. First for hogging the bathroom. Then for coughing. Then for breathing. I had to bite my tongue to avoid using it to lash at a 15 year old for eating breakfast, and then daring to look at me. Even Dagny wasn't cute this morning.

My stupid prescribed supplement shake was cold and disgusting. My reheated coffee tasted like goat piss. Nothing was ok this morning. I was on the verge of tears when I had to face a classroom of students who had no idea how terrrible the world was. How ignorant can they be? And why is it the rule of classrooms everywhere to be kept at -45 degrees? Don't they know about the negative effects of hypothermia on the learning process, not to mention teacher's attitudes? Is it bad that I am somewhat relieved to be the second hand recipient of one of the reprobate students' too loud headphones playing angry, school inappropriate rap? Eminem just speaks my language some days. Mainly the cuss words.

It feels like a day to hate everything. I hate politics. I hate people needing to be "right". I hate religion. I hate methodologies and psychologies and pathologies and apologies and technologies and all of the ologies. I hate requirements and expectations and demands and standards.

I believe that today should be the Internationally Declared Holiday of Sweatpants and Not Talking to Anyone.

I want my heated blanket, my wiener dog and an unlimited supply of some sort of delicious soup, along with all-I-can-eat cheddar bay biscuits from Red Lobster. I want to marathon episodes of Arrow to restore my faith in humanity and the power of a well-defined 6 pack. I wish it would just snow already and make perpetual couch time socially acceptable. And I probably need someone to tell me to quit being a big baby.

If anyone tells you that you can't have PMS without a uterus, just send them over here, we can have words. In the meantime, hopefully this will help....

Things About Doing Veteran's Day

I was supposed to substitute teach today, but the teacher I was subbing for actually didn't have the training he thought he did, so when I showed up, you can imagine the awkward conversation that ensued about how much he didn't need me to be him.

So I came home feeling a bit lost and also a bit disappointed that I no longer had a good excuse for avoiding the Eternal Plague of Unattended Things here at my house. After a few minutes of staring at Facebook, wherein are found all of the answers to life problems, I dug into the pile of severely neglected stuff and tackled it, all the while thinking there must be a better way to occupy my mind than long wait times on the phone for insurance issues, googling green chile mac n' cheese recipes and pretending to balance my checkbook. (Is that even a thing anymore?)

Wednesday is Veteran's Day. Originally, the holiday began as Armistice Day at the end of World War I, but evolved over time into a day set aside to honor all United States soldiers, men and women who have served, at home and abroad, throughout history. Commonly confused with Memorial Day, the distinction lies in the recognition of every service member on Veteran's Day, vs. the fallen heroes we honor on Memorial Day. It made me start to wonder if there was a more tangible way to do this than posting a flag-themed meme on FB and saying something nice and poetic.

But there is a more tangible way. Several, in fact, beginning with the simple act of a personal thank you to the veterans that you meet all day long. There are 23.2 million veterans living in the United States today. That is SO many. That means you can't get far without tripping over one of them. Tell them you see them, and tell them thank you. I personally have many friends on social media who have served. A private message to them holds a little more weight than a meme.

My friend Justin Peterson has headed up a program since he was 9 years old, raising money to sponsor military veterans for honor flights to Washington DC every year. Since 2009, Justin has helped to send over 1100 vets to DC. You can help out through his website or directly at the Inland Northwest Honor Flight  site as well. (Justin takes no overhead/operating costs from his donations, FYI). What better way to recognized their service and sacrifice than by sponsoring an expenses paid trip to the war memorials in the Nation's Capitol.

Many national and local business offer discounted or free meals and services to vets on Veteran's Day. compiled a list of some of them, which is a great resource for our service members and their families. Additionally, while they might not be making any friends in the easily-offended-christian camps with their generic holiday cups, Starbucks announced an expansion to their college tuition program for veteran employees and their families, and that's a win in my book.

So in case you were confused about what Veteran's Day was supposed to be, other than a federal holiday that is a get out of jail free card from work and school, or in case you have considered DOING something about it...

Korean War Memorial in Washington DC

Things That Solve Everything

I just found the answer to one of life's most difficult questions: How do I muster up the internal fortitude to clean the dang floors?

Well folks, I am pretty sure that this is it, right here:

This little gem popped up on my Facebook feed like a shining beacon of hope in the darkness of housework drudgery. How Groupon and Facebook knew that I couldn't face the reality of my own floors is a mystery I might never solve, but somehow they captured my slipper fetish in a useful, practical and altogether stylish answer for the perpetually disgusting floor. 

Obviously I ordered three pairs. As well as some for all of my Very Best Friends for Christmas, because I want them to partake in the the solution of global concern as well. It's a big thing you guys. Now every time I go into the kitchen to mix a Moscow Mule, I will be cleaning my floor WITHOUT EVEN MEANING TO. It's as if the Lord smiled down upon all of my good intentions and made a pathway. 

I can't wait to get them and start accidentally cleaning. I am excited enough that I might actually even get up off of the couch to wear them occasionally. Or strap them on to Truck's paws. I would imagine Aspen would never take them off if I let her wear them. My floors will be so clean that I won't have profound guilt when my crawling nephew comes to visit. 

This is the best thing to hit the market since Pajama Jeans. I wonder if they make a vacuuming version for carpets? Googling now, BRB...

Things That Are Dirty (TMI) And Should Maybe Stay That Way

My guts, apparently, needed a cleaning. Like a thorough scrub down, rinse off, exfoliating wash. So I tackled this "3 Day Refresh" along with a 30 day challenge thingy that I am doing, to just give my body a little help in getting better at it's job, which, incidentally, involves not letting me down All Of The Time.

The 3 day refresh promised all kinds of things, like instant weight loss, newfound energy, reduced junk food cravings, blah blah blah, all without feeling hungry.

I must be doing it wrong, because in 2.5 days, I have gained about 10 pounds, turned into a slug and all I can even think about is cheesy bread. Oh, and also, I am starving.

I started out with fear and trepidation about the consequences of avoiding almost all food, cramming packets of fibery goodness down my gullet and waiting for the aftermath. I even chose days that I specifically didn't have to go anywhere, just so I could remain chained to my toilet. What I have discovered instead, is that if you cram enough packets of fibery goodness down your gullet, along with sixteen thousand gallons of water, and some shakes that taste like cardboard that sat under the snow all winter frosted with rancid vanilla, that all of that junk will just get together for one big "celebrate another sucker" party in Liv's gut. I am fairly certain the "fiber sweep" packets joined forces to turn the party into a lock-in so that nobody could escape the fun. If you tossed me into a pool of water right now I would sink like the rock that is in my stomach.

All of those skinny people with shiny faces on the packets? Yeah. They are liars. Don't trust them. I am hungrier than a bear in March, but luckily I have no room in my digestion tract to fit a single bite.

Maybe as soon as the fiber sweep nazis pass out from their non-stop partying I can look forward to an epic cleansing rush that either sends me to the hospital with a ruptured anus or at least relegates me to a full day of Netflix and bed. Most likely it will happen while I am subbing at school for the drama teacher all day. Oh what a lesson in acting that will be...

Once it all works out I will let you know how thin I have become. And how much better I feel about life. But if I don't come out of this weighing 110 pounds, married and rich, I will probably just be ticked off.

Things About Being Somebody Else

It's almost a lost cause. Seriously.

I have come to the long-elusive conclusion that self-esteem is probably a myth. As a child, I remember hearing about self-esteem and picturing it like some golden badge that one wears around and shows off. Like: "Look at my shining self image. I love myself!" I keep waiting for the badge to show up in the mail after I work out, or deprive myself of ice cream, or after some random dude says I am cute. But alas, no badge. And just the very second I start to feel that rosy rush of I-AM-PRETTY-COOL, I go and pull some stunt that sets me right back on my realistically normal rear end. Like, for instance, trying to dress up for Halloween.

I have always loved to dress up. Since I was a 15 10 year old playing house with my sister in the field in front of our house, I have jumped at any opportunity to be somebody other than plain old Liv. Theater was really nothing more for me than an excuse to play dress up...And then there is Halloween. For years, in a religious community, the opportunities for costume play were relegated to our cowboy skits and the thinly veiled "Harvest Festival" substitutions for Halloween, which I fought for year after year, just so I could be somebody other than me. After leaving the community, I immediately jumped back onto the Halloween bandwagon with my kids, forgetting momentarily that I was too old to be a socially acceptable trick-r-treater.

And then I discovered the adult costume party - you know, the one at the bar, where you dress like a fairy-tale-themed hooker and whoever has the best cleavage wins the $50 cash prize? Yeah. Never scored on that one. But year after year I have waited for the opportunity to play my heroes. Peter Pan, Rosie the Riveter, Annie Oakley, The Heartless Tin Woman - and I have to admit, some of the years have been less than successful, especially after I Do The Right Thing and take the kids trick-r-treating in the freezing rain and can't muster up enthusiasm for the rest of the partying.

But this year I was ready. I had my costume all worked up in advance, with of course, a few obstacles. I had shopped around for some invitations to some crazy fun parties and had my pick of places to go. It was happening.

I have been a Lara Croft fan for years. I mean, first of all she's a quasi-archaeologist who is a bada$$ with some big guns. Secondly, she's Angelina Jolie, or more correctly, Angelina Jolie is her. What isn't to idolize, right? Anyway, this was the year that I decided I was brave enough to rock the skin tight shorts and a thigh holster (even after my younger and hotter cousin did it first and better) and make my way to a grown up costume party, cleavage or not.  I had some issues finding big, bada$$ guns and had to settle for a mixed consortium of blue and neon nerf guns and a storm trooper blaster which I stole from my nephews. It wasn't right, but I thought it would get the message across. I was also hoping the freebie NREMT backpack that I stole from Aspen's Massive Pile of Junk would help to distract from the gun issues. Maybe the costume was terrible, or maybe it wasn't, I will never really know. I'd hate to read too much into the less-than-blown-away reaction of my 15 year old, but it might have been a decent indicator. If nothing else I gained a real appreciation for what those volleyball players go through at every game in the cellophane shorts they wear (who's the pervert that dreamed up the volleyball uniform anyway?).

Even so,  my excitement was evidenced in the fact that I had my costume on by 3:00 in the afternoon, knowing full well that I wouldn't even be able to take my kids trick-r-treating until nearly 7, after which I would end up showing up late to the party I was headed to. But I was excited to be Lara Croft. Or the nearly 40 year old version of Lara, after a few too many Krispy Kremes. I sat on my couch and counted the minutes until my kids got home from their basketball games, talking myself alternately into the bravery of wearing my less-than-fully-clothed costume out on the streets with the kids or wisely putting my street clothes back on for my parental duties. My passion for cos-play won out and I courageously, at long last, stomped my mayonaise-white legs out the door along with a flamenco dancer, Minnie Mouse,  a bumblebee, a cat lady, Ke$ha, and some version of a SWAT police officer in camo pants and hockey sweatshirt. That one was a little confusing for me, but hey, who am I to judge when most of the people I passed on the street confused me with either a geriatric Katniss Everdeen or Ma Kettle missing her skirt (turns out a thigh holster can look like a utilitarian garter belt in the drizzly dark).

As fate would have it, after a much longer than anticipated round of freezing rain trick-r-treat, and just about as I was headed off to most likely win whatever costume prizes were out there, I got called off for a medical emergency with a friend. So I never made it to the party, which means I can rock my costume next year, since the four middle schoolers who saw it this year really don't count, right?

I think as far as my self-esteem goes, having the balls to wear spandex shorts even for a couple hours around a lot of judgmental teenagers was probably good for me. The biggest part of a healthy self-image is the ability to laugh at yourself, to not take yourself SO SERIOUSLY that you can't appreciate the humor in the muffin top hanging over your gun belt. The whole point of dressing up is the idea of living out a fantasy for a little while, stepping outside of the safe and normal and treading gingerly into the scary and unrealistic. I didn't feel like Angelina Jolie out there, but I DID feel like Lara Croft, and that's pretty ok with me.

Nailed it, right?

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