When I met you in the summer

Life has been a frenzied rush of happiness new and rediscovered, and not much urge to write about it. I've snapped a few photos, and they show the juicy tidbits of a sun-drenched summer. Unedited, as all of life seems to be lately! 

Flowers wearing their beautiful skirts

Cousins playing at Grandma and Grandpa's

Grandpa Jay and Ingrid, my newest niece







Wishing you and yours a summer filled with fun, friends, family and ummm....air conditioning???

Divorce: Feeling lost but being found

Saying goodbye to dreams in increments tends to cloud your memory of how you came to these decisions in the first place. I never imagined a life in which my children were not always with me in my home. I didn't set out to put myself at odds with my family and friends. Yet here I am, this week bidding adieu to my yellow farmhouse at a new level.

I never wanted to change the man I married. I never wanted to change my children. They all came to me - the man, his children - foreign, wholly other beings brimming over with themselves from the moment I first laid eyes on them. Why would I change creatures who fascinate me so? I don't want to change them now, even in this season of loss, as dreams warp and dissipate and relationships break and heal and change.

A person doesn't join another person in life choosing someone to change. A mother doesn't adopt children into her paradigm, but must evolve herself as each new being enters her care. The responsibility of parenthood in it's truest form is to nurture the child that comes into the family, celebrating and honing strengths and cradling weaknesses. I stand against those who've tried to teach me a child must be broken, their will crushed, or their character molded. I looked into the eyes of those babes as they came forth into the awareness of this other world we live in. I saw there the power in their personalities. I heard in their cries and felt in their rhythms their Achille's heels long before I could craft a description of them. I know they were fully and wholly themselves as they came to be, and I can only come alongside each of them as they emerge into the people they were born to become. Whoever that is - however different than my initial visions of them, however "right" or "wrong", healthy or unhealthy I perceive their choices to be, I was joined to them irrevocably as their blood and mine pooled together beneath me in their first minutes of life, the first of many sacrifices to be made so that I might reflect their most beautiful light. I can never forget that in the forge of life itself, in the muck and mire of family life, the diapers and the midnight bleary eyed dances in the kitchen; in the sorrows, losses, triumphs and simple moments of joy - we became ourselves together, these four people and I. This metamorphosis may have been halted somewhere along the way by the trauma of evil for me, yet it is the wisdom of such paralysis that has opened the floodgates for me to spill forth this third decade of my life. Right alongside my growing children.

I am their mother. I will cheer when they succeed (and probably shed a few tears). My heart will break with theirs as this cruel world crashes into theirs in all it's beauty and tragedy this next decade. Their words will pierce deeper than any other arrows into my spirit. And mine could do the same to them. Yet, ever more often, these compassionate little people, wise beyond their years, forged as they've been through suffering - they build me with their words. Caleb, with his sudden, fierce hugs, harshly whispers, "You're the best mama in the whole world." Amy, who cannot get enough of my skin, who needs me like the rest of us need water. Rosy who is quick to notice my mood and comfort and encourage with a specific strength or joy she noted in me earlier. Katy, who has always been a little me walking around outside my body: yet she is resilient, alert and stalwart in a way I wasn't born to be, and so I see myself, but sturdier, conscious, methodical, loyal.

In reality, I haven't said goodbye to my dreams. They've evolved, as I have, by necessity. I helped build a yellow farmhouse that was supposed to be where I raised a simple Christian family. Dreams can become prisons if they chafe the new, tender parts of you that emerge as you grow. I no longer fit that particular vision for my life: it isn't surprising that the life I made for the old me didn't match the me I found when I finally had the courage to look inside. The house and the dream aren't mine any longer, yet I feathered a nest with memories of comfort and the type of joy that is dancing spontaneously with your arms flung free, and I've left this legacy to reach into my children's futures in their hours apart from me. Some of us are the hermit crabs, shedding shells and walking vulnerable until we find a new home that fits.

I'll hold yin and yang for you, my children, and for myself. I will call twisting reshaping; I will see breaking as gaining perspective; I will try to hold your lives ever in the balance when I work hard to support you but never so hard that you lose me for it. In all this, not to ever lose myself again either, because in losing myself you all lose me, too, and these four at least need me.

It's like coming out of the long Alaskan winter, when the sun never rises. I am shaking the cold off my bones, I'm walking without a visible limp, my laugh has it's ring back. I'd recommend it, a thousand times over, for all it's agony, this journey of self discovery. Find yourself. I promise it's worth it. I promise you're so much more beautiful than you imagine. I promise you'll see what others have seen - however rare, we've all had a friend or two, a family member, a teacher, a coworker, someone who sees us and loves us. You've spent a lifetime already, I imagine, looking for the person inside you that people dislike. Have you ever thought to look for the person others do like? Why not give it a shot?

Coming out might not mean what you think

truth sometimes settles out of dust and chaos
in unraveling and uncoupling we find deeper wells
despite of or perhaps because of
the tragedies that have swirled around us
we are driftwood strong and smooth

Remembering ourselves
can be radical self-preservation
What you see as selfish heedless foolish
might just be the last spark to my candle
It takes courage to light your own flame
in a howling wind of nay sayers
Acts and deeds over words and creeds
the proof is in the pudding
I'll show you my love - show me yours please

it has been a season of iPhone photos
my camera gathering dust on a shelf.
I am a brushless painter, voiceless poet;
fine art is eye of the beholder stuff
simplicity of routine
the gathering of warm bodies to us
in a shelter we've made a nest
is there anything finer
than growing beauty in tiny humans?
working at what makes our soul sing?
purity of a simple laugh
ringing through a lazy after school afternoon
or the perfection of an embrace that fits just right
I gather moments more than images
for moments mean more and sharing them less

feet on the frozen lake
I sink my feet into life's unadulterated facts
We've no idea still what dawn will bring
with all our devices and sensors and data
it is still a surprise - that first conscious breath
absorbing daylight as much through our noses and lungs as we do our eyes

It's not been just on lonely incense evenings
or in the leaving or the forging of new life
it is in the arms of the lover my soul wailed for
finally cradled in just the ways I need to be held
and love filling empty spaces
that have long collected only wind and rain
I whisper she and am not undone by fear

Who judges what spring will awaken the slumbering hibernation
we willingly or inexorably lull ourselves into?
For me it has been the winter of separation
feeling air all around my soul
in walking away from dogma and certainty
I've found peace bobbing about on the ocean of life's ceaseless wonder and pain
Lifting anchor was the last tether cut
In the reflection of memories forgiven, waves of losses and disappointments
If I can forgive those who twisted me
Perhaps I can even forgive myself

The color, wideness of grin coming back
a gust of wind now and then through my wings
and you can take the high road
I'll take the path through the woods
along the detours, on those dead ends
I've met healing and safety
Pain doesn't paralyze me anymore
because it is important to let yourself be alive
let your humanness breathe without analyzing every detail
get dirty in life together, perfection isn't all -
that's freedom, my soul sings,
and freedom is worth the price.

I don't wear the clothes I've been told I should
I'm a patchwork quilt
A repurposed thrift store find
but for all my scratches and patches
there's eyes that see my beauty
I'll be a Breakfast Club revolutionary
bear those scars and scratches
for the world to see and scoff at

because if one person sees strength
and it catches fire in one soul
if it spares you one moment of pain
I will bear the harsh gaze
I will cut the apron ties
so your kite flies

Some thoughts today on the importance of making your own path: more on why I believe in being authentic and visible here.

I hope you love this post

Many a time I've heard that writers are a weird crew, and it's true: the need to write, like the need to eat or breath or sleep, must be satisfied, and the results are these streams of words strewn forth into the world, bound or on bright screens or on bathroom stalls. It occurs to me that some may find an open Christmas letter to the world by blog a bit strange: some will wonder if this isn't a symptom of my generation's compulsive social sharing in the online sphere; others will long for days when the only airing of skeletons that occurred was through Grandma's shaky cursive on handwritten letters that arrived via snail mail to tell the family news.

My world has shifted again over the past year. These are details of life that I share with colleagues, students, friends, family and therefore details I long to share in a Christmas letter. The Christmas letter of my dreams arrives at your door in a thick paper envelope sometime a week or so before the holidays. Inside is tucked a carefully posed family photo on nice card stock with a wish for your happiness and a handwritten signature. It's typed in Word without any spelling errors, and printed on Christmas paper like it used to be when I had my life "together". I know you're reading this on a rather impersonal screen, and I know it's not the same. I know the photos aren't perfect and I didn't even snap an iPhone pic during that 20 minutes the kids and I had coordinating holiday outfits on Christmas Eve. The whole mission of life this past year has been honesty, so here I type regardless of these failures. I sometimes think my very existence is a punch in the throat to the world in general, and my poor, dear Christian circle in particular. And so I {tentatively} give you...

My Awkward Family Christmas Letter 2014

The year began with enrolling the kids in public school, which was a major sock in the mommy gut - and the former fundamental Christian mommy gut especially so - since I had shakily envisioned at least getting them through basic math in homeschool. Even when you know something will be okay in the end, even when you're sure it's the best decision - it's still hard to buck tradition and long-held personal values.

The kids did enjoy and succeed in school, for the most part. This fall semester has been much easier for all of them as they understand school culture now - where to walk, how to behave, that sort of thing. They've met fewer bullies than I would have imagined, and have made friends on different levels and in different ways. They excel at different areas - some socially, some in math, some science, some reading, some as hard workers, or helpers, or for their empathy - but all stand out as artists and musicians, which makes my mama heart swell with joy. They frequently are singled out as loving and giving, and also have a reputation for being a bit quirky, intellectual and funny. Teachers enjoy their silly accents, professor-mama factoids, and original ideas.

I've continued on faculty at UW-Eau Claire and have enjoyed a stressful but successful beginning to my 3rd year. Health continues to measure high on the Richter scale of our family stress, but the storms seem to at least come fewer and farther between these days, and the seas aren't quite as high during them.

In some ways I wish I didn't have to type this next paragraph. For my own children, I dream of and work toward a world in which they will simply declare whom they love, that person, and those of us who love them will love their person and there will be no more "coming out" as anything. 2014 marked the end of a long process in coming to terms with my identity as a lesbian. "Coming to terms" seems more fitting than "coming out", because reaching acceptance of myself was at least as much part of the process as inviting others into the reality of my life and my being.

In August, I moved full time to my apartment in Eau Claire. Reaching the decision to drive away from the farmhouse I crafted in my dreams, the home I thought I would raise my children in, raise them a certain way, with their parents always there, was the most difficult point of my life thus far. Once it was made though, I felt myself quickly and easily relax into the form of my new life like an old glove. It felt a little like picking up in my early 20's, and re-envisioning where life might lead me, now with four precious pieces of cargo and a heavily invested career in tow. There have been little discoveries of lost joys, like perfume, candles, and funky art; new discoveries, like a garbage disposal and a buzzer to let guests in. New challenges, like establishing a home again at a time when professors haven't been paid for months; and new experiences, like single motherhood, paying for hot lunches, doing homework evenings, and managing a custody schedule.

I will file for divorce legally in a few days. By the end of spring semester, I will be Doctor Holmen instead of Doctor Thul. I have a beautiful girlfriend who has brought my life full circle to a type of joy and peace I haven't known since I was a small girl on a farmstead in fields of gold. The future is still hazy: a lot of puzzle pieces still have to be found and fit with this new, complicated life. The haze isn't the cold fog I've walked alone, though: it is the warm lemony mist of the morning of a beautiful new day, the kind that shrouds the world in tantalizing mystery but holds no fear within it's curtains.

I was starting to heal when 2014 began, just barely budding into new growth. Choosing freedom and truth over rules, judgments and lies set my feet back on the path I know as my own. Walking confidently forward, however alone I felt, has led me to a place I am proud to call my own. Whatever steps I've taken that have required bravery and strength and support, I share because I want it to take a little less bravery, strength or support for someone else to become who they really are, to let their true voice be heard.

So here's to a New Year that is a little less awkward and a little less brave. A little more ordinary and a little more joyful. Here's to a bit more Bohemian drama and a little less stark and stoic, a little more responsibility and fewer expectations.

Wishing you and yours the chance to celebrate the holiday truthfully and fully,
Genevieve & crew