Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Happy Spring

It officially feels like spring at my house. The trees are budding with little green leaves, the birds are pooping on my front porch, the days are warm and breezy, and the grass is turning green again after a good soaking from irrigation.

I love this time of year. I feel like I have to soak up these beautiful days before it gets too hot to step outside. Baby Brown Eyes loves playing outside. He'll tear up the grass with his little hands and let it fly on the breeze, or, occasionally, stuff it in his mouth. He laughs at the horses eating their hay and stares, riveted, every time a plane flies overhead, letting out an "Ooh!" of excitement.

There is one thing I dread about spring springing. The warm weather stirs to life all the nasty little spiders who seem to think that my home is a cool place to be.

I don't mind spiders outright. In fact, I appreciate their bug-eating tendencies. If they could exist in my home, eating all the other gross bugs I don't want around, and never show themselves, we could live happily together.

The problem is, they insist on showing themselves. A lot. They don't get the hint, either, or the connection that showing themselves means certain death. They just keep popping up out of the bathroom drain, chilling on the wall like they own the place, crawling across the floor on those eerie eight legs. I even once saw one with a huge egg sac on its back. It didn't matter that I was pregnant at the time; I smashed that spider flat with no remorse for our mutual connection of motherhood.

The first spider of the season showed itself last night, clinging to our dining room wall. Mr. Brown Eyes was home and disposed of it quickly and quietly, without any of the shrieking and fanfare typical of any time I kill something with more than four legs.

I could observe the spider across the room without freaking out. A spider in the same room as me isn't such a big deal. It's when they cross the line into my personal space that I lose it.

Such as the peaceful summer night not long after Baby Brown Eyes was born. I was in the kitchen making dinner, thrilled with the delicious spaghetti sauce I'd made using tomatoes from our own garden, when I felt what I thought was a hair tickling my shoulder. I turned my head and found myself face to face with a huge, hairy spider.

I screamed, swatted it off, darted to the other side of the kitchen, and kept screaming as I watched the disgusting little creature scurry under the cabinets. Mr. Brown Eyes, probably sure I was in the throes of death, came rushing in, somehow found the spider in the direction I was frantically pointing, and killed it.

He picked up the carcass with a paper towel and studied it before throwing it away. "This was on you?" he asked in amazement.

If Mr. Brown Eyes was amazed, that tells you how big and disgusting the spider really was.

I couldn't reply to him. I was shaking, feeling like I needed to take a scalding hot shower in order to remove the spider goo that had violated me.

Mr. Brown Eyes saw my state of unease and held out his arms. "Come here. It's ok."

I went to him and let him put his arms around me, my big, strong, spider-killing husband.

And then he skittered his hand across my back, trying to make me think it was a spider.

I slapped him.

Just kidding. But he took a big risk, messing with the already-unstable mind of a girl who had just had a traumatizing up-close-and-way-too-personal encounter with the biggest, hairiest spider known to man.

But he's also the one who killed the spider, so I kissed him instead.

Happy Spring!

Spiders Be Warned,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Who's in Control?

I love checklists. I love the satisfaction of scratching things off the list one at a time as I accomplish them. I love order. I love tidying up my house, putting everything neatly away in the drawer or basket or closet or cupboard where it belongs. I love preparation and planning and seeing things run smoothly and efficiently. I love going to bed knowing my day has been full of getting things done.

I love being in control.

Something happens when a person like me becomes a mother. Something similar to swimming against a river's current, or trying to run up the down escalator at the airport. I found myself fighting for that control I felt before Baby Brown Eyes was born, but instead I just felt wearied and exhausted, with nothing to show for my battle.

I didn't know what I was fighting for at first. I just knew that while I loved being a mother, I constantly felt frustrated at the changes in my life--that I could no longer go for a run or a horseback ride whenever I felt like it, that Baby Brown Eyes screamed in terror whenever I tried to vacuum, that my clean laundry wallowed for days in the dryer before I had a chance to fold it, that a restful night's sleep was a thing of the past. I would look at other new mothers and marvel at how at-ease they seemed with motherhood. Was I the only one who felt so frustrated?

Becoming a mother upset the orderliness of my life. And I had a hard time letting go of it.

Slow learner that I am, I've only recently discovered that the control I thought I had before was no more than an illusion. The recent tragedy in Japan has reminded me that none of us are in control. At any second an earthquake could rip through my world, just as easily as it did in Japan. My perfect plans could be turned upside down. The future I picture in my mind right now could take on an entirely different hue, or cease to exist altogether. When I really stop and think about it, there is not much in life that I do have control over. And that is a terrifying thought.

Until I remind myself that while I have no control, my Heavenly Father does. And while that doesn't mean that nothing will ever go wrong in my life, it means that I can have peace, trusting that everything He does is out of love for His children, that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ I can be strengthened, forgiven, comforted, no matter what happens. With God in control of my life, there is nothing I need to fear.

Learning to trust Him is something that will probably take my entire life, but as I pour out my heart to Him in prayer and allow Him to take my burdens, I feel the stress and frustration drift away. I am no longer fighting against the current. I am drinking deeply of the things that really matter in life, letting the unfolded laundry wait its turn while Baby Brown Eyes and I happily scatter his toys all over the unvacuumed floor.

Learning to Let Go,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When High School Comes Back to Haunt You

Just when you think you've left high school in the past, it rises up when you least expect it.

When my friend Grace told me her daughter was coming to visit from New York, it never occurred to me that her daughter was someone I knew. Grace did live close to my parents and my high school and she had mentioned that her daughter was my age, but I never made any connection beyond that. Not until the two of them stepped out of the shadows of my back porch into the light of my dining room.

"You look so familiar!" I exclaimed as Grace introduced us. Of course, I knew immediately where I recognized her from. She had been one of the more popular girls in school.

She didn't recognize me as quickly; in fact, maybe she never recognized me but pretended to so I wouldn't be embarrassed. I wasn't surprised. We had never been friends. I don't think we ever even talked. But I could have told her a lot more about herself than she could about me. My ultimate goal in high school was to make myself as invisible as possible, and it turns out I was pretty good at it.

"Why don't you go out and show her the horses?" Grace suggested to me.

Her daughter protested that she hadn't ridden a horse since she was a little girl, but she followed me through our dark backyard to where the horses were still munching on their evening hay.

"So how did you  meet your husband?" she asked me after a long silence filled only by the chirping of the crickets outside.

I told her the story, but instead of the whole beautiful tale rolling off my tongue like it usually does, I shortened it considerably, laughing nervously at the best parts. It seemed the nearly nine years that separated me from high school weren't enough to keep me from feeling like an awkward fifteen year old again, consumed by this instinctive need to impress the prettier, more popular girls.

She smiled when I finished, made some nice comment, and we fell into silence again. I knew it my turn to ask a question. "So, what do you do in New York?" I asked.

"I work for a company advertising for Broadway," she replied.

Broadway. I felt an ache in my chest. "Oh, it's one of my dreams to see a play on Broadway," I said.

"Yeah, I get free tickets to whatever show I want. If you guys ever come out to New York, I could hook you up."

The horses were more interested in their food than us, so we started back to the house. "So did you do anything in high school?" she asked. "Maybe I know you from track or student council?"

My laugh was high and strained. "No, I really didn't do anything in high school." I didn't bother to tell her we'd had a couple classes together.


"Well, I was in the Medieval Times Club. And choir for a little while. But you...weren't."


Anxious to change the subject, I asked what brought her to Arizona.

"One of my good friends from college is getting married in San Diego. That's Saturday. The next day I'm going to visit some old friends in Florida. Then the next week I'm hopping a plane to Italy. I haven't been there for a while."

I almost didn't want to ask. "How many times have you been there?"

She paused for a moment, counting in her head. "Three."

"Oh," I choked. I hope someday to go to Italy once. Three times is highly unlikely.

"Next year I'm going back to Tanzania," she continued. "That's my absolute favorite place. I spent a summer there while I was in school."

"What is there in Tanzania?" I wondered out loud.

"I adopted a couple orphans while I was there," she explained. "They're in school now. I try to visit them at least once a year."

I didn't reply. Feeling like a complete country bumpkin, I just hoped that she wasn't about to ask how we spent our spare time. Well, I spent this morning scrubbing Baby Brown Eyes' poop out of his high chair. And tomorrow we're planning on riding down to the Circle K and buying us a couple slushies.

They had a movie to catch, so we gathered around the back door and said our goodbyes. I smiled at Baby Brown Eyes as he laughed wildly at the sound of Grace's voice, his mouth open in a big goofy toothless grin. Mr. Brown Eyes slipped his arm around my waist and I looked up at him, my heart softening at how handsome he was. By the time we closed the door I knew that I was the lucky one. It didn't matter that I was a dork in high school, that I'll never go to Tanzania or have a fancy shmancy job in New York. I have no reason to be jealous of the popular girls anymore.

The slushies were delicious,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Hello Sister. I wanted to wish you a happy belated birthday and remind you that you're thirty. You're old.

But you must look really good for your age because a lady at church referred to you as my "little" sister.

I want to point out that you're three years older than me.

I  am the "little" sister.

This wouldn't bother me so much, except that this is the second time it's happened in less than a month. Last time it was a different, older sister that a stranger guessed was younger than me. What the heck? Do I have wrinkles? Am I turning gray? Do braces add years to your appearance?

I've determined that the cause of this gross miscalculation on the part of strangers everywhere is either a) my sisters look young for their age, or b) I look old for my age.

I refuse to accept b.

And, now that I think about it, my sisters are exceptionally gorgeous and youthful.

So I can see how people could mistake them for being my age.

But I want to make this clear.

They're not.

Love your (younger) sister,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The First Day of Eternity

Three years ago yesterday was the day I married Mr. Brown Eyes. So three years ago today was my first day as a wife. While my wedding day was everything I wanted it to be, the day after was...weird. Maybe that's just because I'm weird. That's definitely a possibility. However, lest there are any other young brides out there who are as weird as me, here is a glimpse of my first day of marriage so that they may know they are not alone in their weirdness:

I woke up the first morning of my eternity with Mr. Brown Eyes, my mind buzzing with  memories of our beautiful wedding day, sunlight spilling through our bedroom window, the man I now called husband snoring softly beside me, one arm draped over my waist.

And I cried.

It was not the way I expected to feel the day after my wedding. As though some dark shadow was crouching over my heart, blocking the sunshine that threatened to overwhelm me the day before. I closed my eyes, trying to will it away.

Mr. Brown Eyes stirred beside me. I couldn't let him see my tears.

"Good morning, beautiful," he said, rising up on one elbow and kissing my cheek. "Or should I say, 'wife.'"

Oh, how that word made my heart flutter. I smiled. "Good morning, husband. How'd you sleep?"

"Like I had a beautiful woman beside me."

"Yesterday feels like a dream, doesn't it?"

"Mmm. A really good dream."

I tried to smile but it felt forced. Yesterday. Yesterday was all laughter and photographs and cake and roses. Yesterday our families and friends surrounded us. Every move we took put us in the spotlight. Yesterday I was as beautiful as a princess. Yesterday was magical. Today, on the other hand...

Today felt disappointing. Like the day after Christmas.

Tears stung the backs of my eyes. I was glad for the distraction when Mr. Brown Eyes asked, "Do you want breakfast?"

I nodded and quickly wiped the tears away as I followed him into the kitchen. Unfortunately we hadn't had a chance to go grocery shopping, so cereal and milk was our only option. I ate slowly, hoping perhaps all I needed to feel better was a full stomach. I looked around at the little apartment I now shared with Mr. Brown Eyes. It wasn't quite home yet, unpacked boxes still stacked in corners, Mr. Brown Eyes' cat, Critter, eyeing me warily from the top of the refrigerator.

Another wave of sadness washed over me. I braced my back against it. Why did I feel this way? This was my first day of eternity with the man I loved. I should have been dancing in celebration, singing from rooftops. Why then was I crying more than I did at my grandmother's funeral?

I glanced at Mr. Brown Eyes, his hair still tousled from sleep, and I knew in a heartbeat that my sadness had nothing to do with him. Oh, no. He was light in those shadows. I was so happy knowing he was my husband I thought my little heart could burst and spew pieces of happiness all over the room.

He caught my gaze, put down his spoon, and pushed his chair out from the table. In two steps he swept me into his arms and kissed me in a way he never could before we were married. I felt myself getting lost in his skin, his arms, his smell, and then...

I started bawling.

Mr. Brown Eyes set me down on the couch, his brow furrowed with concern. "Rachel? What's wrong?"

My fight was useless. The tears took over, wracking my body, pouring down my face and onto my robe and Mr. Brown Eyes' worried hands. He grabbed a box of tissues from the bathroom and soon there were half a dozen of them crumpled in my lap.

He didn't speak. Just cradled my cheek until the sobs tamed into random hiccups and sputters. I pulled him onto the couch beside me and buried my red, tear-stained face into his chest.

He tangled his fingers in my hair. "What's the matter?" he finally asked.

I raised my red-rimmed eyes to look at him and dismally shook my head. "I don't know. I'm so happy to be married to you, but I feel so sad at the same time."

This was Mr. Brown Eyes' first experience with my absurd female emotions. I've got to hand it to him, he took it like a pro.

"It's nothing I've done?" he asked.

I shook my head emphatically. "Oh, no. You're wonderful. I think it's just that I was so wrapped up in our wedding day that I didn't give much thought to the after. And everything's so different. Good different, but different. I just have to adjust to it all."

Another tear slipped down my cheek. Goodness, Mr. Brown Eyes must have been wondering what he got himself into.

He wiped the tear away with his hand. "What can I do to make you feel better?"

"Just hold me, "I whispered. And he did. And I started blubbering again.

My tears had successfully soaked his shirt when I found my voice again. "Are you disappointed with me?"

"No," he replied in a tone that invoked no argument, a tone that told me, even with the one word, that he would marry me all over again in a heartbeat.

My tears calmed, Mr. Brown Eyes kissed me and ushered me into the shower and we finished packing for our trip to Jamaica that night. Standing in an endlessly long line at the airport, Mr. Brown Eyes and I joked and flirted and I felt my sadness ebbing away. Just glancing at his profile in the seat next to me on the airplane was enough to make my heart do flip flops.

"Mr. Kirkaldie?" I asked.

"Yes, Mrs. Kirkaldie?" he replied.

"Nothing. I just wanted to hear you say that."

It would take me a few weeks to adjust to this thing called marriage, but I had my best friend to help me through it.

A part of me wishes someone had warned me that the first day would be like that, that I shouldn't exert all my energy on the wedding day and forget that that day was a beginning, not an ending. Then again, I doubt that I would have believed anyone who told me such things. It was a learning experience, the first one Mr. Brown Eyes and I experienced together.

And once we got through it, I was no longer weird!

If only that were true.

I bet Mr. Brown Eyes really wishes that were true.

Here's to an eternity of weirdness,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

To My Mom

Happy Birthday to my amazing mother.

She took care of me for pretty much 24 years of my life (until I got married and moved out of the house), and she's still the one I call when life seems upside down. Yet it took having a baby and becoming a mother myself for me to finally realize just how amazing she is.

Seriously. I only have one child, and I find it so hard to simultaneously take care of him and do the simplest things, like vacuum, make dinner, even shower. I can't remember the last time I watched a movie at home, played a game, did a workout, without Baby Brown Eyes interrupting. Some days I miss being able to just drop everything and go grocery shopping, instead of carefully calculating what time I can slip in a quick run to the store without coinciding with Baby's nap or feeding schedule. I have to constantly push aside my selfishness and put Baby's needs first.

And then I remind myself that my mom did this with eleven children.

Of course I took everything she did for granted when I was a kid. She was Mom, and it was her job to nourish us and clothe us and hug us and dry our tears. I never thought that maybe she had other things she would rather be doing, that maybe our constant needs irritated her, that maybe there were some nights when she really would have rather curled up with a good book than cook us dinner. If so, we never knew it. Being our mother was an undertaking that consumed the best years of her life. We probably took years off her life with all our demands. But she never complained.

I want to be just like her.

Right now I feel like that is such an unattainable goal. I'm pretty much the opposite of my mother--so selfish and quick to complain about the littlest thing. But it gives me hope to think that Mom didn't become the seasoned mother of eleven children overnight. She started out like me, with just one precious baby and no idea what to do with it. I'm sure it took many sleepless nights, poop explosions, changed plans, and tear-filled eyes for her to learn how to give of herself without complaint.

So maybe, after [insert number here--Mr. Brown Eyes, what do you think?] kids, I will be more like her.

While I have a ways to go before I acquire her patience and selflessness, I can happily say that there are a good many things my mom taught me that have (intentionally or not) stuck with me:
  • I always brush the crumbs off the counter into my hand and throw them in the sink.
  • I push glasses away from the edge of the counter lest they get knocked off.
  • I chew with my mouth closed.
  • I can sew a button.
  • When baking something in the oven I always give it the minimum time to start off with because, as Mom says, you can add time, but you can't take it away.
  • The Holy Ghost goes to bed at midnight. I admit this one irked me when I was dating Mr. Brown Eyes and wanted to stay out as long as I possibly could with him. But Mom was right, and she kept us out of a lot of trouble.
  • I can drive a stick shift (a testament to Mom's patience!).
  • I made getting married in the temple my unshakeable goal.
  • When Mr. Brown Eyes leaves his dirty socks next to the hamper, I try to remember Mom telling me that some things just aren't worth getting upset over.
  • I pray.
  • I tell myself, "This too shall pass," when I have to do something I really don't want to do.
  • I remember that Jesus Christ can carry us through any hurt and any struggle. 
Mom is amazing simply because a lot of these things she didn't teach me with words. I was (and am) constantly learning just by watching her.

Mom, I know you probably won't read this (you don't like computers, and that's ok), but I want you to know how much I love you. I look forward to many more years of learning from you. I want to raise my children with all the love, patience, and selflessness you showed us.

And darn it, someday I will be able to bake a loaf of bread as beautifully as you do.

I'll be sure to tell you all of this in person,
The Brown-Eyed Girl