All posts by Brooke

About Brooke

(Blog Team) is attempting inner om with this writing stuff. Proud to claim four loud children, a patient husband and a fat black cat as family, she feels blessed to be their mommy-- their giver of kisses and baker of cookies. She is ever seeking a good novel and wishing for the sand between her toes, palm trees, the ocean.

Muffins and a Muffin Top

I showered this morning and hurried into my closet to dress, freezing. I grabbed essentials and pulled them on without thought. Suddenly, I paused with body mind dissonance and a head shake of disbelief as I checked and rechecked the tag on my jeans. Yes, same size. But they couldn’t button—they weren’t even close.

I’m nothing if not persistent when faced with bodily dilemma, and so I took a deep breath and then held it fast while I stretched the two buttons across the divide. As I exhaled, so did all my fat—my stretch marks, lines of baby history: miscarriages, births, heparin shots; and other things too: the indulgence of baked goods, the joy of food. I put on a thick A-line sweater to hide the spill over and fervently hoped this was shrinkage caused by the dryer, and that the waistband will give by this afternoon. At least some. Pretty please I beg of you, Universe.

As I write this, the sweetness of blueberry muffins lingers from breakfast and the smell hangs in the kitchen. The snow tucks us up into our house, all the way to the back door, daring us to leave. My little boy nickers against my side, sippy locked into his mouth, his arms around my neck while I try and type. I’m balancing: early school mornings while baking, moving while snowing, typing while holding. I never could do all of this in my twenties. And maybe that’s the point.

I’m not who I used to be, and I can’t fit into her body. My 36 plus years are exploding out of it—too much for this skin.

Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself if the dryer theory doesn’t hold up.

How do you grow old gracefully?

What’s up with the middle age spread?

How are you handling the changes you can’t control with humor?

How do you balance what’s important with what is temporary?

A Trifling Thing—But Not Necessarily a Cake Walk

My sophomore year of college, I decided to take piano as a class. Breaks from school spent at my parents’ house and around their piano reminded me how much I missed it, so I registered with a teacher and took my piano books from high school back with me, on the plane.

My first lesson was spent playing for the teacher songs that I knew, and we made our way through the books flipping pages and playing until the page turns began to reveal songs I hadn’t learned yet, and it was as simple as that flick of a wrist that introduced me to Golliwog’s Cake Walk. From the Debussy Children’s Corner book. Alfred Edition. Page 28.

Ugh.

The pianos were located off the gym in a bank of small side-by-side rooms that from the outside looked like a long hallway of doors in a row. As I settled in to practice one early morning, I was innocent of the frustration before me, hurrying to fit a run and breakfast and a few minutes at the piano with time enough left over to intercept a kiss from my beau while he crossed the campus to his first class. I had thrown frayed jeans on over my shorts, a thermal with a big hole in the shoulder (college poverty and not a fashion statement) over my tank, my flustered-hair was sticking 45 ways out of an elastic, and as the flaccid banana peel I had dropped in the tray next to my music started to brown and turn, I attempted to play.

It was apparent immediately that I might not make it out of there in time for that kiss. The counting was too much, the song too odd. It was apparent a few minutes after that, that I realized the good chance of not mastering this song EVER on the ivories. I paused, hopeless, just long enough to think a mishmash of “please” and “now what,” when suddenly, in the practice room next door, someone played the entire piece of Golliwog’s Cake Walk, beginning to end, in perfection.

I listened, agape. I listened in a dawn of relief and realization. I listened to the foreign melody of it and committed that to memory.

As the piece was finished in a perfect flourish of thirty second notes and staccato and flats, I came back to the reality of what had just happened and felt a wave of embarrassment that someone else—someone TALENTED—had heard my flailing and failing and knew I needed an intervention. I waited a good 10 minutes in silence just to not “accidentally” bump into the maestro in the hall.

But as I waited I started to think beyond the reality of it. I thought of the fantastic—the disembodied actualization of a need I hadn’t even uttered, the need of a frame of reference, an example, something to go on. I needed to hear, and I heard. And the gift of the right song from places unseen, at that moment, was nothing short of a miracle.

My God is a god of small things. He’s in the details. He knows who I am and he knows exactly what I need, when I need it. And He showed me that, by revealing himself outside a holy place, in a asylum-like room that smelled sweetly of bananas, to a sweaty, distracted girl, who wasn’t necessarily ready to meet him that morning, but met him nonetheless.

On Moments

There was one big box, wrapped in polka dots and housing her 12th birthday present. I told her as she surveyed the seemingly sparse landscape: it’s a big one, I promise, so this is it. She opened it gingerly and took a suitcase out of the delicately unfurled paper. “Oh my gosh, I love this suitcase!” And she ran towards me, across the kitchen, to give me a hug.

 

Sweet girl.

 

I stopped her and said, “Wait! You need to open the suitcase!” She did, and suddenly, an explosion of NYC ephemera– a tee, a mug, itineraries, tickets, plans. It took her a few open-mouthed seconds to get it, but before long she was screaming, and faster than that, we were on our way, nonstop to JFK. And hurry! We had a schedule to follow after all.

 

Normally, I don’t schedule anything for vacation; I find myself beholden to the clock in normal life only because I have four kids—slow is my very nature. Slow as molasses is me on vacay.  But this was New York! The city that never sleeps! We had only 80 hours and I intended to make the most of it, with even sentiment and memories penned in the margins between minutes: temple baptisms in Manhattan (awwww), following her red-jacketed form around the Met (lump in my throat), tickets for the new Cinderella (once in a lifetime).

 

Can you plan a moment, though? Like one of those “I’m-never-going-to-forget-this-moment-for-the-rest-of-my-life” type moments? Walking off pizza, trying to make room for Milk & Cookies, we wandered to Washington Square Park. The arch is worth the extra blocks in the wrong direction alone and I wanted my daughter to see it. It was freezing, there was a man playing a grand piano in the middle of the park– Bach, I knew it– the pigeons fluttered, the sky was blindingly blue. No big. Until, we turned back to go towards the bakery, and suddenly the high, simple strains of Clair de Lune started, piercing and lovely through the frozen air, I stopped. So did my husband. So did my daughter, confused. The rolling of the music started to open itself up to the day, welcoming and bold, and it was something magic. “This is it,” I said to my husband, “This is your song.” And he turned, his eyes squinting in the bright sun, the bitter cold, “Yes.”

 

My husband. He is good at many a thing, but one of my favorite things is his knack for making little movies. We love our family movies. Sometimes we spend Family Home Evening just watching dozens of them and we (the parents) laugh that we are turning all our kids’ memories into something perfect. With a soundtrack.

 

Anyway, he was capturing ten-second clips on his phone the whole time, but that frozen moment in the park, when Debussy started, was like one of his movies come alive, and the cold and the sound, and the blue, and the pigeons, and the red jacket, and him, and her, and everything was something I almost can’t describe…

(awwww)

(lump in my throat)

(once in a lifetime)

All put together.

 

And totally unplanned, right? But caught.

 

Chloe’s NYC Trip 2013

Ears to Hear

It was determined the minute I awoke to sunshine; I would take the dog and the little one on a long run. All efforts of the morning pointed to that hope, that mission in need of undertaking, those miles my feet ached to cover, the vitamin D my body wanted, the oxygen I craved, the exertion for all of us, housebound in the winter.

I took the first four streets out of my neighborhood with ease, settling into a rhythm, the dog attached to the stroller. I curved onto the path east and said hello to a white-haired woman pushing a wheel chair in slow motion. We exchanged pleasantries, her pealing gratitude to see the mountain revealed from the inversion once again, and a quick “Yep, there it is,” from me, as I ran past. I rounded another curve, and I thought of the woman, so eager to say something to me. I kept running and I thought of the deep folds in her wide face, the easy smile, her hair neat in a loose knot curved along her head, like a wisp-less Gibson girl. “I bet she was pretty once upon a time,” the thought came from nowhere, and then I stopped thinking that thought as soon as it started because with it came another thought, sister to it: “I bet she was a lot of things once upon a time.”

I didn’t want to do it, but I knew I was supposed to. I spent at least two minutes trying to talk myself out of it, but I know this to be true: if I want Heavenly Father to ask me for help, if I want him to know that I’m someone down here who cares, then I need to listen. Continue reading

In the Details

A bit ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to attend a Q&A with Elder Holland. Suffice it to say it was more than an amazing and rich experience, but more, I left feeling so impressed at Elder Holland’s—and for that matter, his wife’s—ability to administer to the one. Whenever anyone in the small gathering said anything, he dealt with their feelings so tenderly, and cried with them, and loved them in empathetic tones reminiscent of the Savior, when he blessed the children one by one, and when he healed so profusely and intimately in the Gospels.

I left knowing how much our Heavenly Father loves each of us, and knowing how much he is mindful of us individually. He knows exactly what each of us need, daily, and all we need to do to access this power is listen, and ask, and act. Continue reading