Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Swan Song, Laughing.

Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today to get through this thing called life 
Electric word life it means forever, and that's a mighty long time, 
but I'm here to tell you there's something else.... **

A new site.  I mean, I'm in the process of building a new blog, a different sort of place all together, and so it's time to put NilsenLife aside for a season.  What a wonderful season it's been here!  We started when Lars was brand new - 3 months old maybe? And now we have the most gorgeous family of growing-so-fast kids, all 3 of them, and as they look forward their mom looks up and says what next?

Me, wondering What Next?

Who knows what next.  But it will be something new, something creative, something that asks me to think, explore, and grow.  Because that's the point of this thing called Life, isn't it?

As a last post, I'm giving you guys a list of things that make me laugh out loud.  Not LOL, not ha! but seriously, genuinely, laugh out loud.  In no particular order:

  • the sun, after days and days of cold grey rain
  • the logic of preschoolers
  • a 10 year old's budding attempts at irony
  • photographs involving angry dwarves
  • terrible puns
  • my husband - daily
  • every single one of my close friends - we can't be tight *unless* you make me laugh
  • Beastie Boys videos

Not even a Top 10 list, but enough to get me through the day.  Laughing out loud is as holy a thing as I know, and I am profoundly grateful to find things to laugh about every single day.

So with that I leave you.  NilsenLife will abide here as long as Blogger will let it, with its gentle posts on babies, and growing, and a parent realizing that so much good awaits.   On to the next. You will always be able to find us, and all of our laughing, here: at The Yellow House.

** total extra credit points if you finished that little riff at the top there, and then dove right in to enthusiastic air guitar.   For those who didn't, it's Prince and, the first cool song I ever memorized:  Let's Go Crazy.   Yes in fact it IS on my running playlist to this very day.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


It's been exactly a year since my right Achilles tendon started screaming at me halfway through a 100 meter sprint.  One year.

The day I was fitted for a walking cast, I  published a brave blog about game changers, and goal shifting, and all sorts of uplifting things.

Six weeks later I posted an even braver blog about skipping the Spanx at my high school reunion, still convinced that the setback was temporary, still riding high on a metabolism jacked up on 7x/week workouts (pre-injury, that is). 

October 2 was the last time I ran.  And what a run it was!  Four miles through the foothills of Los Angeles.  A run I had sooooo looked forward to, a run alongside someone you definitely want to do your last run with. If, you know, there is the acknowledgement that it's your last run.  Which of course I refuse to acknowledge.

If someone forced me to look back at the last 12 months (oh look at that, I'm forcing myself), to find a common thread, the only word that comes to mind is humility.  Pretty much every day of the last year, as I climb out of bed to sometimes-grumbling, sometimes outright-hollering tendons - both left and right - I have been deeply humbled.

scene from one of those quick easy runs
Humbled as I tried, month after month, a 'quick easy run' and then spent the following hour icing my ankles. Humbled as I watched my neighbors run up my street.  Humbled as I met up with my running friends for drinks and reported, over and over, nope, no change. As bad as ever.  Humbled as the physical therapist shook his head ruefully and said he's discharging me, because his excellent plan didn't work, didn't fix it.   Humbled as I told my kids no Mommy can't race you, sweetheart.  It hurts my ankles too much.

But here's the funny thing.  It's been far easier to think about this most physical of lessons - the humbling that comes from not forcing my aging body to do what I want it to do.  Because oh, the humility that life has handed out with relentless enthusiasm this year.  The ankles have been the mere tip of the iceberg.

Maybe I have more to say about humility.  Maybe I have more to say about well...anything. Maybe its time to start saying some things again. 

Tomorrow's February 29.  A day I didn't have last year.  Maybe tomorrow breaks the spell.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bourbon Slush and Christmas Eve

If you're a procrastinator like me, Christmas Eve is generally consumed with putting together Playmobil castles that have 648 small pieces, and finding the stocking stuffers that I've hidden so cleverly all over my bedroom that I can't actually locate any of them.

This is the recipe to make all of that effort tolerable, even faintly amusing.  Promise

I present Ye Olde Family Recipe for Bourbon Slush:  going ahead and posting it here for posterity.  Because my great grandchildren are *totally* getting a copy of my blog in the family archives. Ha.

2 cups boiling water
4 regular-size tea bags
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 cups water
2 cups bourbon
(1) 12 oz can frozen orange juice  thawed and undiluted
(1) 12 oz can frozen lemonade, thawed and undiluted
lemon-lime soda, chilled
Garnishes"lemon rind curls, maraschino cherries
Pour boiling water over tea bags;cover and let stand 5 minutes.   
Remove tea bags, squeezing gently; add sugar, stirring until it  
dissolves.  Stir in 6 cups water and next 3 ingredients.  Cover and  
freeze at least 8 hours.  To serve, spoon 1/2 cup bourbon  mixture  
into each glass, add 1/2 cup soda to each.  Garnish, if desired.
Yield: 6 quarts

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Light Will Always Come

I stand at my kitchen window, these dark December mornings, and I'm astonished by the sunrises of winter. 

Blackness - complete blackness - imperceptibly gives way to black silhouettes against pink, orange, purple.  The entire world is reduced to two dimensions - all is either dark or light.

Watching the light arrive, in my quiet kitchen before anyone has stirred, memories surface: watching suns rise after all-nighters in college, after pacing the floors with wailing newborns.

Winter Sunrise

It is a benediction, every morning:  the end of darkness, the return of the light.  A benediction that promises us daily that no matter how dark, no matter how long the night has been, the sun returns to shine on every living thing - returns to vanquish every last shadow. To make us fully three-dimensional.

At the winter's solstice, where we welcome the gradual (maybe painfully slow, some days) return of the sun to our lives, we can receive that benediction every single morning:  the Light will always return.

With that, I will leave you with a beautiful quote from Gunilla Norris: 
In our lives, we sometimes find ourselves in what feels like our darkest days - days of trouble and loss when our spirits are overwhelmed.  It's important then to remember that our inner light is still there though we may not be able to feel it. Given time, our spirits will lighten bit by bit the way more daylight comes back bit by bit with each day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November's Gifts

In November, at winter's gate, the stars are brittle. The sun is a sometimes friend. And the world has tucked her children in, with a kiss on their heads, till spring.

Funny, that I spent all of October blogging about Stillness, when in some ways November is the stillest month of all.

November is the month in which our world prepares itself for the coming winter.  Even in the warmer parts of the world, autumn is finally surrendering to the inevitable chill.  (You Southern Hempisphere folks? Well.  It is a stillness in readiness for explosion of Summer weather, right?? Different, but the cusp of transition still fills us with suspense, methinks.)

I sit here at my kitchen table and watch rain streaking down window panes, watch the last of the leaves swirl past, one last wild ride before ending their days in winter's compost heap.

Sopping, soaking rain is our gift this November day.  If the 'world is tucking her children in' in November, then the weather today is the children getting their last drink of water, staying for one last minute the turning out of lights.

Most of us here in the States aren't registering the world being tucked in for the winter - we are focused on cranberry sauce macerating, stuffing ingredients, and perhaps anticipating long drives ahead.

And yet these busy preoccupied times are the very best moments in which to take a moment of Still.  To register how quickly the world outside changes, how suspenseful the natural world is, ready to head into the next season.

This Thanksgiving holiday, please, take the time to be thankful for your family, for your warm house, for your Thanksgiving meal.  But here's a little challenge for you:  find also the time to stand quietly at a window, and be thankful for the leaves that swirl past.  Be thankful for the dying grass, for the soaking rains.

Take a moment to be thankful for the profound gift of Stillness in the natural world.  It has the potential to teach us everything.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Attempts to Thaw

Not many words.

Every day I look at this file on my computer, the file that's supposed to be turning into my novel, and I see not many words at all.

I look at this poor old blog, and see not many words at all. None, in fact, since the beginning of the month.

The only things I post on Twitter are my Instagram photos, and even my favorite geek hangout Facebook has been a quiet place for me recently - the Instagram photos get posted there too, and maybe a few comments on friends' posts that amuse me.

What happened to the optimism, the rush of energy to write more, to write longer, to CREATE?  What happened to that heart-gut certainty that a writing life will be the life that says to me daily, Here is where authentic is. Yes. Do this.  You're on the Right Path.

Maybe that deep gut certainty is still there.  But the life I'm living is somehow letting the other voices weigh in louder.  The inner critic (mine) is merciless, but also I hear the [imagined] Others that misunderstand, that deliberately misinterpret, that judge my humble words as not close to good enough.

Down at frozen pond

It's the freezing of a pond - at the outer edges the words freeze as I try to weave them into fictions of people leading hard, mysterious lives.  That ice hardens and spreads as I become exhausted even thinking about a blog post, and have 702 excuses reasons regarding other things that must be prioritized. As the freezing solidifies, it reaches the odd inner narrator of mine that turns my silly days into status updates or Tweets or captions of snapshots on my phone.  Before long, I stand marooned in the middle of the ice, unsure of how to get back to shore, unsure how to effect a thaw.

I am scared, actually, by how often that freeze happens.  It's just a long and cold winter in my creative life right now. I let those voices shout out loud over the still small voice of authenticity.  The warm voice gently murmuring create, Kirsten, create. 

Maybe today make it a quick status update.  Maybe tomorrow it can be another blog post. 

The only, the only way to the thaw is by breathing deep the warm air of creativity.   To Just Write.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Well crap on a cracker.

Here I went giving y'all a suspenseful buildup for The Big Reveal today, and pfffft.

Life went & happened instead.  You probably don't want to hear about the death rattle in my lungs from all the winter camping this past weekend [cue emergency call to new doctor o' mine].

Nor do you want to hear about the Careful and Quirky Contractor Man who needed to talk to me 46 times today about the stone pillars in front of my house which apparently have had no foundation for almost 100 years.  [Cue emergency call to insurance adjuster.] 

yep, those stone pillars you see in the back there
 Wanna hear about delivering a forgotten yoga mat to school, only to hear that my lil' yogi decided to skip it today and went home on the bus? [Cue mad calls for the 7 & unders to pile into van; get out at school; pile back into van in time to get Ms 9 off the bus.]

Blah blah blah.

We all got crazy busy lives, right?

I'll give you The Little Reveal, tonight, instead:  I've got a new project.  I am blindly feeling my way towards life as a writer, and unsure even about what that looks like.  But the darkest corners of my heart, and the lightest tippy toesiest part of my brain are in agreement:  I have to Just Write.

So I will.  In November I am doing NaNoWriMo, which for the uninitiated stands for National Novel Writing Month.  What?!? say you A novel?  Surely she's only built up to half a column's worth at best!  Well.  Then I'll spend 30 days writing half columns of purple prose if I have to.  But it's 50,000 words or bust. (If any of you out there are as crazy as me, be my writing buddy - my name is NilsenLife.)

I made the major commitment to a weekend away - by myself. Three days of writing with people I know hardly at all, but who've promised to make me write for 72 hours straight.  (Kinda. With a little hot-tubbing thrown in.)

And then, I will Just Write. 


I never fail to be inspired by Heather and her blog, and the people who connect through it.  She started Just Write, and she has encouraged me to go out there and do my writing thang more times than I can count.  I am so grateful.   Here we go peeps!

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