Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sick Days

Ah-ha! The exhaustion had a purpose! I'm sick!

I usually do a pretty good job at staying upbeat and positive, loving my life as a busy mother, but the last week has been hard! A combination of stress and and fatigue has taken its toll. Last weekend I went to Urgent Care (for the first time EVER, for myself or a child) because I couldn't breathe. For several weeks I had been experiencing a scary tightening in my chest that first woke me up in the middle of the night. I found myself gasping for breath, wondering if I was having a heart attack. It stayed for weeks, but was definitely worse when I was reclining to sleep, and it was progressing. I was unable to sleep because I had to consciously inhale to make sure I got enough air. And when I didn't, I would start wheezing and coughing. Frustrated and worried, I went to see a doctor the night after my best friend was here with me and told me she was worried about me. (Thanks, Amber!) It's a mystery, really, but I had chest x-rays and certain scary things were ruled out. I was prescribed two inhalers, and that seems to have helped immensely. Breathing is fun again!

And then Friday night, late, I started to feel that tickle in my throat that tells me sickness is coming. I knew it was my turn, and with all I've been doing it makes sense, but I have to say that even in the middle of the night when my throat felt like two big raw golfballs and my body was racked with chills and aches, all I could think was how grateful I am that I got sick over a weekend! I even said a prayer of thanks! I didn't have to go anywhere besides Aiden's baseball game, and I needed some recovery time with no pressure or obligation. For the most part, I've taken it.

Not without a price, however. You know, families fall apart without Mom. Nobody can do anything without Mom, and nobody knows how to be cheerful when Mom's grouchy. But I insist on taking it easy this time! Two days without Seminary, piano lessons, or school, are you kidding me? I'm so lucky to be sick without all of that pressure! I even stayed home from Church today, sending all the kids off with Adam. I had a little guilt, but I did it anyway, and once they were out the door, I climbed into bed and went to sleep!

I'm taking my vitamins and herbs, fasting to help speed recovery, and relaxing in bed. Sometimes the kids are in bed with me, sometimes Adam comes in to rub my shoulders, and sometimes I curl up with a book or a movie. If I didn't feel awful, it would be perfect! But, as far as sickness goes, I can't complain. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be feeling so much better.

I should have known there was a reason I was feeling so worn out and overwhelmed. Mother Nature forcing me to slow down and take it easy!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bare Bones

My day began with exhaustion, but it's Thursday, and that's normal, as I climb the wall to Friday.

My day got just a little bit more deflated when Conor, who apparently decided that he couldn't sleep when he was put to bed last night and went downstairs with his blanket, turned on a movie, and laid on the couch sucking his thumb until his Dad found him around 11pm and shuffled him, crying, back to bed, came downstairs at only 6:30am. Too early for me to see him. I need some time in the morning to warm up to motherhood on my exhausted days.

But then my day spiked to horrible, when Conor, who was carrying a fist full of "guys" dropped his Lego skeleton guy, which slid across the kitchen floor, just in time for me to land full weight on it with my bare foot. And I screamed. I even said, "Stupid, freaking Lego guy" as I picked it up and hurled it into the living room. And then Conor cried, because really, his day must have started out exhausted too, and the last thing he expected when he came to me with his Curly Supreme Bedhead for morning love was to hear me yell and throw a Lego skeleton guy past his face.

My foot throbbed for about 30 minutes. (This is why my own dad always called them 'foot-os' instead of 'leg-os', but I digress.)

I worked, quietly steaming, through preparing blueberry waffles, strawberries, and wedges of cantaloupe for breakfast. The pain in my foot only helped me further fine-tune all the other rotten things in my life as they flew through my mind in a flurry of woe-is-me. Children ate, and I shuffled them over to the couches for scripture study. It was pretty much a going-through-the-motions kind of morning as far as spiritual nourishment goes.

And to make it harder, we're in Isaiah.

Just read.

Reading. But then Conor won't sit and eat. He wants so badly to sit at the table with the kids, but then we all finish, and he's still taking a bite, and then getting up and running around the room. Which. Drives. Me. Crazy. Especially when I wake up exhausted, as I mentioned before. So I threaten him with his high chair. To no avail. And, since I never issue a threat I don't intend to carry out, into the high chair he went. Which is not as much fun, because it's in the kitchen, away from the table, because it faces the television where he can watch a video while he eats his lunch. But not his breakfast, because now he was in trouble. (And please don't leave comments about what a rotten mother I am letting my toddler watch videos while he eats, because, well, if you've been reading, I am exhausted, and I can only handle so much. This confession can be filed away in the minds of anyone who dared to claim that I was 'perfect'.)

But then he sat there with his plate of waffles, all cut up for him, and the bright colors of his fruit, and he just cried. And the big kids started laughing at the chaos of it all.

And then I lost it. I didn't mean to. I just started sobbing. Blubbering something about how I needed them to STOP and cut me some slack, that my foot hurt, and I'm tired, and I'm just trying to do the right thing.


I sniffled my way through the rest of the verse, and then couldn't manage any more, so Lyndsay finished up the chapter. Dylan said a sweet prayer asking Heavenly Father to "please help us not be overwhelmed," which I'm pretty sure was aimed just at me, but I was grateful anyway.

After dropping the three older kids off to school, I took Conor to his Speech Therapy at "Pat's Office", as he calls it. He loves "Pat's Office". I sat in my car for the hour, barely keeping my eyes open with that kinda-nauseated-tired feeling and studied nucleic acids. DNA, RNA, chromosomes. Oy vey. My head was spinning with the complexity of it all. And then when I go in to pick him up, Pat tells me that maybe Conor should start seeing an Occupational Therapist for a possible sensory integration issue. Seems he's a bit clumsy. Walks into things, steps on things, I don't know. I just started to laugh. "Forgive me," I said deliriously. "It's just been a crazy morning, and I'm so tired, and I'm not used to my kids needing any therapists at all, and suddenly this little one needs one of each. I can't help but laugh! I don't know what else to do."

"Well, since you're in the system," she said, consolingly. "And maybe you could take him to the park every day and let him swing. That will help the channels in his brain orient themselves better till he can really get a feel for where his body is in space."

Oh goodie. Let me squeeze that in. Two speech therapy visits, one developmental therapy visit, now an occupational therapy visit, and daily visits to the park? What a life this kid has! Therapists getting paid thousands of dollars to play with him. And I don't know whether to feel grateful that I don't have to pay for it, or like an utter failure that he even needs it. He skipped out to the car with his ABC cookies. U and S, I believe. That spells 'us'. That's what we are, for sure, he and I, always together. My little buddy.

I drove home, no, I drove to the stinkin' park, because that's the kind of mom I am. (Actually the kind of mom I am hates parks, but I am the kind of mom who will do whatever is in her child's best interest. Well, except for eating in front of the TV, that is.) I put him in the swing and pushed him back and forth. He was losing interest after a bit, so to keep it exciting, I said, "Reach for the birds!" Which he did, right before he fell out of the swing, going high. Stupid, exhausted mother. I didn't mean with your hands!, but then what's the point? He's 2! He claimed to be done, but I didn't want him to have some fear of swings, now that his mother practically encouraged him to fall out of one, so back in the swing he went. Face the fear! A few times, back and forth, a couple of laughs, and that was enough of that. Then I drove home, thinking of DNA and chromosomes and my poor baby, and how this all happened, and why is talking so hard for him, and what's this now with sensory integration, and should I feel guilty or place blame, and I know the answer is none of the above. (whew!)

I know he's perfect, just the way he is, and we all need a little help now and then. I am grateful he can get it, despite the sinking California economy especially. I know whatever trials we face are for our good, for our benefit. And I love my Conor with all of my soul, like the other three I have. All of their imperfections are perfect for them, perfect for me. And with that comfort, doused with a measure of peace, I suddenly realize that all is well, and that Dylan's prayer has been answered.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I Love America

A little bit late, but. . .

Aiden had the opportunity to go with his Cub Scout pack to the military cemetery in Los Angeles to place flags at each headstone for Memorial Day. This is a huge activity that happens each year, but neither he, nor Dylan, had ever been able to go as they are usually in Arizona with their dad over Memorial Day weekend.

Many, many scouts (girl and boy) and families attended to place flags at each of the 84,600 (give or take) graves. At each grave, the scout had to place the flag, read the name out loud, and then salute the soldier. Every time I think of it, I just get teary. I'm so pleased that my son got to have this experience. He comes from a very patriotic family!

To all the soldiers, past and present, I salute you too, and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, May 25, 2009

He Did It!

3:00 am, Dylan eats some peanut butter toast and a banana before we drive him to the school for the bus. He's showered and pumped.

At 8:30am, we all arrived at Mile 11, where Dylan's school team had a water site set up. Lyndsay is all aglow with pride in her brother. I have to admit it was very emotional. I kept crying with happiness for all these strangers accomplishing something so significant.

Conor tried his best to be good as we waited throughout the day for brother Dylan to pass by.

And then, we see him! That's him in the middle of the picture, approaching Mile 11!

He sees us and I think it makes him happy that we cheer the loudest.

His spirits were great. Not even sweaty yet, and very smiley.

He had to check in at the station really quickly, grab some gummy bears and a swig of water, and then head back out. It would be more than 15 miles before we see him again. Go, Dylan!

Meanwhile, we drove through downtown L.A. to where the finish line was. Crazy fast people were already crossing it. To kill some time, we went to the Denny's and shared a couple of milkshakes and some seasoned fries. It's what Dylan would have wanted.

Because he was wearing a microchip, we got texts on the cell phone that updated us on his progress as he crossed various milemarkers. We could tell his pace was slowing down, and I knew it was because of his poor knees. By the time we saw him, here at Mile 26, he was hobbling and not as smiley. He was in pain and ready to be done! He had walked the last several miles, and finished with a time of 5:54, we think.

But he kicked it up and ran across the last little bit to finish. (That's him dead center of the picture, behind the man in black's elbow.)

I'm so proud of this kid! What a champ!

This is Dylan with his running coach, Mr. Moss, who finished the marathon too, even with a stress fracture in his foot that he got around Mile 16.

So proud of our Dylan! He did it!

He tells us the gruesome details.

Look how worn out he is! And in such pain! But now he has a medal to show for his achievement, and we couldn't be prouder of him!

(And now, he's laying on my bed with ice on his swollen knees. He's already scarfed down tons of food--and a huge milkshake on the way home--and will probably go to bed very early. After all, he has to go to school tomorrow! If he can walk!)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Family that Carb-Loads Together

Tomorrow is the big day! My Dylan will run in the Los Angeles Marathon! All year long he's been training for this. Shortly after school began last fall, he walked in the door one day and said, "Mom, I'm gonna run the L.A. Marathon!" And he wasn't kidding, though it hasn't been easy. He has had running three times a week, every week, since September. They started out slowly, but worked up to 4-6 miles on Mondays and Wednesdays, and long runs ranging from 10 to 22 miles on Saturdays. He's run in probably ten different races around the state during the year, and now the Big One is here! I have to have him fed and at the school by 3:30am (!!!) tomorrow morning.

All weekend long we've been supporting him by eating carbs. Carb loading, they call it. We're just trying to help him out. With pasta, more pasta, brownies, donuts, toast, oatmeal, more pasta. It's been grueling, I tell ya, but Dylan's worth it!

I could see his nerves on the surface tonight as he got ready for an early bedtime. I asked him if he'd like a blessing, and he readily agreed, so Adam gathered us around and gave him a sweet blessing of strength and comfort. There will be many lessons for him in this accomplishment, and not all of them will be physical. This experience will teach him important things, not the least of which will be that the run will not be easy, but that when his body wants to give up, his spirit will have the drive to keep on going. After his blessing, Dylan's face was covered in tears. I hugged him and assured him that none of us cared what his time was, and that he didn't need to feel any pressure. I told him all he had to do was finish, and that I was so proud of him. I asked him if he was afraid, and he said no. I asked him why the tears, and he said he just felt the Spirit so strongly. Oh, my boy! I encouraged him to take a few minutes and just make a quick journal entry of these tender feelings before running the marathon, so he would never forget them, which he did. My boy is growing into a man, with the spiritual sensitivity of a true giant. He towers over me, has to bend down to hug me, almost broke my ribs with his hug this morning, but he's still my boy forever. How I love him!

My little Dylan, who has always been running. Even when he learned to walk, he just ran. We would walk around the block, and Dylan would be running ahead of us. He just couldn't help it! And now he gets to participate in something big, something meaningful, and something difficult, that will test him and push him, and pay huge dividends physically and spiritually for all his training.

It's been a pleasure carb-loading with him. But from here on out, I'm afraid he's on his own. I'm great at donut and pasta eating, not so great at running. But we will be there at Mile 11 to cheer him on, and again at the Finish Line with huge hugs of congratulations and a job well done! He's earned it all the way.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy This Way

Well, I made it. Last year, I wouldn't have thought it possible. I approached January with no small degree of anxiety as tryouts began.

Could I actually not watch American Idol for a whole season?

It's been almost a year since we cancelled our television. For an entire year I have not seen Oprah, or Jon and Kate, or the Cooking Channel, or (gasp!) American Idol. I heard a few names of contestants, but never heard one of them sing, never even saw a picture. I figured without the real thing, why torture myself with online clips or YouTube. That would be like just taking 'one drink', and I'm a recovering addict, I admit.

And the reality is, I've been busy anyway. I have no idea how I would have been able to tune in a few times each week, pleasant distraction though it would have been. Now, the Season Finale has happened, and I missed it! There is a new American Idol, and I don't even know his/her name!

And I'm okay!

Being without the television has been an interesting adjustment. It's one of those things that I always wanted to do for the sake of my children, but really I was the one afraid of giving it up. Especially with the invention of DVR, I loved being able to record my favorite shows and then unwind at night with them. It was a bit of a drug to give up. Obviously, being up to my eyeballs in schoolwork has helped to fill that 'void', as has Netflix, but a year later, I think our entire family can say that we don't really miss the television. The kids don't spend hours watching mindless Disney propaganda, nobody knows what movies are coming out, and I don't have to worry about blocking inappropriate content. We've filled our time with study, reading, playing outdoors, cooking, some video games, and when we do watch movies or 7th Heaven, we do it all together. A whole year without television, and I think we're happy this way!

Last year was a great year on American Idol. Two of the top three contestants were very talented, very cute, members of the LDS Church. The other was the very hunky, super-talented David Cook (who won). We loved that we would have been happy if either David Archuleta or David Cook became the next American Idol, and it's awesome that they both have achieved stellar success since their year on the show. The female was Brooke White, pure, snowy-white, beautiful Brooke White, with the Carly Simon feel to her music, most of which she accompanied herself on piano or guitar.

Brooke came to our Stake to do a fireside a few months ago, and told her story of the American Idol experience. The last minute decision to fly to the east coast to try out with her husband's belief in her buoying her up through hours and hours of waiting with 10,000 other hopefuls. Twenty-two straight hours of being awake, and making it through round after round, to eventually sing before the Big Three. Fans will remember how she stood out in that televised audition. Her look was great. Her voice was incredible. She was poised and bright. Shiny, even. Then Randy Jackson asked her to tell them something interesting about herself. And she said (and every Mormon in the world watching pegged her immediately), "Well, I've never tried alcohol and I've never seen a rated-R movie."

They immediately saw this girl as a challenge to corrupt. They wanted to know why, like she was some sort of freak. She said that that's how she had been raised, and she was happy this way. Can't really argue with that.

That was the theme of her message at the fireside, that even though we may hold very high standards as members of the Church, and even though we may stand out as being 'odd' or 'different' or any number of other not-so-nice descriptors, in the end, we must stick to our guns and know that obedience to the commandments brings happiness, and following the crowd does not. She encouraged the youth present to give that simple answer, the answer she told to Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson, and millions of other people watching, when asked why she didn't participate in drinking or smoking, dressing immodestly, or viewing inappropriate movies, "Because I'm happy this way." That really is enough.

Lyndsay loved it. She loved it so much that she has it typed as her screen message on her cell phone. "I'm happy this way," it reads. And I believe she is. Her first year in public high school has brought with it plenty of shock value. She is, largely for the first time, having all of her values and morals tested in a public forum where acceptance is the main drive. She stood out almost immediately as one who doesn't cuss, doesn't dress immodestly, won't drink or smoke, rejects much of popular music, doesn't cheat, and won't watch many movies that everyone else is talking about. I think it was only a matter of days before people actually started questioning her out loud and to her face. Bless her heart, she stood her ground.

I told her, "Lyndsay, you are there to shine. It isn't the best school around, but it's the school you need to be at. Those kids need a light like you. Not all kids want to be bad. Not all kids want to be rebels, but most kids need to follow somebody, and in the absence of someone who can show them a better way, they follow the crowd. You're showing them a better way."

We had that talk over and over again. She is, after all, a shiny kid. People say to her that she 'glows', that she's 'radiant', that there's just a 'light' about her. And it's true. And it comes from living right, and being true to who you are. And in the end, she wins. She is surrounded by friends who respect her and want to be like her. She's seen heartbreak from kids who have already begun experimenting with drugs, alcohol, sex, and smoking. She sees kids do things they shouldn't do, just because, and she sees the drama that inevitably follows. Busted for drugs, pregnant at 15, suspended from school. Who needs it?

Now when asked, questioned, grilled, and ridiculed, she simply answers, "I'm happy this way." And nobody can really argue with that.

When Lyns and I went up to talk to Brooke after the fireside, I had to also thank her for always dressing modestly on television. That couldn't have been easy. I noticed, as a youth leader at church, and as a parent, that she kept those covenants even though I'm sure she caused a little inconvenience with the wardrobe department. She was an absolute delight.

Thanks, Brooke. Kids need more lights to follow, so they don't have to just follow the crowd. And thanks, Lyndsay, for also being a light who continues to show, even her mom, the happy way.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mastering Proficiency, a Little Bit

There is not enough time to do everything I wish I could be doing. There is not enough time for me to master everything I wish that I could master. Or one thing mastered, for that matter.

I often feel plagued by the Almost-Proficient Syndrome. You know, where one can do lots of things with reasonable proficiency, but nothing with stellar mastery. And if I had to pick the one thing to master, what would it be? To choose? I couldn't, I don't think. My list of wish-I-coulds is suffering from ADD. It's changing channels with rapid-fire progression. There is so much to learn, so much to do! I just want to keep learning and doing, but I can't stay focused long enough for mastery. It's always on to the next thing.

I am a child in a family of impressive talent. The writers, the poets, the artists galore, the bakers, the chefs, the gardeners. I can approach each of those subjects with only a modicum of talent (well, except for art, because somehow only the boys in the family stole off with those riches!), but I don't feel exceptional in any of them. Maybe I'm still looking for my niche. Maybe?

Lately, to break the mental overload that is organic chemistry, I've been soothing myself with piano music. The "in" thing to do right now is to play Yiruma's River Flows in You, from Twilight. It is stunningly beautiful to me. The first time I heard someone playing it, it stopped me dead in my tracks, and I had to know where I could get the music. It's not like I have so much extra time to learn music these days, but this song, the beauty of it, it's like truth to my soul, and I've needed it. Have you heard it?

I looked it up on YouTube and listened to a couple of kids play it as they videotaped themselves, self-consciously trying not to look into the camera. (Hollywood Rule #1) But then, I found the video of Yiruma himself playing it, and that, my friend, is a whole new experience. This song came out of him. He birthed this beauty, and I am in awe as I listen to him play his own creation. It has to be divine, like it existed in heaven and God chose to channel it through to this inspired man. It just touches me so deeply. I admit that I am a wee bit envious of that kind of creation.

Once I admitted that fact out loud and the wise woman I was with replied, well, someone has to have the talent to create it, but someone else must have the gift to appreciate it. That actually made me feel better. I might be gifted after all, because though I cannot dance, or play masterfully, or sing beautifully, or compose AT ALL, I am able to testify of the truth of beauty in all its musical forms, and feel sweeping emotion move me to tears. I suppose somebody's got to be in the audience weeping, right?

I can do a little here and a little there, and I am admittedly blessed with the desire to do more, learn more, be more. So, I'm at least proficient, even masterful, in the yearning. And in the rest? Well, dabbling is more than nothing. And there's a lot still yet to be written.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Project: Maple Tree

I received a very fun birthday package last week from my pal Luisa in New York. I always love getting a package from her, as she is an exceptionally attuned and thoughtful gift giver. This year was no exception. There were all kinds of goodies and surprises in the box: Gardener's lotions and scrubs and such from Crabtree and Evelyn, gardening tools and gloves, a recipe binder, and this little sweetie, that I am so excited about!

I've grown lots of things over the years, but never a tree! Isn't this the greatest idea? So, the container itself is a mini-greenhouse, equipped with a peat pellet and five maple tree seeds. I'm glad they're maple tree seeds too, because maples always make me think of Luisa. In her essay, "Author Agonistes", included in the anthology, Silent Notes Taken, she writes, that her "first fall in the Hudson Highlands was spectacular. [Her] sixty-foot maples stood clothed in glory like a row of Chinese brides, dignified in their riotous hues." That line, that analogy, has made such a beautiful impression on my mind, for all these years since she wrote it. So, my tree from Luisa must be a maple.

The first step was to soak the peat pellet in the little greenhouse for 45 minutes. Then the 5 seeds were dropped inside and the lid was replaced. Next, it was to be tucked into the refrigerator to "trick" the seeds into thinking it is the long, dark, cold winter. For twenty days they will stay in the fridge. And then, I will bring them out and set them in front of a sunny window, and hopefully they will wake up with happy maple springtime thoughts, and germinate!

Oh, I hope! I secretly hope that four of them will germinate so I can grow a tree for each of my children. But even one would delight me to no end. I could really use something growing from a seed right now, especially something as majestic as a tree. Patience, Jenna, patience.

Stay tuned! And say a prayer for my little seeds!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Unlikely Angel

I believe in angels.

Not to belabor the issue, but. . .

We have neighbors on our street who have a daughter with Down's Syndrome. She is just a year older than Lyndsay and all of my children have taken a special interest in befriending her. The mom and I would chat from time to time, just day-to-day stuff, nothing of much substance. She is a devout Christian woman, with a devoted husband who works so hard. I always see him working! Besides his 'regular' job, they decided, now that they only have one child at home, that it was time to do some remodeling on their home, but to avoid the high costs of hiring it out, the husband is doing all of the work in his spare time. We watched him repair the entire roof by himself, over many, many days. We watched him replace windows, remove old paint, replace lighting structures, on and on in their ongoing remodel. I always admired his hard work, even though he's not a young man any more. And one day I commented on that to my neighbor.

Yes, she readily admitted, he is a hard worker. She told me all kinds of wonderful things about him. I learned that theirs is a second marriage for each of them. They each brought children, 6 in total, to this new second marriage, and then they had the youngest child, their sweet Down's Syndrome daughter, together, for a family of 7 children. (In a very small house, I might add!) I had no idea! A second marriage like me! With stepkids like me!

And then she told me how they almost got divorced.

Seeing what I now see between them, I was floored! She shared with me how difficult it was to bring the two families together, how he disagreed with the way that she was disciplining her children, and how she thought he should raise his children differently. She related how one of the teens veered off the path and had a drug problem and how it rocked the entire family. Then their baby was born with special needs, and all of the stress compounded, and the seams just burst. She shared with me all kinds of things that I never would have imagined happening between the two of them, but that I could completely relate to. He was adamant that it was over. He wanted a divorce. She begged him to reconsider. He would hear none of it. He moved out, and tried to get her to sign divorce papers, but she refused. For years. They were separated for three or four years. He would visit their daughter, and have her over to spend the night occasionally. Their lives had really become completely separate.

Finally, one day she decided to stop fighting, she said, and to turn the whole mess over to God. Try as she might, she was not able to change her husband's mind about leaving. She made the decision to place her marriage at the feet of the Savior and if it was meant to end, then she would submit to God's will. No sooner had she said that prayer, her estranged husband knocked on the door.

"Okay", she said, "I'll sign the papers. I won't fight you anymore. If you want to be free, you are free."

But he had decided, after years (!) that he didn't want to be 'free'. He didn't want to lose her, lose their family. He wanted a second chance.

All of a sudden, she said. It was a miracle. And she attributes it completely to learning the lesson that when we turn our lives over to God, he can make much more of them than we can. He can heal what we cannot.

They began to date again, and for several months he courted her, and they were able to lay the foundation for rebuilding trust between them. After a time, he moved back home. They've been together for about twelve years since that time, and they are the sweetest, happiest couple! To know that they had to endure that kind of trial, to hit that rock bottom, to hurt and to suffer like that, well, it boggled my mind.

And it gave me strength.

I needed to hear that story at that particular time, when my heart was crying out with questions. God knew it too. So, he sent an angel to tell me, to lift me up, and give me something to focus on besides the near-sighted mess that I was hanging my personal worth on. And here she was, just a neighbor, with whom I'd never before had a real conversation.

But really, an angel.

And I am deeply grateful that she took the risk.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dispelling the Perfection Myth

Someone recently told me over the phone that they wished they had a perfect life like mine.

I about choked and aspirated on the glug of water I was taking at the time. I didn't know whether to be horrified or to double over in laughter. Wait, was that a joke? No joke.

She said that on my blog everything always seems so happy and perfect. Smiling people.

I told her that I tried to only focus on the positive on my blog, you know, not make it a dumping ground for all the garbage that I deal with. People don't really want to see pictures of crying and stewing and slamming doors and loneliness and anger and frustration, and praying people shouting, "Why me, Lord?" Do they?

And then I realized with no small degree of embarrassment, that I do.

Does that make me sick? No, it makes me not want to be all alone. It means that I read blogs to fulfill all kinds of needs. I want to laugh; I want to be inspired. I want to learn things, and nod my head knowingly with a "I gotcha, sister!" But a big part of me also wants camaraderie in the trials I'm facing too. I don't want to be the only one burning in the fires of life. But I realize that I've been more of a taker than a giver as far as my blog goes, as is apparent when someone tells me that they want a 'perfect' life like mine.

I do try to focus on the positive. Very true. Not just on my blog, but in life. Those positives include my children, for sure. I am proud of my mothering. In my darkest days, I can at least thank God that (so far!) I have really outstanding children who love and honor me as their mother. Positives would also include my opportunity to go back to school, which I am so grateful for, despite how it tests every fiber of my determination and will at times. My positives would include my unfailing, abiding testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the personal relationship I have with my Savior. My positives would include books I've read, food storage I'm accumulating, health I'm building, and of course, the absolute best friends in the world.

My positives do not include my marriage. This is sad to me. Heartrending, even. A mystery sometimes. And often a black secret that I hate to keep.

But I don't keep it in the name of pretense. I'm not in denial, and I'm not trying to be anything I'm not. I keep it because I hope it will change, and I work very, very hard in that vein. I keep it because I know members of my husband's family lurk in the background of my blog, and I never want to dishonor them, or make them ashamed of me. I don't want to let them down.

Having said that, I am sure that I am not the only one with a failing marriage. I have stumbled across a few blogs whose authors have written with such poignant honesty about their lack of marital bliss. Those posts have resonated with me to depths I am sometimes afraid to admit. I appreciate that kind of honesty, and I have felt such gratitude for the risks they took in sharing such personal information. It gives me perspective, makes me feel like we're in this together, gives me hope even. I would like to be brave enough to be that kind of honest, without being offensive or hurting sensitive feelings. I would like to do for someone else what has been done for me when I have read and felt, "Oh my goodness sake. That's exactly what it's like for me too."

I guess the truth is that I am failing at unconditional love in marriage. The truth is that this marriage has been excruciatingly difficult from Day 1. We've had every possible obstacle to overcome, and yes, we're still here, but neither one of us is standing. He's over there, I'm over here, and we both have our arms folded across our chests with our backs to each other. Wondering is now the right time to throw in the towel? Have we done enough? Aren't we both bloodied and bruised to the point that the final match bell should be ringing any minute now? We know about forgiveness. We know about service. We're learning tolerance. But I have to think that not everyone has their marriage on their mind every blinking minute of every single day. Don't some people just get to be married and enjoy it, and not always have to fight to stay married? Yes, I know it's work. I'm willing to work. But work is supposed to pay dividends, and we're both over here with depleted bank accounts.

There are small bits of happiness. I always try to mention those on my blog. The great new blender he bought me. The beautiful flowers on Mother's Day. He tries in his sphere, I try in mine, but mostly the fact is that we're just in different spheres.

The bishop told me, "Just try to focus on your children and your own spirituality." And I replied, "But, Bishop, something tells me that learning to love my husband is my own spirituality." How can I separate the two? But then again, we learn from failure too.

Sometimes I feel like a happiness hog. I have happiness and success in so many other areas, but I really want to feel safe and cherished by my husband. I want a happy (though imperfect) marriage. And then I feel like I just want it all, and c'mon, Nobody has it all, Jenna. But I'm such a believer in marriage, despite my bad experiences. I want to be married. I can't give up hope in happy marriages, even if I don't get to have one myself.

This isn't supposed to be a depressing post. And this isn't supposed to be an anti-husband post. My husband is a good man. There are many things I love about him. There are many qualities he has that I just don't and wish I did. He can have the kindest, most tender love ooze from his eyes that just melts me. He has the sweetest touch. He has a sensitive heart. He tells a great story. He is a visionary when it comes to his writing and his artistic ventures. He's a dreamer. He loves God. He's happy when I'm happy. But we all have our 'stuff' in life, and sometimes missing puzzle pieces can show up, but end up being from two different puzzles. And that's where we are. Still trying to make them fit. And edges are getting all bent up.

So, let there be no mistake. Mine is not a perfect life. I'm really trying to do the spiritual work necessary to figure it all out. To find the reason in my trials, to learn the lessons. I know of a handful of really, extraordinarily enviable marriages, and sometimes I do catch myself in envy. But I have other blessings, and other things to learn that require the opposition I face. In the end, I have a feeling, it will all make a lot more sense than it does right now.

I'm banking on it. And I'm hoping that I'm okay, even though I'm far from perfect.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Forgive me. I fear my blog has become rather self-indulgent lately, but I just can't help it! I had such a fun week last week, even with some trials in the background, that I simply must focus on the abundance.

Because of busy schedules, my family birthday party was postponed to Sunday, and combined with Mother's Day. I got a huge surprise when I came downstairs Monday morning and found my birthday present from Adam sitting on the kitchen counter. A new blender extraordinaire! Yay! It has twice the wattage as my old cheapie blender, and double the capacity! Plus, it can convert to two 16oz. smaller blenders for individual sized shakes. I'm a smoothie fan, so this was great news to me. My old blender always left chunks of ice and smelled like it was about to explode from the effort. So, of course, we had smoothies for breakfast! I love my new blender!

Aiden gave me his darling little gift and card that he made at school. So cute! He also gave me a potted plant that he made for me in cub scouts. Such a sweetie he is!

I taught a lesson on mothers in Young Womens, which went fairly well, I think. (I'm always glad to get the lesson behind me. Check something off the overflowing mental list, even though I love teaching.)

I got to take a glorious nap in the afternoon, while my children laid around me on the bed watching 7th Heaven.

For dinner we had my favorite birthday meal, taco salad, made by Lyndsay.

And my favorite angel food with strawberries and whipped cream cake, made by Lyndsay.

Dylan led me on a small scavenger hunt, leading to a beautiful letter he'd written for me telling me of his love and appreciation, and with one of my favorite Abraham Lincoln quotes on the envelope. From a teenage boy, it melted my heart. I love that he can express emotions so easily, and I love that he loves his mom unabashedly. Moms need that.

Conor (and his Daddy) presented me with beautiful flowers and a card signed by everyone with loving notes.

Lyndsay, bless her heart, gave me a handmade card with the absolute sweetest letter written inside. I cried and cried while reading it. She is a perfect child, I'm telling you. I don't know what I'd do without so much love from my children. I seriously don't. She also, for Mother's Day, arranged with her boss (the triplets' mom) to give me a hair cut and color! I'm so excited, and ready for change!

Then, she gave me my birthday gift, which took my breath away. She is such a thoughtful gift giver! She gave me a mother's necklace with my birthstone at the top, and the birthstones of each of my children and stepchildren hanging as charms from the heart. I could not believe it! I've wanted something like that for so very long, and she did it all without my knowledge! (with a little help from stepdad, Adam.)

I am so, so lucky. We ended the night with a little photo shoot for fun, and a game of Pictionary, girls against the boys. We won again. But hey, it was Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Mother in Me

I'm one of those rare mothers who actually likes Mother's Day. I don't shed tears of inadequacies or insecurities, though I know I've got plenty of them. I know I'm not a perfect mom, but I do believe I'm the perfect mom for the children I've got, and being their mother is the best thing that's ever happened to me, and the job for which I'm most grateful.

I wanted to pull out some pictures that just celebrated me as a mom. I noticed that there aren't any shots of me exhausted in the middle of the night with a sleeping or sick baby against my chest as I rock back and forth, or me up at the crack of dawn packing lunches, or me with a worried child in the car as we sit and just have a heart-to-heart. There are no pictures of me preparing eleven years of homeschooling lessons, or teaching long division, or sewing on scouting patches. There are no pictures of me driving to and from dance lessons, or baseball, or Tae Kwon Do, and there are no pictures of me on my knees pleading to heaven for direction on how to reach or teach or love the little ones with whom I've been entrusted.

Instead, there are pictures of smiles.

Lots of my mothering goes undocumented, except in the memories of the children who call me 'mom'. It's our little secret, I guess, and the gift that I give back to them for giving me the chance to mother them.

But, you moms, well. . .you know. Here's to all the mothers and mother hearts everywhere. Celebrate! You are builders of nations, and God is grateful to you. He sees it all too.