Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best and Favorites of 2009

In January, I took the leap and went back to school, officially, taking my first class at Pasadena City College. Interpersonal Communications.

Also in January, we held a "Scary! Dylan's a Teenager!" party for his 13th birthday.

. . .with appropriately scary and creepy treats.

In February, I began my second semester, taking Biological Chemistry and Humanities. I got to sample these (mostly) fine pieces of classic literature,

and these fine pieces of chocolate from See's Candies. For research. You remember.

March was busy. Lyndsay received her patriarchal blessing.

Conor moved from his crib to a big boy bed.

My stepson, Sean, turned 11 and requested I make him clam chowder in homemade bread bowls.

We bought a family membership to the Los Angeles Zoo and took Conor for his first visit.

And attended the Hannah Montana movie premiere.

In April, the Easter Bunny came, right on schedule.

And we had a glorious Easter feast.

In May, my kids and Adam spoiled me for my birthday, and then for Mother's Day. Oh, and I got my hair cut.

But the biggest event during May, was Dylan running the L.A. Marathon!

In June, we celebrated an early 15th birthday for Lyndsay with a girly spa party. Remember that?

And Lyndsay finished her first year of high school, earning the highest A in Honors Biology in her school, though she had never taken Biology before and had to work very, very hard. (This is her Bio teacher, who is now her AP Biology teacher this year.)

Dylan went to Boy Scout Camp, and Aiden went to Cub Scout Camp.

In July, Adam and I ate ice cream to celebrate four years of marriage. Anniversaries are great, but please know, I'll eat ice cream to celebrate just about anything.

And like every year, I sent my three big kids off to Arizona to spend the summer with their dad.

But just before they left, we found this darling baby possum lost from his mama (who was undoubtedly sleeping away the daytime hours). I wonder what became of him.

In August, Conor turned 3!

and even though this picture is terrible, we had those scary wildfires in the mountains around us. This is the blurry view behind our house.

Oh, crap. I forgot September. After uploading all these photos! Well, the fires were still burning in the beginning of September. In September everyone went back to school, including me, taking Anatomy and Physiology A.
In October, Conor won first place in the ward costume contest for the pirate costume I made him in between memorizing every dang feature of every dang bone in the skeletal system.

In November, Aiden turned 10! Double digits! And he had a delicious chocolate and peanut butter cake.

In December, I took Lyndsay and Dylan to see New Moon, as we saw Twilight last year.

And besides Christmas fun, the best thing that happened in December was having my mom come to stay for a weekend and celebrate with us. I did not want to see her go! Spending those days with her and David were definitely the crowning event of my year. I love my mom.

A lot happened in 2009. I like where I stand right now. Even though some ground may be shaky, I feel strong and steadfast. I finished 13 credits of school, still holding my 4.0, and I have a goal. I learned so much about myself, and most of the time, I think I'm doing pretty okay. Many, many friends reached out to me and helped me this year, and I am deeply indebted to you for your belief in me. Thank you. Thank you so much. You make me even better.
Can't wait for 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Second Gift from Dianne

This is a post which takes considerable personal courage to write.

And I'd like to begin by saying that I believe that when one is ready for answers, the answers come. When a heart is ready to know the truth, the eyes are tenderly opened.

Dianne called me one afternoon, apologizing profusely, as she always does, for interrupting my day. Hers is always a blessed interruption, to be sure. I welcome them. She told me that she had a book that she thought might be helpful for me, and would I like to read it? I never turn down a recommended book. Well, hardly ever. She said she would conceal it in a paper bag and send it with my son the next time he worked for her. Great!

When I picked up the Teenage Boy that weekend, sure enough he had a paper sack with him, along with another new candle and a bag of beef jerky. And that grin, of course. "Here," he said. "She said you could read this." And then he pulled it out of the bag. "Something about porcupines", he said. I held my breath. I knew the book, and I hoped this moment didn't become awkward. He slid the book back into the bag and set it down. Exhale. That was close.

The book is one I've long been aware of, and have wanted to read: How to Hug a Porcupine: Dealing with Toxic and Difficult to Love Personalities, by Dr. John Lewis Lund. Dianne was so in tune.

It was just last week, after sending my three Big Kids on the airplane to spend Christmas with their dad, and after taking sufficient time to recuperate from our holiday here, that I settled onto the couch with a blanket over my lap and feet and cracked it open.

But as I read the first chapter, I started to get this sick knot in my stomach. So much so, that it was actually painful for me--internally, viscerally--to keep reading. I wanted to throw up, I wanted to break into heartrending sobs. It was me. There I was, sliced open and flayed on the pages, dissected beyond denial. It was me.

"Ironically, many toxic personalities are well-meaning. They sincerely believe they are acting in a loving way and that the end justifies the means. Frequently these people send the message, "I am doing this for your own good," or "some day you will thank me for this." These people either minimize the detrimental effects of their negative approach upon the other person or justify it as necessary. They fail to recognize the magnitude of their negativity. It not only attacks the issue or behavior, but the very essence of the person. In their minds, the intensity of their negativity is appropriate. They lack a fundamental sense of proportionality. They use a twenty pound hammer when a five pound hammer would do. Most of them lack the knowledge and the skills of positive reinforcement. They assume the negative is the only viable approach open to them."

Oh, it goes on and on:

"Most toxic people view themselves as helpful. They are not hypercritical; others are hypersensitive."

"Even when confronted with the truth of their blatant excesses of toxic behavior, they will persist in viewing the 'real problem' as the inability of others to handle the truth."

And then the most painful:

"A toxic personality is one you cannot please. He or she is incapable of giving total acceptance. You will never be good enough."

I could hear the voices in my head. Voices that echo many of these same sentiments from my husband, and from my Teenage Boy.

Voices that say, "You only notice the negative."

"Nothing I ever do is good enough."

"You beat it to death."

"You are so critical and judgmental."

I closed the book only a few pages into the first chapter. The realization weighed so heavy upon my heart. I did think I had an acute ability to see things as they are. And maybe I do. But not everything needs to be said, and just because I see it doesn't mean the one afflicted with the challenge doesn't see it too, and they don't need me to point it out. Love them less because of it. Oh, boy. I cried and cried. I prayed and cried some more. How could I be so unloving and wretched? This is the way that people have felt about me probably my entire life. And it's not who I want to be.

I got up the courage to come back to the book over the next several days, and as the truth began to seep into my soul, I also began to be filled with hope that not all is lost. I may have quills, but I can shed them! And the others in my life who are prickly are still worthy and deserving of love. I read carefully. I read the chapters on porcupine children and teens. I read the chapters on healing and love, and how to learn the art of giving and receiving criticism. I did more than read, I drank them in. And I am learning, which is what can happen when one sees truth and accepts it.

I thank God that I see it now! That I can be humbled and changed. That I can learn replacement behaviors. That I can become an emotionally safe person for my children, and my spouse.

I thank Dianne for feeling the inspiration to pull this book off of her shelf--probably thinking it would have a completely different benefit in my life--and having the wisdom to share it with me.

I thank Dr. John Lund who is teaching me that I must own my life, and nobody else's. I must give everyone permission to have whatever kind of life they want to have, and in owning my life, I can choose how much I let others affect me. I thank him for teaching me that my goal should always be to be my "Highest and Best Self," to learn to decide for myself what a good person would do in any given situation.

While I feel deep sorrow and remorse at how I have mishandled the emotional trust placed in me, and how I have hurt those closest to me, I do not take upon myself all the blame for any of the troubled relationships in my life. There are issues in them that are real and that stand separate from my issues. But I do claim my role, and sometimes that role has been toxic and has hurt those whom I love. Sometimes I have not been an emotionally safe person. That is my new goal. Apparently, love can move mountains. Criticism only moves people away, even when you mean well, and even if it's true.

Dianne may have just changed the legacy I leave behind.

Watch your step, I'm shedding quills.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The First Gift from Dianne

There is a dear older woman in our ward who is my teenaged son's Sunday School teacher, as she was my teenaged daughter's before. She has a gift for loving that I have rarely seen in this world, and she loves my boy, as she loves my girl. She has become my partner, even my teacher, in loving him. How grateful I am for her. I can scarcely see her each week in church without tearing up with my gratitude. Her name is Dianne.

Dianne takes teaching 12 and 13 year olds to a new level. She learns about each child. She prays for each child--this I know for sure. She has called me, on occasion, with concern for my boy. My boy who is trying so hard to reach for manhood with arms just a bit too short. She wants to help him. (I want the help! I need the help!) She sees such goodness and strength in him despite his antics for attention at times. We devised a plan, almost by accident, if it weren't for the inspiration.

One day when my boy came home from school, I told him that he had a job! Dianne wanted to employ him to work for her once or twice each week, to do things around the house that have become difficult for her since she broke her hip. He would be paid handsomely, which is something he has been longing for, and he would start that very weekend.

And so it has gone, each Friday, or Saturday, for just a few hours, my son goes to Dianne's house and works for her. He vacuums--even walls and ceilings. He hung Christmas lights and decorations. He hauls things for her--whatever she might need. Once, he had been sick and missed Church, so when he was there (on her dime!) she had him sit in a chair and look up the scriptures that he'd missed in class. She made sure he got his lesson. Each week she tells him stories of her life, things that she's learned, things she wishes for him to learn. And each week when I pick him up, he comes bounding out the door with a huge grin and much more than a paycheck. I mean, of course, being grandmotherly as she is, she rewards him with goodies and beef jerky (his favorite). But he also comes home filled to the brim with love. The love that she's poured into him as he works for her. The love that has grown within him as he serves.

The first time I picked him up, he got into the car so full of light and happiness and said to me, "I know I was getting paid, but it just felt so good to know I was helping her!"

He even told her he likes classical music, when she offered to turn it off for his sake.

I feel hopeful.

(part two of this story tomorrow!)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gifts from the Kitchen

Instead of cookies this year, Lyndsay and I made other edible gifts. Lyns' project was chocolate covered pretzel rods. She made them for teachers, friends, and neighbors. (What a load off of my plate, right?) We found pretzel gift bags at Michael's, and some cute Christmas ribbon too.

For the other kids' teachers, I made cookies in a jar, a gift idea I used to do quite often years ago when I lived in Arizona. These particular jars are pretty, with layers of flour, oats, chocolate chips, M&M's, brown, and white sugars. But there are many, many different recipes you can do, from desserts to soups. Here is a great link with recipe ideas. You can google others.

For other friends I made homemade cocoa and spooned it into smaller Mason jars and attached homemade marshmallows for a warm treat. Both recipes are from Martha Stewart's website. Both are exceptionally yummy.

It's not too late if you need some quick and beautiful gift ideas! Or, tuck them away for next year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Candlelight Devotional

Years ago, my mother held a special Christmas Family Home Evening in which she talked about Christ being the light of the world as she held a lit candle in our dark livingroom. Then, we passed the flame around and soon the room was aglow. I loved it so much, and it made such an impression on me that I decided to write my own version of that devotional, and as a family we do it every year, just days before Christmas. Several people have asked me for it, so I thought I would share it here. Maybe you'll want to do something similar in your family. We usually start with a prayer and a song, and then all of the children are given white tapered candles, and the lights are turned off. The room must be pitch black, and then I light my candle and read:

"The Savior was the light born into a darkened world. The great star that appeared in the sky that night symbolized his light. The world had been waiting and watching for the Son of God to appear, and finally He came, heralded by angels. His was not a birth of high circumstance. He was not born in a palace, but in a stable. His coming was not attended by kings, but by shepherds. His parents were not of nobility. His mother was a young, pure virgin. His earthly father, a carpenter.

The life of Jesus Christ was quiet and unassuming. He went about doing the will and the work of his father who had sent him. He spent his days, every single one of them, in the service of the lowliest of people. He taught the common folk, because they would listen. He healed the sick, even the lepers who had been shunned. He raised the dead. He showed the way.

I believe that everyone who heard him then, and who hears him now, becomes a carrier of his light. Alone, we are barely able to see by that light amidst the darkened world we now live in. But together, we are brighter than noonday. Together, we light the way for others to see and follow him too, and shine his light for all the world to see.

The greatest gift he gave to us was his life, atoning for our sins and transgressions so that we might earn eternal life. The greatest gift that we can give back to him is also our lives. But we don't have to give UP our lives; rather, we must give OUT our lives, in service, in obedience, in goodness, in righteousness, in example, in courage, in faith. When we do this, we shine the light of Christ."

At this point, I then share what gift of myself that I wish to give to the Savior this Christmas, or in other words, what I will do to shine as He did. It may be more fervent obedience, more humble prayer, or greater service to others, whatever it is that the Spirit whispers I am ready to learn. Then, I light the candle of the person sitting to my left and they share what gift they will give to shine the light of Christ, and so forth, until the light has been passed around the room and everyone's candles are glowing. The room is now significantly brighter. With our candles lit, we sing a closing song together, and end with a prayer and refreshments.

Candles are blown out, but hearts remain glowing and warm.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Image

In my home I feel safe and sound. Especially at Christmas, I can create the illusion that all of my world is exactly as it should be, exactly as it is in my dreams. Sometimes, before the Christmas season I think about the loads of life, the work on my mind, the stresses that weigh me down, and I think about all the STUFF to do to get ready for Christmas. Occasionally, I will admit, I am tempted to just not bother with the tree, the lights, the cards, the cookies. It's just one more thing on my already full plate. But I always do it anyway, and when I sit alone in my livingroom and look at that tree, bursting with ornaments--ornaments that are bursting with memories--I'm always glad that I do it. Because the way that I feel inside at Christmas, the feeling that is embellished by all the cozy things around me that create an atmosphere of peace and happy childhood memories and even happier dreams for the future, that feeling just can't be beat.

But sometimes, out of my home, I feel scared and vulnerable. I feel wounded and scarred. Branded. I took the kids to the Christmas party at church on Saturday, without Adam. I swear, the whole night was one huge slow motion montage of couples in love and happy families. Like the camera of my mind's eye just kept focusing on close-ups of couples embracing, hand holding, gazing, laughing. And I worked up all my courage to just eat my roast beef and keep from exploding into tears. Conor wouldn't sit at the table. He, as usual, wanted to take a bite and then run through the gym with the other kids. Dylan made it his mission to hunt down Santa and discover his true identity, upsetting mothers whose young children were following him around wide-eyed. Lyndsay was absorbed with boys, at a different table. And Aiden? Well, he did what he could to tag team Conor with me. My world seemed upside down and completely unmanageable.

After Santa had made his grand entrance, and Conor had spent sufficient obligatory time on his lap, I grabbed him up and made for my escape. The pressure on my heart was just too much. Rounding up the other kids, pulling Lyndsay away from her googly-eyed boys, I headed for the door, when a mom of one of the young women I teach approached me and asked if she could talk to me in private.

"Oh, dear," I thought, "if she tells me some complaint about Dylan, I won't be able to take it tonight."

"Or what if I've done or said something offensive? I can't face it tonight, I just can't."

I sent the kids off to the car, and we ducked into an empty hallway and sat down. "Wait," I said, "is this about my kid or yours?" "Oh, it's nothing bad," she said, sensing my worry. "I just, I just. . ." and then she started to tear up. "I just needed to thank you because you have been the parent that I haven't been to my daughter over the last while."

She proceeded to tell me how much my testimony last week meant to her and to her daughter, and how she, the mother, has been struggling so much over the last while, and hasn't been able to be a spiritual strength to her daughter, who has instead gleaned from me. Now, the mother is making her slow and steady comeback, and she wanted to tell me that she appreciated my example in her daughter's life. I didn't even know.

I started to cry, for reasons other than why I thought I'd be crying when the whole conversation began. "You mean, I've done something right?" I said. "Thank you for telling me, because it seems like I'm just screwing things up everywhere I go." We hugged, we chatted for a minute, and then I scooted out the door, only to be stopped by someone else who wanted to give me a pie to take home. Again, some tears. Good ones. Grateful ones.

I stumbled into the house, tripping over hyper kids, where I could decompress. The cycles of emotion are hard to handle at times. But here, at home, I feel peace.

Studying the anatomy and physiology of the human eye this morning, I was reminded that images focused on the retina are inverted, or upside-down. They also undergo right-to-left reversal. The only reason that the world does not look upside-down to us is that the brain "learns" early in life to coordinate visual images with the orientation of objects. We literally see the world upside-down, but interpret it as being right-side up.

I realize that I have some more "learning" to do, so that everything around me doesn't feel inverted and upside-down around me. I see one thing, but need to interpret it differently so that I don't feel so out of balance. Not everything in my life is aligned right now. But some things are, and those that are, are wonderful. Those that aren't, have the potential to become wonderful.

No matter what I see around me, inverted, reversed, whatever, what I should continue to interpret is that I am a daughter of God. I have unlimited, unmeasurable potential--thank goodness. I am valuable, even only as His child. All of me, all of my life, is in His hands, and He has never left me alone. Though I cannot see the right side of the tapestry He is weaving with my life, I can see enough threads dangling below to know that something is happening, and the colors are brilliant. I should know enough by now to know that in His hands, it will all make sense someday, and the finished product will be more exquisite than I can even imagine. Just as our brains choose to see the world correctly oriented though the image presented to them is the polar opposite, so must I choose to see myself correctly aligned and oriented in my little sphere of progression.

What looks like dangling threads, is really the making of a masterpiece.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mother of the Year

You know how shopping always brings out the best behavior in your children, and the best mother in you? And not just any shopping, no. I'm referring to Christmas shopping. Late at night. With all the boys together, the youngest of which is a very bossy and tired three year old, and oldest is a bully teenager of a brother. Where you don't have too much time because it's late and it's a school night, but you just had to run out for a few things or it will never all get done? Yeah, that kind of shopping. Well, that was me. And my three boys. Just a few nights ago.

Just a warning for those who do not live here in southern California, but may one day live here, or may one day visit and go out in public:

They're hunting you down.

It's happened to me several times. Casting scouts. Those who are hired by television shows to comb the streets and stores of Normalville and look for those who stand out in the crowd. Maybe you're beautiful. Maybe your baby is just too deliciously chubby and wide-eyed. Maybe your daughter won't stop dancing in the aisles. I've been stopped a few times and invited for casting calls for Disney shows, especially when I'm out with Aiden. But maybe they stop you because you are that frantic and crazed mother of three--well, two, Aiden's usually a victim--overly-stimulated boys and you're losing your mind in the parking lot, in the dark, in the freezing wind.

The shopping cart, in which Conor was sitting, had one stuck wheel. (Don't they always?) It would randomly just stop and the cart would too. Conor would fly forward and back in a whiplash fashion, while he was trying to scavenge the remaining blue raspberry Slurpee that his brother had given him. Dylan thought this was extremely amusing. I was a little tired of Dylan finding everything amusing in his mischievous ways. I was picturing Conor's little skeleton with his top two vertebrae, the atlas and the axis, with the little bony dens pointing up from the posterior side, just so close to the occipital lobe of his brain, and I was hearing in my mind about how whiplash can kill a person if that dens snaps just so, right into that brain tissue. I know, I know, just be quiet. If you don't like that image, then go with Shaken Baby Syndrome. Either one is sufficiently horrifying. I was struggling to dig my keys out of the black hole of my purse, in the dark and the wind, trying to keep up with Dylan running with the cart hoping for that immediate stop, which would send Conor's head careening forth and then back with a snap. It wasn't funny to me.

"Get him out of the cart." I must have said it five times. So I said it meaner. "Get him out of the cart! He's going to get whiplash! Stop it!"

And then I hear, "Excuse me, ma'am?"

So, in my ticked-off, frustrated, freezing, state, I snapped my head around and said (in my sweetest voice, of course) "Can I help you?"

"Hi, I'm casting for Super Nanny, and you guys just look like a really nice family (shove it, lady) and I was wondering if I could put you on a list to be called for possible participation on our show?"

"Super Nanny? You mean the show with the mean British lady?"

Yep, that's the one. And you know, sure I was stopped because we look like a nice family. Because that's the kind of thing people like to watch on reality television. It wasn't because I'm losing my mind and control of my kids. No.

I tried to smooth over my expression and my tone of voice as best I could. Fighting off embarrassment and humiliation. Isn't this just the way life works? A little Youuuuuuu-Whoooooo from above reminding me that I look as crazy and frantic as I feel inside and may need to pull in the reins a bit?

Well, thanks, Super Nanny. The irony of the whole thing definitely captured my attention. But if you do call, I could seriously use that mean British lady's help with Conor at bedtime. For real.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tender Mercy

Conor as a pirate on Halloween

I carry an Epi-pen in my purse.

Thankfully, I've never had to use it, but when Conor was very small, we discovered, quite by accident, that he has a very serious allergy to walnuts. So much so, that the first time he had a reaction, it was only because while he was napping I had been eating raw walnuts as a snack, and two hours later, when he woke up, I kissed him on the cheek. The oil residue that remained on my lips was enough to swell his whole body to blimplike proportions and cover him in raised, itchy hives. It was terrifying.

Since then, there have been two or three times that he has somehow gotten a hold of walnuts, and we have had many scary hours trying to get his little body to stop reacting. So, Benadryl and an Epi-pen stay with me.

Two weekends ago, on a Saturday morning, I got up when I woke up (a novel idea!) and thought to make Luisa's Cranberry Upside-down Tart for breakfast. Because I love it. So much. It involves buttering a pie plate, dumping in a cup of cranberries, and sprinkling that with some pecans, brown sugar, and covering it all with a batter. I've made it before. As I slid it into the oven and set the time for 45 minutes, I had the distinct impression to use that 45 minutes to take my collected recycling down to the return center for cash for gas in my car. I knew the car was bone dry. I had been driving on fumes and prayer for the last several days in my short little neighborhood jaunts. It was the end of the month, and I was out of money. But I did have several large bags of recycling sitting on my back patio--milk jugs, soda cans, juice bottles. I tried to talk myself out of it, only because I didn't particularly feel like getting dressed, loading it all up and driving down the road, but then the "just get it done" part of my brain kicked in, and it seemed like a great use of time that would have been otherwise spent waiting.
Off I went. The nice man at the recycling center helped me sort it all and weigh it all, and he gave me a ten dollar bill. I immediately went to the gas station across the street and spent it. Then I drove home feeling all sorts of multi-tasking success as the timer for the tart went off moments after walking through the door.

Each person got a slice, and though Conor is prone to eat and run, so to speak, taking bites and then fleeing from the table for his Batman cape or some boots, or a quick fling onto the sofa, I made particular effort to keep him sitting and eating. "Eat every bite." I must have said that fifteen times. But he did.

Then, the boys left for the Scouting for Food pick-ups, and I got into bed to read, while Conor watched a movie next to me.
He started coughing. A lot. I looked over at him a few times and thought, "Why is he coughing? He's not sick." Finally, when it wouldn't stop, I got him a drink of water. But still he coughed. I looked at his face and noticed familiar redness creeping around the skin of his eyes and the corners of his lips were swelling. Then it hit me: PECANS!
I didn't know he was allergic to pecans. Yes, I know that they belong to the same family as walnuts, but I could swear he's had pecans before--I've made that tart before--and so I wasn't worried about it. But this? This was worrisome. He ate his whole serving, and that means he had actually ingested--not been kissed, not licked, not touched--a large quantity of something very dangerous for him. His voice started to sound funny, and I could tell that his throat was swelling. The hives started breaking out and the lining in his eyes was swelling over his eyeballs.

"Oh no!" I thought. What to do? I gave him a hefty dose of Benadryl right away, and then did a quick Google search. He was having an anaphylactic reaction, and in children as allergic as he is, that can lead to death within hours. I grabbed some clothes for him and as I lifted his shirt saw that his tummy and back were bright red and hot to the touch. He was scratching like a madman, his tummy, his back, his head, his cheeks, and he kept complaining about his mouth being so itchy. I swept him up under my arms and ran to the car, telling Lyndsay that I was going to the emergency room.

That was a scary drive. He continued to cough, and breathed with labor through his mouth. The hives and swelling seemed to get worse by the second, and I seemed to hit every red light. Finally, I sped onto the freeway and pulled into the hospital parking lot. One look at him, and I was taken right back with nurses nodding and whispering as we hustled past them. "Oh, yeah," I heard one say. "Wow. Look at that," whispered another with worry.
He was given even more Benadryl and Prednisone, and within three hours the swelling subsided. He was thoroughly enchanting with the doctors and nurses, asking them questions, like "Are you going to talk to me?" and when asked how he felt he replied in his scratchy voice, "Pree good. Itchy." Poor sweet Conor.

After several hours, he fell asleep in the "Itchy Boy Bed", while watching Happy Feet. I sat next to him and smoothed his curls and tucked his 'cozy blanket' around him. And then I realized, I put gas in the car while the tart was baking. It impressed me as being a tender mercy of the Lord, described by David A. Bednar as being, "the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ."

Heavenly Father knew what was about to happen, and He was lovingly intervening so that I might be prepared to rescue Conor. We would not have had the time to take the recycling down to get cash, and I did not have enough gas to get us to the hospital. I was so grateful that I had listened, and so grateful that once again my baby was spared.

And now that all is well again, please no jokes about how my cooking is killing people. I've heard them all.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Something for Everyone

I have some great posts rambling around in my brain. Soon forthcoming, I promise. But today, a few links I wanted to share so you can get in on the fun.

First of all, a little shameless self-promotion. My Family Home Evening blog post is being featured today on Mormon Women! This is a new site to me, but such a great idea. It's a site dedicated to "Who we are, what we believe, how we live--a glimpse into LDS life." Anyone, LDS or not, can browse around, ask a question, or just enjoy some good reading. I was very honored to be asked to share my article on the site. Check it out!

My darling sister, Hannah, (AKA Cake Queen) is doing a 24 Days of Cookies theme over on her blog, Living the Sweet Life. Besides the daunting amount of butter she's going to go through, she has embarked on one very cool project, baking a different cookie each day up until Christmas, in an attempt to slow down and enjoy the holiday season with her children. And she's not even eating them! After tastes by her family, she's giving them away as gifts. She's the best. But bookmark her blog and go check in each day for her latest cookie venture. You'll probably see some cakes interspersed as well. I'm not really sure if she ever leaves her kitchen, but I am sure that she's got either Christmas music or movies playing all day every day to keep up her holiday stamina. We Van Sciver girls take our Christmas seriously.

Also, Luisa at Kashkawan, has posted links to her Virtual Advent Calendar from last year, when she posted art and poetry of the Christmas season, one for each day counting down to Christmas. I was stunned by her repertoire. You can go check it out all at once, or bookmark the site and visit each day for a lovely reminder of the finer things of Christmas.

And, if you still need some great ideas for homemade Christmas gifts, Scribbit has once again put together a list with something for everyone. I especially love the links to terrariums and the homemade sea glass candy. Lots of great inspiration over there!

Have some fun!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I'm not sure why I still bother dreaming. Why I have this hope, albeit just a glimmer of hope, that someday life will be stable, life will be happy, life will be content in love. I'm grateful for the glimmer, because otherwise the reality of more dreams shattered. . .or at least drastically postponed. . .would paralyze me.

And I need to walk.

I wish Denial was a river in Egypt. Then I could have at least been sightseeing, taking in a pyramid or two in the Valley of the Kings. But it's time to step out of Denial and acknowledge that I failed. We failed.

There are so many things I wish we could talk about. I feel like I'm going crazy inside with the distance between us emotionally. I wish he would listen to me, with his heart, not his ears, and not through his filters. I wish we could have more of a meeting of minds. But I guess if we could do all of those things then we wouldn't be facing what we're facing now, would we?

To me, it is analogous to life support. Pulling the plug. You know the person hooked up to tubes and oxygen is gone, but to disconnect them? To flip the switch? You can't go back from that one. I know in my heart that death came a long time ago, and any sign of life has been artificial. But pulling the plug on a marriage, on a family, well, it's just about killing me.

Things should have been different. Oh, how I wish. How deeply my heart was invested, and how misunderstood I feel. I really believed that this time I would be loved. This time I would be safe. Nobody has ever looked at me with the tenderness that he possesses. I wanted that so desperately, those eyes looking at me like that forever. But we let each other down. He never wanted what I wanted, and all we did was hurt each other. It's a tragedy. A travesty. It didn't need to happen. But it did. And why I know the truth in my heart and still try to invent some other version of it, some easier version, is only more painful to me. But I just wish we could talk! Not that it would do any good to save what's gone, but at least it might help tie up the flailing fibers of my ripped up heart. Which, I'm pretty sure has been broken almost continuously since I was 15 years old. That's getting old. So are sleepless nights, swollen eyes, worry nigh to panic, and that twisting in my gut.

We've postponed it long enough. I think his mind was made up almost from the beginning, and now I know, now I really know, that one person's commitment is not enough, and persuasive as I may be at times, I cannot change everyone's mind.

It's difficult to face the holidays with so much weighing on my mind. Survival, mostly. Avoiding homelessness. Finding a way to finish school and not completely disrupt my children's lives. Picking up the pieces. Again. Figuring out why I failed. Again. Learning to move to a new phase with the man I wanted to adore me forever so that we can raise our little boy who never should have had to deal with any of this.

Maybe pulling the plug will bring freedom, like the spirit trapped in a lifeless body finally being given permission to soar to heaven. And love. And peace.

But then again, how do you decide when the last breath is taken? How do you give up hope that eyes will open? How do you summon the strength to gather up what dignity you have left and move on?

That's the ugly truth of things. I'm not that wise. I'm not that admirable. I'm hardly enviable. I'm drastically flawed. I have created much of my own sorrow from poor judgment and choices. And I just hope that someday, in some way, I get the chance to do it right. All the way.