tender times

Jul 17, 2020 by

Our Keziah-girl is getting married in 48 days. The emotions are big in all the ways. Joy, grief, longing, happiness, all the things. We are going to miss her fiercely. Her impact in our home is huge. She is loud, hilarious, determined and her presence is always known. She knows just what to say to bring a smile to Fisher’s face or to encourage him to keep trying when life is hard. She can get him to do what no one else can. She pulls her siblings together for games, adventures, and giant work projects – they would cheerfully follow her to the ends of the earth if she asked them to.

And so we cry. And laugh. And savor every moment we get with her. Everything feels precious. Every conversation. Every game. Every meal. Every story. Every prayer. We have about 25 nights left that she will sleep in our home because she will be gone a lot over the next 7 weeks. I want to spend those nights snuggled in bed with her, hearing her breathe, but she would never allow that, so I spend my nights snuggled up with Richard with tears running down my face.

This parenting thing is hard. We give our hearts so completely to these little babies, then we pour ourselves into them, teaching them, loving them, preparing them for adulthood. And then they grow up and leave and a giant hole is left.

I’m so grateful. So deeply grateful to have been granted the privilege of being a mother. Mothering our children has sculpted my soul, enlarged my view, and grown my heart. Reading to them, teaching them day after day after day, helping them discover the world around them, helping them see who they are, how God works in their lives, and who He created them to be has been an exquisite journey. Two of our children have flown the nest, two of our children are still here, finding their wings. And two of our children are still trying to come to our home and may or may not ever make it into our arms.

It’s a tender time.

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thankful thursdays 4/2

Apr 2, 2020 by

I’m not really feeling very thankful tonight. Truth be told, I’m in a funk. Earlier this week I was irritable as could be and now I’m in the leftover stages of irritable, worn out from being irritable and ready to move on, but not quite there yet. So gratitude is probably what I need even I don’t feel in the gratitude groove at the moment.

  • Tonight we are five weeks out from brain surgery. Just typing those words brings the tears pouring out of my eyes and running down my cheeks. Here we are, five weeks later, and he is alive and recovering and doing so, so well. Today he cut a few pieces of wood for me and deep gratitude filled my soul that he was able to do it.
  • My nephew, Marcus, committed suicide last week. My heart absolutely aches for him and the pain he was carrying and fighting. I’m so grateful I was able to go and spend some time with his family at a park and remember the sweet, kind boy I always knew.
  • We’ve been studying the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith in preparation for the 200th anniversary of the First Vision. It has been wonderful to spend time together as a family learning more about the nine different First Vision accounts, the coming forth of The Book of Mormon, Father’s covenant plan for His children, ordinances, the messiness of the restoration process, and most of all, Jesus grace and love in the lives of Father’s children. I will always treasure this time we have had together.
  • Whenever I’m irritable, I like to rearrange. Yesterday my children helped me rearrange and clean the school room. Something about a new placement of furniture helps clear my mind and see things in a new ways.
  • My dear friend lost her baby today. My heart is aching for her and her family. This baby has been prayed for and waited for for a long, long time. Her baby’s passing is bringing up all sorts of feelings about our babies’ passing and it is hard, tender stuff. Regardless of the pain, I’m grateful we get to share and love and pray for each other. I’m grateful for her faith and courage she has shown for the past 15 weeks of her pregnancy. She has been a strength to me and I hope I have been a strength to her. Having babies that don’t make it into their mama’s arms binds hearts together in a sacred way and even though it is hard, I’m grateful we get to do this together.
  • I’m reading a beautiful, soul-filling book, The Keeper of the Bees. I haven’t been able to focus and get through a book for many months. I’m trying to use this Coronavirus quarantine time to reclaim my mind and fill my soul with good things and this book is helping me learn how to focus and read once again. It is such a wonderful story that is reminding me that God is in the details, that life is worth fighting for, and that human decency changes lives.
  • I’m really grateful we all like each other. Since we are all together much more than we ever have been, this Coronavirus situation has been a test of our relationships. And yes, there have certainly been some pull-my-hair-out moments, but for the most part, we have laughed and played games and read and worked together. It is a huge blessing in my life to genuinely enjoy spending time with Richard and our children.
  • We’ve taken the past four weeks off our morning scripture study routine. With Richard not being able to sleep at night and therefore me not sleeping either, we’ve been in survival mode and absolutely could not get up at 7:00 for family scripture reading. This week we started again. And it’s been hard. I would much rather sleep in. But it’s also been good. I love reading scriptures all together. I hope when our children grow up and move away that our morning scripture reading and evening read-alouds bring smiles to their hearts forevermore.
  • Tonight I am grateful for do-overs. Second and third and a zillionth chances. I mess up again and again and again. And because of Jesus, I get to keep trying. I get to keep learning. I get to say I’m sorry. I don’t even have something pressing on me that needs a second chance in this moment, but boy howdy, the glorious plan of redemption is filling my heart with gratitude tonight. Without it, there is no hope. With it, there is every hope.

And so, I’m going to go to bed, trusting in the hope that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice gives me power to keep trying and Father’s love gives me the desire to do so. Mortality isn’t a cakewalk, but it can be beautiful and blessed.

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heartbreaks & heart rescues

Mar 8, 2020 by

Such a hard and beautiful and sacred day at the same time. Hard because Richard is in so much back pain. He cried multiple times from the pain today and let me tell you, holding your big, strong man while he sobs from pain is gut-wrenching.

Beautiful because we are surrounded with so much love. A friend was able to come and do a house call and give Richard a chiropractic adjustment to help his back. Two other friends came and gave him a priesthood blessing. Other friends brought dinner and caught Richard at his best moments of the day and were able to have a good visit with him. And another friend brought muffins and fellowship. We are so grateful for the love of God being made manifest in our lives through each of you. Thank you for being His hands and lifting us in mighty ways.

Sacred because I was able to sit in sacred spaces and feel God’s love for me, for us, for each of His children. One, partaking of the sacrament with my ward family after my son said the sacrament prayer felt like an enormous privilege. Two, sitting in my bedroom while Richard was given a beautiful priesthood blessing of healing. And, three, tonight Fisher was given permission to administer the sacrament to his father. There are not words to describe the joy and gratitude of having this young man put on a suit and tie at 9:45 at night, prepare the bread and water for his father, and then kneel down at the foot of our bed and say the sacred words of the sacrament prayers.

Today brought home the message that every single person is important to God. Richard’s pain and heartache and struggle matter to the God of heaven and earth and even though the pain was nearly unbearable today, we were not left comfortless, we were not left alone. He is walking this path with us.

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thankful thursdays 3/5

Mar 5, 2020 by

We have survived the first week since Richard’s brain tumor removal on February 27. It has been rough. And wonderful. And exhausting. And tender. And everything in between. Today is also his 50th birthday and there is something about birthdays, especially big, round numbers like fifty that bring on the introspection, at least for me.

  • I’m so grateful he is alive, that he made it through surgery and we were able to bring him home! This surgery doesn’t generally cause death, but thoughts of him dying have been quite present in my mind since his diagnosis.
  • This time with him is a gift to both of us. We haven’t been able to spend a lot of time together for a long, long time because of his working hours. Sitting with him, reading to him, laughing with him, and just watching him have been so wonderful. We love being together and spending time together is comfortable and soothing to both of us. It’s really nice to know we actually, factually like being together.
  • My heart is full to bursting with the good in this world. So many people have reached out to us with donations of money, food, words of encouragement, gift cards, hugs, and many other kindnesses. Piles and piles of goodness!
  • I’m so grateful to be a wife and mother. These were not roles I wanted to have, but oh, the soul-filling richness of loving these people is such a gift! I’m so thrilled God gave me this privilege even though I didn’t know enough to want it.
  • A few days ago, my friend, Jodie, came to the hospital with all sorts of yummy goodies and yes, that chocolate has gotten me through many a hard moment in the past few days, but more importantly, she brought her heart. She let me cry and talk about our babies. She listened while I tried to sort out the past few months in my mind. She gave Richard a hand & arm massage and me a foot massage and it was heavenly. HEAVENLY. She inspired me to show up to someone’s hospital room and give them a foot massage. Someday soon I will do just that.
  • Prayers. I’m so grateful to know people are praying for my husband and for our family. I’m grateful to hear our children’s prayers. I’m grateful to be able to pray and pour my heart out to God.
  • Orchids. I’m not really a flower person and I’ve never successfully kept a plant alive. My friend, Lisa, brought over two orchids for our babies we miscarried a few weeks ago and I gave Keziah the task of keeping them alive (and she has!). Coming home from the torture chamber of the hospital was a strange experience. It was as if everything in our lives had changed and that an entire lifetime had been experienced while we were gone. I didn’t know how to recalibrate to our new lives. Seeing the orchids on my kitchen windowsill brought me back to center. Somehow they helped me reintegrate this new post-surgery family with our pre-surgery family, my new role as caretaker of my husband with my old role as pregnant mama of twins and mother of young adults and teenagers. Somehow they helped me remember who I am and that these babies are ours forever even though it feels like a lifetime ago that we lost them instead of four short weeks.
  • I’m grateful for sunshine. We aren’t getting out in it much, but it sure is nice to see it shine through the windows and start melting the mounds of snow in our yard. It reminds me that the new growth is coming and we won’t be living in the cold, hardness of this winter forever. We will regrow as a family and figure out our new normal.

My heart is full. And broken. And growing. And aching. But mostly full of gratitude.

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happy 50th

Mar 5, 2020 by

Today is Richard’s 50th birthday. We are not having a big celebration or anything – Carl’s removal is his present, I guess? He is in a lot of pain and last night was as miserable as can be, but we are planning on having his favorite lemon meringue pie tonight.

In honor of his 50th, I’d like to share 50 fabulous things about him.

1. He is patient with himself and others.
2. He sees the best in others and assumes the best of others’ behavior and intentions.
3. He is devoted to his wife and family.
4. He is an amazing fisherman.
5. He can eat anything. No matter how gross my food turns out, he eats it with a smile and grateful heart.
6. He naturally understands the process of learning and is an amazing teacher.
7. He doesn’t rush others.
8. He is willing to put in the hard work of learning new skills.
9. He gladly sacrifices his own well-being for his family’s.
10. He loves God with his whole soul.
11. He keeps his covenants.
12. He is humble.
13. He warms up my side of the bed so it is toasty when I come into bed.
14. He adores me.
15. He believes in my dreams, big and small.
16. The most important things to him in life are to be a good man, a good husband, and a good father.
17. He has never once raised his voice at me or our children. So incredible!
18. He takes our children backpacking and teaches them how to survive in the wilderness.
19. He was pretty much terrified of speaking to others until his mission. But he trusted God to help him and God gave him the words to say and changed him into someone who could talk to others. Now he has difficult conversations with distraught parents and frustrated teachers every single day.
20. He spends every Wednesday night with his dad helping him in the garage with whatever project they are currently working on.
21. He loves his parents and siblings.
22. He loves when I read to him.
23. For most of our marriage he has worked 60-90 hour weeks.
24. He listens to our children’s emotional upsets and is able to help them work through whatever ails them.
25. He cleans up all the throw up in our house.
26. His best therapy is walking a mountain stream with a fishing pole in his hand.
27. He wasn’t naturally good at baseball, but he wanted to play so much that he put in hours and hours and hours of extra practice time so he could compete with the other boys.
28. He loves physics. One of his dreams is to get a PhD in physics.
29. He has helped thousands of children and families with autism live more functional, productive, happier lives.
30. He is really, really good at understanding what children need to help them succeed.
31. He sees potential in everything, broken cars, homes, and most importantly, people.
32. He knows what can be done to fix those broken things.
33. He can laugh at himself.
34. He cooks all of our Sunday dinners. And many of our other dinners as well.
35. He likes to serve me breakfast in bed on Sundays.
36. He makes the best red potato-garlic mashed potatoes.
37. He loves hard labor like chopping wood, breaking down walls, and hoisting engines.
38. He loves babies. Pretty much all of them. And definitely all of ours. Between our living children and the ones we’ve lost there are seventeen and he tears up over those precious thirteen often.
39. He regularly stops to help people on the side of the road.
40. He forgives easily.
41. He loves watching his children do anything that is important to them.
42. He is gentle.
43. He is kind.
44. He is grateful for any kindness done to him or for his family.
45. He is honest.
46. He loves camping with his family in a tent in the middle of nowhere. The more rustic, the better.
47. He gets up day after day going to a job that doesn’t pay much and is full of really hard things because he knows God wants him to do it.
48. He is adaptable. Whatever life throws at him, he figures out how to work with it and does it with a smile.
49. He has great courage to overcome his weaknesses.
50. He loves all of his grandparents and was especially close to his Grandma Stella who he shared a birthday with. She always brought over a creamy fruit salad for just her and Richard to share. Today she would have been 113. With the loss of our little Stella, we are both thinking of Grandma Stella and little Stella a lot today.

He’s always wanted to live to be 100. So here’s to halfway!

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eight years

Feb 20, 2020 by

Today is the 8-year anniversary of my initial hip injury. For the first time, I don’t have a celebration planned. In past years, we have had dinner parties, breakfasts, walks, and bike rides, but I’m not up to it this year. I’m fighting some immense emotional battles and with the loss of our babies last week, I don’t really want to talk to anyone, much less celebrate with a party, but I am definitely still remembering that day. How could I forget the day that changed our lives forever?

I remember running around the greenbelt on the 17th and how good it felt. It was the first run I was able to successfully manage my breathing and actually enjoy instead of feeling like I was in some sort of torture machine of my own making. I remember the back handsprings I did that day in the gym, a whole string of them across the mat. I remember feeling like Keziah and I were going to have an epic year of training and participating in triathlons, laughing and growing and accomplishing hard things.

That all changed on our run on the 20th. A searing pain started in my hip joint that brought tears to my eyes. My steps became shorter and slower as I struggled to breathe through the pain. I was determined to finish my training schedule for that day and tried to limp-jog while physically pulling my leg forward with my hands. It did nothing for the pain and I slowed to a walk. Keziah told me I didn’t need to keep trying, she would run on her own and that I should go sit down. Refusing to give in, I kept trying to continue, but finally the pain was so great, it was all I could do to hobble over to our Suburban. With tears frozen to my cheeks and pain coursing through my body, I tried to talk myself out of thinking something was really wrong.

But something was really wrong. It took us weeks to find out that I had torn my labrum in my right hip socket. That injury started a cascade of many other injuries and damage to my nervous system. For about six years, I lived in a variety of braces, splints, and wheelchairs. The nervous system damage progressed to sympathetic nervous system responses which look and feel like seizures, but are not brain-mediated. In 2015, after months of my nervous system shutting down more and more and being unable to digest food, I was given a miraculous gift of treatments with Dr. Calzada in Tijuana, Mexico. Since then, I have gone seventeen times and received stem cell treatments along with chelation, magnet therapy, radionics. These treatments saved my life. I don’t know if I would have actually died or not, but they have definitely given me back the functioning of my body. I can now walk and ride my special forward-crank bike and kayak and hike and drive and so much more that I never knew I would be able to do again.

And so today, my heart is grateful. So, so grateful for the many friends and family members who have taken care of me time and time again when I was unable to take care of myself during seizures or injuries. I’m so grateful for the nurturing our family has received, especially the love and support our children have been given as they had to adjust their lives to having a mama regularly pass out, shake uncontrollably in front of their eyes, and spend much of her time in bed. I’m so grateful for the life my friends have helped me to live by including me in their activities even when it wasn’t convenient to haul me around. I’m so grateful for the amazing treatments I have been blessed with that have strengthened my ligaments and calmed my nervous system.

I’m so grateful for Richard. He has taken care of me for the past eight years with so much patience and tenderness. Not a single time has he been frustrated with me for getting injured again or passing out or causing our family great inconvenience. He has willingly served and loved and filled me with hope and laughter again and again. He has sacrificed much, working 60-80 hours a week to provide for our family and then coming home exhausted and willing to keep working here to make up for all the things I couldn’t do. His heart and hands are always ready for one more conversation, one more act of service, one more challenging situation.

And now he needs us. In one short week he is having brain surgery to remove a vestibular schwannoma. We have no idea how surgery will turn out. It is quite possible he will never be able to work in his current profession again. Our lives are about to change dramatically. At times that feels absolutely overwhelming, but most of the time, we are filled with peace. We know we are in God’s tender hands. We know we are not alone. We know we have an army of people who love us. We know we have each other and that we can weather fierce storms together.

So we are sailing forward, with courage, hope, and faith, not in an outcome that everything will be okay, but in confidence that God is with us, that our covenants are eternal, and that somehow, someway, we will come out the other side.

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