Monday is Blythe’s P-Day, which means Preparation Day. It is the one day a week that missionaries can do laundry, buy groceries, check email, send letters, etc. She arrived in California on Tuesday and yesterday we received our first letter from her since she arrived in California. She sounds so happy! Our hearts are full with gratitude that she is doing well adjusting to missionary life and is working hard serving the Lord. Also, we chuckled a little at this letter as she has apparently adopted a new word, “chill,” as we have never heard her say this word as frequently as she does in this letter.
My first week has been awesome! I have literally felt no doubt or nervousness since that first day. I am serving in the Live Oak Canyon Ward, Rancho Santa Marguerite Stake, in a city called Trabuco Canyon.
My companion is Sister Shumway from Dallas, TX. She sort of reminds me of Alicia Horran. She’s awesome and nice. She has a quieter personality and she helps people feel comfortable. Everyone I’ve talked to says she’s an awesome missionary and from what I’ve seen they’re right. She not pushy, not nit-picky, but is able to stay focused and engaged in the work in an orderly manner. It’s nice because there’s barely even a “trainer/trainee” feel to our relationship. She is able to teach me and guide me through the training without making me feel like a student. She’s even said that she feels like she’s just with another missionary. I am so grateful that she is able to teach me well and still be equals and friends.
President Orgill is as awesome as everyone says, or more. You can totally tell he worked in Hawaii. He’s so kind and relaxed and concerned for your welfare. That first day we met with him and got all our paper work done and all the other stuff to get us started in the mission and had food and a little orientation. Then they gave us our bedding, we grabbed our pillow and they had us go take a nap. They had us spread out and lay on the pews in the chapel (which I thought was pretty funny). We got to sleep for about 1 hour and 45 minutes. That was the best! I think I mentioned this on Tuesday, but we’d all gotten about two hours of sleep the night before and by bedtime we were going to have been up for 21ish hours. Transfer meeting was awesome! When President Orgill started it off he says “Aloha” and everyone says “Aloha” back. They had everyone already present sing “Called to Serve” and had all the new missionaries walk in while they were singing and sit on the stand. President Orgill introduced us all. Then he announced who would be training who, and they’d run up and hug and they’d run down and hug. Some people brought some really funny presents for their trainees, such as an “It’s a boy” balloon and a duck and a turtle (not real, of course). Then he announced all the changes of companionships and every time he’d say one everyone would be like “Ah, Oh” and the new companions would run to each other and bear hug each other. It was awesome. One elder who is over 6 1/2 feet tall was put with a companion who is shorter than me (to co-train a new missionary who was perfectly in between their heights) so when he ran up to hug, he “ACCIDENTALLY” went to throw his arms around his companion, missed and went over his head, then was all like “Oops!” then hugged him for real. It was hilarious!
The first night we had dinner with the Ward mission leader and his wife (who are awesome) and a new convert, at this yummy taco place up the canyon. The next day we had a half P-day just to get anything we needed until Monday rolled around and did member visits to some of the coolest ward members. They’re way chill and fun to be around and with one lady we talked all about our favorite books and how yummy Thai food is. :) I like her a lot! Everyone so far has been awesome. That night we had a dinner appointment with a less active woman who married a very nice muslim man, so their sons name is way cool. It’s Shaffiq. Their house was super fancy, not huge, but everything was expensive, with a view of the valley, a fancy pool in the back and a yard for entertaining. She puts on big parties all the time. She was still pretty chill about it though.
Our area is pretty much this one long road going from this canyon, through the city and almost to the biggest gated communities in the world (where some famous person used to live apparently). There are two gated communities in our area and they’re a pain to work around. We can’t contact or tract. They would have to come talk to us first. We do have passes for them though, because ward members live there. Thursday we went down the length of our area and left info about General Conference for all the less actives. Only 4ish answered the door and one invited us in, but we left notes for them. Then we went contacting in an apartment complex which thankfully is not gated. We talked to several people who could be potential investigators. Sister Shumway says that’s the most success she’s seen her entire mission. She’s been out 4 months. By the way, one elder who was assigned a new trainee only got through 6 weeks of his twelve week training before he was assigned to train!. We are ward sharing with a companionship of elders, which works really well with getting to all the less actives. I love the zone and district. Everyone is fun and chill, with only the occasional socially awkward one. I don’t see them every day, but I did see them Thursday (a surprise party for an awesome elder from Tonga), Friday (zone/district kickoff meeting), Saturday (for Conference) and Sunday (for Conference). Haha! We all watched conference at the stake center together and on Saturday and had an impromptu potluck between sessions, it was totally awesome.
I have a ton of pictures for you, but somehow I forgot my cord this morning so you’ll have to wait another week. :( Just FYI, the picture that the nice lady from the airport sent you was not my MTC companion. That’s Sister Hollenbeck, a roommate and district member. I have so much more to say, but this will do for now. I love it here, I love the people and the area. My companion is awesome!
Oh! I saw the temple last night after a music fireside, and it’s pink granite, not white! I have more to say about it, but I’ll wait till I go in. I don’t get to go in every week, but every other transfer. :(
Brother King says he comes down here a lot and I want my violin. Maybe he could bring it to the mission office? I think there might have been something else I needed you to send, but I forgot. If you send my violin it would be great if it was with a person if you can. I don’t want it to get hurt. Also, could you put a humidifier in it?
Love you so much!
Sister Blythe W.
P.S. Tell Madi that I saw Dawson and Elder Arave (I forgot his first name.) Tell Emily I saw Logan, her dance partner. (At the MTC)
P.P.S. It’s not too much hotter down here, but the sun is more intense, and there’s just so much more of it.
P.P.P.S. The roads going through the canyons are about as wide as pasta noodles and as winding. Would be a total death trap with ice.
P.P.P.P.S. I GET TO SEE THE OCEAN TODAY!!!!!!
P.P.P.P.P.S. Keziah, there are sooooooo many palm trees. :)
Miss Keziah turned 15 today! Last night I was up at 12:36 (the time she was born) working on a family newsletter. The house was dark and quiet. Richard was snoring on the couch as he waited for our sheets to finish drying. Everyone else was sound asleep and I was able to have a few minutes to think. I don’t know if all mothers do this, but I replay my children’s births in my mind on the anniversary of those births.
I went into last night feeling a bit less than. A bit like I am not measuring up. A bit like I am not giving my family my best and even if I am, my best is simply not sufficient – chores and meals and patience are so incredibly challenging for me even when I am on top of my game, and let’s face it, I am not on top of my game. Often when I feel like that, I push people away instead of draw them in. And so, even though I hadn’t done anything very prickly, I was feeling grumpy inside.
And then midnight rolled around. And I started to remember that middle of the night labor so many years ago. And my heart welled up with so much gratitude for my Richard and our Keziah and what an amazing girlie we created together and have raised together. I thought about how he pushed on my back and whispered in my ear and filled the birth pool and was a rock of strength and courage and love. I thought about how quickly she burst upon the scene and how he stayed calm. I thought about how good he is and how blessed I am to have such a kind, patient person to be my companion and how blessed Keziah is to have him for a papa.
And I stopped working on the newsletter just moments before her birth anniversary and went upstairs to hold him in my arms at the moment our amazing girlie was born and tell him “Thank you.” For everything. And I cried.
This morning we opened her presents and laughed with this hilarious girl who is so full of vim and vigor. Yes, some of the pics are blurry…shrieking with delight does that.
Fifth book in the Michael Vey series.
Piles of pancake mixes for birthday dream of eating pancakes for breakfast, french toast for lunch, and waffles for dinner.
The Cinderella movie she has been dying to own.
Her birthday book this year is What Do You Do With An Idea? You feed it and grow it and let it soar! Keziah is full of good ideas and I want her to know we believe in her ability to turn those ideas into reality.
This girl, oh my, this girl. Kez is one of my favorite people. It is quite fortunate that I am her mother and get to spend oodles of time with her. She is full to the brim with awesomeness. She works faster and harder than anyone I know, she is smart as a whip, tough as nails, beautiful, determined, and kick-butt hilarious. We love her to Pluto and back. She has excellent taste in movies, fantastic fashion sense, works and plays equally hard, and makes me laugh hard every single day. She still doesn’t wear make-up as it takes too much time, has lovely, thick beautiful tresses, and is surrounded by gobs of friends who love her. She recently purchased a bike with some of her summer earnings…a real bike…from a bike shop…so she can work on building her leg muscles and possibly start running again next year (she has been battling a knee injury due to hypermobility for over a year) and I love watching her cycle away down our road. This girl is so full of determination and awesome sauce, it is my job to simply love her as she grows and matures into a young woman ready to take on the world. She makes her school/work/play schedule up every week and then she does it. I don’t have to remind her or nag or wake her up or anything. She goes and does what she sets out to do.
Oh, how I love her!
Here are some pics of her over the last year.
One of my favorite pictures of her…she looks so sweet and innocent.
Being crowned Emperess in her Shakespeare class. She had to do a ton of work to earn this award – vocabulary, memorizing soliloquy, writing papers, AND reading, watching, or listening to 47 of Shakespeare’s plays and other writings.
As Puck in her Shakespeare group’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
A big group of her friends all got ready together for the Homeschool Prom back in April. She is the one on the far right in the front in the white dress.
After the Prom and back home with her big sister.
Love this pic of the girls sticking their heads through an inner tube on their way to float the river on the 4th of July. The whole Suburban was full of tubes and towels and food and people and the only way I could get a pic was to have them bend way down and look through the opening. I think it is my favorite pic of these two precious girls of ours.
Fancy hair while camping. Andie did everyone’s hair most of the days we were there and since Keziah’s is the longest and thickest, it is the most fun to work with. Behold Andie’s creation.
Hiking with Blythe and her cousins from Tami’s clan.
She is a pro at making silly faces. She was disgusted with something gross while we were camping.
Swimming with her bestie, Courtney, big sister, Blythe, and dear friend, Emily.
At Blythe’s mission farewell with lots of friends…and one of her signature silly faces.
My dad came out for Blythe’s mission farewell and stayed for a few days to visit. He took the kids on a hike up to a really awesome cave.
Playing Ticket To Ride for one last time before Blythe left and showing off her squeezable water bottle that she is so in love with.
All of our kiddos being silly before our real family photo shoot.
The real family photo of all our cute kiddos.
Miss Keziah, Happy Birthday! Thank you for being such force for good in this world!
I love mentoring Scholars. LOVE it. Youth that have their heads screwed on straight, have the tenacity and courage to do hard things, the desire to learn, and the ability to digest and discuss big ideas are my favorite students. So for the past five years I have spent my time (hundreds of hours!) teaching those youth. Reading stuff like The Communist Manifesto, Unbroken, Mere Christianity, The Hiding Place, Animal Farm, To Destroy You Is No Loss, Flag of Our Fathers, and Hiroshima and then discussing them with my students has brought me so much joy. It lights a fire in my soul to be part of a young person’s education, to help them understand the world in new ways and to see themselves with new eyes.
This spring, I knew I needed a break. After the car accident in January, I was barely making it through each day. Unable to use my mouth much, eating liquids nearly exclusively, and being in constant pain wore me out and not knowing how I would be doing this fall, I decided I needed to take a complete break from mentoring. But sometime in April, the quiet whisperings of the Spirit started entering my heart and prompted me to start a Liberty Girls group for Annesley. I don’t particularly enjoy teaching other people’s young children. Loving and teaching my own is one thing, but children who are not mine is a whole ‘nother story. So I kind of rejected the idea. But the promptings kept coming and I kept pondering. Finally in June I decided I really needed AND wanted to go on this adventure with my Annesley.
After lots more thinking and planning, we invited nine girls between the ages of seven and nine to join us, chose our theme for the semester, and selected the books we would read and discuss. Our theme is Finding Courage and we are reading books about girls who found their courage and learning about our ancestors who acted with courage in their lives. We are reading The Courage of Sarah Noble and Understood Betsy…such gems! We meet every other week and have a book discussion, Courage Presentation by one of the girls about one of her ancestors who showed courage, snack & outside play time, and an activity related to the book that is both prepared and taught by the Meeting Mother for that week (because being in charge of an activity is not my forte AT ALL!).
We are having so much fun! We have met together four times and I have fallen in love with my Liberty Girls. They are full of courage, kindness, faith, eagerness, and so much ZEST. They make me laugh and I have been amazed at the thoughts they share during our book discussions.
At our Kick-Off Party, the Meeting Mother taught the girls how to make their very own bags using tea towels, staples, and duck tape. The girls needed guidance, but they were totally able to do it on their own and now they have their very own super cute bags to carry their Liberty Girls books and snacks to each of our meetings. Then we went to a nearby Splash Park to have some wet summer fun and develop strong friendships within our group as they ran around and played games in the water.
At our first official meeting, we had our first Courage Presentation, discussed the first half of The Courage of Sarah Noble, and then went on a hike just like Sarah did in our book. I wasn’t quite up to walking that day, so the girls pushed me in my wheelchair. I was amazed at the insights they shared on the book. The concept of “Keep up your courage” sunk deep into their souls and they shared lots of experiences where they needed to find courage and then keep it up. Sarah’s courage in leaving her mother and siblings to help her father by cooking for him while he built their new home inspired these girls to do hard things as well.
At one point on our hike, one of the girls lost a flip-flop (not even her own flip-flop, another girl had let her borrow them) in a swampy, murky spot of water. It was disgusting! The girls searched and searched for about 15 minutes and could not find the sandal in the water. Then they prayed and asked for help and with courage plunged their sticks and hands in to the sludge one more time. And they found it! They came running back to me sitting in my wheelchair out on the trail shrieking, Miss Tracy, we kept up our courage, we kept up our courage! The water was so gross and we kept searching and didn’t give up! And then we prayed and then God helped us find it!” Oh my goodness, my heart filled up with JOY!
Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the sandal swamp incident since I couldn’t get down there.
The girls found some turtles swimming in the water. You probably can’t see them, but there are about 5 turtles down there in front of them.
Then we found ducks and geese and some kind college kids gave the girls some bird food. They had a blast feeding them and holding the little ones.
As they were pushing me back to the car, we were walking on a road (a hardly ever traveled road!) and the girls were worried a car would hit me in my wheelchair, so they formed a barrier wall and marched in front of me protecting me. Cracked me up! And trust me, if I was actually concerned that a car would be traveling down that road, I wouldn’t have let them walk down the middle of it.
Mentoring these young girls is so much fun. They are alive with curiosity, willingness to learn new things, and so much silliness. They love to play with our kittens, run around our yard in all sorts of imaginary worlds, and share all the excitements of their lives. It is a sacred honor to be part of their character development and to be gifted this opportunity to learn and grow with them.
I will try to get photos from our next two meetings posted soon!
Wednesday, September 16 was the big day we have been looking forward to for the past many months. Before that day came we had to have purchased a gazillion things, packed it all up, had her set apart by our Stake President, had her final dates with her siblings, parents, and grandparents, said all of our goodbyes, and emptied out her room so Annesley could move in. Most of those things happened…but not all of them.
The last few days before she left were full of lasts. Last date with each of her siblings. Last date with Madi, her best friend. Lunch with her grandparents. Last movie night with us a family. Last time playing her favorite music on our piano. Last time taking a llllooooonnnnngggg shower. There were also lots of firsts. First time packing suitcases instead of duffle bags. First time being set apart as a full-time missionary. First time sharing her testimony of Christ as a missionary. First time being gone from us for more than a few days.
That last week there were so many things that still needed to be purchased. A blazer, a robe (never actually found one that would work!), scripture marking pencils, nail care set, sewing kit, shampoo and conditioner, highlighters, a navy blue cardigan, static guard, SD card, a curling iron, skirt hangers, a watch, luggage tags, and a gazillion other little things. Some angels in disguise came to our rescue and sent us money or sent stuff via Amazon Prime so we could get all those last minute things. My heart wells up with tears of joy every time I think about the help we have been given to get her out the door. A year ago when all this started in earnest, I remember saying, “I have no idea how we will be able to pay for her mission, much less get her all the stuff she needs to serve.” and my mom said, “Well, you need to trust. As she works hard saving money, God will help all of you to be able to do this. If a mission is where God wants her to be, He will be in the details.” And she was right. He has been with us and has sent many hands and hearts to help. Thank you to each of you who have blessed us with love, encouragement, and money – you are being God’s hands.
The Friday before we started packing in earnest and tried to figure out the best way to first, make everything fit, and second, make it most efficient for use. Since she will be flying to California, she had to abide by the airplane rules of a 50 lb. weight limit and nothing larger than 62 dimensional inches. And if she would have been flying straight to California, that would have been pretty easy-peasy. BUT she has a two week stay at the Missionary Training Center, MTC for short, before she flies out. And she hates packing. So I decided it would work best for her if we could make everything she would need for the two weeks at the MTC fit into one suitcase and everything else fit into the other two bags. Kat came over for several hours on Sunday helping us figure things out. It was pretty hilarious for her super organized packing brain to be in the same room with our scatterbrained non-packing brains – good thing she has a heart of gold and was able to be patient with us. We didn’t successfully get anything packed, but we got most of the stuff ready to be packed. We also figured out lots of things that wouldn’t work.
Monday morning Blythe left to spend the day with her grandparents and running last minute errands and I utilized the time to get the packing thing completely figured out with no interference from her or anyone else. I watched a few packing videos online and got to work implementing all my brainstorming ideas that had come in the night while I tossed and turned. As the morning progressed, it appeared my brilliant one MTC bag would work! I was able to get her MTC bag packed with everything she would need for two weeks and get everything else to fit in the other two bags. Throughout that day I packed and unpacked everything several times, weighed, adjusted, weighed some more. Then our neighbor came over who is about to leave on her mission and wanted some ideas from us (as if we know what we are doing!), so nearly everything got unpacked again. By this time, I was a pro. I quickly got it all packed back up and ready to go. And I went to bed that night feeling pretty darn accomplished. Then I realized I still hadn’t solved the shampoo and conditioner problem, made her a rice pack, made copies of her mission call, found some hair serum, found a robe, packed her last minute odd and ends, etc. Tuesday was spent finishing up all those last minute details and Blythe and Keziah went on a date to see “Once I Was A Beehive” and then late that night Kat came over again and helped us finish up the last of the packing using all her mad packing skills to solve the last few challenges. She also made Blythe an adorable rice bag since I never got to it…superhero is all I can say about Miss Kat. When all was loaded, her two checked bags weighed in at 47 and 48 lbs and we were ready to walk out the door!
Now the emotional side of all of this is a whole different story. From about the time my dad left on the 3rd clear through to the 14th, I was a grumpy mama bear. Deep sadness entered my soul and no matter how I tried to reason it away, it would not leave. The thought of our family being forever changed by Blythe’s leaving was so overwhelmingly painful. The realization that my phase of mothering my little children in my home was ending and a new phase beginning hit me as a gale force wind and I needed to grieve the ending before I could welcome the beginning. I was easily irritated, then frustrated with myself for spending these last precious days with my girlie in such an unpleasant state of being, then sad all over again. We were all trying so hard to be loving and to savor these moments together and yet I was miserable at the thought of her leaving. And then on the 14th as I folded her laundry, God reached out and gave me a gift. He wrapped me up in his love for her and filled me with gratitude that I have a daughter who loves Jesus so much she is willing to go and share His message of redemption and happiness with complete strangers.
Late Tuesday night, Blythe was set apart as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The six of us plus Richard’s parents attended this special blessing and it was a beautiful, sacred experience to feel the Spirit so strongly and to hear powerful blessings pronounced upon my daughter’s head.
Wednesday morning we left bright and early to make the 4 hour drive to Provo. My heart was full of joy. Full of happiness. It was quite miraculous to experience so much joy when for the past many days I had been mired in grief. The rain poured down all day and at times we could barely see the road, but we were able to get to Provo with just enough time to take her to lunch at our favorite place, The Old Spaghetti Factory. We didn’t know if we would be able to do that or not, but I was able to squirrel away enough pennies to make it happen, so it was super fun to surprise her with one last fun outing – may the delicious Spinach Tortellini fill her up with our love for her for the next 18 months. Then we had just few minutes to get up to the Provo temple to take the obligatory temple fountain picture. We still needed to pack her makeup and hair stuff she had used that morning into her suitcase, so we sent the 4 kiddos up to take pictures while Richard and I made sure everything was completely ready in her bags.
At this point, everyone was still laughing and smiling. We were about 6 minutes from dropping her off and everyone was super happy and taking silly pictures.
Then the moment came. We entered the MTC parking lot and came to the drop-off line. We were quickly directed to our drop-off spot and started unloading her things.
Her face changed from one of silliness to soberness.
I was filled from head to toe with peace. Indescribable warmth and joy and glorious peace filled me and I knew we were in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. God wrapped me up in His peace. What a feeling! I have heard other people describe this peace when a loved one has died or some other tragic thing has happened, but I have never experienced such a powerful feeling of tenderness from my Father in Heaven. I think He knew I needed this extra measure of comfort. The amazing thing is, it is still with me.
Then Keziah jumped out of the suburban and gave her big sister the hug of a lifetime…so much tenderness and love in that hug.
Then Annesley jumped out and ran into Blythe’s arms.
Fisher couldn’t bring himself to get out, so Blythe went over and gave him a tearful hug goodbye.
And then with courage, faith, and determination, she walked away into her new life as a missionary. So proud of her! I always said I would have served a mission if I hadn’t been married beforehand, but seeing how much courage it takes, boy howdy, I don’t know if I would have actually had enough.
And this is what our faces looked like as we drove away – lots of tears and sadness. Somehow, I didn’t cry. My joy at that moment was too great for tears and as I had been crying for weeks, it was time for me to bask in the truth of John’s wise words.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
3 John 1:4
None of the kids wanted to do anything fun on our way home. They were all full of sadness and deep thoughts. We tried to go to Scheel’s to ride the Ferris Wheel thinking that would cheer the kiddos up, but the ride was closed for maintenance. We went and visited Jessica for a bit, but even seeing our dear friends didn’t cheer the kids up. Then we stopped at Tami’s where she fed us a delicious dinner of Chicken Tortilla Soup.
Such a beautiful day!
My heart is full of joy and I am so grateful to have had the privilege of raising this daughter who loves goodness and puts God first in her life. She is my hero!
Having our girlie leave for her mission is hard. Really hard. My emotions have been all over the map in the past couple of weeks and I have been grumpy more often than not. But today my heart has swelled up with gratitude. As I put her clothes in the washer today to clean for probably the last time, the past 19 years of memories swept across my mind’s eye and I started weeping with joy that I have been privileged to be this special girl’s mama. I am so grateful to have her for our daughter. I am grateful she is worthy and able to serve a mission. I am grateful she loves God. I am grateful she believes in and relies on the atonement of Jesus Christ. I am grateful she chooses good, uplifting, life-giving pursuits. I am grateful she loves and creates beautiful music. I am grateful her soul is drawn to stories of courage, sacrifice, liberty, and love. I am so grateful for the thousands of hours we have spent learning, reading, and discovering together. I am grateful, oh, so grateful for this precious time I have had her in my home.
Further up and Further In! It is time to grow ever closer to her Father and Savior, to learn to truly love her fellow man in her heart AND her actions, and to do hard things. I am so excited for her!
Six days left with my girlie. It is hard to believe we are at this point and she is about to walk out of our home and embark on her adventure of serving the Lord as a missionary preaching the gospel and loving and serving the people of California.
I want to savor these last few days with her, but the truth is I am grumpy and overwhelmed at how much we still have to get done. I’m not that much fun to be with right now – every day I tell myself I am going to be cheerful and kind and helpful and every day this week I have failed. Every day I pray for help, pleading with God to help me have a soft heart and kind words and even with His help, the grumpiness comes out.
Part of me is grieving. This is the loss of our family unit as we know it. I know the next phase of life is going to be wonderful in its own way, but I am still grieving the loss of this time, this sacred time I have had to be a homeschooling mother of four precious souls. Earlier in this mission process, I mistakenly thought we wouldn’t really miss her, that since she has been working so much the past year and not in our home for many hours each day, we would be fine without her. But I was wrong. My heart is aching with pain at the thought of her being gone from our home. Giant alligator tears pour out of me every single day. Our family is changing. Forever. It will never be the same again. And while I am so, so excited for her and for the future, I am also deeply sad.
Part of me is worried…is she really ready? Will she be able to handle all that is thrown at her in the next 18 months? Have I failed her by not teaching her better? Will she get along with her companions? Will she turn to God? Will she thrive?
Part of me is overwhelmed. We still have so much to do, to buy, to find in our home, and to figure out how to make do with what we have. I think getting a missionary out the door is an expensive, stressful experience for everyone who does it. I think it has been a bit more challenging for us…but I could be totally wrong on that since I have no idea what it has been like for anyone else.
We have a small and quite limited budget and we haven’t spent much of that budget on Blythe’s wardrobe for the past several years. She has survived just fine with hand-me-downs, thrift store finds, and the occasional super cute outfit bought by her grandma. But when we inspected her existing clothing options, none of it was mission appropriate, especially for the wealthy, professional area of California she is serving. Her clothes were faded, worn-out, looked like something a fourteen year old would wear, or were simply unattractive. She needed all new clothes, not just dresses and skirts and blouses, but everything. Her only pajamas were heavy, warm fleece, which is not quite what she will need in sunny California. Her exercise clothes were men’s basketball shorts which were once again not long enough to cover her knees while both standing and sitting, a mission requirement. Her robe was falling apart and not long enough to meet mission standards, her jeans were too tight, her bras were lacking in the support department, and her shoes were filthy, holey, and stinky. So she needed new everything. Quite the task to completely outfit her for her new life.
Blythe has never lived on her own, so she didn’t have any of her own stuff. We all share clothes, curling irons, straighteners, makeup, hairspray, socks, etc. We have had to get all of that stuff for her. Well, to be honest, we still have to purchase some of it and some of it I am just sending with her from my things and will have to live without for awhile until I can afford to replace those items.
Another budgeting challenge is that we have been getting her ready for her mission during the four months of the year that Richard doesn’t get paid from his regular job and we have to live off of savings and the small check he gets from his part-time job. There isn’t room for extras in our budget, so anything we have bought for her has to come out of our grocery budget and anything she has bought (which is the vast majority of the purchases) has had to be bought as she has earned the money. She didn’t go into this with a huge nest egg of money, so she has had to work hard earning the money she needs to outfit herself and to save a big chunk to pay towards the $400 monthly fee required of missionaries. So, she wasn’t able to just go out and purchase what she needed as she needed to earn a little, shop a little, earn some more, shop some more. I think if we could have just had a week of big shopping days, we could have kicked this out of the park back in June. For the things we are purchasing, we spent everything we could back in June and then have had to wait until now to get the rest of her things because we chose to take our annual camping trip in August. We survived on eggs for the entire month of August so we could save grocery money to buy items on her supply list and throw her an Ice Cream Fest the day of her farewell. This little bit at a time approach is working, but it is harder than just having a big list and checking it off. It’s all good and I am proud of her for working so hard to earn the money she needs, it’s just that our lack of ability to help much has complicated things.
Between her work schedule and my body’s limited ability to shop for very long, it has been difficult for us to go shopping together. Endless phone calls, sending pictures back and forth, buying things and then returning them when one or both of us vetoes an item has been our life for the past 4 months.
Blythe has many strengths, but getting stuff done in a timely or orderly fashion is not one of them. I really do wonder if I will be sane by next week as the packing and room cleaning jobs have been put off till the very last minute. I am much the same way and must have driven my mother absolutely bonkers with my procrastinating ways. Being the one waiting on the procrastinator is about the most frustrating experience ever and is playing a huge part in my grumpiness.
Somehow we will get it all done…or maybe we won’t and she will end up in California without the things she needs and will figure out a way to survive without them. Today is clean the room and make the list of anything we still need to beg, borrow, or buy. In the meantime, I will be singing hymns and trying to remember to smile and laugh and enjoy this girlie I love so much.
Conversation as Richard leaned down to kiss me before he leaves for work this morning.
Me feeling a bit unlovable as I have been more than a little grumpy lately: Is this just a daily duty on your to-do list?
R: No, not a duty. It is my privilege.
Magical words to soften my heart and bind us together. Oh, how I love this man.
p.s. I will try to write soon. Right now I am up to my eyeballs in getting my house purging projects finished so my guests coming to stay in the next few days have a place to eat, sleep, and sit.
Oh my good heck, it is July 19. Serious problems blogging on any kind of regular basis over here. I’m pretty sure I will develop a more regular posting habit come fall, but at this point, I am not promising anything…because I hate breaking promises and I try not make a promise I am not 100% sure I can keep.
In the meantime, here is an update.
I am doing pretty well. I am moving better and functioning better and it is visibly apparent to those around me. People give me high fives and big smiles when they see me walking at an almost normal pace in normal shoes. I have been out of my knee brace for several weeks and while my knee is still sore, it is improving. It still hurts to drive and it hurts to be up on it for a super long time, but it is good for the first hour or so. My face, neck, jaw, ribs, and back are still suffering from January’s car accident whiplash, but they are slowing improving as well.
As far as passing out goes, it is improving as well and I actually was starting to think it was a thing of the past, though I have had two small episodes in the past 24 hours, so now I don’t know what to think.
I have been exercising on the Elliptigo for a few weeks and am up to 3 minutes – BIG WAHOO! It feels absolutely amazing to feel my neglected muscles working and growing. Three minutes doesn’t sound like much, but it is hard. It about knocks me flat. Keziah gets on and rides for 30 minutes…someday, someday I will be there.
Blythe has been working her butt off all year putting money in the bank for her mission and we both have been searching and shopping for some fabulous mission clothes. We have most of what we need in that department and are now starting on the long list of other supplies – first aid kit, books, bags, sewing kit, pens, temple clothes, personal hygiene, and a gazillion other little things. It feels like we have very little time left to pull all of this together, but I am confident with Amazon Prime and some improvisation we can pull it off.
We have undertaken a massive project this summer (which is primarily responsible for my poor blogging) and while there is light at the end of the tunnel, it is has kicked my butt and left our home in a terribly messy state of disarray. Ever since the summer of 2011 when we were dealing the breast lump, we have been in full-on survival mode – which means each day we try to love each other, teach each other, and feed each other…and not much else gets done. Stuff does not get dealt with. Stuff builds up. Stuff gets knocked over and left. Stuff takes too much time to sort and process and organize, so it gets shoved here and there for another day…and that other day doesn’t come and after awhile there is a garage and a storage room that are completely inaccessible to any human that values their life.
And that is where we are at…or were at a few months back. I started the Stuff Project by having every single piece of clothing currently in Fisher’s and Annesley’s rooms brought upstairs for me to sort into Keep, Give to Mikelle (my baby sister with wee babes), Give to DI, or Trash. That project was huge. We finished it the day before Swim Camp back in June.
Then we tackled the school room. We went through each book down there and did the same thing, Keep, Give to someone specific, Sell to a used book store, Give to DI, or Trash. Books are sacred to me and I don’t part with them easily, but we did it! We were able to get rid of 6 big boxes of books! We also created a new computer area for the big girls, moved my Elliptigo and deep cleaned the whole area.
With that success under our belt, I decided to hire Keziah to clean out the storage room. I really wish I had a before picture so you could see how awful it was because there are no words to do it justice. None. Picture a grocery store, special events store, and clothing store being on the fault line of an earthquake and then being abandoned to the survivors who would climb over the piles of stuff, dig through it for the treasure of the day, and knock more stuff over on their way back out. And then picture that earthquake happening several years back and the survivors risking their lives to go in and dig through everything to find a can of diced tomatoes or a pair of size 1 shoes or the Christmas decorations. Oh my, frightening, don’t you think?
Well, this job was ginormous. I offered Keziah $100 to clean, organize, and completely dejunkify. Really, it should have been about $500 for the amount of time she put in, but $100 was all I could come up with (and to be honest, I haven’t even paid her for it yet, she may have to wait until October when Richard starts getting paid again).
Miss Amazing did it. It took her several weeks of working around her other jobs and she completely filled the (once clean) school room with her storage room mess, but she did it. Our burn pile is in desperate need of being burnt to smithereens as we threw away SO MANY boxes. We went through every single pair of shoes in the earthquake residue and gave 163 pairs of shoes and 75 singles to Dando Amor. She reorganized all the food storage, Passover and Christmas items, and the preparedness supplies. She removed the filthy carpet, vacuumed and scrubbed, and then put all the stuff back inside. It looks and feels awesome. We can enter without risking life or limb. We can find things! We can walk around!
Part of the mess in the storage room was the 10 or so big bins of children’s clothes that have been buried and dug through for the past many years. I made the super painful decision that it was time to let those clothes go and to let Keziah sell what she could and give the rest to the thrift store. So she hauled all the bins upstairs and has been washing and sorting and folding the clothes for the past several weeks. So once again, we don’t have a usable dining room. The floor is almost completely covered with stacks of freshly-washed clothes. I still need to go through the clothes and figure out which ones are sellable and which ones need to go to DI.
Then last weekend, we started on the garage. Oh my. Oh my. What a disaster. Richard and I worked for about twelve hours and we probably have thirty more to go. Thirty hours we don’t have before he starts back at his school job again, which means, this job may get left until next summer when he has Saturdays off. Super sad, but that is the reality of only having a few Saturdays off a year – only a couple projects can get done in a year. We could have worked on it yesterday, but we decided our little ones’ emotional health was more important and that they needed to go fishing with their papa.
Throughout all of these dejunkifying projects, I have also been working on my room and closet which is one giant pile of disaster as well. I have been sorting through clothes and facing the strong possibility that I will never fit into my size 6 clothes again and if I do, they probably won’t be in style anyway, so they need to go. And probably the size 8’s as well. And probably the clothes that are too big for me, surely I won’t need those in the future, right? Every few days I send a small load of stuff to DI with Richard or Blythe and bit by bit I am making progress. The floor of our room is all clean along with our bathroom, I just need to finish the back of our closet and the purging decisions.
We still need to build water storage shelves in the garage, clean out the garage, improve the chicken coop, clean up the messes in our yard – the burn pile, the broken cars, and the weeds. I had big hopes of building some swings, staining the deck, and remodeling our camper, but I think those will have to be tabled until next summer as well.
But now all these projects are going to be put on hold because my mountains are calling to me.
It is that time of year when I go and get recharged by the glacier-fed waters and rugged mountains I love so much.
I will try to get back to the bringing-order-to-my-life-projects when we get back, but my guess is, it will probably be December when I have time to devote to it again as when we return from camping we will be busy with Blythe’s first temple trip, her mission farewell, and getting her on her mission. Then we will start our fall homeschool schedule of Learning Time, iFAMILY, and Homeschool Gymnastics. I am also starting a Liberty Girls group with Annesley and nine other little girls, which is probably a bigger commitment than I realize right now. I desperately want to wrap up all my summer organization projects, but I also have to be realistic about the capacity of my body to work, the needs of my family, and the lack of any extra funds to devote to the projects. It’s all good and I need to keep reminding myself that we have accomplished a massive amount of work already. We just need to get the house put back together so we can eat meals and play games in the dining room again.
So if you are wondering why I haven’t been posting much, this is why – a summer full of big projects and when I have a spare minute that I’m not flat on my back in bed with my ice packs, I take the kids to the lake for an afternoon of kayaking and swimming or curl up with them for read-alouds. I hardly see Blythe and Keziah at all. They are both busy working as hard as they can earning money and my job is to give them hugs and encouragement when they get home.
There are some things I know – a few things that are rock solid in my soul. I came to know them in the aftermath of a difficult time when everything I thought I knew come crashing down around me.
Last night we watched The Cokeville Miracle and quite unexpectedly it brought back all the feelings of that long ago summer of 1986 – the summer my life and all the things I thought about the world were turned upside down.
In the twelve weeks following my twelfth birthday, a series of events occurred that broke my heart in a million pieces, changed my perspective, and sent me on a journey to discover what I really could depend upon.
First, my dad left. My hero. My favorite guy. My world. He drove away to a new life with a new woman far across the country. The gut-wrenching tears that racked my soul are indescribable. In spite of the fact that there were challenges in my parents’ marriage, our family being torn apart and ceasing to exist as a FAMILY had somehow not occurred to me as a real possibility. When it happened, when he actually drove away and stayed away, I no longer knew what was real, what I could depend on and what I couldn’t.
The next week, the tragedy in Cokeville happened. Even though it didn’t happen TO me, it did happen just 90 minutes away in a tiny, sleepy ranching town that seemed perfectly safe and secure. And it crumbled my remaining foundation a little bit more. If a madman could go into a school, a tiny, safe school very close to my home, hold children hostage and attempt to blow them up, and it could be on national TV, anything was possible. ANYTHING. In my young, twelve-year-old mind that was trying desperately to make sense of the world, it meant my little sleepy town might not be as safe as I thought. It meant it could happen in my school and my friends and I could be the ones living that nightmare. It meant the world was full of crazy people. It meant I might not be safe any longer.
A few weeks later, I went on a trip and was molested. Once again, my world turned on its axis and I had no idea which was up or down, good or bad. All the attention by an older boy was flattering and it certainly felt good, at least physically, but my soul was full of blackness and revulsion.
About a month after that I was sent across the country to visit my dad. It was wonderful and hard and scary all at the same time. It was so, so good to see him and to spend time with him. At the same time, I could see clearly that he had a whole new life and it didn’t include me, not really anyway. He had a girlfriend and a new job in a new state and I could see he wasn’t ever going to be standing behind the plate umpiring my games or playing football on Sunday afternoons or unloading the semi-truck full of goods at our family’s grocery store again. As I watched him in his new life, it became crystal clear that all of this wasn’t just a bad dream and he truly wasn’t coming back. That hard, cold, bitter truth sunk deep into my soul and I felt completely adrift from what I thought life was supposed to be like.
While I was gone to visit my dad, my mother was raped. A man from our church congregation, a man I KNEW, came into our home, MY HOME, a place I thought was safe, and dragged my mother out to the field and raped her. I cannot begin to comprehend the fear and pain my mother went through that night and for many years following. It is beyond imaginable to me.
However, I do know what I went through. Life no longer felt safe in any way. This penetration of the wall of safety of my home changed me, terrified me and hardened me all at the same time. Just a few months prior, I had a family, a home, a family business, a church, a community, and a state that felt safe, secure, and protective. Those things were full of loving, strong, moral people who loved me and on whom I could depend.
My mother’s rape was the final blow to that picture in my mind. I no longer had any idea who was safe, what was good, what was strong and permanent and dependable. My foundation was gone, blown away like dust in a windstorm.
On the outside, I still functioned. For the most part, I probably looked okay to many people. But inside, I had died. I had no idea what was real. If family and home and church were not what I thought they were, maybe God wasn’t real either. Maybe He was just an idea that people clung to without really knowing if he existed or not. Or maybe He did exist, but instead of the loving God I had imagined, was mean and vengeful. Or maybe He did reign supreme, but He simply didn’t care about me. Without anything solid to hold onto, I was like a puff of dandelion seeds, being blown to and fro, trying to find someplace to land and plant new roots.
It took years for me to allow God to rebuild my foundation. Piece by piece He gave me solid bits of truth to give a mooring to my soul.
Sometime in that twelfth year I stopped praying. I could not open my heart to a being I didn’t know was real or if he was real, wasn’t concerned enough with me to protect me. Then I stopped crying. I think it was an attempt to stop feeling. In some ways, it worked. I was able to go through life, get straight A’s, put on a show of happiness that almost convinced even myself, and succeed in all the quantifiable measures of life, but my heart was mostly dead to feeling the good things and underneath the surface, a volcano of anger boiled ready to explode whenever a person would make some comment about how wonderful men are or how I needed to spend more effort preparing for marriage. Then the anger would erupt and frighten me with its passionate vehemence.
Truth be told, I was a mess. I knew all the Sunday School answers and I had great hope that the idea of a loving Heavenly Father and eternal families were true, but the evidence around me told a very different story and my logical mind could not discard the proofs surrounding me that God didn’t care about me, that men were despicable, and that the only thing I could count on was myself.
Through that pain and pride and sorrow, God began to speak to me in quiet, almost imperceptible ways. He would send a feeling of comfort, an act of kindness, or a moment of inspiration. He told me clearly in the scriptures that He did love me and that He sent His son to die for me and all of His children…even the ones who had hurt me so terribly. I remember one day sitting in seminary and reading these words.
Behold, it is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
As I read them, God spoke to me. He whispered powerfully to the deepest parts of my soul that His entire purpose in being is to bring His children home to Him and that He was doing exactly that with me. He filled me with a certainty of His goodness and sureness of His capability to do His work. I can’t adequately describe the pure knowledge that flowed into me. In those few moments, I felt His peace and His love and came to know that He knew me personally and would do everything He could to bring me home.
That experience stayed with me. It changed me. It gave me several solid pieces of my foundation. One, I knew God was real. Two, I knew he knew me. Three, I knew he loved me. Four, I knew He was in the process of and would continue to teach, purify, and redeem me. Those are some pretty solid foundations and they have carried me and given me strength for many years.
Throughout the years, those bedrock truths have been strengthened by many more experiences with the Spirit and God’s hand in my life. He has guided me through the forgiveness process and taken the anger and hatred out of my heart. He has taught me again and again that I can trust Him and I must depend on Him. He has taught me that He is greater than any other power or force. He has shown me both His goodness and His glory as He heals my heart and changes my nature. Those original foundations have been added to with pieces of trust and reliance and miracles and peace.
I don’t know everything and I still have a long, long way to go in understanding Him and becoming like Him, but I know He is real. I know He is a God of miracles. I know He lives and loves and heals and transforms.
Last night, I sobbed through most of the movie. My feelings of fear and pain and sorrow from that harrowing summer came to the surface and poured out of me. My heart ached for the little girl I was who was trying her best to make sense of the destruction of all she held dear. And then, my heart filled with gratitude for those months and years of searching for something I could truly stand on and know it would not move. God gave me a new foundation, much stronger than my little girl hopes and dreams. He gave me His goodness and plan for all His children and continues to show me He is able to do His work to bring me and each of us home.
Can you hear me belting out those words from the old Kool and the Gang song? I have been singing those five words over and over all night.
There are a gazillion things I need to post about and I keep thinking I will get to Swim Camp, Jennifer leaving, my family reunion, my cruise, missionary shopping, Keziah’s play, and so many other things that have happened in the past two months, but tonight, instead of worrying about all that, I want to savor this momentous day.
I GET TO START EXERCISING!
For the first time since December 8, I have been cleared to ride my Elliptigo! Woot! Woot! I am so silly excited! Now I have to be super careful and only ride for a minute or so, but a minute is a huge sixty second improvement from the past 6+ months. And in the interest of full disclosure, I injured my inguinal ligament back on October 10 and was only able to start exercising after that injury on December 2.
This is huge.
It has been almost 9 months since I have been able to do any exercising at all and now it is here. The day I have been praying and yearning for for months.
Tonight I rode.
And it felt magnificent.
Imagine me holding up a lovely glass of sparkling cider.