the beginning of goodbyes

May 5, 2019 by

My mother’s oldest sister passed away today. She is the first one of the nine siblings to leave us. My heart is a jumble of emotions.

I am happy for her. Really truly happy for her to be out of pain and to be able to spend time with her son, Gary, who passed away as a little boy. I tickled that she gets to be with her mama, by dear, dear grandma, and her father. We have a huge family of people that I know she is reuniting with and big hugs are being shared.

At the same time, there is something about her death I’m just not ready for. For a long time, our family has been a stable, steady force in my life. My aunts and uncles have always been there for me. Have always loved me. Have always listened. My childhood was surrounded by their tender care. We had frequent family gatherings at my grandparents’ home along with nearly constant interaction at our family business. If I ever needed to talk, one of them would listen.

Louise’s passing feels like the entering of a new era. One in which many people I care about are going to leave this sphere. One in which I will miss them fiercely. One in which I will have to figure out how to be a grown up, the grown up. I’m not ready for any of this. Which seems strange to me. I certainly would have thought that I would be fully into adulthood by now. But it just doesn’t feel like it. I am turning 45 on Tuesday and I still feel like a little kid in many ways.

Of my mother’s 38 first cousins, only two of them have passed away and those have both been recent deaths. This generation of relatives has been a force for good in my life and in the world my entire life. The thought of them leaving us takes my breath away. Literally. Gasping. I cannot imagine life here on earth without them.

And I really, really can’t imagine life without my mama. Taking care of her last month during her surgery was beautiful and emotionally gut-wrenching. The pain on her face brought me face to face with her mortality. She could die. She almost did die in the days following her surgery. And some day she will. And I don’t have any idea how I will live without this woman who has taught me how to live with courage and faith and forgiveness.

Several more of my aunts and uncles are in poor health and I don’t know how many more visits I will have with them. I am so not ready for any of this. I’ve never been good at goodbyes. Even temporary ones.

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annesley’s big heart

May 2, 2019 by

I’ve been sick this week with fever, chills, and a deep, painful cough. It has been miserable. I haven’t been able to read to my family.

But my delightful little girl came into bed with me and said, “Mom, you can’t read to us, so I’m going to read to you.” She proceeded to read me a Billy and Blaze book because she loves horses and Loud Emily because she knows it is one of my favorite read-alouds and she said she’d been working on the voices.

Be still, my heart.

This is the power of family-read alouds. She couldn’t bear to let me go to sleep without a story.

I’m so grateful for my Annesley-girl and the joy she spreads far and wide.

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thankful & blessed

Jan 31, 2019 by

Full heart today. I have made two kinds of delicious soup, cleaned my house, worked on our taxes, sent my kids to the temple, and spent sacred hours with my girl.

Blythe is in labor with our first grandchild. I have been preparing for this day for pretty much her whole life and now it is finally here. During our hard years of me not understanding her or her needs, I didn’t know if she would ever allow me to be at her births. And for me, a doula and childbirth educator who loves being with birthing mamas with my whole soul, that thought was deeply painful. Many mornings I would do a visualization technique where I would picture her in labor and envision our relationship at that future date. Then I would think about what I needed to do in the current time to have a future relationship that would allow me to be at her birth. It was one of the most powerful ways I was able to curb my harsh words and be the mama she needed me to be.

And now that day is here. Right now. And it is glorious.

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25 years

Oct 15, 2018 by

Twenty-five years ago this morning I knelt down at an altar in the Salt Lake Temple and made sacred covenants with God and Richard which enable us to be sealed together as husband and wife forever. This weekend, Richard and I went back to that temple and did endowments and sealing work for my ancestors and it was glorious to walk the same halls and do the same ordinances with twenty-five years of love between us.

Oh my, this man. He fills my soul up with joy in indescribable ways. He sees me as a kind, dedicated, passion-driven woman and so, he helps me become that person. He sees me as trying my best. He firmly believes I am fantastic and adorable and capable and delightful. And because he believes it so thoroughly, he helps it become a reality. Oh, his goodness and gentleness and stableness are such balms for my windswept soul.

This weekend we took one of our very few couple trips – we definitely need to do more! I think this may have been our 2nd trip alone? We went away for a night on his 40th birthday and maybe there was one other trip at some point, but I can’t remember for sure. We were able to snag a Priceline deal for $79 and the man at the front desk was soooo nice – when he found out it was our 25th anniversary, he upgraded us to a fancier king-size room and gave us free parking. WAHOO! It was simply amazing to be alone with my sweetheart and not feel the pressure to make food, do laundry, teach math or history or problem solving or ANYTHING, or to even make any of the five gazillion decisions a mother makes every single day. Truth be told, I realized just how tired I am and how much the duties of motherhood weigh on me. And it felt glorious to let it all go for a few days.

We stopped at one of our favorite restaurants from the early days of our marriage. When Blythe was a baby, we would often go to Senior Iguanas for a $10 meal before we did our weekly grocery shopping. We had Starving Student cards with Buy 1/Get 1 free meals. Richard always got the two foot burrito and I always ordered the chicken and cream cheese enchiladas. With tax and tip, it came out to right around ten bucks. It was such a fantastic deal and we always had leftovers for the next day so we went there pretty much every week. It seemed only fitting to go there again after so many years and get our favorite dishes, though Richard went for the one foot burrito instead of the two and we still had leftovers for Saturday.

On Saturday we went to the temple. Oh my, it was soooo wonderful. We had the same sealer who did Blythe’s sealing in April and he is so fantastic. What a treat to be with him again! Then we drove up the canyon to go hiking. But we took the wrong road and almost ran out of gas. I guess 68 miles of gas goes pretty fast when you are climbing a mountain – we went through it in about 15 miles. We turned around at the 4 mile gas range mark and coasted down the mountain and to a gas station. Then we took the right road and 9 miles later arrived at our destination. What we didn’t plan on was the snow. We had climbed in elevation so much that there was quite a bit of snow on the ground and we were in shorts and Chacos. We did have jackets, so we bundled up and went as far as we could before we decided to be wise and pay attention to the snow and the wind and the setting sun. It was a glorious mile of walking through the woods.

Being outside surrounded by trees and rugged cliffs does something magical for my soul. It gives me strength and courage and hope. And that is just what happened. As we walked hand in hand up the mountain, I realized that trek is a lot like our life together. It has been steep and left me out of breath. It has been full of joyous moments and harsh realities and miles of beauty. We have helped each other over the tough parts and picked each other up when we have stumbled. We have taken lots of wrong turns. We have loved each other first and best and always and learned to love each other better.

That night we went to three different restaurants and shared an appetizer, salad, or dessert at each one. So fun! Sunday morning we attended the most loving, exuberantly joy-filled ward I have ever been in and soaked in the goodness and realness of the people who were gathered together from all over the world. Then home to our children with a renewed purpose to make our home a safe and soul-filling place to grow up.

He melted my heart on our trip. I asked him what he would change about the last twenty-five years and after thinking about it for a moment, he said, “Nothing. I wouldn’t change a thing. The lessons we have learned are worth it.” I pressed him with ideas of changing our financial situation or to change me into a wife that makes dinner every day and keeps a spotlessly clean house, but he insisted he would keep things just as have been because our experiences have made us who we are and he wouldn’t want to change what he has learned and become. After a lot more thought, he said, “I guess if I could change one thing, I would fix your body so you wouldn’t have had to go through all the EDS challenges.” And I thought about it and decided I wouldn’t change the EDS. I would be thrilled to be healed right now, but I wouldn’t take away the past 6+ years of injury and pain and heartache. I have learned to trust God and to rely on Him in sacred ways and I wouldn’t want to lose that. I have also learned of the deep goodness in this world and the rock-solid stability of my husband. Those lessons are too precious to wish away to get rid of the hardness of these EDS years.

These twenty-five years have been such a beautiful gift. I didn’t know if we would make it this far. Deep down in my soul I felt this was forever, but the stark realities of my life showed me that marriages don’t last and certainly don’t function in happiness. I love him more now than I did on that long ago day. I’m so grateful for the real, tangible, connected happiness we have been blessed with and the foundations of trust, forgiveness, support, and faith we have built upon.

Our marriage brings me joy. So much joy. Oh, how I love him and us and what we have created. Here is to the next 25. And the 25 after that. And then infinity and beyond!

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summer has arrived!

Jun 13, 2017 by

June is nearly half over and summer is here! We just completed our 14th year of Swim Camp. There were 49 families camping with us, 110 kids in lessons, and many other children not in lessons. SO MUCH FUN.

The next few weeks are full of family reunions and camping with Tami (cousin), Mikelle (sister), and my mama on the banks of a beautiful, slow-moving river the kids will play in all day long. This summer we will also have our regular trip to the Wind Rivers, a wedding for my niece, Andie, in Fort Collins, and many days at our local lakes and rivers to kayak and paddleboard and soak up sunshine.

Summer time is just what I need. Amazing how it comes around every year at just the right time to fill my soul up with family, nature, time on the water, blue skies, and Vitamin D from that glorious sun.

I am recovering from my trip to Mexico for stem cell treatments four weeks ago and I can feel my torn ligaments healing. It is ever so slow, but it is working. We went kayaking and paddleboarding on Memorial Day and my hands were able to paddle. It hurt my shoulder with the still recovering subscapularis tear to pull on the paddleboard, but kayaking was okay. It must engage a slightly different set of body parts. My goal is to be in my boat and on my board as much as possible so I can grow some serious muscle. Last summer I was able to grow 5 lbs of muscle between May and September because of all the kayaking I did. I lost nearly all of it over this long winter of injuries. Now, I want to grow more and then NOT get injured and be able to keep growing muscle all winter long.

Bring on the sun and sea (or beautiful rivers and man-made lakes which populate Idaho!). Bring on the family time. Bring on the camping in the majestic mountains and fresh air. Oh, how I love summer.

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five days till our hugs

Mar 30, 2017 by

Our girl comes home in FIVE days. Oh, my goodness! It is so hard to believe that her mission, the thing she prepared for her whole life, is coming to a close.

I had all sorts of goals for while she was gone. I was going to lose twenty pounds. I was going to be not passing out, not injured…I was going to have made so much improvement physically that we would both know it was a mission miracle. I was going to make her a quilt with all sorts of cool mission pictures on it. I was going to have a darling room for her. I was going to have all her emails and photos printed out and made into a book. Certainly the yard would be de-junkified, the garage organized, and the house clean. At the very least, all of her weekly emails would be posted here on my blog for the sake of posterity.

The reality is that none of those things are going to happen. Perhaps some of them could have happened if I hadn’t been hit hard this month with new injuries and dozens of passing out episodes. We are focusing on surviving and thriving on the essentials…morning snuggles, nighttime read-alouds, and people fed some sort of sustenance (most likely not made by me).

Instead of the aforementioned list, our missionary will come home to a real family with real challenges and heaps of love for her that will be shown with lots of hugs, homemade signs, listening ears, and maybe some ice cream. The Pinterest version of a missionary homecoming isn’t all that necessary and I probably shouldn’t have let myself go down that road in the first place since I can’t even figure out how to make dinner or write a blog post on any sort of regular schedule.

Richard has been able to rip out Keziah’s poorly organized closet and build a new space that we are hoping will hold two young ladies’ clothing. Keziah has purchased two new twin beds for both of them and we were able to get new mattresses and bedding. So, she has an awesome place to sleep and a place to put her clothing. Total win, right?

In other news, my body is a mess right now. A hot mess. On the 10th of March, while STANDING and watching Annesley dance her heart out at an Irish Dance performance, my foot dislocated AND a ligament tore. I was doing NOTHING at all, just standing. The next day, while shifting myself in bed, I reinjured my right hand that we have spent the past 17 months healing. I had been out of my splint completely for two months and had been working out of it for about four. It is SO sore. I am back to not being able to write or mouse or do my hair. My foot is incredibly painful. I spend a lot of time in my wheelchair. When I do walk, I am hobbling around, all taped up in an effort to hold the bones in place. My left hand is still in a brace from the fall on October 29th and my left shoulder, though much better since the stem cell shots into the subscapularis tear in January, is still hurting and not able to do much. On top of all that, these new injuries have wrecked havoc with my nervous system and it is going haywire. The prior issues of food not digesting, heart rate skyrocketing and plummeting, passing out, seizures, and constant exhaustion are now pretty constant and I am tuckered out.

This is NOT the state I wanted to be in to welcome my girl home. But it is reality. It is the ride we are on right now and I am determined to make the best of it and not give in to despair and throwing in the towel. January and February were amazing months where I felt normal and capable and had SO MUCH HOPE that I would never pass out again. Everything changed in March and I am learning once again to turn to Him, to listen to His voice of peace and love, and make the best of what I do have control over.

Five days till we get to hug our girl and listen to her stories. Five days to make peace with the reality and NOT make my family crazy for everything we are not.

Life is good. For realsies.

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the perfect dream

Mar 19, 2017 by

Papa: Wake up Annes. It’s time to get ready for church.

Annes: Oh, papa, why did you have to wake me up? I was having a perfect dream in my dream world.

Mama: Come and snuggle with me and tell me all about your perfect dream.

Annes: Well, I had two horses in the back and I built them a place to live and they loved it here. And you passed out, but you didn’t dislocate any of your limbs. And papa had three days off from work, but he made the same amount of money each day as if he had worked the whole day. It was aaaaammmaaaaaaaazzzzzzzing.

Mama: What a lovely dream.

Papa: That IS perfect!

This little girl of mine is so precious to me. She is full of spunk and joy and courage. She has grown up with my dislocating, passing out body, and wants to fix it. She often snuggles up with me and says “Mama, I wish your body worked better so you could play baseball with me.” or “Mama, do you think you will ever be all better so you don’t pass out and shake any more?” or “Mama, I don’t like watching you shake, it scares me.” She has had to face big stuff in her short life. She is often the one with me when an episode starts and calls her papa to let him know I am passed out again. She hears us talking about money and jobs and the frustration of the whole situation. Her dream world is trying to make sense of it all.

Mine too, baby, mine too.

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bfg

Feb 11, 2017 by

Last night we watched The BFG. With the dirth of good family movies available at Redbox last night, I decided the only one that looked worth our time was The BFG, so I broke my cardinal rule of requiring my family members to read the book before watching the movie. I have such fond memories of the book, but have never actually read it myself. In 5th grade, when my family was falling apart, my teacher, Mr. Longmore, would spend the hour after lunch reading to us. He sat on a super-tall stool and crossed his super-long legs and as he read, he created magic in my heart. One of the books he read to us that year was The BFG and as he was nearly giant-sized himself and took a special interest in me, I easily pictured him as the BFG.

We loved the movie. So much. Annesley even got up at 6:00 this morning to get her Saturday jobs done so she could rewatch it before we take it back today. Total winner.

And when we woke up this morning, Annes had written this note.

Who is your BFG? My BFG is my papa. He is loving. My papa loves me. He loves to fish. My papa’s big fish is big. I love my BFG.

And then a drawing of Annes and her papa, AKA her BFG, with tons of hearts and BFGs all over it.

Ah man, this girl. She is full of love and life and so much delightfulness. I’m so grateful to be her mama. A big thanks to Mr. Longmore for being a BFG in my life at a time I so desperately needed him and to my husband for being an ever-present force of love in my life and the lives of our children. BFGs are all around us!

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eyes to see and ears to hear

Dec 10, 2016 by

Perceptions are a funny thing. They determine how we see things, how we understand the world around us, how we evaluate other’s motives, and yet, they are so often wrong. Last night I had one of those moments when I realized, once again, how incorrectly I can perceive the world.

Last night was our Ward Christmas Party. When I finished eating, my heart rate went up like it usually does, and I leaned back in my chair and tried to relax and think calming thoughts to help it come back down. But all the stimulation of kids running around, people talking to me, and the mass chaos of hundreds of people being in the same room together were too much for my nervous system to process. I tried closing my eyes and breathing deeply for awhile and that helped it calm down somewhat. Eventually Richard left to go figure out a way to get our car right up by the door and I counted heartbeats, willing them to sloooooowwwwww down and tried everything I knew to calm my system. The men were all working hard taking down tables and chairs, but could see something was wrong with me and left my table and chairs alone.

Fisher, my dear son who hates to be an inconvenience to anyone, came over and said, “Mom, can you move?” Barely lifting my head, I mumbled, “No, no I can’t.” I thought, “Oh, my heavens, can’t he see I am on the verge of passing out? Does he really care more about inconveniencing the men putting away tables than he does about my body’s needs?” He asked again, “Mom, can you move?” Again, I mumbled “No” and tried to get him to understand that I wasn’t using the table and it could be put away as long as they didn’t move my chairs or try to move me. Not satisfied with my answer, he persisted, “Mom, can you move? They are playing basketball.” In my nearly unconscious state of mind, I nearly exploded inside thinking, “Seriously! He is wanting to play basketball when I am having an episode? He wants me to move so they have more room to play!” But I couldn’t say anything because I was fighting with everything I had to stay conscious and calm. Finally, he said, “Mom, I’m worried the ball is going to hit you and hurt you. We’ve got to move you because they are playing basketball.”

I opened my eyes and looked around and saw that there was a group of teens playing basketball and I was right on the 3-point line. They were running all over the floor and the ball was flying wildly near me. I had had no idea any of that was happening and the boys had no idea anything was wrong with me, they were just trying to have fun. Grasping the situation, I told Fisher, “I can’t move, so you are going to have to protect me from the ball.” His response, “That is what I have been doing, I just think you would be safer if we could move you away from here.”

Oh, my goodness, the tears of gratitude welled up inside me for this good, good boy of mine. He wasn’t embarrassed of me. He wasn’t worried about inconveniencing the clean-up crew. He wasn’t wanting to play basketball and have more room on the court. He was watching over me and protecting me without anyone asking him to and without me even realizing what he was doing.

So often I respond too quickly, long before I understand the real situation. I am grateful for a body that was unable to speak and lash out in irritation and was instead able to hear his quiet voice, full of love, trying to help me.

Eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to understand…those are the gifts I yearn for.

p.s. Yes, I did pass out a few minutes later. As we slowly made our way out to the car, my body collapsed in the hallway with Richard and several other men catching me and taking care of me. I am surrounded by angels, both heavenly and earthly ones. Thank you to those of you who so willingly walk this journey with me.

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