Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Want to Come to ...

A sweet surprise showed up in the Friend Magazine for this upcoming month!

It is a sweet story shared by my niece, Emma.  You can find the article here.  (Here's my side to the story).

Here's Emma's Story:
A few years ago, my younger sister, Brooklynn, and I visited my aunt and uncle for a couple of weeks. We had only been at my aunt’s house for a few minutes when my cousin Jenna and her boyfriend, Merrick, burst inside, eager to see us.
Over the next few weeks, we did many things with Jenna and Merrick. We went swimming together, rode scooters, watched movies, and jumped on Jenna’s trampoline. We also played card games together. But my favorite activity was dressing Merrick up in costumes.
Merrick was not a member of the Church. But since we had become good friends, I decided to invite him to come to church with us. Jenna, Brooklynn, and I were very happy when Merrick said yes. It was a wonderful Sunday being able to see Merrick at church, smiling and listening to the talks about eternal families. He wanted to know more about our beliefs and came to church the next week too.
Two months later Merrick was baptized. Then he left to join the military. He and Jenna wrote to each other while he was away. After two years Merrick and Jenna were married in the Salt Lake Temple! It was wonderful to see Jenna and Merrick coming out of the temple together. Who would have guessed two years ago that an eight-year-old girl asking a simple question could help lead to a temple marriage?
Knowing the wonderful happiness that can come from inviting someone to church has given me courage and excitement to be a young missionary to my friends and neighbors.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

It Will Get Better

This year has been a year of a lot of growth.  It has been exhausting.  Physically.  Emotionally.  Mentally.  Spiritually.  I have learned more than I ever thought possible.  I have grown even more.  Being a mother is very rewarding, but with it comes extreme heartache and pain.  It is excruciating to see your child struggle.  I want to take their burdens, their trials, their heartaches, their stresses, and their illnesses away.  I want to carry it for them.  But alas, I cannot.  This year, I had a very small glimpse of how our Heavenly Father must have felt as he watched His Son, Jesus Christ, suffer in the garden and then die for us. Our Heavenly Father could not do anything as that was part of His beautiful plan.  How deeply painful it must have been for Him to see His Son lovingly atone for each of us.

I too could do nothing.  I could not step in and take over.  Instead, I was silently cheering them on.  I was silently weeping.  Sobbing.  But I can testify that there is hope.  It will get better.  I know it will, as my beautiful daughter taught me that lesson.  I'm sorry she had to teach me that lesson through her own trials, through her own refiner's fire.  I pray her example and her experience will help others who have a difficult journey to travel.

Here is her story:

Will It Get Better?

If I’m being honest with you, I've been staring at a blank Microsoft Word page for about an hour now, wondering where to even begin. How do you summarize three years of your life that, until now, you haven’t really talked about?

I guess I’ll start from the beginning.

I married a man who I still consider to be one of the gentlest, sweetest human beings I have ever met. However, right off the bat, there were certain things that happened that hurt me pretty severely.

I feel that it’s fair for you to get this warning; if you’re here for details, prepare to be disappointed. I still care about him, and I believe that he still cares for me. I think I’ll always consider him a best friend that hurt me, and I him. Because of this, I don’t want to say anything that would make anybody see him differently. We have kept the reasons for our divorce very tightly locked down, and would like to keep it that way.

I was in denial for a really long time. I felt in a lot of ways that I was strapped to an anchor headed for the bottom of the ocean, with no way to escape. When I’m trying to help people understand this part of my life, I always find myself wishing that I could help them feel how I felt. There’s really no way to understand, other than to go through it yourself. And maybe that’s a cop-out. If I were to try to describe it, I would say that it felt very dark – very heavy. Very, very lonely. 

I kept loved ones out because I didn't want them to see how miserable I was. I put on a show that everything was okay, thinking that I was protecting everybody that I loved. But the strange thing about pretending to be something you’re not is that you eventually lose who you are. Well, not really. But who you are gets buried pretty deep.

It wasn't until this past summer that I finally told my family what was happening. Breaking my mother’s heart was probably the hardest part of this entire experience. After I told her the truth, I didn't eat for a month, but neither did she. Maybe that’s what mothers are for… to feel right beside their children. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay her for the pain that she went through to help me.

It’s kind of hard to write what I felt back then at this point in my life because – thankfully – I don’t feel that way anymore. My healing process has been remarkably fast, and I attribute that to all of the familial support I've had. Luckily, I kept a journal religiously throughout the entire process. The first entry in my journal, right after I had told my family and was trying to figure out what to do, I asked four questions. They were:

1      1.)      Who am I? How do I find myself again?
2      2.)      What should I do about my marriage? Stay? Go?
3      3.)      How do I go down this road without hurting everyone that I love?
4      4.)      Will it get better?

Every time I re-read this entry, the last question always breaks my heart a little bit. It makes me remember just how much I didn't think it would get better. I felt so stuck and alone. I felt like such a burden to everybody that loved me. I couldn't even imagine an outcome where my life got better.

And for a long time, it didn't. Day by day, nothing seemed to change. But family members sent loving notes, and friends said encouraging things, and little by little, I started to feel like myself again.

It’s easy for me to see the change in my journal entries. The following is an excerpt from my journal, written when I didn't feel quite myself yet, but I was finally starting to trust myself:

“The beginning of today was rough. I couldn't get myself to eat much for breakfast. I kept thinking about how my divorce will alter people’s perception of me. Even if I tell them everything, it’s only words. I wish there was a way to make people feel the hopelessness I felt for the duration of my marriage, the grief I feel now. I desperately need empathy, not sympathy. I didn't start feeling better until my dad took me out on his motorcycle. It was so thrilling to drive with him on the highway. It was scary not being able to see the whole road as I lay my head on my dad’s shoulder. If I thought too much about becoming road jam, I would have to close my eyes. At one point, I kept my eyes closed for several minutes, but not because I was scared. I realized how much I trusted my dad and how safe I felt with him driving. I suppose in a loose way, this relates to my current situation. I often feel so scared. Scared of becoming metaphorical road jam. I often doubt myself and wonder if I’m making a mess out of my life, but I need to learn to trust myself and trust the answer to my prayers. I need to realize that it’s okay to shut my eyes now and then since my Heavenly Father is at the wheel. Nothing should put me more at ease.”

Divorce is a difficult thing to talk about, and I often find myself feeling like I need to whisper when talking about my experiences. It’s hard because it’s a grief like mourning death, but it feels like you’re not supposed to talk about it. I've reached a point where I’m happy with who I am, and I don’t think I would be the same if I never went through the last 3 years. I don’t think I’ll ever openly talk about it – this blog post is probably the closest I’ll get – but I hope that one day, I can be an empathetic ear to someone going through the same thing.

The following comes from the very last page of my journal:

“I am increasingly stressed about coming to the last page of my journal, and feel like I should do some reminiscent pondering. I feel like I have come a long way. My mom mentioned that I’m now starting to have good days, rather than good moments. She’s completely right. Sometimes it’s so hard to see how far you've come. All you can do is take life day by day, and day to day, not a whole lot changes. They say that time heals all wounds, and I think they’re right, but it can often be a slow type of healing. I still have my bad days. Some days are so hard that I actually think of it as a miracle that I made it out of bed. But I did. But I do. I make it out of bed, and sometimes those bad days end up meaning more than the good, because they prove to myself that I can survive. I read my first journal entry yesterday, and started crying when I read my sincere question; ‘will it get better?’ It hurt because I remember how much it felt like things wouldn't get better. I remember thinking that things shouldn't get better and that I deserved to be miserable. I know better now, and I wish I could go back and tell myself that yes… it does get better. It takes an excruciatingly long time, but the pain starts to fade. The self-loathing and self-punishment will eventually turn to self-acceptance. As for what comes next? I wish I knew. Probably another journal full of heartbreaks and triumphs. But that’s life. Isn't it?”

            The pain has diminished even more since I wrote that. I hardly think about my past anymore, because my present is so happy. I’m so grateful for my family, for little loving notes, for scary motorcycle rides, for friends who remind me who I always was, and for second chances. I even think I’m grateful for the last three years, because I wouldn't be the same without them. And most of all, I’m grateful to know that it does get better – especially when it feels like it won’t.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ollie - He's Back! Dec 1

(I know ... it's been awhile .... maybe I'll catch you up on our year.)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Tumbleweeds - memories of Bama

A picture of my grandmother holding the tumbleweed she received from
my Dad one year for Christmas.  He rescued it while moving from TX
to CA (military).  She kept this tumbleweed in her basement
for years.  This picture was displayed on a board at her memorial.
I was thrilled to see it there - I had never seen it before!

I was chatting with my aunt at the luncheon we attended after Bama's interment.   We were remembering Bama - we brought up our memories of her basement and all of the treasures.   I told her there was a tumbleweed in the basement on the top shelf from TX (I don't know all of the details of how she rescued the tumbleweed, etc - I should find out!).   My aunt told me that she didn't throw anything away and believed the tumbleweed was in a box in the basement.

When I arrived at the memorial service that night, my aunt gave me the box that contained this tumbleweed.   It was perfect .... I had written about it in my eulogy.   I took it up to the stand before the memorial service and pulled it out to share during that memory.

A part of my eulogy:

Grandma was sentimental.   She kept everything.   It was sweet to walk into her bathroom and see the wood boot I carved in 7th grade, a wooden mirror one of my brothers made hanging in her hallway, and a Popsicle stick project hanging from her kitchen cabinet nob that one of my kids made.   She even had a hand written contract hanging in plastic on her filing cabinets in the basement that my Dad made his sister sign when she was a little girl promising that she would never move out.   I remember going into her basement and finding dresses and hats from various special occasions along with flowers in her refrigerator that she saved from my parent’s wedding, my aunt’s wedding and uncle’s wedding.   She also had a small box in the basement that had contained her wedding ring and another box that contained letters the she and Grandpa wrote to each other.   She even had a tumble weed on the top shelf that she rescued from the road while traveling in Texas.   It was magical in her basement.   Oh, the memories and treasures it contained!

I brought the tumbleweed home with me.   I sprayed it and it now sits on top of our family memory tree ... a perfect place for it - as she played a major role in our childhood memories!

I did find out more about the tumbleweed.  Here is what my Mom shared:

Dad and I left Laughlin AFB in Del Rio Texas, heading to Mather AFB near Rancho Cordova, California at the end of March, 1970.   Dad now had his International Harvester 3/4 ton pickup truck with a camper hood over the bed of the truck.   As we were driving along in Western Texas this tumble weed tumbled across the road.   Dad pulled over and chased it down and put it in the back of his pickup truck, a gift for his Mom.   We proceeded to Modesto California where we stayed over General Conference Weekend with Elder Stephen's parents (one of the missionaries that taught and baptised us).  Elder Stephens had given us some things to bring to them on our way to next training station.   While visiting them, they introduced us to Food Storage and sitting for hours in front of the TV watching General Conference.   We proceeded to our home in Rancho Cordova on Crawford Way.   While stationed there for Navigators School, we adopted Sean, saw San Francisco, Dad got his navigators wings, Mom and and his sister came out for a visit.   This is the time she went along with us to every event the church had going....even camping in the mountains just east of where we were living.   It was her first taste of the church.   When she got back to Franklin Park, she asked Dad to take her to church and the rest is history.   In December of 1970, we traveled in the truck to Chicago via the southern route.   Our truck broke down in the middle of the night in a snowstorm, in the mountains just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, the home of Elder McEuen's parents (the other missionary).   They rescued us and we stayed with them for several days while waiting for our truck to be repaired.   Sean was just a little fellow, 4 months old enduring this cross country trip.   By the time we got to Chicago, the poor little fellow had a bad cold.   Naturally I was worried, his first cold! I was a new, inexperienced   mother and pregnant now with Corin.   We made it just in time for Christmas.   I took this famous picture of Mom holding the tumble weed.   It captured the moment she opened this most unusual Christmas gift from her wonderful son, Richard.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Twas the Night Before Christmas ... read by the grandparents

Four years ago I had all 3 sets of grandparents for my children record themselves reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas". It was so sweet to hear the voices of my Bama and Papa (their great grandparents) read to my children tonight as we wrapped up our Christmas Eve traditions. 

I made a recording that made it appear that all 6 grandparents were reading the book. You can view it here.  Our favorite part ... the ending when they all wish the grandkids a "Happy Christmas to all and to all a goodnight". I put the recording to pictures I took of the boys while holding the book back in 2009.

Though miles and now mortality separate us, it is comforting to know we can remember and cherish our Christmas memories, traditions and family. Merry Christmas in heaven Bama and Papa! We are so blessed.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Once an angel, always an angel - Angel Grandma

She was my first childhood memory ... my fondest childhood memories ... my children's fondest memories ... my best friend ... my biggest fan. Now she is reunited with her sweetheart, her Mom, Dad and brother. She said it best when she had a clear moment back in November when Jaley, my sister Cara and I were visiting ... "We didn't waste any time having fun." Miles separated us when we moved to Colorado ... now you will be forever with us - miles will never separate us again. Until we meet again.

I love you Bama, Grandma, Grammar - bestest friend. 

Feeling grateful to have been blessed with such a wonderful example and friend.

photos by my sister, Kelly A.
Nov 23, 1922 - Dec 16, 2013 6:25p CST

Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 Annual Goofy Christmas Card ... released!!!

What you have all been waiting for .... our annual goofy Christmas Card.
Thanks to Jaley for the idea that took on a life of its own.
Thanks to the gang for being willing to take part.

This is one of our all-time favorite Christmas movies:  Elf.
If you haven't seen it, you HAVE TO!

Some of our favorite scenes .... starring us
Now .... what to do next year ....