Saturday, October 4, 2014

Thanks...I'll Pass

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. -- Winnie the Pooh

When things are good, it's easy to be grateful.  When it's someone else's storm, it's really easy to encourage them to be upbeat.  To look for the silver lining.  To find the rainbow.  To have an attitude of gratitude.  Yada yada yada.
When it's your storm, it's hard to see the silver lining when the skies are black and it's night all the time.
 It's hard to find the rainbow when your curtains are drawn and you have no desire to step outside to see if it's even safe to be seen.
 It's hard to have an attitude of gratitude when NOBODY UNDERSTANDS and they are giving you some flippant advice that makes them feel like they've done their part.
It's hard to be grateful when you feel alone and unloved.
What good does it do to count your blessings when you always always always feel like as soon as you truly open your heart up and love a blessing, something else will swoop in and destroy it?
Yes, I'll count my blessings and watch them go away one by one.  If I don't count them, I don't have to see when they are being subtracted.  It's kind of like ignoring the bank statements.  If you don't open them up, you don't see the debits!

I had been watching my family fall apart.  Not in one day, but over years and I had no idea how to stop the trajectory.  I kept secrets, I tried to fix, I tried to control and to be positive. I tried to forgive.  Oh how I tried to forgive and forgive and forgive.  Each time I did, it seemed as if it was just known that I was so nice, you could do just about anything to me and I'd forgive...because that's how nice I was.  Karma would come back around to the nice girl, right? I wore myself out trying to be everything and not to disappoint.  But I always felt as if I had been handed a multiple choice test and even when I was SURE I knew the answer, it changed and I failed.  I felt like I had a sign around my neck that said " I have no idea what I'm doing so please pity me."  My son killed himself so I must have been a terrible mother.  Believe me, I felt it even if no one dared actually say it out loud.
I was so angry that I didn't want to be grateful for anything.  I was used and pitied.  Is there anything worse than people thinking you're pathetic?

I continued to go to church because even though I usually went with a heavy heart and knowing it would make no difference that day, it was my little reprieve from the gloom and heaviness in my house.  It's hard to explain how I craved uplifting words and music, yet despised them at the same time.  One day in Sunday School, we were talking about gratitude and a good discussion started.  Many people were expressing their thoughts on the matter and were trying to speak positively about how being grateful is needed.  One person made a comment to the effect that they looked around at people that have it worse and it reminded them how good they have life.  I had such a hard time not standing up and screaming at everyone.  My pity party was in full swing and I thought, "OK.  So the poor sucker that only has one arm should be grateful that he at least has one arm.  What about the guy that doesn't have any?  Should he be grateful that he's not the guy with no legs?  Is the guy with no arms or legs so grateful he can at least see?  So when it all comes down to it, do we agree that the poor guy with no face finally has something to complain about?"
 What does it mean when someone has it worse?  Isn't everybody's trial real to them?  Who are we to say that your problem isn't bad enough that you have no right to be sad?  I left church that day feeling like a jerk because I wasn't grateful I only lost one kid.  I wasn't grateful that my life was a storm that wouldn't leave.  I wasn't grateful to be there alone, and I wasn't grateful to go back to the house that was unhappy and chaotic.  I wasn't even grateful that I was alive.

It was a very grey winter in Teton Valley.  It seemed to last forever and the more I was inside, the less I wanted to go out.  I remember wanting to shrink and to be forgotten, but I was so happy when I wasn't.  I wanted my parents.  I wanted them to be the adults and to make everything ok.  They didn't know what to do, so they gave me my space, when I really wanted them to rescue me. I wanted to be a child again that didn't have to deal with adult things.  I wanted my grandma to cry with me, to hug me and to tell me everything would work out.  I needed her strength and her experience.
 My sister and brothers were at the house with their spouses and asked if they could help me with anything, so I started looking around and asked them to help me hang pictures.  I just didn't want them to leave, so I would find anything that could drag out their staying.  I was grateful for that.

My friend, Catherine called up one wintry day and asked if I wanted to exercise.  No.  Did I want to go snowshoeing?  No.  Did I want desperately to not feel this way?  Yes, but it kinda feels good to feel so bad too.
She showed up with her snowshoes and said, "Let's just walk in the field behind your house."  So we did.  I didn't have to muster up energy or anything.  We walked around in little loops where I had no chance of running into anybody and I could crawl back in my cave quickly.  I was grateful for that.

My friend Jaci had just moved to another galaxy, it felt like, and she wondered if she could fly back for the funeral.  I told her I didn't want her to spend time here watching me cry, so she didn't come.  She did call me almost every day and she told me funny and irreverent things, gossiped, and didn't treat me like a wounded bird.  I was grateful for that.

Teachers didn't call me up to complain about my kids when they acted up.  Instead, they hugged them and brought dinner or gave them a stuffed animal.  I was so grateful for that.

Living where I do, I also spend a huge time in the car because everything is so far away.  This isn't good for someone that can't escape their thoughts.  Those long drives would quickly bring me to tears and no matter how hard I tried to hide them behind sunglasses or drown them out with music, my kids would notice and just touch my arm or tell me they loved me.  I was grateful for them.

Sometimes, I just got a phone call from someone saying they just felt they needed to call, even though they didn't know what to say, except that they were remembering my little family in their prayers.  I was grateful for that, because I was afraid my Heavenly Father had forgotten that I was down here, floundering.
So, for being so irritated that someone suggest I be grateful, I recognized those little things and realized that I wasn't expected to run around with a smile, giving long lists of all my blessings.  It was a start that I recognized the tiny gifts that were delivered through other people, because God couldn't just come down here and wipe away all my troubles, but he was letting me know that I was very much remembered.

And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life
—  Mosiah 18:8-9

Have you ever had somebody that mourned with you?  To comfort you when you stood in need of comfort?  Someone that has borne your burdens? If so, you should count those among your many blessings, and so I did.  I still do, because even after nearly 5 years, God still whispers to people when I need something, and I'm so grateful when they listen, then act.
I stopped allowing bitterness to settle in when other people were counting their blessings, because I knew that if we didn't express them, it was easy to forget them or not recognize them at all, and I realized that was the message people were trying to convey in the first place.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf is one of my favorite speakers.  He speaks of things that every one of us experiences, and he does it in a way that you know it comes from a place of love and understanding.
In part of his April General Conference talk "Grateful in Any Circumstance":
  When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges.This is not a gratitude of the lips but of the soul. It is a gratitude that heals the heart and expands the mind.In any circumstance, our sense of gratitude is nourished by the many and sacred truths we do know: that our Father has given His children the great plan of happiness; that through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ, we can live forever with our loved ones; that in the end, we will have glorious, perfect, and immortal bodies, unburdened by sickness or disability; and that our tears of sadness and loss will be replaced with an abundance of happiness and joy, “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.” 
Read his entire wonderful talk here.

I'm pretty sure that in the preexistence I got carried away, checking off all the things I was willing to take on down here.  (This must be where I got the idea that I can't say "no".  If God had really known me, why didn't He step in and say, "Amber! I know you want to help, but trust me, this is a lot, so why don't you erase a couple of things?" Or, "Amber! If you're going to take on this many trials, let me at least make it so you have thin thighs.  you don't need the extra burden of dieting and squats."
Since I can't get a mulligan, I figure I should start now with counting my blessings.  I'll start with the ones that if I woke up tomorrow with only the things I said thanks for tonight, would I be happy?  Yes.  I think I would.

My home

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I'll be what you tell me I am

"Anything boys can do, girls can do better..."

I remember this phrase from when I was a little girl.  I grew up with boy cousins and I liked to play trucks and cars with them.  I tried so hard to make all the truck noises, but I just couldn't get into spit being all over my face just to get the right sound for each different style of truck.  My cousin Nathan, however was a pro.  He is younger than me, and I remember watching in awe as he drove the Tonka trucks, staring at them intently, changing the inflection in his voice.  I wanted to get into it as much as he did, but I never measured up.  To this day, when I try to describe a sound to my hubby, he gets a weird look on his face, and I know that I sound like I'm making a problem up, because he says that there is no way the car would sound like that.
I went out and shot swallows with the boys, and occasionally shot out old car windows.  If my dad or uncles read this... It wasn't my idea!  I made mud pies (and decorated them with flowers!), dug through the junk yard for treasures (stuff to decorate our playhouse with!)  got gravel permanently embedded in my knees from trying dumb things on my bike (I hosed it down later to keep it sparkly!).  I broke my arm playing Tarzan and Jane in the weeping willow tree (I was Jane!), I played with Star Wars, She-Ra, and army men.  I made up dangerous games with my cousins where we threw shovels at each other because we lived out on a farm, and the PC police hadn't caught up with us yet.  Because I grew up on a farm, I was also required to wake up at the unholy hour of 4:30 a.m. to move pipe. I tried really hard to get out of it, but my sister and I went twice a day, worked our guts out and got some pretty big muscles to boot.  When Nathan and I had to go move some lines together, we actually got in a fight over who was going to drive.  He asserted that because he was a boy, it should naturally go to him.  I asserted that since I was older and more responsible, I should be able to.  I was so strong at this point, I think I tried to swing a pipe at his head, but I can't remember for sure.
It was never uncommon at school or anywhere to tell boys how dumb they were and that girls were better at everything boys did.  It infuriated me when the boys got to do something cool, just fueling the desire to prove I was just as good.
I'm ashamed now to admit that in the process, I didn't really have a high opinion of boys or men in general.  I saw them as arrogant, uncaring, they would use anyone they could to get ahead.  I thought most of them were missing the honesty chip, and that they were something to be tolerated instead of loved.  But I was crazy about them at the same time.  Boys, boys, boys were all I thought about.
As I was given the challenge of raising boys, I knew there was something I had to learn from them.  I needed to learn patience, to know that they didn't think and operate the way girls did, and to marvel in the very distinct differences in creation.
I looked at my little boys and knew that they weren't born being manipulative, but instead shaped that way by so many different sources, so if I wanted boys that were different, I needed to figure out how to steer them in a good direction.
I would watch how naturally they were very proud of being naked from the very beginning.  I tried to keep clothes on them, but it's like it wasn't natural for them.  This didn't look good for the future...
  I watched as Aaron, as a 1 year old,  knocked his little friend to the ground and steam rolled her.  She didn't even know what was going on, because she was so mellow and the thought of steam rolling her friend didn't even cross her little mind.
 They liked to climb...and fall.  Then climb it again.  Girls experience something negative so they learn from it.  Boys just think it was bad luck!
They loved slimy, creepy crawlies.  They could take the hook out of a fish's mouth while I was still trying to keep it away from me, and didn't want to make eye contact with it.
 One day, Aaron and Jordan were playing with my sisters' Barbies and James didn't like it.  I told him to watch for just a second...
In no time, a poor, unsuspecting doll was falling from the roof of the playhouse, screaming "Oh Nooooo....." on the way down.  A pile of Barbies lay on the floor.  "See?"  I said.  "Normal."
But before anyone thinks I was trying to raise some psychopaths, you need to know that these same two would lay next to a newborn sibling and rub their perfect faces.  They would talk softly to the baby and sometimes even try to nurse them.  This, by the way, did not work out very well.
Aidan insisted on a baby doll from Target one day, so I bought it for him.  He packed that baby around lovingly, but sometimes by the arm, dragging on the floor, while sucking his thumb.  Sometimes he actually used the baby doll as a weapon to hit his brothers with when they got too close into his space.  I corrected someone when they asked why I let my boy play with a doll.  Because.  I wanted him to grow up to not be afraid of holding babies.  Because he needed to nurture that loving side.  Because he was cuter than heck riding his tricycle with his thumb in his mouth and the baby on his lap.
I watched my little boys with wonder with all the things they were interested in, and how they could forgive me quickly when I was less than stellar.
 I adored (while gagging) when they insisted on feeding me food they already tasted and wanted to share, because they were thoughtful like that.
I secretly laughed when while I would sing a song to them at night, they would add to the ambiance with a fart and hysterical laughing, or even a covered wagon to their sibling.
I laughed so hard I cried when Aaron the Mighty Hunter wanted me to mount a mouse that James killed with a bow and arrow, yet later he would be snuggled up to his dog and best friend, reading him a book.
I realized that although they may not be completely into '80's music... (which begs the question, why not?!) but they had their own unique tastes and likes, and I love that they are all different.

One day when I was giving a lesson in YW about the girls holding up standards for the boys they would date, I realized that for as much time as people spent hammering to girls the message that she was too good for most boys, I was deeply committed to the fact that I wanted my boys to feel that they too deserved the best girls.  Girls that respected them.  Girls that helped them to uphold standards.  Girls that didn't let them run wild with their natural instincts, and act like the boys don't have emotions too.
Boys may not sit around and discuss their feelings with all their friends, but anyone that has ever had prolonged interaction with a boy knows that they are sometimes harder on themselves than anyone else ever could be.  They are disappointed, ecstatic, scared, unsure, self-conscious, and yes, they cry.

I knew that I was raising men.  Men that I wanted to be hard working, considerate, loving, honest, brave, sure.  But how do they achieve that when the world tells them that their successes aren't as valid as a girls?  When they tell them that girls are victims and because he was born a male, he is naturally mean?   What does this do to our girls?  To teach them that males are the enemy?  To teach them that they have to scratch, claw and fight dirty to get  respect or equality?  How does it teach them to have good judgement when dating boys when everything we tell them is that boys are dumb, lazy, undisciplined, and privileged?  And how does this help our boys to not objectify or use girls?  How do they become better people if girls don't expect them to have values or morals?  How does this help them to take care of girls' feelings and understand their sacrifices?
Now we have a society of people that have very little respect for each other.  Men that think achievement is wrong or undeserved, and I think when anyone, male or female, has to hold back their potential, it's wrong.

I'm also raising a woman.  Someone I hope knows her worth, and settles for nothing less than someone else recognizing it too.  I want HER to be hard working, considerate, loving, honest, brave, and sure.  I want her to realize her full potential and work at lifting those around her up, instead of demanding they be less so she can get ahead.  I want her to see the beautiful differences in the opposite sex and see that they are meant to be complimentary, not competition.

My grandma taught me a great deal about dealing with boys.  She taught me that they needed to work and be busy to feel respect for themselves.  Even when they wanted to be lazy and let someone else do the work, when you expected more of them, they usually rose to meet that expectation.  Of course, it's a long process, but as they get older, you see how wise that philosophy is.
They need to feel needed.  It's absolutely amazing how different someone acts when they feel valued and necessary.  And this just isn't for boys.  Girls need it too.  Not false puffing up self esteem, but genuinely, sincerely letting them know how important they are in life.
The only problem is... I wish I had known this so many years earlier.  It's as I watch my kids grow up, move out, and move on that I want to rewind and tell them more. I can know in my heart how vital the other sex is, but once they seek out girlfriends and boyfriends, I hope that other mothers taught them the same thing.  I want my boys to find a girl that holds him to high standards.  That expects him to balance her.  Not dominate, but surely not shrink.  Because no matter how correct we want to get, you can't change biology.  You can't foster respect by belittling.
I can't control whether my kids understand or believe what I think of them, but I can control how much effort I put into it.  My heart has hurt when I think about the times they question, about the times they have denied and rejected my love and affection, but when I see little things that show my efforts aren't all in vain, it gives me hope.  It reminds me of MY worth in someone's life, and I keep going.
I may not have a fancy title, or bring in big money from my job, but I would give up everything else in the world for these people that were sent to me.  I would move Heaven and Earth to help them succeed. but I know I'm not doing it alone, and I know I wouldn't be who I am today if I wasn't teachable, so let's throw the old "better than" saying out the window.
Do a quick search on boy and girl quotes.  There is actually a reference to "Girls better than boys quotes."  It's kind of sad how little value we place on each other.  I find them degrading, and I hope more people stand up and start demanding more from ourselves and each other.
 I for one, know I'm going to try a little harder each day, because before you know it, they're gone, and you just hope the person they find will remind them every day of their worth.
 Plus, you don't get very far when you hit someone with irrigation pipe, so you have to go to Plan B.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Careful... I might bite!

After the last of family had left after Tyler's funeral, the house was quiet. The  phone wasn't constantly ringing, we had nothing pressing to get to, people weren't bumping into each other on my sidewalk.  We shut the door and sat there, and it was scary.  We had had this little bubble surrounding us the past week, taking care of our needs and keeping us busy.  I had plenty of people to cry to, plenty of people caring for us and now it was so quiet.  We had meals in the freezer to get us through busy days or just days that I couldn't get it together, but it was so lonely the weeks following.

I was in an internal war with myself, and I over analyze things.  Our situation was such that I absolutely could not fall apart.  I had 4 confused and angry children.  I already felt like I was on the brink of no return mentally, and I was so afraid that if I gave in, I might never ever return.  I couldn't try to escape reality and in return I was angry with those in my life that chose to.  I felt like it wasn't fair that I had to feel it all and take care of it all.  Why didn't anybody else step up and let me float for awhile when it was obvious I was not going to be able to swim much longer without some emotional rescue?!

I felt so strange.  I was embarrassed to be the center of attention and I was so defensive that I didn't cry openly much.  I'm pretty sure people were a little confused when I would console them instead of the other way around.  
I went to the grocery store for my post funeral debut, and I wasn't fully prepared for that trip.  I know I had expectations that nobody could know or meet, and I got home, exhausted.  Everywhere I turned, there was someone giving their condolences or asking me questions, and after I was able to move to the next section, I would see someone else. Sometimes people asked me about everything BUT the huge meteor that hit my home, and I would think, "Just say it already.  How do you not know that I have a dead kid?  How can you possibly think that I truly care about anything else?  Please stop making small talk and just ask me."    After that, I saw someone that I considered a friend notice me and she hurried to duck down an aisle.  That really hurt.  I completely understand that people don't know how to behave in situations like this.  Obviously, I didn't even stay consistent with what I wanted.  

  If anyone were to judge me on what I displayed openly, they might think that I was unfeeling or that I had rebounded quickly.  
I said that I was afraid of not coming back, and that's the truth.  Was I going to be a happy person?  Would my kids grow up to say that when their brother died, so did their parents?  Would I abandon everything I had struggled for within myself because of grief?  Would my marriage and family survive if we both gave in to our guilt and sadness?  How I wanted to fall and sob out loud these things that ate away at my mental well being and my heart when people asked me how I was doing!  
It didn't take long at all to feel completely squeezed out of my place.  Nobody intentionally did it, but as we were planning the funeral, it was honestly the first time that I felt I had no place in the "family" section.  It was as if I was nothing more than a nanny who was no longer needed, after doing all the grunt work and investing so much into raising a human being.  I felt like all eyes were on me, wondering how I felt like I deserved the right to ache over this loss when I didn't share any blood with him. As if raising him for 15 years didn't mean a thing. 
 I felt so...irrelevant.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Goodbyes are hard to do

"My Mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it."  -- Mark Twain

The week of Tyler's funeral was a blur, but at the same time, there are things seared into my consciousness.  I know there were dozens of phone calls, people stopping by with some food, anonymous do gooders that cleaned my horrendous house, teenage girls that looked after my kids and made sure Maddie's hair was done.  One of my very best friends showed up every morning, bringing breakfast, washing dishes, and there was always milk in my fridge.  After the funeral, I called her one day, lamenting that the milk had stopped coming and I wasn't sure what to do:) More support came in the forms of cards, money, flowers, plants, gummy bears, prayers and tears.  So many acts of kindness and love were sent our way, that I hope I will be able to do the same for someone else when they need it.
I remember it was nearly impossible to make decisions, and it was Christmastime, so all festivities seemed so trivial, and celebrations got whisked aside.  We went shopping for clothes for the funeral and that was so hard to do.  We wanted to look nice, but didn't want to put too much time or energy into shopping.  The worst for me was trying to find shoes that went with my dress.  What a stupid thing to worry about, but it was so important for me to look nice.  I was actually defensive when someone questioned why I was going to so much effort for a funeral.  WHY?  I would not be able to host a wedding reception for him.  I wouldn't ever be able to spoil his future children or go on another vacation with him.  I wouldn't be able to slip him some money to help him with groceries ever again.  THIS was my final send off of him.  This occasion deserved reverence for his life, sorrow for his lost future.  For our lost future with him in it.  I don't regret for one minute buying suits for my boys and husband or dresses for myself and Maddie, even though I haven't worn the dress since.  It's the same as not using paper plates for Thanksgiving.  Sometimes certain occasions deserve the best you can give.

At one point during the first viewing, I noticed 4 of the "Fabs" (My dearest and longest group of friends) sitting in the center of the room.  Occasionally, I would look up and they were still there.  They sat throughout the entire event, and when I asked why, they said, "For you."  I will forever love them for that act of friendship and love toward me.  I know that through everything I have gone through or may yet have to go through, it's just a given that I know who my people are.
We had a very nice service and I couldn't tell you who was there, but I can tell you that there were a lot of people there supporting us.  I sat on the front row and held Kim's hand throughout.  I truly love Tyler's mom and James' ex-wife.  She has supported me in my role from the beginning, and I was glad to know we could lean on each other.
We were given an opportunity to speak at the burial, and I used the Mark Twain quote.  It was true.  He had helped age me prematurely.  He had caused so much unwanted stress, but even with all of that, I enjoyed his mischievous nature.  I enjoyed his teasing and sometimes ... sometimes!  his stubbornness.  The truth is, he drove me just as nuts as the other kids.  I yelled at him, I grounded him, sometimes I ignored him.  He didn't just give me frogs-in-the-pockets trouble, he gave me real, lucky-that-didn't-start-a-forest-fire-trouble or stand-in-front-of-a-judge trouble.  He wasn't a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but man was he a kind person.  That boy knew how to answer a phone politely, he knew how to carry on a conversation with all different types of people and make them feel comfortable.  He knew how to hold your confidence and he didn't betray those to other people.  One day when we were grocery shopping, it was so cold and snowy and windy, so we hurried to get the bags loaded up and get on our way.  He returned the cart for me while I got kids buckled in and tried to warm up the car.  He hadn't returned and I was stumped as to where he could be.  I got out and looked around the parking lot and finally spotted him walking an elderly lady with her shopping cart across the icy parking lot.  He patiently helped her to her car and was loading her groceries for her.  Seeing something like that lets you know that some things are sinking in!
He was smart.  He caught on to school work pretty easily, so if he got bad grades, it was usually because he wasn't trying.  That's what was so hard for him after his accident.  He hated the fact that things didn't come as easily to him, or that he couldn't remember the way he could before.  He had a hard time really grasping action/consequences after that as well, and I think that's why he kept finding himself in the same predicaments and not knowing how to work his way through them.  In hindsight, I wish I had realized the extent of his frustration.
He was funny!  Just like his dad, he had a quick wit.  At times when you were at your maddest, he could disarm you with a comment or his smile.  He had a fun laugh, and I loved to hear it.One time on our way through Yellowstone, he sang along with Four Non Blonde's at 5 years old and we cracked up as we drove through the park.  Some of his funniest moments were actually when he was talking in his sleep, so he would dispute our accounts of things, but we learned that he had a great pig snort when prompted in his sleep.  I still crack up over that!
He liked to cook and try out new recipes.  One day he gave me such a great compliment, "Mom, you and Grandma Walters are the best cooks in the world."  I felt a little relief hearing that because my mother in law is the best cook I know, so I knew I had learned something myself if he was impressed.  Sometimes he would make something up and ask us to be guinea pigs.  I wrote down a couple of his recipes myself.
He didn't enjoy hard work.  If there was a job to be done, you can be sure he would be missing!  I won't lie and make things seem rosier than they were.  He thought the entrepreneurial way was to pay someone else to do the job you don't want to.  He passed that legacy on to his siblings, unfortunately:)  I had to bribe quite a bit after he moved into his own place to get him to do things for me.  Having a full pantry was quite the commodity!
But he was generous.  He wasn't stingy with his possessions.  He really did think about others at holidays , and he still posed in his Christmas Eve p.j.'s with all of his younger cousins and siblings.  He enjoyed helping me fill stockings once he got too old for me to pretend anymore.  We once got into a fight with our neighbors after they allowed him to plow out their driveway for free in the wintertime and he accidentally knocked a brick out of a pillar.  He gave them money for the replacement.  He was only a freshman, I think.
When the Rexburg Temple was built, they had an open house that we were all going to attend on Aaron's birthday.  I invited Ty and reminded him a couple of times, but figured it was up to him whether he wanted to go or not.  We had driven out earlier in the day and he had to work.  Our family was sitting in the chapel, getting ready to go on the tour and I saw him in the crowd, searching for us.  I waved my hand and he came up and hugged me.  I said, " I didn't think you were going to come.  I'm glad you did."  He looked at me and said, "Why wouldn't I?  You asked me to."  I also asked him to hang his towel up after showering and he never seemed to be able to master that, but this...I was glad he did this.

My heart still aches, thinking about that time.  Every year, I try to power up to get through, and I end up feeling exhausted and defeated.  I cry over the loneliness I felt then and how defensive I was over my role in his life.  I cry because I miss him.  I cry because I couldn't take the pain away from my kids.  I cry because I'm sometimes still angry with him, and because it's really hard to know that we had to bury him in the ground one day before we were supposed to celebrate his birth.  I think when I get to see him again, God will understand when I have to give Tyler one of my famous rants, and he will give me a moment...Right after I hug him hello.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sleepless Nights

I couldn't sleep for a couple of weeks.  Not just had a hard time sleeping, I COULDN'T SLEEP!  I would stir all night long, toss and turn, beg for mercy, make muffins, curse, sing.  You name it, I tried it.  I understood how sleep deprivation could break a person down, and I was broken down.  I would have spit out any secrets I knew if it would help me fall asleep.  I started to get anxiety around bed time, so that added to the problem, and pretty soon I was so sorry I had ever wished for more time in the day to get things done.  I started taking some herbal pills and that helped slightly, but I wasn't functioning well during the day, and I was so zoned out and tired that I'd jack myself up on caffeine to muddle through, only making it worse for evening.

A group of us went to the opening night of one of the Twilight movies in Idaho Falls and got a room for the night.  We were going to go shopping the next day and live it up as much as you can at craft fairs.  On the way home, our discussions got kind of deep about losing loved ones.  I had been feeling for the months following receiving my endowments in the Rexburg Temple that maybe I was preparing myself for something big.  I had worried endlessly about planning a funeral.  Whose... I wasn't sure.  I couldn't differentiate between true preparations and my fearful mind, but this time I wasn't panicky, just matter of fact.  I went through the different scenarios and tried to get a few things in order, just in case.  We talked about this and I remember saying, "If something happens to one of our kids, I know that our marriage won't survive.  It just won't."
I went home and didn't sleep.

We did every day normal things.  James went to work, kids went to school, I cleaned the house.  We put up a Christmas tree and everyone abandoned me when they lost interest because the lights took too long.  We did homework, argued, made our lists to Santa.  We went to a birthday party for my niece, Hailey.  That night, I laughed and told Tyler that he was getting piano lessons for Christmas.  It was a joke referencing a time that I had him on a waiting list for lessons and the day the teacher had an opening, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'm not all that interested anymore."  He was 14 and there was no way I could force a teenage boy to start piano lessons and actually do it, so I passed the lesson on to Aaron since I had worked so hard for a spot.  He would always joke with me about how he could have been a great piano player if only...  
So I told him it had caused a good amount of contention and that's what he was getting this year.  He looked a little panicky and told me he forgave me, but he wouldn't if I actually gave that to him as a gift at almost age 20.  He grabbed me and hugged me tight and told me that he loved me.  I rolled my eyes (because my kids always told me they loved me right before they wanted something!), but I hugged him back and told him I loved him so much I wanted him to be an accomplished pianist.  We both laughed.  He went to his home and we left for ours.  He called me later that night to ask me about a recipe, I talked to him about Christmas Eve and told him how the kids were so excited for their tradition of all sleeping together and having him stay with us. He warned me that I'd better have enough huckleberries for Christmas morning, and had given me a gift to put under the tree for one of his brothers that he got early.
He was always such a thoughtful gift giver.  He was endlessly broke, but he always planned ahead when it came time for something special.  He had given me a gift certificate the year before for a massage and he even asked me 2 days after Christmas if I had used it yet.  I told him I hadn't, so he said he would watch the kids without any complaints but I had to do it now.
He took Aaron to a Brian Reagan performance as his Christmas gift one year.  Aaron was in HEAVEN!  He loved speeding down the road with his cool big brother, going to dinner and laughing over someone Aaron thought was hilarious.
I'm a little embarrassed as I write this to say how in tune he was with my moods.  He could tell when a bad day was a little more than bad, and he would do what he could to make it better.  One pretty September day in 2009, apparently Aaron had called Ty that morning telling him I'd "lost it."  Haha.  It's funny how differently kids see things.  Tyler tried calling all morning, but I really was having a bad day and I wasn't in the mood to talk to anybody, so I let the phone ring. Finally, I answered and he said he wanted to take me to lunch.  I accepted his invitation, and the two of us spent his lunch hour eating Mexican food outside, and just talking.  I cried, describing my bad day and my bad attitude, and he just listened.  He opened up to me about similar frustrations and decisions he was trying to make.  We ended up having a really great lunch and he told me that he was glad I was his mom.  For all the times I felt like such a screw up at this parenting thing, I knew he was sincere, and that made it easier to go home to the other ones instead of running away like I had debated.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I Stand All Amazed

We have been reading specific scriptures that can be applied to our lives and then we talk about how we can use the advice given.  Tonight, I read Doctrine and Covenants 122:3-8  I have felt so overwhelmed with trial after trial after trial that this was a good one for me to read.  I have to admit, though, that I still get upset and angry and exhausted, and it's not easy for me to be willing to get up tomorrow and try again.  But then I think, " If I've gone this long and haven't given up, it would be really dumb to start now!"
Thanksgiving isn't so hard for me to get through.  Tyler would spend every Thanksgiving with his mom.  It was so important to me that he be with us at Christmas, that I was willing to forgo this holiday, so I don't have great Thanksgiving memories about him, except for the last year when we broke into his house to borrow his X-Box.  I felt like it was fair since he was always breaking in to get to my fridge!
Thanksgiving is almost here, and my heart just sometimes wants to burst with love for the things I'm thankful for.  What a cliche thing to say, but I don't know how else to describe it.  Sometimes my kids make me so mad.  Sometimes I don't like being the mom, but at the end of the day when I kneel down, I'm thankful for them the most.  If I didn't have anything else except for them and my husband, I could live with that.  I watched a video of them when they were little, and I've been smiling all day, thinking of their cute faces.  I did what every mom does... I kissed the tips of their toes, ran my fingers over their backs, memorized every marking,  breathed in their newness.  It's an intoxicating smell.
 About a year ago, I would catch a whiff of newborn, and I would scramble to find the source.  Usually, I'm looking for the smell of a wet towel that has been dropped in an obscure place, so this was a pleasant hunt.  It took me weeks to discover that it was a combination of shampoo and hair gel that my boys were using.  I would grab them and start inhaling the smell of their hair. Of course, after about age 2, you stop breathing deep when you hug your boys, but I was begging them to sit next to me.  I would smell them at random times, and they started avoiding my hug because I was "weird."  I didn't write down the combination, and they have since stopped using that kind of hair gel, so I don't get it anymore.
 I miss having young kids sometimes, but I know that every year that goes by makes me very aware of how much I'm going to miss this time too.
If you were to ask me to recall happy memories, I would immediately recount every horrible minute of childbirth.  It's funny how something so traumatizing brings you so close to Heaven.  Those are days that no matter how sad I am, or how frustrated, I will always start breathing slower and my eyes will fill with tears at the memory of those wonderful days.
I always felt that little disconnect because I had that experience with my kids, but I never got that kind of bonding with Tyler.  It would be borderline creepy if I started kissing his chubby little toes at five years old.

I spent a week with my newborn Aidan in the hospital when he got RSV.  I prayed harder than I had ever prayed. I held his little body close to mine and I wasn't going to leave the hospital without him.  I marveled at the strength he had at just a few weeks to continue to breathe, even when it got too hard for his little body.
 I marveled again when I learned that Maddie had been born with Failure to Thrive.  For some reason, she had stopped progressing in the womb and was slowly starving to death.  That feisty little girl held on long enough to be born for me to try to take care of her.  She was born on time, but was the size of being 4 weeks early. I held her and nursed her back to health, doing what I could to protect her.
 I have spent countless hours sitting next to the bed of Aaron this year, watching his body not function right.  I've watched him starve for days at a time in order to get control of his pancreas, only to want to gag him when he gets feeling well enough to talk back.  I watched him go into septic shock.  Watched his perfect little toes (Now big ugly man toes) turn purple because of lack of oxygen.  I stood there with tears falling as he asked the nurses to make sure I wasn't alone when they had to tell me...
I sat and cried with him and held my sweet dimpled boy that wanted to give up because the pain of what he was going through was just too much for him.
I watched with awe as Tyler, one day being so distraught because the doctors told him that because of severing his tongue, might not be able to swallow again because of nerve damage.He sat there for a day or two, giving up, but then one day he decided he was not going to stay there and he was not going to leave with a feeding tube! He willed himself to find whatever way necessary to get food down his throat.  He was resourceful!  I watched his body miraculously heal, and every time I looked at the scar that ran across his face, it reminded me of how grateful I was that this handsome man had come so far.
I've watched my husband  overcome things that have plagued his spirit and work so hard at creating a better life so those things can't thrive.
I have been lucky enough to not have this level of stress with Jordan, but I have watched him go through some of the most mentally trying times and he has held his head up and surprised me with strength I didn't know he had.
Each time that my children needed care, I did the best I could to take care of their wounds, give them medical help, hold them, kiss them, do whatever I could to ease a pain, but I have never been able to control or take away the mental and emotional trials that they have to endure, and sometimes I think that's harder to watch.
Aaron, Jordan, Madelyn, Aidan.  Tyler in front.  How can this picture NOT make you smile?!
In the hospital, I asked Tyler if I could help him wash up.  I had seen the dried blood on him for a few days, his hair was greasy and he was cranky.  The nurse offered to do it when I asked for a tub and shampoo, but this was all I could do for him, so I refused her help.  He sat in the chair, and I gently wiped the washcloth on his head.  He would cringe and gasp with each wipe, no matter how gentle I tried to be.  I picked pieces of glass from his scalp that had worked their way up with each passing day.  This was such an insignificant act, but it was all I knew to do to let him know how much I loved him.  I will always remember that day in his hospital room as a day that my heart ached with love for this boy.  
 As I stood at the head of his casket almost 4 years ago, I remember looking at him and thinking that it had to be a horrible prank, because he didn't look like himself.  I kept studying him and looking for little things.  I picked up his hands and looked carefully at his fingers, I pulled up his pant legs to see his tattoos and the way his calves looked.  I was horribly disappointed to recognize and know for certain that they did, indeed, belong to only him.
I wish I had kissed him more.  I wish that I didn't stop hugging him as much as he became a surly and back talking teenager.  I'm glad, though, that I got to know him and love him.
He would walk through the back door and I would hear these big work boots clomp down the hallway into the kitchen, and before I got to finish screaming, "Take. Your. Boots. OFF!" he would be at the fridge, smiling that Cheshire cat grin that made me go nuts.  He would talk to me for a few minutes while scarfing down some food and then he'd leave again, laughing as I swept up his foot prints.  What I wouldn't give to hear him clomp through the house and hear him laugh at something the kids said.

His grandma and 2 of his uncles wanted to hike the Grand Teton with Tyler, and we laughed about his training. He hiked Table Rock a couple of times and figured that was good.  I know climbing the Grand for him was an emotional and physical feat.  It was so much harder on him than he expected, but he knew that there was no way he could come down without having to still work.  His uncles gave him a good pep talk, his grandma said a prayer with him, and he was able to finish what he had started.  He was so excited when he came off the mountain that he drove over to the house and couldn't stop smiling.  He had stowed some rocks in his back pack and gave them to the kids.  He had finished something I would never dare to attempt.  His body was strong, the air went through his lungs fiercely, his heart was strong, as were his legs and his back.  I'm humbled by the things the human body and the human spirit can endure.

As a Post Script:  As we were planning the funeral, Kim, Glen, James and I were trying to figure out music.  We were looking through a hymn book and I opened to the page with "I Stand All Amazed"  I read out loud the words and we all began to cry.  This song was chosen to be sung and I get chills whenever I listen to the words.  I do stand all amazed.

"I Stand All Amazed"  If you would like to hear the music and the words, click the link, thenclick to the right where it gives the option for both.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rocks In My Backpack

Wow.  I started writing as a way to work through some of my grief, and I think every time I start to take some positive steps forward, something always throws me back.  Usually violently.
I talk a lot about my religious beliefs, but those are things that I have had to work on, and continue to work on every day.  I can believe something so strongly, and then when my life gets tossed back into the blender, it's as if I come stumbling away, shaking my head and wondering what in the world is going on.  I have to reset and try to take the things I know and give myself a new starting point.  It's annoying, really.

I have never had a high self esteem.  I wish that I did.  I just thought it was humility when you brushed off a compliment.  I thought it was bragging if you liked something about yourself.  I thought in order to try to be a better person you had to know that you were nothing in the first place.  Now I know none of that is true, and I would hate if my daughter felt those things about herself.
For a long time, I felt like many of my efforts fell flat.  I didn't ever really put myself or my talents "out there" for fear of failure.  I couldn't ever seem to catch up, I couldn't keep up with the Joneses or even with myself.  I suffered from depression.  If anybody has ever had depression, you know how inadequate you feel, and how getting up in the morning feels like such a chore, because you already know how the day is going to end.  Not many points on your scoreboard.
Because of this, I tried to overcompensate.  I wanted my kids to be extra awesome so it looked like I knew what I was doing.  I hammered home points or lectures I felt were necessary, I came down hard on them, but then backed away because I didn't want to "damage" them by having to face harsh consequences.  I am a really good threatener.  When my kids would act out, rebel, lie, or anything like that, I would take it personally.  "They had no reason to do that... I don't run a prison here, so why would they do that to me?"  I felt like it was more evidence that I wasn't parenting up to snuff.  So I became more relaxed.  Didn't force homework.  If they said they didn't have any, they didn't have any.  You weren't were you said where you were going to be?  Ok, well, when you get home, you better think long and hard about why it upsets me and never do that again.  You don't feel like doing something?  Ok, I understand.  I wouldn't want to do it when I was your age either, so I'll do it for you.
Talk about setting yourself (and your kids) up for failure!
Now, one thing I have learned is that when you don't feel good about yourself, people can sniff it out like bad garbage.  And they are usually willing to keep perpetuating those lies, because it takes the guilt off of themselves.  I felt the need to prove my worth even more, even if I was just trying to convince myself of it.  I tried to be kinder, more forgiving, relax some of my moral beliefs, and what ended up happening was me getting walked all over and I still took the blame.  I was growing resentful of everybody, because I felt like every decision was being criticized, and I could never win.  If I had a multiple choice, I always picked the wrong one!  And believe me, I was hearing it.  Once decision would disappoint someone, but the same decision would disappoint someone else for another reason.  I was living way too much for everybody else, and now I know the term as "codependence."  Bring on the psycho-babble!
I became really good at being a victim.  I felt like my life was happening TO me, instead of me being a willing participant.  There were a lot of things that happened way beyond my control, things that slowly crept in and before I knew it, I was wondering how in the world it had happened, furthering my hopeless thoughts.

Last year, after what has seemed like a hellacious few years, I decided I had so many good things in my life, that I didn't want to dwell in the past, but I didn't know how NOT to.  I knelt again.  I went to a lady that helped me in so many ways.  She brought very vividly to my mind my role in my unhappiness.  She didn't do it out of anger or frustration, but out of a very willing spirit to help and uplift.
A talk came to my mind from John Bytheway called ""What's In Your Backpack?"  I imagined myself following people around, picking the rocks out of their packs in an effort to lessen their burdens, but I was tossing them into my own.  Someone was angry?  I stuffed one in my pack.  Someone carried guilt?  I stuffed a rock. Every insult hurled my way, I was picking up another stone and adding it to my heavy load. I was so weighed down and was upset at God for making me suffer so much, but then I imagined Him looking at me, saying, "You're the one picking them up."  He had given me and everyone else a way to deal with our heartaches, but I wasn't letting Him help me shoulder my own trials and I had become angry at HIM.  Visually taking the rocks out of my pack and putting them at His feet was a lot harder than you would think, but the relief I found after doing so was empowering!  I started to view Him differently and also the people around me.  I started to view ME differently.

I have had 3 children that have had serious medical issues at some point.  I have spent more time in hospitals than I ever care to spend.  I hold together pretty well, and then one day, I lose all hope and all progress.  The past week for me has been trying, mentally and spiritually.  Sitting down to write this today helped me to remember what direction I'm headed after being in the blender.  I'm stressed out, worrying about bills, about homework that didn't get turned in, the funky smell in the house I can't find, the crafts I'm supposed to get done, about the 30 pounds I want to lose, about Christmas, about how I feel like I'm getting steady once again
and December 5 is closing in on me fast, about watching another child struggle for his life in front of my eyes, about being his nurse, and about the guilt I feel that people are bringing my family dinner but I'm terribly relieved to not have to cook... just to name a few.
  I'm realizing that I've started to weigh myself down with these things and I'm frustrated that I can't run like I want to, so I'm going to unload my pack and start over, ready to hike again tomorrow!