Monday, October 28, 2013

You Are My Sunshine

At night I would lay in my kids' room and sing to them.  Sometimes it was because I loved it, and many times it was because I was just trying to get them to bed, and this was on the checklist.  Every night it was the same song first... "You are my Sunshine."' Then it would be something like " I am a Child of God," " Families can be Together Forever, " or whatever other Primary song I remembered.
"You are my Sunshine" was a result of my Grandma June singing this to me each time I spent the night at her house.  She had a warbly voice, but her singing to me made me just feel so cozy and special.  I lived literally right next door to her growing up, but when we had to stay the night, she treated it as if it were a special occasion.  Out came the rag rollers, out came the special jammies, waffles for breakfast, cookies at bedtime, and always a song as she sat on the bed.
Now, everyone has good grandparents, but MINE... Well, I was lucky.  I had a great childhood.  My best friends were my cousins, my biggest tormentors were also my cousins and my uncles.  My grandparents were my biggest fans.  At least that's the way I want to remember it :)  Grandpa would pay double for things he bought once and we resold to him to make a few bucks.  Grandma always had ice cream on hand.  I liked the routine and the closeness of our family.  Grandma and I talked on the phone all the time, even once I moved to college and even more after I was married.
Now, don't get me wrong, I know my mom loved me (some of it was out of obligation, I'm sure!), but Mom's are supposed to nag, and punish, and make sure you keep all your body parts.  They do the worrying and get the brunt of teenage hormones and attitudes, but Grandmas just get to love, and my Grandma June did that the best.
When my Grandpa Art passed away in 2007, I thought my heart broke.  I came home from the funeral, flung myself on my bed and sobbed for what seemed forever.  When his wife died 9 months later, I knew it was broke.  This was the end of a generation for my paternal side of our family.  The entire glue that brought everyone together on Sunday afternoons and Christmas morning was gone.
My grandma is gently joked about being so emotional.  I loved it.  She would cry over everything.  A sweet gesture...tears.  Somebody else's hurt feelings...tears.  Something beautiful or spiritual...tears.  I had that trait passed on to me.  James saw a light bulb commercial once and asked if I was bawling yet and when he looked over, I was.  I like to think it is a good thing, and the waterproof mascara industry is making a killing off me.  Losing 2 of my grandparents like that was hard for me.  Us grandchildren stood at her funeral to sing You are my Sunshine.  And when I say "us", I mean everyone but me.  I stood there with my eyes leaking.
Amber age 2, Brother Joshua, age 3-4 months, Grandma June

Grandma would remind me constantly about the need to let little boys be boys.  She would find them amusing instead of obnoxious.  She taught me how they need to be built up differently from girls.  How they needed to be hosed off in the yard before they could come inside.
She taught me things about being married and having patience with your spouse.  How to change my approach when needed.  And during those talks, she reminded me how much I was loved. Losing her felt like I lost the ONE PERSON in the world that thought I was amazing.  But by making me feel that I was amazing, even when I wasn't, I knew I wanted my kids to feel that way.  That no matter how bad they pissed me off, that they always had a place to call home.  A place that they could come and be loved, even when they didn't deserve it.  This was hard to do once they got to be teenagers!
Tyler hit that stage around 12 years old and I realized I'd be looking into selling him to the gypsies a lot sooner.  I knew where they lived because Grandpa had shown me once when he was supposed to sell me.  Thank goodness he let my parents down!
By Age 15, I started to like this creature much better, and he was funny when he was with his friends.  He had a good, happy laugh.  Then it turned to a mischievous laugh.  I should have caught on faster...

Tyler and a couple of his dopey friends decided to move to Mexico.  We would be home, thinking they were at the drive in, while they were quietly slipping away South.  It's a long story how it all unfolded, but we have a good laugh over it now.  We never accused them of being geniuses...let's just say that.
It's funny now, but it wasn't funny.  It was hurtful.  It was cowardly.  It was mean, especially to his brothers and sister.  I was so mad at him that I wasn't sure how I wanted to handle it.  For the first time ever, I told him I thought it was best that he stayed with his Mom in Utah.  I always wondered about that day where he would scream at me, "You're not my mom!  I'm moving in with her!"  But it never came, and here I was the one encouraging it.  I hadn't talked to him since they got caught running away, and when he called, I didn't know whether to pick up the phone giving him the riot act, whether I would act indifferent, or bawl because he had scared me and hurt my feelings.  He must have know those were the options he might face, because he said he was surprised I answered at all.
I kept reminding myself that every kid needs to feel that they had a place to come home to, where no matter what went on in the world, home was a place to be loved.  But he didn't want to be at this home.  I cried when I told him I didn't want him back right now and sent him a box of his clothes.  Within 2 weeks, he had run away again from his Moms house.  James went on a manhunt for him.  Can I say that my husband has tracking SKILLS?  When I got a chance to talk to him about it, he said that he knew he would always come back home.  It's where he was running TO that time.
Top of the tram in Wilson.  Get us off of here!! It's COOOLD!
Tyler, even being a dumb teenager was wise beyond his years sometimes.  He would come back from being with friends and would sit on the couch with me and talk about all sorts of things.  Religion, politics, beliefs, goals.  I loved having those talks.  I felt like maybe I wasn't such a wicked stepmom after all!  He looked out for me and he never acted embarrassed of me, even when I was working so hard at it!  He teased, he tormented, and it was just like having my cousins around again:)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Every day is something new

I have to clarify some of my religious beliefs, because it is such a huge part of my life.  I grew up believing and praying to God.  I still prayed to Him during times that I didn't feel like I should.  I knew there was a Creator, and I believed that he would answer prayers.  There were periods in my life that I didn't attend church, and times I was ashamed to tell people what my religion was...but only because I knew I wasn't being a very good representative of it!
I talk a lot about praying, because it was the only thing I knew to do after I had exhausted my own resources.  My problem was, I wasn't getting the answers or the miracles I hoped for.  For many of you, I'm sure you've heard "You can choose to be happy."  "God will do anything if you have the faith."  And so on.  Well, both of those are true, but sometimes His answer is leading you to someone that can help.  However, this trial shook so much about my belief of God's qualities, about my own self worth, and my head was so muddled that I couldn't distinguish His voice versus my own.  Hence, the near Exorcist freak out over a sandwich.
I was so hard on myself and had unrealistic expectations (as I now see, over the mounds of laundry that I step over on my way to have fun!) But it was a daily struggle inside myself.  I remember once Tyler asking me why I was mad.  I looked at him funny and told him that I wasn't, so what would make him think that?  He said I just looked like it.  I would catch my reflection sometimes, and I wasn't smiling a lot to the people that deserved it.  I still hurt over that.

My belief was that God loved me enough to give me these particular kids, but He didn't really know me enough to know how desperately I was hurting.  I thought many times that there was a secret code that I couldn't break to get His attention.  I remember crying out to Him one day, "You could move mountains.  You raised the dead.  You can do anything!  Why won't you do this for me?" I was starting to have the faith only of a mustard seed.  But I continued to drag everyone to church... just in case I was building up enough to get Him to realize I was serious.  I am still thankful for the good things I learned and that got me through from week to week by going.  Dragging 4 boys to church is not a big testimony help, though!  It's amazing the conflicting feelings you have about the fact that you got them there, but wanting to beat them at the same time for acting like such stinks!
During the years, I truly did enjoy those kids...Most of the time.  Come 9:00 p.m., my patience was worn and it would just get worse!
  I loved listening to Jordan at 4 years old ride his bike in his underwear up and down and up and down and up and down the sidewalk in front of my bedroom at 6 am.  I loved how Aaron dressed like Batman every day and once told me I was Bat Girl, so I needed to act appropriately.  I loved how Tyler wanted to try new things and loved being in the outdoors with his dad.  I loved Aidans little buckteeth and his coon skin hat that he wasn't embarrassed to wear anywhere.
For my birthday, James and the boys went to get me a birthday cake -- a store bought one that I never got growing up!  This is the scene that I came into the kitchen to see:  James was upset because Tyler had accidentally dropped the cake on his way in.  The lid was on, but half of it was smooshed.  Aaron was going on about how he wanted it to have a dinosaur, but dad wouldn't let him and Aaron couldn't get over it.  While there's the commotion of Aaron whining, Tyler apologizing, James being frustrated, me reassuring everyone it would be ok...there was Jordan, digging into it with his fingers.  It couldn't have been scripted better, and I loved that cake!
I was now content with being the mom of 4 boys.  People would sometimes say things like, "I'm so sorry.  You didn't get your little girl."  "Oh, I bet you just hate having a houseful of boys!" No, I didn't.  I kind of liked it actually.  The boys started making the comments that they wanted a sister, but I would laugh and tell them there wasn't a snowballs chance in Hell.
Jordan, Aidan in wagon, Amber, James, Tyler, Aaron

Madelyn was born less than 9 months later.  I was pregnant with her and had no idea.  We didn't know what gender the baby was, but everyone had their fingers crossed.  We slipped away to the hospital in the middle of the night, only waking Tyler to tell him to take care of the kids the next morning.  We called the kids immediately after she was born and after Ty hung up with us, he was already making the calls to family, "I have a sister!"  He was so excited and he loved on her.  She was going to have lots of good brothers looking after her. In fact, the boys all wanted Maddie to sleep in their room, as if she was a new puppy.  But I would catch every one of them crawling next to her in my bed or even in her cradle to be close to her
My life had begun to be more peaceful. Maddie brought that little tenderness into our home that everyone needed.  My medicine was helping me not to have the deep anxiety or crippling fears, I din't feel so muddled or confused.  Little things happened throughout my days to help me know that He did know my name, and know who I was,  but I felt deep down at some point, there would be something big.  There always is.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Face the Sun

With your Face to the Sun, the Shadows Fall Behind
James and I planned on having another baby.  He was always really good with kids and I knew that if I had met a man that had his child full time, he wasn't one to not care about his own.  The baby decided it was ready to come down earlier than we had planned (I don't know how that stuff happens!) and I was excited!  Yay!  I had now finally figured out how little boys worked, so I could have my sweet little girl.  It would be perfect!  Only, 2 weeks AFTER my due JULY...while we lived in a single wide trailer...My gorgeous boy, Jordan was born.  What happened to the little girl?  Apparently, there was still more to learn.
These boys were so wonderful to their brother!  Tyler couldn't wait to help Jordan learn to walk.  Incidentally, it was also Tyler that spent so much time patiently teaching both the boys how to rollerblade and how to ride their bikes.
Aaron was always a jabberjaws and when he was learning to talk, you might understand one or two words.  Jordan was content not to say a thing until one day he perfectly said "cow".  He would only use one or two words to communicate, and Aaron would do the rest of the talking for him.  I absolutely loved being a mom.
Now, you need to keep in mind that marriage for me was hard.  I didn't know what I was doing and I felt like I wasn't figuring it out very quickly.  But I was dedicated to raising these kids as a family.
In 1999, I remember the day I knew something inside me changed.  I loved my husband, he loved me, but we weren't good at letting each other know it.  My brain was broken.  I was exhausted, and I was wondering what in the world my purpose was.  I mean, I was taught to work before play, so I neglected a lot of play.  Other moms were going to the park daily, but I was folding laundry.  There was always more laundry, and I didn't feel like I should go "play" if my work in the house wasn't done.  I started to become anxious and withdrawn, and there were things that one part of my brain would be saying, "Amber, come on!  It's not that big of a deal."  The broken part said, " Why isn't anybody listening to me?!  I'm freaking out and I don't know what's a big deal anymore!"
I found out I was expecting my 3rd baby, and I was just too overwhelmed.  We weren't trying for a baby, not planning for one, and I cried and cried.
I got an ultrasound to determine the sex, knowing I absolutely did not want more kids, so this needed to be the girl I waited for.  They circled the part on the ultrasound that showed that this absolutely was not going to be a girl.  I cried for 3 days, and got over it.  I loved the kids I had, so did it really matter what sex they were?  But the crying didn't stop.  I cried because I felt absolute despair over everything.  I became a terrified person.  I knew something was wrong with my baby because of my initial feelings of being pregnant.  I knew something was going to happen to one of the other kids. I knew at some point God was going to punish me for things I had done, but I just couldn't figure out what or when.   Leaving the house was scary because I couldn't face what might happen.  I would cry when I heard the firehouse siren...certain that they were responding to one of my family members.  I worried that maybe it was me or James that would die, leaving my children alone.  I spent a lot of time on my knees begging God not to make me have to go through my fears.

Aaron, Jordan, Tyler and baby Aidan
This break in my brain was another defining moment.  It affected so much of my personality and the freedom I wanted to allow myself and the kids to live.   I became quite a negative person during this time.  I found fault with everyone and everything.  I was so over trying to find the good in a person.  Everyone had an agenda, no one was REALLY your friend, it was a dog-eat-dog world, and I certainly couldn't find one thing that anyone could love about me.  I deserved my unhappiness, but I didn't want it.  I prayed every day that it would go away, but every day it didn't.
My angel Aidan was born in 2000.  He was exactly what I needed!  He was the sunshine in my cloudy day, he was absolutely perfect and God had heard my excessive prayers on behalf of him.  My heart still swells when I remember holding him for the first time and knowing I was not worthy to be his mother.  I held Heaven in my arms.
Shortly after Aidans birth, James asked me if I could bring him something different for lunch the next day, because he was getting tired of eating sandwiches.  I remember thinking at that moment how much I despised this request.  Didn't he know how hard it was for me to even THINK about making a sandwich, let alone DOING it?! Didn't he know how much I didn't want to get in the car?  Didn't he know that I was hearing "You're not doing enough?"  No.  He had no clue.
I was so relieved and embarrassed when the doctor started treating me for depression.  Women that were grateful didn't get depressed.  Talk about feeling worse about myself.  I felt like I had a disability that my family had to accommodate on tiptoes.  "Don't do that or Mom'll lose it."  "Can't say that cuz I don't know if Mom will start crying or not."
I wanted so much to be happy because I had so much to be happy about.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It didn't happen in a day

Where do I want to start?  My Life has now been categorized into 2 time frames.  Before Tyler and After Tyler.  Dr. Phil talks about our defining moments in life and if we recognize those, they usually tell a story of how we became who we are.  This is a huge defining moment in the life of Amber.
But my life isn't just about this moment or the ripple effect (or monsoon effect) from it.
I became an instant mother when I married James.  I didn't know how to act with a 5 year old.  If I acted like a babysitter, then I wasn't setting firm roles.  If I acted too much like a Nazi, then I wasn't enjoying this child.
I don't know why we had such a rocky start to our marriage, but it wasn't all that fun for either of us.  As I would learn much later, we were both bringing toxic things into it.  It was hard to bond with a child whose father I couldn't bond with easily.  But I would kneel down every day and ask Heavenly Father to help me love this little boy like he deserved.  I had my firstborn, Aaron the following winter.  Being his mother, I bonded immediately.  Fell head over heels in love.  He fell in love with Ty and adored everything he did.  For having 6 years age difference, Tyler knew how to have fun with him.  He would dress him up for combat, lock him in the dog's kennel, push him in the swing and help him into the car seat.  Aaron couldn't wait to catch up to Tyler.

One day, I overheard a neighbor talking about his "half brother", who was a baby.  Every time he would refer to the baby, it was with those words.  Pretty soon, I noticed Tyler trying out the words.  I knew I was his step mother, and I fully expected him to not know what to call me, or to forever refer to me as his step mom, but I couldn't handle him calling Aaron that.  I explained to him that Aaron knew no differently.  As far as he was concerned, they shared a womb.  I asked him to please understand that we didn't need to label where someone came from when all that mattered was how much we loved.  He never referred to any of his brothers or his sister as "half" from then on, and neither did they.
Tyler was all boy, which was hard for me.  I never really could stand little boys.  They didn't know how to sit still, they picked their noses, they were mischievous, broke things, didn't appreciate a good book and long talks.  Plus, they smelled.  I wanted a delicate little girl.  Someone just like me.  Instead,  I got Aaron.  We joked about how he had to have had a twin that didn't make it down, so Aaron got double the personality.  He was just as much a boy as Ty, with some definite quirks.  He walked around with a tool belt, gathered bugs, made messes and stunk. I caught him bathing in the (clean!) toilet once just to try it out.  My heart started to soften towards boys.  But they could still infuriate me!  Ty was always getting demerit slips for something or another, so being the ever vigilant mother, he would get in trouble for the demerits.  He was going to learn how to act in school, by george! Until one day, I opened his bag and saw 1/2 dozen notes about how naughty he was.  As I read through them, I was getting more irritated.  "Swinging on the stair rail", "talking in the lunch line",  "Peeing on the fence".  I just wanted to yell, "Let him be a kid, for hell sakes!!"  Heck, what kid wants to take time out of recess to go to the bathroom?  I'd pee on the fence too, if I could get away with it.  He stopped getting punished twice for demerit slips.  He didn't need every adult in his life trying to take away his natural exuberance.  The notes still came, but my attitude about it helped him, and pretty soon, they were coming in smaller quantities.
Fishing on the Teton River

Monday, October 21, 2013


Why I decided to write a Blog...

I have always liked writing.  When I was in 6th grade, I had to write a story for ALP (Advanced Learners Program), and I loved it.  My teacher said if we were interested, she could look into having it published.  Of course, I was a little afraid of looking stupid, so I opted to take the safe route and just keep it in my own handwriting, tucked away in a box somewhere.  What if people loved it and wanted me to write more?!  How would I deal with success?  Fame?  Pressure to come up with more brilliant works?  So I took the pressure off of the world and kept my little dream to myself.
I did well through high school in my creative writing classes, and was content to hear positive comments from my teachers.  "That made me laugh!"  "Did your dad really do that?!" "A +++++"  my Sophomore year, the teacher discreetly asked me to join the yearbook.  Only Juniors and Seniors got to be on the Yearbook Committee and they had to apply.  She wanted me!! I was proud to have my picture among the others on our yb page.  Despite what people may think, those were some of the funniest girls I ever had the pleasure of getting to know.  They could make me squirt milk out of my nose from laughing so hard, and wet my pants long before babies wrecked my bladder and made it a daily occurrence.
I remained on the staff the next 2 years and got to see things about the people I went to school with that maybe not everyone got to see.  It was our goal to make it a yearbook about everyone that attended A.F. High, not just our friends.  I think I had a little more understanding and fondness for the people I shared adolescence with.  That, and I got to stare at the photos of really cute guys without them thinking I was weird.
I tried to write some small stories in my spare time once I was in college and while I lived in Sun Valley, but let's face it, if you have that much alone time in college, you're really not getting your full college experience!  I did my required homework, and did a lot of having fun.  I kep my creative juices flowing, though, by decorating my dorm with my roommates, making crafts on a college girls budget.  I learned how to improvise and be frugal, yet still have a great room.
When I got married, my husband had a son, Tyler, so we became an instant family.  No honeymoon period, or crazy newlywed escapades.  I went right into motherhood, and I just kept going, having 3 more boys and a darling, if not slightly demented little girl.   We moved to this small town immediately after our honeymoon where I knew...NOBODY.  I missed my family.  I missed having friends.  I missed having a college budget because now I had a house payment and I had to make food for more than just myself.
My sisters gave me 3 rubber stamps for my birthday, so I started scrap booking.  Every page alternated between Donald and Daisy Duck and a set of bunnies.  It was cheap, could occupy my time, and let me journal.
I scrap booked for all of my children.  My kitchen table was never cleaned off for long.  I would stay up late to get books made.  I would spend every extra penny in the craft store.  I would smell the new paper and hoard it.  What if I wanted to do a page and didn't have the perfect piece of paper?!  That would be terrible!  My scrap books were my journals.  Of course, I didn't usually write down the negative thoughts or feelings.  That was locked in my head, so when I flipped back through them, I remembered events, while documenting the positive to everyone else that would read them.  I'm the same way with books.  Almost every book I have read has another story to me.  I remember things that were going on in my life when I read it, how the book made me feel, what I wanted to remember from it.  
I haven't touched my scrap booking supplies for almost 4 years.  I stopped being excited about being creative, and sometimes I am afraid that I can't get the passion back.  I really loved that about myself, and I miss it.  I tried to tackle it a few weeks ago after my hysterectomy.  I thought it was a perfect time to catch up and get my kids' pictures out of the dresser drawer and onto pages we could all admire.  It was a mess!  I couldn't organize my thoughts or handle looking at pictures of my kids.  My oldest son, Tyler passed away 4 years ago this December and I'm having a harder time now than before.  After his funeral, I went to my craft room and put away the paints, the markers and scissors, tucked the photos away.  Didn't touch my saws or wood patterns, couldn't find the time to work on my embroidery.  So everything SAT.  It wasn't because I felt guilty for doing those was because I just couldn't find my fun.  My release.  I was overwhelmed and doing those things just took away from the things I "should" be worrying about, and my brain just couldn't function that way anymore.  
A childhood friend has been doing a project on "Capture your Grief" and I have been reading her journaling every day.  It got me to thinking about working through the things that have made me sad, and how my writing down thoughts, events and feelings have helped some things become clearer.  I didn't lose an infant, so I wouldn't participate in the "Capture Your Grief", but I wanted to be able to write down the things that make, and journal my experience of losing a son.  Maybe one day my kids will read this and understand that I wasn't put on this earth just to mess with their program.  I am very much alive and trying to get through each day just like they are.  
I don't care if nobody ever sees this.  This isn't for me trying to get my opinion out to the world.  This isn't for me trying to make new friends.  This is all for me.  Sometimes it might be rough, but it's still mine, and I guess there is no right or wrong way feel.  Besides, I don't think the world is ready for this amount of crazy, so instead of thinking about how I'll handle interviews and red carpet events, I'll just be content with this!