Friday, July 18, 2014

Radiate



-Radiate light at home and beyond; bringing love, truth, peace, and joy to those around me.-

This is a personal mission statement that I crafted earlier this year as part of the joy equation, a course that seeks to help those who feel they are in a quarter-life crisis. I will be honest, I didn't finish the course. I started it in Arizona and we moved three-fourths of the way through the equation and I just wanted to take a break from all the heavy thinking and I just never started it back up. BUT! That doesn't mean that I didn't gain anything from the exercises, just that I never got to the goal setting part of the whole course. The course encourages you to think deeply and analytically at your life, to consciously discover what it is that you love to do, are scared to do, what is holding you back from living your fullest life. 

So I crafted my mission statement and then let it all fizzle, but it was there in the back of my mind, a constant reminder that I really wasn't limited by my circumstances.

Flash forward to this week.

Waves of sorrow as I remember losing James all over again. His death brought depth into our perspective as a family, to the way to want to live and spend our time and over the course of the year we have struggle to come to terms with that new perspective. This week, today in fact, we are remembering that a year ago there was no heartbeat and on Sunday we will remember that a year ago we got to hold him and sing to him for a little while. All of those memories are flooding in and forcing me to take a look around at where we are as a family and where I am personally. Am I living as authentically as I can be to the truths that I have discovered and learned this past year?

Honestly, the answer has been no. Part of me understands that I have to be patient with time, circumstances, and the extension of myself to do all that I know is possible and part of me is disappointed, knowing that I can do better, be better, live more authentically. 

Last night I prayed for direction, remembering to seek guidance from above. As I finished my prayer and settled into to the comfort of my bed and the blasting of cool air, I started thinking about my writing.

I have found great comfort in writing on this blog, knowing others are reading my voice. I have also been scared to be completely open or to write about hard topics for fear of being criticized, misunderstood, or hurting someone's feelings. I love when someone tells me they enjoy my blog, my writing, and that it helped them in some way. I love knowing that friends are sharing it with others who are struggling or hurting, I love imagining that light of common understanding spreading across the internet. But my fear has overwhelmed me and kept me from believing in the power of my words, my thoughts, my voice. My writing, opinions, and thoughts are not perfect, but the fear of their imperfections needs to stop.

I want to start writing more openly, honestly, and consistently in this space. I want to improve my writing, my ability to share my ideas and radiate light. To do this, I need to believe in the power of my words and ideas. I want to meditate upon, write, and share my journey, my struggles, questions, discoveries, and joys! Not
just about losing James, but about being a mother, being a woman, being a convert, being me. There is no shame in sharing our stories, however imperfect we feel they might be.

Trying to improve, to grow, to become better, even when trying and failing or trying and getting nowhere is brave and worth the effort, always.

So I hope that you will find more of me in this space and I hope that you will read with open hearts and minds, remembering that our journeys, experiences, and perspectives are our own. But just because they are ours doesn't mean that no one else will understand or gain insight. Sharing our stories brings strength and unity to this world and most of all, it brings light.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Pregnancy Reality

I remember before I was ever pregnant, back when thoughts of my own family were just daydreams I totally and completely idealized pregnancy. To me, it seemed pregnancy was glowing women with perfect, rounded bumps joyfully awaiting a new, cozy bundle to enter their arms and life.

That daydream first splintered when I was pregnant for the first time and experience a miscarriage at 8 weeks. I had no idea that those dreams could be so quickly ripped from me and replaced with such heartache and dashed hopes.

Gratefully we were able to become pregnant again with Max and more cracks in this pregnancy fantasy began to show. My days were shadowed with overwhelming nausea. Enough to keep me in the fetal position on the couch as soon as I got home from nannying. I rarely threw up, thankfully, but I hated feeling so useless and sick all the time.

As soon as I passed over that nausea phase, I realized I had the ability to do things again. Except, I couldn't. I didn't realize how limiting pregnancy was. From don't eat this to don't do that to can't go there. It felt claustrophobic and I was anxious for that baby in my arms both to meet him and to just eat a cold cut sandwich again!

Obviously, I realized the trade off was worth it. Nine months of limitations was nothing for the happiness that came when Max arrived. I realized it was SO worth it.



Then I went through those nine months. Nine months of doing my best to stay healthy and informed and preparing and then just like before it was all ripped away. This time though, it happened after I had made all those sacrifices. All those sacrifices for empty arms.

This is where my thoughts are this pregnancy. I so badly want to focus on the joy of this baby and I try every single day to visualize and mentally chant, "This baby will come. This baby will be healthy and full of life."


But it is so hard for me to believe that now. You see, to accept the reality of this pregnancy, I had to accept the fact that I could put in another nine months of my life, sacrificing my body to grow another all for it to end in sadness again.

Maybe that is depressing, but for pregnancy after loss, that is now my pregnancy reality.

Ultimately, faith is the only thing that allows for glimmers of that joy that I see other expecting mothers expressing so easily. I have prayed often for peace and comfort and gratefully, I have received it. I have received the knowledge that despite whatever the outcome of this pregnancy is, that choosing joy is ALWAYS possible.



Choosing joy is another post entirely, one that I will get to I am sure. But for now, I guess I felt it necessary to help others understand the reality of this pregnancy that I am experiencing. I can't say that I have perfect knowledge that this baby will arrive alive in my arms. I can say that I have faith that Heavenly Father loves me and cares for me and wants me to be happy. However my life continues to play out, that will ALWAYS be true. It will be true if this baby arrives safely and it will be true if I put in another nine months for empty arms all over again.

So yes, I still dream and imagine this baby arriving joyfully, tearfully into our family, but I cannot expect that. What I can do is know that God is aware of me, He knows me, and I trust in Him. I know that all that I will experience, "shall by for [my] good" (D&C 122:7). This alone brings me comfort: knowing that my willingness to accept the pains of this life joined with His power to help me overcome all of that pain is what allows me to experience pure joy. Joy that is made more real because of my awareness and experience of sadness and grief.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Highly Recommended Book for Everyone


I read this wonderful book called Global Mom:A Memoir by Melissa Dalton-Bradford. It was a wonderful and difficult book to read, wonderful because Dalton-Bradford has an ability to write such profound prose in a simple, yet elegant way. It was difficult because three-quarters of the way through the book her oldest son dies suddenly and the rest of the book deals with the grief and aftermath of that loss. I was not expecting it and rightly it resurfaced my own feelings of grief that I have a tendency to suppress. But the way she wrote about grief affected me greatly. She normalized it for me in a way that no one had done before.

Then I discovered she was completing a second book, On Loss and Living Onward, that was solely about loss. I awaited for it's publication and ordered it from Amazon and as soon as it came I plunged into it. This book is one that will never sit on a shelf. This book is one that will jump from table to table in my home from hand to hand as I share it with my family and friends. This is a book that I open for the comforting knowledge that others understand my grief because they have been through it.

This book recounts the Dalton-Bradford family's experience with loss and in between touching and telling examples from personal experience, she has compiled sections of quotations on different subjects relating to loss. There is a chapter of quotations on the healing aspect of crying, on having others mourn with you, on a new reality, on so many other subjects. The quotes come from scripture, books, president's, celebrities, but they are ALL so so good.

This book has helped me understand that grief is both unique and universal. It has helped me realize I am not alone and also how I can help others to know that they are not alone.

If you think that this book isn't really meant for you, you are wrong. I truly believe everyone can benefit from this book whether you have experienced personal loss or not. This book will help you succor and support those around you, it will help you make a little more sense of this tragic world we all live in.

Buy it for yourself, for your grieving friend, for your mother and father and for your neighbor. Buy it and read it and turn to it when loss hits close to your home. Refer to it for inspiration and help to know how to be a guiding angel for others.

I know that before we experienced our own loss I never had any clue how to help others and usually I would address it with "they need space" and ultimately felt like too much time had passed for me to jump on board and mourn with them. But the reality is that no one ever truly "gets over" grief, it just becomes a part of their reality, thoughts they live with everyday. So it is NEVER too late and I believe this book can help others understand that and what to do with that knowledge.

You can buy it on Amazon here or at Barnes and Noble here.

What I Could Write About

I haven't been quite sure what to write about. This happens when too many thoughts, ideas, and plans fill my mind, which is often.



I could write about pregnancy after loss and the anxiety that ebbs and flows with each day and how no matter what I can't quite find my footing.

I could write about the fact that we are moving in one week and we sold ALL of our furniture back in December except for our mattress, Max's handmade bed (made by his grandpa), a shelf, and a children's IKEA table with two child-sized chairs. We have had to find furniture to fill our home within a two week period which I thought would be fun, but when you are trying to find it all at once...it is not so fun.

I could write about the fact that we have been bouncing around from guestroom to spare room, to mattress on the floor this past month and how I just want to be somewhere for more than a week at a time...


I could write about how much I love summer, the fresh fruit, the cool morning air, sitting outside all the time, how I miss working at Camp Dudley every single time June rolls around, and how this will be my third summer being pregnant. This is the second consecutive pregnant summer and while I am extremely grateful to be pregnant, I really miss rock climbing and doing other fun summer things like uninhibited.

I could write about how hilarious Maxwell is getting, how he recounts events in stream-of-conscious form often circling back to the same event over and over. He loves staying here at my mom's house because there is endless fun. A dog, trampoline, his aunt Margaret and her iPad, toys, and there is always someone who will turn on The Incredibles for him. Plus it has been a nice break for me to be surrounded by so many willing watchful eyes.



For now I will focus my thoughts on the excitement that awaits each day. I am grateful for the opportunities for work our family has and the opportunity to prepare for our family to grow and expand, even though it is nerve-wracking. A lot of thoughts means a lot to be grateful for and if I try really hard I can focus on that and the rest sorta melts away.


 (All of these pictures were taken back in May while we were still living in Idaho, I was about 24 weeks pregnant)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

On Faith and Fear

My due date is September 11th, which when I first heard caused major eye-rolling. Of course it would be one of the saddest days in American history. I thought about it for a moment and thought deep and hard about whether this was some sort of sign that bode bad news ahead and decided it was a silly thought.

On the flip side, it is also my mother's birthday. So when people ask and I tell them mainly to gauge their reaction on whether or not I should see it as a bad omen I quickly interject afterwards that I am trying to focus on the positive aspect of it being a happy day too for our family. Because as I wrote previously, my mom is awesome.



Pregnancy after loss is a constant battle of trying to stay optimistic for me. Past experience tells me to be careful with my heart, to guard it keep away anything that could cause pain in the future if this doesn't work out again. Don't even THINK about buying baby clothes, it tells me. A baby shower? You are openly going to receive things that you will just have to pack away never to be used? It reasons. It tries scare tactics and the more I read about other people's experiences the more nervous I get because sometimes things aren't all rainbows and butterflies after a loss.



But I also feel that if I don't prepare, if I don't show all signs of hope for a good future that I will regret not having that hope whether this turns out the way I want or not. So I am ignoring the fear and choosing faith. I am choosing to hope and have joy NOW instead of holding my breath. Because, if there is one thing I have learned over the past year it is that you do not waste any moments to have gratitude and joy. I try to be conscious of the moments that are good, even in my circumstances. I focus on gratitude for being able to be pregnant again and I focus on gratitude for the beautiful living child that I have and I focus on gratitude for a kind, understanding husband and I focus and I bring myself to awareness of all the good that surrounds me.

I am pretty sure Satan wants to rob me of any and all joy and live in a hole fearful of all that could happen and for me choosing to live that way is misery. When I choose faith in a loving Heavenly Father, faith that whatever is ahead of me will be for my good, I feel peace and yes, I feel joy too.



So this baby's due date is September 11th and I will ALWAYS interject that it is my mother's birthday because that is one small way I am choosing faith, being aware of the sadness that has occurred but focusing on the joy that I know that I grew up knowing that day to be.
 

Plus, how many babies are actually born on their due date?

*Pictures are from a hike up to Balanced Rock in Idaho. For size reference, if Kyle was standing at the base of where the balancing starts he would be as tall as that white line about halfway up. Needless to say, it's a pretty big rock to be balancing so precariously.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Legacy of Strength

My maternal grandmother Patricia Jean Turner was a woman of strength. In the years that I knew her she was a pillar of grace and intelligence and taught me how to carry myself and respect those around me. She passed away when I was a freshman in high school and I can still remember my world tumbling and crashing down around me when I found out. It was my first real exposure to death and she was someone who I loved and adored. She died due to a stroke related to a brain tumor. It was her second time facing brain cancer.



I remember before I was aware that the cancer had returned I was watching the movie Little Women in her room. The tumor was already disabling her from many things and often she would say and do things that were out of the ordinary, but the only things I can ever remember her doing during this period were those that confirmed her strength of character.

 I was sprawled out across her bed and she was going through her closet. She tried to reach for something on a high shelf and I started sensing frustration. My grandmother, who we affectionately called Bebis due to her Texan drawl trying to pronounce "babies!" when we would visit, turned around at me and told me something I have always remembered. She said, whenever you get mad or frustrated or feel like something isn't possible, just count to three and try again, you'll be able to do it. I watched as she counted and reached one last time and she got whatever she was reaching for.

It is a strange memory but one that to me reveals so much about her. The funny thing is, it's not like the counting is magical or anything, but in the counting you remember that you are capable. She was always teaching me like that, weaving in lessons and manners into every moment, reminding me to be kind to every person, to stand up for myself, to care more about quality than quantity.

She argued eloquently, dressed impeccably, laughed wholeheartedly and loved sincerely. Through her example, she showed me how to hold my head up when times are hard, not because you can't cry or grieve or be mad but to remember that with God, you are strong. She remained beautiful, kind, and consistent to what she knew to be right and true until the day she died. She passed on a legacy of strength.

My mother, where to words begin to describe the woman who has become my absolute best friend. My mother is my hero, she learned strength and grace and kindness and understanding from her mother and everyday growing up with her was a treasure. In many circumstances of my mother's life she had every reason to be angry at the trials life had given her, but through each of them I have looked back and seen that she was nothing but a beacon of light and strength to our family. She handled complicated situations with love and clarity of mind. Her strength radiates out in exuberant optimism and cheerfulness. She is the absolute best advice giver from hair colors to potty training to relationships and I am grateful that she too taught me that I am strong and can do hard things.



Over the past year I have received several times the words, "You are so strong...." What I have learned that as a mother I have a legacy of strength, a legacy of strong mothers who have gone through hard things. They have taught me that I have that strength too. That strength lies within me to access with the help of a loving, kind God. A God who believes in me and believes in every woman out there that we have the capability to be strong, in whatever form that looks like for us.


So a Happy Mother's day to all of the mothers out there who show their strength in so many moments of each day. You are strong and that strength is beautiful.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I Want to Remember This

This past year has been an interesting one for Max and I. We have had to learn to adjust as Kyle's internships took us to new places for short amounts of time. Basically we have had to learn to spend A LOT of time together and each day I am amazed at this marvelous boy I get to spend my time with. 


I want to remember how each day all day he asks, "Mama, I want food." Each time I will respond with, "I would love to get something for you, what would you like?" and he responds back, "I want food." It has turned into a comical annoyance as I suggest and guide him into the kitchen to help me figure out what "food" means to him. I still have NO idea. I can suggest toast, eggs, sandwiches, fruit, veggies and he will always return with, "I want food." In fact, at one point Kyle was with him while I was catching up on sleep in the morning and he beckoned to me from the other room for some food and Kyle offered cereal to which he agreed. Then Max beckoned to me again requesting food. Kyle reminded him he was getting cereal and Max responded, "I just want to ask mom, 'I want food.'"


He loves chocolate milk and will hold his small container in the cart of the grocery store until he is settled in the car. The first time he received this treat, I told him he had to wait until it was purchased and so he will pretend to drink it while I do my shopping. But he wont drink it once it is purchased either, only in the car. He tends to attach to certain rules and routines like that.

Out of nowhere one day he told us there was a dragon in his room (we read one book about dragons loving tacos but where he got the idea of fighting dragons is beyond me). Kyle suggested they find swords and fight the dragon. This is now a daily occurrence. We fight dragons everywhere. My favorite was mid flight he fought dragons on the airplane using straws and sent them out the window. He stated matter-of-factly, "I save everyone now."


He loves the outdoors. He most in his element when we are playing outside and I am letting him explore with space. He climbs hills, throws rocks, turns sticks into swords, and does it all on repeat. He never gets bored of it. He loves when we tell him we are going on a hike and will often request to walk most of it on his own. The other day we found the side of a large rock hollowed out just big enough for him to fit in. It became his cave and we stayed there for an hour, just him going in an out and finding rocks and sticks to call his own and put inside this special place.

He spits. He spits when he is angry, excited, obstinate, or feeling goofy. He knows not to spit inside but that doesn't stop him when I see that twinkle of mischief in his eye and the smirk on his face. We are working on it and he knows how to use a rag to clean up quite well now.


He generally loves to help and participate and learn the rules cleaning and keeping things tidy. He will put away his clothes and take dirty ones to the dirty laundry pile. He does not love helping to make the bed. He would much rather jump on the bed and crawl under the blankets.

He has two pair of shoes, his slip-on shoes (crocs) and his fast running shoes (sneakers). He loves his crocs because he can put them on by himself and he loves his sneakers because he can demonstrate how fast he can run, every time.


He can't keep a secret, at least he can't keep a secret from me. While visiting my brothers, my brother Robert decided to try to sneak him more jellybeans after he had received his last three. My brother whispered to him (without my knowledge), "Don't tell your mom I gave you more jellybeans. This is going to be a secret." Immediately Max calls out to me excitedly, "MOM! I got more jellybeans!" 

We play school together sometimes using a school bus toy and figures. He will add a lego motorcycle ninja to the group and it has turned into a legitimate learning time for Max. This is the only time where he will sing songs with me. So I try to do it often. We sing, count, read, practice our ABC's and draw pictures. All under the guise that it is school for the wooden figurines. 



He is incredibly inquisitive asking me how things work and explaining it back to me, making sure he has it right. He will also explain it to friends and family, testing out the knowledge his mother gave him, making sure it is correct. Along with that, he often narrates to me what he is doing asking me if I think it is a good idea, "Mom. That a good idea?" "Yes Max, that sounds like a great idea." "No, it's not a great idea. It's a good idea."

He will not join in a conversation unless he is 100% comfortable. If someone in the store or even someone he is familiar with tries to ask him a question or engage him in a conversation and he isn't up to it, he blows a raspberry or his tongue at them. People mainly laugh, but I completely understand. He is a unique mix of shy and stubborn. 


He is a joy to be around. His determination and precision are admirable and his sense of humor is adorable. He  can aggravate me and fill me with laughter all under 5 minutes.

He gives the best hugs and kisses and the smile on his face at the end of his day as he snuggles his stuffed blue dog lets me know that he is filled with love and light. It makes me love motherhood and express gratitude to my Heavenly Father for the special joy  and perspective this child brings.