Saturday, May 30, 2015

Late Night Rambling

Its late and I should be asleep, but I can't shut my brain down.  That's happened a lot the last couple of years, though usually its been worry about family members or friends that has kept my mind racing.  I've never done well with watching people I love carry burdens that I feel powerless to change, and relatively ineffective at helping to bear, and a lot of people I love have been carrying a lot of heavy burdens the last few years, with no easy resolution in sight.

Tonight, however, the reason I've been unable to quiet my mind is overwhelming gratitude.  For dinner, I ate reheated leftovers from a delicious meal that a friend brought over for my family a couple of days ago.  I only met her about a year and a half ago, but she has become one of my closest, most trusted friends in that time.

I had a seizure Thursday morning and ended up in the ER.  Doug messaged her to let her know, in hopes that she might inform the professor I was supposed to meet with that afternoon.  She notified the nursing department of my situation and then walked over to the hospital to check on me.  Without anyone asking a thing, she offered to bring dinner (not a small task when you're dealing with a family of 6).  I continued to have small, partial seizures throughout the day, and so her presence was like a ray of sunshine when she showed up with a fresh cooked meal for my hungry, somewhat nervous kids.

While I was in the hospital, a few other friends took care of little Keira Belle.  Kaytee has watched Keira on a nearly daily basis the entire time I've been in school, and I couldn't do my life right now without her.  Her generosity has been the energy on which my family has run, to a large extent.  She has a great sense of humor and is a lifeline as a mom-in-arms who just totally gets whatever it is I may be dealing with with the kids on any given day.  Kaytee was supposed to be working that morning (in fact, I was supposed to be watching her kids), and so Tessie, a lovely woman from the ward who lives just up the street, and who, along with her teenage daughters, is pretty much adored (deservedly so) by my kids, took Keira to work with her while we got things sorted out.

Until further notice, I am prohibited from driving, and you wouldn't believe the number of people who have volunteered--entirely sincerely--to be my personal chauffeur.  When you live in rural Montana and can't drive (and its raining), there isn't a whole lot you can do.  But reflecting is always an option.  I've spent a lot of time the last few days reflecting on the last few months, the last year, and I'm having a hard time processing how blessed I have been.

We just returned from a trip to California, where my sister-in-law/best friend was an amazing host: staying up talking with us till all hours of the night, giving fabulous haircuts to me and all my girls, making us fabulous dinners, sending us on dates.  It'd been 2 years since we'd been able to be in the same place, but we talk on the phone regularly and  I don't know what I'd do without her.  I am not someone who puts friendship to the test a lot, but due to circumstances not entirely within my control, her loyalty has been put to the test and she has come through with flying colors time and time again.  I've seldom been more certain of anyone's love for me.  And I adore her--few people make me laugh as much and put me as ease so readily as her.  It was wonderful to be with all my in-laws again; so many people don't even get one solid, reliable family in life, and I got two.  Doug's brother and sisters (and brothers-in-law) are truly wonderful people that I'm privileged to be connected to, and it was fun to have so many reminders of that last week.

Another dear friend sent me several messages over the last few days, checking in on me, reminding me that she loved me.  She gives me courage; I have seldom seen anyone else carry such heavy burdens with such tremendous grace and strength of character.  I don't imagine that's how she sees herself, but I can't not see her that way.  To be loved by such a person is no credit to me; she is simply a person of outstanding love, in both quantity and quality.

Visiting with her reminded me of the goodness of another friend--one I failed to visit while in California--who, through her charitable heart and clear-eyed perception, has been an incredibly Christlike servant of my family and several of the people I love most.  On top of that, she sent us a generous, entirely unexpected Christmas gift.  She was our Santa Clause this year.

My family.  I can never say enough words of gratitude about the incredible family to which I was sent.  Moms simply don't get a lot better than my mom: patient, generous (especially with her time), calm and easy-going, she manages to make most things in my life easier without ever actually interjecting herself into my life.  My sisters, who are always enriching my life with their talents and time, who do so much for me and my kids.  My brothers, who have had a lot of uphill climbing the last year or two and have still managed to be attentive and affectionate to me and my kids.  My littles think they have the coolest uncles on the planet, and they aren't far off.

The extended family is pretty high on that list, too.  I got to talk to two of my favorite uncles last week.  One invited us into his home, stayed up talking with us till 3 in the morning, and then got up and made us bacon and hash browns and eggs before he headed to work.  He makes me smile so much.  The other has been one of my favorite people for literally as long as I can remember.  I love that he is so unashamedly who he is--I love seeing how much fun his kids have with him, and that its easy to observe his love for his kids and nieces and nephews in action.  He helps me feel close to my grandma, and I'll never be able to thank him enough--none of us will--for how generously he cared for her in her waning years.   I love to be able to smile with him, and he smiles readily for me.  I love him for that.

And Doug.  Last week, I noticed him taking my hand more, putting an arm around me more.  Maybe its just that I'm finally to a point in life where I'm not constantly holding a kid, or holding multiple kids' hands everywhere we go.  Maybe it was just him feeling relaxed and attentive, having been able to take a real break for the first time in probably 2 years.  Maybe some part of him sensed that some part of me was wearing a bit thin after 4 very long years.  Whatever the reason, the last couple of weeks its been easy to remember why I fell in love with him.  He's a good father, and I love to watch him teach the kids--something he does at once both very consciously and very naturally.  I love hearing him read novels to them, or explain scriptures to them, or throw out some fun facts about California rail history.  He makes me laugh.  He gives me confidence, because I know that he never says anything he doesn't believe to be true.

There are so many more, so much more that I'm grateful for, but I think I've put down enough now to be able to sleep, and my four greatest blessings will be waking me up in about six hours, so its probably time I lay me down to sleep so that I can see them as blessings when they come marching down the stairs ;)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Every Day Treasures: Why Being Mom is Enough

These items go with me everywhere I go, every day.  My keys, which have two keychains on them: a Monopoly car, and a Westover Ranch centennial medallion, both scrounged from the giant "key chain ball" that was every grandkid's favorite toy at Grandma Umphrey's house.  My wallet, which belonged to my Grandma Lettie.  I don't know where or when she got it, and don't ever remember her using it during my life, but it was hers and that's enough for me.  Grandma Elda's most recent temple recommend.  Grandma Lettie's driver's license.

The truth is, these two women would be with me everywhere I go, every day, without these little tokens.  But it is nice to have something to hold that helps me remember their love and devotion.

Few influences in my life loom larger than my grandmothers.  One was the embodiment of my childhood, the other was my most trusted friend during my years of young motherhood.  They both taught me how to have joy, how to love my family, and showed me over and over and over again that I was always loved.  I often hear thoughts in my mind throughout the day and then realize the voice I heard them in belongs not to me, but to one of my grandmothers.  I sometimes catch myself in the middle of an action, reaction, or way of doing things and realize that it is an approach I "caught" from one of them.  If added up, the amount of time I spent in their presence or on the phone with them would amount to years of my life. Who I am has a lot to do with who they were to me.  I will never be able to thank them enough.

It would probably be safe to say that the only person who has influenced me more than them is my own mother.  I don't have any trinkets in my purse that came from her, but she's with me everywhere I go every day, too.  I think Mom would agree that I was a pretty easy kid, and a pretty difficult one.  I mostly wanted good things.  I mostly desired to be kind--I wanted to be loved, and just as badly I wanted people to know that I loved them.  But I also have an insanely stubborn, sensitive streak.  Somehow, in some Mom-magical way, she managed to work around that so that I never felt pushed enough to want to push back, but also didn't coddle me.  She truly nurtured me:  she helped to build on that independence by making me absolutely secure in her love, patience and affection for me.  She taught, but she didn't dictate: I was given reasonable boundaries, but encouraged to make my own decisions and accept the consequences of them.  As good decisions were made, trust and independence were expanded.

As independent-minded as I tend to be, who I am has been shaped tremendously by the women who devoted their lives to nurturing me.  How I move through the world, how I conduct myself, how I parent my own kids, are all affected--from the biggest decisions, down to the tiny daily habits--by the women who mothered me.

That would be incredible enough.  But I am far from the only individual who feels that way about these women.  They have had that influence on many other children and grandchildren.  When it comes to the types of accomplishments that the world tends to honor and remember, it would easy to think of my grandmothers as lost to history.  But they aren't.  There are hundreds of people who move through life with the name of one of these wonderful women etched on their hearts, with their little, every day actions and habits influenced by these moms and grandmas.

I think about my grandmas sometimes when I see my mom surrounded by her 20+ grandkids.  They all spend so much time with her, and in her home.  They love and are loved by her, and she is, on a daily basis, helping to shape who they are just by being who she is.

I can't think of a better--more meaningful, joyful, or significant--way to spend my life than being a mom. And I am grateful today and every day to have been surrounded all of my life by women who showed me that.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Twelve years ago, I had a seizure.  While my brain rebooted itself and I regained consciousness, I couldn't articulate anything, and I was somehow completely aware that if you had asked me what my name was, I couldn't have told you.

The only thoughts to clearly come up in my mind were an image of my soon-to-be husband Doug, and an image of my twin brother, Michael.  I couldn't have explained at that moment who they were, but the image of their faces in my mind somehow made a disorienting and frightening situation OK.

There's been a lot of stress the last few years, in our lives, in the lives of people we care about.  Relationships have changed, relationships have ended, jobs have ended, lives have been rearranged.  But I still find the presences of both these men inherently reassuring.  I've had moments where I've wanted to string one or the other up by his toes, but I've never, never doubted that they love me,  and that I can count on them. 

My first day of clinical for my nursing program, my very first patient died.  His family wasn't there, which made me a little sad, but it was merely an accident of timing, not the story of his life.  An instructor made the comment that we all come into the world alone.  In my head I thought, "I didn't".  No one else may die the same day as me.  But my twinhood and my marriage have made me believe that no one comes to or leaves this world alone.

And a sort of rough Friday last week told me that I'm right to count on those two.   I'm glad that, in a life overflowing with good and generous people, the Lord gave me both of them.  They're good men, good fathers, good friends and I'm grateful to be loved by them both.