Sep 19, 2014

On Problems

When I post from this blog on twitter, it always ends up on facebook with a giant picture of my face. Which I hate. I realized recently (when I posed a blog with pictures) that twitter just wants a picture from my post--any picture--and it will choose my face if I don't find something else to give it. So, from now on I'm including at least one picture in every post. One, possibly random, but still nice picture that twitter can decide to use instead of my face.

Random Birdwing Butterfly

Actually, that picture might get me in trouble because look, it has a logo. So it's not in the public domain. It was, however, one of a few I have saved on my laptop. The reason why I had this is I was talking with a good friend (whom I have talked about several times on this blog, who also happens to be my bishop) about random things and occasionally I will send him a picture of something we both like. We both like this butterfly because it has his favorite color in it and also my favorite color in it, and I love butterflies, and he has come to like butterflies because I love them. Anyway, I sent him this butterfly several days ago. So it's on my desktop. Random explanation for random picture.

And really what I'm doing now is stalling, because I don't want to write this post. But I kind of have to. It's one of those prompting things, and on facebook this meme came up--the Thomas S. Monson quote of "Never, ever ever postpone a prompting." Heavenly Father is telling me something this morning.

So, yeah. I'm about to get painfully vulnerable. Sorry, or you're welcome, or whatever it is I need to say to you about that.

This is a hard time of year for me. It's, as I've stated in previous years, the time that evokes my feelings in an anniversary reaction. People who've gone through trauma might know what I'm talking about--that around the same time of year, or on an anniversary, of something really difficult that has happened to you, you start feeling cruddy. Or sad. Or just, your feelings are really intense and they burden you and make it harder to cope.

I have been, this year, more unapologetic about it, and my needs during this time, which I think has allowed me to feel the full scope of emotions and deal with them, which is what needs to happen. I think anniversary reactions are there because it gives you a chance to sort through emotions--they're intense enough and are on the surface where other times they might be buried pretty deep. So I'm working on that right now.

I have spent a lot of time, this time, talking to my husband. And also talking to my bishop, he's found time each day to see me for around half an hour, and it has been very helpful. I just feel very, very grateful for such a good priesthood leader and friend. Have I said that before? Yes I have. But I need to say it again.

I have also spent a lot of time being emotional around my husband. Which is very difficult for me, but which I am grateful I'm actually capable of right now. Have I said what a miracle Jeffrey is in my life before? Yes I have, but it needs to be said over and over. He is the singular most miraculous thing that has ever happened or ever will happen to me.

Last night. It was actually a pretty terrible night--lots of feelings as I came away from the business of the day that keeps me occupied and paying less attention. Just really, really difficult feelings. And last night the smoke detector went off randomly and I woke up to some really difficult feelings, too--like an anxiety attack. I struggle with that. If I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep quickly, the racing, distorted thoughts take over and not only do I not get the rest I need, my mind basically is hurting itself. It makes me wonder if somehow my mind addresses lots of issues and concerns and stuff while I am sleeping so that I don't have to deal with it when I'm awake. I don't know. It's possible.

Anyway, I woke up all the way and had to deal with that.

And then when I finally fell back asleep, I had a very strange dream. I dreamed that someone in my family--an in-law--was talking with me and as they talked, I realized they were really struggling. And as we continued the conversation, I realized that, in fact, they were really, really, really struggling emotionally. Terrible struggles. Finally this person kind of threw out her hands and said, "Sarah, I don't understand. With everything you went through, how come you don't have big, big problems?"

And I thought about it. It kind of hit hard. I realized that to her, I seem like I'm awesome or strong or really functional or something and that she was feeling sort of crushed by her own comparison, because it seemed I was not struggling as she was, and why was she struggling when she didn't have an event like mine (few people do, let's face it) to pin struggles on?

So I told her, in my dream.

I do. I really, really really struggle. Life is not easy. It feels crushing, sometimes. But I think two things are what has saved me, and saved the emotional well-being of my family as we struggle. I decided, a long time ago, that I will never, ever do two things. No matter how bad things get, I will never do two things. I will never

1) Leave my family.

That means I will never physically leave them, but it also means I will never do anything that is tantamount to leaving them. Like leaving the church, because that is leaving the covenant I made with them--that is leaving them in the eternity, in a way. It also means I will never commit sins that will keep me from being with them, or will break our family apart.

and I will never:

2) take my own life.

When I was young, my mother told me the story of her cousin. His dad (my great uncle) drank. He was not a good person to be around when he drank. My cousin felt like his life was pretty terrible and so at age twelve, he took his father's shotgun into the barn and shot himself.

I think that this, and also my grandmother's death at a young age, put the fear of God in my mother at the thought of this happening--to anyone she loved, to herself. She sees life as a precious and priceless gift, not one you should ever throw away. And as she reiterated to me and my siblings, like a mantra, growing up, "it always, always, always gets better. Always. Don't do something stupid because of a bad moment."

So even though I really do struggle, and I sometimes fall into a really deep pit of negative emotions--life is worthless, I am worthless, nobody loves me, this world would be better if I'm gone, etc; I know that ending it's not the answer. I know that what would happen in that case is, I would wake up on the other side and immediately think "what a stupid thing I did," and then I'd have to watch my family mourn and struggle and be betrayed and traumatized and then, eventually, move on.

Sorry. This is pretty gritty. I warned you, though.

So I want to tell the internets, and whomever I'm supposed to be writing to right now that, yes, I struggle. I struggle to the point, on occasion, where I can't get out of bed. I struggle to the point where I don't react well to my family--I have to isolate so I don't do damage because I know I'm not reacting correctly. I have to bite my lip or bite my tongue and not. say. a word. Because I know that the feelings I'm having and the words that would come out of my mouth would not be words I'd say if I were in my right mind.

I struggle with intense feelings of anxiety, paranoia, self-loathing. And there are some situations (like at church, unfortunately) when the negative emotions are just an assault at times--like being caught in a tornado, all I can do is let it pass and sort of wait. And hopefully not do any damage in the meantime by reacting inappropriately.

Yeah. I have big problems, guys. I really am pretty messed up. And I feel it, in full measure, at this time of the year when the leaves change and the air gets cold and instead of getting excited for school starting and apple cider and fall colors and Halloween and staying inside in the warm and looking out at the cold and all those wonderful things that used to fill my emotional experience during this time, I feel like the world is falling apart. And what I do to cope is, I hug my babies. I hug my kids. I hug my husband. I hug my bishop, I hug my young women, I hug my friends. I stay quiet except to those who I know I can talk to about it without destabilizing them (and hopefully nobody reading this blog falls into that category), who want me to talk about it because they love me and they just want me to talk to them about stuff I'm feeling.

OK. I'll leave this post on that note:

you need to know, person struggling. The people who love you, love you. Talk to them. They want you to--even if your mind is telling you they don't, that you shouldn't because you shouldn't burden people with the pain inside.... it is a lot more pain for them to know you're struggling, and to not have you trust and talk to them and let them help you feel better. OK? OK.

--and yes, I am fine. No need to send me texts or messages or anything else. LIke I said, I'm just writing this because I feel like I'm supposed to. Why am I fine? Read numbers 1 and 2 above.

Love you all.

Sep 6, 2014

Gratitude (to restore Balance to the universe and to this blog)

Title is self explanatory.
I want everybody to know that I do realize, life is actually good. Even if there is difficulty, and struggle and all that. I feel like yesterday's post was necessary. Honestly. I didn't get that urge to remove it like I have a couple times in the past, talking about struggles with what is happening in my little town. So, I guess I leave it, this time.

BUT I feel a need to make a big, picture-crammed list of the things that I am very very grateful for, because otherwise I would be ungrateful and people might not know how much I love them and appreciate them. A lot. Anyway. Here goes.

I am grateful for:

Beautiful daughters.

Squirt and his doll. (clearly labeled.)

Polar bears who hug.

The three Bastianna sisters: Virginia, Mary, and my great-great Grandmother Silver. She gave birth to 21 children, including 2 sets of twins and a set of triplets, twelve of whom survived to adulthood, but who were all sealed together in the temple last year.

Another Mary, and a Martha, who did the work with me in the temple for two of the ladies pictured above.

A beloved old tree, and those who I played with on said tree. And also, all siblings and my dad whom I couldn't find a picture for. Give me more pictures, siblings and Dad.

Eliza Roxcy Snow, for being so awesome. And for having the middle name "Roxcy."

The fact that bunnies don't have fangs, because, you know. Bunnies are pretty fast. And sneaky.

Old Friends, and the fact that I now know what knee length shorts are.

My new sister.

My grandmother who I've never met, but whose smile I inherited.

Delicious recipes on pinterest which I never have time to make but sometimes gaze at longingly and feel calm afterward.

This baby.

Who is becoming amazing

and incredibly spunky in her older age.

The fact that I do not have this in my house to dust.

Two muddy boys.

my beautiful mother and sister. And a pretty great childhood.

These. Man. Worth it, right?

The fact that Dylan and Tyler are people that my kids will forever remember fondly and aspire to be like.

This sister, who will be horrified I put her between these other two pictures. But who goes on hikes and also thinks about stuff in facebook memes to try to understand crazy people she is related to.

Breasts, because you know they are actually useful for a lot of things.

Diana Fritillaries.

A girl who makes me happy just by being alive, and also when she takes beautiful pictures of my other favorite people.

This one.

Grandma Pat and her come-hither gaze, which I did not inherit.

This man, who I still can't believe isn't around anymore, and this woman, who I love getting recipies in the mail from (which I never make them, but do gaze at longingly and feel calm afterward.)


Satanic Leaftail Geckoes, because they look like leaves until you pick them up and then they lick their eyeballs and climb up your arm. (I assume. I've never held one... it's all a fantasy so far.)

Modest mermaids, because yes, thank you. but honestly, actually you missed a spot.

A sister and a swimming hole and lots of memories.

Sweet people.

Someone who wouldn't want his picture on my blog, but who is an amazing photographer and can make my kids smile.

Holy places.

Someone really great and wonderful, who has been teaching me to make bread lately.

This dude.

Yeah, this dude...

Also a sister who expertly and unashamedly tatooes her feet in henna.

But mostly, this dude, and

the fact that he laid the last block in the foundation for our greenhouse today.

Sep 5, 2014

People Just Don't Understand

I'm sorry, but I can't do this anymore. I need to explode all over the place. It is time.
Regular readers, this is not directed at you, and I apologize in advance for drama and negativity. ANd also what will maybe seem to be an adolescent rehearsal of wrongs.

Recently my therapist (yes, I see one) (in fact, I see two if you count my bishop, who is more like a best-friend and Dad-figure but he's pretty much a therapist) told me something significant.

I really have struggled in my ward. OK. Full disclosure. I've tried not to write much about it, because even hinting at struggles with neighbors has caused some backlash and drama. But I'm at a sort of breaking point, now. I need to talk about it. So if you're reading this and embarrassed i would talk about something, maybe there's a reason. That's all I can come up with right now.

Since I came here, I have loved so many things about this place. There are great, great people in my town. SO many great people. More than I've ever seen collected in one place--down-to-earth, willing-to-serve, head-screwed-on-correctly people.

There's also this handful of people who enjoy drama, enjoy talking about others, and enjoy making others' life hard. You know those groups... mostly women, who function as a sort of hive, with a queen bee (or perhaps two, constantly engaged in a power struggle) and a bunch of satellites? Bees are actually not dangerous creatures. When there's one of them. But a whole hive can kill you with a hundred little stings.

One of my young women gave a very up-front, frank talk in Sacrament meeting on Sunday. She basically said, "you guys have a problem. IT's gossip and judging others. Stop it." She basically gave the distilled version of this talk, which I have, in the past year, been tempted multiple times to print off, roll up, and stick in certain doorways in our ward. And not just because of me. Because of what I've heard said about others, ranging from negative and snide speculation over a very tragic and painful divorce that occurred to condescending remarks about how a few young mothers are parenting their children, to discussion of mistakes people have made, to facebook conversations accusing people of dishonesty that involved several members of the ward.

So, to take things back several years. I went through something terrible when myfirst husband's confession became a matter of public record. What happened was, suddenly everybody was talking about me. Not just in the ward, not just in the stake... the entire state of Utah. In the newspaper. On the radio. On the television. And at school, too... I heard conversations, behind me in class, speculating on the tragedy that had just struck in my life. ANd speculating in joking, not-too sympathetic ways.

People failed me. Let's just say that. Even really, really nice christlike people judged me, and treated me like part of this was somehow my fault. And I realize that is just human nature--it's a way of them feeling safe, feeling like it can't happen to them, that they assume I did something to bring it on myself--I was a cold wife, perhaps. Maybe I wasn't accommodating in bed. Maybe I wasn't attractive.... that was the tenor of several comments on the article that appeared in the daily universe (and then was recanted when my picture was posted above the next article.) Maybe I knew about my husband's habit and gave him an ultimatum. Maybe I was emotionally abusing him. Maybe..... there's lots of maybe.

That's why tragedy should remain private, why you should be able to choose who to counsel with, who to trust with what you are going through. Groups of people can be cruel, and often are. Even nice BYU students.... the need to joke about something horrible, I understand that.

This is why gossip is such a bad thing. It hurts those already hurting. It makes their burden much bigger, and the burden's already too much. It spreads, and infects even those who have good intentions, and separate those hurting from their natural support group, from the sympathy of those around them.

Lies hurt.

And gossip, guys. Gossip is always a lie. Because you never know what someone is going through. You never know what's in their heart. You never know the real details of their situation and even if you did, you aren't putting yourself in a place to understand if your intent is to spread ill-feeling, or spread excitement about detailing the difficulties and mistakes others are going through.

So, to the person who is constantly calling different city departments about any and everything they've decided we aren't doing right, from deciding to irrigate our lot to having a dog that barks too much to building an attached greenhouse to not being able to mow our lawn as often as you'd like--

Stop it.

To the person who eviscerated me on facebook, and stalked out of meetings, and basically made me feel like crap for just imperfectly trying to do a job that is very hard, and who talked to several in my ward about how you thought my book had exploited details of your own personal tragedy (when I gave it to you as a peace offering, trying to reconcile and help you understand I am a good person)--

Stop it.

To the person who served with me and expected me to be perfect, and when I failed inevitably at being perfect, took advantage of that, worked around me, decided not to listen to me, and when I snapped and said something out of frustration, came over to my house and verbally eviscerated me for an hour and a half, and never responded to my attempts to reconcile afterward--

Stop it.

To the person who I reached out to because we were serving together, who I needed support from both in the calling and as a friend, and who rejected all attempts at friendship, made their distaste very clear and then, on top of that, accused me of "harassing" them for texting them a handful of times over the period of two years--

You hurt me. You were perfectly within your right to say and do what you did, but I don't think it's what Heavenly Father wanted. I'm still hurt by you.

Going back to the beginning. I have gone through a lot. And I'm trying, right now, to recover. That means I am visibly struggling at times... I can't always smile. I can't always function. I am trying *so hard*. And I feel judged for breaking, as I'm breaking.

People don't understand that.

I have had to seek a great deal of counsel from my bishop in order to restore a lot of my trust in priesthood leaders, and my relationship with him has developed into something like father and daughter.

People don't understand that, either, and have accused me of being selfish, using up too much of my bishop's time, and being inappropriate. One in particular yelled at me, "Go see a therapist."

You know what? I AM seeing a therapist. Thank you very much. I'm sorry that the fact that I was married to a porn addict who tried to kill me and my unborn child three times, and my story ended up in the newspaper, and my priesthood leaders failed me (not intentionally, it was hard for them, too), and people betrayed me, and I lived in a state of stress and blocked emotion for ten years, and am only just now recovering and a lot of times it ain't pretty, is a problem for you. Have you considered the fact that it's an even bigger problem for me? That faith is what I'm clinging to? That my husband and bishop are basically keeping me alive right now? That often, the fact that I've shown up on Sunday with a smile on my face, ready to plan a pile of things and invite a ton of people and coordinate the conflicting desires of several leaders, is an impossible achievement for me, made possible only by the antonement and the *support and counsel* of said bishop?

Do you see how hard I'm trying?

NO, because people don't understand. NOt even if they know my entire story, will they understand. SOme people just enjoy eating drama for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and in order to make their own difficult lives worth living, they stand on the tragedy and difficulty of others and find comfort in looking down on them.

The thing my therapist said to me: Even if they know everything, Sarah. Even if they knew every little detail--they still aren't in your shoes. They still don't feel what you're feeling. They still don't KNOW. And some, won't understand, and won't care.

The thing is... it shouldn't matter. We should all be giving each other the benefit of the doubt. We should all be reaching out to each other in love. We should all be proffering forgiveness.

So.... please, everbody. Person calling the city. Girl who ripped me apart. Girl who accused me of harassment. People who speculate about my divorce, my greenhouse, my lawn, my close relationship with my bishop....

Please stop it.


i will try to forgive you. But I am not perfect.

Aug 22, 2014

Greenhouse and.... green everything

We have been struggling forever with our grass and our field. When we first moved in here we asked for a bunch of advice on facebook--what to do. We were told we'd likely need to till and re-seed. We've been planning on it... and planning... and planning. Each year something else came up and it got put off. And each spring, instead of enjoying one of my favorite times of year, I've experienced dread as the snow melts away to reveal my utterly horrible lawn and yard and field.

To start off this spring, though, someone anonymously came by and sprayed our weeds for us. It's something Jeff's struggled to want to do. He's dug his feet in a bit. He's really hesitant to do chemical weed killers and.... to be honest, I think he's liked having the dandelion greens within closer reach. But our neighbors (the high school, the seminary building) understandably do not like our dandelions. It was sort of a relief to me (I'll admit) when someone just came and did it for us, and we didn't have dandelions or alfalfa coming up through our grass.

And to add to this, last summer something kind of awesome happened. A guy came to our door--his mother sold the lot we now own to its previous owner, and apparently she sold water rights along with it, which were never officially transferred, but were, in fact, paid for. Because they were never transferred, the bank did not know about them when they were in possession of the property, and when they sold it to us, they told us that we did not have water rights.

Well, in settling up his mother's affairs, this man transferred the water rights. We now have official certificates for a certain number of shares in the canal that runs close to our property. And, to make it even more wonderful, the person who recently bought (or rented) the fields around us was motivated for us to irrigate. He said that it would make his situation better if we did. So.... he loaned us his tractor. And we dug our ditches. And with being able to flood a little, and bring our sub up, and with all the crazy rain we've had here, and horses that we've asked to come help us eat our weedy field down we are now....


(Look! it's grass! It's real grass!) And we're going to keep killing the weeds (yes, I'm going to put my foot down :/ ) and continue to add grass seed and it will get better each year. But this is the year we actually. have. a lawn. (of sorts. it's still patchy and there's still a lot of crab grass mixed in with real grass.)

It's nice because, rather than the expense of till-and-reseed, we may be able to instead purchase something we badly need.... a riding mower. Right now it takes about eight hours, all told, to mow everything that counts as lawn. And we have to mow it, or we get lame letters from the city.

As to the greenhouse. WE've made a breakthrough!! Jeff's continuing to mortar the blocks of course, but... we're doing the outside, and the inside, and the ceiling, in cedar. It will be lovely, and much cheaper than the other materials we've considered. I've liked the wood-look, so I'm pretty happy. If we could finish the blocks and finish the outside, at least, by the time snow comes, we'll be in good shape to slowly put things together inside over the course of this winter.

Aug 14, 2014


My writing goals have gotten me pretty far this year. I made a resolution to start writing 2000 words a day in January, and since then I've completed one manuscript at around 100,000 words and am about two thirds through another, which will probably end up being 200000 words. I'm glad... these are both stories I love, and have had weighing on the back burner for a while. I feel like I have one more I have to "get off my plate" before moving on to fresh, new, stuff.

But I don't know where any of them are going, is the problem. My publisher, Cedar Fort, turned down my most recent manuscript, a historical fiction, because they said that it did not have enough of a hook and tension through the beginning. So I re-sent it out to a bunch of readers, and have tweaked a bunch of stuff.

And i sent it somewhere else.

There's not a lot of places you can send an LDS fiction manuscript. So I'm kind of waiting to see what happens... what comes next will determine some pretty big writing-career-y decisions, I think.

But I sort of trust the Heavenly Father is in this. I can feel him in this. So I'm not worried, just... waiting.

(Cue Inigo Montoya: "I hate waiting.")

It's at moments like these that you have to remember you're writing because you love it, not because you have an audience. Hooray for writing, I love it. Now, hopefully there's an audience somewhere, too.

I'm going to have a few more poems published, and I'm entering some short fiction stuff in contests, and I'm helping a friend with his biography. I'm reading and reviewing LDS literature on A Motley Vision. Those things also keep me going and motivated (and busy.)

But yeah... I hate waiting.

Jul 29, 2014

How to Weather Hard Winters

One of my favorite books ever, like in my list of "top five", is The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I've read that she originally titled it "the Hard Winter," but her publisher had her change it, because he felt it was too harsh, the concept of "hard" vs "long."

As many of you know, the stories Ingalls wrote were autobiographical; what we'd call "creative nonfiction," nowadays, though she is such an accomplished writer, they read like novels. This particular section of Ingalls life-story stands apart from the others in the "Little House" series because it depicts a very difficult time for her family and for her little town. In The Long Winter we read about what it is like to go through near-starvation, death of exposure, being isolated on the Dakota prairie, during a wild and terrible time, from every help except for what the settlers in their little town could provide each other.

Therefore, we read of bravery. Sacrifice. Blind, dogged courage. I have two favorite parts of the story. The first is when Almanzo Wilder goes with a friend into the wilderness, under threat of deadly blizzards, to find food for the citizens in the town. The second is more relevant to what I'm writing about today: when Pa goes into the Wilder boys' store and offers a quarter for some grain he's savvy enough to know is hidden in their walls. He doesn't ask. But he also doesn't fight for it. He goes in, quietly, humbly, and tells them to fill his bucket with wheat for a quarter, so his family can eat for another few days.

Laura is the able-bodied member of her family. The Ingallses didn't have any sons, and so often it is her, going out with her father and helping him with the necessary tasks. She works hard to help her family survive.

And they do. In the end, the train gets through because of spring melt and the help of hordes of men shoveling off the tracks, and they get their Christmas turkey several months late. This story sends a very clear message--to survive, you need to pull together. You need to support each other. The very best and the very worst sides of human nature come out when people are fighting to survive. And those who make it are those who support and serve each other and accept service in return. Pa was a proud man, but he went into the Wilder boys' store with a quarter and an empty bucket because he had children to feed. Almanzo was going to get through the winter just fine, but he went off into the dangerous wilderness to find more food because he knew he would not be able to watch his friends starve around him.


I think back on some hard times of my own. I think one of my biggest failings has been my inability to ask for or receive service. It is a matter of pride. Some of us have pride that involves comparison to others' appearances, possessions, residences, professions etc. That has never been my problem. I personally wouldn't mind living in a cardboard box on the side of the road if I had to, if my family were still happy and healthy and well fed. Some of my friends could attest to that... I have a mild (or not so mild) obsession with tents and camping and backpacking. What I love is the simplicity of carrying all that you need with you. Not needing much at all to get by. I've been very blessed, however, not to have to live that way as a necessity. Perhaps my perspective would be different if I did.

However that is also my problem and my own personal brand of unrighteous pride--that sense of simplicity, of being able to get by on my own; priding myself in independence from others. I have struggled, in my life, to accept service because I feel frightened at the thought of not being able to get by on my own. Of having to depend on others. What if they fail me? And what if I can't give them anything back in return? Does that make me a broken, incapable person who always takes but never gives? Does it make me selfish and self-centered, that people serve me?

I have, however, gone through seasons in my life just like that hard winter the Ingallses weathered, where accepting help was necessary to my survival emotionally, physically, etc. And I wouldn't have been able to accept it even then, if it weren't for Loli.

for Loli's sake, I accepted a lot of things.

After everything fell apart and I found myself a divorced single parent, full-time student, part-time employee, I realized I literally could not do it on my own. I needed, for instance, someone to watch her while I finished my degree, and while I earned the money necessary to feed, house, and clothe us. And even then, I didn't make enough money to do so on my own. My parents bought a condo, which I lived in, rent-free, for two years.

During this time, I had a difficult schedule--get up at 4:45, drive Loli to Santaquin (because it was the only childcare we both felt comfortable with), get to work by 5:45, work with dozens of women struggling with tragedy, emotional upheaval, overwhelming anxiety and depression until 6pm, drive back to Santaquin by 6:45, get home by 7:30, play with Loli for an hour and give her dinner, get her to bed by 9. That was three to four days of my week.

The other days I spent trying to take care of the "everything else", taking care of my little girl and focusing on her during the time I had with her and also on bills, car maintenance, cleaning, shopping for groceries, and, eventually, dating my husband.

I look back on those years and the feeling I get from them is just.... emergency. I was constantly high-strung, constantly putting out fires. Like when our only car broke and the shop told us it was a new head-gasket (turned out they were trying to get money... I took it somewhere else and they bled an air bubble out of the radiator for free), and I was at work trying to focus on my job while trying not to worry about transportation and trying not to worry about Loli and how she was doing and whether she was being treated right and whether she was eating and whether I was spending enough time with her.... you get the picture.

I look back on my own "hard winter" and wonder what it says about me.

I learned how to accept a little bit of help and service--the stuff I had to accept for bare survival. I wasn't, however, always the best employee. I was too stressed out. Stressed to the max. And in an environment where everyone is professional... where maybe a few are enduring their own "hard winters" but everyone keeps it all to themselves... it's not quite the same, I don't think. It's not a community pulling together. It's a few people floundering to themselves in a mass of humanity all trying to figure out how to be best at what they're doing.

I didn't do as well as I could have. Well, the thing is, I did as well as I *could* have, in the situation. But people I worked with didn't get the "best" me, if that makes sense. And neither did Loli.

I look back on those experiences and wonder how I could have functioned better. I think it would have involved going to people for help instead of staying stubbornly independent and to myself. The Lori Hacking story broke during that time. And I was feeling some very strong fears, angers, and grieving. What if I had gone to my supervisor and talked to her, instead of staying behind the nursing station all day and isolating and not talking to anyone, including the patients I was supposed to be helping? What if, instead of presenting a hard, blank face to the world and keeping a wall between myself and others, I was being honest and open and vulnerable. Like "here is what I have to do this week. Just so you know." And then letting people talk back about their own stuff, and commiserating, and strategizing together... that is the stuff of which friendships are made. Of which functional, supportive communities are made.

The thing is, it has been a hard journey for me to be able to be open that way. I think my problem is, if something difficult is going on in my life, my default is to blame myself for it, to believe that I deserve it. So I feel shame, and keep it to myself. I am working on that.

I have realized, however, that some people also do not welcome vulnerability. They would rather stay in their shells and struggle alone. They feel threatened by others' sharing.

And some want to serve, and not be served in return. To them (and to me, I'll admit it) being served is giving up too much control. When someone does something for you, what might be their motive? What do they expect from you in return?

You can think of it that way, or you can see it as a symbol of something much more powerful and important. We are all the vessels of God's grace for each other. Sometime, at some point in your life, you will go through a season (more likely multiple seasons) of needing the service of others. You can either accept it and be whole, or push it away and struggle and not be as whole as God would like you to be.

In order to be strong enough to serve others, you need to accept service yourself. That is the beautiful, (sometimes, it feels like, horrible, but really, like anything really difficult, it's redeeming), truth to it all.

And how do you think someone feels about you after they serve you? Let me tell you from experience. They love you more. ANd they love you in a way that is Godly--they love you as someone they have served. It's a sort of love that runs deep, that infuses your relationship with forgiveness and mercy and longsuffering.

As anyone who has read the LIttle House series knows, Almanzo Wilder eventually married Laura. And I have wondered... how much of that feeling, that warmth he had for her that lead him to court her, came from the incident of filling her father's empty bucket?

Jul 18, 2014

Moving On to the Next Great Thing

I have been having babies for a while, let's face it. I had a brief respite between marriages--Loli was four when Jaws was born. Jeff and I filled in that gap pretty thoroughly by bringing home two girls meant to be in our family that were born in another country when I couldn't have them myself. Yeah, some would object to my describing it that way, but that's how I feel things happened. Bella and MayMay are most certainly my daughters. The first time I saw their picture, I knew they were my daughters, and the sisters of the girls I had given birth to biologically.

Heavenly Father has a way of blessing you doubly when things have to come about through a veil of pain. These two girls ended up in my family where they belong, but along the way they collected another family who loves them dearly, and a rich, unique culture, which flavors and spices and blesses our family as well.

Since Jaws, though, I really haven't had a break. I've had a child under age two for the last solid eight years. And I haven't started realizing until recently, exactly how difficult it is to have children so young. They take all your attention. All of it. When they're infants, it's because you are holding and feeding them constantly. When they're a little older it's because you are making sure they don't die by rolling off stuff or falling down stairs or choking on things or drowning or being taken by people or gashing themselves with knives (several of my toddlers have had a fascination with knives.)

I'm realizing all this because we're sort of coming to the end of our planned family, Jeff and I. We talked, at the beginning, of having six children together. We're there. Another baby would make six for us since we married in 2005. (Nine total, of course.) And right now, I'm getting to that point of thinking of starting that process again--another kid. Possibly the last kid. Pending prayer and answers to prayer, of course.

In my religion, we believe that there are spirits up in heaven waiting for bodies. That to raise children right, with values, and love and covenants and saving ordinances inherent in our gospel, is the most important job we do. So for me, and others with my theology, the decision to *stop* having children is a very serious one. Perhaps stressful. Some are comfortable stopping when they feel their family is complete--they just feel good about it and don't question that. For others, it's an agonizing decision. And some feel that "stopping" isn't an option... they need to allow as many children to come as Heavenly Father will bring them.

Thus, Mormons and large families. (btw. I'm being honest and vulnerable here... no judgy comments about birth control or population control, please. I will delete them all!)

For me, the decision to be done has a bit more of an edge and urgency. My mother and i share a genetic condition that renders pregnancy dangerous. Because I knew about it before I started having children, I have been able to take preventative action and not suffer from the sorts of things my mother did having her children. But it is still dangerous. And the danger kind of multiplies with age. My mother had her last biological child at age 35, and nearly didn't make it. Her stake president, who was also her obstetrician, told her she needed to think seriously about permanent preventative action, because she needed to be around to raise her family.

I am grateful for my stake president.

I have had a strong feeling, from the time I was thinking of such things, that I also need to be done at thirty five. I turn thirty four this year. Do the math--one more kid. It works out nicely with the feelings Jeff and I have had on the issue.

But it makes my heart break a little, too. I was the two-year-old who would nurse her dolls, who though often about having babies, about motherhood. I couldn't wait to be a mom. And I have enjoyed my babies so much. If anyone is going to suffer from residual baby-hunger, it's me. I tell myself it won't be so long and I'll have grandbabies to enjoy, but it's not quite the same. It's not that symbiotic relationship--just a small, helpless, trusting creature and me. A piece of my heart, smiling whenever I smile at them, whose favorite thing in the world is to be close, to lie for long hours on my chest. Little hands. Little feet.

It came across to me really strongly this last week. I have been feeling, for a while, that I needed to put DavyJones on formula. And he has taken to it well, and it has made important things possible--I have needed some time in the temple, for instance. I have needed to spend a bit longer at my calling than an exclusively-nursing baby would allow.

And I needed to go to girl's camp this year.

It was a good experience, but my milk is now dry. My baby boy is no longer nursing. It breaks. My. Heart.

What if, I think to myself, this is the last baby boy. What if I never nurse another baby boy for the rest of my life. What if this precious experience is now over. There is something about my baby boys--they have the most "mushy" part of my heart, as I was explaining it to Loli the other day. (She responded with, Mom, I'd much rather have the strong part of your heart.) (Anyway.)

What if this is done.

Well, it will be done, soon. I'm into my "lasts," last time trying for a baby. And it will turn into, last time experiencing morning sickness. Last time getting that middle-trimester burst of energy, last time with a growing stomach, last time with those crazy, overwrought emotions that make me cry during cheesy commercials but have actually been welcome because often, I struggle to feel my real feelings. Last time waiting for labor, for a baby to be born. Last time holding a soft, damp, newly-born person close to me, seeing them look up into my face for the first time.

I plan on savoring it--all these "lasts." It's the only way I'll be able to move on; if I savor every single moment.

But there are also other sorts of thoughts I've been having. Like... Gee. It will be nice to be able to work outside for an hour and mow the lawn. It will be nice to go out and pick up the trash that blows across from the high school. To plan a garden, work on it every day, weed it, pay attention to it and have a chance at real vegetables. To take a bike ride when I need one... and to be able to bring all the kids with me. To be able to go on hiking trips and camping trips and to be able to take my kids swimming (projecting a few years into the future here) without having to keep an anxious, uninterrupted watch over at least two of them.

To be able to take time to have talks with my teenagers.

To not be so exhausted in the morning I can't function..... or at least, to be exhausted for different reasons. Staying up to talk with teenagers who come home, rather than being constantly interrupted to nurse.

Instead of being confined to the house with a baby who isn't going to be happy outside for long,to be able to go out and find Jeff, and whatever project he's working on, and work alongside him. And to have our children join us.

I'm leaving behind something very special... but moving on to something else Great, and equally special. This, I think, is the time we figure out who we are as a family. Develop our traditions, our way of relating to each other, the activities we enjoy doing together, getting big projects done together, being silly together... this is really, in a way, where some other things I have always looked forward to, begin.

Loli came into the Young Women's program this year. And as it always is with our family, once started, things happen fast... Bella next year. MayMay the next. Two years later, Jaws. We're moving on.

And it will be great.