Monday, October 31, 2016

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ava's Birthday

Ava turned 9 this November.  I can't believe it.  She made me a mother and everyday I'm still learning from her on how to do that exactly.  The oldest kid is just like a lab rat.  I remember driving home from the hospital feeling like we had just held up a bank or something...really?  They're letting us take this helpless infant home...but we know nothing!

She was an angel baby.  Too bad I couldn't just chill out.  I was too busy logging all her bowel movements and checking if she was still breathing every five minutes.

I think this was the first time I'd really gotten gussied up after having her, i.e., a shower, makeup and hair - the trifecta.  Apparently I'd spent the previous nine months in a cave.  Casper is that you?!
She loved her binky.
She was a good eater...
So she grew...
Did I mention she was a good eater?  Look at those rolls!
At about 9 months her hair had an identity crisis.  It went curly.

Ava and her Dad.

And then when she was 4 she wanted a haircut.  And her curls never came back.
Along came little sister.  I think her face says it all.
But she learned to love her.

Our relationship is not always easy.  She's a very strong willed girl, and it's tough to come up against iron all the time.  But she is also so smart, and really intuitive when it comes to kindness.  In fact she's always doing things to surprise me, whether it's setting up an art gallery in the basement or selling fruit I just brought home from the grocery store on the sidewalk in front of our apartment, she has great ideas and goes after what she wants.  Happy 9th Ava Katie!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On Forgiveness

There are so many things I love about my calling in the Young Women's program...hanging out with enthusiastic, optimistic and all around funny girls, fast Sundays where the gospel is compared to Frodo and Sam's relationship in The Lord of the Rings during the last ten minutes of class set aside for testimony bearing and well, learning with the girls as I prepare lessons every other Sunday. 

Today we talked a little bit about forgiveness.  Recently I got to know a woman in her early twenties who had been sexually abused by a relative when she was in her teens.  This brave woman had somehow managed to overcome addiction and an apathetic nuclear family to find a young man, who also had been through some pretty heavy stuff and together they were recently sealed in the temple to their toddler. 

Her mother essentially told her she was asking for it.  That she wore inappropriate clothing.  Over the past few years her mother and this relative have intimidated and guilt tripped her into keeping quiet about what happened. 

She shared with me that after her family was sealed, her mother approached her while still in the temple and told her she wasn't even sure if this woman was worthy to be there since she had not forgiven the offender relative for what he had done. 

If your head's not exploding with anger right now the way mine was when she told me this then you must have had your heart removed at some point. 

You could tell that this comment had really bothered this woman.  That she had begun to question whether she had been worthy to be there since she had not forgiven her offender. 

I think so often in this church, or maybe just in the Mormon culture we have an all or nothing view on forgiveness.  If we want to be forgiven of our trespasses, we must forgive others.  This is true.  But no one said it had to happen overnight, or next month or in a decade. 

The fact is, most hurts that are done to us are inflicted by people who should love and cherish us the most.  These hurts cut the most deeply because the person wounding you is someone you love.  Confusion and self-blame follow.  It's hard to wrap your head around being so misguided in your judgement. 

The thing about these wounds...they leave scars.  But what I've been learning is that sometimes the changes that come from hard experiences make you into the person Heavenly Father wants you to become.  Someone with stripes hidden and sometimes not so hidden on their hearts.  Someone with reserves of empathy and love for other imperfect humankind.  Each of us have a story to tell. 

Forgiveness is a process, and sometimes just when we believe ourselves free from the bitter pill we find ourselves swallowing it once more as we relive the offense.  As I get older, the more I see all the gray in the world.  Nothing is black and white.  Judgement is for God.  Empathy and love are for us.

I'm sure it's hard for the fifteen and sixteen year-olds sitting there to comprehend that there may be a time where they are faced with holding onto or letting go of the pain and the anger that comes from being betrayed or mistreated by a loved one, and I hope that everything is smooth sailing in their lives, but I know that it won't always be.  I hope that they remember that the Savior has felt every one of our darkest feelings, the anguish and the sorrow of our entire life, and that He is always there waiting for us to give over our pain to Him.  Because whether we wrap it inside of ourselves and try to contain the damage to only ourselves, the fact remains that He has already been through it with us. 

And that is what is truly wonderful about the atonement...there is hope for those who have suffered at the hands of somebody else, and there is hope for that somebody that has made the suffering happen in the first place. 

And that's all I really have to say about that. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


I feel so grateful to be where I am, and for all the love in my life.  Our situation is not perfect.  It's hard and messy but like a good bra I feel supported from all sides.  (and it always comes back to the bosoms) I feel more capable than ever to face challenges and cope with them.  And then there is this place -

I spent a lot of time on the four wheeler this summer, flying down dirt roads, sometimes trying to escape the sadness, frustration or grief that comes with divorce.  Other times I just wanted to feel the sun on my face and the wind racing over my skin and feel happy just to be.  Usually I'd get to a place out in the middle of nowhere and turn off the machine.  I'd lay back on the four wheeler and close my eyes and listen to the wind scouring the farmers' crops - the lonely sound the rustling of wheat stalks makes filling up my ears.  Other times I'd watch pairs of hawks circle overhead.  Without thinking too much I just observed what was happening around me in the moment.  It was incredibly healing.  I can't wait for the snow to cover the ground so I can go snowshoeing out into those same fields. 

I love my savior.  I know He personally atoned for my sins and felt every little agony that would happen in my life.  When I feel as if my heart is breaking I feel comforted that I am not alone.  I know He called my name in Gethsemane and walked beside me through the twisting paths my life would take.  He knows me.  He loves me and I know He loves you and has done the same redeeming ordinance for each one of us.

Life is beautiful, and it's meant to be, even when the beauty is laced with pain and sorrow. 

Monday, November 10, 2014


My oldest daughter, Ava is nearly nine.  She's in that stage where she's still so much a little girl, but is inching ever closer to tweenhood.  She's sassy and moody, yet sweet and incredibly helpful at times.  She's gone from believing I know everything to being suspicious of me knowing anything at all. 

I've made a conscious effort to not talk about my physical hangups in front of her.  I don't want her to remember me hating on myself.  I want her to remember me for the way I loved her and for the way I respected myself enough to know my own worth.  I've been working so hard on loving myself, not for who I might become, or who I once was...but me, right now, imperfections and all. 

The message to be beautiful and desirable and blah, blah, blah is all around us every single day.  So recently after a session with my therapist she challenged me to focus on what is great about the thing I dislike the most on my body.  It was really like a buffet of criticisms to choose from each and every time I look in the mirror, but the thing I loathe the most is my stomach.  So I had to think something good about it every time I looked in the mirror or noticed it and started to think negatively in my head. 

Yeah, I know it sounds crazy and the fact that it seems revolutionary to love something that we are taught to find undesirable about ourselves underlines the sickness within society and ourselves.  My youngest daughter, being three and brutally honest said something to me the very next day about my fat tummy.  I said, "Fat is not a nice word.  We don't ever tell someone they are fat."  She said, "Well it's only your tummy, Mom."  I nodded and I said, "Yes, but I just love my tummy.  Isn't it so nice that when you cuddle with me that I am soft and warm..."  "You are, mommy!" she agreed as she laid her dark head on my tummy in love.  I shook my head, because I didn't quite believe it although I had just proclaimed my love for something I used to affectionately call the gelatinous mass. 

So yes, I'm not quite there yet, but it's okay and I'm learning to quiet that critical voice as I peer at myself in the cold glass at the physical shell that houses who I really am. 

Tonight Ava, the almost nine year-old, told me she didn't like her freckles, or her teeth.  I took a deep breath and I told her that our bodies are constantly changing.  She'll have braces on in January, but you know those freckles...they may always be there and I love each and every one of them.  I know this may work for now.  But in the future the viewpoint of a mother who loves you is not at the top of your list for a real life assessment of if you are beautiful and desirable and all that crap.  Before I left her room tonight I laid down next to her, rubbed her back and studied her face as her eyes fluttered sleepily open and close.  The words left my lips and as I said them to her I felt the weight and the truth of each one, "Ava, I know you may not like your freckles, but the Lord makes us in a certain way and nothing that God creates is ugly in any way.  You are beautiful to Him, and you are beautiful to me not for how you look but for the most important part of your self...your soul." 

For my part when I look in the mirror I smile, although I still may notice the things that bother me about my appearance, I also love that which God has created.  This body will break down, but the spirit...the most important part of any one of us, if nurtured and cherished, only thrives from the living and loving of this one incredible life we have been given. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Mandarin made me Cry

I was on my lunch break.  I drove past the Chinese place that my husband and I used to eat at before the kids came along.  And just like that I felt that sinking feeling.  I drove to a parking lot and turned on NPR and tried to focus on the Ebola crisis, or all the road checks that people in the south of Mexico have to pass through because of the influx of immigration from central America, but all I kept thinking about was he and I sitting across from one another reading the Chinese horoscopes on the back of the laminated menu. 

We were just starting out.  I wonder if our fortunes had predicted we'd be divorcing two kids and twelve years later if we could have even comprehended it.  Could we have done anything to prevent it?  I'd like to think so because there are so many regrets and should haves, but maybe it was because we barely knew each other, or because we didn't have a whole lot in common, or because we married so young.  I don't know.

Finding meaning in a trial is tricky.  I think it's essential though.  If no insight is gained from something so hideously painful then isn't it all for naught?  Aren't you doomed to repeat the same scenario over again?

I'm in a lot of therapy right now and I liken it to vivisection.  You're exposing every tender part of yourself and holding it up to the light.  The dark places you hid away so you didn't have to feel the pain is like trying to hold a hungry tiger in your arms without it consuming you. 

My daughter was assigned to talk in church this past Sunday and the topic was - The Family: A Proclamation to the World blesses my family.  I put the girls to bed and started looking for some talks on the topic.  It became glaringly obvious to me that reading any of these things would hurt and it did.  It hurt like Hell.  There beneath the liquidized crystal in black and white were the things we did not do, the things we tried to do and the things we won't ever do again.  I cried.  So I put on my robe and went upstairs and cried some more to my parents. 

I wanted so much for my children to have the blessings mentioned in that document.  But I had failed them, and he had failed them and none of it was any of their fault. 

So today while I sat in my car in an empty parking lot, heart sore and vulnerable I dialed his number.  I wanted to talk to someone who knew how bad it hurt, because he was hurting too.  I wanted to say, "What happened?  Why?  Why didn't we make it?"  And to a large degree I have those answers, but on the other hand I wanted the comfort of a familiar voice, a voice that might take me back to that lost girl sitting on a vinyl bench across from a lost boy and the two people they were that used to love each other. 

But he didn't answer, and even if he did he wouldn't want to talk to me because it's painful and far too fresh and raw to pretend to be friends after so much damage has been done. 

So I went back to work and cried silently at my desk as I did paper work and prayed to God that one day the pain will end and I'll be able to drive past a restaurant without feeling like bawling my eyes out, that I'll be able to read and teach about eternal marriage even if I never enjoy that blessing while on earth, that I'll be able to call him and talk like two people who care about each other do.  Because I do care and I always will, damn it, even though I wish I didn't. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Feast on your life

Love After Love

“The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.”
Derek Walcott

I really don't know what to blog lately.  I'm kind of a drag right now really.  I read this poem the other day and loved it.  I know poetry is not for everyone but words have always held power for me and this one rang true.  I'm not sure I've ever truly known myself, much less loved myself.  I do know how it feels though, to see someone walking toward you whom you love.  That rush of joy.  To feel that about yourself would be quite extraordinary.  I think the point of this poem is that to love yourself is the first step in loving others.  To love yourself just as you are, long nose, flintstone toes, a witchy laugh and thighs for days.  How can we expect someone else to love us unconditionally if we don't practice that same kind of love on ourselves?