Lift from where you are

A dear friend of mine lost her mom a few months ago. She had battled with cancer and stomach issues and had thought that she was recovering only to learn the cancer had come back and with vengeance. She was barely 60 years old. My friend was and is still heartbroken. Her mom was everything to her, and her loss is almost too much to bear.

I have thought so much about my friend. I've reached out in different ways to let her know I'm here and I'm with her, even though I'm actually not with her. She is always present in my mind and heart, and I know she knows that.

When my friend posted about her mother's death, so many people rallied around her and buoyed her up among the crashing waves of grief. The outpouring of love was astounding. I can imagine her sweet mother watching all these women figuratively carrying her daughter out of the depths of despair; I'm sure she cried the whole time as the women helped my friend reach heavenward.

While I am not yet well acquainted with death and the grief that it brings, I have had my own experiences of being lifted above the crashing waves. Each time I had a baby, so many women offered meals and babysitting, and there were some who even came and cleaned my house (my toilets even!!). There was a steady stream of people for about a week, and I always felt so loved and cared for.

And then the week ended. And people got back to their normal lives as I expected them to, but there I was with one, two, three, five babies clinging to my ankles, one of whom was so tiny and delicate that she/he required extra love and attention, and I was forced to forge on ahead, mostly alone even though the waves were still high and often seemed like they were about to crash down at any minute.

Somehow I survived. My youngest baby is eighteen months and still requires extra attention but nowhere near the attention he once needed. The waves seem knee deep now, with an occasional tidal wave that hits me out of nowhere.

And so now I find myself in a position to reach out and lift those in deeper water, like my dear friend above. Here's the thing: people need us long after that initial week has worn off. In fact, they need us more. I could've really used an extra pair of hands the summer I had Timmy, but I often found myself sobbing as I soothed several crying babies. I am grateful for the people who still dropped by and still offered help because everything they did saved me in a crucial time. It's been a few months, and people are telling my friend that grief gets easier with time, but so far it hasn't been the case for her. It's actually been harder. Luckily, she knows some of the same women I know, and they are reaching out to her, even when she wants to hide and disappear. My friends will not let her disappear.

So during this holiday time--when everything seems so merry and bright (and it really is!)--there are people who might not feel so merry and bright for whatever reason, and if we have it in us to serve a little here and there, I hope we'll do it. Lift from where you are. And if you happen to be under crashing waves, ask for help. Reach out. There are people (like me) who don't always know service is needed unless told but are completely willing to help. Happy holidays friends!

scenes of motherhood via Tim's phone










I was scrolling through pictures on the computer in an attempt to update some frames when I happened upon the pictures above. Most of the pictures are from Tim's phone, but there are a couple of pictures snapped by the children as well.

If only motherhood always looked so happy and fun. Right now I have a five year old upstairs kicking the wall in a rage-filled fit because I won't let her usual 30 minutes of iPad time. She's been a raving lunatic today, throwing a 45 minute fit over a headband this morning, aggressively pitching her too-big coat on the ground when her teacher asked her to get out of the car to go to school, and sulking behind the Pepsi refrigerator at the store when I wouldn't buy her the gum she so desperately needed.

Frustrated that her tantrum over the headband caused her sisters to be tardy and mad when she disrespected her teacher at school, I stepped out of the car and walked over to her and whispered that we both needed to take our time apart as a time out and that we would try to have a better day after pickup. I quickly jumped in my car and did everything in my power not to peel out of the parking lot because I couldn't get far enough away from her fast enough. Upon arriving home, I sat with the babies and read a million books in between taking deep breaths and reminding myself that this too shall pass and that my 5 year old's tantrums do not define me. They do not adequately portray all the fun things I do with them, the good conversations I have with them or the lessons I teach them.

After an hour of reading and building towers for Timmy to knock over, I found myself in a sea of laundry. I folded 8 loads of laundry while bouncing Timmy on one knee from time to time and stopping to color with Birdie every once in awhile. Before lunch I ran upstairs to put the clothes away, knowing well that if I didn't put them away immediately, they would sit there for a week. And then I'd have bigger problems on my hands because a particular 9 year old of mine does not like it when she can't find the pants she has in mind for whatever shirt she chooses each day.

Motherhood is not always pretty or fun. In fact, there are days when it totally sucks. It's just the truth. I often laugh because people always give advice to new mothers about how to get the baby to sleep at night or get through those drooling days, but no one really warns about life after babyhood/toddlerhood. The days when my job is to referee fights or mediate breakups. The days when all I do is hold my kids while they cry because someone bullied them at school. Or the days when they woke up on the wrong side of the bed and just decided to screw the world and you too. Those are the worst kinds of days. Elle's having one of those kinds of days.

And I get it I guess. I have those days too. I just manage them differently, but then again I have 30 or so years on her. I guess the best advice I could give new parents or parents in the same situation as my own is to let time take its course. Phases will pass and behaviors will change, hopefully for the better. And with time, we learn to understand each other more, and with deeper understanding comes love. And love heals everything, even, and perhaps especially, little girls who can't stand their mama for a time.

home.

The smell of concrete just after it rains mixed with a faint smell of dryer sheets always reminds me of Argentina. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of Argentina. It was very much my home, even though I lived there for a short 16 months.

Every morning at 5:55am I would sluggishly tie the laces of my running shoes, and my mission companion and I would descend the four flights of stairs to the street where all you would smell for blocks and blocks was wet concrete and dryer sheets. Women would be rolling up their sleeves at the laundry mats, and men would be outside hosing down the sidewalks (unless it rained in which case God did their job for them), and I would run past and whisper, "Buen dia señor. Buen dia señora," to all the people we passed. Sometimes they'd nod in my direction with a half-burned cigarette resting between their lips, and other days they'd smile and wave back.

My companion and I would make our way to the plaza--a tiny park in the middle of skyscrapers--and I'd run my laps over and over again while my companion sat on a swing, resting her head and her eyes for an extra half hour. The only time she'd open her eyes was if she heard me fall on the cracks in the ground (I fell so much in Argentina, which is very unlike me) or if she heard an ambulance approaching from the distance.

There's a quote by Elder Holland (an apostle in the LDS church) where he says something like "there isn't a day that he doesn't think of his mission." I used to think that was ridiculous because life gets pretty crazy post-mission, but it's been 11 years since I stepped feet back on American soil, and he's right, there isn't a day that passes when I don't think of my mission. I think of the people I visited, the sounds on the busy city streets, the smells of freshly baked facturas, the connections I made, the service I received and rendered, and the God I found there.

God became very real to me there. He didn't seem so far away as I tried to help people feel their way back to Him. Helping people develop faith and a desire to be something more than what they already are is such an honor, and I'm grateful I had the chance to do it. In so many ways, it helps me teach my children. I know how to listen to their concerns and doubts, and without disregarding them, I help them see new possibilities.

Eleven years. That seems like an eternity ago in so many ways. But the fact that I can still hear their voices in my dreams and smell their food when I enter certain restaurants always brings me home.

photos of life lately.










It's been awhile since I uploaded any pictures of my favorite people. You'll have to forgive me for being so lazy. I don't mean to be lazy, but I have to upload my pictures on a different computer than I normally write on so it's hard for me to remember to do it. But I do love them, and I promise I take a million pictures of them. 

today.

Today was a hard day--one that began wrong, continued wrong and now feels like it's ending wrong. No matter how I deep I breathe, I can't seem to shake the funk I feel.

I'm going to blame it on Kroger for not having any actual checkout lanes available this morning, thus forcing me to scan my very full cart one by one at the self checkout while listening to the robot repeat a thousand times, "Please put your item in the bag." Fifteen minutes into checking out (yes you read that right...15 minutes in...it took me 25 minutes to finish), I wanted to bang my head through the computer screen. I think the Kroger man is now afraid of me; he should be. I mean business when I'm grocery shopping.

And I'll blame it on Elle's constant tantrums. Tim and I are convinced that she would be so much happier if she would just sleep, but the child REFUSES to sleep. We even tried tricking her this weekend by moving the clock behind so we could get an extra few minutes in bed. It worked one day, but not the others. She comes in before 6am every morning, and we are at our wits end by 4pm.

And I'll blame it on the fighting. Gosh. The fighting. I foolishly thought that perhaps my kids were just those kids who wouldn't really fight. Sure they'd have their normal squabble about this or that, but fighting seemed like too much for them. Nope. They have fallen in this terrible cycle of crying, tattling, fighting, whining, crying some more, and then sometimes there is even physical altercations, and I'm like, "What the hell man?!! Why are you pushing each other?" And yes, I say it just like that because I'm usually so worn down by the time pushing or hitting becomes an issue that words just start spilling out of my mouth.

Oh today. I don't like you. I may like you a smidgen better since Tim made me a mint oreo shake to take my woes away, but nope, I really still disdain you. Praying tomorrow will be better. It has to be!

A plea from an athlete

This morning I was running with Blue just before 7am. My runs have been pushed back later and later these days because the dark mornings make it hard for me to find safe paths. We had just finished our first loop and were about to turn the corner and head back for the lake when I heard the familiar sounds of a dog closing in on our heels. I turned and yelled for the dog to stop, but he didn't. I pulled Blue close by his nearly broken leash, and I walked ahead, trying to escape future bite marks. I didn't dare run; I've made that mistake before. The dog continued to follow us, growling and barking intermittently. I turned every once in awhile to shew him away, but he would not go. He got so close to us that I was forced to stop and wait. I turned with Blue (who was being a total nutcase at the time) and I told the dog to go. Just as I did so a car whipped around the turn going far too fast for our sleepy neighborhood. I stood there yelling at the dog and the car, but the sound of engine drowned my groggy voice. I was sure the dog or I had lived our last day. But somehow the car narrowly missed the dog, which scared the dog enough that it turned and ran back to its home in the darkness. My knees nearly buckled, and my legs shook the rest of my run. It was one of the scariest moments I have had on a run ever.

Running the streets of Elkhart has become therapeutic for me. I know each invisible mile marker, and I know when I'll settle into my pace and run freely without pain or discomfort. I know when I'll start to get tired. I know the longer paths, but I'm definitely no stranger to the short cuts. Running helps me feel so alive when everyone is sleeping or barely waking up.

But as much as running fills my lungs with the air they'll need to chase two tiny toddlers around, running has also become scary to me lately. Too many people text and drive. I have to hop onto so many lawns to avoid distracted drivers that it messes with my pace. I wish people could know all the precautions I take before leaving my house. I know the best routes, I wear the reflective gear and I run on the opposite side of the road, but no matter what I do, it's not enough.

People aren't watching for runners. They're not watching for me.

Please be careful. My life matters to 6 humans and 1 dog-who-thinks-he's-a-human in this home. I assume it's the same for every other athlete on the streets. Please watch for us.

things.

It's after 11, and I told Tim that I'd be sleeping by now. But something about my tiny world sleeping has given my thoughts the needed space to spread their proverbial wings and fly. I have so many thoughts but not enough time or hands to jot them down. So here, in random order, are things that have been on my mind lately.

I made a mistake. A colossal one--perhaps the biggest one of my life. It haunts me in my dreams and creeps into my thoughts as I routinely wash the dishes. I should never have gotten my tubes tied. There hasn't been a day when I don't think about what I've done. Tim feels (and has felt this way for nearly 18 months) that there wouldn't have been more babies for us. I disagree. I feel a hole I didn't expect to feel, and I trip in that hole every day, and the wound will not heal. I ache. Although Tim and I disagree on this subject, he is kind and listens to me repeat the same few words of regret to him each night on our walk. He no longer offers condolences or apologies. He just listens and lets the words hang there without reservation. Sometimes our differing opinions makes me angry. Sometimes it makes me cry. It is a burden I bear alone, and perhaps that's why it hurts the most.

I thought I'd never see night skies like the ones I saw in our small town in Texas, but I still do. I never forget to look up on my nighttime walks and feel the greatness of the world around me. The stars shine brightly here and remind me that no matter where I go, the moon and the stars will go with me.

I told God tonight on my walk that I am so tired of carrying uncertainty and doubt in my heart. With the exception of truly being able to empathize and understand people in similar situations (which I realize is a huge gift), doubt has done me little good. It has caused me to lose sight of so many things that are good and true. I told God I am ready to begin peeling away at these onion-like layers. I've been ready for some time but haven't found the courage to do much, but I'm slowing getting my footing and finding my way.

I recently told a group of women much older than me when I first felt joy. They looked at me oddly and asked, "Honey, what's the difference between joy and happiness to you?" I explained what I thought the difference was and then related the story of walking down the long staircase at BYU sometime in September or October of my junior year. I was walking alone, weighed down by the heavy Shakespeare anthology in my bag, when out of nowhere it began to rain. The rain was warm and strong, and I had nothing to shield me from getting wet so I just embraced it. I remember watching students running to their cars or apartments frantically, and I continued to walk and let the rain soak through my tan sweater. I can still feel the smile on my face and the rain dripping from my hair. It was wonderful. It was joy--pure joy.

I've read four different novels/books over the past two months. It's a record for me since having kids and working at night. But I've made it a priority to read a little here and there, and it has been so good for my imagination. Sometimes I think about the different protagonists during the day, and I feel motivated in ways I wouldn't normally expect to feel.

I recently explained to my mother that words are my love language. It was a funny conversation about birthday cards, and I hope to remember it forever. I also hope to receive more words in the future; it's all my heart could ever ask for.

I love being a mother. Knowing that I created five unique souls astounds me. These kids are so good. I watch them love each other and help each other, and I feel like the luckiest. I tell everyone I know that the only way I could do this many kids is having my kids. My kids are perfectly suited for me and for each other. They watch out for me almost always. Genevieve is always dressing or changing a baby while Mya is always getting breakfast ready in the morning for everyone just so I can take a quick shower. Elle reads books to her sister, insisting that she will teach her how to read by the end of the year. And Birdie loves to help me with Timmy. They make my life possible. They make it hard too. It's not all roses...I mean still have dirty diapers to clean, a million Birdie spills to wipe up and a dozen tantrums to work through each day, but I'm telling you what, I could never have expected to love this stage of life as much as I do. I already feel it passing quickly, and I am trying to hold on as long as possible.

After four failed attempts at potty training, Birdie self potty trained last weekend. It's a miracle. One I am forever grateful for. Only 1 left in diapers!! Hallelujah!

I wish it was appropriate to have family pictures covering the walls because I'd do it. There are hundreds of pictures of my kids from over the years that make me smile, and I wish I had somewhere to put them that I could see them everyday.

I think technology is ruining society. Personal opinion...obviously.

I often think of my neighbor. She was hit by a drunk driver nearly 15 years ago. She was just about to start her senior year of high school. She was a straight A student and had a bright future. But the crash dramatically altered her life. She has a brain injury now that forced her to forgo college and other career pursuits. She can barely hold a job. She has depression. And she lost ability to move one of her hands well. She lives with her parents, and she is always kind, but I can't help but think how hard this unexpected life must be for her. And I also wonder about the person who hit her. What is their life now?

I am too hard on myself. I have had incredibly low self-esteem since moving here. I can hardly look in mirrors without quickly looking away. My body eats away at me. The voices in my head are loud these days, and they are never kind.

Speaking of body issues, my friend's daughter just entered another treatment center for eating disorders. She's been in and out of a couple over the past few years. The toll it is taking on her body and her parents' minds and hearts is so heavy and dark. My chest tightens when I think of how deafening the voices can be. She is only a teenager. She shouldn't have to hear what I hear. I hope that somehow with all her treatment programs she can learn to love herself because it is a lesson I still struggle to remember.

And lastly, I want to say how good God is. He is more powerful than the voices, the doubt, the self-loathing, and the sadness. In my quiet moments, he reminds me he is present and aware of me. I feel him everywhere and am grateful to know I am not alone.