Family December 2013

Family December 2013

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Responsible Reading and Writing Woman


When I was a little girl I loved to write stories, though they were quite melodramatic and I never got past 6 or 7 pages before I moved on to my next story.  I have also always been a voracious reader.  Books were common topics of conversation in our family.  We always discussed what we were reading at the dinner table and both my parents read to us when we were young.  Just tonight, I had a phone conversation with my mom discussing books we have read this week. 

Writing a book has always been on my bucket list.  Several years ago, while talking with my sister Lenaya, I asked her when she was going to write the book about her life and struggle with an eating disorder as well as numerous addictions.  She admitted that she did want to write a book, but she was struggling with how to present her story.  So many books sensationalize their experience, and she absolutely didn't want to have that effect.  I had an instant illumination that what we needed to do was write a book together back and forth, her perspective and then mine in order to have a balanced story.  We began work on our book and spent several years off and on working on it. 

We are getting very close at this point.  We are starting the editing process and hoping to submit the manuscript by the end of the summer.  Being so close to it, I have alternated between elation and doubt about whether it will ever be published.  I think it is a compelling story, but will others think so?  I doubt my skills as a writer, but I see moments of greatness as I read back through our tale.  Time will tell whether it will be published, but there are several gifts that have come to me as a result of our work.

The process of writing things down has forced me to crystallize floating ideas that weren't true thoughts, and wisdom has grown, not from the experiences themselves, but from the process of writing about those experiences.  I distilled truths of my experience through the writing process I would never have previously been able to articulate. 

I learned so much about my sister and have grown so much closer to her.  We have had countless conversations which brought healing and comfort to our wounded hearts and meaning and purpose to our suffering.

I also believe that her story has made me a better counselor and I occasionally share insights with people who are going through similar experiences.  One client who has been to counselors for years told me that I was the first person who understands what she is facing.  Hopefully, our experience can help other people.

Finally, there are been many tender moments where whisperings of the Spirit have prodded me in a direction of how to start my next section, which quote to use in a specific spot as well as how to rewrite a passage to evoke emotion.  I feel that God has directed me in this process, and I feel so grateful to Him for His hand in it.  Whatever happens from this experience I feel very richly blessed.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Staying Afloat

More and more in my life, I feel like the painting The Responsible Woman typifies my life.  I am pulled in a million directions, and I try to meet my responsibilities with as much grace as possible.  Lately, I've been reminiscing about the year I was pregnant with Andrew.  I stopped working full-time when I was a few months pregnant, and while I was so happy to not be working nights any longer, I had to take some time to reinvent myself.  Hours of time  somehow needed to be filled each week, and I went to work creating a routine to fill up the endless hours. 

Every day we walked to the Lindon Park which was a mile away and played on the playground for at least an hour.  The hills at the back of the park were great for exploring and in the fall provided piles of acorns and leaves in which to crunch.  During each walk I surveyed the different neighborhoods, scoping out each of the houses and daydreaming about the day when we would be able to buy our own house.  I critiqued the different lawns and color schemes finding different aspects that I preferred of each. 


We took trips to the nearby Deseret Industries Thrift Store, the only place that I could afford to window shop.  Nathan was in the last year of his Master's program, and now that I wasn't working we were pretty broke.  I savored the great bargains I could find, like a toddler bed for Brandon for only $5.  He and I perused the toy and book section and occasionally came home with our little treasures.

I invited Brandon's cousins over to play or went to visit them occasionally.  We took trips to the Pleasant Grove library and checked out a stack of books to read together.   Craving intellectual stimulation, I spent the afternoon on our front porch, perusing borrowed newspapers while Brandon played around in our front yard with his rescue rider.  I followed him around chasing after his wanderings.  Sometimes we would sit in the car, and I would let him drive the steering wheel just to get through a long day. 

Never will I forget the overwhelming feeling of making it through each day until Nathan arrived from work.  Partly, we had absolutely money then, so I had few options, but partly it was just the season that I was in at the time. 

Within the past 15 years, life has gotten far busier, and I now find myself figuring out how I can fit everything into the small amount of time that I have.  We no longer have a free evening at home, and I can't remember the last time I felt bored, but I am positive that it was years ago.  Just last Friday, I was in charge of the Ward Activity, so I left to set up after taking the girls to their homeschool art class.  Brandon was at a basketball game in Phoenix, OR, and Nathan took Andrew to his Eagle Board of Review.  Multi-tasking has taken on new meaning these days.

I find myself pining for the simpler days.  While I don't want to go back to that time, I wouldn't mind just a week or two with nothing to do.  With 5 children at different stages of life, thing are hectic, and I don't see it slowing down anytime soon.  Somehow, I will muddle through it all.  I imagine myself, at times, in the future looking back on this period with a sense of satisfaction that I somehow survived without tripping up too badly.

In the meantime, I just try to stay on top of the waves and enjoy the journey.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Happiest Place on Earth

After driving for two days in drowning rain, I was pretty uncertain about how I would find my time at Disneyland.  I am happy to say that I really had a wonderful and magical time.

We went to Disney World about 5 years ago when Nicole was Danielle's age, and that was a wonderful trip, but I was surprised to discover that there are several things about the California Disney that I preferred to the Orlando version.

While there aren't the same number of parks or rides, they do a several of them better in California....especially Pirates of the Caribbean and It's a Small World.  I also found the smaller size much easier to negotiate.  We could easily walk back and forth between parks.  The kids enjoyed having a little more freedom, and for Danielle, the trip was pure magic.

One attraction that I missed before and wanted to check out was Turtle Talk with was fabulous.  Crush interacts with the audience and talks with the kids and adults, and he is funny, clever, and really amazing.  Danielle had her hand up for a long time to ask Crush a question, but the show ended without him calling on her.  Everyone was leaving the theater as she proceeded to burst into heartbroken tears.  The person who holds the microphone came up to ask her if she had wanted to ask Crush a question, and she sobbed out that she wanted to know why turtles have shells.  He told her that Crush wasn't very far away and he thought he could call Crush back.  So with only our family left in the room, Crush zoomed back into the "tank" and crashed into the glass, making her laugh.  She then proceeded to have  a 5 minute charming conversation with Crush.  It is little things like this that make Disneyland the happiest place on earth!

Danielle loved getting to see all the real princesses both in the parade, around the park and at Ariel's Grotto.

We saw family periodically and some of the kids paired off to go on their own adventures.

Nicole got to hug her favorite princess, Mulan.  Even Andrew had a wonderful time, despite his unhappiness with having to miss a busy week of school.

Danielle was tall enough to go on most of the rides and was surprisingly a thrill seeker!  She even put her hands in the air her third time on the Thunder Mountain Railroad.

All the kids had the privilege of trying out a Dole Whip like they have in Hawaii!  Connor used his souvinir money to get a couple more he like them so much.

We had a wonderful time at Disneyland.   I just wish we had a little more time to spend with our extended family.  I wondered a little about what changes will come into our lives before we are back.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


We had our first snow last night, and I feel fall blending into winter.  Richness and bounty fill my life.  The chaos of finishing my master's degree has paid off in a much more balanced life.

I am only working a day and a half a week and then have more focused time to homeschool my younger children.  Andrew started school for the first time this year, and he has had a wonderful transition.  He enjoys his classes and has made a nice group of friends.  He has more balance after a lonely and isolated year last year.  while he misses his free time, he enjoys all that he is doing and learning.

I love having free time back.  Projects that were looming in the future are slowly but surely getting checked off my list, and I feel that I have time to just be once in a while.   I love the work that I am doing, but don't feel like it consumes my life like school did for three years. 

I actually had time to get the girls signed up for some extra-curricular activities which has been nice for all of us.  We are starting to make friends, but I don't feel frantic about the process and know that things will fall into place through time.

Nathan turned 40 this year.  We have both struggled a bit with feeling older, but we have started jogging a few times a week and are doing what we can to keep ourselves healthy for the next 40+ ahead of us.  We are ever closer and unified.  Our struggles have brought us together, and I so appreciate all he does to serve and honor me.  He is a wonderful husband.

We have come closer as a family as well through our transition to life in Oregon.  I love that my kids are friends and enjoy spending time together.  I know each of my children and feel privileged to watch their personalities and talents emerge.

Our tradition of learning has been a great blessing.  Their interests have led me down avenues that I never expected to explore.

My mom told me a story she recently learned from her sister about my grandma.  Grandma Cunningham had a difficult first marriage which ended in divorce, causing her a lot of grief, pain, and regret.  She talked very little about her first marriage and didn't want people to even know that she had lived that earlier life.

One Christmas, when my aunt Joetta was old enough to look forward to Christmas, they spent time looking at the window displays in anticipation of the holiday.  Shortly before Christmas that year, her husband disappeared taking all the money and leaving her hopeless and unable to buy a single present or even food for a nice meal.

On Christmas morning, when she woke up and searched the cupboards all she could find was a package of jello and a box of saltine crackers.  She made up the jello and they ate that with saltines for their Christmas dinner.  She didn't have the heart to tell Joetta that it was Christmas and so ignored the holiday that year.

I wonder at the heartache my grandma suffered and at her contrasting joy when later she married my grandpa and embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I also felt a sense of sadness for what she started with in life and the comparison of what I was blessed with from my childhood.  My children have an even greater start, and I hope they will be able to live up to their privilege.

This Thanksgiving as we celebrate our rich harvest from the past year, I feel gratitude for so many things that I often take for granted.  I am thankful for messes, because they represent fun and time spent together as well as rich material wealth.

I am thankful the generations who laid the foundation for my life.  I look forward to thanking them someday.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Heaven Really is For Real

About a month ago, our family searched for a movie to watch together.  The tastes of teenage boys and preschool girls don't always mesh, but we found something that everyone could agree on for once:  Heaven is for Real

Surprisingly, the movie was not what I expected....not because of the ultimate moral of the story which is that, let me guess...heaven really does exist?...more because professed Christians fought against the reality of heaven and this belief was hard for many to accept.  If this story had occurred amid a group of atheists, I would have understood the doubt and even anger expressed, but I have always assumed that all Christians have a belief in heaven.    Admittedly, movies aren't always a fair portrayals of books, and I haven't yet read the book it represented.  Still, watching this movie made me want to present my beliefs.  This is not meant to be a comprehensive scriptural explanation, but more of an overview of what I believe.

My faith in an afterlife was stretched when my dad died.  I didn't want to know just that he was still there, but I also wanted to know the specifics of what he was doing.  Many of those questions will have to wait for an answer but in the meantime, I did crystallize some of my own foundational beliefs.

I believe that this life is a blip in the eternities.  We lived as Spirits before we were born and learned and grew in that realm.  We were limited in what we could learn with only a Spirit and needed to gain a body in order to continue to progress.  Differing points of view were offered and a battle was fought over whether we should be forced to choose the right as Lucifer contended or be given our agency as Jesus offered.  Knowing that no unclean thing can be in the presence of God, Jesus offered to make an atonement for us that would extend to all people who would turn to Christ and repent.  This life is in many ways a test, and I see it as a way for us to learn more about ourselves.  There is a veil of forgetfulness set over the pre-mortal existence that makes faith necessary.  It wouldn't really be a test if we remembered all the answers.

When we die, our spirits and our bodies separate for a time.  Our bodies go back to the earth and our spirits go to the Spirit World where we continue to learn and grow.  This is still a temporary place, but this is the place where I believe the main character in the movie visited while he was really sick and saw relatives and loved ones.

I believe that this spirit world has a separation or a gulf between those who have had the necessary ordinances of baptism and those who haven't.  Those who have received the proper ordinances can travel across that gulf and teach the gospel to the myriad spirits who never had an opportunity to learn of Christ.
Ordinances can be performed in proxy here on the earth in temples.  We can stand in the place of loved ones to be baptized and sealed as eternal families which those individuals can in turn choose to accept or refuse.  Once their ordinances are performed, the gulf is bridged for them as well.

Ultimately, I do believe that there will be a day of judgement where we will be judged by Jesus Christ. After that point, I don't believe in a Heaven/Hell, either/or finality, but in different degrees of glory.  I feel that no one will be forced to be in a place where they don't feel satisfied with, but will be where we are comfortable.  The lowest degree of glory will really be filled with regret of not living to our full potential.  The highest degree of glory will be give us the opportunity to be in the presence of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as well as live united with our family members who have also lived worthy lives and taken advantage of the gift of the atonement through repentance. 

We are in a fallen state as a result of Adam's transgression and will continue to fall short of the commandments.  Jesus Christ suffered in the garden of Gethsemane for our sins and died on the cross for us at Calvary, making it possible for us to be lifted up.  This is the grace of our Savior.  Without Christ, our progression would be permanently thwarted; however, because of Him, we can start over each day.

Thus, I am not at all surprised nor threatened when I hear stories of near-death experiences.  They are always interesting to hear about specific details, but I also know that it is not our permanent destination. I believe that our Heavenly Father wants us to be able to progress, grow, and have "all that the Father hath." (John 17:10)  Families can also be sealed as eternal relationships in holy temples.  Though I don't know the meaning of all things, I do trust in God and strive to  do the best with what I have been given, for I belive that where much is given much is required.  When I am living closer to God, this life can also be a little bit of heaven on earth.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Midges are in the Air

When we lived in Colorado, the deer were our nemesis.  While deer are definitely still around us here, they are far less noticeable.  What is much more prevalentin Klamath Falls are the midges!  Funny how I had never heard of them before, but when I was reading Charlotte's Web to Danielle the other week, I noticed that Charlotte talks about them.  They just weren't on my radar in the past.

Wikipedia proclaims that the word midge is a generic term for many different types of flies.  This particular species was apparently introduced to the area to control the mosquito population, because they eat mosquito larvae.  They aren't too much of a nuisance until the end of the summer when their numbers get quite high.  This year we had much more than the last.

With perfect conditions, they form funnels of midge love.....and we can't walk down the road with our mouths opened or we might end up with a little extra protein.  Still, I will take midges over mosquitoes ANY day!

I have a new little project that I have been working on.  We bought some living room furniture that is pretty dark considering how dark our floors are, but I have had it in mind to update them and paint them a nice antique white.  This shows what they originally look like:

I found a few tutorials online and then jumped in with some Sherwin William's primer and  paint that they picked out for me.  This is the end table which I forgot to snap a before picture of:

I love how much nicer it looks against the floor, and I think when I am done it will really lighten up the room.

This is the bookcase that I am starting on next.  It goes behind the couch, but I am thinking about putting in the entryway.  I will see how it looks when I am done.  I just take it apart, do a rough sand to take off the glossy coat, paint two coats of primer and two coats of paint.

In other news, Nathan and I just celebrated our 18th anniversary with a quick trip to Ashland, where we got to see "Into the Woods."  It was fabulous!  We had a great time with the two of us.  We are about to leave for an even longer trip to North Carolina this weekend which will be even more fun!  I love to travel to new places.

We went to Reno near the end of the summer to help my mom do a little painting and to see family.  We had a great time.  The kids enjoyed the crazy science experiments that luckily did no harm during our visit.

I am a little fond of this sign.  It takes me back to my childhood growing up in Nevada.   They didn't have midges, but they did have WIND.  I will take midges over the wind.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

My Final Semester

I got a B in one of my classes this last semester.  This may sound like no big deal, but it was a deliberate choice I made.  It may be difficult for some people to comprehend my achieving, perfectionistic personality, but I was really excited about graduating with a perfect 4.0.  I may have slightly overplanned my summer, but I was feeling really burnt out from my internship, crazy class load and COMPS/NCE.  I needed a vacation in a major way!

I had already committed to take Andrew to BYU Math camp for the summer, and after Brandon begging to go to Alamosa and visit all his friends, I decided that we might as well drive the extra 18 hours there and back as long as we were already so close.  So, just a few weeks into my summer semester and final two classes we packed up and headed out for a two day, twenty hour drive. 

It was totally worth it....we had such a fun time visiting our friends, floating the Rio Grande, going to Splashland, eating at SLV Pizza, and most importantly for me, gaining closure to our life in Colorado.

After a very relaxing time, we got back in the car and headed to Utah......not quite as relaxing.  This was my driving pattern for the week:  (If you are familiar with Utah, you will appreciate the miles I put on my car.)  Day 1:  Drive from Alamosa to Centerville to drop Brandon off at his friend's house for the week, drive back to Draper to stay with Cami's kids.  Day 2:  Drive from Draper to Orem to drop off Zachary and then on to BYU to drop off the boys (we had Evan with us for the whole trip) to math camp, quick stop in American Fork to get Connor a new pair of glasses, drive to Thanksgiving point to check out the new Museum of Natural Curiosity which is very cool but also VERY crowded, head back to pick up glasses, drive to BYU to check out the bookstore and have dinner in the creamery and then drive back to Orem to stay at Cousin's house.

Day 3:  First stop BYU, back to Thanksgiving Point to check out the gardens and the Dinosaur Museum, go to Orem to hang out for a while, and then BYU and back to Orem for the slowest day.  Day 4:  BYU, drop off Nicole at Aunika's house in Saratoga Springs, take Isaac and Connor up to Draper to meet their ride to scout camp, back down to Orem, BYU to pick up boys, and back to Orem.  Day 5:  BYU, Orem, BYU, Orem, shopping for a few things that I needed. Day 6:  BYU, Saratoga Springs to pick up Nicole, Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake to meet Melanie and pick up Brandon & Austin.  I must say that the Bird show at the Zoo was the highlight of the week for me.  It was absolutely amazing!  Back down to BYU to pick up the other boys, up to Orem so Brandon and Austin can get ready for their quadruple date with LaRae and BriAnna, out to dinner and back to Orem.

Day 7:  Down to BYU to drop off boys at math camp, go to pick up Zachary from EFY but can't find him, back to Orem, back to BYU where I find him sleeping in a booth at the BYU creamery, back to Orem, pack up our stuff and get the kids, drive up to Centerville to drop off Austin and hang out for an hour, head to the store to get snacks for the trip home, down to Draper to pick up Connor and Isaac from scout camp, out to dinner, go to Cami's house.....fall asleep at 8 pm and wake up at 8 am the next morning.

From there on out it was easy.  I drove the 8 hours to Sparks where we spent the night and then drove home with my mom and Lenaya following us.

We spent the week of the fourth together which was an emotional week for us.  The anniversary of my dad's death on the 5th will always hold new meaning for me.  Still, the week went so much better with family there and we were able to create some new, happy memories. 

Isaac was our 6th child for the month.  He came out to go to scout camp with Connor only to discover that we had the wrong was a bummer, but I'm still glad we got to have him!  (Oh yea, I was still doing homework, taking tests and staying on top of my readings through all this).

Then, a couple of days after they left we went on a fun trip to Bend, Oregon.  That was a pretty relaxing trip, and I got a few more assignments done from the hotel between checking out different parks, museums, restaurants, and exploring the town.

The same day we got back from Bend, our friends the Smiths came out for what turned out to be a FABULOUS weekend.  We got to go see a beautiful waterfall near Crater Lake together, which reminded me of waterfalling with my dad.  We all got along great and stayed up way too late talking.  I foresee many wonderful visits now that we live so much closer!

The day after they left, Cami and her family came for a few days.  I had a great time catching up and hearing about her trip to Europe.  The day after they left, I got my grade back for one of my papers.  I got a 68%, because I interpreted the assignment differently than my teacher did, but she gave me the option to redo the paper for a higher grade.  I only had one day before the semester ended, and I really thought about doing it.  That is all it would take to have a perfect 4.0.  Maybe I would regret it forever if I stuck with the original grade.  Then I thought about it some more and realized I already have the job I want, no one will care about any of my grades, but the peace of mind to just walk away and be done was more important to me in that moment.

So, I don't have a perfect GPA.  And I am okay with that.  It reminds me of the Alaskan dream catchers.  A native Athabascan woman I met told me that they purposely leave a flaw somewhere in the dreamcatcher, to let the demons out.  I guess getting a B is my way to show that I am still human, and honestly after a semester as crazy as this one, having an A and a B is truly miraculous.

Oh, and I am not traveling further east than Reno for the next year!