Monday, June 29


Remember how I kept waiting for summer vacation to arrive so that life could slow down? Yeah, I'm still waiting. Since school got out I have spent a week with my mother, enrolled the boys in swim lessons, continued to attend the gym four times a week, and go camping with the boys for a week. The day after tomorrow, my friends Emily and Cindy arrive for a week long vacation.

The camping trip was It was exactly what the boys needed, and was a lovely break for me as well. I have a few pictures that I haven't downloaded onto my computer yet, but I didn't take nearly as many as I normally would on a trip like that. Honestly, the boys and I were so busy having fun on the lake that I didn't want to stop and get my camera. We spent a lot of time on the water, and since an expensive digital camera and lake water is such a bad combo, the camera didn't come out very often. I'll post what I have, but most of the trip will simply have to live in our memories.

Sunday, June 21

Father's Day

Happy father's day, honey.

Happy father's day to me. To you. And to the kids. It's tough, seeing this day dawn without you. We leave in a couple hours to go camping--did I tell you I'm taking the boys to a lake in Tennessee? We're meeting a group of widow/ers and their kids from my support group for 5 days. I'm leaving Brooklyn with your parents, which I'm sure she'll enjoy. She always gets doted on there, and I couldn't stand the worry of having her around all the water at the lake, so it works out better for me too.

I miss you, babe. I haven't felt you around much lately, I assume you're busy taking care of people whose needs are more pressing than my own. I get that, I've been coasting along for a while pretty well now. I've stayed busy enough that the pain--for now--seems to have subsided to the usual dull ache. It never quite goes away, but sometimes it's actually bearable. I know it's temporary, and eventually the crushing pain will come roaring up again to sit on my chest, but I've enjoyed the reprieve.

I wish you were here. I'm glad we're going camping today, it gives me an excuse to miss church. We didn't go last year, either, but this year I probably would have forced myself to take the kids if we weren't going out of town. I'm glad it worked out this way, and I don't have to cry through the kids singing 'Daddy's Homecoming' in sacrament meeting. Remember when I taught them that song, when we lived in Utah and Jeremy was 4? We sang it when you got home from work, and you said it was the cutest thing you'd ever seen. The primary kids have been practicing for the last couple weeks, and I cry every time I have to play through it for them. I'm not sure I could handle playing it in sacrament meetings with a straight face, and it's not exactly the kind of song you're supposed to cry through.

Honey, I love you. I miss you. I can't wait to see you again, and tell you all of these things while you wrap your arms around me and breathe in my scent, and I yours.

Monday, June 15

As Requested

I received a comment from Anon earlier today asking that I devote a post to my weight loss, and the secrets thereof. Always happy to oblige, here is your post, Anon E. Mus.

Sadly, there is no real secret. I've been following the old adage 'move more, eat less'. Specifically, here is the plan:

In September, I began working out on a regular basis. I started doing Zumba twice a week for an hour in about the middle of September, and tried to make it to the gym for an hour of mindless exercise on the elliptical on Friday's. More often than not, though, my Friday's would end up getting filled with some other 'to-do', and occasionally my Monday-Wednesday Zumba class would get bumped as well. By December, I was feeling generally more 'fit', but hadn't lost any weight. I found out about a Saturday morning Zumba class taught by the same instructor, but held at a different YMCA. I began attending in December, and held the same schedule until February. At that point I STILL had not lost any weight, and was extremely frustrated. To this point, I had pretty much continued eating whatever I wanted to eat. Like most people, I thought I ate reasonably healthy, but I felt pretty powerless to change my eating habits drastically. I admired people who could maintain their figures, but had no anticipation that I could become one of them. Around this time, I finally went to the doctor about my flagging energy and lack of weight loss, which I wrote about here.

Armed with the appropriate medication and a determination to finally begin losing some serious weight, I asked my aerobics instructor what she would recommend me to do on my own time, in addition to the three hours of Zumba at the gym, to speed the process. She is a certified personal trainer, and offered to work with me for a few weeks to get a jump start. I agreed, and part of her program involved writing down every morsel that went into my mouth in a journal that she perused twice every week.

This journal was the single biggest factor in changing my eating habits.

When it was all laid out for me to see in black and white, I became aware of how much I truly ate, and more importantly--the things that I was eating. I was also able to pinpoint my weak spots, the times when it was most difficult for me to abstain from eating, and the things that would be most difficult for me to give up. To this end, I slowly implemented this eating plan:

I eat every two-three hours. I have a sensible breakfast, lunch, and dinner--and between each I have a snack that is between 100-200 calories. I snack on almonds and a piece of fruit, or a glass of chocolate milk. I eat lite wheat thins and 1 wedge of light Laughing Cow cheese. I became a regular purveyor of Nutrition Facts-- I can tell you a serving size and how many calories are in most of the foods that I eat on a regular basis.

I embraced the power of protein. A banana by itself isn't terribly filling (or satisfying when you're craving a sweet), but smear a small amount of peanut butter on the same banana that you sliced up into thick chunks, and it's a delightful treat. As for peanut butter, I also switched over to the natural variety. You Utah folks--Adams peanut butter is excellent. For those of us without access to that, Skippy makes a brand that is also quite good, and doesn't have to be stored in the refrigerator. A handful of almonds and an apple will stretch farther than either of those things alone. A salad for lunch will leave your tank empty by 2, but if you toss a few ounces of canned chicken on the same salad you'll feel full and satisfied much longer.

I watch carbs. I don't cut out carbs, and I still love pasta and bread. I simply try to watch how much I'm having--I don't eat granola bars and carb-heavy bananas together. I don't serve bread with meals anymore, and if I have carbs for one meal, I skip them the next. The carbs I do have, I switched over the whole grain. Brown rice has a more nutty flavor which I enjoy. Whole wheat pasta can be mixed half and half with regular pasta, and depending on the dish--there isn't a difference in flavor. Even my children like wheat bread, and wouldn't know what to do if I switched back. I recently also cut back to whole wheat flour--I made cookies with it last night, and although they aren't quite the same texture, they're still pretty tasty.

I added a lot more fruit to my diet, and upped the vegetable intake. I almost always have a piece of fruit with my lunch, and I keep a variety washed and cut up in the fridge for the kids. I always have bananas, apples, oranges, and grapes in the fridge, and often more than that. One of my favorite breakfasts is a smoothie with yogurt and fruit in it--no sugar. Even my kids have jumped on the fruit bandwagon--admittedly, a large portion of my grocery budget every month is in fresh fruits and vegetables. For dinner a lot of nights I will serve a main dish, a salad, and a cooked vegetable. Sometimes there will be some sort of carb-y filler, sometimes there won't. Sometimes I'll provide a carb-y filler for the kids, but take none for myself.

I knew there were two things I couldn't give up: my sweet snack, and my Diet Coke. I allow myself one can of Diet Coke a day (this one has gotten harder to keep as I've slacked off in the last few weeks) and one sweet snack (still less than 200 calories) a day. For myself, my sweet snack is best kept until after the kids go to bed and I can truly enjoy it. This means that sometimes the kids get a sweet snack after dinner, and I sit at the table and watch them, then eat mine later. With practice, this has gotten to not be much of a problem.

I hardly ever eat out (again, this has gotten more difficult in the last few weeks since I've slacked off. I've also noticed that my ticker doesn't move as fast as it used to ::grumblegrumble::) There is very few fast food that can be altered to make reasonable, and even if you can find something that is pretty low-fat, chances are there are a lot of chemicals and sodium in it anyway. It's really best all around to just eat at home--even if that means that sometimes it's sandwiches or scrambled eggs for dinner because you don't have time for any more than that.

Wherever possible, I switched to light, reduced sodium, or no-fat items for my home cooking. Light mayo, reduced fat crackers, low sodium soy sauce. You get the picture. I also started using Mrs. Dash--no MSG, and great flavor too!

During all of these changes to my eating habits, I also picked up at the gym. While I was working with my trainer, I added two hours a week with her. I also tried to add in 30 minutes at home at least once a week. At this point I'm no longer working with Jody, so I generally will go into the cardio room and keep exercising for about 30 minutes after my Zumba class ends. I've learned how to use all the machines, and invested in a stability ball, hand weights, a resistance band, and several DVD's to exercise at home. I also try to be more active with the kids--chase them, take walks, and swim with them at the pool. In general, I try to lead a much more active lifestyle.

Okay, I know I probably lost most of you with this gargantuan post. Apparently, I had a lot to say about losing weight and eating right. I know there are probably some things I've left out that could be helpful, but I think this is long enough already. If anybody has any additional questions, feel free to either email me or post it in the comments. I hope my hard-won insight can help somebody else make the most of their fitness!

Friday, June 12


School is finally over. My last final was complete by 8:30 yesterday morning. For better or for worse, I am done with school for the year. I'm nervous about the grades--I think I could have done better in two of my classes, and might only have earned a 'B' for my efforts. I probably also earned a 'B' in Chemistry, but in that class I did as well as I could. I don't feel bad about that one.

I have so been looking forward to taking a break once school let out for the summer, and so far--that hasn't happened. I've continued to go about a million miles an hour, and don't see any signs of stopping any time soon. My Mom gets into town this afternoon for an extended weekend visit, so the next few days are jam packed with activities. Among them, tomorrow morning I will participate in my first 5K. My goals for this first race are simple: don't pass out, and don't puke. Oh, and complete the race, of course.

As an aside, I received an incredible gift the other night that I need to share. On Tuesday night our church group hosted it's quarterly activity for the women in the church. It's called Home, Family, and Personal Enrichment--or Enrichment for short. For this quarter's activity, it was decided to have a progressive dinner. At the house where we ate the main course, I ended up sitting next to a woman who recently moved into our area and is new to our ward. We chatted throughout the meal, sharing snippets of our life history, our families, and our beliefs. Inevitably, the question turned to our husbands.

"So what does your husband do?" She asked me.
I choked a bit at the pain of the stab to my heart, and let the pause between exchanges stretch out much longer than it should have been. "Um, he worked in computers." Short pause. "He died a little over a year ago."

I braced myself for The Look. The Look is full of sad pity, and generally accompanies a head cocked to one side. As expected, The Look was present--but not the degree that I have come to expect.

Now, in my experience as an extremely young widow, the question that ALWAYS comes next--no matter how kindly and respectfully it's phrased--is 'How did it happen?'. I understand the natural curiosity. I understand the human tendency to want to categorize things, make sense of something that seems so unnatural. After the 'What does your husband do' question, this is the question I dread the most.

This woman unknowingly gave me a gift that was so precious, I didn't realize until later how desperately I needed it. First, she let the uncomfortable conversation drop. She didn't pry, she didn't go on and on about how difficult it must be for us, and she didn't offer platitudes. Later, when we were walking to the next house, she walked next to me, and in the relative privacy I braced myself anew for the next question.

" did you meet your husband?" She asked me.

My heart surged, and I immediately launched into a spirited description of our early friendship and courtship. I laughed, I shared anecdotes, and she giggled at the absurdity of our journey from mere acquaintances to husband and wife. It felt so GOOD to share that story. It's a question that is asked fairly frequently to a young wife, but one that has completely left my life since Ammon died. Instead, it has been replaced with questions about my finances, questions about who takes care of the children while I'm in school, questions about my current relationship status, and questions about how he died. In this one question, this woman gave me permission to tell the beginning of the story, instead of the end.

I doubt she'll ever know what that meant to me. I called her the next day to express to her my gratitude, but I'm sure she just thinks I'm a crazy widow who is overly emotional. Or maybe she doesn't. I don't know. All I know is how grateful I am to be able to talk about my husband as the intelligent, passionate, funny, and gentle man that he was, instead of the ghost that he has become.

Friday, June 5

Local Presentor

I'm not sure why I haven't blogged about this before now. Heaven only knows I've shared much more mundane facets of my life on this blog, but for some reason this one event somehow seemed too special to share. I even kept the secret from most of the people that live near me (excluding some close friends and family) right up until the event. If you were at Time Out For Women a few weeks ago, you know what I'm talking about. My friend Julie was the team leader for the Cincinnati event, and early on recruited me to be a team captain. I threw myself into making preparations for the event and spreading the word as much as I could while also fulfilling my other responsibilities, but about a month before the event Julie had an extra task for me to take on: the people at Deseret Book needed a local presenter to write an essay for the event. Julie thought I should be that local presenter, and encouraged me to submit an essay detailing an assurance that I have in my life.

I put off writing the essay for more than a week. I mulled over it. I lost sleep over it. I pondered the implications of submitting an essay--fully believing that should I choose to submit one, it would be my essay that would be chosen for the event. I searched inside myself earnestly--to write the essay, I would surely delve into some very private, very personal spiritual trials that I have endured. More specifically, I knew in my heart that a truthful essay--one coming from my soul--would elaborate upon the trial of faith I have endured over the last 14 months. Was I prepared to share this part of my soul on a stage, in front of more than a thousand people? Could I write an essay that was an adequate description of what I have been through? Are there even words to describe what it is I wanted to share? Was I capable of standing on the stage, under the spotlights and in front of the camera, and deliver this essay without completely losing my composure and degenerating into a sobbing mess in front of several hundred strangers? I wrestled with these questions, and finally decided this:

If the things that I have gone through could in some small way ease the suffering of another soul, and by sharing my story in this forum I could reach them--then it is my duty and obligation--and HONOR--to do so.

I sat down and in about fifteen minutes, wrote the essay. I quickly attached it an email and sent it to the TOFW director, Laurel Christensen, before I lost my nerve. I wrote the essay on Friday afternoon, and the deadline for all essays was Monday afternoon. I anticipated having the weekend as a minimum to fret over my submission. This was not the case--within a few hours of hitting the 'send' button, I had a reply in my inbox. Laurel Christensen asked that I agree to share my story at TOFW. Even though I was extremely apprehensive about sharing such a deep part of my heart with strangers, I said yes.

I don't know why this essay was so different that writing here on my blog. Certainly many of the things that I have shared here were at least as personal--if not even more so--than this 1 page essay. I know for a fact that the things I have written on my blog have been more gritty, more honest, and more brutally painful than what I wrote for TOFW. I suppose it was the idea of standing up--in person--in front of all those people that troubled me. I'm not a terribly shy person, but I'm also not entirely comfortable with public displays of emotion. I hate crying in front of people. I don't like yelling at my kids in front of people. I share my grief pretty openly here, but in public I hide between a smile and a sometimes-false cheer. I don't feel comfortable bearing my testimony in public, or being anything other than strong and confident around strangers. I dislike being vulnerable, downtrodden, or shaken when there are people watching me.

In short, everything that I dislike--I was steeling myself to experience for this event. Surely people would see me cry. Surely I would appear vulnerable, downtrodden, and shaken while on the stage. Even more worrisome--I didn't want people to pity me. There is a look people get when they find out I'm a widow--they cock their head to the side, and a certain pity and superficial sadness enters their eyes. I hate being seen through those eyes. In the beginning of my widowhood, I felt compelled to tell everybody that I was widowed--the cashier, passersby, casual acquaintances. These days, I am much more likely to keep that part of my vital statistics to myself. I wear my wedding ring because I would rather have people assume that I'm married then have them assume that I'm not. Occasionally, people ask questions about my husband when they see me out with the kids. By and large, I do not correct them. I answer their questions as though Ammon were simply at home waiting for me--and for now, that works for me. I don't like sharing more of myself than I have to for casual conversation. Not face-to-face.

Apprehensions aside, here I am. Onstage at TOFW, sharing a very deep part of my soul with the nearly 1500 women in the room.
On the large screen next to me, pictures of Ammon and I as a newly engaged couple--then our one and only family picture--appeared.
After the pictures had shown briefly, my face was shown on the large screen. I didn't spend a lot of time during the reading of my essay looking up. I felt naked, exposed, vulnerable--but also powerful. I felt strong, and I know that the spirit and love of the women in the auditorium were buoying me up.
Before I knew it, the whole ordeal was over. In a few quick moments, all the weeks of apprehension were over. I spent the rest of the day accepting compliments and expressions of comfort from people in attendance. I had countless people approach me throughout the rest of the event, sharing appreciation for my story, and for sharing what I have learned.
Yesterday, I saw that my essay is being featured for the month of June on the TOFW website. You can access it by clicking here. To most of you, it's nothing you haven't heard from me before. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 4

Preschool Graduation

Kadon graduated from preschool several weeks ago, but I haven't gotten around to posting these pictures yet. They had a little show where they had the children sing one song from every month that they've been in school. The teachers helped a bit, but for the most part the kids sang them all themselves.
Unlike the Christmas concert, this performance was only the kids in their class, so much of the over-excitement and craziness of the other concert was avoided.

It was really nice to see Kadon in this environment, with his friends. He's so at ease and comfortable, it's refreshing to see.
My little boy is growing up. *sob*

The graduation show was held on a day when Mary is normally down here for my classes, so she was able to go with us, which was a nice treat. I also picked Jeremy from school a little bit early so that he could come with us.

This is Kadon with Mrs. Whitney, one of his two teachers. His teachers have been so wonderful this year, we will miss them dearly. He will be attending the same school in the fall, but will have a different set of teachers. This school has been such a great opportunity for Kadon, and I have taken such joy in watching his growth in the last year. I can't believe the year has past so quickly!

Monday, June 1

Technicolor Pancakes

The other day I had left some food coloring out on the kitchen counter after a friend borrowed it. Like most curious children, the boys found it and were curious as to what it was used for.

"To color food." I replied.
"What kind of food?" They asked.
"I don't know....pancakes, I guess." I shrugged.

The next night, I had no dinner plans. Our conversation returned to me, and I decided to whip up some technicolor pancakes. First thing first, though--Jeremy wanted to play with the camera and take a few pictures of me. In this one he commanded that I pose like this, and I thought it was pretty entertaining. Fashion photographer in the making?

As you can see, I completed the dish with colorful plates and bright yellow scrambled eggs. Once I convinced Kadon that the colorful pancakes tasted just like normal, life was good and dinner was inhaled. Since then, I have experimented with purple milk (neither boy liked it) and last night I made a blue cake. Who knew those four plastic tubes could be so much fun?