Wednesday, September 1

Settling

Our move to Toledo went well. The house is unpacked for the most part, and we are working on slowly moving over Kevin's belongings in preperation for the union of our two households. The kids started school yesterday, and we are all beginning to settle down into a routine. Kevin has been here every day since we moved-Saturday for the moving of furniture and some unpacking, then Sunday for a bit of relaxation after church, and Monday and Tuesday he came 'home' after work for dinner, then stayed for a little while after the kids went to bed. It's been odd-to be in the same city after spending our entire courtship seeing each other strictly on the weekends-but idyllic.

Jeremy was working on homework last night as I was preparing dinner. Because of the timing of our move, Jeremy missed the first four days of school, and therefore had a fair stack of schoolwork to catch up on. As I cooked, Jeremy sat at the table and worked on the papers. Kevin had been outside playing with Brooklyn and Kadon, and came inside as Jeremy was struggling with one of the assignments.

Without a word to me, Kevin approached the table and began to help Jeremy with his homework.

For a moment, I stood alone in the kitchen-frozen, unable to continue the task before me. My heart caught in my throat-constricted in an odd tangle of pain and pride.

I'm so grateful to be marrying a man who wants to help his children with homework.

I'm so sad that Ammon was never able to help his son with assignments.

I'm feeling guilty that in the midst of a perfectly normal evening-I was struck with a momentary pang of 'missing' that pierced me in an unexpected way. It passed quickly and was replaced with gratitude, but it was there.

It's an odd thing-this loving after losing. It's wonderful and unexpected, but I'm learning that there are still pitfalls and grief triggers even in the face of love and happiness.

The wedding is a little over 2 weeks away. I can't believe it-it alternately seems eons away or speeding toward me like a freight train. I can't wait to be married to Kevin-he is everything I longed for in a companion, and so much more. He loves me and the children in a way that I didn't think was possible, and I am profoundly grateful for the chance to love him. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I wholeheartedly believe in the Law of Chastity. That being said-I am a physical woman. After spending 8 years in a loving and healthy marriage, returning to abstinence is difficult.

It's right. It's healthy. The reasons for doing so are perfect and wonderful.

It's still hard. It's hard for me to express love without using my body, without violating the beliefs I hold so dear. I will never be sorry we choose to wait until our wedding night, but sometimes the waiting hurts. Sometimes the waiting makes me question things that I shouldn't-have no reason to question. I struggle with letting my hormones rule my emotions and speak to my heart.

I wrestled with whether or not to blog today. I have set a goal to be better about chronicaling our new life adventures here, and I knew that I had time this morning to sit and record some of the thoughts that have been swirling around in my head. I also was acutely aware that I'm on a bit of an emotional down today-that thoughts and grief and difficulties are dragging on my spirit.

"I don't want to blog today" I thought. "I don't feel happy and blessed today, and I don't want a post today to be depressing".

Since when have I ever hidden from hard emotions on this blog?

I tried to talk to Kevin-late last night, after the emotions had already rendered me incapable of logic-but wasn't able to properly articulate what I'm feeling. Things have been so good since we moved to Toledo. Everything we wanted for our relationship, for our lives, has been better here. Kissing him goodbye in the evenings and knowing that we get to see each other again after work the next day is wonderful-sitting next to him in church on Sunday and knowing we didn't have an emotional goodbye later that evening was wonderful. I anxiously watch the clock every afternoon, waiting for the hour when he will walk through the door to spend the evening with us.

I've typed several different paragraphs here-deleting each one a character at a time before publishing. Clearly I'm no better at articulating this morning than I was late last night.

I need to remember how to be grateful. I need to remind myself that life is good-and take the time to appreciate the fact that I'm not rushing to class today. That I don't have a paper to write, or a test to study for. That I dropped my two healthy little boys off at school this morning, and that I get to spend the day with my beautiful baby girl. That tonight the love of my life is going to come home from work, and we're going to go to the gym together, then spend the evening with each. I'm healthy. I'm strong. I've survived SO MUCH.

Instead, I'm sitting here feeling homesick, sad, and lonely. The homesick I understand-the sad and lonely I have lost the the 'rights' to. Even with so much happiness, hope, and promise swirling around us, I am struggling with....with an emotion I don't even know how to put into words.

Today, I'm taking the day off. I'm going to let Brooklyn watch a movie, and I'm going to curl up on the sofa next to her and read my book.

I might shed some more tears.

I might miss the life I left behind in Cincinnati.

And at the end of today, I will put a smile on my face and in my heart-kiss my children and my fiance-and remember to be grateful for all that I have been blessed with.

It's what I do.

Monday, August 23

Coming Together

The move is coming together, and so is the wedding. Kevin's parents drove to Cincinnati from thier home in Kentucky last weekend, and after the 4 of us had dinner on Friday, the kids joined us for some miniature golfing and go-carting on Saturday afternoon. Whether or not Kevin's parents approved of me (although he assures me they do!) they were truly smitten with the kids. The kids all easily called them Grandma and Grandpa-and even though I had to swallow a knot of 'odd' every time-it was pretty natural. It was good to be together as a family. It felt like Kevin was my husband, and we were simply a family having fun on a weekend afternoon. It was good to see that side of Kevin-the son-instead of just the father-figure and husband-to-be. The way he interacts with his parents speaks volumes about his character, and their relationship is easy and affectionate. I look forward to becoming part of the family.

We're moving on Friday, and so far the house is as packed as it can be at this point. It was so nice to say goodbye to Kevin Sunday evening and know it's for the last time-even though we won't be living together until after the wedding, it will truly be a treat to be living in the same town. The kids and I are all eagerly anticipating the move-and only 3 weeks later, the wedding!

Tuesday, August 17

Escaped

Amidst the flurry of the next few weeks, Kevin and I were able to take a few days last weekend to simply be together. Ammon's parents, Russ and Mary, took the kids from Friday afternoon until Monday afternoon, and I drove to Toledo to spend a few kid-free days with Kevin. There were errands to run-we shopped until my feet ached, and had a wonderful time doing it. Kevin learned that I get cranky when I haven't nourished properly, but did an excellent job of feeding me delicious home-cooked food when my attitude shot downward. We looked at countless suits-3 pieces, and 2 pieces. Black, charcoal, patterned or not. We still haven't made a decision on what Kevin is going to wear for the wedding, but it was still productive to find out what won't work with his style and body type, so I do not count it as time lost.

We also spent a completely hysterical 2 hours in Bed, Bath, & Beyond registering for wedding gifts. As we were filling out the paperwork necessary to begin our registry process, the store associate regaled us with stories about couples who get into fights during the registry process, and grooms who abandon their brides at the store over a disagreement.

"It always happens in the bedding section." She told us.

We were intrigued, and decided to investigate the possibility of Registration Made More Fun by Fighting.

Indeed, it was entertaining.

We argued loudly over over sized wall clocks, and called each other names over curtains and kitchen goods. It was so much fun. We giggled like teenagers as I walked barefoot around the store, scanning items and dreaming about our future together.

On Sunday, we attended church together, and spent the day playing games, talking, and planning. I love spending time with Kevin. I love talking to him and sharing stories about our past. I hope we never stop wanting to learn about each other and sharing details about our lives-past and present.

We slow-danced in the living room on Sunday evening.

It was one of the single most romantic and touching moments in my life.

I'm so in love with him. It's impossible to describe-and I don't know why I'm lucky enough to be able to experience it. I'm not sure why my life has taken the path it has-but I know that through it all, I'm grateful to be where I am now. I cherish the opportunity to look at Kevin and know that he loves me and wants to spend his life with me. I blossom under his care-I can feel it, and though I'm grateful he never saw the shell of a woman I was for a long time, I wish he could see the transformation his love has brought to me.

Life is good.

Thursday, August 12

Leaving

In months past, I was certain that even if I were lucky enough to meet somebody that I wanted to settle down with again, I would never be willing to leave Cincinnati.

'I have too much going on here', I thought. 'I could never leave-he'd either have to be local or willing to relocate'.

I was settled here in Cincinnati. I embraced life here in the only way I know how-fully and with passion. Our support network here is strong and large. The ward that we attend has been an incredible source of strength, and the friendships we have made within its boundaries are fulfilling. In the last 2 1/2 years, our ward has formed a protective circle around my family. I have called-too often-on people to help. With the kids, with a shoulder to cry on, with help getting into my attic or fixing my lawn mower.

School has been what I've spent the last 2 years focusing on. Countless sleepless nights, papers written, flashcards memorized, and textbooks read have filled my time. There has always been a test to study for, or a project to complete. My life as a widow has been centralized around my education-the two are linked together. I went back to school because my life changed, and every time things got difficult it was hard not to imagine that if only he had lived, everything would be different. I'd have more help with the kids, I wouldn't have to spend all my free time studying, I wouldn't be so lonely.

Eventually, I feel like I reached a place where I didn't do that as much. I found my balance as a student-a tenuous, incredibly difficult one-but a balance nonetheless. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief when classes ended last spring. I was burnt out, exhausted, and frustrated with life in general. The loneliness of the last 2+ years was weighing heavily on me, and the isolation of my classwork was contributing to a general sense of restlessness and depression. I looked forward to the summer and simultaneously dreaded September when it would come to a close.

I needed a break.

I can't recount how badly I needed a break. I was strung out with school, and although one section of it was completed-I knew that the worst was still approaching. I had finally completed the required courses for application into the nursing program at the University of Cincinnati. It was for this program that every hour of schoolwork for the last 2 years had been geared toward. Admission into the nursing program is exclusive, and the curriculum is demanding. It lasts 3 years, and admission into it would consume my life. I sat in my advisors office one morning in May and filled out the 1 page application. I clicked the 'submit' button, and immediately broke into exhausted sobs. I knew I wouldn't hear whether or not I had been accepted for months, and the suspense and tension of the summer stretched out before me in one endless path.

And then I met Kevin.

Kevin made the weeks fly by, and as we made plans for our future, all my hesitancy about leaving Cincinnati vanished. I embraced relocating-with excitement we searched online together for houses, sending links back and forth and discussing pros and cons. We began to plan our wedding, and I eagerly anticipated the day when we would be able to live together as husband and wife. A new city, a new family member, a new life.

During it all, my nursing application quietly flit across the back of my mind. In moments of solitude, it gnawed at me. I had worked so hard for admission into the program, but leaving for Toledo meant I would be taking a break from school for the time being.

There was never any doubt about leaving Cincinnati. There's never been any doubt about marrying Kevin. When I finally received the letter from admissions stating the results of my application, my decision was already made.

I can't wait to become his wife. I can't wait to explore our new city, and to figure out the dynamics of our family. In 40 years, I know I will look back and be grateful that I took a leap of faith and married Kevin.

Today I can honestly say I'm relieved not to be returning to school next month. But just because it was an easy decision to make doesn't mean it wasn't a painful one.

I can't promise that my eyes won't stray to the rear view mirror and tear up as we pull out of Cincinnati on moving day. I can't promise that there won't be moments in Toledo where I wish my friends and family were close, and that I could slip back into the old familiarity of life here. I do know, though, that it's alright. That no matter what happens to us, somebody much bigger than us or anything else is in charge.

He's got my back, just like He always has.

Wednesday, August 11

Moving

Moving is stressful.

Yes, I know this comes as a shock. Moving has often been heralded as one of those delightful past times-one engaged in one weekends in order to maximize the full joy of the experience.

I love moving. It seems as though approximately every 20 months, we grow restless in our surroundings and seek out new digs. Someday I hope to actually reach the 2 year mark at a residence, but thus far that elusive milestone has stayed thisfar out of reach.

Actually, this time we didn't even make it to 20 months. We made it 13. But whatever.

So yes, moving is stressful. Combine moving a family of 4 with planning a wedding, and sometimes I feel like my head is going to explode. I stop myself because the last thing I need is another mess to clean up, and I'm certain neither my landlord nor the new tenants would be thrilled with gore.

I've never planned a wedding before. The first time I got married, it was more of an elopement than anything else. For a variety of reasons, a real wedding was not one of the options given to us, so with very little notice we gathered together a few family and close friends and spoke some vows in the city park. There was no wedding dress, no photographer, and no reception. We gathered for dinner afterward at a local restaurant, and that was that. For years, I lamented the fact that we never had a real wedding. A year later when we were sealed, I insisted on a wedding dress and a tuxedo for Ammon. We had a photographer friend who took some pictures, and we sent out announcements for a very small and intimate open house after the sealing. I was always grateful for the pictures from that day, but still felt the lack of a 'real' wedding.

With less than 3 weeks until the move, and less than 6 weeks until the wedding, I'd take an elopement in a heartbeat.

That is, if I wasn't pretty certain I'd regret it regularly for the next 50 years.

I'm traveling to Toledo this weekend and have mentioned the idea of elopement several times to Kevin.

"The magistrate is available until 4, babe. I could come up early, and for a mere $70 we could be done with all of this."

My dearest looks at me, sighs, and rolls his eyes. If he wasn't several hours away, I'm certain he would put his arm around me and pull me close for an exasperated hug. He knows I don't really want to be married by a magistrate in the Toledo courthouse. I suppose I know that too, but I'm going to keep reminding myself of that as we attempt the create ceremony invitations today, re-evaluate the wedding budget, make photography decisions, find hotels for the honeymoon, and figure out decorations for the ceremony and reception.

Seriously, elopement is easier.

Now if only we could conquer the move, life would be perfect.

Tuesday, August 10

Changing

So much has happened.

I took a break from blogging because life was overwhelming and busy, and because it had become a chore instead of a release.

I kept taking a break because suddenly, unexpectedly, and fantastically-life got very busy.

Busy in a way I didn't anticipate.

Busy in a way I didn't think I was prepared for.

Busy in a way that is only going to get worse for the time being.

Busy in a way that will have the kids and I moving to another city and has me changing my last name.

I mentioned before that I had ventured into the online dating scene. I had no expectation that I would actually meet somebody, and after an unsuccessful relationship early this year, I was fairly certain that I would spend the next several years of my life alone. I know I've written about that in the past, and I was still sure that would be my lot in life.

In a fit of loneliness and desperation late one night-during the last push of finals last quarter, a long, lonely summer stretched in front of me. I posted yet another profile on an LDS themed dating website. I didn't pay for the site, simply chose to post my free profile. In order to view any of the communications that were sent to me, though, I had to pay the monthly fee. The profile sat for a couple weeks. I received several 'flirts', and a few messages, and I was finally curious enough to pay the monthly charge to see who was interested in me. I responded to a couple, deleted most of them, and decided to conduct a search of the available prospects in my area.

I aimlessly sent out 'flirts' to several different people. One of them stuck out a bit as a quirky, funny, cute man who listed his education as 'doctorate' and his profession as 'scientist'.

"Interesting." I thought. "Dating a doctor could be fun...but I'm sure he wouldn't be interested in me."

Ever the optimist, I am.

I clicked 'send' on the flirt, and closed down the website. Within days, the scientist and I were communicating. It started in emails, progressed rapidly through online chatting and phone calls until eventually it culminated in a face-to-face meeting.

I'm marrying him next month.

Nothing could have prepared me for the stunning force and speed that this relationship has taken over my life. OUR lives. Kevin marched through barriers that I thought were fortified and impregnable. In reality, it seems as though he alone held the appropriate keys. I fell so deeply in love-so quickly-and have fallen deeper and deeper every day since. He is a dream come true. He is everything I could have special-ordered in a companion, and more that I wouldn't have dreamed of asking for. He is my match in every way, and I'm so blessed to have found him.

I want to share so much. I want to update on wedding plans, on moving plans, and scream about our love from the rooftops. It's taken my life by storm-this love-and I can't wait to see where it takes us next. I'm breathless from it all, honestly.

I've had moments where I'm scared. Scared that he'll be taken from me, like Ammon. Scared to risk loving again. My heart is safe with him, of that much I'm sure. I'm working on the fear of death. It's a fear that I don't think will ever truly leave me. I look at Kevin sometimes and wonder what is lurking in the future for us. Cancer? Accident?

One thing I have learned as a young widow is this: life doesn't hold still. It doesn't move backward, and you can't take anything back or make changes to your past. Loving Kevin wasn't a choice I made-that was out of my control. Choosing to give in to that love and build a life with him is a choice I hold firmly in my grasp. We're going for it. We're running together, and we're going to leap off the cliff and pray that we soar.

I'm certain we will. It doesn't feel like falling with him. It feels like flying.

And it feels good.

Tuesday, June 1

Snacktime?

Are your loved ones plotting to eat you?

Created by Oatmeal

Monday, May 31

Miracles

I've had arthritis off and on in my joints for the past few years. When I got pregnant with Brooklyn in early 2007, I mentioned it to my obstetrician. He wanted to run some tests to find out if I had some sort of arthritic disease, but because I was pregnant at the time and any sort of established treatment wouldn't be safe for the baby, we decided not to run any tests at that time. I think he wanted me to be able to enjoy my pregnancy without worrying about diagnosing an untreatable condition, and we never spoke about it again. A few months into my pregnancy we moved to Dayton, Ohio; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Ammon died all in quick succession. The plan was to return to the doctor after Brooklyn's birth and figure out the cause of my painful arthritis, but I never got around to making the appointment in the midst of life happening all around me.

Sometime two winters ago, I finally made it into the doctor to renew my blood work for a thyroid disorder. I mentioned to my general practitioner that I had struggled with intermittent arthritis for several years. She was of the opinion that the problem could possibly be tied to my untreated thyroid hormone imbalance, and recommended that I take the prescribed medication for three months and return for more blood work if the problem didn't resolve itself. At the end of three months, the arthritis was still persistent, but once again-I put off making the appointment to see what was causing the problem.

In July, I was single-handed packing up our townhouse to move into the house where we currently live, and as a result I was forced to go through the detritus of my life with Ammon. It was an extremely stressful and emotional period, and my arthritis flared again. After spending several nights unable to sleep, I finally broke down and through tears-made an appointment to see my doctor.

The results of the blood work came back within a few days, and they were devastating.

The rheumatoid factor was elevated in my blood work-a key indicator of rheumatoid arthritis-a debilitating, incurable disease that runs in my family. There are a host of other disease possibilities-including some forms of leukemia-and none of them are pleasant.

I sat in the parking lot at Kroger one sunny afternoon, and listened through a haze of pain and grief as the nurse on the other end of my phone recommended I seek out a rheumatologist for treatment. In that moment, I made one phone call-to my in laws-and sobbed bitter, angry, mournful tears.

It wasn't enough that Ammon had been taken from us, it wasn't enough that I was being asked to raise our children alone-now it appeared as though my health would be stolen from me. I was beyond comfort. It was one of the lowest moments since the sheriff stood in front of me and told me my life was over.

Between when the nurse called to deliver the blood work results and when my appointment with the specialist came, my doctor called back. Sometimes, she said, arthritis can be caused by a Vitamin D deficiency.

"Come back in for more blood work" she said "It's probably just a vitamin problem, and we can put you on a supplement to fix it. Don't go to a specialist yet."

I grabbed the life preserver she threw me, and held tightly to it. I made phone calls to everybody I could think of-calling in every spiritual favor I felt was owed to me.

"Pray for me" I begged. "Pray that this is a vitamin problem, not a disease."

We picked a day, and asked everybody who was aware of the problem to spend the day in fasting a prayer that the second round of blood work would come back showing a severe vitamin D deficiency. I spent several days in hopeful but guarded prayer-begging, pleading, and beseeching for deliverance from this set of problems. A few days later, another nurse called to deliver a second set of blood work. To my horror, she informed me that all of my vitamin and mineral levels were within normal range, thereby canceling out the possibility that my painful arthritis was anything other than a terrible, unnamed disease.

I was deflated. I couldn't believe that after everything our family had been through in the past 18 months, that God would choose not to answer this prayer. I had been arrogant enough to assume that I was 'owed' this blessing-that I had earned it through surviving young widowhood, that my faith had secured my health in order to care for my family. Ignoring the many prayers on behalf of our family threatened my sanity and hard-won spiritual balance. I wallowed in depression and sorrow for a few weeks until the appointed time for my appointment with the rheumatologist.

Two days before my 27th birthday, I had a series of xrays done on all my painful joints, and an exam by a Cincinnati rheumatologist who is among the top in his field. In a curt manner, he informed me that through his physical examination and all the xrays, he could find nothing wrong with me.

I left his office bewildered.

I have had less than 5 arthritic days since then.

Here is what I have learned: God doesn't always answer prayers in the way we ask. Sometimes, He goes above and beyond. Sometimes when we're praying for a vitamin deficiency, He chooses to lift the problem entirely.

Sometimes, we don't know what we're asking for.

Always, He knows what is best.

How grateful I am to be His daughter, and to know that He is in charge of my care.

Wednesday, May 19

Tuesday, May 18

Closer

I wanted to post a quick reminder that our trip to Utah is getting closer, and every little bit helps. Thanks to all those who have contributed so far-you're amazing, and I'm unbelievably grateful! If anybody wants to donate, the widget on my sidebar is secure and linked directly to my Paypal.

Saturday, May 15

Chocolate Chicks

I want to write a blog post about these shoes, but that's an odd place to start. I suppose I shall try the beginning, because rumor has it that is a very good place to start...

I had a party last night. Every few months, I invite basically every woman I know to come to my house with their favorite chocolate dessert. We all sit around noshing our hearts out and gossiping about the state of the world, and everybody generally has a very good time.
Shoes have never entered into the picture before, unless it was people removing them on the way in.
Actually, I lie. Last time I had a party, two women were wearing smashing red flats with their jeans, and they were adorable. I bemoaned the lack of flat red shoes in my wardrobe, and rejoiced to find some on clearance shortly afterward.
I love my red flats.
I was barefoot last night, and so were many of my friends. I was wearing some jeans that reached me through the hand-me-down grapevine (thanks Susanne and Mary!). They're trouser pants with a good creased down the front, and pocket slits on the front. They're long on me-long enough that I generally wear high heels with them to dress them up, but last night I decided to let them just be annoyingly long.
So....at some point during this party...you know, the one I'm writing this post about?
Anyway, at one point I had to go upstairs for something, and I noticed that somebody had deposited a pair of smashing open-toed pumps at the base of my stairs. Now, there are several other shoes-fans that I befriend, and I have become accustomed to not being able to wear their shoes. I admire them, I covet them, I appreciate them-but I can't borrow them. I have a 7 1/2, they usually wear somewhere in the neighborhood of a 9. As such, my first question when I saw the lovelies on my basement floor was:
"What size are these?"
Be still my heart-they were a size 8. And they were gorgeous-practically BEGGING me to try them on...so I did. I wore them up and down the stairs a few times, and I comfortably waltzed around the basement while teetering on them. They are a bit large, but nothing I can't manage. I've certainly suffered more for a cute pair of shoes-these were comfy in comparison to some others I've worn!
Now, here comes the fun part: a little while later, the woman who came to my house in possession of these beauties said the unthinkable:
"I'm really not a shoes person."
Be still my heart.
"They make you so much happier than they make me."
I can't breathe.
"Somebody gave them to me anyway."
Catch me, I'm falling.
"If you have a pair of flip flops I can wear home, you can have them."
I passed out, and couldn't be revived for several minutes.
I (kind of) tried to give them back. I (sort of) attempted to talk her out of it. But she (kindly, generously, foolishly (?)) persisted.
The shoes are living at my house now, and I couldn't be a happier woman.

Friday, May 14

How?

I registered Kadon for kindergarten today, and I can't help but wonder. How did my sweet baby boy go from this:

and this...
and this...
and even this...
to THIS?! And how in the world do I make it stop?!
They're growing up so fast, and as anxious as I am to see how they develop and learn new things, there will always be part of me that wants to hold them close and keep them sheltered and tiny. They are so very sweet and precious to me, and Imarvel that I get to be their mommy.

Wednesday, May 12

Heat

My mother in law, Mary spent some time at our house at the end of last week, and on Saturday morning she and I were sitting around the kitchen table chatting and telling each other funny stories. At one point, one of us must have said something hilariously funny, because we both were able to get a good, hard laugh.

"Did you know that laughing supposedly burns 17 calories a minute?" Mary informed me.

"Yes, and did you know kissing burns 14 calories a minute?!" I countered.

At this point, Jeremy had entered the room. My inquisitive 1st grader asked us what a calorie was, so Mary and I spent a few moments explaining to him that a calorie is simply a measurement of heat-1 calorie is equal to the amount of heat it would take to break apart 1 g of any specific substance.

His brow furrowed in thought, he pondered the definition of a calorie for a moment. Mary and I looked at him, waiting for it to all make sense in his head. After a moment, he finished processing and asked a question:

"So....does that mean if you kiss too much you get overheated?"


Of course, once Mary and I burned at least 100 calories of laughter apiece, we assured him that indeed-kissing too much would certainly overheat a person.

Someday he'll learn just exactly how astute his observation was.

Tuesday, May 11

Sisters

Just because this picture makes me smile.

Monday, May 10

Little Girls





Whatever happened to sugar, spice, and everything nice?

Sunday, May 9

Angels

I've written several times about Ammon's pseudo-adopted brother John and his family. John is a family friend from New York days, and over the years has become a huge part of our family. I am honored to be included as a family member in their eyes, and even though Ammon and John were formed in different bodies out of different genes-they were brothers in every sense of the word.

Two weeks ago, John's family was involved in a car accident on the interstate. Two other cars lost control next to them, and the van that John's wife Janice was driving ended up on the bad end of a mini-cooper and the concrete interstate barrier. It was raining heavily that day, and Janice told me later that in her efforts to avoid being hit, her van started to lose control and they were fishtailing down the interstate. Janice was certain that their van-containing Janice and the 5 children-would flip. Miraculously, it didn't. Even more miraculous-with the exception of some back and neck pain, a few seat belt burns, and some bruises-everybody in the car was fine.

Over the next few days, many errands were run and phone calls were made. In conversation with her five-year-old son Jarin one afternoon, Jarin made a startling proclamation. Janice was recounting her fear that the van would flip when Jarin piped in "That's when the angels pushed our car." Startled, Janice asked for clarification. "Angels? How many angels?" Jarin, deep in thought, answered after a moment: "Five".

I know there are people who read this blog who don't believe in angels, but I do. I believe they're all around us, and I only had one question for Jarin when I heard this story. "Did any of the angels look like Uncle Ammon?" Jarin couldn't remember, but together Janice and I marveled at the miracle of protective angels and the likelihood that my husband had been one of them.

Yesterday, John and Janice attended the temple in the morning, then drove to my other sister in law Angela's house for a family birthday celebration. Once they arrived, John pulled me aside and with tears in his eyes, told me that while he was in the temple that morning, he had received a powerful witness that indeed their had been angels that protected his family that day. Furthermore, he also knew that one of them was his departed brother.



Today is Mother's Day. I was sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast while the kids puttered around in their various breakfast activities. The kitchen was bustling with noise and activity, and my mind wandered over the conversation I had with John yesterday. Suddenly, I received an overwhelming feeling that not only had Ammon protected our family members that day-but that he is present much more often than that. It's been a long time since I strongly felt his presence-but I'm certain that Ammon was in my kitchen this morning. Through new eyes, I looked at our children. They have grown so much in the last 2 years and 4 weeks. Jeremy had just turned five, Kadon was barely three, and Brooklyn was a tiny 6 month old creature who was still wearing newborn clothes. Now the boys are robust and school aged and Brooklyn has morphed into a walking, talking toddler. Usually when I reflect on how much the kids have changed since he left us I end up feeling cheated, sad, and angry. This morning I am certain that although Ammon hasn't been present in the more traditional way-he hasn't missed a moment of his children's lives. He has been here watching all of us every step of the way, and has helped where he could. Like a group of mighty angels that have the power to hold back a van careening out of control-Ammon has been guiding and protecting our family.

I still miss him deeply, but I am also fiercely proud of the life we've built without him. We have truly made lemonade out of the batch of lemons that were dealt to us, and we will strive to continue doing that forever. It's comforting to know that he is on our side. It's comforting to know-without a doubt-that he is protecting us and those around us. I'm grateful that John and Janice's family was kept safe-but right this moment I'm even more grateful for a testimony of angelic presences in our lives, and for the surety I have that my beloved husband is one of them.

Wednesday, April 21

Whataya Want From Me

I heard this song on the radio this afternoon on my way to school, and was struck by how much it sounds like a theme for my life these days.


Whataya Want From Me
-Adam Lambert

Hey, slow it down. Whataya want from me?
Whataya want from me
Yeah, I'm afraid. Whataya want from me?
Whataya want from me?

There might have been a time
that I would give myself away
Oooh, once upon a time I didn't give a damn
But now, here we are, so whataya want from me?
Whataya want from me?

Just don't give up, I'm working it out.
Please don't giv ein, I will let you down.
It messed me up, need a second to breathe.
Just keep coming around.
Hey, whataya want from me?
Whataya want from me?
Whataya want from me?

Yeah, it's plain to see (plain to see)
that baby you're beautiful
and there's nothing wrong with you.
(nothing wrong with you)
It's me, I'm a freak (yeah)
But thanks for lovin' me
cause you're doin' perfectly.

There might have been a time
that I would let you slip away
I wouldn't even try
But I think you could save my life.

Just don't give up, I'm workin' it out.
Please don't give in, I won't let you down.
It messed me up, need a second to breathe.
Just keep coming around.
Hey, whataya want from me? (whataya want from me)
Whataya want from me? (whataya want from me)

Just don't give up on me.
I won't let you down.
No, I won't let you down.

(So hey) just don't give up
I'm workin' it out.
Please don't give in,
I won't let you down.
It messed me up (it messed me up)
Need a second to breathe.
Hey, whataya want frome me?

Tuesday, April 20

Chip In

This is the post where I brazenly and shamelessly beg for money from my faithful readers. I have this overwhelming desire to take my family to Utah this summer. In July it will have been three years ago since we moved here, and most of my family hasn't seen us since we left the west. Of course a few of them came out for the funeral two years ago, and I made a brief trip back with just Brooklyn a few months later, but I want to take a real vacation.

I started counting pennies a while ago, and I'm coming up short. Family members have offered to help where they can, but we still need some funds to be able to make the extended trip home over the summer. 4 plane tickets cross country don't come free, darn it! I'm hoping if enough people donate small amounts, that it will add up to an amount large enough for us to be able to travel this summer and visit everybody westward yonder. So....c'mon, go dig in the sofa! Find some pennies, and help us travel to the land of sunshine and Bear Lake Raspberries! I posted a widget in my sidebar-all money will be securely deposited into my PayPal account, and if you end up giving something, please comment and let me know so I can properly thank you!

Sunday, April 11

2 Years

I don't know why I stepped away from my blog. I know I put my head down and trucked along, and that somewhere along the way I forgot to record every minute detail of my life here. Eventually, the more I stayed away and the less I blogged-the easier it got to stop seeing my life as a series of blog posts. To see my stories as anecdotal blurbs to amuse the masses who stop by here daily.

At some point, I stopped being a blogger, and I'm not sure why.

I'm also not entirely sure why I'm deciding to come back today, of all days, but I know that I didn't feel right about letting another milestone pass by without chronicling it in the method I know best.

Must husband died 730 days and 4 hours ago. To those of you who are far too lazy to do the math, that works out to 2 years + 4 hours. In the days leading up to this odd milestone, I was snappish. I was irritable, cranky, and easily annoyed. Of course, some days I am that way even when grief milestone aren't approaching, but this time I chose to blame the impending 11th on my foul temperament. Aside from a couple rough days on Thursday and Friday, the day marking the end of my second year as a young widow was pretty non-descript. The kids and I woke up this morning leisurely, and they shuffled downstairs to watch cartoons while I made blueberry muffins and Amish friendship bread. I showered after breakfast, and we all got dressed and attended church together. After several hours of meetings, we transferred ourselves home and enjoyed a few hours with family.

It was a nondescript, non-painful Sunday afternoon. Barely any mention was made of Ammon-minus a brief period where I requested divine intervention on the a green wedge during Trivial Pursuit. He didn't come through with the answer for me, and we laughed as we tossed around jokes and one-liners. It was a good day, which feels a bit odd in a way.

In Sunday School this afternoon the teacher was talking about Joseph of the Egypt, and how his life took on unexpected turn after another. First his brothers sold him into slavery-which seemed awful. Instead of ending up as a slave for the rest of his existence, though, Joseph ended up becoming the 2nd most important man in Egypt, and held a position of great power and wealth during a time of great famine and struggling.

"What experience have you had in your life, that initially seemed bad, but ended up being for your good?" the teacher asked. "Would you be willing to share it with us?"

I sat in the back row, newly released from working with the children and attending Sunday School for the first time in many years. My mind mulled over my life, and since Ammon was at the forefront as usual, I pondered what his death means in my life after 2 years.

I'm still not sure I'd qualify it as a 'good' thing, but the strengths I have gained are undeniable and plentiful. The experiences I have had and the friendships I have made have contributed to a rich tapestry that I would never have spun otherwise. I've always been a silver-lining kind of girl, and I'm grateful that personality trait hasn't diminished.

I posted on Facebook this morning that 2 years ago my sweetheart had left us for a different type of journey. As expected, I received a great deal of response, but I want to share a few here that especially touched me:

"...You have found incredible inner strength in your journey, and I am always so impressed by your attitude..."

"...I can't think of a single person who could handle your life with as much grace and strength as you have. You are one of my personal heroes! God bless you and your precious family today and every day!"

"...I hope today you are able to find some peace among the tears..."

"...remember we are all here for you, and we love you..."

"You are an inspiration to me every single day."

"....I continue to pray for you and your little ones."

"Ammon is sooo proud of you, he knows that you will be together again and loves it that you keep the vision of what is really important."

And my very favorite, from a boy who has re-entered my life in a new and different way:

"...remembering a great friend, a wonderful father, a faithful husband...Ammon, you are sorely missed!"

There were 34 comments on my Facebook post today, only a brief snippet of which I shared here. I received phone calls and expressions of comfort at church today. I-WE-are so very loved, and we gain strength from these numbers. It is such a blessing, and my heart is overflowing with gratitude for a peaceful day.

I know, I teased you with mention of a boy. Someday I'll share that story too, but right now I'm too busy trying to figure out how to let my heart open again.

Sunday, March 7

Rarity

I was at a church function a few weeks ago, and was introduced to a young widower by a mutual friend. In conversation, she turned to me and said something along the lines of "I thought it would be good for you two to meet, because being widowed at your age is so rare."

"Actually, it's not as rare as you might think." I calmly informed her. She looked at me, somewhat surprised, and the conversation quickly dropped.

I've thought a lot about that comment since then, and the perception-shared by so many-that being widowed at my age is rare. I think it's a common perception, and I understand the desire to believe that as a whole, young people don't die. Of course, I know that to be a falsehood-a myth that is hurtful and alienating. Since I became widowed nearly 2 years ago, I have learned that there is a vast network of other young widows surrounding me. I have met them everywhere-at school, at church, at the grocery store. I'm part of a large online network geared specifically toward young widows, but I have come across them in almost every other walk of my life as well.

The young widowed don't talk much. We rarely go around shouting about our status, and oftentimes I will know somebody at least casually for quite some time before we will discover the bond we share. I've noticed that the times I am in a group of young widows, we occasionally have people ask why we are together. The response is almost universally the same-the questioner stands silent waiting for a response, while the widows shoot looks at each other and weigh possible responses. Almost always, somebody will offer a half-truth, and attempt to leave the crimson 'W' out of the equation entirely. People-as a whole-are uncomfortable with death. It's like the question-I understand why people want to know how he died. It fills a need for the brain to categorize and make sense of something that doesn't make any sense at all. People who haven't been touched intimately by death don't want to think about the ease with which a human body can cease to sustain life. Those of us who HAVE been touched by death are too aware that a single moment can steal away life. I envy the naivete of the un-grieving. I wish I could go back to the days where bad things happen to 'other people'.

Every day we hear about traffic accidents. You can't turn on the news or open a newspaper without reading about a murder, an industrial accident, or some other terrible event. How many people die from cancer every year? How many heart attacks? Strokes? Every single one of these deaths leaves somebody behind. It's easy to grumble about an accident that ties up the interstate and disturbs our evening commute. What I can't forget is the family whose lives were just shattered. I'll never forget driving to Tennessee last June for a camping trip with the boys and a group of young widows. Alongside the interstate, I passed by the aftermath of an accident.

Burned into my memory is the sight of the the red minivan on the side of the road. The emergency crews, for the most part, were gone. I can only speculate about the inhabitants of the vehicle based on what I saw. In the back of the van, the detritus of a family vacation was piled above the seats. Sleeping bags, stuffed animals, pillows. The windshield of the van was smashed in a way that sent my heart into the pit of my stomach-smashed in a way that ends lives and destroys families. With my heart in my shoes, I pressed the accelerator and quietly gulped back tears while we went along the road, muttering a fervent prayer that the inhabitants of that vehicle-and the family of who wasn't there-would be okay.

Every time an ambulance comes screaming up behind me on the highway, or drives past in the opposite direction with lights and sirens blaring, I say a prayer for the family that now has unspeakable sorrow to bear. I've been at the scene of the accident, waiting for the ambulance to come and work a miracle. For many people, the sound of an ambulance screeching into existence would bring about relief-for me the thought of an ambulance pulling up near me gives me enormous anxiety. Ambulances, fire trucks, and Sheriff's cars bring bad news. They accompany death, heartache, and pain.

These accidents-these illnesses-these nameless people who die quietly of cancer or heart failure in the hospital downtown-they each leave behind a family. A wife, children, siblings, parents. I wish with all my heart that being widowed at my age WAS a rarity. Unfortunately, it's entirely too common, and there is nothing-NOTHING-I can do about it.

It's Perfect

Right now these are cooking in the oven, the kids are downstairs playing, and the sun is shining. I get to go to church today to learn and be uplifted.

Today couldn't be much more perfect.

Saturday, March 6

Early Gratitude

Dear Early Spring,

You are the season who answered my plea from the other day. In response you brought us three glorious days of this:

in a row, with a few more forecast.

My heart sings with gratitude, Early Spring. My soul delights in stark shadows on the ground and the need for sunglasses in the car. This morning I sat outside on my deck and basked in your warmish rays.

Thanks for your quick resonse, Early Spring. Please stay for a while-make yourself at home, and make all the plants, trees, and flowers come to life.

Gratefully,
Me

Thursday, March 4

Children

I've been thinking a lot about these little people who live in my house.

The other night-late-I took my garbage and recycling out to the curb for pickup early the next morning. As I was walking back to the house I heard a loud, angry voice cutting through the early morning silence. My next door neighbor was screaming obscenities at somebody in his house at 1 am. He was screaming loud enough that I could clearly make out the F-bomb sprinkled liberally in the tirade.

This man is mentally unstable on the best of days, and everybody on the street knows to steer clear of him, and how to know when it's time to call the police to come calm him down. This man is also married, with 3 children ranging in age from about 2 to early teen. The child I know the most is a girl a year or 2 older than Jeremy. They play together outside frequently, and she has been to our house a few times. The other two children-the older and younger-are boys. The wife is always gone, doing who-knows-what, leaving the mentally unstable man home with the children most days.

I don't know a lot about what goes on in their house, but I know that children's protective services have been called several times, along with the local police department making approximately quarterly visits to the home. Legally, it seems that nobody is able to do anything to help this family in crisis.

Standing on my front porch that night listening to him scream, I thought about his children. I imagined them huddled together in one bed, listening to their parents fling vicious words at top volume. I imagined those children trying desperately to sleep through the violent anger, through the dismal existence they lead. I hurt for them. I included them in my prayers, and I have thought of them almost nonstop since that night.

In turn, I've also thought a lot about my children. I know I complain a lot-about my life, and how hard it is being a widowed parent. When I came back in the house and got ready to crawl into bed that night, I woke Kadon up and asked him to come sleep in my bed. I curled around his sleeping form and stroked his curls. I listened to his breath go in and out of his lungs, and relished how his legs fit perfectly in the bend between my knees and my waist. I smelled his breath; the vestiges of bath odors clinging to his hair; the warmth of his soft cheek.

I thought about my children, and how much I adore them. For all the things that are wrong in our household, I know my children will never huddle together in bed at night, wondering when the screaming will stop. Instead, they will huddle in bed with me-fighting for covers and pillow space. We will tickle, and giggle, and fight over who gets to hold the popcorn bowl.

It is so incredible that I get to be their mother. It occurred to me the other day that for at least the next few years (and hopefully far beyond that!) I get the distinction of being their very favorite person in the world. My children are lucky to be surrounded by a great group of people-they have friends, aunts, cousins, and grandparents who adore them fully-but I am the favorite. Given the option between me and anybody else in the world, they will choose me every single time.

The parents out there know how heady this is.

I love that when they're hurt, they reach for me. I love that when they color a pretty picture at daycare or make a valentine at school, they bring it to me. I love when something is unfair in the world, they look to me to fix it.

I am their favorite.

It's intoxicating.

And I ache for the children who don't get to have a favorite, who have nobody to make valentines for and nobody to snuggle with them at night. I wish I could fix things for them, and show them a way out of the darkness that they're living in. I don't like feeling helpless.

Sunday, February 28

Hoping

Dear Seasons:
See this? I need some. Badly.

I'm starting to forget what it looks like, because I haven't seen it since October.
I'd also really like some of these. They're colorful, nice-smelling, and make me want to go outside and wander around aimlessly.
I even understand that to get these, I'm going to have to put up with a lot of this:

and I'm okay with that. I accept the natural order of things, and have no issue with the transitions between seasons.

I just really, really need to be done with this:
Thank you.
Love,
Me

Saturday, February 27

Thank You

I woke up Brooklyn last night.

I was laughing so hard, so uproariously, in the living room that she stumbled out-bleary eyed-and smiled at me before she climbed into my lap.

I finished watching what I was watching, and ushered her back to bed.

I'm watching it again today-you guys should too. It rocked my world.

Jimmy Fallon says Thank You

Thursday, February 25

Big Brother

I've been trying to get Jeremy into a Big Brother relationship for a while now. I printed off the paperwork months ago, filled it all out, and mailed it in. I received a call from somebody at the office a few days later informing me rather tersely that I had sent the forms to the wrong office for my county. She said I had to call back and get the new address so I could print out new forms and mail them off again. Apparently she was completely unable to forward my already completed form on to the right office-but whatever.

Of course, then life got in the way for a while, and I kept forgetting to re-do the forms. Honestly, I was a bit turned off by the somewhat nasty message left on my answering machine from the organization, but a couple weeks ago I mustered up the gumption to re-do the paperwork, print it out again, and bring it upstairs. It sat in my kitchen-taunting me. Today I finally sat down-forms in hand-to call the office and insure I had the appropriate address to send the paperwork to.

Another woman answered the phone and I said brightly: "Hi! I'm interested in getting at least one of my son's enrolled in your program...."

Before I could finish, she interrupted me: "We're not accepting boys right now."

"You're not?" I asked, incredulous.

"No, our waiting list is too long." she curtly replied.

"Um.....okay? Is there no other organization that could help me?" I ventured, a bit put-out.

"There is a larger office in town, but they're only taking boys who have a father that is incarcerated."

Long pause.

"You're kidding me. A father who is dead doesn't count?" I asked, completely incredulous and extremely irritated.

"No, only incarcerated fathers. Is there anything else I can do for you?" She asked in a fake attempt at being helpful.

I was beyond irritated at this point. I tersely replied "No. That just seems incredibly backward. But whatever". And I hung up.

Here's the website: Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Cincinnati. You find this as backward and outlandish as I do? Give them a call. Write a letter. DO something.

I have friends that have been involved with BB/BS in the past-as mentors. I know the program is not meant to run this way. I'm disgusted that in my own city, this is the treatment that a TEXTBOOK CASE of a boy who needs mentoring is given.

If this bothers you, write a letter.

I know I will be.

Update:
After a suggestion on Facebook and some encouraging from a friend, I decided to contact a local news station. I spoke to a woman who promised to do some further research and get back to me. I'll keep you posted if it turns into anything-but she seemed as shocked and flabbergasted with the information as I had, so I'm hopeful.

Wednesday, February 24

Doctors

I hate waiting for doctors to call me back.

I still haven't heard anything from the doctor about the x-rays that Brooklyn had done last week, even though I've hounded them nearly every day. Yesterday afternoon I called and found out that the people from Radiology at the site we went to hadn't even faxed the results of her x-rays to our pediatrician. I'm beyond annoyed-and left a message for the radiology department saying as much. I left them alone today, but I'm going to call again tomorrow and demand some answers. It's been almost a week people, this is a little bit ridiculous.

***************************************************

For the last 2 nights I have actually gone to bed at a decent hour. The schoolwork seems to be letting up a bit for now-must be the calm before the storm. Finals are in about 3 weeks, so now we're in 'cram it all' mode where the professors scramble to get all the information in our heads before the quarter ends. It's always this point in the quarter where I start to get extremely weary and feel like I'm hanging on-white knuckled-just waiting for the ride to be over. I can't wait for spring break.

**************************************************

Last night I took the boys to a grief group that we attended very briefly the spring that Ammon died. It's a group geared specifically toward children aged 3-18, which means I have to find a babysitter for Brooklyn while we attend the sessions two times a month. The boys seemed pleased with it when we went almost 2 years ago, but I found it horrifically overwhelming and quickly made excuses to myself for never going back.

Fast forward to now, and the kids are all struggling in their own ways with our still new 'normal'. Kadon has developed a temper that is flash-fire and intense. I'm not sure how much of it is related to age, temperament, or grief-but I feel like it's important to explore every opportunity and avenue available to us to get the problem resolved. I don't expect miracles overnight, so I know we need to commit to attending this group for at least the foreseeable future before anything good will happen. We're blessed to have an amazing group of friends who are willing to help make this possible, which is a major incentive. Last night neither one of them had much to say other than 'it was fun', and 'Can we go back', but I wasn't expecting much more than that. For now, I'm satisfied to be moving in the right direction to deal with their ever-changing grief cycles.

Monday, February 22

In my Dreams

I know I'm over winter when I start dreaming about spring.

Last night I dreamed that I was standing outside-the sun was shining, there was a bit of chill in the air, and I was standing next to a bush.

I stood next to it and stooped to look at the branches.

There were small, green buds on each and every branch of that bush.

Y'all, I could have danced around. You'd think it was Christmas and I'd just received a new car.

THAT is how tired I am of winter. It's even creeping over into my DREAMS.

Sunday, February 21

Potty Talk

The final days of diapering have arrived in the Fellows household. Brooklyn has been ready for this milestone much longer than I have-she had pottied for everybody-daycare, YMCA, family, and friends-before she finally pottied for me and I was forced to face the truth. Diapers, in many ways, are easier than being potty trained. If she needs to go during a trip to the grocery store, no biggie if she's in a diaper. Suddenly, the small porcelain appliance has become central to my existence. Where is the closest one located? When was the last time she went? Do I have spare clothes? Did I remember to ask her if she needs to go?

We started training about a week ago, and so far it's gone pretty well. People that have been friends with me for many years will shake their head in disgust to hear that. Cosmically and karmically, I'm due for a tough-to-potty-train child. The boys were easy-they both trained earlier than many of their peers, and with very little fuss. There was a minimum of accidents, and after the first couple of days staying home and near a toilet, the process was pretty much complete. I had prepared myself for Brooklyn to be much more complicated even though technically and generally speaking girls are supposed to be easier. Fortunately, it didn't turn out that way. Other than the fact that for the first 6 days of training she refused to make any contributions other than the liquid variety, her training has gone well. Tonight she finally made a solid deposit, so I suppose the next hurdle to clear is consistently staying dry while she sleeps. I'm of the 'panties during nap, diaper at night' mentality, so that makes things a bit easier.

I must admit, though, one plus to potty training her: the darn little girl panties. I'm used to boy underwear. I'm used to Spiderman, Batman, and Thomas the Train floating through my washing machine. Wide waistbands, the fold over pocket in the front-utilitarian underwear. Little girl panties are another story entirely. They are pink, they are frilly. They have lace, flowers, and pretty designs. They have tiny little waistbands, with sparkles sewn into the elastic. They are all my favorite colors. Combine little girl panties and fill them with a little girl behind-and I'm nearly overcome with the cuteness of it all. I suppose that even though the porcelain statue has become central in my existence for a time, the cuteness of the bum will make up for it.

Saturday, February 20

Getting it Out

I've got some thoughts rolling around in my head, and I need to get them out. Maybe this will become an actual blog post, maybe it won't. It's a quiet Saturday afternoon, and while I have a few semi-quiet moments to think, I need to sort through some things.

As I said in my last post, Brooklyn has been a bit preoccupied with the concept of 'Daddy' lately. She has asked for Daddy a few times when she's been frustrated, and has begun pointing at random men and asking "Daddy?"

"No, not Daddy." I always assure her.

Brooklyn knows Ammon through pictures. She really has no concept of what a Daddy does, what it means, or what he could provide for her. I think she's starting to realize that this concept of 'Daddy' as a male figure is something that other kids have and she doesn't. I don't think that i bothers her, really, other than she is starting to become aware of the difference. This has been a milestone that I have known was coming, but I didn't expect it so soon.

When Ammon died, the boys had a solid concept of who he was, what having him in our family meant, and most of all-what they had lost. From there it was left up to me to explain the concept of death to a 3 year old and a 5 year old. It was difficult, but at least I had a baseline to work with-they knew who daddy was. He was here, now he's not. He was nice, he was fun, he loved me-we miss him.

Brooklyn has no baseline. She has no idea of who daddy is or what it means to have one. How do I even explain this to her? How do I make her understand something that she has never had, when she is still struggling to understand the idea of toilet training? Her speech and comprehension are blossoming, but these are two concepts that she's not ready to understand. In some ways-and I know many people probably won't understand this-I don't want to explain to her who daddy is. See, if she has a full idea of what it means to have a man who loves her, plays with her, and shares our lives, then she'll know what she's missing. If I gloss over the daddy idea, but don't go into details, she doesn't hurt. No daddy is her normal-I don't want to shatter that. I don't want to make him real for her, show her how much he loved her, make her understand how our lives would be different if he had lived-and then rip it all away by having to explain death to her. She's too little. I'm not equipped to deal with this. I knew grief would be delayed for her. I knew she would experience all the stages as she got older and comprehension dawned, but I thought I had more time.

********************************************************

Dating. Dating has been on my mind a lot lately. I posted here some months ago about being 'ready' to date-whatever that means. I've dated some since then, but not a lot-and nothing really successful. I've tried to force myself out into the Mormon single adult scene-and the scenery leaves much to be desired. I've ventured into the online dating world, and 'met' some very nice individuals, but nobody that sparks my interest or makes me want to go any further than an occasional email. In all of this, I've done a lot of thinking. What is wrong with being single? Other than the occasional fiercely painful bouts of loneliness, I have pretty much accepted my lot in life. I'm lonely-of course I am. I wish Ammon were here, but he's not. I wish I had somebody to share my life with, but I don't. And here's the thing-I have worked so hard at being self-sufficient, at creating a life for me and the kids, at healing, at grieving, at learning to live again-and I'm very, very good at it. I HAVE grieved, and I AM healing. But because I've been so efficient at it, I'm starting to wonder if I've left room in my life for anybody else to be a part of it.

Being in a relationship or a marriage takes a lot of compromise. It takes time, energy, effort, and thought. It's not easy to constantly take the feelings and preferences of another human being into account at all times. I was one type of woman when I was married to Ammon, and now I'm not that woman anymore-I've become a different Victoria entirely, and I'm not even sure at this point how Ammon would fit back into my life. Oh sure, I'd make room for him. I'd alter, he'd change, and we'd choose to mesh again. Somebody else? I don't know. I've built a life for our family-a full, happy, productive, and bursting-at-the-seams-with-activity kind of life. I honestly don't know if I'm ready to give up any part of that to settle down with somebody else.

As difficult as they've been to find-and I've spent a long time searching-there are perks to being single. I get to do whatever I want with my time. My weekends are my own, my money is mine to spend, vacations are up to me entirely. Dinner is my choice every single night. Don't feel like cooking? Pizza it is. Don't feel like doing this dishes? They can sit in the sink. Want to stay up until 2 am chatting on Facebook? No problem. And there are bigger things-things that I couldn't even explain to somebody who hasn't walked this path before. I'm lonely now-but the opportunity for somebody else to hurt me, to leave me-it's not here. I wonder if it's my defense mechanism. If I never let anybody else in, if I never fall in love again, then nobody else can die and break my heart again. If I keep my soul intact and hold it close to myself, it can't be ripped apart again.

Don't get me wrong-I know firsthand how good it feels to let that compromise in, to let my heart open, and to share my soul. I get it. I did all of that with Ammon, and they were the happiest and most fulfilling years of my life to date. This life, however, is fulfilling in a different way. I like to think that I'm not emotionally closed off. I still love my kids fiercely, and I'm a pretty open book when it comes to my friends-especially those that I have come to share this widowed path with. I also like to think that for all my blustering about the perks of being single, I'm open to the idea of changing it. After Ammon died I thought I had a good idea of what kind of man I was intent on finding. Now those boundaries are pretty fuzzy. There are still character points that are indisputable, but for the most part the rest of him is a fuzzy image I can't quiet wrap my eyes around. I don't know if he's a figment of my imagination or a premise of things to come, but I'm trying to accept things either way.

I've been told I'm too young to accept being single for the rest of my life, and maybe I am. I don't look too far in the future these days-the next couple of years is plenty to keep me occupied. I have a 3 year plan-I know that I want to graduate in 2013, and I know where ideally I would like to transplant my family when my degree is complete. It's a loosely formed structure, but it works for now. It gives me direction, it gives me a starting point, and I guess I'll figure out the rest as I go along. I don't see myself growing old alone, but maybe this season is one I will spend in a solitary fashion. Going to school, raising my family-maybe I wasn't meant to share those things with somebody else. Maybe once all those things are passed and I have a more flexible life somebody else will fit in easier. Maybe not.

I'm not going to lie-it's scary, it's lonely, and it's frustrating. I started to type that I'd give every bit of this new life up to have Ammon back-but halfway through the sentence I realized that's a lie. That realization, in this moment, takes my breath away. What wouldn't I give up? My strength. My self-reliance. My education. My new friends. In losing Ammon, I have gained these things. I'm sitting here, staring at the computer screen asking myself: if I had the chance to get Ammon back, but I had to go back to being that girl, would I? Would I choose to keep this life, and live it without him-willingly?

Wow. I don't know.

What a realization a few minutes of typing will find for you.

Maybe it's the fact that I know-with every fiber of my being-that he is waiting for me. Choosing to live this mortal life without him only delays our union in the hereafter. If I can learn such amazing things in this life-but can do so only without him by my side....is it worth it? I'm so grateful that I had the chance to know him. To love him. To be his wife, and the mother to his children. He formed the woman that I am today in every way. He formed me by loving me, and then by leaving me. His presence or lack thereof has formed and shaped every facet of who I am, and who I will remain for the rest of my life. No, Ammon is not gone. I am not without him-we are woven too tightly together to ever be separated. Maybe it is for that reason that at least in this moment, I think I might have the strength to accept the trade off and choose mortality without him. Maybe this is a glimpse of the moment when we made the agreement to come to this earth and accept our fate. I've believed for a long time, sometimes begrudgingly, that Ammon and I sat down together in the life we had before we came to earth. We reviewed the options, and we considered seriously what we were being asked to do. I believe we knew-our heavenly, eternal selves-that we would be separated in this life prematurely. I think we knew the pros and cons, and weighed them carefully before agreeing to come here and go through with the plan.

I think we knew how much it would cost. It would hurt. We would suffer.

I think we also knew what we stood to gain. To learn. To endure.

I think we chose this.

Wow. Maybe that realization is why I needed to sit and sort today.

Friday, February 19

The Olympics Stole My Free Time

Seriously. They did. I have a series of updates, hopefully I can remember them all. I'll do them in whatever order they occur to me, which could perhaps be a very odd post. Enjoy!

We've had several-and by several I mean 4 and 2 delayed starts-in the last 2 weeks. 2 WEEKS, people. And in those 2 weeks Jeremy had a silly 'mid-winter break'. In essence, he attended school roughly 4.5 days in the last 14. Yeah, it's been a little hairy at our house. My classes have been canceled 3 times, which has stressed me out almost to the breaking point. In elementary school you get a snow day and it's no big deal. In college, you get a snow day and the information gets crammed down your throat in less time-but you're still responsible for knowing every bit of it. My class schedules have been compacted, tests have been shoved in every direction, and professors are frantic to cover everything in the three weeks we have left until finals. It's been fun...or not.

On the plus side, I have freakishly developed arm muscles from shoveling snow.

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Brooklyn has been sporting a dry cough off and on all winter. She has been diagnosed with croup at least once, and has had a series of ear infections since November. I had her into the doctor several times before Christmas, but finally gave up trying to keep up with the constant stream of illness. One of the issues (benefits?) of receiving a medically focused education is the fuel it adds to my 'I hate doctors' fire. I know it's a bit backward, but I am really beginning to feel that most people are horribly over medicated, over treated, and immune systems are undervalued. Most of the time, illnesses and infections will clear up on their own. Not all the time, of course, but most of the common childhood illnesses that our young kids are afflicted with aren't worth a trip to the doctor. That being said-the last week or so I have suspected that Brooklyn has been showing symptoms of the same asthma illness that Kadon has had in the past. I have the machine, I know the mechanisms for treating it, but my medication is expire. I decided to go ahead and take her to the doctor so I can get a new prescription for the steroid I'm most familiar with. While there the doctor listened carefully to my concerns and quickly agreed with my home-diagnosis. She also looked in Brooklyn's ears and declared an active infection in one, and offered antibiotics (which I declined). I was surprised when she listened to Brooklyn's lungs and informed me that they sounded suspiciously like they are harboring fluid-a sure sign of pneumonia. The doctor asked me to take Brooklyn to the nearest children's radiology clinic to check out the status of her lungs, and I complied on my way home. Despite the fact that aside from a somewhat troubling cough Brooklyn has been acting completely normal, I'm still a bit anxious to get the results. At this point it is Friday evening, and I know the earliest I will hear from her pediatrician is Monday, so I will be watching her carefully and using my own stethoscope in the meantime to make sure she doesn't get any worse.

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Unless you've been living under a rock for the last week, you're well aware that the Winter Olympics are taking place in Vancouver, British Columbia. I've wasted nearly every evening in front of the TV, ensuring that my already precarious school situation has fallen even more behind. Really, I should be completing a chemistry assignment right now instead of watching the Men's Super G competition and blogging.

I'll get right back to homework. Just give me a minute, I swear. Just one more race?

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Valentine's Day was never a big deal when Ammon was alive. I don't remember what we did our earliest years other than a rose he bought me the first year we were married. After we started having kids, I know we usually made it a point to stay home, and I'd make a nice meal for dinner, then we would enjoy a good dessert after the kids went to bed. I didn't anticipate that this year would be any different-I don't remember struggling with it last year, I wasn't prepared to feel grief this year. Honestly, I suppose this year wasn't full of soul-crushing sadness either, but I did feel a sense of loneliness that grew as the day went on. I attended church on Sunday, and seeing all the happy families, the affectionate husbands, and the stolen glances-I shouldn't have let it all in. I've healed so much in the last 22 months, but I'm still adept at looking away from affectionate couples. I'm happy for them-especially if they're showing outward and heartfelt affection, I know they appreciate what they have together. Most of the time, though, I choose not to see it. I look away, I walk away, I pretend I don't notice. On Sunday, I found myself paying more attention, and more than a sadness that it was Valentine's Day and Ammon wasn't there, I found myself longing for normal days. For normal evenings, where we could curl up on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and a movie. The holiday wasn't anything special, but missing Ammon was a painful tinge to it.

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During one of our snow days, I took the kids sledding. We had gone to this hill once before and had an excellent time, so I thought it was a wonderful idea to take the kids and go back. I don't know if I didn't bundle up Brooklyn enough or if she was as fed-up with all the snow as everybody else is, but she didn't handle the trip well the second time. Almost from the moment we got there, she cried. She demanded that I hold her, and even when I went down the hill with her on the sled she cried at the bottom. The boys were having a wonderful time, so I finally sat down on a snowdrift, unzipped my jacket, and nestled her into my chest with my enormous coat wrapping around both of us. She stuck her cold hands underneath my arms and huddled her face into my chest, crying the whole time. She was asking to go home, for a blanket, for a hug. After a few minutes I heard "I want Daddy". Brooklyn has heard Kadon say this in the past-usually in anger or frustration, and clearly it has made an impression on Brooklyn.

It hurt-so much-to hear my little girl ask for something she doesn't even understand. Daddy is only a concept to her, an idea that is loosely formed in her head. She has no idea what wanting Daddy means, or what he would provide for her.

Yet another way that this new life isn't what it's cracked up to be.

Thursday, February 11

Dreary

I hate Cincinnati this time of year. For months, and months, and months, and months, and months, and MONTHS, we get nothing but grey, dreary, overcast skies. Everything is shrouded in dim light. I could drive with my headlights on a noon for DAYS on end. When I flew to Florida a few weeks ago, the first thing I noticed as our plane lifted off the ground was the cloud cover as we rose above it. Above that there was a most amazing sight-THE SUN! The rare days that the sun comes out here, I realize I've forgotten what shadows look like. It's not bad enough that it's cold-the kind of cold that cuts through layers of clothing-but it's dead. The excess plant life in this part of the country is breathtakingly beautiful in late spring and summer, and vibrant in the autumn months. When all the leaves are finished descending in November, though, everything reverts to dead. Dead bushes, bare branches, empty flower beds. Usually, there's not even enough snow to cover everything up and make it pretty, so all the 'dead' is laid bare.

This time of year is dreary. It makes me cranky. And honestly-may be the main reason I end up leaving Cincinnati permanently. I love living east of the Mississippi, and really have no intention of ever living on the other side of it again, but I need to get more south than I am here. There are scant few things that I miss about Utah, aside from the people, but the near-constant sunshine is one of them. Even on days when it's windy, snowy, and bitterly cold-the sun shines in Utah almost every day. In my imagination, I have transplanted my future family to the northern part of South Carolina, or the southern part of North Carolina. It's on the eastern seaboard, it has mountains, forests, and the humidity I have grown to appreciate. There are still 4 seasons, but none of them are especially extreme. The best part? SUNSHINE!

I need the sun to come out, weather people. Please? I feel like I might lose my mind very soon if I don't see some shadows.

Wednesday, February 10

Snow Days

We had the most delightful snow day yesterday. I knew it was forecast for a pretty large accumulation overnight, and had really hoped-so I was thrilled when it came through. The kids and I spent the day shoveling, sledding, cleaning, baking, and hanging out with friends and it was the most delightful break from the daily grind! I knew more snow was forecast last night, and hoped for a second snow day...but I wasn't specific enough in my hope, apparently. Jeremy got to stay home from school, but I still had to go in. I'm glad to have had at least one day to relax, and great friends to spend time with!

Sunday, February 7

Super?

Today is the Super Bowl. This Sunday has always been a big deal in our family, and we've thrown a party every year for as long as I can remember. I wrote about the last big one we threw here. It was the last year we were in Utah, and was incidentally the day I found out I was pregnant with Brooklyn. For the Super Bowl the first we were married, we got together to watch the game with Travis and Christina, who would become and remain close friends over the years. We've had large parties and we've had small parties, and the first year we lived in Cincinnati we had no party at all, because we didn't know enough people. Last year, I couldn't watch it at all.

This year, our favorite team is playing in the Bowl again. It starts at 6:35 EST, and should be in full swing by the time the kids go to bed. At this moment, I'm still uncertain if I can bring myself to watch it. I stopped at the grocery store last night and considered getting some traditional Super Bowl snacks, but I didn't. It just wouldn't feel like a party to sit here and watch it by myself. I even briefly tried to find some people to come over and watch it with me, but I suspect those phone calls contributed to my malaise of the past two days so I'm not going to attempt that again.

All in all, it's another milestone, and I feel like it's a turning point-either I watch the game like I have every year for most of my life, or I miss it yet again-and set the stage for missing it in years to come. This grief journey is tough. It's hard, and there are no rules. I wish that a simple football game didn't give me cause for such reflection, but this is my life. I know if I don't watch it I will be letting the grief win. I know if I do I will sit on the sofa and long for Ammon.

Really, there aren't any winners.

Saturday, February 6

Sunshine and Snow

As always, the sun came out, at least metaphorically speaking, this morning. Actually, it started to poke it's rays around last night, and its warmth was a welcome distraction from the pain I spent most of the day wallowing in. It's been a long time since I had such a grief-filled day. I had worried, in some small compartment of my brain, that that meant I was getting over his loss and betraying him somehow. I know now that yesterday was a reminder that his loss is still with me-it still hurts, I still long for him, and I haven't forgotten him. I hate that it has to be painful to feel those things, but I suppose it's the name of this game.

It snowed last night, just enough to give us snow to play in, and enough for me to shovel. We're all getting bundled up to head outside, and I'm going to spend some time just 'being'. The sad day I took yesterday hasn't completely worn off, but it's bearable now. I'm grateful for that.

Friday, February 5

Fading

I wrote this on my widow support group a little while ago. I know I've been neglecting this blog-life has gotten away from me again, and I feel like I'm in a constant struggle to maintain an even keel. Last night threw me for a loop, and I'm still reeling.

It will be 2 years for me in April, and last night was one of those nights that was filled with such crushing loneliness that I could hardly breathe. I cope well most of the time-really, truly well. I am enrolled full time in school and I'm busy raising our 3 young children. I manage to juggle all my responsibilities and I have seen photos of myself where real joy is evident in my eyes-not the fake kind from that first year. I know I've thrown my head back in honest, throaty laughter-but last night I was sucked back into a place of grief and loneliness. The worst part of it was when I tried to pull the memory of him close-I found that bits of him have faded away. His memory, the sound of his voice and the memory of his touch have been like a warm blanket that I could pull around my shoulders, especially that first year. I kept his voice alive in my head, the things he would say kept a running commentary on my day. However, as I've gotten further out from my loss and learned how to live again, I've let some of those things go. He is always with me, and I think about him every day, but he isn't necessarily always keeping a running commentary on my day. I don't reach out for him at night anymore, and frankly-I don't know if I really remember what it felt like to make love to him.

I'm torn-I feel like 'letting him go' is a necessary part of healing-if I work hard at keeping his touch and voice alive in my head, I don't know how I could bear the pain of not having him here. If I keep how much I love him, and how much I miss him front and center in my life, I can't function. I don't know how much choice I've had in the pieces of him I've lost-but I feel like in letting them go, I've betrayed him. I cried last night, for the first time since I stood on the beach after the rose ceremony in Ft. Lauderdale-and they were the loud kind of sobs I was afraid would wake the kids. In the midst of my wails, I realized it had been months since I cried like that. What does that mean? Does it mean I'm healing, and it's healthy? Does it mean that so much of him has slipped away that I'm not even actively grieving his loss anymore? I know-logically-that I love(d) him with all my heart, but if I've let the sound of his voice, the light in his eyes, or the smile in his face fade away, does that mean I don't love him as much as I thought?

I know-logically-that this is all part of grieving. I know that I'm certainly not the first widow to struggle in the chasm between active grief and whatever lies beyond that. I have grieved my love in the most healthy way I know how-but I fear now that in the healing, I've lost who he is. Little things I can't remember, touches that have faded away. Like I said-if I didn't let these things go, I don't know how I could bear the pain. But now that they're gone, I don't know how to go on without them.

Thursday, January 28