Tuesday, August 31, 2010

these are a few of my favorite (utah) things...

returned late sunday night from a wonderful 2.5 week vacation. well, three vacations in one, actually. laundry is {almost done}, fridge is stocked, leah's back in school, bags are unpacked and we're slowly creeping back to normal. lots to catch up on...including, but not limited to...some of my favs from this wonderful trip...

family...two angelic 12+ hr. car rides. seriously...
old friends...new friends...
friends who are getting really old (i mean aging)...lush utah grass...10 years of memories...visiting old apartments without having to live in them...
clean teeth...ample time to read...cafe. rio.

Monday, August 30, 2010

how i do it.

Three and a half years ago, almost to the day, I had an experience that made me painfully aware that we have no idea what others are going through. And it happened inside a grocery store.

I was with my mom and we had just come from her very first chemotherapy infusion. Three hours spent watching ‘red punch’ being pumped into my mom’s blood stream. This red punch was actually poison – meant to kill the other poison currently trying to overtake her body. The chemotherapy drugs would kill all fast-growing cells in my mom’s body – cancer cells are fast growing. But so are hair follicles. The nurses in the infusion suite assured my mom her hair would fall out – most likely before her next appointment three weeks in the future. But that day, her first infusion day, the day we walked into the local grocery store to pick up some additional medications for her to use in between treatments, she still had all of her hair. All of her thick, long, dark, straight hair. She had yet to take on that gaunt, pale look so many with cancer take on in the thick of their treatments. She was, to everyone who passed her in the store that day, active, healthy and happy. If I hadn’t known from where we had just come, she could have fooled me as well. On our way out, I remember smiling at everyone I passed. It was a somewhat wary smile, but a smile nonetheless – the only gesture I could think of to make everything seem okay.

Because, while standing in line at the pharmacy that cold December day, amidst pills and gels and creams and ointments meant to heal and soothe the human body and mind, I realized we never know what kind of healing those we encounter might really need. It’s not always visible. In fact, it is probably most often not visible – especially if someone is ‘talented’ at carrying or hiding his or her load.

Some people, it seems, are better than others at carrying their loads. Some complain while others praise. Some fight while others accept. Some trust in a Higher Power while others only blame and ask ‘why.’ Some ignore while others are overcome.

I’m not sure there is a right or wrong way to deal with life. To each his own? But I do know when I praise and trust and accept and live, I am much happier with my life.

I’ve had trials that, in the moment, seemed huge, but looking back, were not so grand as I had once thought. I’ve had trials that others thought enormous, but to me they were just part of life. And I’ve had trials that I struggle with every single day. And, every single day, I have to choose how I will act. Some days I choose to complain and cry and ask ‘why me?’. Other days I embrace and trust and go on my merry way. And, although there is nothing wrong with a good, hard cry, in the end I much prefer the embrace-trust-merry-way kind of days.

I figured, since I asked so many others how they do it, I should answer my own question. I narrowed it down to my top 10. Ten things that help me get through my days, no matter the content or size of my trial. In no particular order: I read, I pray, I talk to others, I smile, I simplify, I learn to say ‘no’, I remember it’s bigger than me, I cry, I learn and I run.
But today, I want to focus on smile.

Smile.

It’s such a simple thing and yet, I so often forget to do it. Or I refuse to do it. It's definitely my choice.

I don’t remember a time in my life when smiling, truly smiling, has been the wrong thing to do. Sometimes smiling comes naturally. There are days when nothing could possibly stop that grin from creeping up on my face.

But it’s those days when you actually have to work at it, when you have to make a conscious effort to un-furrow your brow, brighten your eyes and show those pearly whites, that really truly make a difference! To yourself and to others.

Like it says in the song made famous by Charlie Chaplin:

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking.
When there are clouds in the sky –
You’ll get by.
If you smile through your fear and sorrow.
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
For you.
Light up you face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness.
Although a tear may be ever so near,
That’s the time you must keep on trying,
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile,
If you just smile.

Smiling doesn’t mean sadness goes away. To me, it just means you are deciding to focus on something different for that moment. Hiding every trace of sadness isn’t necessarily appropriate in all occasions. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be mad. It’s okay to mourn, grieve or be upset. But smiling and choosing gladness over sadness shows that you understand there is a bigger picture. That life isn’t just about you. That you choose to get up and face the day just like Charlie.

I love the following quote from Elder Richard G. Scott, a leader in my church. He said, “The challenges you face, the growth experiences you encounter, are intended to be temporary scenes played out on the stage of a life of continuing peace and happiness. Sadness, heartache, and disappointment are events in life. It is not intended that they be the substance of life. I do not minimize how hard some of these events can be. When the lesson you are to learn is very important, trials can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to become the confining focus of everything you do. Your life can and should be wondrously rewarding. …That perspective keeps challenges confined to their proper place – stepping stones to further growth and attainment.”

Once in college, I participated in my own experiment. For one entire day, I decided to smile and say hi to {almost} everyone I passed. My campus had 30,000+ students, so obviously I couldn’t smile at everyone, but those whom I passed directly or had some sort of eye contact with got a crooked-toothed smile from yours truly. I have no idea if what I did that day made a difference to anyone other than me. But I do know that at the end of that day, I was happy. I’m sure the things that happened that particular day were no better or worse than any average day, but I felt much better. And you know what? People smiled back. People lost in their own worlds with their mouths facing south perked up and smiled. That made me happy. And I can’t help but believe it didn’t make the other ones doing the smiling happy too.

I have continued this experiment every so often throughout the years. Sometimes I even try to do it on the worst of days. It doesn’t take away the reality of whatever it is I’m going through that day, but it makes me get through that day. And maybe, just maybe, it helped someone else get through theirs.

Because, like I learned in the grocery store those few years ago, you just don’t know where someone has come from. And even if it’s wary, the least you can do is smile.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

how karen does it...

ok. the jig is up. karen is my mom. and i kind of...wait...really like her. a lot. and no, my name is not maren because it rhymes with karen. i leave today to come home after my 2.5 week hiatus and i've been able to spend a lot of that time with my mom. i've said lots of things about her on my blog already {here and here and here and here for starters}, so i'll keep the introduction short. but she's pretty cool. you should know that.

here's how karen {i've never been able to call her that before!} does it...



Next is the Reward for Now...

My mother was a good woman, a hard worker, and a compassionate soul. She grew up the second of nine children on a farm in southern Idaho – before and during the Great Depression. They were poor. Cardboard-placed-to-cover-the-holes-in-her-one-pair-of-shoes poor. A-lump-of-coal-in-her-Christmas-stocking-is-a-good-thing poor. And her name was Elmo. That’s right. No middle name Elmo.

Elmo married and became a stay-at-home mom to five children. She truly lived that fifties kind of Father Knows Best life; cooking, cleaning (in a dress), nurturing children, and serving neighbors in community and church. Elmo would frequently tell us that God gave her a great adult life because He had given her such a hard childhood. My interpretation of this frequent perspective? I was “kitten” (the youngest daughter from Father Knows Best). God gave me a great childhood, therefore it follows that God would give me a difficult adult life. I grew up expecting it.

Trust me. I know this isn’t how God works. But in my twenties and even thirties this God-imposed, life struggle perspective lurked in the back of my mind. In some ways it surprisingly served a helpful purpose. Because I was certain that my trials came from God, I expected that He would have a plan to get me through them. It seems to me now a bit of an odd way to learn that God loves me, not just loves us all, but loves me – personally, and that He really does have a plan for my life. While challenges are and will be part of that plan, I no longer see them as oppressive, foot-slogging struggles.

I’m grateful, truly grateful, for the challenges I’ve faced so far. They have been tailored to knock off my rough corners, to humble me, to create in me a more appreciative and grateful nature. Entering a new challenge with a grateful heart allows God to carry some (a lot) of the burden. And life is more joyful.

When I was twenty and had pretty much figured out how and what my life would be, it didn’t include working 20-hour days to put food on the table, or pretending to understand physiology (my only “B” class in high school) in order to nurse a terminally ill husband. My plan didn’t include raising four kids as a single mom or a second marriage with a blended family. My plan didn’t include breast cancer – twice.

But my plan, at twenty, wasn’t God’s plan.

I have since been more successful at drawing on the powers of heaven by seeking out God’s plan for me rather than imposing my plan on Him. There is gratifying peace in being in the right place at the right time, doing and saying the right thing because I have asked God to know what and where that should be.

The challenges still come – thankfully – because I’m not done yet. There’s more to learn – thankfully. Because if life now is challenging then eternity will be great . . . right?!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

don't forget!

just a quick reminder {um, plug} to vote for RETT SYNDROME in the Pepsi Refresh Project to earn us $250,000 for research!! we've been in 1st place for most of august and have flip-flopped between 1st and 2nd for the last little bit. keep us in FIRST!! you can vote every day online (click here) or by sending 100842 via text to the number 73774.

thanks!

Friday, August 27, 2010

how jenny does it...

this girl is going to knock your socks off...really. she's amazing. and she'll make you feel amazing too. that's just how jenny works. i met jenny in college and was so excited when she moved to a nearby city last year. jenny could take on the world and win...with a smile on her face. she's just that good.

here's how jenny does it...


A little over four years ago, with great anxiety, we sat in a delivery room waiting to meet our daughter. Samantha was not only our first child, but we also knew that something was wrong. After 17 weeks of trepidation – filled with blood tests, weekly non-stress tests, and just the agony of the unknown – I was induced for an early delivery. She was born surrounded by a team from the NICU, ready to whisk her away, but Samantha was breathing, crying…doing all the “normal” newborn stuff. She was small, a mere 5 lbs 3 oz, 16 inches long. But what the doctor and specialists had found in utero was still obvious under the fluorescent lights of the hospital room. Her head was too small.

Microcephaly: a condition of abnormal smallness of the head usually associated with mental retardation. That’s all we knew. She had a small (micro) head (cephalous). But why? No one could tell us. Three months later, we met with a geneticist who diagnosed Samantha with Primary Autosommal Recessive Microcephaly – a condition that she has due to both Marcus and I carrying the recessive gene – an extremely rare genetic condition. We were then advised us not to have anymore children. The risk was too great for another baby like Sammy. And because of the rareness of the diagnosis, they had no way to predict her outcome. Now, I want you to imagine this. Shut your eyes. No, don’t. Keep reading. But imagine your shutting your eyes…and imagine this…your dream of a big family, maybe 6 kids. You adore your husband. You are completely happy with life. You’re having a baby. Excitement! There’s a problem. Concern. Fear. Faith. Fear. Hope. Whirlwind of emotions sweep all your dreams and hopes away, and then swirl them back as you think “It’ll be fine. Miracles happen.” I really felt like everything would be fine, and in my mind, I suppose that meant that somehow she would be healthy – “normal.” Baby is born. Baby isn’t miraculously healed, but you’re feeling like it’ll still be ok. Geneticist enters scene – white lab coat, short, spiky blond hair with British accent. Smiles. “Primary Autosommal Recessive Microcephaly.” Case closed. You feel a tinge of guilt knowing it was your genes together that caused this, though no one could have predicted this. Then: NO MORE CHILDREN.

How do you feel? Sad? Angry? Crushed? Devastated? How about all of the above? Because that’s how I felt. Sad is kind of an understatement. Angry? I was pretty ticked. I was mad at our geneticist for even suggesting that my dream be over in an instant. And I was pretty turned off when she suggested a sperm donor. The idea just didn’t sit well with me. Crushed and devastated. On the way home, I let it all out. I cried uncontrollably (one of many times I’ve done so in regards to Samantha). This was a huge trial for me. I felt like not only was my child not “normal” but now I was told that I had hit my quota. We were done.

We quickly realized that Heavenly Father had a different plan for us and we obeyed. On the drive home from that appointment, Marcus said, “Jenny, we’ll adopt.” Duh! Of course. It felt so perfect, so right. And when the time was right, that’s what we did. Hurdle cleared.

I could go on and on about adoption because there are plenty of trials that come with that. But the one issue that is steadily taxing on my mind is microcephaly and motherhood. I have seen countless blessings in our lives because of Samantha’s microcephaly. Now, if Samantha had been born “normal,” Callie would have never joined our family. We would have had no need to even consider adoption. And now, we wait to have another child join our family through adoption. It has been an incredible blessing to see the Lord’s hand in bringing families together in such a way. Incredible blessing. (Interesting side note: We just found out that her head is sooo small she is considered nanocephalic and they believe she is actually a type of primordial dwarf – even more rare. There are only about 60 identified cases of what they think she has. Seckel Syndrome. The bonus of being a dwarf is that today she wore a super cute outfit of hers that I love from last year. Size 18-24 months. Yep. She’s 4.)

But, even with the blessings, some days it’s just really hard to do it. Forget about doing it gracefully, I’m just trying to get it done. To hear the crying. To guess what she wants. To feed her everything she eats. To administer medicine. To worry about seizures. To fight insurance about medication. To daily battle as I dress her. To keep her from chewing her fingers. To keep her from chewing her clothes. To keep her from chewing my in-laws’ table. To feel such heartbreaking anguish for her – that she has to experience pain and frustration on a more severe level than, possibly, the “average” 4 year old. To feel the pressure of being her mother and being the one who is supposed to bring out all of her potential into some beautiful, magical creation. Or even just to feel the pressure of making sure I don’t have the loud and inappropriate “special needs” child who is causing a raucous in church. And then to feel the guilt when I’m not doing as well as I feel I should.

Aside from a really good peanut butter and honey sandwich on buttermilk bread, there are a few things that helps bouy up my spirits and get life done from time to time…and feel really good about it during the process. I do feel like overall, I have been taught by both the Lord and Samantha, how to not only survive, but to live an abundant life – how to whistle as I work, even if I don’t always whistle so beautifully.

{Projects} This fits my personality well. I love working on projects and always have a few in the works. This is my personal getaway and inevitably, it revives me when I’m feeling unreviveable.


{Bedtime} Sometimes the countdown to bedtime is what keeps me going. Is that sad? Probably. But you know what? It’s real. Strangely, it seems that no matter how frustrating the day has been, when I’m lying in bed with Marcus discussing the day and telling him how terribly dreadful it was – or wonderful – I end up sighing, sometimes laughing, and saying “Ahh, she’s such a cutie.” Because at the end of a rough day, when she’s not around me fussing and driving me insane, I remember that she’s pretty dang cute.

{Faith} Faith in my family brings me great strength. We have such a strong extended family who all adore Samantha and Callie. That lifts my heart when it’s sagging a bit low. Faith in my loyal husband who is by my side everyday brings me peace. He’s the one who gives me the time to recuperate after a rough day. He’s the one I frequently can turn to and cry, and he gets it, or kindly pretends to. Faith that our family can be eternal and through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, will be perfected. Faith that Sammy will walk with ease, will talk one day, even if not in this lifetime. Faith in myself. Deep down, I really believe that I really can do this. Faith is among the top aids in my day to day life. I have a strong faith in our Heavenly Father’s plan. I know there’s purpose and reason for Samantha to be in our family as she is and for us to experience life with all its trials along her side. My faith in a Savior who died for us individually so that we can be healed spiritually and physically brings me great comfort. I can’t begin to explain how my faith has grown during the past 4.5 years. Through surgeries, seizures, and sleepless nights I have relied on the Lord more than ever and have felt near-tangible arms wrap around me and comfort me.

Samantha truly is a blessing in my life. She’s my right-hand lady. In many way, as short as she may be, I feel she stands much taller than I do. I follow the blog of a 24 year old Down Syndrome girl. She recently died from leukemia. Her mother shared that she didn’t know how she would go day to day without her daughter, because for 24 years they were a team. They spent everyday together. It’s a reality that I face that my little Sammers may die one day, and I’ll have to figure out how to possibly live without her. Right now, I truly cannot imagine that, nor do I want to. She is the sunshine in our life. I

How do I do it? Many days I can’t work on my projects. Some days bedtime still seems too far away. And my faith has definitely waivered. But the number one thing that keeps me going is the little girl with big blue eyes and rosy red lips. Samantha’s giggle warms my soul. Her smile makes my heart do little leaps. Her eyes tell me stories that I won’t hear in this lifetime. Her stumbling walk and awkward movements sometimes actually bring us great comic relief! She is clever and funny and really a joy to be around. Everyone loves this little girl! I want to be with her. I want to be by her side as much as I can. I want to be her Mom. I want to be her advocate. I want to tap into the potential within her and make her shine brighter than she does now. I want to teach her. I want to hug her. I want to kiss her little cheeks. I want to struggle as I put curlers in her hair. Tonight, I didn’t want to have to rock her to sleep, but as I did, I didn’t want to be anywhere else. I want her to know, even if she doesn’t understand the words “I love you,” I need to be certain that she gets it…that she feels it. I want to experience it all with her because she is my earthly angel and I’d rather laugh with her or struggle and fight than not have her by my side. Microcephaly and motherhood. Sometimes it really doesn’t seem so bad after all. Truly. That may not be how I do it, but it’s certainly why I do it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

how denise does it...

i've known denise my entire life. all 28 years of it. mostly because she's my aunt. ok, entirely because she's my aunt. i know you're not supposed to have favorites when it comes to family, but, well...denise is in the running. and i get to see her today! she has 5 of the most beautiful daughters you have ever seen in your entire life. ever. i'm not kidding. i have a semi-front-row seat to their life, so i know they're not perfect, but i so love how they lift and support one another and try to be the best versions of themselves they can be. denise doesn't mention any specific trials in what she has to say today, but i can assure you she has endured trials you can hope to never ever encounter.

here's how denise does it...


I am not sure than anyone really “overcomes” trials and tribulations. Rather we can learn to endure them and endure them well. There are times in my life when I have just existed, and from experience, enduring is a lot more productive and fun and stems from an internalized, anchored testimony of the reality of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Without the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the power of God unto salvation, I would be in a fetal position in some forest. As I come to understand the Plan of Salvation, I take strength in knowing that all I endure is part of the Plan and that God is over all. In my youth I foolishly thought I had control over every aspect of my life. I learned that, although there are many things my choices affect, ultimately God is over all and I am nothing without Him. My power and control is dependent upon my submission to His Will.

After a lifetime of “practice” I cling to some basics:

{1} I take strength in the Holy Scriptures. More often than not they are written just for me. The Doctrine and Covenants and challenges the early saints faced speak to my heart especially, like D & C 98:14, and D &C 122:5-8. My testimony of Joseph Smith is founded on an admiration of his solid trust in the Lord amid trials indescribable.

{2} I find church music – instrumental, hymns, modern – fill my soul and replace my negativity and doubt with hope. I struggle with destructive thoughts and by replacing them with words and chords that permeate my soul, I get through those times. There is no going “around” them. My latest favorite is “Just Let Me Cry” by Hilary weeks. It is nice when someone can articulate what I am feeling. Makes me feel “normal.”

{3} When I have tried to do my best, done all that I can do, pondered, analyzed, and dissected situations as much as I have time and energy to do, I think of Proverbs 3:4-5. Funny how there are some scriptures that play through my mind repeatedly. It is about believing Christ and the power of His atonement and not just believing IN it. Trite but true. The atonement is all encompassing.

I have a favorite quote:

“…We need to understand how the Atonement works in our behalf, not only for our sins but also for the suffering that comes in so many other ways….The Atonement was also wrought on behalf of the illnesses, sicknesses, and afflictions of the world…when we understand the eternal purpose of pain, trials, testings and unjust criticism, our souls begin to expand. We develop glorious, tender traits of kindness, thoughtfulness, and understanding. We more easily empathize with others who suffer as we have done. We realize how fragile life can be. We learn to understand the delicate balance that weighs sometimes for, sometimes against us. The Lord gave his children resiliency….”

--Vaughn J. Featherstone, The Incomparable Christ Our Master and Model


When I insist on “suffering” after the Lord has suffered all, what does that say to Him?

{4} D & C 101:16, Psalms 46:10..."Be still and know that I am God." Patience is truly a virtue…a spiritual gift I long to develop. It is when I allow my will to be swallowed up in His that I feel a peace I long for. He loves my children even more than I do. He is watching over me and my family. He wants us to succeed. He has not left one thing undone for our eternal welfare.

Why should I mourn and think my lot is hard? Tis not so….All is well!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

how danielle does it...

this week i'm visiting an old friend. we met in college and she's one of the few i always see when i go home. i like her that much. she's a darling person. a darling mother. a darling wife. a darling friend. she always seems to have her head on straight and her focus in the right direction - even though she would probably tell you otherwise. she's one of the most capable people i know and her attitude is out of this world spectacular. she's a good cook, a great crafter and, to top it off, an incredible athlete. she won a race once. won it. and there were lots of people running. and four summers ago, when she was very pregnant, she lapped me every morning in the pool. i would have minded more if she weren't so darn fun to be around.

here's how danielle does it...



Perhaps it is in my female nature to find a little therapy in listing my woes or spilling my trials into a sympathetic ear. I am not particularly whiny, but I find a little relief in relating a little of what I have “endured” in my 18 hour days. Some of the best play dates are not those in which the children play peacefully together (ha! yeah right) but those in which we moms top one another’s horror stories of badly behaving children, bodily fluids, and/or late night hours. I rarely hesitate an opportunity to retell the dreadful details if it brings the opportunity to relate or bond with another.

Consequentially in preparation for this particular ‘assignment’ I immediately began scheming of how to put all other trials to shame. I feverishly began with: the common hardships, those obvious to others, the physically challenging, personal and specific, and finally the secret and even embarrassing ones. Ultimately anything I considered challenging or demanding earned a spot on my list. I lost my momentum when I realized Maren did not ask for a compilation of our sob stories. As I reconsidered “How do you do it?” I even felt a little deflated. It honestly took me a few weeks of consideration. In this time I found I welcomed the opportunity to swap the horror stories for a little personal inventory and in this time I even made a few many changes.

{Prayer}

Watching my 3 year old Laneah go through 3 surgeries has been a trial. The actual physical part of this I can not claim as my own trial and this made it all the more heartbreaking. Despite this, I can specifically remember instances in which I felt an overwhelming surge of peace and calm. The understandably panicky thoughts swirling through my brain, and the worries concerning the general anesthesia and the eye muscle surgery were strong, but were calmed under the blanket of surety and clarity.

Prayer in every form was truly the source of strength in this trial. It was stressful and overwhelming in those months of eye patching and appointments all ultimately leading up to surgery but the peace and calm was stronger. I felt the power of others’ prayers, Priesthood blessings, and fasting as Laneah went through not only this eye muscle surgery, but another one a year later. One month after, Laneah had an emergency surgery to fix a badly broken arm. Ultimately I found myself on my knees often as I struggled for strength and peace. This trial, more than anything, has helped me learn the true power of prayer.

{Priorities}

The opportunity/challenge/death sentence recently came for us to become the managers of the apartment complex we are living in. The benefit was saving money while Brandon finishes his schooling. The cons ranged from giving up our personal space and privacy, to night and day work for 100+ units, attempting communication with a high percentage of foreign refugee residents, and finally to keeping two active kids homebound from 9am-6pm everyday. And this is the short list. I won’t lie. This. Is. Really. Really. Hard.

To say this first month has been exhausting is the understatement of the year. I am a slave to the knocking door and ringing phone, am always learning from (embarrassing) trial and error and I feel like I am in constant frantic motion while I juggle mommy-ing, homemaking, and managing. After the daily chaos my nights are packed with email correspondence, filing and faxing. I dream of late rent checks, angry maintenance men, and endless ‘to-do’ lists. Through it all I find myself despairing- “how am I going to do this?”

The only way I am surviving (not quite ‘thriving’ mind you) is remembering my priorities. For me, this means daily scripture study and prayer, quality time with my kids and husband, simple house keeping and daily exercise. And that is it. When I do have a spare minute I am learning how to jump to the most important, rather than the easiest or the most convenient. Reading to my kids, really listening to my husband, truly studying my scriptures, finding things to be happy about , and squeezing in just 30 minutes of something active is not very easy some days. In between door knocks I try to read to Adelle rather than hastily scour my favorite food blog. When I do have an uninterrupted 30 minutes I want to have some ‘special time’ with Laneah even though I am mighty tempted to tackle my ramshackle closet. It isn’t easy for me. But as my time is being taxed I am realizing what is most important. I am learning how to cling to the priorities and let go of everything else.

I miss reading at night, my perfectly cleaned and organized apartment, my already meager 7 hours of sleep, the audio books on my iPod, long leisurely phone chats with my mom, structured mornings, lazy pajama days, cooking new recipes, running any errand at anytime of the day, scrapbooking, socializing with friends, going to book group and playdates, and enjoying long ‘boring’ afternoons. Of course there is always a time and a place for these things and I won’t say no to a girl’s night, or an hour at the park. But I am learning how to say ‘no’ to what can wait while I focus on what really needs attention. During the day I make a thousand teeny tiny choices and each time I give up a non-essential, I find I am stronger and more driven to my true priorities.

Although daily I am tempted to curl up under the covers and feign a coma, I know I will come out on top if I keep my priorities in order. I could be a rock star apartment manager if I wanted to. And I will still try to do a good job. But my true managerial efforts, my tap dancing energy, my singing in the shower happiness, and any positive ounce of hope I have will first be spent in strengthening my testimony, in teaching and loving my children, in learning and growing with my husband, and in taking care of my physical self so that I can continue to do these things. One of my favorite future memories will be reflecting on the times we spent here, chuckling about how we survived this and that…but I don’t want to live looking forward to ‘one day.’ I want to enjoy the here and now - trials included. I want to ‘one day’ look back and be thankful I lived for what was most important.

Monday, August 23, 2010

how shannon does it...

i met shannon just a few months ago. but i already know we're bosom friends. and not just because she, too, likes anne with an e. but it's a good start. she's interesting and fun to be around and probably one of the kindest people i've ever met. i kind of want to be like her. so glad she's telling me how to begin...

here's how shannon does it...



The following post is an excerpt taken from an “ah-ha” moment I had. You know what I’m talking about; you’ve had them before, too. It is the moment that something you are wrestling with finally makes sense, begins to settle and lets you be still. At this “ah-ha” moment in time, I had been struggling with feelings of anger regarding a family tragedy that had taken place three months prior. This is my story of letting go:

I've been thinking lately about an event I attended my junior year of college. Chieko N. Okazaki was one of the speakers at this forum. So many of her thoughts left an impression on me that day as I listened to her personal stories, but one lesson in particular has been reverberating inside this past week: "I know two things: There is a God. You are not Him."

This is a sobering statement for me. There is a God, yes. I do believe that. I am not Him, of course. Thankfully. But setting these logical truths aside, I find myself sometimes slipping into the false illusion that I have all the answers, know the full story, understand the entire layout. I allow myself to feel a sense of justification for judgment; to withhold my forgiveness; to harbor anger and resentment. And by so doing, I unwittingly place myself in a position that I am ill prepared and unworthy to be in--that of an omnipotent and all-knowing Being. This, I’ve found, is dangerous ground.

Dangerous because in all actuality, I am nowhere near all-knowing. I understand that I (and everyone for that matter) have been blessed with perspective, but it is certainly not all-encompassing, or all-seeing--and that perspective is subject to change via the different moods I encounter. I cannot read all hearts, see all sorrows, or even understand some of my own, let alone perceive true intention and judge indiscriminately the actions that take place around me.

So what is with me trying, against all odds, to place judgment or inflict permanent labels on those who I feel have wronged my family, myself or even simply the way things should be? Haven't the slightest. It's sickening, really, to feel that weighty burden. To really think that this is my duty, or obligation. To be pinned down with the awful, self-inflicted responsibility of judging and exacting justice. I cannot tell you how many times over the past few months that I have wept from the empty and dark feelings of hatred and worry in my heart. It has been, quite frankly, exhausting.

But to be reminded by this simple statement--that there is a God, and I am not Him--is the most freeing truth I have ever felt. I can place my burdens willingly at God's feet and find the solace of His hiding place. I can trust that because He is omnipotent, and all-knowing, He will do what is best and heal me in the process. For sorrows too heavy to bear, for anger that would harden into bitterness, He promises rest.

In her book, Corrie Ten Boom pleads with Jesus to carry the burden that she could not, and it worked for her. She felt lifted and freed and healed from the damage she endured. This healing did not come from some mental illusion, but from a true source of higher power. When I read her book a few months ago, I tried this, and it worked in a wash-me-clean and lift-me-up kind of wonderful, wonderful way.

But then time went by, and I forgot to keep allowing Jesus to carry that burden. I oh-so-graciously took it back, and consequently, once again felt the dark and bitter fruits of going at it alone. I had been clinging to the burden, and drowning in its sorrow and resentment, when this simple statement (along with millions of prayers and the second chapter of the book of Mosiah in The Book of Mormon) gently reminded me of this one fact: that mercy hath no claim on me if I do not allow it in my own heart.

So, here I am, handing my burdens back over to the One whose arm is outstretched, still. And do you know what? It is so freeing. Because He is God. And I am not. And for me, that is enough.

Sources Cited:
"Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom" Chieko N. Okazaki
Psalms 27:5
Matthew 11:28
"The Hiding Place" Corrie Ten Boom
The Book of Mosiah, Chapter 2
Jacob 6:5

Sunday, August 22, 2010

how anonymous II does it...

i love anonymous II too. she is honest. she is genuine. she is true. she is strong. she is one of the hardest workers i know and such a great friend. and i love her even more for being willing to share this story simply to help others out there who might be struggling with her same problem.

this is how anonymous II does it...



No one has ever asked me how I've done it, because no one knows I've had to do it. No one but my husband, and he was the reason I had to "do it." So I'm asking myself--how do I hold it together while helping my husband through an addiction to pornography?

To many people on this earth, looking at pornography is no big deal. In our faith (and for many who share our sentiments), it falls into the category of having "sexual relations" outside of marriage. It is very serious and something we covenant not to do.

When my husband and I were dating, I felt prompted to ask him if he had ever looked at porn. He painfully told me the truth--that he had struggled with it off and on since high school, and that he still looked at it occasionally. He felt ashamed. I was crushed. This was the man I wanted to marry. I had to decide if this was something I wanted in life. We talked. He promised to stop. He talked to our church leaders. He stopped. He promised.

Fast forward a couple years. We were happily married. I asked him about it occasionally, and the answer was almost always that he was doing great. Every once in a while I would find something on the computer or just feel prompted that he was hiding something. He would admit that he had relapsed and looked at porn. I would cry. I would shut down. I would feel so hurt, so betrayed. I was disgusted.I couldn't look at him, talk to him, change in front of him. I had shared my life and body with him, and only him. He in turn looked at other naked women. He couldn't explain why. He knew it was wrong, but he couldn't stop.

For anyone who thinks pornography is not an addiction, I would ask them to reconsider. Ask anyone who looks at pornography on a regular basis to give it up cold turkey and forever. They won't be able to, because it is an addiction. It is like drugs. My husband learned this the hard way, and I in turn struggled in the wake of his addiction. My only consolation was that, no matter what, if I asked him about it he would tell me the truth. He never came forward on his own because he was so terrified that he would hurt me or, even worse, that I would leave him. He was scared, but he always told the truth when I asked. At least I knew he wouldn't lie to me.

I told him I didn't want to have kids with someone who looked at pornography, because pornography addiction leads down a slippery slope and often leads to cheating and divorce. Who would want to bring kids into that situation? He agreed to start going to an addiction recovery program through our church (link: http://www.providentliving.org/content/list/0,11664,4177-1,00.html). Things were going great. He made progress. The program was a huge blessing in our lives and we both highly recommend it. It helped me understand his addiction. It helped me see things from his perspective. Seeing him turn to our Heavenly Father for help made it easier for me to do the same.

Our lives continued. We were happy. I continued to ask him about it on a regular basis over the next couple years. The answer was always the same--that he was doing great. That he hadn't looked at it. He promised. One day I found something on the computer and he assured me over and over that it wasn't his. He promised. He promised that he hadn't had any problems whatsoever. I wanted to trust him, because "at least I knew he wouldn't lie to me." I broke down and told him I refused to be one of those poor wives who blindly believe their husbands while their husbands lie behind their backs. That was not the life I signed up for. He broke down. He admitted that not only had he looked at porn, but that he had been lying to me when I'd asked about it.

Do you know what it's like to have your husband lie to you to your face? Do you know what it's like to feel stupid for believing him? It hurts. It rips a hole in everything you have known. Everything you have built your life around. Then you find yourself in a dark hole wondering what else he's capable of lying about. It's hard to forgive. It's hard to trust again.

So how have I done it? My husband is a very good person. Everyone who knows him can attest to that. Everyone loves him. Because this was my husband's struggle, it wasn't mine to talk about. In order to do so, I would have had to divulge his addiction. He wasn't ready for that. He was ashamed. He beat himself up for hurting me over and over. He didn't want that to be the thing for which people remembered him. Out of respect for him, I kept it between the two of us. I felt alone. I didn't have anyone to talk to. No one to give me guidance. No one to tell me it would be okay.

I turned to my Heavenly Father. Many times did I sob and pray for comfort. "Please help me stop crying. Please help me understand this. Please help me know what to do. Please help me have the desire to forgive him." I know it was my Heavenly Father who helped me through time and time again. He helped me understand the addiction and separate it from the way my husband felt about me. I could see my husband trying to fix things. Trying to improve. Trying to leave this horrible beast in the past only to be beat down by it again and again. It was also through prayer that I came to the realization that this problem started long before I knew my husband, which helped me to never have the terrible thoughts that maybe I was the problem. That maybe I wasn't pretty enough. Maybe he wasn't happy with me. Heavenly Father helped me keep these false sentiments far away. He helped me see that it wasn't my fault. It was something my husband had to endure, but not because of me.

Luckily for me, I have always had a very strong self-image. One day it clicked and I walked up to my husband and told him how amazing I was--I was educated, I was smart, I could sing, I could play sports, I could play the piano, I had a good relationship with Christ, I was attractive...I went on for a long time. I was anything but humble. I told him that I am amazing and that he needed to treat me as such. I didn't deserve this. (I think I needed to hear that more than he did.) Then I cried and went on to tell him how amazing he is. He didn't deserve to have his life ruined by this addiction. There is so much more to him. This does not define him. I vowed to help him and love him and stand by his side forever. All I asked in return was honesty. I felt peace in my heart.

We have an amazing relationship. Things are going well. We have been blessed with children and are very happy. No one would guess that we have struggled with something so painful. I trust my husband. He is my life. I am his. Even so, we are very much living in reality. We know this beast could show its ugly head in the near or distant future. That's the reality with addiction. I have come to accept this.

I asked for his honesty and he asked for my support. We both ask our Heavenly Father for help. We talk about it often.

That's how we do it.