Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Hands

Today while driving Claire to dance class, I found myself unexpectedly choked up in tears.

She was holding my hand, and then started to feel my bones and look at my fingernails. She was pushing the skin together (“I’m making your skin have wrinkles, Mom.”). 


I found myself thinking—and I told her about—how I used to play with my dad’s hands when I was a little girl. The veins in his hands would sometimes get big—like mine sometimes do—and I loved to sit by him and push them around, play with them. 

At the same time, Claire and I were listening to a song in the car by Lori McKenna that I love titled “You Won’t Even Know I’m Gone,” and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s a song about a mother who’s preparing so that when she’s away, her children won’t notice her absence.

“I pray that every prayer I pray will reach you, every wish I make will keep you safe and warm.
And may God forgive the things I do that put one mile between me and you—
To thine own self be true, to thine own self be true.”

That is a prayer I hold for my children, and it’s probably dad’s prayer as he cheers us on from where he is.

And it is in these little things that I find him—the smell of pie baking in my kitchen, the feel of dirt on my fingers as I plant geraniums, a particular hymn, the way I rock a baby, a favorite carol, a late night grocery store run. He is with me when I rake leaves and make apple butter in the fall, as I listen to conference, when I carefully place years of tradition on my Christmas tree. I could go on and on.

Dad, I do feel your absence.
But you are also here every day and I love your hands and the ways they were used—your talents, your hugs, your time, your service—to bring so much love and goodness to my life and the lives of others.
You are in us and through us and a part of us.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Achy Heart

Ralph died last week and was buried next to his bride.

Every day, I look at his house across the street.
It is the same, and it will never be the same.
(Ralph reading Stegner to me, in the car)

Ralph's son, Ron, read a little verse by Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of Ralph's favorite poets, at the service. 

"Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you."

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Car Talk

Tonight I was thinking again about something Claire said to me last year when we were driving to dance class.
We were listening to Drew Holcomb's song "Wild World," a favorite of mine.

And there's a lyric in the second verse that goes like this:

"Whether or not you pray, black or white, straight or gay,
You still deserve the love of your neighbor."

Well. 

We're driving along and we come to that part of the song.
And as soon as those words are out, Claire, without skipping a beat, 
said out loud, with emphasis:

"Of COURSE you do!"

I love that she said those words, and I've thought about that little moment so many times.

I hope these four people in my care grow up to be good humans--people who treat others with kindness, respect, love, and compassion.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

October 4th


Saying goodbye to him was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but cancer doesn’t ask your permission. 

Today marks 5 years since my sweet dad passed away. I miss him; I’ll always miss him. So many of the things I love were instilled in me by this man. Thank you, Dad, for pointing me toward good things, blessing me with your love and gifts, and making my life so much more beautiful, so much the fuller and richer. 

After dropping my kids off at school this morning, I drove to the cemetery by myself and sat in front of the dark granite stone that marks your grave on this overcast, cool, rainy day. I listened to your arrangement of “Abide with Me” on the way. That hymn is inseparably connected to you in my mind, and its message comforted me again: “Change and decay in all around I see; O, Thou who changest not, abide with me.” 

The knowledge of loving heavenly Parents, an atonement, and a greater plan sustained me through losing you, and the difficult, unexpected turnings of events in my personal life in the months that followed. 

I love you, Dad, and I’m thinking about you today. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Grieving and Gratitude

Sometimes you want to write about something for a long time, but every time you try words fail you. 

Such has been the case for me over the last while when I've tried to come up with the right words to talk about my friendship with my neighbor, Ralph.

We’re 50 years apart, he and I, and the dearest of friends.
He is dying of bone cancer, and I’ve been swimming in tears this last week.

Tears of sorrow, yes, but also tears of gratitude, for they reflect the richness of the friendship that exists between us.
As I said to him earlier this week: 
How does one adequately express appreciation for a friendship that has meant so much? 

You can’t; all you can do is take a stab at it.
This man has been a beloved grandpa to my kids and like another father to me. We have laughed hard together, cried together, sworn together, shared calories together, gone to church together, talked about life and death and love and gardening and faith and poetry and books and ideas and our families. We've had a lot of good times.
He has taught me so much by his example.
He has encouraged, listened, blessed, understood, taught, cared, taken the time for, loved, and served me and my kids again and again and again in the most kind and thoughtful ways. 

appreciate him more than I can say and I will dearly miss him.

How do you tell somebody what a difference they’ve made in your life?
Once in a while God blesses you with a friendship that forever changes you. 

Dear Ralph, I love you so.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

August 29

Mornings and evenings the last few days have been glorious
I can feel fall in the air and 
it's waking me up.

This morning, work was me on the deck with some pebble ice, a little George Strait in the background (just listen to "I Just Want to Dance With You" and try not to do the salsa, and here's a shout out to "You Don't Know What You're Missing"), my computer in my lap, and a breeze in the trees.
Then I went for a run and soaked up 
some sunshine. 
Hashtag simple pleasures.
Hashtag feeling oh so grateful. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Our Gifts Don't Have to Be Perfect

I've just spent a chunk of time reading some blog posts from 2011. 
My gosh, it makes me miss my own life!
 I've been walking down memory lane (as I lie in my bed) and realizing, again, how much I love what I do every day.
Today, though, my life feels 1000% times more busy than it did then.
I don't spend lazy mornings writing letters with the kids 
or admiring pirate ships in the neighborhood on morning walks in October. My boys aren't 5 anymore; they're turning 12 and will be ordained deacons next month. (Insert: What. Is. Happening?)
I'm sending my baby to kindergarten this year. She's ready and confident and happy.
I work now, for pay, something I didn't have on the plate years ago.
Life has gotten busier as the kids have gotten bigger, which seems ironic, right? I mean...they actually become more independent than they were in younger years. Shouldn't I have more time, not less?

I'm totally aware that these four hearts are growing up fast.

Just tonight, I was shutting down lights and checking locks and realizing that my boys probably have 7 more Christmases at home, including this year.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again:

I would do this thing again, in a heartbeat. Being a mother has been the greatest 
privilege of my life.

I was watching a friend's Instagram story yesterday afternoon and thinking what a beautiful childhood she and her husband are giving to their two small children (3 and 1). 

So I messaged her and told her.

I'm going to quote the conversation at this point, because I want to share something I've learned in my mothering journey. But it's actually really something I have learned over the last few years of my life--in the wake of losing my father to cancer, having my husband leave, going through a divorce, trying to pick up the pieces, accepting huge changes, beginning the journey of being a single mother, starting a job, and?

Just. trying. to. juggle. everything. 

These years have been exhausting--in basically every way. 

But honestly? 

They have also been the deepest and most beautiful years of my spiritual life to this point.

I have known intense sorrow and grief and self-criticism and pain, but I've also known shocking joy. I have felt incredible happiness and relief and hope and forgiveness and light and God's love in astounding measures. 

I love my life! And I wouldn't trade the experiences in to have my former self.

But, I digress.

So, I complimented my friend. 

And she responded: "Thank you so much for saying that, that's so kind. It's getting harder as they get older (in a different way)."

And I responded: "I think what matters is that they have your heart. And your attention. There was a time for me, a few years ago, when I had an important realization that brought a lot of peace, and it was this: My gifts were imperfect. I was imperfect. Mothering was staring me in the face and it was so much bigger than what I had anticipated. And I knew that what I had to give wouldn't always measure up. I knew I'd fall apart, become the worst version of myself sometimes, and that I wouldn't always be happy with my performance. Those days are hard. I still don't like those days. And honestly, as my kids have gotten bigger, so have the questions and challenges. But, here's the thing. I remember having this realization, though I don't remember how it happened. But one day I asked myself this question: "Do you love them with everything you have? Are they the most important thing? Do they have your whole heart?" And suddenly I felt such peace because there was no confusion there. It was an immediate, "YES! SO MUCH YES!" And it was like I realized that was enough. The spirit taught me something important
then. Despite the difficulty and challenges and questions and my obvious imperfections,
it was okay. They have my whole heart and they know that I love being their mother.
And you know what? I hope that, one day, they see Elizabeth, not just their mom. 
They see me as a person trying to figure it out, and maybe that will help them when 
they're trying to figure it out too. 
The other part is that I trust in the atonement so much more to make up the gaps where 
my trying falls short. So, I guess in the end, that's why I say I think it's all about love. 
Yours, and His. I truly trust that, and know that our gifts don't have to be perfect."

I'm sharing that because I hang my hat on those two thoughts. And because maybe it will help someone else who struggles when they feel they don't measure up, in any capacity; when they're staring down the barrel of their lives wishing they were better than they are, or that they'd done things differently, or made different choices, 
or been more (fill in the blank).

I think life becomes bigger than we anticipated, and the questions and challenges
and heartache do too. But, at least for me, that has been the price of learning and authenticity and growth and JOY.

Our lives are My life is messy and gloriously imperfect and I've come to love it that way.
I'm so glad I get to make mistakes and learn! 
And so thankful for beauty and grace and joy.

And I absolutely trust God's love for me and for you as we're figuring things out.

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