Thursday, October 23, 2014

on the 2 year anniversary of her passing, thoughts of my mom

disclaimer: this post is sad. but it's a sad topic! but i want to assure you, reader, that really, i'm okay. i'm not the first to lose her mother. and really, i'm lucky, because i had 28 years with a wonderful mom and that's a lot longer than a lot of people. but these are my thoughts and this blog is where i stick those thoughts. 

five weeks before kate was born ryan lost his job. he came home early, which surprised me, and as i reached out to hug him i noticed a patch of make up on his shoulder. i knew who it was from; his boss, heidi, a woman who wore a lot of make up. the only reason her make up would be on ryan's shoulder was if she was hugging him and the only reason heidi would hug ryan is if something was wrong...

"why was heidi hugging you?" i asked, worried. "what's wrong?"

ryan explained the company's decision and told me what his plan was to find a new job. places he could look, people he could talk to, appointments he could make...and i said supportive things and smiled and excused myself to go talk to my mother. i just needed to. i drove straight to my parent's house and walked straight into the bedroom, where my mom was reading. as soon as i saw her i dissolved. i think i scared her so badly that day. she let me climb on to her bed and she held me as i shook with sobs and comforted me when i calmed down. that day my mother was there when i went to find her, sitting up in her bed, almost as if she were waiting for me.

it is easy to focus on things like the sickness and how relieved i am that it is gone, or the strain on our relationship before she died because the stroke wiped out her compassion. it is easy for me to remember that she was really organized and that there was a list of things to do every morning when i was homeschooled. it is easy to remember how she used to count our heads before we drove off somewhere because she had six kids and she wanted to make sure she hadn't left any of us at the park or at church.

it is easy to forget that we laughed a lot when we were together, that we discussed everything. that she understood me so clearly. that she was the best friend i'd ever had. i talked to her every day. about everything. we traveled together. i could carry her luggage and mine, arrange for her to have a wheelchair transport in an airport, test her blood sugar and get it to the level it needed to be without breaking a sweat (well, not a major one anyway), i could take over when she could not keep going. i anticipated her needs. i took care of her. and she in turn was my companion. she listened to me. she fine tuned my thoughts. she corrected me. she was candid with me. she laughed with me. she offered insight. she taught me to be compassionate and loyal. she taught me to be a good wife. she was a good wife. she taught me to love literature and motherhood and god and food.

i forget that stuff. the really good stuff, the important stuff. the stuff that is so damn painful to do without that it's almost easier to pretend that i never had it at all. the words dead and died are the absolute most terrifying words ever. do you know what they mean? gone. empty. not for now, but for the rest of this life.

my mother is dead. she died.

i am without her. her comfort is gone. her guidance is never more. i will never be able to keep my stuff together until i see her and then fall apart while she holds me.

it is the emptiest, most desperate feeling i have ever had. it is final. it is hard.

when she had first died i sat in church and i thought of one of my favorite scriptures. it's in 1 corinthians 15:55, "o death, where is they sting? o grave, where is thy victory?" and i thought about how there is no sting, no victory because death is not forever and then i stopped and i thought, 'can that be? can i really hope for that?' and this sudden, beautiful feeling settled around me so strongly and i knew that not only could i hope to see my mother again, but i was going to see my mother again. there is truth in the scriptures. there is hope.

i am heartbroken. almost daily. i think about how heartbroken i am. i wonder if people can tell just by looking at me. when a mother comes to visit her daughter, when they go shopping together, or have lunch, when she plays with her grandchildren, or helps clean the house or look after a new baby, i feel desperate. i want to watch them together and see what it looks like. maybe imagine that the same thing is happening to me. when i was having sarah i came across a message board full of daughters who didn't want their mothers anywhere near them. i was shocked. i'd give anything to have my mother come visit me. if only those daughters knew...

i know she's out there. sometimes i have tiny glimpses. occasionally she has been in a dream, looking relaxed and pleased. the other day i dreamt that i was escorting her to heaven, to meet up with her parents.

i miss her. oh, how i miss her. it is an ache so deep in my soul i can easily avoid it. most of the time i do. if i don't think about how much i am missing i don't have to walk around missing it all the time. if i can pretend that i am missing a woman who had fell more than she walked in the grocery store, who had to be picked up from dialysis four times a week, who couldn't travel on her own, it is much easier than if i realize that i am missing someone who used to wear my bras on her head to get me out of bed in the morning, who would take me to the movies in my pajamas late at night, who used to watch the office with me every friday morning. who used to laugh with me for hours at a time and needed ice cream before bed every night. who, when i needed it, held me in her arms while i sobbed for an uncertain future with a jobless husband and a baby on the way.

i miss her, i miss her, i miss her. i know heaven will change her. i know this life is changing me. i hope we are still able to recognize each other in the next life, i hope our hearts still recognize one another when we are reunited. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

lessons from the yoga mat

it usually begins the same way.

i kickoff my flip flops and place my bag on top of them. i check my phone to make the ringer is off. i tuck my mat underneath my arm and walk to my spot. i am usually in the same spot, no matter what class i am in: the spot closest to the door. it reflects a little my anxiety about being in a class. i do not want to be in the front. i do not want people to see me. the supplies are across the room so i lay my mat out and walk across to get my things; two foam blocks, a strap and a mexican blanket. and i walk back.

my monday, wednesday, and friday classes have the same people in them every time. we know each other by name, mostly, although the other day i was in tabletop (on my hands and knees) and suddenly a card was slipped underneath me, with a pen attached. "miriam," whispered jerry, "sign the card for lily's birthday and pass it on." so some of us know birthdays, too (later he passed it on to louise while she was in savasana and scared her half to death).

it has been a year of yoga classes for me in only a couple weeks. a year. i started off going once a week, then, occasionally, twice. now, on a good week i'm going four times. it has become a passion for me.

a year ago i signed up because i'd just had my fourth baby in eight years. i had been pregnant, or holding small children for eight years. my body had rapidly gained weight with pregnancy, tried to lose weight, gain, lose, gain lose. i had nursed babies, held them, rocked them, carried them. my back was completely out of whack. my stomach muscles were stretched and hardly touching. my hips felt delicate, as if, with one small misstep they'd be completely wrecked. on top of that, i had four children and was experiencing, for the first time in my motherhood, a little bit of anxiety. all of those people needed me all day long to do a variety of things for them. the pressure was constant. it was enormous. i needed to do something.

so i called mina, a yoga teacher who owns a studio next to my in-laws house. i told her i'd like to take a class and asked for some information. she invited me to her stdio for a consultation. i told her what i need: something physical that will help my body come back to itself again, i want to feel strong, i told her. i want to feel like i can move my body and it will support me instead of worrying about throwing out my back. and i want my mind to be calm, instead of racing with the endless list of things i can do for my family, let it be still. let me focus. let me be calm.

mina said, "this is the right thing for you."

she was right. she was SO right.

every class begins the same way. not only with my shoes-down-bag-down-mat-down-supplies-fetched routine, but then i lay down on my mat, or i sit with my hands resting lightly on my knees and i think. i mentally scan my body for tension, anywhere i might need to stretch out, or be particularly gentle with. i think about what i did the day before with this body and how that might affect my practice today. and then i scan myself mentally. if my mind keeps trying to race ahead to where i will get home, hop in the shower, fold a load of laundry, make some phone calls... i stop it. if my mind keeps rewinding to what i did yesterday, how i said some things i regret, or didn't manage to get all my errands run...i stop it. i listen to what is happening in the room around me. if i am in my morning classes i am in a thin-walled old building high off the road. i can smell the trees. i can smell the horses. i can hear the birds. i think about the people in my life that i love. i pray to heavenly father that he will be mindful of them, that they will know he loves them. that i will be of some good that day.

and then, as april says at the beginning of every class she teaches: "let us begin our practice of yoga."

i have learned a thousand things in yoga. usually they are small. they are hardly ever specific to what is happening in that room (sometimes i learn that my hips aren't as facing out as i thought and i need to approach the pose in a completely different way) and always specific to my entire life. like when nancy had us hold utkatasana, chair pose, for what seemed like an eternity and as we stood there shaking and teetering and biting our lips and holding our breaths and then remembering to breathe and letting everything out in one big whoosh and sucking it back in through our teeth, she reminded us that we all have to go through hard things in life. that this chair pose is just like a trial in life and what, she asked, gets us through the hard times? what do we fall back on when we think we can't hold this pose for another moment? and then, just before she released us into balasana, child's pose, she reminded us that just as this chair pose only lasted a moment in the grand scheme of things, so do our trials. and as i lay there, my forehead touching my mat, my breath returning to normal, i tried to commit the lesson to memory. next time i find myself teetering and forgetting to breathe, i'm going to remember that this pose, this moment, is only temporary and soon i'll be able to rest.


Monday, October 13, 2014

a day in santa barbara

 a while back we spent the day in santa barbara, which is pretty much one of my favorite places in the world. ryan took a day off of work and the kids weren't in school and so we headed north.

first to los agaves, to see if it was better than la super rica (sorry, rebecca, it wasn't).

then to the sea center to see the jelly fish and to pet a shark. we also witnessed the gherabaldi in multiple stages of life. i'l admit, i was most impressed by that.

then to the "shark park", which is the kid's favorite. it's not my favorite, because it's so big and i feel like it's so easy to lose track of the kids, but with ryan there we were able to divide and conquer. they spent a lot of time on the tire swing, which resulted in seth being so sick he just slept in the car after that.

final stop was mcconnell's ice cream, which has this strawberry ice cream that could give the world peace, it's that good. seriously. i almost cried happy tears tasting it for the first time. then i spent the rest of the time fending off sarah's rabid attempts to eat more. she was fanatical. but then again, so am i.

Friday, October 10, 2014

eight years old and baptized

when you're lds you get baptized at age 8. most of you already know this because most of you have met me at church, or at the lds college i attended in good ole provo, utah, but for those of you who don't know, we don't do baby baptisms. at age 8 you are eligible and most 8-year-olds totally go for it.

so, as ava's birthday approached we asked her what she felt and she was enthusiastic about getting baptized. which was heartwarming as a mother. like, maybe something good is being done here, in this home and minivan of mine (because let's face it: i'm a mom with four children. we're in that minivan a lot. it's like a tiny, mobile living room without any decor). it was also a little nerve wracking. 1) because i was afraid she'd been pressured into it and didn't really know if she wanted to be baptized and so i agonized on a good way to convince her that i'll love her no matter what without scaring her and i also didn't want to dissuade her from being baptized because this faith has been everything to me (and i don't use that term lightly here) but i just wanted her to be sure, to feel loved and supported and...i'm rambling. 2) i don't really remember my baptism. i don't remember it because i was 8 and it was (holding on, i'm counting on my fingers) ... 23 years ago. and i was 8. my comprehension of the significance of the day was lost on me. yeah, i knew i was promising to always remember God and to receive the Holy Ghost but iI didn't know how precious those things would become to me. And how life changing. And so i wanted ava's baptism to be memorable to her...again, without scaring or overwhelming her. so i thought about it a lot and stressed out over it majorly.

and it turned out beautifully.

she was baptised in the dress that i was baptised in, and the dress that hopefully her sisters will be baptised in and she wore a necklace of my mother's. my brother aaron played the piano, my dad gave a talk on being a follower of christ and what that means, chris and kristine bore testimony of the holy ghost, ava was encircled by our favorite men as they blessed her with the gift of the holy ghost. we scribbled notes on pieces of paper for ava to read later. and then we partied. i made barbecued pork which was outstaged by all of the amazing food that everyone brought. kids went swimming. everyone else sat around and visited. i took only a small handful of photos. some of our favorite people were there. it was a good, good day.

and sweet little ava has a sweet little testimony. the beginnings of a relationship with god and i am so grateful for that, so honored that i get to witness it. i hope that she can continue with that faith, and that i can help her somehow (you know, without scaring her).

that ava! she's growing up so fast. it's completely bittersweet. i love the girl she's growing into and i can't help but gasp as the last of her babyness slips through my fingers. how is this possible, these last eight years? am i appreciating it? am i wasting it? am i missing something important? at times i feel a bit panicked. i guess i thought i'd be more of a professional at this point, but this child raising is deceiving: it's ever changing and never the same. i only get to apply marginal amounts of it back to itself, which is frustrating at first, but the way it is, regardless of how i feel. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

an entire twelve months

 dear sarah,

do you remember a year ago today? i'll give you a hint: it involves you. and you were naked. and you couldn't wait for your grandpa to park his car and make it up the elevator (one floor!) before you showed up.

that's right, your birthday. half an hour after you were born i got a text message from my friend, rebecca. it was a "hooray! you can do this!" text message. it was very fun to text rebecca back to tell her that you'd already arrived.

one of my favorite memories of your birthday was about an hour into your new life. you and i were wheeled in to our past partum room with daddy following, carrying all of our things (including an enormous yellow birthing ball that i sat on for ONE contraction--two if you count the contraction that happened in the elevator) and then we were all left behind. and daddy gathered you into his arms and climbed into bed with me and we just sat there and glowed with the glory of you. sarah, you were the most perfect and beautiful and sweet newborn and we just love, love, loved you that day.

i mean, we love you all the time, in fact, more and more with time. you are funny and sweet and clever, and fast and wild and so, so wonderful. and it has somehow magically been an entire year! how has this happened???

sarah you love us. you hug us, kiss us, wave goodbye, blow kisses, greet the dogs with "puppies!" and greet your bunnies with "bunnies!", grab the stuffed cat with a little squeal, "kitty!", you run away with a squeal, rip apart the child locks, dumps out entire boxes of cereal or bags of red beans, you love things you should not have and can eat and eat and eat and eat. sometimes i feed you continually to see when you will stop. you don't. sure, you slow down, but you don't stop eating.

i'm so sad that this first chapter of your babyhood is over. now i only have one chapter left! two, if i play my cards right. i mean, i guess i could cater you and cripple you into an entire lifetime of babyhood, but do i really want that? eventually i'm going to want you to be able to do things that you ought to be able to do, like peel your own bananas and find your own socks.

i love you sarah, happy, happy birthday. you delightful, sweet, wiggly, wild thing.