Tuesday, February 10, 2015

On the Eve of My Birth

Hello internet land. It's been a while.

I don't have much to say and yet I have far too much to say. Thus, the blog drought of twenty 15. (Twenty 15? Why is she spelling out half the year like that? Why not do it all in numbers?). Welp, my children spilled a large quantity of milk all over and INSIDE my laptop. I took it the dodgiest of places to have it repaired. It looked like a Meth house. It was this random residence on Redwood Road, with a small sign out front, all the blinds drawn, and no parking to speak of. But hey, they "fixed it" for $150 as opposed to $700 at the Apple Store. The only downside to the work performed by this shady operation is that my number TWO on my keyboard does not work. The number Two key also happens to be the AT sign that's needed when typing an email addresses. It's beginning to be a problem.

But back to business here--It's my birthday tomorrow. (It's actually my birthday TODAY, Feb. 10th. I wrote this last night but didn't publish it/finish it until this morning). And I've had a very rare and lovely weekend to reflect and brace myself as I enter my 38th year of life. (Not to be interpreted as me TURNING 38. Nay, I'm turning the ripe age of 37). I was able to spend the entire day Saturday with several friends, both old and new, as we rehearsed and performed in a fundraising performance in Orem. It fed my soul a thousand times over. When I returned from my long day away, I found that Vic had cleaned the house from top to bottom. Every last stitch of laundry was done, every towel folded, the toilets and tubs and showers cleaned, fresh linens on the beds, all the dishes done...it was a DREAM.

Yesterday, I wasn't feeling well (I've been fighting a cold for almost a week now) and stayed in bed most of the day while Vic cooked and played with the kids and baked and decorated a birthday cake with Peter for me. I read, took a long nap, and basked in the luxuriousness of doing NOTHING.

And thus we see what I mean by a rare weekend with time to reflect and prepare for the coming year. Zoë is in bed nice and early and I'm sitting here typing in bed while the boys work on a birthday present for me. Lucky am I? I absolutely think so.

So here's my list of things I've learned in my 37 years on this planet:

-Binge watching shows on Netflix is one of my true passions.
-If you watch too many episodes of "Parenthood" it will make you want another baby
-I love people
-I might not ever be as thin and strong and fast as I once was, but I need to write a sad poem in my journal about it and move on.
-Follow your passions
-Eat well and exercise
-Listen to your heart
-Be gentle with yourself
-EVERYONE has a story. Be kind. Learn their story. Open up and share. Make a new friend.
-Kindness matters more than anything. Really.
-Life is short.
-I'm short
-Things will work out
-I really don't have a list of profound lessons I've learned in my 37 years of life but felt like it would make a good blog post but now that I'm writing it I've got few things to work with.
-Oh, and family really is everything. Family and Kindness.

I used to need to express my thoughts and my heart to the world after Lucy died. It was far too big a burden to bear alone. I needed constant expression and analyzing and support and therapy. And my soul was so torn that my words were so raw and beautiful. Now I feel like I'm just in the trenches of motherhood, I've healed SIGNIFICANTLY and my constant need to emote and process has greatly diminished. What's left is my day to day dealings with my adorable kids and my occasional adventures.

Which I guess does lead me to one very significant lesson I've learned (am learning)--to embrace the everyday mundane. It's beautiful. You are here. You have a body. You have loved ones around you ( I hope). You are breathing and learning and alive. Your life doesn't have to be grand. You don't have to be famous or rich or popular to be "successful". You are you and you influence in small but significant ways. You are important to a small circle, needed by just a few, and that small circle is a strong and steady force. It's a force for good. A force of love. Nurture those relationships closest to you and don't waste too much time and energy seeking praise and adoration from the outside world.

You are enough. Improve yourself, make good choices, but love yourself. And every time you are kind, people are changed. Always be kind.

Now that I'm done lecturing myself, it's time to celebrate ME and all the beauty and love in my life. (That means responding to each individual birthday wish on Facebook, text, email...because people and friendships are the beauty in my life that I speak of.) Thanks for listening to me give myself a pep talk for my birthday. xoxo

Monday, January 12, 2015

Broken Branches

Yesterday was a typical Sunday. Fight with the kids to get them dressed and out the door on time, hope that one of the teenagers in my Sunday school class got something out of the lesson, try my best not to feel guilty letting Peter watch cartoons on Netflix while Vic and I take a nap, then finally get the blasted Marble Mania Mine Shaft 2.0 up and running. (It's a huge hit!)

After naps, marble fun, and heaping bowls of Chinese chicken salad, we decided it was a good time to finally take some extremely belated Christmas gifts over to Florence and her family. Vic had a winter coat to give her husband, a Target gift card, some chocolates, and a few other items. Before pulling out of the driveway, Peter realized we didn't have gifts for their two young boys (same ages as my kids). He ran into the house, got 2 Hotwheels cars (they were still in boxes as part of our "Family Store"--a behavior/reward system we do) for Glory (the 6 yr. old) and found 2 chunkier car toys for Glory's little brother. (I can't remember how to spell his name).

As Peter and I walked to their apartment in the rain, he told me his tummy felt tickley. He was nervous, as he'd only met these boys one time and heard stories about how difficult their life in Congo and Botswana were. But he marched right in, handed the toys to Glory and his brother, then proceeded to demonstrate how to "make them go fast!"

We had a short visit and ran back to the car to join Zoë and Daddy. None of this was particularly a big deal. But on the drive home, while listening to the radio, Cherie Call's song, "Family Tree" began playing. It was dark out, the rain was falling steadily, and the kids quieted in the backseat for the first time all day.

Vic and I sat in silence while we listened to the lyrics. Cherie is a brilliant song writer and lyricist. And this song happens to be my very favorite. My dad shared it with me (because Cherie's husband had shared it with him) during a time when my parents were separated. It not only applies to couples and families of divorce, but I found great meaning in it for me, having lost my Lucy. In it, Cherie sings about the broken branches of a family tree. The imagery is presented so perfectly.

Of course it reminded me of the night Cherie sang it at my benefit concert for A Good Grief. It brought to mind so many things. 1) How happy it made me to see Peter voluntarily give some of his toys to these boys in need and how beautiful it is to see the way this family has triumphed over extreme difficulty and are finally together in a safe place, learning and growing together. 2) How happy I am that my parents are back together, thriving on their mission in Russia/Eastern Europe and how much I learned and grew closer to my family during their separation. 3) How many people, some just Facebook acquaintances, but others dear friends, are going through, or recently went through a divorce. How much I wish they could hear this song and feel of my love for them. 4) Lucy. My kids. How thankful I am that they talk of her, recognize her in photos, include her in prayers...but how I wish and wonder about her still being here with us.  5) That it's time for me to do another benefit concert.

I squeezed Vic's hand and said a little prayer of thanks as well as asking for strength and guidance as I continue raising my family. I thought of so many, many things. So many people I love, so much abundance, as well as fear. But what made it all the sweeter, was that these thoughts, this moment in the winter rain, was underscored by this beautiful piece of music.

"And in the end I don't know how it will all be sorted out. All I know is that the circle won't be broken. There will be hands to hold. And there will be love unfeigned. And it will bridge the gaps between all things we can't explain."

I hope you'll come to my next concert. And I hope you'll find the comfort this song has to offer. God will mend the broken branches of His family tree. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Go Ahead and Pin This

We had a wonderful, exhausting, fun-filled Christmas vacation. Vic wasn't able to take as much time off of work as we would have liked, but we still managed to get a lot of quality time in with the kiddos, Vic's family (all but one of his siblings came to Utah), and then my parents who came from Russia for a visit!

We held our famous annual gingerbread competition (more on that later), ate far too much food, and had a great time watching the cousins play (and fight). But the highlight, for me, was one of the gifts Vic gave me.

Amongst the wrapping paper chaos, Zoë lying sickly and out of energy on the couch (the poor girl has an abscessed tooth and has to have surgery this week!) he waited until the end of the unwrapping fanfare and handed me this folder but told me I couldn't flip through it yet. He then got out a little brown scroll (we wrap all of our presents in brown paper) and read/sang a poem to the tune, "The 12 Days of Christmas" that he had written, that coincided with each date he had planned.

He might kill me for telling you this, but he cried as he reached the end of the poem. I was so touched and excited by this gift, I brought it to his parent's home later Christmas Day so I could show them. I admit I also choked up while reading it. And again when I read it to my parents. If you're lucky, I'll read/cry it to you someday. 

The work of marriage can feel awfully heavy at times. I've said it before, that Vic and I have some pretty major differences, yet, we really do enjoy being together and having adventures. The mutual love we have for our children is limitless. Personally, I think we are a pretty fantastic couple. Yet, he has to forgive me for my mistakes and shortcomings over and over and deal with my general insanity.  To me, this gift was telling me, "I'm still trying. I'm still in this. I still want to have fun with you and make you happy and enjoy our time together. I love you." And no one can ever hear or feel those words too much. I mean...the little drawings! The Groupons and coupons and classes. It's perfect. 

You can go ahead and pin it now. --Ahhh, crap. I just realized that no man or husband is ever going to see it if it's on Pinterest. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Catch Me

It's been 3 weeks since "Catch Me if You Can" closed. It was such a great experience. For those of you who missed it, here are a few photos from the wonderful mayhem.

As always, a huge thank you to Vic for holding down the fort with the kids so I could do another show. I made new friends, danced my butt off, and just felt the absolute joy that I always do when I'm on stage with fellow crazies. I wish I had the time and energy to share all the details of my experience...the letter we got from Frank Abignale, himself!, the unexpected wedding proposal closing night (no one proposed to me...it was Keith, our lead actor, who proposed to my sweet and wonderful friend, Adrianne--a fellow dancer), the kindness, the friendships, the hard work, sweat, and tears. It all added up to an unforgettable show.

More photos below--

(the entire story behind this couple is beautiful and unique...I'm so happy for them!)

Up next: It's time to sign up for a triathlon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

$100 Target Gift Card Giveaway!

Listen up! You may have seen this same giveaway two weeks ago on my Facebook page (the winner from the Facebook contest was already chosen and notified), but now we are doing the same giveaway on ye old blog.

It's super fast and easy AND it is helping children. How is taking a survey (9 questions) helping children? Let me explain: There is a fantastic woman named Karla Jay who specializes in children with learning disabilities. Karla runs a school, has written books, and is now launching a new computer program/website where children can play games online to enhance their reading comprehension, sight words, and overall learning abilities.

By leaving your email address at the end of the survey, you are entered into the drawing for a $100 gift card AND you will receive one month free access to her site, "U Can Connect". This program is on the ground level and they need your feedback! Take 2 minutes and answer these questions and you could have an extra $100 to spend at Target. Easy peasy, Lemon squeezy (as Peter says).


Winner will be notified, Sunday, December 21st!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

I Totally Forgot

You guys. I've gone weeks and weeks where I have forgotten to blog. Or I've just not wanted to. But this time? I forgot that I even HAVE a blog. Instagram killed the blog star. Amiright?

You want to know what made me remember that I still have this thing? We went to Festival of Trees two nights ago, and among all the amazing gingerbread houses and trees and generous donations to help the families at Primary Children's Medical Center (and the tears), two different darling women stopped me to say hello and that they read my blog. Oh! That's right. I have a blog. I used to write. (Hi, ladies).

It still amazes me/is crazy to me that people read this. I am "that lady who lost her daughter when she choked on an apple." I am that lady who performs and deals with the madness of motherhood and "isn't as profound in real life as you are on your blog". (One of my all-time favorite comments).

My blog isn't fancy or trendy. I don't have the time, energy, or know-how to do cool things with my photos or make things look hip and alluring. I just...enjoy sharing my life. For posterity's sake, for gratitude's sake, for the sake of connecting with my fellow humans and trying to understand myself.

So here I am. Where do I even begin? How about New Mexico? That seems like a reasonable place to start.

We drove 9.5 hours to visit Vic's sister, Joy, in Albuquerque, New Mexico for Thanksgiving. The drive was much less painful than we were anticipating. It was so nice to all be together, singing songs, coloring, talking, eating. Peter was SO excited to see his cousins! Joy has 5 adorable kids and was an incredible hostess. Her cooking was DELICIOUS. We had such a great time.

We took more of the scenic route home, by way of Durango, Colorado, and it was absolutely worth it. I had never been to Durango and it utterly charmed me. The photo above of Zoë looking down at her feet was taken on Durango's main drag. I could have spent the entire day there exploring but we had to get home for my final two shows. I want to go back!

As we drove out of Durango, the sun began to set and I felt so much peace. I thought back on the last time we visited Joy's family in New Mexico. Peter was 8 months old and I was still grieving HEAVILY. I wasn't sleeping. I was so stressed and overwhelmed. It was amazing to me, as I looked out the window, the sun setting over the lake, to realize how far I've come. I talk about this a lot, but it has reason to amaze me. I was truly on the brink of disaster--mental and emotional.

On this vacation I went on several runs, had a great time road biking with Vic and Jason (Joy's husband), ate wonderful food, slept (!), played with my kids at the Explora museum, and didn't experience anxiety. This is a HUGE thing for me. That sunset was the perfect ending to our trip. The kids were playing quietly in the back and Vic and I marveled out loud, again and again, at the beauty we beheld. It was such a simple moment, but the feelings in my heart were so profound and clear. Nothing earth-shattering. Just peace and gratitude and happiness.

My life is an embarrassment of riches. My family. My friends. My opportunities. My health. It is truly humbling and overwhelming at times. I have my daily battles (besides motherhood, my daily internal struggles lately are mostly centered around "what to do with my life" and making money), but I am managing at a level I never thought possible. I ache for my Lucy sweet like my body needs water. But as many people have commented to me lately, "Wow, you are like...alive. And living! And doing things!" Yes. Yes, I am.

And with that, I will crawl into bed and wait for Vic to get home from his boys night out. Welcome back, blog. It felt great to reconnect with you tonight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My Craving for Dried Pineapple

At some point over the past few weeks, I've gotten it in my head that I must have dried pineapple from Trader Joe's. Little did I know, this craving would lead me on a fun adventure downtown with my Zoë June. (Now, when I say "adventure", we must remember that we are talking about stay at home mom who considers it an "adventure" to walk outside with the kids to get the mail).

Nonetheless, the day started out with a fun surprise for Zoë. She was going to go to work with daddy! I volunteer every Tuesday morning in Peter's Kindergarten class and struggle to find a sitter for the one hour time slot. We decided to take a chance and send little Miss, armed with toys and movies, to daddy's law firm. It worked like a charm...and I got to spend some quality time teaching and interacting with Peter and his peers at school. 

Here's where the pineapple craving comes in. After saying goodbye to Peter (he unabashedly kisses me on the lips and tells me he loves me in front of his class. Please don't grow up!) I picked up Zoë and we headed to TJ's where she insisted on pushing the "baby cart" (customer in training). After loading up on far too many dried fruits, nuts, and trail mixes, we made it back to the inner warmth of the car. Don't you love cold Fall days where the sun is shining and your car is the perfect temperature to climb into? 

But I didn't feel like heading home. I love being downtown. I tried calling Brighton, but she was heading to lunch with her hubby (newlyweds...who can blame them?) It had been such a long time since I'd been in the downtown Salt Lake City Library so I decided to hit it up. Zoë was going to love it!

It was a pleasant surprise when I discovered that street parking was free. Hmm..Must be a Veteran's Day thing. You know what is also a Veteran's Day thing? A closed library. Darn. But then I remembered that Intermountain Donor has a "Donate Life" memorial section on the grounds of the library..and Lucy's name is etched in glass, along with hundreds and hundreds of others, because of her organ donation. 

Zoë and I made our way to the corner of the library square while I searched frantically for Lucy's name. I'd seen it before, years ago, when we went to the dedication of the memorial. But there are so many names and they are difficult to read. I couldn't remember where hers was. Anxiety was building up inside of me as I scanned row after row of names. They are not in alphabetical order and I could not remember where to find it. I had this feeling that if I was lucky enough to find her name, it would be like she would come back to life again--just for a minute or two. It was like looking for her in a crowd of people. My eyes were scanning so quickly, my heart racing. Then suddenly, I hear Zoë's little voice, "LUCY!!"

I raced over to find Zoë sitting here in "mommy's" lap, pointing up at "Lucy". She knew I had been searching for "Lucy" on the glass wall and she was so excited to let me know that she found her. I cannot tell you how it made me feel to hear Zoë say Lucy's name so many times. The reason I can't tell you how it made me feel is because I don't know. I'm still processing it. It was...like magic. No, really. You know when you watch a magician and you are AMAZED at the tricks he does, but part of you is disturbed and entirely curious HOW he (or she) does the tricks? That's how it felt. Let me hear you say it more, Zoë! The sound of her name! The sound of YOU saying her name! It's...beautiful. It's amazing. Do it again! But...why does it make me feel so sad and curious? Why does it feel so foreign and mysterious to hear you say it? Magic. 

Zoë found a "secret pathway" (a walkway made of engraved stones) and walked up and down it about 5 times. This particular stone stood out to me. 

On the walk back to the car, Zoë noticed the City Building across the street and her entire face lit up. "Castle!!" She really wanted to see the castle. We made our way there to discover that it was also closed. But Zoë made the most of the situation by curtsying to her crowd and waving at the common folk. (She really did). 

Who knew my craving for dried Pineapple would lead to such a glorious Fall day downtown with my sweet cheeks? The thought occurred to me, as I think back on the frantic way I scanned the memorial wall for Lucy's name--I didn't find it. I wanted so desperately to. I wanted to see her name engraved for all the world to see. But I had to keep an eye out for Zoë. I had to make sure she didn't run into the street or into the arms of the several homeless men hanging around. I didn't get the surge of pride moment I was hoping for when discovering her name. 

My life hasn't followed the "story" I had made up in my head. But I feel like I'm doing a pretty good job experiencing the new and wonderful story life has presented me. I don't want to waste time trying to change it or mold it into something I think it should be, or used to want. I want to let it be what it is. Dried pineapple and all the other wonderful, horrible things thrown in too.