Thursday, March 31, 2011


     I made a big decision yesterday. It wasn't spur of the moment. It's something I've thought about a lot over the past year and yesterday it just finally felt right. So I got on my computer and applied to SLCC for the fall semester. I want to get an AS degree in English and then move on to a University for my bachelors and graduate studies.
    I've been trying to decide what to do with myself ever since Ian started first grade. He is in second grade now. Do I get a job? Go to school? Write more books and pray for success? Or should I keep doing foster care and adopt more children? I was leaning heavily towards the school end of things when my sister suffered her stroke at the beginning of January. Suddenly all thoughts of myself went out the window and CoCo became the only thing that mattered. But that has changed now too. CoCo's husband, Clay, came up last Friday and took her home with him to Monticello.
     I must admit that I have very mixed feelings about this. I feel very protective towards my sister and having her leave my care was really hard. She's doing very well. She is walking and is regaining the use of her right arm. She performs all self-care tasks unassisted and even her speech and communication skills are improving. She got to the point where she was even doing laundry and dishes. The problem was that she was smack in the middle of her therapies. I was hoping she would stay long enough to finish those, especially the speech therapy, but she and Clay were tired of being apart. And I can understand that. I worry about her though. She doesn't have any family support in Monticello. It's just her and Clay.
     After CoCo left, I spent several days not knowing what to do with myself. I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands and a lot of thoughts on my mind. I realized that a good portion of my life has been spent in the service of others, from my own kids and husband, to extended family, to foster children and their families. I'm a caregiver. It's what I do and what I know how to do. Stepping out of that role and into another is a scary prospect for me. But it's time for something different.
     I've always wanted a college education and I'm finally in a position to take advantage of that opportunity. Besides, getting a degree in English will help me be a better writer and that in turn will aid me in my goal of someday being a published author. To quote Rafiki from The Lion King, "It is time!"

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Strength of a Family

     Big changes are coming to my household, much sooner than I ever anticipated. On February 18, CoCo is being released from the hospital and is moving in with me and my family. This requires a lot of preparation. She needs to be upstairs and that means moving Ian out of his room to the downstairs. We are going to turn our downstairs office into a bedroom, move Tawni in there and move Ian into Tawni's current room, which I need to paint because Ian won't want to be surrounded by lavender and green stripes. We need to install a door for the office/bedroom and paint it also. In addition to the room juggling, I need to make sure my house is wheelchair/handicap accessible. We need to get some bars for the shower and bathroom, a shower seat, a handheld shower head, a stair gate, and anything else the therapists tell me I need when they come to do a home assessment next Tuesday.
     Luckily my sister has medicaid but once she leaves the hospital the benefits decrease significantly. They won't even pay for outpatient speech therapy. CoCo's speech therapist has applied for a grant to help with that and hopefully it will be approved. Medicaid will pay for 8-10 outpatient physical therapy sessions and that's it. We are more than blessed to have a sister-in-law who just happens to be a rehab-therapist and is trying to set things up so that she can work with CoCo pro-bono once the benefits run out. Thank you Peter for marrying Jenn and leaving sunny California for our cold and bitter winter climate!
     I met with the social worker yesterday assigned to CoCo's case and we discussed in length the responsibilities of a caregiver. This is a role that I seem to find myself in over and over again. But never to this degree. This is full-time in my own home. It completely changes all of our home and family dynamics. If I'm to be honest, I will admit that I'm scared nigh unto death.
     There have been times in my life when I've had to rely solely on the Lord for strength. This is one of those times. I crave time with the Book of Mormon. I find so much peace, love, and wisdom in its pages, along with a strong desire to do better, to give more. And with that desire comes the strength to do so. Every morning I'm on my knees, giving thanks and petitioning for more help. Throughout the day my thoughts are like a constant prayer, keeping the connection open in case of an emergency. I need my Savior by my side because He is where I find the most help.
     This experience is teaching me many things; compassion, love, patience, forgiveness, humility... One of my most difficult lessons is learning to ask others for assistance. When trials strike, I tend to hunker down and ride it out, by myself. I can't do that this time. I need help from my family and friends. Peter and Jenn are a huge help, even offering to take CoCo at night or on weekends or whenever they can. I feel very protective towards my sister and I want her with me, but I will never turn away an offer of help such as Peter and Jenn are willing to give. Lori may not live in the same state, but her support and love never end. She sends clothing up that CoCo needs. She acts as an advocate for all of us, talking with the hospital staff and researching, offering knowledge and help however she can. She's only a phone call away and is more than willing to listen to a tired sister unload.
     On Wednesday it was CoCo's 49th birthday. I arranged a party that evening for her and invited the family members. All of her children came. It was so wonderful to see the sweet way they interact with their mom. They are young, with jobs and school, and new families, but when they take time out of their busy schedules and devote it to their mother, everyone is blessed.  Every effort they make is greatly appreciated. Not only were the kids there, but Peter and Jenn came too. They brought a computer and through Skype, CoCo was able to talk with Lori in California, and our brother, Andy and his family in North Carolina. It was a wonderful night and my sweet sister glowed with the love of her family. And that one word--family--is what this all seems to be about. I don't believe our families were selected in heaven by a random drawing. I think Heavenly Father helped us to form relationships with those that he knew would help and love each other in any circumstance. And then He sent us here together to give it a shot. I am very grateful for the members of my family. My husband, kids, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, in-laws... the list keeps going... in one eternal round.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


     I know that my other blog is the preferred reading blog of my friends and family, but this one, unlike the other, is about me and what I'm thinking and feeling. It's not really about my kids and the crazy things they do, it's more an outlet for my emotions, good or bad. Sometimes I feel a bit of guilt if I don't have anything positive to write about. I figure people need uplifting things to read, so why should I bring them down if I'm feeling depressed?
     I forget that it's my blog.
     Something took place in our family several weeks ago that changed my life and that of many people around me. I've been hesitant to write about it because it feels extremely personal, and I tend to protect those things that are dear or personal. When writing about them, a person runs the risk of cheapening the experiences, at least in my perspective. But I've decided it's a risk I'll take. I need to write about this so that I can unburden my mind and my heart, because day after day, more pain, more love, more despair, and more hope are heaped upon it.
     On January 6, of this year, my big sister, Cori to many--CoCo to me, suffered a stroke. She's only 48 years old. She was living in Monticello at the time. She was brought by ambulance to the University of Utah medical center. She spent the next week in the Neuro Acute Unit, trying to come to grips with what happened to her. The doctors discovered a blood clot in the cerebral artery that had blocked the blood flow to her brain. Two-thirds of her left brain tissue is now dead. She cannot form her thoughts into words, she struggles to get one word out at a time, only to discover it's not the word she wanted. Her right arm is paralyzed and so was her right leg. She now has some movement in the leg and responds to stimuli, so we have hope. She cannot dress herself, or bathe or use the bathroom without assistance. And to top it all off, she developed a blood infection and is now on long-term antibiotics.Ten days ago she was moved to the inpatient rehab unit, and the gruelling grind of therapy began.
     My heart is so heavy for her. She has not had an easy life and the unfairness of this situation has hit me hard. Why her?
     My sweet sister and I have had our difference in the past. As have her husband and I. But when this happened, all animosity went out the window. On all our parts. Clay and I have sat together and talked. We know that nothing will ever be the same. He knows that he needs the help and support of family. He is currently looking for a job and a place to live in Sandy or Draper so that he can be close to us. We both realized that if we were going to care for CoCo, contention could not exist. And with that realization, the hard feelings simply disappeared. They just do not matter anymore. The only thing that matters, is my sister.
     I spend about five days a week with her and it's not because of any obligation I feel. I'm with her because it's where I want to be. Even with her limited speech, the more time I spend with her, the more I understand her. We actually talk. Through hand gestures, facial expressions, a few words, and expressive eyes, I know what it is she is trying to say. It's not easy, but it's possible. I also want to be with her so that I can learn from the nurses and doctors how best to care for her. There is a very real possibility that I will be one of her major caregivers on a long term basis. My brother, Peter, along with Clay, is right there with me. My other sister, Lori, was on an airplane from California right after she got the news about the stroke. She wasted no time in hurrying to CoCo's side, and she would still be here if she wasn't in the middle of school. She is seriously considering a move to Utah so that she can help also. We are all here for CoCo because we want to be here, not because we have to.
     I cannot even begin to describe the amount of love I feel for my big sister. I would do anything for her. On the days when I can't make it to the hospital, I think about her, constantly. There is never a moment when she's not on my mind or in my heart. But even though the love is strong, I still feel quite empty. This experience is taking a lot out of me and I often feel alone--lonely. My husband and children are sacrificing a lot themselves so that I can be with CoCo. But right now, I wouldn't have it any other way.
     Just last night I went to the hospital. I arrived around six-thirty, later than usual. CoCo was alone in her room, crying. When she saw me she reached for me and I held her and we both cried. She was depressed and not feeling great. I helped her out of bed and into her wheelchair, and then we went for a walk, exploring the hospital. I think she needed a change of scenery, just a little pick-me-up after a hard day. After her walk, we went back to her room and I showed her the new clothes that Lori had bought and mailed. I organized them in the dresser drawers and then straightened up the room. CoCo is a very neat person and this seemed to cheer her up quite a bit. After that I got her some ice chips which she loves. It's the only thing she's allowed to eat right now because her swallowing reflex is too weak for food. She has a feeding tube instead. We talked for a bit and then I helped settle her in bed and we watched T.V. together for an hour. I like to stay with her until she falls asleep so that she sees me right before closing her eyes. I don't know who it helps more--me or her?
     My emotions right now are very close to the surface. It doesn't take much to make me cry. My bucket empties rather quickly and I find that the best ways to fill it are with funny sitcoms, a date with my hubby, a talk with my best friend, and time with my Book of Mormon and on my knees. My life over the past several weeks became much more complicated and therefore simple out of necessity.
     Today I was feeling particularly depressed, which is what prompted me to finally write about all this. I think that by simply acknowledging this emotion, it's helped to make it better--not gone, but better.

Monday, November 8, 2010


     I often have conversations with Julie about current and past friendships. Being Julie's friend is an all or nothing kind of deal. There is no half-way. She knows the meaning of friendship better than anyone I've ever known and she gives one-hundred percent of herself to her friendships. I had a hard time with this at the beginning of our relationship. It seemed so foreign to me and I would often tell her how "new" this concept was because I'd never had it before. (I'm shaking my head here and sighing at myself.)
     Last month I received an email from Heather Nielson Wimmer. My first ever best friend. Heather and I lived next door to each other in Boulder City, Nevada for about five years. We met at the tender age of three and like most young children, only had to say "let's be friends" and it was a done deal. Included in Heather's email was a Polaroid of the two of us. Two adorable little girls. I can remember sitting on the floor in Heather's bedroom while she "played" with my hair. We would take turns brushing and braiding, enjoying the tingling and trance inducing feel of small fingers in long locks. I remember playing house, swinging on Heather's swing set, playing with our Madame Alexander dolls (outside in the dirt), and including siblings and neighbor kids in Mother May I? and Red Light Green Light. Over the years my family moved several times and so did Heather's. But here we are, thirty-seven years after our first meeting, and I can still call her my friend.
     When I was eight-years-old we moved to Amarillo, Texas. It took a while for me to fit in and find friends and I spent quite a bit of time lonely and feeling sorry for myself. But in fourth grade I met Judy Cohen and all that changed. I went from being a shy, quiet, well-behaved girl to a loud, obnoxious, happy, trouble-maker. It wasn't that Judy was a bad influence. She wasn't. Together we just brought out the goofiness that was lying dormant inside. Judy's dad was a doctor and she only had one sister, therefore, she had a lot of privileges that I didn't. In other words, she was a rich little Jewish girl. She introduced me to cable television, Atari, and mustard-roast beef sandwiches. I learned how to dance the hora and play with a dreidel. Sadly, our friendship only lasted one year because her family moved. And I was on my own once again.
     Enter Jennifer Gilbert and sixth grade. Jennifer already had a bff and when we became friends, it didn't go over so well with Deirdre. There was a lot of drama, but that didn't stop us from maintaining our friendship. We read every Nancy Drew book in our school library, we played with my dollhouse, went to Saturday matinees, and talked about boys. I went to Jennifer's Methodist church and she came to my little brother's baptism. We passed notes during classes at school and served detention together after getting caught. And like all my other friendships, this one too ended with a move. Jennifer went to Tulsa, Oklahoma and I went to Orem, Utah. We stayed in touch until eighth grade, and then drifted our separate ways.
     But in eighth grade I met a girl in my Utah Studies class. She had long blonde hair and it was tied up in pony tails on either side of her head. She looked like she had massive dog ears. Priscilla Udall and I bonded at the library while working on a history project. After that we were inseparable. We did our homework together, we had sleepovers and read and discussed historical romance novels. We went to Lake Powell together and skinny-dipped with all Cilla's female relatives at what her family called "the bathing rock." It was a grand time and I saw my first white whale and even tried it myself. Cilla and I caused our chemistry teacher in high school to take a sabbatical. We goofed off so much in his class I think he gave us C's just to get rid of us. As we got older we double dated and confided major secrets to each other. Cilla was my maid of honor at my wedding and we spent the night together before my big day. I got married and she went off to college, but I was there at her wedding too. We helped paint each other's first homes and hung out with our spouses, and visited each other in the hospital when babies were born. About thirteen years ago, Cilla and her husband moved to North Carolina and we lost touch with each other. But thanks to facebook, we connected last year. Cilla was in Utah visiting her family and we got together for lunch. It felt as if no time had passed. She was still the same girl with doggie ears that I'd met years ago in a junior high history class.
     All this came back to me as I looked at a Polaroid of two small girls in Boulder City, Nevada. And to think I thought I'd never had a best friend like Julie. All my life I've been blessed with bff's. As an adult in my pre-Julie days, I'd gotten caught up in being a wife and mother, which is okay, don't get me wrong. But bff's make life so much richer and more bearable. Thanks, Heather for helping me remember, and thanks Julie for being the ultimate BFF.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010


     I am the parent of a high school graduate. And if you must know, that statement makes me feel...a little bit old. I was sitting in the front yard, watching the sun set this evening, absorbing the peace and thinking about my life. I looked around my yard, my eyes pausing on the young oak tree we planted last year. I imagined it bigger, with long branches and leaves that offer shade to the entire front of the house. And I imagined little people--children--playing Barbies and trucks in the dirt at its base. These little people would dig holes in the dirt, perhaps filling these pools with water from the hose, they might draw with chalk on the driveway, or ride big wheels on the sidewalk. They would sit beside me and ask me questions; Why is the sky blue? What makes a cloud? Why do birds eat worms? I'd snuggle them close, answering each eager question with patience and love. We might lie on our backs on top of the grass and find shapes in the clouds. Dragons, fish, a dog, maybe even an annoying sibling. On bad weather days we might stay indoors and bake cookies, or bread. We could read stories, crochet, finger paint...
     And these little people would call me Grandma. And it would be the sweetest sound I'd ever heard.
     As my graduate ushers in a new phase of life, so do I. I'm growing up. I think, for the first time in my life, I'm okay with that. I'm looking forward to new experiences. I'm reaching the point where I can see the end of that tremendous task known as child-rearing. It's almost time to watch my children raise their own. Before I know it, I'll be sitting in an audience watching my last child receive a diploma. And I'll wonder where the time went. But I won't regret that it's gone.
     I guess this is the way it's supposed to be. This day is just the beginning of many bittersweet days to come. There is a quiet peace surrounding my mind, and a pleasant ache in my heart. I'm not euphoric, nor am I depressed. I am content.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Sloth

     I have issues. Motivational ones. Well, there are others, but I'm choosing to focus on one at a time. This motivational issue plagues me almost daily, and has since about December. Once in a while I pull out of it and get many wonderful things accomplished. Like mopping, scrubbing toilets, vacuuming, organizing, etc... But mostly, I sit in the chair in my bedroom and stare out the window observing the weather, like an arthritic old woman in an assisted living facility. I play farmtown and fishville on facebook, check my email, check the online weather, and read blogs. Sometimes I read books, but it can't be anything too meaty. My brain is only able to absorb fluff. I find myself daydreaming about my next potential girl's outing or a date night with Scott. I often nod off and jerk awake multiple times before deciding to lay down for a quick snooze that ends several hours later.
     Goodness, this sounds terrible, doesn't it? I'm making myself out to be a complete sloth. I should change my name to Sid and develop a slurpy lisp.
     In fairness to myself, I think I will now list the things I do in between chair sittings. There are a.m. and p.m. carpools to junior high and elementary, breakfast for children, laundry and dishes, toys to pick-up, and Christeal to entertain. If I don't entertain Christeal well enough then I scrub marker and lipstick off the walls, re-fold laundry, re-make my bed, re-roll toilet paper, and sweep up cracker crumbs. I also transport Christeal to and from visits with her parents every Tuesday and Thursday. That takes an hour and ten minutes out of my day right there. This week I have the added joy of supervising these four-hour visits. There are dinners to prepare and more dishes to wash and homework to oversee and school projects to command. Baths and showers, bedtime rituals, and medications to administer to three children add a little more spice. Every so often I retrieve a runaway, break up fights, mop up spills or pee, and wipe butts that are in and out of diapers. Let's not forget the menu planning, grocery shopping, and pharmacy runs. Dentists, doctors, phone calls, caseworkers... I could go on and on and on...
     I guess it's okay to be a bit unmotivated. I just needed to see the reasons why listed in front of me. And here comes one of those reasons.
    Christeal is naked for the fourth time today. She thinks it's great fun to take off her diapers. This morning I sent Zack downstairs to get her out of bed. He came back upstairs, arms empty and laughing, "I'm not gettin' that. I walked in her room and saw her naked butt in the air. I don't want to hold a naked baby."
     So today, in addition to everything else, I washed Christeal's bedding because she peed on everything. I'd better go put a cover on her waterworks before she springs another leak. And then I'll pursue that motivational issue some more... right into my chair.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It Starts

     Well here it goes. I'm attempting another blog in addition to The Fourth Gift. While my Ian blog satisfies my need to complain and praise my seven-year-old, it doesn't do much for just me. As a wife, woman, sister, and friend, and mother to four other children, I have a lot of expressing to do. I'm not a great journal writer, but I love to write personal essays. Some of you have read my first book, My Midlife Crisis... at 33?. I'm in the beginning stages of self-publishing this amazing work of talent and inspiration (this is where we all snort), and it is my plan to make it available for sale here on this blog.
     I've toyed a lot with the idea of this second blog. Part of me thinks I should compile all my thoughts into another book and part of me feels that it's easier and less pressure to just express myself right here. But you know what?
     I can do both.
     Two years ago I started writing another collection of essays detailing my many humorous health issues. It's begging completion. I'm hoping that by publicly stating this fact, it will serve as a motivator and get my lazy butt off facebook and on to more productive things.
     Writing is my passion and a huge part of my world. It keeps me sane, grounded, clear-headed, and happy. Blogging is so good for me. It's like an electronic journal and I don't have to worry about losing it, having the kids scribble in it or rip out pages, and the writer's cramp is minimal. I feel that writing in my blogs helps to free brain space so that I have more mental power to write novels and humorous essays.
     With all that said, I am now committed. To the blogs and the books. It's time to make it all happen and accomplish goals I set seven years ago. But first I need to get Ian out of the shower, put Christeal in the tub, clean up dinner, rotate some laundry and fold some more, and try to attempt a quick pick up before the kid's bedtime in an hour. After that... who knows? The possibilities are mine to mold.