Thursday, May 8, 2014

One long year

 What a year.   A really long, hard year.  One year ago I had seven kids still at home, a dad, and a grandpa.

I haven't seen my kid in a year, Aubrey is staying at college for the summer, and it has been 11 months since I last talked to my dad.

The last time I saw all my kids together was on Joel's birthday last year.  Abram was leaving at 4AM the next morning, so it was a very bittersweet birthday for Joel--he got to blow out the candles and open some presents, but my heart was definitely not in it.
When Abram left, lots of people would say, "Oh, it goes by so fast."  But I had one good friend who said, "Don't listen to anybody.  It doesn't go by fast.  It just sucks."  Yep.

I thought waking up the kids to say goodbye to Abram at 4AM on May 1st last year was the hardest thing I had ever done.  It was so hard to send my kid away for two years, and to see all of his little siblings crying because he really is the best brother ever and we would all miss him.  But I knew I had to let him go, and there was truly no other place I would rather have him be than on a mission.

Letting Abram walk away into the airport last year was so hard.  But that was nothing.  I discovered six weeks later that some things are much harder than that.

Like when you get a call telling you that your amazing, perfect, fun, healthy, fit dad unexpectedly passed away and nobody knows why.   Suddenly having Abram gone was not a big deal.  I would see him in two years.  My dad was gone from this earth forever.  Heartaches all hurt, but my dad dying hurt more than anything I have ever experienced, and more than anything I could have imagined.  All of these trials absolutely brought me to my knees, and only through Christ's atonement, and the comforting of the Holy Spirit was I able to get through.  Speaking at my Dad's funeral was the hardest thing I have ever done.  It should have been impossible.  But with God's help, I made it through actually sort of coherently at that.  The night before the funeral I did not sleep at all.  But whenever I would be on the point of tears and sadness, my heart would suddenly fill with the most powerful love and peace I have ever known.  All night long I thought, I felt, but I did not cry.  I truly was being comforted by heavenly power.

I heard a description of courage this year that really struck me.  Courage is doing what you have to do when there is no other option.  Absolutely.  I learned to be courageous this year.

Anyway, Abram is awesome.  It is not a big deal that he is gone now, and the real heart-wrenching of him first leaving is just a faint memory.  The time has not gone fast for me, but each weekly email from him makes everything worth it.  Tomorrow he will be 20 years old, and he is in very good hands with his Mexican family who are planning to make the day special for him.  I am so grateful that he has people who love him all around him.

Aubrey has plentiful opportunities for work this summer in her college town.  She is happy and enjoying her independence living off campus.  She is appreciative and grateful for everything we have given her or taught her.  What more could I want?

My mom always used to say, "Life is hard, and then you die."   My grandpa used to say, "Kwicherbellyakin!"  I always knew to never expect life to be a cakewalk, and that things would always be hard.  There is no easy road, and everything we go through is part of making us who we are, and who we need to be to eventually return to our father in heaven.  I have tried to remember that over this past year.  I hope I am a little stronger, a little kinder, and a little more resilient than I was one year ago.

But I still miss Abram.  And Aubrey.  And my dad.  And my grandpa.  But they are all where they need to be.  And I am here where I need to be, trying to make each day awesome and memorable for five awesome kids I still have at home.

Home again

Our trip to Boston was so incredible.  It was fun because it was a vacation, but it was so deeply moving and healing as well.  From the time we touched down in Boston, we were greeted by total strangers and signs everywhere welcoming us back to Boston.  Mark was wearing his Boston jacket from last year, which is a natural conversation starter.  The whole city was alive with a spirit of strength and rebirth.  Boston needed the runners to come back, and the runners needed the city of Boston to show its strength by making the marathon go on as planned.  We cried more in the 10 days of our trip than I ever would have guessed.  The Boston runners would find each other, hug and cry and tell their stories of what had happened to them last year, or what motivated them to get to Boston this year.

One of the most touching experiences was at The Old South Church.  They have a knitting group there who started what they thought was a small project.  They wanted to thank the runners who were coming back and to "wrap them up in courage and love" to go on with the race this year.  They started out with a goal of gathering 300 scarves to give to runners.  Word spread quickly and they ended up with 7300 handmade scarves from all 50 states and 10 countries. People just wanted to do something kind, and to help the runners heal from the wounds of last year.  So any runner could go to the church, which is right at the finish line where the first bomb exploded last year, and the volunteers there wrapped the runner up in a scarf, gave them a hug and told them they were loved and appreciated.  Seeing thousands of runners all around Boston in their bright jackets and blue and gold scarves around their necks was really, really touching.

Everywhere we went, Mark found new friends.  People just wanted to talk.  They wanted to share.  Runners and spectators alike were all just so happy to be there.  The police thanked us for coming back.  The shop owners thanked us for coming back.  The city was entirely united.  The Boston Police were everywhere as a show of strength and unity.  They were helpful and kind and so gracious.

I couldn't help but think that if this same thing had happened in Portland, that would have been the end of the marathon.  While Boston has the city motto of "BOSTON STRONG,"  Portland has the motto of "Keep Portland Weird." If this had happened in Portland, we would have had groups out protesting the commercialism of the race, or protesting in support of the bombers, and the city would have spent millions of dollars in studying what Portland had done to offend these terrorists, millions more training Police to be more tolerant.  The crazy but vocal minority runs things in this town.  And the mayor is one of them.  The Portland Police bureau is full of heroes who would have acted the same way the  Boston police did in the aftermath of the bombing last year.  They put their lives on the line every day to protect us.  But they get no respect.  In Portland if a cop has to use his gun to take out an armed or dangerous bad guy, the cop loses his job and the entire bureau undergoes sensitivity training.

I say this not to complain (luckily I live in my happy little suburb and out of the idiocy of inner Portland), but just to praise the citizens of Boston.  They were the phoenix rising from the ashes.  Better, more beautiful and stronger than ever.

Between the crying spells, we did have a lot of fun.  Mark had been injured, and this run was not about a time goal for him, but about going and enjoying the run and healing along the journey.  That's exactly what happened.  He ran all 26.2 miles side by side with a friend, and he loved every minute.

After the race, we stayed in Boston for the rest of the week.  It was so therapeutic to see Boston return to normal, and to then leave it as the beautiful city that it is, rather than the war zone we left last year.

Any trauma or bad images we had in our brains has been replaced by happy experiences and beautiful things.  The bad stuff happened, and it is somewhere deep inside our brains filed under "experience", but our memories of Boston are all good now.  The blood and the smoke have been replaced by happy runners and a resilient city.

And we are going back next year.  Now for pictures.

Our good friend from BYU and Omaha days took us one day down to Providence, RI to see the mansions.  I absolutely loved it.

 Thank you Phillip and Summit for an amazing adventure!
 I took this photo of Meb as he ran in front of me on his way to win the whole thing!
 Mark ran the entire race with his friend Keith.
 Stephen ran faster than Mark.  He really had a goal and made it happen.
 This Boston police officer was across from us last year, and was right in front of the 2nd bomb when it exploded after we left the street.  My niece told him about how she had gone and stood in the same spot as last year to show she wasn't afraid.  He took of his Boston Strong ribbon and gave it to her.
 Stephen, Mark and our friend Eric after the traditional night-before bib pinning.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

One year later

It's been one year since the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  It's been quite a year.  We were so blessed that day to be kept out of harm's way when we were literally sitting across the street from bomb #2.

My life has never been the same.  Mark has never quite been able to wrap his brain around what happened.  I have never been able to understand how evil could exist to such a degree that a man could walk up, set a bomb down next to a small child, and walk away.  My children who were with me that day were greatly affected.  Joel has a hard time being in crowds now without panicking.

In the months after the bombs, Mark had "bomb dreams."  He had (and still does have) survivor's guilt, and what I have coined as "Finisher's Guilt."  I was more of the mindset, "Well, that happened and we are fine now, so let's move on."  But Mark has struggled with that moment for a year now.

I thought I was OK.  I was looking forward to this upcoming trip to Boston.  And then when I started to pack  my suitcase yesterday, the emotions just started flowing.  It had never occurred to me that sometimes a vacation doesn't have a happy ending.  I started to remember the sounds and smells of that day last year.  I thought about waiting in our hotel room with everyone I loved safe and sound, while others were out on the streets searching for their family and friends who had not been able to finish the race.

I can still hear the bombs.  I can still hear the sirens.

But one thing I can also hear is my cell phone.  I have a new phone now, but I haven't been able to part with my old phone.   Whenever I see its sparkly blue case, I think about that day in Boston.  I think about my Dad being the first one to try to call and see if we were OK.  I think of the hundreds of alert tones I heard as close friends and distant acquaintances all were eager to hear that we were OK.  I think of typing as fast as I could on that little screen trying to reply to everyone, and having 5 more texts come through in the meantime.  I love that old phone.  It reminds me that I am loved.

A lot has happened in the last year.  Right after Boston, my son left on a mission for 2 years.  The next month, my Dad died very suddenly and unexpectedly.  My daughter moved away to go to college.  My neighbor died in a tragic motorcycle accident.  I have cried more in the last year than all of my life together.

But I know I am loved.  I know things will work out.  Bad stuff happens and we keep going forward because we are strong.  The struggle is the part of life that makes us strong.

I am excited to be there right at the finish line again this year to see Mark and his brother finish the race safely.  I hope that they can put their demons behind them.  I can't wait to see Boston stand strong and together once again.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mean mom

We had the funniest thing happen at our house last week. Mark installed a pull-up bar in our exercise room and the kids were taking turns on it using a band to assist them. Zachary had freaked out on his first turn because he felt like he was 100 feet in the air. He was actually only about 4 inches off of the stool. So savvy got my iPad to film Zack and show him that he was being a big chicken.

Well, his dismount went terribly wrong, and Savvy got it all on film.

I was laughing so hard that I honestly could not help Zack get out of his situation!  Mean mom.

Aubrey wasn't here but she laughed so hard about the video that she made a page on her blog post about it. It is one of my favorite cartoons she has ever drawn.

My missionary

When Abram left on his mission last May, I thought letting him go was the hardest thing I had ever done.  I learned throughout last year that there are some things much more gut-wrenching.

His weekly emails make my life. I can't function on Mondays until I hear from him, and I love to catch him online and go back and forth with emails for a few minutes. Mexico is the best place I can image him spending 2 years, and I am so grateful that he had the desire to serve a mission, and that I had the courage to let him go.

He has been gone nearly 9 months, and I have a whole bunch of Mexican Facebook friends now. I know he is well loved and being taken care of. Missions are awesome.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Je parle français

One thing I am so grateful for is that my dad taught me to love languages. He always had cassette tapes of languages in the car and at our house. He learned German on his mission and for the rest of his life he would light up whenever found someone to speak German with. And then he tried to learn a little of every other language he could.

Although my German never progressed beyond singing Stille Nacht and O Tannenbaum, I did learn French. For 5 years in school I took French. It is still in my brain, and I love to use it, although I am afraid to speak it.

My senior year I switched to Spanish and I ate it up. I love Spanish. I don't know much, but I am working on it.

I really love to sub for French and Spanish classes at the high school.  It's something that makes me happy.

Paper projects

I would like to think my kitchen is always clean.  It's not.  I really have this thing about being able to see the entire counter in order to be OK.  But I have two crafters who live here who keep the counters very, very....crafty.

Zack and Savanna have two kitchen cupboards full of paper, scissors, buttons, glue, popsicle sticks, pompoms, etc.  They are always making stuff.  So I just sort of get used to seeing the counters with a pile of craft materials on them.

Someday that won't happen any more and I know I will miss it.  So I am trying to appreciate the "craftiness" while it still lives in my house.