Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Remembering Kathy

There have been times in my life when I've felt I was not a very good sister, but there is one that stands out bright and clear and shouts, "Wow, you really blew it." I knew I was being non-supportive at the time, but I didn't care. That was me when I was 17 and a junior in high school. I was absolutely self-absorbed and oblivous to my sister Lisa's trauma. I kept her pain in my periphery while I stayed rooted in the swirling motion of my teenage world.

In talking to my sister recently, she says she doesn't remember me neglecting her. She says she has no ill feelings about anything I did or didn't do. That she doesn't understand why I'm feeling badly about my behavior 25 years later. I don't know either. I don't know why I think I need her forgiveness when she thinks I did nothing that needs forgiving. But I still want her forgiveness. I still want her to know that I should have helped her deal with her trauma in all its tumultuous layers, instead of minimizing and diminishing the death of her best friend.

Lisa was almost 16 at the time. She was only a grade behind me, but we couldn't have been more different. We looked different, cared about different things, and had completely different friends. I remember my social life and my life were far and away the most important things to me. My friends were paramount to my happiness. My world revolved around a certain boy and those friends we both hung out with. I did my homework, went to church, got a good grade point average, was a class officer and worked for the student newspaper. My family was four other people I lived with, sometimes harmoniously, sometimes not. Above all, I refused to let them get in the way of my life.

My sister had a friend named Kathy. They were quirky together. They were two peas in a pod. They were the sisters that Lisa and I weren't. Kathy's Dad had run rivers with our Dad in the "olden days." When both our families got together for a river trip when Lisa and Kathy were about 10, they clicked. They didn't go to the same school, so our parents shuttled them back and forth between houses for sleepovers and other get-togethers.

Whenever Kathy was over, she and Lisa were up to their eyeballs in writing and performing plays. These were hilarious, dramatic, over-the-top productions that they both put their hearts and souls into. When it was time for a performance, everyone who was home at the time would have to sit down on the couch to watch and watch and watch. If you had something else to do, forget it. One would be singing opera and playing the piano while the other did a companion act on the side. Sometimes a violin was involved. Then they'd switch. There were other river trips during those years where they could be together 24/7. They loved it.

Their friendship was true and fierce but short-lived. Because half-way through Lisa's sophomore year, Kathy was in a terrible car accident and was on life support. This is the part that is vague to me. The most horrific things always are. After Kathy's parents had decided to take her off life support, my parents dispatched me to break the news to Lisa on that Friday afternoon.

It was a cold and dreary January day. Lisa was at the high school basketball game. I walked into the gym and our eyes locked. She later said she knew instantly that Kathy had died because I wasn't supposed to be at that game. My arms wrapped around her and she sobbed all the way to the car where my Dad was waiting. Did I cry too? I don't know. Did I try to glimpse at my friends in the bleachers before Lisa and I left? Probably. Was I absorbed in trivial, insipid thoughts? Most likely. I drove the car while Dad held Lisa in the back seat. At home Dad held Lisa on the couch while she cried her eyes out.

It was the same week my grandfather had suffered a massive stroke and was in the hospital. He was not doing well. Now Kathy had died. It was January, the worst month of the year. I'm sure I had plans that evening and I'm sure I went out. I should have stayed home to cry with Lisa, to be with her, something I would absolutely demand of my own children now. I'm sure I went out an was congenial and outgoing as ever with my friends. Even when it was cold and dark and my sister's heart was breaking. I'm sure I slept well that night, maybe didn't even remember that Kathy had died first thing in the morning like Lisa did.


Kathy was part of a beautiful youth bell choir called the Wesley Bell Ringers. Their music could melt the coldest hearts, warm the dreariest January day. At her funeral, the bell choir, dressed in flowing golden robes, rang out a stirring tribute to her life. I remember thinking of the lines, "Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor doth he sleep" from the familiar Christmas carol. The choir were angels with tears streaming down their cheeks, chiming the message that Kathy's life was a celebration. With each note they demanded that we immediately see the loveliness in her life.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Melt My Heart

Few things warm my heart like kids writing stuff about me. Last night I got a belated Mother's Day poem from my son that we found while cleaning out his backpack. I thought I'd share it with you even though he'd die if he knew. But this is my journal, the record of my life at age 40, and he'll be glad to have this poem when he's 60 and remembering his Mom or doing "family history."

Mothers are a hug when you are sad.
Mothers are a kiss goodnight when it's time for bed.
Mothers are a loving friend when I'm scared.
Mothers are a huge red heart guiding me when times are dark.

Isn't that the sweetest thing? Then we got reading his daily third grade journal, what a riot. Here are some funny excerpts:

March 1

"Today we're working on a play. My Mom's helping. Last night I had pack meeting. I'm a bear now. I got 6 silver arrow points and one gold arrow point. Today we had music. I have piano today. I am ready for my lesson. I still haven't played on my new battlefield. Mom's car broke down so my parents have been kind of grouchy."

March 15

"Today we had school pictures. Cassie's looking in my journal. Cassie's is writing in her journal what I'm writing. Today I played soccer. We son 32-2. I'm reading Spirit Walker. I'm on page 138. Megan is still writing the date in her journal.

March 26

TODAY IS MY FIRST SOCCER GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM SO EXCITED! HOORAY! Our team has gotten way better. At practice yesterday I stole the ball away from McKay 165 (?) times. And he was good. I can't wait for our game. I've gotten really good at defense. I hope the coach puts me in as defender or forward. Those are my two best positions.

March 30

Today I played 4-square. It was okay. Today we had music. Today I have piano after school. Tonight I think I can have a sleepover. Kyle's Mom is picking me up for piano. I wonder what we will do for writing time today. I hope we have an assembly so we don't have to have writing time.

November 20, 2006

It is 3 days till thanksgiving. Mrs. Miller is asking us a question. She wants us to write it down in our journal. The question is Should you bring things to school? My answer is No. Cause then we might get distratcted. And start playing with it. And then we might not know what to do. Or we might go to the princeples office. Mrs. Miller is writing on the board. I'm thirsty.

November 30, 2006

Last night I had the worst nightmare ever. I don't even want to explain it. I went into my mom and dad's room. It was the worst nightmare I've ever had. The nightmare reminds me of young Frankenstien. Let's change the subject. I woke my mom and dad up at 3:09 and fell asleep sometime around 5:04. Today has been a good day. Except for the nightmare. It's still a long time till I go home. Tomorrow is the first day of December. That means we start pulling chocolate out of it's box.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fathers and Sons

Tonight my husband is taking our son to the annual Fathers and Sons outing. The men look forward to getting filthy, shooting marshmallow guns, and not getting in trouble for passing gas and burping in public. At least there are no females there to scold them and act disgusted. So it's a good time for the men. I imagine you can smell the high levels of testosterone wafting through the camp. Thank heavens I won't be anywhere in the vicinity.

It's also a good time for the women. My daughters and I look forward our "girls's night out." We typically go out to dinner someplace that my hubby would never want to go (like the Spaghetti Factory--it's so boring, he says, and he prefers more exciting foreign food like Peruvian or a Argentine --places my girls just don't want to go).

So we go to the Spaghetti Factory (not my absolute favorite either but one my girls all agree on, miraculously) and Leah gets the kid's macaroni and cheese with applesauce on the side. My older girls will get a pasta dish with mizithra cheese. And I will get something green and good for me, like salad with dressing on the side. I'm counting those Weight Watchers points and I don't want to blow them all on a bowl of fettucine alfredo, you know what I mean? I will have a side of pasta with marinara sauce maybe. I hope I will do this. I plan to do this. Who knows what will really happen.

After we ask for boxes for our leftovers and then leave them on the table, we'll go to Adrienne's end of the year band concert. She plays the clarinet and hates it. I don't think I've heard her practice for months. (her band teacher will probably not read this blog, right?) Well, I'll cut her a bit of slack. When she got her wisdom teeth out last month it was an actual RULE that she couldn't t play for two weeks. So for those two weeks she would call me and ask me to take her out to lunch or to bring her home. One time I was flying down Provo Canyon on my bike when she called. I stopped my bike and answered. "Mom, remember how I can't play the clarniet because of my teeth? Well, could you just get me and we could maybe go out to lunch and then you could bring me back?" I remember that I only get her home for two more years and I immediately say yes and rush down the canyon in record time to pick her up.

It was really bad when her cell phone got stolen last week. Oh man, was that bad. You'd have thought her right arm had been removed, she was so disturbed. The girl sends 786 (I know cause I just saw the bill) texts a month. So that's 26.2 texts a day. What would she do with her hands if she couldn't text? Just be extremely grumpy.

Anyway, we'll see how the concert goes tonight. I have no idea what they're playing since I haven't heard any playing for months.

Then we will come home and watch "Music and Lyrics" (I know a PG-13, but what a great PG-13!) Adrienne loves this movie. I love this movie. Hopefully Samantha will love the movie. Since she read "Twilight" she might be more interested in romances, even if they don't include a vampire. Hopefully Leah will go to sleep and not bug me to play with her while I'm trying to watch. You see, I've had a thing for Hugh Grant for a long time now. I keep being disappointed that he doesn't seem as great a human being in real life as he is in the movies. That's how you know you when you like an actor, when you want them to be as glorious in real life as on screen.

I just think he's so charming and funny, and yes, I love the accent. I love how self-deprecating he is, and how his eyes wrinkle when he smiles. I love his curly hair and his witty lines and I love . . . .OK, enough about Hugh Grant.

I am planning on only eating the 94% fat free popcorn during the movie as opposed to last year when I broke out the quadruple chocolate clog your arteries but die happy Ben and Jerry's decadence. Not this year. I will drink some diet coke and keep eating the popcorn and concentrate on Hugh Grant so I don't feel deprived.

I will love being with my girls and watching a chick flick. I will love staying up reading. I will NOT love going to a 4-hour scout training in the morning, or washing the smelly fathers and sons outing clothing (or what's left of it) later that day. But it will be a nice evening of gender separation, a recharging of the batteries, so to speak. Men be men, women be women and then we all come back and live together more harmoniously.

It's a nice theory!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day, that most guilt-producing of holidays, the one that brings all sorts of raw emotions to the surface to stick around for a day or two. Or longer if you let it.

What I used to dislike about Mother's Day was listening to all the talks in church about what the "ideal" mother should be. Really, how could any mother measure up to those standards? So instead of feeling happy that there were mothers out there who measured up to such high ideals, who raised their children with such skill, I would just feel bad that I didn't. I would just leave with my wilting geranium feeling awful, like I had some unfixable Mommy flaw. I wondered why we had to devote the entire church meeting to Mother's Day. After all, we totally glossed over Father's Day a month later.

One year my husband was asked to speak in church on Mother's Day. I wondered what he would say that wouldn't make me feel guilty and less than ideal. He started out by reading the words to one of the children's hymns. It goes:

Mother dear, I love you so,
Your happy smiling face,
Is such a joy to look at,
You make home a lovely place.

He then told the congregation that that particular song really struck a nerve with his wife (me). He described how in a fit of despair I had thrown myself on the bed and declared that my children were deprived because I didn't have a happy, smiling face; I had a grumpy, frowning face. And how I couldn't make the home a lovely place when I was so woefully inadequate. And why was making the home a lovely place all up to me anyway, blah, blah, blah. It was quite a display. He described it quite dramatically.

The congregation roared while I slumped down in my seat. They thought it was the funniest thing ever. After I got over being embarassed, thinking, "great, now everyone thinks I'm insane," I realized they were laughing because they related. They'd felt everything I'd felt. The difference was that now it was out on the open. Everyone could relax. They weren't going to get a lecture on the qualities of the perfect mother. They were going to get the real stuff. Darren went on to talk about how we need to support mothers without making them feel inadequate, that the most important present mothers needed was support and encouragement, not impossible ideals to live up to.

I loved that talk. It changed my attitude about Mother's Day at church. Personally, I think the best present of all would be not to have to get up and go to church, but since that's not an option, I had to work on the attitude part.

I love seeing my kids up there singing a song to me. Today they sang:

Mother I love you,
Mother I do,
Father in Heaven has sent me to you.
When I am near you
I love to hear you
Singing so softly that you love me too.
Mother I love you,
I love you, I do.

That song just makes be beam. My children are a precious gift. I realize that now. But years ago I would have felt bad that I didn't sing enough to my children!

It's just a fact that the mother's attitude is transferred to all around her, whether they are six months old or 16. It's not fair at all, but that's the way it is. Ain't Momma happy ain't nobody happy, or however that familiar saying goes. And like my grandmother used to tell me, "Honey, life isn't fair!"

So as the children get older, Mother's Day is more fun. There aren't any babies to nurse or diapers to change. Today I took a good long nap and my girls and their cousin fixed dinner for me and the rest of the family. Wow. The next generation can cook. That's a beautiful feeling. Maybe I have done something right.

Also, Darren made me a huge picnic table that seats 12 people. Isn't that a great gift? I was thrilled. I loved looking at my mother, her husband, father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, their children and my children sitting around that awesome table. It made me eager to have more dinners with family and friends in my back yard.

So tomorrow, no breakfast in bed, no leisurely naps, no dinner being made. It's back to the motherly grind. All in all, it's not a bad grind to be in. It's actually pretty wonderful sometimes.

I love you, Adrienne, Samantha, Nathan, and Leah! You're such great kids, in spite of your mother!

Friday, May 4, 2007


I love words. I love books and poems and any piece of writing where words are put together in a way that forces me to think of things differently. I love good writing. One of the greatest joys in my life is reading an amazing book. I'd rather do that than almost anything.

When I was in college I majored in English even though people told me that it wasn't so lucrative and that I would never make much money. Looking back, I'm still glad I majored in English, and I'm still glad I read all that literature, and I'm still glad I wrote all those persuasive essays. I knew back then what I loved, and nobody could persuade me otherwise for good or bad. It was not a wise choice in terms of career and money money. It was a wise choice for me, a person addicted to the written word.

I didn't read everything my professors told me to. I hated Saul Bellow and Joan Didion. I refused to read "Executioner's Song" by Norman Mailer. I struggled through Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery. There were some real downers. books that probably didn't help my mental state of being. I was often distracted by my life, job, and selfish pursuits, and didn't get through all the books I was supposed to. But I got through some great novels and read some life-touching poems. "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston made my heart do flip-flops. I didn't always remember the details of books, but I remembered how they made me feel.

It's natural for people who read a lot to want to write, and I did that, too. I'm still doing it--thus this blog. I get a charge out of creating something permanent, something black and white, something that isn't erasable the minute it's finished. So much of what I do gets undone immediately, but writing is archival. It will be there when all the laundry's dirty again, when all the groceries are eaten. For me, writing has become crucial, almost critical. It took me many years to discover that the missing link to my fulfillment was writing, but I'm only half way through my life. I still have another 40 years to write!

I also wrote something last year and the last part of 2005. I wrote a young adult novel. I still can't believe I wrote a novel. I had an incredible burst of creative energy and managed to crank out 70,000 words. I have no training on how to write a novel. I've just read a lot of them that inspire me. I have no training on how to get a novel published, but I'm working on that at a snail's pace. I have no idea what to do with the document that sits in my computer and calls to me. Not a day goes by when I don't hear it telling me to come back. How could you just leave me like that, it says. We spent a year and a half together. You loved me.

What should I do? It's almost like I've buried something alive. I've buried something that was so real, so vital for so many months. Now it just sits. Waiting. Waiting for me to open it up, to read it again, to change things, fix things, and get swept up again.

It's like a love relationship. You never forget the raw, aching process of detaching yourself from someone you once loved, but you try to concentrate on what good will come of it. You try not to think of the closeness and the words spoken or the time spent together. Try as you might, those thoughts seep from the back of your mind to front and center, and there's not much you can do about it.

That's how it is with me and "my book." I had to detach myself a bit. I was getting too involved, too worried about what would happen to my beloved creation. Would someone else ever like it, like it enough to publish it, enough to read it? Those questions were too overwhelming at times, and the universal advice I got from writing workshops and Darren was to put it away for a while. Put it on the back burner so to speak. So, how long is a while? Am I ready to let it out of its cage again, ready to chase it around, to agonize over it, improve it, let it consume my time? Or can I keep it at bay, keep it from eating up my life? I don't know.

The hard thing about writing is that it takes up your time, as much time as you'll let it. There is no compensation for time spent, just the hope of future success and the joy of the writing process. Some days that's enough. Other days it's not.

My second daughter, Samantha, is a good reader. She doesn't read voraciously, but she reads. It's not like it's an option in our house. My oldest daughter, Adrienne, and I have been telling her for months that she just had to read "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer.

"What's it about?" she asked.

"About a girl who falls in love with a vampire," we told her.

"Gross. Why would anyone do that?"

"Well, he's very hot," Adrienne told her.

"So what! That's disgusting," she yelled. And subsequently refused to read the book until she realized that she was the only one of her friends who hadn't read it. Then, I had to get my copy of "Twilight" back from the 11th person I loaned it to immediately so she could start reading about Edward (the vampire) and Bella (the girl who is besotted by the vampire).

When she got her hands on it I didn't see her for three days. She even refused to go to school at one point, claiming that I had put my life on hold while I was reading it and so did Adrienne, and that she deserved the same consideration. She had a point. My life went on pause when I was engrossed in "Twilight" and now hers was. I was the one who asked her to read it after all. So I let her stay home. I thought of all the As on the last report card and figured why not.

She was lost, besotted herself in the power of a good book. I was secretly delighted that she was falling in love with words. I was creating another word addict, in my own home, with my own child.

Tee hee. It felt fabulous.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Breakfast Blaster


I thought I'd quickly share a recipe for my favorite breakfast, a tasty smoothie that keeps me full for nearly three hours! That's something.

1/2 cup blueberries, frozen or fresh
1/2 banana
3 ice cubes
1/2 c. non-fat plain yogurt
1 scoop protein powder
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup water, or less

Put all ingredients in blender. Chop, then puree. Yum Yum. This is almost a perfect meal. You've got your fruit (they say blueberries are the best for you), dairy, protein and fiber, and vitamins in the protein powder. The only thing missing food group is vegetables! I can get my veggies at lunch and dinner or in a can of V-8 later in the day.

Try it. When I drink it, I instantly feel healthier. I know that sounds crazy, but I can feel all those vitamins doing something good for me, undoing poor food choices I've made a long the road. When I have slurped up the last bit, I am so glad I chose to make my smoothie. Plus it's a gorgeous purple color, something to make you smile in the morning. To me, that's a big deal.

Hope you like it.