Monday, October 14, 2013

10 years

My heart is pounding, palms are sweaty, and stomach has butterflies.  I have been thinking about this post for years and it has come time for it to be written.  Lately my prayers have been that I will be able to say what I need to say in a way that will let others understand my thoughts today.
Today is the 10th anniversary of my mom's death.  Today is a hard day.
The last time I wrote a post dedicated to my mother was 5 years ago.  If you are interested in reading it here is the link.
The biggest change from 5-years ago is the intensity of my grief.  It is such a personal thing, grief; something that is unique to each person who owns it.  For a very long time I held on to that grief, I loved my grief, I nurtured it and was in a sick way - proud of my grief: wore it like a badge of sorrow, it was mine and I wanted it because I was afraid that if I let go of my grief I would be letting go of how much I love and miss my mom.  But there was always something that knew it needed to be released.
That something is my relationship with Ethan.
My sweet boy was born 20 days before my mom died.  I'm not sure if I've shared the miracle of the events that lead to him in my life.  I will here because his journey and mom's are so interlinked I know it is appropriate and that she approves of this being part of my dedication to her.
If my mom had lived until Christmas 2003 it would have been 3 years since her diagnosis of kidney cancer.  She had surgery to remove the diseased kidney but by the time it was diagnosed it had spread to several other areas of her body including her brain.  She went through several rounds of the cancer treatment called Interleukin-2 treatments and External Beam Radiation done at UCLA medical center.  She was receiving amazing care but the treatments always left her feeling weak and incredibly sick.  I'm not sure which was worse, the disease or the 'cure'.
Adam and I tried for 2 frustrating years to get pregnant with Ethan.  For 18 months of those two years I went to a doctor in San Francisco who basically tried only one approach and didn't ever think to experiment with other alternatives.  We moved from San Francisco back to Carson City in June of 2002.  In December of that year I started seeing a new doctor and told him about all of the things that had been tried and that didn't work.  He suggested that I try a new set of medications and see how that went.  I got pregnant on the 1st month of the new medicine.  Knowing what I know now, scientifically speaking, the egg that I had that became Ethan was not an 'ideal' egg, and both of the other fertility specialists that I've seen since then would never have used that egg for implantation; however, he was coming.  I will not forget the phone call where my doctor told me I was pregnant, after I hung up the phone I hugged Adam and he just kept saying over and over again: "I told you, I told you", I don't remember what it was he told me, but apparently he was right.  After hugging Adam I turned around and my mom was sitting on the stairs, crying.  She knew how much this baby was loved and needed.  He was due on Wednesday, October 15, 2003.
I had a pretty normal pregnancy until early August when I had to be admitted to the hospital for early labor caused by a UTI.  My doctor gave me an injection of a steroid that would help his lungs in case he was born those 2 1/2 months early.  He wasn't born then, so I was put on bed rest until mid September when I went back to work.  I was extremely swollen, I never had blood clots, but my legs were incredibly puffy and hurt - a lot, it was hard to sit or walk, bending my knees was very hard to do without being in pain.  I never had protein in my urine, so my doctor didn't ever suspect pre-eclampsia.  On Tuesday, September 23, I went for my usual Dr. check up and had gained 10 pounds in a little more than a week, my doctor told me that she wanted me to go to the hospital the next day to be induced and that she was confident the baby would be fine, just 3 weeks early.  I have never wanted to kiss another woman as much as I wanted to kiss her that day.  I was so relieved that an end to the pregnancy was coming.  Ethan was delivered the next day, Wednesday, September 24, perfectly healthy and exactly 7 pounds.  He had no problems with his lungs, and had no other complications from being 'premature'.    My mom was very, very sick by then, still in my heart I thought she would get better, that she would pull through.  She came to the hospital and held Ethan for as long as she could, she was too weak to walk in to the hospital so she was in a wheelchair.  After we had taken the baby home we visited mom at her house and again, she held Ethan.  She was laying on the couch and couldn't sit up, but she held him in the crook of her arm against her shoulder and kissed his head.  I feel so guilty about not getting a picture of those moments.  It's one of my major regrets, actually.
On Tuesday, October 14, 2003 I was sitting at home on my couch watching TV, holding Ethan.  My sister Melanie called and asked if I was okay.  I said yes, why?
Mom Died.
It's a hard moment to describe.  The world didn't stop turning, but it felt like every cell in my body constricted.  Tunnel vision.  Dampened ringing in my ears.  Not sure if I'm breathing, if my heart is beating, if I still have my limbs.
I think that we as children expect that our parents will die before us.  It is the natural order.  The old die, the young live until it is their turn.  But until that moment is faced it is such a surreal thought that even trying to imagine it is not possible.  And who expects when they are 26 and their parent is 58 and their baby is 20 days old that the person who is, really and truly, the reason they live has left them behind?  It's awful.  I hate it.
I have forgotten most of the days that immediately followed that awful Tuesday.  I do remember going to dress her body: walking in to the room, looking to the left, there lays mom, but not mom, on a table, skin like a piece of frozen chicken from the grocery store.  Have a few glimpses of silliness while dressing the body, hefting and pulling, and heaving to get the garment bottoms on while maintain as much modesty as possible, discovering that the knee mark was in the wrong place - they were on backwards!  Start over...  Deciding she didn't like a bra when she was alive so no need to put one on now, right?
I don't remember much of the funeral.  The chapel was full and most of the gym, probably 2/3 back was packed.  Each of the six of her children spoke.  We all love our mom.
Here is the thing that I remember most clearly about the day that we buried her body.  As we were leaving the cemetery Adam said to me, "I feel like your mom has already met the Savior".  In that moment I saw it as clearly as I would if I had been there.  My mom, Shanna Reed, embracing the Savior of the World and begging for her children.  For Him to, please, take care of her children.  I know it happened.  And how could she not, she is our mother and death does not change that.  The only thing she ever asked us to be is righteous.
For a very long time I was angry, I was hurt, I was stuck.  My relationship with that sweet Ethan was incredibly strained.  I didn't necessarily blame him for mom's death, but what should have been joy to know him was always stained with the hurt that was so intense it over powered the experience that should have been.  It took me years to let it go and notice him, and the happiness that he is.  And that makes me sad.  It was unfair to him, it was unfair to me.  At my breaking point I prayed for a very long time, for days and months for that relationship to be healed.  I am happy hat not only is it healed but the hurt that I caused because of my actions or inactions is completely forgotten.  We have a great friendship and love for each other.  He is my first miracle.  I know for certain that he was born exactly 3 weeks early because my mom needed to see him before she died and Heavenly Father knew that I needed to see her see him before she died.  I don't know if I prayed more for the blessing of being a parent, or if my parents prayed more for the blessing of me being a parent.  She felt the pain of my infertility as much as I did.  And she was there to see the blessing fulfilled.  I am humbled for having that great mercy shown to me.
While the sting of her death is not present, the hollowness that it left is still there.  I remember clearly the moment when I gingerly approached the hole in my heart, ready to nurse the hurt, when I noticed the frayed edges were smoothed over.  The rawness was gone.  There is still a hole, she is still my mother and she is still not here, that has not changed.  The feeling of needing to keep my anger, to remain stuck in my sadness has withdrawn.  I love having the gospel in my life.  I love knowing that my mom's life did not end when her body died.  I love knowing that my parents were sealed in the temple that our family will be together again.  I love that Jesus Christ was resurrected and that we will all have our bodies back one day and that I will see my mom again.  The thing I do not love is the tendency of some people in the church to try to minimize when someone is mourning because of all of this wonderful knowledge.  They have the very best intentions and are in a clearer state of mind to see these blessings for what they are.  But for me, when I was hurting so desperately, I wanted someone to validate my hurt, tell me that the feelings that I have are legitimate, healthy and perfectly acceptable.  I found that very thing from Heavenly Father Himself: Doctrine & Covenants 42:45, "Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die..."  He knows and expects us to mourn and weep when someone we love leaves us.  He doesn't think less of us because in those moments of suffocating sadness we are not contemplating how grateful we are for the temple.  He knows we miss being with the people that are gone and He has told me that those feelings are 100% okay with Him.  For that I am grateful.  What a perfect Savior we have.
Ten years in and I still have to catch myself when I think, oh I'm going to call mom and tell her...
I love to believe that my kids are her favorite grandchildren.  I see her expressions, mannerisms, goofiness and joy in them daily.  
I still miss mom.  I still feel it everyday.  It still breaks my heart when I look at my children and know that they will not know her for a very long time.  I cry.  I mourn.  I don't forget.
There are so many things that I regret having not done when she was alive, so many things I wish I could ask.  None of them deep and pressing, just the simple things: what did she think about this, what was her experience with that, how would she handle a certain situation?  I will regret it if I do not do my very best to keep the covenants I have made with my Heavenly Father so that I will be with my family for eternity.  I will regret if I do not tell my children often how much I love them and how much they would love knowing her.  I will not regret missing her.  I will not regret thinking about her daily.  I will not regret choosing to be happy despite her being gone.  I will not regret deciding to allow the Savior to heal me, my hurt, and my relationship with my son.  I will not regret being her daughter.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bee In My Bonnet

I've got a bee in my bonnet today and it's called 'Mommy Wars'.  The idea that because one mom doesn't run her family or live up to the standards of this other mom or expert, or doctor, or scientist that she isn't as worthy of the title of mother as those who follow that 'advice', that her children are doomed to failure and ruin and it is all her fault, she doesn't adequately love her children and frankly doesn't even deserve to even BE a parent.

Scrolling through Facebook today I saw a post that my friend has up which has the basic idea that teaching your children to sleep through the night using the cry-it-out method is super damaging to your children and they will have a harder time functioning in society because of the uncaring parents that they have.  I didn't read the article, but it put a bee in my bonnet anyway.
Believe me, I am far from a perfect mother.  And when I lay awake at night worrying about how much 'damage' I've inflicted on my children the LEAST of my worries is the fact that they are all soundly asleep in the next room and won't need me again until the morning.

Our family doesn't do a lot of things right:

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and I have ONLY 3 children -  The Shame!
I went to a fertility doctor to have those 3 children -  What?!  Say it isn't so!
I delivered my children - at a hospital - using an epidural - and worst of the worst - via c-section (it's true, sorry to disappoint).
I nursed E. for 1 year, Mr. M for 6 months, and Miss M for 8 months and - say it isn't so- then switched to (gasp!) formula, you read that right - formula.
My children were sleeping through the night in their own beds by six months of age each, not because it came naturally to them, but because I worked on it with them.  They are sure to be sociopaths, apparently.
We eat meat, non-organic fruits and veggies, stuff with gluten, sugar in it and dairy (I know, we are all bound for diabetes and heart disease).
My kids are current on their vaccinations.
We watch TV and my kids play BOTH computer and Wii games.
They go to public school.
My kids play with toy guns and swords (Ack!  anything but that!)
There are some nights when we go to bed without having flossed our teeth.
My kids ride their bikes around the block without an adult present.
My kids bicker, yell at and annoy each other.

But, guess what else we do in our family:

We eat dinner together - every night.
We say our prayers.
We read our scriptures together (not every night, but we try)
We read non-scriptures together.
We laugh.
We smile.
We are honest with everyone.
We take walks together.
We go to the beach.
We go to the library.
We dance and sing.
We wrestle.
We play games.
We tell jokes.
We exercise.
We do hard work together.
We go to church.
We don't keep secrets.
We ENJOY each other.
We say please and thank you.
We are kind.
We are trustworthy.
We forgive each other.

There is not a single person out there who knows exactly the correct way to raise these people who we hope end up as successful adults.  I'm not excellent at it, I don't have all the correct answers, I have some regrets about some of my methods, but these little people are happy and well adjusted.  They love each other and are a joy to those around them.  I have enough to worry about without someone else telling me I'm doing it wrong.  My husband and I and more importantly: Heavenly Father think that we are doing a pretty good job at helping these angels learn how to be their fullest.  I refuse to compare myself with what other people think is the correct way.
I'm doing the best with the knowledge I have been given.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Before I Forget

It's been just 2 weeks since A and I came home from our amazing Hawaiian vacation.  And before I forget I'd better write down everything that we did.
It. Was. Awesome.
We left on Monday, May 20th.  My father-in-law paid for a driver to pick us up and take us to the airport.  It was great.  Didn't have to worry about traffic, parking our car, or who would take us.  We just got in and sat back enjoyed the drive.
We arrived in Honolulu at about 8pm that night and drove to Kailua where we were staying at a bed and breakfast.  The B&B was in a great location, but in itself was not awesome.  We've stayed at B&B's before an enjoyed our experience a lot.  This one though was a bit like staying at the house of an aunt of someone you know.  There was not a huge amount of privacy and the owner loved to sit and chat with you as you came an went.  She is a friendly person, so it wasn't awful, but not exactly what we had in mind.  Luckily, it was for just 2 nights. 
On Tuesday we went kayaking on Kailua beach to a Flat Island and one of the two Mokulua Islands. 



The water was the perfect temperature, the waves we ideal for easy kayaking and the ocean was so clear the when we snorkeled the visibility was awesome.  We saw several fish, one teeny-tiny one chased me back to shore. 

That night we went to the movie to see the new Star Trek movie (A's choice), and out to dinner.  On vacation we eat grown-up food -  Japanese noodle-house -- Yummy.
Wednesday we each had a massage:

And ate lunch at Cinnamon's in Kailua.  Red Velvet Pancakes for lunch?  Yes, please!  

 We picked up my brother, Brian and sister-in-law, Erica, at the airport and went to check in at our time-share in on the west-side of the island in the town of Waimea.  My aunt paid for the time-share, so it was free for us.  We wouldn't have chosen Waimea for ourselves since it is very far from any of the activities we were going to do on Oahu and the town is pretty ghetto.  The unit itself was quite nice and since we didn't plan to sight-see (nothing to see in Waimea) or really hang out and since it was free - can't beat that!, it worked out great.  Our view was awesome, right on the beach!

That afternoon we played in the water and went to eat at the Army Recreation Center.  It was inexpensive, the food was good:

And the view was out of control!
 Thursday was our day at Pearl Harbor. 
We took the boat out to the USS Arizona memorial, an incredibly touching sight.

And toured the USS Bowfin, a WWII era submarine.  We had the audio tour, which made it really fun and interesting.


I have always loved the picture 'The Kiss', this statue is in front of the USS Missouri, so A and I had to capture our version.

 Next we toured the USS Missouri, where the Japanese officially surrendered at the end of WWII.  The ship is HUGE!  I kept saying that over, and over, and over, because it really is.  We got to see the first 3 levels and it took us at least 4 hours.  It was incredible.  We also saw the actual spot where the surrender agreement was signed.  The tour guides provided a lot of very helpful insight and really brought to life the importance of this ENORMOUS ship.

We performed sealings in the Laie temple on Friday, and ate lunch in the temple's cafeteria (yummy soup and bread, one of our best meals on the island).
The Polynesian Cultural Center took up the majority of our afternoon on Friday.  It was A's and Erica's first time at the PCC and we all really enjoyed our experience.  The food was good and the entertainment well worth the while.

Oahu was a good experience because A and Erica had never been there, and we figured that if we were going to fly all that way there were things to do on Oahu, touristy things, that are pretty Hawaii essential.

Saturday we took an island hopper to the Out-of-Control-Beautiful Island of Kauai.  We stayed at my dad's time share in Kapa'a.  Again, right on the beach, but the town was a much nicer area than Waimea.  

That afternoon we toured the area, saw a waterfall, and chickens, chickens, and more chickens.  They are everywhere!  Locals told us it is because in the '90's there was a hurricane and a bunch of the chickens flew out of their coops, and have become wild. 

 A cute little girl gave me this flower.

Attended the Kapa'a 2nd ward on Sunday and then went to the McBryde Botanical garden.  The perfect solution for what to do on a Sunday on vacation.

Monday we went on a catamaran tour up the Napali coast.  Brian and I were brave enough to go under the waterfall, we are adventuresome folk.

We saw this amazing coastline:

 2 pods of spinner dolphins rode with our ship at separate times, we saw babies and mommas, they were so cute!  A got to SCUBA dive while the rest of us snorkeled.  We saw lots of fish, and a couple of sea turtles, I also saw two sharks!
That evening we ate at Puka Dog in Poipu.  Delicious!  A hotdog in a sweet bread bun with a choice of relishes (I had mango relish, A and Erica had coconut relish) and lilikoi mustard.  SOOOOO good!

Then the best thing I we had on our entire trip, what else, but dessert.  It is a gelato shop right next to Puka dog.  I had salted caramel and chocolate, A had lilikoi (which is like passion fruit).  It was amazing, we had to eat it a second time right before we came home on Saturday.
 It's hard to choose a very favorite day since they were all so fun, but I have to say that my favorite activity of the trip was definitely ziplining.  It was super-duper fun!  Nine zips each getting progressively taller/longer/faster.  Followed by a swim in a 'secret' swim hole and lunch.  I could have done it all day and not gotten sick of it.  Love, love, love ziplining.


Wednesday was THE day.  While planning our trip I casually mentioned to A that Kauai has a hike along the Napali coast called the Kalalau trail that leads to a beach that can only be accessed via this trail or by a boat but only during the Spring or Summer.  It is 11 miles one way and is ranked as one of the hardest hikes in the world.  My love is an avid hiker and knew that he had to take this hike on.  I figured it would be hard but I could handle it.  And I was right.  It was HARD, and I handled it, but barely.  It is a lot of switchbacks, a lot of ravines, a lot of up and down, a super narrow trail where if you misstep you will, literally, fall to your death.  I did it because I knew it was important to A and it is a once (for me) in a lifetime opportunity.  It was made a lot easier by having our friend Tyler with us, he had done it before and was a huge help.  He carried my pack for me and both he and A were an enormous emotional support when I was super scared.  One section is sheer rock and a straight drop into the ocean 200 feet below, I was terrified, but they talked me through it.  This trail is beautiful and exceptionally challenging.  At one point I cried (at about mile 9).  Not just a few tears, I mean, face-in-my-hands-sobbing.  I think it was mostly because I was tired and knew that I had to re-do the whole hike the next day. 
The end result was a beautiful secluded beach (so secluded that several people thought that clothing was optional), we camped that night.  We met quite a few very interesting people during our journey, on the trail we passed a pair of young men who had stopped along the trail.  A little bit later they passed us.  Later, we passed them, they passed us (at least 6 times, I'm not exaggerating), at one point when we were stopped along the way we noticed that they were stopping to smoke weed.  For the life of me I can not figure out how you would attempt trial under any impairment, and why you would need to dope up 6 or 7 times long an eleven mile trek!  So weird. 
The next morning, lucky for us (we didn't know beforehand), there was a boat that came to the beach and took us back to town, saving us from having to hike back the next day. 
It was really, really, really hard.
Start of the hike, notice the optimistic smile on my face.

After 2 miles, still smiling.  9 miles to go....

1 more mile, I was trying to hard to smile, but not sure I was super convincing.

 Thursday after we got back from our hike we were tired,  we had a super low-key day where we went to see the Kiluea lighthouse, and drove around the island.  All three of our companions left that night, so A and I were on our own on Friday.

Friday A and I drove to the west side of the island to see Wailea canyon and drove up to see several of the lookouts.

 At the top of the road is the Kalalau lookout, we got to see the beach that we'd hiked to from the reverse.  At first it was too cloudy
 But eventually it cleared up and we got a peek at the water.
We caught the red-eye flight by to CA that night to see our kids on Saturday morning.  It was an amazing vacation.  Eleven days without our kids was a long time, but it was well worth it.  There was so much that we got to do and see, things we wouldn't have been able to do with littles in tow.  Plus it was great to spend time with just A and me, and having a bit of a 'couples' trip with my Brian and Erica was awesome, we all agreed that we have to do one again. 
I loved Kauai, it is beautiful, small, and relaxed, felt exactly how an island vacation should feel.  Would go back in a second!