Thank You!

Wow! That was fun! Thank you for humoring the crazy-eyed girl. I absolutely loved getting to know you over the past week. For some reason that Dustin finds very strange, I feel better knowing what you like to eat on road trips.

I didn’t always know Dustin found this stalkerish habit of mine strange. I found out maybe eight years ago. It was on a 2-hour ride in the cab of a tow truck with a stranger. I spent the entire ride getting to know our driver. I found that he was unhappily married with several children, but that he could see no way out. Dustin couldn’t understand why I would want to know anything about the tow-truck driver whom we would never see again. I could see his point after he logically explained the strangeness to me, so . . . .

Thank you again for humoring me.

If you didn’t join in the fun this time, there’s still time. ;) Or you can gear yourself up for next time because there will be a next time.


I Want to Know You

 These might have been the crazy eyes Celeste saw all those years ago, but to be fair, who wouldn't have crazy, excited eyes after a fourteen-hour day          walking the streets of New York AND then they found M&M World right at that moment? 

Once upon a time, I was a new girl in a new place. I watched the other women in my church congregation for signs of friendship, and I found lots of signs and lots of wonderful, warm friendships.

But, there was one girl who eluded me.

I think it was because she already had two small children of her own, so she wasn’t really making friends with people who had no children at all. Or, maybe it was just me. How could I approach her and what should I talk to her about? I didn’t know the first thing about her life. I was not a mother. When I saw her at church functions, she had her hands full with her young family.

So, one day, she and I ended up at the same baby shower. The shower was at one of those small, old houses with cramped living rooms. At last, she did not have her children with her; however, I was dressed up as a Greek Goddess for Halloween – I might have been the only one who listened to “costumes optional” for this October baby shower. Because of this, I watched her from a distance as she chatted with others, and then as we both crossed the small room at the same time, I impulsively stopped her with her plateful of party food. Probably she was even eating some of it.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hello,” she answered good-naturedly.

I had not previously thought of something to say, so I just said the first thing that popped in my head:

“I want to know you.”

Thankfully, she laughed, rolled with it, and became one of my best friends. I spent many lovely afternoons in her kitchen getting to know her over the next year. I would ask her about her growing up years, her popularity in high school, her philosophy on life - all the things that made her who she is today. She would perform domestic tasks, and I would watch, occasionally helping with her children. Most often, I was there during her precious nap times, but she never once kicked me out.

I loved her then. I love her now.

I was thinking about this because I want to know you, too.

You who stop in to read this blog now and then.

I want to know you, but I don’t really know how to ask. I don’t know how to find out who you are. So, because it seemed to work out so well with my wonderful friend, Celeste, I will do the same with you.

Pretend we have bumped into each other at a crowded party. You were going to just slip past so you could eat your scrumptious cream puffs and artichoke and spinach dip, but there is a strange girl who won’t get out of your way, so you look up. She is wearing an interesting dress, and she has intense, crazy eyes that won’t look away. She says in stalker-like fashion:

“I want to know you.”

With the grace of my friend Celeste, you laugh and say:

“Okay, I’m game.”

And now, you will answer one or all of the following questions because that’s the kind of person you are:

What is your nickname? Who gave it to you?

What is your favorite thing to eat on a road trip?

Speaking of, if you could travel anywhere, with anyone . . . .?

How long have you been friends with your best friend?

You’re at Wendy’s. You order?

And, be prepared for more crazy questions coming your way sometime in the future because that’s the kind of person I am. Just ask Celeste. ;)



A Love Letter to a City

    Our backyard apple tree blooming last April in Seattle.

Yesterday it rained in Colorado Springs. Not the momentous release of a thunder storm, but more of a slow leak from the burdened sky, the rain drops inches between each other. Even so, it felt reminiscent of the Seattle drizzle I enjoyed or endured, depending on your take, for several years.

I loved it all along – the Northwest gray skies that made all the other colors of the world more pungent in their display. Last May or June, when we were just weeks away from saying goodbye to that wonderful city, I wrote Seattle a love letter. Today, when I’m missing it so much, I will share it here:

Dearest Seattle,

I’m in love with you.

I guess you already knew that since I’ve explored every inch of you and fawned over your unique beauty for five years now. I almost wish it wasn’t true because it has to end now. We’ve both known all along that this couldn’t get serious, although, it does seem highly inappropriate to say goodbye while the spring sun coaxes the blossoms from their budding cocoons.

It’s like I’m one of your many beautiful trees – my roots sink far beneath the very streets and paths that I’ve driven and walked and run these last five years. My roots twist and turn as they search for the right nourishment for this particular tree – around Greenlake, to THE gelato shop, under the Woodland Park Zoo, through the duck pond, and even to the hospital. Your fertile soil has always provided whatever my sometimes thirsting roots have needed - even when what I needed was quite painful. Your steady nurturing has helped me grow immeasurably into a more comfortable, quiet tree. I’m at peace with myself largely because of you and the time we spent together.

So, I’ve made a decision. Pulling my tender, yet firm, roots from this wonderful city is too agonizing to even consider. It’s too weed-like and common. I don’t think I’ll be able to get them out without damaging the gnarled, stubborn things, so if it’s all the same to you, I’ve decided to leave them here.

You see, I want to avoid making a large hole where I once was. I realize that means you can’t fill that space with someone else, but, selfishly, that’s exactly my desire.

Please don’t replace me.

I don’t know when I’ll be back. I don’t know if I’ll be back. It seems very unlikely, but, in my dreams, I’d like to imagine myself back in your realm - directly over the city roots that so painfully and comfortably and imperceptibly grew.

And, that’s the end. Of the letter, I mean. I remembered the letter yesterday when a completely different sky squeezed a few drops of nourishment out maybe just for me. I remembered, and I thought about what kind of roots I might have beginning here in my new home. They feel very small if there are any at all. I would claim that they are as insignificant as a mountain flower - small, delicate roots pushing their way through the dry desert, yet robust mountain soil. But, I have not yet seen any flowers here. Spring is a long time in coming. But, sometimes the things that take the longest end up being the most beautiful.

                     The 'swing' tree. Also in our backyard last April.


Claire is Five

Every so often my friends post messages on Facebook to their children. Almost always it is to wish them a happy birthday. Usually they also express gratitude for the miraculous life-change of becoming a mother. Often, the phrases include “thank you for making me a mother,” “these last X years have been amazing,” and “the day you were born was one of the happiest days of my life.”

Well, five years ago today, Claire made me a mother. And, truthfully, it was one of the happiest days of my life. Having said that, the five years we’ve spent as mother and daughter since that rainy April morning . . .  Well, they seem too loaded to simply say how happy I am to be her mother.
I don’t think I can frame my love for Claire in such a simple, happy way.

Every bit of Claire’s life, and my own subsequent “changes for the better,” has been extremely hard-won. From her conception to potty-training to keeping her alive, every “change for the better” has been a huge undertaking – the results of which are not yet seen.

For example:


Becoming a mother is normally pretty central to an LDS girl’s plan for her life, and for close to five years, that life plan just wouldn’t come for me. And, whether it is because my own body is stubborn, or because a reluctant, stubborn, sweet girl just wasn’t ready to make her appearance here on earth, those five years felt long and difficult on my end. I said many begging, pleading, questioning prayers during those years; however, if Claire was hesitant, she wasn’t alone in her feelings. I definitely had reluctance of my own when pursuing motherhood. Honestly, I wondered if it was really worth the effort. While women all around me were getting pregnant right on cue then complaining about sleepless nights and challenging toddlers, I was undergoing invasive procedures, having embarrassing monthly exams, and taking drugs that made me feel like throwing up.

All this with no baby in sight.

After undergoing fertility treatment for two-and-a-half years, I had my own ‘come to Jesus’ moment and felt peace with the Lord’s plan for me. I didn’t know what it would be, but I finally decided to trust that a childless life would be happy.

Less than a month later, I discovered I was pregnant with Claire. It was a long wait, but once I accepted that Claire wasn’t guaranteed to be mine, suddenly she was. She was worth the wait. She was worth the lesson learned.


Parts of Claire’s newborn weeks were rocky and challenging, but it was almost all because I didn’t yet know how to be a mother. She was a dream-come-true. I was completely smitten with her silky shock of black hair, her small body curved against my chest, and her ‘baracuda’-style of nursing.

She was my everything.

Until signs of Leukemia brought Claire’s babyhood to an abrupt end just before her second birthday.

She was still my everything, but my feelings on motherhood and my own daughter were much harder to discern and even to believe.


Claire was ultimately diagnosed with Leukemia 3 months after her second birthday. The range of mother-like emotions I went through during her first six months of treatment was pretty much at the ‘SAVE MY BABY!’ level. It was really the following two years of maintenance where I felt my easy-come love for her meet with resistance.

She was turning three. Maybe that’s it.

We had to potty-train. That could definitely be it.

She was on personality-altering and mood-changing steroids. Maybe that’s it.

She was in pain for two weeks out of every four. I know that I can be a challenge to live with when I’m not feeling well. So, maybe that’s it.

But, often love took a backseat to the duty of consistent clinic visits and hospital stays and medicine schedules.

I hate to even think about it.

Even though we have been finished with her treatment for six months now, I am still processing the effect of her illness on our mother-daughter relationship. Maybe I can write my way to an understanding sometime in the future. Until then, I do feel much gratitude on her birthday, and the gratitude I feel is most definitely for her.

By having my sweet, intelligent, silly, stubborn, giggly, beautiful, spirited, imaginative Claire, the Lord teaches me on a daily basis. He teaches me with the very words I use to reprimand, discipline, explain, encourage, and show my love to Claire. My poor Claire could very well be mine – frustrations and all - because she needs to hear from her mother the exact same things her mother needs to hear from her Heavenly Father.

She and I – we’re in this together.

She challenges me to be better than I think I can be. She constantly asks through her actions if I will still love her no matter what. She watches carefully for my sometimes less-than stellar reactions, and she lets me have another go at it when I fail. Because Claire is mine for a reason, and she refuses to let me settle for less than an eternity with her.

So, dear Claire, I commit to an eternity of perfecting myself with you. I will do everything in my power to make sure it is so.

Happy 5th birthday, my firstborn, my challenge, my Survivor. I love you forever and always.


From the Front Lines Series:

Gifts from the Heart – What to Give to Someone on the Front Lines

In a previous post, I listed some suggestions on mourning with those that mourn. One of the recommendations was to give a gift. If gift-giving isn’t your forte but you’d like to try it out, here are a few ideas to help you get started:

1.       Starbuck’s Hot Chocolate – Obviously, this particular gift is a little too specific to my own taste. Not everyone would appreciate hot chocolate, but the point is to give them anything you know they like however small it may seem. They will then know you were thinking about them and that you recognize that they need comforting. This is affirming when someone feels like they should have it together by now and that their grief should be over.

2.       Rice Krispy Treats – I mentioned in the same post that it meant a lot to me when a friend dropped by unexpectedly with a pan of rice krispy treats. She was already making a batch for her family and simply doubled it. The lesson here is to give your friend anything that’s easy for you. Even if it turns out to be something they don’t eat or never read or give to goodwill a year later, they will feel loved and cared for. (For the record, we did eat those rice krispy treats. J)

3.       Belated Flowers – Sometime ago, a woman in my ward lost her 3-month-old baby. It was devastating news; however, the rest of the world, ward included, moved on within a short time. It sounds crass to say so, but when it isn’t your grief it can be easy to forget the intense feelings of loss. The relief society president in this ward reminded us when the month mark of this woman’s loss was upon us that even though all seemed right in our world, this woman’s world would never be the same again. She encouraged us to remember her loss in some way if we felt so inclined.

I felt inclined.

I gave her flowers with a note letting her know that I had not forgotten her loss. She may not have liked the flowers, but I know firsthand that it is extremely comforting to know that someone else realizes that you are still in pain, that they remember your loss or hardship. It was always a little disheartening when someone I thought should know more about Claire’s treatment, had no idea that she was still undergoing chemotherapy, that they somehow thought our life was back to normal when ‘normal’ was more than a year away.

4.       Dinners – We received many thoughtful, special dinners from ward members and neighbors. We felt loved from the gesture, but it was even was more than that. On difficult days, it was nice that we didn’t have to think of what to eat for dinner. This incorporates so much really. It cuts down on time spent grocery shopping, cooking and preparing food, and even meal clean up. My specific suggestion here is to provide all the food in containers that you don’t expect to receive back. Having to return dishes can feel ten times more stressful when you are dealing with other life difficulties.

5.       A Listening Ear – One friend called me every few days during the first six, difficult months of Claire’s treatment. I don’t think I ever reciprocated. In fact, it took me several months to realize that she was calling me to check in. I didn’t recognize it as a friend reaching out in concern and love, but I always had something heavy on my chest that she listened to without comment or judgment.

6.       Your Physical Presence - It sounds so simple, but it can be difficult to be with someone who mourns. We who are suffering know that. We appreciate it that much more when you try. It can be challenging to be with your friend because you don’t fully understand their pain. Unless we have been through something similar, how can we possibly understand our friend’s pain? Mourners don’t always need understanding. Having a friend with us can be enough. It can also be draining, so use your judgment.

And because our particular challenge revolved around a very young child, I’ve added a handful of things that you could give to a child who is chronically ill or struggling for whatever reason:

1.       Window Crayons – I am going to get specific about the ‘crayon’ part of this. Don’t get the markers or paints. The crayons are awesome and work wonders when you are in the hospital for a week with a window right next to your bed. They can be easily removed with a wipe, which it turns out the child will love to do on her own.

2.       Nail Polish – Obviously this is for a girl. It will make her feel pretty and it’s something to do.

3.       Crayons or Markers with Coloring Book or Sketch Pad  – Any brand or amount will do. For some reason kids think new crayons and markers are amazing even if they already have a box-full.

4.       Stickers – Do they have a favorite character, shape, or color? Go for it!

5.       Bead or art kit – If the child is in the hospital, there are some seriously LONG hours to pass, and if the child is at home, they probably don’t have a lot of energy, so creative activities that don’t take a lot of energy are a wonderful reprieve from the monotonous hours.

6.       Age-appropriate books – Again, LONG hours to pass.

Claire pretty much received all of the above plus other thoughtful gifts. The above turned out to be the most helpful for our specific situation, but children love to open anything that is wrapped so use your imagination.

What is something you've received that lifted your spirits when you were down? 

Also, in case you missed the other Front Lines posts, you can find them here, here, and here.