Kids, I’m going to tell you an incredible story, the story of how I met your father…
My family moved right before my junior year of high school. Your Grandma and Grandpa (My Mom and Dad) were thrilled with the new place, and your aunts (my sisters) were too young to care, but for me it was The Worst Thing Ever. Cancelled plans, loneliness, depression, blah, blah, blah. It was a real bad time there for a while. But as I’ve said before, I eventually made friends and things turned out just fine. More than fine. Great, actually. I met life-long friends; teachers and church leaders that would have a profound affect on me; and your grandparents, aunts, and uncles (the other ones: my future in-laws); and eventually I was also able to meet your father.
In 1998 I was a senior, ready to graduate from high school. I knew your father’s family through church, school and their catering business (just pray YOU never have to scrape burnt chili out of their ginormous 6,000 gallon
cauldron pot). I knew they had a son out on a mission because I saw his mission plaque with his picture in the hallway at church. I thought he was cute, but since I was only 16 and still in high school and he was 19 and on a mission, I didn’t give him much thought in the almost two years we’d lived there. One night his stepdad was driving his sisters and I to a (sadly disappointing) swing dance lesson, and was telling us that I would be perfect for his stepson who was coming home from his mission soon. It wasn’t the first time someone had suggested this: in the past couple weeks 2 other people had brought up the same thing. I was becoming very intrigued by this mystery missionary and I started looking forward to the day he would get home so I could meet this “perfect for me” guy. The more I heard about him, the more I just so happened to walk by the plaque in the hallway at church (there was no Facebook stalking way back in the 20th century). Eventually, I started literally counting down the days til his return.
I had obsessed over many a guy since first grade when I had my first “boyfriend,” I even kept a constantly changing list in my journal of a dozen or so guys that I just “LOVED”! But I rarely had a guy I liked actually like me back, even though guys liked me that I didn’t like back (life is so cruel), so I had no reason to think that meeting him would lead anywhere. Plus, c’mon, he was an actual adult and I was just a teenager. But, being as obscenely boy-crazy as I was, the closer it got to his return, the more excited I became. Contributing to my hysteria was the fact that in the three days between his arrival home and the following Sunday, which I assumed would be my first opportunity to get a glimpse of him in person, I ran into multiple people who said they’d already met him. I could not believe this. Who WAS this guy that everyone in the surrounding community had met him except for me? Extremely melodramatic, I know, but at the time this situation was a twist of irony so puzzling that I JUST KNEW The Fates must be conspiring against me ON PURPOSE.
That Sunday I made for dang sure that I was sufficiently fluffed, primped and polished for church. And would you believe it, that punk didn’t even show up? What kind of returned missionary doesn’t go to church, I ask you? Well as it turns out, a returned missionary who hasn’t seen his family in two years and after spending some time with his mom and stepdad wanted to spend time with his dad (alright, I’ll allow it).
The following Monday, my family met with two other families we were friends with for a joint “Family Home Evening.” As we ate dinner I must have been telling them how a friend and I were complaining about finding dates for prom. It was only two weeks away so we were considering taking drastic measures and asking guys ourselves.
“Guys are so stupid,” we lamented, “we’ll probably even have to do the asking when we get engaged someday.” We bitterly laughed at that pathetic statement.
The matriarch of the household, who also happened to be my Sunday School teacher, tried to convince me to call the aforementioned returned missionary and ask him to go with me to prom. The idea was so ludicrous that I wouldn’t even entertain it. Ask an adult on a blind date to a high school dance? Absurd. Unthinkable. I may have been looking forward to meeting this guy, but I wasn’t going to call him. No. Absolutely not.
After trying to convince me all night, she finally took matters into her own hands. This exasperating woman, bless her little heart, had the audacity to actually pick up the phone and, get this: CALL HIM HERSELF!
I. Was. Mortified.
His mother answered the phone and said that he was busy giving someone a priesthood blessing or something spiritual like that. Whew! I was off the hook. That was a close one. I’m not gonna lie though, the fact that he was busy serving people and being all righteous and whatnot was certainly impressive.
“He’s going to call back in a minute,” She said.
“Don’t worry, he’ll call back.”
I sure hoped not. But sure enough, a few minutes later he did call back and told her that he would go with me if I would call him myself.
Pssh. Not happening. Not a chance. Never in a million years.
And yet…this was an interesting development. He was willing. Committed, even. But I just Could. Not Even. I sat at the head of the dining room table for what seemed like hours while every female in the house; including various mothers, friends, and sisters; sat around trying to convince me to call him. I don’t know what finally did it, but it may have been something along the lines of, “You won’t be allowed to leave this table and none of us can have dessert until you call him.” Dessert, you say? Fine then.
I went downstairs with the cordless phone and shut the door behind me. I called his number and a guy answered. I was literally shaking and with heart pounding, I mumbled as fast as I possibly could, “hithisisCrystalCollettewillyougotomypromwithme.”
“Sure, I’d be thrilled!” he said, sounding a little too chipper, but it made me feel better anyway.
I heard giggling on the phone. My friends were on the other line upstairs listening to the whole conversation. Oh well, I would have done the same thing.
“Can I meet you first?” he asked.
Whoa, how did I not see this coming?
“OK,” was all I muttered.
We set up a date for the next night. He picked me up in his mom’s white minivan. It was pouring rain but he got out of the car and ran all the way around to open the door for me anyway. Every time. He was a very sweet gentleman all night, and I had a good time. But he was still very much a missionary. He’d only been home for 5 days so he hadn’t quite adjusted to life “on the outside.” He asked every single person we encountered if they were interested in learning about Jesus Christ. Pretty adorable, actually. His love of the gospel is definitely one of the things I love most about your father. But on a date, it was weird. He was a little weird. But that didn’t stop me from going out with him again. And again. And about every other night over the next two weeks.
The night of Prom he picked me up in his dad’s car: something red that was supposed to be really cool (I still know nothing about cars). We hung out with my friends and as he recalls, I abandoned him for way too long fixing wardrobe malfunctions with them in the bathroom. Poor guy, it’s not like he knew anyone there. Although he did see someone there from his graduating class, which is even more awkward. We had fun dancing and I was nervous taking pictures with him because he held me so close! On the way home from the dance we went to return his dad’s car to him and pick up his dad’s friend or something. We had to sit in the back where there wasn’t enough room for our knees so we sat sideways, facing each other. Our hands were on our knees and when they brushed he took my hand. I felt a shiver go up my spine and I thought, “OK, I definitely like this guy.”
To this day we still argue about the first slow song we ever danced to. He says it was “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic, which was a huge craze my Senior year of high school.
But the way I remember it, which is of course how it really happened, is that the song from Titanic was the last song of the night. But right before that they played a different slow song and THAT is the first song we ever slow-danced to. That song, which is infinitely better than “My Heart Will Go On,” is “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers (I still love you though, Celine).
Sigh. What a great love song.
After that, we kept dating. I graduated from high school and left for BYU. He followed me there but after a little while I got freaked out about seriously dating a guy ready for marriage when I was still only 17 and fresh out of high school.
We semi-dated here and there, still wanting to date each other, but giving ourselves the option to date other people. Hint: that never works. I wanted him to ask me to the homecoming dance, but since he was not yet a student at The Y, he didn’t think he was allowed to. Someone else did ask me, so I went with that guy. It was fun and I started hanging out with him more, but I still really liked your father and spent much of my time trying to get him to ask me out.
I got tired of waiting and finally called him to ask him to some basketball thing. I guess I was afraid of being too obvious about my feelings and wanted this outing to NOT seem like a date so I invited a few friends to come along. As we came downstairs, my date from homecoming was in the lobby. He somehow joined us too and our group just kept growing. We all piled in your dad’s car and I ended up sitting in the back with the other guy and your poor father was in the front, chauffeuring us all around. At the event I was sitting between the two of them. Your dad was sitting as far away from me as was humanly possible, while this other guy was practically on my lap. My attempt to date your father without really dating your father was backfiring (go figure). The one I liked thought I was “friendzoning” him and the one I did want to “friendzone” thought I was on a date with him. Your dad started to leave, and seeing everything blow up in my face, I jumped up and followed him. I explained to him that he was the one I liked and the one I was trying to be on a date with, which made him feel better. Honesty: who knew, right?
Though still not “officially dating,” he later invited me to a Halloween dance. We had so much fun and it just felt so comfortable to be with him. On Halloween night he came with my roommate and some friends trick-or-treating (no extra guys this time) and we had a blast. I went back to his apartment afterward and we watched Singin’ in the Rain (still one of my favorites) and cuddled on the couch.
After Halloween we started dating for real. We both realized we just didn’t like anyone else nearly as much as we liked each other. We were definitely falling in love. One night, right before we went to the preference dance (where girls are supposed to do the asking) we sat in his car and talked for a really long time. As we discussed the possibility of marriage I was overwhelmed with a feeling of love. Not just for your father, but from God. It was the message from The Spirit I needed to know that even though I was only 18 and still a freshman in college, I had found my future husband.
We got engaged after Christmas and were married exactly one year and 2 days after we’d met.
And that, kids, is how I met your father. And how we fell in love. It’s scary to take those chances that could easily turn out either to be death by humiliation or your Best Decision Ever. But as Ted Mosby once said, “If you’re not scared, you’re not taking a chance. If you’re not taking a chance, then what the hell are you doing?” Life and love require a little risk, a lot of faith, and sometimes even plotting and manipulation from your Sunday School teacher who knows best.
Your father and I were married young, while still in college, and next year I will have been married to your father for half of my life. I will have spent as much time being married to him as NOT being married to him. Since that includes being a baby, which I don’t remember, most of my memories include your father. And there is not one person in the whole wide world that I would rather spend that life with. Not one man that I would consider the complete package of a perfect man for me. Obviously neither one of us is even close to perfect (you kids can attest to that), but who else would be the one to help me strive for better, be the perfect complement to my strengths and weaknesses, and be so patient, forgiving, sacrificing, loving, and thoughtful? 16 years and 5 kids later we’ve had many (many, many, many) trials, heartaches, and arguments; but we’ve had even more (way, way more) blessings, adventures and accomplishments. Life has ups and downs and is full of surprises. Like I’ve said before, it’s a mixed bag. But there is no one else I’d rather pull surprises out of the bag with than him.
I absolutely love Lily and Marshall from, How I Met Your Mother. They remind me of your father and I because they’ve been a couple for like, forever. Like everyone they have issues. But they are perfect for each other. I love this interchange between them as they renew their marriage vows. They decide to rewrite them because it’s impossible to maintain the kind of perfection you imagine when you’re just starting out:
Lily: “I vow to cry less during this pregnancy.”
Marshall: “I vow to cry less during this Vikings season.
Lily: “Mmm, with that secondary, I wouldn’t make that promise.”
Marshall: “I vow to keep at least 80% of these vows.”
Lily: “That seems high.”
Marshall: “And I vow to keep updating them as we go. Because one set of vows, it can’t cover a lifetime of growing and changing with you. Of raising children with you, falling more and more in love with you every day, Lily Aldrin, which is what I vow to do for the rest of my life.”
Lily: “Crap. I already broke my crying vow.”
Marshall: “I’ll forgive you.”
And that is how “happily ever after” is done, kids: one vow-renewal and update and “I’ll forgive you” at a time.
If there’s one single thing I’ve learned through 16 years of parenting (houseworking and adulting) it’s that 98% of parenting articles and household tips, tricks and (gag) hacks are utterly worthless.
I’m not exaggerating with that 98% number. Out of every 100 tips I see, only about 2 of them even have the potential to be semi-useful. The rest are either common sense you already know (every parenting article ever); oversimplified, unrealistic or unnecessarily complicated (Pinterest in general), or promise solutions to your toughest parenting conundrums but really just babble endlessly, brainstorming all the possible underlying causes of said problem and never actually give any helpful (or even non-helpful) advice at all (the New York Times: who knew?).
Here are just a few of my faves:
The “This is Not Going to End Well”
OK, but how did you get the mix into the bottle? A funnel, I guess, but my pancake batter is too thick and lumpy and would just end up spilling all over the place. A ladle works great, thankyouverymuch.
The “Yes, You ARE Missing Something Here”
But seriously, am I missing something here? How did they even get it on there???
The “Why Waste Your Time?”
Just fold it. Done. Plus, who can find a paperclip when they need one anyway?
The “Wait, What?”
Aside from the fact that this is not likely to be effective, who wants walnuts all over the house? And if you don’t have the walnuts covering every square inch of your house, won’t the spiders just find some nice, walnut-free zone to take up permanent residence? Really though, if this worked, couldn’t they just bottle the “toxic chemical” and we could spray it everywhere?
The “It Looks Nice BUT…”
Yes, it looks very very nice, but my way is much easier: just toss them in the closet and grab them when you need them.
The “If you’re Naive Enough it Won’t Happen to You”
“Put your money in a sanitary napkin package before putting it in your purse-no one will steal it!”
Because thieves never just grab the whole purse and run.
But perhaps the most disappointing are the ones that seem pseudo-scientific:
This tip for getting rid of an ant infestation: “Line suspected entryways with deterrent substances. Salt, chalk, baby powder and talc can be spread under doors, near windows and walls.”
Even worse than walnuts rolling all over the house is baby powder sprinkled on every windowsill and worse, on the floor of every doorway. And no one website can agree on why this is supposedly helpful. I’ve seen “They don’t like the taste,” “It kills them,” “They lose their scent and get lost,” and my personal favorite, “it’s too slippery and they’ll trip and not be able to walk past the powder.”
“Drink tons of apple juice before you go to bed. A chemical compound in the juice will help you to have vivid awesome dreams.”
Wow, “tons”? that’s a lot. A ton is like, what, 2,000 pounds? And what chemical compound is it exactly? Eh, who cares, because: science! Wait, but vivid awesome dreams? Like an acid trip? Do I want that?
Having said all that, I have found a couple of tips that were truly genius. And I often get good advice from friends and reputable books, etc. But most of life is hard work that a Facebook meme isn’t going to be able to eliminate for you. And legitimate advice (at least on the big stuff) can’t be condensed into a one-page article. Except maybe this:
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
I love looking back on what I’ve written before in old journals, blog posts, and Facebook statuses. I usually find them hilarious but some of them are quite depressing. My heart aches seeing myself so very depressed, so incredibly tired, and so hopelessly despairing. I go on and on berating myself for being so lazy which only made me feel guilty and thus even more depressed and tired. This vicious cycle spiraled for several years. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression pretty much my whole life, but this was different. I was so exhausted I would fall asleep in church every single week without fail. I would struggle to keep my eyes open while driving, even during the day. I wrote blog posts like, Lazy Bum, Lazy Elsie Marley, and I’m a Better Mother! Or not. about how horrible I felt (if I ever wrote at all) and I pretty much just totally, utterly hated myself.
It’s really horrible to feel hopeless for no apparent reason. When I could somehow manage to look objectively at my life I’d know in my brain that it was a great life full of blessings that I should’ve be feeling grateful for, but I just couldn’t seem to break out of the gloom that told me that my life was absolutely horrible and would always be horrible and there was never any hope for my future at all whatsoever. It’s demoralizing. It’s debilitating. It’s paralyzing. Why even try when no matter what you do your life will always be terrible? No matter what. Forever. And ever. That’s the feeling of hopelessness I was mired in for years.
I talked to my doctors and had all kinds of blood tests and medication switches and they could NOT explain why I was so tired. It wasn’t my thyroid, I wasn’t sick, I wasn’t hypoglycemic, and it probably wasn’t the medicine. I thought, great, so the only thing wrong with me is that I’m basically just a total failure.
One day I was annoyed with my regular doctor because when I went in to talk with her about a couple of issues (including my weight and my fatigue) she dismissed me, looking at me pityingly and saying, “Sorry, I just really don’t think there’s anything I can help you with.” I was so frustrated with her unwillingness to even attempt to help me that I changed doctors that day. The first thing the new Dr. said was, “Well, you’re definitely anemic. Also, have you ever been tested for sleep apnea?” Um…..no! No one’s ever even brought it up as a possibility! After a really easy test that I was able to do at home (not in some horrible sleep clinic), I was told that I had “mild” sleep apnea which caused me to “only” stop breathing (and thus wake up briefly) 20-30 times AN HOUR!!! No wonder I was so tired! They gave me a CPAP machine and 2 years later I’m pleasantly surprised with how much better I feel. I’m less tired now, with a 7-month-old baby who still wakes up some nights than when I was “sleeping” 13+ hours a day. Plus, I hate myself a lot less, and now I actually feel this little glimmer of…(can it be?)…HOPE!
This is huge. Life hasn’t been easy. In fact it’s been busier and harder than ever. A lot has happened in the past 8 months.
-Hubby got a new (busier) job.
-We moved to a new house while I was 7 months pregnant (moving is never fun and moving while pregnant is even less fun)
-The baby was born a month early via emergency C-section due to a placental abruption. This involved general anesthesia and two blood transfusions for me, and sedating and inducing a 72 hour hypothermia to prevent brain damage for the baby (sounds pretty sci-fi, I know).
-The renters moved out of our house that we still owned in the mountains causing us to panic about the possibility of yet another foreclosure on our credit.
-Boy #2 broke a toe playing rugby (The next day I went into labor) and 6 months later he broke a pinky (the day of Girl #1’s birthday party).
Whew! I’m exhausted just thinking about all that! And this in addition to all the other stress, trauma, worry and chaos that come along with having 4 kids at different schools and in various activities and carpools, and with homework and projects, and all the lack of sleep and constant feeding (and CRYING!!!) that comes with having a new baby, and all the misunderstandings and frustrations and money problems that come with being married.
So don’t think for a second that my problems have disappeared and things have gotten less busy or stressful. My depression isn’t gone and I’m definitely an exhausted, forgetful mess. But even though my weight problem has gotten worse, I’m still struggling with the physical effects of an emergency C-section, I’m still severely anemic, the baby has a terrible chest cold, and now I also have a terrible chest cold, I feel a strange little ray of sunshine poking through the clouds giving me hope. And it’s glorious. I’m not peppy and energetic by any stretch of the imagination, and I had to increase my anti-depressant medication after having the baby because I felt myself slipping into depression. But I caught it early, am only on 2 medications instead of 5, and feel a little bit motivated and surprisingly, blessedly hopeful! Some days are better than others but that sliver of hope is usually there encouraging me to do better the next day, try to be more patient with myself, envision the successes I’ll have in the future, and keep plugging along. I started blogging again and I’m staying up too late doing things I like to do. These are amazing developments! There is joy in life! There is hope! And as Scarlett O’Hara said:
Let me clear something up for you, Gents. If you have (and intend to keep) a significant other, you WILL celebrate Valentine’s Day. Every. Year. No matter what. Absolutely no exceptions. There are no valid excuses. Not even:
A) She says it’s no big deal and not to get her anything.
LIES! Do it anyway. If by some strange chance she was being honest then you’ve gone above and beyond and pleasantly surprised your woman and now you have extra points. Good on you! Buuuuuut…If you call her bluff and don’t do anything at all? Busted. An argument will ensue. Trust me, you don’t need that drama. I’m just looking out for you, Bruh.
B) This is a holiday made up by greeting card companies to scam you out of your hard-earned money.
Objection your honor: irrelevant! I don’t care if it’s true or not; it simply doesn’t matter. What does matter is that when all of her insta-friends are getting flowers and giant teddy bears and chocolates and fancy dinners and opera tickets and trips to Hawaii and hot air balloon rides and engagement rings (!!!) and she gets nothing (???) she will start to wonder if you ever even loved her at all.
C) You show her you love her every day of the year and you don’t need a holiday to do that.
Good! You’re a keeper; if you two are the least bit compatible at all she won’t break up with you anytime soon. But that doesn’t get you out of Valentine’s Day. If you love her then you want her to be happy. Right? Right. My husband shows me he loves me every single day of my life. He works hard 60+ hours a week for our family, washes dishes, changes diapers, schedules family time, takes me on a date almost every week and gives me hugs, kisses, and “I love you’s,” but when life gets busy (let’s face it, life is never NOT busy) there is no time for flowers and cards and chocolates. That’s what Valentine’s Day is for. Just be grateful you didn’t have to come up with some special holiday for that all on your own. See? This is really to your benefit.
D) Your girlfriend/fiance/wife isn’t into flowers and chocolates and would much rather get a ratchet set.
Then for goodness sake, get her a ratchet set. You know your woman. You know what she likes (and if you don’t, then by all means, ask her) and if she’s not a traditional “girly girl” or has unusual tastes or hobbies, all the better. A thoughtful gesture can come from literally anywhere.
E) This year the holiday falls on an inconvenient day.
When Hubby and I were engaged Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday. I spent all week writing him a poem and Sunday morning while he was at church I taped construction paper hearts all over his car and stuck the poem on his windshield. I was so excited to see what he’d done for me. Which was nothing. At all. This was simply unacceptable to me and I told him so. “But…it’s Sunday…” Dude, two words: plan ahead. The stores were open yesterday and there are plenty of last-minute things you can do and still keep the Sabbath Day holy. Make a homemade card. Sing a song. Pick a flower. Jot down a love note. Anything, really. You can even make plans for another day or week. For one of our anniversaries (this golden advice works for all kinds of special occasions. You’re welcome.) Hubby and I went to dinner at our favorite low-budget take-out place. He gave me a card that had a printout for a reservation he made online for us to go away for another weekend down the road. It was perfect.
F) You have no money. Like, seriously none at all.
This is honestly not even a problem. Chances are, she already knows this. My husband and I spent many frugal (read: dirt poor) years together. I was 18 and he was 22 when we got married. He worked part time, we both went to school, and we had two babies before we graduated. But after our first couple V-Days together wherein I did something for him (involving paper and markers) and he did absolutely nothing (involving an argument), we started getting the hang of things and had many low cost or no cost celebrations of love. I won’t spell out the most obvious way to do this (this is a family-friendly blog after all). I will however tell you that we did lots of things like:
- Blow up balloons filled with hundreds of tiny strips of paper saying “I love you!”
- Make a homemade dinner by candlelight.
- Drive your blindfolded wife around town to a secret location (back at the house) for a big date (lovely romantic dinner at home that she didn’t have to cook).
- Trade babysitting with other couples or hit up the grandparents to babysit and bid on cheap hotels online for short weekend getaways.
- Drive to the beach and sit there watching the waves and drinking non-alcoholic cider in plastic “champagne glasses.”
- Attend free activities like church “sweetheart” dances or a friend’s Murder Mystery party.
- Use a mix-tape with song clues leading to a location where you “Accidentally” meet up with another couple for a surprise outdoor dinner of fast food.
- A photo scavenger hunt in an outdoor mall with other couples.
Let me level with you guys. The vast majority of women want nothing more than to know you were thinking about them and that you love them. That’s the whole point of all this. Jewelry that symbolizes your love is wonderful. But without the symbolism it’s just a chunk of metal. Flowers and teddy bears are useless, really, but when it’s a reminder of your love it’s glorious! In these cases it really is the thought that counts. Not in a I-thought-I’d-buy-you-a-car-but-hey-it’s-the-thought-that-counts-right? kind of way. More like a I-don’t-have-a-lot-of-time-and-money-but-I-did-take-time-to-think-about-you-because-I-love-you-that-much kind of way. Therefore, If you are lacking in time or money or resources or creativity or willpower or anything else, I kid you not, a simple note on a piece of paper that tells her how much she means to you will be cherished FOREVER.
It’s fun to occasionally go big for V-day too. If you need help managing your money so you can make sure you enjoy celebrations like Valentine’s Day without going over-budget, you might want to check out Personal Capital’s financial tools as a possible resource. They’re running a project right now on how to enjoy Valentine’s day without breaking the bank, so I thought I’d share my tips with you. Nothing kills the bliss of a good Valentine’s Day like worrying about money!
There are some things you should probably know about me.
1) I have a slightly dark sense of humor. OK, a REALLY dark sense of humor. But not all the time. Just like, 15-20% of the time. Maybe 25. But definitely no more than 30% tops.
2) I find myself hilarious. I spent a couple of hours yesterday rereading my own blog and cracking up over and over again. And cringing. A lot of oversharing goes on in my blog. and it’s allllll in print. But this one post, “Put the FUN Back in FUNeral!” actually gave me the chill to read over again. It’s slightly irreverent, but touching and it reminded me that I really miss my dad. Even more than missing him, I feel guilty for not missing him more than I do. I’m so caught up with daily life that I honestly can’t say, “there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him.” Not even close. In fact, I don’t think about him nearly every day. At least not consciously, or in some wistful, reminiscent way. Usually I’m just too preoccupied with life. But sometimes it hits me like a ton of bricks and I feel incredibly sad.
When that happens, I ALSO feel guilty for how much I DO miss him. I feel like I have to minimize my pain because I know my mom and sisters had it way worse. He was my mom’s husband for goodness sake and my sisters were still living at home, a junior in high school and an 8th grader at the time. At least I was an adult, already out of the house with a family of my own. But I was floored by how it threw me for a loop. I absolutely did not expect the death of a parent to hurt THAT MUCH. When he died I felt a literal and unbearable physical pain. And the fact that life wasn’t always perfect and that I had regrets made it so much worse. I remember wishing I was in a coma so I wouldn’t have to feel anymore.
3) I may not ever NOT be bitter about him being gone. Even though it’s been 11 years and I go days or weeks without even a thought of it, sometimes I’m blindsided by the anger and bitterness upon hearing people talk about their dads. Oh THEY have a dad. Why do they deserve a dad and I don’t? They’re like 60 years old and they still have a dad? Not fair!
My sister used to send me a sardonic “happy dad’s dead day!” greeting every January 18th. He was only 47 and died suddenly. Like, instantaneously. So it was pretty traumatic and I think all of us are still processing it. No premonitions, no time to say goodbye, no last words, no mental preparation, no explanation or even comprehension. We had people over when my mom called to tell me. I kept repeating over and over, “Wait, dad’s dead. He’s dead. Dad. He’s dead. Dead. Dad. MY dad.” No matter how many times my mouth said it, my brain didn’t get it. She only found out a few hours after the fact because my grandpa called her saying my dad was at the hospital. He wasn’t “at the hospital.” He had collapsed on the treadmill at the gym where he went every single day. It’s actually kind of hilarious (there’s my dark sense of humor). The last call on his cell phone was to a radio talk show like 5 minutes before he was pronounced dead. I guess it’s not like in the movies where you faint gracefully and breathe out one last gentle, “tell my family I love them…” I imagine this was more like, “Of COURSE we need the government to spend less, are you guys insane?! Plop.” Or maybe it was awesome and looked something like this:
Yeah, I’m pretty sure that was it.
4) Ultimately though, I have hope in the future. I believe firmly in an afterlife. I wish my kids had gotten to know my dad, but I know he knows them. I’m pretty sure he’s watching them from heaven and whenever they make some offensive, ridiculous joke he says, “yup, that’s definitely my progeny!” And as my 2-year-old boy said at the time, “well then, why are you crying? You’ll see him again in heaven!”
I was terrified to raise teenagers. The knowledge that my kids would grow up to be teens someday scared the crap out of me and it’s a thought I stressed about. A lot. What I remember from being a teenager was that it was So incredibly frustrating. All. Of. The. Time. I did not make it easy on my parents. I was surly. I was sneaky. I was angry. I was aloof. I listened to inappropriate music and used foul language and kicked holes in motel room doors when I didn’t get my way.
As a teenager you are just a few short years from being a “responsible” adult, out on your own, making life decisions, paying for things, having to feed and clothe and house your own self. And yet, as you come into your own and are finding yourself, a minor in your parents house with an immature mind and a fully mature body, you feel like everything in life; school, parents, rules, curfews, and laws even; is unendingly stacked against you. And it is. In May you can’t be trusted to be out at night or decide when and how to wash a dish, and by July you are living on your own, doing everything when and if and how you want and it’s up to you to be responsible for having insurance and hitching a ride with a stranger to the doctor when you’ve had a possible allergic reaction (true story). It’s a tough lot and with all of their immaturity and short-sightedness (sorry guys, but you know it’s true), teenagers still have their own set of experiences and come up with their own wise and insightful theories on life.
Tonight I was “researching” for a blog post I’m working on. I couldn’t remember a few details about what had happened so I thought I’d check in my old journal to see what I’d written about it. I am so grateful that I kept a journal throughout those formative years. I was never consistent at it (and now I never really write in it at all) but tonight I spent a couple of hours poring over the words I wrote a full TWO DECADES ago! It’s a fascinating and embarrassing concoction of ignorance, wisdom, frivolity, giddiness, depression, anger, worry, meanness, kindness, spirituality, vulgarity, planning, depth, and thoughtlessness. And lists of the names of bands I liked. So many lists. Updated every few months. Why? Seriously. Why? But I was struck by how profound one entry was.
I relayed the details of how a few of us, instigated by me, were being ridiculously silly (and actually pretty rude now that I think about it) sitting in a big circle in the middle of the school hallway right when kids were getting to school and trying to get to class. I found it hilarious, and I prided myself in “making people think I was stupid” because, again, hilarious! But apparently this ill-advised venture brought me to some serious reflection on life (though not, unfortunately, to conclude that it was a terrible idea). Here’s what I wrote, typed out exactly as it’s written, spelling and punctuation included. I’m actually impressed by my correct spelling of “acquaintance” (which I am somehow no longer able to accomplish without spell-check):
“10-3-96 page 91
You know what I’ve learned these past 2 yrs. in high school. To be cool, and have people like you, you have to not care about what ANYONE thinks. And that’s impossible if you’re trying to get in with a certain select group of cool or well dressed people. Because if you can’t be you just regular, stupid, weird, airhead you, you can’t be cool anyway ’cause it just doesn’t happen. I’m serious! have you noticed that cool people have personalities all their own? but their cool within “their” group. Take the most popular person you know & some people do not like them. It’s true. Be cool in your own group that you develope. That’s the
key (my paper is getting hard to write on) ———–>
O.K. That’s the key to “popularity” & happiness (Social happiness) Because if you do impress the “cool people” that’s awesome. But if it’s because you’re fake, you’ll eventually find that they suck anyways! It’s true. No matter what you think now, you’ll someday find that “Be yourself means more than you think.
This is how I made friends when I was new here. I just was friendly to everyone & eventually I saw who accepted me as a friend, acquaintance, or not at all. And then just be yourself & everything will work out. I promise.
The reason I don’t care what anyone thinks of me is that I hate some people & I know some people hate me. O-L. Life’s like that. So if they think I’m stupid does it matter to me? Hell no! Know why? ‘Cause my friends think I’m cool.
I DON’T LIKE SPAM!!!
on the bus does get you friends.”
That last part is also a true story. What incredible (if not incredibly eloquent) advice! What unique perspective! I wish I had remembered it, but thank goodness I wrote it down.
I now have two teenagers, a just-turned-14-year-old and an almost-16-year-old, and they are amazing. Funny, enjoyable, kind, obedient, responsible, witty, and yes, even wise on occasion. They are also kind of clueless and annoying and obstinate and whiny and rude. I’m still the mom and I teach them and have rules for them. But I try to be more patient with them and remember that they are unique almost-adults who have wisdom to impart, even if it results from an exercise in annoying other people in the hallway.
Today I went for a walk with some adorable ladies form my church. It was foggy and chilly at first but then the sun broke through and it warmed up. We walked pushing strollers while kids ran around and chased bunnies into the rocks. It was relaxing and invigorating and bonding and freeing all at once. As we walked we chatted. About traumatic births. About chasing birds. About ourselves. And we talked about self-worth and not comparing ourselves to others. That’s something I think a lot about and have struggled with since elementary school. For as long as I can remember I’ve been depressed, anxious, worried, stressed, and full of self-loathing. Oh the self-loathing! One of many factors contributing to that has been a hereditary chemical imbalance. But one of the things that helps me when I’m in a funk is to think about our infinite worth as human beings. One of the oft-quoted scriptures in our religion is found in Doctrine and Covenants 18:10 and it says:
That alone is a magnificent truth. But that little semicolon was taunting me to read on. Verse 11 says:
Whoa! God not only loves us, but He loves us enough to suffer so we don’t have to! I can’t even comprehend that. I just. Can’t. Even. But what I can glean from that is that He redeemed ME. Not a perfect version of me. Not a did-her-best-and-made-it-pretty-darn-close-to perfection-all-by-herself version either. He paid the price for my redemption long before I was born. It was a built-in part of the plan that I wouldn’t be able to make it alone. But there was also a built-in way for me to make it. With Him. I love this little comic I saw on Facebook once:
Truer words, people. He drags me on the regular. Fo sho. And that’s OK, because I’m worth it! I have infinite potential! And if I waste time comparing myself to others, and especially comparing their best with my worst, I’ll never get anywhere.
The sweet ladies I walked with gave me a journal with this on it:
Awesome, huh? and inside it was an article about not comparing ourselves to others. One interesting part was about not letting social media get us down. We constantly (like, 24-7 constantly) see the beautiful and exciting photos and status’ that other people post online and it can make us feel like our lives are not as cool as theirs as we sit on our phones scrolling through pix from exotic destinations we aren’t visiting. I love this quote (that i also saw on Facebook:
This particular quote came to mind when I was on Facebook posting photos of a recent 3 day trip to Disneyland with my family. We stayed in a nice hotel on the property and Hubby took off work for the much-needed fun family getaway. Here are some highlights that I posted on social media:
Aw! So fun, right? As I posted these pictures I realized that it looked like we had a non-stop weekend of nothing but FUN FUN FUN! On steroids! I mean we were at “the happiest place on earth”!! We were smiling real big!!!! We were riding rides!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We were licking whipped cream off stacks of pancakes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But the truth is, like all things in life, it was a mixed bag. The baby was unusually fussy and as a result, none of us got any sleep. Hubby took the big kids on ride after ride after ride, but I only went on four. Four rides total in three days. I was simply too tired and preoccupied with the baby to ride the rides. Even when Hubby had the baby, I was Just. So. Tired. The kids whined, argued and fought. Hubby and I worried, stressed, and yes, even bickered a little. I had a breakdown over laundry detergent, and all in all, we went home completely exhausted.
These photos are by no means fake. They are genuine happy moments that we had together. And they made the trip worth it for sure. But if this is all you were seeing on social media you would think my life was blissful and I was never a tired, sobbing mess. I didn’t take selfies of me going insane waiting for an hour in the
dungeon hotel laundry room while I infuriatingly tired to get the detergent dispenser to accept my credit card. You wouldn’t see me helplessly calling housekeeping three different times, constantly being told “We’re so sorry, we’ll bring some up right away.” And I didn’t tweet about accosting housekeepers in the hallway, demanding laundry detergent (that they obviously don’t carry around with them) or sobbing in the bathroom and being offended that my husband dare suggest that I might need a nap (which I desperately did). Again, the trip wasn’t all bad. But I realized that life really is a mixed bag. There’s good and bad and boring and exciting and disappointing and pleasant surprises and smiling family photos in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle and sobbing over laundry detergent. The reason it’s so dangerous to compare ourselves to our perception of other people is that our lives are neither as glamorous and exciting as they seem on the outside, nor are they as bleak and sad as they sometimes seem on the inside. And thanks to a loving Savior we are never in it alone. And today in particular I’m immensely grateful for two lovely ladies who reminded me of that.