Sunday, May 26, 2013

Auntie Muriel

Happy birthday to my crazy Auntie Muriel!  My mom's brother, John, tries to claim that my mom was "the crazy aunt."  But we all know better.  No one laughs louder, tells wackier stories, lives more boldly, and exudes more joy than his wife, Muriel.  Muriel is crazy in the very best sense of that word--crazy fun!  She is also crazy thoughtful, and she has extended some pretty incredible gestures of love to my family throughout my life, particularly as we have gone through trials and heartache.

When my mom's cancer came back when I was in sixth grade, Aunt Muriel sent me my very first journal.  It was called "Sark's Journal and Playbook."  It was a big 8x10 journal with blank pages for writing, drawing, and dreaming.  Many of the pages had creative prompts at the top, and I filled every page of that book.  I poured my heart and soul into it, and it is still a treasure for me to look through.  Muriel's gift may very well be the reason that I got hooked on journaling at such a young age and am a prolific journaler today (it's kind of out-of-control how much I journal).  I think this type of journal is a perfect gift for a pre-teen going through a difficult family struggle, and Muriel somehow knew that.  (She had a few pre-teen girls of her own at that time!) :)

That same year, I had spine surgery to correct my scoliosis, and to aid in my recovery, the doctor forced me to join a year-round swim team.  I am a terrible swimmer, and I dreaded going to those practices where I was the slowest in the pool.  Around that time, my aunts each took a turn coming for a visit to help my mom (who was still recovering from cancer treatments, while also taking care of my recovery from surgery and my two sisters' daily needs).  During Aunt Muriel's visit, she took me to get a special swim cap in order to make my swim practices a bit more fun.  I remember picking it out--it was Speedo brand with a pearly sheen and all sorts of pink and purple swirls on it.  (Sounds lovely, doesn't it?)  When Muriel dropped me off at practice, she told me I was going to have the most fabulous swim cap in the whole pool, and I just needed to remember how fabulous and beautiful I was, inside and out.  Pretty awesome advice for a discouraged middle school girl!

Years later, when my mom passed away, Muriel offered to do a painting for my dad.  Muriel is a professional artist, and she is so talented.  She painted my dad's favorite photo of my mom and him together, and it still hangs in his home office today.  She has an incredible gift, and I think it is very special that she can use her gift to bring comfort to those who are struggling with loss and heartache.

She has continued to use her artwork to bless our family, first when she did a painting for me when I was going through infertility (I've written before about how much that meant to me), and last year when she did an entire art show about breast cancer which she dedicated to my mom.  Here are some of my favorite images from that exhibit:

This painting is titled "Why me?" It touches my heart to realize that my mom must have had moments like this when, as a 35-year-old mother of three little girls, she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.

Muriel used a photo of my mom (wearing a scarf due to chemo treatments) reading to my sisters and me as her inspiration for this painting.

I love how my mom's irrepressible spirit is captured by Muriel's use of color! As you can see, Aunt Muriel is crazy talented.  And like her artwork, she herself is full of COLOR and life and beauty.  I am very grateful that I've always had such a vibrant, thoughtful, generous, loving, crazy cool woman in my life supporting me and my family.

Happy birthday, Auntie Muriel!  I love you!

Friday, May 24, 2013

My Dad

Today is my dad's birthday.  I love him, and I am so grateful that he's my dad. 

A few years ago, I called my dad to talk to him about a woman in our church congregation who had an extremely difficult life.  When she and I talked about her struggles, my heart broke because I just wanted to make it all better for her, but I knew that I couldn't--the difficulties she was facing were too complex.  When I mentioned that to my dad and told him I was discouraged by my inability to help her, he gave me some great advice that I've never forgotten: He told me that there is always something we can do for others, even if we can't do everything.  He told me to think about my skills, resources, and abilities and just find something I could do to make her life a little bit better or a little happier.

This is how my dad has lived his life.  For years, I've watched him quietly serve others and go out of his way to make their lives a little bit better, giving of his professional expertise, his time, his resources, his love and attention--whatever that person needed that matched what he was able to give.  I've always admired my dad for the quiet strength, kindness, and commitment that are so evident in the way he loves and serves others.

When I was a kid, I remember people from church stopping by and going into my dad's office to get legal counsel.  Though I didn't know the particulars of their situations, I knew that these people had difficult lives and were so thankful for my dad's assistance and concern.  I remember feeling grateful that my dad was able to help them, even if it was just in small ways.

When we first moved into our neighborhood in 1992, my dad was asked to be a Sunday School teacher for the 10-year-old boys at our church, and he loved those wild boys so much that, 21 years later, he is still in touch with many of them.  He writes them cards on their birthdays, and I know he has been a mentor to them throughout their young adulthood and now their adulthood.  One young man from his class has a mental disability, and to this day, my dad is one of his best friends and takes him to dinner every few months.  My dad has shown me what it means to invest in relationships and do little things over the course of many years that add up to make a big difference.

When I was away at college, I loved coming home for a holiday break and looking through the notes on my dad's desk.  He had a tray on the corner of his desk where he would put cards and letters from friends and family, and I was always astonished by the evidences I would find of the little things my dad was doing for people.  "Thank you for bringing over chicken tortilla soup when I was sick."  "Thank you for remembering my birthday and taking me to dinner."  "Thank you for spending all day on Saturday helping our family move."  Sometimes there were notes from young people whom my dad was sponsoring so they could participate in extra curricular activities or semesters abroad or church missions--usually, those notes were addressed to "my sponsor" because he didn't want recognition for the help he was giving.  I never told my dad that I peeked at the notes in his tray, so he never knew that I was aware of the quiet kindnesses he was extending to the people in his sphere of influence.  Reading those notes impacted me deeply and made me admire my father all the more.

My dad has been a widower for almost ten years, but that has not stopped him from serving and reaching out.  Service was very important to my mom as well, and I love that my dad carries on many of the good things that she did for others.  I feel like it's a way that he honors and remembers her, and I know she is proud of him.  I am proud of him too.  He and my mother are my greatest heroes.

My dad once told me that sometimes he looks in the mirror and thinks, "You've gotta be kidding me!" because he feels so blessed.  He says he doesn't even know how it's possible for one man to be so richly blessed. That's how I feel when I think about my parents: "You've gotta be kidding me."  How did I get so lucky to have them?  They will never know the profound blessing it has been to be their daughter.

Happy birthday, Dad.  I am grateful beyond words for you--for your love, your wisdom, and your amazing example to me and so many others.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Miracles Happen

A few months ago, I posted this guest post written by a mother who beat the odds in her battle against cancer.

A video was recently made about this courageous mother and the miraculous story of her recovery.  Check it out here.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Good News

Well, the good news is this: Ryan has a job!!  It's actually been official for a few weeks (maybe even a month?), so it feels a little anticlimactic to just now be making the announcement.  But in case some of you out there don't already know...we will be moving to TWIN FALLS, IDAHO in July!
Yee haw!

I must admit, a few years ago I never thought I would want to live in Idaho.  On my first date with Ryan, when he told me he was from a city called "Pocatello," I about died.  I had never heard of it and thought it sounded like the smallest hick-town ever.  Well, go figure, Twin Falls is actually much smaller than's about 40,000 people and surrounded by lots of farms.  I know that's not that small, but I'm kind of excited about pretending I am a country girl for a few years.  Ryan is too.  In fact, last night, he was looking for rental properties on Craigslist and found a house about twenty minutes outside of Twin on 2.5 acres of land with a horse corral.  I told him that was taking it a bit far.  We will not be buying horses any time soon.

I doubt we will be in Twin Falls forever, but it should be a fun adventure for a few years, and I am so excited to be closer to Ry's family.  I love them.  We will be living about 90 minutes from Pocatello, which will be a quick day trip for Grandma if she is just dying to see Noah.  We will be about 3 hours from Utah, where we will be able to see Ryan's brother and his wife, as well as Noah's birthparents.  And if any of our friends who have family in Utah are visiting them for the holidays, they better expect us to crash the party for an evening so we can see them!  Oh, and did I mention that we will only be living 90 minutes away from the family ski cabin in Sun Valley? Ryan is very excited about that, and I have a feeling Noah is going to learn to ski next winter.  (We'll see how that goes.)  

More than anything, we just feel really good about the job.  It is a great opportunity for Ryan.  He will be in a pediatric office with several other dentists, so he will have mentors as he is starting his career.  Dentistry can be a lonely profession because there is usually just one dentist in an office, so I am glad that Ry will have some buddies to talk with and learn from.  (The guys he will be working with are really cool and fun.)  He also won't be the boss, which I am very happy about.  I want him to learn the ropes of the profession before he tries to jump into it on his own.  Eventually, he may want to run his own practice, but for now, I think it will be great to have him work 9-5 and come home with no stress.  (After his hellacious residency--more on that in another post--I cannot wait to have my relaxed, chill, happy husband back!)

And the BEST reason to move to Twin Falls???...

Tackiest Santa in history, we will be back for more next year!!
(Lovely photo taken at the ironically-named "Magic Valley Mall" in Twin Falls when Ryan first went to check out this job opportunity back in December!  So glad it all worked out, and can't wait to partake in more Idaho magic!)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bubble Boy

Just wanted everyone to know that I'm alive.  I have lots to write about, but I just haven't found the time or energy.  I have been working on a big project for Power of Moms, and I am headed to their annual Board meeting and retreat in Utah this weekend.  (Noah is staying home, so it should actually be a restful vacation for me!)

For any of my friends who live in Utah, you should attend their retreat too.  I think it will be excellent.  Today is the last day to register.  Details here.

As excited as I am, I will miss my Noah Bug, and I know that the rest of you are probably missing him too (it's been too long since I've posted photos of his cute face). Just to "tidy you over" (as Ryan would say) until my next long post, here are some pics from this week.  My friend Lexi was babysitting him...while I was at traffic hem...and took some darling photos.  I told her she should make it into a business: babysitting and photography in one!  She has some mad photo skills.


I love him.