The day I walked you home: A letter to my Dad

Writing, to me, is synonymous with healing.

I suppose that’s why I’m here–writing–just a day after you took your last breath, Dad.

People are telling me to go lay down. Or rest. Or watch a movie. But all I want to do is write about what it was like for me. For all of us, really. As my fingers tap the keys my eyes flicker to the bracelet I have on my wrist. It’s the one you wore ever since your diagnosis last November. “No one fights alone” it says. And my spirit can’t help but agree. No one fights alone. Or loves alone. Or struggles alone. Or dies alone.

We’re all walking each other home.

It was Thursday night when I got the call that I should come. “Dad doesn’t have much time,” my teary sister said. And I knew it in my heart, even before the call came in.

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But it took three days of sleeplessness, tears dripping from sore eyes, holding you up as you walked around in confusion, sponging water onto your lips, and prayers by your bedside before you took that last breath. And I realized–as soon as your labored breathing went silent and your Savior greeted you somewhere near the top of the Christmas tree, a spot I looked toward as soon as your blue eyes did, hoping I’d find him there too–that the walk is always worth it. Leaning near your still face and kissing your forehead, that’s what I said too. “It’s worth it”. Even though I want you to know my heart wasn’t feeling it, Dad. My heart screamed “Come back!” instead. Because I didn’t see Jesus near the top of the Christmas tree. My faith just had to rely on the fact he was there.

Now, digesting the memories–memories that haunt me in my dreams and awaken me from sleep with tears and a racing heart–I want you to know why I was honored to walk you home.

The walk home started on November of 1989…when I was born.

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I’d like to think we chose to walk together–that before we even came to earth we knew we’d be walking in unison along with some very special others–taking on the challenge, and the joys, of mortality.

During the walk home you taught me many things. You taught me how to play. And in turn, I think I taught you patience ūüėČ

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The walk home entailed some discomforts–some trials that required me to cry in your arms or vent to you–or get so mad at you that I slammed my bedroom door. I tried to say sorry about that later on–you didn’t let me though.

During the walk home you showed me how to walk on my own at times and forge a new trail when others get to their own trail’s end. You showed me how to change oil. How to respect my body. How to be a good friend. How to listen more than I talk *although I still have problems with that*. How to put family first.

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During the walk, sometimes it rained. You showed me how to play in it.

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During the walk–you showed me to dance always *Even if you’re not very good at it* And to “Sing louder!” as you’d always say when you caught me humming to myself.

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There were a few times on the journey I didn’t feel I was good enough. But you pushed me to bring home the A’s. To aim high. To be everything I want to be simply by living as if I’m already there. Oh–and I love that you always bragged about every single goal we met. You loved when I’d write and you’d read my blog. You hung my first poem on your cubicle wall at work and kept it there ’til you died.

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During the walk you taught me what kind of man I should choose–simply by being that kind of man. And in turn you finally got the son you always wanted to have one day.

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You loved my mom–even when lighting struck and rain hit and rocks in the trail made you two stumble. And that’s the greatest gift to give to a daughter.

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During the walk you encouraged my sister’s restless, wandering heart. You taught her faith and courage–you nourished the light in her eyes into something much greater in her heart. She said it was all because of you, Dad.

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During the walk home you taught me not to fear the trailhead coming up–the part of the walk home that splits the trail in two. The part where we would separate for a time. You told me it would come–and it was okay. Because you knew that if we kept walking, the two trails would join as one again.

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During the end of the walk home I had to carry you. I held you like you held me when the dark scared me and I couldn’t sleep. I rubbed your back the way you’d rub mine when I’d sit on the floor in front on you or lay in your lap. I was strong simply because–well, so were you.

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I’m sad, Dad. I miss you so bad that sometimes I can’t breathe. And when I do, it hurts my lungs. I miss you so bad that sometimes I hear your voice and jump to a start in the middle of the night. I miss you so much that I get angry that we already came to the fork in the road–sometimes I get mad at God. Sometimes I get mad at myself that I didn’t hold you a second longer the last time you hugged me.

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But then I remember, like I remember now. No one walks alone.

No, even though we came to that place in the walk where the trail splits in two–I still feel you guiding my feet. I still feel the same Savior that took you home and held me at the same time. I’m not alone.

I’m honored I was one of the people to share the walk with you, Dad.

You’re my hero.

And you will be until our trails meet up again somewhere on the horizon–and I’ll meet you there at home.

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Where are you, Christmas?: My search to find it this year

Christmas music started playing on the radio right before Thanksgiving.

And I was probably the first one to turn it on.

I’ve always loved Christmas–every single thing about it. But especially the music.

But this year, the music is different. It’s haunting, actually. Every song carries with it a particular memory, and it isn’t exactly pleasant to hear. From the Chipmunks’ rendition of “Christmas, Don’t be late” to “Jingle Bell Rock” to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”, I have flashes of memories that now poke at my heart in a painful kind of way. It’s easy to cry this season–a lot. And it’s because this Christmas is so‚Ķdifferent now.

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Hospice gave us the heads up that my Dad has only days left now and making it until Christmas is out of the question. So now, the only song that seems vaguely relatable is this one: Where are you Christmas?

“Where are you, Christmas? Why can’t I find you? Why have you gone away? Where is the laughter you used to bring me? Why can’t I hear music play?¬†My world is changing, I’m re-arranging. Does that mean Christmas changes too?”

I found myself in a puddle of tears the other night when this song came over the radio. Just like the song says, my world is changing… and I often feel like a zombie passing through this merry season blanketed with twinkle lights and pine trees and busy shoppers.

But you see, I know I’m not the only one. I guess that’s why I felt like writing this. I know there are others this Christmas who are having their first–or maybe second or third–grown-up Christmas. Maybe they’re alone at night, missing a soldier. Maybe they’re aching over a heartbreak. Maybe they’re missing a child or refusing to put lights up after a nasty divorce. Maybe Christmas this year isn’t so merry.

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And because I’m one of these people, I’ve been on a personal mission of sorts to find the Christmas I’ve always known. The one that gives me swirls of colorful memory every time I see a Santa or a nativity set or houses clothed in sparkling color. The one that had music fill our house growing up and the one that had me in my dad’s arms dancing to Jingle Bell Rock. The one that had my dad on the roof hanging lights and cursing under his breath when his nail gun didn’t work. The one that brought snow. And family. And turkey with cranberry sauce. And stockings. And memories of not being able to fall asleep because of my imagination creating footsteps on the roof.

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I’ve missed that Christmas.

So I prayed. A lot. Where is Christmas, God? Where is it? And nothing came to me, really. Nothing except a small thought that I should buy decorations and take them to my parents’ house. So I did just that. Couldn’t hurt.

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I spent last Saturday hanging lights, setting up the old ceramic nativity set, stringing garland, and dancing around to Christmas music as my dad watched from his bed, in and out of sleep, captivated at times by the rotating Christmas tree that I set up by his bed. He used to be the one to do it. But now, it’s my turn to create. And a little bit of Christmas started to show itself. Slowly, but surely.

After that, I watched as my husband’s side of the family poured in from hours away, visiting dad, who they’d only met a handful of times, speaking softly and filling the home with quiet laughter.

And there it was. I felt a brush of Christmas again.

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And of course–family from my side has come almost every day.

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Then we all watched my dad’s favorite Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Even though he slept through most of it, we laughed at all the same parts and cried at all the same lines.

Then friends from church took my sister to pick out a Christmas tree. And some came to share scriptures and holiday messages and offer warm hugs.

And little by little, although it’s not the same (and may not ever be) I feel like I’m finding Christmas simply by realizing that I create the season for myself. WE are the spirit of Christmas. And as we change, so will Christmas. But it’s magic–it’s spirit of love and remembrance for all we have–never will if we keep it alive.

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We choose to hang the lights. We make the choice to turn up the music and let snowflakes touch our tongues. We choose to remember, even while saying goodbye to a loved one who made Christmas wonderful for us our entire life, that because of Christmas day, we’ll never be apart.

Whether you’re missing a Christmas season gone by when Santa was real and reindeer could fly and mom and dad cut out gingerbread men with you with unwrinkled hands–or missing a Christmas season where your heart didn’t ache like it does now–it’s easy to question where Christmas went. It’s easy to give up on that special feeling that every child knows.

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I guess that’s just part of life–it’s just part of the lesson that comes on your first grown-up Christmas when you realize Christmas doesn’t just fall into your lap and bring joy and peace and instant excitement. Christmas instead, is the opportunity to create it, simply by remembering the one who gave it all up for us.

There it is, I feel myself thinking every once in a while while seeing Dad smile at the lights I hung or closing my teary eyes on a memory of opening a doll I’d asked for all year and watching Dad grin with his full head of hair and youthful eyes.

There it is, I feel myself thinking now when family surrounds us, offering love and standing as a testament as to why that special baby once laid in a manger under a star-filled sky.

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There it is, I feel myself thinking when we place the same star my dad used to always place on top of the tree on top of a picture of the Savior instead this year.

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There you are, Christmas.

There’s nothing wrong with pink: My response to a feminist message

A couple days ago I saw this video–it’s an advertisement for GoldieBlox, a new engineering toy for girls. You might have seen it too, floating around your social media feeds. When I watched this, I instantly felt a little disturbed.

The girls are adorable and it’s a fun set up (I wanted to help build that thing!) but there was a blatant message strewn as subtitles across the screen that rubbed me the wrong way.

In the quirky song it proclaims that girls’ toys all look the same–that there is too much pink and they want to start using their brains.

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And in the very beginning of the video three bored little girls are even watching a princess show that is made out to look like unintelligent jibber jabber. So what do the girls do? They declare, more or less, that boys get all the toys that create an intellectual stretch and they want that too. Even the caption to this viral video states, “Fewer than 3 in 10 graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are women. And barely 1 in 10 actual engineers are women. Early in a girl’s life, the toys marketed to her are usually things that don’t encourage her to enter those fields.”

I call bull.

The lyrics in that video, first off, *I could bet money on it*–weren’t written by little girls. They were written by adults in a society where women want to be empowered and strike down stereotypes to the point where there is no more distinction on what girls may prefer or what boys may prefer. They were written by a world that equates pink and princesses and unicorns and tea sets to a gender that never rises above or gets an education or steps outside of the home.

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Now, just to make sure you don’t take me wrong–I’m not saying girls should be limited to playing with dolls. I just didn’t think that was an issue worth calling out. Growing up, I had a fascination with Hot Wheels cars just as much as I did with my polly pocket collection. I ran around with bare feet in the summer catching frogs and I also loved to prance around the living room in my ballet tutu. There is no “Pink Police” catching girls in the act of doing something that might constitute as a boy behavior. We’re over that hump.

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Liking pink, dancing around in a princess dress one-size too big, and cradling a plastic baby doll isn’t a sign of weakness or unintelligence. It’s how females are often programmed. There have been multiple studies suggesting the scientific reason behind why women are generally drawn to pink more than men are. You can read one study right here.

But science and studies and societal norms aside, it’s time that we take a step back from feminist views and ask ourselves, as women, why we’re so afraid of being feminine. Why do we think the only ticket to Stanford is swearing off polka dots and skirts and being offended at the characteristic of “girly”? Why do we think that the only way to truly strive in today’s world is to break out of the mold that our great grandmothers and great-great grandmothers seemed to follow with their petticoats and sprayed hair and soft hands? Is it because we want to prove we’re somehow better‚Ķor smarter?

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One of my favorite actresses is Zooey Deschanel and she said something that really underscores this topic of being feminine in today’s society.

“My theory is that people in this day and age want to dismiss things. So they want to be able to dismiss you,” Deschanel says. “They say, ‘You don’t belong, you don’t deserve this because here’s why, and let me find an intellectual argument for why you wearing¬†pink¬†or cuff sleeves or a bow makes you not worthy of your accomplishments. Everything you’ve done doesn’t matter because you wore the wrong thing or you speak in a way that’s feminine or you identify yourself as feminine.’ And I just think that’s¬†bull****. And smart people are doing it, and that’s surprising to me. I’ll give them being smart, but they’re being very shortsighted.”

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Love that.

Another quote I love is from “The Joy of Womanhood” talk given by Margaret D. Nadauld in 2000. She said, “The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.”

The truth is–we aren’t put in a box, girls.

We can do anything and be anything.

But there’s nothing wrong with the way my niece’s eyes light up at a huge coloring page of a unicorn or the way my nephew giggles at the sight of a Nerf gun. It’s no “damage” of society that a two-year-old boy would rather kick a tea set than play with it and that a four-year-old girl will cry when he does so and kiss her baby’s head because, in her words, “it made the baby cry”.

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These kids haven’t been taught from society yet. They haven’t been told to be tougher or to play with “smarter” toys or to call out for a change on what they unwrap on Christmas day. If the little girls find joy in building blocks too–good. So did I. But that doesn’t mean they’re any smarter or headed down a better path with those toys than when they’re cradling a stuffed kitten with a pink collar.

There is nothing wrong with being feminine, despite what our society says. There’s nothing wrong with tackling an engineering major and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying sports. Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with NOT enjoying those things.

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There’s nothing wrong with NOT being an engineering major either, might I add. You can be a dancer, lost in sparkle and tight hair buns, or a mother with a handful of kiddos–and you are STILL a strong, smart woman who makes an impact on the world.

So, like the video does, I call out for change too.

Stop saying it’s bad to live the stereotypical traits of a girl.

Stop declaring, in essence, with propaganda in commercials and Hollywood and books, that women should become like men and if they exhibit any quality of a typical “girl” they aren’t using their brains or won’t go as far.

Stop taking the feminist movement so far that we lose our femininity.

Because there’s NOTHING wrong with preferring pink.

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He knows how it feels to be sixteen

Well, it’s happened.

I knew it would.

Ever since my little sister was born, her perfect little self bundled up in a pink striped blanket and a little hat the size of my 7-year-old hand too-big on her head, I knew it would happen. One day, she’d grow up.

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And since I’m 7 years her senior and get the–honor?–of going through things before she does, I knew that one day she’d get her heart broken. Or that a boy would be mean. Or that someone would make fun of her and it’d be up to me to tell her they’re wrong. I guess I was just in denial that it would happen any time soon *or ever, really* because I just couldn’t handle it.

But yesterday, it did.

It’s a long story so I won’t get into it all (also because that’s her business), but part of it I suppose is my fault. I’m protective of my sister *like too much, maybe* and I saw something going on that was hurting her, and my entire family, as a result. An unhealthy situation, you might say. And now my sister is left with a broken heart. And in her words, “the world is ending”.

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I remember that feeling. You probably do too. Or if you’re a teen–sixteen, seventeen, eighteen maybe–you probably know what that feels like right NOW. And if I’m correct, you feel like it’ll never get better. Life just‚Ķsucks. Right? And everyone can tell you that this isn’t your whole life, that time heals all wounds, that as you grow and learn and experience life, those wounds you’re experiencing now will feel like NOTHING ten years down the road. I mean, I tried to tell my sister that. But of course that didn’t work, because right now the world is ending. And how dare anyone say different?

I felt helpless watching my sister go through this yesterday because I love her more than life. But nothing could stop the tears. No one could convince her that she needs to keep herself safe and sometimes being hurt now saves you in the long run. And deep down, I knew nothing would work. After all, nothing worked for me at that age. I had to carry the illusion of the world ending–I had to cry into my teddy bear and write in my journal that I hate my parents. It’s just what happens while you’re growing up. But for us who look back on that time, we helplessly want to CONVINCE those teenagers that they’re wrong–it WILL get better, and it’s not that bad compared to what’s about to come later in life.

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And that’s when my former bishop came over to the house and talked to us and I brought up the subject. His response was simply, “How do you think Heavenly Father feels with US even, when he has a much bigger perspective?”

And right then and there, it hit me. Heavenly Father, our perfect and loving parent, has been through it all. He knows what it’s like to cry over a boy in junior high or feel the stab of rejection at prom. He knows how it feels to lose a job in your twenties or have a spouse cheat. He knows how it feels to lose a parent–or a child– or face a doctor when they tell you it’s cancer. He knows how it feels to get older or weaker or to start forgetting things. He knows how it feels to die. But more importantly–he understands the joy at the end–the growth through the journey– and the reason to all things, simply because he has the bigger picture.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” -Jeremiah 29:11

And how many times, through scriptures, comfort by the spirit, and revelations does he try to convince us, just like I tried to convince my sister, that everything will work out for our good? And just like my sweet little sister, we fail to believe it. Because we haven’t ever faced something so hard.

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I still go through those times, of course–especially now, while laying beside my dad as his breathing is getting more labored every day, or dealing with financial struggles or hardships at work–where Heavenly Father whispers to me that I will overcome. That he knows my struggles and also knows I’ll conquer them. But like a sixteen year old again curled up in my bed, I sometimes simply can’t believe it.

But I have to trust.

There’s nothing I can say to make my sister feel better right now. Because life is a process you just have to experience for yourself and overcome each day. It’s a small, teeny oh-so-tiny tiny glimpse of what Heavenly Father feels for us and the sorrows he must feel when we shake our heads and say, “No Father, this isn’t fair. It won’t get better.”

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Because it will. And he knows that, just like I know my sister will get better.

He knows our pain and he knows the joys to come.

And he knows, girls *and guys*, exactly how it feels to be sixteen.

Secrets of our perfect un-fairytale: A letter to my prince

To my dear prince *AKA husband of over a year now*,

It started with a castle–just like a fairytale should.

Okay, not exactly a real, medieval castle with spires that pierced the sky around the time Cinderella lost her shoe. But it was our castle. Even better than a “real” one, I’d say.

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And it was perfect.

Even before the castle doors, I felt like you were coming into my life on a white horse, scooping me up in my dusty dress and replacing old slippers with glass ones.  And in many ways, I was right.

But then, the wedding bells were silenced, the dress was put away, and the routine of every day life commenced–as it should, and does. And I quickly learned about fairytales. I put my dance shoes away and, like many people in the world, I reminded myself that midnight comes and the glass carriages turn into pumpkins at some point. The fairytale, in Disney’s standards, ends almost immediately.

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People often say that when the two ride into the sunset, when the grand finale kiss comes, when the sparkles of fairy godmother wands float to the earth and every day life pursues–the book gently closes and “real life” is the cruel teacher that whispers that fairytales don’t exist for long. I’ve read blogs and have heard from people who say marriage isn’t a fairytale, it’s hard work. And struggle. And disappointments from unmet expectations.

And I almost–ALMOST–bought into that. Lots of us do. For example, I almost bought into it the first time I noticed you have a habit of leaving your clothes in piles–in a trail–all the way from the bed to the shower in the morning. Or the way you slam cupboards in the early morning when I can still be sleeping and kiss me a million times on the face despite the fact that mornings equal a grouchy Kayla. Or the way I threw up in front of you when I was dreadfully sick and spent days in bed looking like death. Or the way I have a habit of slipping into an ugly state of REM and like to drool all over my pillow. Or the way I have stared up at you a million times with horrible raccoon eyes as I cry, unconscious of the fact that my makeup is now a blurred mask on my face.

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I almost bought into it–that we’re a silly, unfairytale-like couple with stubborn ways and outbursts of crazy. But then today happened.

You called me as I sat by myself, hands bunched together, staring at the clock. I had just heard an hour before that my dad was admitted to the hospital again. He’s getting sicker, Mom said, and it looks bad. I called you a couple times and left voicemails, realizing you’re in class and wouldn’t get it ’til later. And I cried, knees up to my chest. And then, the phone rang. You weren’t asking what’s up or why I called during class. You were calling me from the hospital parking lot–before even calling me back you were at the hospital to see my dad. And just like that, I suddenly had my glass slippers on again.

As I made my way to the hospital, eager to join you, I reflected on how different every fairytale is–even in the movies. No fairytale is exactly alike. It comes with opposition, heartache–discoveries that turn the tides for a time. And with that same train of thought, I realized it’s not that I should lower my expectations of marriage–I need to instead readjust what a fairytale really is.

I don’t agree with the reasoning that fairytales are thoughtless, irresponsible love and marriage is only hard work and mutual agreement to keep on keeping on. Yes, marriage is hard work. A lot of work, actually. But it’s also dancing barefoot in the kitchen. Laughing til we’re breathless as we try to put together a coffee table from Wal-Mart that comes with impossible directions.

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Yes, it comes with heated arguments and tears. But it also comes with whispered words of “I love you” right before we fall asleep and embraces that heal the soul.

Yes, marriage comes with you scrubbing pans coated with remnants of burnt egg *that I forgot to soak* and me finding your dirty socks lodged between the headboard and mattress. But it also comes with little love notes on the white board and clean dishes put away after a long day at work.

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Yes, it comes with compromise. Plenty of it. But it also comes with those happy silences–the contentment of being in the same room and doing completely separate tasks. It also comes with goofy inside jokes that only we know and the finishing of one another’s sentences *And one another’s entrees during date night*.

Marriage comes with all of those anti-fairytale parts we’ve all heard of–but who’s to say that wasn’t part of the real fairytales all along? Who’s to say the “happily ever after” didn’t entail times of silent treatments, misunderstandings, or holding hair while the princess hovers over a toilet? It DOES include those things.

After thinking over all these things I walked into the hospital room and I saw you sitting by my dad, making him laugh, of course. Because you tend to do that.

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And glass slippers, big dress and all *or at least it felt like that* I was reminded of my modern-day fairytale, complete with hospital rooms, dirty laundry, overflowing sinks, and spats over which way to turn during a road trip. It’s also complete with daily laughter, a safe place to run to when the world just hurts, long conversations that I’ve never shared with anyone, and those morning kisses–the annoying, pesky little things that I just couldn’t live without.

There ARE such things as fairytales, regardless of general opinion. Imperfect, challenging, quirky, amazing fairytales that far surpass ballrooms and crowns and knights on fancy horses.

You see, when THAT is the way a fairytale is defined, it’s easy to see that’s us to a tee.

Happily, dysfunctionally, crazily ever after.

Love,

Your princess-in-training

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When Fall comes to town: A reminder of why I should love change

I feel like I can officially say it’s Fall!

I know, I know, it’s been here for awhile now, but it feels like it just got here because FINALLY that crisp nip is in the air, the leaves are almost completely stained with color outside our apartment and up and down the streets, and it’s finally cool enough to break out the cute fall sweaters and boots and light all my apple pie and pumpkin candles to fill my apartment with the warm scent of holidays. It’s such a cozy, happy time of year. And just like a kid, I get into all the festivities and even asked my husband about three times if we can go to the pumpkin patch next weekend *He gave in*.

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But another thing that happens when fall comes around the corner is I get SUPER reminiscent. I start skimming over the past year, thinking of where we were last year and all that has changed and transformed–kinda like those changing leaves– to bring us to where we are now.

I’ve always been that kind of person–sometimes in my mind I walk down old roads, peer into past neighborhoods, and sit in old classrooms. This past week I’ve really been thinking about how just a year ago we were just moving to Washington from Rexburg, moving our boxes and suitcases into a room in my parents’ house. With my bachelor’s degree and a heaping dose of insanity we decided to come to Washington after we felt compelled to move here. I didn’t have a job yet–I had only been out of school about two months–and Matt didn’t even know if his credits for nursing would transfer. We had no money. A rabbit. And fear. Lots of fear.

But in faith we moved out here and we felt out lives rock on its very foundation.

Everything changed for us, and the world we were used to–a college town complete with parks and familiar burger joints and jobs and snow that comes to your knees in early November–that world seemed like a dream now that never happened.

For months we were faced with job hunting, food stamps, pleas to Heavenly Father, and lots of arguments between the two of us because of all of the stress. The green, vibrant leaves in our lives were dying. It was cold. Change hurt.

This is us last October.

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And little did we know that we hadn’t hit a brick wall. We had plenty of changes ahead.

Jobs came with time–and prayer, might I add. My prayer of, “Lord, show me why you brought us here” was answered. We got an apartment–small, but our own. Matt’s credits transferred and he got into the nursing program. And we even added onto our small family by adopting little Wilson–a spunky bunny who picks on his brother.

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This vintage sign in the picture, Make Lemonade, is a sign my Aunt bought me in Idaho when I spotted it and I fell in love with it. I think I loved it right away because 1) Our last name is Lemmon, so kinda self-explanatory and 2) That’s just what we do. We make lemonade. With every change, we try to take it and make it into something beautiful. And with every change, no matter what, He faithful will remain. Heavenly Father always does, really. Even when you don’t exactly feel like it.

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I’m grateful for beautiful memories–of college, of my old job I loved, and of faces of friends and images of places that stick out in my memory like lush evergreen trees that will always remain with me. But even more so–I’m grateful for the memories I’m creating RIGHT NOW.

When familiar parts of life start to wither and die and change and I tend to think everything is just getting worse–it’s actually just turning more beautiful. Like fall leaves. Colorful, vibrant, and the indication of newness.

I love it. I love Fall and I’m beginning to love change because it’s a constant.

A constant that just always serves up sweet lemonade, pretty leaves, extra ones to love–and more memories to keep.

Happy Fall!

OH and also–why do YOU love fall? I want to see your fall pictures that show why you love it too! You can post your pictures in a comment below ūüôā

The gift of a prophet: And why we’ll always need him

Right before General Conference started this weekend I recounted to my husband my first General Conference experience when I was 19. I told him about how I had notebook paper neatly folded in half to take notes–quotes on the left side and feelings on the right–and how my heart pounded in excitement to hear the prophet for the first time. *A bit over the top maybe, but it was awesome*

I love looking back and remembering how that felt–hearing him speak and give me direction for the first time.

All my life I had gone without knowing who he was or what a prophet was even needed for. And then, just like that, I suddenly knew I would always need him.

Over the five years I’ve been a member the excitement and fire has died down a little as I prepare for General Conference–yes, I still love that time of year when I can hear guidance from the pulpit–but of course, with time, I have gotten used to being under the direction of a living prophet. It’s just become a natural part of my life.

But then, this happened.

prophet with boy

A young boy ran up to the front of the conference center, and the prophet leaned down to take him by the hand.

And suddenly, I remembered it all. The excitement, the awestruck wonder–the amazing gratitude that filled my heart as I quickly jotted down notes. I remembered how blessed we really are to have a living prophet in this day and age–a man who is just as much a prophet as Adam, or Moses or Abinadi or all the others who went about God’s work and spoke truth. And just as much as this sweet little boy needs him who ran up to grab his hand, I need him. You need him. We all need him simply because in this broken world where we are overwhelmed with the noise and booming voices of those pointing us toward different paths, we need the voice of the Master–the voice we recognize as the tour guide down the right path.

I saved that picture of the boy as soon as I found it drifting around my newsfeed on social media, saving it as a reminder to myself that we will always need a prophet’s voice, and reminding myself to be more like that child. To trust and follow the spirit and elbow my way through crowds and doubt and opposition just to get to where I know truth and light is.

kids and jesus

Conference finally ended *It always seems to go by way too fast* and I found myself enjoying different blog posts and updates from members of the church who took away something from conference that aids them in their lives. And then, I stumbled across this. Now, I’m not trying to accuse the author or the New York Times of anything and a lot of what the author said in the article is true and well-written. I’m just going to relay how I became slightly saddened at how this article has circulated around the walls of friends and family and complete strangers who (in many cases that I’ve read) are suddenly questioning the authority and validity of our prophets and are suddenly crying out for reform. This article, along with some other things I’ve read, says it was told that the “church” makes mistakes. When in reality, President Uchtdorf and other apostles in the past have said that “people” make mistakes but the church and it’s doctrine is always true. But never ever was it mentioned that revelation, guidance, or inspiration is just told to us off the cuff and eventually may go down as error. His talk wasn’t a PR move to cover dirty tracks. On the contrary, it was said that although everyone is human, prayer, supplication of the Lord, and inspiration from the Lord goes into the preparation of the words given to the church.

Many of the quotes this weekend have been taken out of context.

“The prophet will never lead us astray” is something we hear a lot and it’s often misconstrued as meaning the prophet is a perfect divine being who can do no wrong. But that isn’t correct, as we’re all well aware. The reason the prophet won’t lead us astray isn’t because he’s infallible– it’s because the Lord won’t let him.

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This twist of some General Conference words this weekend have not only sparked articles, but has somehow given ammunition to movements within our own church, such as the Reform Mormonism movement. As I’ve delved into reading about these different organizations and writings it saddens me that suddenly the consensus is either that we don’t need a prophet OR that the prophet is just a really great teacher, but changing the church and seeking “pure truth” is a personal battle and one we don’t need a prophet for. It’s saddening. And it’s been a personal battle for me to see active, great members decide that the world’s loud, politically correct, “love means not having rules” voice is more worthwhile to listen to. Because it isn’t. And it never will be, even though I realize that saying that isn’t going to be popular.

We live in a time where good is called evil and evil is called good. We live in a time where it’s confusing how to vote or what stance to take when so many of us want to be kind and good and loving but certain mandates of the Lord are called intolerant or mean. We live in a time where it’s not popular to read books written thousands of years ago or to spend a whole weekend watching hours worth of talks by men and women whom most of us have never personally met. We live in a time where faith is synonymous with ignorance and declaring something as a sin before God is somehow declaring that we aren’t being Christlike. It’s a scary time.

And because of this, I thank God for a prophet.

teaching about prophet

I thank God for little children who nudge their way down an aisle of a conference center to touch the hand of the person they know with all their heart counsels with the Savior. I’m so grateful we have personal revelation as well as revelation from God’s mouthpiece, just as it was thousands of years ago. It’s evidence of God’s unending love.

The world is changing and ideas are reforming and of course it’s okay to seek answers and go on that personal journey toward truth. I also realize that we sometimes are given revelation from the mouths of prophets that revolutionize how we’ve been doing things for a long time–such as missionary age. But we wouldn’t have been given that inspiration that has amped up mission efforts without the voice of a prophet, for example.

I’m personally glad that the majority has clear minds and hearts that wish to do good and seek truth and have personal inspiration in their daily lives.

But let us never forget that we need a prophet, friends.

And let us never forget what a gift it really is to say that.

Armies of angels and marshmallow hearts: The signs of an eternal family

I can never read straight through The Family: A Proclamation to the World without stopping at a certain paragraph.

It’s impossible, actually. My eyes will read and re-read a few lines at the top until I look up from the page, imagining certain faces that come to life when those words are read.

These lines read: “The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.”

Eternally. It’s a concept that is too large to imagine. It’s a concept that doesn’t conjure up images of galaxies dusted across a black universe or golden gates piercing endless blue skies. Not for me, at least. Instead, I see faces.

The first face I see is usually the face of my uncle. His name is Uncle Tom. And when I see his face, he’s smiling as he usually was, a glimmer of mischief in his eye as he plans his next joke, an easy smile as he props up a baseball cap onto his head to itch the hair underneath–a random memory I have of him from early on. I usually imagine him holding me as he reads to me from my arsenal of books I’d bring over to his house when I was tiny–or I see him holding my left hand as my Aunt holds my right, walking down a forgotten pathway somewhere in the recesses of my memory. I see him wink at me again, just as he did from his bed right before he left us, lifting his hand to hold mine–telling me he’ll watch me from Heaven as I take on the world. He’s eternally there. Unaged. Untouched when I read this from the proclamation.

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I then see the face of my sister-in-law, Natalie. And usually she’s laughing–one of those big, crazy laughs that have the rest of us busting up within seconds. I see her throwing her mane of curly hair over a shoulder as she shoots pictures with her beloved camera, seeing the world through a different lens. I see her sitting on the dressing room floor of a bridal shop with me, laughing until tears come down our faces, because we had ripped the back of a dress that I was trying on. I see her holding one of her children on each hip, still strong enough to support their little bodies. Still breathing without the support of oxygen. Unaffected by cancer.

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Shortly after her, I see the face of my cousin Kenny. A spunky, rebellious guy with a twinkle in his eye and a way of making life into a roller coaster of adventure. I see him scheme with an exaggerated rub of his hands as he cheated his way into winning the game of Clue each time we played. I see him singing terribly to Leeann Rimes. I see him untouched by the hand of a murderer. Safe, smiling, cheeks flushed from his last adventure somewhere.

I see my Great Grandma, also known as Grandma Ducky. And when I see her she’s usually still at the lake she’d take me to, bag of bread in hand, chuckling her raspy chuckle as I’d throw the bread and nervously back up as swarms of ducks flocked to my feet. I see her dancing with me in her arms, ¬†and I smell tobacco and sweet perfume on her sweater. I see her arranging photo albums again, her crooked hands stroking the pages with each passing memory. She isn’t asleep in bed, a heart monitor by her side. She isn’t in a coma anymore, passing quietly beyond the veil. No, she’s awake.

And then, I see my dad. He’s a family member who isn’t gone, but right now he’s bravely fighting cancer–waking up each day with renewed energy and positivity despite his paling skin and dire diagnosis. But I still see him as I read those lines from the proclamation–and he’s not sick. I see him with a full head of hair–thicker than mine sometimes. I see him picking blackberries with me in our backyard and creeping out to our pond to catch frogs with me and dump them into our bathtub, much to my mother’s dismay. I see him from across the altar in a chair next to my mom as I got sealed to my husband, smiling proudly in a bright blue tie.

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With these lines of the proclamation I am given the renewed perspective that there is no end. And the love of family is far stronger than the distance created by death. They feel close to me when I read those eternal words and when I remind myself that relationships are perpetuated beyond the grave. It’s as if they never left or are never going to leave.

Elder Holland once said something that underscores the truth of this principle: “In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike‚Ķyou remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection.”

Those words ring true in so many ways. Those who love us always will, even from beyond the veil. I’ve felt them so many times–their encouragement, their concern, their love.

When my sister-in-law passed away it was a day before my birthday. We were at my parent’s house and my mom set in front of me a slice of cake and hot chocolate, trying to bring whatever joy she could into the house. Tears slid down my cheeks, and I grabbed my husband’s hand. In a silent prayer I asked Natalie to just send a sign that she’s ok. I don’t know why I needed it when I so clearly believe in the world to come, but during that kind of pain, I did. Nothing happened right away–no bold voice from the sky or extraordinary vision. But as I reached for my hot chocolate I looked down into the mug and saw it. A heart. A heart perfectly formed from melted marshmallow. To some, it may seem crazy. To tell you the truth, I haven’t told a soul until now. But to me, it was all I needed. OF COURSE Natalie would send me love that way. She was creative, funny–and she knew I’d know it was her.

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The sweet truth of eternal families is all around us if we simply choose to take notice and choose to believe.

Sometimes those loved ones will ride to your rescue on unseen chariots of fire.

Sometimes they’ll smile at you in your dreams.

Sometimes they’ll whisper love to you when you read the Proclamation to the Family or bend your knees in prayer.

And sometimes, they’ll simply send you their love with a marshmallow heart.

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**This is a blog that I wrote for the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” celebration. I was honored to write for this! Many thanks to Monserrat, the creator of this celebration, for asking me to do this. You can find my post, as well as many others, very soon on her wonderful blog at¬†http://chocolateonmycranium.blogspot.com/.

Living with endometriosis: The lessons in waiting- Part I

Today I got the bad news.

The diagnosis was Endometriosis. And it sucked to hear.

I wish there was a prettier way of putting it–a more eloquent way of describing to you how it felt to hear the doctor say it. But there isn’t. It just plain sucked.

I’m not keeping a blog to just document the squeaky-clean pretty parts of our life together as a young family. I’m keeping a blog called ALL our Lemmony things. And this is part of it. The big, painful, why-is-life-so hard trials. *Big surprise, huh?*

I had a feeling something was wrong way back when we started trying for a baby. I don’t know why, but if you’re reading this (and you’re a woman) you probably know what I mean by somehow just knowing¬†when something is off. For me, the red flags were everywhere, including excruciating cramps that even landed me in the hospital at one point. I seriously thought I was going to die. Or give birth. But I wasn’t pregnant, so I had all bets on that first one.

That, and so many other red flags (irregular cycles, abdominal pain, headaches) were things I pushed to the back burner because I was focused on having a baby. And by golly, nothing was going to stop me.

Until today.

My legs hung over the high examination table, hands wringing together nervously while the doctor took off his glasses and looked me straight in the eye. He didn’t dance around the subject, but the soft tone of his voice–the kind of voice that people use at funerals or during break ups– scared me more than anything. He told me that it’s clear to him that I have a severe case of Endometriosis. He said a few times he isn’t saying I¬†can’t¬†have kids. It’ll just be much harder and it might take weeks…months‚Ķor years‚Ķof fertility treatments and visits to specialists. There’s no saying what kind of timeframe it’ll be.

I instantly felt like a broken woman.

This isn’t meant to insult or hurt those who were diagnosed with this same thing. Actually, this is just my way of connecting to those women who might know exactly how it feels to stare into a doctor’s eyes and try not to cry. Maybe someone out there (I just know it) knows how it feels to get angry with life, upset at her own body, and grief-stricken for a faceless, unborn child all at the same time. Maybe that woman has made it through. Maybe she’s still waiting. Maybe she has it MUCH worse than me and knows for a fact that she can’t bear children at all. Maybe she’s exactly where I’m at. I don’t know.

But in that moment, on the table, swallowing down tears, all I know is I felt alone.

All my life I’ve been able to do anything I set my mind to. But this¬†one¬†thing. This thing that a woman should be able to do. That one thing is going to be¬†hard¬†for me to do at best. I asked the doctor several times if it’s my fault or if I’ve done something to cause this. But he said women who have Endometriosis have had it since inside the womb. That was another dagger. All my life I’ve had this condition, this hindrance to bringing spirit children into the world, and I had no idea? Why me? Such a selfish question loaded with a million unanswerable components, but it still came to mind over and over.

But in the back of my mind, I kept reminding myself of the truthfulness of the gospel. The promises of the Lord. The loving ways of God.

I know I’m going to have children someday. I feel them and I already know their names (luckily Matt helped me with most and agreed on the ones I pre-planned ūüėČ ) ¬†I know that this is a trial that I was given to face and that there can be lessons in waiting. And that someday when I hold my baby–no matter if it’s a year from now or seven years from now–it’ll feel worth it.

But right now, my perspective doesn’t reach that far. I see the exam table. My pink toes dangling off it. My blurred vision because of tears. And my empty, unable-to-work-correctly stomach. But I’m trying to look beyond. There is a lesson in all things–an eternal principle I’m going to have to learn. Who knows? Maybe that lesson will be something I need to pass down to my children someday when they’re waiting for something they yearn for just as much as I yearned for them.

Questions, so many questions.

But for now, I find solace in my sweet husband who makes me laugh so the tears can dry, who genuinely knows that he’ll be a dad, and who reminds me that some blessings come soon and some come late, but they’ll always come (That statement was originally from this talk¬†by Elder Holland by the way–he’s awesome) For now I find solace in my big family on both mine and Matt’s side, and my friends who comfort me from hundreds of miles away through texts and phone calls. I find solace in our blog, where I can connect with other sisters in waiting–or sisters who live lives filled with trials of their own, but they simply don’t give up.

I hope to be one of those.

Style as desired: Message from a bottle

“What on earth is she WEARING?!”

That’s all I heard from behind me last Sunday and that’s all I could think about for the rest of the class.

I was in Relief Society with my sister-in-law at her home ward, surrounded by ladies I didn’t know. And that was the first thing I heard from the woman behind me as soon as the sister missionaries stood up in front of the class to give a little lesson.

I wish I could tell you I was shocked. But I wasn’t. It happens SO often, that I don’t even flinch now. It’s expected. And I’m not beating up on my LDS church because that’s not the only place where judgment with others’ appearances resides. I’m beating up on every place in the entire world that holds more than two humans together at one time. *Hence, everywhere*

But when it happens among Christians, that really rubs me the wrong way. As Christians, shouldn’t we be better? Shouldn’t we think more highly of each other and grant each other the option to express his or her individuality in whatever colors or accessories or hairstyles he or she wants? It disturbs me–enough, in fact,that I’m writing this in a hurried frenzy. Don’t worry, I’ll do a spell-check before I post this.

I’m not going to go into what the missionary was wearing because‚Ķwell, it doesn’t matter. It never matters.

What matters is that it happened. A girl with a big smile and a Book of Mormon in her hands was suddenly judged for what she was wearing quicker than she could get out two words. And it happens all the time. I cringe to think of all the times I may have done the same kind of thing, judging someone by their shoes or hairstyle or pierced lip as they sit across from me in church. It’s simply something to be ashamed of.

This nagging issue was still on my mind as I was reading the back of a hair-conditioning spray the day after. It relayed the instructions carefully on the back of the bottle, then simply stated: “Style as desired”. See? Even the simplest of things–a bottle of hair product– has it right. You follow the instructions–modesty, cleanliness, respectfulness toward your body. Then you style as desired.

If that means flower patches on your jeans, great. If that means not being afraid to wear short-sleeved shirts that show a tattoo that you got long ago (the one people try to convince you to regret and keep hidden)–good. If that means sporting bright green shoes because you happen to love the color green–GO FOR IT. Because no one can be you. You are your own work of art.

I can’t forget the day that I wore this dress to an event.orangedress

Five minutes into being there I was asked which Halloween store I bought this at. Great, I thought. Now I’ll feel like a pumpkin all night.

And then there’s my sister. The spunky, larger-than-life, unique girl who just happens to like black. A lot of black, actually. And people will dare to ask her why she’s goth if she’s Mormon. This oftentimes comes from not only the school halls, but her own church classrooms.

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And it’s unacceptable.¬†

We are called to be kinder, gentler, more understanding. We’re called to embrace diversity and celebrate our own.

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(Picture by Julene Jorgensen photography–http://www.designstonotice.com)

No matter what age we are, we have beauty that is our own. Beauty that is crafted by the hands of our own creative spark. And shouldn’t that be celebrated?

So, my dear lady, sitting behind me in Relief Society, I will tell you what the answers might be to your whispered question of “WHAT on earth is she wearing”.

She is wearing what makes her shine.

ivy

She wears her hair short and curly because it’s too hard to keep up if it’s long, and by golly–she looks good with it.

  kylynn

She is wearing her hair in curls reminiscent to the 1940’s because she has the face of a movie star from those classic black and white movies and she digs the old-fashioned look.

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(Picture by Joey Ferguson photography, fergmedia.com)

She has rain-soaked hair and play clothes because she loves to play. And that’s what you caught her doing.

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(Picture by Julene Jorgensen photography, www.designstonotice.com)

She’s wearing bright colors ¬†and ripped jeans because she’s young–and she has the personality of the sun.

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He’s wearing a bow tie because that’s his favorite way of dressing up. And he simply owns a drawer full of them.

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She just simply loves yellow and looks GREAT in that color.

We’re all different. And it doesn’t matter.

What really matters is that we love that we are.

So, to the sister behind me, and to all of us really: What is she wearing?

Something different than you. And that’s what makes life so interesting. And so gosh-darn beautiful.