Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Rembering a Hero

One month.  It is hard to believe that my dad has been gone that long.  It still feels like only yesterday that I was out fishing with him at the pond down the road.  Or chatting with him at his house.  Sharing lunch together after I got off work.

Most days, I keep very busy.  To be honest, I do not have much time for spare thoughts.  But in the evening, when it is quiet, I think about my dad.  It has been about two months since I last spoke with him, but I can still hear his voice so clearly in my head.  I can still see all his funny little mannerisms that made him so unique.  I hope I never forget those things.

Yesterday we celebrated Veteran's Day.  My dad was a veteran.  He retired from the US Air Force as a Lt. Colonel.  Pretty fancy!  He fought in wars and did a lot of paperwork.  I think he liked the paperwork better:-)  I never had the desire to go in to the military myself, but I am grateful for all my dad was able to do while he served his country.  He was very patriotic.  He believed in freedom, justice, and serving others with a willing heart.  He believed in underdogs.  Probably because he was one himself.  He was always fighting against the odds.  But like so many other underdogs, he often managed to come out on top.

I love this image from my dad's burial service.  No matter how many times I see it, I can't help but get a little misty-eyed.  I love everything it represents.  I salute my dad.  I salute his courage, his tenacity, his strength.  I salute his willingness to serve.  I salute his love of country, love of people, and love for his family.  I salute him because he is, and always will be, my Hero.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Saying Goodbye

How do you say goodbye to someone who you love so much?  How do you let go of the person who was always there for you, even when you felt no one else was?

I think about all the memories I have with my dad.  Both the good and the bad.  Although, bad is really a relevant term, because most of the time we ever argued, it just meant one of us was being a little pig-headed about something (a trait we had in common).

I was trying to think back to the very first memory I have of my dad.  It's hard, because my memories from way back then are kind of all jumbled.  But I am pretty sure I was just a toddler, maybe preschool age.  I was a little sick one night, but still well enough to play a little with my doll.  I remember I started to throw up, and my dad grabbed me and ran me in to the bathroom.  I think I left a trail of puke all the way there.  I remember my dad hugging me and stroking my hair and making sure I was alright.  That may seem like such a strange thing to remember, but my dad was there for me when I needed him.

My dad loved camping and fishing, and I learned to love those things from him.  He taught me how to bait a hook with a worm.  There was absolutely no wheedling out of it.  If I wanted to fish, I had to learn to bait my own hook.  But I wanted to show my dad I wasn't some prissy little girl, that I could be tough.  So I learned to bait the hook, without complaining (and ever since I have secretly thought other girls who did not bait their own hooks were kinda sissies, lol).  I am so glad that over this past summer I was able to take him out fishing a couple of times.  Private moments where just the two of us could sit and talk.  We never really caught any fish, but it wasn't really about that anyway.

My dad was a hard worker.  He taught all of us kids how to work from a pretty young age.  And I don't mean "clean your room and sweep the floor" kind of work.  We mowed lawns, helped bring down trees, hang drywall, and all manner of hard labor.  That's not to say we always liked it, but I definitely learned from it.  I am not afraid of getting my hands dirty when I need to.  Sometimes I even enjoy it!  Now that I am a mom, I realize how hard it is to teach children the importance of hard work.  It is definitely not something that comes natural to most people, and especially not to kids.  My son is still a work in progress, but I had a pretty good teacher myself, so hopefully I can pass on a little of my dad's knowledge.

My dad loved the LDS church, and he loved God.  He converted to Mormonism when he was 19.  Ever since, he was an "all in" kind of guy.  He made sure we went to church every Sunday, read our scriptures, said our prayers, and taught us about God through example.  My recent disaffection from the Mormon church was a hard blow for him, yet he still loved me.  In fact, he said as far as he was concerned our relationship had not changed, and he would continue to support me in all my endeavors.  A great example of Christ-like love.

Life wasn't always easy with my dad.  He sometimes had a temper, and he could be REALLY stubborn about things.  Those were the hard times.  I hated when my parents fought, or when he would fight with my brothers.  Well, I don't like fighting in general.  I think mostly those times were just brought on by a lot of stress, and under those circumstances things get said you wish you hadn't.  But mostly, the angry times were brief, and he would always come back and apologize for his anger.  He would hold me and tell me how much he loved me, and that he was proud of me.  I knew he really meant it.

My dad was a military man.  He served in the US Air Force for more years than I can count, and eventually reached the level of Lt. Colonel.  He served in the Vietnam war, and had a long list of job specialties to add to his resume, including working on nuclear warheads and working on top secret military ops as an intelligence officer.  He really loved the military, and was always trying to convince any of his kids to join.  None of us did, although a couple of us joined JROTC in high school.  That was certainly enough military for me!  But I know the military was good for our family, and definitely good for me dad.

We moved around a lot when I was a kid, and sometimes that was hard.  But looking back I am grateful.  I know people who have lived their whole lives without leaving their hometown.  And yet I got to go all over the US, and even across seas.  I don't remember Japan very well, but I remember enough to appreciate being there.  Later, when I was older and away at college, they lived in Turkey for a couple years and I was able to visit.  Best vacation of my life!  And my one of my favorite parts was when my dad and I took a day trip to visit the coastal town of Antakya (biblical city of Antioch).  It was a great time, just him and me, visiting an old temple, the little grotto where the Apostle Paul taught, and getting lost in a Turkish bazaar.

My dad was a great storyteller (but NOT good at telling jokes!).  He was always telling little stories to us kids.  He had a pretty good imagination, and loved to write.  For many years he hoped to write a book.  Although he never had any books published, I did get to read some of his stories, and a few of them even won awards.  I think his love for words was passed down to all of his kids in some form or another.  We are all avid readers, and some of us even write.  It was something he always encouraged us in.  If we got in trouble, we could be grounded from visiting friends or playing with toys or from the television, but we were NEVER grounded from reading books.
My dad's health was not always the greatest.  In fact, some would say he had a pretty raw deal.  He was born prematurely, and was always really small.  I think he always thought he was smaller than he really was, lol.  When he was 14 he contracted Polio, and was confined to wheelchair.  Fortunately, his polio went in to remission, and did not have any major lasting effects until much later in life.  Not long ago, he learned he had Asperger's Syndrome, which he felt explained a lot about his life and how he viewed the world.  He became something of a local spokesperson on dealing with Asperger's, and encouraged others to learn to live with it and work through it, and not let it define them.

When we found out my dad had cancer a couple of years ago, it came as a real shock to all of us.  Despite my dad's health issues, we really expected to live for a very long time.  I suppose we all feel that way about our parents.  Day by day I watch as he grew weaker and weaker.  But I just felt it wasn't his time.  I knew he would make it through.  Even when the doctor's told us he had only days to live and we had his funeral planned out, I just knew somehow that he would pull through.  And he did.  It wasn't easy for him.  He went through a lot with is treatments, and he was absolutely miserable.  But he has always been a fighter, and even though he often said he "wanted to go", I think he really fought so hard for his family's sake.

After he got out of the hospital, it was amazing all the things he was able to accomplish.  He was always grumpy about not being able to do all he used to do.  But really, he did a lot.  He went skiing and skydiving, he continued to write (a little bit), and he even did a 10k!  We sat and talked, and I have learned more about my dad in the last two years than I ever learned about him in all the other years of my life.

When he told us a few months ago that the cancer had returned, I knew right then that I would be saying goodbye.  My head didn't want to believe what my heart was telling me.  He seemed so much stronger than the last time.  He had more energy, joked more, talked more, and had a far more positive outlook on life.  All the treatments seemed to work better.  We thought he would pull through.  And really, he should have.  And yet, here we are at the end.  A crazy series of events, and his time on earth is done.

Mentally, I kept trying to prepare myself for this.  I knew I would have to say goodbye.  But I think no matter how prepared you think you are, when you are facing the end, when you have to make that decision to end the suffering, no amount of prepartion is going to work.  Because the end just sucks.  I value these past couple of days, not because it was easy to see my dad lying in the hospital bed with so many tubes and beeping things all around him.  But because I was able to quietly say goodbye.  I talked to him and sang to him, and just held his hand.  Feeling those little squeezes back, even though he has been so heavily sedated, mean the whole world to me.  I don't know if he really knew I was there, but I would like to think so.
Mom and Dad last year, right after his 10k.  It was a great time for our family.

The last photo taken of my dad, just before his bone marrow transplant last month.
And so tomorrow, the family will gather around his bedside one last time, and say goodbye to the man that gave us all something special.  Strength, courage, endurance, imagination, love.  Life.  There are no words to express the deep love and admiration I have for my dad.  He is and always will be my hero.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Losing my Religion

I have something I need to say that is very difficult for me, and I know will be quite shocking and even distressing for many of my friends and family.  However, I feel it is still important for me to share this part of myself, and hope that in doing so you will understand my feelings on the matter.

After long and painful thought, I have decided to leave the Mormon (LDS) church.  My reasons for doing so run very wide and very deep.  I will not discuss everything here, but I do wish to explain some of my feelings.

I grew up in a very faithful LDS home.  We went to church regularly, attended all the meetings, and were very active in the Mormon community.  At home we prayed together, read scriptures together, and occasionally had family nights to discuss religious and moral issues.

I was always a firm believer.  I definitely had doubts and concerns, but I generally set those things aside, believing I would find answers later, or believing that the answer was that it was simply God’s will.  When I was young, this was good enough, and I moved forward with my life.  I was, in fact, such a firm believer, that I was willing to fight for my beliefs, both verbally and physically.  I took great offense when anyone even remotely suggested that my religion was not actually the “one true church”, as I always believed it was.

As I grew older, some of the doubts and concerns I had became a little more prominent in my life.  I continually tried to set them aside, but they just kept coming up.  I became severely depressed.  The hardest part was that when I tried to voice my concerns to my church leaders, they simply patted me on the head, told me not to worry about it, that everything would turn out okay, and sent me on my way.  Or they would grow very uncomfortable and dodge around the issues and give me unsatisfactory responses, mostly along the lines of “You just need to have more faith.”  It can be difficult to have more of something when it is slipping away from you.
Despite my depression and unease, I still clung to the Church.  It was my life raft.  It was my LIFE.  Everything I knew and loved came from the church, and I still believed in it.  I didn’t understand it all the time, but I believed it. 

As I grew a little older, I experienced some very difficult times; moments of darkness and utter despair.  To be honest, it was often in those times when the teachings and doctrines of the church made the least sense, and were even hurtful.  I became even more depressed, and angry, and bitter.  And yet, I STILL clung to the church.  I HAD to believe it was true.  I had fought for the church, its doctrines, and God and I simply could not let go of it, no matter how awful I felt inside.

It is important to note that there were some good times as well.  I had times of such joy, and my heart was so full.  I met so many wonderful people in the church who were there for me through thick and thin.  It was those times that lifted me up and kept me going, and helped me feel that I was on the right path.  But those pesky doubts wouldn’t go away!

Last year my husband, Craig, came to me and told me he no longer believed in the Mormon Church.  I was shocked and hurt.  So many of my hopes and dreams for the future felt like they had suddenly been crushed.  I was not completely surprised by his announcement, because I know that he had been struggling for a long time as well.  Still, I never thought it would come to this.  For a little while I considered divorce, but the very thought of it appalled me.

Once I got over the initial shock, he was able to sit with me and explain his reasons for no longer believing.  I decided to listen, rather than shut him out.  I felt that family was far more important than any religion, and as a testament of my love for him, I decided I needed to be there to support him, and listen, and try to understand.

During these talks we had (and there were many!), I began to realize that many of the things that had been bothering me had also bothered him.  Instead of continuously setting those things aside like I had, he decided to look in to them further, which led to him finding more information about the Church and its Doctrines that was deeply disturbing.  When he shared his findings with me, a part of me wanted to ignore it, but I just couldn’t do that.  Not anymore.  For so long, I had been trying to make the pieces fit, and telling myself that even if they didn’t, it was not a sure sign that the church was not true.  But I started looking at a few things on my own.  I delved deep in to church history, as well as taking a closer look at the modern-day church.  I was shocked by the things I learned, and very disappointed that so much of it was not made more public.  This was not the church I thought it was.

And yet, if you can believe it, I STILL did not leave the church!  I was clinging by threads of faith.  I had a wonderful support system at church, and there was still so much I felt was good about the church.  But it became increasingly difficult to sit in the meetings.  They would discuss things that I now knew were only half-truths or even blatantly false, but were being taught as truth.  All the anger and bitterness that I had tried to set aside for all those years just came boiling back to the surface.  I stopped attending some of the meetings so that I would not be a source of contention.  The people around me were good people, and I could not blame them for the believing what was taught.  They were as ignorant as I had always been, and happy in their ignorance.

Several recent experiences I have had recently (which I will not discuss here), have given me that final push out of the church.  I will say that these experiences were so incredibly hurtful, and involved some people I loved and trusted.  My love and trust in them has not been broken completely, but my trust in the Church has been severed irrevocably.  I still love the people, but I can no longer belong to an institution that would condone such negative behavior.

So where am I now?  To be honest, I still have anger.  A lot of it.  I have been told it is simply a step in the grieving process, and will run its natural course over time.  But for now, I still get angry.  But not always.

Craig and I have found a new home with the Unitarian Universalist church.  Their teachings and ideals are far more in keeping with our thoughts and feelings than the Mormon Church ever was.  I feel there is an openness and honesty there that is refreshing.  I look forward to attending church there every week, singing in the choir, and hearing the wonderful talks given.

We also spend time with other people who have left the Mormon church.  Many (if not most), have left the church for the same reasons we did, so there is a strong sense of camaraderie and belonging.  Many of these people have become very close friends.

In so many ways we are happier and more at peace than we have felt in a very long time.  We still value the good teachings we were taught while in the Mormon church – the importance of families, service, charity, kindness to others, hard work, and so forth.  These are still the things we teach to our son.  We also value the friendships we have made throughout the years with other Mormons. 

To an outsider, we may not seem that different.  Since we still hold to many of the same values, essentially we are the same now as we ever were.  But there is a difference in our hearts.  We honestly feel we have made the right decision for us, and we sincerely hope that our friends and family will understand that and continue to accept and love us for who we are.

If anyone ever has any questions about our decisions, we invite them to ask us personally.  We are happy to share our experiences on a more personal level.  However, it must be understood that we are not open to debating the issues, especially in any public settings (facebook, family or social events, etc).

If you are very curious, I recommend watching this video produced by John Dehlin, a faithful Mormon living in Utah, and who has spent many, many years talking with and guiding those who have dealt with a faith crisis.  He talks about some of the issues that we have had (although this is only the tiniest tip of the iceberg).  It is about an hour long, but very informative.


Monday, April 23, 2012


Last year, my big bro, Bill, impressed me when he ran a marathon.  Bill has always been pretty athletic.  Back when he was in college he biked all the way from Austin, TX to Anchorage, Alaska.  I guess running a marathon shouldn't have really surprised me.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I always thought, "That would be cool.  That would be a big accomplishment.".  The problem is, I HATE running.  I mean, I REALLY HATE running.  It is monotonous, and the constant pounding of my feet on the ground is jarring.  I can think of so many more fun ways to get exercise.  But then, I am not doing any of those, either!

My dad tried to convince the family to run in a marathon.  I blew it off at first, but then everyone started talking about it, and before we knew we had set a plan in motion for all of us to start our own training programs.  I am not so ambitious (or anywhere near fit enough!) to run a full marathon, but I think it would be awesome to run a half marathon.  That is still a little over 13 miles, which is quite a distance.

So, my first day out running, I did all the right stretches, drank some water, put on my brand new special running shoes, and brought my running buddy - my little dachshund, Orion.  I was ready to go!  And. . .I barely made it 1/8 mile.  I felt so deflated!  No literally, I felt like I had no breath left in me, and I was pretty sure someone had just tried to stick a scouring brush down my throat.  My tiny little dog looked at me in embarrassment as he sat idly by.  I think I was such a disappointment to him.

Not to be discouraged, I kept at it.  By the end of a week, I was going a little over 1/2 mile, so I was making progress.  I didn't want to push too much, because I have heard that can cause problems later.  Still, I was pleased with where I was headed.

Within a few weeks, I had finally reached that 1 mile goal.  Woot!!  The last time I ran a full mile (without stopping), was when I was in high school, and even then I was really pushing myself.  So this felt AWESOME!  I wanted to jump up and down and shout my success to the whole neighborhood.  Except I couldn't because I was completely out of breath and trying hard not to puke all over my front lawn.

After that, I started pushing myself just a bit harder, and very shortly i was doing about 1.5 mi - further than I have ever run before!  Then the weather turned nasty (it does that in the spring), and I was not able to get out.  I tried keeping up my strength and stamina by hopping on the stationary bike.  That helped, but I wasn't very consistent.  When I was finally able to go out running again, I was back down to running only a mile.  Bummer!

The good news is that it hasn't been so long that my body has forgotten everything.  Today's run was only a mile, but it was an easy mile.  I felt like I could have gone much farther.  I was barely out of breath, and I was feeling pretty good.

There are some other benefits of running.  Aside from some serious calf muscles (nice!), I have noticed that my circulation has improved significantly.  All through the winter, I had trouble sleeping because no matter what position was I lying in, my arms would fall asleep.  Totally numb from shoulders to fingertips.  It felt really weird.  Since running, I have not had that problem at all, which has been very nice:-)

I can't say I have any more energy that before.  I suffer from chronic fatigue, and so far it seems no matter what i do, that will never really change.  However, I think I have noticed fewer migraines, which is really the best bonus of all.

So, I am planning to run a half marathon some time this fall, in either September or October.  A lot of my other family members will be joining me as well, so we will be running together.  Hopefully we will all be able to cross that finish line!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rewind - Cameron's Birthday

I have been terrible about keeping up to date on my blogs lately. October was my busiest month yet in my studio, and I also worked full time with Bella Baby and had my family to take care of. Blogging was a little low on my list of priorities:-) But I actually have a little free time (!), so I thought I would hop on here and post a little.

As many of you know, Cameron turned SEVEN this past September. How crazy is that? And why do kids have to grow up so dang fast? His birthday party was a huge success - lot so kids running around, all hyped up on cake and ice cream. And what a cake it was!

Cameron's birthday theme was Knights. He has always been very in to swords and castles, so he picked this particular theme. And he specifically requested a "big castle cake with a dragon on top!" This was really going to put my cake decorating skills to the test! But because I love him like crazy, I was willing to give it a shot. It took three days to make the cake, which I finished minutes before the first guests arrived. The dragon was made entirely out of chocolate (except for the tissue paper wings). The cakes were really yummy, too:-) The bottom was chocolate cake with chocolate cream, bananas, chocolate chip, and a chocolate drizzle for the filling (not recommended for anyone on a diet!). The top was a rainbow chip cake with cherry cream and maraschino cherries for the filling.

We have always loved having a pinata at Cameron's parties, and this year I found a cool red dragon pinata. But that dragon did NOT die easily! Every kid took several turns trying to beat it open. Nothing. Not even a dent.

Even the "big kids" couldn't do it!

So finally we decided that hand-to-hand combat would be the best thing to finish this dragon off, and it was torn limb from limb.

And there was much rejoicing in the land.

And at the end of it all, Cameron got lots of great gifts from family and friends (which included FOUR new swords to add to his collection!).

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


I have been very bad about keeping my blog updated. So much as happened, but I have not had time to sit down and record it all. One of these days I will backtrack and write about our very crazy summer!

But this post is all about my wonderful little boy. Cameron turns seven this month, can you believe it? He just started first grade, and is LOVING it! Just like both his parents before him, he loves to learn. He is already reading at around a 3rd-4th grade level, which is pretty impressive, I think. He also loves math (he did NOT get that love from me!) and science.

In the past year Cameron has lost FIVE teeth! His most recent one was one of his top front teeth, and the little gap left behind is just so dang cute:-) The new tooth is growing in very quickly, though, like all his teeth have grown. The tooth next to it is also loose, and we expect that one to come out in the next month or so. When he was a baby he got all his teeth in very early and very quickly, so it is really not surprising that the same should be true of getting his adult teeth in.

As always, Cameron is just crazy about video games. Here is the odd thing though. Cameron has been "playing" video games since he could crawl. He has been around them all his life. But, sad to say, he is really quite terrible at playing them! He would much rather act them out. He pretends to be one of the characters, or makes up his own character to be, and runs around the house pretending to be in the game. I think I prefer this imaginative play to sitting mindlessly in front of the screen. He is a great storyteller, and will often make up very crazy stories involving some of his favorite characters.

Here are some other fun facts about Cameron:
Favorite Color: Red
Favorite Food: Pizza
Books he is reading: Eldest (from the Eragon series), Legend of Zelda graphic novels, and anything else within his reach!
Favorite Movie: Iron Giant
Likes: Knights, Robots, Dinosaurs, playing with his friends, spending time with his mommy and daddy, singing
Dislikes: Tomatoes, being grounded

Of course, since this is a new year for him, I had to get some new portraits. There is a field full of Black-eyed Susans near our house, and I thought that would be a great place for portraits. Cameron was a silly boy, and wanted to dance and play in the flowers, and I was able to capture some adorable smiles. Cameron has a beautiful smile and a contagious laugh. He brings so much joy in to our lives:-)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter Festivities

Easter weekend was pretty exciting around here. Originally, Easter festivities were going to be at my sister's place in Idaho. But because my dad is in the hospital (that is a whole other story that I won't go into here), we decided to move everything to my parent's house here in Utah. This actually worked out better for my little family, because I had to work Easter Sunday, and we would have missed out. In fact, the festivities were so big, we had to draw it out over two days, Saturday and Sunday!

The house was pretty crowded with people. All of my siblings, their spouses/significant others, and all the grandkids were in attendance, as well as my Grandma Olive, and Aunt Carol and Uncle Steve. Pretty crowded, but lots of fun! We did have a little drama, which seems to be pretty much expected in my family, but we got over it and had a fun time.

We had a spectacular Easter egg hunt with all the kids. We didn't count the eggs, but we estimated there was probably close to 200. It was quite the chore to find hiding spots for all of them. It was funny watching the kids try and find them all. Some we thought were really well hidden they found right away, while others that we thought were pretty obvious they passed by again and again without seeing.

I do have to say that I was a little frustrated with Cameron's "finding" ability. This is an on-going battle in our house. He has trouble seeing things in the most obvious places, and does not seem to understand the concept that just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. Like it might be hiding under something. Same thing with the eggs. We kept trying to hint for him to look all around, up and down, and in things. But after several minutes of him just sort of glancing around waiting for it to pop out at him, we would give up and point it out. We definitely need to start doing some more "finding" games around the house to develop this particular skill.

Easter dinner was scrumptious - BBQ ribs the first day, and ham the next, with all the best fixings:-) I think everyone was particularly enamored with my cake balls - a ridiculously easy recipe, but the most melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness:-) And the candy haul? Um, did I mention there were nearly 200 eggs? Yeah, we are going to be eating that for a while.

To round off the fun, my dad's sister flew in on Tuesday to spend some time with him. They were only here for a few hours, but it was nice to see them again. I don't think we get to see them near as often as I would like!

So here are the highlights in photos: