Sunday, August 10, 2014


Church today left me feeling tender.  We are starting to develop tiny relationships with people in the ward but, being just two weeks old, the relationships are rather two dimensional and we are quite far from knowing the backgrounds and histories and personal stories that take all these names and faces and develop them into three dimensional friends. 

So when our relief society lesson happened to be about temples today and not one, but two women were asked to share their testimonies about the recent tragic deaths of loved ones in their lives, I felt slightly out of place.  I watched the rest of the women in the room fighting their emotions (some successfully, but most of them unsuccessfully) when the first woman, an older woman, stood up to talk.  But I didn't know her story.  And I didn't feel the emotion. 

There was something nice, however, about being able to feel the sweet spirit of her testimony without being tainted by the powerful emotion of sorrow (not that the two can't go hand in hand, because they can).  But it was obvious to me that I was missing a giant piece of the puzzle.

After she sat down, a wonderful new friend slid over into the empty seat beside me and whispered into my ear that the woman had lost her son two months ago, and that he had left behind a young family.  My heart tugged as I remembered sitting next to Brian's hospital bed, fearing for my own young family.

As the next young sister stood to bear her testimony my new friend whispered that this sister had lost her husband last Christmastime from a brain tumor and had left her behind with two young children.  From the diagnosis to the end was only nine weeks.  You can imagine the emotion in the room as she talked about what the sealing powers of the temple meant to her.

Halfway through her testimony, as the lump in my throat swelled so large I feared it might actually do some damage, I thought to myself I can't do this.  Memories of Brian's heart attack swirled through my head and found their way to mingle with memories of Jess and, for a brief moment, I just wanted to escape.  I don't know these people and their stories, I thought to myself.  They don't know me and mine.  I didn't want to cry there in that room, even though everyone else was, because I knew that they were all crying for her, and I would have selfishly been crying for me.  Plus, it just didn't seem right for me to cry about me when my husband was next door and hers wasn't. 

But then I looked closer at the picture this young widow had taken to the front and placed against the small pulpit in front of her.  It was a beautiful picture taken of her and what must have been her two children, maybe four and two.  She and the kids were all dressed beautifully and posed comfortably on the lawn in front of the temple, the spires of the building rising up behind them towards the heavens.  They were smiling in the photograph, all three of them, and one of the children held a framed picture of their dad.  To the right, there was a handmade sign propped up against the mother's knee that read 'Families can be together forever'.  It was a happy picture... not one meant to make you want to cry... and it touched me deeply.

It's okay, I thought.  Here this strong woman is, standing up in front of all of us, telling us through her tears that it's okay.  

The temple makes it okay.

And I sent a prayer of gratitude right then and there for the knowledge I have of this gospel.  For these sisters who were so willing to share their hearts with me, a stranger.  For my Savior who brings peace and love to even the most broken heart. 

And for the power and sacredness of the temple.

*All these pictures were taken at the Ft. Lauderdale Temple Open House last
April before it was dedicated.  We were able to take all four of our kids through.
It was such a beautiful experience for all of us.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Take off your flip-flops and stay awhile.

One.  Two.  Threefourfivesixseven.  Eight.  Nine.  Teneleven.  Twelve.  Thirteen.  Thirteen sets of visitors in twelve months.  Thousands of dollars in food, hundreds of hours of soul filling conversations, thousands of miles put on the van, hundreds of gallons of gas, one ripped set of guest sheets, over 50 late nights visiting, ten trips through the everglades, hundreds of crocodiles and alligators spotted (two touched - Dave (and, thankfully, zero injuries - Dave)), one trip to Disney World, one drive to Key West, and amazingly, only one popped air mattress.

Guest #1 - Brian's brother, Dave.  
(This man deserves some sort of medal.  You should have seen the work he had to do in order to help us move into our 11th floor apartment.)

One of the great things about blogging is that with all of these memories recorded, we will someday be able to look back and see through this window stories of the way things were.

Guest #2 - Brian's sister, Heidi.

One of the not-so-great things about blogging is that it's nearly impossible to record the stories in their entirety and so, much is left out and much is forgotten.

I didn't write about all the visitors that came to visit throughout the year - not because I wanted them to be among the left out and forgotten, but because, frankly, it was quite overwhelming to keep up.  I had so much else to say and so little time to spend here saying it (it's that whole four-kids-at-home-all-the-time thing) that I knew if I devoted time to blogging about each visitor that that would be all I had time for.  And I knew I didn't want that, either.

 Guests #3 - My parents

But now, as I scan through the pictures of our year on the beach, I find myself lingering longest in the hundreds and hundreds I have of you. They're not the most beautiful, by far, in terms of composition and lighting and other technicalities, but they are the most beautiful, by far, in terms of the warm memories they bring back to the surface.

And it would be terribly sad and rather misleading to not spend some time stamping the memory of 'visitors' into this moment in time. 

Because it was such a big part of our year. 

Guest #4 - My sister, Michelle.

I mean, without Michelle, the above picture would have never happened.  Because I certainly was not brave enough to try gator nuggets without her.  PS - don't try gator nuggets.

I took a look at myself after our very last set of visitors caught their plane back home.  I smiled because the bags underneath my eyes were so puffy that it almost looked like I was wearing a cartoon mask. 

Guest #5 - My brother, Brian

(Sorry, Brian... I didn't mean for your picture to fall right after I said the words 'cartoon mask', because now everyone is thinking the words 'cartoon mask' as they stare at your face.  You don't look like you're wearing a cartoon mask... pinky promise.) 

I deserved those bags under my eyes.  I worked hard for them.  I earned them.  And oh, how I loved them. 

 Guest #6 - Heidi (again) and her boyfriend-at-the-time-turned-husband, Adam

I didn't love the way they made me look, let's be clear.  But I loved the way they made me feel.  

Those bags forced me to recognize my bone reaching tiredness, for sure; but what I found inside was that it was ultimately a happy and satisfying tiredness. 

Guest #7 - Brian's brother, Dave (again (this time he didn't have to move any furniture))

I guess it's the sort of tiredness that comes from living life.  From having fun.  From connecting with others.  From loving and serving and doing.  

Which, when I looked at it that way, made sense of my longing for more.  Please come! I said to those who expressed interest.  I tried not to be pushy, but in my own head I shouted Please come! at them for days afterwards.  
Guests #8 - The Birdnos

And while I ended the year exhausted, I started the year hoping we would be able to share our life and our home with our families and friends. Our year was more than we could have dreamed for - and I wanted to share the beauty with everyone I could. 

And they came.

Guests #9 - Brian's brave parents (they did the whole Disney thing with us this year)
You came!  

You came even though you knew we didn't have beds for you.  And we didn't have an extra bathroom for you.  In fact, we didn't have much square footage to offer you at all!  You didn't mind that we couldn't fit a kitchen table.  Anywhere.  And happily ate your meals with us on our couches and floors. 

(confusion buster: the kitchen table in the above pictures is in our rented room at Disney.  Funny that the only pictures of a kitchen table in this entire post come right after I mention the fact that we did not, in fact, have a kitchen table in our house.)

Guests #10 - My wonderful parents (again)
You brought out fun sides in my kids.   

You helped us explore new places.
 Guests #11 - The Larsons

And, best of all, you kept the beauty and the majesty of life alive in all of us. 

That last sentiment is true for not only those that were able to come and be guests within our walls (because I know there were more of you who wanted to come but couldn't), but also for those of you who shared our year through this blog, too.  With each fresh pair of eyes we saw the beauty all over again.  On my tenth visit to the everglades, for example, I saw just as much beauty as I did the first time... because someone was seeing it for the first time.

Guest #12 - My dear friend, Cindy
After staring at the same ocean and the same slice of beach from our windows day after day, we found new beauty and wonder from your comments and through your eyes.  Every time you'd gasp from the beauty, I'd see it again.  Oh yeah, this is incredible.  And since that happened so often, you helped me milk out the most enjoyment and the most fulfillment possible.  

So thanks for coming, guys.

Guests #13 - My sister, Michelle, and her boyfriend, Jake

And thanks, beach, for being a place that people wanted to visit.  You all made the year awesome.  (cue song and dance. Everything is awesome!  Everything is cool when you're part of a team! Everything is aweSOME!... You're welcome for that.)

Now.  How about a visit to Vegas? *wink*

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Scrambled Thoughts XIb - Miami Style

18 - Smoky or Smokey? (smokie or smokay)

Google says smoky.  Apparently, 'smokey' used to be right, but it's now outdated.  This concerned me because I didn't really realize the spelling of specific words could become old fashioned (but of course this is true... old English texts are full of funny spellings now that I think about it).  Thankfully the spelling trends seem to last much longer than the fashion trends, though.  Otherwise my words would be just as awful as my closet.

19 - Fly Like an Eagle

This pier is a special place for us.  Many mornings were spent getting here, staying here, and getting home from here. 

Plus, we got to watch boats.  And birds.

20 - He needs gills.

It's cute the way he feels so comfortable in the water.  Really, it is.  One of the very first words he responded to was 'dunk'.
"Dunk, TK!" the kids would yell.  Sometimes there was a slight hesitation as we watched him decode the word and separate it from the other few he knew.  Okay, let's see, we saw him think to himself.  They didn't say 'clap'... or 'wave'... or 'nose'... ah! and he would slap his face down into the water and come up laughing. Dunk!  I remember!

 21 - Not many people rock giant goggles the way Miles rocks giant goggles.

I'm pretty sure it has something to do with that amazing hair.  Most things have something to do with that amazing hair.

22 - Someone should write a whole post about Brian.

Because he really is amazing.  He just finished 10 years of post-graduate work, you know (not that anyone has been counting).  Every time I go to one of these work dinners I'm told by several people that he is 'remarkable', 'great', 'efficient', and 'wonderful'.  Of course, I already know this, but hearing others say it makes me feel proud all over again for the incredible guy that he is.  Years and years ago, I used to sit home and wonder what Brian was like in his clinic.  I wondered what his bedside manner was like with his patients, and how he got along with his co-workers.  Later, I wondered what 'surgeon Brian' was like as he peered through magnifying glasses with his hair in a cap and his face in a mask and his hands in their gloves holding tiny razors. I wanted to get to know this 'work self' because I craved knowing all the intricacies of his personality.  But over the years, as patients have written notes and given small gifts of appreciation to him, and as co-workers have approached me and painted their own picture of Brian in front of my eyes, I've realized that I know exactly who Brian is at work.

He's the same guy who eats at our dinner table every night.
The same one that carries the baby up to his room and tucks the kids between their sheets.
Who shares that carton of ice cream with me, and makes sure my favorite spoon is with me.
He's the same guy that loves me.  And the same guy I love.

He's Brian.  Everywhere he goes, he's Brian.
That's why it's really no surprise to me when everyone loves him.

23 - But no one loves him quite as much as we do.  And Father's Day pressures us into showing that love.

The relationship between Brian and McKenzie is flourishing right now.  In her Father's Day card, Kenzie wrote "I love my dad because he understands me when I'm sad."  This is precious to me because McKenzie has turned into quite the thinker.  She said what she meant and she meant what she said and she is 100% correct.  There have been several times when Brian has helped me understand what she might be feeling, and I love him for that.  So does she. 

They are quite similar, those two.  And since I believe that girls need strong relationships with their fathers for a whole slew of reasons, I am touched to tears by the look on her face above.  She is literally melting into his shoulder - and his tender expression shows he is melting right back.

These are four lucky kids to have a daddy like that.

24 - Two words: World Cup.

Miles enjoyed watching the games with Brian, but he had his own conditions... ear plugging must be allowed.

25 - That's Shocking.

Suuuuuuuuuuuuuper glad I wasn't on that boat.

26 - Someone should write a whole post about Miles.

Because he had his 5th birthday.  He's a special one, this kid.  And his birthday was something of magic for him.  He did a lot of talking on the phone...

...and talking on the phone...

...and talking on the phone...

But since it was Sunday, we also got to go to church.  And, lucky him, our little branch held a fun dinner afterwards where everyone sang Happy Birthday.

Then we came home and had cake and candy covered marshmallows (because they're supposed to look like mushrooms, okay?  Mario...?)

The whole day he was moving way too fast for me to get a good picture of him.  Which I guess is wonderful because it means he was having a blast.

Also, I made that cake, so it was a pretty wonderful day for me as well.

In many ways Miles seems much, much older than five years old.  He is smart and opinionated and gracious and passionate.  His feelings are often very expressive and larger than life and I love that about him.  He makes our home a better place than it otherwise would have been...  Motherhood is sweet in that way, don't you think?  In the way of being touched by these remarkable personalities for a time as you house them and watch them as they refine themselves to get ready to venture out into the world beyond your walls.

I can't wait to meet the man Miles becomes.