Missing Him

Has it been too long since Tom died for me to write a post about how I’m missing him?  After all it’s been over a year and I should be moving on, right?  It’s not that I cry myself to sleep (because I don’t) or that I don’t find my life (overall) pretty happy (because I do).  It’s just there are so many things that I miss about the life we shared.

I grilled steak tonight – Tom had very carefully wrapped up these beautiful fillets and I have been terrified to do anything with them.  But they have been in the freezer for over a year and really, any longer and they would be ruined without me doing anything.   So I dared to do it.  And they turned out beautifully (thank you internet).  And they made me miss Tom all the more because he loved to grill and I learned to like steak because he bought it for me and cooked it for me.

I’ve been listening to “Roll the Bones” by Rush the last week or so.  There’s a music group I had neither heard of nor would probably ever have listened to on my own before I met Tom.  But he was a super fan and one of the first things he did after we started dating was lend me a couple of albums he thought I might like.  Who knew that I would enjoy hard rock?  Well, to be honest I don’t know if I really like the genre, but I really do like Rush.  There’s nothing better than turning an album up loud and attacking housecleaning – and their music has provided the soundtrack to lots of road adventures over the years of our marriage.  Pretty much all the bands I listen to are suggestions that Tom made – and while I don’t like everything he liked, I always enjoyed the fun of joining in when he tried something new.

I didn’t know I would like musical theater until I met Tom and realized how much of a passion he had for it.  This is a man that traveled to New York City at least twice after his mission to take in Broadway musicals.  Our first real date was to see “Big River” at Sundance theater.  I read Les Miserables because it was one of his favorite shows and he was so excited about taking me to see it the first year we were married.  I loved seeing his enthusiasm when we introduced our kids to the musical a few years ago.

Tom even influenced my reading (which is pretty difficult to do, given the breadth and depth of my reading).  Dick Francis and Patrick O’Brian were both authors that he heard about and decided to read and then insisted I had to try.  I didn’t often get to share my reading with Tom, because who can keep up with me? and most of what I read held no interest for him.  But it was so fun to share our thoughts about Jack and Stephen and where we thought the story would go next and what we liked best.

Tom took me 4 wheel drive exploring – we rode and camped the White Rim Road at Canyonlands when I was four months pregnant.  I would never have imagined that kind of adventure before we met.  But we traveled all over the state of Utah during our first four years of marriage, exploring dirt roads and driving over summits of mountains and finding ghost towns and seeing the marvels of the state.  After we had kids, and moved to Kansas, our exploring days dropped off – our kids really dislike road trips and we got out of the habit in a state where there wasn’t as much to see.  Tom had promised that we would take up the hobby again in our “empty nester” years.  I feel robbed!

I don’t know if he would say the same about me … did I change his life like he changed mine?  But for sure my life has been richer for all the things Tom brought to our relationship.  I miss that.  I miss him.  I miss us together.  And I feel lucky, too, that I have such memories and such a husband to miss.

05. October 2015 by tjsjohanna
Categories: Family | Tags: , | 1 comment

Smiles and Tears

Last weekend I drove out to Utah for the wedding of my niece.  It doesn’t really matter that I’ve made this trip so many times in the past, or that even in the past year I’ve made it a half a dozen times.  I get in the car and there is all that uninterrupted time to think… and what I end up thinking about is Tom’s death.  I planned for this – we listened to music – new and loud – for about five hours straight.  But then cell service finally went away and I had to pull out the personal music – and then the memories started flooding in.  Every song reminded me of a time with Tom, and underneath that the thought of that day when I was doing the very same thing, not realizing that my life as I knew it was coming to an end and there was nothing I could do to stop that.  And above that the thought that I was heading back into the past – to the years when we lived in Utah, when we were students and newly married and new parents – and all the memories we had made there.  Does it go without saying that I did some crying??

Haley and I stayed with my sister and her family.  They recently moved to a new home in Provo and it was fun to see their new place – and of course, it was a lot of fun to play with her kids.  Their oldest gave up her room for us, and their youngest (about six months now) smiled on demand whenever we looked at him.  And the two middle kids kept us entertained with their antics.  We got to spend some time with Spencer and Kayla, which was so nice.  I’m glad that Spencer is an independent, functioning adult, but that also means that I have to do without him.  It’s the bittersweet part of being a mom – if you do your job reasonably well, your kids move on just when they are the most enjoyable!!

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Liz and Francisco got married in the Salt Lake Temple – the same place Tom and I were married.  The circumstances couldn’t be more different, however.  This weekend the weather was warm, even hot.  There were so many newly married couples jostling for prime photo opportunities on the temple grounds.  Tom and I got married on a very cold December afternoon.  There was so little light when we came out, that we only have a handful of pictures and I can still remember how frigidly cold it was.  I was very excited for Liz – she has waited a long time to be married.  Being with all of Tom’s brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews was wonderful and familiar.  And then I was walking up the stairs and into a room that could have been the same room I was married in and suddenly I was overcome.

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I’m very grateful for my sister-in-law, Joanna, because she stayed right with me, handing me tissues, a comforting hand on my shoulder, waiting while I pulled myself together.  I kept thinking how much I wanted Tom to be there with me – how much he hoped that Liz would find someone to marry and how happy he surely was.  Traditionally the man who performs the ceremony speaks words of counsel or instruction before the ceremony itself.  In his instruction, the sealer spoke of witnesses – both the people here on earth and the angels who witness the promises made between bride and groom to each other and God.  He gave as his opinion that probably the angels are members of our family who are watching and rejoicing with us from heaven.  While I haven’t felt Tom’s presence since his death, I did feel that these words were a tender mercy from my Heavenly Father, reminding me that though I might not feel him around me, Tom is close by, still watching out for us as the father of our family and my partner.

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So what’s the take away from this weekend?  Well, I don’t think I will ever completely get away from finding myself in situations where my emotions overcome me.  I’m not sure I even want to get to that place.  My life married to Tom is a huge part of who I am today.  While there is pain in realizing that this part of my life is over, there is also a lot of joy in remembering just how much good there was in it and how much good there still is because we shared our life together.    And there is the ear infection … because, yeah, I’ve got one of those too…
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20. September 2015 by tjsjohanna
Categories: Blog, Family | Tags: , , | 3 comments

Lesson learned, or person I’m becoming

When I was younger and had what I considered to be a trial, I would often find myself thinking, “I guess the Lord is trying to teach me a lesson.”  Then, when I had another challenge that seemed to be working on the same issue, I’d think, “I thought I learned how to do that – I guess not, since it looks like I’m still trying to learn it.”  I have to admit that this made me feel discouraged – and influenced how I felt about my Heavenly Father.  Somehow I felt like I was disappointing Him because I kept having to have the same lesson over and over.

Patience is one of those big “lesson” topics I felt like I kept having.  This morning as I was reading the Ensign (the official magazine for adults published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), there was an article on patience.  In the article there were a couple of quotes by Elder Neal A. Maxwell (late apostle of the Church) that caught my attention.  The first is, “Patience is not indifference.  Actually it means caring very much but being willing, nevertheless to submit to the Lord.”  The second is, “Patience is a willingness, in a sense, to watch the unfolding purposes of God with a sense of wonder and awe, rather than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance” (love that image!)

In the last few years, I have stopped feeling like the Lord is sending me lessons because I’m not “getting it”.  When Tom was out of work the first time, it seemed to go on forever and I got pretty good at not stressing about it.  Then, when we adopted Andrew and Haley and began the challenge of parenting a child who had significant needs, I looked back on our months of economic difficulty as perfect training for our current experiences.  I was grateful for the patterns of behavior Tom and I had established of being supportive and trusting in the face of major stressors.  We needed that strength ten times over.  God wasn’t teaching me lessons for the sake of it – He had been preparing me to be more successful in the thing that I wanted – to add to our family through adoption.

As a girl, I had this idea of what my life would be like – and that dream, if you will, grew more detailed and specific as I became older and was more aware of my hopes and desires.  Those plans are important, I think.  They give us hope and help us to understand ourselves and our motivations.  But I have learned that what I can plan and hope for myself is often short sighted and doesn’t always get me closer to my ultimate goal of becoming like my Father in Heaven.  I want to be happy right now.  I want everything to work out the way I want it to.  I want only the challenges that I think I can handle, not the ones I know I can’t – that force me to rely on God.

CS Lewis said it better than I can when he wrote a parable he got from George MacDonald.  “Imagine yourself as a living house.  God comes in to rebuild that house.  At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.  He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on:  you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.  But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense.  What on earth is He up to?  The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.  You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage:  but He is building a palace.  He intends to come and live in it Himself.”  Counting the Cost,” Mere Christianity.

A “lesson” on patience is really only one facet of the thing that every Christian is attempting to learn – the ability to submit ourselves fully to the will of God.  And it really isn’t a lesson in the sense that we learn the material and then we take the test and then we are done.  In fact, what we are practicing, over and over, is who we are trying to be.  Not a part-time follower, who does what God wants in some places and times and then gets to spend the rest of his time pursuing his own agendas, but rather a whole new man, born again into a new life, willing to put that life into God’s hands.  In Elder Maxwell’s words, “to watch the unfolding purposes of God with a sense of wonder and awe.”

The challenges we face in life change over time – we are tested again and again. We get to see just who we are and how well we live what we profess to be – and that is a blessing, because we get to see times when we are triumphant (and isn’t that a great feeling) and we get to see times when we fail and recognize that there is work to be done on our character.  When I was the parent of one child, who was securely attached to Tom and me, I thought I was a pretty good parent.  It was only when I was challenged to parent a child who mistrusted in a fundamental way, that I began to really develop qualities of unconditional love and forgiveness and humility.  It’s not an easy path – there are lots of tears along the way – but I like the idea of becoming a “palace” where “He intends to come and live…Himself.”

06. September 2015 by tjsjohanna
Categories: Blog | Tags: , , | 3 comments

Life is Good

To wear a ring or not … I never supposed it would be such a topic of discussion and thought.  Before Tom died I was firmly on the side of remarriage.  I think life can be long and lonely and if you have the chance to remarry, that’s a good thing.  But I didn’t count on the feelings that come with losing a companion of so many years.  I belong to a Widow/Widower group on Facebook, which sometimes offers comfort in the fact that I’m understood in a way that few can, but more often makes me feel like I’m in a foreign land and I really don’t want to stay! I guess the topic of when to take off a wedding ring is a popular one.  I’ve hardly worn my engagement ring through most of my marriage, but always either my wedding band or another similar band on my left hand.  For six months after Tom died I wore his ring on my index finger.  Then one day I took it off and I didn’t feel the need to put it back on.  But it’s proving harder to let go of that band on my ring finger.  Somehow I just don’t want to give up my status as Tom’s wife … and yet, at the same time, I don’t necessarily want to spend the rest of my life alone.  They are contradictory things in my mind right now and I’m not feeling very patient about waiting for them to naturally reconcile.

A few years ago Tom made me a “mix tape” compilation of songs for Valentines’ day and included personalized liner notes.  I listened to the first disc and read the notes pretty soon after he died, but have never listened to the other disc and finished reading the notes – not really sure why… maybe saving them up?  Anyway, I read through them today.  I didn’t listen to the music because I’m pretty sure that would have brought on the tears, but some of the things he said feel so applicable to me today.  Under Dido’s “Thank You” he writes “being with you is the best day of my life” – swoon!  Bernstein & Sondheim’s “One Hand, One Heart” got this commentary, “how grateful I am that our lives became one in this life and into the beyond”, and Billy Joel’s “You’re My Home” got a “Amen, brother Joel”!  I’ve wondered and wondered what exactly he is up to in the heavens while I’m moving forward down here.  I wonder if he still misses me like I miss him.  But reading those words I was reassured that as much as he loved and cared for me throughout our marriage, he hasn’t changed.  He’s doing the same for us now, even if I can’t feel it.  I needed that today.

Maybe it’s because I know what a good marriage can be that I want to do it again.  I want someone to care for and to be cared for by.  I want someone I can share those bits of news that no one else really cares about.  I want someone to share my bed and my kitchen and all my home improvement plans.  I’ll be disappointed if this was my one go-around and now it’s done.  But at the same time, if I could, I’d have Tom back in a heartbeat … and while I have no idea what our reunion in the heavens will be like, it’s the secret dream of my heart.

And on that note, romance has landed smack dab in the middle of my family.  Spencer, number one son, has found the girl of his dreams in one Miss Kayla Bixler.  They’ve made it official and got engaged last week.  I’m so happy for them both – glad that they have found each other and excited to see them as they begin to build a family of their own.  And I’m secretly glad that Tom got to know Kayla a little – and that she got to know Tom a little before he died.  It makes me feel like she is somehow more part of the family because she knows first hand about his BBQ expertise and his humor and because she shared our sorrow last fall.

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It goes without saying that Haley is having kittens about a new sister!!

We also had a new baby born into the extended Cottle clan.  Introducing Emilia Catalina Cottle…

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darling daughter of Alex & Cynthia Cottle and little sister of Alex & Benny…

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Life is good …

 

27. August 2015 by tjsjohanna
Categories: Blog, Family | Tags: , , , , | 3 comments

A Year Ago

I’m not generally big on commemorating events. We celebrate major holidays and birthdays and our wedding day, but everything else … I guess I just haven’t ever been really big on that.  I haven’t counted the days since Tom died.  I don’t find myself thinking ” it’s been six months”.  But today I can’t help remembering that a year ago I was sitting in a hospital waiting room waiting to hear if my husband’s bypass surgery was successful.  I was alone and I wouldn’t let myself consider any outcome other than a good one because I couldn’t imagine getting the news that he had died without anyone there to support me. 

Last summer was the kind of summer that made me think that I’d have to pick a new favorite season.  Andrew was in major trouble for theft and was grounded, which meant that I got no breaks at all from him.  And then Tom had surgery and spent the rest of the summer recovering from that.  We missed the family reunion and the trip we had planned with Tom’s brother and family.  We just sat in our bedroom and watched “Veronica Mars” and started to make a few feeble plans as Tom began to feel better.  

This summer there have been no hospitals.  This whole year there have been no medical supplies of any kind in our home.  It’s weird.  This summer my parents invited Andrew to stay with them, so I have had a good long stretch where I could relax that part of me that is constantly aware of what he is doing. This summer I have enjoyed the warm days and the rain and getting together with my brothers and their families.  I have done a few projects around the house and spent a lot of time reading and writing and doing family history research (which is surprisingly addictive).  It’s been a good summer by any standard and certainly by comparison to last summer. 

I’m approaching the milestone year since Tom died.  I’m not sure what to expect but I don’t imagine I will be able to treat it as any other day.  It’s been a hard, lonely year.  But it has also been a year of grace and love and faith and growth.  I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about summer this year but surprisingly it has been a season of peace.  So I hope that as I look forward to another year without Tom, I will be surprised by good.

14. July 2015 by tjsjohanna
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Just when life is getting you down …

I was recently invited to be a seminary teacher this coming school year (seminary is a 5 day a week, early morning class for the youth of my church where they study a book of scripture over the course of the year.)  I like to imagine that conversation…

“Who do we know who can do this job?  Let’s see – there’s Johanna Wood – she’s a recent widow, mother of three – including one special needs child – perfect!  Let’s call her!”

Seriously though, it reminds me of the scripture “the Lord looketh upon the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).  I certainly don’t make a lot of sense on paper, but I’m pretty sure Heavenly Father knows what He is doing, at least in terms of helping me.  Already, as I have begun preparing for this admittedly huge responsibility, I have found my sense of direction returning.  I look back over the last couple of months and it seems like I was floundering – not really sure what to do with myself or where to put my energy.  This feels like a life preserver tossed out to pull me to safety.

As a missionary, I discovered I really like teaching others about the gospel of Jesus Christ – I like the process of discovering together, of sharing experiences of living gospel principles, of feeling the Holy Spirit witness of the truths we are learning.  So, I’m looking forward to this assignment, though teaching teenagers is intimidating!  Another challenge is the fact that we are studying the Old Testament this coming year.    I’ve been to a couple of teacher training meetings so far and we’ve learned some great approaches to learning and applying gospel truths.  I’m excited to put them into practice and see how it goes.

As I left this morning and thought about how my emotional health is doing, I was overcome with gratitude for a loving Father who could see what I needed right now and who inspired those leaders to consider me for this opportunity.  I hope that I will be able to help my students catch a vision of all that the scriptures have to offer in their journey towards conversion, but I already know that my conversion has been strengthened by seeing the hand of the Lord in my life.

22. June 2015 by tjsjohanna
Categories: Family | Tags: | 3 comments

Taking a little break …

Eleven years ago Tom and I were anxiously waiting to hear about a brother and sister that needed a new home.  We were hoping ours would be the best fit for them.  In July we got the happy news that our family of three was about to become a family of five.  We knew there would be challenges, but we were excited about having two more children to love and teach and enjoy.  In August our kiddos, Andrew and Haley, came home for good.

The first year was a roller coaster.  There were so many appointments – social worker visits, speech & occupational therapy appointments, play therapy appointments, evaluation appointments … the list seemed endless!  And this was on top of adjusting to having two toddlers in the house.  Every time I turned around it seemed there was another “crisis” – finding Andrew sitting on the washer pouring soap down between the washer and dryer, chasing the two of them down the street when they decided to “have an adventure”, discovering all the holes in Spencer’s p.j.s because Andrew was exploring the joys of scissors …  It was what I imagined having twins might be like – what one didn’t think of the other one would.

I thought if I could just get through the first year, things would get better.  The adoption would be final and there wouldn’t be any more social worker visits.  Andrew would be in school and some of his therapy appointments would be ending.  We could start to establish a more normal family life.  It was a pipe dream, though I would take a couple more years to accept that.

You know that bumper sticker that reads, “Insanity is hereditary – you get it from your kids?”  The reason it is funny is because there is a little bit of truth in it.  In my case there was a lot of truth.   We didn’t know it at the time (and wouldn’t for another four years or so) but Andrew was struggling with mental illness and development delays – and I was fighting serious depression as I kept running into dead ends in my attempts to manage the chaos in our home.

Eleven years later Andrew has had his fair share of evaluations, interventions, medications, and behavior modification plans.  He wends his way through his life, merrily pursuing whatever comes into his head with little thought for the consequences of his actions to himself or others.  He relies heavily on others around him to create and maintain boundaries that keep him and others safe.  His ability to regulate his own impulses is limited.  Think of a toddler – but put him in a teenage body.  Exhausting!

After a very long school year on my own, I gratefully accepted my parents’ offer to have Andrew come spend the summer with them.  He’s been with them about two weeks now.  I’m not sure I can adequately express the relief that I have felt to have a break.  I don’t have to be constantly aware of where Andrew is and what he is doing.  I don’t have to lock all the doors to keep him from taking things.  I don’t have to protect Haley constantly from his hassling.  I feel like a normal mom for the first time in forever.  I can go shopping with Haley and it is actually a pleasant experience.  We have normal conversations where we just enjoy talking and no one is trying to convince me that black is white (metaphorically speaking – at least most of the time!)  It is wonderfully freeing.  I feel so very appreciative that I have parents who are willing and able to do this for me.  It is an amazing gift.

But in the midst of this rest stop – this laying aside the burden for a moment – I have to acknowledge the positives of this journey.  I have gained such a reserve of empathy for all those who are shouldering heavy loads.  I hope that I’m slower to judge and quicker to assume there is more to the story than the mother who is just impatient with her tantruming child.  I hope I’m a better listener instead of trying to “fix” other people’s problems.  I also believe I am learning about unconditional love.  It’s hard to love those who hurt us.  I’ve had to learn to forgive my child over and over and over.  I’m learning to find positives in the midst of all the negatives.  I’ve also learned how important it is to love babies and  care for them consistently so that they learn to trust.  When children don’t learn this basic life skill, it impacts their whole life.  Parents raising children who trust them have a completely different experience than parents struggling to help a child learn this skill later in life.  I’ve done both and realize that most parenting advice assumes this basic ability by children.  Without it, parenting is a whole different ballgame.  Above all, I have come to realize how patient God is with us – and how demanding it is to be patient!!  Like just about everything hard in my life, I wouldn’t have chosen to be the mom of a challenging child.  But how lucky I am that I’m not in charge.  Because I wouldn’t be the person I am without the life I have lived, and while I would be content to be a small cottage, I’m pretty sure the mansion God is building will be a beautiful thing (see CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity where he talks about a “living house”).

19. June 2015 by tjsjohanna
Categories: Blog, Family | 3 comments

missing what is gone

Maybe it is just that I lived for so many years with Tom, but I’m finding being on my own (so to speak) to be unfamiliar and even scary territory.  I had a bout of pretty bad vertigo awhile back and there’s nothing like being incapacitated to make you realize just how vulnerable you are. For the first time in years I was on my own. There was no Tom to help me or even to offer sympathy and hold my hand.  I can only imagine how frightening this would be if I were older and physically frail. As it is, I think, ” who will I call if someone weird is following me around in the grocery store and I’m afraid to go out to my car?” ( this happened once and Tom drove over and picked me up!)  For that matter, there’s no one to nudge awake at night if I have a nightmare or I think someone’s in the house.  I don’t have a real confidant anymore – there are things I would only share with him and now they just rattle around in my brain with no place to go.  I used to think lonely meant I didn’t have someone to do things with, or someone to talk with.  But I have those things and there is still this profound loneliness when I come up against places in my life where I’m reminded again of this missing relationship.  I’m simultaneously so grateful to have had such a thing and also so disappointed that it’s gone.

Another thing that I’m realizing is how my life was enriched just by living with Tom.  He shared things with me that I never even thought about until he brought them to my attention.  He loved musicals and we went to a number of performances over the course of our marriage.  It was a whole part of life I didn’t really know much about before.  Tom took me camping and driving all over southern Utah. We had amazing adventures that I would never have thought to do on my own. Tom introduced me to the cello (he played in high school) and shared that love with Spencer – something I don’t know I would have thought to suggest to my child when he was considering learning a musical instrument. He shared his love of Rush (along with his extensive collection of albums) and now every time one of their songs comes on the radio I feel like it is a little wave from Tom, reminding me that he is still watching out for us. Left to my own devices I’m pretty happy to just read a good book and stay home where I’m comfortable.  How lucky I was to marry someone who took me places (metaphorically speaking) that I wouldn’t have gone on my own.

I’m trying to look at the future as an opportunity to stretch myself – find some new passions, try some new things, look for opportunities to do things I couldn’t before.  But honestly this is still pretty hard to do. Many days I get to eight o’clock and think, “I got through another day – yay me!” and about the only things I did were the essentials.  I’m trying to be hopeful – that one day here I’m going to feel excited about something and it will be good.  But right now the part that mourns what I’ve lost is still a lot bigger than than the part that hopes.

16. June 2015 by tjsjohanna
Categories: Uncategorized | 1 comment

Rainin’ You*

It’s been a weepy kind of day (which I guess is sort of appropriate considering the gray, drizzly weather we have been having).  Last night I caught my son in the act of being particularly ugly to his sister during family prayers. I lost my temper, and then when it was all over, I lost my composure.  Why do I have to do this alone?? It’s a stupid question without any answer, but when I’m feeling overwhelmed and unsure what to do, how I miss the one person that was as invested in this child raising gig as I am.  

It brings up these feelings of being vulnerable too. It’s just me when there is an emergency or a difficulty in the family.  I was sick the other night, and there was no one to bring me a bowl to throw up in or to commiserate with over my pain. It was just me, laying in bed and feeling particularly pathetic.  I have always thought I was empathetic to the unique challenges of singles (especially single parents).  Afterall, my mom spent a good portion of my growing up years as a part time single parent. But, like a lot of things, there’s nothing like going through it yourself to really get the full effect.  

I know there are some (seemingly mythical) advantages to being on my own again.  I can pursue different dreams and try new things.  But somehow I haven’t been able to work up much enthusiasm for “new and different”.  Honestly, my energy levels have been surprisingly low.  Even the things I quite used to enjoy just don’t have the same appeal.  Everything seems like a lot of work. My new motto has been, “remember, you are still grieving, even if it doesn’t feel like it some days… This is what it looks like for you right now, so give yourself a break”.  Some days it works … and some days it just makes me depressed that I can’t seem to get anything done.

There are a lot of what I consider kind of trite sayings about the nature of grief – yet there are nuggets of truth in them, even if they don’t really capture the experience at all.  One that I keep coming back to is the idea that grief comes in waves.  I’ll have days where I feel good and hopeful and content.  And then days like today hit and everything makes me cry and I’m reminded that happiness is still fragile around here.  I might be moving forward, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not still missing my best friend.

*Brad Paisley, from his “Time Well Wasted” album

21. May 2015 by tjsjohanna
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BYU Women’s Conference 2015

Talk about dislocation – try meeting up with college roommates, camping out in a dorm room, and attending classes at the university you attended two decades ago (and then some).  There’s nothing like it for making you think you’ve somehow jumped back in time – darn all those changes on campus for reminding me that I haven’t really time-traveled!

Last fall when I was mired in grief and shock, my wise friend suggested that we plan something for me to look forward to. That something was Women’s Conference.  Beth contacted all our college roommates about the plan, kept us on track, and finally created the obligation that pulled me to Provo, even though I was having such a hard time getting things arranged for my kids.  It is sooo much easier to have a husband at home who can just take care of getting kids to and from school and their activities!!

Thanks to a handful of friends and family who took over childcare duties, I arrived in Salt Lake City with a big sigh of relief.  Talking a mile a minute, Clarrisa and I drove to Provo and checked in and got our dorm keys!!  Suddenly I felt like a college freshman again 🙂  Beth showed up and we got food at the BYU Creamery (famous for their ice cream) and took a brisk walk around campus and stayed up way too late catching up.  But it was just as well, because our room was incredibly stuffy and hot and the sleeping wasn’t very good that first night.

After a long walk around the Provo temple the next morning (at least it wasn’t after midnight like our freshman “Fitness for Life” runs), we got ourselves over to the Marriot Center for the opening address.  The theme of the conference was “my soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord”.  Throughout the two days of classes, I kept coming back to thoughts of how making promises to God has helped me access His help and guidance the past eight months (not that I didn’t before, but I have been especially grateful for His help since Tom died).  I also found myself considering how my covenants can help me get out of some of the ruts I have found myself in.  While I have tried to be gentle with myself when I’m not feeling very happy or energetic, I can also see where it is time to push myself a bit and start finding some new purposes and ways to be joyful.  Although I didn’t take as many notes as my brilliant friends, I did jot down some things I want to do differently.

One of the things I had the most fun doing was participating in the service projects associated with the conference.  They had “Take and Make” kits to carry around and work on while in class – I made a few child-size crocheted hats.  Thursday evening we worked on lacing cards (we punched holes in foam shapes – I was covered in hole punching confetti thanks to the inherent static generated by working with foam!!).  Then we helped put together meals for Feeding Children Everywhere (we rocked some awesome hair nets  – Beth and I were an amazing bag sealing team!).  It was incredible to see so many people pitching in and working on such diverse projects – the power of women when we are united!!

The very best part of the trip was reconnecting with friends.

women's conference

Here we are Friday night at the kind invitation of Sarah, who invited us to invade her home, cooked us an amazing dinner and a delicious chocolate dessert, and generally made us feel like we could just move right in!  Thanks to her family who let us monopolize their wife and mom (and the chickens and the cat for providing some laughs!)

I will admit I was a little worried that I wouldn’t have enough to say over the course of four days to women I haven’t talked to regularly in years (I think we decided that JoAnn and I hadn’t seen each other since our sophomore year of college!) but it is a testament to good friends, that no matter the time that passes, good friendship chemistry still holds sway!!  Every night we vowed to “get to bed earlier” (notice there wasn’t an exact time involved) but the only thing that stopped us talking was getting so exhausted that we couldn’t say another thing. It felt just like those late nights when Beth and I would lay in our beds in the dark and talk until we fell asleep mid-sentence.  All good friendships need a periodic dose of late night talks!!

 

05. May 2015 by tjsjohanna
Categories: Blog, Trips | Tags: , | 2 comments

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