Thursday, July 31, 2008

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Camille doing her circus trick with Dado

I love to laugh. Who doesn't? I was writing to my friend Britt today, whose son Daxton is with Camille. They returned Home within a week of each other. In my email, I noted how serious I sound in my writing. I guess I am serious as opposed to silly. Jonathan is the silly one in our relationship.  But I do think I am kind of funny in person. Well, at least I make myself laugh. I just haven't had so much to laugh about lately. 

I am needing a good laugh or two. So this is a call for good CLEAN (G rated) jokes or funny true stories. I will start by sharing one of my all time favorites of each. First a joke: 

One night I had a dream that I died and went up to heaven. I was in line to enter the pearly gates and there behind me was my good friend Bob.  I got up to the front of the line and there was St. Peter waiting for me. He took me in and said, "Stephanie, you have done some good things in your life and some bad things. You can come into heaven but you will have to pay for the bad things you have done." I admitted my weaknesses to St. Peter and agreed to whatever punishment needed to be taken. Then he opened a door and in walked the ugliest most annoying guy I had ever seen. I was embarrassed even to look at him.  St. Peter introduced him as Chuck. He then said the two of us were to walk arm in arm together for eternity. I cringed at the thought of my punishment. Chuck shyly walked over and took my arm in his and off we went. 

A while later I saw my good friend Bob walking along. Now Bob and I had some good times in life together and I knew him pretty well. Imagine how surprised and upset I was when I saw Cindy Crawford on him arm. I headed directly for St. Peter to complain. "What is the deal?" I asked. "He was just as bad as I was and he gets Cindy Crawford?" St. Peter looked over at Bob and Cindy and put his arm around me. Then he gently whispered to me, "Don't you think that Cindy has to pay for her sins too?"

Now for a true funny story: My Grandma Harris was always a source for great funny stories. She lived to be 99 and had pretty severe dementia in those later years. The older she got, the less inhibited she became. You just never knew what crazy thing she was going to say. 

One day when Jon and I were just friends I went with his family to help them do baptisms for the dead at the temple. We walked into the baptistry and there in one of the pews was my Grandma. She was about 96 at this time.  I was shocked to see her and went over and gave her a hug. Then I introduced Jon and his mother Kathleen to my grandmother. My grandmother took Kathleen's hand and pulled her down to her face. 

"OH NO!" I thought. "What is Grandma going to say to her?" Leave it to Grandma Harris to say some crazy thing in the Temple. Grandma had Kathleen pulled down so that she looked like she was whispering into her ear. I saw Kathleen's face get a sudden shocked look and thought, "Oh no. Now what has she gone and said?" 

"What did she say?" I timidly asked my still shock faced future mother in law. 

Through a polite but puzzled smile she simply replied, "She bit me!" 

"GRANDMA!!!" I said quietly but with great embarrassment. 

"What?" said Grandma. "I wanted to make sure she didn't forget me. Now she won't."

Yes. I am sure my mother-in- law will never forget Grandma Harris. None of who knew her and loved her will either. This story makes great fun with my nieces and nephews when I tell them the first time my grandma met their grandma my grandma bit their grandma.

Okay, your turns. Let's have a bit of laughter tonight. Things have been way too serious. I need a little of the Best Medicine. I am looking forward to some funny comments. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thoughts on Suffering

After reading a comment by an angry Anonymous reader (see half way through Glorious Day comments), I have a few thoughts to share. These thoughts are for all who suffer.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is one of restoration. Just as the fullness of the Gospel that Jesus Christ taught while he was here on the earth has been restored in this day and age, so shall all losses be restored to us in due time. The quote on my last post by Elder Maxwell illustrates this point. Any suffering we do in this life creates a cavity in our soul. The Lord will restore wholeness to our soul and fill that cavity with joy in His time table. 

I don't know the Lord's time table. I don't know what happens to miscarriages and still born babies. I can't imagine a baby who dies in the womb at 40 weeks before being officially "born" is any less of a loss than the baby who dies after taking one breath. And man's definition on what is "stillborn" and what is miscarriage is only some decision made by a bunch of men. What do they know about life in the womb?

Part of the reason we are opposed to abortion in the church is because we don't know when life begins. As far as I know, there has been no revelation to inform us exactly when "life" begins. Because we don't know, we err on the side of caution and oppose abortion except in extreme circumstances. 

My point here is that the gospel is a gospel of restoration. Think about the word RESTORE. Any pain we suffer, any loss, any heartache, they all will be made up to us if we live faithful and turn to the Lord. We must consciously choose to follow the Savior in order to secure these blessings. If we suffer, we must suffer in humility and patience submitting our will to the Lord even as Jesus did in Gethsemene. 

If we have sinned or just screwed up, we must seek the Lord's forgiveness through the Atonement and bear the consequences of our mistake. He can make those consequences easier to bear if we turn our heart fully to Him. Trust me. I know on that one. 

Some consequences we can't change. Sin can be wiped away and made totally clean but consequences often stay with us a lifetime. We live the rest of our lives bearing the burden of our consequences and helping others to avoid similar mistakes. Then one day the Lord will remove that burden and restore us to whole. 

Who knows? Maybe those of us who have lost babies in the womb will be pregnant in the millennium and able to birth our children and them raise then. I don't know. I just know that all the sorrows of this world will be made up to us if we live faithful and follow the Savior. 

I trust the Lord implicitly and know that he only allows us to suffer the minimum amount of pain essential to bring about His great Work. See Elder Scott's talk HERE

I also know that even when it feels like no one is there for us, if we ask, the Lord will always send us help. Most of the time that comes in the form of other people. When other people are unavailable or insufficient, unseen hosts of heavenly beings will be rallying around us to help us though our most personal pains.

To that anonymous commenter: I send you my love and sympathy. You are not alone. Countless number of women have, do, and will suffer the same feelings of loss that you are now experiencing. This club of women support you and know your pain even without knowing your name. 

Your ancestors before you know your loss. They know your heartache. If you will allow yourself to feel the hurt rather than the anger, they will be able to attend to you more fully. Angels are best able to soothe the wounded soul that is submissive.

As for your husband situation--Be the best example possible of the Love of our Savior and the hope that He gives us. Find that hope and then let it emanate though you. Live worthy of the Spirit and follow it. The Lord will make all things right in the eternities. If we live up to our own temple covenants, we will not be held back by the choices of others.

I recommend reading THIS STORY.  I ran across it years ago while preparing for a Relief Society lesson. It illustrates the fact that anytime we suffer we literally become more like our Savior.

If you want to talk more privately, you can email Molly and she can get you my email address.

May you feel the love and prayers of those who DO stand by you both on Earth and in Heaven, including mine.

Boycott?

Okay after last weeks results show, I am ALMOST wanting to boycott SYTYCD. Well, almost. I am definitely voting this week. 

Party is still on at my house at 8:30. Treats will be yummy, not quite as yummy as Elizabeths homemade orange rolls but still yummy. See you there.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

That Glorious Day

Last week I got an email from a lady named Shelley Murley. She is a friend of my sister and other friends of ours. She is the mother of four and on the side she is a song writer. In her email, she told me that our mutual friend told her about me and she has since been reading my blog.  

She wrote, "One morning as I read your beautiful words in your blog titled "Breathe" almost an entire song quickly formed in my little head.  It wasn't until you wrote "Blame"  that I was able to completely finish it."

I got this email just as I was coming down from last weeks high. Shelley's email continued, "After many gentle promptings, I decided to record the song this morning. I am in no way a professional singer (I usually use talented people for that job) but this time, I wanted you to have a song today. I know with all my heart, that you will one day be with your sweet Camille again, and it will be a glorious day."

I too know that day will be glorious. I think Shelley has a lovely voice and it is perfect for the song. Thank you so much Shelley. This song gives me peace and hope. It expresses my feelings all too well. 

Please enjoy the little movie/slideshow I made to go behind the song and you may want to grab a Kleenex before you watch. 

"The cavity which suffering carves into our souls
will one day also be the receptacle of joy." 
Neil A. Maxwell
video
p.s. I better have a kiddie cup drawer in my mansion in heaven.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Winner! Winner! Winner!

This is what I saw on my blog's stat counter yesterday when I went to go post. I took a photo of it because how often are you the 150,000th hit on your own blog? 

All I want to know is... 
What do I win?  

I feel like I am coming out of a fog that has hung over me for about 5 days now. I hope this break in the weather holds so I can be a more fun host for my guests. It is hard to be "present" when the fog sets in.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

In Vain

Camille Kathleen Waite

"Dear Father in Heaven," I begin my prayer. I am on my knees, alone, in my closet. I offer my thanks for how greatly the Lord has blessed me in my life. I enumerate many of the blessings for which I am particularly grateful at this time. No matter how low I feel, there are always blessings from the Lord. There is always gratitude in my heart when it comes to the Lord.

"I am grateful for the Atonement of thy Son," here I pause with the name of the Savior in my mind hesitant to voice this name. The emotion of true understanding washes over me. I am addressing the Father of our Savior. The Father of He who suffered for me- because of my sins. I am about to say the name of the Son who died the most painful death of all deaths that I might live. He put aside His will and suffered the weight of all mankind's sin and sacrificed his own life to pay the price of justice and break the bands of death. And here am I, one who contributed to His pain, about to speak His name to His Father ... and mine.

I know the grief of a parent watching his or her child die. I know the tenderness of a parent's heart and the sacred feelings attached to those children whose lives are cut short to fulfill the greater purposes of the Father's plan. Their names are sacred. To me, Camille's name is sacred. I speak it and want it spoken but only in respectful ways. 

At this moment in my prayer, just before I speak the name of the Savior, I know the Father feels the same.

How often is the name of our Savior spoken with disregard, disrespect and even in anger? I can't begin to explain how it would make me feel if someone spoke Camille's name is such tones. Imagine the most sensitive part of your soul, that which is most dear to you, being desecrated. 

In an instant, in the middle of this prayer in my closet, I better understand the Lord's commandment in Exodus 20:7 "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain."

I thankfully have never uttered the sacred names of deity in ways that I would now regret. But, I will never speak His name, the name of my Savior, the Author and Finisher of my faith, the Son of my Eternal Father, the same again. 

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Friends and Family

We had 10 children and 6 adults staying in our home last night. My brother Morgan and his wife Elizabeth and their 3 kids, our mutual friends Karsen and Kevin and their four little girls. Karsen and I were friends in college when Jon and I met. She recently moved into my brother's ward and is my sister in law's visiting teaching companion. I know. Small world.

Karsen and I have coincidentally had children at the same general time and they have all been girls. Our kids met for the first time 2 months ago. It was so fun to spend time with them and let the kids get better acquainted. It was also fun to see her little Emma walking. She is just a few weeks younger than Camille and wasn't walking when we last saw her. Camille hadn't started walking yet either.

Karsen worried how I would feel around Emma. Actually, I loved seeing her. I wish she knew me well enough to come to me and give me a hug. When I saw her walking I thought to myself, "Someday I will see Camille do that too and it will be all the sweeter for the wait."

Today has been a sweet day. We had our friends watch all 10 kids, while Jon and I and Morgan and Elizabeth joined my 3 other siblings and their spouses and my parents at:
We went to visit our chef friend Chris at the Bouchon Bistro. He gave us the royal treatment, and after around 20 desserts, we all left on a serious sugar high.

Here are a few of the carmel popcorn bags he sent home with us.

It was so wonderful to have the complete family all around the table in a circle enjoying each other and the wonderful food. I love my family. When we got home our company all packed up and headed out to home. Then within an hour our friends Daleen and Leonard and their 4 kids arrived to spend the week with us.

Daleen, my sister in law Nikki, and I treated ourselves to a pedicure.
Now we are about to head out to dinner.

Family and friends are a comfort to me. They lift me up and make me smile. Thank you to all of you friends who buoy me up. Friend from the past, and friends I haven't ever met. I appreciate you all.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Garage Sale for Suzie

A friend of mine is up in Utah getting treatments for her second battle with cancer. She is an amazing young law student here in Las Vegas. Suzie Hyte is her name. She is the daughter of the bishop of my childhood ward.

Some friends are having a garage sale tomorrow morning to raise funds to help her pay her medical bills. If you are up for garage sales, go over and shop. The sale will be off the 95 and Tropicana area.

Here is the address: 5248 South Lakewood Court
It is from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m.
Hope to see you there!

Prevention

Let me start this by saying I don't think our tragedy was "preventable." I believe that when the Lord calls you home it is more a matter of how than if or when. In our case, the series of events that led to this outcome were obviously orchestrated by a Master Planner to ensure that Camille could return home quickly and relatively painlessly without any one person feeling the blame. 

Still, as parents we must do all we can to prevent accidents. For those of you who want to know what happened -- I will not share that.  I have not shared it with any of my friends. I know many of you wonder. But, out of respect, I hope that you will not speculate or discuss the possibilities. The details are inconsequential and my reasons for not sharing are of paramount importance. It will help my whole family heal properly to leave those details in the past. 

I know it is human nature to wonder, but please try to quench the curiosity and focus on the now. That is what I am trying to do.  I am a better mother than I was before. I know more now. Knowledge is powerful. Knowledge combined with action can prevent many unnecessary accidents. 

In an effort to share my hindsight knowledge, I will share some tips and information that could prevent this type of accident from happening to someone else. 

Working Against Us:

First, I never would have had a pool without a self closing self locking gate on it. But I just didn't think a spa was the same because it has a cover.  Our cover has locks that lock it down but they broke in a wind storm the week before Camille died. We had not gotten them fixed yet. 

We were supposed to have an easy cover lift contraption to make it so the kids could put the cover back on by themselves when they got out. The company delivered the wrong kind and we had not gotten it exchanged yet. 

My older girls are both good swimmers who took private swimming lessons for years in California. I didn't feel the need to play "lifeguard" for them in a spa with water only deep enough to come to their belly buttons. 

What I know now: 

1) No matter how watchful you are and no matter what measures you took to prevent escape, babies can get out of a house. If they can crawl, they can get out. Period. Expect that.

2) Any pool, spa, or pond needs a self closing, self locking gate around it. There will always be a time when it is uncovered between opening it and getting in and getting out and closing it. 

3) It only takes a minute for a baby to drown. 

4) If the pool or spa is open, an adult needs to be outside "lifeguarding" even if those swimming are good swimmers and even if no one is swimming, unless you have an unclimbable gate around the pool or spa that is closed and securely locked. This makes sure gates don't get propped open, heads don't get hit causing unconsciousness and probably a million other unforeseen events that could lead to drowning.

These are now our rules for the spa. I am pretty sure our other children have long missions on this side of the veil to perform. Using the new rules we have about lifeguarding and with our new self locking gate, I feel confident that their enjoyment of the spa will be safe, even for those totally unforeseeable times when the baby somehow escapes from the house.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Personal Post

Most of my posts I write with an audience in mind. This one I did not. I wrote it for me. Writing for me is cathartic. It helps me feel better to release the emotion through words. I was not thinking I would post this when I wrote it. But, it is how I was feeling today. I feel better having written it. And I want this blog to portray a true picture of this period of my life. So here was this morning’s truth:

I would like to take my heart out and put it on this page. I want to see the pain in the words on my screen. I want it diffused into a trillion little bytes floating out in the great expanse of space.  I need to let this emotion run out my fingertips. It is too much in me.

I am slipping off the high I have been riding. Today is a harder day. It is not the same pain it was nearly 6 weeks ago. It is more of a dull ache now. I haven't ever felt physical pain to compare to the internal pain of mid June. I imagine it would be comparable to amputating a limb without any drugs and the phantom pains that follow.  

This pain now is like a headache. Sometimes it is in the background, dull and distracting. Other times it is throbbing and demands solitude. Then there are times it overcomes me like a migraine, making me physically ill and spontaneously producing tears and pleas for it to go away. 

We are swimming at my sisters.  I am cold in my wet suit when I get out of the pool. I lay on the warm cement like I did as a child to warm my body and dry my suit. I can feel the heat of the sun baking into my back. The hard surface beneath me exchanges heat for my chill and together they create an equilibrium of warmth.

My big floppy sun hat covers my face.  In the dim light of my sunglass-shaded view I can see the kids playing in the pool. I can smell the rich deep scent of the rosemary growing profusely behind me. I am still here.  Yes, I am still here.

The tears ebb out. I wonder if they will sizzle on the searing heat of the sidewalk. Alas, they are silent. There is no sound to my sorrow. There is only the sound of silence- the silence of absence, the silence of longing, the silence of drowning.

And yet, in the painful silence there still is a peace. In the sorrow there is a pervasive peace. How these two coexist, the peace and the pain, defies logic. They partner to dance gracefully across the stage of my life in this unwritten act. In the end, their dance will be the one I remember. I watch daily as this dance transforms me into a new being.

How I hope the Lord accepts this offering, this attempt to endure well His will. I so want to be a worthy servant in His work. But, of course, His pleasure is evident in the presence of the peace.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27 

May peace prevail. 

May I live worthy of His grace that brings that sweet peace to my soul. 

May peace prevail. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How to Treat a Friend Who Has Suffered a Loss -- Part 2

To all those who have done things for and communicated with me. THANK YOU. I know anything you have done or said was an expression of your love and concern for me.  I have not been offended by anything anyone has said to me and I appreciate everything people have done for me and given to me. I hope nothing I write will offend any of you or make you think I didn't appreciate something you said or did for me. 

Why am I writing this guide? I grew up surrounded by brothers. I often got my feelings hurt by them. My mother taught me early in my life, "Men are obtuse. If you want them to say something or do something, you have to tell them exactly what you want them to say or do." That helped immensely in my family life, dating life, and married life. The same principal applies now.  Fortunately, few have been in these terribly painful shoes. At the same time, few know what to do or say. 

Luckily, my bishop visited with us in the hospital and on the Sunday Camille died.  He took some time informing our church congregation of the news and relaying instructions on how I wanted people to treat me -- what not to say or do and how I would like people to treat me. For all the others out there who do not have this kind of preparation given, I write this guide.

So, someone you know has suffered a great loss. What should you do? What can you say?

I haven't suffered every kind of loss, but I think some of the things in the following guideline will apply to most kinds of loss and for most people. Those of you who have suffered similar loss, feel free to add your opinion in the comments. Those whose loved ones are suffering loss, if I do not address one of your questions of concerns, ask me in a comment and I will see what I can do about that.

1) Acknowledge the Loss. -- Don't let your fear of doing or saying the wrong thing keep you from doing or saying anything. It is important that your friend know you care. How you acknowledge the loss depends on your relationship with the person. 
For a stranger - a blog comment, or if you have their address a note telling them how their loss has made you or the world better in some way.  My sister in law was deeply affected by a tragedy last year in her neighborhood. A family in a minivan was hit from behind by a semi and their 3 children were all killed. Since this accident a year ago, every time my sister in law passes that exit on the freeway she tells her 3 kids that she loves them. That type of thing is great to relay to the grieving parents. 

For a friend or acquaintance - Send a card, an email, flowers, a text message, a voice message, a contribution to a charity. Let them know you are thinking of them and praying for them. If you want to send a gift -- see my notes on the best gifts below. 

When you see them for the first time after -- It is best to just give them a quick tight hug and tell them "I love you." Saying you are so sorry for their loss, crying, or talking in depth about the loss just brings up the feelings of pain we are trying so hard to work through. Also, be careful about the look in your eyes. Try to give a look of tender love and confidence.  I know it is hard to control things like crying and the look of pity because seeing us makes you think of the loss and it saddens you. But what we need is love, not pity. 

For a close friend - This is where things get tricky. We need different things at different times depending on the stage of grief we are in and how we are feeling that hour.  When in doubt, ask your friend "What do you need right now? Space, a shoulder, a distraction, a joke, cookies, chocolate, Wii time?" Give them what they need at the time and don't expect the answer will be the same the next day or even the next hour. 
My friend Kathryn sent me my favorite Sprinkles cupcakes mix!
The Red Velvet Chocotherapy was delicious! Thanks Kathryn!

Serve your friend. Most people will not tell you when they really need something. I highly recommend insisting on serving. Don't ask if they need help cleaning. Just show up with your gloves on a cleaner in your hand and ask to see their bathroom. 

After my first miscarriage, a friend of mine called to see if she could come clean my house. I was hesitant. I couldn't do it but my mom was coming and she could. My friend insisted. "I will clean your place so your mom can spend time tending you," she said. 

She came over and got on her hands and knees and scrubbed my gross bathroom and cleaned my whole apartment. I will admit, I was a little embarrassed at first, but that act of service forged a bond of love for this friend that is unbreakable. I love Daleen and 8 years later we still are great friends even though we have lived in different cities for the last 6 years. She will be in town visiting me next week. Yeah! 

I had so many old friends who came to the funeral. That is another thing a close friend should do if it is possible. Go to the funeral. If it is long distance, your friend will likely not expect you to come. But if you do make that extraordinary effort, your friend will appreciate it. 

Family - Come.  If it is at all possible, come as soon as you can to surround your family member in unconditional, nonjudgemental love and support. Then do anything you can to help them. Do all the things I wrote in the close friend section. But most importantly just be with them. Even if you don't talk.  Just be near them.

2) Want to send a gift?  For Children -- When there is a child involved, sending a fun surprise really can take their mind off of their sorrow for a while.  I think "doing types" of gifts are wonderful. My children loved the crafts people sent. My kids happen to really love stuffed animals, I know not all kids do, but mine do and they received several that they treasure. Happy mail from other kids is also a great treat for kids. 

For Men: My husband tells me guys don't want stuff. They want distraction -- escapism. They want a guy friend to call them up and invite them out for a guy movie or a game of baseball or whatever else they are into. I have said this before but I also think the Wii or those kinds of distractions are good.

For Women: Sentimental gifts probably top my list. Photos, songs, DVDs, poems, the locket I got, the scrapbook, the magic blanket, tulips. Every gift says "I love you" and so every gift is wonderful. 

Books:
Most people who experience a loss also receive a number of grief books. I am no exception. The only problem with grief books is that it is VERY difficult to read anything of any length when you are submerged in grief. Your brain just cannot focus on something other than that which is lost for more than a few moments. So reading ... well ...  I managed to skim one or two books on helping children through their grief because I felt it was necessary for me to know this as a mother. That was so hard to do though. I am an avid reader and I have only managed to read one light historical fiction book. It was a bit of escapism for me but even then I was not as into it as I would normally have been. It took weeks before I could even watch TV (well except for SYTYCD). Reading takes so much more concentration than that. I am getting to the point where I think I could read more now, but I am still not up for any book about sad things.

I am sure there is great information in the books that I have. I am not saying no one should send grief books. But I think it would be more helpful if you took the time to read the book before you sent it and pick a few quotes that you think will be the most helpful to the person. Then type those quotes up and insert them in the book with a card. Inspiring and comforting quotes can be uplifting and strengthening. A few salient quotes are about the amount your brain can focus on when drowning in grief. Then later when the brain is more stable, the person can read the book for themselves. 
 
3) Long term care:
Time is a strange thing. I see the date on my calendar is late July but to me it still seems like June. The last 6 weeks have been a blur. The world is moving on, moving forward, but for me, it is strange to think it isn't still June. If someone close to you has lost someone in their immediate family, you should assume that this will be a sorrow to them the rest of their mortal lives. They may not always talk about it. They may not always think about it. But it will never completely go away. I think it is great to "check up on" a friend a couple months after the loss again just to let them know you haven't forgotten their pain. I may write another post on this down the road when I have more experience with the long term end of it.

4) Remembering: You should not be afraid to mention those who have died. We who miss them most enjoy remembering them. We want others to remember them too. They are part of our family whether they are on earth or in heaven. But here I must add a caution. We want to remember our little one but we DO NOT want to remember the circumstances surrounding their death. For most of us, the day our child died or the day they were in the accident that would take their life was the WORST day of our lives. Personally, it is something I want to forever blot out of my memory. So, while it is natural to wonder about the details surrounding how a child died, DO NOT ask this of the grieving parent. If they want to tell you they will do it of their own accord. In the case of accidents, they have already had to relive the experience by telling it to the cops, CPS, and the coroner. Every time I have to tell someone about this day I am immediately taken right back there to all the horrid emotions and crippling questions that surround those events. "How" is just not that important. If you have to ask someone, ask a friend of the family, not the family itself.

5) How are you?: This is an unavoidable question in human society. We answer it everyday several times from loved ones and strangers. It becomes a dreaded question when you are dying inside and don't want to share that with the asker. For those of you grieving, I have found that "I am doing well right now" to be a good answer. If I am not doing well, I stay silent and nod my head. Or I say "good days and bad days." I am sure you have found your own strategies for answering this question as well. 

For the askers, if you are really close to the person, I think it is okay to ask. Personally, I am not bothered by this question, but I know many others are. But for most friends, it is better if you just skip that question and say, "Hi. It is great to see you/hear your voice ..." then go onto the business of your call or visit.

I hope this helps some of you know how to deal with those who have experienced loss. I may have another installment later if I think of more things or if there are enough questions that need answering. Till then I will answer one of your burning questions. "How am I?"

"Today I am doing very well." 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dance Party!

Just a quick note. Dance party is on tonight. We have our guest who was the inspiration for the dance party.  Last year I visited my sister in law Elizabeth and she had a SYTYCD party. It was so much fun. I came home thinking, "I have no friends! I am so sad.  I have no one to come watch So You Think You Can Dance with me. How sad for me." Okay so I still Tivoed episodes and forced anyone who came over to watch with me. :) My poor ward playgroup ladies indulged me many times. Still I am so excited for every Wednesday night this season and the fun we have with the ladies and watching the dances.

Tonight Elizabeth will be making yummy refreshments.  I know what they are and I am not telling but I am SOOO excited!  See you tonight!

How to Treat a Friend Who Has Suffered a Loss -- Part 1

This is really the preface to a post coming tomorrow. I know all too well what it is like to be on the other side of this fence. Some terribly tragic thing has just happened to someone you know- maybe a close friend, maybe just an acquaintance, maybe a stranger of whom you are aware. How can you help? What do you do? What can you say to them? I hope with tomorrow's post to be able to help give as much of a guide as I can for that.

But tonight I write the preface.

So many of you have told me of your miscarriages or stillborn babies. As an illustration for this preface I will now tell you about my two miscarriages.

My mother tells me I like to measure my life out in teaspoons. I guess by this she means I am a planner. It is true. I do have a grand master plan for my life. Our senior year of high school we filled out predictions of where we would be in ten years. Questions like how many kids you would have and what your job would be etc. At my ten year reunion I looked over mine and saw the only question I was off on was "How much will you weigh?" I had guessed 10 lbs. heavier.

But in spite of all my planning and working to reach my goals, sometimes life throws you an unexpected curveball - a twist in the plot of your life you didn't see coming and certainly wouldn't have written in yourself.

The first time that happened for me was January of 2000. I was pregnant for the first time. I was 10 weeks along and had told most of my ward and the cub scouts I taught. I had told my family over the Christmas break. I was so excited. I was due just two weeks after I was scheduled to take the California Bar Exam. "What perfect timing," I thought. This, of course, was a very planned pregnancy.

The bleeding that began in that 10th week was not planned. I had so many friends reassure me that sometimes bleeding just happens and it could me nothing. But as the days continued and the bleeding increased ... well, I didn't hold much hope. I did much praying at this time. I was worried. I wanted this baby so much. What if I couldn't carry a child? Was there something wrong with me? I worried and I cried.

After about a week I had a very sacred experience in the Temple that removed all worry about my fertility and took away any sadness I had about possibly losing this child. The next night as I laid in my bed on bed rest, I was in so much physical pain and was bleeding so much that I was on the verge of losing consciousness. That night Jon took me to the ER. After and exam and ultrasound the doctors determined I had an ectopic pregnancy and took me into emergency surgery at around 2 a.m.

The doctor put me under and did his thing. I woke up to someone pulling the breathing tube out of my throat and telling me to breath. When I did breath it was painful and hoarse sounding. I had never had surgery before. I had never been to the ER before. I hadn't even ever had stitches before. I couldn't believe how painful it was. Then the doctor told me, "We didn't find the pregnancy. So that means one of three things: either we just missed it and we will have to do this again in two days, or you have miscarried and we will do a D & C in two days, or you are still pregnant and will have a baby in 7 months."

At that moment, none of those options sounded good. They all involved pain. I still have never been in as much physical pain as I was at that moment. My mother came the next day to be my nurse as I recovered. Two days later I went to my doctor's office. He immediately took me back to his personal office to wait till he could see me after his next patient. He didn't want me to have to wait with all the pregnant women. At that appointment, I found out that I had miscarried. Later that week, with my mother at my side, I had another outpatient surgery to finish the miscarriage. The experience was physically very painful. Emotionally, however, because of the experience I had in the Temple, I was fine.

The hardest part for me was telling other people. I hated that I had to tell them. It was like I had failed at something. Even worse was the pity and sadness that inevitably washed over their face as soon as they heard the news. Then I had to explain that I was fine about it. I learned one good lesson - never disclose pregnancies outside the family in the first trimester.

Okay, so that is miscarriage one. Now let us turn to miscarriage two. We now skip six years and three kids into the future.

Here is our family in 2006.
I had just found out that I was pregnant with Camille.
This was one month after my second miscarriage.

Again I have measured out my life and have a small window of time in which I want to get pregnant. On our first try we are successful. I am excited. I am only 6 weeks along when I start bleeding. I have just moved to Las Vegas and don't even know the OB I have scheduled to meet with the next week. I call in and they send me to a lab for testing.

The tests come back. I am miscarrying. I need to go have a follow up appointment with the doctor in a week. This time I knew what I was losing. I had three beautiful girls. I knew the love of a child. I knew exactly what I was losing.

That week as I bled, I did not have the physical pain that had accompanied my last miscarriage. What I did have was a house full of little girls with the stomach flu and a stressed out, overworked husband trying to launch a new business. That combination meant little sleep and lots of tending children 24 hours a day. This time my mother was not available to tend to me. She was on a mission in Africa. There I was tending to so many little sick girls and I really needed tending myself. I felt so alone. I don't know what I would have done without the support from beyond the veil. At least I was sure of God's love for me.

Then I went to my follow up appointment. After sitting in the waiting room - with all the pregnant women - for 2 hours I finally asked when the doctor would see me. I was told it would be another 30 minutes because my new doctor had left and the other doctor had to see all her patients before she could start seeing my doctor's patients. No one had bothered to inform me that she had left an hour earlier. And no one, not the staff, not the doctor, no one ever apologized for having forgotten to inform me.

I will not relay the rest of what happened in that office. It is still painful for me to think about. I will only say that I was treated with so much rudeness, as I was sobbing, by the all the staff (except the woman who weighed me) and especially by the doctor that I can not even drive by that office anymore. It took me about a month before I could even talk about that visit without crying. This visit, combined with knowing what I was losing, little sleep, and feeling alone, made this a very emotionally difficult miscarriage.

My point in telling you these two stories (other than preserving them for family history sake) is to illustrate why we don't know what to say or do for people who have experience a loss. Each loss is unique and each person is unique. There isn't one right way to treat someone who has experienced loss. We don't want to do the wrong thing and there are so many ways we could do the wrong thing. So what do we do?

Now being on this side of that fence and having talked to many people in my shoes or who know real loss like this, I have some pretty good guidelines that will work most of the time for most people, I think.

I will share those with you all tomorrow. For now, today has been a good day and I pray that tonight will be a good night.

Monday, July 21, 2008

SNOW!!!

Last night I dreamt we were at the cabin in July and as we drove down the road suddenly there was snow everywhere. People were skiing and sledding and playing. The best part was that it wasn't cold outside and the snow wasn't cold. It was about 6 inches deep and I wanted so much to just get busy playing in it. I was with my parents in the car and I told them, "We HAVE to go get Annie from the Cabin!!!"

They went to go get her and I ... well, I played in the snow. 

This morning I woke up with that dream still vivid in my mind and with genuine hope and excitement. This is the first morning since the accident that I can honestly say that. Here is the reason why:
My Snow Angels!

Rachel and Elizabeth, two of my sister in laws, are in town! We are doing fun activities with the kids and enjoying lots of girl time. We are enjoying the "Christmas in July" season. I love these women. I am so excited to have them in town. 

So, determined to ride the high I am feeling as long as possible, we packed up the cousins and headed to the water park. My friend Catherine joined us and brought some fun cups to put on the water spouts. We had fun getting wet and watching the cups fly.

Here is cousin Berk in the foreground putting cups on the spouts. Cousin Stella, Annie and I are trapped in the back waiting for the fountains to stop so we can put cups on too.
Here are Annie, me, and Lauren after we have been playing in the water fountains.

Family time is so fun ... well at least for some of us. I don't think Charlotte or Hugh were enjoying themselves in this photo below. I was having a great time though. I know Camille would be proud of her Mama for finally having a real "living" day. A sort of "snow" day in the middle of the summer.

Thanks to Elizabeth for taking the photos and for letting me use her big old camera to take the photo of her and Rachel.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Christmas in July

The Cabin at the Riverbend

This weekend we escaped the Las Vegas heat to spend a day in the Utah mountains at my parents cabin. My two older girls are going up this coming weekend for a "cousin's camp." Annie and I had an interesting conversation about this.

"So mom, when are we coming for cousin's camp?" Annie asks.
"We go home tomorrow," I reply. "Then we will be at home for 3 days. Then you will come back with your cousins."
Annie gets an excited look on her face and asks, "So mom when we come back for cousin's camp, will there be SNOW???"
I laughed a little and said "No, honey. It is summer. There won't be snow."
A crushed look came over Annie's face. She is by far my most dramatic child. "But Mama, I love the snow. I want to play in the snow. When will there be snow?"
"It has to be winter for the snow to come," I explain. "It won't be till about Christmas."
"But that will never come. That is SOOO far away. I hate summer. I want it to be winter so we can play in the snow and drink hot chocolate."
A light dawns in my head. Here I am in the Father's role and here is my sweet child in mine.
"I know it seems like a long way away, honey," I say tenderly. "There is a time and a season for all things and this is not the season for snow."
"But I like the snow so much more, Mama," Annie pleads.
"I know. I know. But sometimes we have to wait for things that we love. Sometimes we have to wait what seems like forever and it feels like it will never come," I explain. "But it will come. The snow will come. Christmas will come. It may not feel like it right now but it will come. We must have patience until then. In the meantime there are so many things to do here in the summer that we can't do in the winter. In the winter we can't throw rocks in the river. We can't play outside without coats and mittens in the winter. You need to go do the things you can only do in the summer now."
"I still like the winter better," she says. She is disappointed.
"I know honey," I say with sincere empathy. "I know."

I remember how far away Christmas felt when I was a child. It seemed like another world away. I feel like that now. The day I will see my daughter again seems like it is so incredibly far away. I know it will come, just as Christmas always did, but it still seems so far away. 

This little talk with Annie has made me want very much to appreciate this "summer" time in my life more. This is going to take great effort. As a part of that effort, I want to share some of my favorite things or moments that made me smile recently. 

Welcome to my own personal Christmas in July! 

Top ten happy moments today:

10) Seeing an old friend and roommate at church in Duck Creek this morning. Hi Nann!
9) Singing along with the "How Does He Know" song from Enchanted with my kids.
8) Annie coming in to my room while I was crying to inform me that I was invited to come to the "fancy restaurant" in the kitchen for the fine dining Daddy dinner of chicken nuggets.
7) Lauren informing her Dad that she was putting herself to bed.
6) Blog comments 
5) Talking to my husband on the way home in the car about how we can keep our family close as our kids grow up.
4) Silly girls laughing hysterically at each other and at the movie in the car on the way home.
3) A giant hug from my mom and a teary "I love you and am so proud of you," as we said goodbye leaving the cabin. (OK that one made me cry more than smile but it was still a great moment.)
2) The arrival of my brother Morgan and sister-in-law Elizabeth and their wonderful kids to stay the week at our house.
1) Email from Brittany, my new friend who lost her son Daxton the same week Camille drowned.  You can see her blog here. It is wonderful to have friends on this journey through grief to walk step by step with you in the same shoes. Her emails make me smile through my tears. Love to you Britt!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Response to Vera


The last comment I read was from "Vera" somewhere in Europe.  I will quote her comment here.

"I haven't commented before, because I never really knew how to find words that might comfort you. I don't have kids, but as a sister I can imagine the pain your kids are going through. I wasn't sure how you might think about the fact that even people in Europe found your blog and thus hesitated to leave a comment. I used to say that I am not a very religious person, but I think reading your blog during the last couple of weeks has changed the religious aspect. Thank you :-)"

I am thrilled that people in Europe have found this blog. I know there have been visitors from Japan, Germany, England, Ecuador, Argentina, Australia, Africa and Canada. These are just the countries I have noticed. I love that so many have found this blog. Every person who comes to this blog gets to meet and get to know a bit of my daughter Camille.  She only lived just shy of 14 months on this Earth. Most of that time was spent at home and with me on errands.  

I have traveled extensively. I have met so many interesting and wonderful people from all over the world in my thirty three years on the Earth. Had Camille lived a long full life. She too would have been well traveled. It is a priority of mine and my husband's to see the world and know its peoples. I feel as if this blog allows Camille to meet all the people she could have met in a long full life.

As for knowing the words to comfort me -- you gave me the greatest comfort words can give by telling me this blog has increased your faith. I hope that my writing and Camille's sweet loving spirit that comes through to all who read will increase all of our faith in God. Whatever religion you are, I hope you will feel closer to the Almighty Creator. 

I believe Camille is helping people get whatever message they need most from these writings. For some it is to cherish their children even more. For others it is to find out more about life before birth and after death. For some it is to help them let go of pain, regret, and grudges. For all, I believe Camille wants you to feel the love the Lord has for you and for your children. She and I both want to turn your heart in any measure possible closer to Him. 

I hope many all over the world will read this blog and that Camille will help them find the inspiration they need and are ready to receive. 

Friday, July 18, 2008

Insomnia

I have sleeping issues. I have always had a very hard time falling asleep. Once I am asleep I stay asleep but falling asleep ... well let's just say I am well acquainted with the night. This is apparently a genetic thing. My dad has the same issue and so does a brother of mine. I have two kids who have a hard time falling asleep. One of them stays in her bed waiting to fall asleep. The other ... not so much.

Since the accident, I try to keep my mind occupied until I am so tired I know I will quickly fall asleep. Otherwise, I end up getting too weepy in my bed. My little Ann Marie has been feeling this too. She has wanted to be close to us as she falls asleep. Nearly every night the first two weeks and many nights since, I have laid down beside her while she fell asleep.

This is not something I normally would do. I know some moms stay with their kids till they fall asleep every night. I am not that mom. My kids can be awake for hours just sitting in the dark waiting to fall asleep. So can I. Usually I let them read in their beds if they don't feel tired yet. This is far less boring for us all.

Still, under the circumstances, I have laid with her many nights. And I have been trying to wean her off that need to have me close for her to sleep. In the last couple of weeks we have found her asleep in some fairly unique places or positions.


Here she was just out of my sight at the bottom of the stairs on the hard tile sound asleep with her bear "Gigan" and her blankie. Doesn't this just look so uncomfortable?


Jon captured this photo a few nights back. It just about broke my heart. She had been down to see us downstairs and we could tell she was tired so we sent her back up to bed. She made it to the top step, and not wanting to be where she couldn't hear us, she knelt down and fell asleep.


Sabrina and Ann Marie share a room. They do each have their own beds, however. Sabrina says she can't sleep without Annie in the room. Annie loves to be covered in animals and close to her sister.


This was after we came home from a night out and relieved the babysitter. Sabrina is a deep and crazy sleeper. She travels all over the bed in the night. Annie got wise here and chose to sleep in the pillows next to Sabrina's bed. Annie must have been missing Camille. That is Camille's favorite soft and silky blanket she is cuddling (the purple one). She needed some physical contact with Sabrina to comfort her so she took her hand and held it as she fell asleep.

I guess I better go check my little insomniac now. I sent her to bed before I started this post because I could tell she was finally tired enough to fall asleep. I am getting there myself.

Sleep is a beautiful thing. It is the one place I can go and rest my sorrowed soul. In dreams anything is possible. In dreams, I can see my daughter and hold her and play with her. In dreams, I can see her flying though the air being tossed between her Uncle Aaron and and her Daddy. In dreams, I too can fly.