Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sunday Insights

So this last Sunday I attended my brother Morgan's ward in San Clemente. There were a couple of great comments in the lessons that I wanted to share and maybe add to a bit.

First, in Sunday School we were discussing the pride cycle. One man made the comment that it is human nature to compare ourselves to others. He noted how we measure how well we are doing financially, socially, or spiritually in comparison with our neighbors or friends or acquaintances. He noted that this is not the way we the Lord wants us to measure ourselves.

I want to further expound on his comment because I think it was profound and it helps me answer a comment that someone posted about feeling guilty after reading my blog posts. I completely agree that it is our nature to want to compare ourselves to others. This is not helpful. Whether we find ourselves falling short or doing better than our friend, neither is a good outcome. 

We must learn to only measure ourselves against our own benchmark. It is only important that we are growing learning and improving. It is only important that we are becoming more like Christ. It is far less important where we are on that path to becoming like Him than which direction we are facing and moving.

We are each given different kinds and numbers of talents when we come to this earth. We don't need to all reach a certain number of talents by the end to be found worthy. We only need to do the most with what we are given. Remember the parable of the talents?

No one but me has lived my life. Others know this trial of losing a child, but none of them has had exactly the same lessons taught to them before encountering this trial. So no one is going to be in exactly the same place as I am in my own journey through this life. The same is true for everyone. We must only measure ourselves by our own progress and not make it relative to anyone else. 

There is one good reason to investigate and analyze the lives of others. It is the same reason we read the scriptures. We look to others to find examples of how ways we can improve. We can see the ways others have reacted, good or bad, and try to learn from their experience. Then if we ever encounter a similar situation we can try to live according to what we learned from the other. 

So please, do not feel guilty after reading any of my posts. Those of you struggling with your children. I know how that feels. I am not in that place right now but I was 4 months ago. I was smack in the middle of it. I don't feel I was failing then. I was doing the best I could given my circumstances. Could I have been doing better? Yes. Of course. I could be doing better as a mother now. But I am learning and growing and trying. That is what counts. 

Now in line with those thoughts, a woman in Relief Society (the women's group) at church shared a comment about righteous traditions. I loved her comment. It was a tradition her family has for Sunday's. She noted before the comment that she didn't want people to feel overwhelmed by her comment because she often felt that way when others talked about things they do well that she did not. 

But I am so glad she shared her idea because I love a good idea and even if I can't do it perfectly, I want to try to incorporate some of it in our home. So here is her tradition in line with keeping the Sabbath day holy:

Each Sunday has a theme. Then her family spends that Sunday doing things centered around the theme. In her family they have chosen the following themes:

First Sunday = Fast and Testimony Sunday. They have a family fast and testimony meeting. I love this idea because Sabrina has started wanting to bear her testimony. This gives her the opportunity to bear her testimony without taking the valuable time in sacrament meeting. And I can also see how the testimony's of my children will grow over the years. It also gives a great opportunity to teach them what a real testimony is and how they can get it.

Second Sunday = Service Sunday. Mom and Dad set up or do visiting and home teaching appointments. The kids pick "secret service hearts" out of a hat with names of their siblings on them. Then they spend the day planning and doing the secret service they will do for that person during the week. I love this. Gets visiting teaching done early in the month and who doesn't love secret service pals?

Third Sunday = Family History Sunday. The family gathers to learn about an ancestor, a story about their parents or grandparents they don't know. For us it might include a visit to a grave. Then they take 10 minutes to write in their journal. I think knowing about your ancestors is vital. I am so glad my kids knew about my grandparents before Camille died. I had told them many stories about my grandmothers. It helped them understand her death better knowing that she was with Grandma Lucile. After all the wonderful stories I told them about how fun she was they knew she was in good hands.

Fourth Sunday = Missionary Sunday. This sunday they write letters to missionaries, hear a story about dad on his mission, or do a missionary minded activity. I think this would be easier with older kids. I haven't decided if I want to switch this out or not. I am open to ideas (missionary or other themes) for little kids on this sunday if anyone has any. 

Fifth Sunday = P.I.E. Sunday. Priesthood Interview for Everyone. This Sunday each kid has a one on one personal interview with Dad. Then after everyone is done they have a nice dessert together. I love this too. It puts a regular schedule on doing personal interviews. I think alone time with Dad is invaluable. Dad's are examples to young men and they give self esteem to young women. Your mom you expect to give time to you. You are her job (if she is a stay at home mom). But your dad, well it is just special when he takes time out to spend alone with you.

Lastly, my friend Karsen is in that ward. She has 4 girls all within months of mine. I so enjoyed watching her baby girl who was born within weeks of Camille. After Relief Society her little girl Emma let me carry her to nursery to pick up Lauren and Emma's sister Paige. When Lauren came out and saw me holding Emma she got a very serious look on her face.

"Why do you got that baby?" she asked.
"I am just holding her. Isn't she cute? She is the same age as Camille." I told Lauren.
Lauren still looked skeptical. "Is it a girl baby or a boy baby?" she asked. Emma has about as much hair as Camille would have had by now. 
"It is a girl baby." I told her. 
At this Lauren smiled and started jumping up and down in joy saying over and over "We bought a girl baby! We bought a girl baby!"
I hated having to tell her the baby was not ours but Paige's little sister. Her face was just so disappointed. But then Emma let Lauren give her a hug and Lauren felt better. And Lauren was thrilled to see Emma's face light up in smiles when Lauren played peek-a-boo with her. 

Oh if only it were so easy to get a child as to go to the store and buy one.
"Yes, I would like a potty trained 2 year old with no attitude and please make sure she is cute."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Surf's Up

The kids watching a huge pelican that flew right down to visit us. It was bigger than it seems in this photo and closer too.

Saturday was such a wonderful day. I had a teary time falling asleep the night before. Too much sorrow built up in the heart. It still happens about once a week. So Saturday was just the remedy I needed. 

We woke up to a foggy morning. This is quite a novelty for us know coming from Las Vegas. I love when the weather seems to mimic my moods. And a cool and humid fog was just the right atmosphere to fit the bill. 

After a wonderful breakfast of waffles by Elizabeth we organized and pack and headed to the beach. I had never been to this beach before but it is the perfect place to learn to surf. My girls swore they were not going near a surfboard. They only wanted to play in the sand. 
Here are Lauren and cousin Charby playing in the sand.

Sometimes I am amazed I am raising such girly girls. I grew up surrounded by 3 brothers. I could ride and jump a bike as well as any of the neighbor boys, I played football and soccer and tee ball with the boys and could do almost any trick they could on the trampoline. My girls have little to no interest in any of this. I try to get them to be a bit more sporty but they are -- how can I put this nicely -- "easily frightened."

So I wasn't sure how successful the surfing would be. At the beach, they watched their cousin Berk surf a few waves with his dad and then Annie said she would try. She just didn't want to get wet. I had to pick her up and carry her out to the surf board. But then well... you can see for yourself below.
Go ANNIE!

After Annie surfed, Sabrina thought she might try. This was the girl who swore to me she was not going to get on a surfboard. Here she is below on her first try with Uncle Morgan.
See that big smile? She loved it!

When the girls had had their fill, I decided I better show them their mom is not a wuss. So with a push in the right direction, here is my first ever attempt at surfing.
It was fun. I am glad I did it. Now I just need to work my arms out more so I can more easily paddle out. That was a workout on the arms.

The sun never did shine through the fog for more than a minute or two the whole time we were at the beach. I kept hoping it would burn off the clouds and warm us all up, but no such luck. Sometimes, the fog is harder to burn off than others. But there is a stillness and beauty in the fog too. It is cooling and soothing like being wrapped in a cool blanket. 

From the beach, we headed home, showered and changed and went to church to watch the Women's Conference broadcast from Salt Lake City. The world wide leaders of our church speak to us in these conferences that occur twice a year. This conference was the most amazing one I have ever heard. Perhaps it was more that I was more prepared to hear the talks. If you haven't heard it you should go watch it on the internet HERE. I loved Julie Beck's talk and Elder Uchtdorf's was simply inspiring. I could write a whole post just on the insight I got from this conference. Maybe another day.

After the conference my friend Kathryn and I headed to the Honda center in Anaheim for the So You Think You Can Dance tour. It was even better in person. Our seats were amazing. We were the second row from the floor and the stage was set at half court. The dancers were incredible. Will is just a work of art and his dance is a thing of beauty. They performed all the best dances from the season. Best of all I got to spend over 4 hours with a dear long time friend. It is so comforting to be in the presence of those who really really know you. Love you Kathryn! Thanks again!

What a great day Saturday was. Falling asleep that night with a cool comforting blanket of fog covering all the land was quick and easy.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Vacation

Last night as we drove down the Cajon Pass into Southern California and felt the humidity of the sea air fill our lungs, I remembered how much I love California. Jon and I spent our first seven married years here. We made many friends. We had three children.  We grew from college kids to mortgage holding, child rearing adults. I have a special fondness now for California.

We are visiting my two brothers and sister in laws here and also many friends. Tomorrow a one of my dear friends is taking me to the So You Think You Can Dance tour. (Thanks Kathryn!) I am excited to see the dancers and even a little more excited for some quality time with my old roommate and sweet friend.  We also get to celebrate my niece's birthday while we are here.

Last time we were here was the end of May. We celebrated Sabrina's birthday here. It was a wonderful trip. We went to Disneyland for two days. It was a wonderful trip filled with fun and smiles. I have great memories from that trip.

Camille did not come with us on that trip. She spent the weekend with grandparents. Grandma Waite wrote Camille a song that weekend. My parents enjoyed watching her climb up into the walker and sit her booty in it with her feet sticking up out the top by her head. She got to spend good alone time with her grandparents. We got to enjoy Disneyland without having to run back to the hotel for naps. 

A photo my parents took of Camille while they were tending her.

I didn't miss her. I didn't worry about her. I knew she was in good hands. Camille was an easy baby. She was happy with anyone. In fact when I dropped her off at Grandma Waite's I said to her, "Camille, are you ready to go play with Grandma for a while?" 

She then nodded her head way up and then slowly way down several times. She had just begun to answer yes and no questions by nodding or shaking her head.

This trip I do miss her. And even though I know she is in great hands, my heart still worries for her. I know that isn't logical, but I think it is common. We all feel it in this family. The kids often pray for Camille that she will not miss us as much as we miss her. I pray for her to be happy and successful in the work she is now doing. It helps me to be forward thinking.

I guess this trip is not too different from the last one. We are still a family of 6 even though only 5 of us are here. One of us is just at Home spending time with loving grandparents. 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Relative Age

This is not from last night. It is from a couple of months ago. But it is a cute one of a time I found Annie asleep one night on my bed.

Last night I came home late from a night with the girls at a friend's house. I went up to my bathroom and took my contacts out and brushed my teeth. In my bedroom I said my prayers, and then stood up to crawl in my bed. It was completely dark in the room except for the moonlight coming from one open window. 

In the moonlight, I could see my space in the bed. There lay a little girl wrapped up in the magic blanket, curled into a ball, and fast asleep. My poor eyesight kept me from being able to immediately discern who this was in my bed. I knew it had to be either Sabrina or Ann Marie. But, the first thought that entered my head when I saw her there was, "Oh, there I am."

After I picked Ann Marie up and put her in her own bed, I returned to my room and curled up in the magic blanket. I laid in my bed in wonder at how natural and easy that initial thought had been. 

Sometimes I feel 5 years old these days. I feel vulnerable and scared and in need of protection and love. I curl up in the magic blanket and lay by the strength of my husband to fall asleep. I ask my girls to give me extra hugs and love. They are like little mothers to me at times. Always I feel like a little child before the Lord. I am powerless yet trusting and ultimately loved.

Earlier that evening I got out of the shower and stood looking at myself with a towel wrapped around me. Jon was in the room and I said, "Do you ever feel like you are 80, like you have lived 50 years in the last three months?" 

"Yes," he replied, "and then some."

Sometimes I feel like an old woman these days. I feel tired and worn and I long for heaven. I see other people my age and feel so apart from the life I lived 4 months ago. I hear mothers longing for breaks from their children and I remember feeling that way four months ago. But now, well, I appreciate every minute with my children. They bring me joy through the sorrow. Like an old woman in a rest home, I continually want them to come sit and snuggle and talk with me. When they are asleep and at school I miss them.

Yet somehow my driver's license says I am still in my thirties. I wonder if or when I will ever feel my true age again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

To Write or Not to Write

I have been talking to a publisher about writing a book. I guess maybe the poll on the side bar may have hinted at that. By the way, if you read this on Google Reader, please come to the site and vote on the poll. I am trying to determine if I could sell enough books to make writing and investing in a book worth it. 

I have mixed feelings about writing a book about my experience. There is so much that I have not written on this blog about those early days. It was just too much to record all so quickly. I would like to have a record of it. Still, to write it I would have to go back there mentally. I would hope it would be cathartic. I am a little scared it would just be hard and not so helpful.

In any case this is something I will be thinking about and analyzing over the coming weeks. So please vote on my poll and BE HONEST. I think that will help me make up my mind.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Prayer Time

In response to one of the questions from last week, I will share some thoughts on prayer time as a mom. Julie asked what my prayer time was like, the when, the where, the how. She has 3 little ones and wonders how to work prayer in there.

Let's be realistic first. If at this stage in your life you wake up to crying baby sounds every morning, it is difficult to get that morning prayer in there. I really believe the Lord is understanding of the difficulties presented by the 24 hour job of motherhood especially of little ones. You just do the best you can, which is never going to be enough, and then you pray the Lord will forgive you for all you can't do and ask Him to make up for the rest.

Right now, I wake to silence. There has been ample time for prayer lately. And there has been ample need too. I wake up every morning and orient myself to my reality. I lay in bed thinking in circles. 

"I hate the silence. How can I do this? This is real. She is gone. There will be no cry any minute. Okay. I can do this. It is not as bad as it was at first. It took me almost 30 seconds after I woke up to remember today. I have to do this. I have three beautiful girls to raise. Yes. I have three wonderful beautiful girls. I am blessed. So blessed. I am so grateful for them. And I am grateful to have had Camille too. Geez, how I miss her. Yes, there is the silence. This is real. This is my life now. Keep focused Stephanie. Firm up your mind. Don't let it go back there. Don't think back to that day. Keep it in today. Today I need to get Sabrina up for school. Today I have bills to pay. I need to get up. Where is my waking cry?"

This ring of thought goes on for a few minutes. Then I finally roll out of bed and if it is early (before 7:30) I pray right then. If it is 7:30 or later I go climb in bed with Sabrina to wake her up so she can get ready for school. She is slow to wake. When she is alert, I challenge her to a race to dress, pray, make beds, and head downstairs. 

I then head to my closet. By the time I get my contacts in and get dressed, Sabrina is finished and heads downstairs for breakfast. Then I take a few minutes to pray in my closet and beg for strength to make it through the day.

I read scriptures to the girls while they eat breakfast and we say a family prayer whenever Jon can get a break and come out of the office to join us. 

At night, I pray just before crawling in bed. Everyone else is usually asleep. I am usually tired. But that is the time I need the prayers the most. Some nights I pray in my closet so I can cry without waking up Jon. On really bad nights, I go to Camille's room to pray. 

In the quiet stillness of the night, I can often feel the heavenly presence of ministering angels when I need them most. Last night, laying on the bed in Camille's room, holding her blanket and praying, they were there. Generations of women who knew my pain, who lived my pain in their own lives, filled the room. I felt them there with their daughters. Empathizing with my current pain and strengthening my faith and hope for the future.

How do I pray? I think the Lord hears and answers all prayers no matter how you pray, but this is how I pray. When possible, I kneel as a sign of humility and reverence. I close my eyes and bow my head. Then, I start with "Dear Heavenly Father." Then I thank Him for the blessings of my life. I speak out loud or think the words in my head depending on if I am alone. Next, I ask for the spiritual and temporal blessings I desire and I think will be in line with His will. Included in this part is asking both for forgiveness, grace, and the ability to forgive. I express my feelings to Him just as I would if He were right in front of me and we were having a conversation. I express my love and gratitude again, listening in my heart and mind for thoughts or impressions that are not mine. Then I close "in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

I hope that answers your question Julie. We just pray when we can and keep a prayer always in our hearts. The Lord knows our limitations. When we need to pray the most, we find a way. Even if it means locking ourselves in the bathroom for our own "time out." Thank you again everyone for all your prayers. I feel their strength. 

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Changes at Church

This weekend is our stake conference. Last stake conference our stake and another stake were split to create a third stake. That left our stake with very uneven wards. Some, like ours were bursting at the seems. Others were struggling to fill callings. So last night changes in boundaries were announced for every ward in our stake except one. 

The changes were drastic for our ward, and today I am sad. About 60% of our ward and a small section of another ward were made into a new ward. Another 25% of our ward was put into three other wards. That left our little community and one community next to us and some condos to be in our ward. To compensate for all the people lost, the stake has added a new section homes that are just around the mountain. 

We kept the same ward name and bishop. But have lost pretty much every other presidency. My kids will not have anyone left from their primary classes. I teach the 14 and 15 year old girls. We have lost all the other leaders in the young women's and all the 14 and 15 year old girls. 

Even though the name of the ward and the bishop is the same, this is going to feel more like a "new" ward than the new ward across the street. I am sad to be in a different ward from so many many wonderful friends. While I am sure I will stay friends with many of them, it just is different when you don't see each other on Sundays.

As for all the new people to meet, normally, I would be very excited about this. I am a people person. I love meeting new people. In college I moved almost every semester so I could meet new people and have new roommates to love. I still keep in touch with many of my former roommates. 

But my life is not totally normal anymore, and I am not fully normal again yet. We are not even fully to that "new" normal yet. Meeting new people right now often means dropping the bomb on them. It is really one of the dreaded moments for us, when we have to inform someone about the fact that we actually do have one more child and she recently passed away. It makes for a very awkward moment. They don't know what to say and neither do we after such a devastating disclosure. 

Life is full of changes and many of them make us sad and uncomfortable. But they always make us grow. I do look forward to the growth if not the growing pains.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Simple Gifts

My wife is at "Time out for Women" today and asked me to write for her. I don't have a lot to say today. I have been experimenting with various methods today on how to motivate your children to cleap up. So far, I have had limited success. I guess I've had a couple things on my mind lately, so I'll share.


1. Heavenly Sent Carpet Cleaner

In cleaning the house, I am reminded of a gem of a carpet cleaner I stumbled upon in the grocery store. One day in search of a decent carpet cleaner and being the penny pincher I am I picked up what I thought was a generic brand cleaner due to the boring label on the cleaner. Turns out, this cleaner is AMAZING and I guess it's not a generic.



Spray and wipe--that simple. It's called Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover. Anyhow, I challenge anyone to find a better carpet cleaner. Or at the least compare this one to the one you have. They should be paying me to babble on and on about how good this thing is. But hey, the thing works and most carpet cleaners don't. So there.

2. Heavenly Sent Wife

I would just like to say how awesome Stephanie is. I know, how trite is it for spouses to wax on and on about how wonderful their significant other is?? Well, it might be trite for the reader but too bad. I haven't really said much on the subject so here goes: My wife is as wonderful as she seems in her comments. She inherited two wonderful traits from her father: 1) a big heart and 2) not easily offended. Both of these traits have been necessary in tolerating her husband. From the posts, you might think she is an emotional wreck. She is not. She is human and grieves but is not as emotionally unstable as many women I have met in my time. While at times I have to lift her up emotionally, she does the same for me. That's part of any healthy relationship. Another of her talents is the tenacity to get the job done. When she puts her mind to anything, she gives her all, doesn't cut corners and does a fantastic job. I suppose she inherited that trait from her mother, who is always super prepared whenever asked to do a task. These are just a few things I thought I'd put down and there are many others. Perhaps I'll bore you later with more details?? I know what I do when reading others' ravings about their spouse, I just skip over it. That's OK, I'm just putting it down for posterity's sake.


3. Heavenly Sent Daughters

How crazy is it that I was entrusted with raising, crafting, molding one of Heaven's souls? Sometimes I think it is too much trust God places in me. Think about how many ills and woes are caused in this world simply by poor parenting. I'm not trying to sober you up here, just marvelling at the simple idea of it. At the same time, there is a lot of teaching that comes the other way. My daughters are wonderful in their own right and their simple love helps me to remember what is most important. They help to keep me on the straight and narrow. My wife asked me to blog a couple times, I believe, for a little comic relief. While I'm probably not that terribly funny in real life, IMHO (I'm getting used to this InternetSpeak) I think I write better than I speak. Therefore, I might have given you the erroneous impression that I'm funny. Sorry about that. So on a serious note, I thought I'd write a little about Camille. I kind of wonder what keeps my wife writing every day about her. I know that part of it is to keep a record of her. Another part is to keep her alive through daily ruminations. But also, we all grieve in different ways. I miss my daughter terribly. Every morning, my wife would stick her head in the door and the giggles of anticipation and the smile on her little face would absolutely brighten up my day. I miss that most of all. However, I tend to avoid the pain. I do not want to forget her, but at the same time I do not want to feel that DEEP pain that accompanies the intimate, loving thoughts of her. I guess every now and then is good and even healthy but I just could not do it every day. I also have three lovely, wonderful daughters that require my attention (they tell me every 5 minutes, actually).


4. Heavenly Sent Savior

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

Well, I guess to tie up my random thoughts and in preparation for tomorrow, it's important to give praise and honor to our Savior. He has made eternal, true joy possible. Just like that wonderful carpet cleaner I put to use today, may we use his perfectly potent atonement in washing away our pain/sorrow/sins.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Grocery Store

Today I went grocery shopping. I filled my basket to the brim with ingredients to prepare the culinary delights that lazily came to mind as I strolled down each aisle. All the makings for a great sandwich, a taco night dinner, snacks for kids, snacks for me, another attempt at perfecting my crab and shrimp wantons, pesto for the pea pine nut pasta salad. Finally when there was no more room in my cart, I headed to the check out lane.

I piled the groceries onto the conveyer belt and made pleasant small talk with the checker. She was a kind lady. She saw some items that I did not have coupons for and pulled coupons from under her desk to let me use. I appreciated her friendly familiar demeanor. 

I was anxious to get home to eat. I was hungry. It seemed to take forever to get all my goods on the belt. I have about 20 yogurts. That means lots of back and forth bending to get them up to the checker. I make sure I put the bread and chips up last so they don't get squished. I try to put the refrigerated things near each other in hopes they will be in the same bag and make unpacking easier. I am focused on the task of my hands. Finally my cart is empty.

I went to my wallet to pull out my club card for the store and my credit card. It took me a little while to find the club card in the middle of all those pieces of plastic. I had to pull them all out to thumb through them to find it. All the while, I am making small talk with the checker. 

Out of the corner of my mind, I remember doing this same thing for the first time after Camille died-grocery shopping. Back then my every thought was of my loss. I wondered how the checker could not know my story by just looking at my face. I felt like a walking ghost, interacting with the living, but not a part of their world. 

Every aisle was a reminder of something I didn't need to buy anymore. Every face was that of someone who didn't understand that I had a whole right through my center. Every moment of conversation was tainted with the fear of someone mentioning my children and bringing the tears pouring inside to the surface. 

This morning, I remembered all of that and thought, "Wow, I haven't once thought while this checker is chatting with me about how she doesn't know what has happened. I haven't once marveled that life seems so normal to her."

Maybe life is getting a little more "normal" for me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How to Treat a Friend Who Has Suffered a Loss -- Part 3

I have had some requests for an updated post on this subject. And being three months down the road of grief, the road is different here. My needs are different here. I have been hesitant to put down in writing how to treat someone a little further out because I am not sure what the right answers are. I am not sure there even are "right" answers. I am not always sure how I want people to treat me. You can see how confusing this subject can be.

But, once again, I will try to stick to things I think are generally universally appreciated and then let you know about the things that are more specific to me.

We are now at the point where the mail is full of bills and junk once again. Our loss is not the subject of every conversation we have. The weight of the grief is not as constant as it was in the beginning. We are stronger in our bearing of it than we were.

Still there are waves of grief that come over us with great intensity. They are far less frequent but they still come in unexpected moments. These waves can seem even more intense than those waves did in the early days. And when they do come, we suffer them more privately than we did before.

No one can anticipate these waves. Only the Lord knows when they will hit. So for the woman who wanted to know what to do for a person she visit teaches or a close friend, live worthy of and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Pray for this friend and when you pray for her ask if there is anything you can do that she needs that day. This is probably the only universally right answer for what to do for someone who has suffered a loss. 

At this point in the road, I don't want to talk about my loss in every conversation. I also don't want to feel I can't talk about Camille. I love talking about Camille. I am less interested in talking about the loss of her. So it really takes listening to the Spirit to determine if today is that day your friend needs something done for her.

So let's say you feel it is a day she needs something. Now what to do? Again this probably varies greatly depending on the person. I do think there are some pretty safe things you can do that will be fairly universally appreciated.

First, show or express love. If you are going to see her that day, reach out and give her a hug. I have one friend who has given me a tight quick hug every time I have seen her since the accident. It always makes me feel better. If you don't have plans to see her, drop her an email or text, or flowers, or a card that just says, "I was thinking about you today and wanted to let you know that I love you and I still pray for you." You don't need to bring up the loss. Just express love and support. These little love notes can be so helpful on those days we feel swept away by a wave of grief.

Second, I have found it very difficult to deal with all this extra time I have. I have little motivation to get out and fill it with classes or jobs or whatever. I still have Lauren to tend all day. But tending a 3 year old is much less work than tending a 1 year old. I don't want to feel committed to being somewhere everyday to fill the extra time. Somedays, I still need a little time to myself. But I wish I had more spontaneous beneficial time fillers.

So, call your friend up and ask her to go out to lunch, go on a walk, or to a movie. Even better, ask her to serve. Serving brings blessings and it makes us feel good. We need to be sensitive to the type of service we ask our friend to do. You don't want to ask a person who lost a baby to come babysit your kids unless you know her REALLY well and she has told you she wants to do that. For many grieving mothers, it is hard to be around kids the age of the kids they lost.

Still asking the grieving mother to make a meal for someone or to visit the elderly or to make humanitarian kits is a great way to give her opportunities for service. And if she doesn't want to do it, give her a way to say "Thanks, but no. I am not up for that today."

That is about it for my tips on what you can do for someone at this point on the road. I haven't hit any big anniversaries yet like a birthday or holiday. I am sure those will take some extra love and support to get through. I hope this helps for now. 




Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Writing a Book

All day yesterday, when I would ask Annie to do something she would respond with, "Mom, I can't right now. I am writing my book and I am right in the middle of a page. I need to finish." She decided to write her own book. 

Last night she finished it. She brought it to me and read it to me. I would like to share it. It is her way of working through her emotions about Camille's death. And I think the ending is encouraging and very wise.

I kept her original spelling. She is only five and just started kindergarten this month. So I have translated in italics in case you can't figure out what she meant. She drew pictures of each of scene which I will describe also in italics. She made this book entirely on her own and without any input or ideas or encouragement from me. I think she is wonderful.

When Meells Diede
When Meelies Died
by Annie

This is when meeles diede.
This is when Meelies died. A picture of Meelies in the spa face down and Annie and Daddy next to the spa with frowny faces.

This is when the polees came.
This is when the police came. A picture of our house, the driveway, the street and the police car on the street.

This is us white Kaite.
This is us with Kaitie. A picture of my friend Kaitie who was staying with us that day in the playroom with the girls. 
 
This is us in the car white Akite.
This is us in the car with Kaitie. After I left for the hospital, Kaitie took the girls out. The picture is all of them sitting in the car.

This is us at the store.
They went to McDonald's for dinner. A picture of all of them at McDonald's.

This is us back at the hawos dansing.
This is us back at the house dancing. A picture of the girls in the playroom dancing with Kaitie.

We wr sad she whos gon.
We were sad she was gone. A picture of the three girls with frowning faces.

But we stil like uor famly.
But we still like our family. A picture of the three girls smiling.

But we stil love Hvnel Fotheer.
But we still love Heavenly Father. A picture of clouds with hearts in the clouds and Heavenly Father in the clouds smiling. See photo of that picture below.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My Answers

Well, I was planning on only answering one question this week. But there are more than one that I feel need to be addressed. So, I will get to as many as I can tonight and if I don't hit yours today, I still may get to it in the future. Some of those questions deserve their own post.

Question: To the woman who recently went through the temple and is having marital problems and feels she has no one to whom she can talk. What would I do in your shoes? 

My Answer: First, I think you should know that you can go to your bishop to discuss options. He is there to help you. You can always go to him for the spiritual and temporal guidance you need. Second and very important, in your comment you said your husband has begun to "hurt" you. Now there are lots of ways to be hurt. If you were referring to physical hurt, I would call my bishop, pack up my kids and get out. Another reader put up a hotline number. That is a great resource. I do not treat divorce lightly. I think there are very few reasons that people SHOULD get divorced. Physical abuse is definitely one of them. If you are being physically abused you should not stay in the relationship especially if you have children. It not only puts them at risk of being hurt by your spouse but it teaches them that such treatment is acceptable and it is not. 

If by "hurt" you meant your feelings are being hurt, I would read the book "The Peacegiver" by James Ferrell. It helped me to overcome bad feelings from a hurtful relationship I had. Again I would talk to my bishop if I needed more help, which it sounded like you did. Then you can lay the whole thing out to him and get more sound advice than from someone like me who only knows your situation from a few sentences in a comment. May the Lord bless and guide you.

Next question -- Have I thought about having another baby? Thanks for the worry **tif**. I know for some this is a very personal question but I am pretty open about such things so I was not offended in the least by the question.  

My Answer: I have always wanted about 6 kids. Immediately following Camille's accident when I was still struggling with the "how could I have let this happen" question, I thought perhaps I would never have more children. I hate to admit I felt that way but I am just being real here. But, I came to realize rather quickly that those thoughts were not from the Lord. As I realized that it was the Lord's will that Camille return home and as I became more sure of my feelings that it was her time and drowning was only the means, my feelings changed. I also talked to other moms who have lost children and had babies after who said it was a great healing event for them. 

By the time Jon and I left the hospital we were more baby hungry than we had ever been. It wasn't that we were anxious to replace Camille. That is not possible. But, babies bring so much joy to a home and we need that kind of joy. I am still not sure of the timing, however. I am nervous about introducing pregnancy hormones into my life when I am so emotionally unstable as it is. Ultimately, I trust the Lord and that He will make it happen when it will be right for our family. And to the person directing me to Molly and Vic, we are friends and talk a few times a week on the computer. Thanks.

Question: Did I have premonitions/promptings? 

My Answer: No more than I have had with each of my other kids. I did have that dream the night before but didn't remember it till I saw her in the spa. That day I had not a single prompting. It was as if there were radio silence from heaven. I think it is natural to worry about something happening to your kids. But whether it is simply worry or a premonition, well that is just impossible to know unless the Spirit is pretty explicit. 

In Camille's baby blessing, it was stated that she would have a "special circumstance" to go through in her life. I remember thinking, "hmm that didn't sound good." I asked Jon about it after and he said he wasn't sure what it was just that there was something she was going to have to go through. I remembered that and often held her a little longer before putting her down just at the thought of her getting hurt in some way. But, I never thought I would lose her so soon. No, that was no where in my realm of possibilities.

Question: Can God's will be changed by prayer?

My Answer: No. But people can be healed by prayers. We do not pray to change God's will. Even the Savior in the Garden did not do that. We pray to discover God's will, and align our will with His. 

So then if God is just going to do His will no matter what, why pray? No one asked that but it is the natural leading question. Prayers do have power. The prayer of faith has power to heal if it is not contrary to God's will. The key word there is "contrary." For some things the Lord has his will set. For Camille, I believe it was His will for her to return home. I felt that. Even in trying to pray with faith, I had a hard time having faith that she WOULD be healed because I did not feel the confirming Spirit that it was God's will for that to happen. I feel there was faith sufficient in all the prayers for her that she would have been healed had it not been her time to go.

Let me give another example. There was a time my freshman year of college when I got sick. I have asthma and an attack I had turned into pneumonia.  My roommates asked if I wanted a blessing. I said no. I figured why would it be God's will to heal me? I didn't think I had the faith necessary for such a miracle. I determined I would just stick it out and get better the old fashioned way -- by suffering through it. Two days later my roommates returned home from church to find me in the fetal position on the bathroom floor. I had been dry heaving and coughing for hours. They took matters into their own hands and called our home teachers whether I liked it or not. As I waiting for them to arrive. I did some serious soul searching and praying. I wanted to be healed. I did not feel it was God's will that I needed to suffer this sickness but I was unsure I had the faith to make the miracle happen. So I prayed. I prayed for faith sufficient to heal. The home teachers arrived. My roommate said a prayer and the Spirit filled the room. My home teachers gave me a blessing and immediately I felt hungry and the nausea was gone. I went to the doctors the next day and there were no signs of the pneumonia they had diagnosed 3 days earlier. I was healed. 

The moral of the story is, if I hadn't prayed and gotten that blessing I am sure the Lord would not have healed me. My healing was not contrary to His will but it was also not essential to His will.  I think there are LOTS of blessings waiting for us that are only dependent upon our asking for them in faith. 

In a case of life or death, there is scripture HERE on the point. Note verses 43-52 especially 48. It basically says that those who are appointed to die will not be healed but those not appointed to die can go either way depending on prayers of faith. 

This has gotten to be a lengthy post. I will end with a few quick answers.

Breaking Dawn was entertaining but ultimately a let down for me. I needed more sacrifice. It ended too pretty to me. I wanted a good fight.
I am glad Josh won SYTYCD. I liked him and thought he danced well. I am still ticked that Will was voted off though.
Shanan, ANYTIME!
Uncle Aaron is super cute? TRUE
And Catherine: Red, Mint Choc. Chip Baskin Robbins Ice Cream, superman, don't have one, my jeans, Hawaii, lemon tart at Bouchon, rear view camera, These Is My Words by Nancy Turner, my bed. I am going there now. 

Good night!


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wrong Number

I have been feeling the weight of sorrow on my chest tonight. Jon has been doing his best to pull me out of the funk but some nights a girl just needs a good cry. Tonight may be one of those nights. 

I taught the young women in church today. The subject was the worth of souls. In one section it was suggested I have a young mother with a baby come tell about her love for her baby and the worth of her child to her. Instead I talked about my girls, why I have flowers for them, and what each flower means. I talked about how I love each of them differently but equally. Most of all, I tried to convey to the girls how much each child individually means to a parent. 

Many times when I speak, especially to the young women, I am able to hold it together. Today was not one of those days. It was not the easiest lesson to give for that reason, but I think the girls felt the love and got the point. 

We also just received the DVD with all the video we have of Camille. My brother in law Aaron and his wife Carolyn made it for us. We watched it today. It is wonderfully done. Still, it is pitiful how little video we have of just Camille. It is the curse of being the fourth kid. Parents don't video you turning over or making cute noises so much if you are fourth. Most of the clips only have Camille in the background. There are only two with her as the star. Her birthday party is one and she seems overwhelmed through most of it. The other is her climbing into the cup drawer. It is priceless to me.

Watching the video I was so sad to realize we do not have her laugh recorded. I miss her laugh. I can hardly remember it now. That just kills me.

Then to top the night off, as we were playing Clue as a family tonight I got a phone call. The person on the other end asked "Is Cami there?" 

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"Is Cami there?" she repeated.

Inside I was thinking, "Yes, there is a Cami here. Or there was. There should be." Instead I had to reply, "I think you have the wrong number." It shouldn't be a wrong number if they ask for Cami, but it is now. Yes, sometimes reality sneaks up and bites.

Enough of this downer day. I am off to bed. I will leave you with one of my favorite poems for dark and dreary days.
The Rainy Day
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the moldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Questions?

Uncle Aaron teaching Jon and Camille how to solve a Rubik's Cube. 
I love the concentrating face Camille has in this photo.

I am thinking of doing a once a week post to respond to questions posed in comments. I have done this a few times like yesterday. But as questions are not regularly posted in comments, it has not been a regular feature. 

So I would like to gauge the interest in a once a week post to answer or at least give you my thoughts on your questions or subjects of interest.

So if you have been lurking this blog and there has been something you have wondered or wanted to ask but felt uncomfortable asking, here is your chance. This is an official call for questions. 

I will tell you I am fairly unoffendable. I will not promise to answer every question. If I don't feel comfortable with the question I won't respond to it. But it probably won't offend me that you asked it. 

I only ask that everyone avoid asking more details than I have already disclosed about the actual events that led to Camille's accident. I just can't relive those again by discussing them and I have reasons for keeping them private. 

Also, the questions can be on subjects I have not previously addressed in my posts. And I am sure my husband would be willing to guest post an answer if there is a question out there for him or that he is better suited to answer. And if you want to know how to solve a Rubix Cube ... well we can get you in touch with Uncle Aaron in the photo above.

I look forward to seeing what is on your minds. Loves, Stephanie

Friday, September 12, 2008

Understanding Love and Fear

An Anonymous Commenter on the last post wrote the following, "Thank you for this post. I love the precious picture, and the sweet sentiment. You posted before about there is no fear in love. I have thought about it since the first time you posted about it, and realize I don't quite understand what that means. I fear several things, and losing one of my children is the main one. Does this mean I don't love them enough? Does it mean not to worry- there is a plan for all of us, so we don't need to fear? I'm sorry to ask these questions to you, but you seem to understand the concept, better than I."

For what they are worth, here are my thoughts on the subject. Perfect faith and fear cannot occupy the same space. Fear is not of the Lord. I do not have a perfect understanding of this concept because it seems logical that with great love there should be great fear of loss. But perfect love is Eternal. It does not die. It does not fade. It fills us with hope and ... well love. When we are filled with this love there simply is no fear in us. Imagine being in the presence of the Savior and his perfect love. If your love for Him is also perfect there should be no fear in your heart. There would just be so much love that there would be no room left for fear or doubt. I can only say that when my heart attached to that PURE love that I knew I had for Camille and my family, all the fear left me. The fear was the worst part of the experience. When we have perfect faith in the Lord and his plan for us, we feel his perfect love and there simply is no fear. We know all will be well, even if things turn out contrary to our desires. I do not think you do not love your kids enough. I think you are just human like the rest of us and do not have the perfect faith required to eliminate all fear of losing them. I do not fear losing my children anymore. I did before. I am not sure why this changed. Maybe because from this side of that experience I know how eternal the love is and how eternal the family bonds are. I don't want to feel this pain again and would fight to not have to feel it. But I know the Lord will not give me more than I can handle. I know His plan. I feel daily of His perfect love. When I keep focused on that, even in the painful moments of sorrow at the separation, there just isn't any room for fear.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Feeling the Love

Lauren, Sabrina, and Ann Marie loving each other. Note the hand hold.

One of my greatest fears in those dark days in the hospital tending the lifeless body of my baby girl was the thought of going home. How could I go home without her there? How could I leave her? The two times I left the hospital to try to get some sleep I went to my sister's house. I just couldn't go home. 

Sunday, before we turned off the machines, my brother gave me a blessing. In it he quoted a scripture with which I was unfamiliar. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear" 1 John 4: 18.  I felt a warm feeling of assurance come over me. Love was not something lacking in my heart or in my life or in my home. Love was like the air around me. It surrounded me and was keeping me alive breath by breath. 

I thought of my girls and how much love my girls and how much all of us loved Camille. And suddenly I was no longer afraid to go home. I knew as long as our home was filled with that love, Camille would always be there, in our home, in the love.

The past three months, I have stressed the need for our home to be filled with love. This is not always easy. Kids fight. They get tired and grumpy and they bicker. Sometimes even the big people get tired and grumpy  and bicker too. But there has definitely been more love in our home lately. 

I often find my girls being incredibly loving with each other. It brings me the joy I am seeking in my life. I found them all laying on each other in the photo above a couple weeks ago. I love the picture. I love those girls. And I love that they love each other. 

I know I have talked about this before but I think it is worth the repeat because it is so easy to lose sight of the need for love to fill our homes. Life so easily distracts us. Like the other day when Lauren was climbing up on me for the hundredth time while I was trying to type something. Frustrated and annoyed, I finally asked her, "Why are you doing this? Why do you always have to sit on me?"

Her simple response brought me back and reminded me about what is important. 

"Because I love you, Mama," she said. Love is really what it is all about.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Finding Joy



"I am so happy!" Lauren says to me today. This girl just exudes happiness. She is the most happy, laughing, giggly girl I have ever known. She often reminds me of my paternal grandmother. In fact, I often can almost hear Grandma Harris laughing from beyond the veil at this little girl with all her giggles.

I am a thinker. My mind always is pondering something or other. Lately, I have pondered quite a bit about finding joy amid grief. I want to let myself feel all the emotions that pass over me so I can let them go, but I also do not want to dwell on the sorrow and grief. I do not want Camille, and especially not her death, to be the overwhelming focus of my life.

I figure there will come a time and season when she will be the most glorious sole focus of my life. I anticipate that day like you can only imagine if you have not lost a child. But I have three other daughters here and now. I don't want to cheat them out of their mother's attention and focus on top of the loss they are already feeling. 

So today as I was driving, I was thinking about how I want to model my own life for them to follow. I want them to be able to feel sad and cry when they need to let that emotion out. But, I mostly want them to feel joy -- real, honest, heart bursting joy. I think it is hard for them to feel that if I don't. The mama sets the tone in the home. 

Feeling more honest joy is something I am going to be working on. I just need to make my mind more firmly focused on the numerous and overwhelming blessings in my life to feel that joy. It is totally doable, if I can just focus my mind.

So today the girls and I watched a movie together and Lauren "held" me through all the scary parts to protect me. It was really cute. Then when the movie ended she exclaimed in pure joy with arms spread wide "I am so happy!" At that moment, I felt that pure joy emanating from her little self like a heat wave. I love you my Lauren. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Shoppin Time

After a long day at work, I was summoned to the boss’s office (i.e. my DW, or “dear wife” for those of you new to the world wide webs). She informed me that I would be guest blogging today. As my role in life is to help, nay, serve the every whim and wish of her and her little minions, I acquiesced and said, “yes maam” while mumbling something about needing to see some show on the DVR list.

So here I am.

Ummm…. So now what?

Oh, right. Time for a fashion hot tip. I believe someone in my last entry suggested that bloggers give fashion tips. Below is a surefire way for the guys to catch the ladies. This dashing ensemble was put together to woo my DW back in the single days.



Now where to buy you are likely asking yourself? From the DI. No, not your Dear Idiot, but the Deseret Industries. Or Salvation Army. Or Thrift Store. OK, I did find a decent website HERE for all your leisure suit needs.

OK, while I’m on the subject, every commenter to this post must put (in your opinion) what you believe the HOT, NOW place to shop is. It can be on the Internet or in the mall. That’s the fun part about my job – I track where people spend their money and what they are buying, etc. etc. However, since I’m fashion blind (or perhaps a trendsetter in a leisure suit??) I usually rely on people like my sister (her chic shopping tips are found
HERE) for what is cutting edge and possibly soon to be adopted by the masses. So indulge me with your thoughts, if you don’t mind.


Now, in these uncertain economic times you might be tempted to reply Wal-Mart or Target or Costco. These responses are off-limits. I know, the high price of everything has brought America to its knees and the average citizen can no longer rely on the price of his/her house to pay for that $400 handbag from Coach. We all know that few are going to Saks and Neiman these days. We’re going to lunch with the kids at Costco from the food handed out by old ladies in white hair nets. It’s a surprise every time! OK, OK I admit that might just be me because I’m too lazy to make Easy Crack, I mean, Easy Mac for the girls. In any case, Wal-mart/target/costco are obvious choices – too obvious.

Happy shopping!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Conversation with Sabrina

I don't have many photos of Sabrina holding Camille, but it was a daily occurrence around our house. Sabrina loved to tote Camille around on her hip like a little Mama. I think that is what Sabrina misses most is holding her baby sister. 

This morning I was having some alone time with Sabrina. I asked her if she ever felt mad that Camille isn't with us here anymore. 

"Mad?" she asked. "No. Not mad. But I do miss her." Then she began to tell me about a show she watched that reminded her of Camille. "I was watching Franklin the other day," she said. "And in it Harriett had a blue blanket that Franklin had given to her. It was to make her feel better when she was sad or hurt. Well in the show, Harriett and a little boy named Kit got hurt at the playground and Harriett got a Bandaid for her scrape. Then she went to visit Kit and make sure he was okay. He had sprained his ankle. Harriett gave Kit her special blanket to help him feel better while his ankle hurt. Then when Kit felt better he gave the blanket back to Harriett.

"It reminded me of two things about Camille. First, it reminded me of the magic blanket that someone gave us to feel better when we miss Camille. Also, it made me think that Harriett is like Jesus and Kit is like Camille and the blanket was like her life. Jesus gave life to Camille and when she didn't need it anymore she gave it back," Sabrina concluded. "I thought of those things and then I just couldn't help but cry," she finished.

What insight for a sweet seven year old girl to have. I just had to record her deep thoughts for my own record of this time in our lives. Thanks again for the magic blanket, Wallaces. And thank you forever for Camille's life, Jesus.