July 27, 2015

Day 10- A Passing

Todd's Aunt Marilyn has lived with his parents for years.  She was a beautiful, saintly woman completely paralyzed by MS.  Marilyn was a truely refined lady.  She looked regal in her hospital bed and had wise eyes.  Her spirit was so strong and in stark contrast to the weak physical body that enclosed it.

Marilyn died yesterday.

There is such peace and comfort in her passing.  Yet, there is also deep sorrow for all she had to endure and how we will miss her presence in our lives.  Marilyn was loved by many.

She was in her early thirties when she was first diagnosed with MS.  Her husband left her to raise her three children on her own despite great physical disabilities.  Her siblings really stepped in and have cared for her over the years.  It was beautiful to watch.

My in-laws were such good examples to me as they shared their home and their lives with her and her family.  I know they made her last years good years.

As death came closer, Marilyn was in and out of consciousness.  She had a difficult time saying anything and could barely keep her eyes open.  Sunday morning she was struggling to even breathe.

I was in the room when her brothers came to give her her last Priesthood blessing.  You could feel the goodness and power they humbly held as they walked into the room.  Marilyn felt it too.  Her breathing calmed and as they surrounded her bed, she opened her eyes so wide.  She wanted us to know she was there!
It was beautiful.

It was beautiful watching the love these siblings had for each other.  It was beautiful watching her children caring for her.  It was beautiful and sad watching this strong spirit taking leave from it's weak body.  I could feel Heaven's veil thin and I know her family was near on both sides of the veil.

I am so grateful that we were here to experience this beautiful death and that we will be here for her funeral.

Death is inevitable.
Sometimes death is a gift.
I know that death is not the end.
And, I hope that when the time comes, my sisters and brothers and children are surrounding me.

I hope I can live as nobly as Aunt Marilyn has.
I know I will see her again and I know she is happy.

Life is good.
Death is good.
Today is a gift.

Day 9- Bridge Jumping

We went with Todd's cousins to jump off a bridge in St Anthony.

It was SO fun and so beautiful.

I am the oldest in my mother's family.  I married young and had eight children.  My children are so much older than any kids in my family.  And so, I really treasure these vacations where my kids are surrounded by cousins!
Idaho is so beautiful!
And, rivers are SO fun.

But the best part is just being together with good, good people.

It is SO fun to talk to Todd's cousins.

I'm so glad that I was here for this day.

Oh, life is beautiful!  People are good!
Honestly, I think I married Idaho.

My happy-go-lucky, kind-hearted, bridge jumping husband is just an Idaho guy.
How can I not love it here?
(I think he loves outspoken, kind-hearted New Yorkers for the same reason I love these people.)

Idaho you have my heart.

Day 8- Friends

We ate lunch with the married children of some of our dearest friends from Oregon.

It is impossible for me to believe that we only lived in Oregon for two years and that I was in the hospital or on bed rest for most of the last year. These boys were away at college or on missions, and yet they still feel like my beloved nephews.  

What a great time of life!  They are both newlywed and still trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up.

Can I tell you something?  Mormons absolutely have this marriage thing right!!

Because we believe in a Law of Chastity which means we have no sexual relations with another person unless we are legally and lawfully married, and because we believe that marriage and "family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children."  We marry young and we have short engagements.

This may sound judgemental, but I feel like LDS weddings are REAL beginnings. 

LDS weddings are what marriages used to be.  Two people starting out life together.  Because they have nothing, their weddings are simple and beautiful.  They really NEED wedding gifts.  They are two virgins who use their honeymoon to get to know each other.  

LDS weddings are in stark contrast to the Reality TV images of "Say Yes to the Dress" and "Bridezilla".  They are not a worldly show of money and glamour.  They are beautiful.  

There is SUCH beauty in starting out life together.  Marriage as a beginning is so much more than marriage as a seal-the-deal after we've lived together for five years.  

Isn't it hard to believe that we are now the old advice givers?

I love college-age kids!

This is a picture of me with my dearest friend, Taneil.  We were together in BYU married student housing and we have talked almost weekly over the past 16 years.  My oldest was born a day before her second child, and we also had our last babies (my eighth and her seventh) just one day apart.  (Even though she was originally due three months before me.)

We are so very different and so similar!  Our souls are melded.  I love this lady!  I love her children.  I love her husband.  I'm SO grateful for her touch in my life.

For years we talked every Tuesday while we have cleaned our homes.  (Somehow her clean has always been more effective than mine!)  Those conversations are holy spaces in my life.

I love that our children are becoming good friends and I'm still trying to get her to send her kids out to my mini-farm for a visit.

We spent the night at their home and it was lovely.  She is lovely.  Friendship is lovely.

We both have had really large struggles in our lives. Our journey has had ups and downs.  It still does.  But, oh there is joy in walking through life with someone.

I'm grateful I was married young.
I love the journey we have taken together.
I'm grateful for friends!!  
Life is good!! 
Friends make life good.

Day 8- Home

Todd smiled as we drove into the Teton Valley and said, "This place feels like home."

I can't describe to you my feelings for Rexburg, Idaho and the good people who live here.  We were dating the first time Todd brought me to meet his family. His parents grew up in Sugar City, Idaho- home of the sugar beet mascot.  His grandparents were farmers and educators.

In fact, BYU-I, formerly Ricks College, was named after Thomas E. Ricks (Todd's great-great grandfather).

I was quite an oddity when we first visited (I still am if the truth be told).  We watched a John Wayne movie together with Todd's cousins.  Halfway through I asked who John Wayne was and whether or not he was a good or a bad guy.

I hugged and kissed Todd's aunts AND UNCLES.  They were shocked.  I guess these farmer-types don't kiss like my New Jersey Italian family does.  Ha!

When they talked about Provo, Utah being a town so big and far away, I laughed.  They weren't joking.  Oops.

My in-laws had their hands full with me.  It was a rocky, somewhat humorous beginning.

I know that I dreamed of feeling at home with these people, and today I do.  These are our people and they are so, so good.

I wish each of you could come to my in-laws home.  It's perfect.  My mother-in-law is honestly the most balanced person I know.  Her house is in order.  She is able to serve because her foundation is steady.  I actually go into a slight daze when I get here and compare her home to mine.

She insists I will feel greater order as my kids get older, but I know it is deeper than that.  She has an absolute contentment in her role as a wife, homemaker, and mother.  She is so healthy mentally.  It is really neat to watch.

My mother-in-law is a planner and a doer.  Her home is not fancy or trendy, but it is so tidy and functional and well cared for.

I believe this Rexburg home feels like a temple.  This is hard to do with 35 grandchildren running around.  But, they do it.  I believe these people "Live after the manner of happiness."

In a day and age where good families are rare and rapidly disentegrating- I wish everyone could feel this home, this community.

Jakob has been spending his summer months here.  I'm so grateful that he knows these people.  He is one of them.

Todd grew up in CA, MI, and MD.  Whenever life got crazy (like during the Detroit riots), his mom would say, "I wish we could all pack up and move to Bitch Crick."  (Mormons like to use bad language when naming places so they have an excuse to cuss every now and then.  Ha!)  I say the same thing.  There is safety out here near Bitch Crick.  

Rexburg feels like home to me.
In fact, Todd and I own burial plots here in the local cemetery.

I was so insecure and defensive when we were engaged.  I remember posting the scripture in Ruth on my wall-
16 And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

It felt like that kind of love was impossible-- and yet here we are. 

For the next few weeks, I will feel so grateful for this respite.  My husband says this place feels like home.  I say, I wish my home felt like this place.

I feel so grateful for home, so grateful for family.
Life is good.

July 25, 2015

Day 7- Martin's Cove

It was the most beautiful day as we pulled into Martin's Cove.

Our family had been sick the night before and we were still a bit queasy.  I think hearing stories of pioneer families stuck in the snow with little food and much sickness was just what we needed to keep our spirits raised.

While the trek West was difficult for almost everyone, two specific handcart companies (the Willie and Martin companies) had a series of unfortunate events causing them to be stuck walking when a harsh winter came.  26% of the people in these handcart companies died.  

Their food was rationed to 4oz of flour per person per day.  

Mostly fathers died.  Fathers often gave their food to their hungry children.  They physically pushed their bodies farther then they could go.  This excerpt from one teenage son's story really touched me.

When Brigham Young heard there were Saints still traveling to the Valley he said, “Many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with hand-carts, … and they must be brought here. … Go and bring in those people now on the plains, and attend strictly to those things which we call temporal, … otherwise your faith will be in vain.” 11

Todd's ancestor, Thomas E. Ricks was amoung the initial rescue group.  
I'm not surprised!  Todd has carried me when I could no longer walk.  I love that my children have his pioneer legacy mixed with my own pioneer legacy.

Although my heart aches for the sacrifice of these early pioneers, I absolutely think that we need their story to inspire us today.  The depth of their sacrifice carved the depth of their testimonies and sealed their families to them.  

Independence Rock-
Just a few miles outside of Martin's Cove is Independence Rock.  If pioneers made it to that rock before July 4, they would make it to Utah before winter.  

They carved their names in the rock.  It was fun to climb and fun to find names carved in. 
We all touched this...
Oh!  I love history.  I love to feel the depth of conviction and sacrifice that these Mormon pioneers had.

I want to be more like them.
If you have a chance, visit Martin's Cove. It is LOVELY.
These places are holy.  Not because of the place, but because of the stories.  Sometimes places or relics help us to know people.  These people in our past actually help to shape our future.

I want my kids to all be part of the initial rescue teams!  I want them to be healthy enough, strong enough, and aware enough that they are called and they are there to help.

Sometimes we all need a lift up.
Life is good when we work together.

July 24, 2015

The Disease of Love

My 35 year old sister in law, and mother of six young children, was diagnosed with breast cancer just as we were preparing to travel West.  She went quickly through initial diagnosis and mastectomy and is now healing up to start chemo while we are still here in Idaho.

Todd's Aunt Marilyn has lived with his parents for many years with MS.  She was recently hospitalized with a UTI and pneumonia.  She seems to me to be hovering weakly between life and death.

As part of a Hope for Accreta support group, my heart is continually wracked as new members share their shock at initial diagnosis and older members suffer through relentless reconstruction and repair surgeries.  Oh, my soul.  I FEEL these mothers.

We just spent one week touring historical sights of early Mormon pioneers who sacrificed so much, too much.

The last time we were here, at my in-laws, I was pregnant and bleeding.  I had not yet been diagnosed with Placenta Accreta.  

I am swimming in my emotions.  My eyes are quick to tear up and my heart is just about to burst.  

Oh, life!!  Life is so precious.   

I have been taught that this life is a time for trial and testing.  

22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. 
23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. 
24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. 
25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi, 2 Nephi 2)

My sister-in-law was told that breast cancer is the disease of love.  She has already felt the love of so many.

Yes!!  I know it.  I have tasted death and I know that suffering carves a place in your soul that makes your capacity to see and feel joy so much stronger.  When you taste death, you are SO grateful for life.  You love and you know you are loved.

But, when you suffer, you know suffering.  

Sometimes my bleeding heart cries to the Heavens-- "Is there no other way?"

I'm so sorry if you are hurting and afraid.  I'm sorry if you're weighed down with worries about health, finances, children, or your future.  I'm sorry if death is near you or one you love.  My kids like to tease that our mortality rate is 100%.  This Earth life is a temporary gift.

We all come to a point in life where we learn to surrender.  

Surrender to your Father in Heaven, He is near, He will give you peace and comfort.

He will consecrate every sacrifice for your gain.  Your family will be blessed.  God is good and His plan for you IS a plan of happiness.

This morning my husband held me as I sobbed for so many.  I'm embarrassed by my emotion.  But, I'm also grateful that I'm feeling this and that I'm not numb to it.  I have great love and with that love comes great sorrow and great joy.

Today, I'm praying for you.
I know He walks near you.
Take His hand!  Feel hope in Christ.
Life is eternal and life is good.
All these things shall be for thy good and shall give thee experience.
I know it.

Today is Pioneer Day.
I'm sad for the Pioneers and also so grateful for them.
They sang-

  1. 1. Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
    But with joy wend your way.
    Though hard to you this journey may appear,
    Grace shall be as your day.
    'Tis better far for us to strive
    Our useless cares from us to drive;
    Do this, and joy your hearts will swell--
    All is well! All is well!
  2. 2. Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
    'Tis not so; all is right.
    Why should we think to earn a great reward
    If we now shun the fight?
    Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
    Our God will never us forsake;
    And soon we'll have this tale to tell--
    All is well! All is well!
  3. 3. We'll find the place which God for us prepared,
    Far away in the West,
    Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
    There the Saints will be blessed.
    We'll make the air with music ring,
    Shout praises to our God and King;
    Above the rest these words we'll tell--
    All is well! All is well!
  4. 4. And should we die before our journey's through,
    Happy day! All is well!
    We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
    With the just we shall dwell!
    But if our lives are spared again
    To see the Saints their rest obtain,
    Oh, how we'll make this chorus swell--
    All is well! All is well!
  5. Text: William Clayton, 1814-1879
    Music: English folk song

    My life was spared to see the Saints their rest obtain.

    And now my soul makes this chorus swell--
    All is well!!  All is well!
    Thank you for sharing your life with me.

    Life is good!!

Room Wanted

Hey friends-
I'm looking for a room to stay near Provo for Education Week.  I'm wondering if anyone has an extra room they would like to lend out to me and one of my good friends for the week of August 17-21?  I waited too long (again) and all the dorms are full.

My husband really wants to send me to Ed Week this year and I have been dragging my feet.  I know how pathetic this sounds-- I'm somewhat of a reluctant vacationer.  

I don't know why it's so hard for me to commit to plans like this- but it is.

I'm still not 100% committed, honestly.  It is HARD for me to leave my family- even with a husband who is practically kicking me out the door.  (My first choice would be a week at home with no kids- doesn't that sound dreamy?) 

I just can't ignore the huge part that BYU Education Week has played in my life over the years.  I always come back so refreshed and recommitted.  Todd's right.  This trip is worth it.  

Does anyone have room for two very nice, bedraggled mothers of many?

You can email me at mossmoments@gmail.com

Thank you.
Really, thanks.

July 23, 2015

Car Sick

We live in a beautiful world.

Traveling with children is like playing a game of Jenga.  You are constantly testing each piece and moving the pieces that are easiest to move. When everything falls down you just laugh and celebrate how tall the tower was before it fell.  

I'm pretty good at Jenga and road trips.  Something programmed into my brain just finds humor in absolutely overwhelming situations.

Like when Leah gets sick all over the floor of our messy van.  Or, when the next night everyone is sick.  
Very sick.

I know this will pass quickly.  I'm not sure if it is car sickness, food poisoning, or a stomach virus.  We have eaten a couple fast food meals (that always make me sick), and have been sharing water bottles.  So, I'm sad but not surprised.

I am honestly SO grateful that we have toilets and showers and housekeeping to clean the carpet, sheets, and towels.  

Sigh.  My biggest concern is bringing sick kids to a reunion.  I can't wait to disinfect this van and to wash the laundry.

We pulled out our little tv last night.
Can you believe that mess?  It's killing me, but I'm ignoring it to focus on holding hands of sicky little ones.

Our tv is too small for everyone to see.  We just plug the sound into our radio and listen to the movie.  7 Brides for 7 Brothers last night and Princess Bride today.  Todd just squeezed my hand and said, "These are the memories.  Puking kids and the Cliffs of Insanity." Ha!

There is a quote that I love.  Elder Busche says "The pain of sacrifice is but a moment.  It is the fear of the pain of sacrifice that endures."  (Or something like that.)

I think this is also true of really bad days.  Isn't it Elder Holland who says, "There is no situation so bad that whining about it won't make it worse."?

Truthfully-- eight kids with leaky diarhea and quick throw-up is pretty funny and so disgusting you just have to laugh and wash your hands often.  

Road trips that end in yucky gas station bathrooms are the best memories.

Someday, my kids will be brave enough to come visit us with their young children because we have taught them how to do it.  They are the happiest, sick children ever.  I'm so proud of them.

We are not pulling handcarts West in the winter.  But, we could do it.  We know how to Trek.  We don't cry when we loose at Jenga.  And these puke moments are as defining to me and my family as any touristy vacation could be.

Even without illness, road trips teach endurance and patience.  I love that.  I love being with my family.

Life is good!!
6 more hours!!!

July 22, 2015

Day 6: Winter Quarters

Winter Quarters in Omaha, Nebraska is a solemn place.  After being driven from Nauvoo, thousands of early Mormon immigrants built a temporary dwelling place to weather out the winter together.

The Saints suffered with much illness throughout this winter.  Hundreds died, most of them women and young children.  

The first grave they found when trying to locate Winter Quarters was Amy Porter.  She died along with her young twins Joseph and Benjamin.  She could barely speak, but prayed that the rest of her family would make it to Salt Lake safely.  They did.  Historical research has shown that all of her ancestors have remained faithful to the Church throughout the years.

I don't believe Amy Porter died in vain.  I believe she died as a martyr for a religion she believed to be true.  I believe she worked as an angel, with her sons to help her family make the trek West.  

Believing that "Life is Eternal" is the only way that Winter Quarters is more than an absolute tragedy.  
I believe that death is temporary, and that often, death is merciful.

As my own children ran around my feet in a place where so many other children had died, I felt the pain of so many parents.  I also felt a sense of peace.  

Suffering had ended.  I believe often men act in unconscionable ways when they act in mob mentality.  Often evil is popular.  These children died as martyrs and I imagine those who had a hand in pushing them from their homes have since suffered with the realization of their actions.

We pushed a handcart,
And looked at cows.
I was grateful for my little family, grateful for my life, and grateful for my a religion.

Gird up your loins
Fresh courage take,
Our God will never
Us forsake.
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