An Education

Dear Reader,

I am going to talk about this blog, my worldview, and wearing pants to the temple.

Writing for a nebulous audience has become a particular chore for me, especially since the Coscto Incident of 2017 and the related Internet Skewering Incident (of me) which followed. I used to say that I didn’t care about people’s responses to my writing. If they were shocked or appalled by the Code Brown stories or the aggressive behavior stories, that was their problem, not mine.

My tune, as it were, has changed. I don’t want to talk about my most vulnerable challenges to a hostile audience. Isn’t sharing one’s most sacred experiences with uncaring individuals figuratively known as casting pearls before swine? I am less and less comfortable with writing about my most personal struggles and epiphanies for an internet audience that I can’t even really define.

And yet, this blog is still here. The Holy Spirit urged me to start it and has pressed me to continue it. So I write about things that happen to me. I talk about faith and Jesus, mostly (I suspect) to people who already have faith and who already love Jesus.

Since Jack left for residential care, I do not yearn to write. I still write when I feel there is something I am meant to say, or I write for myself when I’m not trying to craft my words into anything other than basic sentences to convey information I want to remember. I don’t aspire to write books. I truly do not care about publication or notoriety. This may be the result of my own evolution. Perhaps it’s the Holy Spirit confirming to me that my work lies elsewhere. I am completely fine with this.

I currently spend most of my time parenting people on the spectrum (plus one non-spectrum-y teen), teaching writing to the most delightful undergraduates, going to the temple, doing everyone’s laundry, keeping food in the house, and spending time with my widowed mom. I feel confident that this is where my energies are best spent at this moment in time. Specifically, when I ask my Mother and Father in Heaven to tell me how I can serve, these are the answers I get (see above list).

Blogs, you may have noticed, are out of fashion. Even bloggers (those whose blogs are monetized and who sell a lifestyle) do most of their heavy lifting on Instagram, in the form of posts with lengthy captions. The heyday of blogs ended a good eight years ago. But here I am. Begrudgingly maintaining a blog which used to be about raising Jack, but which has evolved into a venue for writing about faith and my perspective on life. Which leads me, Reader, to:

My worldview! I don’t talk about politics here, because it’s so divisive, and Jesus is my focus, yo. But I would like to expound for a moment on how we see each other both because of and in spite of our individualized perspectives on the world.

I had a student last semester who, in the voluntary Student Response to Instruction (an evaluation of my teaching) wrote that something the course should change is “less liberal agenda.”

This response both puzzled and intrigued me. While I know that all of my students do not like me or my teaching style which emphasizes forced interaction and spastic tweets, I mulled over this response for a few days. The student was reacting to my use of topics such as refugees, sexual harassment, poverty, racial inequality, and mental health concerns as a starting point to our discussions which are designed to foster critical thinking, which is one of the university-stipulated course outcomes for the argumentative writing classes I teach.

While I obviously have opinions about all these subjects, I am clear with my students that the point of rhetoric is to see issues from multiple perspectives, in order to better understand the issues and to better convince an audience of your stance.

I am literally a married, straight, white, Christian mother of four whose open-minded, people-first perspective on world issues was too much for at least one of my students.

It made me think of the people online who lost their minds over the Costco Incident. It was as though the slightest bit of discomfort with their challenged perceptions led to an all-out rejection of the messenger.

Being Jack’s mother has taught me to see people as people, rather than as their issues, their labels, or their outward trappings. I’m baffled by the unyielding and rigid perceptions of those who seem to be completely locked in and essentially blinded by all of these peripheral things. Why is this? And why is it so disheartening to me?

This leads to me to my final point, which is to tell you about when I wear pants to the temple.

Reader, I go to the temple a lot, and I almost always go right after teaching. I refuse to teach every day in dresses at 7:00 am when the air is arctic (not that it’s anyone’s business), so sometimes when I go to the temple, I wear dress pants, a blouse, and dress shoes.

The first time I went to the temple in this ensemble, I wondered if people’s heads would explode. I do happen to live in the heart of cultural Mormondom, where folks are less apt to be familiar with any sort of visible variance from cultural norms (read: women going to the temple in skirts/dresses, period). Doing things differently just isn’t done, guys.

What happened was this: no one said anything. The temple worker at the desk looked at my pants, scanned my recommend, and welcomed me to the temple.

When I walked into the women’s dressing room, when I left the dressing room after my temple session, and when I walked through the parking lot, this is also what happened: around a dozen older women stared at my pants. It wasn’t just a double-take. It was a stare, where they stopped walking and cocked their heads to the side. I told myself they were either a) wondering why they haven’t done it yet, or b) thinking I’m a heretic. Bordering on witchcraft, possibly. Because pants, yikes. How dare I.

I asked myself later if fitting into this deeply entrenched cultural norm was so vital that I would be willing to change in a bathroom stall at the university into a dress before leaving work to go to the temple. And I decided that I’m already dressed professionally. I’m wearing nice clothing and my heart is ready to serve in the temple. My Heavenly Parents know this. I am 100% temple-ready.

I am growing so much in my individual ability to access spiritual receptivity. Part of the reason this is happening, I am convinced, is because special-needs parenting has taught me to see beyond what is “normal.” Beyond the culture. Beyond the outward appearance. Beyond the exterior.

Because of my parenting struggles, I am better able to look at people and see what’s inside. I am humbler and able to listen. I’m ready to be taught.

What’s inside people who look or act differently are people who can’t truly be defined as “other,” because they’re all our brothers and sisters.

What’s inside the temple is not a fashion show where pants on ladies are horrifying, but a holy place of spiritual instruction.

What’s inside me is a sloughing off of judgment and resistance to pigeon-holing ideas, groups, or individuals. There’s also a spirit hungry to learn what my Heavenly Father and Mother are ready to teach me.

I learned this, from Jack, and from Charlie, and from Truman.

Reader, I would not trade this education.

Listening to My Dreams

My great-grandma Laura Thueson England has been on my mind.

This is because I’m becoming mildly obsessed with my departed people and all their glorious foibles. I mean, don’t be alarmed, but the fact is that I descend from Princess Annabella of Scotland (born in 1436 in Holyrood Castle, Midlothian) (stop it. STOP IT.), the daughter of King James Stewart and Queen Joan Plantagenet Beaufort. Family history is sort of fabulous.

I also descend from bunches of people who left England, Scotland, New Zealand, and Denmark to emigrate to….(wait for it)…Utah. To live in dugouts and cabins. I’m astonished and blown away at their stories. They did hard things and they did it with faith as their propeller and their rudder.

But Laura England specifically is on my mind. She was born in 1875 in Scipio, Utah, which is renowned for NOT being Holyrood Castle in Scotland, but for being a tiny town en route to Southern Utah (which is to say, it’s not renowned). She married Charles England and lived much of her life in Plain City, another tiny town.

These are the things I know about her: She lost her first daughter at the age of two, her husband died of cancer the day before Thanksgiving at age fifty-two, she cared for her mother and both her husband’s parents in her home at the end of their lives, for many of her older years she consistently took a bus from Weber County to the Salt Lake temple once a week to do temple sessions, and she lived with my mother and was cared for by my grandma Lila at the end of her life.

I also know from my mom that when Laura cared for her mother, Alice Wasden Thueson, at the end of her life, Alice told her, “If there is any way I can reach out to you from beyond the veil to warn you of something, I will do it.” To which Laura replied, “Then I hope you don’t reach out to me.” I mean, right?

The fact is, though, that Laura’s mother Alice DID reach out to her in a spirit of warning or preparedness, in the form of three dreams at three different times in Laura’s life. The first was before her toddler daughter, Loneda, died. The second was before her husband, Charles, died. The third time was also relating to the death of a loved one, although it hasn’t been written about and my one living source on the topic can’t remember the specifics. Which is fine, because the important parts of Laura’s story are intact.

My great-grandmother had revelatory dreams, people.

!!!!!!

I have never felt so connected to one of my departed relatives.

Meanwhile, my dreams have been of the vivid, detailed, and instructive variety throughout the months of January and February (and, frankly, well before that). While I write here about many of my dreams, I don’t write about all of them. There are too many. They would comprise a book. And they are meaningful mostly only for me. Some are pleasant. Some are disturbing. Some are filled with beauty. Some are traumatic.

All of them stay with me when I wake up and leave me with lingering feelings relating to the tone of the dream, and all of them cause me to take stock of what I have seen and felt.

I’ve always been enchanted by dreams as a portal to the subconscious mind. But now I’m fascinated by my dream life as a vehicle for spirituality. I’m learning so much as I simply write down what I see and feel, forgoing the urge to make sense of it or assign meaning to it. My initial interpretations are usually wrong, but if I wait and observe, the actual meaning tends to materialize. Or I have hope that it will materialize.

My dreams over the years have gone from reflecting my fears to giving me peace in turbulence. They speak to me in symbols about my life as it currently is, and as it relates to my Heavenly Mother’s and Father’s plan for my life. It’s the blueprint overlaying the fully rendered art piece of a soul’s potential.

I don’t think this is because I’m particularly special. I think it’s because our Heavenly Parents have big, amazing plans for all of us. Mine just happen to come to me in the form of my dreams, as they did, at least at key points in her life, for my grandmother Laura.

Big Beautiful Breakthroughs

I don’t care much for January, but you guys, this January has been rad. Allow me to explain.

After throwing daily tantrums or silent/Ghandi-esque protests about going to school for six months, Truman up and decided to stop doing that and to instead walk into school like the warrior man he is.

I mean, granted I did have to bribe him with a mythical-sounding 100 MINUTES! of unfettered video gaming after school that day, and I did need to flag down our neighbor, Will, who happened to be walking past our car at dropoff, and I did happen to beg Will to walk in with Truman, and I definitely did vehemently remind Truman about that 100 MINUTES! But the upshot is, Truman did it. For the first time ever, I didn’t have to drag him into first grade in my bedhead and my sweatpants.

When I picked him up that afternoon, he told me, “I’m not scared anymore, Mom.” And also, “I’m ready to go home and have my 100 minutes! of video games.” Hahaha.

Sometimes parenting is slogging through 10,000 miles of frozen/muddy tundra while dragging a belligerent kid along. Occasionally, parenting is a ride at Disneyland–all speed and exhilaration and happiness. And the rare Disneyland rides are that much sweeter because of those 10,000 figurative miles on foot through the frozen north.

I can’t adequately describe my lightness of being at this development.

Around the same time as the school-autonomy breakthrough, Truman also managed to begin staying at church the entire time. For the sake of context, I will simply say that this has been an impossibility for all of Truman’s seven years, plus most of the years Jack lived with us. I’m not asking for pity (nor judgment). This is just how Sundays have been for us. For, like, ever.

But between us learning about how to manage and respond to his sensory processing disorder, and shorter church (the church is true, the book is blue), and Truman deciding he isn’t scared anymore, we are now in the midst of a sea-change, and it’s glorious.

Finally, to complete Truman’s trifecta of amazingness, he decided to stop fighting us at bedtime and just go to bed every night like a docile little sweetheart lamb. Why? I don’t know. How? I really can’t say. But please note that I’m over here giving major thanks for all of this blessed progress.

These developments are undoubtedly related to each other, as they emerged at the same time. They seem to have resulted from Truman turning some developmental corner. Are these positive changes simply the result of time and the river (of parenting) flowing?

Or, I’ve been asking myself, are they somehow connected to the way I have spent my January, which has been to fling myself into devotion and spirituality. Correlation, yes definitely. But causation? I have no idea. Am I being weird in feeling that my attending the temple once every 5-7 days and thus entering a state of deeply instructive openness to spiritual things may have some relationship to Truman’s progress?

My own personal January breakthroughs have been wrapped up in an intense state of inner instruction, which has been my winter camp. The temple has been one major avenue of my own deepening spirituality. The other paths have involved praying to understand and refine my spiritual gifts, writing down any sudden or recurring dreams and impressions, and delving wholeheartedly into scripture.

None of this is groundbreaking. The change is in my enthusiasm for it.

I’m eager to learn.

I think my Heavenly Parents know it, because they’ve responded with SO MUCH INSIGHT.

I hope this all doesn’t sound self-congratulatory. I don’t know why I’m hungering so deeply for more understanding at this point in time. And I don’t know why I’m receiving an outpouring of spiritual instruction, other than I’m asking for it.

The miracle is that my Heavenly Parents are giving it to me.

Maybe there is no connection between my bare-naked cannonball into the figurative pool of spiritual growth, and Truman’s propulsion into greater independence, other than the fact that I feel strongly that they both originate from heaven, and are both real proof of divine love.

That Gauzy Curtain

All right, gather round people of the internet. It’s story time.

Way back when I was a chubby and opinionated preschooler, I had a friend named Alyssa. She was tall, like me, and had deep brown eyes, also like me. We remained friends through elementary school, before aging into different friend groups in junior high and high school. Four years ago, we found each other on social media and have been keeping up with each other online ever since.

But I haven’t spoken to her in like thirty years.

A few weeks ago, Alyssa sent me a Facebook message saying she had a big crazy story to tell me. She proceeded to say that her dad’s wife has a grandson, who we will call Cole, who has autism and who recently moved into residential care. Alyssa happened to hear that Cole lives in the same town where Jack lives. She said to her stepmom, “I have a friend whose son lives in a group home in that same town.” She showed her a picture of Jack from Instagram or wherever and LOW AND BEHOLD, this lady (the grandma) recognized Jack as Cole’s housemate BECAUSE THEY LIVE IN THE SAME HOUSE, PEOPLE.

She told me Cole’s mom (we will call her Catherine) wanted to talk to me because hello, we’ve been through the same mad/wild/heart-wrenching experience of raising a nonverbal, super special, super high-maintenance son and then having to place him in a group home in order to a) survive, and b) get the care he required to be safe and happy. We have literally been there and absolutely done that.

I got Catherine’s number and we started texting each other. Last week, we met for lunch.

It turns out that our lives have followed strikingly similar patterns of making enormous sacrifices in the service of parenting our particular boys. We know all about sitting out from events, trips, family parties, and outings because our boys couldn’t manage it. We understand the difficulty of having to split up constantly with one parent taking the other kids to do “regular family” things, and one parent staying home with the special kiddo. We know the isolation and the cultural gaslighting (if we only used xyz supplements or specialized water or voodoo chants, we would solve all our boys’ problems, so really guys, shame on us). We know from experience that caregiving is an ongoing, emotionally draining, and physically exhausting thing.

We just KNOW.

The long and short of our conversation was this: our boys are exceptionally unique. Raising them has been the fulcrum around which all other points of our lives have moved. Now said boys live in the same house (!) and we have also met (!) which makes us friends for all eternity (!)

But wait, this story continues.

Today I went to Costco, where after checking out with my groceries, I saw ALYSSA OF SAID JACK/COLE STORY in the food court. I haven’t spoken to her since I was eleven. And there she was, right in front of me.

We had the most delightful conversation and I was able to embrace her (twice!) and thank her in person for seeing this connection between our two families. She was the link between us, and she noticed it and brought us together. The emotions were bubbling all over the place, with a fizzy tank of gratitude dominating the entire encounter.

On the drive home, I thought about the errands I’d run that day, and the billion people at that particular Costco at that exact moment, and the beauty of ME seeing HER in a serendipitous meeting of once-childhood friends whose families are now unexpectedly united.

My soul felt alight.

It was incandescence emanating from a deep-seated awareness that what had transpired wasn’t coincidence.

It wasn’t even just God being mysterious and lovely.

It was people who love Cole and Jack–relatives, ancestors, our kindred dead, angels beyond the veil, call them what you will–who rallied to identify the link in our families. And having found Alyssa, they nudged her to reach out and bring us together.

This is how it happened. I know it.

How do I know it, you ask? Keep listening, I’m not done.

There’s one more part to this story.

Last night I dreamed I opened my dad’s journal and was excited to finally read it.

My mom gave me his journal when he passed away. It’s a gorgeous leather number filled with handmade paper. He wrote exactly three entries in it in 2012. I hadn’t read it because I couldn’t bear the thought of reading those three pages and having it be over. That would be it. I just could not do it.

But then I had that dream, in which my mom was standing in front of me and we were both so jazzed at the prospect of reading those three entries.

I remembered this as I drove Charlie to school in the 17 degree morning. I remembered it again as I did my workout. I remembered it when I went to the school a little later to volunteer. I remembered it yet another time as I drove to Costco. I thought about it after I ate lunch and sat down to write, at which point I finally retrieved the journal from my desk drawer and opened it up.

I read it.

It’s all about his family. Us.

He wrote two of the entries while visiting Yellowstone, reminiscing about the decades of memories in that most magical of national parks. He loved it there so much.

The other entry he wrote on his 43rd wedding anniversary. He expressed deep thankfulness for my mother and for the loving and good person she is. He spoke of the astonishment he felt at his life. He did not anticipate so much beauty and happiness.

I almost wanted to be a little cross, and lecture him for not filling that lovely leather-bound book with hundreds more entries. But I did not feel cross.

I felt tranquil.

He delivered a message to me and the message was this:

I’m still here.

I see you.

I know what’s happening in your lives.

We are a family, and I am working from my new estate to help all of you.

Jack, Cole, Catherine, Alyssa, my dad & who knows how many others I can’t see–we are all players in this unfolding romance.

Jesus wrote the script and our loved ones are saying their lines from behind the gauzy curtain that separates us.

It’s a play about love and it’s real because, you guys, “angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost” (2 Ne 32:3).

They are speaking to me. To us.

When I still myself enough to listen, I can hear them.

Winter is Tricky

Ye olde January fugue has descended on me, much like a murky/gloomy inversion (which also literally descended on the valley today, blech). I went from 60 miles per hour post-holidays to <5 mph, and that’s caffeinated. Yikes. I’m stunned at the audacity of winter, and it’s ability to stomp all over my emotional state. *shakes fist at winter*

I went to the temple twice in the last three days, along with the majority of Utahns, apparently. It was like temple Disneyland. Except without toddlers. And with whispering, not happy screaming. But no churros. I’m not going to get into how I felt about the changes in the temple ceremony itself, other than to say I HAVE FELT AN ARRAY OF EMOTIONS. All of them, basically. I’m processing them.

As I sat next to my mom, I felt my dad’s presence in the session we attended today. I don’t mean that in a general sense. I mean, I specifically felt his presence with me for a few moments in time. I inwardly asked, “Dad, is that you?” And there was a corresponding swelling/burning/fullness which (to me) confirmed it. This isn’t something I’ve experienced with him before. But I’m paying attention now. I’m listening, more with a neutral, day-dreamy openness, which seems to be the only way I ever get any answers or experience anything spiritual.

Then my mom and I went temple dress shopping at QNoor, since my current temple attire had a sad early-aughts Deseret Book vibe, and my mom’s outfit required excessive ironing (are you kidding me? Nope. Temple clothes spend much of their lives squashed in bags and should look effortlessly crisp after being wadded up in a tote). We ended up buying matching dresses which are soft and adorable (just like us, hahaha). We also ate cheeseburgers and my mom told me that she felt like a weight was lifted from her.

I came home and KonMari-ed my closet. You know what sparks joy in me? Having a tidyness guru’s permission to donate all the clothes I spent money on that don’t fit well or aren’t comfortable or just remind me of bad times I was forced to tackle and restrain Jack so he wouldn’t beat up his brothers. Some things just have to go, and it’s better when they do. My closet is so organized now. I want to sit on my bathroom floor and gaze at it. Do you see what January has done to me? Yeesh.

All of this is to say, I won today. January didn’t.

Books are Life

Shall we chat about books?

My reading speed slowed considerably during the end of last semester and the holidays, but I did finish a few books, which I will discuss in no particular order.

The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah

Hannah also wrote The Nightingale, a hugely successful World War II-era novel set in France, and a book which possibly every book club in America at one point read. This book is quite different, yet told in the same forthright manner as The Nightingale. It’s set in the 1970’s and features a family living off the grid outside Homer, Alaska. While the unforgiving Alaskan landscape could provide ample tension for the story, it is merely a player in the story of a mentally-unstable, alcoholic, and severely abusive father to the book’s teenage main character, Lenora, known as Leni. The relentlessness of her family’s turmoil made this a difficult, yet engaging story of living amid danger–both within and without one’s home. Survival is a major theme of this tale.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

This is Morton’s first novel in several years, and while I really don’t like the trope-y title, it was a pretty good read. As she always does, Morton weaves her story with many characters residing in various time periods, who are all connected by a big old English country house. I feel that all her books should be made into films, mostly so I can SEE FOR MYSELF these houses. I love old architecture and period pieces and drama. The end. The level of character/time period weaving in this book is next-level and was a tad confusing for me, at times. I would have benefited from an outline of characters as an appendix. It’s that complex. The story resembles her other books in that she follows mostly female characters who face loss, poverty, and various freak accidents which shift the course of their lives toward tragedy. I mean, she’s not going to win awards for this, but its quality is leaps above the 2.5 Hallmark Christmas movies I watched last month.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

This is the first book in the much heralded Broken Earth fantasy series. I just kept hearing about these books, so I took a giant leap and purchased them en masse. This can be a tragic move if one ends up not being a fan. It is a genius move if it turns out you’re sucked in and MUST read them all, ASAP. I’ve finished the first book and have this to say:

  • It’s creative. This is post-apocalyptic in the sense that it isn’t humans destroying each other, but it’s the earth actually making life physically pretty uninhabitable with the advent of “seasons,” which create centuries of ash and severe seismic activity.
  • Jemisin is a skilled writer, maintaining suspense and exposing depth in the characters. Did I like the characters a whole lot? No. Did I read until the end? Yes.
  • And yet….I wasn’t in love with it. I kind of had to force myself to sit down and consume it in chunks. I’m not sure if I will finish the series. I just don’t know if I care THAT much. Also, it’s January. And bleak. And I need really engaging/chipper/colorful stories. The moral of this review is: don’t buy the entire series up front, mkay. FYI, this book contains salty language/some sexuality.

The Half-Drowned King and The Sea Queen by Linnea Hartsuyker

I’m apparently a weirdo because books about ninth century Vikings are my thing. These are the first two books in a trilogy which are kinda brutal (Vikings, remember), but also really humanizing to these warring characters. These books remind me of The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell, which have been made into a series which has been on Netflix, of late. That story was set in England, though. These books take place mostly in Norway and enchant me in an otherworldly kind of way. Don’t ask me why I like stories about medieval warrior culture. I just do. And in a similar vein, there’s:

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

This one is YA, and I LOVED IT. It’s so exciting and beautifully written. It draws liberally from Norse mythology and brings all other parts of Viking life (in addition to raiding and fighting) to life. I found this one randomly at the library and was like, “THIS IS THE BEST KIND OF BOOK WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE I’M GOING TO PUT MY LIFE ON HOLD WHILE I INHALE THIS WHOLE THING.” But again, I’ve learned that not everyone loves what I love, and you may not dig it.

What are the zippiest/best/funniest/most engaging books you have recently read?

Light

My mom said something in passing recently that has stuck with me. I don’t remember her exact words, but the effect was this: Life isn’t always what we want. 

It just isn’t. Sometimes it’s rosy; often it’s raw.

It’s an obvious, yet profound sentiment which I have been mulling over through the holidays and now into the new year, including when:

• I talked to a friend whose mental health is currently not optimal. It’s actually oceans away from optimal. Her ongoing strenuous struggle is something I really can’t comprehend. It’s so hard and it’s so much. Did she choose this? Is her life unfolding as she hoped? (Answer: no) Or is she doing the only thing she can do, which is to bravely accept the challenges she’s been given? It’s a humbling thing to see the magnitude of a friend’s pain.

• I listened to another friend talk about some major parenting challenges–the kind that aren’t entirely foreign to me. Of course, I can’t fully understand her experience, but the vast unsolveable-ness of her family’s challenges resonates with the way my life has unfolded over the last fourteen years. Do any of us actually sign up for this massive emotional restructuring? Or is it simply the nature of mortality to get in deeply over our heads? And what do we do with the lessons we learn in the midst of this pain? Do they harden and embitter us? Or do we cull wisdom and empathy from them? (I realize there aren’t easy answers to these rhetorical questions, but I’m asking them anyway.)

• I learned about Sensory Processing Disorder. I thought I knew everything about special needs parenting, which is a stupid thing to think because the universe can hear you and then it laughs. I didn’t envision this part of raising my youngest boy. Something that’s emerged from this process is a sense of empowerment for both me and the seven-year-old. We understand it better. We can manage it (mostly). We are agents acting intentionally, rather than pawns or victims of circumstance. This is a big gift.

• I read an essay by a fellow Segullah writer who said her spirit thrives when she pursues the things she wants, as well as the things she needs. This rings true in my experience, because we’re all so focused on meeting our basic needs that it’s easy to get caught up in surviving, basically. Where’s the joy in subsistence living? My parenting life has been an exercise in learning to look beyond the daily struggle to identify that which is satisfying, sustaining, renewing. There’s enough hardscrabble plodding forward already. We need more moments of spiritual sustenance. This is how we manage weathering the hard things. And I am here to emphasize that WE ALL HAVE HARD THINGS.

I don’t make new year’s resolutions. Every year with Jack, my word for the year was “survive,” and that’s no joke. It was all I was focused on.

If I had a word to strive for this year, it might be “incandescence,” or the quality of being incandescent—light-filled. That’s my goal.

I finished reading the Gospels in the New Testament today and felt a big infusion of light from hearing about Jesus’s mortal sojourn in quadruplicate.

I felt lighter after texting with a new friend, whose son happens to be housemates with my son. We are at different points in the journey out of the abyss that severe disabilities punched into our lives. We understand each other.

I feel emotionally lighter when I do my PT-prescribed exercises. Movement as medicine, as they say.

I’ve also been noticing the winter light. I’m seeing how the skies have wispy pink clouds in the morning at school drop-off. I notice the blue sky more. I especially like the indigo mountain skyline at dusk, this time of year. There’s less light in January, but it’s pretty stunning in its transient way.

Lightness of being, people. I’m hunting for it in all the places.

Best Gift

I wrote this piece for Segullah about the best gift I ever got. Please note that it’s not about Christmas shoes, but that I cried a whole lot in the writing of this story. Merry Christmas.



Things I Don’t Do Anymore

Care About Cooking 

I used to like finding and trying new recipes. Those impulses evaporated over many years of autism living. There’s no joy in making elaborate food that no one will eat. When your life is circumscribed by various disabilities, there’s also no joy in spending any excess energy AT ALL in making any food, period. The bare minimum will suffice. The joy of cooking hasn’t returned for me, and I’m okay with this. I still do enough to get by. Jeff cooks. Costco cooks for us. But we keep it simple, and my mental health is high-fiving me.

Read Magazines

Magazines about fashion, home decor, travel, and generalized “lifestyle influencing” depressed the h*ck out of me. They made me and my life feel inadequate so guess what? I banished them. I prefer books. I curate what I read, and it’s not some what some dumb magazine editor somewhere decided is cool/important/on trend. When I think about getting rid of magazines from my life, I mentally assume a power pose. I basically AM Wonder Woman.

Put Up With Anyone on Social Media Who Thinks They’re Fancy

This started a few years ago when I unfollowed everyone on IG, except for my friends and all the National Parks. Grand Tetons at sunset, yaaasss. Grand Canyon during a rainstorm, um yeah. Bison trudging through the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone, fill up my feed please! I could NOT EVEN handle any more social media in my life that featured overly-groomed accounts of people whose lives were less real life and more influencer-ish. I also unfollowed anyone trying to sell me something. It was making me hate social media. I did the same thing with Twitter, but it was a big fat unfollow for anyone who tweets using the F word, which is, surprisingly, almost everyone. After this blessed and blissful purge, I took back my feeds and have added in news accounts and others who I don’t personally know, but who have something authentic, honest, and vital to offer. Who’s in control here? It me.

Compare Myself to People/Their Lives

There’s nothing good that comes from this rookie mistake. But it’s also something I just absolutely had to learn from lots of living. It’s also a byproduct of becoming my own biggest advocate. When you know, understand, accept, and like yourself, you can be kind to yourself while also seeing other people as who they really are. I have no business comparing humans. It’s so much nicer seeing me as me and other people as themselves, and not worrying about sorting, structuring, ranking etc.

Worry About Jack

I think about him all the time. I pray for him multiple times per day. I love him. But I don’t worry about how he is doing. I don’t fret over his new life and the fact that it’s largely out of my hands. I attribute this to my Heavenly Parents teaching me about Jack’s purpose and his peaceful spirit. Through dreams and insights/promptings that came as I read scriptures, exercised, showered, and drove, the Spirit has instructed me in Jack’s valor. I know now that he’s fine. He is completely fine–inwardly and outwardly happy, and I am so grateful.

Fear Christmas

I don’t fear it anymore, because I’m not the sole caregiver for a kiddo who needs intensive, one-on-one care by big burly men 24/7. And this year we aren’t watching my dad die. So the season is back to being joyful and a gift in an of itself, you know, because of Jesus.