Joy at the Park

Monday, May 20, 2013

Simply beautiful.  What a blessing.

Motherhood is legitimately wonderful.  Meet the littlest miss who helps me see that everyday. (Not every moment of every day, but everyday : )

On Motherhood:  "There is nothing more important in this world than participating so directly in the work and glory of God." - Elder Holland

"I'm visiting the park, not curing cancer.  No more pictures necessary!"

Discovering grass

Everyone has their Caroline

"Appearances can be so deceiving, such a poor measure of a person. Admonished the Savior, 'Judge not according to the appearance.'" - Thomas S. Monson

Too close, Mommy.

Caroline's appearance elicits a quick response.  

She brings out another's curiosity, compassion or even insecurity.  Whatever they feel, people know she needs care and attention and is to be treated delicately.

When people see us with her, they seem to be more sensitive and observant.  Some quickly look for ways to help.  She's like a flashing neon sign with a large arrow pointing at us saying, "This family is unique.  They have hard times."

As I learn more about the people around me, I'm repeatedly reminded that appearance deceives.  Acquaintances, friends, even family - everyone has struggles they don't or can't or won't share, everyone has reasons why I need to be more sensitive and helpful.  Just when I've forgotten that, something happens to remind me.  

One of my close friends has been having problems with her career that put her livelihood in jeopardy - most people who know her don't know about it.  But I only just found out that on top of that, she's been really hurt by recent and repeated critical comments from a family member.   She wouldn't have told me about it, but I happened to be hanging out with her when she got an upsetting email from that person.  I'd never have known otherwise.

It happens over and over -- people surprise us with the depth of burden they are carrying or have carried.  

So, I'm trying to pretend that everyone has a flashing neon sign that points to them and says, "This person is unique.  They have hard times.  Be sensitive and helpful toward them.  Love them."

"Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others." Thomas S. Monson

Even Caroline's medically-challenged appearance is deceiving.  If people judge her by that alone, they miss the treasured spirit that lies hidden within her frail frame and the strength she brings our family.

Aren't people constantly surprising you with the good that lies within them? All of us have hidden treasures in our souls - with the right vision, we can see the beautiful gifts in those around us.

So, let's again resolve to set aside appearance and seek to love the way Christ asks us to love.  After all, everyone has their Caroline.  Everyone has hard burdens and beautiful treasures they're carrying.

Life w/Baby Ivy

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ivy is 7 months old, and while I've felt time move increasingly fast before, with a healthy baby who has a new milestone a week, time jets at lightspeed.

It amazes us how joy-filled life is with a healthy baby.  Sure, there are times where I want to curl up in my bed and sleep for two days straight (or at least one day straight and read the other day), but I'd say 90% of the time I'm the happiest I can ever remember being. 

Caroline has given us the gift of getting to have our eyes wide open to the treasure that is Ivy's physical and mental health.  Without Caroline, I don't think we could truly appreciate what a gift that is to our family.  We're so lucky to have precious Caroline who helps us understand what really matters.

I mean, can you imagine having Caroline outside at 6+months old while Daddy washes the car? Amazing.

Can I help you?

How to: Say the Right Thing

Monday, May 13, 2013

"What do I say?"

I ask myself this every time I hear about someone dealing with a crisis. You?  Maybe your fear of saying the wrong thing prevents you from saying anything at all.  Or perhaps you've said something in the moment that you know didn't help very much or maybe even hurt the person you were trying to comfort.  Check and check.

Having had some experience being the object of people's verbal attempts to help, I've seen a variety of the above and have seen what works well and what's just ok. And yet, I'm still honing my comforting skills because saying the right thing is easier said than done - pun intended.

So to get these skills down, I've pulled a few favorite thoughts to help remind us of what really helps in a time of need:

1. Listen to Understand

Saying the right thing means simply listening.  
  • Sometimes, people assume that a person struggling doesn't want to talk,
    • OR
  • ...if they're honest, people would rather not hear about what's going on - they ask "how are you doing?" and want to hear a "good" or "fine" response.
This is a social norm and often it's not appropriate to go into everything when questions are posed -- or the person may not feel like talking.  However, other times, a person is ready to talk and really wants to unload.  They just need a listener, someone willing to give them a hug and validate their emotions.

I heard a conversation on the Mormon Channel with Sister Virginia Hinckley Pearce, who lost her spouse of 44 years near the time of the interview, say the following about grieving the loss of her husband:

"It's been so surprising for me this whole grieving thing.  I had no clue. I had no clue.  I felt like I was the first person ever doing this.  It's a personal journey. Because you've done it doesn't mean you understand how everyone else is doing it.  Everyone's circumstances are different ... it's profoundly personal."

To me this says that while I might know how the other person is feeling because I've been in similar circumstances or because I can imagine how hard things are for them, I don't know for sure.  Thus, listening becomes key to saying the 'right' thing - often the right thing to happen is just for the person to share how they're dealing with their struggle.
Sister Pearce's interviewer asked: "When we see those around us who are really grieving...what would you tell do to help and serve?"
She responds: "I think being willing to talk about it and knowing that it doesn't go away after a month, that even if it's been 6 months to ask somebody about it is helpful.  It's with them all the time and let them decide, you know, give them an opening and let them decide whether they want to talk about it or they don't.  I think it's taking your clues from them...When you're grieving, one day's ok and the next day you're leveled.

2.  Mourn with those that mourn

When trying to say the right thing, we want to make the problem go away as soon as possible, which can manifest itself with:
  • Advice-giving "You really should try this"
  • One-upsmanship: "If you think that's hard...."
  • Judgement "Really? You feel like that??" (A reaction that's often unspoken but still comes in quite clearly)
Instead, allow the person to feel how they're feeling.  Ask questions to understand rather than to lead the person down a road that will neatly end with the advice, one-up, or judgment you think will fit.

More on this concept and about the diagram below in this article.

The rules of kvetching 
(Illustration by Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times)

I so appreciated when people would listen while I talked about Caroline's health scares, when they would ask questions not to pry, but to understand.  This told me that they cared and wanted to really know what was going on in my life.   

What wasn't as helpful were very well-meaning reminders that Caroline would be perfect and whole and saved in the next life.  While this knowledge gives me immense comfort now, in the thick of dealing with her birth and diagnosis, I just felt that I wanted to raise her now and wanted my baby to be healthy.  I needed to grieve that loss.

It's hard to remember to mourn with the person first, but it's often the most helpful thing:
"When a person is allowed to follow the emotions down as far as he needs to go with someone walking beside him emotionally, then he will bring himself back up." Gary Lundberg, LMFT
We can mourn with those that mourn simply by providing comfort and understanding.

Life is grand TODAY

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Originally published 8/9/07

"If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life." Albert Camus

This quote really sums up some of our thoughts lately.

Bryce and I want to enjoy what our life now has to offer. We're attempting to not constantly evaluate our lives from the view of what was "supposed to happen." This attempt is not always successful. It is hard to watch other babies, especially those related to us for some reason, and see that Caroline is already not even close to them developmentally - surprisingly hard actually. It is hard to hear sobering news about possibilities in Caroline's future almost weekly. It is hard to not be able to go out to the movies or the mall or whatever together as a family because her health is still so tenuous

That said, the less we dwell on what was "supposed to happen," the more we see the many blessings Caroline has offered us and will continue to give to us. We understand better that we all have physical, emotional, spiritual, and/or intellectual difficulties; Caroline's difficulties are simply more visible for now. That knowledge helps us to be more forgiving, understanding, and loving.

She has given us a whole new understanding of the scripture "Men are that they might have joy." She and all of us, no matter our shortcomings, have worth simply because we are God's children, have the capacity to be happy and the capacity to make others happy as well. We don't derive our worth from anything else - money, looks, fame, job titles, entrepreneurial endeavors, or political pursuits - only from our ability to love our Father in Heaven and to love and care for others no matter their station or ability.

It's hard to quantify all that our life is now because of her, but it certainly is uniquely grand and beautiful.

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