23 May 2018

Day 27: Grandparents

I'm writing Ann Dee Ellis' 8 Minute Memoirs.

It's been nearly five years since my grandfather died. I only remember because my dad reminded us recently. I occasionally go visit his gravesite in Provo to say hi and check in on him. I remember the day he died. I was waiting for the Pride parade to start in SLC when my phone started ringing, and I knew immediately what the call was about. I didn't march that day. Instead, I rushed off to Provo and spent most of the day with a lot of my family. Some only stayed in the dining room, but I was eager to sit with his body. That may be macabre, but my grandmother clearly wanted as many of us to spend time with him before letting anyone call the morgue.

So I sat in my grandparents' bedroom, lights low, talking to my grandfather. I stroked his hair and made some personal requests--he wasn't the only person I knew who had died by then.

It was a strange day. My perception of the flow of time is skewed. I don't remember walking to my car in SLC. I don't remember the drive to Provo or rushing inside. I barely remember my husband's presence. All I remember is sitting close to my grandfather's body, only an hour or two after he had passed, and thinking how peaceful he looked and how close he felt.

07 December 2017


I can feel the crushing weight of your non-existence on my heart
I can't breathe under the stress of not knowing what happened to you
I can hear their hesitation--"What can I do?"
I can't tell them how to help me. This can't be helped.

27 November 2017

Day 26: Daily Tasks

I'm writing Ann Dee Ellis' 8 Minute Memoirs in place of #NaNoWriMo.

There aren't a lot of tasks I do daily. I was raised in a home with lots of weekly and monthly chores, and I have tried to more or less stick to that. Usually less; please don't look at my bathroom if you come over.

There are a lot of things I do daily though. I look at Facebook, I roll my eyes, I sleep, and I tell my husband I love him.

I remember once in a church meeting a man telling us all how much he loved his wife and family. He explained that he didn't tell them often and he wished he would remember to do it more frequently. My dad leaned over and whispered to me that those sorts of declarations were red flags to him. If you don't make a habit of telling the people that you love that you love them and instead only tell them in front of large groups of people, there are some things that they may need to sort out.

I don't remember who that man was, and I don't know if he was exaggerating for the congregation or if he really failed to tell his family that he loved them at home. What I do remember is my dad, using the opportunity and warning me to look for someone who would love me both in public and in private.

Loving my husband is the most important daily task I practice. Him loving me daily is one of the things that keeps me feeling sane. I'm relieved I've never had to ask him if he loves me, or endure a public proclamation that he's sorry he doesn't tell me often enough that he does.

It's hard to gauge what version of showing love daily is the healthiest, I certainly don't know what's best for you, but I think I've got a good thing going.

15 November 2017

To the Baby I Didn't Have

I love you
and I wonder

I never held you
but I carried you
I never kissed you
but I wanted to

I wonder what you smelled like
What you looked like

Would you have called me mom or mama?
Would I have laid you next to me or in your own bed?
Would you like it when I caressed your head as you slept?

I can picture it
Me, exhausted, beaming
Him, overwhelmed, holding you
Family and friends doting on you even as you grew too old for it

Would you have trusted us?
Would you turn to us when you needed help?
Would I be smart and patient enough to give it?

I hope you hear me
when I whisper out to you
I love you"

I hope I meet you
on the other side
Will you wait for me?

I'm sorry you couldn't stay here
I would have loved you so, so much
More than you or I can know

Day 25: Outside

I'm writing Ann Dee Ellis' 8 Minute Memoirs in place of #NaNoWriMo.

I have always felt very firmly that I don't know how I feel about being outside.

There are parts of the "great" outdoors that I love unabashedly and will never change my stance on, like the beach. Even with all the messy sand and occasional seaweed attacks, the beach is a temple for me. There is a celestial quality to the vastness of the ocean, and swimming on its very edges makes me feel part of something big even though I know it makes me small.

Another of my outdoor temples is the park. Not any park in particular, but I am of the opinion that all parks are better if they have swing sets. In college, I had one semester with some really hard roommates, and walking to the park in the middle of the night to swing idly back and forth in the dark always helped me feel more grounded somehow.

My least favorite outdoor places are those with snow. Yes, I live in Utah. Yes, we have the best snow in the world (or so I'm told). Yes, I grew up skiing annually with my family. My favorite part of skiing was the reward of hot chocolate in the lodge afterwards. I mean, I enjoyed the skiing a bit, but it's definitely not what I was there for. Not to mention my fear of heights was probably not helped by careening down steep mountains.

I also hate anywhere outdoors that has mosquitos. Can we just kill all the mosquitos already?

My other favorite (partially) outdoor place is Disneyland. You can ask Casey, my walk turns into a near-sprint as I bounce from attraction to attraction at Disneyland. Growing up, I was able to go once or twice a year, and going there makes me feel like everything is going to be okay. The last time I went to Disneyland, when we got to the end of the night, I stood outside Sleeping Beauty's Castle and cried a little knowing the day was over and real life concerns would start returning as soon as I exited through the gates. I was right. It did.

I suppose the takeaway here is that the outside isn't so bad. As long as it isn't cold and/or infested with bugs that bite.

Day 22: Your Early Reading Life

I'm writing Ann Dee Ellis' 8 Minute Memoirs in place of #NaNoWriMo.

So I'm a little out of order. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I don't remember learning how to read. So far as I can tell, I was born reading. I remember getting to kindergarten and realizing that there were things that I knew that the other kids didn't, like all my letters and a lot of sight words. It shocked me that you had to be taught those kinds of things.

Looking back, this probably has something to do with how long it took me to actually learn how to learn and get good grades, but that's probably for another post.

My early reading life was somewhere in between the average kid and Matilda. I remember being surprised at how much more Matilda had read than I had (geez, that movie came out at the perfect time for me) because trends at the time showed that I read more than most kids my age.

One week I sat in Sunday School nearly dying of what I thought was agony because another kid in my class was such a slow reader. Looking back on that, I wish I had demonstrated better patience with him and other kids I knew who were slower readers. I try to practice that now with my students--I can only imagine how I made a couple of kids feel back in elementary, shouting out the next word at them so they would just get through the reading faster.

I devoured books for so many years. Anything I could get my hands on and that felt geared towards me at all, I would read voraciously. Ramona Quimby was perfectly suited to my tastes for a few years, and my school library carried the full Goosebumps series. I also had a bad habit of reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, especially at night after the lights were turned off. As the Harry Potter books were released, I would often consume them whole within 24 hours of their release. Even the final book (which was a massive tome, as most know) I had shipped to my grandparents' house as it came out while we were on vacation there. It was one of my early solo Amazon purchases.

For a few years I especially loved Roald Dahl. The worlds he built always appealed to me. I thought The Twits was pure genius, James and the Giant Peach was a masterpiece, The Witches was the most frightening thing on paper, and Matilda was written just for me.

Escaping into books is harder at 31 than it was at age 8, but I still love the thrill of finding a book that can sweep me up inside its pages.

14 November 2017

Day 24: Retreat

I'm writing Ann Dee Ellis' 8 Minute Memoirs in place of #NaNoWriMo.

There are these moments when it feels like I'm standing on a battlefield without any weapons and I take a good look at the enemies across from me. Sometimes the enemies are my own depression and fears, sometimes they are papers to grade, and yet other times they're actual people I see standing out there, opposing me.

Whatever (or whoever) stands there as I hopelessly face the expanse as the enemies approach slowly, and I have no choice. I have to retreat.

Usually my retreat of choice is the movie Ever After. Something about Drew Barrymore's less-than-perfect accent and absolutely-perfect stubbornness as she falls in love with a prince and faces off with her stepmother just envelop me in a sea of calm.

Other times my retreat is a bit more literal. I go on a long drive or a vacation, occasionally sending in an emergency backup to handle a day or two or the battle while I try to breathe. I sleep a little more than usual, refocus my efforts, gather up the appropriate weaponry, and prepare myself for the inevitable return.

Eventually, whatever the problem is, I go back to the battlefield, probably with a Coke in hand (because life is a commercial), and face the other side.

Day 17: A Sibling

I'm writing Ann Dee Ellis' 8 Minute Memoirs in place of #NaNoWriMo.

Initially, I skipped this prompt. I have four siblings and couldn't pick one, so I sat on this for a bit.

Then I remembered Brian, the imagined twin sibling that my parents gave to me as a child. Brian was my evil twin, the one who lived in the crawl space under the house. I was careful to behave so they wouldn't switch me out for Brian... but I've written about him before (although perhaps never posted).

Now as I sit in my dark house after midnight, I know what I should write about. A sibling, not for me, but for my child.

Growing up, I knew I wanted six kids. There were five total siblings in my home, and it often felt like one of us would get left out. Six solves that problem. Everyone can pair off and be happy.

Then infertility.

When I got married seven years ago, I thought I'd have at least three kids by now. Halfway to the full,  perhaps annoyingly large family I had always envisioned.

Now I'm struggling just to get to one, and I have no idea whether the one I hope for will ever get a sibling. There has been so much struggle and heartache and all I have to show for it at this point in time is one miscarriage and 12 other embryos lost either in the lab or my uterus. Right now I'm almost wondering whether the one kid will even be worth everything I've been through--can you imagine if I have to go through it all again just to get a second?

Siblings gave me so much growing up. We loved each other, hated each other, learned how to share and establish boundaries, and now we all have four other people to turn to when we want to reminisce , complain, or laugh about our childhood. Will I be able to give that to my child? Can I?

10 November 2017

Day 23: Suffering

I'm writing Ann Dee Ellis' 8 Minute Memoirs in place of #NaNoWriMo. Please note, this post addresses miscarriage and may not be appropriate for those triggered by this topic.

Sometimes, it feels like suffering is everything. These are moments when my brain forgets how many great things I have--my husband, my family, my friends. They are fiercely strong moments when the suffering takes over, the great things melt away, and life turns charcoal grey.

In the now two and a half weeks since my miscarriage, I've experienced a lot more suffering than I'm used to. Physically I recovered pretty quickly (well, I'm still doing blood draws and have to go visit the OB who performed my surgery in two weeks but I feel fine), but mentally it's not over.

In my head, I can't avoid the milestones I was supposed to be hitting week after week. I should have heard the heartbeat again by now. I'd be able to learn the sex after this upcoming Sunday. I'm constantly looking through a window at a life that isn't actually mine anymore.

I sort of hope that there's a parallel universe version of me who isn't struggling right now. Who has the life I'm watching through a window. A version whose baby started kicking this very week and is having a harder and harder time sleeping every night but who doesn't care because of how grateful she is just to be there, lying awake in the dark with her baby growing inside her. I want to find the window through which I can peer and see that universe, kick out the glass, and take her place. She can come here and suffer while people are endlessly kind and life looks pretty perfect but actually she's still obsessed with the baby she doesn't have anymore and can't go a day without crying yet.

This is miscarriage. It's not the ultrasound tech staring tight-lipped at the screen or the bloody moment when all is lost or even the ER visit to come later. It's the hours, days, and weeks that follow, where you and your spouse still obsess over a being you don't actually know, and slowly, those around you start to forget about a baby they couldn't meet.

This is suffering.

Day 21: Friendship

I'm writing Ann Dee Ellis' 8 Minute Memoirs in place of #NaNoWriMo.

I've heard people say many times that friends are the family you choose. I always liked that saying.

I chose many of my friends for proximity reasons, but over time, a lot of those proximity friends have held true over years or time and hundreds of miles of separation.

Now I tend to collect friends in the opposite direction. I often befriend people through Facebook groups and in comment sections despite only having been aware of their existence for minutes and living states or countries apart.

Friendship is a funny thing because it's a manufactured bond that you and another person agree on. I do maintain friendships with family members too, but something about picking out a random individual who lives impossibly far away and choosing to make them special to you is really exciting.

I honestly don't know where I'd be without my friends. They hold me up, cry with me (yes, literally), call or text me when one of us is in crisis, support me even when I'm maybe a little bit wrong, and give me the space to grow.

Not to discount everything my family has done for me. But the prompt today is friendship, not family...

There are few things as special as seeing old friends. I had the privilege of attending a friend's wedding in San Diego this past weekend, and I saw several. I loved how easy it was to fall back into a rhythm. We told jokes, we caught up, we danced like it was 2001, and we even sat together at a table. It was like high school all over again but without any of the parts I hated.