Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Power of Moms (and Me and You)

Well....hi....?  How is it that everything that seems appropriate to say at this moment also seems a little understated? Its been two and a half years? None of you got the incredibly witty weekly posts? Huh. That's weird. Okay, well truthfully, I guess I fell off the blogging wagon pretty hard, didnt I? Oops.

Well, the good news is that I was pushed back on that blogging wagon by a woman named April Perry. Now at the risk of sounding stalkerish I will tell you that I dont really know April. I met her once, and I have emailed her a couple of times. But it isnt like we know each other's birthdays or chat on the phone.The reason she is so inspirational to me is her ability to take dreams and passion, and build them to be a reality bit by bit. April was just an ordinary person, a new mom who was determined to excel at her new motherhood career, despite and maybe even because of the lack luster and loneliness she initially felt about mothering. Long story short, she decided to start an organization called Power of Moms.  She and Saren Loosli (who I am sure is equally amazing) have built this amazing organization using their own funds, freetime, and thoughtfulness. It started as a dream and now reaches over 1 million mothers worldwide.  You can read her story in her words here.  April is such a down to earth, sweet and soft spoken person. But who she is is powerful. And her words are powerful. 

Hi, I'm April.  Welcome!

I love Power of Moms. I just cannot stop talking about it because I feel empowered. The principles of mothering that Power of Moms is organized around are simple and profound, but the specifics of it are saved for another day and another post. This post is about the concept that I can have a voice. I can make a difference. I dont know about you guys, but sometimes I am just plain scared and insecure about using my voice and putting myself out there, whether it be in my blog, my conversations, or what-not. April is a living demonstration of how positive and powerful dreams can come true, just by being brave enough to try and keep trying. 

I  have tried to write my book for almost three years now. And by tried, I mean mostly feel a deep desire and need to share my story, and then feel overwhelmed and unsure as to how to begin. And it isnt like even now I feel like I could just whip up my story during the next nap time or even next year. But I do know that I can keep building bit by bit. Power isnt always the short, strong bursts of energy that I often think of. Consistent and deliberate effort can be just as powerful as the frantic sprint. 

Do you have a wish or a dream, something that you feel drawn to do but feel incapable or unsure? What do you do to feel empowered and inspired? 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

All About Ava

So way back in October, I was contemplating how to celebrate Ava's birthday--I was thinking of making some baby dresses and things and donating them to the hospital. But I was thinking small. Dinky. My sister Jen suggested doing a tree for Festival of Trees. Festival of Trees is a large scale fundraiser for Primary Children's Hospital. Ava was life-flighted to Primary Children's and died there. All of us were so taken care of there, and it is a special place for us. Anyone can donate, and the donations do not have to be large and invovled--check out festivaloftreesutah.com for more details.

So thanks to my ever helpful and loving sister, I decided to just go for it. Go big or go home, right? Thus was "All About Ava" brought about. "All About Ava" was all pink and white, and only contained items which could be used by little girls--the idea was to be practical and helpful to other struggling little girls and their families, while still being ovewhelmingly girly.

I had people that I dont even know donate things. Cute things. Handmade things. Dear friends made burp cloths, and helped decorate the final product. My ward Relief Society made quilts for the tree skirt, baby bracelets, beanies, dresses. Aunts gave pacifiers, other quilts, onesies with frilly bums (love frilly bums!)and pink sequined santa hats! One great grandma donated money, while another crocheted the most gorgeous dresses, burp cloths, booties, and sweaters.

Wade wanted to do something to help, but not being so literate in sewing, he bought a doll house kit. He worked for hours staining each roof shingle, cutting it to size. He painted every inch of it, and even hung tiny wreaths with pink bows in each of the windows.

The whole process was so exciting, and so emotional. There is something so beautiful about the countless gifts my blind-deaf angel gave to me that inspires me to want to give something, anything to other little girls.

Well, enough jibber jabber. Might start crying if I keep on like this. So here are some pictures of the whole thing:

--Men's Work--

--Who doesn't need a pink feather boa?--

--Helping Heatha, and you said you weren't creative!--
(Sorry Ash, we forgot to take picture with you and B!)
--Pink tutu from Michelle, shoes from Denise, bows from Jill, and shirt from Jaimee!--
--Grandma Stewart's handiwork--
--And some more from Grandma Stewart--
--Ava's onsies and hairbow--
--All donated by family, friends and ward members!--

-- Dollhouse and bench by Wade and I, Carseat Cover by Erin and her mom--
--Books from Nat and Nita--
--The finished product--

The feeling at this Festival was so cheerful and giving; I was really touched by the number of people that were doing trees in memory of their loved ones too. There were so many trees dedicated to little babies. There is something about losing a tiny innocent baby--something about dreams and aspirations for your child that inspires this urge to help their un-lived legacy be known a little more, to stay with us a little longer.

It was so surreal to have hoards of complete strangers file past the tree commenting on this or that, and read the story card that went along with the tree. These people were, in a small way, getting to know my sweet baby that they would never meet. It was very touching. It somehow validated her life. That may sound weird, but to share the reality of her life with others made it somehow more real than my private thoughts and memories of her that are constantly playing themselves in my mind.

Our tree was also highlighted very briefly by a kinda goofy guy on the local channel 4 news:


On the story card I wrote that in her life Ava brought families, communities and strangers together in love and concern for one another, and she continues to do so. This tree was only brought about through the kindness and thoughtfulness of family, friends, ward members, a mother who lost her own blind-deaf daughter, and strangers that only heard about Ava. When people care enough about other people to help, to act, that is beautiful to me. That is love. And I see that in people everyday. Thank you for showing me what Christmas is about.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Having the Runs

The month of August has been chock full of runs. Runs of all kinds. We have had runs in the rain, runs in the sweltering heat. We run in the early mornings and sometimes we run at night. We have had runs that turn into walks, and runs that turn into sprints. We have run in California, Bear Lake, Park City, Morgan and Logan.

And then there are the other kind of runs. I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say that this month I got hit with the worst kind of sick I have ever had. I still have no idea what brought it on, but I never had so much quality bathroom time in my life. I didn't eat for three days, and I lost enough weight that women in my ward said I looked "frail" and that my clothes "hung off me". Those runs were awful. Miserable. Yucky. But I will move on to detail more exciting, if equally miserable, runs.

On August 7, Wade and I ran the Jupiter's Peak 16 mile trail run. This was our first long long long distance race, and we really did try to train well for it. We ran it with my brother Ben who was in town from Philadelphia. What kind of a family bonds by racing up a 3000 foot elevation change spread over 8 miles, and then runs all the way back down again, beating their respective knees into the steep dirt trails? We are really going to have to think of alternative means of entertainment.

{Since we all had synchronized brain farts and didnt bring a camera, we have no pictures of this event, so enjoy this pic of random guys struggling up the peak. Oh, we did kiss at the summit though. And by we, I mean Wade and I. Just to clarify.}

The thing that made this race even better was that, unbeknownst to us, this race is run primarily by very elitist runners. It should have been obvious; how many people do you know that run to the highest peak in Park City for fun? Needless to say, Wade and I were a little out of place with our cotton T-shirts and generic running shorts. We didnt have the sleek running gear, just our race tags pinned to our shirts and our farmers tans. We got quite a few looks, and some even commented on the fact that this was obviously our first race, our cotton T-shirts being a dead give away. We joked afterwards that we were definitely the orphan children of such a posh crowd, and we sure looked the part.

So we were outclassed, and even out ran by a few elderly people who looked deceivingly feeble. Yeah, there were quite a few old grandma ladies who beat us a by a good 15 minutes! Ben outran us by 40 minutes, but ended up with the biggest blisters I have ever seen all over his feet. Poor guy. Our final time was 3 hours and 26 minutes, which averaged about to be a little less than a 13 minute mile. Not great. But I was just happy to finish with our marriage still in tact--I can be a very grumpy runner, and Wade wasn't feeling overly cheerful either.

As we limped to our car, I told Wade to never again let me talk us into something so stupid ever again. Ever.

{Just in case you want to see how crazy this run really is, and sign up to run it next year!}

Two weeks later we found ourselves waiting for a port-a-potty with five minutes to go until the Top of Utah Half Marathon was to start. Wade and I had planned to run this race months ago because we wanted to do something to remember Ava by. It seemed fitting because we both feel that she demonstrated such endurance and patience. She taught us that we can do hard things.

And it was hard. My knee was injured, we didnt get a lot of sleep, and didnt train hardly at all since we ran Jupiter's Peak.

I always learn something when I run, and this race re-taught me to forget about comparing myself to others; just do what I need to do how I need to do it. It is so easy for me to get discouraged when some tiny little girl with horrible form and a tiny stride passes me up, or when I hear the wheezing old man behind me gaining. It makes me just want to quit. I almost just stop dead in my tracks because I feel so discouraged. But my run is about me. It is about my stride, my attitude, my will. Yeah, I finally learned that at mile 12.

{So sweaty.}

{I am glad that we have a picture outside of this house, since this was Ava's home while she was here).

{I really dont know what I am smiling about. I felt like poo.}

{My sweet husband stayed with me the entire time, though he surely could have outraced me. He kept saying that we had overcome everything else as a team, so we would run the race as a team too.}

Even though I am being a Negative Nancy in this post, the truth is that these runs are not all bad. In fact, there were parts of them that were inspiring and exhilarating. And as I sit here typing this, I realize that life is like that too. A lot of struggle, but there is joy in the journey if I can look for it.

I am very ready to take a break from distance training. It will feel so good to run a measly three miles tonight. I will relish it. Overall though, I would do these runs all over again. (Well, not the nasty bathroom run part.) But I think that doing these hard things have helped me become better. I will keep running, and keep looking to my baby girl to show me how to do hard things with strength and grace.

~Love you Avalee Grace!~

Thursday, June 24, 2010


This post is indulgent, really. There is no need to read further because I will only be displaying (rather proudly, that is) my somewhat recent handiwork. How fun it is to create stuff!!!

First off: The Ava Pillows

I wanted to give a very memorable Mother's Day gift to my dear mothers. Wade thought of making pillows, and I thought of making those pillows out of Ava's clothes. We used two preemie onesies, one small flannel swaddling blanket and one burp cloth.

I love to make things, but am sadly deficient in skills. Thus, I broke two sewing needles, jammed the poor sewing machine countless times, and broke my resolution to avoid bad words more times than I care to remember.

Happily, the result was very worth the frustration. I cant help but smile everytime I see one, or see a picture of one. I put one of Ava's headbands around the pillow with a hairbow attached, just to top it off. I love that they are about her same size, and the sweetness and simplicity of them also remind me of her.
One of these days I am going to make one for myself.

And then, The Grandma Clock

I am going to be giving away a lot of these clocks for presents. (So don't be surprised when you get one! Just be sure to tell me the colors of the room you want it for!) I love that they are customizable for any decor, and for any person. (I also love the fact that these clocks are less than $5 at Wal-mart.) All we did was get scrapbook paper, then cut and layer until satisfied. Easy-peasy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Beginnings of a Book

This is the beginning of my book. Since I am not a professional writer by any stretch of the imagination, I need your help. Please let me know what you think of it.

Lessons of Grace


I never wanted to write a book. That was never my intention. But here I am, sharing the lessons of grace that I learned from my own Gracie girl with others. I have wondered why I feel so driven to share this story when I cannot shake the feeling of my own inadequacy in writing. It is because I have met death.

I saw the change that came over her body as death took my child from me, even as I rocked her in my arms. I felt the coldness of her body after death claimed her. I walked the snow covered path leading to her grave on the day that we laid her body in the cold, hard ground. I saw this; I felt this; I lived this. But this is only half of the story. What I have not yet mentioned is that while I mourned deeply for my cherished baby girl, I did not despair. Not because I am stoic, and not because I am brave. I felt no despair because there was, and still remains, no cause for it.

"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help
thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." -Isaiah 41:10

I met death, and yet I hope. I hope because I felt that strengthening Isaiah speaks of. I felt that help. I felt it through my family, friends, neighbors, but most powerfully from that God who spoke those words. I know of Jesus Christ’s reality, and I know that He is aware of our deepest struggles. When I reflect back on my story, tears come to my eyes. Tears come as I realize that I, a 24-year-old woman who burns everything she bakes, loves the outdoors and sports, and sometimes forgets how to do basic algebra, walked through the hospital doors exiting to the parking garage, leaving the cold body of my tiny baby inside of it. I walked through those doors with floods of tears in my eyes, but just as much hope. I knew that my baby was safe, and that she was escorted by special spirits to the other side of the veil. I knew that she was no longer in pain. And I knew that I would see her again.

If God was with me through one of the most emotionally painful experiences I can imagine, then I cannot doubt that He is with me as I struggle with my own imperfections, my relationships, my finances and other aspects of daily living. That is why I write this book. I write it because I know that I am not the anomaly. I am not the exception. I am not one of God’s favorites, feeling His grace, mercy and strength as others are forced to manage on their own. God is no respecter of persons, and thus He is at my side and at yours, aiding and supporting each of us as we traverse this life.

So though it is often difficult for me to find the right words to convey my sometimes tangential thoughts and feelings, I continue to write. I struggle to balance the palpable emotional drama of this story with the non-tangible yet powerful truths. I keep typing, deleting, and typing again, hoping that readers can understand that in my moment of greatest pain and loss, I was able to feel greatest love from my God.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Therapy of Running

I have fallen in love with running again. Most days, anyway. I think it appeals to me so much because it parallels LIFE, or at least mine.

It is such a physical reminder to me that my best is the only thing that counts, and that comparing to other people usually leaves me discouraged, ashamed, or prideful. (Most times it is a combination of all three.)

For example, it seems as though it often happens that I get halfway through your workout and think, "Well, maybe I will just give myself a break today", not because I really need one, but because I don't want to have to try anymore. Just then, some super-lean Machine decked out in Eddie Bauer gear and a bright pink Ipod gets on the treadmill right next to me and proceeds to run twice as fast as me with seemingly NO effort. What the heck?

I am left to choose: I either could play the victim card as fast as I could, step off the treadmill trying to hide my scuffed tennis shoes with my head down, making no eye contact, and mumbling something about feeling sick


I could run at the pace I need, finish my race, and then smile nicely as I pick up the brand new Ipod that the Machine just dropped. On the way out, I feel great as I try really hard to not envy the Machine's perfectly sculpted buns of steel.

Running is one of the few activities without an element of distraction. When I ride a bike or walk, I can do all sorts of things to distract yourself from the pain and discomfort. I can read, watch TV, talk to a friend, etc. Running is too intense...if you do it well, I concentrate on my movements, on my breathing (and on not dropping off the back of the treadmill). I love that opportunity to focus; that forced chance to feel the pain, the momentum, the effort, and the exhilaration of doing something hard, and in doing it as well as I can.

I love that running is all about the journey. Running is not about the destination. If it was, most people would choose a destination on the other side of the block. The process of the journey is where joy resides. What a great physical demonstration of life! If one cant find the joy in the little steps which cumulatively form a great journey, then the journey is all for naught.

So even though my buns are closer to being aluminum foil than steel, I am a believer in the therapy of running. Critics claim it to be a rather radical and extreme form of therapy. Some even claim to prefer the controversial shock therapy. But supporters claim that nine mile runs in the rain can be as rejuvenating as seeing your husband scrub the toilet. What do you think? Tie on those shoes, get out the gym pass, and jump on a treadmill. Feel free to talk about your childhood, crazy parents, lost love, etc as you run. Oh, and by the way, if that is you in the Eddie Bauer tank, you dropped your Ipod.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mother's Day!

Mother's Day was a really special day for me. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Wade and I had a picnic breakfast at Ava's burial site, which we decorated with Gerber daisies. We sat up there for a long time as we talked and read books.

I felt very comforted and overjoyed to think about how safe Ava is and how much good she is doing. These pictures may seem a little light-hearted, and they are. We had lots of fun, and wanted to capture the happiness we felt.

So this is us trying to get Ava's flowers and name placard in the picture.
It took a few tries before we got it just right. I love looking at these pictures because Ava was always wearing flowers, especially daisies, on her head.

The barn and shed that you can see behind me in the background are on my mom and dad's property. I love that she looks right down on our house, and that she is always by family, even when Wade and I aren't in Morgan.
One of our sweet neighbors told me that she walks the cemetery road everyday and always stops to see Ava. And my Dad often brings up more dirt to smooth the grave as it settles. I am so grateful that she is surrounded by so many loving people.

I have often thought of pioneer moms who had to bury their precious ones wherever they happened to be. To think of using a thin shawl to wrap the child in as they tried to dig a grave in the frozen ground, and then walk away--knowing they would never be able to visit this sacred place that housed their child's body is unimaginable to me. How heartbreaking that would be. I am so grateful that I am able to re-visit this beautiful spot and remember the fun and love that we did and still do share together. I am able to care for her in a small way by being able to keep her grave clean and protected.