Friday, August 23, 2013

Update on My Mom

It's been almost three weeks since my mom returned home from the rehabilitation center.  I've been able to visit her twice, and there are some great things happening--along with some very hard things.

Everyone in my family is struggling with this slow loss of our sweet mother.  And each of us deals with it in our own way.  My way is through writing, so I'm just going to let everything spill out below.

The good news is that my mom knows her environment now and seems so much happier than she was within the unfamiliar walls of the rehab center.  Between me, my siblings, and some dear friends and neighbors, my dad now is getting help full-time for my mom so he doesn't have to shoulder this huge responsibility on his own.  

Mom is standing better than she was before the second break, she recently got a new haircut, she has some new clothes and shoes that my sister Lisa helped her pick out.  We're in a pretty good routine right now, and I'm finally able to relax during the day because I'm not worried that my mom will fall again.  (That's an enormous relief.  I can't even tell you how anxious I was about that.)

When I go to visit, we spend as much time as we can outside.  Here's a photo from last week when Spencer held my mom's hand while we crossed the street. (See how she points her finger to tell him where to go? She's so cute.)

We ran into our dear friend Marsha while we were on our walk, and I just had to post this photo.  Marsha's daughter Emily is one of my best friends.  We played together every day after school all throughout our elementary years, and now Marsha helps tend my mom sometimes so my dad can go on his walks along the seashore.  She's such a great neighbor.

This is from yesterday.  Alia's a good helper.

This is me and my mom--my best friend.  Doesn't she look happy?

So that's all good news.  And I am incredibly grateful.

It's just that along with all this good news, what's happening inside my mom's head is devastating to me.

At the visit to the doctor's this week, my sister found out that my mom's "dementia" can actually now be termed "Alzheimer's."  That shouldn't surprise me, but it still hurt to hear the word.  And I do think it helps me to understand what's going on.  Here are some examples:

At least one hour of every visit is spent in the restroom, helping my mom with those very personal, human needs that become so much harder when a person gets old.  She can't remember what's happening or how long she's been in there or why hand soap doesn't go on toothbrushes.  She pulls things out of the cupboards and wraps them up in towels and tries to hide them in the drawers--all while I'm saying, "It's okay Mom.  Let's put those things away and get you out in the living room to see your grandchildren."

And then she looks so happy and surprised and says, "Oh! My grandchildren are here? Which ones?"

So I tell her their names (even though she saw them just moments before), and by the time we get out to the hallway, she's surprised that they're there (again).

My dad tried to make a cake with my mom last week (to keep her active and happy), but every time he turned his back, she would hide the measuring spoons or some other kitchen gadget he was using (he found some items in the drawer under the stove), and although he was trying to be patient, it was just too much for him.  No cake this week.

I can tell my dad is struggling.  He doesn't know how to say it, but I know he's mourning the loss of his wife.  You wouldn't know it if you saw him, but I think it's harder on him than it is on any of us.

There are dozens of other stories I could tell, but a lot of them are sad, and a lot of them are too personal to post.

I'm handling this better than I thought I would be, but today on my run, I had to stop for a couple of minutes because I was just sobbing.  Same thing when I took my shower.  And right now.  

There used to be little moments of conversation--some recollection of our past together that we could talk about and laugh about.  But yesterday there was nothing.  She talks in circles and keeps trying to "accomplish something," but she can't focus.  She thinks her parents are there in the house with us, and for some reason, she's convinced that puppies and kitty cats are supposed to be there, as well, but she can't find them.

I hug her and kiss her and press my cheek to hers and say, "I love you so much, Mom."

She hugs me back and says, "Oh, I believe it, April.  I know you love me.  And I love you, too."

Last week, she asked me to take her to her bed early and just lie down next to her.  I hadn't done that since college.

I wrapped my arms around her and told her I didn't know what I would do without her, and she reassured me, "I'll always be with you. I'll always be with you."

When I turn out her lights and put the side up on her hospital bed, I always bring my children in to "kiss Grandma goodnight," and then I tell her that I'll be back in the morning so we can make pancakes.  I'm never there in the morning, but she doesn't know that, and the thought of pancakes always makes her smile.

I don't like this process.  It hurts, and it's difficult to manage with my four children--especially my five-year-old, who inevitably spills red punch or a whole bag of Costco goldfish crackers or falls in the bay with his clothes on (when we didn't bring extra underwear).

But this is part of life.  And it's binding all of us together with a common cause.  And I feel God with me, teaching me. 

Thanks for letting me share.  Just having someone to tell makes it so much easier.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My New Love of Exercise

It hurts to move right now.

My hamstrings, abdominals, triceps, quads, and calves are incredibly sore.

But I am feeling so, so happy.

About a year ago, I started writing and talking about body image issues (and how I counted calories when I was nine):
I learned a LOT throughout that process, but making exercise a priority has still been a struggle.

Until now.  (Well, it's been 3 1/2 weeks . . . but I'm feeling very optimistic.)

My family and I went to visit our friends Corey and Mandy Berg at the end of July, and while I was there, Mandy and I recorded a podcast together.  You can listen to it here:

I've known Mandy for about 13 years, and she's one of those moms who loves exercise.  Every time I'm with her, I'm inspired.

This is us about seven years ago:

And here's our "reenactment" - with a few more children - taken this July:

As Mandy and I talked during that podcast, I decided it was finally time.  Exercise was going to become a priority to me--not just something I did "if the day worked out that way."

I'll share more ideas and suggestions that inspired me in the future, but I at least wanted to put this podcast out there and invite any of you who are feeling sluggish and discouraged (and like there's never enough time!) to hear what Mandy has to say.  I think you'll love it.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Deliberate Motherhood - Barnes & Noble

I just had one of those "dream come true" moments and wanted to share.  (I hope you won't mind.)

Ever since I was a high school student, I would walk into Barnes & Noble with wide eyes and stare in amazement at all the shelves stocked with colorful book jackets and engaging titles. 

There's something about that store that gets my heart beating fast.

I can't even tell you how many times Eric and I have sat side by side in the aisles of Barnes & Noble on our date nights, surrounded with stacks of books.  We inevitably leave with one or two new ones (have I mentioned our bedroom is primarily decorated with bookshelves?), and our discussions on the way home from our date nights are always filled with new ideas and animated discussions about our goals.  (He's my soul mate.)

In the back of my mind, I've always hoped that someday I would have the opportunity to put my thoughts and ideas up there on a shelf next to all the others who love writing as much as I do.  And I've always hoped that in that process, someone would walk by and see my book and say, "That's exactly what I need right now."

Well, I don't know when or where or if Barnes & Noble will stock our book on their actual shelves, but Deliberate Motherhood, our first Power of Moms compilation (written by more than 60 moms from our community), is now up on Barnes & Noble's website.


I'm giddy inside.

I keep looking at the page and smiling.

This is a neat moment for me--and for all of us at Power of Moms.

So thank you to all of the wonderful authors of Deliberate Motherhood for helping to create such a fantastic book.

Thank you to our Power of Moms community for coming to the website and supporting us as we do our very best to strengthen families.

And thank you to Familius Publishing for believing in us and making this book appear in so many places!  (The book is being relaunched on September 3rd.  Press "Buy" on the Familius' Deliberate Motherhood page to see all the places where the book is being offered.)

Just one more note: If you have a sizable blog and would like to review a copy of the book, or if you want to stay up-to-date on what's happening with this book project at Power of Moms, please visit our Power of Moms book page for more details.

This has been a huge, huge project--spanning more than three years--but my heart's so happy about it.

Thanks, everyone, for your support! 

Much love,

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Things You Can't Talk About

I woke up feeling overwhelmed this morning.

There are some heavy things weighing on my heart, but they're the personal kinds of things that I can't write about specifically on this blog.

Everything is generally going really well in my life right now, and if I did tell you what's troubling me, you might not think it's that big of a deal.  But these challenges are hard for me--to the point that my stomach starts to hurt a little bit, and I kind of want to stay in bed watching movies all day. (Ever had a day like that?)

But I learned something really important during my travels and visits with friends this summer.

I learned that everyone has something going on that they would never post to social media.

In those quiet talks Eric and I had with our dear friends and family members, we discussed things that they or their loved ones are going through--like marital infidelity, divorce, custody issues, suicide attempts, children who were victims of rape, deep feelings of loss over the premature death of a spouse, financial stress, severe parenting dilemmas, and eating disorders.

I felt so humbled after some of these talks, especially as I realized how common it is for the people we love to be suffering more than we know they are.

But then this morning I read a few reminders during my scripture study that brought a beautiful peace to my heart, so I thought I'd share it--in case you're having one of those days where you're not breathing very well, or where you think everyone else's life is just one big party.

First, look to God and live.

This one is so simple, but it makes so much sense.  We keep our eyes up.  We focus on Him.  We make the choice to live (not to stay in bed watching movies).

He has this incredible ability to lift the rest of our lives and to heal us from all those things that hurt inside.  I don't know how He does it, but I know He does it.

His power is amazing.  Amazing.

Second, when we bear all things with patience--because the Lord is with us and has given us power to do so--then at the end of each particular challenge, we will know that He was the one who delivered us.

This is an important point that I keep learning over and over again.  Sometimes God allows us to be put in circumstances that feel impossible because He wants us to know that the only way we got out of those circumstances was because of Him.

We hear this question often: "If there's a God, then why does He let bad things happen to good people?"

My husband and I were talking about this the other day, and He said, "How about we change that question and make it into this: Why does God let HARD things happen to good people?"

That's a much better question.

God knows that when we go through things that are hard, we will turn to Him.  He'll show us how strong He is, and then He'll transfer some of that strength to us.  And He'll provide us mercy--because of His Son.  That one idea is so powerful and comforting to me.

Third, as much as we put our trust in God, that's how much we will be delivered out of our trials and troubles.

Not sure if I phrased that right, but here's what I mean: It seems logical to pray less when we feel like we're not getting answers, but the reverse is actually true.  When we feel like the heavens are closed or that life is too hard or that no one is listening to us, that's when we pray more.  

That's when we pour our hearts out to the Lord first thing in the morning and keep a prayer in our hearts throughout the whole day.  That's when we gather our children around us and invite them to feel that same power in their lives.  We sing to the Lord while we exercise and run errands.  We listen to music or podcasts or videos that strengthen our faith.  We treat others gently and sweetly--like we know the Lord is treating us--and if one single doubt comes into our minds that we will ever get out of the difficulty we are in, we sweep that doubt out and replace it with an increase of faith.

That process has worked every single time for me.

I don't know what you are going through right now, but sometimes I feel like the Lord helps me to know a little bit of the heartache that the readers of my blog are feeling.  That's why I'm writing this here this morning.  (Usually these things would just go in my personal journal.)

I know that the Lord is there for all of us.  He wants to help us with all those things we can't talk about, and as we increase our faith and help others increase their faith, our lives will take on an added measure of power and beauty--beyond what we ever anticipated.

Much, much love,


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Home from Vacation (And Things are Changing)

This summer has been wonderful . . . and busy. 

I have hundreds of photos where I've tried to capture the memories, but most of the experiences are sitting in my heart (lots of new things to think about).

Here are just a couple of photos from our last trip:

We went to Aspen Grove with a group of friends we knew back in Boston.  (I had seven photos of the group and this is the one that had the most eyes open.)  It was a beautiful week filled with late nights where we sat up talking until 1am.  Aspen Grove is amazing, and we're so grateful for these good people.

We made a few stops to see Eric's family, my sister Page, and a couple of friends (I'll post some of those photos later), and then we took our children to Arches National Park to see Delicate Arch.  (I had no idea how huge it was.)  If you haven't been there before, I definitely recommend it.

On our drive back to California, I saw this on my sister-in-law's Instagram feed:

My mom is now home!

That picture is so sweet to me.  Many times when my mom was in the rehabilitation center, she would cry and beg us to please take her out to the car.

I turned to my dad for help on that one.  "What do you say to her when she asks that?"

He replied, "I tell her we're going to get her walking, and then I'm going to take her home forever."

I just love my family.

And I know several school districts around the country start after Labor Day, but ours started this week.  Here's my front-door snapshot before we got in the car.  I thought it was cute that the boys wanted to match.

This was last year:

Wow, they're growing up. 

Spencer is in first grade right now, which means that for the first time in 13 years, I have six hours a day to myself.

This is a huge change for me, particularly since I've been doing all my Power of Moms work in bits and snatches over the past six years.  And although there hasn't been a calm moment yet for this new life to "sink in," I'm definitely feeling some heavy nostalgia as I consider how my life has shifted to this new place. 

I'm reading the biography of Ardeth Kapp right now, and yesterday I read a sweet passage about change.

Basically, I learned that whenever a change happens, it's common for there to be an accompanying sense of loss.  But that's okay.  We don't have to let ourselves feel badly.  We simply feel gratitude for the fact those experiences happened in the first place.

Those ideas have been helpful to me.  I miss the Kidergarten pick-up and eating sweet potatoes on the front porch with Spencer while we waited for "the kids" to come home.

I miss the younger versions of Alia, Grace, and Ethan.

When I called my Mom yesterday, she could only speak to me for a moment.  It stressed her out to have to think of something to say, so she quickly passed the phone to my sister Lisa and asked her to do the talking.  I understood.  It must be so hard for her to not know what's happening around her.

But I'm grateful to have this family, and change is good in so many ways.  I have more time now to devote to my home (we finally repaired the dry wall in our family room and spruced up the paint and window treatments), I can now get my Power of Moms work done while my children are in school, and I can actually write all those things that have been waiting inside me.  My husband and I have more time together, and I have the flexibility to be helpful to others who need me.

The opportunities are exciting, but I also feel a heavy sense of responsibility to use this time well.

The night before school started, Eric gave each child a Father's Blessing (that's a special priesthood ordinance where a father puts his hands on each child's head and offers blessings of direction and comfort.  You can click here if you'd like to learn more.). 

The blessings were beautiful, and after the last one, Alia said, "What about Mom?"

Eric asked me if I wanted one, and while I didn't want to keep the children up too late, I nodded.  

Eric gave me such a beautiful blessing--reminding me that the Lord is aware of me and my goals and my efforts, and He will help me to know where to put my focus.  The spirit I felt during that blessing was precious. 

Life is changing.  Things are busy.  But as we try to focus on what is most important, we can feel so, so grateful for this privilege to live.

Much love,

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My "Standing Ovation" for David Allen's TED Talk

If you haven't yet watched this TED talk by David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, it is absolutely worth your time. This blog post is my symbolic standing ovation.

I first heard about Getting Things Done from my friend Saren, who recommended it casually as a book I might enjoy.  I then saw it at the library the following week and picked it up--thinking I might glean an organization tip or two as I flipped through the pages. 

Well, that book flipped my organization/life management strategy upside down and gave me the tools and perspective I needed to accomplish way more in much less time (while enjoying my family in an un-distracted way that I'd only dreamed about).

I now teach GTD for Moms in a program called Mind Organization for Moms.  If you haven't checked it out yet, please do.  I LOVE this program and use it every single day.

Here are some of the key ideas from the TED talk above that really resonated with me:
  • Appropriate engagement: Our goal isn't just to get a whole lot of stuff "done."  Our goal is to be appropriately engaged with our lives.  We want to spend the right amount of time on the right things--and not waste our precious hours procrastinating or being stressed out.
  • NOTHING should be in our heads.  Writing each idea, project, and commitment on paper gives us space in our minds to be more creative, more productive, and happier overall.  Putting all those papers into trusted systems allows our minds to rest, and that opens the world to us.
  • Sophisticated Spontaneity: Isn't that a beautiful term?  When our commitments and projects are clearly defined and put into a seamless system, we can then be that "spontaneous" person who runs off on a romantic getaway for a weekend or sits at the kitchen table for an hour playing Legos.  Our minds know what they are not doing, so there's no stress.  We'll just pick up where we left off.
  • More time won't solve our problems.  We might think "just two more hours" will give us that peace and order we desire.  But more time (with our current disorganized systems) will just give us more "overwhelm and stickiness" (as David calls it).  Revamping our systems is the key.
GTD methods help us to eliminate "hurry" from our vocabulary.  We become the "Captain Commanders" of our lives.  We're able to give focused attention to what deserves our attention and we no longer have to try to think about everything at once. 

Each one of us has important things to do--within our own families, within our professions, within our communities, and within the world.  Getting a handle on our lives--including our emails, errands, tasks, projects, goals, and paperwork--is essential, and the GTD system is honestly the best one I know.

Thanks David Allen!


Any additional thoughts or questions?

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Process of Creating An Ideal Life

Last Wednesday, I was lucky enough to have seven hours all to myself. 

I almost feel guilty writing that because I know it's so rare for a mother to get that much time, but wow, it was rejuvenating.

I spent a few hours that day thinking about creating an "ideal life," and I thought I'd share a little bit about what that process looks like for me (and invite you to share any tips you have).

When I say "ideal life," I don't mean a perfect life.  I just mean that each day, I want to be able to move forward--controlling the things I can control--in a way that will help me better handle everything that's hard (and there's hard stuff everyday).

So the first thing I did was sort through a file folder of notes I've collected and built upon over the past couple of years describing what would help me to feel thrilled about my life.  Here is one example:

As I went through each paper (pictured below), I jotted down common themes onto a single sheet of paper.  This became my "guiding sheet."

Then using that "guiding sheet," I drew a weekly time map that will help me structure my activities, recreation/family time, work, rest, goals, etc.  

This is my time map from last year, if you want to see a little example (sorry it's a little hard to see). 

I know that only about 50% of each week will ever go as planned, and challenges always pop up, but I also know that if I don't have a plan in place, I'll end up feeling stressed out, spread too thin, overly-emotional, discouraged, and frazzled.  

I don't like being like that.

I don't think anyone enjoys being like that.

But that's okay.  We don't have to. 

If you haven't yet created a time map for this fall, I would definitely recommend it.  I'm amazed at how excited and peaceful it's helped me to feel.  

Good luck!

Any other comments, suggestions, questions, or ideas?  I'm still tweaking my schedule, and I'd love to hear more ideas on this subject.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Wondering Lists

Saren (my Power of Moms Co-Director) introduced us to this great idea called "Wondering Lists."

You know how sometimes you'll be in the middle of something like talking with the insurance company about a mistake on a bill, and one of your children will say, "Hey mom!  How does a baby come out of a mommy?"

Well, now instead of shrugging your shoulders or whispering, "I can't talk right now!" you simply instruct your child to record the question on the Wondering List.

Here are a couple of photos from our current list.  Notice that my sample question above was real--from Spencer:

The idea is that our family will research these questions together and participate in a fantastic educational experience.

The reality is that I've never gotten past the list-making.  

That's okay, though.  This fall we're going to make it happen.  I even stored these images in Evernote so they'll be handy at all times.  (If you haven't yet installed Evernote on your phone/tablet, it's a must.  I love it.)

Anyone out there have success with your wondering list . . . or some other method of answering all those questions your children ask?

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