Like most children of the 80s and 90s I loved the show The Wonder Years. (And no I didn’t typo the title, keep reading!) It was a wholesome yet realistic look at an American family that took place in the late 60s/early 70s. They covered real events that happened before I was born. I loved learning about them. And the star, Kevin (Fred Savage) wasn’t difficult to look at either!
The entire family was hilarious. I think most people grow up with a brother like Wayne. I know I did! And with quirky teachers and the sweet girl next door, there was something for everyone. I especially loved the father, Jack. Not having a father I looked to strong male roles on television and movies to be my father figures. Jack was gruff and cranky, but had a softer side that always made me smile.
The Wonder Years was perfect….except for just one thing. THE ENDING! I despised the ending! The entire show was ruined for me with just 4 simple words: when dad passed away. Yeah….they killed off Jack! What?! I was floored! Now you have to know, watching my own father die right in front of me only 5 years earlier made the thought of Jack dying almost unbearable. I was crushed for weeks over it. (I was 13 when it ended, so keep in mind I was also an emotional teenager!) I felt betrayed by the show, the network, even the actor
Eventually I moved on and forgot all about my heartbreak. But thanks to the magical world of streaming services and the ridiculous amount of time granted to all of us thanks to quarantine, The Wonder Years and I met once again. But this time I had my 11 year old son watching with me. I LOVED sharing it with him. It made my heart happy! At first I kept thinking to myself “Do 12 year old boys really think like this?!” But my thoughts quickly turned to the ending of the show, and I started preparing to help him through the same heartbreak. When the day came, I couldn’t do it. I tried to shield him from the pain of losing fictional characters that affected my life. I tried!
What I forgot is that he lives a very different life than I did at that age. He is blessed to be in a home with both parents. The first death he ever experienced was when my Grandmother passed last year. Before that he hadn’t experienced it. By the time I was his age I had lost so many people. I was desperately terrified of losing someone else. So even though I was annoyed at first that he found a situation I found so sad to be comical, I guess I was grateful too. 🤷🏻♀️
Highs and Lows: In December 2019 we moved from our home in Logan to our new home in Davis County. In February we finally closed on and officially sold our home after being under contract for 3 months! In March we lost our beloved Grandma at the age of 102. A week later, coming home from her funeral, we found out we were going under lockdown because of Covid. In June we bought season passes to Lagoon. We have always wanted to do that! It ended up being both a blessing and a curse (as you can read in a past blog post from this year) but the kids loved taking advantage of an amusement park being only 20 minutes away. In August we took an amazing vacation with our cousins up the coast of Washington to the Canadian Border. We camped in Forks (yay twilight!), hiked in Olympia national forest, and played at the ocean. It was magical! In December Amy got a virtual ticket to The Ellen Degeneres Show and it just happened to be during the 12 days of giveaways. We used the gifts to get gifts for Christmas and we all agree Santa is alive and well in Ellen!
Micah: Micah is 5 (6 in January) and in kindergarten. He loves it! He’s our little soccer star and can’t wait to play again next spring. He also likes Pokémon, animals, cars, dinosaurs, and everything else boy!
Kaleb: Kaleb is 9 (10 in January) and in the 4th grade. He’s our little social butterfly who had the easiest time transition our move last year. He’s very active in soccer and basketball but also loves art, Pokémon, cars, legos, and video games.
Benson: Benson is 11 (12 in March) and in the 6th grade. He’s excited to be starting Young Men’s in January and go to middle school in the fall. He’s very active in soccer and basketball and loves to hang out with his friends. He also loves all things Harry Potter, legos, Pokémon, video games, and YouTube.
Todd and Amy: we’ve spent the year navigating through the uncharted territories of working from home and distant learning! This year has brought a lot of firsts into our relationship. It hasn’t been an easy transition or year for us but we’ve stuck together and became closer because of it. We celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary in July! We’ve both accepted new and different church responsibilities and coached Micah’s soccer team. We look forward to hopefully finding some normalcy again in the next year!
The fur babies: because who can forget them! Our poodle Piper turned 9 years old this year. She’s slowing down but is still doing great despite living in a house with 3 little boys! Aslan and Angela are happy in our new home and have transitioned to ruling their new territory. Unfortunately we lost 2 this year. Rocky passed away in the spring after he suffered a serious asthma attack. And Henry disappeared in the fall. We can only hope he is thriving in a new home. Sometimes owning pets is really hard.
We hope you all are healthy and happy and wish you all the best in the new year! Bring on 2021!
We all know by now I am a HUGE Ellen Degeneres fan. I’ve watched her show the entire time it’s been on TV and have submitted for tickets every single season since it started. That’s every single year for 18 seasons. In that time I’ve been to live tapings 4 times and have had a blast everytime! When Covid happened, obviously travel and going to live tapings abruptly stopped. Trying to get tickets to Ellen, or anything for that matter, became a distant thought as I started juggling keeping healthy (physically and mentally), distance education for the kids, working from home for the husband, etc, etc, etc. And from my last post, I wasn’t doing so well with that!
But then I found out that The Ellen Degeneres Show would be giving out virtual tickets this season. Ticket holders could participate from home and be displayed on a monitor instead of in person. I thought this was a great idea! So I submitted for tickets…..and then completely forgot about it! That is until 3 weeks ago. I was sitting in the Walmart parking lot late one evening waiting for my grocery order when in my boredom I decided to check my email. And there was an offer to virtually attend a show taping on December 10th! The email also stated that Ellen would not be hosting and it wasn’t part of the 12 days of givaways. But I figured it would be fun anyway and responded. I was SO excited, then a week before I recieved an email saying the taping had been cancelled. I was bummed for about 5 seconds until I read below that I was instead being offered a virtual ticket for Monday Decemer 7th instead. And this one was being hosted by Ellen!! I happily agreed and was sent confidentiality papers to sign. I had to agree not to disclose any info or surprises until after it aired. Which I thought was funny since I assumed it was also not a 12 days taping. But I willingly signed and got excited again!
Then the day finally came! I got everything all set up, did camera and mic checks, and arranged for the kids to be picked up from school. I made sure the lighting was good and that I was sitting at a good angle. I figured I was set! At the time I was given I logged on…..and got kicked out. This happened 3 more times before I started to panic. I remembered something similar happening when I tried to talk to a doctor online once and my heart sank realizing this was happening again. I couldn’t miss this! So I did the only thing I could think to do. With minutes to spare I ran down to my husband’s office, begged and pleaded for him to switch me computers, and ran off with his before he could respond. His computer got me in right away and I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard the familiar voice of Tommy, the warm up guy, talking to the audience.
Tommy immediatly congradulated us for getting a ticket to a 12 days of givaways. What?!? I couldn’t believe it!! He said that the tickets were so hard to get and that the audience was full of contest winners. But little old me have been given a coveted 12 days ticket, and I didn’t know how! The taping was so fun! I danced and clapped as if I was there. Ellen was hilarious as usual! She only had 2 guests, both virtually. Chance the rapper and a cute family from Texas whose son is fighting cancer. After the cameras stopped filming she left us with a message of hope for the holidays. But right smack in the middle of the show Ellen announced it was 12 days time! She gave us a $500 skin care kit, a $300 amazon gift card, another $350 amazon gift card, and a trip for 2 to a vineyard resort in Napa, California! I was shocked and thrilled! I immediatly shed a few tears as I realized the growing amazon cart I had for the kids’ Christmas would be covered by this amazing once in a lifetime oppurtunity.
I don’t know how or why I was so blessed to have this happen. I know it had to be divine intervention. I’ve talked a lot about staying for the surpirses. 3 months ago I sat on my bathroom floor contemplating ending my life. 2 months ago I opened up about my ordeal but was still so unstable. While the response was so supportive and kind, I was bullied maliciously by some of the people involved. They tried to bash me back down, but I still stuck around. And the surprises keep coming. Some are small, quiet like a whisper. And some have been insane, loud and life changing. I’ve done things that I would have never dreamed would happen as I sat on that bathroom floor. And there is so much yet to come! I am SO grateful I stayed for the surprises!
I’ve decided to share a story with all of you. But before I start I feel like I need to issue an apology to some of you. To those of you who know me personally, or follow me on social media, I have lied to you. And I am sorry. But if it is any consolation, I’ve lied to myself as well. This whole year I have told you all that I’m okay. And the truth is I have not been. But I thought if I kept telling myself that I was okay eventually I would be. And I was wrong. This is the story of my decent to rock bottom and what I learned from the fall.
I started the year extremely optimistic. We had recently moved an hour away from our previous home. We switched schools, church, and everything else so my husband could take a new and exciting job in Salt Lake City. And even though our contracted buyers on our former house were being slow and difficult, things were looking up! We had a fresh start, a new beginning, and we were excited. We quickly and relatively painlessly adjusted back to living as a family of 5 again, as my husband had started his job the previous summer while the boys and I stayed behind to sell the house. Selling the house and raising kids by myself was extremely stressful, so I was so grateful to be done with that. The boys adjusted great to their new school and our 2 youngest sons celebrated birthdays within the first month of our arrival. We loved the neighborhood and the new church. We finally sold our house in February, and then I left to attend a family party in Portland. I arrived home a few days later, blissfully unaware of both the looming global catastrophe and our own personal tragedy that was about to arupt.
My husband and I had been my Grandparent’s primary caregivers for the past 12 years. My grandpa died 9 years earlier, but we kept taking care of my Grandma as best we could. Taking care of an aging relative is stressful, especially when other people get involved. But the advantages outweighed the disadvantages by so much, and I truly loved the time we spent with her. Even though she was mostly in an assisted living home, we did everything for her. And the decision to move and leave her there was a difficult one. But we weren’t too far, and we had already waited so long for this oppurtunity, so we had to do it. But just a few months later, right after I got home from my trip, hospice called me to say she was going fast. And a few hours later I held my Grandma’s hand as she quietly slipped away. And even though she was 102, I was completely devestated. I planned the funeral, which was simple but turned out beautiful. I dressed her in her traditional religious clothing, whispered how much I loved her in her ear (and asked her to hug my dad for me) and said goodbye.
But there was no time to grieve, because on the way home from the funeral we found out we were being quarantined. No more school, no more church, no going out. My husband was sent to work from home and overnight I became a teacher to my kids and a coworker for him. His job became more demanding from home and that added pressure on me to keep the kids under control. And shout out to all the teachers out there, because I couldn’t even handle my own kids, let alone a classroom full of them! I really tried my best to make sure everyone had everything they needed all the time and were happy. But was always discouraged because it felt like nobody was ever happy. And I was sure my kids were going to fall so behind in school. I was so worried about their futures. They were frustrated and scared and refused to do much of anything educationally, leaving me even more concerned. Getting them to accomplish anything was such a fight, sometimes it didn’t seem worth it. I was being pulled in so many different directions. I felt like I was a juggler with 1000 balls and absolutely had to keep all of them in the air. I feared dropping a ball and disappointing someone so much that whenever I did drop a ball it was always my own. But still I felt like I was failing. I tried to ease my own fears and anxiety of what was going on by learning new skills. I learned how to do family history and discovered one of my favorite actresses is my 7th cousin! And I taught myself how to sew and started making masks for anyone that needed one. I made 100s of them for friends, family, and local hospitals and nursing homes. In June I bought season tickets to anything close to us that was open, and took the kids anywhere and everywhere I could to keep them entertained. Except with 3 of them came 3 ideas of what they wanted to do. And whether I took one and not the others somewhere, or forced them all to go to the same place, I was always in the wrong. Someone was always mad at me and not afraid to tell me. In August we did escape on a beautiful vacation with my sister and her family all the way up to the Canadian border. We hiked, swam in the ocean, camped in a rainforest. It was magical! And it was there that I decided it was time that I started living my truth. I needed to be brave about the things I felt and thought, and stop worrying what other people thought. And the extent of those truths are definitely for another blog post, but they were big and it was life changing for me. Except with that came more anxiety. I wasn’t overly concerned about what my friends and family thought, because the ones I had told were accepting and still loved me. But the idea came into my head that I might be disappointing the people who were looking down on me from heaven. And with that idea brought more guilt. By my birthday, which was the end of August, I had been hit with another inner conflict. I turned 39, which was the first birthday I got to experience that my dad never did. He died when he was 38. I had officially lived longer. And that brought on more grief and guilt. And on top of that we were quickly approaching the 6 month mark of my grandma’s passing, which I had been warned was the hardest time. The warnings were correct. I was falling apart and my grandma wasn’t there anymore. I ached to talk to her and see her again. I missed her more that I could ever describe. I started having panic attacks where I would end up in tears. I felt like I was always walking around with millions of pounds of sadness, grief, shame, and anxiety weiging on top of me. And it was getting harder and harder to breathe. And when I wasn’t able to control the anxiety anymore with exercise and medications, I fell back on an old bad habit that I thought I had conquered earlier in my life….cutting. I started cutting to control the pain, except it was a temporary control. It always came back. And I told no one because I was embarrassed and ashamed that I couldn’t handle my life, when it seemed like everyone else could. Except there was one person I told…..
Very unexpectedly and right in the middle of everything I made a friend! Making friends has never been hard for me. I get along with 95% of all the people I’ve ever met. But quarantine had made meeting and connecting with new people a lot harder. I spent every moment of my life for months with my little disobedient boys in a town where I knew no one. So she popped into my life when I needed someone the most. She was a performer at the amusement park where we had season tickets. The day I first saw her I was cranky because I was tired and ready to go home. But the kids insisted on just one more ride. So I sat to wait for them and saw her performing from outside the theater. Her energy and passion struck me immediately. Not long after, we finally met and I adored her right away. She was warm and sweet and not afraid to hug me, despite stupid COVID! Nobody had hugged me since my Grandma’s funeral and I am a hugger, so that alone was healing. I had prayed for a friend and I was sure she was an answer to that prayer. I thought we bonded pretty quickly, we had so much in common. She would invite me to come see her sometimes when she was performing. And as dumb as it sounds, when I watched her perform or talked to her all of the anxiety and grief and guilt I was always carrying around with me would go away for a little while. I described her once as the eye in my storm. The calm little break in the middle of a catastrophe. She made me feel safe. I was so grateful to have met her. She had her own struggles with anxiety, so I felt like she understood me. She told me once I could talk to her if I ever needed to, and I believed her. I had incredible friends up at home. They were there for me through so much and always had my back. I could tell them anything. I guess I’d been spoiled by them because I expected her to be like them. Which was completely stupid of me. She couldn’t be that type of friend, nor did she want to be. Not really at least. And I should have never expected that out of her. The more I counted on her the more she pulled away. She began to lie to me, I know now to push me away. I literally have no idea if anything she told me was true. Which made me telling her everything about me even worse. But I would ignore the lies, make excuses for her, or just blame myself. I figured I drove her lie to me. But I needed a friend and liked her so much that I brushed everything off and kept trying. And that ended up being a terrible mistake.
My friends and family warned me to be careful. My husband begged me to not to get involved with her. He knew I was going to get hurt the first time he met her. He’s very intuitive! But I didn’t want to not have her in my life. I was so sure we were meant to be friends. I thought if I could be better or more interesting she would like me like they did. Until the day I realized how very wrong I had been. On a Friday night I excitedly got on to social media to give her what I thought was good news. But I couldn’t find her anymore. I was sick when I realized she had blocked me from everything. No final words or explanation. Nothing. I was blindsighted. I couldn’t figure out what I did and it was driving me crazy. So I contacted a mutual friend, who I had seen just one day earlier and a wonderful brief conversation with. I told her what happened and she immediatly blocked me too. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t sleep at all and cried all night. By the next morning I was deperate to know what happened, or at least be able to apoligize for whatever I did. If they had just told me anything about what I had done, but they hadn’t and not knowing was killing me. It made my head spin feeling like I had invested so much into a friendship and seeing it end so abruptly with no explanation. Eventually I looked for other ways to contact either one of these girls. Which made me say and do so many more stupid things. Really stupid things. I was not in my right mind. But the grief and the confusion took over and I had no control. My husband and I had planned on taking our kids to the amusement park so they could see the Halloween decorations. I kept that promise despite everything I was feeling. But during that visit our mutual friend facetimed me through instagram. I knew I shouldn’t answer, but I needed to know. It was hard for me to get a word in because she had so much to say. She used every insecutiry I had against me. I was a bad mother, a bad wife, a bad friend and flat out crazy. My friend’s mother attended the same gym as me, although we had had only one brief conversation that I’m sure she doesn’t even remember. So I was obviously a stalker as well. She just went on and on about everything that she and my friend didn’t like about me. At one point I did say I just wanted to know what I did because my anxiety was so bad I was cutting over it. She told me flat out “We don’t care. Cut deeper”. I was destroyed. Not only did the friend who I had been so grateful to have now hated me, but she also hoped I died. Or at least didn’t care if I did. She was the only one who knew how much I was hurting. But instead of talking to me directly she let her friend rip me apart. By the time I hung up the phone, my heart was completely broken and I collapsed. Quite literally actually. I passed out right behind the little theatre I had met this girl at only a few months earlier. When I came to a very sweet young worker helped me up, which I was very grateful to know not all the employees there didn’t care if I lived or died. But remembering my promise to my kids I dusted myself off and acted as nothing had happened. A bit later we saw my friend working there, and my kids got excited and started to wave. When she saw us she ducked away and hid. And I made an excuse for her then too so my kids wouldn’t get hurt. We played there the rest of the night. Then we came home, I read to them, put them to bed, and finally after so many months of keeping everything inside allowed myself to fall apart.
The days after the phone call were very dark. Losing my only new friend in such a harsh and heartbreaking way was the final block the knocked the whole tower over. Everything over the past several months that I had kept inside had boiled over and I couldn’t function anymore. All of the grief and anxiety and fear came at me like a tsunami and I felt like I was drowning. I was so broken, so ashamed, and felt so small. I had dealt with depression and anxiety so many times before, but this was different. It was intense and terrifying. I was cutting and having panic attacks. I was throwing up and had constant migraines. I was afraid to go in public, especially to the gym, because I was worried I would see one of them. As a once social person, I couldn’t even bring myself to go to a grocery store. People were suddenly all bad and I thought any one of them could hurt me. I would hide in my bathroom and cry for hours. Finally I went home to my mom and let her hold me as I sobbed. I told her all I wanted to do was go home to my dad and Grandma. And I meant it. I saw nothing in front of me, I just wanted to die. Everything I had been carrying around had worn me down to nothing. I wasn’t good enough for anyone, I wasn’t worth anyone’s time. I couldn’t make anyone happy. I just wasn’t enough. We went to the cemetery together to visit my dad’s grave. My name is printed on the back of his headstone. I always thought it was kind of creepy, but that day I found it comforting. I imagined as I traced the letters of my name with my fingers seeing my name on the front of a headstone. My very own headstone. I found out my mom still owned the plot right next to my dads and I begged her to let me have it, so I could be buried next to him. My mom wanted to take me to the hospital, but I didn’t go because I didn’t want to fight for my life. I didn’t care enough to get help. On the ride home that night I told my husband in detail exactly how I wanted my funeral to be. Then when we got home I packed up most of my belongings, so my family wouldn’t have to do it. A few days later, though still thinking I would soon die, my husband convinced me to call a crisis center. I was assigned a crisis advocate, who almost called an ambulance. But I assured her I was going to be okay, which I obviously didn’t believe. I cut myself every single day. I kept hearing those words in my head. “We don’t care, cut deeper.” My husband went through my room and bathroom every day looking for razors, but I always had more. There was blood on my bathroom floor, my carpet, and in my shower. It was on my bedding and clothes, and I started wearing long sleeve shirts in 85 degree weather to hide the marks. I tried to continue to coach and attend my kids’ soccer games and keep up with everything they needed to keep things normal for them. But then the night came that I was ready to die, I was ready to cut deeper. I was officially done. I couldn’t pretend or handle everything anymore. I sat on the bathroom floor, with pills in one hand and a razor in the other, prepared to end it all. But I couldn’t do it because of my kids. Not because I didn’t think they were better off without me, because I knew they would be. But I knew they would probably find me, and having gone through the trauma of watching my own father die when I was just 7, I feared it would damage them as much as it damaged me. I watched him take his last breath. I watched my mom start CPR. I watched the EMT’s work on him until a neighbor pulled me away. But I went back in after the ambulance took him and saw the gloves and tourniquets left on the floor. And his shoes and glasses set neatly in a corner, waiting for him to come back. That expeirience 30 years earlier is the only reason I didn’t die that night. I just couldn’t do that to my kids. That very night I dreamed about my Grandma. She came up behind me wearing all white. I grabbed onto her arm and begged her to never leave me. She had tremors from as far back as I can remember. And in my dream she said nothing, but patted my head with her shaky hand. It was so real I could feel it. I realized soon after that that she had appeared to me in that dream to tell me that she was always with me, and that she was still proud of me. But it wasn’t my time to come home, and I needed to stay. So I finally let my friends, family, and advocate rally around me. They called, texted, and visited every day. My sister and her family even came all the way from Washington to be with me. Even perfect strangers who heard one way or another what was happening offered me help and support. And with all these people backing me up, I slowly started to fight. I started going places with other people, so they could support me if something happened. Although I don’t know when I’ll be strong enough to go back to the gym. I handed over all of my razor blades, which was not easy. I offically retired from sewing masks because it was now a painful reminder everytime I tried. Plus I didn’t have any more sharp objects to cut fabric with. I began to rely on a faith I had almost completely given up on. And I started working with a therapist who is helping me learn to control my thoughts and anxiety, along with dealing with everything that happened this year in a more healthy way. He often tells me I’m the most level headed person he’s ever worked with, which helps me feel more confident in myself again and forget some of the harsh things that were said to me. And my family is working with a family member who is a therapist too to know how to help me. I’ve even been making new friends. Women who are my age, over lying and playing games, and in the same life situations. I have armies of people standing behind me, ready to defend me or help me fight. I am so blessed with so many good people who actually care in my life.
My journey through this is not over. Its only just began. I still get sad and worry about things I can’t control. I still get mad. I still cry and listen to those voices in my head that tell me I’m not enough. I still fight the urges to cut. I still have panic attacks to the point where I can barely breathe. This will take me a long time to overcome. But I’m still fighting. And I’m still reaching out and accepting help. And when I do fully heal I believe I’ll be so much stronger. I’ve been asked if I regret trying to be friends with someone who ended up hurting me so much. The answer is no. I regret some of the things that happened of course, especially how it ended. But she made me smile when the world felt so heavy. She gave me much needed breaks from everything swirling around in my head. Knowing her helped me hang on just a little longer. And I am still grateful for that. I wish she knew how much that meant to me and how much that saved me. But she’s made up her mind who she thinks I am, and all I can do is move on. I have learned some very valuable lessons from all this. Things that are important enough to make me share this journey.
1: Words Matter! Words hurt just as bad as physical pain sometimes. And a word spoken in anger or frustration can make a permanent mark on someone who is struggling. You don’t know what someone might be going through, and your words may be literally the difference between life and death. What you say may seem small to you, but can change a person’s whole world. So choose your words carefully. 2: I have an incredible support system. I am so extremely lucky to have so many amazing people in my life. People who love me and want to protect me, they’re truly my world. Which is why it seems so crazy now to think about how hard I fought to keep one person in my life. And I don’t know if she ever really liked me. It’s been suggested that she didn’t want a friend, she wanted a fan. And I know as heartbreaking as that is, it’s probably true. But I have learned to hold on to the ones who love you. And don’t waste your time on the ones who don’t. 3: (And most important): If you are struggling, say something. Reach out for help. Don’t tell everyone you’re okay even though you’re not. You just never know when a hateful conversation will happen or someone you care about will dump you without a word. And if you are holding things inside that are already slowly destroying you, something like that can make you tailspin. And If you are considering suicide….just stay. I met a man recently who told me to stay for the surprises. You never know what’s lying around the corner. What if I hadn’t stayed? What would I have missed? What’s waiting for me still out there? The same man told me a story about how on the 2 year anniversary of his suicide attempt he proposed to his girlfriend and became engaged. He’s so happy now! What if he never got to experience that? He has been such an inspiration to me. Life can suck sometimes. And I mean suck! But stay for your family, stay for your friends, stay for the surprises. Nobody and nothing is worth prematurely leaving this earth for. Talk to someone, reach out, and fight! Don’t hold it all inside and pretend everything is okay. Just stay!!
Before I start, there is something I want everyone to know. I have 7 drafts of this post. I’ve gone over and over every word trying to find the best way to deliver my story and message without stipulating that its the best idea for anyone in my situation. In fact, I think this is a pretty rare outcome to an all too common experience. But it happened to me, and I think its important to share.
Unless you and I have never met, you probably know that I love Ellen DeGeneres! I love strong women, and Ellen is the strongest of all. When I was a preteen and teenager she taught me that you have to be true to yourself, no matter what anyone else thinks. As a young newlywed in a new town, her talk show sometimes was my only friend. And it got me through some hard days. And then of course there the saving my life part. Not figuratively, but very literally. She interviewed Maura Tierney (another one of my favorites) about her battle with breast cancer. 2 years later, right before my 31st birthday, I remembered that interview when I found my own lump. It was the reason I had it checked at all. And after being told by a medical professional that it was probably nothing and I shouldn’t worry about it, it was the reason I insisted on a mammogram. It was the reason I was diagnosed early enough with a rare rapid forming tumor to have a fighting chance. And its the reason I’m still here today. So obviously she means a lot to me!
But if helping me still grace this earth with my quirky, loud, opinionated, lets save all the cats attitude isn’t enough, she recently did one more thing for me. I think she saved my soul. Okay, I know that was corny! I was gagging a bit myself while typing it! But I don’t know if I have the words to describe it any other way. So if you’re not too grossed out, or just really curious how a television talk show host that I’ve never been able to even meet in real life can do all that, lets continue on!
For the past few years I have been very open about being sexually assulted as a child. I was 7 years old, still struggling from seeing my father die right in front of me a few months earlier, and deperate for the love and approval of a man. I was vunerable and clingy and too trusting. He was 21 years old, and had come to visit my family after spending 2 years out of the country. He assulted me in my home, and then left like nothing happened. But it did, and the affects of that day has followed me around for 30 years. I told, he was arrested, and I testified against him in court. I really didn’t know what happened after that, execpt he paid for a few years of therapy as I picked up the pieces and tried to be normal. What he did was a secret, I was too ashamed to say anything. I thought it was my fault, and I thought that everyone else would think that too. Then when I was 13, our lawyers decided that he had spent enough time with a felony charge and asked for me to decide whether or not to remove it from his records. I remember that day, sitting across the table from him and his new wife, listening to his explanation on why he did it. And then they asked me right in front of him of my decision. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I new what they wanted. So I agreed to remove it from his record, and I never saw him again.
The problem is that day has haunted me even more than the actual event. I have always wondered if my decision led to another girl getting hurt. That if I have been braver and not been such a people pleaser I could have protected somebody else. But I felt so pressured, and I felt like his happiness and comfort was more important than mine. Everyone wanted to fix his life, but mine didn’t matter. And I started to wonder if all those lawyers and therapists and every other adult with a clipboard I’d talked to over the years even believed it happen. Because I was sure they didn’t care that it did. That day made me feel very unimportant and I regretted ever doing it. Through my teenage years that regret turned into low self esteem and depression. By the time I was out of high school it was replaced by crippling anxiety and self doubt. In fact, I still struggle a lot with a little voice in my head telling me I’m not good enough, important enough, or special enough. And by the time I had become a mother for the first time it had turned into rage. A lot of people never saw it, but I always felt it. It was almost like an itch in the only spot on your back you could never reach. So eventually you just learn to live with it.
Then the Me Too movement started. Women were starting to stand up for themselves, and more importantly for each other. While watching these brave women come forward, I found my own courage and I started telling my story. It was both terrifying exhilarating telling a story that I had always kept a secret. I received several messages from friends telling me it had happened to them and they never told. And that they admired my bravery. But among it all I was discouraged on how angry I still was. And since I had no contact with my abuser, it made me even more angry thinking he was enjoying his life while I still had so many issues. Then last spring I came across the interview Ellen DeGeneres did with Savannah Guthrie. Now I’d seen this before when it originally aired, but this time felt different. And for all my fellow right brained friends who need a visual aid, I did include a link to the interview below. I got your back! Anyway, I know Ellen wasn’t talking to me in that interview, but it felt like she was. It felt like she was only talking to me, and that immediatly empowered me! First of all, she’s angry too. The nicest most generous human being in the entire universe is angry too. That was definetly a confidence builder for me! But then she said she hoped that she was empowering women, because we just can’t be quiet anymore. That really dug down deep in my little soul. I’m not a quiet person, and I’ve told my story. And I’m pretty sure I have that anger thing down! So what now?! Then it hit me…..I need to tell HIM everything I was both saying and holding inside. The person who hurt me so much needed to know what I had and was still going through. The concept was terrifying. But my girl Ellen DeGeneres had my back, so I knew I could do it.
Now this is where the story starts getting interesting.
First I had to find him. But thanks to the modern miracle we call social media, that was the easy part! He still lived close by where that fateful metting happened all those years earlier, so I found an address and knew it was him. Then I wrote a letter to him. A long letter full of 30 years worth of emotional turmoil. I mean I laid it all out there. How it affected the way I grew up, my relationships, my confidence, and the way I parented. I was surprised how the words just flowed out of my hand. And then I told him that there were still things I needed to know. And he was the only one who could answer those questions. And that he owed me at least that much. I dropped it in the mail the first day of summer vacation, and then I waited.
It was a very long summer! We found out we were moving a few weeks in, and spent the entire summer prepping our house to sell so we could move 2 hours away. As of now our house is almost ready to go on the market, and we’re praying we are able to sell and find something we can afford in our new town. But in late July, just as I had convinced myself that he wasn’t interested in talking to me, I received a text. It was him, and he was agreeing to answer any questions I had via email. It took me 7 weeks so compose an email full of every question I had to ever wanted to ask him. My anxiety skyrocketed as I studied every little word I typed. Even though the hard part was over I was a little scared over the answers I expected from him. Would they bring closure or more pain? Could I handle the truth after all these years? But I stayed brave and sent the email, and he got back to me right away. I want to share some of his answers along with my insights I got from these emails.
In my mind for all these years I envisioned him a bad man. He wasn’t bad when my family first met him of course. But obviously since the incident I only could envision him one way. An uncaring man who got away with it without any regrets. A man who never thought twice about me, even though I thought often about him. What I got was the exact opposite. He told me details about that day that I never knew. About the perfect storm of events that took place that day that ended with both of our lives changing forever. He told me about the feelings he had tried to fight off and the concerns that he shouldn’t have ignored. Now obviously I’m not going to say it wasn’t his fault. At the end of the day no matter the circumstances he made that terrible decision, and he took full responsibility for that. When I voiced concerns over how I felt that the way I dressed that day or the way I clung to him was why I felt the fault was mine, he was quick to tell me he never considered that for a second. He talked about his frame of mind during that time and expressed how much regret he had for his actions and decisions that day. He told me about his family and about the parent that it made him become. I asked him very specifically if he ever hurt another girl. And he confidently reported he never did. BUT….that we had both been lied to. The meeting was to remove it from his records, except they never did. It was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, which did help. But he’s carried this around everywhere he’s gone, or will go, for the rest of his life. He’s had to share this story more times than I have. And as for all those people and organizations who I thought protected his well being over mine, well I’m sure you can see where that went too! Nobody protected him. Justice was served.
As I read these emails, I felt a literal weight began to lift from my shoulders. It was the strangest feeling. It was like I could finally breath again. Like my mind was clearer. Or going back to that itchy back comparison, like someone just handed me an amazing back scratcher! One of those really good ones that your children won’t break when they sword fight with them! I realized that he will pay for this for the rest of his life, but I didn’t have to anymore. I can finally let this go and stop holding on to a past that I cannot change. When all my questions were answered, I had a new found peace I don’t think I’ve ever really felt. My back didn’t itch anymore! (Last time, I promise!) So I made one more decision. I told him that I forgive him. And I meant it. I’m letting this go. I’m moving on. It’s over.
Now referring back to what I said in the beginning of this, I know this is a rare ending to a sexual abuse story. And I am in NO WAY saying every victim, or even any victim, needs to do something like this. Seeking out the person who violated you to bombard them with questions can be dangerous and more harming in so many way. And nobody should have to forgive or move on if they don’t want to. A lot of offenders do not deserve to be forgiven, and never will. This is just my story. Its as unique as I am. All of our stories are unique, and all of our outcomes will be that way too.
But guess what…..I’m STILL angry! Like Ellen said, I’m angry that some people don’t believe victims. Or that they downplay the situation or the emotions that follow. I’m angry that in 2019, women are still afraid to speak up. They’re afraid to report their assults, and they’re ashamed that something so out of their control happened to them. I personally know people who still need to say something! I’m angry that we’re told to teach our daughters to dress modestly, so that the boys won’t be tempted. When instead we should be teaching our sons how to treat girls with all the love and dignity they deserve. And I expect I will still hear that bully of a voice in my head reminded me how not good enough I am. But I will keep fighting….fighting those inner demons and for victims of sexual assault. And I will not take the task I have of teaching my 3 little boys how to respect women lightly. This cause is near and dear to my heart and nothing will change that. Every woman deserves a voice and someone standing beside her. I hope I can do that for victims everywhere.
I’m so gratful for Ellen DeGeneres. I’ve dreamed of being able to thank her in person for so long. I’ve come close a few times too. A lot of people have told me to give up. She just too famous and too popular to care what she did for one single person. But I don’t believe that. And I can’t give up yet! In fact, when she announced her show was going on for 3 more year, I sat on my floor and cried! I had been worrying a lot about her show ending without me being able to really thank her, and her announcement gave me so much hope! So I will continue to try until the day finally comes. When someone has saved both your life and your soul, she’s worth waiting for!
I’ve been reflecting back on experiences that patterned the way I have decided to live my life. And I’ve decided to share some of those life lessons. When I was 18, in between graduating from high school and meeting my future husband, I took a trip to Hong Kong with my uncle and aunt. My uncle was working in import/export and took me along on one of his business trips. Growing up in a small town I didn’t have a lot of experience with big cities, especially ones as populated as Hong Kong! But on my first afternoon, we were busily weaving through a sea of people in the streets when I stopped to catch my breath and nearly started to cry. I was just so overwhelmed. My aunt, who I must add has made the decision (along with most her children) to no longer speak to me, said one of the most profound things I’ve ever had said to me. When I replied I can’t do it, she looked me in the eye and said “This is life. And you have to decide if you’re going to be a leader or a follower.” I made it through the streets of Hong Kong and ended up having the most amazing vacation of my life. I returned home, met Todd, and started a new life. And as I’ve learned to navigate though moving to other big cities, infertility, and other obstacles, her words have chimed in my mind many times in the last 20 years. I’ve always tried to be a leader because of those words, and I think being a leader has given me amazing opportunities. So even though we no longer have a relationship, I’d like to thank my Aunt Dee for this life lesson! So next time you find yourself in a situation that overwhelms you, ask yourself one question: Are you a leader or a follower?
11 years ago Todd and I made the decision to move from Las Vegas back to Logan. It was a hard decision to make. We had amazing friends, a good church to go to, and a lot of fun! But our 7 year battle with infertility along with the astronomical prices of housing had put my anxiety at an unsafe level and my health was being severely threatened. So we came home to Logan, where it had all begun for us years earlier, to lay down some roots. We bought our first home together, which seemed huge at the time, and found the best infertility specialist. Within a few months we found out Ben was on his way! That same summer my Grandparents followed us to Logan and we took on the responsibility of taking care of them as they grew older. In 11 years we’ve laughed, cried, fought, said goodbye to loved ones (human and animal form), and welcomed 3 little miracles into our home. We found strength from new wonderful friends, church members, teachers, and family being close by. It’s been quite a ride and we have created a lifetime of memories.
But the time has come for us to move on and create memories in a new home. Todd has accepted a new position in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s not a big move distant wise, but it’s huge for us! Our children have only known one home, one church, one school. We have raised our children, worked hard, and taken care of my beautiful 101 year old Grandma while patiently waiting for an opportunity like this to come along, and now is finally our time! Our plan is to sell our sweet little home and relocate by September. Its a whole new territory for us moving with kids, let alone selling our home and buying a new one. We are anxious but ready to start this new chapter in our life!
My Grandma is still doing amazing. She is a serious Rockstar! 101 years old (101 1/2 if you ask the boys) and I swear she gets more beautiful with age. It’s been a lifechanging adventure taking care of her. It hasn’t been easy, but the good outweighs the bad so many times over. The boys have had a rare opportunity to have a lasting relationship with her, and for that we will always be grateful. And we are not leaving her alone. Several years ago we found a good place for her to live and have 24 hour care. She is safe and happy there and we trust both the staff and hospice care who helps her everyday. We will still work closely with them and will still come up weekly to make sure she has everything she needs.
We are so exited for our new adventure! And we are so grateful for all of the people who helped us make our memories here. Watch out Salt Lake City…here we come!
A few weeks ago my little community went through an unspeakable tragedy. One that no community is ever prepared for. A beautiful vibrant 5 year old girl named Lizzy Shelley was taken from her bedroom by her uncle, her own flesh and blood, and went missing. The uncle was arrested within hours, but refused to reveal the location where Lizzy was. For days police officers from all over Utah and Idaho searched for her. And those people who weren’t able to search prayed….hard. Then finally 5 days later the uncle finally drew a map to her location and her little body was found. Our police chief openly cried during the announcement that she was found. And everyone who watched cried with him. Panic started to spread through the town. This doesn’t happen here. We’re safe here. But it did happen here, and nobody knew how to handle it. Quickly after that rainbow ribbons started popping up all over town. Lizzy’s favorite color was rainbow, because she couldn’t choose just one color. There were candlelight vigils and fundraisers for the community to show their support at. The funeral was private, as it should have been. But images of the tiny white coffin with rainbow butterflies spread fast. In an effort to try and pay our respects I took my kids to a spot on the cemetery route, and along with so many other families we watched the procession go by. There were hundreds of motorcycles, decorated with rainbows, that lead the procession. Then that very night, while attending an outdoor event with my family, we had a sudden 5 minute rainstorm. When it ended there were rainbows in every direction. You could feel her all around the valley. It was quite a sight and something I’ll never forget.
Lizzy’s death wasn’t random at all. The uncle didn’t have to break in or threaten to get her. He was invited into their home. And being completely honest, as a mother it is incredibly difficult to not judge Lizzy’s mother. She invited evil into her home. She knew he was unstable, she knew of his past history. He had been estranged from the family, even homeless at times. And he had struggled with substance abuse problems along with a long criminal history. But she invited him over to “drink beer and play video games” according to the local paper. And she went to sleep knowing he was still there. She neglected to protect her daughter from this evil person and his intentions. I understand trying to mend torn relationships, putting the past behind you. But as a mother I’ve had to make hard decisions for my children to protect them. I’ve had to take people out of their lives to protect them from potential physical or emotional harm. Some of those people have been close friends or family members. I’ve missed out on parties or get togethers to keep them safe, even if the danger isn’t always prevalent. It isn’t always fun and it doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes I desperately want to let my guard down and participate in fun events. But its my job to keep them safe. We vaccinate our kids, lock up medications and cleaning products, and make them buckle up in the car. We make them brush their teeth so they don’t get cavities and bathe so they don’t stink and get bullied. And if you’re like me, harass my kids’ poor new teachers every year to make sure their safety procedures are up to date. So why wouldn’t any one of us protect them from people who could hurt them?
That being said, as difficult as it is not to judge her, it’s impossible to not hurt for her. There are no perfect parents in this world. I am most definitely not a perfect parent. I yell, swear too much, and sometimes ignore them to look at my phone. I get irritated when they ask for food every few hours and by 9 p.m. I don’t have 1 ounce of patience left in my body. Sometimes I go to bed and I cry because I’m sure I’m screwing them up for life. Parenting is really hard. Lizzy’s mother made a mistake. A really terrible one. We all do. Except most of the time our mistakes don’t take our children forever. She’ll have to live with that mistake forever. And that breaks my heart from her. Lizzy didn’t deserve any of this. She deserved to live a full life. But her mother didn’t deserve it either. Because no parent, no matter where on the “perfect level” you fall deserves this. I hope someday she can find peace.
If there is a silver lining to such a tragedy, it would have to be all the love that came from the people in this community. When we experience tragedies our town we experience them together. There is so much good in this town. Local restaurants and grocery stores donated food and drink to the searchers. Different events were held in Lizzy’s honor and pre-scheduled events donated their proceeds to her family. People decorated their homes with rainbows to remember her by, my house included. Even random people who just felt lost and confused would just post on our local Facebook page and people would chime in with support and resource options. The panic that was originally felt in this town was met with love and compassion. I was touched by the outreach, and I know Lizzy’s family was too. Our entire town was changed because of this event. I think we may be a little slower to anger, a little more patient. We might jump to support each other and help when we can. Or maybe we’ll just love and hold onto our families a little more. However we do it, may we always Live like Lizzy.
I have 5 cats. I love these cats! And we have a great system. Every morning they head outside to be cats, and every evening they come inside so they don’t face the same fate as poor Luca, God rest her soul. Okay, actually what happens is I call for them and pace the house until each and every one of them is accounted for and safe. Luca being hit by a car clearly has had unfortunate lasting affects on me. But during the day they are allowed to be cats. Feeding 5 cats can get rather expensive. Feeding them, a poodle, 3 growing boys, and a husband is overwhelmingly expensive. So when we hit a financial snag, which happens at an unfortunately staggering amount of times still, the kids will always eat first. It’s not to say that the cats starve, but they survive on table scraps and their pure cat instincts over their regular food. Its how we found out they don’t mind tomatoes, but HATE broccoli. I can’t say I blame them. But sometimes they are sent outside with not quite as full bellies and they would hope, and they are left to be cats. They mouse for the entire neighborhood. And I think its great….as long as they don’t present the leftovers as an offering to their human leaders. Then it just gets gross and there is a lot of screaming and gagging, as well as the kids’ reactions! But sometimes, the prey needs a win. And this is one of those stories.
It was a typical afternoon. I had just picked up the big kids from school and they were doing their regular routine: fight and argue while attempting to complete their homework. I’ve learned if we don’t get it done as soon as they get home it won’t get done! So they’re screaming at each other and I’m doing what I spend 1/2 my life doing….laundry! When all of the sudden Micah says “Mama, Aslan has a bird!” I looked up and saw my gorilla of a cat running through the backyard with a beautiful large bird, flapping for its little life. I don’t know what got into me that day, maybe it was the fact that I knew the cats had regular food, but that poor bird was not going to die on my watch. I bolted out the door barefoot screaming at my unsuspecting cat to drop the bird! Our poodle, Piper chased after me. Now normally she’s a pretty stupid dog. Like barks at the wind, runs into walls, gets smacked around by 5 lb kittens kind of stupid. It’s okay, we didn’t adopt her for her brains! But today Piper was on a mission too! She flew out that door and started chasing Aslan, barking the whole way. When she caught up to him she nipped him right on the butt, which caused him to drop the bird! The bird started flapping and staggering around and I started screaming “Fly for you life little bird! Fly for your life!” And the bird did just that! It collected itself and got the hell out of there! All the kids by that point had gathered on that back porch at that point to see the show, and we started cheering as the bird landed in a high branch in a nearby tree! Aslan gave us his best glare and wandered away. I have never been so proud of my dog! Which helped her out 5 seconds later when I stepped in her poop still barefoot. I’m pretty sure all my neighbors, people walking through a nearby parking lot, and the people in the daycare on the other side of the fence thought I was nuts! But I didn’t care! I mean, let’s be honest, I usually don’t care! But that day I really didn’t, because together Piper and I saved that bird!
Yesterday was Halloween. As I sit here, eating my kids’ candy while they’re at school, I’m reflecting on the day!
I think Halloween is a trying day for any parent. And I’m definitely no exception! The day actually started at 3:30 am for me. That’s when my adorable little 3 year old climbed in my bed, snuggled in close, and peed the bed! So picture me tearing sheets off the bed, running laundry, cleaning me and a toddler, and all the time cursing out my still soundly sleeping Husband for insisting our freshly potty trained son didn’t still need diapers at night!
I managed to get back to sleep about 10 minutes before my 7 am alarm went off signaling the start of our day. I got the 2 big boys in costume off to school and started on the now completely dry toddler, who was not interested in getting out of bed! But thinking he needed to be to school early I persisted and drug a little Woody the Cowboy out the door 15 minutes ahead of time. See, the school was having a Halloween costume parade, which I thought was before school. So naturally I was a bit confused when nothing was happening when we got there. It ends up the Halloween costume parade was AFTER school. And luckily a mom friend reminded me right before it started, causing this mama to run into the school with only 1/2 her make up on and wearing slippers! But it was adorable still the same.
I got the toddler home in just enough time for me to transform from frazzled Mama to Mama Ellen before we headed to the big boys’ school for the fall festival. Sometime in that 10 minute block the toddler’s cowboy hat got lost, which caused a tantrum! Luckily if you remember the Toy Story series, Woody often loses his hat! So I convinced the toddler that he was just Woody when he lost the hat, and all was calm! Until we got to the school…..
I arrived and checked in, making the adults laugh and the kids give me confused looks, and we got started. Now just imagine hundreds of costumed sugar crazed children running lose through the hallways reaking havoc everywhere they went! The hour was a blur, and then they started their costume parade. Costume parades are so funny! I don’t ever remember having them growing up, but I also rarely remember having a costume that I didn’t make up the day before! So the kids all line up to do their costume parade, and I find it the perfect moment to unleash Mama Ellen on my 9 year old! He was not impressed at all! After school he asked me to never help out at the school again!
I took the kids to the local grocery store to do their Halloween trick or treating. I usually hate taking the kids to group trick or treating events, but I had an another motive this year. Passing out my business cards, stapled to candy, to all the other moms stuck in the line. It was going great, until again the 9 year old begged me to stop! I’ve got to say, there is something strangely satisfying about hitting that moment in motherhood where you can embarrass your kids!
Later that night my husband said he would take the kids out trick or treating while I stayed home to pass out candy, since it was my business cards still stapled to every single peice of candy! So I got the kids ready, and it’s clear they were already exhausted and cranky! My 9 year old, who changed from a pizza to an inflatable gorilla, got irritated while I was trying to inflate him and kicked me. So I kicked him back! It did not go well! But we got all 3 cranky kids out the door to beg for candy from the neighbors, and I settled down for a peaceful night! Oh wait…I have a dog! A dog that barks like a maniac every time she hears anyone near the door, let alone when someone rings the doorbell!
After a night of listening to my overprotective poodle bark, the boys finally came home with so much crap they’re bags has broken! But still with all that candy they managed to fight over one coveted piece. And by the time the night was over 3 grumpy kids were in bed and I had eaten the peice of contention candy! It was great fun for all!
But among all this I rocked Mama Ellen. Even if I’m the only one who thought so! When I announced I was going to be Ellen for Halloween, my boys all proclaimed it wasn’t possible for several reasons:
Son 1: You can’t be Ellen! You’re too fat and she’s skinny!
Son 2: You can’t be Ellen! She’s rich and you’re poor!
Son 3: You can’t be Ellen! She likes girls, and you said you can’t stand other girls!
Funny enough not one of them was concerned about the fact that I’m not blonde! But similarities or not, I had fun! And they were mortified! So I thought, why not magnitude this and make a video! So I present to you our blog’s first ever YouTube video, with many more in the future!