Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Playing with John

This one is for Michelle.

Others can read it, too, because who knows who else might benefit from hearing it. 

But this one is for Michelle.

Yesterday, Michelle posted on Facebook: “Just had a memory of something Tyler had recently started to do.  She would put one hand up in front of her chest and in imitation of Mom say, ‘Be right back.’  If only.

Her words were like a time machine, transporting me back to my Grandma’s funeral just over a year ago.  My aunt was at the podium, sharing a poem my Grandma had written years before.  I’ve gushed previously about the incredible woman my grandmother was, but I don’t think I ever mentioned that her earthly trials included burying two of her three sons (my dad being the only living boy).  Her youngest child, my Uncle John, died tragically of carbon monoxide poisoning when he was only sixteen years old.

After his death, my grandmother wrote a poem about his life and her certainty that she would see him again.  After a recap of his infancy, childhood, and early teen years she continued,

Each day as he came in and out of the house,
Just briefly by me he’d pause;
He’d give a quick hug and a kiss
And then hurry on to a cause.

He’d also greet me just the same each time
As he passed through the room on his way.
“Hi, Mom,” he would call as he hurried by,
And to him “Hi, John,” I would say.

He’s gone from us now; it was such a short time--
He was here only sixteen brief years.
Each time that I think “I can’t see him today”
My eyes begin flooding with tears.

This time, they are tears of great pain
And ones that won’t stop their flow.
Even though I know that he’s gone home,
It doesn’t change missing him so.

He must have been anxious to return to his home.
And Heavenly parents he’d not wanted to leave;
But if I try to do the good things in life,
I’ll be with him again, I believe.

It will be a great time, and day, and place
Whether it be sunset or dawn.
“Hi, Mom,” he will say as he walks by,
To which I’ll reply, “Hi, John.”

Left to Right: Grandpa (Oscar), Dad (Charlie), Aunt Teresa, Aunt Sally, Uncle Butch, Grandma (Shirley)
Front Row: Uncle John

My mom also experienced the loss of a child. When I was ten years old, I anxiously awaited the arrival of a baby brother. But for reasons unknown, he died on his due date before ever taking his first earthly breath. In lieu of a funeral, my parents opted for a backyard memorial service. And instead of a headstone, we planted a tree.

The day after Tyler died, Michelle told me that she had been thinking a lot about Grandma and my mom and the trials they had endured.  She told me that she had been considering the incredible mother and grandmother each continued to be, even after her respective John had died.  And Michelle said simply, “I just keep telling myself, if Grandma and Mom could do it, I can do it.”

And so I have to tell Michelle that she has never reminded me more of Grandma Casdorph than she did yesterday with her straightforward post.  And I have to apologize for feeling compelled to follow up with a bit of what may turn out to be terrible poetry (with Grandma’s original text in italics).

“Be right back,” she said with a hand to her chest,
Without understanding of years.
Being, as ever, so close to the veil
She couldn’t imagine our tears.

[She] must have been anxious to return to her home.
And Heavenly parents she’d not wanted to leave;
But if [we] try to do the good things in life,
[We]’ll be with her again, I believe.

She knew that we’d only be parted awhile,
But she didn’t guess we would keep track.
So now she looks down with a hand to her chest,
“Don’t cry. You’re the one who’ll come back.”

It will be a great time, and day, and place
Whether it be sunset or dawn.
“[You’re back!” she] will say as [she] walks by,

“I've just been up here playing with John!"

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Considering Regret

The day after Tyler died, Michelle texted me at work to see if I wanted to go with her that evening to get pedicures.  (Talk about sentences I never thought I would type.)  She knew we both had a gift card given to us by the Dickens 2014 cast, and she knew that she had to do something to get out of her house, so pedicures it was.  On the way home, I started to voice a regret about something I wished I'd done differently, the details of which I can no longer recall.  Michelle stopped me mid-sentence to explain, basically, that nope.  We would not be playing the "I wish I'd've..." game.  She told me she had discussed it with my parents, and together they had decided that no one was allowed to regret any of the choices they had made.  And so, this is not a story of regret.

But it is a story of truth.

And here's the truth.

When we moved out of Skye and Michelle's house (a.k.a. our old house), I didn't like having Tyler at the new house.  Prior to our one-big-happy-family period of cohabitation, Michelle had always come to my house to watch Dylan.  When I moved out, this once again became the plan.  On the first school day in the new house, Michelle brought Tyler and Ryder over as always, and when I returned home I could see little evidences of such.  Hand-prints on the new glass.  Draperies that had been tugged on.  Furniture that had been pushed.  No big deal stuff, but when everything is brand new, one tends to notice these tiny things.  And so, about 3 days in to the new arrangement, I contacted Michelle.

"So Kirk and I were thinking..." I started, not quite knowing how to tell Michelle that I was having a hard time with her babies in my big-kid house... "that it would probably be a lot easier for you to not have to haul the babies over to our house.  I can probably just start bringing Dylan there."

Also true, but not as altruistic as I made myself out to sound.  And so, unless the whole family was over, Tyler didn't spend much time in our new house.  For a few brief moments, I really did feel the regret Michelle had outlawed.  Nearly all my pictures and memories of Tyler are in the old house, and that made me a bit sad.  Until I really thought about it.

My concerns about having Tyler in my house were certainly not unfounded.  Once she found a pencil in the piano room and left some beautiful graphite artwork all over the ivories.  And then, of course, there was the time she slashed my favorite chair with a pair of scissors.  I still remember Kirk texting me before I got home so I would have some time to come to grips with the situation before he had to face me.  Michelle offered to fix or replace the chair, but as the destruction happened near the beginning of Dickens, I just hadn't gotten around to repairing it.  And so we realized that despite Tyler being gone, and despite my best efforts to keep her adventures on her home turf, Tyler had managed to leave a legacy in our new house.

After Kirk's first attempt to go back to work (he only made it 4 hours before coming home), he walked through the door and said, "I don't want to fix the chair."  I nodded in agreement.  "Me either," I admitted.  And so I devised a plan to stitch it up with purple ribbon and let it stand as a reminder to us that Tyler was here.  Not just on earth.  And not just in our hearts.  But Tyler was literally here.  In this very living room.  Full of spit and vinegar and with a pair of scissors in her capable hands.

I look forward to explaining to new guests a chair covered in contrasting purple thread.  To having my own Into the Woods moment, sadly sans Sondheim underscoring, when I explain, "Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess..."

I also look forward to the reminder that while I need not regret, it doesn't mean I can't change.  To the reminder, as my home becomes the occasional playground of nephews Ryder and John and to babies yet to be, that there is certainly more to life than stuff.  That chairs can be repaired, but that nothing can replace a missed opportunity to make a memory.

And I am grateful that instead of regrets, I have a Tyler chair.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Great Boots Boots

C'mon, Friends fans.  We all remember Rachel's less-than-successful first day on the job hunt when she enters Central Perk carrying shopping bags and explains her exciting new purchase saying, "They're my new 'I don't need a job, I don't need my parents, I've got great boots' boots!"

I think of that nearly every time I wear boots.  And definitely every time I buy boots.

And thanks to a December 2014 adventure with Amy, I now have something new to think of every time I buy boots.

Let me just start the story with this picture.

That red car in the distance is the getaway car of a shoe thief.  Yes, a SHOE THIEF.  Look closely to see how quickly they peeled out of the parking lot!

There we were, standing near the front of Famous Footwear, chattering pleasantly away about the pros and cons of the plentiful selection of boots when we heard a store employee shout, "Stop." Well, in retrospect of knowing the recipient of the yell was actually thieving shoes, it was probably more of a halfhearted shout.  Really, actually, a pretty sorry attempt at convincing someone bent toward thievery to do anything less than run.

And run the thief did.  Right out the front door without so much as a backward glance.  And guess what the store employee did?  NOTHING.  Could shoe thievery truly be such a walk in the park?  Not on my watch, I resolved.  I loaded my cell phone's camera as I ran out into the parking lot, adrenaline pumping at the prospect of helping catch a thief.  I snapped a picture as quickly as I could and...

...No license plate.

Which according to the Famous Footwear dude meant it was worthless to even call in.

But there Amy and I stood, hearts thumping with the excitement of watching someone successfully leave the story with three pair of shoes.

Now, I realize three pair of shoes is just a drop in the Famous Footwear financial bucket.  But three pair of shoes is a HUGE plop in mine.  Amy and I were standing there, trying to figure out the best way to work the BOGO and coupon to pay the least possible amount for my new boots and a pair of Vans for her son.

To think we could have just stood near the entrance and run.  And no one would have even chased us.  Except maybe some crazy lady like me, who wouldn't even get a clear picture.  And we would get off scot-free and...

...No.  Stealing is wrong.  :(

But at least we walked out of Famous Footwear with a great pair of "The Day I Almost Stopped a Shoe Thief but Instead Just Bought Boots" Boots.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Thought Hamster's Wheel

Have you ever watched an episode of Gilmore Girls?  The fast-talking mother-and-daughter duo basically vomit a steady stream of words about every imaginable subject, growing in intensity and speed as their offbeat imaginations and witty way with words stoke the fires of the ever-running train of thought.  That's about as close as I can come to describing what it is like inside my head every day.  Unless I am talking or reading, the Gilmore-esque voices never stop.

I say voices, plural, because there are frequently more than one.  There's always my voice.  And sometimes just that.  If, for example, I am internally monologuing, that's all I need.  Or if I am writing a blog post, which my mind is frequently willing to do with or without access to a keyboard.  But much of the time, my voice is joined by others.  Kirk's.  My mom's.  Really anybody with whom I spend time and have conversations.  Of course my brain is the one supplying the dialogue for both sides, (or all sides on a particularly multi-voiced day), which really just boils down to one truth: I talk to myself.  Internally.  All. The. Time.

Usually, these voices are pretty comforting.  I have never liked being alone, and thanks to the voices in my head, I really never am.  But lately, the voices have turned on me, unable to think normally, everyday irrational thoughts.  Instead, they have turned every thought-train destination into one of two options.  The next stop is always Worse-Case-Scenario-Town or Eternal-Perspective-Ville.

To be honest, I've gotten quite sick of both, and I have been doing my best to drown the voices.  I have kept busy and surrounded myself with friends.  I have read two books in the last week.  I watch Gilmore Girls whenever the voices start (because who could think over all that conversation!).  But sometimes, these avoidance techniques fail me, and I end up at the top of the footbridge over 6200 South looking at the mountains and completely absorbed in Eternal-Perspective-Ville.  And the only choice I have then is to open my figurative mouth (and literal laptop) and share what the voices are telling me in the hopes that the stupid little hamster up there who loves to run circles in my strings of words will stop stomping all over these particular ones and maybe my thoughts can once again find some peace.

I guess I can't really blame my thoughts for the physical location.  For that I have to admit that only 13 days post nearly running out of gas in near St. George, I pulled a typical Andrea - and ran out of gas.  There's a back story which I could tell in the hopes of sounding less scatterbrained and more responsible, but it would it no way add to the story I am really trying to tell here, so I will leave it at that.  On the way to pick Alex up from a birthday party in West Jordan, I ran out of gas on 6200 South and Redwood Road.

I called Kirk, though I knew he was just finishing up golfing in Tooele.  And then I started to walk.  I had hoped to find a gas station but clearly had headed in the wrong direction for that.  So instead, I used Google Maps on my phone to check the walking distance between my car and Al's party.  1.3 miles.  Totally doable.

Except, of course, for the fact that it was Valentines Day, and I was dressed up for our family date tradition.  I had opted for the cuter and less practical shoes and now found myself walking down 6200 South in strappy wedges.  Even worse, the presence of a sidewalk made me look nothing at all like the damsel-in-distress I felt like, and I knew no one would be stopping to offer assistance.  And my thoughts turned dark.

I immediately thought of the phrase that is always within arms distance in my mind: "tender mercies."  I have been trained to notice them throughout the recent family trials, and it has become almost like a comforting game to me to find the little mercies that bridged the fine line between unbearable and just barely bearable.  But this time, my thought monsters jumped to looking for the absence of these mercies.  What?!  My shoes, for example.  I had nearly picked a cute pair of cream colored canvas flats.  Perfectly practical for a mile walk.  Why hadn't I chosen those?  And then there was the issue of the jacket that I had gotten out of my car an hour before I left to get Alex, then accidentally left in the house when I left for the pick up.  Now I was walking down the street wrapped in my purple emergency blanket, unable to be grateful for that, because an hour earlier I had taken an actual jacket out of my car.  That jacket had been in there for a month!  Certainly no mercy there!

How about the fact that none of this was my fault in the first place.  If Kirk hadn't gone golfing, we would have been together in his car (my original plan), and I would not even have run out of gas.  But of course Kirk was golfing.  Skye had invited him.  And Skye just lost his baby girl.  So even if it is Valentines Day and we sort of had plans, of course Kirk was golfing.  Which I know sounds REALLY horrible and selfish, but I am telling you - these voices are bad news.  And once I'd gone there, it was easy to get stuck on the fact that it was the 14th.  Which meant it had been exactly one month since Tyler died.  And even though I have tried not to dwell on little stuff like that, I love numbers and I love patterns and how could I possibly NOT be completely aware of the fact that Wednesday had been exactly 4 weeks and the 14th was exactly one month and how long will I keep counting Wednesdays and will the 14th always sting a little and I wonder how big of a deal that is to Skye or to Michelle and should I call or should I let them have their space and why IF IT MATTERED SO MUCH THAT I NOT RUN OUT OF GAS 2 WEEKS AGO AM I NOW WALKING DOWN THE STREET IN STRAPPY SANDALS AND A PURPLE EMERGENCY BLANKET, 30 MINUTES LATE TO PICK UP MY SON FROM HIS PARTY ON THE ONE MONTH ANNIVERSARY OF TYLER'S DEATH?

That carried me the 10 blocks from Redwood to 27th.

The yelling voices carried me to the base of the footbridge.

Where I realized I had always wanted to walk through one of these.  Silly, I know, but I have actually always wanted to walk through this one of these. I grew up on 6200 South and always watched with envy those whose feet graced the concrete of what looked, for whatever reason, so cool to me.

And then it was like my thought train reached one of those cool spots on the railroad track that determines which direction the train will go.  And that dude who pulls the lever to make the decision pulled it as I started my ascent.  Why didn't Heavenly Father help me this time?  I thought about it now, instead of just yelling it in my mind.

Well, first of all, I didn't ask this time.  But similar to a child who doesn't ask his parents if he can go play when he already knows the answer, that may have been because I knew this wasn't the right time to ask.  I was in no danger.  And I had had ample opportunity to fill up and not be in this situation.  This was totally my fault, and I had all the tools at my disposal to fix it on my own.

But even if I had asked, I am fairly certain I would receive the same guidance I generally receive from my Heavenly Father.  "You're a smart girl.  Figure it out."

So then I started to wonder, "But why didn't He at least prompt me to choose the other shoes and to take my jacket?"

And then, as my thought train has been so wont to do, I ended up thinking about Tyler.  I hope it doesn't seem insensitive to unfold the rest of the allegory, because I in no way think that me walking down 6200 South is in any way comparable to the journey Skye and Michelle have ahead of them.  It isn't.  But these are the thoughts I thought.  And someday, when Skye and Michelle are standing at the top of the footbridge, I want to have written this down.

In the pre-mortal existence, I chose this world.  I chose it even knowing it would be filled with imperfections and pain.  I chose to have the experiences, good and bad, that come with it.  And there are times, like with my trip home from Vegas, that I can pray and the Lord will take the edge off the pain. But there are other times when the Lord needs for me to feel that pain in order for me to be able to return to live with Him again.  Because I ran out of gas, I found myself at the base of a footbridge across which I had always hoped to travel.  Would I have rather gotten there another way?  Who knows. I can picture a warm summer day with my kids when I randomly decided to pull over and walk across.  That would have been great!  But I've passed it how many times before and never stopped.  Maybe I never would have.

Would I have rather walked to it with appropriate shoes and a jacket?  Of course.  Would that have spared me the huge blister on my big toe and my barefoot walk back from the party?  Most likely.  What exactly did I gain?  I have no idea.  But as annoying as it was, it didn't stop me from getting to my destination.

Would I choose for Skye and Michelle to have to go through life without Tyler?  No, I absolutely would not.  But as hard as it is to say, I know they will have experiences now that would not have been possible before.  I don't know what those experiences will be, and I don't even yet know quite how to be grateful for them.  Losing Tyler is the hugest thing that has ever happened in my life, and even a month later, I don't feel like I've wrapped my head around it.  That's why the hamster in my head is working overtime.

But a bit of peace came to me, standing atop that footbridge and looking out at the beautiful mountains.  It will come.  Right now, I'm still somewhere on the sidewalk railing emotionally at the word.  But at some point, I'll reach a footbridge.  And my thoughts will shift.  At some moment I will stand atop the spiritual and emotional equivalent of that footbridge, and I will feel okay.

And I thought my allegory stopped there.

Until Alex and I reached the footbridge from the other side together.  I had told him we were going on an adventure.  I told him that halfway through we would cross a bridge - the best part of the journey.  We approached, hand in hand, and singing the African-American Spirituals he has been learning in class.

We made it to the top of the bridge when we spotted them: Adam and Dylan had come with Kirk to rescue us.  Adam and Dylan wanted to cross the footbridge, too.  They joined us, breathless, and Dylan shouted, "I've always wanted to walk on one of these!"  Because of an unpleasant experience that the Lord let me have, I stood atop a footbridge with all three of my sons and listened to them chatter about how they had always wanted this experience.

A blister and a silly blanket and a 2 mile walk were certainly worth all of that.

Which just makes me wonder what blessings the Lord has in store for Skye and Michelle.

And perhaps now my thought hamster can find another thought on which to spin.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Loaves and Fishes Miracle

4 miles to empty.

Apparently Kirk’s car is really specific when warning of impending doom.  And apparently I’d missed its warnings for the previous 46 miles.

But there it clearly stated my situation.  4 miles to empty, with St. George an imposing 25 miles in my future.

A barrage of thoughts competed simultaneously for top billing.

“Has Kirk ever pushed his car this far?”

“Is this one of those ‘4 miles until you really ought to fill up, but idiots like you can probably squeak out an extra 30’ type of warning or an actual, literal, 4 miles to empty?”

“Which mile marker did I most recently pass so if I have to call for help I will at least know where I am?”

“How on earth did I just manage to drive from Las Vegas to St. George without even once thinking of the fact that cars need fuel?”  By the way, it had something to do with my intentional decision to stop thinking because my imagination kept running away to scary places I didn’t want it to go.  Apparently when I shut down the irrational thoughts, I shut down the rational ones, too.

I would have been stuck on that last thought were it not for the fact that the warning message now read “2 miles to empty.”

I considered my options.  My very limited options.  I called Kirk to find out if he had any past experience on which I could gauge the extent to which I should be worried.  And then I remembered the recent Facebook post of a friend.  “Ran out of gas for the first time ever.  #wantedtoseehowfaricouldgo #apparentlynotquitefarenough”  As I wondered how a person made it to be 30+ years of age without ever running out of gas (as I make it a yearly occurrence, have already written about 2 such instances - 2010 and 2013 - on this very blog, and should in all fairness disclose to having a 2014 story which I have not yet chronicled), I related to her husband’s comment best.  “It’s only a problem if you run out.  The last drops of gas have just as much potential energy as the first.”

I called Logan - through the bluetooth of course.  (Kirk hadn’t answered because I called him during church).  I explained my predicament, and he asked me what my plan was.  By this point, I was dealing with “0 miles to empty,” 20 miles to St. George, and a one-lane stretch of construction zone.

“My plan?” I responded.  “To call you and ask you to pray for a loaves and fishes miracle.”

He laughed until I insisted that really was my plan.  To pray that just like in the miracles of the Bible when the Lord fed a multitude with a few loaves and fishes, somehow the last few drops of fuel would get me to St. George.

I hung up and prayed.  During some of the miles, my faith wavered a bit and added a back-up prayer.  “If not a loaves and fishes miracle, then at least a Good Samaritan?”  And knowing there was bound to be one of the latter helped me put my faith fully into the loaves.  “0 miles to empty,” the car read mile after mile.

Again my faith wavered a few miles from St. George.  “Just watch… I came this far, just to run out of gas now,” I pessimistically surmised.  Then I reminded myself that even being closer to St. George was certainly helpful; fewer miles for my Samaritan to travel for a gas can.

And then I made it.

Ta-da!  Which is almost anticlimactic, because in reality, my trip was never in any danger.  Some (read at least ½ of my brain) might say there was enough gas all along to get me those last 25 miles.  After all, Kirk does not drive his car to empty and I hope never to test the theory again.  Others might proclaim faithfully that I experienced my own little miracle on I-15.  (Hmmm… potential movie title?)  Since I really won’t ever know, I’m going to say this.

My Heavenly Father loves me.  He cares about everything I care about, even the little things.  And even though some prayers don’t get answered in quite the ways I would like, He is mindful of me and watches over me.  Whenever I fall short on my own, He is there waiting with the loaves and fishes I need.  I drove 20 miles more than the car said I could.  That’s a miracle to me.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sound Off: Football and Theater

I was delighted to come across a viral post translating football lingo into terms theater geeks like me might be able to better relate to.  A few of the comparisons were spot-on and others were a total stretch, but it helped me fondly recall a running gag I'd developed during Adam's football season this year.

It started with the week-long tryout held at the end of July - the callbacks - if you will.  At first, I assumed this would be more like an audition, but as the boys spent time meeting the demands of the various coaches, the callback status became apparent.  And, to be honest, I got a bit jealous of the coaches who got to hold a week-long callback!  If only I had that kind of time as a director.

We were in Puerto Rico, anxiously awaiting the day when the cast list would be posted.  Adam had been working with the A team coaches quite a lot during the callbacks, and we had high hopes for him.  And thanks to one particular defensive coach who saw some potential in him, he got cast.

And so the rehearsals started.  One solid month with five rehearsals per week.  I soon learned that while it was important to practice the individual skills they would need, much of the rehearsal time was spent learning choreography.  Each boy had a specific place to be with a specific job to do and a specific pattern to run.  They practiced these over and over again until each player knew his role in the dance.

Finally, the performances came.  Opening night was particularly fun, since it was the fundraising game.  Adam had lots of fans in the audience including grandparents and even Nick and Hunter.  Alex and Dylan always particularly enjoyed intermission when we would let them run around and take a break from watching their brother play.

Adam started out as a lead, but when his effort didn't quite match the expectations, his coaches demoted him to understudy.  He didn't get to be on the stage quite as frequently, but I still enjoyed watching as many of his performances as I was able to attend.

I wasn't there for closing night, but Adam told me that several of his teammates cried.  Their season was over (and they lost in the playoffs).  All that was left to look forward to was the cast party, when we would get to watch a slideshow, Adam would receive memorabilia to commemorate his participation in the group.  No one parties like theater people - but those football kids came pretty close!  And although Adam says he doesn't plan to audition this year, I am excited to see what kind of role Alex might get.