When I was younger, love was red roses, wild horses, and maybe a Ghost scene or two. You know, from the movie. It looked nothing like the VMAs.
Don’t you love to people watch? Study relationships, analyze the way couples interact in public, then wonder if they’re really that nice or rude in private. I’m sure my discerning conclusions are always correct, but – maybe not.
My father used to counsel many a married couple. He once told me, “You would be shocked at the number of people you only think are happily married.”
“Who?!” I pounced.
He shook his head. “You would be shocked.”
Since that time, as a young lass, I’ve always been curious. Who is happy and who is not? And why?
Last week was our 16th wedding anniversary, me and my honey lamb.
There were no roses, wild horses, and sadly, there is no potter’s wheel sitting in the living room with a hunk of clay on top 🙂
We did go to a Red Sox game (that was a observation hoot!) and out to dinner, and it was grand.
We decided not to exchange gifts; too many other shared, mundane expenses like braces for kids, an unexpected car repair, and too many gelato trips last month.
But that morning I came home from an early run and the sun was just coming up, hitting the house. I noticed the fence.
It was late August, 1994. I was nineteen years old and headed to Idaho to try out for the college
cross-country team. My life was shoved into a mustard-colored Nissan Sentra; mostly clothes, cheap
jewelry, books and, of course – running shoes. On my lap I held a CD player and a green plant the entire 1000 miles.
“We’ll be there before the sun goes down,” my dad said.
Hours later we passed the Idaho state sign just as my father launched into singing. “And here we have Idaho, winning her way to fame…” The Idaho state song was a song all my siblings and I knew since our months in the womb and there was no way I would get away without joining in. So I sang and my dad laughed, and I looked out the window, at the ascension into what heaven would surely look like for me. The air thinned as we climbed the narrow twisting highway. The earth was golden; the sun hitting the burnt grass just the right way. The yellowed wheat and cattails were untouched. They covered every surface, interspersed with pine trees that climbed higher into the sky. It was dry and brown but began to turn greener the farther North we went.
My dad grinned at me, “Nervous?”
“A little bit.”
Actually, “A little bit” was a colossal understatement. I was a good runner in high school. Maybe even great. As a skinny little thing, the coach placed me on the JV team after taking one look at me. After I won the first race he grinned, “Looks like a varsity runner to me.” I made State as a sophomore and my coach began talking junior and senior year, and college offers. And then. Senior year I quit. To this day I can’t tell you exactly why except I was scared of a lot of things.
And the thing about quitting, is that it feels rotton. I hated that piece of me; my lack of mental toughness. I avoided my coaches and teammates, dreaded their questions and my lack of answers. I hated that I couldn’t trust myself. I hated that I kept saying,”next year.” I hated that every time I looked at my parents I felt badly. Even then I sensed that most times you just can’t get back the things you give away.
If there was one thing I could do differently in my life, that decision ranks #1.
I was so ashamed of the quitter.
Then, as a college freshman, I saw the cross-country team run. And it just so happened that there was a girl who lived across the lawn from my dorm. Her name was Tara. Tara was the first girl runner I saw spit while she ran. She was brave that way, I always thought. We had a small falling out over a boy, but that’s another story. We began to run in the early morning. This is where my obsession began: the 5:15 a.m. run in frigid Rexburg, Idaho. Every morning my alarm would go off. The quitter was still hanging around. Half the time I jumped out of bed, turned off the alarm, and jumped back into bed. But it ate at me. I could not be a quitter forever.
At the end of the spring I gathered my courage and asked Coach for a try-out. He was skeptical of my story, skeptical that I was even a runner (runners don’t quit!!)
This is not where the story ended, but since this is a blog, not a novel, I’ll fill you in with two words: I failed.
It was extremely cold that morning, and my legs reacted like taut rubber bands. My time was off. In the end, my name wasn’t on the list.
I suppose this sounds like a sad story. For awhile it was, and then it wasn’t. I didn’t make the team. But there are two parts of this story that are important. One is about making things right.
The second is that although this is a story about running and quitting and trying, it’s also one of my favorite stories about my dad. My dad grew up a hard-working farm boy in Bear Lake, Idaho. He was a runner too. He loved that I ran; both my parents did.
They’ve seen me fail a lot.
But even though I’ve failed, I’ve never felt like a failure – at least not for long. I grew up with an unfailing knowledge that my dad believed in me; that with enough work, anything was possible.
It is his belief in me, a comment he kept making over the years, that made me start writing; this story was one of them. It was my mother’s validation that has kept me at it.
And though my dad lives too far away, I know he’s there. Still cheering. When I think of him I see the kindness in his eyes, the smile that always comes to his face. And every once in awhile he’ll say, “I’ll never forget that trip we took,” and then he’ll start singing Carly Simon. Not everyone is blessed to have a dad like mine, so today I’m grateful. So grateful. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
Melanie and I grew up together in Omaha, Nebraska. Melanie is the youngest daughter in a family of five children. Her mother, Leslie, a child’s advocate and foster mother, remains one of my biggest heroes. I spent many hours with the Bartlett family; slumber parties, youth activities, swimming, dancing. I pierced my ear in their basement; you know, the usual.
Melanie is the girl with a big heart, an infectious laugh, and indomitable spirit.
Growing up, the Bartlett family always seemed to have a baby in the house. There were five naturally-born children, but they fostered newborns, becoming the bridge between birth mom and adoptive family. It was this example that paved the way for Melanie’s story and her path to motherhood.
Since I was little, the only thing I ever wanted to be was a mom. Most of my youth leaders were young, married moms. So I thought that’s what would happen to me. I’d go to college, get married, be a stay-at-home mom. Anything else is un-Mormon, right? So when I graduated college and years went by, I thought there was something wrong with me. I referred back to my patriarchal blessing (a patriarchal blessing is a special and individualized blessing given within the LDS/Mormon faith) and pondered on how strangely worded the family part was. The Lord would provide a way for me to have a family. Like it wasn’t going to be the ‘typical’ way. And then we got the call for Nevaeh.
From the beginning of this journey, I’ve always had the end goal of adoption. But in Nebraska, the goal is always reunification with birth family. So this is a tough road to become a parent.
Who is Nevaeh?
Nevaeh had pulled her trach out, and the nurses hadn’t gotten to her in time.We rushed to Children’s hospital, but Neveah died early the next morning, just 17 days after her first birthday. It was awful. Devastating. And we were numb for a week as we planned and carried out her funeral, all the while working with her birth family.
|Antonio gets a sister|
Today I am breaking my own blog rule. There is nothing healthy about what I’m about to reveal. But I do hope you’ll forgive me once you take a bite of this most decadent Valentine’s dessert.
Then roll into little balls with your hands (all of this goes very quickly.)
Once, when I was obsessively reading about Napoleon and his great love for Josephine, I read that he often wrote her love letters. When he was close to coming home after weeks away at battle, he would dispatch a letter telling his lady Josephine not to bathe. Why? Because he loved the way she smelled after weeks and weeks without a bath.
Though a man has never told me not to shower or bathe, my babies love the way I smell. Even when I smelled like old milk from nursing all day and night. Even when I was tired and couldn’t seem to fit in a quick shower. Even when I would rather lay down on my bed than be clean.
The moments are farther apart now, but there are still times they wrap their arms around me, can’t get enough. Because I know better now, I do not pry them off. Even when they lick. Okay, sometimes when they lick. But tell me, who else loves you like that? Enough to lick you? Who else sniffs you like a dog, inhales like you’re a cinnabon?
There is no one else, nothing better than their mother’s familiar scent.
Ah, to me, that is true love.