Tag Archives: Jeannie

Triathlon Training

Being completely healed from surgery, I figured it was high time to get back into the old running game. I hadn’t really exercised in close to a year. Nothing good was coming from that hiatus.

My friend, Esther, asked me if I wanted to participate in a Tri-for-Fun Triathlon race in June. It was the perfect incentive for getting my butt in gear.

It’s low key: 400 meter swim, 11 mile bike ride, 5k run. I’ve been training for over four weeks now, and so far so good. I wish I weren’t such a wannabe huffing and puffing down sidewalks and slowly pedaling along the roads. Even swimming isn’t as easy as it was back on the high school swim team. But I’m still going, so that’s something.

I can do this. My only goal is to complete the thing. That’s it. If I happen to cross the finish line running then more power to me. But I’ll just be glad to finish on two feet and not crawling on hands and knees.

June 16th, here I come.

Any and all triathlon advice is now being accepted.

Talks & Lessons: The Blessings of the Temple Sealing

Last year, after I gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting, Christy suggested that I start posting ones that I’ve recently given as part of documenting my beliefs and testimony here on this blog. I thought it was a brilliant idea. A way to have another record of my spiritual thoughts and feelings for posterity. Thanks for allowing me to indulge.

The bishopric member in charge of scheduling talks called and asked that I would speak on May 13th but what I didn’t think about when I said yes was that it would be on Mother’s Day. I tend to get weepy anyway thinking about my sweet mother and then of being a mother to own my children. But then he said that he wanted me to talk about our experiences with adoption and what the temple sealing means to me and my family. It will be a miracle if I make it through this talk without an entire box of Kleenex.

Thankfully, President Henry B. Eyring gave a fantastic talk about families and temple blessings in the Priesthood Session of this last General Conference, so I’ll be drawing on that for many of my thoughts. So, sisters, if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, you’ll get a sense of its message here, and brothers, you can really hear it this time if you found yourself napping through it the evening it was first given.

The title of his talk is, “Families under Covenant.” He states “There is nothing that has come or will come into your family as important as the sealing blessings.” (President Henry B. Eyring, “Families under Covenant”, General Conference, Apr. 2012) I believe that is true. It is how we endure trials in this life, knowing that our loved ones that have gone before, and those that will come after, will still be linked to us after this life. It’s what makes us strengthen our families here and now so that we can continue those relationships throughout the eternities. It’s what makes us want to be better parents.

There are two parts to understanding the temple sealing that I want to talk about today: 1) that you believe the power binds families and 2) that you have a role in making that happen.

Realizing the magnitude of the sealing power and the effect on my own family has only been strengthened through our experiences of adopting our four children. Because our children came to us through adoption, we had the opportunity to take each one to the temple, to kneel at the altar with them, and be sealed together through priesthood keys for all eternity. Those of you who had children born to you within your temple marriage covenant knew that you would be blessed with that sealing power from the moment they were born. We, who have had the privilege of growing our families through adoption, are given those very same promises. It just takes a little longer before we’re able to receive them. But I believe there are some beautiful spiritual benefits to this process.

It is a holy experience to see your babies, dressed all in white, gathered around you in the House of the Lord. You feel the truthfulness of Gospel and an opening to heaven. I hope I never forget those feelings of peace and happiness I felt with each sealing.

And our children had the unique opportunity of entering the temple. Warren was able to be with us 3 times: for his own sealing, for Maddie’s, and for Jake and Joey’s. I pray that he and all of them will cling to the memories, however faint, that they have of being in the temple and that those feelings will help them make good choices throughout their lives. That they’ll want to return again to make their own temple covenants.

Whether your children were born to your family in the covenant, or whether you also had the opportunity to have your children sealed to you later in the temple, the knowledge of the temple sealing and faith in its blessings should instill in all of us a greater desire to make good choices.

Indeed, our biggest responsibility is saving our families.

President Boyd K. Packer said, “The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is to see a husband and his wife and their children happy at home, protected by the principles and laws of the gospel, sealed safely in the covenants of the everlasting priesthood. Husbands and wives should understand that their first calling—from which they will never be released—is to one another and then to their children.” (President Boyd K. Packer, “And a Little Child Shall Lead Them”, General Conference, Apr. 2012)

President Eyring said, “Melchizedek Priesthood holders who are fathers in sealed families have been taught what they must do. There is nothing that has come or will come into your family as important as the sealing blessings. There is nothing more important than honoring the marriage and family covenants you have made or will make in the temples of God.” (President Henry B. Eyring, “Families under Covenant”, General Conference, Apr. 2012). I know that the same can be said for mothers.

Talking about a man who had just come back to church, President Eyring described what was necessary for him to receive the temple blessings. “It took faith in Jesus Christ, deep repentance, and a change in his heart…” In truth, that’s what we all need to have in order to enjoy the blessings of the temple.

President Eyring gave specific points that we should follow to ensure that we receive the blessing of an eternal family:

Invite the Holy Ghost as much as you can into your lives and families.

“Gain and keep a sure witness that the keys of the priesthood are with us and held by the President of the Church. Pray for that every day” (Eyring, April 2012).

Our testimonies are not fixed but can ebb and flow depending on the trials and circumstances of our lives. We need to pray for and constantly nourish our testimonies so that we don’t lose sight of our goal.

Second, he says, “husbands you need to love your wife.” And I would add, wives, you need to love your husband. Why would we strive for eternal life with our families and spouses if we don’t love them? Eternity is not in the future. Eternity is now.

“Third,” he says, “enlist the entire family to love each other.” He quotes President Ezra Taft Benson, “In an eternal sense, salvation is a family affair.” Later, President Eyring says, “Another crucial source for that feeling of being loved is love from other children in the family. Consistent care of brothers and sisters for each other will come only with the persistent effort by parents and the help of God.” (Eyring) I see that very clearly in my own family. It pains me to see my children fight or not get along. But part of our jobs as parents is to teach how to be an eternal family. We should nip conflicts in the bud and look for peaceable resolutions. We can be examples of kindness to our children by serving them with love, not just out of duty.

President Eyring taught that the sealing is only complete through the approval of the Holy Ghost, The Holy Spirit of Promise.

He says, “The way to do that is clear. The Holy Spirit of Promise, through our obedience and sacrifice, must seal our temple covenants in order to be realized in the world to come. Elder Melvin J. Ballard said, ‘We may deceive men but we cannot deceive the Holy Ghost, and our blessings will not be eternal unless they are also sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. The Holy Ghost is one who reads the thoughts and hearts of men, and gives his sealing approval to the blessings pronounced upon their heads. Then it is binding, efficacious, and of full force.’”

As with many aspects of the Gospel, understanding that promised blessings (even temple blessings) don’t always come when you expect them is an important part of our spiritual growth. Sometimes they don’t come at all in this life, but are given after. But knowing that they do come, in the Lord’s time, is critical to our ability to endure and stay on the strait and narrow path back to God. We must have faith!

I found this to be true in my own life. When Colin and I were married in the Seattle Temple, we were reminded to multiply and replenish the earth. We wanted children and looked forward to that day, but we knew it was not going to be easy. Medical conditions indicated that bearing our children would be complicated, and most likely not even possible. But we decided not to worry. We knew that children would come to our family somehow.

I remember being in the temple when my good friend, Eileen, asked me if I felt sad or disappointed when I heard some of the words of the temple ordinances about posterity, when having children wasn’t happening for us yet. I told her no. I didn’t have to worry. I knew it would happen. My patriarchal blessing said I would have children. I just didn’t know when.

But we knew that Heavenly Father had a plan for us to be parents. A couple of years into our marriage, we felt impressed to adopt. It was after a combined Relief Society/Priesthood lesson on LDS Family Services and adoption that Colin and I looked at each other and just knew. That was the road we would take. It was a long and sometimes painful road, but we endured.

I remember times throughout the adoption process (with all our children but especially with Maddie because of her heart surgery) wishing that we had that comforting knowledge that they were tied to us forever. Without it, I worried more about mortality and what would happen to our family, to our children not yet legally adopted. When each adoption was finalized and we could take them to the temple, I felt a tremendous amount of peace. As President Eyring said, “…joy came from a feeling that connections with [family] are sure because you are or can be bound to them by priesthood ordinances that God will honor” (Eyring, April 2012). Having that temple ordinance complete for each of our children brings me such peace, knowing that I can handle the trials that may come that would part us from one another in this earth life. Death does not seem as debilitating to me now that all of our children are sealed to us.

I also realize that some of us may have heavy hearts thinking about the temple, and sealing, and eternal families because we have not received some of these blessings (children, marriage, etc.), or we have spouses or children who are not members or have not stayed active in the church. I have that same heartache knowing that my father is not a member of the church and that Colin’s parents have recently divorced. It’s painful thinking that these sealing blessings seem far from our grasp.

But there is always hope. We can cling to the examples from the Book of Mormon that President Eyring reminded us. He said,

“The success [that righteous Lehi and his wife, Sariah] won provide a guide for us. They taught the gospel of Jesus Christ so well and so persistently that children and even some descendants over generations had hearts softened toward God and toward each other. For instance, Nephi and others wrote and reached out to family members who had been their enemies. The Spirit at times softened the hearts of thousands and replaced hatred with love.” Don’t ever give up!

We can only change our own hearts. We can only gain our own testimonies. We must pray and study continually so that we can be strong links in our family chain.

In the end, it is our own actions that will make the difference. In speaking about leading our families in love and righteousness, President Eyring says, “That is a high standard for us, but when we, with faith, control our tempers and subdue our pride, the Holy Ghost gives His approval, and sacred promises and covenants become sure” (Eyring, April 2012).

I am incredibly grateful for the sealing power on the earth today. To me, the adoption was really complete when we knelt at the altar of the temple with each precious child. I know that by working together as a family, we can enjoy the blessings of the temple sealing right now, as well as throughout the eternities.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

My Happiness Project

Back in high school, my friend, Nicole, gave me a book called 14,000 Things to Be Happy About. In it, the author recorded all of the little things, sometimes just one word or a picture, that she could think of that made her happy. I’m sure the list was not exhaustive.

I remember reading through and relating to some of the things she listed, and some I had never experienced so they were glossed over. But it prompted me to start my own list which I kept in a little notebook and added to whenever it crossed my mind. I fell out of the habit and years later I have no idea what happened to that notebook. What a shame since I would love to see what made my teenage self happy then and how I’ve changed.

Last week, I read a blog post about a recent TED Talk that left me inspired. The gist is, “Happiness does not come from success. Success comes from being happy.” Coupled with my friend Jodi’s recent efforts, I wanted to find more ways to recognize the happiness in my life. I felt certain that the findings were true: recording your blessings would lead to a greater sense of gratitude which, in turn, leads to happiness.

The speaker in the TED Talk stated that writing 3 things down that you were grateful for over the course of 21 days would make a difference in your attitude. I decided to give the challenge a try.

I started a blog I’m calling The Happiness Project (though I’ve yet to read the book) because I’m convinced that recording my blessings daily can only lead to a greater sense of happiness. I hope it inspires you to write down your own blessings. Like President Thomas S. Monson so beautifully said,

” …to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”

We can be happy in this life, despite whatever may come our way. It’s a choice that begins with recognizing what we already have.

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Who else is up for the challenge?

 

Girls’ Night In

With Colin and Warren going to Fathers and Sons Camp Out, I decided to have a Girls’ Night In with Maddie, complete with movie (points to you if you guessed “Hey There, Yogi Bear“), popcorn, Peanut M&Ms, the works. We’d put the boys down a little early and start it up.

The problem was I made the mistake of telling Maddie about this plan earlier that morning. All day long she asked when we would watch the movie. Like. all. day. long. Apparently, Colin and Warren could not get out the door fast enough, dinner could not be eaten sooner, and Jake and Joey could not hit the pillow any quicker. She wanted Girls’ Night to start and she wanted it right away.

We did start it. We did eat popcorn with olive oil and oregano. We did eat M&Ms. We even cuddled a bit on the couch. It was a good evening. I’m glad I got to spend some one-on-one time with my girl.

Thirteen Years

After 13 years of marriage, most of our wedding gifts have that well-worn look to them. Our lime green and cobalt blue bathroom towels are starting to fray at the edges. The duvet cover my thoughtful mother-in-law sewed for us is not as white as it used to be. The majority of the dishes we so eagerly picked out from Target are chipped and hard water-stained. But I don’t mind.

It means we’ve lived. It means we’ve packed and repacked them together as we’ve moved from city to city, starting new adventures. It means we’ve laughed while cleaning them and forgot to mind the hardness of the ceramic sink upon contact. It means we’ve allowed our children to begin learning the value of work by loading them in our lousy, ineffective dishwasher.

I looked at one of these dessert plates the other day and thought of all the chocolate chip cookies we’ve enjoyed together over the years and smiled. We could replace the dishes, I know. It’s probably time. But I love the tangible reminder that we’ve spent years together. And we have so many more to go.

Happy anniversary, Colin. It just keeps getting better, chipped dishes and all.

Business As Usual

Colin went back to work today after his 6 week break used to help me recover. This was the reception he received when he arrived at his desk:

195 balloons and a note that said, “Welcome Back, Colin.” I’m sure the contributors were especially appreciative of the box of doughnuts he brought in as a token of thanks for being so understanding about his time away.

I went back to work again, too, as “Full-time Mom.” My reception was slightly different:

Runny noses multiplied by 3 all day long. Plus I caught the virus that has passed through all the kids. But I can’t complain too much. I feel pretty good as far as the surgery recovery goes. No more pain, just slight discomfort and tenderness at the incision site. My doctor’s visit confirmed that all is going well. I got the “all clear” to resume my life. I can now lift to my heart’s content.

It was so great to pick up my children again. I missed holding them so much. Bed rest was alright, on a purely selfish level– I got many projects done that would otherwise have been hard to do. But really, I like my full time job. It’s good to be back.

Now to kick this crummy cold…

Post-Op Notes

  • Prior to surgery, I was told I wouldn’t be able to lift anything over 20 pounds for the entire 6 weeks. That was every one of my four children. What was I going to do? Colin starting saving vacation days as soon as we thought surgery might be a possibility. He saved so much that he is able to be home for the majority of my recovery. What an incredible blessing.
  • Jared and Laura volunteered (how amazing are they??) to come all the way out from Boston and help for the first week and a half. We could not have survived without them. They did everything and were so gracious. Plus our kids got some cousin time, which was invaluable.
  • It has been ridiculously hard to just sit and watch life roll by. The chaos of my household wails on while my butt is planted on our comfortable but ugly couch. I know it’s what I need to do to heal, but that doesn’t make it any easier. But I’ve read a few really good books and caught up on this blog, so I guess there’s something to be said for being relieved of everyday duties.
  • Not being able to hold my kids is just sad. Maddie asks me everyday if I’m all better yet. I try to hold them in an awkward lean, their feet on the cushion next to me as their arms wrap around my neck. I miss snuggling them on my lap.
  • Friends from church stepped in and have provided huge support. Dinners, rides for Warren to and from school, picking up Maddie for a fun outing during the day, letting Warren come over to play for a few hours…. the list of people and the service rendered is too long to name here. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. A special thanks to Lyndsi for arranging most of it.
  • I’m so grateful for family and friends who have expressed their love and well-wishes over the past few weeks. Their support has really strengthened me. I haven’t had too many moments of feeling down, but when they’ve come I’ve leaned on these people that I know care deeply. It’s meant the world.

Endometriosis, Ovarian Cysts, and Other Fun Adventures in Gynecology

{Warning: this is a post that may make some (i.e. male readers) feel a bit uncomfortable. I try not to give too much information, but if talk of “woman times” or “lady parts” scares you at all, you may want to skip this one.}

When I was 21 years old, I stood in the parking lot of a movie theater and cried in a huddle with my two best girl friends from high school. I had just learned that I had endometriosis. For those of you not familiar with this lovely disease, it means the endometrial tissue from the uterus (similar to what is normally shed through menstruation) spreads through the pelvic cavity and attaches itself to various parts of the body. Though the affects of the disease vary from woman to woman, I was told to expect complications in becoming pregnant and possible infertility. Coupled with the excruciating pain of my first ovarian cyst (which led to the discovery of this diagnosis), it was a tough blow.

After a few months of processing and grieving, I went forward with the knowledge that my road to motherhood would be unpredictable, as would my experience with pain.

Fast forward 15 years later. Indeed, I found that I was infertile, though it hadn’t stopped me from becoming a mother to four beautiful children thanks to the blessings of adoption. After 8 years of marriage, we actually did see a specialist who confirmed that it would take a miracle (even with $20,000 a pop in vitro fertilization) to make infertility treatments work so we said no thank you. He also told me that, at my age, my eggs were old anyway, but I digress. Despite this, one of the sweetest memories of that consultation visit was my little Warren asking if the doctor had fixed me so that I could have babies. Life’s mysteries too hard for a toddler (and sometimes adults) to grasp. But I was at peace knowing that I would never get pregnant.

Ultimately, it wasn’t the infertility that was the most problematic part of this disease. It was the pain.

Last November, I started really hurting. After all these years of riding the roller coaster of pain, sometimes tolerable, sometimes debilitating, I was used to discomfort. But these recent experiences told me I was beyond the typical aggravated cramping associated with gnarly endometriosis periods. I was in full-blown pain. It was so severe that, when it came, I couldn’t even continue the task I was on but had to double over and wait for the sharp, stabbing sensation to go away. Worst of all, it was sporadic so I never knew when it was going to hit. Something bad was going on. And I hated the idea of dealing with it.

But I was good and went in to visit my specialist gynecologist only after a couple of months of this– better than my usual track record. After some testing, which included an ultrasound requiring a completely and painfully full bladder (I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the exam room without wetting the waiting room carpet, it was so horrible), the results indicated that I had another endometrioma (ovarian cyst) on my right ovary. The trouble was the excruciating pain was on my left side.

That meant the endometrial tissue had most likely attached itself to other unsavory parts, probably my intestines. Time to form a plan of action.

Dr. “Old Eggs” and I had history and I trusted his straightforward, if blunt, recommendations. He laid it out this way. I had two options: 1) continual birth control for years and years (most likely until menopause) to suppress my period, reducing symptoms and possibly shrinking the cyst, or 2) a hysterectomy. His reasoning was that just removing the cyst was like slapping a band-aid on the problem. I would only grow more cysts. Taking the hormones would be the first and least invasive step we should take. Undergoing a hysterectomy would be the last resort, but what I would eventually have to face.

I agreed, even though my past experiences with birth control left me feeling like a witch on her broom at best thanks to the highs and lows of increased estrogen. What did I have to lose?

I tried this for 8 months. It helped alright. The pain was less intense and less frequent, but it was still there. I still felt the impact on my life. Like wanting to accomplish things but never really feeling good enough to try. I felt like I was just limping along each day. It’s hardly the way you want to live, especially with four small children.

Finally, after much research and fasting and prayer, I decided that I didn’t want to put off the inevitable any longer. I decided to have the hysterectomy. It wouldn’t necessarily cure the problem, but it would help more than any option I had.

On January 3rd, I checked into the hospital at 5AM and underwent the 2 hour surgery. I’m 4 weeks into my 6 week recovery and doing fine. It’s still painful to sneeze and I don’t move around very well yet, but each day is better. I can’t lift anything over 20 lbs. for the entire recovery, so that’s made accepting help from others absolutely necessary. It’s been humbling all around.

There were moments before my surgery when I would freak out wondering how my body would react. Would it end my pain? Would he need to remove both ovaries? Would I need hormone replacement therapy? Would taking that put me back on my broom? But I had to remember that I had received a comforting answer through prayer. It would be alright. I had to trust in that and go forward.

He did remove both my ovaries after all. It was a game-day decision that became obvious was necessary after finding that both of them were covered in cysts and tissue, not to mention the muscles of my uterus were also lined with the stuff. The part that touches my bladder and colon were also affected. “No wonder you’re in pain,” confirmed Dr. “Old Eggs” who was also the surgeon. It was a relief to get it out.

So far, so good on the progesterone replacement. No hot flashes, like he expected. I feel good, overall. Now I just need to get over this surgery pain.

What a journey. I’m glad it’s over, or at least so it appears at this point. It’s certainly not the road I ever thought I’d be on, but it’s been enlightening, nonetheless. I feel blessed for the guidance I received in making this decision. And I’m grateful for modern medicine that can alleviate my pain.

Cinnamon Roll Making Day

We spent a wonderful day down with our “extended family,” friends that I have loved for years and years and years. Julianna’s sisters (Tara and Wendy), Wendy’s son’s (Ashton and Aiden), and her mom and dad (Sharon and Robert) all came down from Utah to be with Julianna’s family for Christmas celebrations. If Julianna is my pseudo sister, that makes Sharon my second mother and all the rest pseudo-relations, as well. And that’s just how I think of them. It was one big, happy reunion.

The time was spent eating, and chatting, and catching up. All of the kids had a good time together. Laura was a great helper with all the younger ones, especially with Jake.

The day unfolded without any planning or particular agenda, other than to consume chocolate in all its various forms.

We had an indoor picnic.

Some spent most of the day hard at work…

While others were hard at play.

Then Julianna decided to take advantage of her mother’s fantastic cooking and baking skills and enlist her in a cinnamon roll making tutorial. Recently receiving this KitchenAid from generous sister Wendy helped seal the deal.

It had to be properly broken in. Plus, what was she to do about those pregnancy cravings?

I documented the experience.

We’re always laughing. Always. Didn’t you know baking was funny?

The tried and true method for cutting the dough: using thread. Way better than using a knife.

They are phenomenally good! Better than Cinnabon, I promise you!

I think I discovered the beginning of my holiday decorating obsession. It all started in 1st grade with Mrs. Fugate’s tissue paper projects. This is Julianna’s that she (like the rest of us) labored over, rolling each square of tissue paper into a tiny ball and then gluing it just right onto the particular pattern. Hundreds of tissue balls later, you had yourself a Santa or an angel tree topper. Somewhere, in my parents’ garage most likely, is my own Santa creation that looks similar to hers below.

Speaking of decorations, check out this cute Snoopy gingerbread house Julianna’s kids decorated. One of 5 Peanuts-themed houses they made. Adorable.

Aunt Tara and Aunt Wendy met Jake and Joe for the first time. There was mutual love.

After a great day of baking and eating and laughing, I was reminded how blessed I am to know this family. They are wonderful people that I love dearly. I’m glad I got to grow up with them. And I’m grateful that my kids get to now, too.

The Flurry of Christmas Day

Christmas was a bit hectic this year since it fell on a Sunday. And though we had plenty of time to get ready for church since it didn’t start until 1PM, it meant we actually had to get out of our jammies and stick to a schedule. Then we had to come home and prepare Christmas dinner. But it was nice to celebrate the Savior’s birth on the Sabbath and partake of the Sacrament on this special day.

The day whizzed by but we did enjoy the excitement the kids felt seeing their “Santa” gifts and digging in to all the sweets, goodies, and food that make this holiday so joyous.

Stockings are always stuffed with one small toy, sugar cereal, goldfish crackers, “cuties” oranges, chocolate of some sort, and candy canes. Maddie had consumed most of the candies before breakfast even started. The rest of us paced ourselves, especially since we needed to save room for our healthful lunch of cinnamon and orange rolls.

Even though Maddie asked for “pink” as her sole Christmas present, we went outside the box and got her something we knew she’d love: Darth Vader. It’s really a gumball machine (don’t tell!) but she just enjoys pushing the button to hear his infamous breathing sound.

Of the many things Warren wished for this year, we decided on the art kit and “how to draw” books. He set to work right away and created some awesome drawings. He even got his requested emergency candles in his stocking.

All of that sugar consumption must have gone to her stomach because after awhile we found Maddie hiding behind the couch. She said her belly hurt. She just needed a breather. She came out some time later ready for more.

Getting ready for church is always stressful. It’s even worse when there is the distraction of new toys and candy. Somehow we made it out the door, and on time even.

We had so much food. Truly, we are blessed and have all that we need and then some. We ended the day with a roast beef dinner, complete with potatoes gratin, salad, and coconut cake.

Our Christmas was indeed Merry and Bright.