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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Learning to Live

I have gotten progressively worse at checking in. It isn't that I don't have anything to say, but rather the opposite. There are so many thoughts that have clumped themselves together in one big mess that I've been avoiding them about as much as the similarly messy clump of hair in our bathtub drain at the moment. Sad as it is, it really has felt that undesirable to sort through. 

And, just when I was feeling some motivation to share some of my thoughts and experiences from the last couple of weeks, I am distracted by some sad news. I was actually in the middle of writing about some of our most recent adventures when Marc called out from upstairs, "Truman Madsen died today."

As a philosophy student at BYU, I became very familiar with the writings and thoughts of Truman G. Madsen, who was a philosopher, a professor, a writer, a gifted orator with a destinctive voice. Even though I never officially met him, as I've read his books and studied his writings, I have admired the great man behind the great words. I'm sad today to learn that he has died.

But, it feels fitting that the main topic on my mind the last couple of weeks goes along perfectly with certain words of Truman Madsen I read years ago that have remained with me. In his book The Highest in Us, he discusses the difference between being active and being alive, pointing out that something can be active without being alive and emphasizing greater importance on being alive and really living


For the better part of the last year grief has left me feeling numb. I have tried to find joy in life. I've counted my blessings and tried to seek out the good in my life. To be honest, I have faked a lot of feelings, and for the most part it has worked in helping me get through a really hard year. But, there is a piercing sadness in my heart to admit that deep down I have felt detached from many of the joys that used to come so easily. I used to be able to look at something beautiful and appreciate its beauty without even having to try.

Now, when I look at the fuschia-colored flowers in our backyard it isn't enough to just see them with my eyes anymore; I have to make a conscious effort to let their beauty sink into my soul. When I hear a bird singing, I have to close my eyes to focus on its song until the sound goes past my ears and finds its way to my heart. And, while it's a little frustrating to have to go through so much more effort to find beauty and joy in the world around me, I feel like it's provided me with an opportunity to live a new, better life than I lived in my first thirty years. There have been moments recently when I've felt such deep feelings of beauty and joy... almost as if they are running through my veins and I can't help but wonder if I ever really lived before the death of our twins.

I'm choosing to live. I'm pausing to look up at the stars. I'm taking my shoes off to feel the grass on my barefeet. I'm making a conscious effort to live life a little more fully. I need to, but I also want to because I recognize it's a blessing I now have that I may not always have. I have had moments of guilt and sadness that Elliana and Emmaline didn't get a chance to experience these things here, and while I hope it will be more than made up to them after this life, I find myself wanting to enjoy it all a little bit more for them. It's like when a friend recently traveled to Italy, I urged her to enjoy some nocciola gelato for me. There was a feeling of joy thinking of her enjoying something that I love so much.

I know that from a larger perspective this life is very brief and I would hate to get to the end and wish I would have paused more to just live, to see, to taste, to hear, to feel, to touch, to love, to be loved. I'm learning to live on purpose, like I mean it. I hope, in the process, I'll find my dreams coming true.

Rest in peace, Brother Madsen. Your influence has made its impact on my life and so many others. Thank you for sharing your wisdom so freely.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bike to Work Day

Today, in this part of California at least, was Bike to Work Day. I think it's so cool to have a day for something like that. If only there were more of them in a year. Though, that's easy for me to say. Since Marc works from home and I work for him, we don't have a commute to worry about, nor do we typically add much to the daily amounts of car emissions mixing in our atmosphere. There is great peace of mind about that when I put on my green "every day is earth day" hat. (Love that hat.)

I felt a little left out that we weren't able to bike to work, so this afternoon we decided instead to go on a bike ride in honor of the day. Marc happened to have an appointment and I decided to tag along. While he was in his meeting, I found a shady spot of grass under a large redwood tree. After enjoying a quick, but deeply touching, phone conversation with an amazing and wise friend, I opened up the book I brought with me - Viktor Frankl's Man's Search For Meaning

As I was hurrying out the door, I grabbed it without a second thought, because honestly if there is one topic that has been weighing more heavily on my mind lately, it's my search for meaning and purpose. It's been a matter of serious prayer, pleadings for answers that have caused many tears to fall. I've turned to various sources, seeking answers to my questions. Today, I was hoping that Mr. Frankl would fill in some of the gaps, that I would find some insight, some perspective, some understanding about the purpose of suffering. I picked up where I had left off who-knows-how-many-months-ago, and not even two sentences in, I was reading words that offered an abundance of light. Had I had a red pencil with me, I would have marked every sentence of the dozen or so pages I read. 

Here's just one phrase I will share that made its impact on me today:

We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.


With a number of competing thoughts vying for my attention lately, between my friend's encouraging words and the ideas expressed by Mr. Frankl, direction for some choices I've been considering seemed so clear.

Now, I'm just hoping those feelings will stay with me in the coming days as I continue my search for meaning. If I didn't know any better I would give all the credit to Bike to Work Day.

Friday, May 8, 2009

To Our Angel Mothers

"All that I am or ever hope to be,

I owe to my angel mother."

- Abraham Lincoln

Family Portrait - 1981 (roughly)

Family Portrait - 1984 (roughly)

I blame my parents and the family I was blessed with for the painfulness of my childlessness. It's all their fault that I've always wanted a van full of kids. My childhood memories are too sweet and far too joyful to ever give up that dream. I'm amazed at how my Mom managed a home of eight hungry mouths (nine, if you count my Dad) and 80 dirty fingers, and on top of that provided us with the luxuries of homemade bread and handmade dresses (for the girls, I mean). I don't know how she did it. She is more than an angel.

I know Marc echoes the same sentiments for his Mom, as he grew up under a similar roof with goodly parents, a van full of kids, and the luxuries of homemade bread and Hostess fruit pies (although the pies should probably be attributed to his father, the Dentist). I never would have imagined I'd be blessed to marry into a family so much like my own. From the day I met Marc, I knew he must have an angel for a mother, too.

Happy Mother's Day, to both our Moms. We love you.

I was noticing in both the photos above the rather serious expressions on my face... I have to remember to ask my parents about that.

Was my general demeaner as a child always so serious?