Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Gratitude in the face of grief.

Just one year ago, on Thanksgiving Day, my world shattered when I was faced with the truth: my mom had entered hospice care. As the weeks wore on until her eventual death, I began to experience the crippling symptoms of grief even before she passed. Those symptoms -- pain, sadness, emotional detachment, loss of appetite, depression, fatigue -- increased and consumed me in the months following her death.

I honestly don't remember most of what happened between the middle of January until about May. When I think back, I only see small blips: attending a concert with my sisters. Disneyland. My 30th birthday. Clara's 3rd birthday.

Until this year, I had a very impressive memory, even the ability to recall every address and phone number I've ever had. But grief took it from me, maybe as a coping mechanism, because what you can't remember can't hurt you.

When I went to Utah in June, I felt a slight shift to a new part of the grief wheel. It was as if instead of constant clouds and rain, the sky was beginning to part for some occasional sunshine. I felt a desire to be happy again. The whole experience was incredibly healing for me. But before that, I felt spiritually dark, like I could not feel the influence of the Holy Ghost anymore.

I remember attending the temple in early April on my 30th birthday, thanks to a sweet friend who offered to watch Clara so I could go. It had been months or maybe even over a year since I had attended. I struggled to stay composed during the session, feeling very on-edge and anxious. At the end, instead of feeling peace and joy as I passed into the celestial room, I experienced a deep, guttural pain that caused me to sob. I sat in a chair in a corner and let the tears fall, clenching my throat so as not to let any sound escape. A kind temple worker offered me a tissue, looked me in the eyes and said some things that touched me deeply. But I didn't want to hang around for long. I was still so angry.

Around the time of my birthday, I had also started seeing a therapist to deal with my feelings and rein in some unhealthy coping mechanisms I had developed. It was with her help that I was able to feel that light again. And there was an internal change, too. As some of the weight of my grief fell off my shoulders, I started seeing my beautiful blessings again. My husband, who was patient and compassionate towards me despite the fact I was a shell of my former self. My children, who are kind, inquisitive, funny and innocent. My beautiful home. The gift of music. Selfless friends and neighbors. The beauty of the world around me. The truth of the gospel.

As I chose to approach life with gratitude -- embracing those happy moments of recognizing my blessings instead of willing them away in my anger -- the dark clouds started to depart. It was a miracle, one that I hadn't intended. Just by being thankful, my heart could heal. I believe now it was because it was softening my heart, allowing the Savior in to do His work of putting the pieces of my life back together again.

There are still hard moments and even a hard days here and there. I'm not done healing, but I'm on the road to recovery. I still have a long ways to go, but when I look back on how far I've come, I am grateful for the progress I've made and hope it can continue.

I miss my mom so, so much. How is it possible I still want to call her when I run into a family member at the store, or when I have good news? At times, it feels like she is on a long vacation and will be back any day. And then, I realize she's actually gone.

But, I am grateful for the time I did have with her. I am grateful for her example, her legacy. I am grateful for all she taught me about life. And I know she wants me to face my grief with gratitude, not anger. Because despite the tragedy of losing my mom before my 30th birthday, I have much to be thankful for. I have a truly beautiful life. And someday, I think I'll even be grateful for what I've gained through experiencing the death of a parent.

I also want to express my thanks to all who have buoyed me up in some way through this year. You've been instrumental in my healing, too. Thank you for bringing glimmers of joy into my life so I can learn to feel happy again. You are His hands, and your love has not gone unnoticed.

Since my mom died, I have started to appreciate the beautiful sunsets we have in Arizona. I now see them as gifts -- from her, from God, a sign that I survived another day. I like to stop and just drink them in, savoring the hues until they fade to inky blue. It's like a moment of reprieve, a reminder that not all is lost and that life is still beautiful.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Going to paradise.


A week or so before my mom died around New Year's, Dillon and I took the kids to see Moana at the movie theater. I had been told it would make me emotional, and it definitely came through on that front.

There were a few themes within the film that resonated with my situation at the time -- namely, being required by a higher power to do a very hard thing and somehow surviving it all. Plus, the loss of a family member (they portrayed Moana's grief of losing her grandmother so perfectly, by the way).

The timing of that movie's release was impeccable for me. I didn't realize how much I needed it at the time. I thought I was in for a mental break from the depressing reality of my mom's terminal illness, but in reality, seeing Moana caused me to delve even further into my emotions than anything else could. Art has that effect on people, you know. I still can't watch the baby Moana scene at the beginning of the movie without losing it, nor the end when she sings her song to Te Ka. Daaaang.

When Moana was released to Blu-ray a few months later, my then-2-year-old daughter Clara unsurprisingly took a liking to it. Well, it was more of an obsession, in true toddler fashion. She watched it at least 2 - 3 times every day. Morning, noon and night. I would occasionally try to persuade her to engage in a more educational activity or even to just watch something else, but nothing beyond casual encouragement. I was too overwhelmed with grief and depression to care.

But, I didn't really mind that Moana was basically on repeat for a month and a half. The movie is visually stunning, the music is inspiring and heartfelt, and moments of hilarity abound (that Hei Hei is too good). So, having Moana in the background of my life for about six straight weeks was not the worst thing.

Maybe it was the manifestation of Stockholm syndrome, but there was a day about three weeks into Clara's Moana addiction when I suddenly decided I needed to visit Hawaii. I became as obsessed with the idea as Clara was with the movie. I couldn't stop thinking about it and looking up flights online.

Now, I know Moana isn't set in Hawaii specifically, but it's close enough and I've always, always wanted to go to Hawaii. Call me basic or whatever, but I've never been and from what I hear, it's magical. Plus, we have some family ties to Oahu and I've longed to see it for myself for decades.

So when things fell into place around my 30th birthday thanks to a very generous gift, I decided to book the trip. That was back in April, nearly six months ago. And on Monday, Dillon and I are hopping a plane to paradise for an entire week (direct flight, too!).

A student at the school where I work (oh yeah, I work at a school now. More on that later) told me the air in Hawaii is different -- "It's rejuvenating!" he said excitedly. I wanted to cry because that's exactly why I am doing this. I have clung to this upcoming trip for so long for its promise of revitalization. My soul needs it. It needs a week to decompress, unwind, sleep, move slowly and savor its existence in this beautiful world.

I do feel that being alive is a real privilege -- not to say the "other side" isn't wonderful, but mortality offers us experiences that God knew we could only enjoy in a physical state. And yes, traveling can be a huge sacrifice and I recognize we are very fortunate to be able to do it. I know how privileged we are to be able to take the time and resources to go see another part of the wondrous earth God created for us. That fact is not lost on me.

So, it's finally happening! It feels like Christmas. We're going to eat our weight in delicious poke, we're going to lay on the beach, we're going to enjoy some fire dancing and we're going to breathe in as much of that rejuvenating Hawaiian air as we can fit into our lungs. And when we get back, I'll tell you all about it.

In the meantime, you were all so helpful when I went to Utah over the summer that I'm going to ask you again -- tell me where we HAVE to eat and what we HAVE to see and do. We're staying half the time on Waikiki and the other half on the North Shore, and we're renting a car so the sky's the limit. The trip is pretty well-planned already, but we may have missed something. And let's be honest, I don't know that I will get the chance to go back any time soon. So, lay it on me!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Giving up vs. letting go.


"She's going to beat this. She's a fighter."

When my mother was first diagnosed with terminal cancer, so many people -- well-meaning, I'm sure -- offered these words of support to my family and me. I know they didn't intend to hurt us and were probably just trying to be hopeful. No one wanted my mother to die. No one. We all wanted her to "beat" cancer.

But the reality was, her diagnosis was terminal. Cancer would most likely cause her death, barring some freak accident or other unforeseen tragedy should take her first.

Our family learned her cancer was in the latest stage very soon after her initial diagnosis, but it seemed others did not understand what it meant. I would explain to them that her diagnosis was much worse than we initially believed, but they'd still express that she could fight the cancer and be cured. These were confusing sentiments that at first brought a glimmer of hope, followed by that gut-sinking feeling you get just before every shelf in your world comes crashing down. I knew in my heart even the strongest people die from cancer, no matter how determined they are to outlive it. And I also understood that my mom's prognosis was very bleak.

Shortly after receiving the news that my mother had cancer, a wise woman told me that every person's cancer story is different, and no two are the same. She warned me that people would come crawling out of the woodwork to share the experiences their loved ones had with cancer. Sometimes, the outcome was a long life simply managing symptoms and having periodic scans. Other times, it was death. But, it would be important not to assume that because X happened to a friend's aunt that it would also happen to my mother. The "what-ifs" would make me crazy if I dwelt on them.

I often had to remind myself of this as my mom's health deteriorated and she eventually chose to enter hospice care. You may recall that I was quiet about it, and that was intentional. I chose not to share the information publicly for a number of reasons, even though you might remember that she asked me to write about her experiences with cancer on this blog. One of the biggest reasons I chose not to talk about it was I knew people would judge her, saying she "gave up" in her fight against cancer.

My mother was one of the strongest people I know. She was determined to finish whatever she started. She could move mountains. She wasn't afraid of anything or anyone. People knew they could count on Liz Haney to get stuff done, and when she fell ill, they counted on her to defeat her disease.  So, when she decided she was ready to die, I didn't want people to think my mom was weak.

See, there is this very public and widespread idea that if you have cancer, you better fight it with everything you have. We call people "cancer warriors" and assign them with the Herculean task of achieving remission as if it's somehow in their control. Oddly enough, we don't treat any other disease this way -- we don't require people to "fight" MS, Lou Gehrig's, juvenile diabetes or asthma. But cancer is a different story for some reason.

I have news for you: CANCER cannot be "beat" by sheer force of will. For my mom, it was never in the cards. But even when it is possible for a patient to recover, consider what it takes in order to become "cancer-free." Remission requires surgeries, intense medications, radiation treatments, tests, scans, and many other painful and taxing medical interventions to keep the patient well enough to eventually find themselves in remission -- IF it's even a possibility for that person. Often, the grueling side effects of treatment are worse than living with the disease. It's a LOT to ask someone to suffer through it just because we want them to live.

Sure, optimism on the part of the patient and their loved ones is crucial to enduring the horrific and debilitating effects of cancer and its required treatments. But there is very little that the patient, doctors, or anyone can control when it comes to cancer. It has a mind of its own and it's determined to grow and spread. It often does, and it takes lives with it. That is the reality here.

It's been eight months since my mom passed away. But she did not lose a battle to cancer. She wasn't ever in some kind of fight where the valiant win and the quitters lose. She was stricken with a horrible disease and she succumbed to it. And at the end, she decided it was time to let go. She believed there life beyond mortality, and she was ready to move onto the next phase. And that desire does not make her weak. It makes her human.

Her decision to enter hospice care and die with as little pain as possible while in the peace and comfort of her own home is hers and hers alone. Our family's support of her decision does not mean we allowed cancer to "win" or to take over our lives or do whatever else people claim it does. My mother was as sick as can be, in excruciating pain, unable to eat, walk, use the bathroom or bathe. How debilitated does a person have to be before hospice is "acceptable?" The answer is simple: it's the patient's choice, and no one else should judge them for that determination.

Likewise, if a terminally ill person does not want to enter hospice care, that is also their choice. They shouldn't be judged for wanting to live for as long as possible. Their life belongs to them and no one else.

We need to reconsider how we talk about cancer survival. It's important to understand that it's not as much within our control as we believe it is, and that it's a gruesome disease that requires the use of literal poison to even attempt to treat it. It wreaks havoc on people's bodies, and it doesn't matter how strong they are, nor how determined they are to get well again. It doesn't even matter how skilled their doctors are a lot of the time. Strong people can die, and dying does not make them weak.

I miss my mother every day. I still think to call her or text her several times a week. The pain that follows the realization that I can't see her, talk to her or be with her right now is starting to become less severe. Or maybe I'm just getting used to it. Either way, I'm thankful for that.

Of course, I wish she could've been healed. I wished and prayed and hoped and prayed some more that she would and well, it just didn't happen. God had a different plan for her.

But her death has taught me many important lessons about how to interact with those who are enduring similar situations. First, people can be quite insensitive when your loved ones are sick or dying. But, they can also be very kind, even more kind than you believed they could. So, instead of running my mouth when someone tells me their loved one has cancer, I can get to work and help them. I can offer a listening ear. I can cry with them when they feel all hope is lost.

Second, people can do everything right and still die, but that doesn't mean it's their fault. And, it's more important to respect and love people than it is to be right. So, even if I think I know what's best for someone who is going through this nightmare, it's really not my place to say it. The only thing they need to know is that they are loved and supported.

Third, cancer is not some enemy that you can defeat if you just fight hard enough. The fact is, cancer kills, and it doesn't care if you are an accomplished marathoner or a helpless child. And a person suffering with cancer doesn't need any added pressure to survive or "kick cancer's butt" or anything like that. If I hope for someone to achieve remission, is it because I want what's best for them and their family, or is it because I'm uncomfortable with the idea of them dying? Remember that remission comes at a cost, and treatment can be more unbearable than the disease itself.

How often do we think of the act of dying as "giving up" when maybe that person is just "letting go?" We are always supportive of those who choose to let go of what they can't control, let go of negative feelings, let go of toxic relationships and behaviors and so forth. A dying person knows their time is up and they're ready to move on. Allow them the freedom to do so, with dignity and grace and without judgment.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Girls in STEM: A Snapology Franchise Giveaway!

This giveaway is a partnership with Nakturnal. All opinions mine.

Growing up, my parents never discouraged me from math, science or tech -- educational pursuits typically geared towards boys. In 6th grade, I was selected with a few of my peers to be a Mathlete in district-wide math competition. In high school, I took honors math and chemistry and AP physics, and I was also the Physics Club president my senior year. And when I took the ACT before applying to college, I scored highest in -- you guessed it -- science and math. So, yeah ... no surprise I was into science-related toys as a child. To me, they were just a way of life, and they were fun. They weren't specific to any gender in my eyes.

When my twin brother and I were in elementary school, LEGO® was responsible for quashing the boredom of many summer days for us. My husband Dillon also enjoyed LEGO® toys, K'Nex and other building activities a whole lot as a child and teenager. So naturally, our kids are into the same types of things.

We start them out as babies with Megablocks (basically giant LEGO®-like bricks for the little ones) and work our way up to regular bricks by the time they're in preschool. All three of our children -- yes, even our daughters -- enjoy these engineering-themed toys. And I'm a big fan because there's no better way to learn and understand Newtonian physics than by building something with your own hands.

Over this past summer, I enrolled my two big kids in a week-long summer camp through the City of Mesa where they got to learn about robotics using the LEGO® Mindstorms system. Audrey and Carson both had a blast building AND programming robots with their peers. Yes, they even learned basic coding!

Audrey didn't mind being one of few girls in her age group -- she was actually very excited to team up with the other girls for each of their building activities. Hearing this warmed my heart because I feel it's so important to get our girls involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Why?

According to this CNN article in which a panel of female STEM experts are interviewed, certain toys and games encourage the development of spatial logic and other skills which directly apply to STEM fields. Unfortunately, though, many girls aren't being introduced to these types of toys at a young age like their male peers are, so they are already at a disadvantage by the time they reach school age. They often lose interest in STEM and don't perform as well in those subjects as their male peers as they get older, which means they don't end up majoring in science- or tech-related degrees in college.

This is why it's important for parents to provide these educational opportunities for their daughters. When girls are encouraged to explore subjects typically reserved for boys and men, they will further study them and eventually enter those fields after graduation. And we want more women in science and tech! You know what they say -- two heads are better than one. Gender diversity in every career field makes us all better.

When I heard about the Snapology franchise, I thought it was a great way to get girls involved in STEM on an extracurricular level. Schools are increasingly promoting STEM curriculae these days, but there just isn't the time or resources to provide students with hands-on, interactive experiences -- the kind that most effectively teach STEM concepts.

Some girls enjoying Snapology at their Pittsburgh location. Photo from here.

Snapology ensures kids of all ages get lots of hands-on STEM interaction with LEGO® bricks and K'Nex. They offer these experiences through classes, workshops, camps, field trips, Scouting events and even birthday parties (I'm sure my kids would have a total blast at a robotics-themed birthday). They also have programs for video game design, anti-bullying and team-building, and they accommodate kids with special needs, too. And Snapology is fun for everyone -- boys AND girls alike! I would love to see a Snapology franchise location in my area sometime soon.

As part of this post, I'm giving away one LEGO® set of the Snapology mascot, Sebastian the Gator (for ages 6+)! All you have to do is comment with your favorite STEM subject from when you were in school -- mine was obviously physics. You can also earn an extra entry by tweeting about it! Use the Rafflecopter Widget below as I'll be using it to determine the winner. Giveaway ends August 24!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday Favorites: Bookshelf Tees (a giveaway!)

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved to read. The first book series I ever fell hard for was Beverly Cleary's Ramona Quimby books. I spent the whole summer between third and fourth grade willfully sequestered in my room, buried in the tales of the unruly, whimsical Ramona (who I wanted to be) and her older sister, Beezus (who I am really more like). It wasn't long after that I became enchanted by Harry Potter's wizarding adventures, devouring each book within days after its release.

During high school, I was in honors and AP English classes, so we'd have additional assigned reading to complete during the summers. It was usually two or three novels, classics like Fahrenheit 451, Jane Eyre and Anthem. Most kids reviled this extra work, but I secretly loved it. A couple of new books to entertain me during the long, inhospitably hot summer months? Don't mind if I do!

For me, reading feels like an emotional and mental escape into another world. Even if it's a stressful or sad book, it gives me a break from my own stress/sadness. It's more interesting to me than watching a movie because I get to cast the characters in my mind and decide what the setting looks like. It's almost like its own work of art that only I get to enjoy. I also like non-fiction because it allows me to focus my mental attention on some new concept, person or historical aspect I don't know about. No matter what genre, a good book allows me to relax and forget my cares for just a bit.

When my friend Lauren introduced her company Bookshelf Tees, I was ecstatic. Finally, a graphic tee I could relate to! I ended up modeling the Library Card shirt for her site -- my absolute favorite.

book shirts

book shirts

Takes me right back to being a kid in the '90's! Coolest shirt ever. It's even in a light oatmeal color, just like the manila cards we used for checking out books back then.

Another thing I like about Bookshelf Tees -- the shirts are so soft, comfy and unisex! These are some high-quality shirts. I have washed mine several times and they show no signs of wear. They also don't shrink or pill. They're just great. I could live in mine. And if you follow me on Snapchat, you know I practically do.

And Lauren's really thought of everything, because Bookshelf Tees even has its own virtual book club! WHAT?! If that's not brilliant, I don't know what is. You can check it out and join here.

Today, I'd like to give away $25 shop credit to Bookshelf Tees! I actually earned this credit by modeling, but since I already own two tees myself (Girls Just Wanna Have Books is my other one -- clever as all HECK), I decided to share the wealth with you all. What better way to show my gratitude for my readers than by giving you stuff? Right?

To enter, browse the Bookshelf Tees shop and leave me a comment HERE -- on this blog post -- telling me which one is your favorite. The winner will be chosen and announced on Monday, August 21 at 9 AM!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mom goes to Utah.

Long ago, I lived in Utah while I attended school at Brigham Young University. That's where I got the broadcast journalism degree that allowed me to later become Mom, the (News) Intern.

While I lived in Utah, I despised about 80 percent of it. I hated the winters. The unapologetically careless drivers. The potholes all over the roads and the trench-like gutters that line the streets of Provo. I-15. The nasty industrial areas that are completely unhidden and provide a ghastly contrast from the beautiful mountain scenery that surrounds them. The plastic Barbie doll culture. The abysmal customer service at any and every restaurant.

I did enjoy MOST aspects of BYU, and the summers in Utah were glorious. But when my time came to be done, I was outta there in a hurry. I missed Arizona something fierce and didn't even care that it is literally Hell on Earth from mid-May to late-September every year. That's why air conditioning was invented, people. And tell me, have you ever had to scrape sunshine off your windshield?

I stayed far away and hadn't been back since the year I graduated, which was 2009. And then, I finally had cause to return last month. It was for a concert tour and album recording with Millennial Choirs and Orchestras, of which I am a part and have been for six years. We performed in several concerts at the Mormon Tabernacle and recorded an upcoming album at the University of Utah.

Those experiences alone were incredible. But just getting away from here, by myself, was something I needed. I just didn't know it.

I flew into Salt Lake on a Tuesday and didn't have any choir commitments until the following day, so I was free to do whatever I wanted. This was also the first time I had ever rented a car for myself. I was so nervous about it, but of course it was totally fine. I ended up loving that little Chevy Sonic with its fancy back-up camera and screen that told me the artist and title of every song played on the radio. And I loved the freedom having a car provided me.

As I pulled away from the airport and headed downtown where my Airbnb was located, I actually started to tear up. I was in Utah again! And I was glad about it! The weather was great, the scenery is just breathtaking (there was even still snow on the mountains! In June!) and the happy memories flooded back. See, when you've been away from something for a while, you tend to forget the bad and remember the good. Thanks, Brain, for that helpful evolution. Were it not so, the human race would cease to exist because CHILDBIRTH.

I arrived at my Airbnb a few hours before check-in, so I decided to hit up City Creek. What a lovely mall! It felt a bit too fancy for me, but it was a nice place to hang out and also very close to where I stayed. I liked that it had an actual creek running through it. For lunch, I ate at the small Red Iguana in the food court there because I was starving by that point. It was actually pretty decent! I called Dillon while I ate and remarked how every person I saw looked like someone I know. I guess we Mormons tend to resemble each other.

After that, I shopped a little, and then made my way to my place. It was right in the Avenues just off of South Temple. I had never stayed in an Airbnb before and didn't know what to expect. It turned out to be a really positive experience and I would definitely do it again!

When I walked in, I was greeted by original hardwood floors, a beautiful fireplace and mantle and lovely white built-ins and moulding. The bedroom was comfy and inviting with curious little furniture pieces. The kitchen was quaint but stocked with all the necessities. It was SO CUTE and looked exactly like the pictures in the listing. Behold:

I looked forward to coming back to this place at the end of each tiring day. It felt like a little sanctuary where I could be alone with my thoughts (I know that sounds scary but trust me, I needed it) and just unwind without the needs of others weighing on my mind.

My sister Mariah lives in Provo so I also got to visit with her on several occasions. We did have our mandatory sushi date at Tsunami and it was SO GOOD. You guys weren't kidding!

sushi, Salt Lake City

We also went to Music and the Spoken Word on Sunday morning, and then Mariah showed me around BYU later that day. It's changed so much since I was last there. It's beautiful!


That last picture is the brand new Life Sciences Building on the south end of campus. The coolest thing about it was how they used a ton of living plants and taxidermy to decorate it inside. It felt so swanky and it made me want to go back to school and study biology or something.

Singing in the 150-year-old Tabernacle was an incredibly moving experience. Those Mormon pioneers built it with their bare hands. The pipe organ was magnificent. I can honestly say performing with so many accomplished musicians and beautiful human beings on those hallowed grounds was a spiritual highlight in my life. I wished my mom could've been there in person, but I have no doubt she was there in spirit.

temple square
The whole MCO crew packed into the Assembly Hall. Photo c/o Steve Porter

Libby Gardner Hall was an absolute joy to record our album in! The pipe organ was beautiful to behold, which is good because I got to stare at it for about five hours. I'm definitely a Cougar for Life, but hanging out at the U wasn't all that bad (though I was concerned about bursting into flames while walking around on campus, and y'all got some scary-steep hills).

I had the chance to visit the Salt Lake temple during some of my free time and I also got to see the new Provo City Center temple! Wow. I remember when it was just a wee tabernacle. We used to have church meetings there, and I even performed there as a BYU student. Amazing that they were able to restore it to a temple after it burned down. It is truly magnificent!

Provo City Center Temple, Salt Lake Temple

I ended up dining at some of the places that were recommended to me by everyone -- THANK YOU! -- but I didn't get to try them all, unfortunately. Sometimes, I only had a minute, or I was in a different part of town, or it was more convenient to eat somewhere else than travel around. However, I got to try some really yummy food at some unique places, and it was a ton of fun!

L to R: Rockwell's Ice Cream (Provo), Sodalicious (Provo), Cafe on 1st (SLC)

L to R: Pig and a Jelly Jar (SLC), The Pie (University of Utah, SLC)

Going on this trip ALONE was something I desperately needed. There were a few times I wished I had Dillon, my kids or a close friend with which to eat a meal, go to the temple or just hang out. I did meet up with several people as I had the time, which was a lot of fun. But for the most part, I was by myself. And I needed it, especially when I became vocally fatigued and had to rest my voice. It was really healing to just think and process things, too. Plus, I only had to worry about myself, which is unusual. I am always thinking about my family, my kids and others and my own needs tend to slip by the wayside.

The best thing I could have done at this particular time in my life was spend a week rediscovering myself. Having just lost my mother, I was swallowed up in my grief. I had begun to forget who I was. I lost my sense of joy and wonder. I was just going through the motions of everyday life. I needed respite from the horrid storm.

But this trip to Utah was more than just a getaway. I learned that it's okay for me to feel sad, but it's also OK for me to feel happy again, too. I learned that it's okay for me to be alone and it doesn't make me a bad person for enjoying it. I learned to appreciate my musical intuition and skills that I often discount. I learned that people are mostly kind and often misunderstood. I learned that God loves me.

I am so grateful to Dillon who took an entire week off work to be with our kids, and not just "watching" them, but taking them on so many fun adventures while I was gone. He is such an  involved father and a phenomenal husband. I am grateful for that time all those months ago when my mom was dying and he told me if I needed to go on a trip by myself, he would fully support it. My heart leapt. I knew this trip was coming up and I held on until then.

I am so glad I did. I feel refreshed. I feel ready to take on whatever life throws at me. Like the Provo Tabernacle-turned-temple, I feel like I am being rebuilt into something amazing.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Friday Favorites:

Prior to last year, I had never had a live houseplant that survived for more than a week or two. But death has a way of bringing plants into your life. Did you know? No one had ever warned me about this. Let it be known: if you lose someone close to you, you'll probably become the adoptee of many green children. It's both heartwarming and also a little frightening.When Dillon's grandfather unexpectedly passed away last year, we inherited his corn plant. It is quite a mature plant and is about five feet tall now, more like a tree. At the time, it was fairly neglected, but I could tell it had some life in it and that it would make a lovely addition to our home, so I accepted it with open arms. It happens to be one of the most low-maintenance plants on earth, requiring only about two cups of water every few weeks and very little sun. And it really does liven up its little corner of the house.

Then, my mom died six months ago, and many people gave me lovely houseplants as bereavement gifts. As such, our plant family size tripled in a few days. This was an unexpected aspect of bereavement that I hadn't anticipated. All these plants are beautiful, and keeping them alive is like keeping Grandpa's and my mom's memories alive, in a way. Actually, when I think of them wilting and dying I feel the beginnings of a panic attack so I guess you could say I'm doing really well these days hahahaha

It's fine, I'm fine.


The plant-growing has been going so well, I decided to add a few more live plants of my own -- a small cactus with an orange ball on top, and a spiky, tall-ish thing from IKEA which we named K.K. Slider. All are currently alive and thriving, and I am officially a Crazy Plant Lady.

I have spoken to many people over the years who say plant husbandry (?) is just not for them, that they have a black thumb and a real knack for killing houseplants of all kinds, even succulents. And to you, I say, know your strengths. Don't force it. Just invest in some quality artificial plants. No one will care. But people WILL care if you boast about how you ruthlessly kill plants, so going the silk route is a smart move if you want to protect your reputation, too. Wink, wink.

In fact, even though I do pretty well with houseplants, I still own several fakies that get the job done. So when reached out and asked me to review a 3-foot Sansevieria, I couldn't pass it up. I've been looking for one of these for a long time! The usually don't look real enough for me, but this one definitely passes the test.

As you can see, the light even passes through it in a realistic way! And it feels soft and rubbery to the touch, too, as a real snake plant would. I also like the way they styled the mulch so that it hides the fact the plant is fake but it isn't overdone.

I could see this plant really classing up a boring office space, too. And definitely has that arena covered! They've got everything from small tabletop plants to full-sized trees. So, if you're a business owner who doesn't want to deal with watering and cleaning up after plants (YES THEY CAN BE SO MESSY, WHO KNEW) in addition to your numerous responsibilities at the office, definitely consider checking this site out.

Alright, dear readers. Do you own any live houseplants? Do you sing to them? Have you named them? Do you consider yourself a Crazy Plant Person? Should we start a support group?

This post was written in exchanged for product. All opinions are mine, as usual.