Friday, August 31, 2007

The Beach, Part Two

A throw-back to Hitchcock's The Birds, I think this is, which was a favorite scary movie of mine as a child, thanks to my dad. Putting babies in silly situations is also probably something I inherited from my parents, so if the following account and photos disturb you, just know that I am in therapy, and I'm working on it.

Conor loved the beach, as mentioned in Part One, below. Right away, he was intrigued by the enormous, seemingly friendly seagulls. He's only been walking now for a few weeks, but he trudged through that sand trying his darndest to catch a seagull. They would humor him for so long before flying about eight feet further away. He didn't give up, going in circle after circle after the birds. I thought I'd help him out, because that's what mothers do. I toted a blanket further back in the sand where he could be undisturbed by beachgoers. I filled his hands with snacks so he would stay put, and then I sprinkled Lay's potato chips all around the circumference of my baby on the blanket. Then I stood back and laughed my head off. It took seconds, literally. One bird, then two, then they started migrating in from nethermost regions of the beach for the rare delicacy of Lay's Cheddar Sour Cream potato chips. Conor sat there in bird heaven. He stared at the birds, the birds stared at him. They were both eating, so neither one seemed bothered. It made for some great beach entertainment. And I don't believe the baby was in any real harm, so leave me alone about it. You would have laughed too.

The Beach, Part One

We have lived in the Los Angeles area for two years now, and had not, until last weekend, ever taken a family trip to the beach. We've all been to the beach, just not together. On our last weekend together before school starts, we figured it was about time. We packed up the Durango; a cooler full of Gatorade, water, fruit, and sandwiches; chairs; umbrellas; towels; snacks; games; books; sand toys; and six children--and headed for Manhattan Beach, which made me feel closer to my dear friend, Luisa.

Apparently, my husband hates sand even more than I do. Having never been to the beach with him, this struck me as odd, considering that he isn't even close to being the tidiest person I've ever met. He spread out a huge blanket and designated it the "Sand-Free Zone", and no one dared to kick sand onto it, except Conor. Adam worked tirelessly keeping the Sand-Free Zone sand-free, which was funny to watch. Just when you get it clean, the sand shows up again. "Welcome to my life," I said, watching him brushing off sand over and over again. In this zone, he and the girls played card and dice games and I read my latest fave from the Arbinger Institute, The Anatomy of Peace. The boys played at the water's edge gathering sand crabs and filling buckets with them. Conor, as it turns out, LOVES the beach. The sand, the water, the waves, the birds. All of it. The day was a delight. I think as a family, we pretty much rock.

Dedicated to the One I Love

I'm just getting photos uploaded, so I apologize for the delay. The cake was a big hit, although I wasn't as proud of it as I was Conor's. Nevertheless, Adam said it was the best birthday cake he's ever had. Whoa. That does my heart good, which is why I bother with these cakes anyway. I just think people should feel loved while they eat cake.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Pain of Change

I'm getting old. I can tell because every morning when I wake up, I'm stiff. I ache. I'm sore, and not because I overdid it the day before. (hey, that rhymes, Dad!) I used to be such an exercise and fitness guru. I actually set the record in my high school for highest number of consecutive crunches in 1990, and that was for girls and boys, I'll have you know. I spent my weekends with Jane Fonda, going for the burn. I've led a cyber walking club, and been a Yoga instructor, and up until two years ago, I felt pretty darn confident even in a bikini. Baby #4, or marriage #2, or big kids #1-5, or maybe it's just Hershey, Ben, and Jerry, have thrown me for a loop and I'm in a rut that I need to get out of. My sister-in-law blogged about her determination and success at starting an exercise routine. She was the final kick in the butt for me, and so this morning I figured would be MY DAY.

The baby usually wakes up at 6am to nurse, but will go back to sleep for an hour or so. I decided this was the perfect uninterrupted time. Sure enough, he was up at 5:54, and was back to sleep at 6:09. I seriously contemplated scrapping the goal for today and going back to bed, but I've learned from past experience that if you screw up Monday, the whole week pretty much goes downhill from there. I changed my clothes and stumbled downstairs into the quiet darkness. I got out my Power Yoga video tape, by Beryl Bender Birch, yogi extraordinaire, and author of the book by the same name. I used to teach this class, so I know how strenuous it is, but I also believe wholeheartedly in the healing nature and fitness benefits of yoga. Laugh if you want, but power yoga, or ashtanga yoga, will kick your butt. When I was teaching, my favorite moments were when strapping, buff men would come to my class to secretly mock us, hoping to knock out an easy class while watching women in unitards bend and flex through the series of poses. No man ever came back for a second class. Very few men ever made it through even one class. What a thrill to humble their sculpted glutes and too-tight hamstrings. (Even though that's not what yoga is about.)

Well, folks, it turns out that I'm only a mere shadow of my former self, as my father would say. I made it through both series of Sun Salutations, and a few forward-bending leg stretches, and had to throw up. 14 minutes and I was a gonner. I have a long way to go to get back into shape. I have tightness in my hips and shoulders and back that never existed before. The poses in yoga reveal so much to the one who wants to know, and I have a lot of work to do. So, I crashed on the couch, nauseated and weak, and fell asleep for 45 minutes till the boys came downstairs.

I could feel defeated and pathetic, but I feel on top of the world! I actually did it. I got out of bed and started the change I need to make in my life towards better health. And so it was painful, and so tomorrow I probably won't be able to move my arms, and so I'm out of shape and exhausted, but tomorrow has to be better! The first day of any change is the worst, but it brings with it a sense of euphoria and hopefulness that acts as a catalyst for tomorrow. God willing.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Towering above the Masses

I didn't go on a single date for three years after my first marriage ended. I had been with Adam since I was seventeen, and after 13 years together we fit like a glove, and I could barely imagine life on my own, let alone life with another man. How in the world do you start over? How do go over all the crazy family stories again? Much of my heart remained in denial that adultery, divorce, or single motherhood could possibly happen to me. I believed it to be some weird blip in my life that would eventually right itself. I focused all of my faith on that goal.

They were very spiritual years for me, years of tremendous stretching and growth. God became even more real, and I hung on his every manifestation in my aching heart. I believed that God wanted my family to continue, and that he loved both Adam and me enough to offer us open doors for redemption in our love, but ultimately allow us to choose our own paths, with commensurate rewards. I certainly hoped that Adam would choose my path. But he didn't. Well, he would turn for a time, but then spin right back around. It was confusing and tumultuous. I began to date to bide my time, but I still held out hope that my miracle would come.

It did. I signed on to some internet dating sites. They were LDS, so I felt they were somewhat safer, and the attention was intoxicating! One day in May (May 13th, actually, a Friday, coincidentally) I sat at my computer when a message came to my inbox at "Wow. You're really pretty," it read. I felt I needed at least to be gracious and say 'thank you', and see who had passed my way, so I clicked on his profile. Hmmmm. Kind of intriguing. Mysterious. Depth in his eyes. Divorced. Father of 2. Green eyes. 5'4. Yikes. I'm 5'4, and I've never had to worry about dating a short guy. My first husband was 6'4, and all the males in my family are over 6'. I've shot down guys before simply because of their height, shallow thing that I am. But something said to write him back.

me: "Thanks! You just made my day!"
him: "Well, now that I've got you talking to me, what's your name?"
me: "Jenna"
him: "Nice name, Jenna. I'm Adam."

Adam? Seriously? The little hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

me: "That's my ex's name."
him: "Oh, crap."

It was okay, not a turn-off. I loved his voice, and how interested he seemed in me, and so we kept on talking. And talking. And talking. And then I could hear my children's alarm clocks going off in their bedrooms to wake them up for school. Birds were chirping. We had talked all night long. We didn't much get off the phone at all for weeks. Every battery in our cordless phones died. Our elbows became arthritic from holding the phone up to our ears. It didn't matter because we couldn't get enough. The more we talked, the more I liked. He had almost identical crazy family stories to mine (but if there was a winner, the prize would have to go to him). We had very similar upbringings: tons of dirty kids in a large, poor, Mormon family, except I'm the oldest, and he's right smack in the middle. We both knew what "Deseret beef stew" is, and our families share many of the same dysfunctions. I can remember one night we were on the phone (he in CA, me in UT), both tuned into the same television channel. There was a commercial for a National Geographic special or something and suddenly a graphic scene of a wildebeast being torn apart by hungry lions came on the screen. Adam said, "That's what it was like when Mom brought home a box of sugar cereal." I busted up in laughter. That's exactly what it was like. 'Sugar' cereal, he said. This guy knows.

We met after two weeks of phone conversation. I picked him up at the Salt Lake Airport, with nerves that rattled. He was sweating it too, but for different reasons. He had lied about being 5'4, and was only 5'3. He was scared to death that I'd find him out. Which I did. It was the very first thing I said to him. "You're not 5'4," I said as I hugged him. "Yeah, I am," he said, "it's just that your eyes are placed higher on your head so it looks like I'm shorter." He really thought he could get me with that. The height thing was weird in the beginning, though I loved how confident he was with himself. He told me early in our conversations that he felt like he "towered above the masses". But it felt odd to walk next to a man the same size as me. Every time I turned my head to say something, his eyes were right there. Whoa! Scared me! I was used to feeling little next to a man, maybe even cowering a bit. I talked with my dad about my feelings.

"Dad, I think I'm falling in love with him," I said. "I know it's quick, but there's something different about this one. I knew it almost immediately." My dad was glowing with happiness on the other end of the phone, I could feel it. "But I can't get over this height thing. It's so hard to get used to." The first thing my dad said to me was, "Well, how tall is his spirit?" And then what he said took my breath away. He said, "Jenna, look what's happened to you over the last several years. You've been emancipated! You no longer have to stand low, looking up to a man, you can look him straight in the eye." I started to cry. It was true. I deserved equal love and partnership, and the Lord sent me a man I could look eye to eye.

We were married less than two months later. It was a quaint, lovely, outdoor ceremony in the mountains of Utah. Our children, family, and close friends were there. We exchanged vows we had written ourselves and I thanked him for being worthy of my heart and the pain that had consecrated it. He was my Adam, the Adam I had waited for. It hasn't been an easy road by any stretch of the imagination, but when I consider the's been worth it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

We Interrupt This Blogcast...

---This is Jenna's husband posting a blah-blah, on her blah-blah-blah to all of her fans. As you all now know I just turned 35 and feel less satisfied with my accomplishments in life. Sadly, it's true. The Lord saved the universe 2 years ago, and I'm quickly coming up on the age it took Joseph Smith to restore a whole church and die. And let's not mention the age Moroni was promoted... I myself would just like to buy a house for my family, but can't quite figure out how to get it together in life. Luckily, I have this fine woman you all read about by my side cheering me on... most of the time. Though I mock these blogs I felt I should get on hers to equally embarrass and praise her to all of you. This is a woman that makes the Energizer Bunny look like he's using cheap generics. Every day she's up and cooking breakfast before I'm even awake. Our home is immaculate always and even at this very moment my garments are folded neatly in two separate drawers. The truth is, though sometimes all I can provide us is twigs and dirt, somehow she's able to turn it into a gourmet meal, the likes of which I’ve never experienced. She is amazingly gorgeous and I don't deserve her. And what many don't know is that she was invited into Mensa, but humbly couldn't afford it. Even though sometimes she rules with an iron fist, her love is sweet and more than makes up for it. I'm grateful for her, and it is only a strategy I use sometimes to make her think I'm not. I do believe that it's possible my greatness has been held back only to be preserved for a time when it could be supported and upheld by a wife that wouldn't let me screw it all up. Hers is definitely a blah-blah-blah to keep an eye on. And now that you are all here as my witness: I LOVE YOU, JENNA! --

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A milestone

Today is Adam's 35th birthday. He woke up depressed, saying that 35 is when most men go crazy and split. It's hard to be a man, I suppose. So much pressure to be successful according to a definition that differs in so many ways from what is truly important in life. I told Adam that I think 35 is sexy. And it only gets better. 40, have it easy that way. I look forward to aging with him, growing with him. I think that up until now he has been primed and prepped for what is to come in his life, which I believe will be greatness. He is a creative genius who has overcome hardship in many forms. He has a pure heart that is becoming further refined. He has strength that he doesn't even give himself credit for. He is a remarkable man, a tender father, a caring husband, and a servant to all. He definitely has a servant's heart. I love that about him. He's the funniest guy I know, cracking me up in belly laughs when he's not even trying to be funny. He never takes himself too seriously, but he has a die-hard belief in his ideas and dreams. He goes for the gusto in just about everything he cares passionately about. And up until now, he's been just warming up. 35 is gonna be great. Happy Birthday, my love!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

You never know unless you try

I tried my hand at fondant for the first time in making Conor's first birthday cake. I had a trusty partner (Lyndsay) who was good enough to do all the fondant kneading (which we made homemade) and color mixing. She also covered the top cake in fondant and made all the leaves. What a pair! We are so thrilled with the results, and must give credit to dear sister/aunt Hannah, who is a cake genius and gave us the inspiration and guidance.

Happy Birthday, Conor! Now we have to cut it???

Monday, August 13, 2007

Speaking of baby steps...

He walks! Yay for Conor! Although he took his first official steps over a month ago, it was just over this weekend that he really decided to take off and now he walks everywhere! Just in time... today the little guy turns one year old! (mothers will all sniffle with me)

Last night my sweet Adam allowed me to be motherly and nostalgic and cry my birthday tears for my baby: "Remember, hun? It was this time exactly last year that I went to bed and then started having contractions 12 minutes apart?" and "Remember how we labored all through the night, and that sweet little guy just wanted to come out and join the fun?" It was an amazing night.

Conor was born here at home, my second homebirth. His big brother and sister were present in the room, with the other three siblings outside the bedroom with ears pressed up against the door. We had three midwives here, but Daddy's hands were the first to welcome him into the world. It was beautiful. And I can't believe it was a year ago. And now he walks. And says, "dub-dub". But he still adores his mommy more than anyone else.

Today we took him to Payless to get his very first pair of shoes. I am a mom who doesn't put shoes on baby feet until they're walking, so this was an exciting event. He loved them all, wanted to eat them all, and once he had some on, he stood there and danced in them to the music being piped through the store. But now he refuses to walk in them. Too heavy? Too clumsy? Oh well, they're too cute anyway. He'll figure it out. And in a couple of days, we shall eat cake and do a little more birthday dancing.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Steps, Baby Steps

I know a woman who married a man with seven children. His first wife had up and left them all, including their little baby. This woman that I know had become established in her career as marriage and family had eluded her thus far in life. She was in her mid-thirties when she, through a series of divine interventions, found herself taking on the sudden role of wife and mother. She had no "honeymoon" period. She never grew a baby within her own body. But seven grown children now call her 'mom'. This story would have impressed me at any time. Imagine! Well, many of us can't even adequately do that. Unless, that is, you're a stepmom.

When I met this woman, I asked her insensitively if she ever wished she'd had her own children. "They are my own children," she said. Another stepmom I know told me just before I was about to take on the role myself that I would love my stepchildren the same way that I loved my own children. She said that when people ask her which are her children and which are her stepchildren, she has to stop and think about it because sometimes she just can't remember. I took on my new role with enthusiasm and the fairest of intentions. Imagine my horror, when I found that I didn't love my stepchildren, and sometimes I didn't even like them at all. My happiness throughout much of my first two years of my new marriage was arranged around whether or not they would be here. I was insanely resentful of their relationship with their father, I was accusing of every childish misstep or misdeed around the house, I was overly defensive and protective of my own children, and I was flat out miserable. My husband had similar feelings toward my children, and we found ourselves convinced that we had made a mistake. I loved my husband, but I did not love his children. I tried to cover it up in the name of motherly/martyrly service. I cooked for all of them, I read to all of them, and I supervised them all in homework and chores, but my heart was divided. I looked forward to Wednesday's, of all days, because that is the day my stepchildren go back to their mother's house. I felt free and liberated on Wednesday's! If my children were away at their dad's, and only my husband's children were home, then I often stayed locked away in my bedroom "reading" or "watching movies" or "writing". I was really being hateful and ugly. I confess to none of these things with pride in myself, but with utter horror, shame, and even a bit of disbelief. But I sure wish someone else had confessed them to me first and saved me a lot of self-loathing over these last difficult years of transition.

There were days when I felt I might actually love my stepchildren. There were days when rays of charity shone through. I wasn't completely repulsive. But I was mostly repulsive, and disgusted by myself. Mostly, these children were less worthy than my own, and in the way of my new relationship with their father. I berated myself with thoughts of how unloving I really was, and how worthless I must be. What was wrong with me that I found loving two beautiful children so excruciatingly difficult? Come to find out, nothing.

I was led to a book called "The Enlightened Stepmother" by Perdita Kirkness Norwood, and was so relieved to read the "Five Stages of Stepfamily Development" provided in Chapter 5. I like that she emphasized two facts in this chapter:
1. Forming a stepfamily is a PROCESS.
2. Forming a stepfamily takes TIME.
With that in mind, I read on. Stepfamilies are a work in progress and some professionals say that while every successful stepfamily must move through the same five stages of development, the length of time varies enormously. Some say four to seven years, and experienced stepmothers say it may be as long as ten or twelve years. Now this may be defeating to some, but to me it was OH, HAPPY DAY!!! I, once again, in my perfectionistic and idealistic ways, was expecting immediate results that simply cannot happen immediately! Here are the Five Stages:
  1. Fantasy--This is the "we'll all be one big happy family" stage, or the "I will rescue everyone" stage. We'll all love each other, and life will be bliss. This stage is also called "Illusion". Darn it.
  2. Confusion--Clearly something is wrong! The new family is not working, but nobody wants to rock the boat, so suppression is the order of the day. Fear of failure is in the air. Insufficient preparation has taken place, and stepparents and stepkids reject each other.
  3. Crazy Time--This very difficult period is inevitable. The stress and inaction of the previous stage forces matters into the open. Everyone experiences pain, anger, dissatisfaction, guilt. Stepmothers often are swept away in an avalanche of paralyzing emotions due to disappointment that their initial fantasies are failing. Self-esteem is stripped bare, resentments smolder, serious family divisions (you and yours vs. him and his). This is decision time, make-or break time. But this stage is unavoidable if progress is to be made. Oh good, we're right on track?
  4. Stability--A poignant and exhilarating time for family members who begin truly coming together. Stepmothers usually initiate this step, perservering day after day, facing challenges and resolving them. Words like "us" and "we" start to emerge, as do small signs of stabilization. The family moves to a new level.
  5. Commitment--Beginning of final stage when change is accepted as nonthreatening. Family members choose to deepen relationships. Past difficulties are put aside, and a new atmosphere of receptiveness, trust, and respect emerges.

Finding out this information has done wonders for my beaten down soul. Every mother and stepmother wants to be successful. No one tells you how hard it will be. And while I've been sitting here wallowing in how hard it has been for me I've forgotten too often how hard it has been for everyone else too. But we're doing okay. We're right on target.

Another book that has been even more helpful has been Bonds that Make Us Free by C. Terry Warner. I realize that I was living "inside the box", and was failing to treat others as people, but rather as objects in a self-betraying way. This has opened my eyes and my heart immensely toward everyone, including my stepchildren. I am trying to stop being so absorbed with how I feel all the time, and live a truer, more authentic life. When I do this, the love just seems to flow naturally and freely. In fact, just a few days ago, I took my stepchildren with me alone on the long drive to Arizona to pick up my children from their summer visit with their dad, and we had an enjoyable time. I found myself concerned for them, interested in them, and protective of them. And having all six of my children in the car on the way home felt right through and through.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Life Overhaul

I haven't been blogging much lately. Life has steered me in an unexpected direction of self-discovery and I have used all of my "free" time in reading, studying, repenting, and trying to make necessary changes so that I can have all of the happiness that I deserve to have. For many years, I have believed that I was not a major contributor to problems in my life, and now I see that I have been, and am. At this discovery, I have curled up in a ball and wept with sorrow over pain I have caused others and myself, and I have danced through the house elated at the freedom that true awareness brings. It is the awareness that offers hope of change.

I have been working with an excellent counselor, and listening to her book on tape, trying to soak it all in. I have made changes around our house in anticipation of all of the children coming home. I have been writing profusely in my journal and trying to keep up with all of the realizations that are illuminating my mind. And, I've been reading. I wish every single human being would read the following books. And not just once. I've read them all once (actually, some of them I've read about four times previously), but only this time did I finally get it.

1. (I know you think this book doesn't apply to you, but it does)




I am learning whole new ways of being, and the ironic part is that these new ways of being are the real me, which is why they feel so good. I have a long way to go, but I'm on the road, and I can't stop smiling.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A reason to blog today

Leave it to Luisa to get me back on my blog! She has tagged me for this fun and easy meme, and I just had to play along.

Four Jobs I've Had:
1. Managing Rinaldo's Dry Cleaners in Pennsauken, New Jersey

2. Drive-thru teller extraordinaire at First Interstate Bank (now Wells Fargo) in Mesa, Arizona
3. Assistant ASL instructor at Northland Pioneer College in Show Low, Arizona
4. Power Yoga instructor at Bodyworks Fitness Center in Show Low, Arizona

Four Places I've Lived:
1. Provo, UT
2. Merchantville, NJ
3. Mesa, AZ
4. Draper, UT

Your Favorite TV Shows:
1. Everybody Loves Raymond
2. King of Queens
3. Seinfeld
4. Oprah
5. American Idol (sorry, this question didn't specifically say 4 favorites)

Four Favorite Foods:
1. Pizza from New Jersey or New York
2. Philly cheesesteaks (the real ones)
3. Ben and Jerry's Mint Cookie or Half-Baked and Twisted
4. Shredded beef chimichanga

Four Websites I Frequent:
Well-Trained Mind
Meridian Magazine

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:
At Luisa's house
2. Pasadena Library
3. Alaska
4. Barnes and Noble

Four Movies I Love:
1. A Few Good Men
2. Devil Wears Prada
3. The Notebook
4. Pride and Prejudice (Keira Knightley version)

Mom, and Abby, you play! I'd love to read your answers!