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Dear Daughter

My daughter graduated last spring, turned eighteen over the summer, and moved away to begin her own life.

It. Happened. So. Fast.

People always say that. I heard it a million times while the kids were crawling all over my furniture and getting handprints on the mirrors and windows and making me crazy with their “needing” one more glass of water at bedtime. I heard all the voices of those who were older telling me to enjoy it, because it goes by fast.

It didn’t feel fast at the time. It felt like those kids would never be potty-trained. It felt like they would always need bottles, and diapers, and babysitters.

Until they didn’t.

It was when my daughter hit double digits that I realized things were changing. I tried hitting the brakes at her accelerated growing. But she kept growing anyway. I started taking more pictures, realizing I didn’t take enough of them when she was small. Now that she’s gone, I wonder . . . did I tell her everything she needs to know? Did I forget anything Important? She’s in China now–serving a humanitarian mission. I really miss her. She told me we still had a moon in common. So the moon makes me happy.

I used to write her letters–a little journal of her life through my eyes. I gave her the letters and then regretted giving them to her because it felt like I’d lost something in not being able to write to her in that way. So here it is . . . One last letter to my child daughter. The last because now she’s an adult.

Dearest Tjej,

You are beautiful. I used to always tell you that it was more important to be pretty inside than it was to be pretty outside because I didn’t want you to be snotty about the fact that you’re gorgeous. You SHINE with inner beauty. You love people with your whole soul. You protect people who can’t protect themselves. You stand up for what’s right–even when it costs you personally to do so. On the subway train in New York when you faced real hatred and prejudice for the first time, you were one of the few people who tried to do something about it. A train full of adults, and it was you (and your dad) who stood against that cruelty. Everyone else stayed quiet with their heads down–not wanting to be involved, but not you, the thirteen year old. Never you. I hope that fire to protect other people stays with you. People are worth protecting.

When you were little, I heard giggling from your bedroom. You and your two toddler brothers were laughing those great belly laughs–the kind filled with delight–the kind that made me laugh just to hear. I followed the noise to your room and peeked inside. You had on a ballet skirt with lots of little sequins sewn into it. And the way the sun was setting through your bedroom window caught the light off the skirt and reflected it back to the walls, floor, and ceiling. You stood in the center of the room and twirled like crazy while your brothers tried to catch the “stars” you created for them. The world is joy. Be prepared to dance in it.

When you landed in China, you sent me a text to let me know you were safe. This is what you wrote:

Just landed 🙂 it’s humid and hot and I’m loving it.

I cried at the airport as I watched you walk away.

Of course I cried.

Now that you’re out in the big wide world, did I do enough to prepare you for it? Did I tell you about broken hearts and how they keep beating long after they shatter? Did I tell you that hearts are reparable? Did I tell you you’ll be doing the breaking as often as you’ll be the one getting broken? Love is so many things. It’s fire and ice. Hearts are big places. There is room for a lot of love. I won’t tell you that time heals all wounds. Time doesn’t necessarily heal anything, but it creates distance. Distance offers perspective. Perspective allows healing. But did I tell you not to get lost in perspective? Looking back and looking forward are fine, but do you know not to let them get in the way of being IN the gift we call the PRESENT? Do you know that sometimes you have to straighten up, suck it up, and deal with what comes? No matter what? Do you know it’s okay to fail sometimes? Did I tell you that sometimes you’ll fall down and skin your knees and worse . . . skin your soul? Do you know there are bandages big enough to cover the soul wounds?

And there’s Rocky Road ice cream.

I don’t know if I told you everything you need to know.

You went and grew up–prepared or not. And I am done raising you. (I have loved raising you). When you come home, it’ll all be different. You’re an adult now with real world experience. I won’t be able to give you curfews. I won’t be asking if you got your homework done. I won’t be asking who you’re going with when you leave the house or asking if an adult will be present. You are the adult now. It has been a great eighteen years, Tjej. You three kids are my greatest accomplishments. You have made me so proud and so humbled and so excited to see your future. You will be a great mom. You will be a great wife. You ARE a great person. You will have happiness. And you’ll be sad too. Sometimes things get lost along the way, But I believe in an eternal Lost and Found. Nothing valuable is ever truly lost. You’ll have bad days and dumb days and sideways days and off days. Life is like that. It’s true that there must be opposition in all things. If everything was always good, how would we know what good was? So there must be the bad days. But when those days come. I’ll still be here—still be mom, still loving you.

You’re extraordinary.

Be safe. Be kind. Be happy. And everything works out.

And remember . . . I’m watching you.

Love

Mom

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Our last picture together before you ditched me for another country. No really. I’m not bitter or eating too much ice cream . . . It’s fine. Love you madly . . . Miss you crazy

 

Oh for the love of . . .

. . . my kids.

Mr. Wright is out of town tonight, so it’s just the Wright brothers and me.  Already we’ve argued about what will be on the television while I make dinner. The argument was over whether we’d watch the Disney Channel or Unwrapped on the food channel. I lost.

So guess what we’re watching . . .

Yep. Unwrapped on the food channel. I swear these children are not mine. Why would they want to learn something on TV when they can have mindless entertainment? So, instead of a silly but fun show about teenage wizards, we’re learning about how the PEZ dispenser came into being and about some odd new pancake product called Batter Blaster.

The elder Wright Brother wants Batter Blaster bad. He is our family pancake maker and the Batter Blaster apparently is the newest rage in pancake making. I hadn’t made my first pancake until I was in college, and here is my ten year old, scoping out new ways to fine tune his breakfast making experiences.

The younger Wright brother has determined he wants an edible bouquet instead of cake for his birthday because it’s healthier (fruit instead of pastries), and he no longer drinks soda pop because he thinks soda pop is bad for you. Honestly! I did not teach them any of this. They are totally on their own when it comes to this total weirdness. I now get lectures about my Dr. Pepper habits.

The kids teach me a lot as we move through our time together, but I’ve taught them some pretty valuable things too, such as:

  • How to cuss in traffic
  • How to brush teeth
  • How to critique the dialogue in movies out loud in the theater
  • How to throw tantrums
  • How to read
  • How to irritate people with semantics
  • How to pick up litter
  • How to be a sore loser at Monopoly (which I refuse to play with them anymore because they gang up on me)

As you can see from the list, some of the stuff they learned from me is actually useful. I miss the daughter a lot and, in spite of teaching mostly less than useful life skills, still wish she was around for me to teach. She’ll be home for the summer in just two and a half months. Yay! This whole child rearing business is one well worth taking on.

Oh and I finished writing the manuscript, Spell Check, last month and have already started my new WIP tentatively called Dream Writers. I’m into it nearly fifty pages and so far loving the manuscript.

The good stuff

I tell the kids I plan on writing down all the horrible things they do so I remember why I’m glad they moved out when they get older. But the truth is, even when they act slightly evil, they are seriously funny and I fully enjoy having them around. Dinnertime is usually the silliest time of our day. Settling kids into chairs and keeping all three of them quiet long enough that we can actually offer thanks for the food proves to be much harder than one would think.

It doesn’t make it any easier when we all have eyes closed and Murky starts breathing like Darth Vader and Bing says, “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” I try not to giggle, because once I start, they all feel as though I’ve given permission for them to get silly. Then it’s another ten minutes to settle them down again. But I can’t help it; they’re just funny to me.

Murky asked us if we were going to celebrate when they move out. Mr. Wright (waxing philosophical) said, “I will celebrate the life you have in front of you.” 

“So you mean you really will celebrate? Aw Dad! That’s harsh!”

And though Mr. Wright is right, I *will* be celebrating the lives they will be starting, I will also mourn the lives they will leave behind. I will miss the stifled giggles at my dinner table.

We play a game at dinnertime where we each get to tell the best part of our day and why. It started several years ago because I had a day where the publishing world had cut me to my soul and I could not think of one good thing in my life.

Desperate for something–anything to fill the hole in my soul, I asked my kids to tell me their favorite parts of their day. Each answer helped to sandbag the happiness back into my heart, keeping it from leaking out.

The game was so much fun for the kids, that they did it the next night, and the next until it has become a tradition. We sit at the table and each get to tell what we liked best about our days. Through this method, I’ve been able to keep my finger on the pulse of my family. Some days the kids can’t think of anything good. Some days they need the rest of us to help them find good things in their lives. But mostly, it’s a time to be silly, to laugh,  and to breathe like Darth Vader.

Yes, there are good things in my life.  They sit at my dinner table and make shadow puppets on the wall with their silverware. I am not lying when I tell them my favorite part of the day is right then and there, celebrating their lives.

I know it’s been a month, but . . .

I’ve been incoherently busy this last month. With work, several tradeshows for my store, and random writing and editing that had to be done, I can’t believe I found time to breathe. I wrote nearly 20,000 words which is no record breaking number but is still progress towards a completed novel.

It all comes back to normal life monday afternoon. I am in Vegas right now. Last week I was at the LDSBA in Salt Lake City. I had a great time at that convention hanging out with good friends. It was fun to get to see Michael McLean and hear the Tabernacle Choir resonate throughout the Tabernacle in downtown Salt Lake. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing brought me to my feet as applause thundered all around. What an amazing performance.

My release for the novel, Eyes Like Mine, has been pushed back to July. It’ll be better for sales in the long run, but it is sooooo hard to wait that long.

It’s been a trying month as a mother. I’ve spent several nights staring into my sleeping children’s rooms and wondering if I really wept for all those years I thought I was infertile. Beyond the regular drama that comes with parenthood, the dog got hit by a truck. It isn’t just any dog, it’s Rae’s dog. My nephew was staying at my house and came in while I was packing to tell me that the dog had been hit. I ran outside to a horrible scene. My thirteen year old daughter cradled the limp bloody body of her dog in her arms as she screamed, “My  dog! my dog! They hit her! They killed her!” In my entire life, I have never heard anything more jarring and disturbing as her shrill screams. 

I took the dog from her to hurry and assess the situation. The dog didn’t move, but she was stil breathing. I kept assuming that each breath was the last. There was no way an animal bleeding so violently from the mouth and so limp in the body could survive. 

But I looked up at my daughter as she chanted, “Fix her!” over and over again. How it reminded me of all the times when she has come to me throughout her life and demanded I fix something that I just couldn’t. The cookie that broke in half when she dind’t feel like eating a broken (and therefore less-than-worthy) cookie, the doll missing a leg due to puppy chewing, the glass tinker bell that fell and shattered.

Meeting Rae’s eyes and seeing the trust she placed in me to fix this, to make it better, to bandage it, and kiss it and make it all okay was more than I could handle. I looked back down and found that the dog was looking at me with the same demand as I’d found in my daughter’s eyes. “Fix it! Fix it!” I went in and called the vet with absolutely no hope that the dog had any chance to live, but unable to handle the insistence of both child and animal. After a few moments on the phone with the vet (who left me with even smaller hope that the dog would live) I decided to take the dog in.

I made Rae go with me.

And it turns out the  dog was fixable for a very high price tag, a tag I couldn’t see how we’d be able to pay. But there was my daughter and the dog staring at me with those demanding eyes. There were the shrill screams still bouncing off the insides of my skull. I consented to the surgery. Copper (the dog) gave me a feeble flick of her tail in gratitude. Later, Rae hugged me so tight I almost couldn’t breathe. “Thanks for making it better.”

By saving the dog, I saved my daughter’s faith in me, for a little while longer, that I can still make the world better. That’s something I can’t put a price tag on.

Seven Meme

Karen Hoover tagged me a couple of weeks ago (see what a slacker I am?) And Tristi Pinkston tagged me as well. I can put it off no longer. Seven random things about me:

1. I Hate Mayo–and not just a little. I really really hate it. I went to a fast food place with my dad who hates Mayo more than I. We spent ten minutes telling the kid behind the counter to NOT put mayo on our burgers. Told him mayo was fruit of the devil and consuming it ensures a ticket to the hot place. It’s fast food . . . the employees are teenagers . . . what did I really expect was going to happen? You guessed it–Mayo. When I tossed the burgers on the counter and stared down the kid who’d taken my money, he grabbed the burgers, turned to the fry cook and muttered, “I told you they’d notice.”

Yeah. He KNEW he was giving me tainted food.

2. I once joined with my brother in a neighbor feud. We put a dead fish under the seat in my neighbor’s car. It was july. The high the next day was 103. I still feel guilty, even though I snicker when I think about it.

3. My husband and I almost broke off our engagement when we took ballroom dance classes together. For the sake of relationship preservation, we quit the classes instead. Years later, I found out that not only CAN the man dance, but he is pretty wicked good at it. What a punk! The whole unwilling to dance thing is his only flaw and remains a sore point with me.

4. I used to steal flowers from La Caille’s gardens in the middle of the night so I could deliver them to my grandma while I ditched school the next day.

5. I don’t think I’m a good role model for teenagers and I shouldn’t admit to floral theft in a public forum.

6. I still mourn the loss of Kaberry Kaboom Ice cream from ben and Jerrys

7. I’m happy. I mean I’m really happy. I don’t have everything in the world, but I have three healthy kids who make me laugh, one husband who alternates between making me laugh and making me sigh with adoration, a roof over my head, heat in the winter and A/C in the summer, and I found success doing the one thing in life I always wanted to do–write.

And I found when I really looked at my life, I am happy. Yeah sure, there are little things that trip me up every now and again, the house isn’t always (or ever) spotless, there’s a list of mile long of have-to-dos, and sometimes I feel like the little stream who sings and gives away and then dries up (making a tragic ending to a children’s song). But when I really put my life under the microscope, I can only smile with what I find.

I think it was last year when they did the census and I turned mine in, but for whatever reason the post office put a spin on that whole “through sleet and snow” oath and failed to deliver my census. The government hired some poor person to call those who were missing in action and ask the questions personally.  After I was done and had answered those ultra personal questions, the lady paused for a long moment. I almost thought she’d hung up. Then she said, “Do you have any idea how rare you are?”

I was startled. But I understood what she meant. And sometimes when doubts creep into my life ABOUT my life, I look at that beautiful rare family and smile. Oh yes, I am happy.