21 January 2012

Ruth Williams Ball Allen

On January 10th my sweet Grandma Allen passed, only a month away from her 92nd birthday.  With a five week old Oliver and tight finances due to maternity pay a last minute trip to SL for the funeral did not happen.  It was a difficult decision to make, but I recognized that Oliver's health and our finances took priority.  I had the desire to place all practical considerations aside and make the trip.  Since making my decision to stay home my mind has been occupied with the tradition of funerals and their place in the grieving process (something to discuss later).  My main concern in not attending the funeral was not being able to honor publicly, and with others, the memory of my Grandmother and providing my family emotional support.

Of course my presence wasn't the only way in which I could provide emotional support to family members but I saw it as a significant gesture at such a momentous time.  And the best place to remember the life of my Grandma would have been at the funeral surrounded by those remaining friends and family who knew her best.  So in an effort to supplement the funeral in my own grieving process and more importantly to honor my Grandmother's memory I thought to make a simple list of things that reminded me of her and a few of the memories associated with those things. 

1. Watching "I Love Lucy" marathons on Nick-at-Night during the summer.

2. Late night top ramen with vitamin D milk (something that was rarely found at home, especially late at night).

3. The movie "Big Business" and Bette Midler music.

4. The song "My Blue Heaven".  As a child I would spend a couple weeks each summer out "at the Ranch" with my Grandma.  One summer I asked her nightly to sing to me the song, as I put it, "with the fireplace and staircase".  On the last evening of the trip my Grandmother successfully pieced together the patchy information that my six year old mind could recall and was able to sing me the song. 

5. David Letterman.  Evenings spent in my teen and young adult years at my Grandmother's home were filled with the same comment at 11:00 p.m., which was "I don't know why I watch that awful old man and his show - but I do".

6. Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving at my Grandma's meant "petite shou" as a staple side dish, and immediately following dinner the family gathering around in the living room while my Dad busted out the dusty slide rounds and the 1960 projector screen and one of my cousins asking "who is that man" and another responding "oh, that's the gardener" - a term of endearment used to identify my Grandpa; and subsequently my Grandmother saying with part honesty and part mock frustration in regards to my Grandpa passing "oh that man - how could he leave me out here to rot in this red dirt" (a reference to the red rocks prevalent in the Uintah Basin).

7. Visiting my Grandma at my Aunt Laurie's home and my Dad teasing them with mocking disdain when he found her in a silk robe (the 1960 glamour type) by asking if she had enjoyed herself watching soap operas and eating bon-bons all day.  And her good-nature laugh and "yes" in response.

8. There's a phrase that refers to dancing when no one is looking.  My Grandma however lived by the mantra to dance only when others were looking.  At random moments my Grandma would break into song and dance much to the chagrin of my teenage cousins.  I'm sure I would have joined their camp had I not been nine + years their junior.  I was always mesmerized and enjoyed my Grandmother's attention grabbing performances.

9. Hearing my Grandmother's trilling call "Yooouuu-whooooo" (ended with a slight vibrato) in public places when attempting to call someone's attention.

10. Extended family functions with my Great Aunts, Great Uncles, and second cousins always meant you could count on an impromptu musical number.  My Uncle Jay was the Harry Connick Jr. voice and my Aunt Naine was the composing/piano playing genius.  And my Grandmother . . . she and her commentary were the 1960's glamour that attended those performances.

Much of these things must mean little to those who didn't know her as I feel that my words do little justice to describe who she was. But I loved her and I could never hide a bad day from her. I used to wonder as a child if she could read my mind. I love her and will miss her dearly.

02 January 2012

Small and Wonderful

Oliver Joseph Gough
December 7, 2011
12:25 a.m.

D&C 64:33-34:

Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.

Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.

I've been pondering this scripture lately and its many applications.  Recently I've thought upon how it relates to the miracle of pregnancy and birth.  Over the past eight months I would respond without hesitation to the question of how pregnancy was treating me by expressing how things were going well and how it was difficult to believe there was actually a baby growing inside my belly.  Understandably, most people appeared reluctant to believe me, but I truly felt this way - although not because I didn't have any complaints as I'm sure my husband could attest to very well. My response lacked clarity in expressing my exact situation, however it was the best way I could think of to describe in words how I felt about the situation I was experiencing - one in which I never failed to see, in my mind, as the miracle of pregnancy and birth. 

The gestation process that occurs over nine months seems relatively benign without the insight that modern medicine provides.  Without going into obvious detail, you do what couples have been doing since the beginning of time, you begin to feel ill (for three months or more), you gain weight and the discomforts that go along with that, you feel movement inside of you (which is pretty miraculous), and eventually you begin contracting and start the birthing process. And then BAM! All of a sudden there's another living being in the world!

Being pregnant was exhausting and there were definite times of hardship, but each day when I took a bite to eat or laid my head down to rest I knew I was laying a foundation of a great work.  Such small everyday things lead to something, someone so incredibly miraculous and wonderful!  There are times where these small everyday things don't have the desired outcome, but it makes me believe even more fully that bringing children into this world is a joint effort between husband, wife, and our Heavenly Father.  And John and I are so very grateful for the opportunity to have little Oliver as a part of our family.

I'd like to write out my birth story to keep a record for myself - to not forget the details.  But I feel like it warrants a separate post.  So that will be forthcoming if TMI isn't an issue.

26 November 2011

Almost December!

Time has definitely flown by and I feel like a lot has happened, although it may not seem that way to the outside eye. 

As most our friends and family are aware, we are preparing to meeting our little baby boy Oliver come January 9th.  The past 7.5 months seem like a distant memory and the next 1.5 months don't seem possible. It is as if I've been in a constant state of shock and I have to tell myself - that yes, the movement you feel and see is an actual baby.

The past week I've allowed my anxiety to stew as I contemplate how unprepared I am for everything. I don't have a bag packed for the hospital, we haven't installed a car seat, we haven't interviewed pediatricians, I haven't written a birth plan, heck - I haven't even written a list of all the things I need to do to before the baby comes!

And stewing lately has lead to anxiety spirals.  My non-pregnant self would ignore, for an appropriate amount of time, any A-type personality concerns and address them within a comfortable timing.  Now, things tend to mount and explode with me whining to John about a plethora of unrelated issues that for some undefinable reason need to be resolved immediately, if not instantly.  What I'll do is, waddle over to the bed where John is relaxing and voice the following, "John, I feel icky . . . my back hurts, my feet are swollen, the birds are annoying, and we don't have a car seat installed yet". And I'll look at him . . . and wait.  He then offers a logical solution, which I instantaneously forget and then begin another similar tirade. 

Overall though, this pregnancy has gone well.  The exception would be that I now am considered a gestational diabetic, the first three months I experienced consistent nausea and vomiting, and I at one point, around five months pregnant, fell and . . . somewhat rolled downhill.  It involved empathy for a bored dog, a morning jog in cowboy boots, and a little dog's fascinatingly perfect memory of every single place he has seen our neighbor's cat.  It also involved him stopping instantly without warning, as he does any time he passes one of the cat-sighting locations, to stare for a good minute to see if there is any cat-like movement in the area. I unfortunately do not have as good of a memory as Sparky.

Having gestational diabetes has one good aspect in that I get ultrasounds fairly often to monitor the size and health of the baby.  At 32 weeks he was doing very well and weighed in the 36th percentile.  The ultrasound technician had the following three things to say: 1. "The baby wears blue pants . . . um, yeah . . . he is definitely a boy", 2. "He is very active", and 3. "your diabetes hasn't effected him yet".  She actually said quite a bit more about the baby and his health, but those three things definitely soothed quite a bit of our fears (the baby not being a boy wasn't a concern - but all the boy preparations possibly being done in vain were).

The technician also mentioned how much hair he had - and deep down inside I was happy about that.  And then instead of letting good feeling sit there deep down inside I repeated it over and over again to John and mentioned how "when I was born I had a lot of hair".  I wish I had easy access to our baby photos because you'd be able to see the difference between John and me.  John was a cute and solid gerber-type baby with a fine fuzz of light hair and with his photo showing him sitting upright without any assistance and looking poignantly at the camera.  When looking at my baby photo you notice how I had been slowly sliding into my own baby flub, making the consistency of my little baby body look like Jabba the Hut.  I was giving the camera a look that seemed to say "is this really how this body of mine is supposed to work".  However I did have one fine head of thick black hair that stood straight up a good four to five inches.

Yesterday I really enjoyed and felt the spirit of Thanksgiving as I reflected on how much John and I have to be grateful for.  I never really gave much thought to Thanksgiving growing up.  I enjoyed being around family for the holidays and yet I tended to associate the day with heavy and/or dry foods I wasn't fond of, a long and boring day with everyone taking a nap, and people feeling forced to share their very personal feelings of gratitude without any real context.  I wanted to be out and doing things with family instead.  Maybe this year my feelings of gratitude only happened to coincide with Thanksgiving as it seems that I cycle through feelings of gratitude and forgetting how much I have to be thankful for. 

I've made it a point in my mind that gratitude is meant to be felt (recognized) daily, but it isn't always easy to put it into practice.  Yet at this particular point in time, John and I are really grateful for where we are in our lives and the good people who support us.  As corny as it sounds I like the phrase our "cup runneth

However, as doors of opportunity begin to open please keep us in your prayers that they continue to do so.   

Something to say . . .

Written in August:

So do you see that side bar with our life plan all neatly displayed?  Our expectations and hopes were pretty average - marry, move to NY for school, move to Paris for research, get a dog, have a kid, buy a house eventually, and retire at a comfortable age.  We also realized how amazing it would be if if it all played out that way.  But I guess life wouldn't be interesting if you didn't get a curve ball every once in a while.  And in fact, this curve ball was a long time coming.  John has decided to resign as a Ph.D. candidate from NYU's French Literature program.

As mentioned, this was something John had contemplated for a long time - more than a year even.  And yet John and I are still in shock over our carefully deliberated change of course.  I look at that sidebar and think of how it was a little smug of me to display our ten year plan so publicly.  I guess I could just chock it up to naivete and the fact that I was excited for what we had in store.

Right now, we're still in the process of figuring out where our next step will be placed.  Without revealing too much, I have to say that it's frightening.  And yet the conditions, the environment, and the timing have all allowed for us to possibly attempt something we may have only dreamed of doing. But to reiterate, the details aren't entirely clear yet.  We have a vague framework outlined in our minds as to how things could possibly work out.  And I'll repeat again - it's scary.

Uncertainty and possible instability are frightening thoughts for someone like John and me - and the next path that we may possibly choose to take seems to incorporate all such attributes.  Although many have tried to dissuade John against what may seem like an aggressive and quick decision - those decisions are based surely upon what we know we want.  And I suppose that surety of desire, combined with prayer, personal revelation, and the right circumstances makes for as much certainty than any other path could provide.  Which has become glaringly obvious to me in the fact that we thought we had our ten year plan figured out and after two years in NY our lives have already totally shifted.  And to add to that - it wasn't forced upon John at all.  Thankfully, John was never asked to resign and even did well in his program - and thankfully left the program on good terms with his fellow colleagues and professors.

I suppose the way I speak of John's resignation makes it seem as if our lives have been totally turned upside down.  But really things are pretty much the same.  I continue to work and we continue to live our lives as we did before.  But what makes it so much more worth it for me is to see how relieved and happy John has been since he has resigned.  I will admit that the night I came home and John told me he was going to resign my world did tilt a little.  I knew his thoughts and feeling already - but such finality made my head spin.  But after a day or two, and time spent in the temple I knew that it was the right choice for John and ultimately our family. 

Two months have passed since that night and things still feel and logistically seem right.  And I'm almost to the point where I'm happy to know that life will be throwing me curve balls.  Instead of taking excitement in what I think I know will happen,  I'm excited to know that when I reach the end of my life I'll have something interesting to say.  Whether we are shrouded in worldly success at the end of this journey doesn't really matter.  What will matter is that when I think about this time of our life I will know that John left his program without any regrets and that his life was altered for the better and happier by resigning.

07 May 2011

Eat. Pray. Love

Do you know that person who despairs stubbornly that there is no point to love because everything falls apart, decays, changes? I imagine dark romantics lie in angst over these thoughts and are the ones that write movies like Rebecca or Eat, Pray, Love.

Lately I've noticed that this theme of anguish appears more frequently through my daily interactions, if in a more subtle way. Living in New York is a different experience from visiting New York. I knew this before I moved here, but I didn't know the exact details of why. I still haven't figured it out completely yet. And there are days when it's difficult to separate what's them and what's me that is at fault for making New York the you-know-what that it can be. And when I think about New York, I usually come to the conclusion that the proximity to so many other people is the cause for all the ugly scenes I see. Of course I know that such logic isn't exactly true, not true at all in fact - but I do know that if I got away from here I wouldn't be exposed to it nearly as much.

And that "it" is what really is the problem. Pride and selfishness really are the root to so many problems - and it's everywhere, not just in New York where you can't run away from it. It's in Eat, Pray, Love, it's in the windows of Anthropologie, and it's most definitely within me.

There's this dilemma however, and it seems boring to rehash - but worth it. These people who claim that they can't trust or love because things change or decay are either hiding behind fear, pride-selfishness, or both. I can sympathize with fear. I can relate to pride and selfishness. I just don't enjoy hearing this theme used without contest through so much of the entertainment or news I watch,listen to, or read.

When I thought about marriage today I thought about how true romance isn't living life from one person to the next - or even choosing to be alone. I thought most people knew that happiness and marriage are things worked for. But the divorce rate between amicable parties shows something different entirely. If it isn't easy and if it doesn't fit right - why keep it? I know I'm in the minority when I say that this logic saddens me.

I don't know how to say it eloquently, but happiness doesn't come from expecting someone else to make you happy. I don't think happiness even comes from telling yourself that you love you no matter who you are. I think happiness comes from small but meaningful and responsible choices and actions to serve and live righteously. And I think true romance in marriage comes when you devote yourself entirely to a life such as that.

The feeling of love that I had for John when we first married is different from what it is now. The longer our relationship is, the more meaningful we make it, the more willing we are to forgive one another or to put aside our own wants and needs, the more capable I am of defining what love is.

I understand that feelings fade over time. They do decay - and sometimes we hold on to the remains of those feelings. I certainly have before. However with John, my attitude has been different. From the beginning I realized how sacred and serious in nature the commitment I made to my husband and my Heavenly Father would be. I was actually in anguish over this fact for quite a while. And not because I didn't love John. But because I also believed in what people said in the movies about how to handle a love that fades away. Similar thoughts expressed in the lyrics of Bruno Mars's horrified and yet comforted me:

Let’s just run girl.
If we wake up and you wanna break up that’s cool.
No, I won’t blame you;
It was fun girl.

Now such lyrics only horrify me - especially since John and I have lived our commitment for one another. And as a blessing, our choices have testified to the beauty of what true romance can be . . . and will be when we're two old farts sitting on porch sipping lemonade.

To say I had a fear of commitment is an understatement.

Julia Roberts didn't need to travel the world to learn to love herself or to learn how to overcome her fear of commitment. Although the idea of running away in the hopes that a change of environment would change what's inside is always an enticing thought . . and I think even helps sometimes. Yet, I still think it comes down to whether or not you are willing to give up your pride/selfishness and to devote yourself to serving.

If I want to be happy in my marriage, to have romance, to be happy about living wherever I am - I have to give my seat up to the elderly man on the train, I have to forgive the lady that shoves into me on purpose while walking by, I have to do my best to serve my husband, and I also have to forget the person at work who sarcastically mocks me for doing my job.

This is all obvious to many wonderful people I know. But it feels good to say (write) that I too believe it and that - yes - living it has brought me happiness.