Corniche Beach - Abu Dhabi

Corniche Beach - Abu Dhabi

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Shut up, hope.

August 14th. A turning point. The point that marks "before" and "after," "with" and "without," "life" and "death." I hate admitting that everyone was right. It did get easier. The pain of abruptly and shockingly losing my mom doesn't consume every thought of every day. In fact, there are even days when I manage to skip thinking about the loss all together.

This must be healing. And moving on might be easier if it weren't for that one, pesky, little emotion....hope. Ordinarily, I see the value of hope, even embrace it. Hope has guided me through many difficult times and, under most circumstances, I'm grateful that I can be positive enough to experience and embody a hopeful attitude.

The problem with hope arises when my subconscious takes over and the dreams begin. Recently, I dreamt that my mom had come back. The feeling was so real and the relief so tangible that I remember awaking to a refreshing happiness I hadn't experience in some time. The sinking realization of reality was crushing as the hope swiftly dissipated and memories of the truth swept over me, all in a few seconds. If I could just shut off the hope surrounding my mother's loss, convince my subconscious to accept the truth and cease these incessant attempts to convince me that a "what if" exists. ...If I could get hope to shut up.... I could be the strong person I need to be...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dear Mom: A Letter You'll Never Read

Time can be unpredictable. Often, that fateful day seems like it happened mere weeks ago, the pain burns so intensely. But, in some instances, as I ponder the passage of time since your loss, I'm shocked to realize that just over four months have gone by. Just as experienced grievers promised, life does go on. My instinct is to feel guilt when I suddenly realize we're carrying on with some of your favorite things...without you there. The truth is, nothing is the same. And it never will be. But we're learning to adjust, and we're persevering.

Holidays are easily the most painful experiences without you. I just...I thought we'd have more. I never could have known that Dalila's first Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthday would also be her last Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthday with her Grandma. We've spent three full years away from you for all of the major milestones, knowing we would eventually return and pick up our favorite traditions where we left off. But now, that's impossible, and the ache for the things that will never be is sharp and constant. Capri will never spend a holiday with her Grandma.

Somehow, we struggle through the pain, and we manage to smile and even experience some joy. Halloween and Thanksgiving were spent as a tight-knit group of family. My sisters and I have miraculously managed to strengthen our already deep connection and take turns supporting one another as difficult days come and go for each of us. As we hurt together, we somehow heal together. We make certain your grandchildren know how much you loved them and how much family means.

One of the many difficulties now lies in the memories themselves. How can they be fading already? There is so much I want to recall, but I feel certain details beginning to slip. My over-worked mind struggles to harness every last bit of a particular image of you but the edges of that once crystal-clear picture threaten to sneak away in wispy tendrils, leaving a grainy impression. I want to always remember your laugh and your smell, but I worry those will slip, too.

Now, with Christmas just days away, we wonder how we can cope without you. My sisters and I are adamant about hanging on to some of your favorite traditions: pizza, Christmas lights, and new jammies on Christmas Eve. And we're trying some new things, forging our own traditions in an effort to find our way through your absence. We're grateful for the unbreakable bond you instilled in us as sisters and know we'd be lost without each other and our own families we built with your guidance and support.

I know many will assure me that you are "always here" with us. In a way, I know this is true. Your spirit will never leave and your presence can be felt in so many aspects of our lives. But I wish you were HERE. And I always will.

Merry Christmas, Mom. We love you forever.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

When it feels real

Grief is tricky. As an outsider, a foreigner to the concept, I never really stopped to consider the composition of grief. I always assumed the heart-wrenching, unexpected loss of a close loved one would be an all-consuming blur of pain and sorrow. Now I realize how colorful and varied this grief experience can be. How it can constantly and instantly change from a tiny tickle at the back of your neck to a sweeping burn that rips your breath from your body.

Most surprising is the reality that escape is possible, and can be accomplished in even the simplest tasks. My first true experience with escape came with the delivery of the "news." As the doctors described the war raging inside my mom's body, I struggled to find anything else to focus on. My gaze fell to the floor where I noted a tiny little blood splatter on the cold tile of the ICU room. Knowing this view wouldn't serve as a proper escape, I shifted my focus to my toes and noticed a small chip at the top of my normally meticulous pedicure. As my brain attempted to translate the hum of the doctor's voice into meaningful words, I considered how disappointed I was to have a chip in my toenail polish. This became my escape for each subsequent doctor speech in the coming days. That chip in my polish and the nagging thought that I had to fix it as soon as possible provided me with an outlet for the grief that grew in multitudes as the hours wore on. Yet, as the fateful day came and passed, the chip in my polish became a symbol. Something I couldn't let go of, because it might mean I would have to finally face the grief. It's a bizarre metaphor, I know, but I think it demonstrates just how personal every individual's experience of sadness can be.

There are better ways to escape, too. Losing myself in my job and remembering how much I love sixth graders, distracting myself with my girls and their boundless energy, laughing with my husband the way only he can make me laugh. But, inevitably, these distractions lead to passing thoughts. And passing thoughts no longer exist. One moment, I'm lifting Capri over my head to hear her squeal her adorable little toddler squeal when I make eye contact with her and feel the hard, fast punch of loss as I notice she has my mom's eyes. The shift is instantaneous and the pain is palpable. And this is when it feels real. When I can't escape anymore and I have to accept, but the hurt is just too strong and powerful. Sometimes, it's too real and I have to withdraw again. I have to shake my head and cut off the thoughts...because how can it really be real?

The sympathy of others is always well-meaning and appreciated. But I hear that I can move on now, "She would have wanted it that way." I thank whoever issued the advice and smile the smile of sadness, the kind that barely touches the corners of my mouth and moves nothing else, but I know the reality. She wouldn't want it this way. She would want to be here! And the cycle of grief begins again, ever-changing, wildly unpredictable, and painful...but a real, almost welcome reminder of my mommy, who I miss so much, and who deserves this grief.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Nine Wonderful Years

Nine years ago, Jeremy and I were married in a beautiful ceremony. We've experienced and grown so much in the time we've spent together. I'm happy to say, Jeremy, I love you just as much now as the day we said, "I do."

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Your trip home takes HOW long!?!

Ah, summer vacation. The perfect time for rest and relaxation after a long and arduous school year. But we can't fully engage in the "rest and relaxation" portion of the break until the "travel home" portion is complete. Every year as the school year winds down and the teaching staff begins to talk of plans for summer holidays, the inevitable question arises - how long does it take you to travel back to Idaho, Amanda?

Answering this question with the same number each year is impossible. Because Salt Lake City (which sees few international flights) is the closest international airport to our home, we are never able to take a direct flight home from Dubai or Abu Dhabi. We ALWAYS have to stop at least once - and even a one-stop travel agenda is a rarity. Usually, we have two layovers to sit through. Fortunately, we receive a travel allowance from my company and are able to choose our own flights. This allows us the opportunity to travel to different destinations if we prefer as we did on our first summer trip home when we spent 5 days touring London. We're also able to choose more affordable flight options and pocket any leftover travel money - an option Jeremy and I have chosen each year.

Still, I'm left speechless every time I talk to a coworker who travels to, say, Chicago (where most Middle Eastern airlines fly directly, almost every day!), and hear that they've received a higher travel stipend than me!! If I could just force myself to stop comparing travel allowances, the truth is, I'd be really happy with what we receive. But that's far easier said than done...

So, with the background information in place, here is a breakdown of our travel agenda this year:

July 15th, 11:00 pm (Dubai time) - Leave Dubai airport for Doha, Qatar.
Flight time - 1 hour
Layover time - 8 hours

July 16th, 8:00 am (Qatar time) - Leave Qatar airport for Dallas, Texas.
Flight time - 15.5 hours
Layover time - 2.5 hours

July 16th, 5:00 pm (Central time) - Leave Dallas airport for Salt Lake.
Flight time - 2.5 hours

July 16th/17th, 7:30 pm (Mountain time) - Drive from Salt Lake to Idaho Falls.
Driving time - 3.5 hours

...And then, we SLEEP!!

So, our total time in the air is about 19 hours. With early airport arrivals, layovers, and driving time included, we will spend approximately 36 hours traveling home. Whew!!  Exhausting, but completely worth it. Now, when we're scheduled to meet up with friends and loved ones the day after we arrive home in Idaho Falls, they'll understand why we will look (and probably act) like sleep-deprived, jet-lagged zombies...because that's what we'll be.

Bring on the summer holiday!!

Countdown Clock

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Capri's First Birthday

I can't think of a more bittersweet moment for a parent than the day your baby turns one. Often, the birthday party for the one-year-old is more for Mommy and Daddy than for the actual birthday girl. We tried to keep this in mind when planning for Capri's first birthday - think about the baby, think about the baby. Therefore, we elected to make our little one's first birthday party very small and very simple.

Decorations came first. Dalila's favorite part of the day before the party was helping to put up decorations. And what a helper she is!


Capri had a very small and exclusive guest list - babies near her age and their siblings only (plus one of Dalila's best little buddies who always comes to her parties).

Unwrapping presents is an art form!

And, of course, the CAKE SMASH!! Capri is an extremely talented cake smasher.

Happy birthday, Miss Capri!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Year of Firsts

It's such a cliche - "They grow up so fast." Experienced parents always seem to offer the advice to embrace every moment of your baby's life - she's only a baby for a year, after all.  Despite the fact that we are on baby number two and are well aware of just how fast that first year zips by, it still has managed to catch me by surprise.  Little Capri is an infant already, well on her way to toddlerhood, and I'm left marveling at just how rapidly this first year has passed us by and muttering to myself, "They really do grow up so fast..."  In celebration of Capri's first year of life and just a month shy of of her big one year birthday, here's a list of some of her most memorable - and most adorable - firsts.

First Smile
We were holding out for this one for what seemed like forever - Capri was a pretty sad little newborn.  She suffered from painful acid reflux and had to take Zantac from about 3 weeks old.  Thankfully, Capri adored her sister from even a few weeks old and Dalila could always get a smile (and sometimes, even a coo) out of her baby sis.

First Plane Trip
Capri became a world traveler at a mere 5 weeks old.  We may have received a few glares as we strolled through the airport and boarded our flights with a tiny newborn, but that girl was a fantastic flyer!
(Sorry for the lack of photographic evidence - we were quite busy on Capri's first flight!)

First Giggle
Just like her smiles, Capri loves to giggle for her sister.  What a connection these two have!

Precious girls, having a few giggles.

SO Many First Holidays
And here's the photo evidence...

First Fourth of July - at the Menan parade, of course!

First Halloween as a kitty (and Dalila is Blueberry Muffin)

First Thanksgiving - with a trip to the zoo!
First Christmas
First visit to Santa!
First Food
Avocado - YUM!! And she hasn't looked back since starting solids.  This little girl LOVES food!

First Crawl
Little Capri has been determined to show how mobile she can be from as early as 5 months old.  She finally accomplished true crawling at around 6 months old - while I was on winter break!  Lucky me!!

First Steps
Little miss mobile wasn't satisfied with crawling (who can blame her with those hard marble floors - ouch!).  So she began cruising by 7.5 months.  She saved her true first steps for spring break, so I got to witness those, too!  What a thoughtful baby!
Demonstrating our new found mobility by scaling the stairs.

First Hike
Capri got to ride in a pack during a trip to the rock pools in Oman.  She LOVED it!

First Trip to the Beach
ALL she wanted to do was eat the sand.  How on earth is sand this delicious!?!
Mmmm.  Crunchy.
First Word
We're pretty sure her first word is "go," but have yet to catch this on video.  Instead, this is the typical response we get when we ask her to say her first word...

Tomorrow, Capri is exactly one month away from her first birthday.  I can't help it...they grow up SO fast!!