Sunday, April 30, 2017

Broken and Blessed

I've known this Sunday was coming for a while... It's been weeks since Grant first talked to our Stake President. I've spent that time trying to convince myself that today wouldn't hurt. I prayed I would keep my composure, that by some miracle my heart wouldn't betray me....

I made it through Superman and I meeting with the Stake Presidency. I made it through the opening hymn as long as I didn't look at my Superman sitting on the stand this last time. I found the courage to look up just as they announced Superman's release from the bishopric. Tears rolled down both our faces....

Grant stood moments later to bear his testimony and in that moment my heart betrayed me. I was sobbing. Grant has wanted nothing more in this last year and a half than to simply serve with a bishop he loves. Time and time again a cruel illness making that simple desire, impossible. Why??????

I listened as my sweet husband bore a valiant, humble testimony of our Heavenly Father's love and the truthfulness of the gospel and I simply sobbed. His spirit and his countenance shining as he stood at that pulpit, his perfect faith undeniable. His illness has robbed him of so many things, but never his testimony.  Tears of sorrow mixed with gratitude.  Seriously heart. Get. It. Together.

I look down at my phone as an email scrolls across my lock screen. The sister sending it a few pews behind me.

For you, Robin....

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (quoting Vance Havner):

Christ loves broken things
It takes broken clouds to make rain
It takes broken ground to make grain 
It takes broken grain to make bread
It takes broken bread to always remember Him 
It takes broken hearts to come unto Christ.

Thanks my friend. There are blessings in our broken lives.

It took every once of strength and courage to make it through the rest of my responsibilities for  Sunday, tears only a moment away....Grateful for the many added friends attending our ward conference today. Heavenly Father knew just who we would need to make it through today. I will be forever grateful for his tender mercies that show me that even though we don't know why this needed to happen we know we are not alone in this.

Tonight we are still a little broken and wonder why, but know we are so blessed.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Oh Dallyn?!

Dallyn told me "go ahead blog about it", he's calling my bluff or he wants it recorded in the books of family history to teach his future children, either way I'm counting this permission to share....

I've been parenting for exactly  8,502 days according to google and here's the thing, I still have no idea what I am doing. No seriously, no idea....

Every time I think I've got this gig in the bag, one of them throws me a curve ball and y'all know I'm not super sports-y.

Dallyn got suspended last week. Yes you read that right, suspended.

"Skipping Law Class whilst [breaking a law]"  No, no the irony is not lost on us either.

Grant and I had 20 mins before our brilliant scholar walked in the front door to decide how to handle this.

After 10 minutes of awkward silence.....

"You better not YELL, Robin." Grant said.

"You better not yell, GRRRRANT" I snapped.

Yup we totally have this parenting gig in the bag.

We watched Dallyn take the slow walk of shame from the car to our front door...head hung low.

Sit. Explain.

There were tears and excuses and anger and talk of unfairness and harshness. But by all estimations,except maybe Dallyn's. He deserved the consequences.

We both explained that this was a great lesson that when we choose a behavior we do not get to choose the consequence and then talked of his consequences at home....

"Can't you phone the school Mom, someone else's mom did ?!?!"

"And tell them what??? How dare you hold my kid accountable???"

Yeah that's a solid NO.

Seventeen is hard. Parenting is hard. But no one yelled.

That evening after hours of yard work I asked Dallyn what he wanted for dinner....

"Do PRISONERS get to pick their food????" {not quite the humility I was hoping for, but an A for comedic timing}

Time served. Consequences in progress. Oh Dallyn, I love you.

If you ever need tips on what one wears to meet with the principal, bright and early on a Monday morning , I'm your girl.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Supporting Heartache

My phone rang and I happily answered it, thinking it was my dear friend Michelle....But instead it was her husband the Stake President, great guy and friend but not Michelle....

Pres.W asked if I would be willing to speak at Stake Leadership and share our family's personal struggle with mental illness.... A physician, social worker and the LDS Family services coordinator would also be included in this training.  He acknowledged the tender subject and asked that I please have Grant's blessing on whatever I felt I should share...then he asked that a participate in a conference call with the Stake presidency and the other three participants, so we would all understand the purpose and desired outcome of the training.  "I'd be happy to do that...."

I hung up and shed a few tears...I was humbled and honoured by the request, but there was also some fear....I'm not a doctor, social worker or counsellor... Will my message be understood without the risk of added shame or judgement...the others would be sharing clinical experience, but my message was personal, the cost higher...

The conference call came in the middle of a crazy Sunday for me, I was emotionally tired and have to admit my dislike of such calls. When you're a visual communicator, not seeing facial expressions and body language is frustrating, but I did know most on the call well and relaxed quickly...

I was instantly touched as the Stake explained their desire for leaders to better support those who struggle with mental illness through compassion, love and understanding. Without the idea of healing. I was suddenly grateful I was on the phone and could easily hide my tears. It was as if all those times of misunderstanding, stigma and shame that have come since Grant's diagnosis were being washed away as these men and woman so kindly expressed their love and compassion for my family and so many others who struggle. Their words, my tears, my tender healing....Oh how I wish everyone who has every struggled with mental illness could have been on that call. Such a gift for me.

A few days later, I woke up with the words I should share leaping from my mind to paper, the worry had mostly subsided as I felt my heavenly fathers help in choosing just the right experiences I should share in my short 5 minutes....

I spoke on Saturday with the most normal pictures of my family now and my family as a child purposely chosen, projected behind me....

Dear Brothers and Sisters it is a privilege to stand before you today and share our family's deeply personal struggle with mental illness, I do so with our Heavenly Fathers help and my husband's blessing and encouragement.

One might say I won the lottery when it comes to mental mother a gifted teacher battled bipolar disorder her entire adult life, by fifty eight she had lost her independence and cognition, peace never came, the tragic circumstances of her death at 62 we will never fully understand. 

My father an accomplished jazz drummer battled alcohol addiction. As he aged he sank deeper and deeper into its grasps. By 70 he lived in self imposed squallier. When Adult protective services stepped in six years later, we were finally able to get him into care. He died a few weeks later the effects of alcohol, dementia and malnutrition to great to recover from. I miss my mom and dad every single day.

My sweetheart and I married young and our five children came quickly. Looking back over those chaotic first years the signs of Grant’s severe mental illness were everpresent, but it wasn’t until a work injury and a pain killer addiction lead to a manic episode that the heartbreakingly familiar diagnosis of bipolar disorder came. He was 26.
We have waged battled this unforgiving illness ever since with the help of inspired physicians, psychiatrists, clinical counsellors, friends, church leaders and the never-endinglove of our heavenly father.
We know the agony of failed treatments, lost stability. We know that without education and understanding judgement, gossip, shame and stigma do indeed exist even in the church and have at times experienced the added burden of someone else’s ignorance. 
But long ago, while still acknowledging that this illness is adifficult one, we choose not to focus on the negative. 
Some of our sweetest, most sacred moments have come as my sweethearts illness has raged... most have been simple acts of kindness...  
I think of a simple email from our stake president when he knew Grant was struggling. “You are loved, thought of and prayed for.”
I think of the time Grant sent an angry and frustrated email to a church leader. A message the leader could have easily taken offence to. Instead the leader saw the cry for help and simply responded “I hear you, let’s talk”
I think of our new bishop who showed up in a time of need in our home and simply said “Look Grant, I don’t just want to be your bishop, I want to be your friend”  
I think of new home teachers who on their first visit asked 
Grant please tell us how bipolar disorder effects your life and how we can best support you and your family”
And then they just listened, never once giving a single word of advice...ending our visit with “we are here to love and support you”
I think of the time my dearest friend sent a text message in the middle of Elder Holland’s like a broken vessel talk in General Conference. “Robin, I’m shedding tears for you and Grant and all of those I love who struggle with mental illness” and together we wept.
Leaders and friends do not need to fully understand all the facets of mental illness to be a support to individuals and families. They only need to understand that the compassion and love needed looks no different than the compassion needed for any other heartache, just continue to love them like the Saviour loves you.
Yes I know the sorrow of mental illness in the loss of my parents. Yes my sweet husband’s illness will be our constant companion the rest of our lives. But there is joy in the sorrow. That joy comes in the absolute knowledge that this is part of Heavenly Father’s plan for our family, thatthe atonement is real and that, when Elder Holland’ssays...
“I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind.
It’s true.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ amen

Such a sweet experience for me. I am so grateful to live in a stake that recognizes and validate our tender struggle. I will be forever grateful for my dear dear friends who truly run to succour us time and time again. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

It's Not About the Snow

It has snowed like crazy since early Friday morning. Well over a foot had fallen before the sun finally made an appearance this afternoon...

Normally there are warnings for days before this much snow comes, but NO. Its like the weather people were completely baffled and we were stuck as real-life characters in Vancouver Island's version of Frozen, for like 96 hours....

Is it ever going to end??

Oh my...this is exactly how I've felt for a while now...and no it has nothing to do with snow, but the snowstorm we just had makes it really easy to explain...

Weeks ago I knew something was up (or down) with my Superman...he was off, but nothing seemed to make sense...a few days turned into weeks and I was baffled by the unexpected storm...

When an expected snow storm hits the island, most islanders retreat to the safety of their homes and stay off the roads, we are completely snow phobic and the rest of Canada mocks our response to snow,

When the storms hit Grant he retreats to the safety of our home, the outside world is nearly impossible to navigate as he battles the overwhelming affects of an uninvited illness. And yes some still judge him...

If you've never lived on the Island when the snow hits, its next to impossible to understand what the snow can actually do to the roads and how quickly they become impassible...

If you've never walked through a raging bipolar storm it's next to impossible to truly understand the difficulty of the road and the need for safety, in what ever form that takes...

Once it's snowed like crazy on the Island, the hills and valleys are only navigable by 4 wheel drives  or snow plows/ special equipment to get through while the storm rages...

To get through while Grant's storm rages, it takes special people. People who have laid a foundation of friendship, love, education and trust long before the storm starts...

And just like us Islanders are thrilled when the snow plow finally reached our road (jumping for joy), how forever grateful I am as I watch those special people run to our rescue with loving and open arms, embracing us in the midst of the storm. Meeting Grant where he is with love and acceptance.

Life on the Island slows down when it slows, life slows down for us when  Grant is struggling...

There is beauty and purity in a snowstorm, there is also a purifying beauty that comes as we witness the tender mercies while Grant struggles...

I know we won't be stuck in Frozen forever, but we will all be grateful when the sun shines again,

Friday, January 20, 2017

Love and Lift

I'm sharing this for my benefit so I can remember what we did and if for anyone who missed it..

We had a visiting teaching conference cleverly disguised as a Relief Society activity this week....sneaky but effective ;) People actually showed up....

I had come across this video a few months ago and decided to focus the entire meeting on its message....

We had musical numbers and speakers 

And I also used the following videos ...

Are We Not All Beggars 

Where Justice, Love and Mercy Meet

I also tied in my favourite Disney song from the Hunchback of Nortre Dame...
God Help the Outcasts   

Relief Society is such a blessing in my life. I love my sisters.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

I still hate piñatas.

Have I ever told you how much I HATE piñatas....yes those cardboard, candy-filled things you swing blindly at, at birthday parties.... Well I hate them and still sense immediate panic if I see one even now. Something about getting bulldozed over one two many times as a party goer, by candy hungry savage fellow grade schoolers, who could care less about the unsteady kid in the mix.....

So yeah I HATE piñatas and totally deprived my offspring of such joys...

For months now I've felt...well like a piñata...

Swinging wildly, getting whacked with one thing or another or another.... Struggle...hurt...struggle...hurt...struggle.

Unexpected. Deeply personal. Private. Difficult. Embarrassing. And because of that all my usual coping strategies...writing, talking to a dear friend, hilarious passive-aggressive Instagram posts...just weren't an option.

Tears. Sorrow. Frustration. Confusion. Hurt.

So many things all at once, I simply couldn't catch my breath... I could feel my courage draining and my faith leaving, that actually scared me...prayers lost as things got so much harder, are you kidding me???


I spent  months, knowing that no one knew how much I was really hurting.

I felt powerless at the mercy of others choices, anger, and hurt.

"I didn't let all this happen at once to punish you, Robin. I needed to show you the depth of [their] struggle, so you could know best how to love and serve them."

The thought fluttered through my mind and in that moment emotions that had raged for weeks in my troubled heart settled just long enough that I could feel with clarity the purpose behind the chaos.

You needed to know the depth of the struggle, so you can know how to serve answer.

I feel exhausted, but I feel more courage than I've felt in a very long time, to continue trying and that these experiences haven't been in vain.

But I still hate piñatas.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas is hard.

Christmas is a hard one for me... I feel like I run an emotional marathon all of December  trying to convince my heart it should be merry and bright. But try as I might,  joys and sorrows, past and present collide and I'm not sure what I feel, but it's not exactly merry....

Weeks ago I asked Kelli if she had any Christmas pictures from our years as young kids in California, after I couldn't find any in my stuff here....

She found three.  Dad and her; and Kelli and a Smurf (I'm guessing 1981or 82). Me and my Cabbage Patch Astronaut. (1986, maybe).... 

It's odd to me these are the only Christmas pictures of us... I'm sad that there aren't any Christmas pictures of us as a, dad, twin daughters, you know, together...I actually only know of two of those pictures in in Easter dresses at about 3 or 4 years old, sitting on my parents laps and a snapshot twenty years later at Kelli's BYU grad. 

There are happy Christmas memories.....Dad would often bring out his guitar and play Christmas carols and mom spent most of December practicing endless Christmas hymns for special school programs and church services  and Santa always brought us absolutely everything on our lists, every year.

We never spent a Christmas all together after we were nine. 
We lost mom in our twenties and my Dad in our thirties. They had so few Christmases as parents and grandparents. 

Christmas time is when most memories come flooding back of my parents and Christmas is strangely when I miss them the most.

My kids make Christmas joyous and irreverent and bright and hilarious and there are so many happy traditions we now share....but I also mourn a little at Christmas, wishing my parents could still be here and maybe that things could have been just a little different...together maybe.