Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Roller Coasters

From the time I was very young, I have loved roller coasters.

I'm amazed by the design of roller coasters - the climbs, the drops, the loops and turns; and how the cars remain on the rails! I'm amazed that a person's mind could design all that!

I love the anticipation while standing in line - watching the faces of the people getting off the roller coaster and the change of expression of those waiting to board as they, too, see the reactions of the riders deboarding.

I love the feeling you get in your stomach as you top a long climb - just before you drop off the other side! I like the tingle in my toes and the sudden exhalation as the air is pushed out with a scream and everyone tries to look like it's no big deal -- raising both arms high in the air.

And I love riding roller coasters with good friends. Not only am I braver then, but it also extends the pleasure as we talk and laugh about it over and over again.

I've noticed an increasing similarity between those rides and the ride I'm on now -- the ride of my life. There's a constant rise and fall. A long climb that seems to never end; then, just as it does, you find yourself thinking for a second that maybe the climb wasn't quite long enough because you can't see what's on the other side.

There's the excitement of future possibility mingled with the fear of not achieving those dreams. There's the temptation to hold back -- emotionally, socially... -- because if you lay everything out in the open, what will the reaction be? Will people understand you, accept you, look up to you even... or will they be amused that you could possibly picture yourself in that light? Will you end up celebrating or will your dreams be shattered on the floor like pieces of a plate that slips from your hands?

Those ups and downs, they scare me sometimes. I get a bit anxious when I seem to stay at the crest of that climb too long. I begin to worry that the bottom really IS about to fall out. I worry that maybe this time, the coaster will somehow derail and I'll end up going over the edge, or stuck permanently at the bottom where the view is lousy!

When that fear strikes, I now realize, there's a decision to be made -- in life, anyway. I can stay where I am and enjoy the view and relative safety from that crest or I can move forward to what lies ahead, exercising faith that the Designer knows what He's doing, and that eventually the crest will be permanent and the view will be more than I can possibly imagine.

Believing that doesn't make pain and apprehension and sorrow disappear, but it makes it bearable; as does the company of those I'm riding with. I'm certain that is the most perfect part of the design -- that we're not intended to ride alone!

I don't think you'll be seeing me throw my arms up in the air like it's no big deal anytime soon, though you may hear me scream from time to time! But you will see me continuing to move forward. I cannot put into words how grateful I am for those who surround me. Thank you for constantly reminding me that I'm not alone and that there's still beauty in the ride.

I love you!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Heart to Heart

I am truly blessed to have friends and family whose hearts seem to always know when to reach out & who then have the courage and compassion to follow through on that prompting!

The events of the last few days are just a glimpse of the love that surrounds me and my family - - a love that keeps us afloat when the waves have been pounding a little too hard:

An invitation - the same as previous years - to a party with friends who give me the space to do as much, or as little, as I feel I can.

A special gift left on the doorstep from special friends who truly understand the bittersweet tug-of-war between grieving the death of a child & celebrating the birth of the One whose sacrifice allows us to overcome that death.

Loved ones gathering to help with improvements that will get our family moved to the farm more quickly - then returning again without us to continue the work!

Our kind, compassionate attorney who offered to do the work for the boys' adoptions free of charge -- then sent a plate full of goodies with them to share with the cousins!

Our Sandstrom Family celebration in the loft of our barn at the farm -- Dad Sandstrom's "favorite story" about "playing Christmas Gift" and "go to the kitchen and smell..."! The boys and their cousins laughing & hugging and playing on the hay.

Listening to Sidney & Joseph on the way home as they talked about when Jesus comes again and Charlie gets his perfect body and how Charlie probably already met Joseph Smith...

Gifts left on the porch for the boys from the Primary - reminding them how very much they are loved.

Tucking my boys into bed after scriptures and prayers knowing that soon, although I can only tuck in two boys right now, all THREE will be mine eternally!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sunshine & Shadows

So, I'm going to give this "blogging" thing another shot. Nan & Kim you inspire me!! :)

I'm calling this post "Sunshine & Shadows," because I've gained a greater appreciation for both recently!

I've always loved the sunshine -- the light, the warmth, the way it sparkles on water and can make everything -- even dust dancing in it-- pretty! But lately I've found myself wanting to just stay OUT of the sunlight -- away from people and noise - wanting to basically hide!

I was getting a bit concerned until a thought came into my head -- a memory, actually. I was helping Kam rake hay two years ago. The sun was shining, there was a slight breeze -- an absolutely gorgeous day! After about two hours of that "gorgeous" sunlight, though, I was hot enough to be getting a headache. We got to a stopping point and got off the tractors to take a break in the shade, in the SHADOWS of some trees!! It was a temporary stop, but it was definitely a necessary one. After a short break, my headache was gone and we went back to work and finished the job.

I honestly do believe our trials, our struggles, make us stronger. I believe they sort of "smooth the edges" and strengthen the weak spots -- if we let them. But, to be honest, there have been a few times this year when I've felt my edges were so "smoothed", I should be a marble!!!

Don't get me wrong, I don't feel "picked on" by Heavenly Father -- anything but! I KNOW I'm blessed. I see so many blessings around me everyday, and I am truly grateful. Sometimes, though, those struggles that in the end will make me who I'm actually supposed to be - the daughter of God that HE sees - those struggles sometimes get heavy. That's when I tend to hide. I'm beginning to realize that's okay - IN MODERATION!! Those are my "shadow" days, and I will use them on occasion.

So if I don't answer the phone some days, try texting, or emailing so I can be more passively involved. If I don't respond to those - give me a day or so. On those "shadow days" my resources will be almost exclusively available to my husband and my sons. But I will eventually get in touch - I promise!!

Rest assured, those "shadow days" will be just a temporary stop. I'll us them to process, to regroup, to "apply sunscreen," if you will, so I'll be better prepared to step back out into the sunshine that is my life - my wonderful, beautiful life!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Two Years and Counting!

Well, 2 years ago tonight (in about 2 hours, actually) our boys moved in with us! Today, on the way to school the boys and I were talking about that and they got to talking about the party we'll have when the adoption is final!

Sidney has decided he's "going to have Little Grandma help [him] make a red velvet cake!" He still thinks Grandma Richardson made the red velvet cake Mama brought us back form Thanksgiving at Grandma's -- Aunt Carolyn actually did!

Charlie asked to make chocolate popcorn for the party. (Kam's sister, Malia, made it at Mom Sandstrom's New Year's Eve -- white chocolate melted and poured over lightly salted popcorn -- YUMMY!!!!!)

Joseph just wants to invite the whole school, the whole church, the whole family, the whole community PLUS all of his old Beechgrove Elementary teachers, friends, etc.

Kam said we'll have to slaughter a beef to feed everyone!! Joseph is already asking if we have more "boy cows" like Dinner (our beef we've been eating recently!!) Yes, we really named him Dinner, and he definitely lived up to his name!

Sometimes it seems like it's been longer than two years -- all the complications just seem to magnify the time that just continues to stretch beyond all reasonable limits!!!!!

Finally, though, the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) representative that attends visits with the boys has sent a very pointed letter to the boys' Guardian Ad Litem (their attorney) "asking" for the visits to be terminated as quickly as possible! Her words were something like, "it's long past time for the abuse of these boys just to prove a point to the court ends!"

See why we REALLY like and trust her?!

Anyway -- today was one of those bitter sweet days -- bitter because the adoption has yet to be finalized and sweet -- so sweet -- that we've been together for two years!!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

I'm going to try this again!

Okay -- so I didn't do so well keeping up with this previously . . . however, I think this is the best way to keep everyone updated on the chaos that is our lives right now! I think most of you know me well enough to know how much I just LOVE to chat on the phone (not!!!) so this way I can do a better job passing along information without forgetting with whom I've spoken or not, etc!

Tomorrow I will share what happened at the boys' visitation with their birth-mother yesterday. Suffice it to say, it did NOT go well! The professionals who supervise the visits are as fired up as we are now, I think, and are moving forward more aggressively to terminate these insane visits. The effects the visits have on the boys escalate with each one and finally the "supervisors" are ready to move on ending the torture!

On a more positive note, we had a nice, though VERY LOUD, Christmas at Kam's parents' home yesterday after the visit. We actually even had photos taken of ALL of us!! THAT was an adventure! If not for the photographer's rapid shutter speed, I'm certain we would NEVER have gotten a decent photo! (Of course I say this without seeing the final results, but surely out of more than 100 frames there has to be ONE decent one, right?!)

Anyway, today all of Kam's family gathered in the loft at our farm for a continuation of our Christmas celebration. Dad and Mom Sandstrom had planned this and it was a very neat experience! Dad started out by showing all of the kids what a manger looks like. Then we all climbed up to the loft and Dad read the part of the Christmas story from the scriptures about Jesus being born in a stable and placed in a manger. He talked about how where we were was similar to what Jesus's first glimpse of His earthly life would have been like. We sang Christmas carols then had refreshments. Mom brought food similar to what would have been eaten during the time of Christ's birth -- figs, dates, cheese and unleavened bread.

Our boys all had dental exams today before the farm, and had told the entire staff about what we were going to do. The hygenist told me, "Someone better sneak in some cookies!" I think she would have been surprised by just how much the kids all liked the refreshments!! Charlie ate the figs, but wasn't particularly impressed -- not enough for seconds, anyway! But he would have eaten the dates all night long! Joe liked the figs a bit more than Charlie, but still favored the dates! Sidney, however, hovered around Grandma waiting to see if there would be enough for thirds, or fourths.... Grandma ended up giving him the last 4 figs to bring home just for him!

It was a nice diversion from yesterday morning!

So... tomorrow I'll fill in the details of the visit. For now, dirty clothes are rapidly overtaking my home and I must attack!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Autism Walk - My big-hearted birthday boy

My Sidney is SUCH an amazing boy. For his birthday this year he asked to participate in the Walk For Autism in Nashville with his Aunt Heather and cousin Alex J. Alex J. was diagnosed Autistic around age 2. Sidney's has 3 other cousins either diagnosed with autism or with autistic characteristics or who are being evaluated for autism.

Sidney's big heart allows him to love without judgment. He, and his brothers, immediately fell in love with Alex J. and they love spending time with him. They understand that his mind works differently than theirs, but they honestly don't seem to see him as BEING different than them.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could ALL see each other that way?!

So, honoring his wishes, we are inviting each of you to celebrate his 10th birthday with us by helping him reach his goal of raising $400 for autism research -- that's $100 in honor of each of his cousins: Alex J., Kimmy, Gavin, and Aidan.

He is asking that, rather than buying gifts for him, you make a donation in his name to the Walk for Autism 2008 in Nashville. He, with his family and any of you who wish to join us, will be walking at the Nashville Speedway on September 13th. Registration begins at 8:30 and the walk begins at 10 a.m. We'll be walking 3 1.33 mile laps at the speedway. The website will give directions and answer any other questions you can think of!!!

If you want to join us, we'll have birthday hats and stickers for each of you. If you can't join us but would still like to help Sidney reach his goal you can cut and paste this link ( ) into your browser and it will take you directly to his personal page where you can make secure electronic donations. If you want to donate but aren't comfortable doing it electronically, just give me a call and we'll work out other arrangements! (615-428-4790)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Why Frogs Are Bald

Okay, so I got carried away answering the "Random Question!" Here's the story:

Why Frogs Are Bald

Once upon a time there was a frog who stayed above the water in the pond waaaaaay too long one day. All that time in the sun caused a sunburn so bad that all of his gorgeous, curly green hair fell right out of his slick little head!

I know, I hear ya, "Poor little frog," right?! WRONG!!!! The water was so still just then that he saw his reflection in the pond.

"Wow," he thought to himself, "what a handsome frog!" Imagine his surprise and pleasure when, just then, he realized that handsome frog he was admiring was really himself!

Well, unfortunately, that wasn't the reaction of his friends. Oh, none of them said anything -- they just kept looking anywhere BUT his head when they talked to him. They looked at his ears, and his elbows and even his toes (yes, this frog had ALL those parts!), but they just wouldn't look at his head!

Well this poor frog started to forget what his friends' faces looked like. Sure, he could tell who they were if he looked at the top of their heads or the sides of their face, but not at their faces -- remember,they wouldn't look at HIM when they spoke to him. So, Frederick (that's the frog's name) finally decided he would give up his new-found handsomeness so that things would return to normal with his friends. (A very thoughtful frog!)

So Frederick bought a wig -- the first in frog history - which was actually a major problem! Being the first, there just weren't very many wigs to choose from. There was a dull brown one made from a dead leaf and some mud. But that one was so stiff that you kind of had to balance it on your head. That, of course, is diffciult to do if you're frog! There was a kind of slimy green one made from algae from the pond. That one just kept slipping off. (Besides, it kind of smelled!) Then FINALLY, he saw it -- a soft green - kind of curly- wig made of soft, cushy moss.

As he put the wig on his head and checked his reflection in the pond, Frederick didn't really like what he saw. But, he DID like his friends, VERY much, so on it went.

As he headed to the other side of the pond to see his friends, all the other pond animals had to look twice to recognize him. When they did realize who it was, they kind of shook their heads and went back to what they were doing.

When Frederick reached his friends on the other side of the pond, he got what he was looking for -- his friends all looked him in the face!

Well, actually, they all STARED.

Then Theodore Toad finally asked what they were all thinking. "What IS that thing on your head, Fred?!"

Once Frederick had explained the whole reason for the wig, his friends all apologized for having acted differently around him. They told him they had been afraid that they would hurt HIS feelings if they looked at his bald head too long, but that they never stopped caring about him. "Honestly," his friends admitted, "you look SO handsome without your hair, I'm going to give it a shot!"

The trend spread rapidly throughout the world until finally EVERY frog had decided to go bald! After generations of shaving and polishing shiny green bald heads, tadpoles started hatching with NO hair. Their descendants are the frogs at our ponds today!!

Well, back to our original story!

Dear old Frederick couldn't have been happier! Truth be told, even that cushy moss made his head itch; and he DID think it looked a bit TOO much like his old hair.

See, ever since he was just a tadpole everyone had always told Frederick he had "gorgeous" green curly hair. He, however had always thought that "gorgeous" green curly hair of his looked pretty much like a Brillo pad stuck to the top of his head!"

"Just think," thought Frederick. "I've wasted all this time trying to look like I thought other people wanted me to, and I haven't enjoyed it one bit!"

"And to think, I could have been spending that time just enjoying finally being handsome!!"

Then and there, he made a promise to himself to trust his own choices and no try so hard to please other people.

So a much wiser and happier (and much less itchy!)Frederick gave his friends a BIG (actually frognormous!) grin. Then, with a fancy flourish, he pulled off that crazy wig and flung it clear across the pond into a small grove of pretty small trees. (Which is a pretty good throw for a frog, you know.)

And today, if you walk to the far side of the pond into the small grove of not-so-small-anymore trees, you'll notice that once you hit the shade of the trees, the ground under your feet starts to feel a lot softer -- kind of cushy even. If you'll look down, you'll see that the small piece of moss that Frederick once wore as a wig has now grown into a lush covering in the woods!

And if you listen closely, you'll hear old Frederick's descendants croaking, "Doesn't itch! Doesn't Itch! Doesn't Itch!"

And that, dear children, is why frogs are bald!!!!!