Our Vow

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We just finished watching “The Vow.” The image above is from the movie. Plot summary if you haven’t seen it goes something like this: boy meets girl, boy and girl fall rapidly and madly in love, boy and girl get married, girl suffers brain hemorrhage after car accident, girl forgets she ever knew boy, boy and girl get to decide how they’d like to handle that small detail…all tied and twisted up into the most romantic story you’ve ever witnessed unfold before your eyes. And let’s be straight, true love like that is exceptionally romantic…I drool over it.

I also, sort of, you know, lived it, not to, you know, brag or anything (brushes some invisible lint from her shoulders, smugly).

I’d like to go grab hot chocolate with the couple this movie is about. I bet we could have a great conversation 🙂

So what sort of movie would you make out of our story? The truth is there are a lot of movies you could make of our story. Not all of them are pretty. Our uncut, full feature, documentary would probably leave us looking exceptionally flawed and broken, vangeful, angry, depressed, overwhelmed, and yet loyally by each other’s side through thick and thin, truly in love, angry, vengeful, depressed, or not.

But watching “The Vow” tonight, I got to realize all over again, that our life is the best of romance movies:

Start the movie with a Disney worthy swirl of butterflies, songs, and snuggled-on-a-bench-while-snow-fell-kisses that lasted only 3 weeks before we decided we just couldn’t bear to ever be without each other and we got engaged.

Flash through rapid scenes of burning, passionate romance, sweet, tender affection, and Twilight-worthy eye gazing that was the first years we were married.

Jump forward to joyful tears at the birth of a perfect baby boy. Squeals of the purest laughter as daddy and mommy tickle him and smile at each other, absolutely amazed at what they have created together.

Pause just after that baby smears chocolate cake all over his face at his first birthday party.

Rewind.

Go back to that moment, that moment we held hands at the altar, that moment we said our vows. Let the scene fade away as the music plays, “Come what may, I will love you, until my dying day. Oh come what may,” from Moulin Rouge. Our wedding song.

Flash forward to the hospital. To his mother’s worried face and my wailing. See the tubes, hear the machines, see his pale, swollen body. See his blank stares. Hear the doctors say they have no idea if or how much he’ll recover but that recovery is very unlikely.

Show his recovery. Show how shocked and amazed even the doctors are.

Show the miracle.

Then stop and drag out the scene where he talks to his parents and doesn’t have a clue who they are. Drag out the scene where I show him picture after picture of lifelong family and friends and he shakes his head “no” when asked if he knows who they are. Focus on our faces as I ask him if he remembers me from before the hospital, and he shakes his head “no,” pure confusion on his face. Show me sneaking away to call my sisters, me bawling–the ugly, gut wrenching sort of cry that comes from both unbelievable sadness and absolute terror.

And as the audience is tearing up, cut forward in time.

Let the audience watch his family tell him story after story of his life. Listen to me tell him the stories of our life together, our romance, our marriage, our child he had forgotten existed.

Show him starting to remember–first the people, then the important events.

Show so many joyful moments of recovery that the audience is unconsciously grinning ear to ear, laughing, and sighing in relief.

Let the audience take a sneak peak into the bedroom as a virgin father takes his wife of  six years in his arms for the first time. Show just enough of the awkwardness to make the story believable and skip the other 90 percent of it to keep it equal parts fairytale.

Let the audience watch them struggle, watch her care for him, watch him learn eventually to care for them back again.

And as the story nearly wraps up, let everyone see that these two lovers, turned star-crossed lovers, do, despite both changing so very much, once again find true partnership in each other. Let the audience see that they have truly loved each other, “Come what may.”

 

I was talking to Ricardo after the movie tonight, telling him that people could make two very opposite movies of our experience since his brain hemorrhage–one a romance for the ages and the other a dramatic story of betrayal, pain, and anger, and yet both movies could be absolutely true. He looked at me and said, “You know, that’s the beauty of it, that one doesn’t necessarily take from the other.”

I like that. If he can say that, you can believe it. Believe the love story you have seen glimpses of in us, it’s true, even if it’s really so much more complicated than that.

 

 

 

 

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Catholic in a Former Life

We have started a new tradition of going once a month to a different church, so we can attend church together as a family. Usually we go to the Unitarian Church, but occasionally we make the trek down to Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Today we attended their Divine Mercy choir Mass. Best. Decision. Ever.

So, as the heading suggests, I discovered I must have been in a Catholic Choir in a Cathedral in a former life because I adore chanting. The music was absolutely, powerfully moving. I could have stayed there and listened to that all day long and just soaked it in. I read this article once that said that some people get a certain rippling sensation that goes through your whole body when you are moved by music, they called it a musicgasm or something; There was definitely a lot of that going on today.

To be honest, I found the whole experience to be quite moving. The robes, the ritualistic aspect, the high, arched ceilings, covered in gold, the candles, and the incense. Seriously, there’s a decent chance I was Catholic in a previous life. All jokes aside, I Just really loved it, and it was nice to share a beautiful spiritual experience with my family.

Ricardo is still right at home there as well. There is a room dedicated to La Virgen de Guadalupe. It tells the story of Mexico’s very own Saint and the story of how Mexico converted to Catholicism. Ricardo commented to Andrew, “La Virgen de Guadalupe means a lot to Daddy, Andrew.” The Catholic runs strong in this agnostic, ex-Mormon lover of mine 😉

I hope to have many more spiritual celebrations in beautiful Catholic cathedrals.

Today reminded me of how Spiritual a person I am at my core. It may very well make the best sense not to believe. I have struggled through my shaken faith these last years so much because that truly does make sense to me. But my center, my core, thrives and flourishes listening to the choir sing in a gothic Cathedral on Divine Mercy Sunday. I feel like I am on fire, filled with light when I kneel on the altar in the LDS temple as I did so many times in my early married years. I have my struggles with faith now. I have my struggles with other things too. But honestly, I’m not a happy agnostic/atheist. I’m happier when I believe. I need spirituality as a central part of my life. And you know what, that matters a lot.

So next Sunday, and probably most the Sundays after that, you’ll find me at church. Doubting much of what is taught even, I’ll still be there, because I like the fire that often fills my being when I’m there. I’m a believer, even amidst my doubt it seems.

Do I believe? Yeah, I guess I do. What do I believe? Well, I guess I believe in a God, I probably believe in Christ, I probably even believe in prophets, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon. Maybe I believe in Catholic Saints and Buddah too. I suppose my belief system is still a little…in the reformation stage, but I do think I believe. It feels good to say that. Why do I believe? Because it gives me purpose, happiness, and joy instead of depression, hopelessness, and stress. And you know what? I want to be happy.

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Marriage Therapy: Take 2

Armed with our last month of Ricardo’s disability money, and fueled by the flames of anger and frustration from poor choices on both sides of our marital fence, we started marriage therapy again this year (we gave it a shot about 15 months ago and it just wasn’t time yet…for a lot of reasons). Great decision! The new psychotherapist has been what we needed. He’s fair, balanced, and really does know what to say a lot of the time.

I’ve been feeling really ready to move forward. I have been angry with Ricardo since he left the church suddenly in August of 2011 and then more angry about  some things that have happened since. Then I got angry enough I did some things that hurt him and made him angry. Anyway, it’s time to start healing and moving forward and Ricardo and I are both on the same page in feeling that way.

So here are my 💡👂🏻📢 lightbulb moments–the moments I am learning and changing–as we have talked about our religious differences. This is the third therapy we have talked about religion.

Me: “Okay, I’ll start. I’ve resented Ricardo for so long. I’m ready for us both to do what we need to do to move forward.”

Therapist: “You say you resent Ricardo. Now, every action we make has a reason. For every thing we choose to do, there is a consequence and a pay off. Why are you choosing to resent him?”

Me: (Feeling caught off guard and a little defensive) “I don’t WANT to resent him, but I have been really unhappy because of the choices he made, and I want him to make restitution. If he tried to give me back some of what he has taken, or tried to make me happy in other parts of our life, then I’d feel like he really was trying to make good on his promises to me, and I think I’d be able to stop resenting him.”

Therpaist: (ignoring the second part of what I said) “There’s a payoff for everything we do. What is the payoff in you resenting your husband? What are you getting out of that?”

Me: “Ummm, I don’t know. I get frustrated and angry.” (The thought occurs to me that maybe, deep down, I hope that in resenting him and being unhappy, he will eventually realize how miserable this has made me, and try to change things and make it up to me.) While I’m still formulating this thought, the therapist responds,

Therapsit: “And how is that working for you?”

Me: “… … … Yeah, it doesn’t really work. I need to stop resenting him…I don’t know how to just let it go though. It’s not fair for me to just give up everything he promised me and I just have to be fine with it.”

Therapist: “You’re not going to get 100 percent of what you want. People have this fairytale image of what marriage will be, but a marriage is two different people, with different needs, who are both going to change. You aren’t going to get 100 percent of what you want.”

Ricardo: “Yeah, I have been trying to say this for a long time.”

Me: (obviously I’m not going to get 100 percent of what I want. I think I would have failed at marriage a long time ago if I expected to get 100 percent of what I want.) “I know I won’t get 100 percent of what I wanted in regards to religion. I know I won’t even get 50 percent of what I expected. But can’t I get everything that Ricardo feels he could possibly give me, since he isn’t going to be able to give me even close to what he promised?”

Therapist: “But all you are thinking about is you.”

Ricardo: “Yeah, I mean he’s right. There are two of us, and you’re only thinking about what you want and not getting what you want.”

Me: “But there are two of us, and he never compromised. There was never this conversation where we decided what would change and what wouldn’t. He just came to me and said, ‘I’m leaving the church, I can’t do it anymore, and there’s nothing you can do to change my mind.’ Then he started doing whatever he wanted, even things he had promised me he would never do, like drink alcohol.”

Ricardo: “Yeah, but it’s not like I became an alcoholic. I drink like a drink here and there, I do it occasionally, not all the time, which is okay.”

Me: “I mean I get that now, but in Mormonism, it’s black and white, and alcohol is black. Maybe drinking in moderation was morally okay in your mind, but to the Mormon I was when you suddenly and completely turned your back on the church, there was no acceptable amount of alcohol you could drink.”

Therapist: “Well maybe Ricardo never apologized for the pain he caused you in leaving the Mormon church.”

Ricardo: Apoloizes very sincerely.

Me: “Thank you. I do know you feel bad about hurting me when you left the church. You have always felt bad, and you have apologized before. And thank you,” (Turning to look at the therapist), “but I feel like it’s one thing to say you’re sorry and…it’s like they say in ‘Daniel Tiger‘ that my son watches, ‘Say you’re sorry, then, how can I help?’ Ricardo hasn’t ever really changed anything to make it better. Sorry is nice, but I want him to actually make changes.”

Therapist: “What is it you wish he would do?”

Me: (looking at Ricardo) After you left the church, you just changed so many of the rules of our marriage and expected that I should be fine with it, and I wasn’t. I wish you would have tried to keep more parts of our religious life in tact. You were breaking these huge promises you had made me and I wish you would have recognized that and tried to make it up to me and tried to leave as much in tact as you could have.”

Therapist: “What do you wish he had done?”

Me: “I don’t know. Maybe he could have kept doing some things that he wasn’t SO against. Maybe he could have come to church with me sometimes, even if he didn’t like it. Maybe he could have still had prayer with me and with the family, read scriptures with us, and had FHE even if he didn’t believe in those things.”

Therapist: “That’s what YOU want, what about what Ricardo wants?” (Ricardo nods his head in agreement.)

Me: (feeling a bit irritated…) I know he wants nothing to do with religion and Mormonism, but he promised me this life in the church and then he broke that promise. HE is the one that took everything, that changed all the rules, that refused to compromise, and now I want to go back and make the compromises, but HE’s the one who needs to give in the this case because he’s the one who took everything and broke his promises. I gave up too much. I want him to try to make it up to me. Maybe it can’t be even close to the same but he maybe he can try… …I don’t know, maybe we can live by my family and they can give me more religious and emotional support, and that’s something I want, that’s a way he could try to make my life better, things like that.”

Therapist: “That’s selfish though. Marriage is about two people, and you’re thinking only about yourself. That’s what YOU want. What does HE want?”

Me: (trying to understand what he’s suggesting, but mostly feeling irked that he sees me as selfish. How can I possibly be selfish when I gave up EVERYTHING when Ricardo left the church? I stayed by him when he broke hundreds of promises he had made? I stayed when he decided he was going to live life however he felt best, even if that wasn’t good for me at all! Isn’t it kind of okay to say enough is enough? I gave up too much and I’m not okay with it? Give me back whatever you can possibly give back and try to make the rest up to me in other ways?) “… Uuhhhh…he wants me to accept his decision to leave the church and he wants to be free to live his life religiously however he feels best. I get that, but…” (I go on to repeat what I had just said about fourteen times–HE broke the marriage contract, isn’t HE the one who makes amends on this one? Etc, etc.)

Therapist: “There are two valid viewpoints in a marriage, yours is only one” (looking directly at me).

Me: “I get that, but maybe I’m not understanding because I’m not convinced.”

Therapist: “Would you want your husband to do something that made him uncomfortable, something he feels is wrong, just because you want it?”

Me: (I mean, you don’t force each other to do uncomfortable things, that doesn’t seem right, I guess, no. But then, you do do things for each other that are uncomfortable. I moved to Maryland for him even though it was uncomfortable for me…) “I don’t think he should do things he is really uncomfortable with, but being married does kind of seem like it requires both people to sacrifice and do things for each other that are a little bit uncomfortable. I want him to do the things he feels are LEAST uncomfortable” (and I launch into expressing my same opinion for the fifteenth time in just slightly a different way that he needs to make sacrifices to make things better since he was the one who left the church).

Therapist: “It’s true that someone has to take out the trash, and someone had to do dishes, and you both do a little and find a way to kind of share what’s uncomfortable. It’s give and take and compromise.

“Okay, let me tell you a story. My wife was Presbyterian, I was Jewish. When we decided to get married, my mom said to my wife, ‘I want Michael (name changed) to keep his faith,’ So my wife started attending my temple. When we moved here, far from family, my wife became really lonely. She loved me, but I wasn’t enough. She needed a community. My people weren’t her tribe. She had made a commitment to me and my family to attend my Jewish temple, and all of my sibling’s families were active in the Jewish faith, so I expected that’s how we’d be. Because I love her, I wanted her to be happy and I could see that she was miserable, so I said, ‘honey, why don’t you go find another church?’ The Methodist church close by didn’t work for her, but eventually she tried the Unitarian church and she found what she needed there. After a while, she asked if I would attend once with her. At first I went just for her. Each time I went I kept expecting something to be said that would really offend me, just like every other church I had been in, but that never happened. 30 years later, we still go to the Unitarian church.

“Was this what I expected when we got married? No. Was this what my wife agreed to when we got married? No. But people change, and needs people have change too. At some point my wife needed things that didn’t agree with what she had promised. The long term sustainability of a marriage is based on how much change a marriage can endure.

“So, Alicia, at some point being Mormon obviously stopped working for your husband and he decided he needed a change to be a happy person. Now it’s up to you to decide, is that problematic enough that you need to end this relationship? Maybe it is. Maybe this is just something you can never be okay with and you need to go look for the life you need elsewhere. Sometimes that’s what happens in a relationship. Is that the case for you?”

Me: Pausing, considering this very weighty question carefully, “…No, as far as I know, neither of us have ever truly wanted out of this relationship. I know I don’t. I just don’t want to keep doing what we’ve been doing. I don’t want to feel the way I have felt these last years. I want us to change, compromise, and move forward.”

Maybe the way I have been thinking about this all these years is wrong. I think the therapist is right, I mean, people do change, and for a marriage to last, you have to be able to endure those changes together.

Therapist: “That’s good. Why don’t you two try to come up with compromises and let’s talk about how you can do that next time we meet.”

 

After our therapy, I was lost in thought. I really have been thinking about this wrong all these years. I have seen it as, “you broke this promise, so it’s your job to fix it. And I broke that promise afterward, so I need to make that up to you.” Tit for tat. You break it, you make amends the best you can.

The therapist was right, retribution, resentment, it wasn’t working, it was only bringing pain, more anger, and not solving anything. We needed a new aproach. My battle to try to make things fair was digging us a bigger hole.

So what was he saying? What’s the right way to do things, since I had obviously been thinking about this wrong? There are TWO valid views, and mine was only one. You’re being selfish. Was I? People change, needs change. Then I thought about the story he told about his wife leaving Judaism. His response seemed right, but then why did it seem right? People have needs. People need certain things to be happy.

Needs. We both have needs and desires. We both have things that make us happy.

Ricardo needs certain things in life to be happy. He needs to live a life that is meaningful to him and not participate in religious practices that seem offensive. That’s something he needs. I have needs too. I need a spiritual life as a couple, as a family, and by myself. I need meaningful spiritual rituals. I need a spouse who is bringing morality into our home.

Then it sank in, it’s not about he took x amount, so he gives me x amount back, and if he won’t give x back, then I take x amount from him. That had been a disaster. It’s about both couples having equally valid needs and desires and trying to compromise in such a way that BOTH spouses are getting as much of what they need as is possible. And over time those needs might change. I drove away from therapy with this new realization.

We ended up going to Popeyes for lunch. For the first time I let myself start to think about real compromises. Thinking about what I needed, rather than how much I had lost helped me come up with some ideas of things that could actually work for both of us.

Me: As we sit down to eat, “Maybe we could spend time in nature. I know some people find nature to be very spiritual, and I definitely relate to that. I know you’re not big on outside activities though.”

Ricardo: “Yeah, we might could try that.” “What about you going two weeks with me to the Unitarian or Catholic Church and I got the other two weeks to your church?”

Me: “Would you actually do that for more than a week? Also, I think if I was only attending my ward half the time I would start to lose the consistency and the sense of community. Ever other Sunday might be too much for me. But maybe once a month we could go somewhere like the Unitarian church, and once a month we could all go to the Mormon church together, and then the other weeks we canto separate ways.”

Ricardo: “Yeah, maybe.”

Me: Suddenly having a burst of new ideas, “Or what about having Family Home Evening once a week, even having a lesson about some subject related to morality–like honesty, or service–whoever is teaching  could pull material from where they like, whether that’s scriptures or other inspiring words or TED take or whatever. We could still do the lesson, a treat, and then maybe a service activity or some family activity that is really wholesome. I think that would help me to feel like you are a spiritual leader in our home. I also think it would help to establish this sense of ‘this is what our family stands for and believes’ and I feel like we have lost that.”

Ricardo: “Yeah, I think that could work.”

Me: “We could do the same sort of thing with prayer. Maybe we don’t pray anymore, since you don’t necessarily believe in God, but maybe we can have some quiet, mediating, sort of time, followed by expressing our gratitude and desires.”

We went back and forth talking about different ideas we had. It was the first time in a very long time I felt hopeful that we could both actually be happy with relation to our religious life. I started to accept, just a little bit, that what I need religiously has also changed some.

I remembered the last thing the therapist said as we were walking out the door, “Find something that works for both of you. It will be different than what you originally wanted. It might not be what your family would have chosen, but they’ve never been you, and they’ve never lived your experiences. Find what works for your family.”

I kind of breathed that last thought in as Ricardo cleaned our table and we got up to leave. I hugged him tighter than I have in a long time, then I got in my car, and drove back to work.

 

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The 5 Best Things About Traumatic Brain Injury

 

  1. Sympathy. Ever have a day when you just don’t think you can live another second without pity? Your solutions is spelled TBI. Never again will you be one-upped for the “biggest sob story” contest. You hold the trump card, my friend. Use it wisely and often.
  2. A great excuse–for everything. Forgot your homework? Too weak to shovel your walk? Didn’t feel like having the same conversation with your spouse for the umpteenth time? No problem. You have a brain injury. Your days of needing a dog to blame for eating everything are gone.
  3. Money. You’ll never need a job again now that you get government disability! Your days of earning dollars by the sweat of your brow are happily over. Find your dream home and enjoy early retirement. Now your only decision left is, tent city or trailer park–just hope you have a rich relative that can spare you some money to buy a tent!
  4. More time at home. Are you tired of the go, go, go and ready for a little downtime at home? Traumatic brain injury may be the right choice for you! No more sixty hour work weeks, no more commuting, no more hustle. In fact, with a little luck you may hardly leave the house again!
  5. Attention. Have you been ignored too much for too long? Do you find yourself wishing you had a servant, or at least a maid? Look no further. With a TBI, you may never clean a again! In fact you may be free of many of those tasks that are mundane and downright ordinary. Being hand fed, bathed, wiped, and moved from place to place–life doesn’t get much better than that. Even the most spoiled baby will be green with envy from all the attention you will command.

Why wait? Demand a brain injury today! You’ll hardly be able to believe the dramatic change it will bring to your life in such a short time!

Humor is the best medicine 🙂

DSCF2869

The innocent smile of someone who is unknowingly about to enter the world of traumatic brain injury.

*In full disclosure, my husband is the one with the Brian injury, not me.

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Change in the Air

The recent policy change in the church surrounding children of gay parents has made me think a lot this weekend.

This season of my life has been a season of a lot of changes. Four-and-a-half years ago I wouldn’t have batted an eye at this announcement, but right now it has been a hard thing to read. I’ve had a couple of nights to sleep on it. I guess here’s how I feel: this rule makes it harder for individuals and families to make the choices that are right for them, not easier. I hope the church realizes that and changes it’s policy.

This policy really doesn’t effect me personally much. But it does make me feel like more of an outsider. If children of gay parents have to disavow the practice of gay marriage and cohabiting before being allowed to be baptized…where does that leave the other members of the church who are fine with the idea of gay marriage? Are we all free to support gay marriage and still participate fully in the church? Is it enough to just say, “I’m not going to marry someone of the same sex, but I understand everyone needs the ability to make the choices that are best for them, and I think gay people who get married are making a fine choice for themselves”? Life is too complex for these sort of hard-line rules.

This is the excerpt from the interview with Elder Chistofferson regarding the new policy change:

Michael Otterson: Why are the children of these same-sex partners an issue here?

Elder Christofferson: Well, in answering or responding to your question, let me say I speak not only as an apostle in the Church, but as a husband, as a father and as a grandfather. And like others in those more enduring callings, I have a sense of compassion and sympathy and tender feelings that they do. So this policy originates out of that compassion. It originates from a desire to protect children in their innocence and in their minority years. When, for example, there is the formal blessing and naming of a child in the Church, which happens when a child has parents who are members of the Church, it triggers a lot of things. First, a membership record for them. It triggers the assignment of visiting and home teachers. It triggers an expectation that they will be in Primary and the other Church organizations. And that is likely not going to be an appropriate thing in the home setting, in the family setting where they’re living as children where their parents are a same-sex couple. We don’t want there to be the conflicts that that would engender. We don’t want the child to have to deal with issues that might arise where the parents feel one way and the expectations of the Church are very different. And so with the other ordinances on through baptism and so on, there’s time for that if, when a child reaches majority, he or she feels like that’s what they want and they can make an informed and conscious decision about that. Nothing is lost to them in the end if that’s the direction they want to go. In the meantime, they’re not placed in a position where there will be difficulties, challenges, conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years.

Compassion for the child is the reasoning the church is giving for this policy change. That sounds nice, it just doesn’t really make sense.

Is it going to be complicated for a child of a gay couple who would like to be a member of the church? Most likely, yes. Is it also complicated for children of straight couples where one parents actively dislikes the church and the other parent believes fully in the church. Yep. Is it complicated for me, as the wife of someone who actively dislikes the church, and as someone who has many doubts, to still have a strong desire to participate in the church. I certainly find it complicated. So I feel like there is no one right answer. Do I wish my friends and cousins who had part member families had been required to wait until they were 18 to be baptized? No. Membership and baptism in the church was a blessing for most of them. I feel like the same would be true for children of gay parents who were being raised in the church. If the kids are at church, there’s probably a good reason, so why prevent them from enjoying all the blessings associated with the church?

In my situation, Ricardo would rather my kids had nothing to do with the church. On the other hand, I attend regularly and I want our kids involved. He’s now very respectful of my reasons for wanting this. I have a really complicated relationship with the church, to the point where I am completely unsure if I would call the church”true.” This is still an ongoing process for me, as I figure out my spiritual life. But the church teachings about eternal families, temples, and a loving, involved God are rooted at my very core. My spirituality is very Mormon. It is also very meaningful to me. So take a look at my situation. We have a child–Andrew, with two parents, neither of whom is your typical Mormon. There are things going on in our home that are not congruent with church teachings because of this. Yet, Andrew was blessed by my father as a baby, he goes to church every week we are healthy and able, and at eight, I will probably want him to be baptized. It is setting him up for a complicated life to be sure, but do I think it would be better for him to be out of the church or to not have these ordinances done? Well, I must not, because we’re still going to church.

Life is complicated, but I can see thousands of situations where a gay couple with kids could be in this very same position. Maybe one partner in a gay couple has a strong testimony and dedication to a majority of Mormon beliefs, but sexuality was too important a part of their life to live a celibate life. Maybe they made the best choice they could for their situation and got married to a same sex partner they love, and yet they continue to find their spiritual life in the LDS church. I could foresee this couple wanting their kids raised in the church. This sort of thing actually does happen sometimes. I don’t see the point of preventing these kids from full participation in the church.

There are better ways to show compassion. How about primary lessons about baptism that include stories and examples of children who choose to wait or who are asked to wait until they are adults to be baptized, and how that is okay sometimes. How about young men’s and young women’s lessons that talk about reasons it’s okay to choose not to serve a mission. If it’s really about compassion, then the change should help the people we are supposedly showing compassion to, not hurt them or make their lives more difficult.

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A Christmas Letter From the Heart

DSCF5448055Life isn’t so bad 🙂

I read a quote the other day…something to the effect of, “life is messy, love it.” I think that’s a motto I’m embracing at the moment. This year life did get a bit messy. I didn’t love all of it. Ricardo didn’t love all of it. Honestly, it was a damn hard year for both of us, (hard enough I picked up a swearing habbit, ahem), especially him. But…But, we enjoyed a lot of really great things. Andrew grew from a 1-year-old to a 2-year-old, which was so fantastic. He now says things like “beetle,” and “l-d” (Ladie), and says lots of 2 word phrases like “‘mas lie please” (Christmas lights please–i.e. turn on the Christmas lights) DSCF5462and “moe raiz” (more raisins, which are his favorite food this month). All in all, I’d say we have a fantastic little toddler. He’s mild, gentle, sweet, and silly, which is everything I could ever ask for in a child. He also hits and throws fits and screams, and is a picky eater, and breaks Kindles–but he’s two, so that’s pretty standard. When he’s tired he usually wants to be tickled and sometimes he laughs so hard he can’t stand up. He dislikes bedtime, nap time, meal time, getting his nails cut, and Santa, and loves everything else in life 🙂 He loves going outside, playing at the playground, going anywhere with mom and dad, playing with cars, doing puzzles, and laughing. Honestly, this little human is amazing…I know I’m biased, but he is quite impressive and has an incredible little personality already. I have been so blessed by having him in my life, and I hope I get to have him in it every day of my life because he is wonderful.

Besides the amazing-ness that is Andrew…life has been pretty crazy. Financially things have been hard. We’ve pinched pennies, gotten charity from the church, from the government (a little bit–that’s it’s whole own story), from friends, and from family to get us through. We have had a LOT of financial help, and we are still barely scraping by. If you are one of the people who helped us emotionally, financially, or in any other way (including most recently two very kind secret Santas   ), just know that you made a huge positive difference in our lives this year! Financial strain is a stressful thing. I have gotten to experience bawling in my car after using WIC to get food and feeling humiliated the first time I had to use it (and yet I was so grateful to have it). I got over the guilt of that quickly, thankfully, but not being able to live independently isn’t a fun experience, and I’m sure many can relate since it’s an experience lots of people get to go through. The beauty of this year has been seeing the very best of humanity since so very many people have bent over backwards to help us get through this year. I have felt so loved by both people who hardly know us and by family and friends.

As hard as financial strain is, it has not been nearly as hard as the other struggles that have come from the stroke. Some of Ricardo’s most important goals in life are related to his career…which was put on hold in a major way due to mental and physical impairment. We’ve been going back and forth all year wondering whether Ricardo was actually going to be able to go back to his accounting career, but feeling it was important enough that we sacrificed everything, down to my mental sanity (sort of), to try to get him back to it. I can tentatively say that I think he’s going to get a shot at going back shortly, which is HUGE news!

On top of worry about Ricardo’s uber important career goals, there has been the fact that Ricardo’s brainy-ness is pretty much a core, central part of his self-worth and identity, and suffering brain damage has been really hard because I think it has caused him to wonder if he is no longer the genius he once was…it’s hard to lose a part of your identity to some extent and wonder who you are now. I imagine that deep down that it what Ricardo is going through. These changes have been hard on me as well.

And what sorts of changes has he undergone? That is a long story. A very, very long story, some of which I have already mentally blocked, so I couldn’t tell it to you if I wanted to, haha. It started with complete loss of nearly everything, and got better from there, to sum it up 🙂 DSCF3265He has worked so, incredibly hard to regain things he already had. But at some point this year we have questioned things like, “Will Ricardo ever be able to move the right side of his body again?” and “Will Ricardo ever remember his family again?” I dare say those are some tough questions to ponder. Luckily, he has had a miraculous recovery.

Having said that, every day he faces the reality that he has brain damage.

It is quite possible that he’ll have to rely on external memory aids heavily for the rest of his life in order to function normally. He remembers a lot of important things–like doctors appointments–now, which is excellent! And he forgets a whole lot of everything else, which is tough. Luckily we live in a day of video and audio recording, electronic gadgets with cool calendars, note taking gadgets, and bells and whistles, and cool memory apps–so even living with major memory issues is more hopeful than it once was.

Learning to use all that consistently is a goal for 2015.

The hemorrhage also effected a lot of other brain functions, and that has been tough.

Amnesia, aphasia, executive functioning problems, these are the things that continue to haunt Ricardo post-stroke, though he has made tremendous strides. But having to relearn things that were second nature before, is a demeaning and frustrating task. And it is frustrating for the person trying to help someone relearn those tasks as well.

We have gotten to experience the true meaning of “for better or for worse” and “in sickness and in health.” You don’t really expect that at 26 and 30, but we signed up for marriage intending to be in it together for eternity, and I expect that we will get through these bumps together. I’m lucky enough to still have his love, and it is a truly incredible love to have, and that is the most important thing. We still have what we value most, and I don’t plan on giving up on our love anytime soon 🙂

Having said that…life is messy sometimes, and I have been a mess. I haven’t been as great or as supportive as Ricardo could have used. I am strong, but I have felt pretty broken this year.

So what has this year been like for me? Well…

I got to walk around a lake with a person I thought might never walk again…and I had to remind Ricardo 100 times how to use a new device on the TV when I thought I would never have to remind him of anything, he had such a fantastic memory.

I got to experience the truest love from someone I thought would never remember me again…and I had to face the reality that he has probably forgotten a lot of what we experienced together.

I got to hear someone say, “hi love,” who I thought would never understand human speech again…and I had to spend months desperate to know what Ricardo was thinking since he couldn’t express his thoughts.

I got to hear the heartbeat of one of the very most important people to me who I thought I had lost…and I got to hear that same person get frustrated at me 20 times a day while I tried to help him relearn things he didn’t even understand he needed to relearn.

…And we saw cathedrals, monuments, and parks. We spent time with friends, family, and pets. We walked, and talked, and laughed a lot despite life’s challenges. We watched movies, went on a few awesome dates and trips, and got to try some new things–like paddle boarding, which was a lot of fun for Alicia. We picked up old hobbies–Alicia has been getting back into music, and Ricardo has been figuring out video games again–and we all learned new skills. And we did a whole bunch of other really great, normal things 🙂 Alicia got a job. Ricardo got to experience being a stay-at-home dad. And we got to experience a million blessings that we don’t even know we have because we just take so many of the good things for granted. Life has overall still been pretty good.

This has been a hard year. This has been a year of miracles. It’s been a good year and a terrible year all in one. I could tell a thousand frustrating stories about what this year has been like, in fact, if you ever have an hour, I’d love to tell you some of those stories 🙂 And I could spend an hour crying about how lucky I am 🙂 I guess that’s life.

I’m glad we’re all still alive, and I mean that wholeheartedly 🙂

I hope 2015 is everything you hope it will be! And I hope that when it isn’t, you’ll give me a call and I’ll hopefully lend a compassionate ear and then maybe we can laugh about our problems at the end 🙂 Life is so hard sometimes, and yet it is so very beautiful. Thanks for being a part of that beauty!

Love,

Alicia (and Ricardo, Andrew, Ladie, and Allie)

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Stroke Timeline

Here is a timeline of this year.

Dec 17- Ricardo’s stroke
Didn’t know if Ricardo would survive
Likely he would never leave a vegetative state
No control over body movements
In an induced coma
Unsure if Ricardo was mentally there still
Living moment to moment, trying to keep his ICP, blood pressure, and body temperature under control
Induced coma, often induced paralysis nearly constantly to keep him calm

Dec 18-
Ricardo squeezes Alicia’s hand

Dec 19-
Ricardo begins squeezing nurse’s hand on command at times. He’s still in there!

Last week of December-
Ricardo has regained enough muscle coordination to scratch his face with his left hand
Right side may be paralyzed
Body temperature begins to drop below 104 degrees
EVD brain drain is removed. Ricardo doesn’t need a shunt!

First week of January-
Ricardo gets a tracheostomy and is able to be awake more.
Starts to move his right side again.
Begins to sit up with a lot of support.
Facial expressions consistent with his normal personality.
Starts answering a few questions with head nods. Knows some facts still.

Middle of January-
Leaves the ICU and goes to intermediate care
Awake more. Interacting more.
Has no memory of events or people prior to stroke.
Begins relearning activities starting with brushing teeth and hair.

End of January-
Moves to Rehab Hospital
Stands with assistance
Memories beginning to come back

February-
Sees Andrew for first time
Gets trach tube out and speaks for the first time!
Has moderate to sever aphasia. Has difficulty naming basic objects. Speaks very slowly.
Starts to walk and climb stairs!
Begins writing.
Comes home!

March-
Starts out patient rehab
Able to pick up Andrew
Can do very basic math

April-
Walks normally
Beginning to remember his appointments day to day and the most important things
Remembers his wedding day for the first time

May-
Angiogram confirms the AVM is gone!
A doctor shakes Ricardo’s hand and tells him he wants to be able to tell his children he met Ricardo.

June-
Can initiate basic tasks on his own like eating and drinking
Begins helping care for Andrew
Finishes physical and occupational therapy
Speaks at a normal pace. Remembers common vocabulary. Aphasia is down graded to mild to moderate.
Expressive communication still very difficult

July-
Flies alone to Mexico!
Memory, speech, and cognitive abilities continue to improve

August-
Begins caring for Andrew alone while Alicia works

September-
Is able to communicate some of his thoughts
Able to tell people he had a stroke and explain what he did for work–expressive communication is improving

Ongoing

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