Friday, October 7, 2016

My Free Cell life

For the last couple of weeks my spare moment game has been Free Cell.  You know, the solitaire game that you played on your computer back in the early days of Windows?  That one.  I used to play a word boggle game and tell myself that I was keeping my brain sharp by playing it.  (Brains that have experienced mild traumatic brain injury might need to be exercised more.) This year, though, I grew tired of that game and started playing this one once or twice a day. 

At first I could always solve the game and send the cards automatically to their decks on top.  But then I hit one that I couldn't solve.  I could have gone on to a new deal, but instead I told the game to replay the deal and I tried it again.  And that time I figured it out.  Every now and then I have to replay a game now, and a couple of times I've had to replay one 5 or 6 times.  Eventually I've gotten it, started on a different side and worked a different way and then it finally works.

It strikes me that this is like life.  Some things don't have to be totally specific, they can go however you want them.  But some things have to be more precise, and so you have to try again and again until you get them right.  Sometimes things don't work out right and you just need the replay button, a step back to examine another way to handle a difficult problem.  When I'm playing Free Cell I don't get upset when I have to hit the replay button, I actually become more interested in the game, curious to see if I can see a new way to do it the next time.

I think I'm going to try to see if I can think of my life a little more as if it were a free cell game--less stress when I don't manage to do something the way I wanted to, more curiosity about the opportunity to try it again.  Who knows--the game could be good for my brain and my life as well.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The two year check up

Just a couple of weeks after we landed here it was time for my temple recommend to be renewed.  I had my interview with a member of the bishopric and then Russ told me that I could just come to the church on Thursday night and have my stake interview then.

On Thursday afternoon Jenna and I were out picking berries, and I was still new enough to the area that I couldn't figure out how to get from the berry farm to the church.  Which seems funny now--I can't imagine *not* knowing where to go.  But that afternoon as time was running short and I was not managing to find the church I was very frustrated.

I got to the church a little late and one member of the stake presidency, President Page, offered to stay and do my interview.  Now when Russ has a temple recommend interview it takes him about 5 minutes to answer the 10 questions.  With me it's almost never, well actually really never that way.  And it wasn't this time either.  Even though he had never seen or met me before President Page took the time to talk to me, to ask me how I was, and to listen to what I was saying.  I was an emotional mess (and a physical mess too, covered in berry juice!) and that was fine with him.  We talked about trials and how hard they are and it made me feel so reassured when he said that it was so hard for him to have a good attitude while in the middle of one.  That night I got my recommend signed, but perhaps more importantly I felt seen and heard and cared for.  I loved President Page.


Two summers later it was time for my recommend interview again.  This time I got to the church without getting lost.  This time I wasn't traumatized about moving anymore.  But this time I had a new concern, a new issue I was working through.  And once again President Page listened and talked with me about what I was going through.  I felt seen and heard and cared for.  I loved President Page.


A couple of weeks ago I got an email reminder that it was time to schedule a temple recommend interview again.  In so many ways it seems like the last two years have gone by in the blink of an eye.  The email made me think of that first Oregon interview 4 summers ago, and then of the second one two years ago.   I'm feeling at home here in Oregon now--so very happy to be able to go to North Carolina occasionally to visit, but I feel comfortable and at home here.  The issue that was bothering me two years ago isn't a problem anymore and I feel peace in my heart about it.  It feels sort of like an every two year check up, and I'm happy to say that this year I feel like I'm in a peaceful place.  Who knows--maybe I'll even have a 5 minute interview!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

This is one of those moments.

There are moments you remember all your life,
There are moments you wait for and dream of all your life,
This is one of those moments.

In one part of my brain having babies in the nicu seems like a dream, long ago and far away and fuzzy when I try to remember it. 

Another part of my brain remembers is like yesterday: going from isolette to isolette, holding each tiny baby, marveling over their tiny size.

I remember Jared wearing "real" clothes for the first time, clothes that today look like doll clothes but then were enormous on him.

And today that baby, my baby, blessed the sacrament for the first time.

Spiffy in his new white shirt and favorite turquoise bow tie, voice surprisingly calm, he did a great job and I had tears in my eyes.

Landmark moments always stand out, but there is something about hitting these landmarks with my babies.  A huge whoosh of "I can't believe we're here/how on earth did this happen" wells up inside of me every time. A combination of "how did we get here" and "I can't believe we've survived this long" and "I think this might be going too fast."

Today felt like that as I sat there and watched him and listened to him and wiped away the tears and took a mental picture.

This is one of those moments...

Monday, August 1, 2016

They're 16!!!!

There have been a handful of experiences in my life that have been so difficult that I truly didn't trust that I would survive them.  Having triplets was definitely like that.

It wasn't that the *having* of them was so difficult.  Sure, the bedrest wasn't great (except for watching Walker, Texas Ranger every night!),  eating so much food wasn't nearly as much fun as you'd think it would be, and by the end I was uncomfortable.  After they were born they were in the hospital for 6-8 weeks and while that was inconvenient in real ways, it wasn't something that couldn't be survived.

But having them all at home?  That's when the hard part really started, and there were many moments over the next 3.5 years that I wasn't at all sure I was going to make it.  Sleep deprivation moments, breast pump moments, postpartum depression moments, blowout and throw up moments, chicken pox moments, tantrum moments, etc.  It was overwhelming on a regular basis.  Early on another triplet mom had told me that it would get better when they were 3.5, and I wasn't sure I would make it that long...much less until they were 16.

But I did survive until they were 3.5 and she was right, things got much better.  In fact having triplets turned into a fun thing instead of a terrible thing, and since then it has just gotten better and better.  And now I sit in a darkened bedroom at the beach with Russ sleeping on the bed next to me and think that I can't believe it's actually been 16 years, that those tiny babies are now high-schoolers who are learning to drive and who keep our home filled with happiness.  In the doctor's office the day we found out we were having triplets I wondered why on earth this had happened, but for the last 13 years I've just been so glad that it did.  I've gone from "why me" to "lucky me," and although I worry about how much it will cost to get them all through college, I kind of feel sad for everyone who won't get to experience the cuteness and fun that these kids have brought into our lives.

Happy birthday to my wonderful kids!

PS--if you're curious to know more about their unusual entrance into the world, you can read about it here:

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Answered Prayer

I am a praying person, but I have never felt like I am a good pray-er. I pray because I should and because I trust that it probably does make a difference, but usually that is more faith than certainty. From time to time, however, a specific prayer is answered in such an unmistakeable way that there is no doubt in my mind that God does, in fact, hear me.

One of those moments happened yesterday. On the way to Emerald Isle I was so troubled by a situation in my life. As I thought through one possible solution I realized that my heart was racing, leaving me almost breathless. I wasn't sure if this was fear or some kind if ego-driven excitement. Whichever it was, I wasn't sure I could go through with this plan to deal with the difficult situation. In my mind I said a little prayer, "Heavenly Father, if this is supposed to happen, *you* will have to make it happen, because I no longer trust myself to know that this is the right thing to do." And then I tried not to think about it.

Several hours later we arrived at Big Bertha and we unexpectedly greeted by a houseful of smoky air. This situation set in motion changes that forced me to act on my plan. I took a big breath, started praying, and made a request, all the while feeling anxious and a big sick to my stomach.

But the plan (suggested by my wise brother Jeff) dealt with the problematic situation perfectly. I felt calm and loving. I was able to present my issue and feel compassion at the same time. And in the end I felt the resolution was (and this is a strong word, but accurate) perfect and provided a far better start to our beach week than we would have otherwise had.

Jeff laughed at me, at the thought that God provided a smoky house to force me to action. I don't know how to look at that and don't really care. What I know is that I prayed for Him to make it happen if it was important, and that it absolutely and immediately happened that way.

Moments like these keep me praying. They give me confidence that even though I rarely *feel* something amazing when I pray (and I certainly didn't yesterday in that short unspoken prayer) and rarely feel like I see results when I pray, something is happening. And that is enough.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Peering into the future--my own experience

I can't remember how old I was when I received my own patriarchal blessing, probably 15-16.  When I was interested in having it, my dad suggested that I wait until we were going to be in South Carolina so that his great uncle, a patriarch in the Florence stake, could give it to me.

I didn't remember having met Uncle RB before, so the family connection didn't make much difference to me.  But my blessing did, because both in that moment and in the future decade it showed me with perfect clarity that even though Uncle RB didn't know me, my Heavenly Father did.

In many ways I wasn't a particularly happy teenager.  As I prayed throughout my early teenage years, I almost always asked for help in knowing something using specific words that were a line in a song that I loved.  As Uncle RB was giving the blessing, he said something, stopped, and then said something like "Know This: ______" and then proceeded to say the exact words from that song.  That was amazing.

Before my blessing Uncle RB and I had chatted.  I was in the process of applying to colleges and it was exciting.  In the blessing he said several things about this.  He said that I would receive a scholarship to the college of my choice, and that happened within the next year.  But he said something else that eventually proved to be even more interesting, that I would graduate from this college with honors.

In the summer before I started going to BYU when it was time to register I had to make a choice--to enter the honors program or not.  I think my academic record made me a good candidate for the honors program, but I decided (and this is the honest and slightly embarrassing truth) that I didn't want to have to hang out all of the time with nerds, and so I didn't register for honors classes.  At the time I thought to myself, "well I know that my patriarchal blessing said that I will graduate with honors, but how could Heavenly Father know that I would choose not to go into the honors program?"

Then my freshman year I "fell in love" with a guy who was getting ready to go on a mission.  We decided that I would go back to BYU for my sophomore year, and then work for a year to earn money so that we could get married just as soon as he got home.  Again I thought about that line in my patriarchal blessing about graduating with honors and thought, "Well how could Heavenly Father have known that I would fall in love and get married and not graduate from college?"

It's really embarrassing to remember that time period of my life and I'm so so so so very glad that after the guy went into the MTC I started to come to my senses and realize he wasn't what I wanted for my life.  I went back to BYU for my sophomore year and met and started dating Russ in January.  By April or May we had decided we were getting married and after an interminable engagement were married, right after my junior year at BYU.  I graduated from BYU the week before Cindy Lynn was born.

Some time in the month after graduation the diploma arrived in the mail.  I opened it and looked at it, just curious to see what it looked like.  And this is what it said--that Cynthia Watson Ray had been awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree...cum laude.

I looked at that and slowly realized what it meant.  Cum Laude.  With Honors.  And then I thought.  He knew.  All along.  When I was 16 and hadn't even been accepted to any college.  When I was registering for college and decided not to enter the honors program.  When I was in love and deciding to drop out of college to work.  He knew that actually, the thing that was going to happen was that I would graduate from college with honors.

There are some that I don't really understand in my patriarchal blessing.  There's something promised in there that doesn't seem to be working out very well right now.  There's something that I'm told I will do that I just don't seem to have time for in my life so far.  But I trust it, I trust it all.  Because it is (and has been from the moment it was given) very clear to me that Heavenly Father loves me and does in fact know both me and my life.


PS--My patriarchal blessing also blesses me that I will have many, many children.  There was a lot of time as I was dealing with secondary infertility that that phrase was a bit painful.  Between the fact that we were playing genetic roulette even trying to have more children and the fact that it took so long for me to get pregnant, I thought that that phrase had probably been a mistake.  Except, you know, it turned out that I had many, many children.  It was actually a pretty accurate description.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Peering into the future

Four weeks ago Jenna received her patriarchal blessing and tonight we took Rachel to receive hers.  Both times it was a striking experience--different than I remember from going with Jason and Josh when they received theirs.  With both girls I felt like I went with my "little girls" to the patriarch's house.  We sat and chatted with the patriarch and his wife for a little while.  (After 3 blessings in 12 months we have gotten to know a bit about them!)  Then we went back into their office where the blessing was given.

In both cases I sat and listened as the blessing began, interested and curious.  And in both cases after a few minutes I listened differently.  I still listened with curiosity, but also with amazement.  And I can say tonight that it is clear that Rachel and Jenna are not "just" my little girls.  They are women of astonishing spirit and potential and I feel a little dazed by the experience.  Wow.