Earlier this morning

Ethan: Mom, Pinkie is floating at the top of the fish tank.

Me: (in a comforting tone) Oh…well, Pinkie died sweetie. His spirit went up to Heaven. But he was a really old fish and I’m sure he’s happier now okay?

Ethan: Oh. Hey, can I help flush him down the toilet?!?
….the delivery man comes to the door and the 4 year old yells, “Yeah! Pizza time!” and proceeds to scarf down one whole piece of pizza, when previously, he has never touched the stuff.

….he responds when you call him Michaelangelo, even better than he does to his own name.

….the jump rope, his sandals, the play station controller, his belt and the detachable cd player cord have all been used at different times as Nunchucks.

….his ninja turtle figures must accompany him on all outings, along with a longish thin object for fighting bad guys. This includes but is not limited too, a toy light saber, a crayon, a butter knife, a paper towel tube, etc.

….he announces to every stranger he meets, “I a enjin tortol!”
I tucked the boys into bed tonight, after a story and several hugs and kisses. As always, I check on them several times before I retire, to give them additional kisses, make sure their limbs aren’t hanging off their beds and to adjust the covers. Not a peep had been made since tucking them in so I entered their room thinking I would find them sound asleep.

Ethan lay sprawled across his bed snoring lightly, and then my eyes drifted over to Caleb's bed.
Where is my son?!? I thought frantically. The bed was empty. My eyes darted around the room. No sign of Caleb. Immediate panic filled thoughts entered my head but I attempted to quell them by reminding myself we lived three stories up. No one could have taken him, right?

I looked in both bedrooms tossing toys and laundry about. I looked in the bathrooms and closets. Okay, starting to really worry again. Back to the bedrooms. I suddenly realized there was something odd looking about the bedroom. It took me a moment and then I caught it. The kids giant stuffed animals, Tigger and Pooh and Nemo and Bunny and Gorilla were barricading the bottom of the crib. I yanked several of them out at once, to see a little hand. And then all of Caleb, his chest rising and falling softly, sleeping soundly underneath the crib. Not even stirring as his mommy let out a huge sigh of relief, picked him up and laid him gently in his bed.
 *names have been changed

There is a giant range of experiences we can have in life. They are of course either good or bad, and they affect the kind of person we grow into to. For me, it often seems easier to focus on the troubles I’ve had. But I have begun to see that with the trouble, come great opportunities for learning and growth. Troubles also generally come with little miracles. Things that are small, but just big enough to give hope or confidence in taking another step out to face the world again. When I look back and think, “How did I ever get through that?” The fine details begin to appear.

Have you ever loved someone so much you would do anything for them? Even die for them? That kind of love is the most beautiful creation we have been given. To be able to love like that is a gift that surpasses all other beauties. Most of us love our families like that from the beginning. Our parents, siblings, spouse and children. But it can be learned as well.

Have you ever had a friend mean that much to you? Have you ever loved a friend so much it hurts. You hurt when they hurt. You would give your soul to make them happy. It is overpowering, exhausting to feel this way and yet I would never have changed the passion I felt, the love I felt for my best friend, even though it sometimes hurt.

Sherise spent her first 14 years of life in Southern California. Nearly half the population is Hispanic. She had friends that were hispanic all her life. Dating them, however, created a problem with her parents as she found out after they had moved to my neighborhood.

I remember Juan from grade school and junior high. A shy, quiet, pudgy boy with a warm smile. When I saw him next in high school after a few years, he had gotten taller, had slimmed down a little, but he still had that warm smile, those dark eyes. Sherise really liked him. They were “going out”. She asked him to a dance. I wanted to go too, but I didn’t attend their High school and I was afraid of boys. So I decided to skip the dance, but go on the date prior to the dance, as a fifth wheel (another couple was coming with us).

We went down to the local college campus. The boys were blindfolded and were walked through the arboretum. They were trying to guess where they were. After we removed the blindfolds we sat down and had a picnic lunch. Then we went to the game center and went bowling.

I remember a few months after that, I had to go with my school to the local college for the  language fair. I saw the railing that Juan’s hand had slid along as he walked up the steps those few months ago. His hands that would never feel anything again.

A month after my fifth wheel date, Juan asked Sherise to Homecoming. This is where Sherise’s parents stepped in. She told me they sat down with her to have a chat. They told her that you marry who you date, so she should be careful. I was furious. Careful, why careful? Just around Juan? Because he was Hispanic?!?
They said they had seen other cultural marriages fall apart because of the difference in beliefs or ways of doing things. But Juan had lived in America nearly his whole life. Spanish was his first language but he had no accent at all when he spoke English. He was an American citizen, he lived life like any other American. I was so angry that they asked Sherise not to date him anymore.

At a school fundraiser, a car wash shortly after her parents had spoken with her, Sherise told Juan what her parents had told her. She told him it didn’t mean anything, that she cared for him and wanted to be with him. He was quiet, then got in his car and sped away.

As she told me this on that Saturday night, I envisioned the entire thing and suddenly I said, “Sherise, brace yourself, Juan may commit suicide.” Were those words given me to help us prepare? That was the last time Sherise saw Juan alive.

We had known he suffered from depression, just like Sherise and I both did. But we didn’t
know that things were so dire for him that he would snap, that the moment Sherise told him about her parents concerns, was his breaking point.

I remember the following Monday, another friend came to visit me. She had news about Juan. He had been found in the Canyon, a lawn mower in the back of his car, all the windows shut tight, Juan not breathing.


I didn’t see Sherise for a few days. The police had come to talk to her about what had happened before this event. She was numb, she was in shock. I was numb, I was in sock. And then, then, I was angry. I was furious that Juan would do something so heart breaking. He was gone, and I hurt more for Sherise at that time than I’ve ever hurt for anyone. I knew him too and was sad, but Sherise? What must she be thinking?
She was thinking she was to blame.

Rumors abounded at school. People called her racist,  nobody had the right story, not even the newspapers. Sherise received death threats in the mail, which her mother hid from her and told her years later about.
Why are people so quick to hate without really knowing why or if they are justified in doing so. And is anyone really ever justified in feeling pure hatred for another? There are much better things to feel in this world than hate, that venom that poisons the soul.

The impact that Juans death had on me and everyone around me was huge. I saw and I felt what it was like to lose someone by suicide, and I knew that never again would I seriously consider taking my own life. But I wanted to know how I would make it through without sinking into despair. For years I had struggled with severe depression. I blamed myself for it, telling myself it was all in my mind and I could fix it. I was wrong.
I talked to two of my friends at school about killing myself, all the time. One of them always laughed and made some joke about it, the other always smiled and said I shouldn’t talk about things like that and quickly changed the subject. It was a cry for help that they didn’t understand.

The suicide of my friend was devastating, but I decided to learn from it. I learned to turn to a better source of relief. I turned to God. I came closer to him than I had in a long time. On my knees, I wept. I cried out in anger asking him why. I begged him to help me be strong in fighting the thorn in my side. I felt his presence many a time in those dark hours and eventually I pulled through, stronger and with a greater knowledge of the love of my family, friends and Heavenly Father. I learned, that as I loved and hurt for Sherise, God loved and hurt for me. He wanted to help me pull through, and only waited for me to ask him.

I learned never to discount the feelings I have about calling someone, or just dropping by to say hi. We are often the vessels through which God answers others prayers, and what if we aren’t listening to him? I am so grateful for those who were listening to God in my time of despair, and I try hard to do the same.
I discovered the value of journal writing as a teenager. It felt so freeing to be able to scribble raw emotion onto the pages within. But besides a stress release, and a way to reason through my feelings, these writings have proven invaluable to me as I’ve looked back through them. Experiences and feelings I had forgotten, have provided the knowledge that I survived those struggles once, which gives me hope that I can do it again.

Some of my entries also provide me a good laugh. Some of the things that seemed so important in my life then seem so trivial and silly now. But I realize though I have changed quite a bit since then, my core values are still the same. I have found that, who I became in my teenage years is who I have mostly remained and that the older I get, the harder it is to change. I read this particular entry the other day:

Feb. 22, 1998 (Age 16)

Confident- But not cocky
Not too romantic
Friendly – not a hermit
Church Member
Worthy Priesthood Holder
Hard working
Sense of humor
Can handle my belching talent
Uses clean language
Thoughtful, kind & helpful to others
Treats his mom really well
College graduate
Has patience
Likes kids & works well with them
Sensitive yet manly at the same time
Has a testimony
Will cuddle me and give me hugs
Is not judgemental
Smiles a lot
Takes care of himself physically
Is my best guy friend
Strong- physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally

At first skim I thought, “Oh, is that all I expected?”

I laughed because it was lengthy and some of my requirements were a little silly. I also laughed because I knew exactly what I wanted then, and you know what, I didn’t end up settling for anything less. (Well except appreciating the belching thing, but I think he’s just jealous that I can out belch him).

So, did you ever make a list of qualities you wanted in your future spouse? Did you find that guy?
What about journal writing? Has it been helpful to you to look back?  I’ll admit I’m not in the habit anymore, but I think I need to make it a priority again.
“Go and play your video game,” says Nice Mama to her sons. “I’m going to clean your room for you today.”

“Oh cool! Thanks,” says one son, giving mama a hug, “You’re a nice Mama.”

What he doesn’t realize is that Nice Mama, is really, Mama with Ulterior Motive, in disguise. She smiles as she sends them on their merry way, 13 gallon trash bag clenched in the fist behind her back. She walks backwards down the hall, into their bedroom and bolts the door.


The day of reckoning has come. Toys used only for mess making are tossed into lightly scented plastic oblivion. Perhaps other little boys will actually play with them.

A knock on the door causes Mama with Ulterior Motive to pause.

“Mama, whats dat sound?” boy says

“Drat!! He’s onto me!” she thinks.

Gathering her thoughts she replies, “I’m just putting some trash in a trash bag.”

She struggles to sound reassuring. She knows the boys will never miss these particular toys, but if they discover her plans there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth!

“You’re not trashing my toys right?” says five year old boy.

How in the heck does he sense these things?

“No, not trashing them,” she says, putting perhaps too much emphasis on the word trashing.

“Go back and play your game now honey,” she instructs.

Five year old leaves. In a whirlwind effort, the remaining offending toys are added to the bag. Mama with Ulterior Motive slowly opens the bedroom door, peeks out, and seeing that the coast is clear, books it into her bedroom where she promptly stashes said bag of toys high in the closet. Daddy will take them to the car after bedtime.

Straightening her shirt and wiping the slight perspiration from her brow, Mama with Ulterior Motive smiles. She walks toward the living room, a slight spring in her step.

Mission accomplished.